The Sugar Menace
Vitamin C and Cancer Update
IV Vitamin C and Cancer
Carrots and Cancer
Ask Dr. J: Probiotics with Food
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of The Month: Squash Bean Barley Chili
I could not help but see the new ads for candy from the Mars company, in which their chocolate bars are portrayed as healthy for the heart. They neglect to mention that the refined sugar that these candies contain is a leading cause of physiological dysfunction. Sugar that is purified from sugar cane, beets, or corn is highly concentrated when added to processed foods, compared to the level found naturally in most whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits and vegetables. In such high levels, it is addictive and probably more harmful than illegal addictive substances.
Natural sweeteners may be somewhat better. A lot of folklore suggests that honey has some health benefits, but it is still a risk for people who are sensitive to sugar. The real advantage of limiting yourself to natural sweeteners (such as honey, maple syrup, barley malt, rice syrup, or fruit concentrate) is that they are much less available; you just can’t find a dessert at a restaurant that is naturally sweetened, so following this rule eliminates the large majority of refined dietary sugars.
My textbook of medicine at school had a section on hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), but I did not read that part until well after medical school. It noted what I had observed in practice: hypoglycemia can mimic almost any neurological or psychiatric symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, depression, mania, insomnia, blurry vision, double vision, palpitations, anxiety, and more (although it is still controversial in the medical profession as a cause of these symptoms). Sugar increases childhood behavioral disturbances, cravings for sweets, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. The caffeine-like stimulants in chocolate add to the problems.
Sugar is associated with the rapid and massive increase in body weight seen in recent decades in developed countries (although this is also related to increasing overall caloric intake and sedentary lifestyles). The doubling of childhood obesity is leading to increased diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and cancer, and sugar is a contributor. Suggesting that eating candy of any kind is a benefit for the heart is very misleading, even though cocoa contains significant antioxidants and other healthful phytochemicals. Once someone eliminates refined sugars from the diet, real foods seem much tastier, and less sweetness is needed for pleasure or to satisfy cravings.
I do enjoy some sweets, but I am just as satisfied by a fruit smoothie as unhealthful snacks. I like to mix frozen strawberries, blueberries, and bananas with coconut, medjool dates, almond or peanut butter, and soymilk in my VitaMix (or a food processor). The dates are sweet without refined sugar, and they have fiber and other nutritional value. This dessert is full of antioxidants that prevent heart disease, cancer, and aging. I do have an occasional natural sweet, including chocolate, but I have no illusions about it, and I depend on other nutritional sources and exercise to prevent disease.
Vitamin C and Cancer
I have long been a proponent of high-dose vitamin C therapy for many conditions, including cancer, as part of a comprehensive treatment program. As early as 1976, Cameron and Pauling published a study of 100 cancer patients given 10 grams of vitamin C per day (independent of whatever other therapy they were given). In their report, they compared these patients’ longevity with 10 case controls each, for a total of 1000 matched case controls (not placebo controls).
Patients with terminal cancer given vitamin C lived on average more than four times as long as the controls. For some subgroups, survival was far longer (12 times longer than the controls). Eight of the patients lived for 3.5 years after they were diagnosed as untreatable (while the controls had died within 50 days. While a subsequent study from the Mayo Clinic purported to disprove their report, those researchers did not match the methods reported by Cameron and Pauling.
Vitamin C has a number of effects than might account for some of its benefits. It enhances numerous immune functions, including natural killer cell activity and T- and B-cell function. In high enough doses (only achievable with intravenous administration) it can act within cancer tissues as a hydrogen peroxide promoter, selectively killing cancer cells. High oral doses (three grams every four hours) produced serum levels of 220 umol, compared to 13,400 umol after administration of a 50-g intravenous dose.
Research suggests that cancer patients have elevated oxidative stress and low levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. In one study 20 cancer patients were compared to healthy matched controls. The patients had a highly significant lower level of the nutrients and total antioxidant status, and elevation of an indicator of oxidative stress. Another recent study confirms that oral cancer tissue consumes larger amounts of antioxidants and depletes them in the blood stream.
Vitamin C increases the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy drugs according to a number of clinical studies. Contrary to what many doctors tell their patients, antioxidants do not interfere with chemotherapy. In a laboratory study of esophageal cancer cells, pretreatment with vitamin C made the cells more susceptible to 5-FU and cisplatin. Other research supports the concurrent use of antioxidants and conventional cancer treatments. Earlier research showed that antioxidants, including vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid, reduced oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, and markers of tumor progression in advanced cancer patients. Vitamin C is toxic to cancer cells, and combining it with lipoic acid enhances that effect in lab studies.
Cameron and Pauling’s work showed prolongation of life using oral vitamin C in cancer patients, and in a few cases long-term remission. For a number of years, Riordan and colleagues have been administering high dose vitamin C to advanced cancer patients, including intravenous administration, and have reported numerous case studies of tumor remission.
Two case reports of patients with ovarian cancer who had received chemotherapy showed apparent benefit from adding antioxidant therapy and intravenous vitamin C (60 gms twice a week). These were advanced cancer patients with tumors that are especially difficult to treat. Both patients received oral vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10, and a multivitamin/mineral. One patient was free of tumor by CT scan 3 1/2 years after starting treatment. The other refused chemotherapy even though she had residual tumors, and at three years had no evidence of tumors. Both patients are disease free at six years.
A new report of three case studies shows significant benefits in cancer patients from IV vitamin C treatment. One patient had kidney cancer with metastases to the lungs, received IV vitamin C (65 gms twice a week for 10 months) and was free of tumor for five years before developing a totally different lung cancer (she was a heavy smoker).
A second patient had grade 3 bladder cancer with satellite tumors, declined chemotherapy or radiation, and had IV vitamin C (30 gms twice a week for 3 months, then once every 1-2 months), plus other supplements, and is free of disease 9 years later.
The third patient had a large B-cell lymphoma with muscle and bone invasion. She had only short-term local radiation, refused chemotherapy, and had IV vitamin C (15 gms twice a week for about 9 months, then less frequently for a total of about two years). This patient also took other supplements, including coenzyme Q10, N-acetyl cysteine, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, and a multi. Ten years after diagnosis, she is in normal health.
I have had one patient with bladder cancer who was recommended to have his bladder surgically removed. He chose instead to take intravenous vitamin C and numerous dietary supplements. He had been well for over 10 years, never having had conventional treatment. Vitamin C is incredibly safe, has many benefits for prevention and treatment of many illnesses, and there is no rational basis for withholding it from cancer patients at any disease stage. It is at least very likely to make them feel better and prolong their life, and it may even lead to complete remission.
Carrots are well known to contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids, antioxidants that may help protect against cancer. Studies with isolated synthetic beta-carotene suggest that it is less helpful than that found in foods, although natural carotenoids seem to protect against heart disease and prostate cancer.
However, another substance found in carrots, falcarinol, is also protective. Falcarinol is a substance that protects the carrots from fungal diseases and in very high amounts can be toxic to animals and, presumably, humans. However, in animal studies, typical levels of falcarinol that may be found in the diet reduce tumor risks. A study compared animals with pre-cancerous lesions that were given no carrots, raw carrots, or falcarinol supplements in the same amount as in the carrots. Those in the experimental groups had a 33 percent lower risk of developing full-blown tumors than the controls.
Falcarinol is also found in ginseng, which may explain part of the health benefits derived from taking ginseng supplements. So far, the mechanism of these benefits from falcarinol consumption is not understood. (Some people have an allergic skin reaction with heavy occupational exposure to falcarinol.)
Carrots are nutritious in other ways in addition to their carotenoids and falcarinol. They are high in fiber (3 gms per cup of raw carrots), potassium, magnesium, and other minerals, in addition to small amounts of vitamin C and folic acid.
Ask Dr. J: Probiotics with Meals
Q. Should I take my probiotics separated from meals, as I have heard?
BC, Pennsylvania, via email
A. I think it is better to take them with food. Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and others. While these are generally “acid loving” as the name of the former implies, they do not do as well in extremely acid environments.
Hydrochloric acid in the stomach, with a pH from 2-3, is important for protein digestion and protection from pathogens, such as Helicobacter pylori, the cause of many ulcers. However, this high acidity leads to the loss of some of the friendly bacteria, which thrive at a pH of 4-5. Healthy food in the stomach, with lots of fiber, buffers the stomach acid, and increases the probiotic survival, so they get into the intestines. They improve intestinal function, help control diarrhea, block pathogens, reduce vaginal yeast infections, enhance immunity, and lower cholesterol.
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Vitamin C and Cancer Update
Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1976;73:3685-9.
Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: reevaluation of prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1978;75:4538-42.
Chen Q, et al., Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells: Action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2005 Sep 20;102(38):13604-13609.
Padayatty S, et al., Vitamin C pharmacokinetics: implications for oral and intravenous use. Ann Int Med 2004 Apr 6;140(7):533-7.
Adhikari D, et al., Oxidative stress and antioxidant status in cancer patients… Nepal Med Coll J. 2005 Dec;7(2):112-5.
Fiaschi AI, et al., Glutathione, ascorbic acid and antioxidant enzymes in the tumor tissue and blood of patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Nov-Dec;9(6):361-7.
Abdel-Latif MM, et al., Vitamin C enhances chemosensitization of esophageal cancer cells in vitro. J Chemother. 2005 Oct;17(5):539-49.
Moss RW, Should patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy be prescribed antioxidants? Integr Cancer Ther. 2006 Mar;5(1):63-82.
Mantovani G, et al., The impact of different antioxidant agents alone or in combination…in a series of advanced cancer patients… Free Radic Res. 2003 Feb;37(2):213-23.
Casciari JJ, et al., Cytotoxicity of ascorbate, lipoic acid, and other antioxidants…Br J Cancer. 2001 Jun 1;84(11):1544-50.
Drisko JA, et al., The use of antioxidants with first-line chemotherapy in two cases of ovarian cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Apr;22(2):118-23.
Drisko, JA, Personal communication, April 11, 2006.
Padayatty SJ, Intravenously administered vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 28;174(7):937-42.
Carrots and Cancer
Kobaek-Larsen M, et al., Inhibitory effects of feeding with carrots or (-)-falcarinol on development of…lesions in the rat colon. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 9;53(5):1823-7.
a. Changing health habits reduces disease risks, and people given proper advice are able to maintain changes for the long term (at least 18 months). In a study of 810 adults, the rate of hypertension dropped from 38 to 22 percent among those who followed the most intensive program, exercising, losing weight, eating less fat and salt, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Some subjects had the benefit of a counselor and a support group, but even those who did not improved with just two half-hour education sessions. (Elmer PJ, et al., Effects of comprehensive lifestyle modification on diet, weight, physical fitness, and blood pressure control: 18-month results of a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2006 Apr 4;144(7):485-95.)
b. A high intake of calcium and vitamin D (the latter especially from supplements) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Following 83,779 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, researchers found that those with the highest vitamin D intake from supplements had a 13 percent lower risk of diabetes, and those with the highest calcium intake from food or supplements had a 20 percent risk reduction. Women with the highest intake of both calcium (more than 1200 mg) and vitamin D (more than 800 IU) had a 33 percent risk reduction. (Pittas AG, et al., Vitamin D and calcium intake in relation to type 2 diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Mar;29(3):650-6.) Better health habits might reduce calcium needs.
Arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in land animal fats, increases the risk of prostate cancer, promotes the spread of prostate cancer cells, and increases their invasiveness. Omega-3 oils from fish (EPA and DHA) have the opposite effects (Brown MD, et al., Promotion of prostatic metastatic migration towards human bone marrow stroma by omega 6 and its inhibition by omega 3 PUFAs. Br J Cancer. 2006 Mar 27;94(6):842-53). This cellular study confirms other clinical research on the dangers of animal fats (other than fish).
Soak 1 1/2 cups of dried black or red beans, discard the soaking water, and then pressure cook in fresh water (about 20 minutes). Peel, remove the seeds, and cut a large butternut squash into cubes. Dice 2 large onions, mince 4 cloves of garlic, and sauté these in olive oil until tender with 2-3 Tbsp of chili powder, 1 Tbsp of cumin, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (to taste), then add 2-3 Tbsp of soy sauce. Add the squash, the liquid from cooking the beans, fresh diced tomatoes (or organic, canned, crushed tomatoes), 1 1/2 cups of cooked barley (or brown rice), and enough water or vegetable broth to cover the mixture. Simmer this until the squash is tender, then add chopped greens, such as fresh or frozen organic spinach or Swiss chard. Continue simmering to wilt the greens. Turn off the heat and fold in a bunch of minced cilantro and garnish with a few drops of toasted sesame oil.