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Archive for the ‘Cancer’ Category

The Truth About Soy

Posted by tinako on July 22, 2013

How many articles do you suppose have that title?  Anyway, this seemed pretty good:

The Truth about Soy” by John Robbins

Posted in Cancer, Nutrition | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Don’t Take Your Vitamins

Posted by tinako on June 24, 2013

I like this opinion piece in the N.Y. Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” which has a nice summary of the substantial research showing increases in death from taking vitamin pills, and why the FDA is powerless to inform you of this.  I know you’ll be surprised that the answer is corporate money.

Posted in Cancer, Cardiovascular, Disease | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Soy and Cancer

Posted by tinako on February 6, 2013

About a year ago I went looking for links between soy and estrogen when an aquaintance expressed alarm that I was giving my son soy.  I found at that time that the blogs were full of this, but they never seemed to have any sources except each other.  I searched for sources myself and could find no evidence or warnings at NIH, USDA, Mayo Clinic, or the American Dietetic Association.  On the contrary, research looking for ill effects among Japanese eating a lot more soy than we do found none.

A friend of mine recently went vegan and said she was avoiding soy because her friend told her it was linked to cancer.  I said she could easily be vegan and never eat soy.  If it worries you, don’t eat it.  But I went to look for evidence about soy and cancer.  Those sites I visited before now acknowledge that there is concern about soy’s health effects, but I’m not seeing any general warnings.  I emailed to my friend what I found, and thought perhaps others would be interested.  I’m not a doctor, just a Googling Know-it-All.  Here’s what I wrote to her:

“Before I bore you on soy, I wanted to suggest that is a great source for vegan diet info.  They are very reputable, very calm and reasonable.  Click on Veg Nutrition and then choose a topic such as calcium, protein, or B12.  A  vegan should probably know at least those three topics.  Getting back to soy, you can look at this page at VRG and the second FAQ is about soy.  The answer gives a great overview and includes servings: people in Asian countries eat 2-3 servings per day (and do very well).

Here are a group of studies I found on soy, mostly through National Institutes of Health, the official U.S. government medical entity.  I didn’t “cherry-pick” them at all – this is the order I found them in Google, actively looking for anything negative, until I got sick of looking:

1. This scientific article says soy consumption in Japan seemed to reduce risk of colon cancer slightly among women only.

2. This scientific article about breast cancer in Japan (where many were exposed to the bomb) has a confusing abstract but I think the key sentence is: “The risk for breast cancer was not significantly associated with consumption of soya foods.”  Not sure if they were looking for increased risk or decreased risk, but they found neither.

3. Another study from Japan shows “frequent miso soup and isoflavone consumption was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.”

4. Another study says: “The present study provides modest support for the preventive role of soy against stomach cancer and heart disease death.”

5. Another study, and this one assumes everyone knows soy is good against stomach cancer: “Soy food is known to contribute greatly to a reduction in the risk of gastric cancer (GC). However, both Japanese and Korean populations have high incidence rates of GC despite the consumption of a wide variety of soy foods. One primary reason is that they consume fermented rather than non-fermented soy foods….These findings show that a high level of consumption of non-fermented soy foods, rather than fermented soy foods, is important in reducing GC risk.”  (Miso and tempeh are fermented.  It isn’t clear to me whether they’re suggesting the high rate of GC is caused by fermented tofu or just isn’t helped by it.)

Studies can be flawed and contradictory, so it is important to look at wider views from professionals who have drawn what conclusions they can from carefully examining many studies:

At a general page at NIH where they sum up research, under the general statement that “Soy is considered safe for most people when used as a food or when taken for short periods as a dietary supplement” they do have this one conditional negative statement: “Soy’s possible role in breast cancer risk is uncertain. Until more is known about soy’s effect on estrogen levels, women who have or who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions (such as ovarian or uterine cancer) should be particularly careful about using soy and should discuss it with their health care providers.”   I’m not sure what research leads them to worry about soy – I can’t find anything specific online – but that’s what they say.

Another article from NIH.  This one is pretty good, seems comprehensive, and again (I mean like everything except the previous article) has nothing to say about soy increasing the risk of breast cancer.  The only thing they say about cancer (and note dementia, too) is:

“The original interest in soy was fueled by…the observation that populations that consume a lot of soy, particularly those in eastern Asia, have less breast cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease, and fewer bone fractures. Additionally, women in these populations report fewer menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, and both men and women have a lower incidence of aging-related brain diseases. Since lifestyle can affect chronic disease development, and diet is a major lifestyle factor, traditional Asian diets drew considerable attention.  …[T]he cumulative evidence of numerous biomarker studies has confirmed that their diets are significantly higher in both isoflavones and lignans (another phytoestrogen) compared to the typical Western diet. Studies have further shown that when Asians emigrate to Western nations such as the United States and adopt the prevailing diet, their disease rates change.”

This last sentence indicates that the lower incidence of those diseases mentioned is therefore not a genetic effect but something around them that changed when they moved to the U.S., probably diet.

For another point of view, the Mayo clinic, who were mum on the topic last time I looked, now say:

The high intake of soy foods in Asian countries has long been credited, at least by some researchers, for the lower rate of breast cancer among Asian women, compared with women in countries where little soy is consumed. But some confusion arises when you look at genistein, the main soy isoflavone and a plant estrogen. Does it protect against breast cancer or, on the other hand, promote the growth of existing cancer cells? Some studies have suggested the latter. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reviewed all the evidence and concluded that soy has not been shown to fuel breast cancer cells. “If breast cancer patients enjoy soy products,” they concluded, “it seems reasonable for them to continue to use them.” Whether soy actually protects against breast cancer is still unknown.”

Lastly (I promise) John’s Hopkins University has this very clear page:

10 Myths About Breast Cancer Survivorship

MYTH 1: Eating soy products after having hormone receptor positive breast cancer increases my chance of a recurrence.

FACT: Research on soy has been conflicting over the years. It has the capacity to mimic as well as block certain estrogens. Overall, natural dietary soy in the form of soy milk, soy bean sprouts, tofu or tempeh appears to be safe and may provide significant health benefits when it replaces animal sources of milk and protein. However, soy in concentrated forms such as pills, powders and supplements has the strongest potential for estrogenic activity and probably should be avoided by anyone who has been diagnosed with hormonal receptive breast cancer.

I’m not pooh-poohing your friend’s research.  You’ll just want to compare her sources to these and decide for yourself.”

Posted in Cancer, Nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Goodbye, Ella

Posted by tinako on May 11, 2011


Our cat died two weeks ago.  Ella had just turned 17 and had had cancer for a year and a half and kidney failure for two and a half years.  She was healthy and happy up until her last week, when she stopped eating and drinking.  The same thing happened two years ago and it turned out to be a urinary tract infection making her feel ill.  We nearly lost her that time but with a few days at the vets and a few weeks of antibiotics she went on to have two more quality years.

This time the vet could feel her tumor, her blood tests indicated the cancer was causing havoc, and when we got the test results that she did not have a UTI, we knew that she was not going to get better.  We had had years to get used to the idea, thought of it as a long goodbye, and were ready to let her go, but nothing you do can make that day easier.

You can learn at this post, Vegan Cats, my thoughts on the subject and what I did when I learned she had liver cancer.  That site tells what proportions of vegan to prescription food I was giving, though starting this year I had to cut her back to one to one (only half vegan).  I never held too tightly onto the idea that this would be a cure, and, at least as I implemented it, it seems clear that it was not.   Beyond being sad about my cat, it was personally discouraging that a tumor continued to grow on a diet I hoped would stop it.

I couldn’t feed her all-vegan food because there is no vegan kidney-failure prescription food, but I thought it would be enough, <10% animal protein – would her cancer have grown on 0% animal protein?  Did her cancer grow more slowly on her mostly vegan diet?  Her vet had given her 3-12 months, saying it was a toss-up whether her kidneys or cancer would take her, and yet she lived 18 months; the vet was amazed at how well she was doing, both in lab tests and in appearance, but it’s my understanding that prognosis are difficult to make and notoriously inaccurate, so maybe the diet had no effect at all; we just can’t know from this case.

We were able to keep her kidney numbers in the good range until earlier this year, but even to the end the vet said the kidney numbers were not that bad, and that didn’t seem to be what was making her ill.  Everything indicated it was the cancer.

So while we have a lot of questions, we did learn that: 1. a cat with serious health problems can be healthy and happy on the diet I fed her for quite some time.  2. It does not stop kidney failure or liver cancer.  3. It doesn’t seem to accelerate them, either.  4. It seems to have delayed them.

I would have loved to have fed her a 100% kidney-friendly vegan diet.  What could we accomplish, what could we try, if we thought rationally about the issue of vegan cats, and explored it as an option, instead of just dismissing it as crazy?  I’m grateful my vet was willing to work with me, but it would have been even better if there had been a food I could turn to.

Posted in Cancer | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Why I care what other people eat

Posted by tinako on December 15, 2010

I was commenting at a blog the other day in favor of recent proposed legislation meant to nudge people into making better food choices.  A reply to my reply asked me why I care what other people eat.  I had to think this over a bit, but I have an answer, and prefer to give it its own space here on my own blog.

I care what other people eat because of compassion, the food environment my family faces, and concerns about costs and sustainability.

First the background.  People are not making food choices in a vacuum.  They are making those decisions in an environment which is slanted in such a way that they are encouraged to make unhealthy choices.  Unhealthy food is subsidized by the government (through grain which is converted into meat, sugar, and fat) and is more profitable for food companies and retailers.  Unhealthy quantities are pushed on us through ubiquitous placement and marketing by a food system that needs us to buy more, more, more, in order to remain competitive.  The fact that we can only eat so much has been ignored and, actually, disproved; turns out we can eat more calories than we used to, and than we should.

What this means is that the status quo, expecting people to suddenly make better choices, regardless of whether they are children, whether they can afford it, whether it is available in their neighborhood, and whether they are relentlessly marketed unhealthy food, is unrealistic, as has been proven by decades of rising obesity.  Thirty-four percent of the U.S. population is now obese, and an additional 34% are overweight.  Yes, that’s 68% of adults over a healthy weight.   Almost 17% of U.S. children ages 2-19 are obese.  How is a two-year-old responsible for being obese?  How will blaming the child’s parents help the child?  Scroll down at this page from the CDC to see an amazing map showing the population relentlessly getting heavier, state by state, through the years.  Blaming individuals hasn’t worked for the past 30 years, as obesity rates have risen, so what makes us think that it’s going to work in the future?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control introduces their entire obesity section not with an urge to “put down the fries, fatty,” but with this:

American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity. Policy and environmental change initiatives that make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activity available, affordable, and easy will likely prove most effective in combating obesity.

But to return to the question, so what?  I provide good food for my family and we are healthy.  Why don’t I mind my own business?  Why should I care what my proverbial neighbor eats?

I care because I have compassion.  The same compassion that leads me to forgo eating animal products leads me to support legislation that tries to undo the unfair food environment in which we are immersed, an environment I have been lucky to resist not because I’m a superior human being with stronger character (I’m not) but probably because of a combination of good genes, good socioeconomic status, a mother who ate well during pregnancy and nursing and cared about nutrition and family suppers, and a leaflet someone handed me that led me to become vegan.  I have compassion for the 68% of overweight adults and the real suffering that ensues; the risks for these diseases increases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

People who are overweight also suffer social stigma, employment bias, and low self-esteem, often along with a continual struggle with the unhealthy food that surrounds them.  Overweight people often report that they never stop thinking about food – it controls their lives much like an addictive drug.  For this I have compassion, and if I can speak up to encourage laws to prevent overweight and obesity, I will.  I care.

I have compassion for the 925 million hungry of this world who would like to eat the grain wasted when it is fed to animals.  Thirty-six million people died of malnutrition in 2006.  Of course this is not all our fault, and this is a complex issue, but our country’s food policies, including subsidies which not only encourage our inefficient consumption but also unfair trade, absolutely play a strong role.  I support domestic and international policies and encouragement of personal diets that take world malnutrition into account.  I care.

I also have compassion for the animals suffering in this food system under government-skewed economics that encourage us to eat more of them because their feed is subsidized and their negative environmental and health impacts are not paid for at the checkout counter.  If I can encourage legislation that brings the price of meat in line with the real costs, I will.  If I can lift the veil of secrecy that hides the horrible things done to farm animals in our name, I will.  I care.

My children eat well at home, and I pack lunches for them because the school lunches are not healthy.  Did you know there is currently no limit to the amount of sugar that can be in a USDA-approved school lunch?  And yet there are minimum calorie requirements, and insufficient funding.  Hmm, how can schools put in enough calories with hardly any money?  Sugar and fat are the cheapest calories (remember corn oil and high fructose corn syrup are subsidized by the government?), but the fat actually is restricted to 35% of calories (still a lot), so now you know why school lunches are loaded with fat and sugar.  So I support legislation to improve school lunch standards for other kids, even though I side-step them myself.  Here are some other ways I mentioned in an earlier blog about how the food environment impacts my kids despite my best efforts.  We seldom eat out or watch TV, but my kids have personally encountered these:

Restaurant kids meals are always horrible, commercials on TV encourage kids to eat unhealthy food, teachers have kids visit web sites from candy companies in school, unhealthy snacks are often given to kids in preschool programs, lollypops are handed out on the way out of restaurants, fast food restaurants line the streets near schools, candy and sugary drinks are sold at gas stations and drug stores on the way home from school, schools have vending machines selling sports drinks and candy, weekly birthday or holiday parties include cupcakes with 4″ of icing, classes that behave well earn pizza or doughnut parties; chips, cookies, ice cream, and Little Debbie snack bars are sold daily in the lunchrooms, and on the first day of school my son’s teacher handed out taffy to kids who raised their hands.  Every one of these situations makes parents’ job, to raise healthy kids, harder.

Someday soon my kids will be on their own.  I hope that I, like my mother, can inoculate them against the toxic food environment they will face 24/7.  But if I can speak out to help improve that environment to make healthy decisions easier, I will.  I care.

I’m concerned about our nation’s diet’s effect on health care costs.  The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine makes the connection between this issue and our hair-tearing about the high costs of medical care:

“Even if the steak and cheese produced on American farms foster health problems, our government rallies behind agribusiness all the way to the emergency room.  Sadly, every administration in recent decades has been caught up in a system that not only tolerates ill health, but encourages it.” – Barnard

Almost 10% of total U.S. medical expenditures are attributed to overweight and obesity.  The Congressional Budget Office calculates that if obesity rates continue to rise from 2007’s 28% to 37% in 2020, health care spending will be 7% higher than it would be if obesity rates were to be reversed and drop to 20%.  I support legislation that will lead to a reversal in obesity rates because I care about health care costs that our family pays through insurance premiums and taxes.

I’m very concerned about the environmental unsustainability of Americans’ current eating patterns, and trends in the developing world.  We eat more meat per capita than any other country except Uruguay, so we can hardly ask others to cut back, but the planet cannot, cannot support even the current worldwide population eating like Americans do.  I’m not talking about causing some pollution somewhere, maybe a few frogs die, I mean it’s physically impossible, but on the way to the impossible we will irreparably harm our planet.  Our choice of diet is having an enormous and unsustainable impact on water usage and pollution, acid rain, soil erosion and pollution, air pollution, global warming, wildlife, oceans, antibiotics, and non-renewable energy.  I don’t mean that our unavoidable need to eat causes these problems, I mean we make them magnitudes worse than they need to be because of the discretionary foods we choose to put in our mouths.  The example we set, the culture we export, and our inability to ask others to do what we cannot is setting the stage for a disaster.  The U.N. knows this and is urging the world to adopt a plant-based diet.  One of the suggestions to reduce energy use from a University of Wisconsin researcher who calculated energy use of foods is to “decrease consumption of beef, sugar, and highly processed foods.”  But right now our government is subsidizing exactly these foods through grain subsidies, making them cheaper and therefore increasing sales.  I support ending those subsidies, or if that is politically impractical, counterbalancing them with taxes on unhealthy foods or subsidies on healthy foods.  I care what people eat because our diet is ruining our planet.

All legislation is not equal.  We can debate the merits of particular bills, their costs and effectiveness.  But first we need to care.

Posted in Animals, Cancer, Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Disease, Environment, Nutrition, Osteoporosis, Schools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Well, it may cause cancer, but it’s so good!

Posted by tinako on September 20, 2010

OK, I just had to pass this wisdom from the “Dairy Products and Risk of Breast Cancer.”

QUESTION: What information do you have regarding Jane Plant’s book [Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Breast Cancer]? Is dairy-free really a miracle cure?

ANSWER: The dairy-free diet is intriguing, but it’s certainly not a miracle cure. It’s true that cows are sometimes fed lots of hormones to increase their milk production, as well as antibiotics, and that the grass or hay they eat may contain some pesticides. Toxins do tend to be stored in fats or “hang out” in fat. Dairy products tend to be full of fats. Cheese, for example, is basically concentrated animal (cow) fat (and very delicious! — I can’t live without blue cheese myself). So if it’s true that fat isn’t good for you because of the possible toxins in them, and because they can increase blood cholesterol, etc., then a diet that limits dairy fats is probably a good idea. Having said that, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Non-fat organic dairy products can be very healthy and tasty. Keep in mind that life is meant to be enjoyed. Organic regular cheese can be an occasional special treat. And a nice bowl of ice cream every once in a while is a great way to celebrate a good day or a wonderful moment.

—Marisa Weiss, M.D.

You don’t have to be a doctor or know anything about this book to break down this Q&A:

Q: Will eating less dairy prevent or stop breast cancer?

A: I don’t actually know but I’m going to begin by stating that it won’t.    The idea makes a lot of sense because hormones and antibiotics are normally stored in fat and dairy tends to have a lot of fat, which also can raise your cholesterol.  But it tastes good.

Dr. Weiss, tasting good does not change its effect on cancer and is irrelevant to the question.

Posted in Cancer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Forks Over Knives

Posted by tinako on May 27, 2010

Movie coming Summer 2010

Posted in Cancer, Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Disease, Menus, Nutrition, Osteoporosis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Studies showing cancer risk with vegan diet

Posted by tinako on December 5, 2009

As an aside to my China Study postings, I’m going to pop into this posting any scientific studies I find over time that look into differences in cancer rates on a vegan diet.  I promise I will include any I find that show veganism increases cancer.  I am not going to include any studies that only look at vegetarians or do not differentiate between vegetarians and vegans, because a vegetarian diet is not good enough.  Linda McCartney makes a good example of this.  This publication makes the point that lumping “vegetarians” together may not be yielding helpful analysis.   Unfortunately, most of the big studies in the U.S. don’t seem to have figured out this important difference, and so their results are not always conclusive.  I think this refusal to even consider dairy as a possible bad-guy is the single biggest impediment to seeing the dramatic difference that animal products make in our health.  The logic goes like this: somebody switches from meat to dairy and their health doesn’t improve; therefore don’t bother giving up meat.

Further discussion of unhelpful studies.  And this is a post I wrote about soy and cancer.

Studies showing cancer risk with vegan diet:

  • This link is a blog, not a published, peer-reviewed study, but I welcome comments that question The China Study.  I’m vegan for other reasons; if The China Study skews the truth, then out with it: “A Closer Look at the China Study.”  I have not yet come across criticism of the rat studies.

Vegans who get cancer:

( I looked into Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer and she was not vegan before she was diagnosed.)

  • Bif Naked, Canadian raw vegan 10 years before diagnosed with breast cancer 2008 (thanks, Janet)
  • 11/12/10 – relative of a friend, vegan 10 years, developed adenocarcinoma cancer in mouth, rare and has no risk factors
  • Also see comments below

People who get cancer, then switch to a vegan diet and their cancer keeps growing:

  • See below

Posted in Cancer, Disease | Tagged: , , | 42 Comments »

The China Study 4 – The Chinese

Posted by tinako on November 23, 2009

This is a continuation of my series discussing the book The China Study by Dr. Campbell.  I’m doing this because I often want to refer to the results in this important book, but there’s nowhere to point on the internet.  I am hoping that this “quick” rundown of what the book tells us will shake people up enough to get them to read it and find out more.  Or at the very least, think twice about “Milk – it does a body good!”  I originally checked The China Study out of the library, but then bought my own copy because I wanted to refer to it so often.

Last time Dr. Campbell had found that cancer in rats and mice seems to be promoted by a variety of animal-based nutrients and stalled by plant-based nutrients.  But he wanted to see if this was true in people.  It is considered unethical to experiment on people and try to give them cancer, so instead he assembled a team to begin an epidemiological study, which studies people “in their natural habitat,” eating what they eat, and getting whatever diseases that ensue.

I won’t go into why they went to China in particular – it had to do with an enormous cancer study that had occurred there just before this.  But I do need to point out why China made such a good study.  Most studies of this sort were looking at Westerners, and so researchers were comparing the effect of meaty diets to very meaty diets.  In China, people’s diets on average were much more plant-centered.  For example, the average animal protein consumed in China was 0.8% of calories, vs. 10-11% of calories in the U.S – a twelvefold difference!  And yet there was still enough variation in China, both in diet and diseases, to make correlations, but this time between people eating a plant-based diet and a very plant-based diet.

I believe this was one of the largest studies ever conducted.  The original cancer study, which they built on, included 880 million people in 2,400 counties.  Dr. Campbell’s team gathered data from 6,500 individuals in 65 counties on 367 variables.  Every person submitted a questionnaire, blood, and urine, researchers measured what they ate for 3 days, and food samples were taken in the towns.  When they were done they had “8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet and disease variables” [p.73].

One of the first things they did was to see what diseases tended to go together.  They found certain diseases were found in more affluent areas: cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.  The diseases found in poorer areas were: pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, peptic ulcer, digestive disease, pulmonary tuberculosis, and many others.  If a county had a high rate of breast cancer, for example, it would also have a high rate of coronary heart disease, but not a high rate of pneumonia.  This wasn’t a new idea, but the China Study for the first time correlated these diseases with diet.

The vast majority of people in Western countries die of diseases of affluence, so they are often called Western diseases.  The China Study revealed that one of the strongest predictors of Western diseases was blood cholesterol.  Dr. Campbell explains that dietary cholesterol is what is in the animal-based food we eat – that’s what’s on the nutritional labels.  When you get a blood test, they are not measuring dietary cholesterol (any more than they could measure calories consumed) – they are measuring blood cholesterol that your liver has produced.  Even though they’re chemically identical, they don’t measure the same thing.  Dietary fats and cholesterol that you eat don’t necessarily turn into your body fat and cholesterol.  The synthesis of blood cholesterol “is extremely complex, involving hundreds of different chemical reactions and dozens of nutrients” [p.78].

As blood cholesterol levels in rural China rose (from person to person), the incidence of Western diseases also increased.  This occurred even though Chinese blood cholesterol levels (127 mg/dl) were much lower than in the U.S. (215 mg/DL).  As blood cholesterol decreased from 170 to 90, twelve different kinds of cancer decreased, with either 95+% or 99+% statistical significances (that means there is a <5% or <1% chance the results were chance).   Most Americans know that high blood cholesterol impacts your heart, but it also clearly impacts chances of cancer.

Most Americans are confused about how to lower their blood cholesterol.  I mean, we think we know, but we are missing something.  Ask your doctor how to lower your cholesterol through diet.  You already know what he/she will say, don’t you?  Cut your dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.  Those are important, but did you know that there are two other things you can do which are actually more important?  In both human [*] and animal studies [endnote 1 & *], these two secret tips are more closely correlated with lowering blood cholesterol than the two everybody knows.  They are, in order of importance: eat less animal-based protein, and eat more plant-based foods.   This is so surprising that I want to restate it:  Eating less animal protein and eating more plants are both more important in lowering your blood cholesterol than eating less dietary cholesterol or saturated fat.  You may argue that people eating fewer animal products are necessarily eating less fat and cholesterol, but you would be forgetting about low-fat animal products, exactly the items being pushed on us as a healthy alternative.

So where are we?  We have direct lab animal evidence that animal protein strongly promotes cancer, via several different mechanisms.  We have epidemiological evidence that high blood cholesterol is strongly associated with cancer.  We have human and animal studies showing that animal protein is strongly associated with high blood cholesterol.  And I am not anywhere near done yet.  But already, what do you think of someone like Jean Carper or the American Cancer Society telling you to cut the fat and cholesterol out of your beef, chicken, clams, cheese, eggs, milk, and sour cream?  I want to mention that I looked over some of the recipes at Jean Carper’s site, and many of them are vegan, but at least half feature heavy doses of animal protein.  Out of 34 recipes I found at the ACS site (including here), five had no animal products, and none of those were entrees.

One of the main points Dr. Campbell makes is that most nutritional research centers on particular micro-nutrients, for example the effect of selenium on breast cancer rates.  He says he prefers to study a broad array of nutrients in the same study, because nutrients work together in our bodies to create health or disease.  He studies dietary patterns.  He readily concedes that the China Study results do not constitute absolute scientific proof, but it certainly gives enough information to make some practical decisions.  As a result of this study, Dr. Campbell went from scoffing at vegetarians to giving up most meat and dairy products.  He lost 45 pounds, his cholesterol dropped, and he is more physically fit.

Next, Dr. Campbell looks at more studies done by other scientists, one disease at a time.

Endnote 1: Carroll, K.K. 1983. Dietary proteins and amino acids—their effects on cholesterol metabolism, in Gibney, M.J., and D. Kritchevshy, eds. Animal and vegetable proteins in lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis. New York: Liss, 9-17

Posted in Cancer, Disease | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The China Study 3 – The Net Widens

Posted by tinako on November 22, 2009

Yesterday I talked about Dr. Campbell’s experiments with aflatoxin-induced liver cancer in rats, as described in his book, The China Study.  The conclusion was that cow’s milk protein is a potent cancer promoter in rats dosed with aflatoxin.

I want to take a moment here to talk about Dr. Campbell, who is sometimes dismissed as a vegan with an agenda.  I have mentioned that he was brought up in a dairy-farming family.  He went to college with the expectation of contributing to animal agricultural science.  When he began these experiments, he was as surprised as anyone.   He may have an agenda, but it’s not vegan; I can’t say whether he’s changed since 2004, but in the book Dr. Campbell is not even vegetarian.  He does not insist on eliminating animal products from our diets, and he does not appear to care about animals or the environment all that much.  He gives half a page to talk about lab animals, and is unapologetic.  As I recall he devoted about 1 page (out of 417) to animal suffering, but I was unable to find it just now.  This book is about human health.  Dr. Campbell is also not working for agribusiness, not selling supplements or a diet plan.  He’s selling this book for $16.95, and you can find it in most libraries.  I have been unable to find anyone reasonably calling his work biased or profit-driven.  Moving on.

Now Dr. Campbell wanted to gradually broaden the scope of his research.  He found that another cause of liver cancer, the hepatitis B virus (HBV), was being researched in mice, so he decided to experiment to find the effect of casein on liver cancer in mice with HBV.  This experiment would look at a different carcinogen and a different species.  Despite his earlier findings, he had a great deal of difficulty getting the support to do these experiments.  Nevertheless, he eventually succeeded and found essentially the same results in mice with HBV as he had gotten with rats with aflatoxin.

At about the  same time researchers at the U of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago were working on breast cancer in rats [endnote 1, * & *], and their findings were that increasing intakes of casein promoted the development of breast cancer seeded with either of two carcinogens: DBMA or NMU.  They also found that this promotion operated “through the same female hormone system that operates in humans” [p.65].

So the score so far is that cow’s milk protein dramatically promotes:

  • liver cancer in rats with aflatoxin
  • liver cancer in mice with HBV
  • breast cancer in rats with DBMA
  • breast cancer in rats with NMU

And don’t forget, I’ve been leaving off the “how it works” details.  Dr. Campbell summarizes: “For two different organs, four different carcinogens, and two different species, casein promotes cancer growth while using a highly integrated system of mechanisms…. For example, casein affects the way cells interact with carcinogens, the way DNA reacts with carcinogens, and the way cancerous cells grow” [p.65].

Dr. Campbell began to look to see if other nutrients would have effects on cancer.  They measured the ability of nutrients including fish protein, dietary fats, and carotenoids (antioxidents) to affect liver and pancreatic cancer.  These findings confirmed and broadened his results showing that nutrition is more important than the dose of the carcinogen.  They also found a pattern, that “nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development” [p.66].

These results were broadening and impressive, but it was time to find out whether they were significant in human populations.  Dr. Campbell got his opportunity when he began to work with a Chinese scientist, Dr. Chen.  Next time.


1. Hawrylewicz EJ, Huang HH, Kissane JQ, et al. “Enhancement of the 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA) mammary tumorigenesis by high dietary protein in rats.” Nutr. Reps. Int. 26 (1982): 793-806.

This book has 35 pages of tiny-type endnotes.  If you want details and sources, check it out.

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