Does this food cause cancer? That may seem like a simple question. However, foods are complex, our bodies are complex, and cancer is complex. When we talk about foods and associated risk of cancer, we are talking in very general terms. Sometimes it is a component of a food that can be carcinogenic, such as chemicals produced in the cooking process: avoiding those components removes the risk. For most food groups, we can’t say outright that they “cause cancer”, but there are two food groups which have so many negative components that we can make the general statement that they, at the very least, really encourage cancer: those are meat and dairy.
Cancer doesn’t have a magic threshold, above which you get a diagnosis, and below which you are safe. We are always looking at probabilities and risk. By reducing or removing foods which are more harmful, we improve our odds of avoiding cancer, as well as other diseases. Your health is either trending upwards or downwards. Each healthy practice builds an upward trend. Some of you are seeing a downward spiral, and have an urgent need to reverse the trend while there is still time.
What’s wrong with meat and dairy?
The first issue with these food groups is also the primary key to cancer and any disease: inflammation. Simply put, these foods promote inflammation, which gives cancer a big advantage. There are many reasons for this. Cooking meat and pasteurizing milk result in inflammatory byproducts. Cooking and processing meat creates “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) — as the acronym implies, these promote premature aging. Pasteurization of milk alters whey and casein proteins which then promote allergenic reactions, and therefore inflammation.
Should we just get rid of processing and cooking? While that would remove some inflammatory factors, it gives a straight path for pathogens from the animal to you. Besides, there are other problems with meat and dairy — namely, the one thing people flock to them for: protein. In another newsletter, “Recycling Means Longer Life”, we explored in depth the problem of excess protein, especially animal protein. In short, we don’t need nearly the amount of protein we think we do, and high protein diets are inflammatory. In a study published in Cell Metabolism, researchers from the University of California reviewed the cancer risks from high protein diets. They studied 6,381 adults and determined that those on a high protein diet were up to four times more likely to die from cancer or diabetes, depending on their age range. They suggested that the hormone IGF-1 is activated by protein, which pushes cell growth, and therefore speeds the life cycle of the cells, resulting in faster aging. Note: faster cell growth is a primary aspect of cancer. You can still get plenty of protein from plant sources with a good selection of seeds, nuts, and vegetables. The body does not overload on protein from these plant sources.
Another issue is toxicity. Animals are higher on the food chain than plants, resulting in higher toxin levels. At each rung of the food chain, toxins in the diet concentrate in the animal’s tissues. Plants are at the start of the food chain, and have not accumulated reprocessed toxins. In today’s toxic environment, this effect is even more pronounced: animals eat more toxic food, get less exercise, breathe more polluted air, and are generally less healthy.
Red meat in particular contains a form of iron which is hard for the body to reject, leading to iron toxicity. This leads to tremendous damage, as free iron is highly reactive and oxidative or corrosive to the cells.
Animal meat and dairy products contain a high level of saturated fat. Fats are chains of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. “Saturated” simply means that the available bonds for hydrogen are all populated, and the chain has no further interest in grabbing hydrogen atoms. We often hear that saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, and they generally do. But there are different types of saturated fats, which have different chain lengths: short, medium, long, and very long chain fatty acids. So not all saturated fats are equal. Once again, plant-based saturated fats are OK but animal fats are potentially dangerous. Reducing meat and dairy is the first step in reducing the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) Coconut, for instance, increases the “good” (HDL) level, which counteracts the danger of LDL by a factor of 4 — one HDL point increase is worth four points of LDL decrease.
Why use the alternatives?
The problems with meat and dairy do not appear with plants. But plants have many advantages that animal products don’t: phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber are all considered anti-cancer and anti-disease in general. Often those who think they can’t be satisfied with a primarily plant diet haven’t tried good quality, fresh vegetables, or they haven’t put some effort into adjusting to the diet. Sometimes, we just give up too soon!
Most vitamins are more available from plant sources than animal sources. You can much more easily control your weight with vegetables than with meat. Some plants have phytochemicals which directly inhibit cancer. If you eat organic, you can further reduce the already low toxicity of a plant diet.
What science is now telling us
While we already know that meat and dairy are not health-promoting, science is catching up with what we already know. That’s fine: science is supposed to avoid any preconceptions, so it is not expected to start with what we have already learned from common sense practical application — so long as we realize that common sense is sometimes ahead of scientific verification! Published in BMC Medicine, researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that a certain sugar molecule (Neu5Gc) found in meat and dairy products causes an antibody development in humans, and that this antibody leads to an increased risk of cancer. They didn’t find something in the meat and dairy that directly causes cancer; instead, they found that Neu5Gc is something that the human body considers an invader, so it builds antibodies against it, and those antibodies can lead to cancer. These antibodies develop when we are first introduced to meat or dairy, and as we continue to consume them, the antibody level rises; therefore, the more we consume of meat and dairy, the greater our risk of cancer! It’s interesting to note that Neu5Gc is naturally found in many animals, but is not produced in the human body. Put another way, the human body considers a normal component of animal meat and dairy as a foreign invader that requires an immune response. Does that not suggest that we were not built to consume these products?
One way science can determine the health hazards of a food is to examine the reaction of the body to individual components like Neu5Gc. Another way is to run a broad, sweeping study of the overall effects of a certain food class and do statistical analysis. In a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine) study, research done by the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found a strong correlation between the source of protein intake and disease. Of 131,342 participants, the median was 14% of caloric intake from animal protein and 4% from plant protein. For every shift of 10% of participant intake of animal protein, their risk of death from any cause was 2% higher, and risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 8% higher. More striking: each 3% increase in plant protein consumption led to a 10% lower risk of death from any cause, and 12% from cardiovascular issues. That’s a huge reward for even a small shift in diet!
Would you like a 10% lower disease risk? How about 20%? Lower yet? It’s up to you. Science is giving us detailed guidelines to help you do what you already know is good for you. Take it as far as you want!
As you take positive, healthy steps, you improve your health and decrease your chances of all sorts of disease. As you fall into dis-health, you tend to spiral downward further. If you are already afflicted with disease, you can break the downward trajectory with better habits. The amount of impact you have on your health depends on how much you are willing to put into it. If you are healthy, congratulations! Do more so you can maintain that health or even go farther. If you are unhealthy, take some steps to break the cycle. Every step you make can make a big difference.
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
As the study showed, we produce antibodies to meat and dairy products. If our immune system attacks something, then obviously it sees it as a harmful substance. But what about mother’s milk? This actually boosts a newborn’s immune system. The difference? One is from a human, the other from a cow. One is from a living being filled with biophotons and enzymes, while the other is cooked, dead, devoid of all essential nutrients and denatured by the pasteurization process, causing an immediate immune attack. How could you ever fight off normal pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and cancer cell formation — and stay healthy — if your immune cells are producing antibodies to and attacking the food you eat?
As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, stated: “let your food be your medicine.” Meaning: let your food bring health to your body instead of taking health away.
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