A new study has found that by making dietary and lifestyle changes, people can alter cancer genes and radically reduce their cancer risk. The research, featured in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed 30 men diagnosed with early prostrate cancer. All of the subjects had opted out of radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
The study started with a three-day retreat, after which the subjects followed a vegan diet with fat intake limited to 10 percent. Subjects also walked for 30 minutes daily, six days a week, attended a support group, and practiced stress reduction exercises such as yoga and meditation for an hour daily. And, they took soy supplements plus three grams of fish oil, 100 units of vitamin E, 200 micrograms of selenium and two grams of vitamin C every day.
Biopsies were performed at the start of the study and again after three months. The researchers found that after following the healthy regimen even for that short period of time, the subjects showed dramatically improved cancer profiles. More than 500 cancer genes had been modified. Of those, 453 cancer-promoting genes had been “switched off,” while 48 cancer-fighting genes had become “switched on.”
Those of us in the alternative health community are swatting our heads in astonishment. What a surprise! Who knew that the lifestyle choices we make affect our risk for getting cancer and other diseases? Who knew that we could alter the course of disease by eating right and caring for ourselves?
But seriously, alternative practitioners have been touting fruit and vegetable-based, low-fat diets for generations. The value of stress reduction and exercise in disease-prevention has been known for decades — even centuries. And yet, the mainstream medical community seems to have trouble accepting the obvious truth of these things without proof via the scientific method, without supporting facts and numbers and percentages.
And so, Dr. Dean Ornish, president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at the University of California, ran this study and several earlier ones that supplied impressive statistics indeed. In a prior study from 2005, Dr. Ornish’s team discovered that men following a short-term regimen of vegan diet and exercise decreased their PSA, or cancer-marker score, by four percent, while men in the control group experienced a six percent rise in PSA.
What’s particularly significant here is that by implementing lifestyle changes, these men didn’t suppress disease symptoms; they actually began to reverse the underlying mechanisms that triggered the disease in the first place. Not only did they modify cancer progression at the DNA-level — they also had statistically significant improvements in weight, abdominal obesity, blood pressure, and blood fat levels (lipid profile). These, of course, are much better side effects than loss of hair, vomiting, and debilitating fatigue.
And so, while doctors are quick to race cancer patients into chemotherapy regimens and radiation chambers, they tend to overlook the power of bolstering the immune system from the inside out through simple, health-enhancing measures that don’t further compromise the body in the way that more radical procedures do. These studies offer dramatic, measurable evidence that even short-term changes in lifestyle can have a powerful influence on the disease-fighting ability of the body. At the very least, they can offer an important adjunct to other therapies and certainly hold out hope of preventing cancer and other diseases in the first place, when implemented before disease takes hold.
The bottom line was well-stated by one of the study co-authors, geneticist Dr Christopher Haqq, who said at a Scientific American news conference:
“It is absolutely intriguing this lifestyle change can have as much effect as the most powerful drugs available to us now. We medical oncologists are always looking for drugs that can do this. It is delightful to find that diet and lifestyle can have profound effects and be complementary to drug therapies — with fewer side effects.”
The postscript he didn’t add is that not only can diet and lifestyle complement other therapies — in some cases, they can completely obliterate the need for such therapies in the first place.
(To better understand why diet and lifestyle changes work, check out the audio file, Cancer, The Big Lie.)