Nutrition in cancer

Marion Debus

Last update: 08.08.2023

The role of nutrition in the risk and progression of many cancers is particularly pronounced for tumour types associated with the so-called "western lifestyle", such as breast, colon, pancreatic, endometrial and prostate cancer. More than a third of these tumours are caused by adverse dietary factors and associated excess weight up to and including metabolic syndrome: too little exercise, high meat, fat and carbohydrate consumption, and comparatively high alcohol consumption.

Alcohol plays an important role in the genesis of many tumour diseases – well known for ear, nose and throat tumours, oesophageal carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma, less well known and strictly dose-dependent e.g. also for breast carcinoma (1). Its influence is often underestimated and it is important to talk about it with patients. As a kind of "counter-I" (2), it hinders the intervention of the I-organisation, something which is directly evident in the effects on the consciousness and the warmth organism. Multiple negative influences on tumour biology have been described.

What diet is sensible?

For primary and secondary prevention of cancer, a vegetarian, high-fibre diet with lots of nuts, fruit, vegetables and pulses as well as wholemeal products and olive oil in the manner of a Mediterranean diet has proven to be helpful in numerous studies (3): following cancer, a high level of adherence to this diet has had a significant effect on prolonging life. In addition, the risk of new cancer occurrence was reduced for numerous tumour types.

Consuming a lot of red and processed meat, on the other hand, significantly increases the risk of several tumour diseases (4), with the association for colorectal carcinoma being particularly prominent (5).

In terms of the understanding of the human being: the preventive effect of plant-based and high-fibre diets highlights an important point. The activity that the organism must undertake internally in order to overcome food and transform it to make it suitable for itself is what actually keeps it healthy: "In metabolism, what really matters is the ingestion and excretion of substances. [ …] The food as such in substance does not interest the metabolism at all, but overcoming it and its metamorphosis is what the organism needs." (6) Specific formative forces underlie all the foods we ingest, associated in each case with the process of their production in nature, defining the character of the respective food and clearly distinguishing, for example, a root vegetable grown in the darkness of the earth from an aromatic apple ripened in the sun. With the complete breakdown of the food in the digestive tract down to its mineral components, these formative forces constituting the respective food are also overcome and metamorphosed in such a way that the food can serve the formation and building of our organism.

The energy required for overcoming and metamorphosing these formative forces is less in the case of animal foods than in the case of plant foods, since the animal is closer to the human being in terms of evolution, and the human being is thus relieved of part of the work of transformation. Nevertheless, in the case of animal foods, the forces not expended by the I-organisation continue to be present and, since they lie idle in a sense, can alienate themselves from the organism: "Everything that is thus condemned to inactivity in the human organism at the same time has the effect of laying fallow, paralysing, hardening the organisations concerned, which would otherwise be active. [...] This part of the organism, which the human being hardens within themselves in this way, they then carry with them through life like a foreign body." (2, p. 21) In this way it becomes comprehensible that meat consumption is a relevant risk factor and that plant-based, high-fibre diets have a protective effect.

Milk and dairy products, on the other hand, were shown to have a protective effect for colorectal carcinoma (5), while neither a negative nor a positive association was shown for many other cancers (7). Only in the case of prostate carcinoma are there indications that dairy products could increase the risk (8).

Plant foods that have been grown organically or biodynamically not only contribute to increasing biodiversity and mitigating climate change, they also contain, among other things, a much richer spectrum of antioxidant secondary plant compounds compared to conventionally grown fruits (9). There is evidence – albeit some of it contradictory – that an organic diet can reduce overall cancer risk, with this being shown particularly for lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer (10).

Carbohydrates and honey

In many contexts, reference is made to the negative influence of carbohydrates on tumour disease which leads many patients to drastically restrict carbohydrate consumption, even to the point of following an – outside of special indications – one-sided ketogenic diet. Carbohydrates, however, are intimately related to warmth production and are essential for the intervention of the I-organisation. 

Recent studies show that the intake of complex carbohydrates such as starch or fibrous carbohydrates even reduces the risk of cancer for a whole number of tumour types, whereas simple carbohydrates appear to have mixed effects on individual tumour types (11). A strict ketogenic diet is questionable in its effect (12) and can potentially even have a negative impact on overall survival (13). Apart from in special cases – the efficacy of this diet with regard to brain tumours continues to be the subject of debate (14) – this relatively extreme diet should be avoided. 

In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that honey, with its deep relationship to warmth, light and formative forces (strictly geometric honeycomb structure), exhibits beneficial effects on cancer in a variety of ways (15). It is recommended to make it a regular part of the diet.

Food quantity

Overall, a generally calorie-reduced diet, regardless of dietary composition, appears to reduce tumour growth and metastatic propensity, partly due to an improvement in the tumour's immunological microenvironment (16). For example, it was impressively shown for acute lymphatic leukaemia how caloric restriction during chemotherapy was associated with a significantly improved treatment response (17). The formative forces coming from the astral body and the I-organisation seem to manifest themselves more effectively through such a "reduced" diet.

Nutritional rhythm

Just as a healthy day/night rhythm is the best tumour prophylaxis, and disruption of it – e.g. frequent intercontinental travel with jet lag, alternating shift work, "light at night" – is associated with an increased risk of cancer, the nutritional rhythm is at least as important as the nutritional composition. It seems to be of great importance in this context that at night all physiological stimuli from the outside world should really come to rest. For example, the importance of real darkness for the quality of night sleep, which is associated with a reduction in cancer risk, has been known for some time (18). In terms of nutrition, so-called overnight interval fasting has shown protective effects; thus it could be shown that in patients with breast carcinoma the risk of recurrence is reduced by one third in the adjuvant situation if overnight interval fasting of more than 13 hours is observed (19). Similar results were found for prostate carcinoma (20). In breast cancer patients, interval fasting also improved cancer fatigue, depression and anxiety, and reduced body mass index (21).

 

Bibliography

  1. Liu Y, Nguyen N, Colditz GA. Links between alcohol consumption and breast cancer: a look at the evidence. Womens Health (Lond) 2015;11(1):65-77. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2217/whe.14.62.[Crossref]
  2. Steiner R. Welche Bedeutung hat die okkulte Entwicklung des Menschen für seine Hüllen – physischer Leib, Ätherleib, Astralleib – und sein Selbst? GA 145. Lecture of 20 March 1913. 7th edition. Basel: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 2015. (Published in English as The Effects of Esoteric Development.  CW 145. Hudson, NY: SteinerBooks; 1997.)
  3. Morze J, Danielewicz A, Przybyłowicz K, Zeng H, Hoffmann G, Schwingshackl L. An updated systematic review and meta-analysis on adherence to mediterranean diet and risk of cancer. European Journal of Nutrition 2021;60(3):1561-1586. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02346-6.[Crossref]
  4. Farvid MS, Sidahmed E, Spence ND et al. Consumption of red meat and processed meat and cancer incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. European Journal of Epidemiology 2021;36:937–951. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-021-00741-9.[Crossref]
  5. Key TJ, Bradbury KE, Perez-Cornago A, Sinha R, Tsilidis KK, Tsugane S. Diet, nutrition, and cancer risk: what do we know and what is the way forward? British Medical Journal 2020;368:m511. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m511. Erratum in: British Medical Journal 2020;368:m996.
  6. Steiner R. Physiology and Healing. Treatment, Therapy, and Hygiene. CW 314. Lecture of 31 December 1923. Forest Row: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2013.
  7. Willett WC, Ludwig DS. Milk and Health. New England Journal of Medicine 2020;382(7):644-654. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1903547.[Crossref]
  8. Aune D, Navarro Rosenblatt DA, Chan DS, Vieira AR, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, Vatten LJ, Norat T. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015;101(1):87-117. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.067157.[Crossref]
  9. Al Mutiri MR, Al-Sowayan NS. The Influence of Organic and Conventional Food on Human Health. Food and Nutrition Sciences 2021;12(12):1299-1305. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4236/fns.2021.1212095.[Crossref]
  10. Baudry J, Assmann KE, Touvier M, Allès B, Seconda L, Latino-Martel P, Ezzedine K, Galan P, Hercberg S, Lairon D, Kesse-Guyot E. Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk: Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Internal Medicine 2018;178(12):1597-1606. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357. Erratum in: JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1732.[Crossref]
  11. Maino Vieytes CA, Taha HM, Burton-Obanla AA, Douglas KG, Arthur AE. Carbohydrate Nutrition and the Risk of Cancer. Current Nutrition Reports 2019;8(3):230-239. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-019-0264-3.[Crossref]
  12. Schmidt L, Mathies V, von Grundherr J, Rubin D, Hübner J. Ketogene und kohlenhydratarme Diäten bei krebserkrankten Menschen. Eine Stellungnahme der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Prävention und Integrative Onkologie (PRIO) in der Deutschen Krebsgesellschaft (DKG) und der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin (DGEM). Ernährungs-Umschau international 2022:106-111.
  13. Ferrer M, Mourikis N, Davidson EE, Kleeman SO, Zaccaria M, Habel J, Rubino R, Gao Q, Flint TR, Young L, Connell CM, Lukey MJ, Goncalves MD, White EP, Venkitaraman AR, Janowitz T. Ketogenic diet promotes tumor ferroptosis but induces relative corticosterone deficiency that accelerates cachexia. Cell Metabolism 2023:S1550-4131(23)00185-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2023.05.008.[Crossref]
  14. Panhans CM, Gresham G, Amaral LJ, Hu J. Exploring the Feasibility and Effects of a Ketogenic Diet in Patients With CNS Malignancies: A Retrospective Case Series. Frontiers in Neuroscience 2020;14:390. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00390. Erratum in: Frontiers in Neuroscience 2020;14:661.
  15. Badolato M, Carullo G, Cione E, Aiello F, Caroleo MC. From the hive: Honey, a novel weapon against cancer. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2017;142:290-299. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmech.2017.07.064.[Crossref]
  16. Pomatto-Watson LCD, Bodogai M, Bosompra O, Kato J, Wong S, Carpenter M, Duregon E, Chowdhury D, Krishna P, Ng S, Ragonnaud E, Salgado R, Gonzalez Ericsson P, Diaz-Ruiz A, Bernier M, Price NL, Biragyn A, Longo VD, de Cabo R. Daily caloric restriction limits tumor growth more effectively than caloric cycling regardless of dietary composition. Nature Communications 2021;12(1):6201. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26431-4.[Crossref]
  17. Orgel E, Framson C, Buxton R, Kim J, Li G, Tucci J, Freyer DR, Sun W, Oberley MJ, Dieli-Conwright C, Mittelman SD. Caloric and nutrient restriction to augment chemotherapy efficacy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia: the IDEAL trial. Blood Advances 2021;5(7):1853-1861. DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2020004018.[Crossref]
  18. Al-Naggar RA, Anil Sh. Artificial Light at Night and Cancer: Global Study. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2016;17(10):4661-4664. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22034/apjcp.2016.17.10.4661.[Crossref]
  19. Marinac CR, Nelson SH, Breen CI, Hartman SJ, Natarajan L, Pierce JP, Flatt SW, Sears DD, Patterson RE. Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis. JAMA Oncology 2016;2(8):1049-1055. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0164
  20. Palomar-Cros A, Espinosa A, Straif K, Pérez-Gómez B, Papantoniou K, Gómez-Acebo I, Molina-Barceló A, Olmedo-Requena R, Alguacil J, Fernández-Tardón G, Casabonne D, Aragonés N, Castaño-Vinyals G, Pollán M, Romaguera D, Kogevinas M. The Association of Nighttime Fasting Duration and Prostate Cancer Risk: Results from the Multicase-Control (MCC) Study in Spain. Nutrients 2021;13(8):2662. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082662.[Crossref]
  21. O’Donnell E, Shapiro Y, Comander A et al. Pilot study to assess prolonged overnight fasting in breast cancer survivors (longfast). Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2022;193:579–587. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-022-06594-4.[Crossref]

Research news

Mistletoe therapy in addition to standard immunotherapy in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer indicates improved survival rates 
Immunotherapy with PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors has significantly improved the survival rates of patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Results of a real-world data study (RWD) investigating the addition of Viscum album L. (VA) to chemotherapy have shown an association with improved survival in patients with NSCLC - regardless of age, degree of metastasis, performance status, lifestyle or oncological treatment. The mechanisms may include synergistic modulations of the immune response by PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors and VA. However, the results should be taken with caution due to the observational and non-randomised study design. The study has been published open access in Cancers
https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers16081609.


Further information on Anthroposophic Medicine