Food, Immunity, Cancer and Allergies: Patrick Holford’s Talk

Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, gave a keynote speech at CAMExpo on 24th October 2010.

Patrick Holford spoke about the role of food, immunity, cancer and allergies.

He said that the digestive system plays a major role in the immune system. Illnesses like migraines, arthritis and depression could all be linked to certain foods we eat which we may be allergic to.


There are two types of food allergies: the ones that give you an immediate reaction (anaphylactic) which are the most dangerous, and the temporary ones which develop after hours or days, which are defined as food sensitivities.

Any kind of allergies can be lessened by avoiding offending foods, which cause inflammation in the gut. Gut inflammation may be responsible for issues like auto-immune diseases, obesity and cancer. The main symptoms of gut inflammation (and particularly obesity) are:

flu-like aches
arthritic pain

You can reduce inflammation and those symptoms by avoiding sugars and refined carbohydrates, increasing the intake of Omega 3 and reducing foods high in saturated fats.

Food and Immune System

Patrick Holford also listed those foods and compounds that can boost the immune system and reduce inflammation:

butternut squash
sweet potato
red onion
red skin peanuts
black elderberry

Cancer and Enzymes

The most controversial part of the talk covered the role of vitamin C to fight cancer, but as there is only anecdotal evidence and more research is needed, there would be no value in going into more detail.

What was relevant instead was the role of one enzyme called CYP 1B1 in cancer cells. In Murray et al, Cancer Research 57, pp. 3026-3031 (1997), it has been established that by measuring CYP 1B1 you can calculate the risk of cancer. By targeting CYP 1B1, cancer cells die, but no study has been made on humans yet.

Picture credits: Paola Bassanese