There are normal cells in your body that will never become cancer cells but which may still increase your chances of succumbing to a tumor.
Until recently, medical researchers didn’t fully understand the function of these cells. They were thought to be largely inactive.
Now, however, studies are showing that far from being passive bystanders, under certain conditions these cells release chemicals that spur on the growth of life-threatening tumors. They can also fuel the spread of cancer around your body.
These villainous cells are fat cells.
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Adipose tissue, the basic body fat that you carry around your middle and in other areas, used to be thought of as quiet storage deposits that the body could use for energy sometime in the future.
That viewpoint is gone with the wind.
Research demonstrates that these cells produce hundreds of hormones called adipokines that enter the blood and travel to other tissues. And an investigation at York University in Canada shows that when you carry around too much extra body fat, these hormones increase your risk of deadly cancers.1
On the other hand, if you can keep your weight under control, the fat cells release adipokines that may have the opposite effect – restricting the potential growth of cancer.
“Our research has found that the characteristics of hormones produced by fat cells in obese people can promote breast cancer growth, whereas in lean people it prevents growth,” says researcher Michael Connor. “The characteristics of those hormones differ depending on whether the person is lean or obese, and that determines whether the cancer grows or not.”
Countering the fat effect
The York researchers, however, found there’s a straightforward way to offset the harmful function of these fat cells in folks who are overweight: exercise.
“Our study shows that voluntary and rigorous exercise can counteract, and even completely prevent the effects on cancer growth that are caused by obesity,” says Connor. “We also show that even moderate exercise can lead to slowing of breast cancer growth and that the more exercise you do, the greater the benefit.”
Meanwhile, other researchers have found that fat cells have additional nasty tricks up their sleeves that render cancer more likely to be lethal.
Researchers at American University have found that, as your weight increases, a dangerous communication can begin between your fat cells and cells of multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms from white blood cells.2
The result is that the fat cells grow bigger and secrete proteins that encourage further growth of the cancer. As this cycle progresses, the cancer cells become more adept at sticking to bone marrow where they continue to grow and create blood vessels to help them get nutrients they need. And a well-fed cancer tends to spread.
All the while, the fat cells, the researchers discovered, support the growth and spread of the cancer cells. And the more fat cells that are in the body, the more extensive becomes the cancer’s supply of helpful blood vessels.
The fat pad is a launching pad
That fat you acquire around your middle, and which covers an area that goes from your stomach to the area over your intestines, can supply nutrients and other substances that accelerate the growth and distribution of cancer that proliferates in that part of the body.
A study at the University of Chicago shows that this is true of ovarian cancer, which is number five on the list of cancers that kill women.3 This type of cancer generally stays within the abdominal cavity. And in four out of five cases, by the time these growths are diagnosed, they have worked their way into the fat cells covering the stomach and intestines. This resulting growth in the fat pad is usually more substantial than the original cancer in the ovaries.
“This fatty tissue, which is extraordinarily rich in energy-dense lipids (fatty acids), acts as a launching pad and energy source for the likely lethal spread of ovarian cancer,” says researcher Ernst Lengyel, “The cells that make up the omentum (the fat around the abdomen) contain the biological equivalent of jet fuel. They feed the cancer cells, enabling them to multiply rapidly.”
The researchers discovered that proteins released by the fat cells act like homing devices, calling to cancer cells and pulling them in.
Then, after the ovarian cancer cells make contact with the fat cells, they rapidly develop the cellular tools that let them consume energy from the fatty tissue more efficiently. In a short time, their cellular metabolism becomes reprogrammed so that the fatty acids from the fat cells fuel the cancer’s accelerated growth. Soon, the fat pad of the abdomen becomes a deadly mass of cancer.
When cancer hides
Even when fat cells aren’t releasing substances that help fuel cancer growth, they can make cancer more dangerous in other ways.
In an examination of how leukemia stem cells resist being killed by chemotherapy, researchers at the University of Colorado found that these cells can hide out in fatty tissue and change the fat cells in a way that helps the leukemia stem cells survive.4
As I have repeatedly warned, one reason cancer can be so hard to eradicate is that even after a treatment like chemotherapy seems to wipe out all the obvious cancer cells, cancer stem cells – which can regrow into tumors – lurk in the body waiting for their chance to make a deadly comeback.
In their tests, the Colorado researchers were trying to better understand why obese leukemia patients died more often from this type of cancer than did people with a healthy weight.
In lab studies, the scientists found evidence that when you have leukemia, your fat tissue does not always contain a typical mixture of ordinary cancer cells mixed with cancer stem cells. Instead, the adipose tissue may be densely populated with cancer stem cells.
Surprisingly, these stem cells don’t behave like the leukemia stem cells that are found in bone marrow. They were observed to fuel their survival and expansion with fatty acids from the fat cells. They also released microscopic signals that caused the fat cells to release extra fatty acids that they could consume and oxidize (burn) for energy.
“The basic biology was fascinating,” says researcher Craig Jordan. “The tumor adapted the local environment to suit itself.”
When chemotherapy attacked, the cancer stem cells feeding off the fatty acids were better at resisting its effects than stem cells that weren’t in collaboration with fat cells. The researchers believe the interplay between fat tissue and stem cells is an important factor that makes this type of cancer cell so hard to eradicate.
Zap the cancer collaborators
If you really want to improve your odds against developing cancer – and turning out to be the perfect host — one of your best strategies is to keep your weight down.
- Exercise is a must. And it only has to consist of daily walking. As the researchers at York University explain, exercise can change the substances given off by fat tissue. Even if you don’t lose weight.
- Don’t eat late at night. Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere have demonstrated that food eaten at night disturbs the body’s circadian rhythm and may result in the creation of more body fat.5
- Keep your thermostat turned down and expose yourself more often to cold weather. Research at Wayne State University in Detroit shows that encouraging your body to produce more internal heat can convert at least some of your harmful white fat to less problematic brown fat – which burns calories instead of just storing them.6
- Intermittently fast, even if it only means not eating for 18 hours or eating very few calories one day a week. A variety of studies have shown that fasting can help control weight and lower the risk of cancer.7,8
Unfortunately, when you carry extra pounds, it’s not just a cosmetic problem.
That surplus body fat can mean the difference between good health and bad.
Don’t give cancer any extra places to hide or feed itself. Walk, run, swim, bike, hike – do whatever exercise you enjoy to give your body a better fighting chance.
Another way to do that is to eat fresh, healthy herbs and spices. Our last issue talked about the best ones to grow at home in a sunny window or on your patio. We’re rerunning it just below if you missed it.
Grow Your Own Cancer-Fighting Super-Foods…
No Green Thumb Required
Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to find these potent healers. Of course, he found America instead. Hippocrates, called the Father of Modern Medicine, believed this food was the best medicine.
But guess what? You no longer have to traverse oceans to find herbs and spices. You can grow many of them on your patio, or even an indoor shelf or table.
Fresh, raw herbs not only add flavor to meals without adding calories… they can also heal your body – often just as effectively as mainstream treatments, and without any negative side effects.1 Here’s a quick guide to how to grow your own. . .
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Which ones should you grow?
Between 1970 and 2005, Americans doubled their consumption of herbs and spices. The increasing popularity of ethnic cuisines helped spur this growth.2 We’re not a plain meat-and-potatoes country anymore.
But while you may enjoy eating Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Asian foods, do you know which herbs and spices lower your cancer risk and reduce tumor size?3
Here are the ones that are easy to grow and have medicinal value. . .
Turmeric is arguably the most potent cancer-fighting herb. In fact, it outperforms many pharmaceutical drugs.4
Cancer tumors survive by feeding off a network of blood vessels. Turmeric’s powerful component curcumin chokes off cancer cells by cutting off their blood vessel network.5 Curcumin not only kills cancer cells, it also helps prevent more from growing.
Turmeric seems to be most effective at killing breast, bowel, stomach, and skin cancers. It also heals pre-cancerous colon polyps.6
Plus, it’s a general anti-inflammatory that eases arthritis and helps prevent Alzheimer’s.7
To incorporate turmeric into your diet, try dry-rubbing it onto chicken or vegetables. Or add a teaspoon or two to soups, sauces, or stews.8
How to grow:
Because it’s a tropical plant, turmeric won’t tolerate climates colder than 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s a must to keep it inside during cold weather.
Plant each root (tuber) 12 to 16 inches apart and 2 inches deep in loose potting soil. Point the buds or knobs up.
Keep the pot damp, but not sopping wet. Your plant will sprout best with morning sun and a little afternoon shade.
Leave a few plants in the soil after harvest for a new crop next year.
Basil kills viruses and bacteria, and prevents cell mutations and tumors.9
Research shows that tea made from holy basil shrinks and contains tumors in mice, according to Dr. Pratima Nangia-Makker, a researcher at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
Based on her study, Dr. Nangia-Makker recommends drinking a cup of holy basil tea every day. Steep 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the leaves before drinking.
How to grow:
Basil grows well in containers on a patio, in pots near a sunny window, or in your garden.
Plant seeds 18 inches apart and 1/4-inch deep. Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Water regularly, but don’t over-water. Remove buds before they flower to stimulate ongoing production.
The more leaves you harvest, the more the ones leave behind will grow. If you plant outside, harvest completely before the first autumn frost. In fact, you’ll want to harvest (or cover the plant) before nighttime temperatures drop below 40, as it’s not very cold-tolerant.
Since basil is an annual herb, you’ll need to replant each season.
Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, and leeks) contain natural plant chemcials called organosulfur compounds. This is what makes you cry when you chop them. It’s also what strengthens your immune system and helps prevent cancer, especially stomach cancer.10
Garlic also lowers your risk of ovarian, colon, breast, skin, uterine, esophageal, and lung cancers.11
In Japan, a study found that eating garlic reduced the size and number of cancerous growths in people with colon polyps. Crushed fresh garlic is the most effective, but you’ll need a lot of it… up to five cloves a day.12
How to grow:
Garlic is tolerant of frost, and also repels bugs.
Break cloves away from the bulb a few days before planting, keeping the papery husk intact. Plant the cloves in a sunny location with root end down, about four inches apart and deep enough that the top barely sticks above the ground.
In areas with hard frosts, you want to plant them about a month or six weeks before the ground freezes in the fall and use plenty of mulch. But garlic can also be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the late winter/early spring. Both are acceptable.
Water them every few days from mid-May through June. Cut off any flower shoots.
If you leave the smaller plants in the ground at the end of the season, you’ll get a new crop next year.
Note: Order bulbs from a non-GMO seed company or organic nursery. Grocery store garlic is treated to lengthen shelf life and won’t grow as well.
Fresh ginger contains a substance called gingerol. Dried ginger forms another substance called zingerone. Both gingerol and zingerone decrease inflammation and protect from cancer.
Ginger kills ovarian cancer cells better than traditional chemotherapy, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.13 Other studies show it stops tumors from growing in the first place.14
Plus, ginger helps relieve nausea, regulate blood pressure, and reduce arthritis pain.15
Try grating fresh ginger into lentils or rice when cooking. Or steep thin slices in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes for a cancer-fighting tea.16
How to grow:
Unlike garlic, you can plant ginger from your local grocery store. It’s best to use the greenish colored tips.
Ginger is susceptible to cold, so it’s best to plant it in a pot that you can bring inside once temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Ginger grows best in full shade with rich, loose soil (manure and/or potting soil is a must).
Plant early in the spring. Cut off a one- to two-inch piece with at least one bud (rounded point), and allow it to dry for a day or two before planting.
Once dry, plant each section one foot apart and one inch deep. Water thoroughly, but not too often.
Harvest your ginger when the foliage dies back in the fall. Leave a few smaller plants in the ground, for next year’s crop.
I’ve written before about the dangers of eating charred meat. Chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meat is cooked at high temperatures (on the grill, for example). HCAs boost your risk of cancer.
But marinating your meat with oregano before cooking helps prevent HCAs from forming.
Oregano also acts as a natural disinfectant for your body, and helps to prevent the spread of cancer.17
How to grow:
If you start oregano from seed, germinate the seeds inside until the plants are about six inches tall – then plant them outside.
Oregano prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant, so you only need to water occasionally. Remove flower buds before they bloom.
Since it’s a hardy perennial, oregano usually comes back year after year with little effort.
As with oregano, rosemary helps protect against cancer-causing HCAs when used as a marinade for meat.
Rosemary contains two powerful antioxidants that destroy HCAs, according to researchers at Kansas State University.18 These same two acids – carnosol acid and rosemarinic acid – also protect your DNA and prevent cancer cells from reproducing.19
Rosemary is most effective against leukemia and small cell lung, prostate, liver, and breast cancers.20
How to grow:
Outside in warm climates, rosemary can grow into a three-foot-high bush. But there’s no need for a plant that large to provide you with seasoning.
Plant rosemary seedlings two to three feet apart in full sun and well-drained soil. For best results, add a slow-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer at planting and periodically afterwards. Allow soil to dry out between waterings.
Like oregano, rosemary is a perennial. It doesn’t necessarily need to come inside during the winter. But if you leave it outdoors, place it behind a protected wall and cover it with mulch to insulate the roots.
The Bottom Line
Not only will these herbs help you ward off cancer and protect you from other diseases, but they’ll flavor your foods in ways you’ve never experienced before if you haven’t used fresh herbs. Just go out and pluck them moments before using them. You can’t ask for fresher.
Plus, they’re a lot cheaper than the fresh herbs in your store’s produce section. So what are you waiting for? Get your new herb garden growing today.