by Yeong Sek Yee
Meat consumption has always been a controversial subject. According to Malaysian statistics, Malaysians do eat a lot of meat. In 1994, Malaysians consumed about 520,000 tons of chicken, 180,000 tons of pork, 70,000 tons of beef and 9,500 tons of mutton. What about 2005? Perhaps more?
Thoughts of strength, vitality, muscle power, energy seems to be in the minds of people when they think of the benefits of animal protein in their diet. Old grandmother’s belief: Don’t eat meat, no strength! There is no question that meat is a good source of protein. Although protein is the major source of the building material for the body, eating too much of it can be hazardous to your health. And eating too much of it in the form of animal flesh can be even more hazardous.
Although a little protein is essential, more is not better. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Institute of Medicine believe that the appropriate amount of protein to be consumed should be 0.5g to 0.75g per kg body weight per day, while the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society all recommend a diet where only 10% to 15% calories are derived from protein. This translates to approximately 56 gm of protein for a 170lb male adult and 48 gm protein for a 140lb female. Some other organizations recommend an even lower protein figure. All these protein requirements can be met by taking plant proteins. All natural foods – from lettuce to nuts – contain varying amounts of protein. If a varied diet sufficient in calories is consumed, it is virtually impossible to get an inadequate protein intake.
Once the body’s needs for protein are met, the excess must be removed and eliminated. The liver converts the excess protein into urea and other nitrogen-containing breakdown products, which are finally eliminated through the kidneys as part of the urine. If you are coping with cancer, why would you want to burden the liver and kidneys further with excess protein?
There are hundreds of medical publications and numerous organizations telling us the same story: excessive protein, particularly animal protein, is unhealthy. And this is especially for cancer patients.
The ensuing notes from various books written by medical doctors, nutritionists, cancer researchers, survivors, health organizations and scientific studies will give you an idea why meat is really unsuitable for cancer patients. In these notes, meat is taken to include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, etc.
Firstly, let’s examine the views of some prominent medical doctors on the consumption of meat. Take note these authors are not ordinary medical doctors. They are cancer specialists in their respective fields:
1) NATURAL STRATEGIES FOR CANCER PATIENTS by Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Medical University of Mississippi, U.S.A.
a) Most important, you should avoid eating red meats, especially beef, pork and lamb. All of these meats are high in iron content, and iron is highly absorbable.
b) Certain amino acids in proteins can strongly stimulate the growth of cancers. Arginine and methionine are the main culprits. The strongest evidence is with methionine. And the major sources of methionine are meats (especially pork).
c) Cancer is highly iron dependent. This is because rapidly dividing cells require iron for DNA replication. The cancer cells’ need for iron is so great that they will steal iron from normal cells and from iron stores.
d) One of the best sources of absorbable iron is meat – the specific form it contains is called haem-iron (from animal tissues). Iron is destructive to the cells tissues when it is allowed to float around freely. It is a very powerful generator of free radicals and lipid peroxidation.
e) It is vital that cancer patients avoid iron supplements and high iron-containing foods with significant absorbability, such as red meats.
2) CANCER & NUTRITION by Dr. Charles Simone,M.D., a renowned cancer specialist who has performed research at the National Cancer Institute,U.S.A.
a) Dietary animal fats are found in beef, pork, lamb & ham, all dairy products. It promotes and probably initiates carcinogenesis, and weakens the immune system. It increases bile acids and bile steroids and it also significantly increases the number of colonic anaerobic bacteria, which then form carcinogens from bile acids. Certain bacterial enzymes are induced by beef for its digestion. These same enzymes can change co-carcinogens into carcinogens.
b) Total protein intake will correlate with the incidence of and mortality from cancers of various sites. The correlation has been seen for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic and endometrial cancers.
c) The source of protein for human nutrition does not have to be animal meat, a fact that is aptly demonstrated by pure vegetarians who are active and have normal life spans.
3) THE CANCER RECOVERY EATING PLAN by Dr. Daniel W. Nixon,M.D., a former associate director of the Cancer Prevention Research Program at the National Cancer Institute, U.S.A.
a) Dietary fat (from animal sources) have a dual role in cancer. It may act both as a promoter of cancer and as a modulator of the growth of existing cancer. Fats harbor certain fatty acids that have been shown to stimulate cancer cell growth. For women with breast cancer, fat accumulates in the body and fat cells create estrogens, which may stimulate cancer cells to grow. Fat intake in humans is related to the outcome of breast cancer as well.
b) Some studies link prostate cancer to high consumption of total protein, especially beef products.
c) Some scientists believe that animal protein is also involved in colon cancer.Fats may increase production of bile acids. These can be converted to toxic “secondary “ bile acids in the colon wall, stimulate cell division, and promote tumours.
4) PROSTATE & CANCER by Dr. Sheldone Marks,M.D., a prostate cancer specialist who have worked and trained at Tufts University, New England Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic, U.S.A.
a) In the chapter on Diet and Nutrition on the effect on prostate cancer, Dr. Sheldon advised that beef and high-fat dairy products have been directly implicated as stimulators of prostate cancer and should be avoided. How does a high-fat diet stimulate prostate cancer? It probably serves to activate an otherwise dormant internal mechanism within a cell’s own structure that directs the cell to grow without its usual limits and boundaries. Also excess fat which cannot be broken down into cholesterol stimulates the growth of testosterone and testosterone-like hormones, which further stimulates prostate cancer to grow.
5) WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MAY NOT TELL YOU ABOUT COLORECTAL CANCER by Dr. Mark Bennett Pochapin, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine, Cornell University, U.S.A.
a) One type of protein you don’t need (too much) is red meat and this includes beef, pork, veal and lamb. Red meat in your diet is considered a risk factor for colorectal cancer.
b) Meat is fatty and fat steps up the production of bile acid, which may be harmful to colon walls. When cells are put in this bile acid-rich environment, they can start proliferating in an abnormal manner and may develop into polyps or cancer.
c) Meat is high in iron which unfortunately is not well absorbed by the small intestine, this accumulation result in a buildup of iron in the colon which sets in motion oxidative stress, resulting in less than full protection against free radicals and may even prevent your immune system from operating properly.
d) Cooking meat generates 2 types of carcinogens – heterocyclic amines (HAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HAs and PAHs that come in contact with the colon and rectal linings during digestion may promote cancer.
6) DR. SUSAN LOVE’S BREAST BOOK by Dr. Susan Love, associate professor of Clinical Surgery at University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
a) According to Dr. Susan Love, dietary fat consumption doesn’t cause breast cancer, it simply promotes it. Animal fat has been proven to be a factor in many other illnesses, and that nothing good has ever been shown about high animal fat consumption, except perhaps that it tastes good.
b) Cancer cells grow better in an environment with a lot of over nourished cells, and the fatter you are the more such cells there are for the cancer cells to grow with.
c) And if you have breast cancer: Those with a low-fat diet have a better prognosis than those with a high-fat diet.
Secondly, let’s see what nutritionists and researchers have to say about meat consumption:
7) THE CHINA STUDY by Dr. T. Colin Cambell, Ph.D.
a) The China Study is a massive study on nutrition and its link with diseases such as heart, diabetes and cancer. This study was coordinated by Dr. Campbell, a professor in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology at CornellUniversity. Dr. Campbell confirmed the findings that people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic diseases.
b) Animal protein has many undesirable health effects. Nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development. Dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level of animal-protein consumption.
c) The China Study showed a strong correlation between cancer and the amount of animal protein consumed, and not just animal fat. Consumption of lean meats and poultry still showed a strong correlation with higher cancer incidence. These findings indicate that even low-fat animal foods such as skinless white-meat chicken are implicated in certain cancers.
8) EAT TO BEAT CANCER by Dr. Robert Hatherill, Ph.D.
Dr. Hatherill, a research scientist, examined well over 200 human studies on nutrition and cancer. And as for meat, it is bad news for everyone. Meat is high in fat besides it is overloaded with protein, sodium and easily absorbed iron. In addition to these, meat also contains immune system poisons such as dioxin and PCBs, hormones and antibiotics which could poison and make our body go haywire.
9) CANCER & NATURAL MEDICINE by Dr. John Boik, Ph.D. University ofTexas.
a) Dr. John Boik, is a cancer researcher of alternative medicine at MD Anderson Hospital at University of Texas. In the chapter entitled Dietary Macronutrients and Their Effects On Cancer “, Dr Boik wrote that as far back as 1982, the National Research Council identified dietary fats as the single dietary component most strongly related to carcinogenesis.
b) There is a strong correlation between dietary fat consumption and incidence of gastrointestinal, prostate and breast cancers as well as cancers of the ovary and uterus.
c) According to Dr. Boik, some of the mechanisms by which dietary fats promote the development and growth of cancer include increased bio-availability of sex hormones, decreased immune response, and increased production of free radicals.
10) THE VEGAN DIET AS CHRONIC DISEASE PREVENTION by Dr. Kerrie K. Saunders, Ph.D.
In this book, Dr Saunders, who has a doctorate in Natural Health, explores the mountain of evidence that suggests that a diet free of animal products can have radically beneficial effects on many health conditions including cancer. Some notable points on animal protein and dietary fats are:
a) many cancers are sensitive to dietary fats. Certain cancers grow faster in response to the hormone load stored in fatty foods.
b) Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products and humans have no need for dietary cholesterol. Also, there is no fiber in animal flesh or animal products.
c) High dietary fat diets suppress the immune response. High fat levels also provide a favorable home for anerobic bacteria, which create estrogens from the bile that stimulates growth in sex organs.
d) Excess iron absorbed primarily from animal sources is a perfect catalyst for free radical formation. The human body has no way of ridding itself of excess iron.
11) YOU DON’T NEED MEAT by Peter Cox.
Peter Cox was the first chief executive of the Vegetarian Society inEngland and is a leading international expert on the pros and cons of eating meat. As the title of the book implies, there is no good news at all for meat eaters.
a) All the meat factors correlate very strongly with cancer. Total calories, total protein, and total fat also correlate strongly, which is not surprising, since meat is heavy in all those three. Significant associations were established between breast cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the uterus with all forms of fat and animal protein.
b) Just like human beings, the animals that we eat suffer from various forms of cancer, sometimes caused by a virus. Can eating meat, or being exposed to food animals or their products, result in a greater likelihood of contracting leukemia or another cancer? How could an animal cancer virus induce the disease in humans? An animal virus may not directly precipitate the disease in humans, but it may be able to convert otherwise harmless human viruses into killers.
Thirdly, in this section we summarize the views of prominent cancer organizations/health associations on meat consumption and cancers:
12) THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CANCER RESEARCH (AICR)
AICR is the cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer. In its nutrition guidelines, it advised cancer patients to limit intake of red meat and also fatty foods, particularly those of animal origin. Diets high in meat are frequently high in calories as well as high in fat, both of which may be associated with increased cancer risk. Also substances that affect the first occurrence will also affect secondary tumors and recurrences. Website: www.aicr.org
13) THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY (ACS)
In 1996, the ACS Advisory Committee On Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention issued nutritional guidelines to advise the public about dietary practices in respect to cancer development. In this respect meat consumption– especially red meats (beef, pork, lamb) – has been linked to cancers at several sites most notably colon and prostate as well as breast, endometrium and rectum.
The cancer may also be due to the mutagenic compounds, such as heterocyclic amines (HAs) which are produced when animal protein is cooked. Website : www. cancer.org
14) THE PHYSICIANS COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE MEDICINE (PCRM)
Dr. Neal Barnard, its founder, serves on the faculty of the George Washington University School of Medicine. Meat-based diets have been linked to breast, prostate, colon, pancreatic, and cancers of the uterus and ovary. Not only is meat devoid of fiber and other nutrients which have a protective effect, but also it contains potentially carcinogenic compounds which can actually increase one’s risk of developing breast and other cancers. The compounds, heterocyclic amines, are produced during the cooking process of many animal products, including chicken, beef, pork and fish. Meat that is cooked under normal conditions, which may involve grilling, frying, etc., produce large quantities of these mutagens. Website: www.pcrm.org or www.cancerproject.org
15) EUROPEAN PROSPECTIVE INVESTIGATION OF CANCER (EPIC)
EPIC, co-founded by Cancer Research U.K. is a long-term study of more than 500,000 people in ten European countries. EPIC scientists have published several papers in the past few years and they have found that among other things, high intakes of red or processed meat increase the risk of bowel cancer and that women who eat high-fat diets have higher risks of dying from cancer than those who eat low-fat diets. Website: www.info.cancerresearchuk.org
16) THE CONSUMER ASSOCIATION OF PENANG (CAP)
On the homefront, CAP has featured several articles/guide books on food and diseases. One of which is What’s Wrong With Eating Meat. In this CAP guide, it list seven deadly health reasons why meat is a very dangerous food.
a) Meat is full of chemicals, full of diseases, full of animal’s body toxins, full of decay, full of bacteria, full of fats and cholesterol and full of genetically altered substances.
b) Why do meat-eaters get more cancer? One reason. Animal flesh which is several days old naturally turns to a sickly grey-green colour. The meat industry tries to mask this discoloration by adding nitrites, nitrates and other preservatives. These substances make the meat appear red, but many of additives have been repeatedly been shown to be carcinogenic. The nitrites present in meat products can combine with other substances in the human body to form nitrosamines, the extremely powerful carcinogens.
c) Chicken meat are not any safer. Raised on chemicalised feed, antibiotics and growth hormones, the chicken you eat contain the residues of many toxic chemicals that accumulate in their flesh.
Fourthly, long term cancer survivors have something in common – they all change their diet drastically – some of their comments are:
17) RECALLED BY LIFE by Dr. Anthony Sattilaro, M.D.
In June 1978, Dr Sattilaro, head of the Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia, was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer which had metastasized to other parts of the body. At age 47, his prognosis was painfully slim.
In his book, he admitted that he lived the perfect formula for cancer – a high-fat diet, plenty of refined flour products, all sugars, etc. His usual meal consisted of prime rib with baked potato and sour cream, vegetables glazed in butter and a large desert.
By chance, Dr Sattilaro was introduced to macrobiotics which helped him recover and saw him through for another ten years. Eventually he deviated from his diet, adding fish, chicken and meat, as if to test whether he was cured or simply in remission. His cancer recurred – “ viciously “ he said. He died shortly after July, 1989.
18) CAPCURE: THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE CURE OF CANCER OF THE PROSTATE founded by Mr. Michael Milken
Michael Milken, the famous Wall Street junk bonds king was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 1993 with a life expectancy of 12 to18 months. He wrote: my health had suffered from all those years of eating fatty foods, all the meals eaten in haste and on the go. I stopped eating meat, desserts and dairy products. I substituted tofu or tempeh for meat….I was highly motivated to change my diet because I believed it could mean the difference between life and death.
19) THE HALLELUJAH DIET by Rev. George Malkmus
In 1976, at the age of 42, Rev. Malkmus was told he had colon cancershortly after his mother had died of the same disease. Rather than pursuing the medical route, Rev. Malkmus chose to adopt a vegetarian diet, composed largely of raw vegetables and fruits to regain his health. And he is still very much alive today. His research showed that five white foods are extremely harmful to the body – they are firstly, meat. The cooking of meat changes the molecular structure of the protein and renders the protein in meat unsuable by the body (The other four white foods are dairy, salt, sugar and white flour).
20) A CANCER BATTLE PLAN by Anne Frahm
In spring of 1989, Anne Frahm was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. Having exhausted all conventional means, she, with the help of a nutritionist, rebuilt her health through a very strict and intense program of detoxification, diet and supplementation. In Anne Frahm wrote: I was raised in the MIDWEST ON STEAK AND POTATOES. (NB. Anne passed away only in 1998 – nearly ten years after diagnosis).
21) MY HEALING FROM BREAST CANCER by Dr. Barbara Joseph, M.D.
Dr. Barbara Joseph, is a board-certified gynecologist who was diagnosed with, treated for, empowered by and survived – breast cancer. According to her research, dietary animal fat, which is found in all red meat, poultry, dairy products and eggs with its toxic residue of pesticides and toxic chemicals, initiates carcinogenesis. Research is abundant linking breast cancer to a high-fat diet.
Lastly, we examine the research reports of scientists/researchers on the link between meat consumption and cancer.
22) HIGH MEAT DIETS AND CANCER RISK by Dr Sheila A. Bingham, Medical Research Council Dunn Nutrition Unit, University of Cambridge(Proceedings of the Nutrition Society(1999) 58, 243-248
In this scientific study, Dr Sheila clearly showed the high correlations between meat consumption and cancer of the colon, breast, uterus, prostate, kidney. And there are some epidemiological associations with cancer of the lung and pancreas. The association between meat consumption and cancer is attributed to the formation of heterocyclic amines in meat when it is cooked.
23) DIET AND CANCER by Dr Walter Willett, Dept. of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health writing in The Oncologist 2000, 5: 393-404.
In the above study, Dr Willett concluded that associations between animal fat intake and risk of prostate cancer have been seen in many case-control studies.
Animal fat consumption has been most strongly associated with aggressive prostate cancer, which suggests an influence on the transition from the widespread indolent form to the more lethal form of this malignancy.
24) WELL-DONE MEAT INTAKE AND THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER by Dr. W. Zheng, Gustafson, et. al. (Journal of the National Cancer Institute Vol. 90 1724-1729).
In this study, researchers concluded that consumption of well-done meats and, thus exposure to heterocyclic amines (or other compounds) formed during high-temperature cooking play an important role in the risk of breast cancer.
25) RED MEAT AND COLON CANCER: THE CYTOTOXIC AND HYPERPROLIFERATIVE EFFECTS OF DIETARY HEME by Aloys Sesink, et. al. from the Netherlands Institute for Dairy Research, Nutrition & Health.
The intake of a diet with a high amount of red meat is associated with a high risk of colon cancer. Heme, the iron carrier in red meat is involved in diet-induced colonic epithelial damage, resulting in increased epithelial proliferation.
26) FRIED, WELL-DONE RED MEAT AND RISK OF LUNG CANCER IN WOMEN (U.S.A.)by Rashmi Sinha, Martin Kulldorff, et.al, all researchers at the National Cancer Institute, U.S.A.
These NCI researchers concluded that consumption of red meat, especially fried and/or well-done red meat, was associated with increased risk of lung cancer.
27) CURED AND BROILED MEAT CONSUMPTION IN RELATION TO CHILDHOOD CANCER: DENVER COLORADO by Sara Sarasua and David A. Savitz from the Dept. of Epidemiology, School of Public Health,University of North Carolina.
The association between cured and broiled meat consumption by the mother during pregnancy and by the child was examined in relation to childhood cancer. Among children, the combination of no vitamins and eating meats was associated strongly with both acute lymphocytic leukemia and brain cancer. The results linking hot dogs and brain tumors and the apparent synergism between no vitamins and meat consumption suggest a possible adverse effect of dietary nitrites and nitrosamines.
28) MEATY DIET MAY RAISE PANCREATIC CANCER RISK by Nothlings, U. (Journal of the National Cancer Institute Oct 5, 2005 Pp. 1458-1465).
Eating a diet high in red or processed meats may raise the risk of pancreatic cancer by almost 70% according to a major new study by Nothlings. People who ate the most pork and red meat had a 50% higher risk of pancreatic cancer compared with those who rarely ate pork and red meat.
The above notes are just a fraction of references available with regards to meat consumption and cancer. For me to cite more references or studies will make this article too long and burdensome.
With all the points stacked against meat consumption, are there still proponents for the meat industry? Yes, of course. Associations like the Texas Beef Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Meat & Livestock Australia, etc., would like you to believe that meat provide complete proteins for your body’s need, gives you strength, etc. But somehow they always omit to tell you about the pesticides in the fields, the concentration of antibiotics, hormones and steroids given to the animals before they are being slaughtered, how the meat are irradiated or preserved, etc. In some of their websites, they even have the audacity to tell you that animal proteins, fats are better than a plant-based diet!
Lastly, to sum up, Dr. Mercola (in TOTAL HEALTH PROGRAM) has very clearly explained the basic inherent dangers of meat: The cattle slaughtered for beef … are the unhealthiest creatures on earth. Their natural, biological diet is grass, but in order to raise more of them in a confined space … fatten them up to levels far higher than is natural, and get them to market much quicker, they are fed an unnatural diet of corn and other grains. Cows have a difficult time digesting grains as their physiology is designed for grass, and would get sick and quickly die due to an overgrowth of deadly bacteria in their stomach that results from the grain they were never designed to eat. The factory farms therefore administer substantial amounts of antibiotics to prevent this. Long-term, high-dose antibiotic use in cattle (and in people who eat the antibiotic-laden meat) contributes to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs. Further, the giant agribusiness corporations like to get the cattle to market even quicker than this artificial grain diet enables, because it means even more profit, and so these cattle are also fed steroids. Furthermore, the grains they are fed are laced with pesticides and herbicides, and are genetically modified. What his means is, with every juicy bite of a typical hamburger or steak, you are also eating an artificial concoction of vaccines, steroids, pesticides, herbicides, and GMO grains.
In conclusion, we would like to advise all cancer patients to exercise extreme prudence if they have been advised to eat more meat or animal protein to “ beef up” for the next round of chemotherapy or if they have been advised by their doctors that “they can eat anything they like”. Please remember it’s your body you are healing – not your doctor’s body!
SOME PARTING THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION
a) Disease enters the body through the mouth.
b) One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive,
the other three-quarter keeps the doctor alive.