The Anticancer Diet
The Anticancer Diet by David Khayat, M.D. In collaboration with Nathalie Hutter-Lardeau and France Carp. (W.W. Norton, 274 pp. $26.95)
Dr. David Khayat’s The Anticancer Diet is subtitled “Reduce cancer risk through the foods you eat.” Both as professor and practicing oncologist, Dr. Khayat’s goal in this book, first published in France, is to prevent cancer where preventable.
“Preventing cancer, preventing it from even developing, is quite logically still the most realistic and most acceptable strategy we can adopt as we try to eradicate this dreadful scourge,” he writes.
To this end, his book gives us first a scientific explanation of cancer cells and the process of cancer proliferation; and then shows us the areas over which we can exercise control. The use of tobacco, estimated to cause 30 percent of cancers, is, of course, the first target to be controlled. Other causes are less controllable: hormones are culprits in another 30 percent. About 5 percent each are infectious agents, physical factors, genetic heredity factors and pollution. Which leaves diet estimated to be involved in 20 percent of cancers and the focus of the studies and advice that Dr. Khayat offers.
Both an M.D. and Ph.D., Dr. Khayat is head of medical oncology at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. He was president of the National Cancer Institute in France and appointed by the then-French president Jacques Chirac to head the national war on cancer. He cofounded the World Summit Against Cancer and was awarded the American Society of Clinical Oncology Distinguished Achievement Award in 2000.
There are surprises in this book, not all of them pleasant. It turns out that fish, which today most health-conscious people consider a righteous choice over fatty meat, can be polluted and highly dangerous due to the high level of mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic and many other toxins. He also quotes studies that do not show wild salmon to be superior to farmed. But Dr. Khayat gives his recommendations for good, non-contaminated fish: bass, mackerel, sardines and sole. One of the best features in Dr. Khayat’s book is the proliferation of useful tables and practical lists that make his advice easier to follow.
Similarly, Dr. Khayat gives his recommendations for eating meat, veal and chicken: How they are prepared makes all the difference, for instance grilling on a high flame being the most carcinogenic. Though he isn’t promoting kashrut, he gives high marks to the Muslim and Jewish practice of draining the blood from red meat before cooking: It avoids the risk of ingesting toxic and carcinogenic hemoglobin molecules, he says.
Other chapters look at dairy products and eggs, prebiotics and probiotics, protective enzymes and colon cancer. He also covers “probable” protection gained from fruits and vegetables (and a table of the top antioxidant rich produce) and how to identify phytochemical compounds according to color (including the anthocyanins and polyphenols in the color purple). Alongside these guidelines are cautionary lists: Which fruits and vegetable have the most and the least pesticides (the dirty dozen and the clean 15); the value of organic produce and washing fruits and vegetable thoroughly and for a long time.
Discussion of fats, from butter to margarine to peanut oil (are all oils the same?), the value of Omega 3 in cancer prevention (none), and why he advises against using a wok; the damage caused by high cooking temperatures, which produce acrylamide (highly carcinogenic and found in pretzels and potato chips).
Of course, there is a select list of products with high acrylamide levels.
But there are some pleasant surprises. Sugar is not cancer causing, Dr. Khayat asserts, and sweeteners are not necessarily bad for you. But that doesn’t mean overeating sweets is good for you. As always, relying on scientific studies, he explains the role of insulin in absorption and in our energy metabolism. Insulin either makes us store sugar when it is relatively overabundant or use the stored sugar. It also helps create a second energy store in our fat and will use the fat to make more sugar.
No serious study has been able to obtain any reproducible results for a connection between eating sugar and pancreatic, prostate, ovarian, uterine, colorectal or breast cancer. But he also explains the dangers of obesity when insulin is unable to do its job properly, and the connection to type 2 diabetes.
He skips judging stevia because there have been no studies done yet that will show it to be harmless. He extols the marvels of pomegranate juice and lists those supplements that can help patients in cancer treatment through stress, fatigue and depression: ginseng, royal jelly, Brewers’ yeast, maca powder, wheat germ, camu camu, zinc and magnesium. (For hair growth, he recommends Brewers yeast and vitamins B1 and B6.)
In his assessment of vitamins, he warms of the dangers of beta carotene for smokers, as well as the implication of vitamin E in a higher incidence of prostate cancer.
Among his top anti-cancer vitamins are selenium, calcium and vitamin D. His recommended anticancer nutrients are turmeric, green tea, luteolin, resveratrol, Genistein, pomegranate, Lycopene, Ellagic acid, Lupeol, Betulinic acid and Ginkgolide B,
There is a wealth of advice and information in this book about being physically active, how to cook, what to drink as well as basic anti-cancer advice you will really want to keep this Bible on hand to study or consult.