Cancer Tips

What science still hasn’t told us about red meat

red meat

The Takeaway First

Despite the huge conversation that health professionals and consumers alike are having about the effects of consuming red meat on human health, scientific research hasn’t quite settled the score. A new paper (Klurfeld, 2015) published this past May highlights the many limitations of the studies we have done. So what do we have left…?

Study Details

  • David Klurfeld highlights some flaws in the current literature surrounding red meat. In order to know for sure whether red meat causes diseases long-term, for example, we would need a longitudinal study (where subjects are tracked for several decades) with an extremely large sample size. Not only have we not done this, but we can’t; it’s too expensive.
  • Besides, says Klurfeld, supposing we had the money, scientists can’t feed red meat to humans on the premise that it might cause them to become diseased. It’s unethical.
  • The nature of observational studies and the immense amount of data that researchers collect enables such studies to find (potentially) thousands of statistically significant correlations, many of which may simply be false positives.
  • Some influential studies that have found significant associations between meat consumption and colorectal cancer are clouded by confounding variables such as daily caloric intake and smoking.
  • While known toxins such as tobacco and alcohol increase risks of lung cancer and liver cirrhosis ten- to thirty-fold, eating meat does not increase the risk of any disease by more than 50 percent.

My Take on Meat

It seems from this paper that we should be cautious when we say that eating or not eating red meat poses a danger to our health. Not only are the data limited and easy to skew, but the data on the increased risk of disease forces us to ask, “How much of a difference does this really make?”

In my opinion, we should not be worried about meat so much as wheat and simple carbs like pasta, bread, cookies, and flour. Meat should only worry us when it’s in excess or excessively cooked, as one study has shown that charred meats contain carcinogens (Zheng et al. 2009).

Of course, I have long believed, and still believe, that individual differences can make or break a diet for anyone. This is why I design an individualized anti-cancer lifestyle plan for each of my patients. For patients whose baseline risk for disease is elevated due to heredity or past behavior, I adjust their plans accordingly.

What You Should Do

When our modern methods fail to provide satisfying answers to these questions, we can be sure of one thing: uncertainty about how much does not equal a license to let ourselves go. In other words, it would be detrimental to your health if you used uncertainty as an excuse for irresolution and made a habit of saying, “Well, since we don’t really know, I guess I’ll just stick to my usual breakfast of three fried eggs and half a pig.”

While we may have reasons to be skeptical about the “statistically significant correlations” that bring smiles to every researcher’s face, we cannot afford to be wishy-washy about our commitment to a balanced diet of whole foods. Balance, unlike meat, has well-known effects. Moderation in all things—that’s the key.


Klurfeld, D. M. Research gaps in evaluating the relationship of meat and health. Meat Science(0). doi:

Zheng, W., & Lee, S.-A. (2009). Well-done Meat Intake, Heterocyclic Amine Exposure, and Cancer Risk. Nutrition and Cancer61(4), 437–446. doi:10.1080/01635580802710741

$20 Million for Grape Extract?

Muscadines1$20 Million for Grape Extract?

The Takeaway First

The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has received $20 million from an anonymous donor to fund research on muscadine grape extract’s effects on breast and prostate cancer. While we don’t know much about this particular grape, we know a lot about grape seed extract and its protective health benefits.

What’s so great about this grape?

Muscadine grapes are native to the southeastern United States and Mexico, and they’re rich in powerful antioxidants. The seeds contain tannins, flavanols, ellagic acid (a polyphenol that has shown significant antiproliferative properties in vitro), and quercetin rhamnoside (one of a family of chemicals used to treat hardened arteries). The skin contains these compounds as well as flavonoids (a type of antioxidant), myricetin (an antioxidant with anti-mutagenic properties), and kaempferol glycosides (kaempferol is known to mitigate oxidative stress).

What Do we Know Right Now?

Wake Forest wouldn’t need $20 million if we knew everything already, but a few studies have given us some hints. We know that muscadine wine extract (as well as cabernet sauvignon wine extract) inhibited the grown of leukemia cells in vitro in one study (Mertens-Talcott et al., 2008). We also know that, in another study, the flavanols and tannins exerted anti-cancer effects in liver cancer cells in vitro (Ti et al., 2006). This is not a lot of information to go on, and it’s relatively old, so it’s safe to say we need to learn more.

My Take on Grape Seed Extracts

Much of my own research has focused grape seed extract. As you might have guessed from the size of Wake Forest’s research gift, we need to learn more about it! Numerous preclinical studies have suggested the anti-cancer and oxidative stress protection of Grape Seed Extract:

Reduces production of the inflammatory chemical, NF kappa b which has shown to be pro-carcinogenic (Dhanalakshmi et al. 2003)

Inhibits tumor growth in mice (Singh et al. 2004)

The pre-clinical data on Grape Seed Extract is compelling, but the human research in 2011is even more attractive. A study found that men who regularly used grape seed extract had a 41% reduction in total prostate cancer risk when compared to other supplements the group was taking (Brasky et al., 2011). Another study around the same time showed that grape seed extract lowered blood pressure .(Feringa et al., 2011).

What Should You Do?

While we wait for more research from Wake Forest and others, strengthen your body now with a eating plant-based whole foods, moving your body and smart supplementation. Grape seed extract is one of several functional phytochemicals and herbs that I recommend to my patients. There are many supplement  companies that have quality Grape Seed Extract: Designs for Health, Douglas labs and Biotics Research (Heart formula) are just a few.

The formula I developed and recommend based on research and  clinical experience is  ImmunoPCTN. This mixture is loaded with much of what your body needs to exercise its natural immunity and be maximally protective against unnatural, aberrant cells.


Brasky, T. M., Kristal, A. R., Navarro, S. L., Lampe, J. W., Peters, U., Patterson, R. E., & White, E. (2011). Specialty supplements and prostate cancer risk in the VITamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort. Nutr Cancer, 63(4), 573-582. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2011.553022

Feringa, H. H. H., Laskey, D. A., Dickson, J. E., & Coleman, C. I. (2011). The Effect of Grape Seed Extract on Cardiovascular Risk Markers: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(8), 1173-1181. doi:

Mertens-Talcott, S. U., Percival, S. S., & Talcott, S. T. (2008). Extracts from red muscadine and cabernet sauvignon wines induce cell death in MOLT-4 human leukemia cells. Food Chem, 108(3), 824-832. doi:

Yi, W., Akoh, C. C., Fischer, J., & Krewer, G. (2006). Effects of phenolic compounds in blueberries and muscadine grapes on HepG2 cell viability and apoptosis. Food Research International, 39(5), 628-638. doi:

Dhanalakshmi S, Agarwal R, and Agarwal C: Inhibition of NF-kappaB pathway in grape seed extract-induced apoptotic death of human prostate carcinoma DU145 cells. Int J Oncol 23, 721–727, 2003.

Singh RP, Tyagi AK, Dhanalakshmi S, Agarwal R, and Agarwal C: Grape seed extract inhibits advanced human prostate tumor growth and angiogenesis and upregulates insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3. Int J Cancer 108, 733–740, 2004.

Broccoli Might Be Rewriting Your DNA


Broccoli Might Be Rewriting Your DNA

The Takeaway First

Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage—what do these four greens have in common? They’re all reliable sources of a chemical called sulforaphane, which a brand new study has shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers in surprising ways. Read more below!

Study Details

These authors (Tortorella et al., 2015) looked at everything that has ever been written about sulforaphane, and the evidence suggests that this chemical can repair important genes that, if left undamaged, can lead to cancer.

According to the authors, sulforaphane works in part by targeting a specific family of enzymes called HDACs, which play a role in regulating the expression of genes and the replication of DNA.

Sulforaphane was shown to modulate gene expression by nurturing a class of helper proteins called MicroRNAs. MicroRNAs are tiny pieces of genetic information that float around in the cell and interact with larger pieces of genetic information to affect how genes are expressed. When MicroRNAs are damaged, genes run amok, and tumors are likely to form. (Fun fact: research suggests that MicroRNAs control the expression of about 30% of genes in mammals—they’re really important!)

My Take On This

I had a feeling that something funny was going on in my DNA whenever I ate an extra helping of greens. Just kidding—but I have known for the past 10 years that eating broccoli and other green vegetables can have incredible benefits for your health.

Research continues to show that we need cruciferous vegetables to be healthy. They decrease inflammation (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015), the risk of cancer, and the risk of dying from cancer. They cut men’s risk of prostate cancer down by 32% (Steinbrecher et al. 2009). Another study showed that eating cruciferous vegetables decreased men’s risk of prostate cancer progression by 59% (Richman et al., 2011). To these impressive facts we can add our new knowledge that one of the key ingredients of these vegetables (sulforaphane) might actually be repairing our damaged DNA as we speak.

But first you actually have to eat the vegetable.

What You Should Do

If you’re a parent, you need to make sure you and your family are getting a healthy dose of green vegetables. (Iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing doesn’t count – the iceberg and ranch dressing are both low level) You want a nice heap of broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli sprouts, and—everyone’s favorite—Brussels sprouts, and you want to get a good amount every day.

Almost half the plate should be green. If you really don’t like broccoli, load up on the other vegetables I just listed. But urge you to learn to like broccoli. C’mon, you are a grown man. If you still can’t find something you like, you can get some of the benefits of these wonderful greens by taking a broccoli-based supplement (or one derived from similar vegetables). But I am one for natural, whole foods, and so I vote veggies!

If you’re feeling creative, or if you like to cook, try this recipe.



Richman EL, Carroll PR, Chan JM.Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2011 Aug 5.

Royston, K. J., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2015). The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 1(1), 46-51. doi: 10.1007/s40495-014-0003-9

Steinbrecher A, Nimptsch K, Husing A, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary glucosinolate intake and risk of prostate cancer in the EPIC-Heidelberg cohort study. Int J Cancer 2009; 125: 2179–86.

Tortorella, S. M., Royce, S. G., Licciardi, P. V., & Karagiannis, T. C. (2015). Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 22(16), 1382–1424. doi:10.1089/ars.2014.6097


The Supplement Causing Cancer Story is BS…

Concentrated Fiber Capsules OR Fresh Salad

The Supplement Causing Cancer Story is BS…

Takeaway First

Dr. Tim Byers conducted a meta-analysis of two decades worth of research and concluded that a number of supplements actually made a person much more likely to develop certain types of cancer. He presented his research this past Monday, April 20th, 2015 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Philadelphia. My opinion is this study is not new at all—and complete bullshit! (Oops…I can’t believe I just said that.)

Details of Dr. Byers’ view

Here is the link to the sensational news reports:

University of Colorado Cancer Center 

In an interview with CBS Dr. Byers was quoted:

There’s enough evidence along these lines that we should really consider better regulation of these nutritional supplements,” Byers told CBS News. “I think it’s time to step back and say there’s probably a safety issue.”

Well, is it true? Is there really enough research to show that consuming dietary supplements increase the risk of cancer?

My Take on Dietary Supplements Increasing the Risk of Cancer

This latest news on dietary supplements causing cancer is old, old news. In other words, what Dr. Byers did is rehash studies that began up to 30 years old, most of which we have spoken about ad nauseum like the SELECT study. So, why is Dr. Byers bringing up such old stuff again?

I don’t know. A cynic (and I can be one at times, I admit) would think he is paid by big pharma to bring the supplement industry down to its knees. Or he is simply anti-supplements and anti-natural medicine spokesperson like a few other doctors.

But no. Dr. Byers is a faculty member of the University of Colorado with interest in the role of nutrition and diet in cancer. Why would anyone write a paper that is not only  unoriginal but as old as the Clinton administration?

The answer is simple: money. The more papers you publish in journals, the more publicity you get and the more likely you are to be able to secure grants to continue your investigations. And saying something counter intuitive like “supplements cause cancer” will always get a lot of media attention since we are talking about a nearly $30 billion dietary supplement industry.

You see, researchers are under an astronomical amount of pressure to publish and gain attention for their work, which in turn leads to more research grants – which in turn leads to more security and more appointments. Research scientists are burned out by this pressure to publish as often as possible. It’s publish or perish, as they say in the academic world.

Joeri K. Tijdink, MD, PhD, fellow at Free University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has been quoted saying:

“If you’re a professor who has a lot of papers that have been published, you feel less burned out and less pressure. This is logical, because you’re more used to how the system works.

By the way, confusion about dietary supplements is a major discussion at the CaPLESS Retreat (prostate cancer health retreat) since some supplements can potentially promote cancer.

Back to Dr. Byers and his Recent Analysis

Through his research, Byers found that people who took high doses of beta-carotene supplements had an increased risk for lung cancer. Again, none of this information is new. The connection between beta-carotene and lung cancer in smokers was published in the mid-1990s. I assume you can find concentrated beta-carotenes in some bottle somewhere, but integrative and naturopathic doctors have been using mixed carotenoids, which might have protective benefits unlike the concentrated form beta-carotene.

Dr. Byers: Men who took vitamin E had an elevated risk for prostate cancer.

Me: OK, are we seriously talking about SELECT again? This goes back to 2008. And besides, if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while you I have highlighted the flaws of SELECT.

But in case you are new to this, allow me to provide an summary:

SELECT was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of selenium and vitamin E in healthy men who were at elevated risk of prostate cancer by virtue of age or African ancestry. Participants were randomized to receive daily oral doses of either:

  • 200 micrograms selenium (in the form of SelenoMethionine) plus placebo,
  • 400 milligrams dl-alpha-tocopherol vitamin E plus placebo,
  • 200 micrograms selenium plus 400 milligrams dl-alpha-tocopherol,
  • or two placebos.

The study was supposed to last 12 years, but after about 6 years SELECT was stopped following an interim analysis showing that it was unlikely that either selenium or vitamin E had any benefit for prostate cancer.

Further SELECT research showed a 17% increased risk of prostate cancer in those taking 400 of dl-alpha-tocopherol vitamin E and a 91% increased risk of high-grade cancer among men taking SelenoMethionine (selenium). All these men had high selenium status at baseline (Klein et al., 2011).

My take on SELECT

SELECT was a high powered (35,000 subjects), multi-centered ( more heterogeneity) , long-term (12-year) clinical study well funded (between $150 TO $300 million) clinical study.

Unfortunately, SELECT researchers, non of which have a background in nutrition science, by the way,  lost an opportunity to see if using the right form of vitamin E and Selenium would have any benefit in preventing prostate cancer. In other words, we wasted a whole lot of tax payer money on this one.

What do I mean? The vitamin E used in SELECT was a synthetic form – dl-alpha-tocopherol. And the form of selenium used was selenomethionine not High Selenized Yeast (SelenoExcell.

Why is this important? The reason the study SELECT became of interest is because the Alpha Tocopherol Beta Carotene (ATBC) study showed that dl-alpha-tocopherol reduced the risk of prostate cancer.

Oh, yeah. They used 50 units of the unnatural, dl-alpha-tocopherol Vitamin E.

For an unknown reason, researchers used 400 units in SELECT. That’s right – eight times the amount used in the ATBC study – the study that initiated interest. Also, natural vitamin E with high amounts of gamma-tocopherol is protective against prostate cancer. (Jiang et al. 2004). In the year 2000, John’s Hopkins looked at over 10,000 men, showing higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol were each associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, but the association with gamma-tocopherol was stronger than that of alpha-tocopherol. (Helzlsouer et al. 2000)

How about Selenium? Interest in selenium’s  protective effects against prostate cancer came from the NPC trial, which showed a reduction in prostate cancer along with other forms of cancer. The problem? The NPC used High Selenized Yeast, SelenoExcell, which is more food-like and less concentrated compared to SELECT, which used 100% Selenomethionine. Selenium Yeast not only consist of selenomethionine but also contains a wide variety of organically bound selenium compounds like selenocysteine and methylselenocysteine, which very likely could have greater anti-carcinogenic activity than selenomethionine alone.

Recently, High Selenized Yeast, SelenoExcell was randomized to placebo  and SeMet (200 mcg/day) administered for 9 months in 69 healthy men. Dr. Richie and his team noticed a reduction in biomarkers of oxidative stress relevant to prostate cancer following supplementation with High Selenized Yeast but not selenomethionine in healthy men. This study suggests that selenium-containing compounds other than selenomethionine may account for the decrease in oxidative stress. (Richie et al. 2014)

If this is not the GIGO effect I don’t know what is.

Other studies Byers reviewed indicated that many other supplements had no apparent impact on cancer riskneither increasing nor decreasing it.

No apparent impact on cancer risk; Really? How come some of the studies I have compiled have shown the opposite?

Take for example a study of a dietary supplement formula consisting of broccoli , turmeric, pomegranate and green tea.

Researchers looked at 199 men, average age 74 years, with localized prostate cancer, 60% managed with primary active surveillance (AS) or 40% with watchful waiting (WW) following previous interventions, were randomised the botanical blend for 6 months.

PSA reflected underlying disease status as the percentage change in PSA was 10-fold lower in the men with and a disease shrinkage was noticed on MRI compared with disease progression no man taking the food supplement had disease progression with a stable PSA. This study would have had more impact if the follow-up would have had a biopsy. But who wants excess biopsies? And who would pay for that? Cost often makes supplement studies prohibitive when a lot of expensive testing is involved. HERE is a link to the study.

In the VITamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study, which looked at over 35,000 subjects, the use of grapeseed supplements was associated with a 41% reduced risk of total prostate cancer.

Another meta-analysis of observational studies supports an association between higher calcium consumption and reduced breast cancer risk.

One meta-analysis found that higher calcium intake was associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk.

The Physicians’ Health Study, evaluating the impact on men using a regular multivitamin supplement demonstrated a modest 8% reduction in total cancer incidence in men taking a multivitamin. In addition, men with a history of cancer derived the most benefit from MVM supplementation, with a 27% lower incidence of new cancer compared to placebo.

The French randomized clinical trial Supplémentation en Vitamines et Minéraux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) evaluated a supplement containing Vitamin C 120 mg, vitamin E 30 mg, beta-carotene 6 mg, selenium 100 µg, and zinc 20 mg. This supplement was associated with a 31% reduction in overall cancer and a 37% reduction in overall mortality in men but not in women (about 7.5 years).

A meta-analysis of 13 prospective European and North American cohort studies reported a decrease in risk of colon cancer among MVM supplement users compared with nonusers . MVM supplement use for 15 years was associated with a 75% reduction in colon cancer risk in the prospective Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) based on questionnaires completed by 88,756 female nurses in the United States.

But the better question is – why are dietary supplements studied like drugs when they are not drugs?

The scientific method is the approach used by the scientific community to assess if a pharmaceutical drug or a medical procedure has any effect on a particular disease. To control an experiment, you want to eliminate as many confounding factors an isolate the treatment as much as possible.

What do I mean?

If I want to know if drug A, a pill, can cure cancer, then I would set up a study where I recruit, say, 1000 people with cancer (any cancer, to keep it simple), randomly assign 500 to the drug and the other 500 to an indolent pill that looks like pill A but only contains sugar.

I would then follow both groups for as long as possible. The more subjects to study and the longer the study, the more valuable the data and the more clinical relevance it may have. Of course, this gets expensive. That’s why studies like this are rare and should be executed with excellent methodology (the exact opposite of SELECT).

So, when scientists study nutrients in isolation, e.g., dl-alpha-tocopherol (not the natural form with other important components), selenomethinine (without other key forms of selenium), beta-carotene (excluding other carotenoids) – then of course the outcome is rarely good. These are high doses of a single chemical that usually comes in a complex package.

In other words, super concentrated nutrients without the synergism of other key components are similar to pharmaceutical drugs and carry the same risk. But physicians who are nutritionally oriented know that – and have known that for a long time.

And, only integrative, functional, and naturopathic doctors are the experts in the responsible use of nutritional supplements.

So, no, don’t tell your doctor about the supplements you are taking (there is not one nutrition course in Harvard medical school) because she will not know what to do with that information unless she is a nutritionally oriented physician.

Nutrition science and botanical medicine is a discipline in its own right.

So, what should you do…

  • Don’t just take supplements, but eat whole foods (organic as often as possible) from local sources when possible.
  • Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day and then still stay moving afterwards as much as possible.
  • Most good research suggests you can benefit from taking Vitamin D3, so do so. Anything above 2000 units a day should be monitored by an integrative, functional or naturopathic doctor.

Other supplements may very well be helpful but it is always a good idea to seek the help of an expert. I have seen patients who often take way more than what they need.

Whew! This was a long one. 🙂

Leave comments below as I know this is a hot topic.


Helzlsouer KJ, Huang HY, Alberg AJ,  et al.  Association between alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, selenium, and subsequent prostate cancer.  J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000;92(24):2018-2023

Jiang Q, Wong J, Fyrst H, Saba JD, Ames BN. gamma-Tocopherol or combinations of vitamin E forms induce cell death in human prostate cancer cells by interrupting sphingolipid synthesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004;101(51):17825–30.

Richie JP Jr, et al.Comparative effects of two different forms of selenium on oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men: a randomized clinical trial. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2014 Aug;7(8):796-804.

Thomas R1, Williams M2, Sharma H2, Chaudry A3, Bellamy P4. A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer-the UK NCRN Pomi-T study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Jun;17(2):180-6

Your Parents Were Right All Along: Why You Really Should Eat Your Broccoli


Your Parents Were Right All Along: Why You Really Should Eat Your Broccoli

The Takeaway First

In 2010 researchers discovered that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, reduces the risk of prostate cancer. The latest research adds that this broccoli-derived compound actively kills cancer stem cells. This and other research shows us that the powers of leafy, green vegetables extend further than we think.

The Details

According to a leafy greens review (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015) published a few months ago in the journal Current Pharmacology Reports, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have incredible powers as preventive medicine. Diets high in these vegetables significantly decrease the risk of death from cancer and the risk of developing cancer at all.

This same article explains that eating broccoli is one easy way to create cancer-fighting chemicals in the body. Broccoli turns into glucosinolates, which turn into the sulforaphane. Sulforaphane attacks cancer stem cells and stunts them before they can even begin to metastasize.

On top of all this, eating leafy greens in the same family as broccoli has been found to reduce inflammation (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015).

The authors of another recent article on sulforaphane (Labsch et al., 2014) recommend a high-sulforaphane diet for cancer-prevention and cancer-suppression.

Related to all this, a brand-new Korean study (Hwang & Lim, 2015) found that broccoli stems and leaves actually have a lot more sulforaphane than the florets (the tiny green buds that bloom from the stalk).

My Take On This

Remember when you were a kid, and the only thing left on your plate after dinner was a dark-green pile of stalky vegetables? If you still avoid these greens, now is the time to stop. Broccoli is one of those powerful, natural preventive medicines that I have come to love in my years of practice. I think of it alongside turmeric, pomegranate, and green tea as a major component to maintaining a cancer-unfriendly body.

And that is why I recommend eating broccoli and all cruciferous vegetables.

These are not exactly groundbreaking studies, but they do confirm the findings of a growing body of research that is uncovering the huge benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables—especially for men like you. In my last post on this topic, I mentioned a study where eating cruciferous vegetables decreased men’s risk of prostate cancer by 32% (Steinbrecher et al. 2009). Even after diagnosis, cruciferous vegetables knocked down another group of men’s risk of prostate cancer progression by 59% (Richman et al., 2011). These are not small numbers!

What You Should Do

OK, so chances are your parents did not know that broccoli had such an ability to decrease your risk of cancer, let alone prostate cancer, and I’m 99.9% sure they didn’t know that broccoli directly targets cancer stem cells by flooding your body with sulforaphane—but you have to admit: they were right.

I know you know what to do, but I’ll say it anyway: eat broccoli. Don’t just eat the thinner stalks and the florets; eat the big, chunky stems and the leaves, too. My juicer friends sometimes tell me they add kale and broccoli leaves to their morning smoothies. Make sure to steam them well, however. Raw broccoli contains chemicals called goitrogens which can cause thyroid problems down the road. Also, broccoli is tough to digest when raw. Skip the raw broccoli from the veggie platter at the next party. The carrots are fine to eat raw—and easy on the creamy dip! (I digress.) Personally, I prefer colorful fruits in my smoothies (pomegranate is powerful and delicious) mixed with leafy greens. I do not like broccoli in my smoothie, but you might. Supplements made out of broccoli extract also seem to help – I recommend them often. For your health and your gustatory pleasure (trust me, it’s a word): try one of my favorite recipes:

Creamy Cruciferous Soup by Marti Wolfson – Culinary Nutrition Educator
  • This luscious emerald soup is surprisingly rich sans the cream which many pureed soups contain. I especially love to make this soup transitioning from winter to spring. The liver reaps great benefit from the broccoli, cabbage and as well as aliums such as onions and garlic. You can swap your favorite greens like spinach, kale or dandelion greens or herbs like parsley, thyme, and rosemary.

    Serves 8


    • 1 T. olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 celery stalks, chopped
    • 3 cups chopped broccoli, florets and stems
    • 1 head, fennel, chopped
    • 2 cups chopped savoy or napa cabbage
    • 6 cups water or stock
    • 1 tsp. sea salt
    • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper



    Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Next, add the ginger, garlic, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage and a generous pinch of sea salt and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add the water or stock, remaining sea salt and pepper.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Place the soup in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for salt.



Hwang, J.-H., & Lim, S.-B. (2015). Antioxidant and Anticancer Activities of Broccoli By-Products from Different Cultivars and Maturity Stages at Harvest. Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 20(1), 8–14. doi:10.3746/pnf.2015.20.1.8

Labsch, S., Liu, L. I., Bauer, N., Zhang, Y., Aleksandrowicz, E. W. A., Gladkich, J., . . . Herr, I. (2014). Sulforaphane and TRAIL induce a synergistic elimination of advanced prostate cancer stem-like cells. International Journal of Oncology, 44(5), 1470-1480. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2335

Richman EL, Carroll PR, Chan JM.Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2011 Aug 5.

Royston, K. J., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2015). The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 1(1), 46-51. doi: 10.1007/s40495-014-0003-9

Steinbrecher A, Nimptsch K, Husing A, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary glucosinolate intake and risk of prostate cancer in the EPIC-Heidelberg cohort study. Int J Cancer 2009; 125: 2179–86.

More Than a Pick-Me-Up: the Dramatic Health Benefits of your Daily Coffee


More Than a Pick-Me-Up: the Dramatic Health Benefits of your Daily Coffee

The Takeaway First

About 50% of Americans drink coffee every day, but far fewer Americans know that regular coffee drinking has substantial health benefits. According to several studies published over the past two years, coffee has an effect on your heart, your brain, your bones, and your risks of diseases over the lifetime. Despite the benefits, the potential drawbacks from coffee’s caffeine content are worth considering. Know thyself, as they say, and drink carefully.


A German study (Bakuradze et al., 2014) found that four weeks of regular coffee consumption increased feelings of satiety after eating. This and the subjects’ loss of body fat suggests that coffee might help with weight loss or chronic overeating.

The same study found that drinking coffee tended to protect DNA from harmful mutations that could lead to cancer (Bakuradze et al, 2014). And an updated study supports the notion of coffee protecting DNA integrity. (Bakuradze et al, 2015).

A broad review article found that regular coffee consumption reduced the risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, and depression (O’Keefe et al., 2013). The same article reports that coffee either has no effect or a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

O’Keefe et al. (2013) also found that coffee reduced the risk of neurodegenerative disease.

A Brazilian study found that drinking coffee in very low doses reduced hepatic fibrosis in adults with Hepatitis C (Machado et al., 2013).

In one meta-analysis (analysis of many studies already published), regular coffee consumption decreased the risk of fractures by almost 25% in men (Lee et al., 2014).

A study of Spanish adults found that regular coffee consumption had no significant adverse effects on health-related quality of life (Lopez-Garcia et al., 2013).

An older study found that regular coffee consumption had no effect on long term risk of coronary heart disease specifically (Wu et al., 2009).

My Take on Coffee and Health

Coffee, like most naturally occurring mixtures, is not just water, caffeine, and coffee molecules. Well, in some sense it is, but “coffee molecules” consist of countless and diverse chemicals, from methylxanthines to diterpine alcohols to chlorogenic acids to antioxidants, all of which combine to give coffee its complex effect. The effect we all know is the mental effect of increased alertness and decreased feelings of sleepiness.

Besides this effect are numerous side-effects, though. Side-effects are not necessarily bad, as we can 

see from the scientific findings that I noted above. Living longer with less disease is nothing to complain about. However, I want to remind you that every food, coffee included, has complex and far-reaching consequences for the body and for the rest of the lifestyle. Drinking coffee, for instance, might wake you up in the morning, but it can also keep you from sleeping at night. A poor sleep schedule leads to more fatigue, and more fatigue makes that second (or third, or fourth) cup of coffee smell awfully delicious, and pretty soon you’re a wreck every morning unless you drink five cups of coffee. This is not only excessive but expensive, depending on your source.

People who drink coffee daily need to know their limits. Too often in New York I see people more high-strung and stressed out than I ever thought possible, and then I see a quivering cup of coffee in their hand and think, “Hm.” Coffee affects your entire body, but most importantly it affects your brain. And by this point in your life you have come to terms with the fact that you’re not invincible. All this is to say, be aware of the benefits of coffee, but also remember that adding caffeine to your diet changes your wake-sleep patterns, your feelings of tiredness, and your appetite. You can live a happy, healthy life with or without coffee.

What You Should Do

I value your independent thinking, so I won’t give you a prescription for Starbucks. But I will say this: consider the place of coffee in your lifestyle. Nutritional science tells us that adding any substance to your diet has numerous effects on your body chemistry. Coffee contains caffeine, which tends to create a chemical dependency, so drink carefully. Know your own mind; avoid coffee if you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Limit caffeine after noon to avoid insomnia. Also, counterbalance coffee consumption with a good amount of water. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will make you eliminate fluids more frequently. With so many benefits, it’s worth a shot.


Bakuradze, T., Parra, G. A. M., Riedel, A., Somoza, V., Lang, R., Dieminger, N., . . . Richling, E. (2014). Four-week coffee consumption affects energy intake, satiety regulation, body fat, and protects DNA integrity. Food Research International, 63, Part C(0), 420-427. doi:

Lee, D. R., Lee, J., Rota, M., Lee, J., Ahn, H. S., Park, S. M., & Shin, D. (2014). Coffee consumption and risk of fractures: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Bone, 63(0), 20-28. doi:

Lopez-Garcia, E., Guallar-Castillon, P., Leon-Muñoz, L., Graciani, A., & Rodriguez-Artalejo, F. (2014). Coffee consumption and health-related quality of life. Clinical Nutrition, 33(1), 143-149. doi:

Machado, S. R., Parise, E. R., & de Carvalho, L. (2014). Coffee has hepatoprotective benefits in Brazilian patients with chronic hepatitis C even in lower daily consumption than in American and European populations. The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 18(2), 170-176. doi:

O’Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of Habitual Coffee Consumption on Cardiometabolic Disease, Cardiovascular Health, and All-Cause Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(12), 1043-1051. doi:

Wu, J.-n., Ho, S. C., Zhou, C., Ling, W.-h., Chen, W.-q., Wang, C.-l., & Chen, Y.-m. (2009). Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 137(3), 216-225. doi:


Sugar is poison – last night on 60 minutes

The harmful effects of sugar are slowly becoming common knowledge. Did you see 60 minutes last night? They highlighted the fact that sugar (and High Fructose Corn Syrup) are a major cause of obesity, type II diabetes , hypertension and cancer. Yes, cancer. When a Harvard researcher was asked by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “If you limit your sugar intake would you limit your chances of developing cancer?” The researchers response was simply – “absolutely.” It is commonly said that sugar feeds cancer. Technically speaking sugar does not feed cancer per se but it is does cause an overproduction of insulin and another substance known as insulin like growth factor – 1 (IGF-1) that contributes to the development and progression of cancer.


My take on this:


I have mentioned in previous blog  posts’ that sugar and simple carbohydrates are the major contributors to chronic, systemic inflammation and cancer (prostate.) The most important decision you can make to slow the “aging clock,” prevent heart disease and prevent or slow the progression of cancer cells is to significantly limit the consumption of sugar and simple carbohydrates. How easy is this?

Not easy at all. Sugar has a drug-like effect when consumed not too different from legal (alcohol, cigarette smoking, etc) and illegal drugs. Almost all drugs cause the brain to produce dopamine, which leads to a feeling of euphoria. Sugar intake does the same. In fact, just like most drugs, sugar is dose dependent in order to make you feel good. Another words, the more you take the more you need to make you feel “happy.”

The other challenge is that sugar is blended into many sauces and foods including but not limited to: yogurt, cereals, soups, peanut butter and energy drinks.

Now that you are hopefully convinced that sugar consumption is an addictive drug that causes or contributes to almost all disease – what  should you do?

  • Do a “Reset” of no simple sugars for two weeks. This is not easy. I know. I do it two times a year. For the first two or three days headaches and other withdrawal side effect may be experienced. By day 4, the cravings diminish significantly. By day 7 – 10, you are just tired of it look forward for variety.
  • Exercise with moderate intensity. An exercised body does not produce as much insulin or IGF-1 to metabolize sugar.
  • Snack on healthy nuts. Pistachios, almonds and walnuts are super healthy and controls sugar cravings.
  • Manage stress with exercise, deep breathing and by learning how to problem-solve. When we are stressed we typically look to sabotage ourselves with booze or sugary foods. There are many good books and resources on the topic. This link may also be useful.
  • Fruit juices are as bad as soda. A 12-ounce soda can has 10 teaspoons of sugar just like a 12 ounce glass of orange juice. Pomegranate juice, dark organic grape juice and other dark red or blue concentrated fruit juices are also high in sugar but have powerfully healthy components to them.

Here’s what you do: Mix any of those dark juices (about 2 to 4 ounces) with 4 ounces of club soda. This makes for a diluted, less sugary   soda type of drink with powerful antioxidant health benefits.

  • Fruits (not fruit juice) are the best source of sugar – primarily berries and the dark red, blue and purple kind.
  • Don’t eat any food with guilt. If you are going to have a cup cake, have it and enjoy it. Just know that that cup cake is an addictive substance. Two hour later you may no reach for another cup cake, but you may gulp 8 ounces of orange juice and keep this viscous cycle going.

Bottom Line: Cut your simple sugar intake by half starting now -then cut that to another half in two weeks.  You will experience more energy and mental clarity along with creating a hostile environment to cancer cells. Anyone with a blood sugar disease like diabetes should NOT do this on their own and should seek the help of a nutritionally oriented physician.

If you or a loved one has ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer – join us at our Prostate Cancer Health Retreat and discover how to eat and live and cancer-free lifestyle without deprivation. We have a few more spaces available. All my social network friends and NYU urology patients  benefit from a 10% discount.

See a clip on 60 minutes below on this topic.



60 minutes –;cnav

Byrne MM, Davila EP, Zhao W, et al. Cancer screening behaviors among smokers and nonsmokers. Cancer Epidemiol. 2010;34(5):611–617.


Ginger for Prostate Cancer

Take home message FIRST

Ginger may have beneficial effects against prostate cancer. This, of course, is not conclusive since the study soon cited was done in vitro (in test tubes) and in vivo (in mice.) However, this study is compelling and its enough information to conclude that ginger should be a part of every cancer patients diet. Furthermore, a human study on ginger with prostate cancer patients will likely never happen.

There are numerous other medicinal benefits in ginger: helps with nausea and motion sickness, assist in digestion, powerful natural anti-inflammatory – helps with arthritic pain and immune stimulating. Ginger should be eaten as frequently as possible in food and drink.

Do not drink ginger ale thinking you are getting much ginger – it is mostly sugar and carbonated water. Better ginger drinks are found in health food stores where they are sweetened with cane juice ( a little better), not much , and have a strong bite to them.

Good recipes on this site.


What exactly is Ginger

Ginger is spice that comes from the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officionale and is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. Other medicinal members of the same family include tumeric and cardamom.

A rhizome is a root stem found underground.


The study

In this research journal article, Karni et al. from Georgia State University, showed that ginger extract had significant effects in stopping the growth of cancer cells, as well as in inducing cell death in several prostate cancer cells lines (in vitro).

In the animal study the extract revealed very good tumor regression by up to 60 % and no toxicity. The dosage of ginger used in mice was about 100mg. The researchers calculated that this is the equivalent of about 567mg for a person who weighs 70kg. This translates roughly to 650mg of ginger to a 180-pound person. (Karni et al. 2011)

My take on this

Ginger is one of my top five favorite herbs. It has endless healing properties and has been used medicinally for centuries all over the world. I am not aware of a toxic amount when consumed as a spice or a drink. It may, however, anecdotally be contraindicated with people on blood thinning medications like warfarin and possibly in those with gallstones. Normal consumption should be fine.

Eat up and enjoy!


In Optimal Health




Karna P, Chagani S, Gundala SR, Rida PC, Asif G, Sharma V, Gupta MV, Aneja R; Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer. Br J Nutr. 2011 Aug 18:1-12.

Update on Vitamin D and health


Take home message first

If one’s health goal is to stay healthy or slow the progression of most diseases, then consumption of at least 2000 IU of vitamin D is a good start.


Vitamin D 101 – for the layperson

Vitamin D does a whole lot more than sustain healthy bones by assisting in the absorption of calcium. There are receptors throught out the body that attach to vitamin D and regulates DNA.

In the past 20 years, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with:

  • Heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome (combination of hypertension, fat deposit in blood vessels, diabetes, blood glucose imbalance and fat around the belly)
  • Cancer – especially colorectal cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Overall non-specific death (Melamed et al., 2008)

Who needs vitamin D supplementation the most?

Darker skin people, the obese and those who live in regions away from the equator where there is low ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight are in higher need of vitamin D supplementation. Yes, that’s pretty much all of us

It may not be a coincidence that cancer occurs more frequently in dark-skinned people, the obese, and in regions with limited exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight. Each of these factors is associated with low blood levels of vitamin D. Furthermore, cancer survival rates are lower when the diagnosis occurs in months of lower sunlight levels, suggesting a protective role of vitamin D. Studies suggest that vitamin D protects against numerous forms of cancer, including widely prevalent cancers such as those affecting the colon, prostate, breast, and lung. (Giovanucci 2005)


The cancer / vitamin D link


Colon cancer – A study of studies (meta-analysis) revealed that out of 35,000 people studied, those with normal vitamin D levels had lower risk of colon / bowel cancer. Other studies suggest that high calcium (1000mg) with 400IU of vitamin D a day offers no protection. To note, 400 IU a day is a ancient lower suggested dose that plays no role in modern nutrition. For most, 2000 IU is the minimum on should take.

Breast cancer – Also, a meta-analysis regarding vitamin D and the prevention of breast cancer demonstrated a 45% decrease in breast cancer risk for those in the higher blood levels of vitamin D compared with those at the lowest. (Hu et al, 2009) A clinical randomized trial, the gold standard, looking at over 1100 women,  showed that the incidence of breast cancer was lowered by daily supplementation with 1000 IU of vitamin D plus calcium in postmenopausal women (Lappe et al. 2007).


Prostate cancer – epidemiological studies, that is, a study designed to examine large group of people and its associations with its increase the risk of disease, indicate a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer. Test tube studies and animal studies do as well. Human studies with consumption of vitamin D have been inconsistent (Barnett et al. 2011) We yet do not know objectively what blood levels of vitamin D are most adequate (normal is between 30ng/ml – 100ng/ml) or what dosage is best for daily consumption for prostate cancer prevention or adjuvant treatment.

Final thoughts

Governmental agencies like the Institute of Medicine, IOM, fall short in their recent daily recommendations of vitamin D. After “careful” review of the literature, researchers from the IOM increased the daily dosage of vitamin D from 400IU to a marginal 600IU. Since most people have insufficient if not deficient levels of vitamin D, 600 units will not get virtually anyone to normal levels.

The absolute best way to determine adequate levels of vitamin D is to get a 25-hydroxy-vit D blood test from your practitioner and make sure levels are between 50ng/ml to 90ng/ml (mid to high normal.) A Calcium blood test is also adequate to assure hypercalcemia ( too much blood calcium) which can also cause problems. Based on my clinical experience, no one should take anything less than 2000 units of vitamin D3 a day with food or fish oil – anything higher should be monitored by a physician. This is particularly true for those who are obese, dark skin color or one who is not out in the sun much. By the way, if you are out in the sun and use sunscreen, all bets are off, no vitamin D production for you either.


In Optimal Health ,


Dr. Geo



M.L. Melamed, E.D. Michos, W. Post and B. Astor, 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population, Arch Intern Med 168 (2008), pp. 1629–1637

Giovannucci E. The epidemiology of vitamin D and cancer incidence and mortality: a review (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2005 Mar;16(2):83-95.

P. Chen, P. Hu, D. Xie, Y. Qin, F. Wang and H. Wang, Meta-analysis of vitamin D, calcium and the prevention of breast cancer, Breast Cancer Res Treat 121 (2009), pp. 469–477.

J.M. Lappe, D. Travers-Gustafson, K.M. Davies, R.R. Recker and R.P. Heaney, Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial, Am J Clin Nutr 85 (2007), pp. 1586–1591.

Barnett, C.M, Beer, T;Prostate Cancer and Vitamin D; what does the evidence really suggest?; Urologic Clinics of North America; Volume 38, Issue 3 , August 2011, Pages 333-342

In memory of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber

I recently learned of the passing of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, the author of the New York Times best seller, Anti-Cancer – a new way of life – a book I recommend to virtually all my cancer patients. It has served as source of information and inspiration for hundreds of patients in our facility and millions around the world.

Dr. Schreiber, whom I never met, finally succumbed to brain cancer, the disease that influenced him to write this semi-revolutionary book.

Dr. Schreiber was originally a conservative MD, PH.D who initially resisted alternative treatments until the recurrence of his disease. His alternative treatment consisted of mostly “anti-cancer” foods. Although his life was shortened prematurely, he lived a fulfilling “healthy” life for 20 years after his diagnosis of brain cancer – the average lifespan is 18 months after diagnosis.

Rest in Peace Dr. Schreiber and thank you for your work.