Never Too Late to Start Eating Healthier

Never Too Late To Start Eating HealthierBy: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

A hundred years ago the New York Times reported on a rather sophisticated study for the time, 4,600 cases of cancer studied over 7 years, suggesting that the increased consumption of animal foods was to blame. A century later, the latest review on the subjects concluded that mortality from all causes put together, ischemic heart disease, and circulatory and cerebrovascular diseases was significantly lower in those eating meat-free diets, in addition to less cancer and diabetes.

I’m surprised they found such significant results given that people in these studies typically didn’t stop eating meat until late in life. For example, in the largest study done up until that time, up to a third ate vegetarian for less than 5 years, yet they still ended up with lower rates of heart disease whether they were young or old—under 60, or over 60, whether they were normal weight or overweight, whether they used to smoke or never smoked, those that had stopped eating meat had lower risk, suggesting that decades of higher risk dietary behavior could be reversed within just years of eating healthier.

If you look at countries that switched from eating traditional, more plant-based diets, to more Westernized diets, it may take 20 years for cancer rates to shoot up. It takes decades for most tumors to grow. For example if you look in Asia, their dietary shift was accompanied by a remarkable increase in mortality rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. For example death from breast cancer in Japan or from prostate cancer, the line just goes straight up, but again it can take years of a cancer promoting diet and lifestyle. Same thing shown with migration studies. Men moving from rural China to the U.S. experience a dramatic increase in cancer risk, but tumors take time to grow.

So it’s remarkable to me that after most of a lifetime eating the standard western diet, one can turn it around, reverse chronic disease risk with a healthier diet, even late in the game.

So, should we all start eating vegetarian? This was the editorial that accompanied the results from the largest study ever published on Americans eating plant-based diets that found vegetarian diets associated with lower all-cause mortality, meaning those who started eating vegetarian live, on average, longer lives. Now this analysis included so-called semi-vegetarians, who ate meat at least once a month (but no more than once a week), so it’s not yet clear how bad eating meat a few times a month is. What we can all agree on, though, is that we should limit our intake of junk food and animal fat, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Most authorities will also agree that diets should include whole grains, beans, and nuts. Instead of fighting over who’s diet’s the best, it’s time to acknowledge these common features of diets associated with less disease and instead focus our attention on helping patients avoid the intense commercial pressures to eat otherwise.

Doctor’s Note

How amazing the human body is if we just treat it right! This reminds me of videos like Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease or How Many Meet the Simple Seven? where simple changes can lead to tremendous differences in health outcomes. So please don’t allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Any movement we can make towards improving our diet can help. Though the earlier the better: See Heart Disease Starts in Childhood and Back in Circulation: Sciatica and Cholesterol.

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

M J Orlich, P N Singh, J Sabate, K Jaceldo-Siegl, J Fan, S Knutsen, W L Beeson, G E Fraser. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 8;173(13):1230-8

D Li. Effect of the vegetarian diet on non-communicable diseases. J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Jan 30;94(2):169-73.

T Huang, B Yang, J Zheng, G Li, M L Wahlgvist, D Li. Cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence in vegetarians: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60(4):233-40.

F L Growe, P N Appleby, R C Travis, T J Key. Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):597-603.

W B Grant. A Multicountry Ecological Study of Cancer Incidence Rates in 2008 with Respect to Various Risk-Modifying Factors. Nutrients. Jan 2014; 6(1): 163–189.

Cancer increasing among meat eaters. New York Times 1907.

J Zhang, I B Dhakal, Z Zhao, L Li. Trends in mortality from cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, esophagus, and stomach in East Asia: role of nutrition transition. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2012 Sep;21(5):480-9.

P C Walsh. Re: Trends in mortality from cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, esophagus, and stomach in East Asia: role of nutrition transition. J Urol. 2012 Jul;188(1):112-3.

Pumpkin: Superfood Fall Planter

Pumpkin Superfood Planter Ideas For Breast Cancer GardenBy: Breast Cancer Yoga Staff.

Lets take advantage of the key nutrients in pumpkin and make a beautiful fall planter at the same time. Pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the superfoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoid. We have included instructions for a pumpkin planter and how to make pumpkin seeds.

How To Make A Pumpkin Planter


  • Flowers that will hold up to the fall temperatures in your area (if you are unsure ask a local nursery)
  • Pumpkin large enough for the flowers
  • Knife for carving
  • Soil for planters

Cut a hole around the stem of the pumpkin large enough for the flowers to easily be put inside.  Clean out the pumpkin, and save the seeds, cause they’re yummy.  Next, I used wooden skewers to punch a few holes into the bottom of the pumpkin.  You could also cut a small hole into the bottom with a knife.  Put a little soil into the bottom of the pumpkin and then carefully put the flowers in.  Water and make sure it is draining well.  All done!

Don’t toss those pumpkin seeds! Toast or roast pumpkin seeds in your oven in no time at all. They can can be salted or spiced to suit your palate. The shells are an edible cancer fighting superfood.

Simple Pumpkin Seed Recipe


  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Organic cooking spray or olive oil
  • Optional Himalayan pink salt, garlic, onion powder or other seasonings of choice


  1. Rinse pumpkin seeds. Use your fingers to remove all the pulp. Drain pumpkin seeds and discard pulp. Spread out on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.
  3. Toss pumpkin seeds in olive oil, or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, or your choice of seasonings. Toss to coat.
  4. Bake about 1 hour, tossing every 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Cool pumpkin seeds before eating. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 months or refrigerate up to 1 year.
  6. If you like your toasted pumpkin seeds extra-salty, soak overnight in a solution of 1/4 cup salt to 2 cups of water. Dry an additional day, then proceed as above.

Images for recipe are from Breast Cancer Authority Blog’s “Simple Pumpkin Seed Recipe“.

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange: Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

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