What are antiangiogenic foods?

Eat them to starve cancer

March 18, 2011

TEDx Manhattan recently hosted “Changing the Way We Eat,” a day-long event that brought together an impressive roster of individuals and organizations who are working on strategies and innovations to improve American eating habits and our food system.

Despite the complexity of this challenge, TEDx Manhattan speakers presented ideas that were inspiring, exciting, and positive, pushing toward high-impact changes in our health and eating habits.

Among these speakers was Dr. William Li, the president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. Angiogenesis, by definition, is the formation of new blood vessels, miles of which are in the average adult human body. The continuous creation of new vessels can lead to the development and proliferation of cancer.

“Angiogenesis is what makes the difference between a small, innocuous cancer and a runaway, dangerous disease,” says Li. Our bodies carry thousands of microscopic dormant tumors on a constant basis. Thankfully, our immune systems naturally prevent them from becoming larger and potentially harmful through the process of angiogenesis and vessel growth.

Li came to the TEDx event to talk not about cancer itself but about the intersection between good food and good health — and particular foods that actually have the potential to “starve” cancer through the process of antiangiogenesis, preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor.

I confess that this concept was totally new to me. But having close relatives and friends who have fought cancer — all of whom are leading healthful lives today with wholesome diets — I was intrigued, on both a personal and a professional level, by Li’s research and his Eat to Defeat Cancer campaign.

Most of us have heard for years about the potential cancer-fighting benefits of antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, cherries, artichokes, apples, nuts, and green tea, to name a few. Li explained that research is still being conducted on whether antioxidants are significantly effective in preventing cancer. But his foundation’s research on foods that affect antiangiogenesis is compelling.

Studies have found that Asian-American women who ate soy at least once a week over their lifetimes reduced their breast-cancer risk by 60 percent. This finding turns on its head the standard notion that high soy consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Chinese women who drank a cup of green tea three or more times a week lowered their colon-cancer risk by 34 percent. Other recent research finds that cocoa and chocolate are not only high in flavonols (antioxidants), but they also reduce markers of angiogenesis. Citrus and grapes bear similar traits.

All types of citrus, such as these cara cara oranges, are on Li’s list of antiangiogenic foods.

And here’s a newsworthy tidbit that should get cheese-obsessed foodies particularly excited: A marker in cheese known as vitamin K2 also has properties that inhibit tumor blood-vessel growth. A European study found that individuals who consumed higher quantities of cheese throughout their lives decreased their risk of cancer, particularly lung and prostate cancer. Specific types of northern European cheeses, such as Swiss Emmental, Dutch Gouda, and Jarlsberg, showed particular benefits.

Li’s foundation is not only looking at specific foods but also at how certain cooking and heating methods impact a food’s antiangiogenic capacity. You can stay updated and learn more about research and upcoming events at the Eat to Defeat website.

Can we take Li’s research and implement it into our daily diets without over-thinking things? Yes, and relatively easily. The good news is that if you’re basing your diet on fresh fruits and vegetables (like the many mentioned in Li’s list, above) and have a solid rotation of healthy oils, spices, some wine, chocolate, and cheese here and there, you’re well on your way to preventing disease risk.

Take notice of what’s not on the list, too: fried and processed foods and animal fats (save for a bit of that cheese). This isn’t surprising, of course, but it’s worth reiterating. Keeping ingredients and meals simple and varied can serve as a great dietary insurance policy.

There are 9 comments on this item
Add a comment
1. by anonymous on Mar 19, 2011 at 11:35 PM PDT

Shouldn’t your headline be “antiangiogenic” not “angiogenic”?

2. by anonymous on Apr 13, 2011 at 6:37 PM PDT

Re the below excerpt, having soy once a week doesn’t to me, at least, constitute high levels. High levels are when you have soy protein in your breakfast milkshake and/or protein bar every (or every other) day, soy milk in your cereal, phony soy ‘meat’ in your burger or entree, etc...perhaps because you’re afraid to feel? To have a real body? To risk living life on the hoof (pardon the pun)? OK, I’m jumping to conclusions that are not mine to make. But once-a-week soy isn’t overdoing.

3. by anonymous on Apr 13, 2011 at 6:37 PM PDT

The excerpt:
Studies have found that Asian-American women who ate soy at least once a week over their lifetimes reduced their breast-cancer risk by 60 percent. This finding turns on its head the standard notion that high soy consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer.

4. by anonymous on May 29, 2012 at 8:47 PM PDT

K2, the “marker in cheese,” is a fat-soluble compound found in the fat of pastured animal products: dairy, eggs, and meat, particularly organ meat. It’s also available in natto, a fermented soy product that most Western eaters find unpalatable. Another animal-source anti-angiogenic, glucosamine, is on the list. Other animal-source fat-soluble vitamins are already known to have anticancer effects through other pathways than anti-angiogenesis.

Li is working with Dean Ornish - so animal-source anti-angiogenics will be minimized wherever possible. It’s helpful to remember that many traditional eaters of high-fat, high-meat diets have little or no cancer.

More importantly, anti-angiogenics are just part of the prevention picture, and the best diet is not going to prevent all angiogenesis. The goal should also be to prevent more of those harmless, tiny cancers Li mentions, and intake of good-quality fats and animal-source fat-soluble vitamins is crucial.

5. by Jerry Uderson on May 30, 2012 at 4:38 AM PDT

Thanks for sharing this useful post

6. by Jerry Uderson on May 30, 2012 at 4:38 AM PDT

Thanks for sharing this useful post

7. by Aya on Feb 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM PST

concerning these antiangiogenics , they help as protective only or as treatment ??

8. by Pondering Granny on Sep 10, 2013 at 7:03 PM PDT

I question the soy recommendation since most soy beans grown in the USA are from Monsanto GMO seeds.
It is going to get worse in trying to avoid GMO produce, since the FDA and USDA both state that they will not make the grower label their GMO products as being GMO.

If you are not familiar with why we should avoid all GMO produce, google France’s 2 year study on effects of feeding GMO produce to rats & mice and
India’s study on same which led them to ban all of
Monsanto’s seeds from India. India found that litters delivered by their study subjects were smaller in number and birth weight. Most chilling of all is that after only 3 generation of being fed GMO produce - there were no litters - this my friends, is planned extinction by the producers of these GMO seeds.

9. by Ruthe on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:47 AM PDT

We need to remember that angiogenesis is a vital part of our body’s development and healing system and we should not try to completely shut it down, especially in kids and patients healing from surgery.

However, since I do have diagnosed cancer, I am doing all I can to eat a well-balanced diet (with no GMOs) and not eat certain minerals, such as copper, that promote angiogenesis. I take a multi-vitamin that does not contain copper, eat organic chocolate (it is not cooked in copper kettles), and do not eat cashews (they contain copper).

I feel it is not one thing that will prevent or cure cancer. A lot of little things we do everyday like eating well, exercising and reducing stress will help us live healthier, active lives even if we do have cancer.

Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Dinner Guest

The gamification of cooking

Earning points

Most of the time with cooking and eating, the rules are clear.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice