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Methionine Restriction for Cancer: Is It Right for You?

A ground-breaking UCLA study conducted over forty years ago discovered the “absolute methionine dependency” of many forms of metastatic cancer. According to the researchers back then, breast tissue that was healthy could grow without the amino acid methionine but breast cancer cells could not. Studies done since then on ovarian, colon, skin, GI tract, lung and prostate cancer cells as well as on live tumors have shown similar results.

Despite this clear methionine-cancer connection, diets that specifically restrict methionine still come with some controversy.

If you have breast cancer or other form of cancer, could restricting methionine in your diet be right for you? Here are the facts about this potentially cancer-healing protocol so you can decide for yourself.

What is Methionine Restriction?

Amino acids are essential for almost all bodily functions. After all, they are the building blocks of protein. They also provide cellular structure and strength and assist in wound healing, transportation of nutrients and tissue repair, just to name a few.

Methionine is an amino acid that is found mainly in animal protein sources, including fish, chicken, eggs, dairy and red meat. As it turns out, this particular amino acid may be doing more harm than good when it comes to cancer metastasis.

In the 1974 UCLA study, the researchers substituted methionine with homocysteine, another amino acid, and saw the cancer cell die-off that resulted. One clinical trial that backed up the 1974 UCLA findings was conducted at Houston’s Baylor College in 2001. The Baylor study focused on methionine’s interactions with prostate, lung and GI tract cancer cells, showing promising results.

According to the researchers, “Preliminary findings from this trial indicate that dietary methionine restriction is safe and feasible for the treatment of patients with advanced cancer.”

The study report, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, also found evidence of anti-tumor activity, including one patient with prostate cancer and another with renal cell cancer who both experienced significant reduction in cancer-related activity.

Methionine Restriction: The Cons

All the evidence seems to point to methionine-restriction as a safe, sure way to possibly reduce cancer cell activity, especially for those cancers that do not respond well to conventional treatments.

So what could possibly be the dangers of such a protocol?

Basically, a typical methionine restrictive diet is a vegan diet. It will consist of mainly veggies, fruits and legumes. Of course, I give two thumbs up to any diet that encourages consuming more organic vegetables and legumes, many of which contains hormone-balancing phytoestrogens.

What concerns me most about focusing on methionine restriction for possible cancer healing, however, is that many such protocols rely on consuming a large amount of fruits such as pineapple and papaya to get methionine levels down quickly. This is because fruits such as these have been shown to contain the least amount of methionine. Indeed, these fruits can also be very healing, since they contain anti-inflammatory agents, such as proteolytic (protein-consuming) enzymes.

But most fruits also contain a high amount of glucose. And studies have shown that sugar in the form of glucose can feed cancer. Studies such as the one done at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2012, have also shown that depriving cancer tumors of glucose can lead to cancer cell death.

Every healing journey, just like every person, is unique. Methionine restriction may indeed be a successful protocol for you, depending on the state of your digestive and immune systems and your overall metabolic type. If you decide to go that route, however, be mindful of the proven cancer-glucose connection and be sure to connect with a natural health professional to get all of the facts and some careful monitoring before you proceed.

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