Much of the material for this column is from the work of Dr. Michael Greger, who besides having an interest in diet and health is the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture of the Humane Society of the U.S. There is a wealth of material for free on his website, nutritonfacts.org.
Studies have been done using petri dishes to see the effects of material from plants on cancer. A petri dish is a shallow glass or plastic round lidded dish that is used by various scientists to do certain studies. In this case researchers have grown cells of various human cancers in the dishes and then tested those cells with material from the plants to see how much they affected cancer growth.
When it comes to salad greens spinach was found to be the very best in blocking a number of cancers. The second best is radicchio, which is a red leafy vegetable in the chicory family.
When it comes to root vegetables that can be used in a salad shredded beets did the best. Then in the allium family — garlic, onions and the like — garlic does a great job of killing the cancer cells.
Next to be considered was the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. It should come as no surprise to many folks that broccoli was at the top of the list for this group.
Because of this information, some folks may want to increase their use of these plants. Obviously there are many vegetables that are not included but a variety of foods should be used in a person’s diet because of other substances such as vitamins and minerals.
Some folks may wonder if any work was done to see if flesh foods have anticancer properties. To my knowledge there has not. But in prior articles it has been shown that red and processed meats actually cause cancer. In the book The China Study Dr. T. Colin Campbell who was the main author, described how in his laboratory at Cornell University they changed the growth of liver cancer in rats.
Researchers gave rats a poisonous substance called aflatoxin that can cause liver cancer. Once the cancers began to grow the rats were fed a high animal protein diet — 20 percent casein which comes from milk — and the cancers grew significantly. When the rats were fed 5 percent casein there was very little cancer growth. These were of course laboratory findings. The question is what happens in humans? Obviously you can’t do those kinds of experiments on humans.
But a huge study that was done in China was in humans. Scientists looked at a number of diseases including cancer and found that counties that had the highest rates of some cancers had rates more than 100 times greater than counties with the lowest rates of these cancers. The counties with the highest rates of cancer were the ones with the highest rate of animal food intake.
Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent four years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 2 1/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.