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The trillions of bacteria living in our gut (called the gut microbiota) can help determine our risk of cancer, as well as how we might respond to cancer treatment.

Each person’s unique gut microbiota is in constant communication with their immune system. This ensures good bacteria can thrive in the body, while bad bacteria and foreign material are eradicated.

The gut microbiota is therefore critical to making sure the immune system is in the best possible state to fight diseases – from the flu, to serious ones like cancer.

Researchers are now exploring how your unique gut bacteria determine your cancer risk, and whether modifying its composition can control cancer progression and predict response to treatment.

He wants to sell you a $300 ‘fasting diet' to prolong your life. It might not be as crazy as it sounds

LOS ANGELES - He knows he sounds like a snake-oil salesman. It's not every day, after all, that a tenured professor at a prestigious university starts peddling a mail-order diet to melt away belly fat, rejuvenate worn-out cells, prevent diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer - and, for good measure, turn back the clock on aging.…


Michael Thomsen is very familiar with the concepts discussed in this article and is working on bringing the Fasting Mimicking Diet to Australia.

Fasting may improve cancer treatment, but needs further exploration

Veronique Chachay, The University of Queensland

The gold standard treatment for cancer in the last few decades has been a combination of surgery – to remove tumours – and chemotherapy and radiotherapy – to kill cancer cells. With the progress of personalised medicine, where identifying specific mutations in the tumour guides treatment selection, there has been increasing success in survival rates.

But there has been little improvement in reducing side effects on healthy cells caused by chemotherapy, which also limit the dosage that can be administered.

Over the last two decades, research in animals has shown restricting calories - with alternating periods of fasting and feeding – promotes protection mechanisms for healthy cells, while increasing white blood cells that kill cancer cells.

A 2008 study showed mice with neuroblastoma, a common childhood cancer, that had only water for two days before receiving a large dose of chemotherapy, experienced less or no side effects compared to mice fed normally. In another study, tumour cells were killed more efficiently in mice who weren’t fed than in those that were.

Since then, further animal studies and early trials in humans confirmed short-term fasting prior to, and after, chemotherapy treatment reduced side effects. It also protected healthy cells from the toxicity of the drug, while killing cancerous ones.

So does this mean we can use fasting to help with cancer treatment?

Glucose and cancer

Cancerous cells are known to rely on glucose, a type of sugar, for their energy metabolism, rapid growth, and resistance to chemotherapy.

That cancer cells thrive on glucose was first shown by German physiologist Otto Warburg in the 1950s. He also showed they were unable to use fatty acids as efficiently for energy, or at all. This idea of cancer being a disease reliant on rapid glucose metabolism, has reemerged recently.

Under total fasting conditions, where someone only has water, the body initially uses carbohydrate stores, called glycogen, to maintain blood glucose levels, and for cellular energy production. When these stores are depleted, protein from muscle is used to produce new glucose, and fat stores start to be used for energy production.

Cancer cells rely on glucose, a type of sugar, for energy metabolism and growth. from

Body cells that would normally use glucose as their main energy source have the ability to gradually switch to a different fuel: a product of fat metabolism called ketone bodies. This is to spare muscle mass so it is not used too much to make new glucose.

Cancer cells are unable to use ketone bodies efficiently, because the mechanism that would convert ketone bodies to energy does not function well in cancer cells. So under low blood glucose conditions, cancer cells are in effect being starved, becoming more vulnerable to chemotherapy.

Healthy cells on the other hand, can use ketone bodies for energy. They are also protected from chemotherapy side effects because fasting stimulates the expression of genes that promote cellular clean-up and defence systems, called autophagy. This means larger doses of the drug can be administered to better kill cancer cells.

In a case report of ten patients, those who fasted between two and six days prior to, and between five hours and two and a half days after, chemotherapy reported greater tolerance to treatment and less fatigue and weakness. They also reported less gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Fasting didn’t impair the impact of treatment.

But fasting to aid cancer treatment is a difficult balancing act, because malnutrition is a significant problem for many with specific cancers such as head and neck, pancreatic, colon and lung cancers.

Balancing nutrition

Malnutrition in cancer patients is estimated to be as high as 88% depending on the stage of the cancer. This is due to a number of factors, including appetite loss as the disease progresses, side effects of treatment, and cancer’s increased demands on metabolism.

Malnutrition and related weight loss are associated with lower survival rates. Further, the side effects of chemotherapy, which may include severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea increase the risk of malnutrition and related weight loss.

So practice guidelines recommend patients receive enough energy and protein to counter weight loss. For head and neck cancer patients, for instance, the aim is to have 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, which is higher than what’s recommended for an average healthy adult male.

But clinical trials are underway that investigate various fasting protocols, including something called the fasting mimicking diet. This protocol addresses the difficulty of hunger discomfort experienced by patients who fast with water only.

The fasting mimicking diet is a seven-day fasting protocol tailored around chemotherapy treatment. It ensures the provision of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), while significantly reducing the energy intake, in particular from carbohydrates (which become glucose once absorbed) and protein. Patients return to a normal diet after the seven days, thus limiting the impact on weight loss and malnutrition over time.

Less may be more when it comes to dealing with certain cancer cells. Suppressing the specific energy supply that uses an inborn protective mechanism in human physiology to prevent cancer development deserves close investigation.

The Conversation

Veronique Chachay, Research & Teaching Academic, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Lindsay Wu, UNSW Australia

“A glass of red wine a day could keep polycystic ovaries at bay,” said a news headline this week. This and similar reports were based on research from a team in Poland and California that showed high daily doses – 1,500 mg – of a natural compound found in red wine, called resveratrol, could lower steroid hormone levels in women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This, in effect, should lower symptoms of PCOS including weight gain, excess hair, infertility and abnormal menstrual cycles.

This is not the first time resveratrol has been linked to health benefits. Back in 2006, headlines announced a “natural substance found in red wine” could extend lifespan in mice. The internet soon became flooded with online sellers of resveratrol supplements ranging from highly pure, to pills containing mashed up grape skins with very little resveratrol.

The fact resveratrol is naturally found in the skin of red grapes then led to the happy idea that drinking lots of red wine can make you live longer. But unfortunately, resveratrol is found at only trace levels in red wine - so you would need to drink over a thousand bottles per day to obtain the amount of resveratrol found in two 250 mg pills.

Resveratrol is naturally found in the skin of red grapes. Harsha K R/Flickr, CC BY

The 2006 reports - based on a paper published in the esteemed journal Nature – were exciting for science though. Resveratrol turns on an enzyme called SIRT1, which is thought to enhance the age-delaying benefits of diet and exercise. The Nature study showed resveratrol extended lifespan in a mouse, an animal far more complex than the simple organisms the compound had previously been tested on, such as yeast, worms and flies.

Other studies of resveratrol in mice then showed benefits to lifespan, diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and inflammation. So why has resveratrol not been made into a drug yet?

When it is taken as a pill, the liver quickly degrades the majority of resveratrol before it can make it into the rest of the body. This means only a very small amount actually gets to other tissues where it could have an effect. So it would have to be given at very high doses.

But at doses where it can have an effect, resveratrol can cause gut problems such as diarrhoea. Despite this, small clinical trials using resveratrol in humans have shown some benefits to their metabolism, markers of inflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease.

There has also been controversy as to how resveratrol actually works; in particular whether it activates SIRT1, the enzyme thought to delay the ageing process.

David Sinclair, an Australian based at Harvard Medical School, first showed resveratrol could “turn on” SIRT1 in 2003. With a series of papers in quick succession, Sinclair showed resveratrol extended lifespan in yeast, worms, flies, fish, and mice.

Controversy struck when it was suggested resveratrol was working through “off target” effects, meaning it was interacting with enzymes other than SIRT1. As a small molecule with a simple structure, it is likely resveratrol has non-specific interactions throughout the body, especially at higher doses.

Products containing resveratrol range from being highly pure, to pills containing mashed up grape skins with very little resveratrol. Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr, CC BY

But then in 2012, these doubts were assuaged, when mice genetically engineered to be missing the SIRT1 gene were found to be immune to the effects of resveratrol. In 2013, it was found resveratrol binds to and activates SIRT1 in a very intricate manner. So that part is clear.

There are still uncertainties as to how specific it is; such as with the recent study involving women with PCOS. PCOS is a common endocrine condition that occurs when follicles in the ovary, which contain egg cells, swell up and the egg cell itself does not mature properly. The eggs contained in these cysts fail to be released at ovulation, which can cause infertility in women.

PCOS is thought to be caused by high levels of male steroid hormones known as androgens. Key risk factors for PCOS are metabolic problems such as high insulin levels, obesity, insulin resistance, and type II diabetes. Body weight reductions can therefore reduce PCOS risk.

Women suffering from PCOS experience irregular or no menstrual cycle, acne, hair growth and elevated levels of the male steroid hormone testosterone. In the recent study, resveratrol treatment lowered levels of testosterone, and its precursor DHEAS – two key steroid hormonal markers of PCOS.

But it’s actually not clear whether the testosterone reduction was due to a direct effect on the release of the hormone itself. This is because insulin, which at high levels can cause metabolic disease, was also reduced. As with other studies, it may be that resveratrol is actually improving metabolism, with reduced PCOS severity as a secondary side-effect. So there is still a lot we don’t know about the compound.

Should people want to go online and buy resveratrol, be aware it has not yet been approved as a drug by regulatory authorities. Also, plant-based resveratrol extracts such as Japanese knotweed contain a crude cocktail of compounds, some of which may be harmful, with only a small amount of resveratrol. Meanwhile, red grape skin pills are likely to contain vanishingly small quantities.

Stay tuned though: efforts to formulate resveratrol so greater proportions actually reach the rest of the body are underway.

The Conversation

Lindsay Wu, Senior Lecturer, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Natural therapies are likely to actually save the government more money than what they will save. Many of our patients are light users of the public health care system because of the care we provide.

This is just so wrong. Speak up if you think this is wrong!



Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen announced on Friday that from July 1, 2017, taxpayer-funded private health insurance rebates would no longer be available for natural therapies.

The measure would save $180 million over four years, and $704 million over the decade.

Mr Bowen was quick to insist there was nothing wrong with seeking natural therapies like aromatherapy, herbalism or iridology.

“I myself use them from time to time — my personal favourite is the Bowen treatment, I can recommend it to you,” he said.

“But in times of difficult budgetary situations, it is not appropriate for taxpayers to have to fund and subsidise private health insurance cover for these treatments.”

Mr Bowen also announced Labor would continue the threshold freeze for private health insurance rebates for another decade to 2026, saving $2.3 billion.

Well it’s over a month now, since we returned from our fantastic 10 days in Japan!


The Japanese are renowned for their longevity and good health; including so far avoiding the obesity crisis that is the scourge of so many other cultures today.
So we’ve decided to recap some likely contributing factors to this phenomenon.

Firstly, the Japanese have a diet high in fermented foods. Miso soup, pickled vegetables and fermented soy products are a daily consumable for Japanese on a traditional diet. The research into fermented foods, GIT health and the link to helping prevent overweight and obesity is very promising.

The Japanese diet is fairly low in fat. Fried foods exist but are not regularly consumed apart from specialty dishes such as tempura and some street foods.
The diet is also high in seaweeds which are high in iodine; a nutrient important for thyroid health.

The diet is also high in soy products. Good for hormonal health, bone density, anti-cancer properties and a great low-fat protein.

Portion sizes tend to be quite small. A lot of meals consist of simply small “tastes” of a variety of dishes. And the Japanese practice Hara Hachi Bu: Eat Until You Are 80% Full.

Most of us have no idea what 80 percent full feels like. We do know that if we eat until we are full, in 20 minutes we are likely to feel too full, as it takes about that long for the stomach to communicate with the brain just how full it is. But how do you tell when you are “80 percent full”?

DSC03889It takes sometimes 15-20 meals to reset the muscle memory of the stomach to get used to less food and people need to trust that will happen. Most are used to eating until full, which is past satiation and which keeps weight on. We suggest eating just half of what you normally eat and then checking in to see how you feel. Once we begin to feel any stomach pressure we are at the “80 percent full” stage.

The Japanese are also quite physically active. In the cities, the majority of people seem to cycle, walk and use public transport. We saw septuagenarians still cycling and gardening frequently.

So it’s probably not a bad idea to introduce some Japanese “ways” into our daily routines.


common coldOn another note, as always with winter coming it’s always good to consider looking out for your immune health.

Coughs and colds are around again, but a healthy immune system will either help you avoid them altogether or seriously limit their longevity and severity.

Herbs such as Andrographis, Echinacea, Holy Basil, Astragalus and Baical Skullcap among others are renowned for their ability to support the immune system.

These are available for convenience in several good tablet formulations as well as our trusty liquid formulas.

Adequate vitamin D is also important for immune function, especially in Tasmania where it is simply not possibly to get enough winter sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D.

supplementsThe episode broadcast on Four Corners was a wholly-US program that examined the use of dietary supplements from a US perspective, but with limited relevance to the situation in Australia.

The fact is that there are significant differences between the way the US and Australia regulate these products.

In Australia, complementary medicines are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This is considered one of the most rigorous systems for regulating supplements in the world, and companies marketing complementary medicines must comply with a range of TGA requirements.

Features of the Australian regulation of complementary medicines include:

  • Complementary medicines (e.g. fish oil, vitamins and mineral supplements) are regulated as medicines in Australia and must be manufactured to medicinal standards in TGA approved sites
  • The TGA conducts a safety assessment on ingredients in Listed (displaying an AUST L number) complementary medicines
  • Complementary medicines must contain the ingredients listed on the label and no other active ingredients, and they must only be produced from ingredients approved as low-risk by the TGA
  • The TGA routinely conducts manufacturing site inspections, sampling and testing of products in the market to monitor compliance
  • Companies marketing complementary medicines can only make limited claims regarding their effectiveness and are required to hold evidence supporting those claims
  • All complementary medicines legally available for sale in Australia must be included on the TGA's publicly accessible database, the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG)
  • The TGA maintains a rigorous system for recording, monitoring and responding to adverse events for all medicines, including complementary medicines.
  • The features of the Australian regulatory environment are very different to those in the US that were featured in the Four Corners program, and they should give Australian consumers a high level of confidence in the safety and efficacy of their medicines.

Fish oils

The Four Corners program also raised issues in relation to omega-3 fish oil supplements.

The majority of Australian do not eat enough fish, and omega-3 supplements play an important role in helping people to consume adequate marine-sourced omega-3s.

Companies that market fish oil products in Australia must comply with TGA requirements including strict manufacturing standards that maximise the purity of these products.

Australian consumers can be confident that fish oil products available in Australia are of the highest quality as they are required to comply with medicinal manufacturing standards.

As with all medicines, fish oil products must be labelled with an expiry date, and products are required to comply with content standards for the duration of their shelf life.
Source: Australian Self-medication Association

Prescribed herbal and nutritional medicines

We consider the safety of our patients the highest priority. We only prescribe medicines from reputable sources, and only in very limited situations do we recommend medicines produced overseas.

The majority of the herbal and nutritional medicines we prescribe are known as practitioner-only medicines. They are not available directly to the public and need to be prescribed by a qualified health practitioner. These products are often of a higher quality and strength compared to retail products.

As health professionals, we prescribe these medicines in a much more targeted and focused way. We check against potential drug interactions with any pharmaceutical medicine a patient may be taking and we monitor and adjust the combinations and dosages carefully.

We constantly review the prescription ensuring a patient is taking the appropriate medicines and only for as long as necessary.

You are in safe hands when using practitioner-prescribed herbal and nutritional medicines.

Imagine if the amount of sugar you consumed in things like soft drink had nothing to do with how much weight you put on.

Remarkably that is what two of Sydney University's leading researchers found in their 2011 study, The Australian Paradox.

But their much-cited paper has raised questions in the health world and beyond, with many waiting for The Australian Paradox to be revised.

Lateline's Emma Alberici investigated the case for and against sugar.

sugar evilIn The Australian Paradox, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller and Dr Alan Barclay claimed sugar intake had declined for the 30 years to 2010, while at the same time obesity and diabetes had tripled.

The research has been cited 81 times by various academics and journals and it has even been referred to in Federal Parliament.

It has been used to argue against a sugar tax, with the Australian Beverages Council quoting its findings on its website.

Recently, Professor Brand-Miller presented her theory about the harmless nature of added sugar at Sydney University's annual gathering of the world's best science students.

"Something to think about. If it's not the sugar, what is it?" she said.
Australian Paradox graph

But it turned out Professor Brand-Miller and Dr Barclay's data was not quite right. In fact, what they had reported as a fall in consumption of sugar was actually a significant rise.

They had claimed sales of sugary sweetened beverages were down by 10 per cent, but the chart used in their own research actually shows a 29 per cent increase.

After being questioned about it on the ABC's Background Briefing, a correction was issued in the online journal in which The Australian Paradox was published.

In 2014, an external inquiry into The Australian Paradox by one the country's top scientists, Professor Robert Clark AO, cleared Professor Brand Miller and Dr Barclay of misconduct, but it did observe that Dr Barclay's acceptance of a fee from Coca-Cola might not have demonstrated good judgment.

The inquiry recommended a revised paper be published, clarifying the key factual issues examined.

Two years later, the paper still has not been revised.

Professor Brand-Miller says that is because she is waiting for new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that will analyse sugar consumption from national health surveys.

The former 'fatty' turned anti-sugar advocate

Five years ago, Rory Robertson was a self-described "fatty".

Soft drink and junk food were regular parts of his diet and he struggled to keep up with his two young sons.

That was until someone suggested he cut out sugar. In the space of eight months he dropped 10 kilograms.

"Take the sugar out of your diet, you lose the weight easily and you have a happy life. That's where I am today," he said.

When he read an article about The Australian Paradox he was shocked and decided to investigate further.

Mr Robertson is a respected economist with one of the country's biggest banks and he was recruited to work for the Reserve Bank under its Governor Glenn Stevens.

He saw big problems with the data used in The Australian Paradox and has spent the past five years trying to understand why two of Sydney University's most high-profile scientists continue to argue that there was a consistent and substantial decline in sugar consumption.

Mr Robertson wants a retraction of the paper, saying it is a menace to public health, and he has even offered $40,000 to anyone who can prove he is wrong. The money has gone unclaimed since 2012.

"It's true I've been a determined pest on this matter but it was shocking to me that the highest levels of nutrition science in Australia not only can publish whatever nonsense they want, but no-one really has helped me in promoting a retraction of the paper," he said.

Mr Robertson is also concerned that Professor Brand-Miller and Dr Barclay defend sugar in their best-selling diet book promoting Sydney University's Glycemic Index Foundation.

The GI Foundation receives $6,000 from food companies every time they want a low GI health tick on one of their products, and some of the products that carry the tick include Milo, breakfast cereals and raw sugar.
The health experts

Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, is one of the world's leading health experts.

"Sugar is just as bad for you in Australia as it is here in the US. There's no Australian Paradox," she told Lateline.

Earlier this year, Professor Nestle spent two months at Sydney University's Charles Perkins Centre delivering lectures on the perils of food industry-funded research.

She was surprised to learn that the scientists working with the University's GI Foundation were receiving money for giving products the low GI "tick".
Can you beat our sugar quiz?

We're supposed to limit our sugar to six teaspoons a day, but do you know how much of it is hiding in some of our most popular groceries?

"I don't know what to say about the Glycemic Index. People don't eat individual foods, they eat mixes of foods and that changes when you mix foods you get some kind of mixture of glycemic indices," she said.

"When I was in Australia I was extremely amused to see a logo from the Glycemic Index Foundation on a pound of plain ordinary sugar... it had a sticker on it saying it was "better for you".

"Better for me than what? Than white sugar? [It] just doesn't make any nutritional sense to me."

Dr Rosemary Stanton is a nutritionist who has more than 50 years experience.

Lateline asked Dr Stanton what she thought of The Australian Paradox.

"I'd say, ignore it," she said.

Wavne Rikkers analysed the data in The Australian Paradox in her role as a senior researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth.

"Our research shows that the Australian Paradox paper was based on inaccurate data," she said.

Lateline has been in contact with Professor Brand-Miller since early last year about her research. She has not been available for an interview, but she did answer some questions by email.

She said the findings in the Australian Paradox paper were "more valid than ever".

Lateline also sought comments from Sydney University Vice Chancellor Michael Spence and Dr Barclay, but had no response from them.

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Coriolus PSP

trametes versicolor turkey tailCoriolus PSP is a special extract of the spores from the fungus Turkey tail. It’s botanical name is Trametes Versicolor (also known as Coriolus versicolor, or Kawaratake in Japanes, or Yun-Zhi in Chinese). The medicinal plant part is the fruiting body.

The active compounds are known as polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK).

PSP and PSK have been investigated as adjuvant medicines during chemotherapy and radiation. Studies have found that these immune enhancing polysaccharides enhance quality of life of cancer patients.

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