Monthly Archives: October 2015

Processed & red meat raises the risk for cancer.

Cattle 2


The IARC, a group within the World Health Organization, published a new report on Monday, October 26th, stating that processed meat is carcinogenic and red meat is probably carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is comprised of 22 scientists from 10 countries. They did a formal review of 800 studies showing a link between meat & cancer.

This report has caused some anger within the meat industry & confusion within the population of meat eaters. We can understand why this upsets the meat industry but what is causing the worlds confusion? Typically, it is caused by the way the media has presented the results.

The North American Meat Institute had their press release ready to run before the IARC report was out. “IARC Meat Vote Is Dramatic and Alarmist Overreach,” the statement was headlined. “IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air,” the group added, apparently referring to an IARC report that found air pollution can cause cancer.”  You can read the entire article by clicking here:  Glee, Panic and Yawns: U.S. Reacts to Report on Meat and Cancer  The American Cancer Society was quoted as well: “For years AICR has been recommending that individuals reduce the amount of beef, pork, lamb and other red meats in their diets and avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage and hot dogs,” said Susan Higginbotham of the American Institute for Cancer Research. “The American Cancer Society has recommended limiting consumption of red and processed meat specifically since 2002,” Susan Gapstur of that group said.”  Let’s look at what the IARC did say…….

IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. This is a link to the actual press release by the IARC. Here are the highlights from the report:

  • Red Meat: Classified as “probably carcinogenic to human beings”. This link to cancer was specifically found in colorectal cancer & “associations” were seen for pancreatic & prostate cancers. 
  • Processed Meat: Classified as “carcinogenic to human beings” This was based on evidence that processed meat causes colorectal cancer. It was added to the IARC Carcinogen List of proven carcinogens to humans which includes asbestos, tobacco & air pollution.
  • Meat Consumption: For each 50 gram (1.76 ounces) serving of processed meat eaten daily will increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. 
  • Recommendations: The larger the serving & the more often a person eats meat, the higher the risk for colorectal & possibly other cancers.

As you can see, the report has confirmed what we have already been told by other research studies regarding red & processed meats.

These articles were done well.

  • What to Know About Meat and Cancer“The agency is not the first to reach the determination that processed meat, and possibly red meat, increases the risk of colorectal cancer—which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund have also concluded that eating even small amounts of processed meats on a regular basis can increase colorectal cancer risk.” Good read. Balanced & accurate.

  • Bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer, experts say “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement.” Also a good read 🙂 “But the bracketing of processed meat with products such as tobacco or arsenic irked industry groups, with the North American Meat Institute saying the IARC report “defies common sense”.”

The importance of this report is unmistakable. Processed meats cause colorectal cancer & there is a probability that red meat, including pork & lamb, increase the risk of colorectal cancer & possibly other cancers such as prostate & pancreatic.

Why is this upsetting the Meat Industry now? Why is it a main headline in the news? It is because the IARC is considered the Gold Standard when it comes to WHO’s health recommendations. The U.S. government is about to release their 2015 FDA Dietary Guidelines. There has been a lot of opposition to these new guidelines. The sugar & meat lobbyists have been battling to get the committee to be easier on their products. This report by the IARC would support the new guidelines. The FDA guidelines help schools make decisions on what to serve in cafeterias & guide health providers in dietary recommendations. 

Here is a good synopsis of those guidelines in an article by WebMD. Surprises in Proposed New Dietary Guidelines“The panel’s advice is under review by the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, which will issue the guidelines jointly later this year. The guidelines are published every 5 years, and they reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat. They can help people make healthy food choices through the USDA’s MyPlateprogram. The advisory committee’s new report puts an emphasis on eating a plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. But some so-called “bad” foods are back on the menu, too.”

The bottom line in all this is that you have to make a choice based on the risk factors. Are you willing to take the risk of an 18% increase in colorectal cancer by eating a hotdog, salami, bacon, steak, ham, or lamb on a daily basis?

My recommendation is to stop eating processed meats. Processed meats are probably carcinogenic  because of the following; 

  • Processing 
  • Salting
  • Curing
  • Smoking
  • Addition of compounds such as nitrites. 

I also recommend eating any meat, be it red, chicken, fish, etc., no more than once a week. If you choose to eat it more often, then once again I have to invoke the dreaded M word for all meat; moderation! Red meats, pork & lamb should be consumed in moderation. I serving: 80 grams or less once a day. Eat them once a month or once a week if you choose to. But not daily. Have meals with chicken, fish, legumes & nuts. Mix up what your source of protein is. This is nutritionally better for you anyway. When you buy any meat, choose antibiotic & growth hormone free. Grass fed is also a good choice. Organic meats are not that expensive if you are serving smaller portions.

This is the perfect time to bring up the latest news regarding brain health & the Mediterranean diet. These articles came out this past week.

  • Mediterranean diet and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohortThis is the actual research study if you are interested.

  • Eat Mediterranean diet for a healthier and younger brain “Scientists know that people who exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and keep mentally stimulated generally have healthier brains than people who aren’t as careful about diet and exercise. This latest study from the journal Neurology shows how one easy-to-follow diet (which includes wine!) may make your brain about five years younger.” This is a great article about this new study. This latest Mediterranean diet research builds on other evidence that the diet is likely the way to go. It has also been shown as a key to helping you live longer. It helps you manage your weight better and can lower your risk for cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Bottom line: you’ll likely be physically and mentally healthier long into old age if you stick with this diet.” 
  • Why should you adopt the Mediterranean diet“Lead scientist Dr Yian Gu, from Columbia University in New York, says, “These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of ageing on the brain simply by following a healthy diet.” Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, adds, “There is an increasing amount of evidence that eating a healthy diet, rich in fish, vegetables, legumes and nuts is good for your brain. This study delves further into the potential benefits that diet could have, but it does not prove that a Mediterranean-style diet can stop your brain from shrinking as you age. Other key ways to keep your brain healthy is to take as much physical exercise as you can, stop smoking and keep your blood pressure in check.”

“Chemo brain” was not mentioned in this study but I would think that following the Mediterranean diet sure couldn’t hurt! If it supports brain health then why not give it a try!

I am sure this is not the end of the controversy surrounding meat. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Cancer is a complex disease. Many different elements can trigger the cancer cell to grow. You can only do your best to limit the risk. Take the information above & make an informed decision for you and your family’s dietary decisions. Reread the information on our website to help you. If you have questions or concerns please email me. 

My pumpkins BestSee you here next week!

Have a Happy Halloween. This is a picture of my pumpkins. I painted them this year 🙂 



Antioxidants Cause Cancer to Progress?


Antioxidants are once again in the news. The use of antioxidant supplements by cancer patients has been a controversial subject for years. Note that I said antioxidant supplements; pills, powders, drinks etc. I did not say antioxidants in the diet. There is an important distinction here. The studies being done are using antioxidant supplements. Antioxidants in your normal balanced diet are safe to consume.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy &/or radiation have routinely been asked to stop all antioxidant supplementation during treatment. Here is a simplified definition of how chemotherapy & radiation therapies work: they destroy cancer cells by inducing free radicals and by promoting oxidation of the cancer cells. Added antioxidants were thought to block the oxidation process, consequently interfering with treatment.

In January of 2013, James Watson, PhD, & Noble Prize winner for discovering the DNA double helix, published a report regarding cancer therapies. In this report he said: “Everyone thought antioxidants were great,” he said. “But I’m saying they can prevent us from killing cancer cells.”  Here is a good article about his stance; which, by the way, caused a huge uproar among researchers & oncologists. DNA pioneer James Watson takes aim at “cancer establishments”  Dr. Watson also said that cancer cells produce their own antioxidants to block oxidation from treatments. Recent research has proven him right.

January 2014 in WebMD  Could Antioxidants Speed Up Cancer Progression?  “Smokers and other people at high risk for lung cancer could make matters worse if they take antioxidant supplements, a new study of rodents suggests. Antioxidants appear to accelerate cancer progression by short-circuiting one of the body’s key immune responses to malignant cells, researchers from Sweden report.” This article goes on to explain the process in the body to detect and repair cellular DNA damage. Antioxidants help with this, but in patients with cancer or precancerous cells this repair work “hides” the cancer cells, making them undetectable. Research done with people suggests the same outcome.

In July of 2014, Medscape published this article: Antioxidants Appear to Be Harmful in Cancer Patients  “While alternative health gurus often encourage increasing antioxidants in the diet and the taking of antioxidant nutritional supplements such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium, new research findings suggest that antioxidants could do more harm than good, especially in cancer patients.” This is an excellent, balanced, look at antioxidant supplementation. Some research has shown that it is dose dependent. Even the FDA recommended dosage of Vitamin E has been shown to cause adverse effects with prostate cancer. The same with selenium. If cancer cells are producing antioxidants to protect themselves from oxidation then adding more antioxidants in the form of supplements upsets the balance & the cancer cells grow & become more aggressive in some cancers. More research needs to be done but this is what newer studies are suggesting.  

October 14, 2015. A study done at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute UT Southwestern has made the headlines this past weekend. Study shows antioxidant use may promote spread of cancer  “We discovered that metastasizing melanoma cells experience very high levels of oxidative stress, which leads to the death of most metastasizing cells,” said Dr. Sean Morrison, CRI Director and Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Administration of antioxidants to the mice allowed more of the metastasizing melanoma cells to survive, increasing metastatic disease burden. The idea that antioxidants are good for you has been so strong that there have been clinical trials done in which cancer patients were administered antioxidants,” added Dr. Morrison, who is also a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “Some of those trials had to be stopped because the patients getting the antioxidants were dying faster. Our data suggest the reason for this: cancer cells benefit more from antioxidants than normal cells do.” This is the newest published study. 

I think based on the studies so far it is fair to say that cancer patients should avoid taking antioxidant supplements before, during & after treatment. This would include supplement pills; Vitamin E, C, A, Selenium & Beta Carotene, powdered greens, concentrated green tea, & any other product touting the high concentration of antioxidants.

My Plate 1What about having a diet high in antioxidants? Adding more whole foods that are high in antioxidants without looking at the overall balance of your diet can potentially cause problems. If you are eating a plant based, balanced diet such as the Mediterranean or DASH diet then you have nothing to worry about. Whole foods that are high in antioxidants are complex and contain fiber, buffers, vitamins & minerals that all work together synergistically. It would be rare that you would eat enough antioxidants in your food to be considered a “high level”. A serving of blueberries is still beneficial, but packing your smoothie with berries is not; based on what I have been reading.

Discuss this with your health care team. It is important for them to know what you are doing when it comes to supplementation & diet. The protocol you & your oncologist choose is dependent on you being honest 🙂

I leave you with this article. It made headlines for days. I am not sure I agree with their results since they were based on self reporting. This is an example of why the supplement industry grows each year & it applies to more than just cancer survivors.  Cancer survivors often have poor diets “Cancer survivors may be less likely to follow a healthy diet than other people, particularly where leafy greens and whole grains are concerned, a U.S. study suggests.”  

The bottom line of this article states: “While there is no way to know the lifestyle of all cancer patients, it is a safe bet to say that at this point the evidence points to a diet of primarily whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, consuming little or no alcohol, regular exercise and not smoking tobacco as ways to help reduce cancer risk,” Heller said. And I would add that it is also the way to stimulate the immune system & that this is the diet of choice for everyone. 

See you here next week!…….Mary

Tips for a Healthy Weight Gain

Dr. Hyman What is at the end of your fork


In a society where obesity is a major health problem, gaining weight seems inconsequential. For many people gaining weight is as difficult as losing it. Weight loss has many causes, medical & non-medical. In this post I will discuss cancer related weight loss & nutritional tips to help with gaining or maintaining your weight during & after treatment. This information would also be helpful to anyone who would like to gain a few pounds.

Chemotherapy & radiation can lead to weight loss due to the following.

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Changes in your sense of smell.
  • Changes in your sense of taste.
  • Side effects of medications; nausea, constipation  or diarrhea.
  • Stress.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.

Under the Topics section of this website you will find an article I wrote: Nutrition Tips During Chemotherapy  The article covers the above list in detail. In this post I want to elaborate on what you can do nutritionally.

Every bite counts. Avoid the advice of some “experts” when they say you should eat more ice cream, shakes, butter & cheese. These are all fine in moderation but they are also inflammatory. Unless the dairy is organic it will contain antibiotics & growth hormones. Organic or not it is also estrogenic. With a little planning you can consume more calories that are nutrient dense & balanced from non-dairy choices.

Sitting down to 3 large meals a day is counter productive. You will take in fewer calories because you will sit there pushing the food around on the plate & taking just a few bites. If you eat several ~6 to 8~ small snack type meals a day, in portions that you can eat in one sitting, you will consume more calories.  As you can see in the food tips below, eating 8 small meals a day would give you a minimum of 1800 calories. Adding extra calorie dense choices would increase that. As your capacity for more food increases over time then you can increase the amount of food at each sitting.

Food tips: You want to make every small meal counts nutritionally. Here are some high calorie, healthy choices. An extra 500 calories a day = 1 pound weight gain per week. How many calories do you need per day is dependent upon your age, how much you weigh right now, activity & your gender. The Mayo Clinic has a Calorie Calculator that will help you.

  • Nuts…grab a few nuts often. Have them in a container in your purse & car so that you will have a high calorie, high protein healthy snack. 1/2 cup Macadamia nuts have 474 calories & Almonds have 411. The University of Michigan Health System has a great brochure about nuts & their nutritional content: Healthy Nuts Go Nuts Have a look, they even have recipes to help you include nuts in your diet. Make a trail mix for yourself by adding the nuts that you like, seeds, dark chocolate chips, & even tiny pretzels.  
  • Nut butters…Nut butters are a good high calorie, high fat, nutritious food. Add them to a piece of whole grain toast or crackers for a small snack. 1 tablespoon on 2 crackers gives you 224 calories. Stir them into full fat Greek yogurt or even a smoothie. When you are buying nut butters be sure to read the ingredient list. It should have the nut, maybe some salt & that is it. Sugar &/or ingredients you can’t pronounce should not be listed.
  • Whole grain crackers… 2 crackers with 1 ounce slice of cheese will give you 262 calories. Add a piece of chicken, fish or turkey to increase the calories, protein & healthy fats. This becomes a small snack packed with calories & nutritionally balanced.
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa & Brown rice are not only rich in nutrients but also high in fiber & calories: 1 cup cooked = 218 calories. Add 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil to it and it becomes 466 calories. Add a few veggies, peanuts, fish or meat,  & the calories increase. 1/2 cup with Olive oil, nuts & veggies is a small, healthy meal. Here is a link to Oldways Whole Grain Counsel. Everything you ever wanted to know about whole grains & even how to cook them.  
  • Oatmeal.  Add almonds or another favorite nut or seed. Sprinkling hemp &/or chia seeds over it adds fiber, Omega 3’s & protein. Adding raisins & almonds brings the calories up from 166 to 480. High calorie cereals are granola, muesli & even grapenuts. Whole grain cereals without added sugar are the healthiest. Read the ingredients!
  • Dried fruit is high in calories but also in sugar. Added in small amounts to your oatmeal or with nuts as a snack is a good idea.
  • Healthy oils. Olive oil, Almond oil, avocado oil & sesame oil can be added to foods for flavor & calories. If you make a rice dish for yourself or for the family then add the oil to your portion. They can also be added to a smoothie, blended into nut butters, & drizzled over an avocado on crackers. 1 tablespoon of Olive oil is 119 calories.
  • Avocados are healthy fats, & high in calories. Add slices to salads, smoothies, on top of eggs, or on crackers. 2 tablespoons is 50 calories. Who can eat just 2 tablespoons? 🙂
  • Fatty fish like salmon are high in calories, protein & Omega 3’s. Monteray Bay Aqaurium Seafood Watch: This is the best site to keep an eye on the seafood that you eat. They can be added to almost any dish of vegetables & whole grains or eaten alone with a sauce.
  • Vegetables. Corn, peas & potatoes are high in calories. They are filling too. Eat a small serving while adding nuts, hemp, & cheese. Mix the corn & peas with other veggies such as mushrooms, broccoli or squash. Potatoes are wonderfully nutritious, especially the colorful ones. Bake several small ones to have on hand. Adding nuts, cheese, & other vegetables as the topping is a nutritious meal all by itself. What are your favorite vegetables? Make a list.
  • Eggs. One egg has 75 calories, 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. Poached, scrambled, over easy, or hard boiled, they are a good healthy choice. If you scramble them or make an omelette add extra egg whites to the mix to increase the protein. Omelettes are easy & can be filled with whatever your heart desires; chicken, turkey, vegetables, cheese, avocado and more! Be creative.
  • Ensure or Boost. These are usually recommended by your medical team to help with weight gain. Whole foods should be your first choice & these should be used when you have no other choice. But don’t depend on them for your only source of food. They are both high in sugar; Boost 25 grams & Ensure 18 grams. Sugar is the first ingredient listed in both of them. Your body needs a balanced whole foods diet.

This is a link to a great article giving you further tips to safely put on weight: Gain Weight the Healthy Way with These 11 Foods.

Some of the following you probably already do but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

  • Get rid of any food item that says non-fat, fat free, light or diet & don’t buy it again. Swap for higher calorie versions. This is good advice for everyone.
  • Eat more frequently. We already discussed this~but….You should eat 6-8 small snack type meals a day. 6 times a day & about every 3 hours is ideal. Each meal should be calorie & nutrient rich. If you eat small snacks that you can finish, then by the end of the day your calorie intake will be higher.
  • Fluids. Don’t fill up on fluids. Drink water between meals, never with them. Drink small amounts frequently so you don’t fill up. Drinking 30 minutes after your meal is ideal. Water should be your fluid of choice. Gauge your intake by the color of your urine. It should be light yellow. Ditch the “empty calories” of alcohol & sugary drinks.
  • Treats: Have an occasional treat. Healthy, high calorie treats are the best choices.
  • Comfort Food. If you get a sudden urge for fries & a burger then go for it. Eating a comfort food does more for your peace of mind at that time than anything else. Don’t ignore these “needs”. There is usually a reason for them. Stress, depression, fatigue; whatever the reason give yourself permission to enjoy it.
  • Exercise stimulates your appetite. A walk to the end of the drive is a good start!
  • Poor appetite. Citrus essential oils: put a few drops of orange essential oil on your napkin or have it in a diffuser in your kitchen to stimulate your appetite. If you continue with a poor appetite then treat eating like a medicine you have to take & schedule it.
  • Sleep. You need 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Your body needs this time of rest to heal. If you are unable to sleep through the night then add naps in during the day. Don’t let the naps take the place of eating. Schedule both into your routine.

Adding weight doesn’t happen over night. So be patient with yourself. Start by building up a list of foods that are high calorie & nutrient dense that appeal to you right now. Write them down so you don’t forget. Be creative & incorporate them into your meal plan. I don’t recommend counting calories at every meal but rather be aware of which whole foods would be helpful to you right now. That’s why a food list is so important. It takes away the guess work & is built on your individual needs & tastes at this moment. These will change as you move through treatment.

Keep a food journal. I have talked about all the available apps for your phone or your computer. Food Diary and Calorie Tracker by MyNetDiary HD by MyNetDiary Inc. is one example. You can also just use a small notebook. Writing down when & what you have eaten & how you felt emotionally & physically helps to build a list of foods to avoid & foods to embrace. I hope this information has been helpful. Email me if you have any questions or comments.

I will be on vacation next week. See you back here on October 20th…Mary