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Paleo Diet For Cancer

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What science says about Paleo Diet For Cancer

Many nutritionists and medical experts have conflicting views on the popular Paleo diet for cancer.

Some medical experts agree with the hypothesis behind the Paleo diet and believe that consuming foods our ancestors ate thousands of years ago allows the body to function at optimum levels and is good for overall health.

Supporters of the Paleo diet maintain that a low glycemic diet can treat or prevent cancer. This is because a low-glycemic diet lowers insulin levels in the body. High insulin levels promote the growth of cancer cells. Therefore, by avoiding high-sugar foods, one can lower insulin levels and decrease the risk of developing cancer.

They also argue that because the Paleo diet is a low-carb diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, it will help prevent cancer. Fiber helps prevent colorectal cancers. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that kill cancer cells. Nevertheless, there are no specific studies that link the Paleo diet with a decreased risk of cancer.

However, many experts disagree with the Paleo diet. They argue that the diet promotes eating way too much meat, which may increase cancer risk. They also argue that eliminating food groups such as beans and grains may increase the risk of cancers. For instance, avoiding foods like beans may lead to an increased risk of colon cancer. 

Opinion in favor of following the Paleo diet to treat and prevent cancer:

Healthcare professionals who support the Paleo diet for cancer believe it can treat or reverse this condition because it is a low glycemic index diet that reduces carbohydrate intake. Thus, it reduces the production of glucose and regulates the level of insulin in the body.  Insulin levels also affect the levels of two hormones: insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3). IGF-1 encourages cell growth while IGFBP-3 makes cells less sensitive to factors that limit cell growth, preventing the potential growth of cancerous tumors.

Other supporters of the Paleo diet like Dr. Csaba Toth also believe that the Paleo diet can cure different diseases, including cancer. Dr. Toth maintains that the diet helps restore gut permeability, improving immune system function, reducing the risk of cancer.

Along with his colleague Dr. Zsofia Clemens, he conducted two studies on cancer patients following a ketogenic Paleolithic diet. In both studies, when both cancer patients complied with the diet, tumor growth stopped.

One review of different diets, “Nutritional Interventions for Treating Cancer-Related Fatigue: A Qualitative Review” indicates that the Paleo diet may help cancer patients because it reduces inflammation However, it acknowledges that patients might not be fully compliant with the diet because it’s restrictive and difficult to follow.

While these results are promising, more studies need to be conducted on the Paleolithic diet for cancer. These studies should also be randomized with a control group and larger sample sizes for them to be considered credible by the rest of the scientific community.

Opinion against following the Paleo diet to treat and prevent cancer:

Many doctors believe that the Paleo diet does not treat cancer. They argue that the diet’s protein recommendations are not healthy.  This is because the diet’s protein recommendations, especially those of red meat, are higher than ones prescribed by the standard American diet. Researchers associate the consumption of red meat with an increased risk of cancer.

However, supporters counter that argument by claiming that the studies on red meat do not take an individual’s consumption of vegetables into account. They argue if people add more vegetables into their diet, they will neutralize the increased risk of cancer that red meat may cause. This is because they are a healthy source of fiber that protects the intestine against cancer.

Other doctors like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, board-certified family physician and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, believe that increasing the consumption of red meat also increases the levels of IGF-1, which increases the rate of cancer cell growth. However, the Paleo diet claims to work on lowering the levels of IGF-1 in the body. These contradictory claims make one doubt the diet’s overall effectiveness in preventing cancer.

Furthermore, opponents of the diet also believe that eliminating entire food groups from one’s diet is not healthy and may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. Dr. Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of California San Francisco, claims that contrary to what the Paleo diet says, cereal grains may reduce one’s risk of cancer. Therefore, there is no need to eliminate different food groups to prevent the disease. 

Dr. Joel Fuhrman also believes that there is no need to eliminate food groups that might protect against different types of cancer. He argues that eliminating beans from one’s diet puts one at risk for colon cancer. Dr. Fuhrman claims that beans have a “low glycemic load.” They are also a great source of fiber and can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, lowering one’s chances of developing colon cancer.

Moreover, some studies show following the Paleo diet does not impact one’s risk of developing cancer. In the study, “Diet Quality Scores Inversely Associated with Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk Are Not Associated with Premenopausal Breast Cancer Risk in the California Teachers Study,” the data suggests that there is no association between the Paleo diet and decreased risk of cancer.

Nevertheless, opponents of the Paleo diet for cancer believe that the diet may be beneficial for overall health because it encourages healthy eating habits, such as eating organic fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed meats, high-sugar foods, and refined carbohydrates. However, they maintain that the diet is not designed to treat cancer or reduce its development.

Published July 2020

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