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Health and Sanity

Rashmi Vasudeva
Features writer on health, lifestyle and the Arts, digital marketing blogger, mother
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piqer: Rashmi Vasudeva
Monday, 07 January 2019

Cancer Cure: Can Our Diets Work As Drugs?

Scientists have always wondered about this, but until now there has been no sustained exploration of the exact role of our diet in medicine, especially in relation to boosting (or reducing) the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee has a fascinating discussion with The Guardian's science correspondent Hannah Devlin on why a thorough scientific examination of diet as medicine is long overdue in oncology and what his first-of-its-kind trial in this regard hopes to achieve.

In fact, a series of experiments and studies that are focussed on 'rethinking human diets for cancer', as Mukherjee puts it, are in various stages of progress in the US and Europe. Mukherjee and his colleagues will study if a low-carb, high-fat diet could improve the performance of cancer drugs for patients with lymphoma and endometrial cancer. Diet connoisseurs will notice that the renowned oncologist is indeed referring to that darling of the celeb world – the ketogenic diet. In a recent limited study on mice, Mukherjee's team found that when combined with diets such as keto (that are aimed at lowering insulin levels), certain cancer drugs work better. In Mukherjee's words, "the diet (itself) really works like a drug".

As the oncologist writes in a related article in the NYT, unlike medicines whose effectiveness are minutely scrutinized, human diets have hardly been examined. This is a sort of anomaly in the age of molecular treatments, gene editing and targeted immune therapies. He argues, quite convincingly, that rather than relying on 'received knowledge' about diet or working with preconceived ideas, it is time for scientists to examine human diets molecule by molecule. Perhaps then  they can hope to understand their overall impact on our health, longevity, as well as our brains.

Cancer Cure: Can Our Diets Work As Drugs?
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