Cancer as a Disease of Deficiency
Dr. Bruce Ames, at age 90, is one of the most eminent researchers, and at 555 publications, one of the most cited scientists in the country. He is a Senior Scientist at Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute, director of their Nutrition and Metabolism Center, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is a member of the board of directors at the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Advisory Board. He was awarded the US National Medal of Science in 1998.
Drs. Ames has been involved in cancer research for many years. He developed a commonly used test for mutagencity (cancer causing) that is commonly used, called the Ames Test.
He is also known for developing the Triage Theory of Aging. Triage theory shows that when even one of the 50 plus essential vitamins and minerals is insufficient, it is triaged, or allocated to short term survival, over long term survival needs, such as repairing DNA. Dr. Ames has shown that nutrient deficiencies commonly lead to cancer and other diseases of aging.
The reason that the War on Cancer has been a failure is that it has expended huge amounts of money and resources looking for “cures,” while ignoring one of the main causes of cancer — poor nutrition. The failure of our diets to provide adequate nutrients to enable long term survival through DNA repair to reduce cancer and other diseases of aging is scandalous. Prevention is so much easier and cheaper than heroic efforts at saving lives with incredibly expensive medicines pumped into dying patients.
Someone newly diagnosed with cancer might ask their doctor — “What caused this?” Certainly a legitimate question. The most likely answer from the doctor? “We don't know.” But we do know. In addition to poor nutrition, it is the presence of carcinogenic substances in our environment.
Dr. Ames spent many years researching mutagens — substances that cause cancer. He found that cigarette smoke is mutagenic, hair dyes were mutagenic, and flame retardants were mutagenic as well. Dr. Ames bought pajamas for his children while in Europe, where infant clothing and bedding is not contaminated with flame retardants.
In time, Dr. Ames also discovered that deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals were also mutagenic. A colleague of Dr. Ames found that all of his lab rats had developed DNA damage that looked as it was caused by radiation. What he discovered was that folate, a B vitamin, had been accidentally left out of the rat chow.
As Dr. Ames researched some micronutrients such as Vitamin K and the mineral selenium, he found that shortages of these were allocated, or triaged to short term survival at the expense of long term survival and DNA repair. In lab animals these shortages inevitably led to cancer.
There are many mutagenic substances in our environment, including natural things like solar radiation, and radiation from naturally occurring elements, like radon. There are many man made mutagens as well, in the form of toxic chemicals, as well as cigarette smoke, flame retardants in clothing and furniture — it takes a letter from a doctor to buy a mattress without flame retardants.
Weston Price, and Vildemar Stephensson, who studied and lived with hunter gatherers on pre-industrial diets, found them to be free of cancer. The paleo-like diets of these hunter/fisher/gatherer peoples were protective against cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes.
Deficiencies of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are very common today, especially in teens, the poor, the obese, the elderly and African Americans. A diet high in carbohydrates from sugar and grains is a nutrient poor diet. There are essential amino acids and essential fats we must get from food. There are no essential carbohydrates. Zero. The more calories in one's diet from carbs and processed foods, the less micronutrient-dense foods from proteins, fats and vegetables.
A nutrient-dense diet is our best protection against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. For us moderns, a paleo-like diet is a good template. In macronutrient terms, a paleo diet is low in carbs, moderate in protein, and high in fat. Following is a list of nutrient dense foods:
- Organ meats, especially liver and heart. Try to eat weekly.
- Fatty cuts of grass fed meats.
- Wild caught fish.
- Pasture raised eggs – especially the yolks.
- Bone broth – homemade bone broth is rich in bone minerals and collagen.
- Pasture butter and cheeses. Use ghee if you don't tolerate dairy. These foods are rich in fats and fat soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and K2.
- Coconut oil and MCT oil. Rich in ketones, energy units from fat.
- Sea vegetables – many paleo-era peoples journeyed to the sea or traded for sea vegetables. They are very rich in trace minerals. Try to eat weekly.
- Deep green leafy vegetables
- Fruits – modern fruits are far sweeter and more common than they were for our ancestors. The sugar content of fruits make them nutrient poor. Look for small, dark fruits like aronia berries, elderberries or wild blueberries. Best fruits are avocado, olives, cucumber and zucchini.
- Bee pollen – very concentrated and nutrient dense. 1/2 to 1 tspn. Daily.
- Blue Green Algae – concentrated nutrition, the best is bioalgae concentrates from Bio Age. Comes in capsules, so more of a supplement than a food.
- Fermented foods – if unpasteurized, provide beneficial microorganisms. Also plain yogurt or kefir. Once “flavor” (sugar) is added, yogurt and kefir become a liability not an asset.
Any single micronutrient deficiency can lead to cancer. However these deficiencies are often multiple, and the effects of multiple deficiencies has not been studied.
We do know that deficiencies of folate, B12 and B6 lead to many types of cancer. All the B vitamins are essential, and, B12 is found only in animal food and supplements.
Worldwide, iron is the most common deficiency. Up to 80% of the US population is magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency is associated with colorectal and other cancers. In a study of 1,405 men followed for 18 years, the highest quartile of magnesium compared with the lowest had a 40% decrease in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease and a 50% decrease in cancer deaths. These men cut their cancer rate in half just by being magnesium sufficient.
Vitamin D deficiency has been estimated to account for 29% of cancer deaths in men and has been strongly associated with colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer. There are hundreds of receptors for vitamin D in our DNA. It is very important to repair DNA.
African Americans are at particular risk because the pigment in their skin drastically reduce Vitamin D production in the skin from sunlight.
- Omega three fatty acid deficiency is associated with melanoma, breast and other cancers.
- Zinc deficiency, quite common, is associated with cancer in both rodents and humans.
- Selenium deficiency is also associated with cancer.
- Other common deficiencies are all B vitamins, vitamin K2 and vitamin A.
Dr. Ames research has observed that many micronutrient deficiencies are associated with chromosome breaks, DNA damage and cancer in humans. Triaging of scarce micronutrients favors enzymes supporting ATP production for daily energy over DNA-repair enzymes.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) indicates that micronutrient intake from diet is inadequate for the poor, teenagers, menstruating women, the obese and the elderly, and much of the rest of the population as well.
There is strong evidence for multi vitamin/mineral supplements, or a combination of vitamins and minerals improving long-term health, reducing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and cataracts and improving immune function for those who consume inadequate diets.
Every biological activity in our body is dependent on vitamins and minerals. The Department of Agriculture has observed declines in the vitamin/mineral content of our foods anywhere from 15% to 90% since the 1960's. It is naive to think that we can meet micronutrient needs on the standard American diet.
A nutritional analysis of 23,943 men and women, all free of cancer and heart disease was performed. After 11 years the researchers showed that users of vitamin/mineral supplements at the start of the study had significantly reduced risk of both cancer mortality and all-cause mortality, while people who started taking supplements after the study started had significantly increased risks.
Dr. Ames believes, along with many others, that the RDA's (recommended daily allowances) of vitamins and minerals are set too low, and in many cases will not meet the body's needs for long term survival, including the repair of ongoing damage to our DNA.
A supplement program to help insure sufficiency would include a multi vitamin that contains at least 500 mg of vitamin C, 30-50 mg of most B vitamins, vitamin E, preferably a high gamma tocopherol instead of alpha tocopheral, some true vitamin A – retinol, not beta carotene, trace minerals, at least 15 mg of zinc and 200 mcg of selenium, 150 mcg of iodine, 100-500 mcg of methyl B12 and natural folates instead of synthetic folic acid. A one-a-day multi is not enough. Multi's with calcium and magnesium should be avoided. They are bulky minerals and any multi that contains them should be taken at 4-6 caps daily.
- Vitamin A – 5,000 Iu not beta carotene
- Magnesium – 300-800 mg daily
- Calcium – 200-500 mg daily
- Vitamin K2 – 45-90 mcg daily
- Vitamin D3 – 5,000 to 10,000 IU daily
- Omega three fish oil – 1,000 mg of combined EPA/DHA
- Vitamin B Complex, especially if you drink alcohol, take medications and eat sugar daily
- Curcumin – While not an essential nutrient, it has strong anti cancer activity.
- Green & White Teas – anti-cancer activity.
The longer and more consistently you take supplements, the greater your resistance to diseases of aging, including cancer. All supplements are not alike, ones available to health professionals only, are generally the highest quality. Cheap vitamins from big box stores and online discounters are not usually very helpful.