Why Diet ALWAYS Matters

By Keith I. Block, MD
Virtually every day, we’re all bombarded with advice about our diets. We’re told which foods to eat to have more energy, reduce our cholesterol, lower our chances of a heart attack, reduce our risk of getting cancer … yet once someone is diagnosed with cancer, these recommendations often fall by the wayside. Though defying both common sense and good science, some cancer patients are still hearing “eat whatever you want, you need to keep up your strength,” by their physicians. And, this holds true even when their dietary choices are loaded with saturated fats and refined sugars!

At the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment , we believe diet always matters. Whether someone is looking to prevent cancer, undergoing treatment, or wanting to reduce the risk of a recurrence, eating a nutritionally-dense, healthy diet is important. Nutrients directly and indirectly impact the mechanisms by which cancer cells grow and spread. For example, if you eat too much dietary fat and refined carbohydrates, you run the risk of increasing your body fat and weight, while weakening your immune system and increasing inflammation, oxidative stress and blood levels of substances that promote tumor growth and angiogenesis (new blood supply to tumors). In addition, diets high in fat tend to cause more DNA damage, which allows mutations to accumulate in the cells that make up tumors. The more mutations, the more aggressive the cancer, and the more likely it is that malignant cells will survive chemo and radiation, and then metastasize. Nutrients indirectly help control the cancer by changing the surrounding biochemical conditions that either encourage or discourage the progression of malignant disease.

Our Dietary Recommendations

Whether you’re undergoing treatment, or wanting to prevent a recurrence of cancer, our general dietary recommendations are the same: we suggest a diet low in saturated fat, high in fiber, plant-based sources of protein, cold water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, fruits and berries rich in antioxidants, and nuts, seeds and cruciferous vegetables. The inclusion of whole grains and legumes is consistent with the basic eating pattern for many traditional societies in which the major cancers that afflict the US are practically non-existent. One of the many benefits of eating whole grains and legumes is their fiber content. Soluble and insoluble whole grain fibers are, among other things, excellent for the health of the intestines. Cells lining the colon, for instance, need fiber and carbohydrates for some of their basic nutrients, such as butyrate. And with the negative effect of many cancer treatments on the gastrointestinal tract, these cells need all the support they can get! The soluble fiber of whole grains and beans also evens out fluctuations in insulin levels – and since our diet recommends the exclusion of refined sugar and flour sources (more on this below) – insulin spikes should be less problematic to begin with. High fiber diets have also been shown to lower inflammation – important because inflammation can promote the growth of cancer.

Additionally, we suggest eliminating unnatural fats, called trans fat, found abundantly in margarine, hydrogenated oils, as well as many baked goods and convenience foods; reducing or eliminating simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated sweeteners, sugary beverages, cookies, cakes, pastries, white bread, crackers and white-flour baked goods. These are high-glycemic foods that cause a sudden rise in blood sugar and, ultimately, increase inflammation.

Our nutritional strategy is intended to help curtail inflammation, reduce free-radical damage, minimize platelet activation (which can lead to dangerous blood clotting), manage blood sugar surges, and reduce serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (or IGF-1), which stimulates cell multiplication and inhibits cell death.


About Keith Block

Keith I. Block, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in integrative oncology. Referred to by many as the “father of integrative oncology,” Dr. Block combines cutting-edge conventional treatments with individualized and scientifically-based complementary and nutraceutical therapies. In 1980, he co-founded the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, Illinois, the first such facility in North America, and serves as its Medical and Scientific Director. The field of integrative oncology was formally recognized by the launching of Integrative Cancer Therapies (ICT). In 2000, Dr. Block was invited by Sage Science Press to be the founding Editor-in-Chief of this peer-reviewed journal, the first medical journal devoted to exploring the research and science behind integrative oncology. In 2007, ICT was accepted by Thomson Scientific for inclusion in the Science Citation Index Expanded™. Dr. Block is the Scientific Director of the Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Education, where he has collaborated with colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Bar Ilan University in Israel. Dr. Block is also on Dr. Andrew Weil’s faculty at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, the University of Arizona College of Medicine. In 2005, he was appointed to the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query (PDQ) Cancer CAM Editorial Board, on which he continues to serve today. Dr. Block has more than 90 publications in scientific journals relevant to nutritional and integrative oncology. He is also the author of Life Over Cancer, published by Bantam Hardcover Books, in April, 2009. His model of individualized integrative oncology continues to set the standard for the practice of this comprehensive approach to cancer treatment in the U.S.
What Do FoodTrients Do?
Ai Anti- inflammatories

Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

Ao Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

IB Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

MB Mind

Improves mood, memory, and focus.

F Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.