Eat These Foods to Starve Cancer Cells to Death (2024)

Some people may not realize this, but many people have cancer cells in their bodies without presenting much danger. Fortunately, there are some common foods that can cut off cancer cell’s nutrient supply and starve them to death.

Autopsies of individuals who died of trauma often reveal microscopic colonies of cancer cells, also known as in situ tumors. Some people call them “disease-free cancers.”

For instance, researchers in Denmark performed autopsies on women aged 40 to 50, who never had cancer during their lifetime, and found that 39 percent of them had small cancerous lesions in their breasts. Only 1 percent of women in this age group would be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Examination of some men in their 60s showed that 46 percent of them had histological evidence of prostate cancer, which is consistent with the findings of the autopsy study. However, the prevalence of prostate cancer in men aged 60 to 70 is actually around 1 percent.

There is another example, which is even more extreme: Some Finnish scientists examined 101 autopsies and found that the histological detection rate of thyroid cancer in people aged 50 to 70 was nearly 100 percent. However, in reality, only 0.1 percent of people in this age group would be diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

If such a large percentage of people have cancer cells, why do only a small percentage of them develop fatal cancers? This is because the cancer cells in most people are dormant and need additional information and energy to continue to grow and become malignant tumors.

It all starts with our blood vessels.

Some Diseases Emerge Because Blood Vessels Have Grown ‘Out of Control’

In general, the blood vessels in the adult body are 60,000 miles long, and their total length is enough to circle the earth twice. Among them, we have 19 billion capillaries. Most of these vessels would have developed while a fetus is still in the womb. Under normal circumstances, the blood vessels in adults are largely unchanged, except for wound healing and tissue repair.

In addition, there are several special periods during which blood vessels grow in women. One is when blood vessels build the endometrium in the uterus each month; and another is during pregnancy, when blood vessels form the placenta that connects the mother and the fetus.

The human body is designed with great subtlety and precision to be able to balance and regulate the number of blood vessels on its own at any given time and in any given situation. When new blood vessels need to be created, such as when a wound is healing, the body releases proteins called angiogenic factors. They act like fertilizers, stimulating the sprouting of blood vessels to produce new blood vessels. The size and number of these new blood vessels are according to a set standard, and their growth won’t get out of control. When the body does not need certain blood vessels, it releases natural angiogenesis inhibitors that prune the vessels back to their original shape.

However, if for some reason the body doesn’t grow enough new blood vessels in the right place at the right time, or is unable to prune the excess blood vessels, this is an imbalance of angiogenesis, which can lead to diseases.

Dozens of major diseases are associated with angiogenesis imbalance, including atherosclerosis, diabetic retinopathy, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, psoriasis, chronic inflammation, and even cancer.

Cancer Cells Rely on Blood Vessels for Nutrients to Grow into Lethal Tumors

Angiogenesis plays a critical role in the growth of cancer.

This is because for a tumor to grow to more than a few millimeters, it requires a blood supply. Cancer cells can release angiogenic factors to create their own blood supply; they can also stimulate nearby normal cells to produce angiogenic factors, thus directing blood vessels to themselves.

The resulting new blood vessels will provide a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to the growing tumor, helping it enlarge. The cancer cells then invade nearby tissues, move to different parts of the body, and form new colonies of cancer cells, which is called tumor metastasis.

Tumors cannot grow beyond a certain size or spread if they lack blood supply. Therefore, scientists have developed a class of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors (also known as anti-angiogenic agents) that can block tumor angiogenesis. The goal of these drugs is to prevent or slow down the development of cancer by preventing the growth of blood vessels that support the tumor and cutting off the blood supply to the tumor.

Since its introduction, anti-angiogenic therapy has received widespread attention and is one of the effective treatments for cancer. However, angiogenesis inhibitors work by slowing or stopping the growth of tumors, not by destroying cancer cells. Research has demonstrated that in some cancers, angiogenesis inhibitors appear to be most effective when combined with other therapies, such as conventional chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and this is one of the directions that anti-cancer therapies will be further explored in the future.

Foods That Can Fight Angiogenesis and Starve Cancer Cells to Death

By severing the blood vessels around a tumor, can we cut off the cancer’s supply of nutrients and starve the cancer cells to death?

In a sense, preventing and controlling angiogenesis imbalance is the same as preventing and controlling a range of diseases, including cancer. Scientists believe that using a combination of compounds to interfere with angiogenesis to prevent cancer is a feasible and promising approach to fight cancer.

Mother Nature’s love for humans is also reflected in the nutrients she puts into our food. Our everyday ingredients are rich in several potent anti-angiogenic factors. Ingesting these natural angiogenesis inhibitors through diet is very convenient and easy. And more importantly, they do not have the side effects of drugs, making them suitable for most of us.

Polyphenol Nutrients

Quercetin: Quercetin is from the flavonoid family of polyphenols and is found in some fruits and vegetables such as onions, broccoli, apples and berries, as well as in olive oil, grapes, and tea. Quercetin affects endothelial (thin membrane lining heart and blood vessels) cell proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis. As an anti-angiogenic compound, it has been shown to have a targeted effect on tumor angiogenesis in both in vitro and in vivo experiments. It has also been demonstrated in animal experiments that quercetin can reduce angiogenesis.

clinical trial based on quercetin as a dietary supplement to treat skin cancer is currently underway. Its results are expected to be announced in 2023.

Myricetin: Myricetin is also a flavonol found in many plants including onions, berries, and herbs. The biological activities of myricetin include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects. It is also an angiogenesis inhibitor, and its effects have been demonstrated in different types of cancer.

Some scientists treated human ovarian cancer cells with different concentrations of myricetin, and then carried out tissue culture and observation. They found that myricetin could effectively block the angiogenesis induced by ovarian cancer cells.

After treating the skin of lab rats with myricetin, and then performing multiple days of ultraviolet light experiments, scientists found that myricetin could significantly inhibit the formation of new blood vessels induced by ultraviolet light in the rat skin.

In addition, in the flavonoid family of polyphenols, scientists are also focusing on two flavonols: kaempferol and fisetin. These two substances, which are found in vegetables, fruits, teas, and herbs, also exhibit properties related to cancer chemoprevention and are potent angiogenesis inhibitors.

Genistein: In the isoflavone family of polyphenols, genistein is a representative substance. It is one of the main isoflavones of soybean. Genistein has been proven to inhibit the growth of different types of cancer in vitro and in vivo, and anti-angiogenesis is one of its many anti-cancer properties.

Genistein combined with arsenic trioxide can effectively inhibit the angiogenesis and development of human liver malignant tumors.

In a clinical trial published in 2019 in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, a combination of chemotherapy with the use of genistein and another chemical, and anti-angiogenic therapy, showed promising results in treating metastatic colorectal cancer.

Green tea polyphenols: Regular consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Green tea polyphenols have chemopreventive and anti-angiogenic properties, and the catechins in green tea polyphenols show very strong anti-angiogenic properties.

Some researchers implanted vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF) into some lab mice. One group of mice then drank plain water, while the other group drank water with catechins added. The results showed that compared with the mice in the water drinking group, the induced corneal neovascularization was significantly inhibited in the corneas of the mice in the tea drinking group, and the area of neovascularization was inhibited by 35 percent to 70 percent.

Hydroxytyrosol: Hydroxytyrosol is a phenolic compound present in virgin olive oil and one of the main active components of virgin olive oil. It is a natural angiogenesis inhibitor. Animal experiments have shown that hydroxytyrosol could practically inhibit and disrupt angiogenesis outside the cells.

Terpene Nutrients

Terpenes are present in many fruits and vegetables, and their representative anticancer components are ursolic acid and cafestol.

Ursolic acid: Ursolic acid is present in the leaves of several edible spice plants, including rosemary, lemon balm, verbena, oregano, and sage. Some fruits, such as apples and cranberries, also contain ursolic acid.

Ursolic acid has a variety of biological activities, and its anti-angiogenic properties have also been demonstrated. It can inhibit the angiogenesis of human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and its inhibitory effect is enhanced with the increase of ursolic acid concentration.

Cafestol and kahweol: Cafestol and kahweol, found in coffee beans and unfiltered coffee, have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Experiments have also shown that cafestol can interfere with the formation of extracellular blood vessels of umbilical vein endothelial cells, and its efficacy became stronger with the increase of cafestol concentration. In view of the high consumption of coffee beans in the world, their anti-cancer function is well perceived.

Anthraquinone Nutrients

Emodin: Emodin is an anthraquinone that exists naturally in rhubarb. It has shown anticancer activity against different types of human cancer cells in many in vitro and in vivo experiments.

Some researchers in Japan treated umbilical vein endothelial cells with emodin. The tissue culture results showed that in comparison with the control group, emodin had significantly inhibited angiogenesis outside these cells, and its inhibitory effect was enhanced with increasing emodin concentration.

Aloe-emodin: It is also an anthraquinone existing in aloe vera leaves. Aloe-emodin has also shown to have anti-angiogenic potential.

These natural angiogenesis inhibitors are among our readily available ingredients. Regular consumption of these foods helps cut off the nutrient supply to cancer cells and “starve” them to death before they have a chance to develop into tumors.


Editor's Note: Those on a plant-based diet, please read this article: How Oxalates from Spinach and Almonds can Wreck Your Health.

Stress Pulse Therapy: Adjust Cancer Cell Metabolism to Improve Condition

Thomas N. Seyfried, a well-known scholar in cancer research and a Professor of Biology at Boston College, believes the existing cancer treatment system is “broken.” He said once people understand the metabolic theory of cancer, treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be replaced by new treatments.

Based on the theory, Seyfried and his team developed the “stress pulse therapy” [9][10][11], which is a cocktail treatment consisting of the ketogenic diet, glutaminase inhibitor medicine, and stress management.

The ketogenic diet is adopted because cancer cells have defective mitochondria and impaired metabolism, so they can only rely on fermented sugars and glutamine for energy. Cancer cells cannot obtain energy as ketone bodies cannot be fermented. As for cells with normal metabolic function, they can obtain energy by metabolizing ketone bodies [12].

The purpose of a ketogenic diet combined with basic drugs is to control the ratio of glucose and ketone bodies in the blood to an ideal range while inhibiting the ability of cancer cells to acquire glutamine. In this way, we can “starve” cancer cells from a metabolic perspective, thereby achieving the same effect as cancer treatments.

An important aspect of “stress pulse therapy” is stress control and emotional management. Seyfried emphasized in the interview that people’s mental stress has a direct relationship with the development of cancer. When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they experience extreme panic and cannot rest or eat in peace. Excessive stress can raise blood sugar levels, which can feed cancer cells into rapid growth. As a result, cancer cannot be controlled. Easing the emotional and stress levels of the patient and his or her family can further stabilize the patient’s psychological and physical condition.

There have been many successful cases of cancer control by managing metabolism. Moreover, many patients use this method when traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are ineffective, or when cancer has spread.

A 38-year-old man developed symptoms in February 2016 and was subsequently diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (the most common and malignant form of primary adult brain cancer). After 20 months of ketogenic diet therapy and completion of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the patient’s tumor decreased by approximately 1.5 cm in diameter. He seemed in good health with no apparent clinical or neurological deficits [13].

Another 54-year-old man was diagnosed with lung cancer; the cancer cells had metastasized and tumors were found in his brain. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy had no effect, so the patient opted for a ketogenic diet. Two years later, the tumors in his brain and lungs shrank; after nine years of treatment, the brain and lung cancer tumors remained stable in size [14].

A 45-year-old woman in Ohio was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2016. In August 2018, the cancer had spread and she developed tumors in her brain, lungs, mediastinum, liver, abdomen, and bones. Her doctor expected her to have less than a month to live. The patient began receiving stress pulse therapy in November 2018. In April 2019, the scan report indicated that the treatment was effective. According to the published study, her last check-up was in March 2021 and the results showed a stable condition, no recurrence, and improved quality of life [15].

In a study published in the Clinical Nutrition journal, 80 patients with locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer were randomly assigned to a ketogenic diet or a control group for a 12-week treatment test. Patients in the ketogenic diet group had lower serum insulin levels, and their tumors shrank [16].

Two papers published in Nature: Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease describe the therapeutic benefits of a low-carb diet and a fasting-mimicking diet for patients with prostate cancer [17][18]. A ketogenic diet, which requires fasting and has low carbohydrates, can lower blood sugar levels and control tumor growth. These findings support the hypothesis that elevated ketone bodies are associated with reduced tumor growth [19].

Exercising, Fasting, and Avoiding High-Carb Diets May Keep Cancer Away

As for how an average person can maintain a healthy metabolism and prevent cancer, Seyfried said that by keeping the mitochondria in cells healthy, people are less likely to get cancer. He said this can be achieved through a certain period of fasting (drinking only water), a low-carb diet, and exercise.

He also emphasized that high carbs and unnutritious foods such as junk food can cause cancer, and advised to stay away from such foods. It’s not just cancer, diseases like Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity, among others are all related to the Western diet.

“As soon as the Western diet comes into the population, you get cancer … and diabetes and things like this.” He also joked, “The bottom line is don’t eat anything and you’ll get very healthy. Just drink water.”

According to an umbrella review (review of meta-analyses) published in BMJ (2023):

A dose-response meta-analysis showed that the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma increased by 100% for the highest sugar sweetened beverage consumption compared with the lowest. Additionally, a meta-analysis conducted by Aune and colleagues found that 25 g/day of fructose intake was linearly associated with a 22% higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

That said, an August 2023 study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, indicates that extreme eating patterns related to fats and carbohydrates could impact longevity. The research, led by Dr. Takashi Tamura from Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, reveals that men with low carbohydrate consumption and women with high carbohydrate consumption face increased risks of overall and cancer-related death. 

Their findings suggest that people should pursue a balanced diet rather than heavily restricting their carbohydrate or fat intake.

To Fast vs Not to Fast Dilemma

Dr Joseph Mercola used to intermittently fast and eat a ketogenic diet until he discovered the work of the late Ray Peat, which convinced him the high-fat/low-carb science had it all backward. When you don't have enough glucose to fuel the mitochondria, when you deplete your glycogen level, then stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — are released to trigger endogenous production of glycogen.

Those stress hormones are pathologic, and if they’re continuously released at high levels to compensate for insufficient glucose, it will accelerate disease and premature death. There's no question in my mind that these stress hormones are bad news. Cortisol, for example, drains the amino acids, the protein, from your tissues, thereby decreasing bone density and muscle mass, which is bad news.

So, to rephrase, a key part of the answer to this to-fast-or-not-to-fast dilemma is that your liver stores glycogen, and if you have sufficient glycogen stores, you can easily intermittently fast for 16 hours and not activate your stress response hormones like glucagon, cortisol and adrenaline. 

If you go for a lot longer, certainly after two or three days, then your glycogen stores will be completely depleted and your stress hormones will be activated, because that’s the only route left to remain alive. The stress hormones will prevent your glucose level from dropping too low, as that could cause you to go into a coma and eventually die. 

The problem is that 30% of adults in the U.S. have non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which impairs your body's ability to produce glucose through gluconeogenesis. You also can’t store as much. If your liver function is impaired, you will not be able to store as much glycogen in your liver. Then you have to be more careful about not letting your glucose level drop for too long, because then the stress response will kick in as there is less reserve glucose in your liver.

Note and Disclaimers: 
  • Please do not consider this guide as personal medical advice, but as a recommendation for use by professional providers. Consult with your doctor and discuss with her/him. 
  • Our aim here isn't to replace your doctors' advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information. Do take note that most treatments are not 100% protective or curative against cancer. It's a continuous struggle between the immune system and the cancer cells. Cancer treatments are meant to assist the immune system in this battle.
  • Cancer treatment should be part of a multi-modal approach in order to provide the best possible outcome. Diet and lifestyle changes are meant to run alongside conventional treatment. They are complementary, not alternative. That said, there is no miracle diet that can cure all cancers.

This article is part of the diet and cancer series. Other diet and cancer related articles in the series:

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