George Eisman’s Blog 8/22/14 – Number 1
I have spent my career giving talks about nutrition and the vegan diet: how being vegan, or moving in that direction, helps lower cancer risk, prevents animal suffering, benefits the environment, and helps alleviate food shortages. A few months ago, it was discovered that I had lung cancer – ironic given my vegan diet and the fact that I’ve never smoked – which has now impinged on the nerve to one of my vocal cords, taking away much of my power of speech. Thus I will write instead of speaking. Hopefully my writings will inspire others to give public talks – feel free to use my words, those of you who would like to.
Cancer risk is definitely raised by consumption of animal protein. It is ironic that the very substance that people think is “heart-healthy” — because animal fat definitely increases our risk of heart disease and substituting higher protein animal products for higher fat ones does lower heart disease risk — is very cancer-unfriendly. Recent studies show, however, that animal protein actually does raise even heart disease risk somewhat (though not as much as animal fat). So one could lower heart disease risk even further by using plant proteins instead, and thereby also lower cancer risk tremendously.
The reason that animal protein raises cancer risk is due to its content of growth hormones. Some growth hormones are added by the livestock industry, but most occur naturally as part of the animals’ life processes, so even the most organic, sustainable, grass-fed, etc. meat, dairy, and eggs still have considerable amounts of these unhealthy (for us) substances. So animal products, whether high fat or low fat, organic or not, are unhealthy foods from the standpoint of causing the two leading death threats in this country: heart disease and cancer.
The other class of foods that contribute to disease risk and shortened lives are processed foods. These refined carbohydrate products (foods which contain lots of added sugars and/or milled grains) wreak havoc on our body’s health because they cause a rise in insulin levels, which in turn causes a rise in blood fat levels. These higher blood fat levels raise heart disease risk, but the elevated insulin levels which precede them raise cancer risk. That is because insulin is a growth hormone itself. The fact that our bodies make insulin does not seem to save us from its ill effects. Don’t find out the hard way as I did – eating lots of sweets and flour products – that cancer can grow in that environment. (Whole wheat flour has the same glycemic index as white flour because the fiber has been so finely divided.) So please remember that just a plant-based diet is not enough for optimal health: whole food and plant-based is the ideal of truly healthy eating.
by George Eisman (Registered Dietitian)