Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?

In this TED talk, Dr. William Li, President of the Angiogenesis Foundation, discusses a new way to think about treating cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Li’s foundation studies angiogenesis, which is the process that our bodies use to grow blood vessels. This process is important because blood vessels can be the vessels of life, but they can also be the vessels of death. In healthy people, new blood vessels only grow when needed to heal from injury, during pregnancy, or as part of the normal reproductive cycle. Without a blood supply, microscopic cancer cells cannot grow and spread. But sometimes when cancer cells mutate, they can take over the normal angiogenesis process to create the new vessels and blood supply they need to grow.

Anti-angiogenesis is the process of preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors and cancer. There are FDA-approved anti-angiogenic drugs on the market already, but Dr. Li advocates the use of food and diet to prevent angiogenesis in the first place, before the cancer has spread and progressed.

Watch to learn more about this developing field at the intersection of food and medicine.

Diet and Cancer

In his research on cancer and cancer therapies, Dr. Li was amazed to find that diet accounts for 30-35% of environmentally caused cancers. So he started to study foods that are naturally anti-angiogenic, which would stop the blood vessels from feeding cancers. In other words, he is looking for the foods that starve cancer cells.

Cancer-Fighting Foods

So what are the foods that we should eat to fight (or starve) cancer? Dr. Li’s research foundation is continuously studying these foods, but the vast majority of his recommended foods are fruits and vegetables including blueberries, strawberries, apples, oranges, peaches, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, grapes, and spinach; grains and seeds including brown rice, oats, and whole grains; and beans and legumes including chick peas and lentils.

What’s noticeably missing from the list? Processed foods and animal fats.

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