Dr. David Servan-Schreiber is one of my favorite health experts and I recently had a chance to listen to his interview with Joe & Terry Graedon on The People's Pharmacy.
Who is Dr. David Servan-Schreiber?
I first wrote about Dr. Servan-Schreiber back in Sept. 2008, and you can read that post here.
Fifteen years ago, when Servan-Schreiber was a 31-year old ambitious neuroscientist he used himself as a research subject when a volunteer failed to show up for an MRI brain scan. He was completely taken by surprise when the scan revealed he had a brain tumor.
Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, is currently a neuroscientist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He co-founded the Center for Integrative Medicine there. He is also a founding member of Doctors Without Borders.
Why Has Cancer Risen Dramatically Since the 1940's?
According to the World Health Organization, cancer will soon be the Number 1 cause of death, supplanting heart disease. Rates have risen dramatically since the 1940's & they can't be explained away easily by saying, "The population has aged--and cancer rates increase in older populations." Or by saying "We have better detection and screening methods." According to Servan-Schreiber, age & screening tools explain at most 50% of the increases.
- Consider this: cancer rates in children have increased steadily at a rate of 1-1.5% per year--children's ages always stay the same---and kids aren't screened for cancer!
- Look at regions where cancer rates haven't changed at all--like remote provinces of China. These are regions where no breast cancer exists, even when women are screened by modern methods. Since these same women develop cancer in 1-2 generations when they move to Western cultures, the obvious conclusion is that they are protected by their lifestyle, not by their genes.
What Are the Top 5 Reasons for the Cancer Rate Increase in Western Countries?
- Sugar Consumption. The rate of sugar consumption has climbed steadily in the U.S. In the 1800's we consumed on average 12 lbs. of sugar per person, per year. In 2000 we consumed on average 154 lbs. of sugar per person, per year. Cancer cells can only feed on sugar--and we even use that property to detect cancer in the body with PET scans, by injecting the body with radioactive glucose to scan where it accumulates! Glucose accumulates in cancer cells. The more sugar we eat, the more we feed cancer cells. Sugar isn't a carcinogen, like tobacco--it doesn't cause cancer--It Just Feeds Cancer. One of three New Year's resolutions is to eliminate sugar. So far, so good.
- Fats we consume. The kinds of fats we consume has changed dramatically since the 1940s. We consume increased amounts of inflammatory omega-6 oils, like: corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower and assorted other vegetable oils. They're in practically everything we eat--if we buy processed foods. Trans fats--think French fries- (hydrogenated oil) became popular in the 1940's when butter was rationed & margarine gained favor. In the 1950s the American Heart Association encouraged us to use vegetable oils, under the mistaken belief that it would prevent heart disease. (click here for the history of trans fats). These kinds of fats also contribute to the growth of cancer--and they can double the rate of breast cancer in women if you compare the cancer rates in women who eat more, with women who eat less.
- Environmental chemicals. The number of chemicals in our environment has increased dramatically since the 1940s. Never before have people been exposed to as many chemicals as they are now. Many of these chemicals can change our bodies--like Bisphenol A, (BPA)-- the chemical in hard plastic which has been in the news lately--and I've written about (click here & here) And that's just one example. It leaches out of containers that are heated up, like baby bottles, water bottles, canned goods & plastic tea kettles. BPA promotes the growth of cancer cells--it's known as an endocrine (hormone) disruptor--and it can promote the growth of breast, prostate and uterine cancers.
- Exercise. Think of our grandparents, and many of our parents--they all walked to school--unlike kids today. For that matter, most of our grandparents (and parents) didn't drive much--they walked everywhere. Physical activity protects us from "growing cancer". It's been researched widely. Click here, here, here, and here.
- Social Networks. Our social networks--our family, friends, community involvement & religious institutions--aren't what they used to be--and they've been fraying at the seams since the 1940s. We move on average every 5 years--and families are separated by too many miles. Bowling leagues & club memberships--they're history--think Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone. When things are going well social networks aren't all that important--but in times of stress--like now!--social networks are the No. 1 factor to alleviate stress. How do our social networks protect against cancer? High levels of stress produce nasty chemicals, like cortisol and norepinephrine which contribute to the growth of cancer. And besides--if you want to be happy--it's all about that social network and showing up for each other!
Higher-than-normal levels of insulin place postmenopausal women at an increased risk of breast cancer, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University report. Their findings, published in the January 7, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggest that interventions that target insulin and its signaling pathways may decrease breast cancer risk in these women. Higher insulin levels mean insulin resistance--and the question we should be asking is:
What causes insulin resistance and how can we prevent it?
"How does insulin resistance happen? First, there is a genetic tendency. The family history of someone with insulin resistance often includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. This genetic tendency is then accentuated by improper diet.
Second, if susceptible individuals are exposed to high levels of insulin for prolonged periods of time, their bodies lose their responsiveness to insulin and begin to develop more resistance to the effects of insulin. The same is true of many other substances including alcohol, painkillers, and most medications as well as hormones such as insulin.
The treatment of insulin resistance is relatively straightforward and effective. The goal of treatment is to lower insulin levels, and keep them low long enough for our bodies to regain their sensitivity to insulin. In order lower insulin levels, we must avoid the two main causes of high insulin: 1) SUGAR, as well as any foods our bodies convert to sugar rapidly, and 2) Large meals.
Therefore, the person with insulin resistance should be sharply reducing sources of sugar from their diets. They should also be limiting those foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals & excess alcohol, which our bodies convert rapidly to sugar. They should also be eating smaller, more frequent meals as opposed to larger meals once or twice a day." According to Drs. Mark Liponis & Mark Hyman (authors of Ultra Prevention)