Friday, October 22, 2010

Cancer - "Caused" By Modernity?
Very interesting examination of the issue of whether cancer is a disease of civilization or a natural part of being human.

Taubes' examination of the topic in "Good Calories Bad Calories" is my favorite context for considering what might cause cancers to become a fatal disease.

A model for consideration:  mutated cells are inevitable.  Certain mutations may make a cell more likely to survive than that cell's neighbor cells.  One such mutation is one which interrupts the natural cell death signals which prevent cells from lasting forever.  Another such mutation is one which allows the mutated cell to use more sugar to reproduce faster, which can be caused by increasing sensitivity to insulin, and insulin like growth factors.  Many cancers do have these qualities.  So, perhaps cancerous mutations are inevitable, and the cancers survive and grow and metastacize at a higher rate when in a high sugar environment.  Diabetics, for example, and those with metabolic syndrome (aka metabolic derrangement) have higher average blood sugars than the healthy population.  Diabetics also have more cancers than the healthy population (as well as more of all of the diseases of civilization).  Generally, those eating the SAD but not yet diabetic also have higher blood sugar levels than a healthy population.  By contrast, there are several lines of evidence to show that paleo lithic peoples did not have cancer, or other diseases of civilization, but developed them shortly after they began to consume westerners food (sugar and flour). 

Hypothesis - there are many causes of cell mutations, but the primary means by which mutated cells gain competitive advantage is by their ability to utilize sugar and support an increased reproductive rate.  I think this hypothesis squares with what I know about cancer in populations.  The primary action needed to prevent a cancer from accomplishing this goal, then, would be to eat in a way that sustains low blood sugars, with periods of fasting probably being an additional benefit. 

In other words, eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar or wheat.  The benefit of this approach is that, whether or not it prevents cancer, it results in you looking, feeling and performing your best.  That is may also be a cancer defense is not provable at this point, and may not even be probable, but it beats crossing your fingers while you eat bagels.

I recommend GCBC for further reading on the topic, as well as "The Paleolithic Solution."

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