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I see a lot of claims about vegan and vegetarian diets in the treatment of cancer (i.e. Gerson), and have seen research that makes these claims as well. Do you promote vegetarian/vegan diets in cancer treatment? If not, why do you think some research is showing benefits of cutting out meat for cancer? And if cancer is reversed by going vegetarian or vegan, is this a case to eat this way for life?
From my research, clinical observations, and the results I have seen with my own and other’s patients, I have come to the following conclusions (which I would love to have the funds to turn into a multi-year research study):
1) Many people (but far from all of them) will feel better, for a length of time, on a vegan diet. I will explain why in a little while. As far as a vegetarian diet is concerned, this word has so many different convoluted meanings, that I cannot comment unless I have an exact description of what the person is and is not eating. In addition, both of these diets (vegan and vegetarian) allow many toxic foods because they are not of animal origin. Many of these people, without knowing how bad these foods are for their health, are eating lots of sugar from numerous sources including the extremely high fructose agave nectar. They are also eating GMO oils like soy and Canola, far too much (if even any is okay) tofu, soy milk, and other soy products, our country’s toxic inflammatory GMO or ultra-hybridized wheat and flour products, and many other starches. These become sugar and feed the cancer cells while lowering immune function. It is my belief that the benefits of these diets (the few times they are done well) fall into a couple of different categories. (The Gerson diet is a decent but not perfect example as I explain in my discussion on the Directors Cut of the Gerson film, Alive Tomorrow.) One benefit is that they eliminate all of our toxic hormone- and antibiotic-containing animal foods. However, the properly raised ones which I eat, and which have supportive nutrients not found in a vegetarian/vegan diet, are of course removed as well. If the individual decides to go 100% organic (many vegetarians are not and some cannot even afford to do this) then they have also removed all or most of the pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residues they we’re consuming in oils, nuts and seeds, fruits, and vegetables, etc. This is a good idea for anyone looking to improve their health or reduce future risk factors. Another benefit is those few (including Gerson) who have added fresh vegetable juicing (preferably without fruit except possibly lemons or limes) and who ALWAYS consume their juice within five minutes or less of making it so that it is not too oxidized. This brings in a huge amount of live enzymes as well as extremely digestible nutrients without the nutrient-binding and difficult-to-digest fiber these vegetables had previously contained.
2) Yet another benefit contained specifically in the Gerson program which can be done by anyone who learns the procedure, is coffee enemas. These appear to have the ability to greatly increase detoxification without overloading the body in the process.
3) Since the most difficult to digest foods are raw vegetables (due to their fiber content) and cooked animal protein (due to the changes which occur in the meat during cooking), these are what I see should be reduced for the benefit of the cancer patient who has poor digestion and is very nutrient and immune deficient. Around the world, many foods are often consumed raw and have been for a long, long time. These foods which even have their own special names and are served in some of the finest restaurants are: Steak Tartare, Ceviche, Sashimi, and Carpaccio. If high quality, clean, animal foods from properly raised wild fish, grass-fed organic beef, lamb, etc., are added into a good (most are poor) vegetarian diet, they will not degrade the diet—they will improve it.
4) EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids do not exist in a plant-based diet, and our ability to manufacture these fats from foods like flax is generally far too limited. Vitamin B12 is in very poorly assimilable forms in plant-based foods. Therefore it usually (maybe always) ends up as deficient in vegan/vegetarian diets. Many amino acids which the cancer patient needs for rebuilding purposes are either in low supply or in poor ratio in non-animal based proteins. Even T. Colin Campbell had to write things in his China Study book, which were NOT what he had found in the actual China Study research, in order to massage the book so it would say what he wanted, even though many would say this was dishonest and misleading. Please Google “rebuttal to the China Study” and read three or four of the well-written rebuttals by different experts.
5) The only way to determine if we have ever found a method or type of eating, which we should consider doing for life, is to locate on our HUGE planet, one civilization or tribal society which has been eating this same way for at least five generations, and still has exceptional health into old age. I find it interesting that as large as this planet is, there is zero evidence of our ever having spawned a vegan society. I actually hope we get one, since my beliefs are that it would never be able to make it to even the 4th generation. However, I would support the experiment in order to see what would happen. There are, of course, societies which do not eat beef due to the cow being sacred as in India, but lots of other animal foods and dairy are consumed. Ashrams forbid meat because they know that without meat the human body loses libido and it is a sex-free religious culture which would die off due to this fact if it had to supply its own new recruits.
6) On a side note, for your last question, I ask you this: If someone who had been sick for 20 years was finally made well after a 6-week course of intravenous antibiotics, should this person want to remain on intravenous antibiotics for the rest of their life since it is what finally turned their health around? Of course not. And therefore, depending on numerous variables, a therapeutic diet may not be a long-term excellent diet. That is, unless it was a fairly perfect and complete, exceptional diet which turned their health around. Thank you for your questions as they, and my answers, are very important for everyone to understand.
David Getoff, CCN, CTN, FAAIM, Price-Pottenger Vice President