Budwig Cure for Cancer?

Do you have an opinion on the Doctor Budwig diet? The main component is a mixture of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese. There’s a lot of information online about this diet being a complementary (or even alternative) treatment for cancer and a remedy for overall health.

– April 8, 2011

Johanna Budwig, Ph.D. (1908 – 2003) was not a physician, but a well-known German biochemist. In 1951 she proposed her cottage cheese and flaxseed oil diet and supposedly demonstrated that a daily helping of this mixture plus other dietary restrictions (no animal fats, no salad oils of any kind, no meats, no butter or margarine, no sugar) would not only prevent cancer but could cure it. Her thesis was that the blood of seriously ill cancer patients is deficient in lipoproteins and substances called phosphatides (or phospholipids), both special types of fats. She believed that deficiencies of these fats allowed cancer cells to grow and multiply.

Dr. Budwig reported that when she looked at blood samples from cancer patients with this deficiency of fats, instead of hemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body, she saw a strange greenish-yellow substance that she believed to be the cause of weakness and anemia in cancer. She then claimed to have found that when patients ate a blenderized mixture of organic flaxseed oil and cottage cheese, this discolored substance disappeared along with the malignant tumors.

This sounds completely fanciful to me. For the record, I found only four studies by Dr. Budwig in a medical literature search. None of them supported her “cancer cure.”

I often recommend freshly ground flaxseeds to patients as part of an anti-inflammatory eating plan, and I see no harm in mixing ground seeds – as opposed to oil – with cottage cheese. Flaxseeds provide alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts to the essential, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Flaxseeds also provide fiber and are one of the richest dietary sources of lignans, a class of plant estrogens thought to help protect against breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Whether you are sick or well, I recommend adding a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseeds daily to cereals, soups, salads, or rice.

However, I don’t recommend flaxseed oil because it goes rancid too quickly and is devoid of fiber and lignans. And I certainly would not rely on a combination of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese as a treatment for any form of cancer or as a diet to promote overall health.

Incidentally, I’ve seen repeated references to Dr. Budwig’s several (six or seven) nominations for the Nobel Prize. This isn’t a prestigious distinction, since anyone can self-nominate or have others submit his or her name. The Nobel committee does not disclose the names of nominees for 50 years.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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