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High Protein Diet May Decrease Mesothelioma Tumor Growth

Exciting news from a new animal study at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre points to the probable link between dietary changes and marked growth retardation of cancer tumors.  The study focused on lab rats but because the data was so definitive, researchers are confident that a similar effect does take place in humans.

During the experiment, one population of cancer-ridden rats was given low carbohydrate/high protein diets and the growth of their tumors was recorded regularly.  When compared to a population of rats whose diet was left unchanged, the experimental population showed a massive difference in the size of their cancerous tumors over time.

So how does this work?  Scientists are just now beginning to understand how a mesothelioma tumor grows.  The tumor begins when asbestos fibers are inhaled and pass through the lung tissue to the mesothelium , the membrane which surrounds the lungs and other vital organs within the body cavity.  Those fibers act as “seeds” and tumor grow around them. 

Cancer tumors need glucose, a type of sugar, to grow.  Low carbohydrate diets keep levels of glucose to a minimum.  However, by adding protein the body is still getting the nutrients it needs.

The results of this experiment were published in Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research and provide a ray of hope for current cancer patients and the roughly 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed per year in the United States.  Each of those diagnoses will unfortunately end in death for while treatments are available, they only prolong life and improve quality of life but do not cure.

The modified diet as applied to the lab rats in the experiment included 15 percent carbohydrates, 58 percent proteins, and 26 percent fat.

While it may be difficult to match those numbers with a normal human diet, high protein foods such as lean meat, nuts, chicken, and seafood are readily available.  Scientists are still on the fence about the merit of soy-based proteins as there is some cause to fear that excessive amounts of soy products may be linked to an increased risk of certain illnesses including certain types of cancer.  However, no such risk is associated with other powdered or processed protein products (protein bars and shakes for instance), as many of these products are manufactured from whey protein instead. 

Any modification to your diet should be discussed with your physician before you take any action.  Keep in mind that this study shows that such modifications will only slow tumor growth, not stop tumor growth.  Such changes have not been shown to have any growth reversal effects.  Still, having any new tool available to fight mesothelioma is a welcome addition to the war on this deadly disease.