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As most of us know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Dr. Helayne Waldman is the co-author (with Dr. Ed Bauman) of a new book called THE WHOLE FOOD GUIDE FOR BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS. According to the authors, the book is not just for survivors of cancer, but for anyone who wants to reduce their chances of becoming a cancer statistic in the first place. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Drs. Waldman and Bauman have allowed us to share a chapter from their book, which we're proud to reprint here at GreenMedInfo. For further info about this wonderful new resource, check out www.
Chapter 2: Emerging Risk Factors
"The Terrain is everything." ~ Louis Pasteur
During the mid 19th Century in France, a vigorous war of ideas raged in the upper echelons of the French scientific community. On the one hand, Louis Pasteur was developing his germ theory of disease, and on the other, Claude Bernard was focused on the "milieu interieur", or, in his words, the constancy of the internal environment." In other words, Bernard felt that the nourishment of the body, its ability to get rid of toxins and wastes and the strength of its immune system provided the foundations for successfully confronting both acute and chronic disease. Although Pasteur and others fought long and hard for the supremacy of the microbe theory of disease, Pasteur affected a dramatic turnaround late in life, and on his deathbed is said to have uttered, "Bernard was right. The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything."
We wholeheartedly agree healthy terrain is the foundation for a healthy body that can mount a strong defense against cancer. In this chapter, we'll cover the basics of emerging risk factors for breast cancer: the ones that deal with the internal terrain as Bernard or Pasteur might today envision it. These factors include dietary and nutritional influences, toxic exposures , and the health and equilibrium of the body's own internal systems, such as hormonal, digestive and immune system balance. We consider these risk factors to be so important that we've devoted entire chapters to many of them later in the book. Others we'll just touch on briefly in this chapter.
The Standard American Diet: Your number One Risk Factor
The Standard American Diet, sometimes also referred to as the Western Dietary Pattern or SAD, is comprised of a high intake of red meat, sugar, transfats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and refined grains. This dietary pattern also tends have a low intake of colorful whole food fruits and vegetables.
The High Cost of Cheap Food:
The health of a majority of Americans is worsening as you read this. Time Magazine's August 21, 2009 article, Getting Real about the High Price of Cheap Food put it, "Unless Americans radically rethink the way they grow and consume food, they face a future of ... higher health costs." Why? Food experts such as Michael Pollan warn us that the quality of our food supply has been on a slow decline for many decades. That is, our food has become more toxic and less nutritious. In fact, much of what we eat is not actually food at all, but what we like to call UFOs or Unidentified Food Objects. Just look at the label on a typical packaged food found on a supermarket shelf. Try to pronounce most of the ingredients and you'll see exactly what we mean. It's no surprise that we're witnessing an unprecedented rise in obesity, blood sugar imbalances, autoimmune diseases and cancer in our population. (American Cancer Society. 2009)
The crux of the matter is this: fast foods, as documented by Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation and Carol Simontacchi in Crazy Makers, are made from the least expensive ingredients possible and loaded with chemicals, damaged fats, artificial ingredients, and flavor enhancers. Fast foods are stimulating but they are not nourishing. Many experts, including researchers from the National Cancer Institute, believe that more than 50% of cancers have a nutritional component in their etiology (Marmot, et al. World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research. 2009). So eating a diet aimed at risk reduction is probably the most important step you can take in lowering your chances of dancing with this most unpleasant disease.
Sick animals make for unhealthy food
While the consumption of malnourished, pesiticide-laden plants can lead to the appearance of sickly malnourished people, those same, sub-standard crops combined with excessive amounts of hormones and antibiotics leads to sick animals. Factory farmed animals are fed a steady diet of Genetically Modified (GM) corn and soy with the intent of making the cattle gain weight, and quickly. What's more, a typical fast food or school lunch burger is not made from a single piece of beef but "meat" from a variety of sources such as trimmings and scraps of fatty wastes that are left on the slaughterhouse floor after the animals have been butchered.
The same basic practices are also applied to chicken and fish. Feeding GM soy and corn pellets to algae-loving salmon or sawdust, hormones, antibiotics, and cardboard to insect-loving chickens will surely produce sickly, malnourished animals whose meat carries along with it the drugs, pesticides and other toxins with which it is laden. You are indeed what the animal on your dinner plate ate.
Studies over the past decade have pointed clearly to the fact that artificial growth hormones fed to cattle have led to increasing U.S. rates of breast cancer, early puberty and obesity. (Epstein. International Journal of Health Services. 1996) (Bohlooly-Y, et al. Diabetes. January 2005) Monsanto first began selling "recombinant bovine growth hormone" (rBGH, also known as rBST in 1994. The hormone, designed to force cows to produce more milk, has been banned in the EU, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand due to safety concerns. Nevertheless, in the U.S., Monsanto has insisted that its genetically modified growth hormone is safe. Many experts say otherwise. One area of concern is the startling rise in human blood levels of a growth hormone known as IGF-1, or Insulin Growth Factor. As toxicologist Dr. Samuel Epstein explains, consumption of animals fed growth hormones lead to excessive levels of IGF-1, a close relative of insulin, in humans. This in itself is a documented risk factor for breast cancer. (Epstein. Internal Journal of Health Services. 1996)
Dr. Susan Hankinson first sounded the alarm on IGF-1 in 1998) when her research team reported in the Lancet that among 76 pre-menopausal women whose blood levels were measured, those with IGF-1 concentrations in the highest third had almost three times the risk of breast cancer than those with levels in the lowest third. And among pre-menopausal women younger than 50, the risk of breast cancer for those with the highest levels of IGF-1 was approximately seven times higher than for women with the lowest levels. "The up to sevenfold increase suggests that the relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast cancer may be greater than that of other established breast cancer risk factors, with the exception of a strong family history of breast cancer or a high-density mammographic profile," the authors warned at the time. (Hankinson, et al. Lancet. 1998)
Given the research, we consider it prudent to strictly moderate your intake of commercial animal products to help keep this risk factor under control. Since the USDA does not require labeling of milk containing rBST, as of this writing it is safe to assume that if your milk is not organic or doesn't clearly state the absence of rBST in it, it is reasonable to assume the cows who produced it have indeed been treated with the hormone. The good news is that you can avoid this risk by choosing milk that is organic or labeled "rBST free."
Sugar and cancer: a sweet relationship
You may already know that simple sugars and carbohydrates will cause an almost immediate rise in blood glucose levels. The problem with this scenario is that cancer cells have a voracious appetite for sugar. Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg first discovered the connection in 1924, when his research revealed that cancer cells generate energy in a way that differs from normal cells, in a process called glycolysis. This process, he contended was so dependent on glucose that he dubbed tumors "obligate sugar metabolizers." "Cancer, above all other diseases, has countless secondary causes. But, even for cancer, there is only one prime cause. Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar." (Dr. Otto Warburg, Lecture delivered to Nobel Laureates on June 30, 1966 at Lindau, Lake Constance, Germany ) Among others, Warburg observed, and that observation has not been challenged in almost a century of subsequent research, that consuming sugars and simple carbs not only raises blood glucose rapidly, but the fast, abrupt nature of this increase triggers a healthy pancreas to responds by overproducing insulin, or order to bring levels down to normal range as quickly as possible. This initially healthy response, however, can lead to very unhealthy consequences. Insulin and its close relative, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) are cellular growth promoters (Hadsell, Bonnette. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia. 2000). So each time you flood your bloodstream with insulin you are sending a message to your tumor: grow!
It's clear that blood glucose and insulin levels have a pronounced effect on breast cancer survival statistics, a connection that has been documented for decades. For example, a mouse study conducted in 1985 indicated that higher blood glucose levels resulted in shorter survival times in mice with breast cancer, with the response being "dose dependent." In other words, the higher the blood glucose levels, the poorer the outcomes. (Santisteban et al. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 1985)
What's critical to understand is that simple carbohydrates ("white" bread, rice, pasta, pastries, etc) convert to simple sugar within moments of your chewing them. Complex carbohydrates, those with intact fiber and germ release their glucose more slowly and more healthfully into the bloodstream.
Time for an Oil Change?
Fats and oils have an intimate relationship with cancer as they are either promoters or inhibitors of inflammation, a topic that we will discuss in detail in chapters 3 and 9. The nature of fats and oils changed dramatically about 50 years ago, when processed foods started coming into their own as a mainstay of the American diet. During those years, food manufacturers started looking for a way to preserve the shelf life of processed foods, and supermarket fats and oils as well as home and industrial cooking oils and fats.. Very quickly, genuine fats became factory fats. That is, they were replaced with hydrogenated trans fats, a new, lab-created "fake" fat that was completely foreign to the human body. So what happens when you actually eat this stuff?
Because trans fats are similar in chemical composition to real fats, your body believes they are real, and uses them in all the places that real fats are designed to go – especially, the precious cell membrane. In the words of diet guru Sally Fallon, your cells become partially hydrogenated! Why is this problem? Because our cell membranes are comprised of fat. And because all nutrients and waste products must pass through this vital cellular gatekeeper, we cannot afford to have cell membranes that become rigid and hard, inhibiting the smooth exchange of nutrients and waste products. Trans fats will do this to our cells, and for this reason, they are critical to avoid.
We'll talk a great deal more about fats that are friends and fats that are foes in Chapters 3 and 6.
America's Other Drinking Problem
We're told that our water is among the purest in the world, but a closer looks reveals a startlingly different story.
Clean water is the only liquid the body actually needs; it is vital to health and to life, and nothing can replace it. Opinions vary as to how much we need each day (48-64 ounces by most accounts) but need it we do, whether it comes from our food, our tap, or from bottles. In 2008 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) - disclosed that more than 260 contaminants were detected in tens of thousands of samples of tap water, many of them petrochemicals and their byproducts. (Environmental Working Group, 2009) More than half of the contaminants - 141 - were unregulated. Of these unregulated toxins, The EWG has concluded that 53 are linked to cancer, 41 to reproductive toxicity, 36 to developmental toxicity and 16 to immune system damage. For others, no health information seems to exist at all.