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Question of the Month
Answers to common health problems.

November 2005

I just read the article on www.diseaseproof.com and have one question. One question keeps popping up in my head, and I was wondering what your response would be.

You kept talking about the saturated fat link to cancer, but you have not talked about the animal protein link. I noticed this in "Disease Proof Your Child" as well. In "Eat to Live" (if memory serves), you discuss the animal protein link to cancer in great depth. Similarly, T. Colin Campbell discussed in his book, the "China Plan", that animal protein is a stronger carcinogenic than is animal fat.

Indeed, he explained that the Nurses Health Study was a particularly good instance of this. He said the study seemed like an anomaly if you just noticed that as saturated fat decreased in the diet, the incidence of cancer did not decrease. Once you factored in that the lower saturated fat in the diet was caused by eating a high amount of reduced fat animal foods (e.g. skim milk, low fat cheese, and white chicken breast), it was apparent that the low saturated fat diet was actually higher in animal protein than was the higher fat diet. More animal products were eaten in the low fat group, so they ate more animal protein. Since animal protein is the most potent carcinogenic (according to Campbell), these findings in the Nurses Study made perfect sense.

I have been wondering about this since reading DPYC and would be very curious to hear your reasoning for not focusing as much on the animal protein link recently. I am sure you have well thought out reasons, and I was just curious as to what they would be.

Clearly, the volume of phytochemical rich plant substances and the nutrient density of one's diet has a better correlation with lower rates of cancer than does lower intake of animal protein or saturated fat. In other words, white flour and sugar could be carcinogens too, but it is more what you are not eating when you consume a diet richer in animal foods and processed foods, than it is the carcinogenic potential of the fat or the protein. Now regarding your question, Dr. Campbell's theory may be right, but his work does not really prove that. Sure, higher amounts of animal protein definitely fuel cellular machinery that promote cancer, but this is not clearly seen in the literature with low consumption of animal proteins. The literature has more evidence to suggest that even lower amounts of saturated fats (and trans fats) have negative effect on cellular function and more power as a cancer promoter. I am trying to be more consistent with the preponderance of the evidence that we have available, but I do not think this has to be a competition between which is worse animal fat or animal protein. Either way, we have to clean up our act and eat most of our caloric intake from real healthy stuff. But I, for one would feel safer eating a piece of turkey breast or egg white compared to a 4 oz slab of butter, cheese or pig lard, and I think that I have more scientific support for this position than Campbell has for his. Furthermore, since Campbell does not stress the critical importance of dietary effects in childhood compared to adulthood, he has to rely more on this protein theory to explain the lack of cancer protection when adults reduce saturated fat and see no reduction in cancer rates. I believe that my explanation and the science presented in "Disease Proof Your Child" makes clear logical sense of all this literature.




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