Dr WILLIAM LI details the diet that will keep your disease-fighting stem cells ...

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() After years of listening to ever-changing advice on healthy eating, it can be easy to become confused about what foods you should include in your diet in order to optimise your wellbeing.

All this week, the Daily Mail is serialising a ground-breaking new book by U.S. doctor and scientist Dr William Li, who has immersed himself in the study of how certain foods can help us fight disease.

His lifelong work is centred on the study of the body’s five key defence systems — immunity, stem cells, gut bacteria, blood vessels and DNA protection — and research that identifies the specific compounds in certain foods that support them.

All this week, the Daily Mail is serialising a ground-breaking new book by U.S. doctor and scientist Dr William Li, who has immersed himself in the study of how certain foods can help us fight disease (file image)

All this week, the Daily Mail is serialising a ground-breaking new book by U.S. doctor and scientist Dr William Li, who has immersed himself in the study of how certain foods can help us fight disease (file image)

He has sifted through research to provide scientifically backed advice.

Yesterday, he discussed how food can actually be prescribed in specific doses to help fight certain diseases.

So what can damage your stem cells? 

SMOKING: Habitual smoking depletes the number of stem cells stored in the bone marrow, reducing their ability to multiply themselves by as much as 80 per cent. Just 30 minutes of exposure to tobacco smoke exhaled by someone else is enough to stun your stem cells, rendering them dysfunctional for up to 24 hours.

HEAVY DRINKING: Binge-drinking large amounts of alcohol lowers the activity of brain stem cells in the part of the brain which is responsible for building short and long-term memory (though this damage is reversed when binge drinking stops).

AGEING: The number of stem cells drops as we get older, and the remaining stem cells become less active.

DIABETES: Stem cells exposed to a high-sugar environment are less capable of regenerating tissue —they can’t multiply normally or move around in the body well. 

Today, Dr Li shows you the true ‘superfoods’ — foods that work hard to enhance all five of the body’s health defence systems.

He also explains the important disease-fighting role played by your stem cells — and reveals the foods that can keep them working efficiently.

Our stem cells are the special forces in our body that gather intelligence, conduct reconnaissance and execute missions to keep organs in optimal shape. Whenever you suffer an injury or develop a disease, your stem cells swing into action: repairing, replacing and regenerating dead and worn-out cells on demand.

How stem cells work is still something of a mystery, but we do know they are factories for important chemicals needed in organs that are growing or being repaired.

They help mend and build bone and skin, nerves and hair, so to support your own defence against illness and disease, you should aim to eat at least one food that can protect and support your stem cells every day.

We know babies are born with a rich supply of stem cells that prompt growth and development, but their number — and potency — diminishes with age.

Dr William Li's lifelong work is centred on the study of the body’s five key defence systems — immunity, stem cells, gut bacteria, blood vessels and DNA protection — and research that identifies the specific compounds in certain foods that support them (file image)

Dr William Li's lifelong work is centred on the study of the body’s five key defence systems — immunity, stem cells, gut bacteria, blood vessels and DNA protection — and research that identifies the specific compounds in certain foods that support them (file image)

Over time, stem cell activity can also be knocked back by smoking, air pollution and alcohol. When this defence system comes under pressure, your body can get to the state where there aren’t enough stem cells to repair blood vessels, heart muscle and brain tissue.

Chronic wounds in the feet, ankles and lower legs also need stem cells to regenerate healthy tissue and close the injury, in order to avoid infection and the development of deadly gangrene.

When the muscles, tendons and nerves of your legs start dying in peripheral arterial disease (a narrowing of the blood vessels in the legs), the body will try to call in stem cells to reverse the damage.

If you are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes, the high blood sugar levels can damage stem cells and lower their numbers, reducing your body’s ability to repair itself. Many of the complications of diabetes (heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, chronic wounds) are tied to dysfunctional stem cells.

In fact, many conditions that are associated with ageing (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as cardiovascular disease) can be exacerbated if your stem cell defence system is not working optimally.

So, turn the page to find the ‘superfoods’ that enhance your body’s defence mechanisms. 

 How to heal your body from the inside out

Whether you are healthy and want to optimise your strength and simply age gracefully, or you have a serious chronic condition, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes or even cancer, there’s a way to use diet to direct stem cells to help you heal from the inside out.

Add these to your shopping list... 

These are some of Dr Li’s suggestions to keep in mind when doing your weekly shop. Where possible choose organic produce, as it is better for health and for the environment. 

Vinegars: Real aged balsamic vinegar comes from Modena or Reggio Emilia in . It contains melanoidins, which prevent DNA damage. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to reduce cholesterol.Olive oil: (See previous spread).Black pepper: This contains piperine, which increases absorption of compounds such as curcumin in turmeric.Dried fruits: Apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, mango, papaya, and raisins for snacking. Choose sulphite-free versions, as this preservative can cause allergic reactions.Pasta/noodles: Whole wheat pasta, squid ink noodles, and buckwheat soba (buckwheat boosts immunity).Nuts: Almonds, cashews, macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts. Due to their high oil content, most cannot be stored for very long.Tea and coffeeTinned tomatoes AND PASTE: San Marzano tomatoes are best for lycopene.Oyster sauce: Linked to a reduction in DNA damage.Anchovy paste: Good for adding flavour when cooking, it contains fish oil, which helps increase stem cells that can regenerate muscles.Honey: Manuka honey from New Zealand stimulates the immune system and is good with tea and lemon for soothing a sore throat.Maple sugar: A natural sweetener made from maple syrup. It has been found to contain 30 active compounds called polyphenols, some of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Studies show the stem cells in bone marrow, skin, the heart and other organs can be called into action by what and how we eat.

Selecting the right foods can help you kick your stem cells into action to help grow muscles, maintain vigour and slow the ravages of ageing. 

Not only do stem cells keep you youthful, they can also regenerate tissues damaged by ageing, prompting the body to heal more quickly.

As a basic rule, it is important to know that high-fat, high-salt or high-sugar diets can stunt stem cell activity, but Mediterranean and Asian dietary patterns have been shown to help them.

Eating to support your stem cells can help your body fight chronic disease. If you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke, for instance, your stem cells can help save your heart and rebuild your brain.

If you’ve had surgery and need to heal quickly, or if you are recovering from an illness and want to bounce back to health, or if you’re just middle-aged and you want your body to stay youthful, the good news is certain foods can increase your circulating stem cells. 

By supporting the body’s regenerative defence system, these foods can help influence everything from repairing damaged organs to counterbalancing the effects of eating too much fat.

Food and drinks that help to recruit stem cells include turmeric (it contains curcumin, which has pro-regenerative properties), red wine (one to two glasses daily) and green tea (four cups a day increased stem cells by 43 per cent in two weeks, according to one study).

Dark chocolate, black tea and beer can mobilise stem cells, too, and help our bodies regenerate. 

One study in California gave patients with known heart disease two daily cups of hot chocolate, made with 70 per cent dark chocolate. After 30 days, the number of stem cells in their blood had doubled. 

No known medicine has the same effect. The fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish eaten by those who follow a Mediterranean diet also help to stimulate stem cells.

Each food contains its own trove of defence-activating active compounds (‘bioactives’).

Cancer-fighting purple potato

Not all stem cells are beneficial. For instance, cancer can create stem cells that help the disease to return after treatment.

But some food compounds (such as one found in purple sweet potatoes) are so sophisticated they can target and reduce these rogue stem cells without affecting the action and activity of helpful ones. 

Not all stem cells are beneficial. For instance, cancer can create stem cells that help the disease to return after treatment (file image)

Not all stem cells are beneficial. For instance, cancer can create stem cells that help the disease to return after treatment (file image)

The anti-cancer effects are preserved whether the purple potato is boiled, baked or cooked as potato crisps. Green tea can kill rogue cancer stem cells (which form new cancers), too. If you have cancer, or have ever had it, your number-one focus should be to kill those stem cells.

Wellness journal tip 

From DRS Chris and Xand van Tulleken.

Don't eat in bed or on the sofa (apart from fruit). Weight gain occurs when we're sedentary and mindlessly grazing. 

There’s no medicine that can do this yet, but there are a growing number of foods, and their bioactives, that are being studied for their suppressive effects on cancer stem cells. Finding ways to kill cancer stem cells has been one of the holy grails in cancer research.

While biotechnology companies are busy looking into this, scientists have already discovered dietary factors that have the ability to kill them, at least in some forms of cancer.

Other foods containing bioactives shown to suppress cancer stem cells include soya, celery, oregano, thyme, capers, apples and peppers.

Scientists in Korea discovered that resveratrol — the bioactive that is found in red wine, grapes, peanuts, pistachios, dark chocolate and cranberries — also interferes with the growth of breast cancer stem cells.

Eat to beat

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