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Tag Archives: cancer
The world has a tremendous love of grilling. Most would think of it as a North American tradition, but in reality, there are many countries around the world that commonly utilize this unique form of food preparation. Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, India, Jamaica and Vietnam all show a strong affinity for grilling. It would not be uncommon for many of us to recall growing up eating food prepared this way on occasion. We never gave it a second thought. Nothing could be more natural in food preparation: outside, over the open heat, with constant attention to detail, easy on the environment, and simple. It is almost caveman like.
But wait. Cavemen lived to an old age of 20 or 30 years of age if they were lucky. I suppose there are many reasons we could discuss for this change in life expectancy, the least of which is food preparation methods. However it is hard to navigate through a Summer season without coming across a news story on the harmful, cancer causing effects of grilling. Well laid out logical explanations of carcinogens created in the high heat process of cooking this way attempt to lead the public into a conclusion that each barbequed meal will bring you one day closer to cancer.
What evidence base is available to us to A) Show that these products are indeed created with grilling, B) That these products are carcinogens and C) That grilling does indeed result in increased cancer rates. In truth, the creation of heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) not only occurs by the barbequing process, but we also know that these products are clear carcinogens. These two are now established fact. However the “evidence based” answer we are looking for is “does the consumption of meat that is barbequed lead to a higher incidence of cancer?” Answering this avoids jumping to conclusions when you have data that appears to lead to a conclusion without evidence to back it up.
Another fair question is if there is an increased incidence of cancer in a population that consumes more of this type of food, is it because of the HCA’s and PAH’s from the food or is it simply because of the increase in meat consumption – something that has shown to increase cancer rates. Red meat on its own may contribute to increased cancer rates by contributing to N nitroso compound (NOC) exposure, and this is dose dependently associated with the amount of red meat in the diet . There are also other proposed causes of cancer from red meat such as heme iron and nitrate/nitrite levels We have seen some studies that appear to show an increase in cancer rates when rats are given a diet that has HCA’s and PAH’s but as is often done with thee studies, the levels of ingestion were much higher than you would experience in a normal diet. Extrapolating this to humans isn’t simple. This is yet another pitfall in evidence based medicine: animals vs human exposure.
Having said this, there are some studies that show a correlation specifically with high heat cooking and certain types of cancer. For example we have seen prostate cancer not correlate with total meat but very well done meat shows an increase in this cancer as opposed to no meat intake . Pancreatic cancer is associated with increased overall meat intake as well as red only and high temperature meat cooking . One huge drawback of these longer term studies include the concept of self-reported dietary diaries, which can be inaccurate.
So, where does this leave us? The next time you hear a story on the news or read an article on the dangers of barbequing and cancer, how should you respond? I throw this food item in the same bin as nonorganic and GMO, there are small pockets of evidence that say MAYBE there MIGHT be SOME benefit in your body but if you are looking for definitive answers like the ones we give when we say “don’t drink turpentine”, we just aren’t there yet. You probably are more likely to be harmed from undercooking the meat, getting a parasitic infection , consuming preserved meats or getting a metallic bristle ingested. There has been a suggestion that you should eat twice as much vegetables as grilled meat, but that should probably go for any meal. It is hard to argue against a more veggies less meat diet in overall health. Also frequently turning the meat on the grill will help reduce the amount of HCA’s produced. If you have a choice and are looking to reduce exposure as much as possible, steering away from charcoal and towards gas grilling may be preferred. In fact, there is some evidence that the particulate matter in the indoor air of barbeque restaurants or if you are a neighbor of such a restaurant might be just as bad to your health based on measured air-born levels of hazardous agents (but again, no longterm proven effects). As an aside, if you do choose to grill, you may want to take our lead this week when the Home Hardware in Baddeck which the Drug Store owns, pulled all Metallic Bristle Grill Brushes off the shelves and stopped selling them for good. We suggest you do also for your good health. There is however no harm or shame in choosing to eat a certain way or avoid a certain food on the basis that it might have the potential to harm you, as long as you are eating a balanced diet.
Graham MacKenzie, PhC
Not many medical conditions strike an emotional response or fear more than cancer. How do we prevent the onset of chronic disease? I sell prescription medications and I know that none of them really have anything to do with preventing either of these conditions. Very expensive medications are used to treat them however. If an individual was given the opportunity to pay to prevent or pay to treat, most would pay to prevent. Most; however, are paying to treat.
For some it has been a long dark Winter (and Spring), so the longer days and increased sunshine are welcome additions to our daily routine. No doubt some of us have already felt the sting of too much sunshine as we either absentmindedly spent an afternoon outside and forgotten the application of sunscreen or misjudged the effects of the sun this early in the season. The long term effects of even one severe sunburn can be life changing. Sometimes these effects can happen decades later.
With billions of dollars spent on research over the last four decades, we still are faced with the shadow of cancer striking at any time. All of us have cancer cells, it’s how well our body deals with these cells that determine our chance of having a diagnosis. How is it that those persons that we determine as “completely unhealthy” live a long life and escape this disease, while those that are young and eat healthy and exercise regularly can be afflicted? Things ultimately happen at the DNA level in the cell. This is where cell division happens. Epigenetics, the science of how factors external to the nucleus of the cell greatly influence the life of that cell and ultimately, the life of that organism, is the one big argument to the feeling that cancer is determined by a genetic test. Genetics can more easily predispose you to something happening, but epigenetics is the way out of that pathway. What can you do to influence your genes to avoid duplicating wrong and developing to cancer?
1) Hypocortisolism – If you live in North America today, you have chronic stress knocking on your door. Bills, relationships, jobs, money, family, illness, travel, bereavement, … If you don’t experience stress then you have a gift. Even those with seemingly normal lives can become used to chronic stress and go years without an outward sign to others from abnormal cortisol. Low cortisol has many reasons. Acute stress has benefits in an evolutionary way, but chronic stress can result in someone going from high to low cortisol in a chronic way. Colorectal, Breast and ovarian cancer have shown a correlation to hypocortisol states as are the outcomes of these diseases. I rarely see “normal” cortisol levels when we test; a sign how long people wait to get help. Adrenal supplementation is consistently one of the most successful OTC therapies I see used.
2)Diet & Exercise – In the end, your health comes down to how you eat and how much you move. There has been quite a debate as of late concerning whether you should eat wheat, how much carbs you should eat (if any) or whatever. Any recommendation is open to debate. Mine is avoid processed food as much as possible and avoid as many contaminants as possible (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, etc.) – to me this means organic as much as possible; avoid any foods that are known to cause sensitivity in an individual and therefore decrease systemic inflammation; fill 1/2 your plate with vegetables; chew your food; consume healthy fats (don’t cook with olive oil at high heat); eat variety; increase fiber.
3)Sleep – There is an association between melatonin and various cancer types, most recently in the news is prostate cancer. The higher the level, the lower the risk. Melatonin aside, the effect sleep has on cancer incidence is well studied. Night shift workers often show higher breast cancer rates than women who sleep normal hours. These people have less melatonin than non shift workers. Not only is the incidence of breast cancer higher, but the death rate is typically higher from cancer in these women. It is thought that people with sleep problems have issues with the above mentioned cortisol during the night that contributes to cancer incidence.
4) Supplements – contrary to recent reports in the media, supplements are valuable to your health. A healthy body can stay healthy for the most part by getting nutrients from food. A body that is damaged or in a negative situation will find it difficult to get back to normal just from food alone. Preventative medicine uses doses of nutrients that are difficult to get from food alone. Vitamin D has shown anti-tumor effects in vitro and higher vitamin D intake has been correlated with a lower incidence of many cancers. It also helps with pain relief and disease progression. Vitamin E is a supplement that has received bad press for years. Most likely your supplement has only alpha-tocopherol. To be healthy and effective, all forms of vitamin E must be taken in one supplement (alpha, beta, gamma and delta-tocopherol). Prostate cancer has been shown to be reduced with this supplement. Vitamin C has been repeatedly tested and shown to help prevent cancer and lead to more favorable outcomes in patients with existing cancer. These doses are often IV and deal with 10 or more grams daily. Some have dealt with doses of 100 g daily. Selenium is also helpful by enhancing the immune system function and acts as an antioxidant. Doses used were in the 200 microgram per day range. Melatonin has shown to increase the survival times and demonstrated anticancer effects. Doses used are 10-50 mg/day in the evening).
Granted, these are not complicated steps for the most part. DNA’s resilience has a good side in that it can lead the cell to replicate countless times without error. Unfortunately this is the downfall of the organism when errors occur in cell duplication and the mistake becomes engrained in the DNA. Without proper immune system function to clear a faulty cell or cells from the organism, then everyone hangs onto these cells. Maintain your immune system and keep the environment surrounding your DNA supportive to the next cell duplication.
A while back, I posted a blog on prostate health. It mentioned some supplements on how to improve the health of this organ. Reports show that 14-46% of men over the age of 40 have prostate cancer cells(1). The percent increases as you age. Prostate cancer looms over men in the same way breast cancer does for women. I see no other potential disease state that men will actively try to prevent both in nutraceuticals and lifestyle changes than prostate cancer. As many more men die from cardiovascular issues, prostate cancer seems to cause more fear in men.
So what can you do to prevent this disease? What can you do if you have established prostate cancer? Keep in mind that estrogen is more an issue than testosterone. The more we can keep estrogen down, the more favourable the outcome.
1)Keep alcohol consumption down to no more than 1 drink per day and coffee to no more than 2 cups per day. More than this will increase estradiol levels.
2)Keep weight down! Fat tissue increases aromatase activity that converts testosterone to estrogen.
3)Low animal protein intake may tip the conversion of testosterone to estradiol from aromatase instead of the conversion to DHT thru the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. There is some debate as to the effect this would have, but it would seem prudent to increase animal protein content especially in favour of extra carbohydrates. Sugar feeds cancer so increasing protein and fiber will benefit. Taking zinc will help to block both pathways.
4) Coming into contact with estrogen either directly or not. We see men with symptoms of estrogen dominance because their partner is taking topical estrogen and it gets transferred by direct contact to them. Xenoestrogens in the environment can also contribute to male estrogen dominance. Eat organic! Herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, hormones in food, plastic drinking containers, microwaving plastics, all can contribute to estrogen load.
5)Wearing tight underwear causes the temperature of the testicles to increase and restricts blood flow. This results in more estradiol and less testosterone production.
6)Men with longterm stress that have low cortisol tend to have increased production of estradiol. Stress causes abdominal weight gain that increases estradiol as well. There are several ways to bring back adrenal health and we can help with this. The best first step is reduce stress, eat well, and exercise.
7)Keep your thyroid in shape. Overactive thyroid especially is a culprit that can cause testosterone conversion to estrogen.
8)Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables. One of our supplements, I3C is used by both men and women to funnel the metabolism of estrogen down to less harmful metabolites. Another supplement, DIM is also used for this purpose. The cruciferous vegetable family uses this pathway to keep estrogen load down.
8)Keep your testosterone levels optimal. Use a saliva test to determine your levels. Too high or too low causes an unfavourable estrogen level. When you do this saliva test, be sure to determine your progesterone and cortisol levels. Progesterone deficiency and out of range cortisol need to be corrected.
9)Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications you are taking are reducing your androgens or competing with androgen receptors.
Check back on our previous prostate health blog for more recommendations on keeping your prostate health up. Other supplements, like resveratrol, antioxidants, zinc, and other nutraceuticals are all recommended.
1) Hertoghe, T. MD, The Hormone Handbook, SA Medical Books, 2010 pages 331-334