Cancer-Fighting Foods: Which Dietitian Do You Trust?

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My friend Pete has lymphoma, and it’s been inspirational to watch him as he works methodically and systematically to kick the cancer’s ass. Pete is doing everything his treatment team recommends– foremost chemotherapy and radiation–and then some: He’s gone beyond the realm of the typical hospital dietitian as he eats an all-organic, mostly vegetarian diet packed with suspected and known cancer-fighting compounds like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

Writing for Diner Journal, fellow lymphoma sufferer Danny Bloomberg goes down a similar road and finds, like Pete, that he’s caught between two worlds: the old-school, cautious approach of the typical hospital dietitian and the more open-ended but sometimes slightly woo-woo ideas of the alternative dietitian.

Bloomberg visits “Dietitian A” at the hospital first and tells her about all the cancer-fighting diets he’s read about online. She’s suspicious of “wacky theories” and non-FDA-approved diet choices, and is more interested in discussing basics like the four food groups and recommended daily percentages:

She scolded me and tapped the desk gently yet firmly. Then she brought out the silicone molds. She flopped the rubbery faux-foodstuffs onto the desk: A serving of broccoli, a serving of green beans, a serving of potatoes. The molds were fleshy and their flat bottoms slapped happily against the desk, jiggling proudly to attention. The colors were wrong and faded. She demonstrated how many vegetables were recommended to eat daily by organizing different combinations of molds on the desk. … Could all that I had Googled and read have been dangerous propaganda perpetrated by evil hippies?… Clearly, Dietitian A wasn’t for me. She was meant for the guy who thinks vegetables are what’s between the burger and the bun.

Casting about for an alternative, Bloomberg visits “Dietitian B” in the Alternative Medicine building and has a wholly different experience:

Dietitian B knew what kombucha was, the Budwig diet and the possible benefits of turmeric and shiitake mushrooms. We discussed supplements and vitamins, and he was curious and enthusiastic. … He drew me goofy diagrams on ruled paper. He advised me to take only one multivitamin with 100% daily values of all the important stuff. He discouraged supplements … but encouraged the use of medicinal plants, fungi, and spices in cooking, as well as moderate juicing. … He encouraged a leaning toward veganism but expressed concern that too strict a diet would lead to slight deficiencies, which could compromise my fragile system. … The difference between the two dietitians couldn’t have been greater. While they both preached from the same doctrine–of moderation–they had completely different styles at the pulpit.

As you might guess, Bloomberg ends up leaning toward Dietitian B, forced to be “a partisan” and choose between the two schools, even though it’s clear he doesn’t regard B as all-knowing or infallible. Maybe, one day in the not-so-distant future, the two dietitians could get together and talk–and learn something from each other.

Source: Diner Journal (article not available online)

Image by Sami Keinanen, licensed under Creative Commons.

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