Many times precursor myeloma patients (or even myeloma patients in remission) ask the question, "What lies in my power to stop my myeloma from progressing?"
While we aren't aware of any single golden answer to this question, researchers and myeloma specialists alike believe that both physical activity and diet play a role in myeloma progression. Dr. Urvi Shah, a myeloma specialist from Memorial Sloan Kettering, has made it her life mission to understand this relationship and guide patients toward a healthier, free from active myeloma lifestyle.
She joined the MGUS/Smoldering Chapter as a part of the Myeloma Crowd Community program on January 25th to share what we know so far on this subject and what studies will be conducted in the future in order to research more on this subject.
Why would a change of diet matter in the progression of myeloma?
We know that obesity increases the risk of:
Therefore, taking care of what we put into our body will affect how our body will be able to fight off cancer in conjunction with the different treatment regimens that are administered to us.
So what kind of diet (or, in better words, a lifestyle change) would Dr. Shah recommend?
Plant-based diets have proven to be a way of eating that is least associated with cancer, according to three major studies conducted in the United States (Tantamango-Bartley, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarker Prev 2013), the U.K. (Key, Am J Clin Nutr 2014), and France (Kane-Diallo Int J Cancer 2018). On the contrary, the typical inflammatory Western diet was associated in each of these studies with higher death rates after a cancer diagnosis. The study in the U.K. even went far enough to study the effects of a plant-based diet on multiple myeloma and found that vegans and vegetarians had 77% less multiple myeloma than meat eaters.
Plant-based diets are feasible and effective weight-loss strategies, often showing a 10-15% reduction in body mass index (BMI) within six months. Wright et al. Nutr Diab 2017, Kahleova et al. JAMA Network Open 2020, Wilding et al. NEJM 2021.
The diets themselves can be of different varieties.
1. Vegans usually refrain from eating animal products, citing ethical or environmental reasons for their change in diet. The foods they choose don't necessarily have to be healthy; french fries are considered vegan and would fit into the diet classifications.
2. Vegetarians will consume some animal products but usually refrain from meat and fish. This might be for ethical or religious reasons. Food choices here don't necessarily have to be healthy; many vegetarians will still choose to eat ice cream.
3. Whole food plant-based diet followers will focus on whole foods and less processed foods and more of a plant-based diet. These include minimal animal products and are usually followed for health reasons. Therefore vegetarians and vegans can also choose to be healthy eaters by following a whole-food, plant-based diet.
This diet focuses on quality versus quantity. Diets restricting calorie or carbohydrate intake can be harmful and usually unsustainable. On a whole food plant-based diet, you want to focus on foods that aren't processed, fried, or high in added sugars. You want to include plants in every meal that you eat.
Here's a more detailed look.
You can learn more about what Dr. Shah taught during her presentation through this video:
Here I have highlighted more facts and studies that Dr. Shah shared in her presentation that you can access:
Who: MGUS and Smoldering myeloma patients
What: Plant-based diet & nutrition counseling (partnered with Plantable)
Where: Memorial Sloan Kettering
When: Currently enrolling, for more information click here
Who: SMM Patients
What: Four arms: Whole Food Plant-Based Diet, Curcumin, Omega-3 and Probiotics, testing levels of butyrate levels after two weeks of each of the previously-mentioned trial arms
Where: Virtually with Myeloma Crowd by HealthTree
When: Will open in 2022 (in about 6 months)
Who: MGUS or SMM patients (m-spike >0.5 or involved light chain >10)
What: Three arms: Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (followed by nutrition counseling), Supplement (followed by whole food plant-based diet and supplement), or Placebo (followed by a whole food plant based diet + placebo)
When: Will open in 2022
Who: Newly Diagnosed Multiple Myeloma (≥ VGPR after Induction therapy with or without an ASCT)
What: 2 arms: lenalidomide maintenance, daratumumab maintenance, both followed by optional assignment of whole food plant-based diet for 12 weeks
Where: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
When: currently recruiting (optional WFPB diet opens 1 year after enrolling into the trial), for more information click here
If you are interested in any of these studies, please let us know by clicking the button below.
A thank you to our community event sponsors, with whom this event would not have been possible.
about the author
Audrey joined the HealthTree Foundation as the Myeloma Community Program Director in 2020. While not knowing much about myeloma at the start, she has since worked hard to educate herself, empathize and learn from others' experiences. She loves this job. Audrey is passionate about serving others, loves learning, and enjoys a nice mug of hot chocolate no matter the weather.