17 March 2014

Eating meat or smoking? Which is worse for your health?

“Animal protein-rich diets could be as harmful to health as smoking”.

This was the startling headline in The Guardian newspaper recently following the release of a new study that ran over 18 years and reported that people under 65 who eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times as likely to die from cancer or diabetes. Those younger than 65 who ate the most animal protein had a 74% increase in their risk of dying from any cause.

Given I have been recommending just such a diet for over 30 years, this week let’s go Out on a Limb once more, look at the evidence more fully, the way this study has been reported including mainstream reactions, and how we and our families can eat to save a great deal of future problems.

Then news of how you can receive a 20% discount for this year's Happiness and its Causes conference that I highly recommend, but first

Thought for the day

Nothing will benefit human health
And increase chances for survival of life on Earth
As much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet

Albert Einstein

Why did I use a low protein, plant-based, wholefood diet to help me to recover from my own difficult cancer, and why did I begin to recommend such a diet way back in 1981 when I first began helping others to either recovery from cancer or to prevent it?

Well, the truth is that it was a combination of first principles and personal experience. As a veterinarian I had been well trained in nutrition, but perhaps even more importantly, also trained in comparative anatomy.

The fact is that we humans are omnivores and as such, our digestive tracts are best designed for a relatively low protein diet. (See the previous blog Would you eat like a dog? for details - link below). Fortunately I also knew that unlike in the dog, the metabolic waste products from a high meat diet place a heavy burden on our human bodies.

However, even more than the science, what was most convincing for me personally was that when first diagnosed with secondary cancer, I ate a very pure diet for some time and meditated a lot (several hours per day). This made me very aware and very sensitive to what I ate. I soon found that if I did eat high protein I felt heavy, even toxic; low protein, I felt much lighter and had more energy. It was clear what suited me best.

Once I began working with others, I told them of my personal theories and experiences and suggested they might like to try them. Many found the same thing – low to medium protein intake, avoid meat, eggs, dairy and they felt better. Many seemed to “co-incidentally” do much better than their doctors predicted.

Of course, the full details of the overall diet I recommend for prevention, management or recovery have been in You Can Conquer Cancer since 1984 and these recommendations were expanded and given more detail in the recent new edition.

What has been gratifying, and I guess somewhat re-assuring, is that over the last few years more and more high quality research is confirming these recommendations (see the recent blogs Let food be your medicine Parts 1 and 2 - links below)and I do plan another research based blog soon – the evidence is compelling).

So let’s restate this latest study’s findings “high levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and almost double the risk of dying from any cause over an 18-year period.

So what is the commentary?
“Nutrition experts have cautioned that it's too early to draw firm conclusions from the research”.

“Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at Reading University, said it was wrong "and potentially even dangerous" to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese as the study does.

“Heather Ohly at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Exeter said: "Smoking has been proven to be entirely bad for us, whereas meat and cheese can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet, contributing to recommended intakes of many important nutrients."

Ho hum. I guess the paper has to give voice to caution and the prevailing way of thinking. I guess.... This is certainly the way of journalism these days.

Yet if we dig further into this research, we find that the harmful effects from the high protein diet were almost negated if that protein was derived from plant sources, such as beans and legumes; except in cancer where the risk was still three times as high in middle-aged people who ate a protein-rich diet, compared with those on a low-protein diet.

And there are more important suggestions from this research. It suggests that once you are over 65, things may well change. Over 65 and your protein needs tend to go up, so once over 65, increasing your protein levels seem to be protective against cancer, diabetes and other diseases. According to this study, doing so cuts the risk of death from any cause by 28%, and reduces cancer deaths by 60%.

So how did this study define a low protein diet? 
No more than 0.8g of protein a day for every kilogram of body weight, which means 48g for a 60kg person, and 64g for an 80kg person. These are very close to the amounts that result from following my Wellness Diet or the more specific cancer recovery diet.

According to The Guardian “most people in Britain eat more protein than they need. The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily intake of 55g and 45g of protein for the average man and woman respectively. But according to the British Nutrition Foundation the average protein intake per day is 88g and 64g for men and women.”

When I had cancer, the recommendation was around 120gm per day! The mainstream scientist's understanding of protein has changed over the years.

Full reference: Levine ME, Suarez JA, Brandhorst S, et al. Low protein intake is associated with a major reduction in IGF-1, cancer, and overall mortality in the 65 and younger but not older population. Cell Metab. 2014; 19:407-417. DIRECT LINK HERE

What to do? A summary:
1. IN GENERAL TERMS, the way I recommend to eat is best described as a plant-based, wholefood, organic diet.

2. READ  and LEARN: In the new edition of You Can Conquer Cancer you will find both the Wellness Diet (for those who are basically well, interested in prevention and living a long, happy and healthy life) and the more specific Healing Diet are set out in detail.

3. LISTEN to the 2 food CDs (or download the MP3s) Eating well, Being well and Eating for Recovery

4. ENJOY the recipes in the Gawler Foundation’s book Eat Well, Be Well

5. SEEK personal help if needed - see the resources below

6. DELIGHT in the fact, and the tastes of eating well

To locate a doctor trained in nutritional medicine, refer to
i) The Australian College of Nutritional Medicine (ACNEM)

ii) The Australasian Integrative Medical Association (AIMA)

Would you eat like a dog?

Let food be your medicine - Part 1

Let food be your medicine - Part 2

1. Meditation in the Forest
There are just a couple of places available for our Pre-Easter meditation retreat in the Yarra Valley. This annual event is a highlight for Ruth and myself; this year as well as relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, we will be delving into that most useful of personal tools, contemplation.

For details CLICK HERE
For bookings, call the Gawler Foundation +61 3 59671730

2. Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing 
This 8 day cancer recovery program residential program is evidence based and will be highly experiential. We will cover the full range of Integrative Medicine options, with the emphasis on what people can do for themselves – therapeutic nutrition, exercise and meditation, emotional health, positive psychology, pain management, the search for meaning and so on.

I will personally present the majority of the content but along with Ruth, participants will have the additional support and experience of Liz Maluschnig and Stew Burt; two very experienced and committed New Zealanders.

For details on this and the other cancer related residential programs for 2014 CLICK HERE 

3. Happiness & Its Causes - 29 & 30 May 2014 - Seymour Centre, Sydney

Have an inspiring and productive 2014! Revitalise, refresh, learn, explore, network and be motivated at the world's leading happiness event – celebrating its 9th year - Happiness & Its Causes 2014 - with 30+ world-renowned international and local speakers – leaders in psychology, science, education, business, the arts and more.

As I have endorsed this conference, I have been able to secure a 20% discount for all my readers!

Book before 28 March and save $300 off the full 2 day conference fee and $500 off the full 4 day gold pass fee (including workshops)

Book online using promotion code RMEE or call (02) 8719 5118 to register.

Go to www.happinessanditscauses.com.au

• Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, USA, one of the greatest psychologists of our time, pioneering researcher into optimal experience or ‘flow’ on a rare visit to Australia!
• Matthieu Ricard, Nepal, inspiring humanitarian monk and best-selling author Happiness: 
A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.
• Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, UK, legendary primatologist, environmentalist and UN Messenger of Peace.
• Professor Jean Twenge, USA, psychologist and leading researcher into narcissism and youth mental health.
• Professor Roy Baumeister, USA, respected social psychologist exploring self-control, 
self-regulation, meaning and happiness.
• Professor Felicia A. Huppert, UK, international expert in wellbeing and author of The Science of Wellbeing ... AND 25+ AMAZING LOCAL MINDS TOO!

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