Misinformation is dangerous in any form, but when it comes to a vulnerable population such as cancer patients, this becomes increasingly concerning. People with a cancer diagnosis are often looking for help, and there is an abundance of “help” available online. Unfortunately, there is great financial gain to be made from this population; something that is exploited all too often. In Episode #261, I’m joined by Dr Krystle Zuniga to unpack common myths about nutrition and cancer, identifying what the science says about food choices during and following cancer treatment.
“To truly respect the power of nutrition, you respect what it can and cannot do.”
Krystle Zuniga, PhD, RD, CSO, LD, has dedicated her professional life to helping cancer survivors manage their nutrition both during and after their treatment. She is a clinician, educator, scientist, and science communicator with over 14 years of experience in nutrition and cancer, including research, higher education, and clinical practice. In Dr. Zuniga’s diverse experience from bench to bedside and community, she has seen the critical gap in nutrition support for cancer survivors both during and after cancer treatment. As a board-certified oncology dietitian and owner of a private practice and social media account Cancer Nutrition HQ, she strives to combat misinformation, share the latest research in nutrition and cancer, and translate the science into everyday actions cancer survivors can take to support their health and quality of life with nutrition.
“People are making decisions about their health based on information they’re finding online, which is not fact-checked, and can be truly harmful.”
In this crucial conversation, we delve into the damaging pieces of misinformation that circulate regarding cancer and nutrition, including the claim that diet alone can cure cancer and the fears surrounding the consumption of certain foods. Dr Zuniga emphasises the importance of respecting the power of nutrition while acknowledging its limitations, particularly when it comes to acting as a replacement for medicine.
We explore the important role of nutrition in managing cancer side effects, the emerging importance of the microbiome for recovery, and the dietary guidelines for individuals undergoing cancer treatment. Dr Zuniga helps to clarify misconceptions around sugar consumption, fasting, organic foods, and supplements during cancer treatment, as well as offering guidance on how to support those with a cancer diagnosis. Listen in to equip yourself with knowledge, combat misinformation, and understand the complex relationship between cancer and nutrition.
Specifically, we discuss:
- Intro (00:00)
- Dr. Krystle Zuniga on cancer and nutritional sciences (01:33)
- Social media and cancer misinformation (04:35)
- Can food act as medicine? (07:56)
- The impact of anecdotes on cancer treatment choices (12:57)
- Survival rates and shifting trends (16:31)
- Nutrition priorities during cancer treatment (17:38)
- Cancer treatment and appetite (20:35)
- Protein recommendations (22:12)
- Weight loss and muscle preservation (28:12)
- Cancer-fighting superfoods (32:55)
- Detoxing and cleansing trends (36:21)
- Gut microbiome’s role in cancer treatment (38:17)
- What is immunotherapy? (42:07)
- The plant-forward diet (44:52)
- Organic vs conventional produce (48:04)
- EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 (50:49)
- Drinks to limit during cancer treatment (55:12)
- Sugar and starving cancer cells (56:41)
- Is fasting safe for people with cancer? (1:00:14)
- Advice for estrogen-dependent cancer (1:03:32)
- Are there supplements beneficial during cancer treatment? (1:05:27)
- TIPS: How to eat when you have cancer (1:13:59)
- How to support someone with cancer (1:17:04)\
- Good resources for cancer patients (1:20:48)
- Health benefits of pomegranate (1:23:21)
- Outro (1:24:58)
Navigating the field of cancer and nutrition can be complex, and the spread of misinformation doesn’t make it any easier. I’m grateful to have had Dr Zuniga, a dedicated expert in this field, clarify some of the biggest myths and misconceptions around nutrition and cancer. Remember, it’s essential to follow evidence-based treatment plans and to seek information from reputable sources when making decisions about your health or supporting others on their journey. It’s through science-based conversations that recognise the strengths and limitations of lifestyle interventions that we can all become more empowered in our own health journeys.
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More about Krystle Zuniga PhD, RD, CSO, LD
Dr. Krystle Zuniga is a clinician, educator, scientist, and science communicator in Austin, Texas with over 14 years of experience in nutrition and cancer, including research, higher education, and clinical practice.
She completed her PhD in Nutritional Sciences and dietetic internship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After completing postdoctoral training in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she was an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Foods at Texas State University where her laboratory examined the relationship between diet quality, physical activity, and cognitive function in young adults, breast cancer survivors, and older adults. Dr. Zuniga then held a clinical role and faculty appointment at the Livestrong Cancer Institutes of the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
In Dr. Zuniga’s diverse experience from bench to bedside and community, she has seen the critical gap in nutrition support for cancer survivors both during and after cancer treatment. As a board-certified oncology dietitian and owner of a private practice and social media account Cancer Nutrition HQ, she strives to combat misinformation, share the latest research in nutrition and cancer, and translate the science into everyday actions cancer survivors can take to support their health and quality of life with nutrition.
In addition to her private practice, she is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and a board member of Moving Beyond Cancer Collaborative, a non-profit that provides accessible integrative oncology health and wellness services.
- Discover consumer-friendly resources about nutrition and cancer • American Institute for Cancer Research
- Discover resources and access free support for nutrition • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- Find a board-certified oncology dietitian (US only) • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Effect of probiotic supplementation on chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-related diarrhoea in patients with cancer: an umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses • PMID: 37072129