By William W. Li, M.D. President and Medical Director, The Angiogenesis Foundation
The Bad News: We All Have Cancer
Dr. Oz and I recently discussed some common public misperceptions about cancer. One of them is that if you walk out of a doctor’s office with a clean bill of health, you don’t have cancer. Right? Wrong. The truth is that all of us have microscopic cancers growing in our bodies all the time. These tiny tumors form because, although the human body is pretty amazing in its ability to stay healthy, our cells do make mistakes occasionally. All it takes is for one of the more than 50 trillion cells in our bodies to make a single mistake while dividing and, presto, a potential cancer is born.
The Good News: You Can Prevent Cancer From Growing
Fortunately, these tiny cancers don’t usually stay around very long, because they are fragile and short lived. Our immune system usually roots out and destroys microscopic cancers when they are spotted. Healthy tissues also contain a wealth of natural anti-cancer substances that make it very difficult for microscopic cancers to grow. An important group of these substances are cancer-starving molecules called “angiogenesis inhibitors.” Angiogenesis is the process our bodies use to grow new blood vessels. Cancers can hijack this process to recruit their own private blood supply to feed themselves. Without these blood vessel lifelines, cancers remain tiny and can’t become dangerous.
Secret Weapons, Courtesy of Mother Nature
Are there any secret weapons that can help boost our body’s ability to defend against cancer? The answer is yes. Among the most practical are foods and beverages that contain natural cancer-starving molecules that prevent tumors from acquiring blood vessels. Many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices contain these protective anti-angiogenic substances, which I’ve discussed with Dr. Oz on his show. For more on these foods, click here.
But here is a new and surprising cancer-fighting food: cheese.
Eating certain types of hard cheeses, including gouda, edam, emmenthal and Jarlsburg, can lower your risk of developing cancer. Why? Because these cheeses contain a form of vitamin K called vitamin K2 (the scientific name is menaquinone) that is both antiangiogenic (blood vessel-inhibiting) and also kills cancer cells directly. The studies indicate that eating as few as 2 slices of these hard cheeses a day can lower your overall risk for cancer, including lung cancer and prostate cancer. You can find these cheeses in your local grocery store.
Cancer Fighters Can Be Heart Healthy
You might be wondering whether eating cheese frequently is such a good idea? Well, in this case, it turns out that vitamin K2 also protects the heart by preventing hardening of the arteries.
Many of the medical studies I’ve cited were done in Europe where cheese is regularly eaten, even on a daily basis, including breakfast. Personally, I think the research is so compelling that we should all find ways to add vitamin K2 into our diets. If you are a cheese lover, gouda and the other types I listed are good choices. For people who are lactose intolerant or who just don’t like dairy, chicken is another good source of vitamin K2. Not the whole chicken, but the dark meat like the thighs and drumsticks.
Eat to Defeat, a New Way to Fight Cancer
At the non-profit Angiogenesis Foundation, we are working to bring this type of practical, lifesaving information to the public through our Eat to Defeat Cancer campaign. To learn more about cancer fighting foods and to get recipes, click here.