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Dean Ornish Shows How to Reverse Prostate Cancer with Nutrigenomics

Posted Sep 17 2008 12:03am

Can you reverse prostate cancer and aging by changing your diet?

Well, yes!

These were among the findings from Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues, which he recounts in his groundbreaking new book, “The Spectrum.”

As I mentioned last week, 30 years ago, Dr. Ornish showed us that we can actually reverse heart disease by eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, exercising, meditating, practicing yoga, and being part of a supportive group.

Now he shows us that even cancer and aging can be reversed using the same principles of healthy living and whole foods -- and he shows us WHY this can happen.

In 1996, I went to a small conference on nutrition and health in northern California and heard Dr. Ornish speak.

He spoke plainly and clearly about his compelling research on how we can reverse clogged arteries and prevent the need for bypass and heart transplants simply by changing diet, exercising, and learning how to relax and connect with other people.

“OK,” I thought. “This is it. Clearly, medicine will now take this evidence and change.”

I think Dr. Ornish thought that too.

We have some 400,000 annual invasive bypass surgeries (at a cost of $100 billion a year, proven to be mostly ineffective and to not prolong life) and spend $15 billion a year for Lipitor. And insurance companies and Medicare pay billions of dollars for these surgeries and medications even when they are not even the best treatments.

Why wouldn’t we trade those in for a treatment that is not only MORE effective, but dramatically cheaper and full of beneficial side effects such as weight loss, improved energy, and vitality?

And patients have been seeing these results.

One my patients, a 65-year-old man, developed both heart disease (requiring medications and angioplasties) and prostate cancer.

After working to improve his diet, exercise, and nutritional status for more than 5 years, he had a repeat angiogram that showed his coronary artery blockages were dramatically better.

And his prostate cancer is only a memory.

On his 70th birthday he called me to tell me he felt better at 70 than at 60 and was off all his medications and free of “disease”.

How could this happen -- and happen so consistently with the right treatment?

As Dr. Ornish explains in his new book, when we change our diet and substitute a whole-foods, low-glycemic load, plant-based diet for a high-sugar, trans and saturated fat, nutrient-deficient diet, and just do a bit of exercise, learn to relax and manage stress, and connect to our friends, family and community, we change our GENES.

Let’s look at what his new research shows us.

Telling someone to not use chemotherapy or radiation if they have cancer is generally not good medical practice.

But in the case of prostate cancer, the benefits of treatment of early stage cancer are questionable. Many men elect to take a wait-and-see approach because the treatment often makes them incontinent and impotent. Some progress to more serious cancer, but many others don’t. So this was a perfect model of cancer for Dr. Ornish to study.

At his pioneering Preventive Medicine Research Institute (, he proved that early stage prostate cancer can be slowed, stopped, and even reversed.

He studied 93 men who decided not to have conventional treatment and divided them into two groups. One group didn’t change their diet or lifestyle. The other group made the comprehensive lifestyle changes that Dr. Ornish describes in his new book and that were the basis of his work in reversing heart disease.

He published his dramatic finding that the PSA levels (a marker of cancer) went down in the lifestyle change group but went up in the control group -- and that prostate cancer growth was reduced by 70 percent.

And after 4 years only 6 of the lifestyle change patients needed more aggressive conventional therapy, compared to 21 of the control patients.

But what was even more astounding was the genetic analysis of what happened.

By changing diet and lifestyle, different genes are switched on or off.

That means that eating whole-foods, plant-based diet and doing a little exercise and relaxation literally controls your gene expression.

You can stop or reverse cancer through switching on different genes by changing what you eat.

This is what I talked a lot about in reference to weight in my book “UltraMetabolism,” but it applies to every chronic disease such as cancer or heart disease.

It is called nutrigenomics.

In his life-changing book, “The Spectrum,” Dr. Ornish also tells us of his incredible work with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the pioneers in the study of aging. She and her colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine studied the effects of stress in mothers caring for children with chronic illness.

They looked at the length of the mother’s telomeres -- little repair systems on the end of your chromosomes that protect your DNA.

The shorter the telomeres, the shorter your life.

Mothers with the highest levels of perceived stress (who felt the most stressed), had the shortest telomeres -- equivalent to about a decade of additional aging compared to the mothers who didn’t “feel” as stressed by their circumstances.

Dr. Ornish then applied the comprehensive diet and lifestyle changes described in his book, and found that the telomerase (the enzyme that keeps your telomeres long and healthy) was higher, reversing the aging effects of chronic stress.

So you can literally reverse the effects of stress on your genes and on the aging process by simply eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, doing some exercise, and learning to deeply relax.

When General Motors spends more on healthcare than steel, and Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee beans -- and we have such an effective, low-cost, and PROVEN therapy to stop and reverse diseases like cancer -- we have to ask ourselves what is going on.

Dr. Ornish has been a courageous, persistent, and tireless advocate for change in medicine and his new program to address all chronic disease, not just heart disease, is coming at a time when we need it most.

Despite enormous obstacles, he has contributed fearlessly for 30 years by working to change government and corporate policies and making a difference for millions.

Over the last few years, I have gotten to know and see Dean up close and personal, and rarely have I met a person with more courage, a more generous heart, or clearer vision of what needs to be done and how to do it to change medicine, healthcare policy, the insurance industry, and corporate behavior.

His new book, “The Spectrum,” is a powerful account of his work over the last 30 years and the latest evolution of his work based on how to change your genes and your life by changing your diet and your lifestyle.

Buy his book, give it to your doctor, your congressperson, your friends, and your family. It holds more than 30 years of accumulated wisdom and research and the answer to our healthcare crisis -- and your personal health problems.

You can do so by going to the website below:


Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you agree that you can reverse chronic health problems?

What steps are you taking or planning on taking to reverse chronic disease?

Why do you think this approach is taking so long to adopt and do you have any ideas for helping to implement this faster?

How do you think your own doctor would react to this?

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.

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