How Not to Die from Cancer

vegan-diet-for-breast-cancer-preventionAfter Dr. Dean Ornish conquered our #1 killer, he moved on to killer #2. What happens if you put cancer on a plant-based diet? Ornish and colleagues found that the progression of prostate cancer could be reversed with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors—and, no wonder.

If you drip the blood of those eating the Standard American Diet onto cancer cells growing in a petri dish, cancer growth is cut down about nine percent. Put people on a plant-based diet for a year, though, and their blood can do this. The blood circulating within the bodies of those eating plant-based had nearly eight times the stopping power, when it came to cancer cell growth.

Now, this was for prostate cancer—the leading cancer killer specific to men. In women, it’s breast cancer—the #1 cancer killer of young women. So, researchers wanted to repeat the study with women, using breast cancer cells instead. But, they didn’t want to wait a whole year to get the results. Women are dying now. So, they figured, let’s see what a plant-based diet could do after just two weeks against three different types of human breast cancer.

Cancer growth started out powering away at 100%, and then dropped, after eating a plant-based diet for 14 days.

Here’s the before picture. A layer of breast cancer cells is laid down in a petri dish, and then blood from women eating the Standard American Diet is dripped on them. And, as you can see, even the blood of women eating pretty poor diets has some ability to break down cancer.

But, after just two weeks eating healthy, blood was drawn from those same women. So, they acted as their own controls. Same women; two weeks later; their blood dripped on a new carpet of breast cancer cells. And, this is all that’s left. Just a few individual cancer cells remained. Their bodies cleaned up! Before and after, just two weeks eating healthy. Their bloodstream became that much more hostile to cancer.

Slowing down the growth of cancer cells is nice. But, getting rid of them is even better. This is what’s called apoptosis, programmed cell death. After eating healthy, their own bodies were able to somehow reprogram the cancer cells, forcing them into early retirement.

This is what’s called TUNEL imaging, measuring DNA fragmentation: cell death. So, dying cancer cells show up as little white spots. So, again, this is the before, what the blood of your average woman can do to breast cancer cells. She can knock off a few. You can see one dying cancer cell there, in the upper left.

But then, after 14 days of healthy plant-based living, her blood can do this. It’s like you’re an entirely different person inside!

The same blood now coursing through these women’s bodies gained the power to significantly slow down and stop breast cancer cell growth—after just two weeks eating a plant-based diet.

What kind of blood do we want in our body? What kind of immune system? Do we want blood that just kind of rolls over when new cancer cells pop up? Or, do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny in our body, with the power to slow down and stop cancer?

Now, this dramatic strengthening of cancer defenses was after 14 days of a plant-based diet, and exercise. They had these women out walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Well, if you do two things, how do you know what role the diet played? So, researchers decided to put it to the test.

This is measuring cancer cell clearance. This is what we saw before; the effect of blood taken from those who ate a plant-based diet (in this case, for an average of 14 years), along with mild exercise—just like out walking every day. Plant-based diet, and walking—that’s the kind of cancer cell clearance you get.

Compare that to the cancer-stopping power of your average sedentary American, which is basically nonexistent.

This middle group, though, instead of 14 years on a plant-based diet—14 years of a Standard American Diet. But, 14 years of daily, strenuous, hour-long exercise, like calisthenics.

The researchers wanted to know, if you exercise hard enough, if you exercise long enough, can you rival some strolling plant-eaters over there?

And the answer is, exercise helped—no question. But, literally 5,000 hours in the gym was no match for a plant-based diet.

Same TUNEL imaging as before; even if you’re a couch potato eating fried potatoes, your body’s not totally defenseless. Your bloodstream can kill off a few cancer cells. But, exercise for 5,000 hours, and you can kill cancer cells left and right. But, nothing appears to kick more cancer tush than a plant-based diet.

We think it’s because of animal proteins—meat, egg white, and dairy proteins increase the level of IGF-1 in our bodies. Insulin-like growth factor 1, a cancer-promoting growth hormone involved in the acquisition and progression of malignant tumors.

Here’s the experiment that really nailed IGF-1 as the villain. The same as last time; go on a plant-based diet. Cancer cell growth drops; cancer cell death shoots up. But then, here’s the kicker. What if you add back to the cancer just the amount of IGF-1 banished from your body because you started eating healthier? It effectively erases the “diet and exercise” effect. It’s like you never started eating healthy at all.

So, the reason one of the largest prospective studies on diet and cancer found the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among those eating more plant-based may be because they’re eating less animal protein, less meat, egg white, and dairy protein—so, end up with less IGF-1, which means less cancer growth.

How much less cancer? Middle-aged men and women with high protein intakes had a 75% increase in overall mortality, and a four-fold increase in the risk of dying specifically from cancer. But, not all proteins—specifically animal protein; which makes sense, given the higher IGF-1 levels.

The academic institution sent out a press release with a memorable opening line: “That chicken wing you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette,” explaining that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die from cancer—a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking cigarettes.

What was the response to the revelation that diets high in meat, eggs, and dairy could be as harmful to health as smoking? Well, one nutrition scientist replied that it was potentially dangerous to compare the effects of smoking with the effects of meat and dairy. Why? Because a smoker might think, why bother quitting smoking if my ham and cheese sandwich is just as bad for me? So, better not tell anyone about the whole animal protein thing.

That reminds me of a famous Philip Morris cigarette ad that tried to downplay the risks by saying, hey, you think secondhand smoke is bad (increasing the risk of lung cancer 19%). Well, hey, drinking one or two glasses of milk every day may be three times as bad (62% higher risk of lung cancer). Or, doubling your risk frequently cooking with oil. Or, tripling your risk of heart disease by eating non-vegetarian. Or, multiplying your risk six-fold by eating lots of meat and dairy. So, they conclude, let’s keep some perspective here! “…[T]he risk of lung cancer from second-hand smoke” may be “well below” that of other “everyday…activities.” So, breathe deep.

That’s like saying, don’t worry about getting stabbed, because getting shot is so much worse.

Uh, how about neither? Two risks don’t make a right.

Of course, you know, Philip Morris stopped throwing dairy under the bus once they purchased Kraft foods. Just sayin’…

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

4 Things To Help Prevent Most Disease

White House Garden Goes Organic For Healthy LifestyleBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Though I was trained as a general practitioner, my chosen specialty is lifestyle medicine. Most of the reasons we go see our doctors are for diseases that could have been prevented. But lifestyle medicine is not just about preventing chronic disease—it’s also about treating it. And not just treating the disease, but treating the causes of disease.

If people just did four simple things
Stop Smoking For Your Health

#1 No Smoking

The Obama Family Exercising

#2 Exercise A Half Hour A Day

Michelle Obama Shopping At A Farmers Market For Fruits & Vegetables

#3 Eat a Diet That Emphasizes Whole Plant Foods

Eat Diet That Emphasizes Whole Plant Foods

#4 And Not Become Obese

they may prevent most cases of diabetes and heart attacks, half of strokes, and a third of cancers. Even modest changes may be more effective in reducing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and all-cause mortality than almost any other medical intervention.

The key difference between conventional medicine and lifestyle medicine is instead of just treating risk factors, we treat the underlying causes of disease, as Drs. Hyman, Ornish, and Roizen describe in their landmark editorial Lifestyle medicine: treating the causes of disease. Doctors typically treat “risk factors” for disease by giving a lifetime’s worth of medications to lower high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and high cholesterol. But think about it: high blood pressure is just a symptom of diseased and dysfunctional arteries. We can artificially lower blood pressure with drugs, but that’s not treating the underlying cause. To treat the underlying cause, we need things like diet and exercise, the “penicillin” of lifestyle medicine (See Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease).

As Dr. Dean Ornish is fond of saying, disregarding the underlying causes and treating only risk factors is somewhat like mopping up the floor around an over-flowing sink instead of just turning off the faucet, which is why medications usually have to be taken for a lifetime. As Dr. Denis Burkitt described, “if a floor is flooded as a result of a dripping tap, it is of little use to mop up the floor unless the tap is turned off. The water from the tap represents the cost of disease, and the flooded floor represents the diseases filling our hospital beds. Medical students learn far more about methods of floor mopping than about turning off taps, and doctors who are specialists in mops and brushes can earn infinitely more money than those dedicated to shutting off taps.” And the drug companies are more than happy to sell rolls of paper towels so patients can buy a new roll every day for the rest of their lives. Paraphrasing poet, Ogden Nash, modern medicine is making great progress, but is headed in the wrong direction.

When the underlying lifestyle causes are addressed, patients often are able to stop taking medication or avoid surgery. We spend billions cracking patients’ chests open, but only rarely does it actually prolong anyone’s life. Instead of surgery, why not instead wipe out at least 90% of heart disease through prevention? Heart disease accounts for more premature deaths than any other illness and is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle, and the same dietary changes required can prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well.

So why don’t more doctors do it?

One reason is doctors don’t get paid to do it. No one profits from lifestyle medicine, so it is not part of medical education or practice. Presently, physicians lack training and financial incentives, so they continue to do what they know how to do: prescribe medication and perform surgery.

After Dean Ornish proved you could open up arteries and reverse our number one cause of death, heart disease, with just a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle changes (see Resuscitating Medicare and Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped), he thought that his studies would have a meaningful effect on the practice of mainstream cardiology. After all, he had found a cure for our #1 killer! But, he admits, he was mistaken. “Physician reimbursement,” he realized, “is a much more powerful determinant of medical practice than research.”

Reimbursement over research. Salary over science. Wealth over health. Not a very flattering portrayal of the healing profession. But if doctors won’t do it without getting paid, let’s get them paid.

So Dr. Ornish went to Washington. He argued that if we train and pay for doctors to learn how to help patients address the real causes of disease with lifestyle medicine and not just treat disease risk factors we could save trillions of dollars. And that’s considering only heart disease, diabetes, prostate and breast cancer. The Take Back Your Health Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate to induce doctors to learn and practice lifestyle medicine, not only because it works better, but because they will be paid to do it. Sadly, the bill died, just like millions of Americans will continue to do with reversible chronic diseases.

By treating the root causes of diseases with plants not pills, we can also avoid the adverse side effects of prescription drugs that kill more than 100,000 Americans every year, effectively making doctors a leading cause of death in the United States. See One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic and my live presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

For those surprised that policy makers wouldn’t support such a common sense notion as preventive health, check out my video The McGovern Report. What about medical associations? Medical Associations Oppose Bill to Mandate Nutrition Training.

There is another reason that may explain why the medical profession remains so entrenched. See my video The Tomato Effect.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations More Than an Apple a Day and From Table to Able.

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Video Sources

Photo Sources: Obama Eating Fruit, Michelle Obama Shopping, Obama Family Exercising

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