“Three No’s For Cancer Survivors – Dairy, Sugar and Red Meat” – Cancer Nutrition and Supplements with Dr. Donald Abrams on The Cure Panel Talk Show

In our talk series on The Cure Panel Talk Show on Cancer and Nutrition, Dr. Donald Abrams of UCSF Osher Center, a cancer and integrative medicine specialist, enlightened us on what food and supplements are good to have and what to avoid, if you are undergoing cancer treatment.


Excerpts from the show

Curcumin: Dr. Abrams recommends Curcumin, which is a proven anti-inflammatory agent found in turmeric and denies the notion that it causes bleeding. Regular intake of curcumin keeps the rate of colon cancer and dementia low in Indians. However, it may not be effective in all types of cancers such as difficult pancreatic cancer, myeloma and MGUS (Monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance) because of its low absorption from the GI tract and hence low systemic effect. It has been particularly effective in colon cancer, as shown by studies in mice genetically modified to get colon cancer, where it inhibited the development of cancer and also prolonged survival of mice with cancer.

Piperine : a substance in black pepper increase the absorption of turmeric by thousand fold. Dr. Abrams recommends it for arthritis patients.

Calcium: Dr. Abram recommends green leafy vegetables, tofu and other calcium rich non-dairy foods for cancer patients. Calcium may become abnormally high in myeloma patients. Gerolsteiner – a mineral water provides about 10% of the daily Ca supplementation required.

Vitamin D:  Supplementation is important to increase Ca absorption, however, in myeloma patients where hypercalcemia is a common occurrence, intake needs to be regulated. Vitamin D supplements should be taken as gel beads or liquids.

Why not Dairy? :Dairy contains saturated fat, which has been shown to promote breast cancer. Moreover, bovine growth hormone that is given to cows for milk production causes insulin like growth factor increase in our bodies – which promotes inflammation and cancer cell division. According to Dr. Abrams no animal drinks milk after weaned, and by the age of 3-4 we lose ability to digest sugars and proteins in dairy. Lactose intolerance is a norm and ability to digest lactose is a genetic mutation on the 2nd chromosome mainly in Scandinavians who needed to digest reindeer milk in freezing temperatures. Most of the other people are lactose intolerant by nature.

Yogurt and Kefir : Protein and sugar in milk are altered by fermentation making it more digestible.

Soy: Soy lowers risk of hormone driven cancers like breast cancer as shown by study on Asian diet. Dr. Abrams recommends eating whole soy foods like tempeh, tofu, miso, soy milk, and soybean but avoid heavily processed foods such as soy turkey, soy cheese or soy hot dogs. He advocates almond, cashew, soy, and rice as good sources of calcium too.

Sugar: Three No’s for cancer patients are dairy, sugar and red meat. Simple sugar feeds the tumor. Dr. Abram said he has been trying to correct the practice of using radio-labelled glucose infusions to stage and find cancer by PET-CT scans.

Antioxidants: Should antioxidants be avoided while on cancer killing treatments? Free radicals cause DNA damage leading to cancer or aging. Antioxidants remove free radicals. Some of the chemotherapeutic agents and radiation therapy treat by generating free radicals of oxygen. So, taking antioxidants during this period may diminish the effectiveness of the treatment. However, stopping antioxidant rich foods is a bit extreme measure to take and not needed.

Recommended Prostate Cancer Diet:

  • Organic, plant based, antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory whole foods.

  • Lycopene is an active ingredient found in tomato. Tomato paste or sauce is the best source of lycopene.

  • Watermelon, pink grapefruit, soy and green tea.

  • Deep cold-water fish rich in omega 3 like – salmon, black cod, herring, albacore tuna.

  • Pomegranate is shown to slow down PSA rise in prostate cancer. Pomegranate capsules are preferred because of the concern with sugar present in pomegranate.

  • Vit D and omega 3 supplementation.

  • Mushroom blends have been shown to reverse early prostate epithelial neoplasia.

  • Physical activity is a must and has positive effect on all cancers.

Mind body connection: Stress is not good for cancer. Adrenaline kills lymphocytes – building blocks of our immune system. Cortisol – released in stress is immune suppressant. Dr. Abrams recommends yoga, exercise, proper nutrition, and stress reduction by CD-ROM guided imagery, stress reduction programs, or massages. He advocates acupuncture in managing various symptoms of cancer including pain.

Dr. Abrams believes that in the field of nutrition, there is a plethora of conflicting information and we don’t have all the evidence that we need. At the same time there is lack of funding for research in this field due to which many prospective beneficial foods remain untested and release of accurate information gets delayed.

We thank Dr. Abrams for educating our audiences amidst the perplexity.

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