Dr. Harris said awhile back that he was planning to post on this, but since he may not get to it for awhile, I was wondering if anyone else would like to take a stab at it... the obvious answer is "eat Paleo", but I was hoping for a detailed explanation on the how and the why...
I had breast cancer 3 years ago and after treatment scoured the web for info on cancer and diet... happened upon an article early on about insulin and cancer and brought this up with my oncologist. She said it's an area of research, but did not think it relevant to my situation as my blood glucose was "dead normal" (dug out an old CMP and glucose was 95 around that time). I was counseled by the office nutritionist AND psychiatrist as my weight was a concern (100 lbs after treatment down from 125 before...I'm 5'7''), so basically they didn't want me avoiding any foods! I cut out suagr and lowered carbs anyway and I'm now stable at 110 lbs.
I've been told on several occasions that I'm too skinny, but attributed this to being compared to the modern standard of "carb puff"...However, a thread on this site tipped me off that perhaps I am underweight. I had another CMP recently, and this time the glucose reading was 85... I'm pretty sure I will not gain, unless I increase carbs, so I am wondering:
-is it OK (better?) for a cancer survivor to be "underweight" if that helps keep insulin lower?
-or is the idea that eating excess carbs (but staying skinny) caused my cancer implausible in the first place? ***I'm thinking I was "skinny fat" or had "fatty liver" (is that the same thing?), but don't understand the mechanism... what exactly happened to all those carbs I was eating that I thought I was "burning off" with my high metabolism?
-is excess omega 6 a more potent cancer inducing diet pitfall than high carb?
-what about dairy? Now that I am grain -free, I am relying more on dairy to get enough calories... BUT I have read here and elsewhere that dairy spikes insulin as well!
Any input would be very appreciated!
asked bySandra (410)
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on August 06, 2010
at 07:36 AM
I'll be intrigued to see what others have to say about this, especially since I've been reading a bit about it myself. For instance, I learned that since cancerous cells tend to rely on excess glucose for fuel, a tactic employed by some people is caloric restriction, so that they ensure there's no extra fuel floating around to feed tumors. Similarly, going low-, very-low- or even zero-carb will then limit or remove the issue of excess glucose since the body will not waste energy producing glucose via gluconeogenesis unless the glucose is vitally required, and (most?) tumor cells don't have that kind of relationship with the rest of the body.
Without seeing the article about insulin and cancer, my logic suggests that raised insulin would be present in an environment of excess glucose, and that the real relationship is the glucose fueling the tumor growth, as I stated above. The raised insulin would really be an associated marker, not a direct cause...
Don't forget that we all have mutant cells with the potential of becoming cancerous, and that it's something in our environment that triggers the accelerated division and reproduction of these cells that creates the tumor/cancer. Sugar itself isn't a carcinogen (as far as we know) but it's possible that other aspects of the SAD could be implicated in your personal case. So could pollution, BPA, second-hand smoking, using Teflon pans... etc. Asking whether a high-carb diet could CAUSE cancer is missing the point if it's possible to restrict the growth of those cells via eliminating excess glucose.
An excess of omega-6 fatty acids may cause inflammation, but it takes more than that to cause cancers to form/grow, as far as I've read.
Dairy could contribute to excess glucose if you're drinking lots of milk or other high-sugar dairy products, but on the whole they're not likely to be a direct cause of problems either, other than digestive issues.
If you are fit and are eating healthy foods, then I wouldn't worry about being below the average weight for your height. You could always bump up the meat consumption and do strength training to help build lean mass, but ultimately your body has been through a lot, and I wouldn't sweat the small stuff if you're cancer-free and feeling good.
All the best!
on August 06, 2010
at 04:00 PM
As GGP says, we often have pre-cancerous cells in our bodies, but our bodies usually don't have an environment that encourages proliferation. I actually don't think that environmental factors outside of the body play a large role in whether we develop cancers. I base this belief on epidemiological studies cited by Taubes in Good Calories Bad Calories which show that other factors must be more important. His chapter on Cancer and Aging is relevant to this discussion.
Like David Moss, I see no advantage in eating carbohydrates simply in order to gain fat, whereas maintaining ketosis is probably extremely advantageous. In fact, I believe that every advantage that can be gained through caloric restriction is also gained through ketosis, without the dangers of malnutrition, or the discomfort of constant hunger. This is achieved both by reducing insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF), and by allowing frequent autophagy.
It is good that your BG is normal, but I would still not play with increased insulin in your case.
"Skinny fat" is not the same as "fatty liver". It just means that you have a low weight by virtue of a low muscle mass. Fatty liver is a disease state that may or may not be present in someone who is skinny fat.
on August 06, 2010
at 09:43 AM
My suspicion would be that it would be best to avoid any signalling for 'growth,' based on the assumption that cancer is a problem of (or reliant upon) excess growth. There's a lot of discussion on Nephropal of the dichotomy of the summer mode (growth, plenty) and winter (repair, scarcity). Growth would be increased by carbohydrates, insulin, insulin-like growth factors, and omega-6 and especially by dairy (the carb and protein fractions highly stimulating insulin and IGF- dairy is after all designed for rapidly growing calves- pure dairy fat from butter or cream should be fine). The converse of this is the signalling mode associated with SIRT-1 which...
'decreases insulin secretion, decreases glycolysis in the liver (decreased breakdown of liver carbohydrate storage for glucose release), [increases] neuro and cardiac protection, increases insulin sensitivity, increases cell survival, decreased cell death, increases resistance to stress like ROS,'
and via Foxo1
'repair to damaged DNA, decreasing the level of cellular death (apoptosis), stopping the cell cycle of replication, decreasing insulin levels, decreasing growth, decreasing inflammation, increasing insulin sensitivity, increasing anti-oxidant activities.'
There're also good discussions of ketosis reducing cancer, so that would be a good bet, alongside the benefits of reducing available glucose per se. It would be beneficial to keep protein moderate for this same reason, to ensure there's no excess blood sugar.
As to your weight in general, I never see any virtue in gaining weight for the sake of it, since none of us are ever going to find ourselves in extended starvation conditions. Adding adipose tissues rather than lean mass will have only downsides, as far as I can see. If you are "underweight" then the only sensible meaning is that you lack lean mass, there'd be no benefit to make yourself the same weight as a person with more muscle mass, if you couldn't actually gain that muscle mass yourself. more muscle could be useful, as an increased sink for blood glucose, but so long as you're exercising hard and eating if you're hungry there's no reason to focus any more on trying to gain. Caloric restriction could well be useful, but as we know from starvation studies, it's not feasible ad infinitum.
Also, if you're relying on dairy for calories, you could also try to introduce more coconut, which would bring the benefits of extra ketones.
on August 07, 2010
at 05:17 AM
I would say lots of healthy natural saturated fats in the diet. Exercise to stay healthy but don't over do it. Maintain a weight that feels healthy. Try not to stress out too much. Stress lowers immunity. FInd things that make you happy and do em. Make sure you are getting a decent balance of all needed nutrients. Since you are already thin, I would not suggest caloric restriction for you. You are apparently already restricting calories just plenty! Make sure your vit D blood levels are good. Have that tested. D is very impt for immune functioning. Do your best to maintain a healthy omega 3/6 ratio. Get plenty of sleep as needed daily. Sleep is needed for good immune function. Your resting blood glucose may well have gone down because of eating paleo. This is common. 85 is healthy number, better than 95. But remember that stress can strongly influence blood glucose levels so sometimes a single reading is not accurate as to overall levels. A high one may mean you were stressed that day. However, a lower one like 85 means that it is able to drop to a good low level between meals so that is a good indicator that blood glucose levels are healthy. Probably should try to cut back on unnatural chemicals in your life. Try to find/buy all natural soaps and that kind of thing.
And BTW, good job kicking that cancer to the curb! Hold your head up proud! ;-) -Eva
on August 06, 2010
at 09:02 PM
To avoid cancer:
- Vit D (sufficient to get your levels to about 45ng/ml)
- Vit K (low dose k2 and k1 a few times per week seems reasonable to me)
- Low omega 6 (under 4% of your calories)
- Adequate omega 3 (about 1 gram of long chain omega 3 per day)
- Low fructose
- High mineral diet (potatoes, coconut, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate)
- Coconuts for their medium chain fatty acids
- Organic cruciferous vegetables and mushrooms, especially japanese mushrooms .
- Green Tea (loose leaf, freshly steeped, served warm)
- Some organic berries, like wild blueberries (frozen ok)
on August 11, 2010
at 03:03 PM
Stay away from all estrogenic foods, 99% of cancers are driven by estrogen. That means beans, soy, flax, most seeds, etc. These foods pack multiple times more estrogen in just four ounces of food than common birth control pills. If you want that cancer to stay gone, follow the paleo diet with good fats, good protein, good vegetables and limited fruit.
What is your iodine intake like? Bromide found in grains replaces and competes for its spot with iodine and is a common culprit of breast cancer. A lot of people found their breast cysts disappearing after adequate iodine intake and elimination of grains (bromide).
on August 07, 2010
at 10:08 PM
You didn't say how old you were. My wife is 5'5" and had always weighed 105. After a bout of kidney stones in the hospital during which she wasn't able to eat because of a procedure that kept getting postponed she ended up at 90lbs. She eats mostly paleo, no sugar, and she can't gain back the weight. Being 53, I think some of this is coincidental with menopause. She is officially very underweight, but has energy, vitality, and overall good health. She even managed to clear all the stones out of her kidney. The point is that we change as we age or go through certain physical trauma, and I agree with your thinking that height/weight reference points are more an indicator of population averages, not necessarily good health.
on August 06, 2010
at 09:03 PM
Richard at Free the Animal tackles this, with links, and the following takeaway message:
"So, it seems to me that if one is unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with cancer, a three front assault would be to go on an 80/15/5 diet, i.e., 75% of calories from animal fat, 20% protein, and 5% cabs in the form of vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, conduct fasts of three to four days or more every few weeks, and at minimum 2-3 days immediately prior to chemotherapy."
I would go as high-fat as possible, and just enough protein to meet structural needs, and as close to zero carb as possible. I would also fast frequently for long periods. Not sure what to do about exercise...