Angiogenesis is the natural process your body uses to build new capillaries — the smallest blood vessels — from existing capillaries. Blood vessels are normally formed while you’re still in the womb, but there are certain points in adulthood when you grow new blood vessels, Dr. Joseph Mercola explains.
For example, women create new blood vessels each month to form uterus linings. In pregnancy, new blood vessels also form the placenta, which connects and delivers nourishment to the fetus.
Your cardiovascular system houses a network of some 19 billion capillaries. Studies show that the growth of these blood vessels can greatly influence your health.
Dr. William Li, president and medical director of The Angiogenesis Foundation, says the excessive or insufficient growth of capillaries is a common denominator in many debilitating conditions like age-related blindness, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetic ulcers, stroke, and many others.
Your body can regulate the number of blood vessels it needs at any given time using an elaborate system of stimulators and inhibitors. Defects in this system can lead to certain diseases, Dr. Li explains.
When your body cannot grow enough new blood vessels, it can lead to problems such as erectile dysfunction, heart disease, the inability to heal chronic wounds, neuropathy, and stroke.
On the other hand, when your body cannot “prune back” extra blood vessels, this promotes arthritis, blindness, cancer, endometriosis, and multiple sclerosis.
Cancer and Capillaries
Like other cells in your body, cancer cells cannot survive without the nutrients and oxygen provided by capillaries.
Many people carry cancer cell clusters in their bodies, but not all of them actually develop cancer. Dr. Li believes that as long as your body has the ability to properly balance angiogenesis, blood vessels will not be formed to feed these microscopic tumors. It is only when cancer cells get their own blood supply that they turn deadly.
Anti-angiogenesis therapy is the method of cutting off blood supply to cancer cells. Unlike healthy vessels, tumor vessels are abnormal and poorly constructed and because of that, they’re highly vulnerable to treatments that target them, Dr. Li explains.
Obesity is also dependent on angiogenesis because like tumor cells, fat cells grow when capillaries grow.
Dr. Li points out that there are about a dozen anti-angiogenesis cancer drugs that have significantly increased the survival rates of patients. But what is more exciting and promising about angiogenic research is not just making better drugs to fight cancer; it’s in preventing cancer from occurring in the first place, Dr. Mercola points out.
There are a large number of fruits, herbs and vegetables that are natural angiogenesis inhibitors. According to Dr. Li, anti-angiogenesis foods include:
• Berries – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
• Green tea
• Maitake mushrooms
• Red Grapes
Different foods have different levels of potent anti-angiogenic compounds. But it is interesting to note that when researchers evaluated a combination of two of the least potent teas, they found that the combination tea had greater potency than any given tea by itself. This means that there’s synergy.
Synergy is what makes fresh, whole foods nutritious. Because the sum is greater than the individual parts, Dr. Mercola believes that it’s far more important to focus on eating a diet of whole, organic foods, than putting much attention on individual nutrients.
Foods will soon be scored according to their anti-angiogenetic, cancer-preventive properties. But why wait for this rating system when you’re already aware that optimal health hinges on a healthy diet based on a wide variety of whole, organic foods. In the same way that a single food contains synergistic compounds, and a combination of foods can work together synergistically, a healthy diet will help you prevent cancer and other diseases in more ways than one.