Short-Circuit: Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally
[Earlier posts in this cancer prevention series: Cancer for a Fortnight, Before Early Detection, In the Beginning: The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, and Supply Lines: The Importance of Angiogenesis. See also Crap for the Cure.]
If angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is necessary to the development or metastasis of a cancerous tumor, it stands to reason that we can thwart tumor development by enhancing our bodies’ ability to inhibit inappropriate angiogenesis.
Here are some daily choices you can make to short-circuit cancer’s supply lines:
1. Understand Specific Foods. As it happens, there is an extensive list of natural, consumable angiogenesis inhibitors that are easy to enjoy on a regular basis. Here are some of the most accessible:
- Green tea. Japanese varieties such as matcha and sencha are best. Steep the tea for 8-10 minutes to ensure maximum release of the anti-angiogenic polyphenal epigallocatechin gallate, and drink 3 or more cups per day.
- Berries. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries contain astonishing quantities of ellagic acid, which slows blood vessel growth. Choose organic, because conventional berries are notoriously drenched in pesticides that contribute to cancer development.
- Stone fruits. Peaches, plums, and nectarines have been demonstrated to contain as many anti-cancer agents as berries. Again, choose organic.
- Herbs. Members of the labite family (oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, basil, etc.) get their fragrance from terpenes, which adversely affect cancer’s ability to spread. Parsley is abundant in apigenine, which inhibits angiogenesis. Add fresh herbs to everything from meats to salads. Generally speaking, you can use fresh herbs wherever a recipe calls for dried; just triple the quantity to account for water volume. In soups or sauces, simmer most of the herbs throughout the cooking time for depth of flavor, then add a bit more just before serving, for brightness to both eye and palate.
- Cruciform Vegetables. The cruciferous family of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, etc.) discourage cancer in many ways, including angiogenesis inhibition. Steam or stir-fry them, rather than boiling, to avoid destruction of the beneficial sulforaphane and I3C molecules.
- Dark chocolate. The quantity of antioxidants, polyphenols, and proanthocyanidins in dark chocolate approaches those offered by green tea. Consume in reasonable amounts (20 grams daily), and be sure it’s dark chocolate (85% or more cocoa) because the dairy in milk chocolate interferes with cocoa’s beneficial molecules.
- Turmeric. This bright yellow component of curry powder is available in ethnic sections of supermarkets or specialty stores. Its slightly bitter flavor virtually disappears when added to salad dressings. You can also stir it into curries, stir fries, stews, omelettes, etc. Consume 1/4 tsp daily, always in combination with black pepper or ginger, which make the relevant phytonutrient, curcumin, bioavailable.
- Red wine/red grapes. Yes, the resveratrol in red wine and grapes really does inhibit angiogenesis. Limit consumption, however, because more than one serving of alcohol daily increases cancer risk, and sugar (abundant in grapes) is cancer’s favorite food.
- Other foods. Additional anti-angiogenic foods include oranges, lemons, apples, pineapple, soy (not recommended for other reasons), maltake and other mushrooms, olives and oil, tomato, pumpkin, garlic, nutmeg, kale, and more. Eating a variety of foods enhances their benefits because the nutrients are synergistic. In the case of fruits and starchy vegetables, take care to consider the carbohydrate/nutrient bargain you’re making; some fruit is fine, but unlimited non-starchy vegetables are better.
2. Reduce Carbohydrate Consumption. You might recall from this post that the danger isn’t carbohydrate per se, but the insulin that is released by the pancreas in order to control the increased blood sugar that results from carbohydrate consumption. When we eat too much carbohydrate, too often, chronically elevated insulin levels set off a cascade of damage — including inappropriate angiogenesis.
According to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, insulin increases vascular endothelial growth factor (remember that stuff?) in the smooth muscle cells of mice. A 2009 article in Diabetologia notes the authors’ findings that several types of insulin “may stimulate tumor growth by enhancing local angiogenesis.” A 2008 bulletin by R&D Systems observes how the hormonal effect of obesity (caused by insulin/leptin resistance related to excessive carbohydrate consumption) contributes to inflammation and angiogenesis.
Furthermore, insulin resistance leads to increased sense of hunger because even when we’ve taken in plenty of energy, said energy is unable to enter the cells that need it. Our bodies signal a need for more food (specifically, carbohydrate), so we eat carbohydrate, release more insulin, perpetuate the progression of insulin resistance, and increase bodyfat. Unfortunately, one of fat tissue’s less attractive features is the fact that it contains angiogenic stem cells. This is one of the reasons that obesity increases cancer risk.
If we choose to eat most of our calories in the form of proteins and healthful fats, limiting carbohydrate to diverse vegetables and some fruit, we decrease insulin and bodyfat levels, thereby aiding our bodies’ ability to inhibit angiogenesis.
3. Reduce Stress. When we are under stress, the body releases hormones, such as neuropeptides and catecholamines, that promote angiogenesis, contributing directly to tumor growth. Forms of intentional relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, or prayer, demonstrably reduce levels of these hormones. As little as 15 minutes per day of quiet, focused breathing makes a difference.
4. Reduce toxin exposure. Carceniogins, notably those in cigarette smoke, increase cells’ production of vascular endothelial growth factor. Read that again. VEGF promotes vascular growth, that is, angiogenesis.
Additionally, estrogen-mimicking substances in plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones in conventional meats, eggs, and dairy products wreak havoc on our all-important hormonal balance. I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that estrogen promotes angiogenesis.
Quit smoking and be as rude as necessary to escape secondhand smoke. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers, and be sure foods have cooled to below 87 degrees F before putting them into those containers. Better yet, replace your Tupperware with glass or stainless steel. Spend the extra cash on organic produce and animal products, and limit household chemical use.
5. Sleep more. One of the side-effects of getting too little sleep (or even enough sleep but at unnatural times, such as going to bed in the wee hours and waking well after sunrise) is significant hormonal disruption. Just one example of this is decreased melatonin, which results in decreased leptin, which results in increased feelings of hunger — particularly for carbohydrate. Look back at #2 above to see how that midnight slice of pumpkin pie affects angiogenesis.
Insufficient sleep (that is, fewer than 9 hours per night, particularly during the winter months) also increases cortisol at the wrong times, which mobilizes blood sugar, which results in insulin production, which leads to bodyfat storage, which contributes to inflammation and angiogenesis.
See how all this fits together?
Obviously, cancer is a complex disease that must be attacked on many fronts. Inflammation and angiogenesis are two of these fronts; next we’ll consider starvation — that is, curbing cancer by depriving it of its favorite food.
Fight Cancer with Natural Angiogenesis Inhibitors, Scientific Living
Halting Blood Vessels Key to New Cancer Treatment, TED Talks 2010
My Food, Medicine: black coffee; baked ham; green tea; salad: red leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, red cabbage, onion and clover sprouts, red onion, carrot, avocado, roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and garlic, tuna, with dressing of fish and olive oils, balsamic vinegar, turmeric, black pepper, potassium salt, and Italian herbs; Earl Gray tea; jasmine green tea; roast leg of lamb, wasabi, roasted butternut squash, beets, and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper; red grapes, coconut cream concentrate.
Workout: Primal Blueprint Fitness bodyweight progression