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Vitamins for Cancer? Part 1

Vitamins for Cancer? Part 1

2014 - 01 - 06

Many of my cancer patients ask me about vitamins for cancer. The answer is simple: Consuming cancer fighting foods is much more important than taking vitamins because vitamins are only a tiny fraction of the multiple nutrients in foods that prevent cancer or help reverse it.

The best anti-cancer nutrition is plant-based. In addition to their vitamin content, fruits and vegetables contain up to 30,000 phytonutrients (natural plant-based chemicals), such as minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, chlorophyll, carotenoids, polyphenols, isoflavones, indoles, etc. All of these compounds make up what is called food synergy, that is, food components working in concert to produce a symphony of health benefits that cannot be provided by vitamins alone.

In nature, we don’t find just a single nutrient in a single food; foods come as packages of nutrients. Unless a person is eating plenty of whole foods or supplementing with whole food concentrates, he or she comes up short and is missing the synergy of nutrients available only in whole foods.

Let’s look at the group of cancer-fighting foods known as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, collards, watercress, mustard greens, and turnips). Of course, these crucifers contain many vitamins for cancer including vitamin A, B, C and K. For example, the vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables — especially in kale and collards – has been the subject of intensive research on cancer and diet. Vitamin K helps regulate excessive inflammatory responses that can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

However, it is the other phytonutrients in the cruciferous family – especially minerals, indoles, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, and sulfur compounds -- that are known to protect against and improve breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and bladder cancer prognosis. The dark green crucifers in particular are rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and their sulfur and indole compounds can neutralize cancer causing chemicals and hormones.

Nature’s products are always more than the sum of their parts. There are multiple interactions among a plant’s many bioactive compounds, and each part plays a role in our health. In part two of this article, I will give you more examples of how whole food based nutrition is superior to vitamins for cancer.

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References:

[1] DeCava J. The whole food and nothing but the food. Immune Perspectives 2007 XI(2) [Adapted with permission from Nutrition News and Views, May/June 2006]

[2] Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):17-28.

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