A New Way of Life | Book review
By David Servan-Schreiber On Amazon.com
What is cancer? And why is it so terrifying? Cancer in the most simplistic description is an odd and random growth of human cells. They feed on blood of neighboring cells, and use the lack of immunity to grow, and eventually exhaust their host. What makes it terrifying is that it’s a glitch in the system, not an external factor. As a friend once told me: the world will figure out Aids before cancer, because aids is a virus, cancer is like a system bug!
What is this book about?
We all have micro cancers in our bodies, and the immunity in our system fights off the majority at ease. But what happened since 1940s that changed the landscape of cancer epidemic?
This book was written by a doctor who discovered a brain tumor at the age of 30. And it hit back some years later. That is when he decided to research and find out for himself. He was shocked how little the western medical experience knew. And here, he shares his explanation of why cancer is such a terrible epidemic.
Statistics are information, not condemnation.
Author shows a statistical diagram of the number of deceased versus the number of months since diagnosis. Even though it shows that most die 8 months after diagnosis, the diagram trails off to more than years. He says, if you ever get diagnosed, you do not necessarily have to fall at the maiden, think of how to help your body trail off, and escape statistics.
The ‘NF-keppa B factor is the thing that makes cancer grow. The medical society has been focusing on what kills or fights this factor, in this book the author wants to argue that its the terrain (the surrounding environment) of the problem that needs to be fixed.
Initiation – the presence of a potentially dangerous seed – depends largely on our genes and toxins in our environment (radiation, carcinogenic chemicals, etc.).
The interesting thing revealed, is a lab rat that fought off all kinds of cancer cells injected into it. That mouse bred other mice that were similarly immune to cancer. The day will come when we identify those who have natural immunity of cancer.
If the tumour’s environment is deprived of the inflammatory factors needed for its growth, it will not succeed in spreading.
if I were asked to design a diet today that promoted the development of cancer to the maximum, I couldn’t improve on our present diet!’
That is sad! From a medical and biological point of view, anything that promotes growth to cells (inflammatory) should in a way support cancer growth. So following are examples of inflammatory elements, and why they pose such a risk.
The changes that occurred in the west after World War II
Three minor changes the author thinks has a huge effect on cancer spread after 1940s:
- Highly refined sugar
- Animal raising and farming methods
- Chemical products
The new western life style also introduced three elements that constitute 56% of calorie intake. Sugar, bleached flour, and vegetable oils.
High GI foods: An inflammatory factor is the IGF, a molecule released along side insulin in the blood to ‘digest’ sugar intake.
When we eat sugar or white flour – foods with a high ‘glycemic index’ – blood levels of glucose rise rapidly. The body immediately releases a dose of insulin to enable the glucose to enter cells. The secretion of insulin is accompanied by the release of another molecule called IGF (insulin-like growth factor-1), whose role is to stimulate cell growth. In short, sugar nourishes tissues and makes them grow faster.
Sugar includes cane and beat sugar, corn, syrup, fructose… Etc.
All the scientific literature points in the same direction: people who want to protect themselves from cancer should seriously reduce their consumption of processed sugar and bleached flour.
Before you jump ahead and claim this has no scientific merits, let us remind ourselves that in 1830 humans (in the west) consumed 5kg of sugar per year. Today, humans consume 70kg a year! So if it is a known fact that IGF molecules causes cell growth, then it adds up that wherever sugar is being consumed, cancer seems to multiply! Also note that all of our flour is white, we no longer eat wholegrain flour. It is even a challenge to find 100% wholegrain bread in Amman. And what is more troubling is that we eat everything with bread! We breath air with bread!
Among the various kinds of honey, acacia honey, which is also very light in colour, has a low glycemic index (roughly 30).
Generally, you want to stick to GI lower than 55, among sweeteners the author mentioned: stevia, agave nectar, and 70% dark chocolate. Potatoes, white rice, and corn flakes are also high GI foods. Replace with multigrain, basmati rice, sweat potato, lentils, beans, and oats. If you ask me, I wouldn’t stop eating all of this stuff, but I would try to cut down 14 times (to reach safe levels), and I would consider alternatives. It also worth mentioning that diabetes, is not a failure on your body’s part to digest sugar, it’s rather you pushing it beyond the limit that causes the failure. We do not have the same systems and this is why some poeple fail at lower limits than others. Your responsibility is to not to gamble with your body.
After tobacco, obesity is the second highest risk factor for cancer.
Author goes on to explain why.
Philippe Guesnet demonstrated that the change in the character of milk since 1950 is responsible for infant obesity.
Obesity starts with kids who do not consume junk and fatty foods, but they consume milk. The milk used to be balanced because the cows were fed with grass… And then one day, greed took over, and the market looked for shortcuts to breed more cows and sheep, to feed the crowds. So they replaced the balanced grass with corn, soy, and wheat, which practically are void of omega-3.
The omega-3s and omega-6s present in our bodies constantly compete to control our body functions.
Now let me wrap up the story of fatty acids and their effect on cells. At all times, out bodies must be provided with a balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 helps destroy cells, while omega-6 is inflammatory, that is, causes increase in cell growth.
But meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy of today’s market, is full of omega-6. These fatty acids stock fats, and stimulate growth of fatty cells, they make cows bigger! Thus obesity in kids. Again, the change in ratio between the two fatty acids, isn’t a few ranks away, we are talking about extra digital places. The ratio from 1 to 4, has grown to 1 to over 70!
Recently a new hormone has been introduced on cattle farms to stimulate milk production: rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, also called BST or Bovine Somototropin).
Which is banned in Europe and Canada, but exists in dairy products exported from America. This hormone stimulates IGF which promotes cell growth.
The answer lies in switching to organic meat, and free range chicken and eggs, organic dairy and soy milk. Personally, I would just reduce my meat intake to probably once a week (if I can be sure I wouldn’t harm myself if I remove meat for longer than that, I would). The real problem is in our dairy intake. The solution can be in looking for omega-3 sources, like fish (a huge challenge in Amman), linseed, and avoid processed foods (including sodas).
Trans fats: Health experts would swear to you over vegetable derived oils, to stay fit and lower cholesterol. But do they know about fatty acids?
The last factor that has changed our diets for the worse since the sixties is the emergence of margarine and ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ trans fats.
sunflower oil (which has seventy times more omega-6s than omega-3s), soy oil (with seven times more) and canola oil (the least unbalanced, with only three times more omega-6s than omega-3s).
A lot of processed foods are cooked in trans fats altered to be solid at room temperature which is more inflammatory, to lengthen their shelf life.
Thus, it is for purely industrial and commercial motives that these harmful oils have taken over.
But did you know that restaurants in New York ban the use of transfats?
They are also banned throughout the food industry in Denmark and Switzerland.
So in countries that we know care about their people they ban trans fats, what is stopping us (people of the best olive oil and tomato) from getting rid of it?
Changes in our diets over the last half-century point to the culprit: a dietary imbalance in the ratio of essential fatty acids leading to the incredible over-consumption of omega-6s, together with the rise in insulin levels due to the higher and higher glycemic index of the modern western diet.
If farmers stop being greedy and switch the grain with linseed:
It just so happens that linseed is the only seed in the entire plant kingdom that contains more omega-3s than omega-6s – three times more
As a matter of fact, adding 5% linseed to animal feed, would do a huge difference.
Some of the foods listed as cancer fighting foods are: kinds of cabbage, broccoli, garlic, soy, green tea, turmeric, curcumin, mushrooms, raspberries, blueberries, dark chocolate, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans. Mint, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, and rosemary, olive, canola or flaxseed oil are also among a very long list.
Green tea contains “EGGG” which is powerful against the formation of new blood vessels by cancerous cells. Unfortunately…
It is destroyed during the fermentation required to make black tea, but is found in large quantities in tea that hasn’t undergone fermentation and thus remains ‘green’.
Three to five green tea cups a day should protect all your body cells from extending blood vessels to grow.
A research shows that olives contain an abundance of antioxidant molecules.
The direct effect of such molecules is to limit the initial development of cancer.
The list of food molecules which act against cancer is fortunately much longer than people often think.
‘Real’ foods are thus more effective than supplements,
As for cooking and freezing, in general, cooking does not destroy the precious ingredients. Tomatoes need to be cooked in oil to release their good stuff, once again, so in Amman, we are in a good place (craving Galayet Bandoura right now)! Grilling and sauteing food reduce some properties. Boiling broccoli (and like vegetables) though destroys their precious ingredients.
Grilling, sautéing and freezing fish or seafood actually destroys about 30% of its omega-3s.
Simply, steam or slow oven-bake on low heat. All fish in Amman is frozen, so no way out of this one.
Take note: Mixing dairy products with chocolate cancels the beneficial effects of the molecules of cocoa. Avoid milk chocolate.
The best sources of fatty fish are small fish, such as whole anchovies, small mackerel and sardines (including canned sardines, provided they are preserved in olive oil and not in sunflower oil, which is too rich in omega-6s). Salmon is also a good source of omega-3s, and the level of contamination is still acceptable.
Flaxseed – بذور الكتان
Flaxseed or linseed is a grain full of omega-3, and has been complemented by a lot of resources as a good grain for bread, or cattle feed. Some recommend a spoon of ground flax seeds every day to neutralize omega-6 high input. [Flax on Wikipedia]
Plastics: The following argument about plastic isn’t as alarming. My biggest doubt lies in the fact that plastic becomes harmful because it discharges certain material on high heat? Well I always thought it was impossible to break down plastic at all, not at normal high heat anyway.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the components of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), or hardened plastic. PVC is everywhere: in the inner lining of soda cans, plastic tubs of food, electric kettles, baby bottles, cups, microwavable bowls and other plastic recipients that have invaded our kitchens and cafeterias. It can also be found in the lining of many cans of food, particularly ravioli, tuna, green beans, fruit preserved in syrup, soup and baby food.
When PVC plastic is heated, it diffuses BPA, which has been proven now that it blocks the effect of several chemotherapy agents on human breast cancer cells. Government of Canada has banned baby bottles containing BPA. People who suffer from cancer…
should try to avoid food and liquids that have been heated in plastic containers. They should also avoid, whenever possible, all foods from cans containing BPA.
Canned food is heated to during the sterilizing process, thus causing BPA to diffuse into the food. And…
avoid liquids that have been in prolonged contact with hard polycarbonate plastics (unfortunately, that includes most spring water ‘fountains’ in office settings, as well as reusable sports bottles) as these have been found to leach BPA over time. The softer plastic used for most mineral and spring water brands is normally made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and does not contain BPA (look for the number ‘1’ at the bottom of the bottle that indicates the bottle is made of PET).
These bottles sometimes have the term PET printed on them explicitly.
Phosphate: The author also goes on about Phosphate based food additives used in processed foods (normally, anything that you should buy fresh, but is being sold in a supermarket, has additives), there is some evidence that these additives promote growth. But needless to say, we already knew that, we knew that preservatives are given to the greedy producer to sell more at the expense of our future health (who said you can’t have meat just once a week?!). Just like banks! They are both greedy, and they both don’t care about you. And, to make it easier, it really tastes better when it’s fresh.
the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women is twice as high in those who eat red meat more than once a day, as it is in those who consume it less than three times a week.
Statistics! They prove very little, but here is a fact: processed red meat contains phosphate, and a lot of omega-6s.
Pesticides: The author next talks about the danger of pesticides, needless to say, we know they are dangerous, and we all hate them already. But the fact that almost everything we eat or drink is contaminated is shocking. The reality is those pesticides do not wear off before they hit the market. There isn’t much you can do as an individual, except may be, eat what you plant, and peel off the fruits you buy.
Methane emitted by cows as a by-product of their poor digestion of corn contributes to global warming twenty-three times more than Co2 does.
And in order to increase the corn fed kettle, forests must be brought down. Destroying the planet along with destroying us. It is enough said that an Indian who lives with better health than an American, consumes 25 times less meat a year. Remember, this isn’t the usual meat, it is corn-fed, contaminated with pesticides, processed with phosphate, and heated in PVC containers. Indians have much less cancer readings per age groups than Americans (curcumin is another reason).
One advice the author gives is replacing fried food, chips, and fried appetizers, with Hummos, olives, and cherry tomatoes. We in Amman are still in a good place!
I have never believed in statistics for the sake of proving a point, and I always argue that if we really do not know what causes cancer, everything is pure statistics. There are times while reading this book that I got confused, the talk about plastic is one.
(Intensive agriculture depletes farmland of its selenium content, so selenium has now become rare in European-grown vegetables and cereals.)
Selenium enhances the immune system, but this is another moment of confusion. Are we supposed to be alarmed by the lack of selenium in vegetables?
The mind body connection
it usually takes anywhere from five to forty years for the bad ‘seed’ of cancer in the form of a cellular anomaly to become a detectable cancerous tumour.
If this is true, that is horrible. That means everything that has been invented 20 years ago may still be a major cause of cancer. The author mentioned that to let us know that it is very hard to identify the causes of cancer because of the time lapse between the major effect and the disease. Stress and mental trauma could push certain cells to grow under pressure years after the event. But he also says, these events alone are not the reason for cancer, they are merely “the soil in which the seed develops.”
It is now known that feelings of helplessness cause the release of hormones that activate the body’s ‘emergency’ systems – such as the inflammatory response – that can facilitate the growth and spread of tumours.
a psychological wound sets off mechanisms of the stress response: release of cortisol, adrenalin and inflammatory factors, as well as a slowdown in the immune system.
In this chapter the Doctor reflects more about his personal experiences, his past, his hopes and aspirations, and how those feelings may have been directly related to his brain tumor. He also elaborates the reason he escaped the statistics not just because he changed his diet, but also because of overcoming feelings of helplessness, and facing his emotions.
exercise improves overall physiology.
Well, nothing new. Except may be that you would not only help yourself against heart diseases and obesity, but may be against cancer! Who knows!
Medical practices standing in the way of finding a cure
There is little likelihood that our physicians will suggest these approaches. Changes in lifestyle cannot, by definition, be patented, thus they do not become medications, thus they do not require prescriptions. This means that most physicians don’t consider them within their realm, so it is up to each of us to make them our own.
And this forms a huge dilemma, since no big pharmaceutical company would pay for research of a financially unfeasible medication. That is one of the reasons you might ask, why haven’t I heard about this before.
All great truth goes through three phases. First it is ridiculed, then violently attacked, and finally accepted as self-evident.
Cancer is a disease of Western lifestyle.
The number of Chinese women having cancer living in San Francisco is much higher than in those who never left China. Genetics have nothing to do with it. It is all about their life styles.
It’s very difficult to do studies on these combined approaches. Biostatisticians are reluctant to evaluate several treatments administered at the same time, for fear we’ll never know what is really effective. And in addition, there isn’t much motivation to set up expensive research protocols for treatments that aren’t patentable, and won’t bring in money.
This is serious stuff, and it is the explanation behind why cancer treatments are such a lag. The medical society is not concerned about the well fare of people as much as finding out the exact reason that makes them sick. They only care about patents, and drugs, and medical degrees and issued articles. The paradox of cancer lies in the fact that it stems from the body, because of a lot of reasons, fixing one alone is not going to help it. And that is why, we all live in a world of a cancer epidemic: GREED!
– If the data strongly suggest a connection between the rise in cancer and environmental change in the last fifty years, we still don’t have the irrefutable scientific arguments to affirm a causal link. One of the women in the audience grabbed the microphone: – If we wait for epidemiologists to be sure before we do anything, we’ll all be dead!
This, defies any argument about statistics. The author mentions a lot of stories in the book about people changing their life styles to escape statistics. He also stresses the fact that he is not bringing new hope to the world, this would be false hope as what he is suggesting is not a cure to cancer. He is merely wondering, why did cancer become so incurable, and wide spread? What have we done to make it so? What can we do to at least fall back to normal ratings? The fact that living longer, by the way, isn’t a good argument, because people are catching cancer at ever younger ages. The author wonders, why is a place of a billion inhabitants like China and India, have lower cancer rates than in Europe?
I urge you to have a look at this book, and give it a thought.