An Excerpt from 'The Undigestible Truth about Meat' by
Dr Gina Shaw, MA
THE LINKS BETWEEN MEAT AND CANCER
After having researched hundreds of scientific journal articles and studies, Harvey and Marilyn Diamond (the famous authors of the bestselling books: Living Health and Fit for Life) argue that animal products cause cancer, among which are cancer of the colon, breast, liver, kidneys, prostate, testicles, uterus and ovaries. Also, over-consumption of protein has been linked to breast, liver and bladder cancer, and to an increase in the incidence of leukemia.
As you have now learned, human's are not physiologically adapted to the consumption of animal flesh and this is why we are so prone to cancer and other degenerative diseases when we consume such foodstuff. We have also addressed the point that animals are fed and exposed to so many chemicals these days, which may include penicillin, tetracycline, sewage-sludge pellets decontaminated with caesium-137, radioactive nuclear waste, fattening agents and a list of other chemicals and antibiotics to "prime" the animal for sale. Also, after the slaughter of the terrified animal, chemical treatment which some meat receives when it is routinely dipped in sodium sulphite (to decrease the stench of decay and turn it red rather than the sickly grey colour of ageing animal flesh) is thought to be carcinogenic. In fact, even cement dust is included in farm animal's feed! 'Nutrition and Health' reported in 1981 that some cattle farms in the Mid-West were feeding their steers hundreds of pounds of cement dust to 'get their weight up' for sale. A consumer group, hearing of this ploy, asked the FDA to halt it and the FDA, after investigation, stated that since there has been no indication of harm to humans by ingesting some cement dust, the practice can continue until some harm is proven! (Ibid.).
Some examples of the types of poisons we consume when we eat flesh foods and its products include the following: Hydroperoxide, alkoxy, endoperoxides from heated meat, eggs and pasteurised milk; Ally aldehyde (acrolein), butyric acid, nitropyrene, nitrobenzene and nitrosamines from heated fats and oils and indoles, skatoles, nitropyrene, ptomatropine, ptomaines, leukomaines, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, cadaverine, muscarine, putrecine, nervine and mercaptins in cheese(9). It is, of course, no coincidence that since the proliferation of processed foods, beginning in about 1950, cancer rates steadily increased and are now at an all-time high.
In The Encyclopeadia of Vegetarian Living(2), Cox states that a study conducted among 50,000 vegetarians (Seventh Day Adventists) revealed results that shook the world of cancer research. The study clearly showed that this group has an astonishingly low rate of cancer. All types of cancer occurred at significantly lower rates, as compared with a group matched on age and sex. The study showed that their life expectancy is longer and that they had only a 53% risk of dying from cancer than the norm.
Cox reports how the research came about. Apparently, when these scientists began to study facts and figures concerning cancer mortality in different countries, they found something very odd. It appeared that certain countries had a much higher mortality rate than others, and they began to wonder why the U.S., for example, had a much higher mortality from cancer than, for instance, Japan. They then tried comparing the amount of animal protein that different nations consume, and their cancer mortality, and the relationship became clear. There was a clear relationship between the amount of animal protein in a nation's diet and incidence of certain types of cancer mortality. But this was not the only connection. The same connection appeared with the total fat consumption and cancer, animal fat consumption and cancer and various other factors as well. To eliminate various other possibilities, they carried out more research. For instance, if the root of the problem was genetic, then it would not affect immigrant populations, but the place of birth did not seem to matter. This proved that environmental, not genetic factors, were involved. They then selected one group which was of particular interest, the American Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) population. They were subjected to repeated studies because they differed in their dietary regime since it appeared that they ate a completely different diet to the average American one.
As you are probably aware, the average American diet involves the consumption of a large amount of meat and animal products - in fact up to seven or more times per week, whereas with the SDA group, half of them did not consume meat or animal products at all. They do not smoke or drink (although in the study one third of the men were previously smokers) and they tend to practice a healthy lifestyle that emphasises fresh fruits, whole grains, vegetables and nuts. A seven year scientific study then began in order to tabulate the death of 35,460 SDA's.
The scientists found that the death rate amongst SDA's was about half that of the general population - it was shown that they had a 53% incidence of death from cancer as when compared to the norm. Some of this could probably be attributable to abstinence from smoking cancer of the respiratory tract, for example, is only 10% of the general population, but other cancers such as gastrointestinal and reproductive cancers are not causatively related to smoking.
Another study set out to check these remarkable findings, this time studying cancers of the large bowel, breast and prostate the three most common non-smoking related cancers. As many as 20,000 SDAs were studied and, this time, they were compared to two other population groups. Firstly, their statistics were compared to the cancer mortality figures for all U.S. whites, then to a special group of 113,000 people who were chosen because their lifestyle closely matched the SDAs except for their diet. In other respects, such as place of residence, income and socio-economic status, the third group very closely matched the SDAs. The results were dramatic. For all three cancers, deaths amongst SDAs were much lower than in other groups!
Another study took place in Israel revealing the connection between both fats from animal sources and fats from plant sources in connection with increased mortality rates. The study followed the Jewish population as it grew from 1.17 million in 1949 to 3.5 million in 1975, over which period meat consumption increased by 454%, and the death rate from malignant cancers doubled (Ibid.).
Another group of scientists, this time in Canada, studied the relationship between meat consumption and breast cancer. They found that the rate of breast cancer increased with the consumption of pork and beef (Ibid.). In 1981, another massive statistical study of 41 countries, including the US and the UK, was completed. The results confirm the connection between eating meat and the risk of certain types of cancer. Yet again, they show that plant foods seem to confer protection (Ibid.).
In 1988 in Germany, a five year study of vegetarians was carried out in which a total of 1,904 participants were recruited. Deaths from all causes were very low indeed - only 37% of the average meat eating population. In fact, all forms of cancer were slashed to 56% of the normal rate and heart disease was down to 20% (Ibid.).
So why is cancer so typical on a meat-based diet? In recent years, there has been much research carried out to discover why it is that a vegetarian diet confers so much protection against cancer and other diseases. One theory is that vegetarians and vegans consume food that is rich in substances which suppress free-radical formation. Up to now, some sixty diseases have been linked to free radical activity including Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, MS and cancer. Further, as we have already found, the animals that many people consume are infected with cancer e.g. bovine leukemia causes cancer of the lymph tissue in cows, avian leucosis causes leukemia in chickens and Marek's disease causes cancer of the lymph and nervous system in chickens. One American report found that virtually all commercial chickens are heavily infected with leucosis (Ibid.).
Cox argues that one reason that meat-eaters get more cancer might be the fact that when animal flesh is several days old it naturally turns a sickly grey-green colour. The meat industry tries to mask this discolouration by adding nitrites, nitrates and other preservatives. These substances give the meat a red/pink appearance, but in recent years many of them have repeatedly been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer-inducing). On the other hand, another possible reason for the meat-cancer link may be the fact that chemicals such as DDT tend to accumulate in animal tissues, and may be found in animal tissues years after their usage has been controlled or stopped. According to Cox(2), some experts have pointed out that carcinogenic, fat-soluble contaminants such as drugs and pesticides may be the reason why meat causes cancer.
However, whether it is the chemicals in animal protein which cause cancer or whatever, the fact is that there is a link between eating meat and cancer and it seems pretty clear that cutting out meat is a sensible way to cut down protein, which when consumed in excess, seems to be implicated in all manner of disease.
Dr Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in reviewing recent research findings, states that it has long been known that cooked red meat contains cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, which form as the meat is heated, but the US National Cancer Institute have shown that oven-broiled, pan-fried or grilled/barbecued chicken carries an even bigger load of these carcinogens than does red meat. In fact, they argue that chicken is far more cancer-causing than red meat (the number of PhIPs in a well-done steak contains about 30ng/g, but grilled chicken reached 480ng/g). These dangerous chemicals are strongly linked to colon cancer, but may also contribute to breast cancer(3). Conversely, Dr Barnard also mentions that the cholesterol content of chicken is actually the same as that of beef, and the fat content is not much different either. Carcinogens are more concentrated in many cooked chicken products.
Therefore, the chemical poisons directly or indirectly added to flesh foods and the way in which many flesh foods are cooked promotes further problems for flesh-eaters. In fact, barbecued beef, for instance, contains an average of nine micrograms of benzopyrene, a cancer-producing agent. The fat dripping into the fire changes the chemical properties of the fat and the benzopyrene goes up in the smoke from the charcoal and coats the steaks(4).
Numerous researchers have linked protein with cancers of the breast, prostate, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, pancreas and kidney. The type of protein which is most likely to cause cancer is the protein found in meat. The United States Surgeon General's Report 'Nutrition and Health' said: "In one international correlational study, for example, a positive association was observed between total protein and animal protein and breast, colon, prostate, renal and endometrial cancers (Armstrong and Doll, 1975). Similarly, a migrant study indicated an association between meat consumption and cancer of the breast and colon (Kolonel, 1987)." The Surgeon General also reported that: "Studies have also found an association between breast cancer and meat intake" (Lubin et al, 1981).
A diet primarily consisting of raw plant foods increases cell oxygenation, which is a critical factor in cancer prevention. This is just as important in the healing of a sick body as it is in protecting against illness, including cancer. In the development of most chronic illness, regardless of the specific disease, lowered cell respiration is evidenced, according to L. and S. Kenton. Nobel Laureate Otto Warburg, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Cell Physiology in Berlin, discovered for instance that while normal cells use oxygen-based reactions as their source of energy, cancer cells are different. They tend to derive their energy from a glucose-based energy instead. Other researchers, such as Heinrich Jung and P. G. Seeger, confirmed Warburg's work and showed that cancer, as with many other degenerative diseases, arises from a disturbance in cellular respiration, which results not only in a lowering of energy, but in a serious disturbance in metabolism in the organism as a whole. When normal cell respiration is restored by a raw diet, the vitality of the whole organism and its immunity to disease, is increased(7).
Also, several studies have shown a relationship between incidence of prostate cancer and the consumption of animal protein. Because most people who eat a lot of meat usually also eat a great deal of fat (because meat often contains a lot of fat) it is difficult to know whether these links between meat and cancer are a result of the protein in the meat or the fat in the meat. (Of course, many people think that they can just cut away the fat, but the problem is that the actual flesh often still contains a lot of fat!). It is also possible that the link between meat and cancer is a result of mutagens being formed during the cooking of meat.
Some of those who advocate meat-eating claim that vegetarians are likely to have a diet that is deficient in iron. This, of course, is nonsense. A good, well-balanced plant-based diet will contain plenty of iron. Indeed, there is now evidence to suggest that too much iron in the blood (a problem which can occur among meat-eaters) increases the chances of cancer developing. When iron has been absorbed, the body stores it. In many Westernized countries, iron 'overload' is thought to be more common than iron deficiency (Ibid.). The American Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine report that: "higher amounts of iron in the blood mean a higher cancer risk". (It also appears that iron that comes from animal sources called haem iron is more likely to cause heart disease). Diets of vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains provide adequate iron. Plant-based diets, for instance in China, typically contain more iron than is consumed in the US(4).
Cox argues that dairy product consumption has also been associated with iron-deficiency in some infants, both because dairy products are very low in iron and because they can stimulate occult intestinal blood loss. Although extensive public health efforts have been dedicated to preventing iron-deficiency anaemia, iron overload is currently more common and possibly more dangerous(2). The human body has no efficient means of eliminating excess iron. Iron balance is therefore determined by controlled intestinal absorption. Low body stores are associated with more efficient absorption of non-haem iron, the form found in plants. Haem iron, which is found in animal products, is highly absorbed regardless of body iron status, potentially encouraging iron overload. (Haem iron has been implicated in the causation of heart disease and higher iron stores are also associated with cancer as well as poorer response to infection(2)).
According to the Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine(4), every year 1.1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer, excluding carcinoma in situ and basal and squamous cell skin cancers and 526,000 Americans die of the disease, accounting for one in every five deaths in the U.S. and 535 billion in direct medical costs. Cancer rates among vegetarians are up to 50 percent below population averages, even after controlling for smoking, body mass index, and socio-economic status. The increased consumption of vegetables and fruits contributes to but does not fully account for, the vegetarians' advantage.
Even more disturbing evidence is also coming to light concerning the development of brain tumours in young children. A study has indicated that a significant risk factor is the amount of contact that the mother may have had with nitrosamines - and this is directly related to maternal consumption of cured meats (Ibid.). Professor Nick Day of the University of Cambridge and the European Prospective Study into Cancer has stated that vegetarians may suffer 40% fewer cancers than the general population. In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund's dietary advice to minimise cancer risk involve reducing the intake of dietary fat and increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which is often included in a vegetarian diet (Ibid.).
In the following paragraphs, and to summarise, let us now examine some of the most common types of cancer suffered by Westerners, and its causal relationship with a poor diet as revealed by the PCRM :
Recent research into cancer of the ovaries has established a connection between animal fat and cancer. The PCRM say that there was a significant trend towards increasing risk of ovarian cancer with increasing animal fat consumption and one study found that women who consume the most animal fat in their diet run double the risk of contracting ovarian cancer when compared to those who consume the least.
As previously mentioned, vegetarians have lower rates of colon cancer than non-vegetarians (Phillips, 1980). Incidence of colon cancer has been strongly linked to the consumption of meat (Armstrong, 1975). Willett (1990) carried out a study of over 88,000 women aged between 34 and 59 years. The study found that women eating red meat daily ran over twice the risk of developing colon cancer than women eating red meat less than once a month. Reduced incidence of colon cancer in vegetarians may be attributed to dietary differences which include increased fibre intake, increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, and decreased intake of total fat and saturated fat.
The mechanism by which a vegetarian diet is protective against colon cancer is unclear and a great deal of research is being carried out in this area. It has been suggested that secondary bile acids are carcinogens, which may play an important role in colon cancer. These are derived by bacterial metabolism from primary bile acids made in the liver and secreted into the intestine. Vegetarians have lower levels of secondary bile acids than non-vegetarians (Turjiman, 1984). The differences in bacterial populations between the intestines of vegetarians and non-vegetarians may also be important. Bacterial flora in vegetarians has been shown to possess reduced ability to transform bile acids into potential carcinogens(4).
The role of dietary fibre in prevention of colon cancer may also be important, as was first noted in 1971 when it was suggested that the high incidence of colon cancer in Western countries was linked to low fibre diets. Other dietary components associated with high fibre foods have also been implicated as having protective effects.
Evidence also suggests that a vegetarian diet is protective against breast cancer (Phillips, 1975 cited in 4). This may be due to the increased fibre and reduced fat intake of vegetarian diets. Vegetarian diets can alter the levels of circulating sex hormones which may have a beneficial effect. Fibre is thought to be protective by modifying circulating oestrogen levels. Studies of adolescent girls have shown the age of menarche (onset of menstruation) to be delayed in vegetarians (Sabate, 1992 cited in Ibid.). A later age of menarche is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer in adult life. (Other studies relating to the links between meat-consumption and breast cancer have already been reported).
There is also evidence to show that Japanese women who eat meat daily have more than eight times the risk of breast cancer compared to poorer women who rarely consume meat(2).
At one time, talking about prostate cancer was almost a taboo subject and, according to Dr Barnard and A. R. Hogan(5), that ignorance cost many men their lives. Nowadays though, thanks in part to the willingness of celebrities such as Charlton Heston to go public, awareness of diagnostic methods, etc. have risen sharply. Many men may assume prostate problems are just a part of growing older. Maybe a man starts waking up five or six times a night needing to go to the toilet and, concerned that it could be something serious, he decides to go in for a blood test. Dr Barnard and Hogan argue that what he probably won't be told is how vegetarian meals constitute much better choices to keep the man's cancer odds as low as possible. As with all too many health problems, prevention and alternative methods in overcoming disease still do not get mentioned much; especially the important food factor.
Prostate cancer occurs much less often in Asia than in the United States and Europe, where the average man consumes much more meat, dairy and eggs. A Hong Kong man, for example, is only half as likely as a Swedish man to develop the disease, and only one-eighth as likely to die from it. Not coincidentally, men in Hong Kong eat much less animal fare than Swedes do. The typical Swedish man's diet makes his body fertile soil in which weed-like cancer cells can spread like wildfire (Ibid.).
In another article by the PCRM, entitled 'Diet and Prostate Cancer'(6), they argue that scientific evidence clearly shows that diet has an important influence on prostate cancer risk. Reduced fat intake helps avert testosterone excesses. Men consuming high-fat diets typically have elevated levels of testosterone in their blood which can over-stimulate the cells of the prostate, increasing cancer risk.
An additional cancer risk relates to a protein in the bloodstream called insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). Although a certain amount of IGF-I in the blood is normal, high levels are linked to increased cancer risk. IGF-I plays a role in cell growth among other functions, and test-tube experiments show that IGF-I encourages cancer cell growth. Diet has a strong influence on IGF-I. In general, excess intake of calories or proteins increases the amount of IGF-I in the blood (Ibid.).
Seventh-day Adventist men have only one-third the prostate cancer risk of other men, and data suggests that the earlier a vegetarian diet is adopted, the lower the risk. Dietary factors may influence not only prostate cancer incidence, but also how quickly it changes from a small growth causing no clinical problems to an advancing, spreading tumour. The prevalence of latent cancers (small growths causing no symptoms) varies somewhat from one country to another, the lowest rates being in Singapore (thirteen percent) and Hong Kong (fifteen percent), and the highest in Sweden (thirty-one percent)(6).
Dr Barnard argues that vegetarians have much lower rates of prostate cancer (and of other cancers, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and several other major illnesses). Evidence suggests they also have far less risk of cancer progression if cancer cells do get a foothold. As with any change for the good, the earlier the change is carried out, the better. But foods affect more than just who gets cancer and who does not. They can also ameliorate or exacerbate the course of the disease, once it has started and can affect whether it may recur. Dr Barnard concludes that prostate cancer can indeed be ruthless, but with the right diet Mr. Heston and millions of other men can boost their winning odds(5). He states that the most important message is that, whilst consumption of meat and dairy products appear to increase cancer risk, diets rich in vegetables and fruits cut the risk, giving men more control over their health than they might otherwise have had(6).
Studies have shown vegetarians to suffer less from various other cancers. Mills(4) studied the incidence of prostate cancer amongst 14,000 Seventh Day Adventists and found a relationship between increased risk and increasing animal product consumption. Mills also found pancreatic cancer to be associated with the consumption of animal products. Increasingly, the consumption of fruit, vegetables and pulses was shown to have a protective effect. Also, Rao found a vegetarian diet to be protective against oesophagal cancer (Ibid.). Studies have also shown vegetarians to have a lower incidence of lung cancer. This can be largely attributed to vegetarians tending to be non-smokers. High consumption of fruit has also shown to be protective against lung cancer (Ibid.).
The Diamonds(1), from their extensive studies, argue that animal products cause cancer, absolutely no doubt about it. The issue is just how much. If animal products were entirely removed from our diet, cancer (other than smoking-related cancer) would cease to be a problem. Due to their high fat, high cholesterol, low-fibre content, animal products cause cancer, e.g. cancer of the colon, breast, liver, kidneys, prostate, testicles, uterus and ovaries. They argue that, after President Regan's difficulties with cancer of the colon, all of a sudden, everyone became interested in the links between diet and cancer, and now organisations such as the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society are finally pointing out that this link does indeed exist - that colon cancer can indeed be prevented by 'a good diet'.
Dr Julian Whitaker argues that he looks upon cancer in the same way that he looks upon heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, or even obesity, for that matter, in that by dramatically strengthening the body's immune system through diet and exercise, the body can rid itself of the cancer, just as it does in other degenerative diseases. Consequently, he argues that he wouldn't have chemo-therapy and radiation because he's not interested in therapies that cripple the immune system, and virtually ensure failure for the majority of cancer patients(7).
Therefore, the case against meat is looking increasingly grim and the case in favour of an flesh-free, high fresh fruit and vegetable content diet is looking better and better. I'm not sure whether our governments and food producers will ever come clean and actually encourage us to stop eating suspect foods and to start eating healthily (however, it might be that the drug industry make far too much money on the ailing public to consider such a thing). However, the American Dietetic Association came the closest that perhaps any official body has ever come to doing this when it gave this official statement: "The American Dietetic Association recognizes that a growing body of scientific evidence supports a positive relationship between the consumption of a plant-based diet and the incidence of certain diseases" (cited in 2).
But for now, it's over to YOU, because if others won't take the right decisions to look after your health, then no-one else is going to....