Diet, Chemotherapy, and the Truth: How to Win the War on Cancer

We live in an era where the majority of Americans think that diseases strike us because of either misfortune, genetics, or unknown factors beyond our control. When serious disease "strikes," we run to doctors and expect them to fix us with a pill. Most people have no idea that most diseases--including cancers, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes--are the result of nutritional folly. Because they do not know that adults lived much longer centuries ago, they accept the myth that we are living healthier and longer today.

If we were taught from childhood that the diseases we suffer in the modern world are the tragic consequence of our toxic food environment, we wouldn't be in today's disgraceful situation--where people graduate from high school, college, and even graduate school without learning how to protect, preserve, and restore their precious health. With proper health education, we would learn that our bodies are powerfully resistant to disease when nutritional needs are met. Instead, we have become the victims of the high-tech, mass-produced food culture that is fueling a cancer epidemic unrivaled in human history.

Chemotherapy Mentality
Our technologically-advanced society is suffering from the highest rates of cancer ever seen in human history, rates that are also much higher than in less developed parts of the world. Since 1999, cancer has surpassed heart disease and has become the leading cause of age adjusted mortality for Americans younger than 85. Despite more than a hundred billion dollars in cancer research-- invested largely in the development of drug chemotherapy and screening and detection techniques--we have lost the war on cancer. While there has been a slight reduction of cancer-related deaths in the last 25 years, this is largely the result of the decrease in lung cancer deaths that has resulted from a reduction in cigarette smoking during this timeframe. Mortality rates for most cancers have stayed remarkably steady.

Chemotherapy has contributed to the progress made against cancer deaths from fast-growing cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer, and childhood cancers such as osteogenic sarcoma. But for the major cancers affecting most adult Americans, chemotherapy adds less than one year of disease-free life to those treated.

Science or Profits?
At present, pharmaceutical companies-- not independent medical or scientific researchers--control the vast majority of research and clinical trials. We have lost the judgment and rationale of independent experts and now depend on drug companies to honestly report the risks and benefits of drugs they manufacture and sell. This is like asking the fast-food industry to be in charge of our nutritional advice. The medical studies that drug companies pay for and publicize are heavily biased in favor of the drugs they sell. The economically powerful pharmaceutical industry and the large chemical-food conglomerates wield undue influence on government and the media. Accurate nutritional information is rarely reported because the media cannot produce stories that go against the interests of their advertisers. Instead, the media is quick to report on drug company press releases--self-serving propaganda announcing new anticancer "breakthroughs" that reinforce the myth that we are winning the war against cancer.

Mythical Breakthroughs
Most often, the so-called "benefits" described by drug companies announce improved "response rates," for example, when tumor burden is lessened. But an improved response rate means little if the patient does not survive longer. And even the cancer industry's meager definition of survival--living 5 years beyond diagnosis--can be misleading. If "advances" in chemotherapy result in a higher percentage of people surviving for 5 years than did previously, that can be reported as "progress." But if most of them still die between years 5 and 10, it hardly can be called a big success, especially if the same number or more people would have survived 10 years or longer without the chemotherapy.

Unless overall survival and quality of life are improved, it matters not if chemotherapy resulted in tumor shrinkage, or if a slight increase is seen in 5-year survival statistics. By using virtually meaningless terms like "response rates" and "disease-free survival," researchers can report results that make chemotherapy look more effective than it really is.

Unless patients do some investigating of their own, they have no way of knowing that the glowingly optimistic results reported in the press--and too often parroted by their doctors--are designed to lead them to chemotherapy even though it is a poor choice for both quality and duration of life. The false perception that chemotherapy offers significant life-span benefits for cancer sufferers is dramatically juxtaposed by the fact that so many more people die of cancer today than they did years ago. In fact, a Swedish study showed that the risk of developing cancer and dying of it was three times higher in people born in the 1950s compared with those born in the 1880s. Since 1958, cancer has increased 55 percent in men and only slightly less in women.1

Does Chemotherapy Work?
Let's see how effective chemotherapy actually is with a few common cancers.

  • A meta-analysis of chemotherapy for postmenopausal, estrogen receptor-positive women (the largest group of women with breast cancer) pooled the six largest studies to get the most accurate data on survival and complications. Here is what researchers concluded about the group treated with standard chemotherapy: "No significant survival benefit was observed."2
  • In non-small cell lung cancer (the most common type), the 5- year survival is only about 10 percent. In stage 4, when the cancer has spread to distant sites, the 5-year survival is only 1.6 percent. After looking at multiple studies, it appears that treatment generally results in a very slight improved survival rate at 1 year, but this advantage disappeared at 30 months of follow- up.3
  • Even in small cell lung cancer where chemotherapy has proven effectiveness in life extension, the benefit adds only a few months of life, not years. And during this time the patient can experience serious--even life threatening-- side effects from the treatment.

What Should You Do?
If you have cancer and are considering chemotherapy, it is wise to do a search on all of the studies done on the recommended therapy (using med-line, for instance), so an informed decision can be made. If this were done, most patients likely would refuse chemotherapy. Doctors generally hide and distort the realities of chemotherapy, talking to patients about "shrinking the cancer" and "killing cancer cells," not mentioning the fact that the therapy has not been shown to extend life.

Every patient has to make her own decision. But if I were a woman with postmenopausal breast cancer, I would opt for surgery, without radiation and without chemotherapy, and would then pursue an aggressive nutritional protocol. I also would include antiestrogens if the tumor histology showed it to be estrogen receptor- positive.

War Against Good Nutrition
While the "war against cancer" is being fought with the wet noodle of chemotherapy, we are observing a significant increase in some cancers, such as malignant melanoma, multiple myeloma, and prostate cancer. Our population is heavier and as cancer-prone as ever. While we are pouring billions of dollars into drug companies and cancer centers, millions of people continue to die from what should be a preventable disease.

Almost nothing has been done to teach people about the power of nutritional excellence to protect against cancer. In fact, the media regularly reports that nutrition does not affect cancer. For example, a recent New York Times (G. Kolata, September 27,2005,"Science Times") article reported that diet had only a "hypothetical" relationship with cancer. This ludicrous pronouncement was based on studies that showed that perimenopausal women who eat less fat still have high cancer rates. The Times evidently does not understand that modestly reducing fat and eating more chicken and pasta is not an anti-cancer program.

We are losing the war on cancer, and our government policies are actually worsening the problem. With all of the recent advances in science pointing to phytonutrient deficiency as the major cause of cancer, our efforts should focus on prevention; educating the public about proper diet and nutrition. Millions of lives can be saved. We also can eliminate the tragic consequences and family trauma of living with cancer---diagnoses, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapies, suffering, and premature death, which come from the cancer and very often from the treatment.

Avoiding Cancer
Your body is a self-repairing and self-healing machine. Human cells have all the features necessary to protect themselves from chemical damage to their DNA that eventually results in carcinogenic changes. A cancer cell is essentially a normal cell whose DNA has been damaged to the point that it can no longer control its replication. The process that is creating our modern epidemic of cancer is twofold. One aspect involves the exposure of our cells to damaging stresses such as chemical carcinogens, radon, acrylamides, and high levels of saturated and trans fats and animal protein. At the same time, we have a woefully insufficient dietary intake of plant-derived nutrients, which renders our cells incapable of functioning to their fullest potential for repair and maintenance.

Our cells have built-in, powerful mechanisms to remove or destroy toxic substances, inhibit DNA damage, repair broken DNA cross-links, and remove cells that are injured or abnormal before they become cancerous. In recent years, the term phytochemicals has been used to refer to the thousands of newly-discovered nutrients supplied by plants that---in addition to vitamins and minerals---are necessary for maximal immune system protection and for the promotion of cellular detoxification and repair.

Most of our knowledge about what constitutes the optimal cancer prevention diet comes from both human population (epidemiological) studies and animal studies. Populations that have a high intake of natural, unrefined plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans always have a low incidence of cancer, proportional to the intake of these phytochemcal-rich plant foods.

Even though other factors such as chemicals, pollution, and smoking play a role in cancer etiology, the scientific literature still illustrates that a better diet offers dramatic protection even against nondietary cancer promoters. For example, the Fiji Islands (where smoking rates are high) still has a dramatically lower incidence of lung cancer than Hawaii (where smoking rates are lower). This protection against lung cancer even in heavily smoking Fiji Islanders was shown to be the result of the high intake of green vegetables in Fiji.4

Examining data from numerous epidemiological studies, the World Cancer Research Fund concluded that the evidence that fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of oral, esophageal, lung, stomach, colon, pancreatic, bladder, and breast cancer was convincing. No single substance in a plant-based diet accounts for this relationship; rather, it is the synergistic effect of multiple phytochemical compounds (which number in the thousands).

The National Cancer Institute recommends eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. However, scientific studies suggest that more is better and that much, much more is much, much better at reducing cancer risk. It is a national disgrace that very few Americans follow this very minimal recommendation to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Cruciferous Vegetables
While fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, the consumption of vegetables is more helpful in reducing cancer because they contain much higher amounts of cancer-protective compounds-- especially green vegetables. Among these green vegetables, the cruciferous family has demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects. Isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are perhaps the best studied, have been shown to provide protection against environmental carcinogen exposure by inducing detoxification pathways, thereby neutralizing potential carcinogens.

These vegetables also contain indole-3- carbinol (I3C). Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing estrogen activity. Important recent studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables and the compounds they contain can do the following:


  • halt the growth of breast cancer cells;5
  • dramatically reduce the risk of colon cancer;6
  • prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells and induce death of cancerous cells;7
  • inhibit the progression of lung cancer.8


What makes these studies even more fascinating is the discovery of the gene/diet interaction, which has shown that high intake of greens and cruciferous vegetables provides the food factors necessary to interact with--and prevent-- genetic defects from creating disease. This gene/diet interaction activates a battery of many genes, initiating DNA repair and other protection mechanisms.

These cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms are most powerfully induced by eating a mixture of both raw and cooked cruciferous plant foods. Some of the compounds are water soluble and heat stable, and absorption is increased when cooked, for example, in a soup. Other critical ITCs are heat sensitive and are better transmitted in the raw form.

Carotenoids & Polyphenols
Population studies show an association between high dietary intake of carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables and reduced risk of prostate, breast, and head and neck cancers. A high dietary intake of fruits and vegetables provides a spectrum of carotenoids, including alphacarotene, gamma-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene.

Vegetable juices (carrot, tomato, spinach, and other greens) represent a particularly potent form of carotenoids. Scientists have demonstrated that drinking carrot juice significantly reduces free radical damage to genes. Tomato juice and cooked tomatoes rich in lycopene and other potent antioxidants help reduce the oxidation of the "bad" LDL cholesterol and also have been shown to dramatically help protect against cancer. Carotenoid-rich extracts of carrots and tomatoes have been shown to substantially inhibit the early stages of liver cancer in animals.

Fruits also contain various key phytochemicals. For example, resveratrol, found in grapes, has been reported to exert a variety of anticancer effects. Studies have demonstrated that resveratrol causes growth inhibition of human colon and breast cancer cells. Ellagic acid, found in strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, is another polyphenol that has demonstrated anticarcinogenic potential in animal studies.

This article is from the Healthy Times newsletter, a complete archive of which is available to members of DrFuhrman.com.

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"A Symphony of Phytonutrients" from Cruciferous Vegetables

While fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, the consumption of vegetables is more helpful in reducing cancer because they contain much higher amounts of cancer-protective compounds--especially green vegetables. Among these green vegetables, the cruciferous family has demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects.

Isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are perhaps the best studied, have been shown to provide protection against environmental carcinogen exposure by inducing detoxification pathways, thereby neutralizing potential carcinogens. These vegetables also contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C). Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing estrogen activity.

Important recent studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables
and the compounds they contain can do the following:

* halt the growth of breast cancer cells1
* dramatically reduce the risk of colon cancer2
* prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells and induce death of cancerous cells3
* inhibit the progression of lung cancer4

What makes these studies even more fascinating is the discovery of the gene/diet interaction, which has shown that high intake of greens and cruciferous vegetables provides the food factors necessary to interact with--and prevent--genetic defects from creating disease. This gene/diet interaction activates a battery of many genes, initiating DNA repair and other protection mechanisms.

These cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms are most powerfully induced by eating a mixture of both raw and cooked cruciferous plant foods. Some of the compounds are water soluble and heat stable, and absorption is increased when cooked, for example, in a soup. Other critical ITCs are heat sensitive and are better transmitted in the raw form.

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Pomegranate Power

Pomegranate juice is a rich source of phytochemical compounds shown to benefit the heart and blood vessels. It not only lowers cholesterol, but lowers blood pressure and increases the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) melt away.

Recent medical research completed in 2004 studied heart patients with severe carotid artery blockages. They were given an ounce of pomegranate juice for a year, and not only did their blood pressure lower by over 20 percent, but there was a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque.1

The data was measured by IMT technology. IMT stands for Intima Media Thickness. It has been shown in medical studies that the thickness of the plaque in a specific place in the neck has an excellent correlation with coronary artery atherosclerotic burden. The control group who did not receive the juice had their arteries close off even further. IMT thickness increased 9 percent.

Not only are pomegranates good for your heart and blood vessels but they have been shown to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and to prevent vascular changes that promote tumor growth in lab animals.2

Pomegranates' potent antioxidant compounds have also been shown to reduce platelet aggregation and naturally lower blood pressure, factors that prevent both heart attacks and strokes.3 Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants offering protection against heart disease and cancer. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.

Pomegranate juice has also been found to contain phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin and estrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and improving bone mass in lab animals.4

Given the fact that pomegranate juice is so rich in heart protective compounds and there are animal studies to support the beneficial findings in human studies, it makes the results of these recent investigations understandable and believable. Pomegranate is a powerful food for good health.5

Summary Features of Pomegranate

1. Most powerful anti-oxidant of all fruits
2. Potent anti-cancer and immune supporting effects
3. Inhibits abnormal platelet aggregation that could cause heart attacks, strokes and embolic disease
4. Lowers cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors
5. Lowers blood pressure
6. Shown to promote reversal of atherosclerotic plaque in human studies.
7. May have benefits to relieve or protect against depression and osteoporosis

I recommend all my patients who have heart disease, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure to incorporate pomegranate juice into their diet and, for the above reasons I have added pomegranate concentrate to my cholesterol lowering formula, LDL Protect.

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Preventing Heart Attacks with Aggressive Dietary Intervention

Most people think going to cardiologists and radiologists to get evaluated to see if they have a significant coronary blockage will enable an intervention at an early enough point to save their life; they are dead wrong. Angioplasties and stent placements as well as cardiac surgery treat symptoms, not the disease. Seventy to eighty percent of all myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) are caused by plaque that is not obstructive or visible on angiography or stress tests.

Heart attacks result from a defect in the plaque wall which leads to a thrombus (blood clot). Even a small coating of vulnerable plaque, invisible to cardiac testing, can cause a heart attack and typically does. The important point to remember is this: Individuals without major blockages of their great vessels, with only 30 to 50 percent stenosis (narrowing), are even more likely to develop a fatal cardiac event, (compared to those with more significant blockages) yet these individuals are not even shown to have heart disease with a stress test or angiography. Stress testing only identifies blockages that obstruct greater than eighty-five percent of the vessel lumen. A normal stress test is meaningless and does not mean you do not have significant heart disease or won't shortly have a heart attack.

Bypass surgery and angioplasty only attempt to treat a small segment of the diseased heart, usually with only temporary benefit. Since atherosclerotic plaque blankets all the vessels in the heart, bypassing or removing the most diseased portion, still does not address all the shallow and non-obstructive lipid deposits. The major burden of disease is left intact and therefore the potential for a deadly heart attack is largely unaffected. These mechanical interventions do not address the cause of the disease and only treat the symptoms it is not surprising that the patients undergoing bypass and angioplasty experience disease progression, graft shutdown, restenosis, and more procedures because their heart disease continues to advance.

Using surgical and high-tech interventions as a substitute for a healthful diet is doomed to fail. When extensive coronary artery disease is present and surgical/high-tech intervention occurs, we still leave the vast bulk of plaque essentially untreated because atherosclerosis is a dietary-induced disease and is spread all over the heart, not only in those areas visualized by angiograms and then treated. When we combine these marginally effective or ineffective medical interventions with the wrong dietary advice given by most doctors and dieticians (to reduce fat and cholesterol and eat less red meat and more chicken and fish) we get predictable future cardiac tragedies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that following the typical dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association to hold cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day and to reduce dietary fat to less than 30 percent doesn't work.1 These diets fail to realize that the nutritional cause of heart disease is not simply a question of eating less fat. Moderation kills, because heart disease still advances.

There is irrefutable evidence that high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Make no doubt about it: lowering your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. LDL cholesterol is the bad guy that promotes the plaque that leads to blockages and heart attacks. Thus, the more LDL-cholesterol you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.

The good news is symptoms, as well as blockages, easily melt away with nutritional excellence, without any cardiac intervention. The risks and complications of cardiac interventions and bypass surgeries are simply not necessary when people adopt an effective nutritional strategy. Instead of expensive and invasive medicine, we need doctors to educate and motivate patients to take charge of their own health. While our population is committing suicide with their knives and forks, they run to doctors expecting to be saved. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to escape from the biological laws of cause and effect. Good health has to be earned, it can't be bought.

Compelling data from numerous population and interventional studies show that the combination of a natural plant-based diet and aggressive lipid-lowering will prevent, arrest, and even reverse heart disease. Only via nutritional excellence can you address all the invisible, but potentially dangerous plaque throughout your coronary arteries. Unlike surgery and angioplasty, the dietary approach addressed in this book does not merely treat your heart, but rejuvenates all your blood vessels and protects your entire body against heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, venous thrombosis, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementia. It is your most valuable insurance policy to secure a longer life free of medical tragedy.

Studies preformed by Dean Ornish and other investigators have also documented the effects of a low-fat vegetarian (vegan) diet on patients with heart disease and found reversal of the condition occurred in the majority of patients. The reversal was modest, but nevertheless, no study previously showed diet could be so effective at preventing and reversing heart disease.

Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic went a step further and put together a program utilizing a vegetarian plant-based diet with the addition of cholesterol-lowering medication in 18 patients who had severe angiographically demonstrated coronary artery disease. All of these high-risk patients with advanced heart disease were noted to have no coronary events during the following 12 years, and on repeat angiogram, 70% were found to have regression of their disease and none had progression.2 When you consider these 18 patients had experienced 50 coronary events during the 8 years before this study, you have to agree on the effectiveness of combining plant-based nutrition with cholesterol lowering.

I have observed the same thing in my medical practice over the last 15 years: the combination of superior nutrition with a plant-based, vegetable-predominant diet and cholesterol-lowering therapy stops heart disease cold.

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Wednesday Health Notes

  • A fascinating new book called Hungry Planet focuses on photographs of families all over the world posing with the food they eat in a typical week. If we all had photos like this taken every day, we'd all eat better, I guarantee it. You can see a lot of the photos on the photographer's website and there are several more photos and some interviews on the NPR website.
  • You hear a lot about McDonald's and Coca-Cola being exported to the developing world. Here's an article about a movement to encourage Kenyans to grow and eat vegetables. One account of how it's going: "Look at the children... They look much stronger and are more noisy."
  • Free online video of T. Colin Campbell (The New York Times calls his China Study "the Grand Prix of all epidemiological studies") delivering a speech about how meat and dairy promote cancer. What strikes me: this is a man who grew up on a dairy farm. His love of science has driven him to call himself a vegan.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association shows what we have known for a long time: lots of Americans are not in good shape: "Low fitness was identified in 33.6% of adolescents."
  • There is a new doo-dad on the right side of the homepage at DrFuhrman.com that shows the latest headlines from this blog. You can click on it to come here.

A New Way of Addressing Heart Disease

More than 1.5 million people will have a heart attack this year with about 1 million deaths due to heart disease. This amounts to another needless death every 30 seconds. In 1997 the direct medical costs attributed to heart disease came to 59 billion--more than any other medical condition. Drugs, medical procedures and surgery are the recommended approach to deal with heart disease in America. As a result, the demand for high-tech expensive, but largely ineffective, medical care is high, causing medical costs and insurance rates to skyrocket. The medical answer to heart disease is both financially devastating and futile. An entire industry has blossomed to attempt to deal with the dangers of heart-disease-causing food. It wouldn't be so bad if patients were told there was another option that was more effective and could reverse heart disease and protect their life with certainty. If good information was distributed to all patients, then they could choose which road was right for them.

If all the physicians in America gave patients this information, we would have a new major problem. The patients would get well, the doctors and hospitals would lose most of their business and the drug companies would lose billions. People would have to be re-trained for new careers as a multi-billion dollar industry would lose almost all of its customers. Not a likely scenario. Nevertheless, my goal is to recruit an army of heart-disease-proof individuals, who will be winners in the war against unnecessary heart disease deaths.

High cholesterol and resultant heart disease is a far too common problem--but it is both preventable and reversible. The risk of cardiovascular disease, resulting in a heart attack or embolic stroke, is directly related to your cholesterol level.

Today's cardiac protective recommendations are:
-LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl
-Total cholesterol below 150 mg/dl

Unfortunately, less than 10% of adults in the United States meet this requirement and heart disease and stroke kill more people than all other causes of death combined.

Dramatic cholesterol lowering results, without drugs

In my medical practice, I have helped thousands of patients successfully lower their cholesterol levels without drugs. I recommend that my patients lower their cholesterol through natural methods whenever possible, using prescription drugs only when absolutely necessary because of their potentially serious side effects. Almost all of my patients prefer this judicious approach and it is very rare that they are not able to achieve these protective levels naturally.

Hundreds of my patients have dropped their cholesterol into the favorable range and protected themselves against heart disease, without drugs, using my methods.

Just for an example, in one day, last month I had five patients who dropped their LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl. Don't forget, this was just one day in my practice!

Not only did all these individuals have dangerously high cholesterols, but each patient also reported numerous health problems. Peggy suffered from chronic anemia, Eugene was tired all the time, Keith had chronic heart burn and allergies, and Maria had become severely ill from a statin drug prescribed to her by her prior physician. These four patients needed help and they realized that prescription drugs were risky and not the answer. They all returned to my office between 6 and 8 weeks after their first visit and this is what we found.

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Dietary Fiber and Colon Cancer

In a Dec. 14 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report, Yikyung Park, ScD, et al. addresses the relation between dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer.1 The study examines the commercially accepted hypothesis that dietary fiber reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. The conclusion of the research revealed mixed results, including some instances where fiber supplementation did not decrease the risk of cancer:

The association between dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer has been inconsistent among observational studies and several factors may explain the disparity: potential biases in each study, the failure to adjust for covariates in the multivariate models, and the range of dietary fiber intake. Inconsistent results also have been reported from randomized clinical trials of dietary fiber supplementation on the recurrence of colorectal adenomas (precursors of colorectal cancer); most trials have found no reduced risk of adenoma recurrence with dietary fiber supplementation compared with placebo.2-5

A statistically significant reduction in risk of colorectal cancer with higher dietary fiber intake has been observed in most case-control studies.6 However, case-control studies are prone to recall bias because dietary assessments are obtained after cancer diagnosis and also are prone to selection bias because control participants who participate are likely to be particularly health-conscious. In addition, publication bias may contribute to the accumulation of literature with significant findings. On the other hand, the Pooling Project is less susceptible to these biases because diet was assessed prior to diagnosis and the studies were not required to have published on the association between dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer.


In Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live he gives a reason why this connection is inconsistent and provides his recommendation for fiber intake:
It is not the fiber extracted from the plant package that has miraculous health properties. It is the entire plant package considered as a whole, containing nature's anti-cancer nutrients as well as being rich in fiber.

High-fiber foods offer significant protection against both cancer (including colon cancer) and heart disease. I didn't say fiber; I said high-fiber foods. We can't just add a high-fiber candy bar or sprinkle a little Metamucil on our doughnut and french fries and expect to reap the benefits of eating high-fiber foods.

The reality is that healthy, nutritious foods are also very rich in fiber and that those foods associated with disease risk are generally fiber-deficient. Meat and dairy products do not contain any fiber, and foods made from refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, and pasta) have had their fiber removed. Clearly, we must substantially reduce our consumption of these fiber-deficient foods if we expect to lose weight and live a long, healthy life.


Furthermore, in his book Disease-Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman tells how the changing Japanese diet demonstrates a connection between higher consumption of animal products and the incidence of colon cancer:
The intake of Total Dietary Fiber (TDF) was evaluated from data from the National Nutrition Survey in Japan for forty-one years beginning in 1947. TDF intake decreased rapidly from 27.4 grams per day in 1947 to 15.8 grams in 1963. Fat intake increased rapidly from 18 grams in 1950 to 56.6 grams in 1987. Of significance in this carefully done study was that the increased occurrence of colon cancer had a twenty-three-to-twenty-four-year lag after the heightened consumption of animal products began. Apparently what the Japanese people did twenty-five years earlier had the strongest effect on inducing cancer, not what they ate ten years or even twenty years earlier.7 Those with the highest consumption of plant fiber in their childhood had the lowest incidence of colon cancer.

Recent studies have also found that eating fruit during childhood had powerful effects to protect against cancer in later life. A sixty-year study of 4,999 participants found that those who consumed more fruit in their childhood (the highest quartile) were 38 percent less likely to develop cancer as adults.8

Diets rich in meat and dairy are powerfully implicated as cancer promoters. Processed, pickled, smoked, or barbequed meats are even more strongly linked to cancer. Separate studies from Europe and the United States found the same results; those who eat meat daily have a three- to four-fold increase incidence of colon, esophageal, and stomach cancers, and the risks are more severe the younger in age people begin these practices.9

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Fishing for the Truth

Michael Hawthorne and Sam Roe of the Chicago Tribune report that the United States safety net for safeguarding consumers against the increased mercury levels in fish is in tatters. In the article the reporters detail the fate of one particular piece of fish:

Shipped from Singapore, the swordfish entered the U.S. this year without being tested for the toxic metal mercury.

When a fillet from that fish reached a display case at a supermarket in suburban Des Plaines, it carried no government warning labels, even though federal officials know swordfish often is so contaminated that young children and pregnant women should never eat it.

The Chicago Tribune actually bought and tested a portion of this fish, which produced alarming results:

When the Tribune bought and tested this particular piece of fish, the results showed not just high amounts of mercury, but levels three times the legal limit.

Hawthorne and Roe point out the dangers lurking in the fish and in the actions of U.S. health officials:

Even though mercury can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults, regulators do not even bother to routinely check fish for metal. This leaves consumers with little idea about which fish are most hazardous.

In some cases, regulators have ignored the advice of their own scientists who concluded that mercury was far more dangerous than what consumers were being told.

In other instances, regulators have made decisions that benefited the fishing industry at the expense of public health.

In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains that consumption of fish creates a parodox:

Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that interfere with blood clotting much the same way aspirin does. Once you have significant atherosclerosis, it is helpful to take such anti-clotting agents, especially if you continue a dangerous diet. These fish derived-fats also have some effect on protecting the arterial walls from damage from other fats.

However, the best way to prevent a heart attack or stroke is to follow a high-nutrient diet with little or no animal products, thereby ensuring that such blockages don't develop in the first place. Then eating fish won't matter. In fact, the reason fish-derived fats, EPA and DHA, are not considered essential fats is that almost all people have enzymes to convert the plant-derived omega-3 fat rapidly into EPA and DHA.1

Fish is a double-edged sword, especially because fish has been shown to increase heart attack risk if polluted with mercury.2 It seems that the cardioprotective effects of eating a little fish is lost when you eat lots of fish, most likely because lots of fish exposes you to high mercury levels, which can promote lipid peroxidation.3 Lipid peroxidation plays a major role in the development of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Dr. Fuhrman provides important information to consider when deciding whether or not to consume fish:

Higher levels of mercury found in mothers who eat more fish have been associated with birth defects, seizures, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and cerebral palsy.4 This is mostly the result of women having eaten fish when they were pregnant. Scientists believe that fetuses are much more sensitive to mercury exposure than adults, although adults do suffer from varying degrees of brain damage from fish consumption.5 Even the FDA, which normally ignores reports on the dangers of our dangerous food practices, acknowledges that large fish such as shark, swordfish, and yellowfin and bluefin tuna, are potentially dangerous. Researchers are also concerned about other toxins concentrated in fish that can cause brain damage way before the cancers caused by chemical-carrying fish appear.

Fish with Highest and Lowest Mercury Levels

Highest
  • tilefish
  • swordfish
  • mackerel
  • shark
  • white snapper
  • tuna

Lowest
  • salmon
  • flounder
  • sole
  • tilapia
  • trout

Source: Mercury levels in seafood species. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Office of Seafood, May 2001.

The bottom line: Choose fish over other animal products, but be aware that the place where it was caught, and the type of fish, matters. Don't accept recreational fish from questionable waters. Farmed fish is safer. Never eat high-mercury-content fish. Don't eat fish more than twice a week, and if you have a family history of hemorrhagic stroke, limit it further to only once a month.

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Government: Half of 55 to 64 Year Olds Have High Blood Pressure

The AP's Mike Stobbe passes along some good news: the government just announced that life expectancy in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of 77.6 years. But, he writes, there are some worrying trends on the horizon:

Half of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group � including the oldest of the baby boomers � have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese. That means they are in worse shape in some respects than Americans born a decade earlier were when they were that age.

In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman has this to say about high blood pressure.

Studies have shown controlling sodium intake and weight loss to be effective in reducing blood pressure, even in the elderly.1 How can you implement these interventions into you lifestyle? It's simple. Eat many more fruits, vegetables, and legumes; eat less of everything else; and engage in a moderate amount of exercise. High blood pressure is relatively simple to control.

I encourage my patients to do what it takes to normalize their blood pressure so they do not require medication. Prescribing medications for high blood pressure has the effect of a permission slip. Medication has a minimal effect in reducing heart attack occurrence in patients with high blood pressure because it does not remove the underlying problem (atherosclerosis), it just treats the symptom. Patients given medication now falsely believe they are protected, and they continue to follow the same disease-causing lifestyle that caused the problem to begin with, until the inevitable occurs--their first heart attack or stroke. Maybe, if high blood pressure medications were never invented, doctors would have been forced to teach healthful living and nutritional disease causation to their patients. It is possible that many more lives could have been saved.
Dr. Fuhrman tells the story of a patient who followed his advice.
Though it took a full two years, Rhonda Wilson dropped her weight from 194 to a slim 119. She was able to come off blood pressure medication as a result of her newfound commitment to a healthful lifestyle. When she first came to me, she was on two medications to control her high blood pressure. These two medications were not sufficient, as her blood pressure was still excessively high. Rhonda did not see normal blood pressure readings for a long time and was not able to stop her blood pressure medication until she became relatively thin. Her story illustrates a common dilemma. It is not unusual for some people to lose some weight, yet still have high blood pressure. Some individuals develop high blood pressure and diabetes even from a small amount of excess body fat. For these individuals, it is even more important to maintain an ideal weight.

UPDATE: You can read the whole government report here.

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Nuts to Heart Disease!

Harvard Health Publications reports that consumption of nuts is healthy, especially for men at risk for heart disease.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health decided to crack old myths by examining how eating nuts affects the cardiovascular health of men and women.

A 1993 trial evaluated 18 healthy male volunteers who were divided into two groups, then placed on diets providing 30% of calories from fat and conforming to the Step 1 diet of the National Cholesterol Education Program. Half the men got their dietary fat from the usual foods; the others got two-thirds of their fat from walnuts. At the end of a month, the walnut eaters had lower cholesterol levels, enjoying a 12% drop, which could translate into a 20%-30% decline in the risk of heart disease if it was maintained.

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live he explains how nuts are an important part of an optimal diet.

Multiple studies have shown the protective effects of consuming walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A study of 34,192 Californian Seventh-Day Adventists showed a 31 percent reduction in the lifetime risk of ischemic heart disease in those who consumed raw nuts frequently.1 The ideal diet for heart disease reversal, then, is free of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol; rich in nutrients and fiber; and low in calories, to achieve thinness. However, it should contain sufficient essential fatty acids, so it is important to add a small amount of nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flaxseed.

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Is Organic Food Safer?

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease-Proof Your Child.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is up 10.7 percent over the last twenty years. Brain cancer is up 30 percent; osteogenic sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, is up 50 percent; and testicular cancer is up 60 percent in men under thirty. No one can tell us why. Scientific studies provide clues that are difficult to ignore:

  • Children whose parents work with pesticides are more likely to suffer leukemia, brain cancer, and other afflictions.
  • Studies show that childhood leukemia is related to increased pesticide use around the house.
  • Nine studies reviewed by the National Cancer Institute showed a correlation between pesticide exposure and brain cancer.
  • Exposure to weed killers in childhood increases asthma risk by more than fourfold.
All the dangers stated above are not the result of eating pesticide-treated produce. This clear link between pesticides and cancer is a result of chemical use around the home and farm.1 Clearly, it is not logical to eat organic food to avoid pesticide residue and then spray our homes with carcinogenic insecticides and weed killers used liberally in and around homes, interior plants, lawns, gardens, and even schools.

Because young children are the ones most susceptible to toxic exposures, the National Academy of Science has issued warnings and position papers stating that exposure to pesticides in early life can increase cancer rates down the road as well as increasing the occurrence of mental and immune system disorders.2

We must be careful not to expose our children to chemical cleaners, insecticides, and weed killers on our lawns. Chemicals used in pressure-treated wood used to build lawn furniture, decks, fences, and swings sets have been shown to place children at risk. When children are around, we must be vigilant to maintain a chemical-free environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the majority of pesticides now in use are probable or possible cancer causers. Studies of farm workers who work with pesticides suggest a link between pesticide use and brain cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple myloma, leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the stomach, prostate, and testes.3 But the question remains, does the low level of pesticides remaining on our food present much of a danger?

Some scientists argue that the extremely low level of pesticide residue remaining on produce is insignificant and that there are naturally occurring toxins in all natural foods that are more significant. The large amount of studies performed on the typical pesticide-treated produce have demonstrated that consumption of produce, whether organic or not, is related to lower rates of cancer and disease protection, not higher rates. Certainly, it is better to eat fruits and vegetables grown and harvested using pesticides than not eating them at all. The health benefits of eating phytochemical-rich produce greatly outweigh any risk pesticide residues might pose.

It has been shown that women with higher levels of pesticides in their bloodstream have a higher risk of breast cancer.4 However, the pesticide shown in these studies to be connected to cancer was DDT, which is no longer used in food production and was banned by the U.S. government in 1972. The problem is that DDT is still in the environment and finds its way back into our food supply, predominately via shellfish and fish consumption. So purchasing organic fruit and vegetables will not lower our exposure to DDT if we are eating fish and shellfish regularly.

Keep in mind, there is a significantly larger exposure to toxic chemicals in animal products compared to plant food. By eating lower on the food chain and reducing our intake of animal products, one automatically reduces exposure to toxic chemicals. Plants have the least fat-soluble pollutants, animals that eat plants have more, and animals that eat animals have the highest levels of these toxic compounds. Fish that eat smaller fish will store the toxic compounds from every fish it ever ate, including all the fish eaten by the fish it just made a meal of. It is important to avoid lobster, shellfish, catfish, and predator fish such as tuna, bluefish, striped bass, shark, and swordfish, where toxins such as PCB, DDT, dioxin, and mercury are likely to build up due to the compounding effects of eating lots of smaller fish. One gets larger doses of more toxic compounds from these contaminated animal products than would be possible to take in from produce.

Organic food is certainly your best bet, to further limit exposure to toxic chemicals. No one knows for sure how much risk exists from pesticide residue on produce, but here's what we do know: the younger you are, the more your cells are susceptible to damage from toxins. It seems wise to feed our young children organic food whenever possible.

Of course, wash your vegetables and fruit with water and when possible, use a drop of dishwashing detergent and then rinse well to remove all detergent residues for a little more efficient cleaning. Specialty pesticide removal products have not clearly demonstrated any more effectiveness than mild soap and water.

Besides the heightened exposure to chemicals and pesticides from animal products, the most hazardous pesticides are used on some plant foods responsible for the majority of the plant-food-related dietary risk. These foods with the most pesticide residue are: strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries, apples, and celery. Imported produce is also more likely to contain higher levels of pesticides.5

There is another reason to feed our children organic food when possible. Organic food usually has more nutrients than conventional.6 One study performed at the University of California at Davis found that foods grown organically had higher amounts of flavonoids, which have protective effects against both heart disease and cancer. The researchers found flavonoids were more than 50 percent higher in organic corn and strawberries. They theorized that when plants are forced to deal with the stress of insects, they produce more of these compounds, which are beneficial to humans.7 Overall, organic foods taste better, and organic agriculture protects farmers and our environment.

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