It is really “frustrating” to learn at times, that when you read what is being written about diet in the medical literature and what is being practised differ substantially. I wonder why truth is so elusive. Why can’t people come clean in what they say and do? Where is the so-called practice of “scientifically proven evidence-based medicine”? It is even more frustrating to learn that at times what an expert said in a lecture/seminar and what he/she practised turned to be different. Why is it so?
When Dr. X told patients: Eat anything you like
Let me illustrate with a real-life example as related by Mary (not real name), a 46-year-old lady, who had breast cancer. Mary had a mastectomy. She was asked to undergo chemotherapy but declined preferring to follow the CA Care Therapy. Mary shared her experience with us on 28 November 2006, exactly two years after being on our therapy. The transcript of our conversation is as below:
Q: How are you, today?
A: You look at me-lah. No words can describe. I went to see Dr. B. He’s in his early forties and is a very kind and understanding doctor. He is a doctor who accepts alternative medicine. He asked me what I was doing and what I took. I said basically it is herbs and also change of lifestyle. So he knew what I was doing. He said I was doing very well, so I should go ahead with what I have been doing. He said he respected what I did. He said: “Very good! Continue and please tell people. Talk about it, give talks.” He asked me to share with my friends and he also asked me to write a book – expose it and let people know.
Q: Can you do everything that you wanted to do? Do you have any complaints?
A: No complaints.
Q: Compared to the days before you had cancer, are you just as good?
Husband: Her health condition was very bad before that. She would have constant flu which would last up to three months.
A: In terms of health, I think I am better now. I am healthier. Before the cancer, it was terrible. I had backaches. After I walk a little bit, I had to sit down. My heels were hurting. I always had headaches. I often had flu and coughs. I was always sick. It would start with a sore throat, then runny nose, fevers and finally coughs. It would go on and on for two to three months. The doctor gave courses of antibiotics. I recovered for a short while after all the medications the doctor gave which made me so blur and not knowing what was going on. Then I got sick again.
Q: With cancer, you changed your diet and lifestyle? What happened to all these problems that you had before your cancer?
A: For the past two years I only had two flu attacks. I was careless. I was pushing myself too hard. When I realized what was happening, I pulled back, had more rest and did a little bit more exercise – then I was back on top again.
Q: If you were told to go back to your old lifestyle again when you could eat anything you like, would you do it?
A: No (shaking head).
Husband: When we asked Dr. X if there is any restriction to the diet, she said: “Eat anything you like.”
Q: When you spoke to Dr. X, did you ask about food? What did Dr. X tell you?
A: Oh yes, of course we asked. Dr. X said: “Well, you can eat anything. There is no harm. Eat meat to build up your strength.”
Comments: Let us put on our thinking cap. From the above conversation:
1. Do you think that Dr. X believed diet is important and that diet contributes to breast cancer?
2. What is the message conveyed by Dr. X, viewed from the view of a patient or an ordinary person?
With due respect to this doctor, let us just give maintain the name as X. Let me reproduce what Dr. X said when presenting a paper at a breast cancer seminar.
• Chinese women had the highest incidence of breast cancer, followed by the Indians. Malay women had the lowest incidence (in Malaysia).
• Among the many reasons why more Chinese women suffer from breast cancer are because of their higher socioeconomic status, diet and genetics.
• Breast cancer is a cancer of the affluent countries, hence the high incidence in the developed countries. However although Japan is a developed country, the incidence rate remained low, which may imply that the environment and dietary factors may play a role.
• It is well-known that Japanese women who migrate to the US have a higher incidence than Japanese who remain in Japan, hence the environmental factors are more important than genetics.
• Epidemiological evidence suggests that … better nutrition in childhood also leads to an earlier menarche, another well-known risk factor.
What Dr. X wrote are well-known and established ideas in the medical literature. What do you make out of these statements? Is diet not an important factor? Does it not imply that diet is related in some ways to breast cancer.
What is your impression when Dr. X told Mary: eat anything you like, there is no harm?
Is Dr. X trying to say that before you get breast cancer, diet is important and so you better watch out! But after you get cancer diet is not important anymore? So you can eat anything you like? Is this the message?
If Dr. X agrees that diet plays a role in cancer before one gets cancer, don’t you think that diet is just as important in preventing cancer from recurring? Why do to continue to ask cancer patients to continue taking foods that promote cancer? Is Dr. X trying to imply that after the surgery, the cancer will go away and not come back?
Why do you think Dr. X casually brush off this subject on diet? Is it because she has no time? … No experience? … No interest? … Does not believe what? Or does it mean that preventing recurrence does not offer opportunity to make more money later?, etc.
When Dr. Y wrote: Cancer couldn’t careless what you eat
An oncologist, Dr. Y wrote this in a newspaper article: “Diet may have significant role in the prevention of cancer … this is quite, quite different from saying certain diets will aggravate your cancer once you have it … cancer could not careless what we eat”.
Comments: The above statement is most amazing and mind boggling. Given the nature of this world, with people having diverse ideas, opinions and training, I can understand why discussing “diet” is a big sore point, even to a point of being fanatical, biased, naive and sometimes, downright absurd.
Diet may have significant role in preventing cancer … (but when you are down with cancer) cancer could not careless what we eat! Put these two statements together and I wonder how many people consider it a wise statement coming from an expert? Let me quote what some eminent cancer experts say about diet.
One eminent oncologist in the US, Dr. Vincent T. DeVita, director of Yale Cancer Centre and formerly director, National Cancer Institute – USA, wrote:
1. We now know that the cause of more than 70% of malignancies may be in some way related to what we eat. Every year more evidence accumulates revealing that what we eat has a tremendous influence on whether we will develop cancer.
2. Why has it taken the medical community so long to appreciate the connection between diet and cancer?
3. I believe there are several reasons. First, as a nation we tend to focus first on technology. Second, by our human nature we have been a bit reluctant to investigate the nutrition / cancer connection – nutritional sciences have often been considered “soft science.”
4. Finally, most doctors are regrettably under-educated about the connection between what we eat and our health. Most medical students receive little or no training in nutrition.
5. Promising studies indicate that certain foods and substances in foods were effective in preventing and even halting the progress of cancer … and perhaps prevent a recurrence. It is essential that people with cancer understand that nutrition can be an important adjunct to cancer treatment.
Dr. Jeremy Geffen is a medical oncologist, founder and director of the Geffen Cancer Centre and Research Institute, Florida, USA. He wrote:
• If we are ill, quite often … this may be in some way related to what we have eaten. It is now quite clear … based upon hundreds of studies in the medical literature that diet and nutrition do indeed play a significant role in cancer.
• A plant-based diet is protective against some cancers … Numerous research studies indicate that people who consume foods rich in antioxidants have a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer.
• High dietary consumption of fat contributes to the development of some cancer. Western high-fat diet is associated with increased risk of hormone-related cancers (such as breast, endometrium and prostate) and gastrointestinal cancers (such as colon, rectum and gallbladder).
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon as well as a nutritionist, in his book: Health and nutrition secrets that can save your life, wrote:
• I was attending a modern medical university, where nutrition was virtually unknown. During my four years in medical school we did not have a single class on nutrition. The same was true during my internship and residency. In fact, to provide patients with nutrition supplements opened you up to ridicule from your colleagues.
• It is a crime that modern medicine has all but ignored one of the greatest weapons we have against disease – nutrition.
• Annually, the peer-reviewed journals contain tens of thousands of articles on nutrition … most of this groundbreaking information is never read and is rarely implemented by the doctors who treat patients on a day-to-day basis … yet, professors of medicine continue to wax eloquently about how they practise ‘evidence-base medicine”.
• Nutrition is not just (about) the possibility of prevention but (also) the reversal of diseases.
In another book, Natural strategies for cancer patients, Dr. Blaylock wrote:
• I became interested in cancer treatment while in medical school … I discovered the critical importance of nutrition in immune function.
• During the past thirty years of treating cancer patients, I have observed that often the treatment is worse than the cancer.
• Many people are not aware that both chemotherapy and radiation therapy are highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in their own right.
• Many oncologists warn their patients not to take antioxidant vitamins due to an unfounded fear that these vitamins will interfere with the treatment. I demonstrate the fallacy in this thinking … this fear is based purely on hypothetical grounds and not science.
• In fact, just the opposite is true – that specific nutritional treatments actually make conventional treatments much more effective … antioxidants can actually increase the killing of cancer cells.
• What you eat can make the difference between treatment failure and success.
The World Cancer Report
In April 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the World Cancer Report (prepared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – IARC). The report said:
• In 2000 the annual number of new cancer cases was 10 million and this number could rise by 50% to 15 million by 2020.
• From a global perspective, there is strong justification for focusing cancer prevention activities particularly on two main cancer-causing factors – tobacco and diet.
• The main reasons for the greater cancer burden of affluent societies are: tobacco, occupational carcinogens and the Western nutrition and lifestyle.
• The Western lifestyle is charactised by a highly caloric diet, rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, combined with low physical activity, resulting in an overall energy imbalance. It is associated with a multitude of disease conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arterial hypertension and cancer.
Comments: I would like to believe that those who wrote this WHO report are experts – not quacks and that their recommendations to the governments of the world are based on science not wishy-washy data. Read again what they say.
To end this discussion, read what Dr. Edward Cregan, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Specialist, wrote in: How Not to Be My Patient: Nutrition: you are what you put in your grocery cart. We really do become what we eat. I do all I can to shift the odds to my favor. And I do not believe for a moment that I can avoid cancer or heart disease altogether, but I do believe that I can have a better hand to play if I stay in charge. So can you. Only you are responsible for what you’re putting into your mouth.