Eat to Defeat Cancer

It’s no secret that food makes us what we are. Humankind has never been in a position to ignore that food is the main threat to our health, just as it is our primary medicine. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said the famous Greek doctor Hippocrates back in the 5th century B.C.

Until our modern age, that is. With industrialization and scientific development, we have come to take food for granted, and to live blissfully oblivious to its impact on our bodies–unwanted extra-weight notwithstanding.

Hence the shock experienced by our modern civilization 25 years ago when the mad cow disease outbreak in England put a brutal end to our collective delusion of safe food. Food frights have multiplied since to the point of becoming expected occurrences in our food system. At least as importantly, this loss of innocence has been accompanied by the growing awareness that industrial food, with its arsenal of chemical additives and synthetic agents, play a bigger role in the degradation of our bodies, and of public health, than most of us can truly wrap our heads around (as the current diabetes epidemic illustrates).

Now, how about reconnecting with our food as our primary medicine? It requires way more education than our institutions provide (although one expects the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama last December to steward a turn-around in food education at U.S. public schools). The new information age also makes it remarkably easy: all the information you need is at your finger tips on the Internet, should you be willing to seek it out.

Anti-angiogenesis: starving a cancer tumor of its blood supply.

The latest player to join the fray is the Angiogenesis Foundation, with its new online campaign Eat To Defeat Cancer. The Foundation, created in 1994 by Harvard surgeon Dr. Judah Folkman, is dedicated to conquering disease by controlling the blood vessels that feed them. Regarding cancer prevention, it’s premise is that “there’s growing evidence that foods can fight cancer by inhibiting new blood vessel growth, or angiogenesis,” thus starving “the tiny, microscopic cancers that develop in our bodies all the time.”

The campaign aims at mobilizing over 1 million volunteers to put available information to immediate use (the list of foods that inhibit angiogenesis is available on the website), while furthering research through fund-raising. Upon signing up, volunteers regularly receive recipes by chefs Mario Batali, Ming Tsai and Michael Schlow, as well as research updates.

What if scientific research could finally demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt what many of us already take on faith: that consuming exclusively natural, pesticide-free whole foods, and favoring some age-old medicinal foods and spices like spinach, garlic and turmeric, have a significant impact on our resilience in the face of cancer.

Surely, that would be much-welcome news for the U.S. health-care system that spends north of $90 billion a year on cancer treatments (a trend due to the rapidly increasing costs of complex new drugs, robotic surgeries and radiation procedures, and the increasing number of patients eligible for them). And it would be no little satisfaction to see the producers and distributors of natural whole foods trump the pharmaceutical industry in the “war against cancer.”

To learn more about this new, natural, frontier in cancer research, listen to Dr. William Li’s TED talk.

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