Molecular medicine has finally been joined by molecular nutrition which is being brought to us by Dr. William Li, MD, New York Times bestselling author of EAT TO BEAT DISEASE: the New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. Perhaps you have seen Dr. Li’s Ted Talk or one of his YouTube video presentations.
Dr. William Li is a Harvard-educated doctor of internal medicine who has dedicated himself to bridging the gaps between medical treatment and nutrition for 20 years. More than two decades of research and experimentation have helped him identify more than 200 foods that actually work with our body’s five defense systems to fight off diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and dementia to name a few. Dr. Li cites the specific components he calls BIOACTIVES in the foods he recommends that promote health.
Eat to Beat Disease is NOT a diet book about food deprivation and restriction. It is a guide showing you the EVIDENCE behind OVER 200 FOODS that support the body’s 5 defense systems. Note: Many foods and beverages impact more than one defense system.
Your body’s 5 defense systems
Angiogenesis (and its opposite, anti-angiogenesis) is all about blood vessels and which foods increase or decrease the number of blood vessels depending on the impending health challenge or current disease.
Regeneration is all about stem cells and which foods increase stem cells that are deficient in problems involving cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, etc. and which foods reduce cancer stem cells that are responsible for patient’s losing a remission after successful treatment. Note: foods that target cancer stem cells do NOT harm beneficial stem cells.
The gut microbiome is all about the balance of good and bad gut bacteria with prebiotic and probiotic foods. Disruptions of the gut microbiome are observed in people with inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, brain inflammation as in depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia as well as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, etc. We know that eating certain foods can help shape the bacterial population from bad to good.
Dr. Li points out that a gut bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila makes up 1 to 3 percent of all the gut bacteria in our gut microbiome. Akkermansia controls the immune system, improves blood glucose metabolism, decreases gut inflammation and combats obesity. Patient with some forms of cancer are now receiving immunotherapy cancer treatments called checkpoint inhibitors which harness a person’s own immune system to wipe out the cancer. However, checkpoint inhibitors did NOT work if cancer patients did not have Akkermansia in their guts. Akkermansia is influenced by ingesting pomegranate and cranberries.
Two products that I like to take for – hopefully, increasing Akkermansia:
1) PomaMax Pomegranate Concentrate by North American Herb and Spice.
2) Cranberry concentrate juice by Lakewood, which is organic.
2 kiwifruits a day for four days (total of 8 fruits) increased lactobacillus in 24 hours by 35% and bifidobacteria increased by 17% in 4days. Both are beneficial gut bacteria that increase SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids) which help lower inflammation. I am buying kiwi’s from New Zealand (available at Costco and Trader Joes) which have smooth skin and very little fuzz. I am eating the fruit with the skin – delicious.
Bean eaters had an 81 percent DECREASE in harmful bacteria that break down the protective mucus in the gut. There are plenty of other foods from which to select for those adhering to diets that exclude beans.
4) DNA protection
Foods that protect and lengthen telomeres protect your DNA. DNA is a superhighway of information that needs to be protected, repaired, and in some cases rerouted to fight the assaults of our environment and aging. Nuts and seeds lengthen telomeres. Those with diets that least resembled the Mediterranean Diet had shorter telomeres. An interesting study of 6,000 men and women in the MESA study (The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) looked at 12 different categories of food and the only one food associated with SHORTER TELOMERES was PROCESSED MEAT.
A BROKEN immune system opens the door to infections and cancer. There are foods that stimulate the immune system and foods that calm the immune system. We have seen in COVID-19 what happens in the cytokine storm when the immune system cannot keep up with the viral load and swings into overactive, leading to the systemic destruction of organs.
Dr. Li’s 5 x 5 x 5 strategy framework
One can follow a number of good diets or diet plans and still incorporate many of the foods Dr. Li suggests – many of which you already love – to activate your body’s 5 health defense systems. What sets this book apart from many others is Dr. Li’s references to the exact studies supporting his conclusions and suggestions. This book is for those wanting evidence-based documentation.
Dr. Li’s system is called the 5 x 5 x 5 strategy that supports the 5 health defense systems. There are 5 health defense systems, we may eat 5 times a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and possibly a snack and desert), and we should include a food that supports each of the 5 health defenses with each meal and snack – hence, the 5 x 5 x 5 strategy.
His approach is adaptable to whatever diet plan you are currently following including Paleo, Whole 30, Ornish, low-carb, plant-based, gluten-free, allergen-free, or ketogenic.
For those of us who want to know WHY we eat foods that are supposed to be beneficial, Dr. Li’s explanations make learning fun and compliance easy. He is very generous with charts containing foods for each of the 5 health systems he describes.
So, if you like coffee, green tea – especially matcha green tea – dark chocolate, etc., you will love Dr. Li. He even has some surprising things to say about soy as well as beer and wine in moderation although I feel cancer patients should never drink alcohol.
I walked away from Dr. Li’s book, Eat to Beat Disease, feeling empowered regarding all of the good things I already include in my diet and the new additions as a result of his influence.
Disclaimer: Only MD’s by law can make medical claims. Therefore, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this post are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician (preferably a physician practicing functional medicine) or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.