Top-10 Take-Aways from Dietitians Oncology Conference 2014

TOP 101. Diet and obesity are second to smoking as a cause of cancer. Obesity causes inflammation in organs and visceral fat (the fat that is packed around our organs, as opposed to sub-cutaneous fat, which is just below the skin). Weight loss is a good strategy for cancer risk reduction.

2. From 2004 to present, 29 new oral chemotherapy agents have been approved in the U.S. (“oral chemotherapy” means pills as opposed to I.V. drugs). Food can affect the absorption of these medications by either decreasing or extending the absorption. Currently of the 56 different oral chemotherapy agents available, 9 should be taken with food and 19 should be taken on an empty stomach. Pay attention to the instructions around food for your particular medications.

3. The ketogenic diet may have a role in some cancers, particularly brain cancers. The ketogenic diet is one that is meant to mimic starvation – it is very low in protein and carbohydrate and very high in fat. Not at all what we would think of as a healthy diet, but it is meant to ‘starve’ the cancer cells of their energy source (carbohydrate) while feeding the body with energy from fat (ketones – hence the name ‘ketogenic’).

4. 60-70% of patients with pancreatic cancer develop diabetes in the year before their diagnosis. There currently isn’t a screening tool for pancreatic cancer, so 90% of the newly diagnosed pancreatic cancers have already metastasized. Dr. Timothy Gardner of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has suggested a new protocol to serve as a screening tool for pancreatic cancer. People who are newly diagnosed with diabetes at age 50 and over should have additional blood tests called Adrenomedullin and CA 19-9. If these tests are elevated, the patient should be referred for an endoscopic ultrasound of the pancreas.

5. When testing food to see what is safe for people with compromised immune systems, infection control specialists measure the amount of Colony Forming Units (CFU’s) on the surface of the food. Fruits and vegetables that are washed well under cold running water are safe to consume. Commercial vegetable rinses are not necessary and may even leave a chemical residue.

6. Many people arrive for their first cancer treatment already malnourished. At St. Vincent’s Health Center in Indianapolis, this was the case for 53% of their new patients. Nutrition intervention started as early as possible can result in reduction of poor nutrition status, improvement in performance and quality of life, increased tolerance to the cancer treatment, and decreased rate of complications. If you or someone you care for is malnourished, ask for a referral to the registered dietitian at your cancer centre.

7. There is strong evidence that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods may reduce the risk of cancer, but there is no evidence at this time that supplements can reduce cancer risk and some evidence indicates that high-dose supplements can increase cancer risk.

8. Eat more phytoestrogens (soy, flax, legumes), cruciferous vegetables (cabbage family), garlic and onions, turmeric, ginger, Asian mushrooms, green tea, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

9. Peperine from black pepper will help the body absorb the beneficial curcumin in turmeric. You can accomplish this by combining black pepper and turmeric when cooking (as discussed in my webinar “The Spice Shakedown”…you can sign up and view it HERE). Some people choose instead to take a turmeric and peperine supplement. If you do this, be careful as the peperine also increases the absorption of other compounds – including prescription medicines, so you may inadvertently be absorbing too much medication, which can result in more side-effects from the drug.

10. Radiation and several chemotherapies work by being oxidative. These include cisplatin and the other platin drugs; cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, malphalan, doxorubicin, daunorubicin, and bleomycin. Because they work by oxidizing, taking antioxidant supplements while taking these therapies is not recommended. Antioxidant supplements include: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, melatonin, N-acetylcysteine, glutathione, CO-Q 10 and alpha-lipoic acid. Consuming anti-oxidant rich foods during treatment though appears to be safe.

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