Life Over Cancer, by Dr. Keith I. Block, M.D. (Hardcover, 2010)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book is a mixed blessing. Consequently, I have to categorize it
as helpful but not authoritative. In fact, some of the recommendations,
based on factual errors, should not be followed. I will identify those,
in a moment.
On the positive side, the author explains the why and how of going
past the allopathic paradigm of mainstream American cancer treatment.
The mainstream focus is on reducing the tumor size and then "getting the
cancer" through radiation or chemo. This part is more like the tripod of
a stool, and Dr. Block explains why.
In many cases, mainstream cancer treatment is essentially assisted
suicide (my words, not Dr. Block's). Dr. Block provides some examples
proving this, but there are thousands of such examples in the medical
literature as well. Dr. Block's approach is to actually engage in health
care, not something most medical care providers are willing or able to
do. Unfortunately, his formal training is in medical care and he has
some errors in his understanding of health care.
Before I explain his errors, let me put things in the proper
perspective. I am appalled by what I see in shopping carts at the
grocery store. It's as if people are obsessed with getting sick. Only in
rare cases do I see a cart (other than my own) that doesn't contain
contaminated "food" not fit for human consumption. And here I am talking
only about such major contaminants as high fructose corn syrup and
Give this background, even if you accept the dietary recommendations
Dr. Block, even with their flaws, it is nearly certain that your diet
will improve dramatically and health benefits will flow from that single
decision. His advice is mostly very, very good. But it does have some
errors. If you can correct those errors, you can get the full benefits
he intends for you to get. I hope in a future revision of this book, the
errors are corrected. From reading this, I have the impression that Dr.
Block truly cares about people with cancer and thus will make the needed
Another impression I got is the book is somewhat of an advertorial
for the treatment center Dr. Block is part of. Only somewhat, though. Of
course, there's the subtitle giving this impression. But, the tone isn't
advertorial and the book really isn't about the Block Center. It's about
what the Block Center is doing and why it works.
I think, given the complexity of the topic, Dr. Block is trying to
speak from experience. As he doesn't work at other centers, that leaves
using this one as the basis. He may also feel that it's not his place to
tell other cancer care providers how to do their jobs. So, his position
is, "Here's what we are doing and you can see it works measurably better
than non-integrated approaches. Please consider this."
The errors I can identify are related to either nutrition or
exercise. I'm providing a complete list, so you can print out this
review and use it as an erratum to the book.
Nutrition is a subject that most doctors know very poorly and in
which what little they do know is often incorrect. I point that out so
the reader understands Dr. Block has actually done a pretty decent job
here. Lots of good advice, but some errors.
Fish. He repeatedly recommends eating fish and taking fish oil. Aside
from the moral imperative to reduce the demand for human consumption of
fish (read about fish depletion, some time), there is the fact that fish
flesh contains high concentrations of various toxins. If you're sick,
you should avoid fish rather than eat more of it.
Egg yolk. He is under the impression that egg yolks are bad. The
opposite is true. Eating the whole egg is much healthier than tossing
away half of the egg. Yolks contain some great nutrients, including
vitamin D. Read about vitamin D, and you see it reaches into just about
every bodily system. It's arguably the most important of the vitamins.
Why throw it away?
Dr. Block recommends eggs that come from chickens that have Omega 3
added to their feed. This is also wrong. What you want are eggs that
come from chickens that aren't on chicken feed (regardless of what's
added). In CAFOs (read about those), chickens are routinely fed pig
poop, ground chicken, and chicken poop in addition to the non-natural
grains. That is what commercial chicken feed is, and adding Omega 3 to
it doesn't make for healthy, good-tasting eggs.
Free range chickens or those raised on smaller farms (e.g., Amish)
naturally produce eggs high in Omega 3. To test if you have good eggs,
check the shell. A good egg has a tough shell that you must whack hard
to crack open. The cheap, mass-produced eggs have thin, fragile shells
(the chickens that lay them also have fragile skeletons).
Whey protein. This is a short molecule protein that the gut absorbs
rapidly. Bodybuilders consume it right after very hard workouts, and the
muscles uptake it quickly. But consume it outside that "depleted muscle
window" and most of it just turns to fat. This is why there are protein
blends. There are alternative proteins also, such as buckwheat and hemp,
that do not come from dairy products. Dr. Block rails against dairy
constantly in this book, yet a cornerstone of his dietary advice is
whey--a dairy product.
Fruit juice. He actually recommends this, so my recommendation to him
is to ask an endocrinologist to explain why fruit juice is not fit for
human consumption. Yes, there is some upside to fruit juice consumption.
But the downside is comparatively so immense that the question of
whether to drink it isn't open for debate. The effects include insulin
spiking, and Dr. Block devotes considerable space in this book to the
subject of moderating insulin (which he says cancers require for
metastasizing). You can't moderate insulin and spike it; these are
Kale. If you grow this in soil enriched with crumbled eggshells and
coffee grounds, you get a dark, calcium-rich plant that contains all of
the nutrients you need for absorbing calcium. The calcium chart Dr.
Block includes in the book does not account for bioavailability or other
factors that determine how much of the calcium you can use from a given
source. On the one hand, Dr. Block advises to reduce calcium intake and
on the other he advises to eat more kale. I'm not sure how to resolve
this conflict, but I would lean toward the latter.
On page 84, he rates eggplant as "OK for Daily Use" but not "OK for
Every Meal." I think he's referring to breaded/fried eggplant. I grow
eggplant in rich soil and cut it up into cubes that I add, raw, to my
veggies and soups. Eggplant is an anti-oxidant powerhouse, particularly
in relation to colon cancer. Eggplant is OK for Every Meal.
Also on page 84, he recommends eating corn. No, no, and no. On page
85, he calls corn a vegetable. It is not. Corn is a grain, and it is the
one grain that has been cultivated for over 5,000 years to be high in
sugar and less nutrient-dense. Consequently, the typical corn product is
not fit for animals (including humans) to eat. That includes sweet corn.
Canned corn adds more toxicity to the mix.
The exception with corn is popcorn. Popcorn has a very hard kernel
and is low in sugar. You must heat it and burst the kernel to eat it.
Popcorn with garlic and cayenne pepper on it is healthy and a good fat
loss food (I'm at 6.3% body fat as I write this, and have been eating
this almost daily for the past month and a half), provided you have a
moderate amount, pop it in olive oil (or some other safe oil, not the
microwave stuff), and eat it with beans to get a nearly complete protein
Highly glycemic grains. Millet is highly glycemic. It will spike your
insulin. This, and some other grain recommendations from Dr. Block, are
to be avoided.
On page 86, Dr. Block advises eating crackers. These are typically
made with multiple toxins, including hydrogenated oil, refined wheat
flour (which is highly glycemic), and corn syrup. If you choose to buy
anything that comes in a box or can, read the label very carefully
before putting it in your shopping cart. If you are eating out, just
assume the crackers are toxic and don't eat them.
On page 94, he recommends raisins. In other places, he recommends
other dried fruits. These are all highly glycemic. You can eat these in
tiny amounts with a fat or protein.
On page 94, he recommends pineapple. This particular fruit has been
bred to be high in sugar. It's sweet. It's highly glycemic. Canned
pineapple adds extra toxicity over fresh. Fresh pineapple may be OK if
eaten in small amounts along with something to blunt the glycemic
effect, but why take the risk? There are plenty of other fruits to
On page 99, he recommends decaf coffee and doesn't elaborate on what
this means. Typically, decaf coffee can also be called "formaldehyde
enriched." Formaldehyde is a potent carcinogen. If you put decaf grounds
on garden plants, they usually will die. That said, there is a
caffeine-reduction process that doesn't use formaldehyde. The actual
plant has been bred to produce less caffeine. As caffeine is normally
harmless unless taken in huge quantities and formaldehyde is toxic even
in low amounts, I think I'd stick with regular coffee.
On page 354, he recommends canola oil but says to avoid safflower
oil. I disagree with this. Canola oil isn't a natural oil, and it has
some significant downsides. I use safflower oil regularly.
He disses peanut butter and in one spot mentions commercial peanut
butter. Peanut butter is very healthy, but look on the label to ensure
it's not commercial peanut butter. That will be true if the ingredients
are listed as "Peanuts" or "Peanuts and salt." If there is anything else
on that label, don't buy the peanut butter. Also remember that peanut
butter is farily calorie dense. A little goes a long way.
On page 169, Dr. Block correctly identifies the need for good
posture. Yet, few people have anything remotely close. Bodybuilders,
gymnasts, and serious martial artists are among the few who are
conscious of their posture all the time. The solution for most people is
a chiropractor. Yet, Dr. Block mentions chiropractic only once in
passing as a "you might want to" thing. Actually, chiropractic should be
a core aspect of your physical fitness program.
Dr. Block discusses working your core. This is correct. The typical
gym rat never does this. Properly done front squats work the core very
well, which is why they are so exhausting. The core goes beyond what Dr.
Block describes. It's not just the abs, but the whole abdominal cavity,
including the pelvic floor. There's a whole body of literature about
Dr. Block gives a reason that situps are not a good exercise. He's
correct that they aren't but the reason is they work mostly the hip
flexors and actually work against good posture. A great ab exercise is
the properly done front squat. Hanging leg raises are also good. These
are my ab exercises, and I have very striking abs (my photo is at
Dr. Block provides a great tip at the bottom of page 180. He talks
about interval training, and he is spot on. So, not an error here. The
error is he doesn't carry this through the rest of the book. Interval
training is high intensity exercise, and most of his recommendations are
for moderate or low intensity exercise--the kind that produces minimal
results. There is extensive literature on why high intensity exercise
has profound effects and other kinds of exercise have, at best, moderate
On page 207, he recommends endurance training to "lose weight" (by
which he means lose fat). Wrong. This kind of training depresses
testosterone (which signals the body to burn fat) and raises cortisol
(which signals the body to store fat). There is extensive literature on
this. You can also look at sprinters and notice their lean, strong
physiques and compare them to marathoners whose layer of body fat
deprives them of good muscle definition.
Also, go back to Dr. Block's own discussion of interval training.
Endurance training is the opposite. While it will burn calories during
the exercise, calorie burning stops shortly after and also the hormonal
environment that it leaves is conducive to fat storage rather than fat
On page 211, he says to get a trainer so you learn how to exercise
without injuring your muscles. Very few people injure their muscles in
weight training, as they don't train with intensity. The real problem is
they don't have a good program in place and end up creating muscle
imbalances. For example, they will do leg presses and not hamstring
curls. This creates a muscle imbalance that eventually causes back pain
and other problems. I don't do leg presses. Front squats done properly
will work the entire leg and eliminate muscle imbalances. A qualified
trainer can coach you on how to do this exercise properly. It's not
With all of the above errors, is the book one to avoid? No. It's a
great book. Even if you follow it to the tee and accept the errors as
sound advice, you will be far better off than the typical American who
has a bad diet, bad posture, and poorly planned fitness program (if
any). Further, the book goes beyond these areas to provide what I
presume to be excellent advice. But consult an endocrinologist and a
fitness trainer who personally does front squats and looks very fit, so
you can use what's good in here without using what's bad. Or, just print
out this review as an erratum and you're good to go.
This book consists of 556 pages. It has 29 chapters and an epilogue.
It also has an index and three pages about the Block Center for
Integrative Cancer Treatment. Notice, that is only three pages. This is
one reason why I say this book really isn't an advertorial for the Block
Unfortunately, this book does not list sources or have a
bibliography. There are some references in the text, and the author uses
a large number of anecdotes.