Typically medical advancements are only sponsored and highlighted in popular medical media if their methods consist of expensive modern technology and pharmaceutical drugs that can be patented and are most profitable. A fresh whole food plant based diet as an advancement in the treatment and cure of many chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular disease has recently received a lot of attention and scrutiny because of the treatment's failure to provide long term studies and to necessitate the use of many pharmaceutical drugs or demand for improved technology. But this is changing, many long-term clinical and research studies have recently come to a close and have observed in there results that a plant based diet has a statistical significance in the treatment and regression of chronic diseases specifically of cancer and cardiovascular disease (Brody, C1).
One of the first research studies on the effects of protein on the development of cancer in the United States was performed by T. Colin Campbell PhD. Campbell, detailed the study in “Dietary Protein, Growth Factors and Cancer” and in a recent film documentary “Forks Over Knives” which both explain the processes of the experiment in Campbell’s own words. The experiment separated the mice into two groups all of which had received doses of aflatoxin (highly carcinogenic toxin) to initiate of cancer cell growth. The difference in the two groups of mice was the amount of protein they received in their diet. One group was only feed a formula that contained five percent casein (the main protein in milk) while the other group was feed a formula that contained twenty percent casein. His results showed a direct correlation to cancer growth in the group that was fed twenty percent casein formula and that the group consuming the five percent casein formula did not develop cancer at all even after receiving the dose of Alfatoxin, (Forks Over Knives). Also, Campbell found that the cancer growth was still inhibited and could even regress if the diet contained twenty percent or more of only plant protein. The enzyme complex in casein was found to be responsible for carcinogen activity, which develops cancer growth (Campbell, 1667).
Campbell held another experiment similar to the previous one but altered it in a few ways. The experiment kept only one group of mice and instead varied their diet back and forth from five percent casein to twenty percent casein every three weeks. In doing this particular study Campbell discovered not only that the increase in protein correlated to the increase of cancer growth but also that the decrease of protein in the diet during the three week periods where the mice were fed five percent casein formula actually showed signs of inhibition and regression of well developed cancer cell growth. The decreased amount of casein suggests that maybe a diet with significantly less protein, such as ones practiced in traditional cultures where meat is used to flavor dishes and is not consumed in such large quantities like it is in western culture. The study also relates to a plant-based diet because plants contain anywhere form five to ten percent protein which is the amount of protein that had healing and inhibitory effects on the mice (Forks Over Knives).
But recently most of the large studies collected by institutions such as the United States Department of Agricultural Research Services reported they haven’t found any correlations between diet and cancer growth (United). Campbell suggests this may be because the effect of diet on cancer is feeble or that simply the diets being studied are the wrong ones, (Campbell, 25). Most studies that report healthy eaters report their consumption of vegetable servings topped out at one and half cups of cooked broccoli a day and who also consumed meats and refined, processed foods. “Virtually no studies actually have compared a whole foods, plant based diet to a typical Western diet as they relate to cancer,”(Campbell, 26).
Breast Cancer a familiar disease in Western culture is one of the cancers that is most widely blamed for being genetic but is actually only genetic in one out of twenty diagnosed cases (Wiseman, 852). Besides the genetic statistics, breast cancer and diet have been studied around the world. Many studies indicate that in countries where women eat more animal fat their risk for developing breast cancer growth increases and the women who live in countries that don’t consume a lot of animal fat have less of a risk for developing breast cancer. The amount of animal fat in their diet correlates to the amount of meat that was consumed in these diets (Campbell, 27-28). Women who intake higher amounts of fat in their diets have been found to have increased levels of estrogen which has for some time been known to attribute to cancer cell growth. For instance, women in rural China who traditionally consume a low fat low protein diet have lower levels of estrogen and have a only a fifth of the diagnoses of breast cancer as the United States (Key, 183).
A study promoting a plant-based diet was also conducted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn M.D. but in respect to the treatment and cure of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease begins with the health of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels of the heart. These cells are responsible for the production of nitric oxide, which keeps blood flowing, dilates constricted blood vessels during physical activity and inhibits the formation of plaques. Dr. Esselstyn argues that the western diet constituting of large portions of meats, refined and processed foods is the reason for endothelial damage of the heart (Forks Over Knives).
Many people in the Western world may think this idea of a lower protein diet as insane or “extreme” because of its reduction or elimination of dairy products and meat from their diet. But because of the way western society eats over half a million people in the United States will have to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery where the ventral side of their bodies is sliced open with their hearts completely exposed while their leg is cut open and into to retrieve veins which are then removed form the leg and sewn onto heart as a way to by pass a clogged artery; “some people would call that extreme,” is Dr. Esselstyn's calm retort (Forks Over Knives).
Esselystyn’s twelve year clinical study consisted of eighteen patients who were in critical or terminal condition due to cardiovascular disease when they first arrived to his program. But all had agreed to the Dr. Esselstyn’s dietary program. Five years into the program fourteen of the patients had arrested the development of the disease and four had shown signs of blood vessel endothelial damage reversal. All of Esselstyn’s original eighteen patients who were technically in conditions that the allopathic community had released as hopeless causes had survived the entire twelve years of the study, and fourteen of his patients survive over two decades after the start of the study (Esselstyn, 399-401).
Also, there is a lot of convincing outlooks for a plant-based diet and plenty of evidence to support its effects as inhibiting and diminishing chronic diseases its biological mechanisms are not clearly understood yet. But now a new area of study called Nutrgenomics may clear up this misunderstanding. Nutrgenomics is the study of the effects of foods and food components on gene expression specifically on a molecular level of interaction between nutrients and other dietary elements. Norwegian scientists Paur, I. et al, at the University of Oslo argue that the biological structure of plant based foods work together to be effectively beneficial to health; therefore, its benefits can not be attributed to supplementing with only one or two isolated compounds (Paur, 1288). There seems to be something particular about the way a whole food structure and metabolic breakdown in the human body that cannot be artificially replicated.
New research in nutrigenomics may provide better understanding of the single component mechanisms and nutrient sensitive signaling pathways as well as main dietary components characterizations. One of the compounds studied in nurtigenomics that is related to cellular stress, immune and inflammatory responses is the transcription factor called nuclear factor kappa B(NF-κB) (Paur, 1288). A transcription factor is a protein that binds and controls genetic information from DNA to messanger RNA.
Chronic diseases and cancers have been associated with faulty regulation of NF-κB. Stimuli such as phosphorylation of IκB (which allow for the binding of NF-κB to specific target sequences in DNA and ensure transcription), cytokines, bacterial or viral infection and stress caused by dietary and environmental toxins can activate irregular regulation of NF-κB. NF-κB is now identified as a therapeutic target for inflammatory diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (Paur, 1288-1290).
In a study recently completed by Paur et al. testing the ability of plant extracts in the regulation of basal NF-κB activity found that basal NF-κB activity was significantly affected by plant extracts. Therefore NF-κB may be involved in the mechanism that prevents and reverses the effects of chronic diseases by the treatment of a plant based diet (Paur, 1289).
Today forty percent of Americans are obese and fifty percent are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. As a country we spend more than 2.2 trillion dollars a year on health care, more than any other country in the world (Forks Over Knifes). A plant based diet seems too simple or “too extreme” to work for most people but in the wake of the explosion of disease specifically of cardiovascular disease and cancer which have the highest mortality rate of non-communicable disease in the United States a plant based or vegan diet is one of the most promising, successful and inexpensive treatments and cures available.
“The fact that similar dietary patterns and nutrient exposures seem to be beneficial across this growing range of diseases adds weight to a very provocative argument: that a whole foods, plant based diet not only is the optimal diet, but also has many more health effects than currently recognized in conventional medical care,”(Campbell, 25).
Brody, J.E. “Huge study of diet indicts fat and meat.” New York Times 08 May 1990: C1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
Campbell, Colin T. “Dietary Protein, Growth Factors and Cancer.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85.6 (2007): 1667. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
Campbell II, Thomas M., and T. Collin Campbell. “The Breadth Of Evidence Favoring A Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet: Part II: Malignancy And Inflammatory Diseases.” Primary Care Reports 18.3 (2012): 25-35. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
Esselstyn Jr., Caldwell B. “Updating A 12-Year Experience With Arrest And Reversal Therapy For Coronary Heart Disease..” American Journal Of Cardiology 84.3 (1999): 339. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
Forks Over Knives. Dir. Lee Fulkerson. Perf. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., and T. Colin Campbell. Monica Beach Media. 2011.
Key, TJ, et al. “Sex Hormones in Women in Rural China and in Britian.” British Journal of Cancer 62.4 (1990): 631-636. PubMed Central. Web. Apr. 3, 2013.
Paur, I., L.M. Austenaa, and R. Blomhoff. “Extracts Of Dietary Plants Are Efficient Modulators Of Nuclear Factor Kappa B.” Food & Chemical Toxicology 46.4 (2008): 1288-1297. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
United States Department of Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24; 2011. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. <http://www.ars.usda.gov/Serivces/docs.htm?docid=8964>.
Wiseman, R.A. “Breast Cancer hypothesis: A Single Cause for the Majority of Cases.” J Epidemiol Community Health 5 (2000): 851-858. PubMed Central.Web. 5 Apr. 2013.