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Sensible Supplements for Immunonutrition

By Alice Villalobos, DVM

For Veterinary Practice News

Highly metastatic cancers can kill their victims despite a timely and complete excision of the primary tumor. This aggressive biologic behavior results from the early dissemination of  scout cells into the lymphatic and circulatory system before detection of the primary tumor.

These abnormal aggressive scout cells acquire an immortal nature, survive the body’s immunosurveillance and are able to develop into new clones of cells that accumulate into metastatic tumors.

The new metastatic clones are often more resistant than the primary tumor because of the hardiness of their progenitor scout cells.

It would be ideal if there were a safe way to fortify high-risk breeds, aging pets and post-operative cancer patients against cancer.

It seems obvious to me and to others in research and clinical medicine that people and animals can, and do, benefit from immunonutrition and/or chemoprevention.

I started using anticancer supplements for my patients in earnest about 12 years ago. The difference in my patients’ physical conditions, quality of life and survival times has been impressive.

Chemoprevention is the concept benefiting high-cancer risk patients by giving natural or synthetic compounds that may reverse or suppress the process of carcinogenesis, recurrence and metastases.

Hundreds of natural compounds have been formulated as supplements or nutraceuticals with claims that they can fight cancer. Some of these compounds have been shown to play a role in the cell cycle to reduce cancer risks. I like to call these natural compounds “foodiceuticals” as well as nutraceuticals to emphasize to clients that they are generally nontoxic and found in nature.

The scientific community is taking a closer look at substances that modify the differentiation of cells and affect the proliferation or the mutation of cells as they progress from inflammation toward malignancy.

The medical and scientific community has found it difficult to reach a consensus about nutraceuticals because these products are not regulated.

Unfortunately, 38 percent of the compounds evaluated for content in the marketplace did not meet their label claim. So, we can’t trust them all.

The National Cancer Institute has formed a Chemoprevention Branch to fund studies testing the efficacy of some nutraceuticals in populations of susceptible and high-risk patients.

It took 70 years for the scientific community to accept that vitamin C cured scurvy. It may take repetitious studies and more time before flavonoids, vitamin C, beta-carotene, NSAIDs, selenium, vitamin A (retinoids), Inositol hexaphosphate, mannose, fucose, beta glucan, fatty acids or antioxidants are credited for their roles in the battle against cancer.

My interest in how nutrition affects cancer was inspired by the work of hundreds of distinguished researchers who have published more than 300,000 articles and papers. They have looked at the effect that antioxidants and fatty acids and hundreds of other natural compounds have on cancer.

Journals such as Nutrition and Cancer and the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Assn. have presented evidence that shows we can place our patients on a better plane of health through nutrition.

Pet owners are constantly searching for the best supplements for their pets, especially when cancer strikes. They often have their pet on 10 to 50 different supplements by the time they come in for consultations.

Pet owners select the supplements based upon variable advice from health-food storekeepers, books, friends, the Internet, nutritional consultants and animal communicators.

It is time for practicing veterinarians to look into the subject of sensible supplementation for their patients to keep the patient’s health in balance.

Dr. Villalobos is a recipient of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian and the UC Davis Alumni Achievement awards. She is president-elect of the American Assn. of Human Animal Bond Veterinarians. She directs Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills and is associated with VCA Clarmar Animal Hospital in Torrance, Calif., and VCA Coast Animal Hospital in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

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As of May 1, 2020, after 48 years of practice, Dr. Alice Villalobos has retired from practice.  We will be available by phone or email for our existing clients and phone consultations only for new clients.  Thank you.

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