O.K. Let's tally some of the bigger findings connecting certain foods to fighting cancer. Scientists now believe:
• Walnuts may reduce the risk of prostate cancer (see story).
• Grape seed extract may kill head and neck cancer cells.
• Fruits and vegetables may beat back colon cancer.
• Fish oil may combat leukemia (and also counter nerve damage).
Those findings represent a big endorsement for eating lots of certain aforementioned foods. In other words: beat cancer by gobbling large amounts of walnuts, grape seed extract, fruits, vegetables and fish oil. Problem solved, right?
If only it were that simple. It's become fairly clear over the years that eating healthy, natural foods can keep your body in good shape, and that processed food can be harmful, so some of this research reinforces the message that one should eat healthy foods. And, as the respective findings highlighted in FierceBiotechResearch over the last few months have pointed out, the compounds in grape seed extract, the luteolin flavonoids in fruits and vegetables, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon and in walnuts do appear to have cancer-fighting qualities.
Someday, they could form the basis for good pills. But what works in mice doesn't always work in people, and scientists are years away from determining if they can repeat these latest food-related findings in humans. What's more, results from previous efforts to develop a viable drug from a food-related compound have been mixed, at best (sirtuins, anyone?). Also, even if these compounds prove to work in some people, the complex reality of genetics means that a treatment will work in certain patients, but not others, period.
Still, I will probably do everything I can to boost my chances. Time to buy more walnuts, eat (even) more fish, and devour those grapes, seeds and all. As far as fruits and vegetables go, the more the better. - Mark Hollmer (twitter | email)