Eating junk food may taste good but it leaves us feeling sluggish afterward. We walk through the aisles at the supermarket and it’s everywhere: chips, candy, frozen dinners, soda, processed meats. Fast food chains are in every town and city in the industrial world.
People are becoming more aware of what they eat and—given the drastic and frightening increases in the rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancers in the countries where these types of food are part of a regular diet—beginning to consider other options.
Research published in 2005 in The Journal of Urology studied the effect of a vegan diet on the progression of prostate cancer. All subjects had biopsy-confirmed cancer and had not undergone any conventional treatment. The experimental group ate a vegan diet supplemented with fish oil, soy protein, selenium, and vitamin C. It was further required to participate in at least 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise (walking), stress management techniques (yoga-based stretching, deep breathing, meditation, and imagery), and a one-hour weekly group support session. The control group had no restrictions or requirements.
Baseline measurements of cancer activity (prostate specific antigen, PSA) in the blood of all subjects showed no significant difference. At the end of a year, however, there was a marked difference in blood serum between the two groups:
“PSA decreased 4% in the experimental group but increased 6% in the control group (p = 0.016). The growth of LNCaP prostate cancer cells (American Type Culture Collection, Manassas, Virginia) was inhibited almost 8 times more by serum from the experimental than from the control group (70% vs 9%, p 0.001). Changes in serum PSA and also in LNCaP cell growth were significantly associated with the degree of change in diet and lifestyle.” (1)
In other words, without any conventional cancer treatment and changes only to diet and lifestyle, there was a significant reduction in cancer activity in the blood of the men on the vegan diet—cancer growth was inhibited EIGHT TIMES more than in the men who made no such changes (whose PSA increased in a year’s time).
Other studies support the theory that a vegetarian or vegan diet offers protection from other types of cancer as well.
Scientists at Loma Linda University in California found:
“Vegan diet seems to confer lower risk for overall and female-specific cancer than other dietary patterns. The lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets seem to confer protection from cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.” (2)
A different study definitively concluded:
“Although plant-based diets including vegetarian and vegan diets are generally considered to be cancer protective, surprisingly very few studies have directly addressed this question. However, a broad body of evidence links specific plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, plant constituents such as fiber, anti-oxidants and other phytochemicals, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight to reduced risk of cancer diagnosis and recurrence. And, research links meat, especially red and processed meats, consumption to increased risk of several types of cancer [emphasis added]. Vegetarian and vegan diets increase beneficial plant foods and plant constituents, eliminate the intake of red and processed meat by definition, and aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The few reports that have addressed whether vegetarian diets can be used for management or prevention of recurrence of cancer are positive. The direct and indirect evidence taken together suggests that vegetarian diets are a useful strategy for cancer prevention.” (3)
Meat (including fish) isn’t what it used to be. Before the advent of the Industrial Age (and currently in many cultures of the Third World), people ate meat that wasn’t processed in a factory or raised on a farm under adverse conditions. Animals were allowed to graze and engage in natural behaviors—they weren’t fed an unnatural diet of cheap, chemical-laden grains to make them bigger. Meat was preserved and cured with salt and minerals, not injected with dyes and carcinogens. Fish were caught in unpolluted rivers and seas, not kept in underwater pens or processed into products to look like something else.
We often forget that what the animals eat, we eat.
Meat has always been part of the human diet; it offers some nutrients that are difficult to get in plants. But meat isn’t what it used to be and humans are generally eating way too much of it.
Ignoring for now the ethical and environmental impacts of eating animals and animal products, the evidence is now indisputable that a diet without them better supports our ability to prevent and limit cancers.