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I am not a medical expert, but there is so little known about cancer and so many small 'facts' are published that a few inferences can be drawn. Here then is my understanding of the causes of cancer and my thoughts about it.
Cancer arises when the genetic control system of the cell goes wrong. That wrongness may be because the cell's DNA has actually been damaged or it may be because the body has 'switched off' some of the genes.
Now all cells have self-repair systems. Those self repair systems also include the ability to repair damage to the genes. Such a system does not of course have an infinite repair ability, and the repair ability will probably be affected by the body's age. It will also be affected by the materials available to make the repairs.
Too little is known about the genetic repair system and exactly how it works or when it fails and allows cancer to develop: it seems that the big money is in curing the cancer once it has developed and not in preventing its development!
However it's logical that the repair mechanism will fail when either the genetic damage is too much - or the repair mechanism is too weak. There is a balance. Many factors that cause damage have been identified - smoking, asbestos, various chemicals, Barett's oesophagus. But on the other side of the balance is the repair mechanism.
Much work is being done on this and the exact process whereby Barrett's can become carcinoma seems to be not yet fully understood. However the collection of genes that is methylated in Barrett's is much the same as those that lead to oesophageak carcinoma: logic says they cannot be exactly the same but it seems clear that the methylation process which causes the protective Barrett's oesophagus can go too far and can continue to methylate more genes, causing cancer. So the body must do a delicate balancing act between the correct response to acid reflux and excessive response that will continue further to cancer.
Any bodily repair mechanism needs the right materials. Some of those materials have been identified. These include:
There must be a huge number of other food trace contents that are also beneficial, or even necessary. There are also foods that are linked with cancer risk - if taken in excess.
Whatever food elements are required must, logically, have been present in the human diet as we evolved. A useful concept here is 'Environment of evolutionary adaptedness' (Enevad). This is the environment in which the organism concerned evolved and to which it is well adapted.
The problem with the human enevad is that early humans apparently had multiple enevads: early humans migrated a lot and various branches evolved in different environments and then interbred again.
However this migration was almost invariably via water: land in the early environment was not a medium for much travel. Early humans lived by the sea or by rivers and migrated by water.
Now sea shore lines are rich in easy food pickings: rock pools are rich in edible molluscs, seaweeds, crustaceans and fish. Much of the early human diet was seafood.
Fruit was also readily available to early humans. Also nuts. Insects and grubs of many kinds would have been easy pickings. Meat would have been only an occasional 'binge' food as a larger animal was killed.
Nowadays only a select few of the huge number of available fruits and nuts are commercially viable, so many edible fruits and nuts simply aren't available in the modern diet - except in places where they can be harvested as free food. Fruitipedia is a good place to learn of the huge variety of edible fruits and nuts.
Similarly edible plants: there are tens of thousands of plants whose leaves, roots, stems, flowers or seeds are edible and good. Modern farming has only taken a relatively small number of these into commercial cultivation. For instance the wild cabbage (brassica oleracea) has become a wide variety of superficially different vegetables: the cabbages, cauliflowers, broccolis. But they are all essentially the same plant. Similarly lettuces and beets. Anyone who is into wild foraging should be aware of how random the choice of cultivated plants is: there are many wild plants that are as good as or even better than most cultivated plants. See my own Food for Free site or Plants for a Future for more information.
Meat in modern times is also a very common and major ingredient in the diet - far, far higher than it could ever have been in our enevad. Especially red meat: our enevad would have included more small animals and birds than it would large animals.
It is very apparent then that a modern diet is highly restricted when compared to that of the human enevad. Modern 'fast foods' and prepared meals are even further restricted and moreover they contain modified food ingredients - modified to make them more palatable and more commercially profitable. Not modified to make them nutritionally better! These mnodified ingredients were not available in out enevad and do us no good. Whether thy are actually harmful in themselves is another matter - but they certainly do us harm by eliminating or reducing other ingredients which we should be eating to stay healthy!
Such a restricted diet is likely to lack trace ingredients that were present in the foods humans evolved to eat and which could improve the cell's gene-repair ability. So our gene-repair ability is weakened! Problem is - we do not know what ingredients might be beneficial, even in trace amounts! Furthermore - an ingredient that may be beneficial in trace amounts can easily be bad, or even poisonous, in excess.
Consider also the number of food plants that have medicinal qualities. Many of these are being identified and the active ingredients used as medicine, especially in Germany, Switzerland and eastern Europe where such phytopharmaceuticals are treated the same as manufactured drugs. But a food can only be medically beneficial if that food is lacking in the diet to start with!
Poisons are not all - poisonous! For any poison there is a dose level where it is is harmful, in tract amounts, the body can cope with it or may even need it! Most minerals and vitamins that are needed in trace amounts can become poisonous if consumed in excess. The body can cope with small amounts of almost anything! To my mind this clearly indicates that we evolved eating a huge variety of fruits, nuts, leaves, seeds, seaweeds, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, grubs. We ate whatever was available, when it was available!
It follows that healthy foods do not need to be consumed continuously - our bodies are evolved to be happy with seasonal changes. The '5 a day' recommendation is a huge oversimplification: the five we eat this month should not be the five we eat next month! Over the year we should eat as many different food plants as we possibly can!
It also follows that, as our diet presumably varied seasonally, any change in diet may take months (or even years) to have a noticeable effect! I wonder how this long response time affects drug and diet trials: bad side effects to drugs and good responses to dietsary ingrediants may take 6 months minimum to appear. To say a drug is safe, may require many years of experience. This certainly seems the case with the PPIs, used to treat acid reflux. See the references on gall-bladder.
All of these risks and benefits only make real sense if you understand that cancer risk is increased by almost any restricted diet!
There are some links to other www articles of relevance.
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Page first published: Friday the 21st of October, 2011
Last modified: Mon, 30 Jul 2018 19:53:26 BST
© 2011 - -2018 Richard Torrens.