Hi everyone. Sorry for the website downtime last night and this morning. In a couple hours cavemandoctor.com is going to go down for a short amount of time as the website undergoes major updates. Please bear with me. After this downtime, the site will be easier to read with more features.
As soon as the site is updated and live I will send out a post.
Thank you so much for your support and readership!
As discussed in the last post, Caveman Doctor was recently asked by Cristina if stress caused cancer. Before Caveman Doctor answered this question, he felt it was necessary to tackle the general topic of stress and its damage on the body. Caveman Doctor also just tackled cooking an entire wild duck breast, ate it all and it was delicious, and he is more than ready to also tackle the topic of stress and cancer. There is a lot of tackling going on today for Caveman Doctor.
Stress, Cancer, and the Inflammatory Glue that Keeps them Together
Break-dancing on Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, chronic stress reliever for me, acute stress causer for those watching…
While we don’t have conclusive, high-level evidence to answer the question of “Does stress cause cancer?” due to ethical issues as this would necessitate a clinical trial that in essence would give its participants high amounts of stress and then analyzing their cancer rates (though to a degree this is happening every day), the data is very convincing that the two are intimately linked, though not as intimately linked as the succulent flavor of duck fat and the duck meat that Caveman Doctor just finished eating.
From the last post, we know that stress, more so chronic than acute, causes the release of inflammatory cytokines and damage to our normal tissues. The real question still remains: Does stress cause cancer?
To address this question, we have to go far back in time to 400 BC, when Caveman Doctor was about 2.3 million years old and humans were about 8,000 years into eating a new diet that their bodies were incapable of handling. At this point, Hippocrates, one of the earliest documented physicians, began treating patients with willow tree bark to help their symptoms of pain and fever1. While Hippocrates may not have realized it, he was actually treating these patients’ inflammatory symptoms with aspirin, which is found in the bark of the willow tree. Fast-forwarding 2400 years, we are still prescribing a plethora of medications for inflammation, including aspirin, while we can likely avoid it in the first place by eating a caveman diet and mimicking a modern caveman lifestyle. However, through treating inflammation and inflammatory diseases our knowledge of their connection with cancer has grown considerably, as you will read below.
Caveman Doctor recently was asked the question by loyal reader Christina “Does stress cause cancer?” Caveman Doctor isn’t sure what stress is, so he did some research. Apparently there are different kinds of stresses like acute and chronic stress. Caveman Doctor understood what acute stress was, as he deals with this every day when he is running after animals hunting, running from animals when hunting goes awry, lifting heavy animals that he drags back to camp, talking to cavelady about her feelings, and dealing with drastic weather changes in his little shelter. However, Caveman Doctor was really confused when he read about causes of chronic stress and what people worry about, including webpages on celebrities like Kim Kardashian, The Jersey Shore, and many on where to get the latest Ipad, Ipod, or Blackberry, as he rarely encounters these in his life. Caveman Doctor is spoiled in this way, as he doesn’t need to call anyone, doesn’t have a computer and the inevitable 100 emails a day waiting for him to respond to, and he also has no boss to report to after the hunt. He only reports to his stomach, to make sure it’s full. Also, this topic is so large (like the number of websites dedicated to Kim Kardashian), Caveman Doctor decided to do several posts on it.
Sunset on the beach = stress alleviator
Stress: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
There are several types of stress that we all encounter. Acute stress involves both physical and emotional events, such as being frightened or put on the spot at work, running several sets of sprints, or lifting heavy weights in the gym. We also encounter physical and emotional chronic stress that persists over a longer period of time. This stress would be anxiety concerning your job, financial worries, an annoying mother or father-in-law, frequent long distance running, or general over-exercising. Many, however, often fail to consider the stress, both acute and chronic, from trauma, infections, and foreign pathogens entering our body.
Our body responds to stress by releasing several hormones:
- Epinephrine (adrenalin)
- Cortisol (opposite of insulin, increases blood glucose)
These hormones make us react to the stress with increased strength and speed through increasing our blood pressure, heart rate, and even our blood glucose levels. If you were to picture a potential robber attacking you (or a bear attacking Caveman Doctor), this increase in heart rate and blood pressure will get your blood pumping throughout your body to get oxygen to your brain as you figure out your method of escape and to all your muscles during your sprint away from the danger. The increase in blood glucose gives your muscles and brain a quick source of energy. This is also why you often hear stories of people eliciting super human strength to lift heavy objects in a time of crisis and even why you have seen Hines Ward, threatened by one of the Raven’s defensive backs, run over them and acquire super speed into the end zone as he led the Steelers to multiple Superbowls in the past couple years. Many of you know this as the “fight or flight” response.
There are two important points to note here – the cause of the stress and the response to it. The cause is acute danger, and the response is acute physical activity. Keep this in mind as we will revisit in later in the post. Also, while stress can be emotional or physical, and acute or chronic, over 300 studies show that both emotional and physical stress can elicit a response from our immune system that helps our body “fight” the stress1.
Caveman Doctor was recently talking with some health professionals about the benefits of eating grass-fed beef. One of the other people in the conversation said “Give me just one reason why eating beef is healthy!” Caveman Doctor quickly responded with one word: CLA. Caveman Doctor then explained to them what CLA was and its benefits. Afterwards, the others asked how Caveman Doctor gets more in his diet. Once again, as usual, Caveman Doctor was very confused as to why he would try to get more CLA in his diet. His diet is already naturally full of CLA.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid: Another Reason to Ignore the Food Pyramid and Eat Like a Caveman
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is formed from a simple change in the geometric structure of linoleic acid, a common unsaturated fat found in differing amounts in many foods. While CLA has a structure similar to that of linoleic acid, the manner in which each affects our body is strikingly different. CLA is found in the meat and milk fat (cheese, butter, and dairy products) of ruminant animals and turkey1. If you remember from a previous article, ruminant animals, like cows, are those that have a rumen in their GI tract where grass sits after it is eaten and ferments, with bacteria eating the fermenting leftovers. The cows then end up, for simplicity sake, eating the bacteria and getting nourishment (as noted in the same post, we as humans do not process grass and cellulose in this way and it simply passes through us undigested). The rumen is where CLA is synthesized with the help of the residing bacteria2, with the highest amount found in beef, lamb, butter, and cream, and lesser amounts in turkey and veal. CLA content in fish is minimal and there are near-negligible amounts in vegetable oils (not that any of us actually eat or cook with vegetable oils…).
CLA and Cancer
It was hard for many to believe that a substance from fried beef could help fight cancer, but the results showed otherwise.
CLA has had an unbreakable connection with cancer from the onset of its discovery. CLA was discovered in an experiment where scientists were studying heterocyclic amines and hydrocarbons, which are substances formed in burnt meat shown to cause cancer in laboratory studies3,4. Interestingly, as the scientists were frying up the beef, they uncovered a new substance and eventually it was named CLA. Even more interestingly, as they were experimenting with the goal of creating cancerous substances, they found that this new compound from cooked beef actually stopped the conversion of normal cells to cancer (mutagenesis). It was hard for many to believe that a substance from fried beef could help fight cancer, but the results showed otherwise.
Many studies followed. Most gave mice and rats toxic chemicals that resulted in extremely high rates of cancer and attempted to study how successful CLA was at stopping the development of cancer. The animals were given different diet regimens containing CLA at varying time points (before being given toxic chemicals, during, or after). The studies uniformly showed dramatic decreases in cancer incidence. Human cell lines in lab studies have confirmed these results, also showing a decrease in cancer occurrence. Large human trials remain to be done, but hopefully this will change soon as more and more people realize the importance of diet and nutrition in cancer.
For example, in one study, mice were fed different amounts of CLA and then were given a cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemical that causes breast cancer in most of its victims. After the chemical was given to the mice, 80% of those on a normal diet got breast cancer while only 40% of those consuming CLA were found to have cancer. A 50% reduction in cancer incidence5!
However, not only does CLA work to stop the incidence of cancer, but other studies have shown a massive reduction in the occurrence of cancer spread (metastasis) in mice with prostate cancer. In a different but similarly run study, mice were either given linoleic acid or CLA. Cancer metastases occurred in 80-100% of mice fed the linoleic acid versus only 10% of CLA-fed mice. Once again, a very dramatic difference6.
One study actually compared CLA with other fats, including olive oil and linoleic acid. Olive oil did not stop cancer development in animals exposed to carcinogens while CLA significantly reduced cancer incidence7. Linoleic acid, as you’ll read more on below, did not reduce cancer occurrence.
Caveman Doctor recently received a question asking how best to fight prostate cancer or cure it with diet. Caveman Doctor wasn’t sure how to fight or cure anything with his diet as he merely eats the foods that nature provided him for several million years. Regardless, he decided to take a closer look.
Protect your protector
The Prostate is an exocrine organ of the male reproductive system, whose main job is to secrete prostatic fluid. Prostate literally means protector in Greek. Androgens, which are hormones responsible for male sexual characteristics, act on the prostate to regulate its function. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) regulates the activity of the prostate. This is the hormone that is often blocked with medications that are prescribed for benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), such as Avodart and Proscar.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the developed world, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. Curative therapies usually include surgical resection or radiation therapy, sometimes with the addition of hormone therapy. While these treatments often have some side effects, they are relatively successful when compared to other types of cancers.
Dietary Factors Associated with Risk of Prostate Cancer
Epidemiological data has traditionally associated prostate cancer with fat consumption, however results are inconsistent and far from conclusive1. Prospective study results vary greatly as it is extremely difficult to accurately assess people’s diets through recall mechanisms. Studies often use food questionnaires, which are essentially a series of questions that attempt to assess what a person actually eats. They are prone to considerable error depending on who is filling them out and how the questions are asked2-4, with studies showing some participants exaggerating their intake of certain foods by 230%! Unfortunately, most studies use this technique to examine food intake and results are nearly workless. However, three of the larger studies examining this are:
- A study that randomized over 1,300 men to either a low-fat, high fruit, vegetable, and fiber diet, or gave them a standard brochure on a “healthy diet.” This questionable study fraught with intervention bias showed no impact on PSA and no evidence that a low fat diet affects the incidence of prostate cancer5.
- A study, that asked patients about their dietary habits using food questionnaires and compared this to their risk of prostate cancer6. Their data showed a potential increased risk of prostate cancer with intake of saturated fat and alpha-linoleic acid (found in flax seed and walnuts), yet their conclusions were that we should eat less meat. In Caveman Doctor’s humble opinion, this study was also fairly bogus and it is difficult to draw real conclusions from it regarding prostate cancer and diet.
- A Norwegian study looked at 25,708 men again using food questionnaire techniques, and found no association between energy-adjusted intake of total fat, saturated fat, mono-unsaturated fat or poly-unsaturated fat and the incidence of prostate cancer7. Interestingly and against “conventional” wisdom, a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer was associated with lower fat skim milk compared to whole milk. Skim milk consumption was also associated with larger body mass index. No surprise there, as skim milk removes all the fat, leaving a large unchecked amount of carbohydrates. However, it is still difficult to draw tangible conclusions from this study.
While these studies do not provide conclusive evidence either way, with the knowledge that high-carb diets lead to obesity and chronic disease, it is no surprise that recent data has revealed a correlation with carbohydrate consumption and prostate cancer risk8. This is even truer with high glycemic-value carbohydrates9.
With food measurement issues so prevalent in dietary studies, perhaps we should take a step back and look at the bigger picture.