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MOF&G Cover Fall 2010


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerFall 2010English Editorial   
 Common Ground: A Recipe for Health Minimize

Fair display
English photo.

By Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

Looking for good national health care? Begin with good local, preventive health care – as you’ll find at the Common Ground Country Fair. Immerse yourself, for example, in the healthful and delicious organic produce at the farmers’ market near the north (rose) gate.

Dr. William Li would love this market. Li, a physician who studied under Harvard surgeon Judah Folkman, learned then that faulty angiogenesis – that is, excess or insufficient growth of new blood vessels in the body – is a common factor in more than 70 major diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

Li founded the nonprofit Angiogenesis Foundation, partly to spread the knowledge about angiogenesis-based medicines, diet and lifestyle.

In his TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk, “Can we eat to starve cancer?” (at www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html), Li says that 90 to 95 percent of cancers have environmental causes and 5 to 10 percent have genetic causes. Of the environmental causes, diet accounts for 30 to 35 percent, followed by tobacco (25 to 30), infections (15 to 20), obesity (10 to 20), alcohol (4 to 6) and other (10 to 15).

A dozen antiangiogenic drugs now treat cancer by selectively cutting off the blood supply to tumors. For some cancers at some stages in some people, they seem to work well.

But, asks Li, can we eat a diet that naturally restricts blood vessels that feed cancers? Can we eat to starve cancer?

Li’s lab work suggests that we can, at least before cancers spread – fortunately, since, he says, we are all probably forming microscopic cancers in our bodies all the time; but without a blood supply, most will never become dangerous. He lists many foods, beverages and herbs that naturally inhibit angiogenesis in lab tests.

For example, an extract from red grapes, which contain the naturally occurring active ingredient resveretrol, inhibits abnormal angiogenesis by 60 percent in concentrations attainable by eating; other potent inhibitors Li has studied include an extract from strawberries with the active ingredient ellagic acid and an extract from soybeans containing genistein. He plans to study dozens of other antiangiogenic foods, including raspberries, blueberries, apples, bok choy, kale, maitake mushrooms, lavender, pumpkins, parsley, garlic and tomato. Sounds like a farmers’ market of preventive medicine.
Maine School Garden Network display
English photo.

Does lab work translate to people? Li cites a Harvard study of 79,000 men followed over 20 years. “Men who consume 2-3 servings of cooked tomatoes per week have a reduced risk for developing prostate cancer by 40-50%,” says Dr. Lorelei Mucci of Harvard. Men in the study who did develop prostate cancer, says Li, had fewer blood vessels feeding their cancer if they ate more servings of tomato sauce.

“Everybody could benefit from a healthy diet based on local, sustainable, antiangiogenic crops,” says Li. “What we eat is really our chemotherapy three times a day.”

Like tumors, fat grows when blood vessels grow. Can we shrink fat by cutting its blood supply? In experiments, says Li, mice given an angiogenesis inhibitor lost weight. Without the inhibitor, they gained the weight back.

Simply eating lots of broccoli won’t prevent all cancers or other diseases in all people all the time. Some research shows that the concentration of antiangiogenic drugs affects the outcome – with excess amounts possibly stimulating cancers. And we all know individuals who did all the right things and succumbed to disease.

Still, eating a healthy diet rich in colorful produce isn’t going to hurt, will likely help, and will taste great.

In another TED Talk, “Teach every child about food” (www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jamie_oliver.html), celebrity chef Jamie Oliver shows that diet-related diseases – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes – account for about 60 percent of premature deaths in the United States.

All children, says Oliver, need to leave school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives … and then pass that information on.

If one person teaches three people how to cook something, and those people teach three more people, “that has to happen only 25 times, and that’s the whole population of America,” says Oliver. “Every one of your individual efforts makes a difference.”

The Common Ground Fair, MOFGA, the Maine School Garden Network and others – many who will attend the Fair – are doing just that.

Here’s to the Fair and here’s to your health!


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