I knock gently on my patient’s door and hesitantly walk in. After the initial exchange of greetings I carefully state, “Ms. Doe, I have some bad news. The pathology report indicates cancer….” News such as this is every physician’s and patient’s nightmare. To this day, disclosing the “C” (cancer) word both as a physician and as a human being fills me with fear. But is this fear completely founded?
Many of us view the “C” word as a result of hereditary genes, as though we were handed a set of genes by our parents and there is nothing we can do about it. But is that really the case? While it is true that heredity plays a large role in disease, the good news is that new advances in scientific research indicate that we don’t have to be quite so scared hereditary genes as we used to think. Furthermore, this same research indicates that we can not only prevent the big “C” but, in many cases, even treat it with simple dietary changes and moderate exercise. Excitingly, science was not the first to discover these revolutionary principles. God as our Great Physician and Creator advised us of these same principles long ago, both in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy. In our television show Practical Living and in our health lectures, we focus on all eight of God’s perfect health plan. However in the following article, we will primarily focus on nutrition.
The scientific community has for some time noted the benefits of a vegetarian diet in cancer prevention. In fact, in 2012 the largest meta-analysis of multiple different studies indicated over an 18 percent decrease in cancer among vegetarians as opposed to non-vegetarians.(3) With all the positive benefits on cancer prevention noted from a vegetarian diet, many have wondered what role in cancer prevention and treatment a completely plant based or vegan diet plays. This was the basis of the recent National Cancer Institute funded study performed and published by Loma Linda University. In the Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2), the researchers studied over 60,000 people. Controlling for confounders such as smoking, alcohol use and a family medical history of cancer, the researchers discovered that while vegetarian diets do confer a protective role against cancer, veganism confers the greatest decrease in cancer at a 34 percent decrease in cancer from a vegetarian diet alone. This improved cancer protection was noted in both genders but very specifically in prostate cancer and female related cancer including breast, ovarian and cervical cancers.(7)
In response to the AHS-2, many are asking, “Why such a significant decrease in cancer among vegans versus vegetarians?” The answer to this question is the basis of the research performed by Pritikin researchers, a group of concerned scientists and physicians dedicated to discovering the relationship of disease and diet. Their first attempt to answer this question involved taking petri dishes with prostate cancer cells, the “number one” cancer in men, and exposing them to the blood of vegans versus those on a standard American diet. The petri dishes were followed over the course of a year, noting cancer cell growth and programmed cell death or apoptosis. Much to the excitement of the researchers, the prostate cancer cells were significantly affected by both, by a decrease in growth and increased programmed cell death. In fact, the leading researcher Dr. Ornish and his group discovered that a vegan diet decreased cancer growth by nearly 8 times over the standard American Diet.(5) Although these results were phenomenonal, the Pritikin researchers wanted to determine if this same effect could be substantiated over an even shorter time interval and with the most common cancer in women, breast cancer. As such, they took three different breast cancer cell lines including estrogen and progesterone receptor resistant ductal carcinoma, one of the more difficult to treat breast cancers, and exposed them to the blood of non-vegan women. Then, these same participants were then asked and agreed to undergo a two week vegan diet. After only 12 days, the petri dishes were assessed and amazingly there were significant decreases in cancer cell growth and exponential increases in apoptosis (programmed cell death). Imagine that! In just 12 days, one’s blood can be completely altered on a healthy, plant based diet so much so that the body is able to fight off cancer. The exciting news is that this same 10-day interval effect can be seen in numerous other diseases as well.
Pritikin researchers sought to determine what element in the vegan women’s blood was combating the cancer cells. In 2011, the researchers published their results that demonstrated clearly that the hormone involved is Insulin like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). For some time, IGF-1 has been known to promote cancer cell growth and decrease programmed cell death, both clearly substantiated in the article published by Soliman et.al.(2) Combining their research with that of Ngo’s article (4), the Pritikin researchers were able to show that a vegan diet lowered IGF-1 levels even as low as half their Average American omnivore diet level.(4,6) In addition, the researchers discovered that eating a vegan diet not only lowers your current risk of cancer but it also combats years of meat-eating by lowering IGF-1 binding globulin which lowers “old” accumulated IGF-1. This is accomplished by assisting the liver in “binding” up cancer causing IGF-1 and eliminating it through the gastrointestinal tract. Through these two mechanisms, the researchers determined that your body is able to drastically fight cancer in as little as 12 days.
The really good news about combating cancer with a plant based diet is that there are no side effects. In addition, according to numerous studies, the results of a plant-based or vegan diet are far reaching and don’t just decrease your risk of cancer, but help you prevent, treat and defeat diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other health problems. In future articles, we will be examining each of these diseases individually and noting the benefits of a plant based healthy diet among other lifestyle changes. In contrast, research is very clear that meat eating decreases longevity by worsening many of these diseases. Although an improvement to a meat diet, a lacto-oval diet is also not ideal and does not carry the best health results as noted with a vegan or completely plant based diet. According to a recent report by the CDC Nurses’ Health Study, eating the equivalent of one egg per day shortened a females life as much as smoking five cigarettes per day for 15 years.(1) This statistic concerning a lacto-oval diet suggests there is a good, better, and best diet. And, if you are looking for the lowest risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and many, many other diseases, the best is the original healthy plant based diet given in Eden (Genesis 1:29).
The vast and quickly realized benefits of a plant-based vegan diet remind me of the dietary blessings of this same diet as noted in Daniel Chapter 1. Here, Daniel was given 10 days of a plant based diet. At the end of his “10 day Daniel diet trial,” he was rewarded with appearing healthier than all his other omnivore colleagues (Daniel 1:11,15). These results were found exponential, when, at the end of three years of eating a plant based diet, he and his friends were found to be 10 times smarter, and l would postulate based on the above research, 10 times healthier and with perhaps 10 times less risk of cancer, than all of his counterparts (Daniel 1:19,20).
The above exciting research shows that in as little as 12 days--and I would dare to state 10 days--a plant based diet is 8 to 10 times more effective in decreasing our risk of cancer when compared with the average American diet. This knowledge has motivated me to ask my patients to give me 10 days of a plant based vegan diet. Stressing the positive results of improved cholesterol, weight loss and glucose control, and now, more exciting than ever, a decrease in cancer, I will fuel my patients incentive to "try the Daniel diet." Perhaps if you haven’t yet tried the Daniel 10 Day Diet, you too will test it out and I guarantee you won’t be dissatisfied.
1). Baer, HJ., et.al. American Journal of Epidemiology. 11 Feb 1;173(3):319-29. Epub 2010 Dec 6. Risk Factors for Mortality in the Nurses' Health Study: a Competing Risks Analysis.
2). Barnard, RJ., et.al. Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. 2006;55(1):28-34. Effects of a Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diet and Exercise Program on Breast Cancer Risk Factors in vivo and Tumor Cell Growth and Apoptosis in vitro.
3). Huang T., et.al. Annuals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012; 60;233-240. Cardiovascular Disease Mortality and Cancer Incidence in Vegetarians; A Metanalysis and Systemic Review. 4). Ngo, Th., et.al., Journal of Cancer Causes and Control. 2002 Dec;13(10):929-35. Effect of Diet and Exercise on Serum Insulin, IGF-I, and IGFBP-1 Levels and Growth of LNCaP Cells in vitro (United States.
5). Ornish, D, et.al., Journal of Urology. 2005 Sep;174(3):1065-9; discussion 1069-70. Intensive Lifestyle Changes May Affect the Progression of Prostate Cancer.
6). Soliman, S., et.al. Journal of Evidence Based Complement and Alternative Medicine. 2011; Epub 2011 Mar 15. Analyzing Serum-Stimulated Prostate Cancer Cell Lines After Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diet and Exercise Intervention.
7). Tantamango-Bartley, Y., et.al. Journal of Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers and Preventation. 2012, Nov 20, Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-Risk Population.