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Dietary Supplements Research

Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

The research findings on the effectiveness and impact of dietary components can be conflicting and not transferrable to real-life humans that one doesn't know what to think (include me in that category). So far, a reputable cancer research supporter, American Institute of Cancer Research, has reported that there has been promising evidence of that supplements may be beneficial. I've copied an excerpt of the article that discusses the developments. It doesn't detail the methodology so you can't evaluate the research yourself, but it does seem to support conventional medicine can be boosted with home regiments.

Here's part of the article:

Diet as Combination Therapy?

In addition to its ongoing mission to support research on diet and cancer prevention, AICR also provides funding for researchers exploring the interaction of conventional cancer therapies and a host of dietary factors, including:

# Quercetin (a phytochemical found in apples and onions)
# Glutamine (an amino acid found in meat, fish, beans, dairy)
# Curcumin (a component of turmeric, mustard, curry powder)
# Selenium (a mineral found in many plants and animals)
# Silymarin and Silibinin (both from the plant known as milk thistle)
# Vitamin D (from dairy foods)
# Phytic Acid (found in berries, seeds, broccoli)
# Fish Oil
# Garlic

Hundreds of researchers are now investigating diet’s role during the very specific set of conditions that occur during cancer treatment. They are finding evidence that common dietary components can help conventional therapy halt cancer growth, cut off blood supply to tumors, prevent cells from spreading to other areas of the body, or simply encourage cancer cells to “commit suicide.” Their work suggests that dietary factors may soon come to be regarded as vital parts of cancer treatment and recovery tools to be employed with precision and care.

Full article can be read at this link:


As always, please consult with your oncologist.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Dear Kaitek,
I have seen similar articles in non research journals and notices to cancer patients. The research has yet to find that dietary supplements are really beneficial though. If they made a great breakthrough, it would hit the headlines of the major newspapers overnight. Remember the Vit. A study they did with smokers. It is known that diets high in foods that have Vitamin A in them seem to be associated with less cancer in smokers. But when given supplements of vit. A, the smokers actually got MORE cancer, not less. That surprised the researchers. The general conclusion seems to be that better diet helps in ways that pills do not. Our bodies use food in ways we still don't quite understand and pills and liquid supplements, natural or not, are not the same. I know I always ate well though, and I have been diagnosed with both breast and lung cancer. I don't have major risk factors for either. But the good diet and exercise never goes to waste. I've sprung back from surgeries very quickly and most people never know I've been diagnosed with either unless I tell "em. My own oncologist from a major teaching hospital wants me to be involved in a clinical trial involving selenium just to see if it will be helpful. Of course I won't know if I'm going to get the vitamin with it or without it until they're finished. That's for science and my grandkids. The same oncologist says to eat right, exercise, and take the cheapest multi-vitamin you find on the shelves because the research doesn't support the value of ANY of the supplements. Until he sees it in the research, he considers it all to be "snake-oil", if you know what I mean. Some of my friends juice, purge, supplement,and go on periodic fasts. Unfortunately the research doesn't support what they are doing. My philosophy is to do what makes you feel healthy and happy. I try to exercise up to an hour a day. I try to eat a balanced diet and and add in foods with those fruits and vegetables containing the stuff you listed. I limit meat (esp. red meat) and try to go low saturated fat, high fiber. I deliberately try to keep my weight on the low side for my size. All these things are fully supported by research. I also try the brocolli sprouts by Johns Hopkins. There is some research showing they are more effective than plain broccoli for producing the chemicals that fight cancer in the human body( but I think it is more effective on stomach and throat cancer than lung cancer). The diet and exercise are doable and enjoyable though I miss large portions and extra cookies from time to time. It may or may not work, but at least I feel good and life is too short to do stuff that doesn't make life enjoyable. Good luck on your research!

Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

Hello cabbott,

I don't disagree with you in whole. I've been reading opinions on both sides of the interpretations of studies. Knowing study methodology, I am critical of findings. For one, there is an inherent problem in pinpointing what foods are protecting regions of people from diseases other people are more vulnerable to. Is it the wine consumption or the olive oil of Mediterranean diet that protects those peoples from heart diseases? Or lifestyle?

How in the world can a particular food be isolated from the diets of anybody? Then, there is the imprecise reporting of what one ate. Unless one is very disciplined and note the meals right afterwards, s/he would have to rely on memory for that. I've been keeping a diary for my mom and sometimes I just don't journalize until several days later. There are holes in my memory.

I am familiar with the studies rejecting betacarotene and vitamin E as supplements that would aid cancer patients. Here, when compounds are isolated, it completely eliminates the delicate and complicated synergy food components have with each other or simply within a whole food item itself (as opposed to testing just one element).

One study I read tested the hypothesis of soy foods with prostate cancers. When the researchers tested only with a component of gene-something (I can't keep up with the complicated terms of food chemicals), the component actually accelerated the growth of tumors. But when the entire soy (or maybe isoflavones?) was tested, the results were better with tumor inhibition.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm more of a proponent of eating a healthy diet in foods themselves and not so much bulking up with bottles of supplements as you are. My mother takes a multivitamin that doesn't exceed the RDA. Other than that, she consumes a selenium supplement. She doesn't naturally on her own eat the most healthy foods in favoring vegetables and fruits. I didn't realize to what extent until I started cooking and serving her meals. She would complain about green beans, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies. Those veggies have phytochemicals that have been isolated as cancer fighters.

Now, if it were me, I would have no problem, as I have always loved vegetables and fruits more than meat, and I've always didn't care for fats (I was a very particular eater even as a kid). I probably eat the more authentic ratio of vegetables to meat than my mom. For dinner alone, I typically eat 6 servings of veggies. With my mom, I have to work around her objections, even sneaking broccoli into her congee (a trick I picked up from a cousin).

Getting back to the supplements, I also have a problem in that they are for the most part synthetic. It is better to get those vitamins (in my opinion) in their natural form and variations. For instance, vitamin E and vitamin D supplements are sold as one type when they are in foods in several forms. You can overdose on the vitamin D supplements but not the variation you can get from a little exposure from the sun. (I know, I know, dermatologists are not on board about any sun exposure for vitamin D intake as they feel the benefits don't outweigh the risks of skin cancer.)

What about the omega-3 supplements obtained from fish oils? Is there something the manufacturers are leaving out of the fish itself that amplifies the omega-3's benefits? I mean, the latest research has basically rejected that fish oil supplements have any protective benefits against cancer, though the heart benefits, I believe, remain. Here, I think it is better to eat the fish instead of fish oil supplements.

Then, on green tea extracts, how do they isolate the right extracts that are beneficial? And doesn't this ala carte business disregard the fact that compounds work in concert with each other? I'd prefer to drink green tea itself (it so much more enjoyable to drink it than a pill), but how much must one drink to actually benefit? There's that confusion and the reason the FDA has put a lid on claims that green tea prevents cancers. The FDA found the studies not able to hold up to scrutiny.

With human subjects, there are such a host of interlinked factors that there could be something else underlying that could be the stimulus. Cause-and-effects are not cut-and-dry when dealing with humans with our many-layered activities and food consumption - never mind the differences in our genetics among peoples and individuals.

All in all, again, I am in complete agreement with you. I've been a broken record about the confusion all the research and the normal response of scientists in critically breaking down findings and debunking them where they see it (as part of their review processes). So, I try to be conservative in what I choose to believe. Yes, we should be careful in not falling for the snake-oil sales pitch. If a site is selling the product, I don't bother reading anything further - book or supplement otherwise.

Now, if I read a study that shows a particular compound isolated from a food (e.g., broccoli, garlic, etc.), and it wasn't synthesized, has consistent, observable activity in killing or inhibiting a tumor cell, then I think that correlation has some weight. Still, the problem is the quantity to be consumed for the same results as reached in the lab. Many times, the quantity applied to rats are massive when projected for humans. To transfer the processes on a cellular modeling, I can't even wrap my mind around that.

Ultimately, the regiment I would stick to for my mom is: a high vegetable/fruit diet, simple multivitamin (no additional vitamin C, E, A or betacarotene supplements), raw garlic clove, restriction of red meats (I may relax to allow for lean beef on occasion as my mom may be getting tired of poultry), limits on both saturated fats and especially trans fat, weekly consumption of salmon (wild Alaskan salmon is among the "cleanest" fish with minimal mercury and PCBs), minimal refined sugar (though I'm not completely convinced sugar may boost cancerous cells) and exercise at least 30 minutes a day. I'm considering adding turmeric. When I read of some people's regiments in their battle against cancer, I am overwhelmed at everything they have to do. Macrobiotics is too much to consider. I like to keep it simple. It's enough that my mom isn't the most compliant patient. So, it's either I have to get on her to follow the many steps or just try to find a better option that is agreeable with her and goes down easy. (Indigestion is the biggest culprit.) The latter makes life for the both of us easier.

Thanks cabbott for adding to the discussion. I would be interested if you were in the trial on selenium. Selenium is a compound that I think has something to it. But the jury is still out now.

Continued success with your recovery!!

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Hi Kaitek,
The diet you're doing is very similar to the one I aim for. I did find some research on the green tea in the medical reviews. If you do it for the health benefits, go for the sencha green tea and four cups a day. I went to the health food store and bought the organic bancha green for a long while before a study pointed out the difference in the level of antioxidants in the different kinds. Later I read a book by another survivor who had done the same thing. All teas have some antioxidants in them, just some have more. The health food store is trying to sell me on the rooibus (red) "tea" or on white tea, but I haven't seen the research. When I have surgery coming up, I go for the rooibus stuff, but I like the green tea with cinnamon best. Tumeric is also in the research and looks very promising. Unfortunately I don't know anything but my Mom's bread and butter pickles that have tumeric in them (and pickles are hardly on the good-for-you-to eat daily list!) Do you have any ways to make tumeric palatable?

Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

Hi Cabbott,

I wanted to go over more diet issues with you that came to me since my last message but now I've forgotten what they were. Oh well, they'll probably come to me later. Meanwhile, I'd like to comment on message.

Green tea:
Tea is normally part of my routine because I like drinking tea. The health benefits are icing on the cake. There's a black tea with chrysantheum petals served at a San Francisco Chinatown that I absolutely love. It is mellow and smooth with no bitterness whatsoever regardless of steeping time (unlike jasmine tea that gets bitter and a bit astringent when steeped too long). I just don't know the name of that tea so I haven't been able to buy some of my own.

The green tea I prefer is a Japanese type called Hojicha. It has a roasted taste I like. It, too, never gets bitter. In addition to Hojicha, my go-to tea is Jasmine. The first steeping has a nice, subtle sweetness, but I've found further steepings produce a rather ordinary tea taste - whereas the above two can be further steeped with no change in flavors.

In addition to the antioxidants, the teas have polyphenols (?) that have healthful qualities.

Only recently (say last week) did I hear about white tea supposedly having more antioxidants and polyphenols than even green tea. Apparently because it is less processed and the leaves are less mature, white tea is more potent. It actually makes sense in the same vein that broccoli sprouts have more cancer-fighting properties than mature broccoli. (I'll have to try the broccoli sprouts, when I can find them.)


What is especially intriguing about the merit of turmeric is that studies have found agents in it that actually distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells and attack the cancer cells. Those studies I take a lot of interest in because the tumors or cancerous cells are actually observed to be killed by the introduced agent. To me, that is akin to watching bleach kill mold. With nothing else but that introduced agent, the cells are destroyed. So something must be working.

Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat as you in being clueless in how to cook with turmeric. I know it's used to make curry dishes but other than Singapore fried noodles, I don't adore curry dishes. And I don't know how to make Singapore fried noodles (though I have a Martha Stewart reciped I haven't tried yet). My mom used to make a stir-fried curry chicken dish but she stopped making that a long time ago.

I was thinking of maybe experimenting with just adding a teaspoon of turmeric or cumin to steamed rice and just mixing it well. I don't know how that will taste. I may need to cut whatever off flavors of the turmeric with sesame oil and soy sauce. (Beginning to sound like a version of fried rice.)

Another possibility is curried cauliflower. I came across a fairly easy recipe (the kind I like and actually can execute) that if I can recall off the top of my head involves just sauteeing the cauliflower with a little oil, garlic and teaspoon of turmeric. (I'll have to see if I can find the recipe again.) As you know, cauliflower is among the cruciferous vegetables that have several cancer-fighting properties.

I'm not planning on trying turmeric until my mom is off of cancer therapy. I don't want to overwhelm her body with too many antioxidants that can counteract the oxidation processes of the chemo treatments.

I'll let you know if I learn of any good tips or tricks to cook with turmeric.

ernrol's picture
Posts: 91
Joined: Apr 2006

A follow up on the Turmeric. Back from lunch. As I heated up my bean soup I put my usual quarter teaspoon of Cayenne, added a quarter teaspoon of Turmeric, a couple good dashes of Tabasco, and WOW it was great. I add my spices when I reheat it because otherwise my wife will not eat it. I go a little on the spicy side. I have thought often about adding Turmeric to the other herbs and spices I take. Thanks for getting me to move. Do either of you know what a recommended amount of Turmeric may be good to take. Here is a web site I use to check out herbs and supplements. I do take a lot of supplements along with my diet. This is a Sloan Kettering web site and has some good info. I am trying to perfect a bean soup that will be called Ernies Killer Bean Soup, because it should have I hope a lot of items that will help kill cancer cells. I will post it when finished.


Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006


You are one dedicated fellow!! I'm personally not good with the regiment of taking a multivitamin supplement. So, I am in awe of your dedication to your supplements and diet regiment.

In answer to your question, I've come across recommendations of 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon daily of turmeric. It's supposed to eliminate DNA damage from cancer.

I'd like to research cancer stats with East Indians and their smoking rates. Indians are known for turmeric in their regular diet. The confounding factor is that a lot of Indians are strict vegetarians because of their religions. I would still be curious if their cancer rates are significantly lower.

Cabbott I remembered some of the issues I wanted to cover more with you. But as I've noted in another thread, I don't have that much time now. So I'll talk to you some more tomorrow.

Posts: 1560
Joined: May 2006

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Posts: 156
Joined: Aug 2006

Hello Cabbott,

I remember some of the issues I wanted to go over more.

Selenium study:

This covers my reservations about human studies with this selenium study. Okay, the researchers can dispense selenium to certain subjects while withholding it for a control group. But how is it possible for them to standardize the test subjects beyond that - as they can with lab mice? Everybody eats different foods daily even within the same regional population or family (my family alone reflects the divergence of diets). How are they going to account for the dominance of diet? Selenium would only be a drop in the bucket. Then, there is the variation in treatments. Not everybody will be on Carbo and Taxol. Some people receive radiation and surgery in addition to chemo. That complicates the effectiveness of selenium or its role.

And what about that all important nuanced genetics? Are they going to separate the subjects by their genetic makeup?

I can see how on a cellular model agents can react with cells, but controlling for humans is, I think, impractical. That's the primary reason the FDA can't even declare the benefits of green tea. And the mass of studies is reduced to the declaration of being inconclusive.

Too curious.

Though I am a believer in the health benefits of vegetables and fruits, I think there could be a false security with a vegetarian diet in the sense it's not the be-all, cure-all miracle. If I can recall correctly, some famous vegetarians fell victim to cancer, including I believe Gloria Swanson (don't know if she was a smoker though), and Ewell Gibbons (the pine nut guy?). In the same vein that exercise is claimed to be protective against chronic diseases, several famous marathon runners succumbed to fatal diseases. Maybe they are anomalies. But they give cause for pause.

In the end, I would still stick with a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.

ernrol's picture
Posts: 91
Joined: Apr 2006

I just copied this off the internet. I thought you two might be interested. I will go home and try it in my bean soup.
Because of its bitter taste, Turmeric should not be used as a flavor substitute for saffron. A Turmeric stain can be washed out with soap and water if treated quickly. Use Turmeric to add Eastern mystery to new favorites as well as in traditional curries, rice and chicken dishes, and condiments. Turmeric is a classic addition to chutneys, pickles, and relishes. Add a pinch of Turmeric to fish soups. Blend with melted butter and drizzle over cooked vegetables, pasta, or potatoes.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Thanks for all the tips, you two! I'm not sure I'm up to a teaspoon of this spice a day, but at least I can clean up what I spill. I have heard that the breast cancer rate is lower in Indians than anywhere else and that the antioxidants in the high spice diet is thought to be responsible. Perhaps even a little more will be better than none. I too like bean soup, so tell me when you perfect your recipe (or come close).

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

I saw the pulmonologist this week and she can't get me in the selenium study because I have two kinds of cancer. It would confound things apparently. But she said that what they are testing is easy enough to do: 400 mg. of selenium a day, the stuff you find at the drug store over the counter. I looked the stuff up and there is such a thing as an overdose, so I'm going to check the multivitamin to see if I'm getting any there. Let me know if you find anything more pro or con. Thanks!

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