Do You See What I See?
December 08, 2013 – Emily Morrison
Pancreatic Cancer Advocates Unite
December 08, 2013 – Julie Fleshman
Pipeline
December 09, 2013 – Lindsay Ray
The Challenges of Distance Caregiving
December 09, 2013 – Jane Hill
Adult Siblings Often Coordinate Parental Support
December 09, 2013 – Jane Hill
What Could Cause Cognitive Dysfunction after Cancer?
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Pharmacologic Approaches to Cognitive Dysfunction
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Finding Solutions for Chemobrain
December 08, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Childhood Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Late Effects & Premature Aging After Pediatric Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Health Problems Common in Survivors of Pediatric Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Post-Mastectomy Pain Hits a Nerve
December 09, 2013 – Lacey Marlow
Advances in Screening & Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Roxanne Nelson
Changing Course in Pancreatic Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Roxanne Nelson
Tumor Evolution
December 08, 2013 – Katy Human
Solving the Treatment Resistance Riddle
December 09, 2013 – Katy Human
For Caregivers: Tips Before Planning that "End of Treatment" Party
December 09, 2013 – Charlotte Huff
Why Observing Treatment Milestones is an Individual Decision
December 09, 2013 – Charlotte Huff
Searching for an Oncology Surgeon
December 08, 2013 – Katherine Hobson
Is Robot-Assisted Surgery the Best Treatment for Your Cancer?
December 08, 2013 – Katherine Hobson
How I Lost My Uterus and Found My Voice
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Personalized Medicine Should Include High-Quality, High-Value Care
December 09, 2013 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Website Retooled to Help Visitors Navigate Medicare
December 08, 2013 – Jon Garinn
Poor Kidney Function a Possibility in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Katherine Lagomarsino
Dispatch: Society for Integrative Oncology's 10th Annual Meeting
December 09, 2013 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Reel Recovery Retreats
December 09, 2013 – Jon Garinn
Studies Confirm Effectiveness of Colorectal Cancer Screening
December 09, 2013 – Elizabeth Whittington
Michael Douglas Reveals He Had Tongue Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Lindsay Ray
Dose of Reality Effective at Stopping Smokers
December 09, 2013 – Lena Huang
FDA's Breakthrough Therapy Designation Aims to Speed Drug Approvals
December 08, 2013 – Susan Jenks
ASH Updates
December 08, 2013 – Elizabeth Whittington
Message From the Editor
December 09, 2013 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Letters From Readers
December 08, 2013
Do You See What I See?
December 08, 2013 – Emily Morrison
Pancreatic Cancer Advocates Unite
December 08, 2013 – Julie Fleshman
Pipeline
December 09, 2013 – Lindsay Ray
The Challenges of Distance Caregiving
December 09, 2013 – Jane Hill
Adult Siblings Often Coordinate Parental Support
December 09, 2013 – Jane Hill
What Could Cause Cognitive Dysfunction after Cancer?
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Pharmacologic Approaches to Cognitive Dysfunction
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Finding Solutions for Chemobrain
December 08, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Childhood Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Late Effects & Premature Aging After Pediatric Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Health Problems Common in Survivors of Pediatric Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Don Vaughan
Post-Mastectomy Pain Hits a Nerve
December 09, 2013 – Lacey Marlow
Advances in Screening & Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Roxanne Nelson
Changing Course in Pancreatic Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Roxanne Nelson
Tumor Evolution
December 08, 2013 – Katy Human
Solving the Treatment Resistance Riddle
December 09, 2013 – Katy Human
For Caregivers: Tips Before Planning that "End of Treatment" Party
December 09, 2013 – Charlotte Huff
Why Observing Treatment Milestones is an Individual Decision
December 09, 2013 – Charlotte Huff
Searching for an Oncology Surgeon
December 08, 2013 – Katherine Hobson
Is Robot-Assisted Surgery the Best Treatment for Your Cancer?
December 08, 2013 – Katherine Hobson
How I Lost My Uterus and Found My Voice
December 09, 2013 – Kathy LaTour
Personalized Medicine Should Include High-Quality, High-Value Care
December 09, 2013 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Website Retooled to Help Visitors Navigate Medicare
December 08, 2013 – Jon Garinn
Poor Kidney Function a Possibility in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Katherine Lagomarsino
Dispatch: Society for Integrative Oncology's 10th Annual Meeting
December 09, 2013 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Reel Recovery Retreats
December 09, 2013 – Jon Garinn
Studies Confirm Effectiveness of Colorectal Cancer Screening
December 09, 2013 – Elizabeth Whittington
Michael Douglas Reveals He Had Tongue Cancer
December 09, 2013 – Lindsay Ray
Dose of Reality Effective at Stopping Smokers
December 09, 2013 – Lena Huang
FDA's Breakthrough Therapy Designation Aims to Speed Drug Approvals
December 08, 2013 – Susan Jenks
ASH Updates
December 08, 2013 – Elizabeth Whittington
Message From the Editor
December 09, 2013 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Letters From Readers
December 08, 2013
Currently Viewing
Whole Foods Help Against Cancer
December 07, 2013 – Jeanne Erdmann

Whole Foods Help Against Cancer

Whole foods will always fare better than micronutrient supplements.

BY Jeanne Erdmann
PUBLISHED December 07, 2013

Children are often urged by well-meaning adults to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Well, that might also be the best advice for preventing certain types of cancer. Numerous epidemiological studies have shown that consuming fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer and better outcomes among cancer survivors.

During the past 20 years, many large clinical trials have tried to determine the cancer-fighting power of specific micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in food by testing them in pill form in healthy men and women, in heavy smokers and in cancer survivors. Not only did large doses of micronutrients fail to prevent cancer, in some trials micronutrients increased the rate of the very cancer the trial was designed to prevent.

“The assumption that ‘oh, if a little is good, a lot can’t possibly hurt me’ has been proven incorrect,” says Susan Mayne, an epidemiologist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

People confuse the effect of micronutrients in a test tube and the effect of micronutrients in a body. They’re really different.

Micronutrients are trace substances found in food that help promote the growth of cells and tissues. Although the body needs only small amounts of micronutrients, their absence can produce serious health problems. For example, a lack of iron can cause iron-deficiency anemia, and a vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness. People who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables have a higher risk of developing some cancers. So it seemed reasonable for researchers to test whether micronutrient supplements offered the same protective benefits seen in whole foods. Recent data from several large trials proved otherwise.

A trial with the aim of preventing prostate cancer tested vitamin E and selenium in more than 35,000 healthy men. Results showed that men who took vitamin E alone had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. A trial to test whether vitamin E and beta carotene could prevent lung cancer in 29,000 heavy smokers fared just as poorly. In participants receiving beta-carotene, the incidence of lung cancer increased.

Researchers administer high doses of supplements in clinical trials so they can be assured that those in the supplement group have notably higher nutrient status when compared with those in the control group. But “people confuse the effect of micronutrients in a test tube and the effect of micronutrients in a body,” says Alan Kristal, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “They’re really different. It’s taken a while for people to appreciate that.”

Many researchers who specialize in micronutrients are offering a word of caution about micronutrient supplements, even for those who are survivors of cancer. Not only can they be expensive, but the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements, and recent trials proved some supplements harmful. “I always have trouble with this because it’s so important for people to make their own choices, choose their own path and empower their own health. I don’t want to step on that but I don’t take vitamins, and I think it would be better if all cancer patients didn’t either,” says Tim Byers, a clinician and cancer epidemiologist at the University of Colorado in Aurora.

One large micronutrient prevention trial currently underway in the U.S. is testing whether vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid might prevent colon cancer and heart disease. Vitamin D supplementation has been controversial because experts don’t agree about the health consequences of low vitamin D or whether low levels raise cancer risk or simply serve to identify people who are at higher risk due to other factors associated with low vitamin D.

“In the end it’s like Mom and apple pie,” Kristal says. “After decades, and after hundreds of millions of dollars of research, we discover you should eat an apple every day.”

Be the first to discuss this article on CURE's forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.

Related Articles

1
×

Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!
×

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In