A team of Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland (CHORI) researchers has found that a category of lipids known as sphingolipids may be an important link in the relationship between diet, inflammation and cancer. Researchers provide evidence that a sphingolipid metabolite called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) found in both animal food products can contribute to inflammation of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammation-associated colon cancer, whereas plant-type sphingolipids called sphingadienes may protect against these conditions.

A connection between inflammation and cancer has been recognized for over a hundred years. This connection is particularly evident in colon carcinogenesis, because patients with IBD have a higher incidence of colon cancer than the general population. There is increasing evidence that inflammation contributes to the earliest stages of carcinogenesis, namely in the process of cell transformation, where the cell acquires many aspects of cancer characteristics. The observation that IBD and colon cancer incidence rise as nations industrialize suggests that changes in diet and nutrition contribute to colitis and colitis-associated colon cancer.

Bioactive sphingolipids play fundamental roles in carcinogenesis via their ability to regulate programmed cell death pathways, stress responses, immunity, and inflammation. The impact of sphingolipid metabolism is particularly important in colon cancer, as gut epithelial cells are exposed to sphingolipid metabolites generated by the breakdown of dietary sphingolipids. S1P, the final breakdown product of animal sphingolipids, is a pro-inflammatory signaling lipid that promotes cell growth and carcinogenesis. During malignant transformation and colon cancer progression, genetic changes occur in the gut tissues, including an increase in the enzyme that generates S1P and a decrease in S1P lyase (SPL), the enzyme that catalyzes S1P degradation. These changes lead to accumulation of S1P in the gut mucosa.

In contrast to the cancer-promoting effects of S1P, the researchers showed that plant-type sphingolipids called sphingadienes cannot be metabolized to S1P and instead enhance the metabolism of S1P by increasing SPL levels in gut tissues. Further, sphingadiene treatment reduced inflammation, signs of IBD, and the incidence of tumors. Finally, the researchers showed an increase in S1P-related gene expression in the colons of patients with IBD compared to controls.

The research suggests that while animal sphingolipids may promote inflammation and carcinogenesis, plant sphingolipids cannot be converted into S1P, are anti-inflammatory and reduce the activity of several cancer signaling pathways. The data suggests that dietary sphingolipids may enhance or inhibit carcinogenesis, depending on their ability to be metabolized to S1P. The findings reveal a mechanistic link between diet, inflammation and cancer.

Journal of Clinical Investigation

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s comments on “Plant vs Animal Based Diet- Inflammation and Cancer Risk”:

To put it simply, this study once again demonstrated that a diet high in plant fats decreases inflammation and cancer risk whereas a diet high in animal fats from all animal products including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, butter and cheese increases inflammation and cancer risk.

Also an interesting note in the research was the comment of how as countries industrialize their risk of cancer increases. Do you know why?  Because they starting eating more animal products. Most third world countries are too poor to afford to eat meat so they eat a economically induced plant based diet. But this is when they are their healthiest. When disease was tracked in China amongst all the provinces, it was shown that the poorest provinces that ate only vegetables and rice lived the longest and had the least incidence of cancer and heart disease but the provinces that had the greatest economic wealth had the greatest incidence of cancer and heart disease and greatest risk for mortality. So what is the difference between poor and not poor? Poor eat what they grow. Not poor buy more food and definitely add animal products to their diet.

So what is the message we are trying to get across to you?

Animal products are inflammatory and increase risk of all disease including cancer. Plant products reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of all disease including cancer.

So what should you eat?

  1. All vegetables especially green leafy vegetables
  2. Sea vegetable like dulse and kelp
  3. Sprouts- broccoli, fenugreek, clover, sunflower, wheatgrass (juice), mung.
  4. Seeds- flax, hemp, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin
  5. Nuts- almonds, Brazil, walnuts, macadamia, cashews
  6. Avocados- this is one of the best all around foods
  7. Fruits- lemons, limes and avocados (yes they are an oily fruit). You must keep the sugar content very low.

If you are a standard American and are having a difficult time giving up animal products then start by eating progressively less each week and when you do eat animal products eat very small portions with very large portions of vegetables. Remember not to cook the plants or you kill them and they become empty calories. The closer you eat as they did in the Garden the healthier you become.

Food is just one part of the 7 BASICS.