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What Do Experts Say About Specialized Diets for Myeloma Patients?

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Published on March 8, 2019

Some multiple myeloma patients adopt an alternative diet after diagnosis in an effort to take back control of their body. What do experts say about “special” diets? Are patients on alternative diets getting enough nourishment? Watch now to hear oncology dietitian Alexa Welch, from the University of Iowa Health Care, give an expert perspective on diet, nutrition and sugar intake during and after myeloma treatment.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank AbbVie, Inc., Celgene Corporation, and Takeda Oncology for their support.

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Transcript | What Do Experts Say About Specialized Diets for Myeloma Patients?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:                     

Alexa, you keep saying, fruits and vegetables, balanced diet and all that but patients we have, friends in the myeloma community, they say, “Well, I'm gonna do this special diet,” in their effort to take back control where cancer has tried to take control away from them. So, how do you feel about special diets, whether it's meat, vegan, how do you feel about that?

Alexa Welch:                         

So, some of those diets just end up being overly restrictive or totally cut out certain food groups. There's just not enough evidence out there to support any of those restrictive diets actually really helping. Cutting out food groups like that sometimes results in weight loss, which as I have mentioned a few times before, that's definitely not the goal. We don't want you losing weight, don't want you losing muscle.

And a lot of times when you're sick and you have cancer and you're going through treatment anytime you're losing weight, unfortunately, it's muscle loss, it's not fat loss. So, then again, that results in weakness and poor outcomes as far as response to treatment and recovery.

So, yeah, some of those special diets, I would have to take it patient by patient if they feel very strongly about it. But, yeah, a lot of times they’re just really restrictive on certain food groups that they can’t have or should cut out totally. So, I don’t usually recommend those.

Andrew Schorr:                     

So, a couple of questions, maybe these are myths or not. So, some people have wondered does sugar intake feed the cancer cells?

Alexa Welch:                         

So, a lot of the foods that we eat, all carbohydrate food—so, whether it's fruits, grains, rice, milk has carbohydrates in it. Any carbohydrate that we take in will break down into a molecule called glucose, which all of our cells in our body need glucose to function properly it's the energy that they use.

So, whether those carbohydrates are coming from sugar, artificial sugars, or added sugars or natural sugars from fruits, they all break down to glucose. We cannot control which cells get the glucose that we take in, once we eat it our body does what it will and so the cancer cells just happen to be very glucose hungry all the time.

So, they will take up and use a lot of that glucose. That being said, if you're not eating enough glucose or not eating enough carbohydrates in general your body will break down your muscle stores to get that glucose and that is why you don't want to be restricting certain food groups especially carbohydrates because the rest of your body still needs the energy to carry on the normal functions of everyday life.

So, you shouldn't be cutting out some of those food groups, like the carbohydrates that are fueling the rest of your body too.

Andrew Schorr:                     

Another question, juicing—so, people have all kinds of – there are juicers you can buy and your best friend down the street will say, “Oh, you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you should be juicing carrot juice, and this juice, and that juice.” Any comment about that?

Alexa Welch:                         

Yes. So, I just don't see what the issue with eating the whole food is. The whole fruit or the whole vegetable that you're juicing, you're taking out a lot of the fiber, you're taking out what keeps you full the substance to it. So, then you're having to spend a ton of money on groceries to get less benefits if you ask me because you're taking out again that fiber that's very beneficial for keeping you full, helps cholesterol.

So, those are not things that you want to be leaving out of those foods that you're taking in. You still get all the vitamins, all the minerals from those fruits and vegetables. But yeah, eating the whole thing is more beneficial.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.