A theory persists that cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, generally a highly pro-oxidative process, should avoid or reduce their consumption of antioxidant-rich vegetables. Although there is no evidence to support this theory that vegetable and fruit consumption is somehow contraindicated for cancer patients in treatment, it is often recommended by oncologists. Whether it is a woman with breast cancer or a man with colorectal cancer, the research actually supports improved outcomes for patients consuming more vegetables and fruit (1,2).
Some vegetables, as well as a select number of fruits, appear to have more favorable influences on cancer outcomes than others. As an example of this, the phytonutrients found in brassica vegetables (kale, broccoli, collard greens, arugula, bok choy, and cabbage as examples) have demonstrated significant improvements with increased consumption, in the outcomes for women receiving treatment with tamoxifen (3).
Additionally, many patients experience a wide variety of micronutrient deficiencies and GI disturbances while undergoing chemotherapy. An example of this is the increased occurrence of enteritis that is associated with increased vegetable and vegetable fiber intake by cancer patients (4). While many patients are advised to eat calorically rich foods such as ice cream and other desserts laden with sugar in an effort to prevent cachexia, few are advised to eat a nutrient-rich diet that contains essential micronutrients known to better support the immune system.
In a strange way, it often appears that cancer patients are advised to eat a most unhealthy diet. Liquid Hope® and Nourish® are enteral formulas that are associated with no added sugar, organic, and whole foods, being rich in vegetables. Because of this we often have to advocate for their use by cancer patients. It is important that these patients, their families, and their care providers clearly understand that the supporting evidence rests on eating more vegetables, less sugar, and not the inverse.
~ John Bagnulo MPH, PhD.