Monthly Archives: October 2013

Phytonutrients in Fruit and the Cancer Connection

Phytonutrients in Fruit and the Cancer Connection

Reference:  Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

This is such an important topic, we’re doing two weeks.  We covered vegetables last week and now fruit.  To recap the concept.  GMO food is not new.  We humans have been genetically modifying food the old fashioned way for the last 5000 years by farmers selecting foods that are better tasting (usually means sweet and less bitter), bigger and prettier.  As an unintended consequence, we have gradually reduced the phytonutrient content of our foods.  We may not have been doing it in a test tube at a major food research lab, but we have been modifying our plants nevertheless.  The phytonutrients are often the bright colors in foods, but also the bitter flavor.  In plants, they serve to ward off insect predators.  In humans, they stimulate our immune system to then react against cancers and inflammation.   Here is what has happened to fruits.

1.  Apples.  A catastrophic decline.  Our 9 major apples in grocery stores are almost all void of much value.  A wild apple from Nepal measures 475 times the phytonutrient content of a Ginger Gold, or a Golden Delicious.  A study from Japan in the 90’s showed that Fuji apples (representing modern ones) had one eithtieth (1/80) of the cancer fighting ability of Japanese heirloom apples.  Some tips on how to get the most from your apples:  buy heirloom, look for the brightly colored that have been the most sun exposed, eat the skin, and don’t get the pesticide covered ones.  Pesticides cause cancer too.

2.  Blueberries.  Once so abundant in North America, folks just went to the woods.  Chokeberries, the wild form, have a level of 160 compared to most modern berries in the 2-5 range.  Despite that, research from Tufts has shown that a diet of 10% blueberries completely prevent Alzheimer’s in rats.  The ORAC score of blueberries (ORAC = Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) is 3500 for half a cup.  That’s about the highest fruit in America.  Tips:  buy in mid season and freeze them.  Buy organic and pay more (less pesticide).  Buy frozen if you need too – harvested at peak.  And cooked blueberries have double the antioxidant.  Cooking releases good stuff.

3.  Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries.  Are all high ORAC scoring (1800-2500 range) so make for superfoods.  Strawberries are heavily pecticided so buy local, wash carefully, pick your own.   All berries are high cancer fighters.

4.  Peaches.   Exception to the color rule: white peaches are 3 times better than yellow.  But then red flesh is the better yet. (5801 to 637 score).

5.  Apricots.  Superstars!  Up to 8 times the value of a peach.  Given a choice, take the apricot.  Early varieties are dramatically low in antioxidants do buy in July and August.   Since we eat more dried than fresh, how it’s dried matters: tunnel drying quadruples the antioxidant result compared to sun drying. (It’s faster)

6.  Cherries.  Also superstars.  Bing beats Ranier 4 to 1 for antioxidants.    And cherry juice is a potent anti-inflammatory.  Foreign cherries have less pesticides.

7.  Plums and Prunes.  Buy the darker varieties that mature later, like apricots.  They too reduce inflammation dramatically and now have been proven to build bone. If you have osteopenia or –porosis, you should eat dried plums daily.

8.  Grapes.  Native American muscadine grapes are dramatically better than imported European varieties, so worth the tough skin and seeds.   White grapes are sweet, pretty and worthless.  Eat black seedless and get 4 times the antioxidant.  Concord grape juice is a secret sleeper – better anti-oxidant than acai berries.  Yeah, yeah – that stuff your Mom bought you is a star.   Concord grape juice fares well in Alzheimer’s research, cardiovascular disease research…  so if you drink any fruit juice, make it Concord grape.   Rinse just before eating for all the heavy pesticides.

9.  Currants.  Rare and not often eaten. Too bad.  Much, much better than grapes.

10.  Oranges.  Hesperidin might be a cancer fighter, but you get it only in the whole fruit.  Don’t drink the juice: pure sugar.  The pith might be a cancer super star.

11.  Lemons.  Are second only to cranberries against cancer in test-tube experiments.  And the peel/pith is really where the action is.  Find a way to “zest” your foods more.  Add lemon to your green tea and double the green tea antioxidant effect!

12.  Grapefruits.  Might be cardiac disease superstars.   But they don’t mix with some meds – changing drug levels as much as 50%.  That might be a benefit, or not!

13.  Bananas.   Don’t.  Unless you buy heirloom or Asian varieties.  Or just want carbs.

14.  Pineapples.  Interestingly enough, newer super-sweet varieties have more anti-oxidants.  Eat right away. They don’t improve with age.

15.  Mangos. Worth discovering.  5 times more Vit C than oranges, 5 times more fiber than pineapples and more phytonutrients than papaya.  Learn to cut them and eat them with relish.

16.  Guavas.  Also worth discovering.  It might be a sleeper superstar and not much studied but all indications are “go”.   Hispanic stores have it.  Lucky devils.

17.  Melons.  Pretty low on the ladder.  Taste good.  Not much value.  They’re all water.  Red watermelon does have some lycopene, in addition to all its sugar.

18.  Pomegranates.  The juice has been shown to reverse plaque in carotid arteries.

WWW.  What will work for me.  Fruits are pretty high on the antioxidant ladder of foods, but just like vegetables, there is a huge range of nutritional value.  There are enough superstars out there that I can build an interesting menu with lots of variety.  I’m having fun adding  cranberries, prunes and apricots to my menu.  And mangoes every chance I get.  I can eat 4 mangoes at a sitting.    I’ll show you how to cut them.

Pop Quiz

1.   Pytonutrients are the trace elements in plants that help the plants fight insect invaders.  T or F


2.  Those trace elements in humans seem to nudge our immune system to be its best, and fight cancer effectively.  T or F

Another true.

3.   A crab apple a day keeps the doctor away.  T or F

That’s it in a nutshell. Our modern, genetically modified plants have lost much of their trace nutritional value, something we have not measured to date.  Crab apples, still in their genetically original form have as much as 100 times the antioxidant of some modern sweet apples.

4.   Cranberries are pretty high on the list of great foods.  T or F

True (Brought to you by the Wisconsin Cranberry board)-but still true.

5. Apricots, tunnel dried are a great antioxidant treat.

True.  The rapid tunnel drying preserves their antioxidant value.

6.  Melons are great anti-oxidant foods.  T or F

If you said true, you hadn’t read to the bottom.  They are nice and sweet, but mostly water.  Try mangoes instead.

7.  The best fruit to build bone is….



Phyto-Nutrient Content of Vegetables and the Cancer Connection

Phyto-Nutrient Content of Vegetables and the Cancer Connection

Reference:  Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

All right.  So you learned last week that we have spent 5000 years of human history molding plants to fit our taste buds and our economic interests, and didn’t know how to measure for phytonutrients.  As a result, many of our plant based foods have had much of their original nutritional ingredients bred out of them.  Not by intent, but the inevitable process of removing bitter flavors for sweet and adding size for productivity, dilutes out the phytonutrient concentration per plant.  The net results are that our plant foods have very low nutritional density.  The question arises, what is the benefit for cancer patients to eat “wild” plant based foods.  Here is a short list.

1.     Apples.  “An apple a day….”  But for cancer, one crab apple equals 5 Honeycrisps in suppressing cancer cells.   Eat heirloom varieties.

2.     Lettuce.  Hmm.  Iceberg is virtually vacant of nutrition, even though it is the most abundant vegetable in the American diet, equaling in weight all the other vegetables we eat.  Spinach has about 5 times as many phytonutrients as lettuce, but dandelions have 8 times that.  The anthocyanins in spinach are meant to be super stars for cancer prevention – wait till someone studies dandelions. (Don’t boil spinach: 10 minutes and 80% of the good stuff is in the water)

3.     Arugula.  “Rocket salad” is not a spinach, it’s a cabbage and it is loaded with glucosinolates.  Another power packed cancer fighter.

4.     Olive oil versus soybean oil. To absorb your cancer fighting chemicals, olive oil beats soy by 7 to 1.  Commercial salad dressing is all soy.  Make your own

5.     Asparagus.  Superstar vegetable.  BUT…has to be eaten within a day of picking.  Buying if from California loses as much as 50% of phytonutrients a day.

6.     Garlic.  Superstar cancer fighter: breast, pancreas, prostate, lung and kidney with 100% of cells killed.  BUT – you have to let the good stuff develop.  When you chop it, you mix two chemicals that take 10 minutes to develop.  You then make allicin.  The garlic story is still developing. But frying it right away, or nuking it loses all its allicin.  Conclusion: chop, press, squeeze and then let it sit 10 minutes.  Then sauté away.  (Hard neck varieties are better)

7.     Onions.  One test tube study showed that strong flavored onions kill 90% of colon cancer cells while sweet ones only get 10%.  Western yellow are about 10 times as potent as Vidalias.  Better yet, go for shallots. They are 6 times as potent as the best onion.  (Shallots have not been genetically modified at all – you can find them in the wild still in SE Asia.)  Or BEST: use scallions – at 140 times the phytonutrients of sweet white onions.  Men using scallions once a week have 50% less prostate cancer.

8.     Corn.  Forget the yellow sweet stuff.  Blue corn however… has cyaniding-3-glucoside which test tube studies show has great cancer effects.  Again, not genetically modified.  The sweet corn….a zero.

9.     Purple potatoes.  The Sioux used to eat “apios” which is loaded with genistein. The Inca had several hundred varieties.  Their purple potatoes had 28 – 166 times the phytonutrient quantity of our common white potatoes.   A purple variety called Mountain Rose has been shown to inhibit breast cancer cells.

10. Carrots.  Purple in color originally, the healthy cancer fighting phenols are down from 40 to 2 in orange carrots.  They are still a good deal for you, but you double your intake if you cook the carrot whole, then slice it.  And forget the shaped baby carrots.  And cooked gives you more nutrient than raw.  Oil on the carrot aids absorption. (aka, organic butter).  See if you can find purple.  They are rare, but some farmers are starting to grow them.

11. Beets.  Have boron for bones and elevate the production of testosterone.  Guess what that does for men and women!  Beets are superstars:  9 times more antioxidant than tomato, 50 times a carrot.  Betalains in beets, in one experiment blocked 85-100% of cancer cells of prostate, stomach, brain and pancreas.  Athletes will shave 41 seconds off a 5K run time drinking beet juice.  2012 Olympics had many runners drinking beet juice instead of Gatoraide.  And the greens are maybe even better…add them to your salad.

12.  Sweet potatoes.  At least twice as good as white ones.  Great fiber too.

13. Tomatoes.  Forget the big ones.  Go for dark red, cherry or currant tomatoes.  About the same lycopene content per tomato – so eat 10 little guys.  Then, grow your own and eat them off the vine.  Cooking them doubles the lycopene.

14. Brussels/Broccoli/Kale.  They are superstars, but lose their good stuff within days of harvest.  By 10 days, 80% is gone.  Eating broccoli raw gets you 20 times the sulforaphane (anti cancer drug) than cooked.  If you cook – steam it only.  Brussels sprouts kill more cancer cells than any other vege. (in a test tube)  Eat them right away, steam them instead of boiling.  Gorge!

15. Cabbage.  Purple is better by 3-6 times.  And it’s great!  And white is good too.

16. Cauliflower.  Purples and greens are 4-6 times better than white, and white is wonderful.  Don’t boil. Steam it.

17. Kale.  Superstar of superstars.  You can’t eat enough. At least 6 different kinds of cancers succumb to it (in test tubes)  Briefly steam it, don’t boil.  Add to your salad.  Raw is best.

18. Beans.  Dried pinto beans are great.  12 times the antioxidants of carrots.  Kidney beans double that.  Black beans may be best.  But American green peas are a bust.  Chickpeas (garbanzos) are also mediocre.  Yellow and red lentils, dynamite.  Make your soup from them.  Dal is a hit!  Black and pinto beans beat blueberries for antioxidant quantity.

19. Artichokes.  Can’t get enough.  30 times the antioxidants of carrots.  Just about the most nutritious of vegetables.  Steam them and you triple the antioxidant over boiling. (takes an hour – but worth it).  Eat more.

www.  What will work for me.  Do you get the gist.? The closer these vegetables are to their WILD biological grandparent, the more nutritious they are – by factors of 10 to 100.  Not just double or triple.  The huge margins of improvement have shown some very dramatic test tube results.  I’m impressed.  I’m changing almost all my vegetable habits.  This explains those “anecdotal” stories of folks with cancers that fade away with vegetable diets – and why organic, local, and fresh are compelling necessities.  Eat fresh, organic, local AND WILD.   Your cancer will not thank you.  Read the book!


Pop Quiz

1.  Most vegetables that taste sweet and look beautiful are genetically identical to their biological forebears.  T or F

False. Almost universally so remote as to be almost different plants

2.  The missing ingredient that has been lost by the natural process of growing bigger, sweetier and more abundant foods is the protein content.   T or F

False. Protein may be even better than before in some circumstances – it’s the phytonutrients that are trace elements that have been lost.  They have a huge impact on your immune system, that in turn gets stimulated to fight other diseases in your body – such as cancer.

3.  Arrugula is in the lettuce family.  T or F

False.  It’s a cabbage relative.

4.   Garlic needs to be chopped and allowed to sit for 10 minutes to develop its powerpacked cancer fighting ability.


5.   Yellow corn is another superstar cancer fighter.  T or F

False.  It’s a dud. But blue corn is great.

6.  Purple potatoes from Peru are great cancer fighters.   T or F

Likely true

7.   The science of all this anti-cancer stuff is well proven.

False.  We hardly have any science at all. Test tube stuff is very impressive and there are patients who seem to improve dramatically in anecdotal circumstances, and we have epidemiological studies that show dramatically different rates of cancer in folks who eat more of certain kinds of foods.  But we don’t have cause and effect proof yet.

Methylation and Exercise

Methylation – The Name of the Game for your Genes When you Exercise

Reference:  Ronin and Volkov in PloS GeneticsZierath Cell Metabolism March 2012

What on earth is methylation?  It is the chemical addition of one carbon atom to a molecule.  Your genes are made up of thousands of complex molecules that give a genetic alphabet for your cells to copy.  That’s called your genetic code. Your genetic code changes very, very slowly – on the order of 0.01% every 10,000 years.  But that isn’t how your body reads your genetic code.  You read and duplicate your code when cells divide.

But on a daily basis your cells have a different problem. They have to take your genetic code and turn it into action, depending on the environment you are in.  That’s what methylation does.  Your cells have the ability to methylate the outside of genes, not the code itself.  It’s that methylation that determines how often a gene is turned on and off.  In fact, we are beginning to learn that methylation can even be passed on from mother to offspring.  You add a methyl group from B12 or folate (that’s why these are such critical vitamins) to the outside of your DNA, and that instructs your DNA reading machinery whether to turn on or turn off that gene.  Usually methylating turns off the gene, and removing the methyl group allows it to be expressed.  You can then measure messenger RNA for a specific gene and see if it has gone up or down.  Methylation decreases usually have increased mRNA levels.

All right, so what’s the deal with exercise?  Ronin and Volkov took 23 of out-of-shape couch potato men (not Packer fans, this was in Sweden) and got them a trainer and a gym with either spin classes or aerobics for 6 months.  They got before and after fat biopies and ran then DNA in their fat cells for methylation.  They found 7,663 genes with different methylation ratios.   18 of 22 Type 2 diabetes associated genes had higher methylation rates.  When examined to see what that methylation did on the action of the diabetes-associated genes, they found it led to more fat break down.

Wow.  In 6 months you can change your genetic expression!   No, not six months.  One session will do.  That’s whatZierath in Cell Metabolism reports.  Take some sedentary folks, biopsy their muscle, then give them one heavy duty workout, then rebiopsy.  What happens?  One workout and you can measure methylation changes in muscle genes (mostly decreases so that the gene is expressed more).   The more intense the workout, the greater the measurable changes, even when the same amount of calories were expended.  This gives credence to the findings of those who advocate for intense, short bursts of exercise as opposed to long, leisurely walks.

WWW.  What will work for me.  Intense exercise changes my genes with just one session.  No exercise probably does just the opposite, maybe not as quickly.  The magic of exercise is beginning to be understood. It might not need to be every day.  I imagine my hunter-gatherer great-great-g-g-g-g-….grandfather had to run like crazy at least once a week to catch a deer, get away from a lion…fight an enemy.  We got designed for that to work well for us. If I’m going to watch football all day Sunday, I better work out sometime Monday.

Fermented Wheat Germ and Cancer Regulation

Fermented Wheat Germ and Cancer Regulation

Reference:  DemidovGaramiWikipedia,  Hidvegi

Solid tumor chemotherapy has not had a stellar run lately.  Folks with cancers from our internal organs (solid tumor, compared to blood tumors) find that the chemo they take may slow the disease, but then it comes back stronger and angrier.  We haven’t been able to eradicate solid tumors except with surgery.  Some would argue that there is an increment of survival between surgery and relapsing cancer that chemo offers.  Hence, we are eager to find means by which we can regulate cancers and turn them into a chronic disease.  Diabetes was once a rapid and lethal illness.  It is now a chronic disease, well managed by skillful use of insulin, diet and exercise.

This column outlined a key vulnerability of cancer earlier this year.  Cancer cells are very sloppy with their glucose metabolism. They cannot burn glucose all the way to CO2 and water and obtain maximum energy. They are only able to make partial use of glucose in a very inefficient manner.  The hunt is therefore on to make that vulnerability a key strategy to success.

Along comes Dr. Hidvegi and fermented wheat germ.  Without delving into all the mechanisms by which Ave or Avemar (brand names) work, here are a few:  Ave blocks a critical enzyme in the sloppy glucose pathway that cancer uses, transketolase.  That also blocks DNA synthesis because ribose production mechanisms are blocked.  Cancer cells have to multiple to live!  It reduces the proteins on the surface of cancer cells that help hide from the immune system.  It helps increase protein tags inside of blood vessels that beacon white cells to come into cancers to fight the cancer.  Uniquely, cancer cells have a “guardian angel protein” called Poly-ADP-ribose-polymerase that is inactivated by capsase, an enzyme AVE stimulates.  There are about 10 more discrete mechanisms all that Ave has been shown to affect.    And all without toxicity.  With current doses, humans show no toxicity and calculations suggest a 50 fold margin for safety.

This sounds almost to good to be true.  But even the cancer center, Sloan Kettering, has a web site on Ave with the results of two quite positive smaller studies suggesting that it should be studied further.   There are more and more studies coming up in the literate suggesting we may have a real phenomenon to watch.  There is great interest in breast cancer in particular.  Ave appears to make Tamoxifen even more effective.  It appears to have an estrogen receptor activity.  In colorectal cancer, it has had one study in which there was an 82% reduction in recurrence and a 67% reduction in death.   That was an open study, but still…..!

WWW.  What will work for me.  If I had cancer, I would take it.  I’ve had cancer, and been cured with surgery.   I’m paying attention.  I’m going to start recommending its use for all my cancer friends and clients.  It’s part of the portfolio of regulating cancer, and turning it into a chronic disease.  Thinking outside the box.  This is where the future of cancer care will come from.