What did our ancestors eat?
Not long ago, no more than just 100 years ago, they barely knew cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes & cancer. And NO, these are not just diseases of the aging population.
Simply because we see now growing cases in children of type II diabetes, and cancer. Cancer rates among children have increased by 32% between 1990 and 2000s. We will all agree that the longer you live, the greater the probability your body loses some defences, leaving it more prone to diseases; however, there is more to it.
There are still some populations, in small villages or areas, that live longer than us on average. Okinawa, which is a Japanese island, only recently impacted by our Western lifestyle, has the largest number of centenaries that barely show any signs of dysfunction at this late age. We have to wonder why and how.
It is now believed and commonly agreed that only 10-20% of all cancers are due to inherited genes. The 80-90% left are attributed to lifestyle factors such as environment, chemicals, and diet. Their proportional impact is of course not hard science; however, we know now that food influences our rates of chronic disease and that it can also influence its outcome. Let's see how.
That's rule number 1. Especially with lobbies, egos & commercial interests at play. Every month, new research shows how this or that food is good or bad for you. This flow of information can be hard to process, but we, at Saana, decide to not take any sides.
As we will show, there is some basic agreement and understanding of how cancer is able to settle down and grow linked to food.
Meat, sugar & dairy are the most controversial topics.
The story of processed food is part of our generation amnesia. We don't know where our food comes from and we don’t a.sk It just shows up on our plates.
But, let’s ask, why is wheat flour always white?
Every change is made for process improvement, industrial machines requirements, and money.
Flour used to be ground in wind mills which didn't impact the bran, the outer layer of the grain, full of nutrients. Bran are the pieces of grain husk separated from flour after milling. The grain remained whole and nutritive. When they realized windmills were not efficient, industrial machines were built whose process to grind the grains got rid of the bran and a lot of nutrients. The flour became white.
Several years after this new process, a lot of new medical conditions appeared. People were becoming deficient in some essential vitamins, especially Vitamin C at the time, because of the lost of nutrients in the white flour.
Adding vitamin C to the end products.
We never come back to the whole product. We always find solutions by processing more and adding more chemicals.
Fat against Sugar
Fat became “evil” at the end of the 20th century because it basically lost its battle against bad sugar for cardiovascular diseases-very product became low fat or fat free. But if you lose the fat, you lose the taste. So what do we do? Do we come back to whole milk? No. We add sugar instead to enhance the taste; a processed refined sugar that boosts our insulin peaks.
Process generates more process.
Free radicals are very unstable molecules (with unpaired electrons) that are able to damage our cells by forcing them to transfer them one electron. It is believed now that free radicals damage cells ADN, proteins, walls, and help them mutate.
But what is a free radical in the nature? Free radicals are found in compounds we are in contact with every day like chemicals, toxins, and pesticides. We are also able to create some by frying our food, by exposing our skin too much to the sun, etc.
What about food now? Antioxidants, as you surely must have heard of too, are molecules found in natural compounds that are able to neutralize free radicals or damaged cells by losing one electron while remaining stable. They are like firefighters against free radicals. Antioxidants are found in various food and in various proportions, but seek bright colors & darker vegetables. Some examples:
Rule n°1: we don't know exactly how and why cancer cells appear. And we may never because our body is too complex.
Rule n°2: everybody agrees that we all have some cancer cells: cells that became abnormal and that either killed themselves (aptotosis) or never grow. People that died from accidents whose bodies underwent an autopsy showed that a lot of microscopic cancer cells existed in their bodies. But they never grew.
Rule n°3: the scientific community seems to agree that inflammation never does good. Arterial plaques that can cause cardiovascular disease or stroke can't form without inflammation that provokes first the damage of the epithelial cells before bad cholesterol can jump in and progressively form arterial plaque. In cancer, inflammation is associated with growth factors that promote tumor growth and metastasis.
But what is inflammation? Inflammation is not in itself a disease and is hardly palpable. It is a communication process via cytokines and inflammation markers. It is a way for our body to shout that it was attacked and needs to react. Inflammation is of course beneficial when we are injured: the injured area becomes swollen & red because the inflammation process is running and calls on the white cells for help. But low-grade internal and chronic inflammation is something we don't see and usually don't feel. A lot of chemical or food compounds are able to trigger a constant invisible inflammation that is associated with growth factors in cancer and aggravation of cardiovascular diseases.
Since it is never good, let's avoid food that are inflammation friendly, which means :
As we have seen, we all have some cancer cells, but we have some control over their growth. Cancer takes time to develop.Chronic inflammation and free radicals are a slow and silent process that builds over time - putting oil on the fire never helps. We can, though control our ur food behaviors ong term. We don't care about what we did in the past since we have the power to make a change now.
Long story short: we get energy from fats, carbs & proteins, that our bodies are able to transform in energy. The usual energy extraction process by cells include different steps (lots of steps being done by the mitochondria) in which one molecule of glucose releases 36 ATP (energy). The Nobel Prize Otto Warburg in 1931 had already advanced a theory that mitochondria in cancer cells are not serving energy production but are redirected to building new blocks for the cancer cells. In cancer cells, one molecule of glucose gives birth to only 2 ATP because mitochondria’s job has changed
Cancer cells, because of the reconversion of the mitochondria, use 18 times more glucose than normal cells for energy. So yes, cancer cells love sugar.
It is also believed that cancer cells are not able to use fatty acids (fats) for energy whereas most of our normal cells can (the brain can't but can do ketones instead - see Ketogenic Section lower).
PS: when we mean sugar, we mean glucose, which is the end product of any carbohydrates.
Tumor growth and metastasis are still not completely understood today. We don't know exactly what provokes it. e do understand better and the process by which those cells start growing and expanding. All cells need nutrients and energy to build themselves, grow & spread. You then need new blood vessels to bring you those nutrients.
It is now recognized that cancer cells mutate & are able to release angiogenesis promoting factors (angiogenesis being the process of building new blood vessels) to attract new blood vessels to them, nourish themselves and eventually invade those blood vessels back. They then reach the main blood system creating metastasis and settling down in new organs.
Our article about Angiogenesis should help you understand further this process.
Today we know that a lot of natural foods contain anti-angiogenetic factors preventing new blood vessels creation. So it is necessary to emphasize on :
We have seen that cancer feeds mainly from glucose. So what would happen if we cut off sugar and carbs and emphasize fats instead? This trend is happening now and more research is being undertaken to understand the effect of a Ketogenic Diet (no carbs) on cancer. The Ketogenic Diet is widely accepted for autism or kids with seizure syndromes. Could we extend this idea to cancer?. Some success stories of cancer recovery with a Keto Diet already exist as it exists for people feeding themselves from a whole food plant based diet with whole grains.
So, what should we think of it?
The Warburg theory of cancer cells using 18 times more glucose than normal cells still remains. I don't believe that cancer develops because of glucose and that we should all eat fat. But at the same time, it is hard to ignore the fact that its main fuel is sugar.
Our muscles and principal organs can take their energy from fats. So that's good. Parts of the brain & heart can't, but they can use Ketones instead. Ketones are a by-products of our stored fat (that come from fat or carbs in excess) when we are fasting. Our body utilizes then stored fat in form of ketones as energy. A Ketogenic Diet can only be healthy for the brain if it lasts only a few days, is hypocaloric (we eat less calories than we should - not recommended for cancer patients on long term), or is supplemented by some carbs.
We do not believe it has to become a daily diet but could be tested for patients willing to.
As you have seen, no theory or diet is widely accepted in the science community. But what's funny is that, by persistently reading scientific articles and studying the field, I feel scientists are missing the point with their debates.
Whether they are in favor of Keto, fats, sugar, meat, dairy & grains, or against, they all agree on one point: processed food.
Processed food has become insidiously more and more part of our diet without us noticing it. Everybody agrees that processed food, GMOS, grain-fed animals, etc., do no good for us and our cancer cells. They are inflammation friendly, have depleted nutrients, advanced glycation products and high glycemic sugars.
Everyone claims we have to come back to a whole food diet with no processed food, no refined sugar, etc. That's the first step in the right direction - it seems totally easy and logical but it's not.
Think of your daily sugary cereals or your so-called healthy quick oats (heavily processed)? What about your coffee with sugar & milk? Your healthy western indian or chinese rice adapted with white rice, trans fat, and few to no vegetables? Most of our meals are not whole food from plants.These meals are not Whole Food mostly from Plants.
As we saw, inflammation and free radicals are our cancer friends. Everything that disturbs our body balance can empower our abnormal cells.
So a simple response to that would be to avoid any food or cooking behavior that could develop chronic inflammation, free radicals and growth factors.
Such behaviors are considered today to be :
To conclude, when doing your grocery shopping or buying in a restaurant, think of mother nature. If it feels like it was not processed and is whole, fresh & organic, go for it! No refined sugar at all, no dairy and a limitation in meat. Fish is good if it's wild caught, and the smaller the fish, the best (big fish tend to accumulate heavy metals from sea pollution). Voila!