By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Dr. William Li’s TED Talk titled “Can we eat to starve cancer?” is an inspiration, and by walking us through the complex subject of angiogenesis, he makes a strong argument that we can eat to starve cancer.

Angiogenesis simply means the formation and development of blood vessels, and according to Dr. Li, we develop the necessary amount of blood vessels we need throughout life while in the womb, with a few exceptions. New blood vessels line the uterus in women during menstruation and in pregnancy they form the placenta. After injury, new blood vessels form under the skin to create a scab.

The system works on checks and balances. When we need new blood vessels, stimulators are released from preexisting blood cells and when we no longer do, inhibitors are released to prune them back, returning us to our baseline.

If this system is disrupted however, myriad problems can occur. Dr. Li says that abnormal angiogenesis is the root of 70 major diseases. In this column, we’ll focus on how this affects cancer.

Medical scientist Judah Folkman founded the field of angiogenisis research in 1971. He noted that we commonly have microscopic cancer cells in our body but they do not pose a threat and most can’t grow beyond a microscopic size without a blood supply. Folkman called this “cancer without disease.”

But cancer cells have the ability to release what Dr. Li calls “natural fertilizers.” These draw a blood supply to the cancer cells, which then delivers the oxygen and nutrients they need for growth. Unfortunately, by the time these nourished cancer cells are detectable, they have often metastasized to a point that is challenging to cure and potentially lethal.

Dr. Li, excited by the possibility of curing cancer by stopping angiogenesis from feeding cancer cells using antiangiogenic therapy was still unsatisfied with his success rate as the cancer is often found too late. This caused him to dig deeper.

Li asked himself: “Could the answer to cancer be preventing angiogenesis by beating cancer at its own game so it can never become dangerous?” He learned that 90-95 percent of cancers are “environmentally caused” and of those, 30-35 percent are caused by diet.

This led to Li’s quest for cancer prevention through diet: ” … what we have discovered is that Mother Nature has laced a large number of foods and beverages and herbs with naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis,” he says.

Cancer preventing agents are found in foods that are readily available, are effective when eaten in reasonable amounts and are in their natural state. In other words, these foods are potent anti-cancer agents without being consumed in heavy-duty concentrations or in pill form. We can get them while eating a delicious meal. They are proving to be as therapeutic – and in some cases, more so – than pharmaceuticals.

Here is a list of some antiangiogenic foods, beverages and herbs that help prevent cancer cells from growing: apples, avocados, blueberries, grapefruit, broccoli, carrots, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, cocoa powder, tomato sauce, soy sauce, almonds, walnuts, brown rice, quinoa, oats, black and green tea, red wine, turmeric and garlic.

For the most current scientific evidence and a complete list of antiangiogenic foods and recipes, visit Dr. Li’s website eattobeat.org and I encourage you to watch his TED Talk “Can we eat to starve cancer?”

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at rainfordcorcoran@gmail.com.