The text Understanding Nutrition has explained that free radicals have been linked to abnormal cell growth. A free radical is a molecule with one or more unpaired electrons, which becomes unstable and highly reactive. To regain its stability it needs to find a compound and it steals the missing electron. As many free radicals exist, it is the oxygen-deprived ones that are most common in the human body. This then causes a damaging chain reaction. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating to them one of their electrons and that ends the chain reaction. The danger to free radicals is that they damage cell proteins, alter their functions and the DNA, creating mutations. The body’s own defense system (the immune system) tries to control the damage from the free radicals, but becomes ineffective if the immune system is not healthy. Health problems may occur if free-radical production becomes excessive and if antioxidants are not available, the unrepaired damage accumulates.
“Scientists have implicated oxidative stress in the aging process and in the development of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, cataracts, and heart disease” (Whitney and Rolfes 359). The body is capable of fighting this process with the use of enzymes, but the enzymes need dependent minerals such as selenium, copper, manganese, and zinc to be effective. If there is a deficiency in these minerals for the body to perform the task of neutralizing the oxidants, then it becomes necessary to add antioxidants to the diet. Cancer in particular, can arise when cellular DNA is damaged. The antioxidants can protect DNA from damage and people who have high intakes of fruits or vegetables rich in antioxidants have lower rates in cancer. Carotenoids, vitamin C, and E have promising effects on cancer situations. The FDA examined the available scientific research on antioxidant vitamins and cancer to determine whether a health claim on food labels was necessary. The FDA concluded that diets high in fruits and vegetables containing vitamin A (beta carotene) and C were strongly associated with reduced risks of several cancers. “Yet the FDA has rejected the antioxidant claim, that the reduction in risk could not be attributed directly and solely to the antioxidant effect of the vitamins” (Whitney and Rolfes 362).
Do Doctors Understand Nutrition?
One question that comes to mind in alternative therapy is that, if it works, then why don’t more physicians and hospitals follow that plan? Through personal experience and experiences of others, a common patient remark regarding nutrition coming from their attending physician is: “My doctor told me nutrition is not important and that I can eat whatever I want”. Hospice also documents that statement and more regarding any value to nutrition. Hospice of the Western Reserve held an in-service at Heather Hill Extended Care Facility in Chardon, Ohio to educate the staff whose job it is to deal with dying cancer patients. Hospice documented these statements: “Eating can make a condition worse rather than better…. Food no longer has the value it once had…. Try to explain to the family that not feeding the patient does not mean that you are abandoning the patient…. Dietitians can help change eating issues from curative to eating only for comfort by working with families” (“Partners in Caring”). And as Quillin also points out, since doctors easily delegate patient care to ancillary specialists, and since the doctors are not trained in nutrition, they should also be encouraging the expert’s opinion in nutritional therapy (Quillin 50).
Are cancer patients being told the truth about all treatments available for cancer recovery? It appears from not only the research, but from personal experience, that nutrition is not an option and, in fact, it is even discouraged. Yet, the value to rebuilding a healthy body appears to outweigh destroying a compromised body to the point of death. Cancer research and treatment is a business, and business is interested in profit. Profit comes from good marketing and high sales. My last point to prove this comes from the article, “Advanced Cancer Care–Close to Home” that appeared in the magazine Best of Health. This magazine is a free mailing to inform the community of the latest accomplishments of Lake Hospital System and the University Ireland Cancer Center. Their article offers definitions of both chemotherapy and radiation as follows: “Chemotherapy consists of medications, which are carried throughout the body by the bloodstream, that destroys cancer cells” (“Advanced” 4). And radiation is described by Louis Novak, M.D., Radiation Oncologist, as: “Physicians prescribe radiation to either diminish or destroy a malignant tumor in the hopes of curing the cancer or to increase comfort by alleviating pain and pressure” (qtd. in “Advanced Care” 5). The article goes on further to sugar coat the truth by painting a picture of their “state-of-the-art” radiation and chemotherapy and the comfortable accommodations this facility has to offer. In fact, one patient is interviewed and praises the “lovely building” she had treatments at, yet there is no mention of how effective the surgery and treatments were. There is no mention of side effects or nutritional needs and this magazine appeals to easing fear, because the Lake/University Ireland Cancer Center has the answer. Is it any wonder that the public thinks they are being told the truth about cancer?