Every now and then I come across a research article that makes me say, “Wow.” Here’s one of those on the benefits of fiber for cancer patients — and all of us.

Researchers found that every 5-gram increase in daily fiber was correlated with a 30% lower risk for cancer progression or death among patients with advanced melanoma.

In addition, 82% of patients who reported both sufficient fiber intake and no probiotic use responded to immunotherapy compared with only 59% of patients who reported either insufficient fiber intake or probiotic use.

The study was conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and published in the journal Science.

Even for those of us who are lucky enough not to have melanoma, fiber helps. The dietary pattern associated with the response to immunotherapy is the same diet recommended by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research, according to lead researcher, Jennifer McQuade M.D., assistant professor of melanoma medical oncology at MD Anderson.

That recommended diet centers on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. And it’s the same diet recommended for secondary cancer prevention, prevention of cardiovascular disease, and health in general.

Here’s how it works: Fiber plays a key role in the health of our gut microbiome, which plays a key role in immunotherapy.

Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial to assess how varying fiber intake affected the gut microbiome and immune response among 128 patients with advanced melanoma receiving treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. They looked at fecal microbiota profiles, dietary habits and commercially available probiotic supplements.

Patients who had higher consumption of dietary fiber fared the best. And those who had both sufficient fiber intake and didn’t use probiotics fared even better.

The bottom line? Boost your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains for the healthiest diet. All that fiber really can make a difference.


Q: What is Coenzyme Q10?

A: Coenzyme Q10 is a compound that plays a critical role in energy production within the cells of the body. It is synthesized in most tissues in humans and our bodies naturally produce it. Dietary sources include meat, fish, poultry, soybeans, nuts and whole grains.

It functions as an antioxidant and may help with blood pressure and heart health.

CoQ10 is a nonprescription dietary supplement. It is not a vitamin or mineral. It’s generally regarded as safe; however, it can produce side effects of nausea, diarrhea and loss of appetite in doses over 200 milligrams per day.

Like any supplement, it can also interfere with other medications. It’s always best to check with your doctor before taking any supplement.

Fuss-Free Lasagna

As the temperature drops, we tend to think of comfort foods. Here’s a healthier version of lasagna that includes a few hidden vegetables, lower-sodium marinara sauce and part-skim cheeses. It’s from EatingWell magazine.


» 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

» 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

» 1 clove garlic, minced

» ½ teaspoon salt

» ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

» 1 (11-ounce) package baby spinach

» 1 large egg, lightly beaten

» 1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese

» 1½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided

» 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

» 1 (25-ounce) jar low-sodium marinara sauce

» 6 sheets oven-ready lasagna noodles

» 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch planks

» Chopped fresh basil and/or parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan and add half the spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining spinach by the handful and cook until it’s all wilted, about 2 minutes more. Press the spinach to the side of the pan, squeezing out as much water as possible, and cook until the water is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Mix egg, ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Combine the remaining ½ cup each mozzarella and Parmesan in a small bowl. Spread 1 cup of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and top with the mushrooms. Spread the spinach over the mushrooms and top with another 1 cup sauce. Layer on the remaining 3 noodles, followed by the remaining ricotta mixture. Layer zucchini on top, shingling if necessary, and spread the remaining sauce over the zucchini. Top with the reserved mozzarella mixture.

Bake the lasagna until bubbly and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with basil and/or parsley, if desired.


Serves 9 (1 cup each)

Per serving: 362 calories; 20 grams protein; 36 grams carbohydrate; 16 grams fat (7grams saturated); 55 milligrams cholesterol; 7 grams total sugars (0 grams added); 3 grams fiber; 514 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.