Vegan Diet, Steve Jobs and Pancreatic Cancer. Revisited

“People who are crazy enough to believe that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

What role did his vegan diet play in his death?

Tough question to answer—not enough data. Shortly after his death, I published a blog about Steve Jobs on October 8. Since that time, that blog has received more traffic than all other pages except for my home page. Entitled Steve Jobs. Vegan? Early death from pancreatic cancer?, a lot of people are still interested in what happened to Steve.

After receiving hundreds of comments and emails on this topic, I want to revisit that blog and share more information. But first I wish to clarify the way I see things now:

  1. Based on Isaacson’s book (that I read) and input from people who knew Steve, he ate a vegan diet for various periods during his life, first beginning to do so as a young adult.
  2. We don’t know what percentage of his life included a vegan diet, nor do we know what constituted his version of that diet. We know he liked sushi but we don’t know if he ate only vegetarian sushi—I doubt it. A friend who worked with Steve for many years told me that he loved ice cream (probably not vegan ice cream).
  3. What we do know for sure is that all vegan diets are not necessarily healthy. As we said in our book, you could eat nothing but Diet Coke and potato chips and call yourself a vegan and you’d probably die at a far younger age than Steve did.
  4. The problem is that the definition of vegan doesn’t describe what you DO eat; it only means that you supposedly DON’T eat anything that has any animal ingredients. If you want to know the definition of a near-optimal diet based on what you DO eat, take a look at our 4Leaf Page.

    Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods — still in nature’s package

A little background. In my October 8  blog, I included a video by Dr. Michael Greger about the association of animal fat with pancreatic cancer. Regarding that video, I stated, “Dr. Michael Greger cites a huge NIH AARP study (500,000 people) that tightly associates the consumption of all fat AND protein of animal origin with pancreatic cancer. On the other hand, plant-based fat had no association.”

So that doesn’t prove that Steve’s diet had anything to do with his death. The evidence suggests that his chances of death from pancreatic cancer would have been less if he had consumed no animal fat for his entire life. But since we don’t know exactly what Steve ate for his entire life, we can’t be completely sure about anything regarding why he died.

But we can be sure about one thing; people will be interested in this special man’s life and legacy for decades, or maybe centuries. Without a doubt, he changed the world—and he changed mine.

Riding Amtrak, eating 4Leaf breakfast and pounding out blogs on my trusty MacBook Pro. Thanks Steve.

About one year ago, I bought my first Apple computer (MacBook Pro) after having bought my first iPhone 18 months before that. Clearly, the man had a passion for making many insanely great products, and for that I am grateful.

Having written 350 consecutive daily blogs on this MacBook, I can testify to the superiority of his products. As for the ongoing interest in his life, I got this message from a follower of my blog last week:

I am reading the Steve Jobs book now and have a question..if he ate so healthfully…why did he get cancer? As posted in your blog, diet alone can help but is not the surefire bullet/protector.

In the book, Mr. Isaacson mentions that Steve Jobs claims his health woes started up when he first returned to Apple and was also running Pixar (“running two companies was brutal”) . Back then the health woes were kidney stones. Could it have been extreme stress that was the fatal key to Steve’s subsequent woes. I did read how sushi was his weakness that he indulged in from time to time but otherwise and primarily he seemingly kept to a vegan regiment and did this for a long period of time. Regards, Susan.

Biography by Walter Isaacson

The Bottom Line. I wrote a note back to Susan with a brief summary of what I have written just now in this blog. As I explained to her, there simply is not enough solid data to conclude anything about the role of diet in Steve’s cancer and death. That’s my opinion; my friend Dr. John McDougall took it a step further and focused on every single mention of Steve’s diet in his biography. You can read his very thorough examination here. Why Did Steve Jobs Die?

Finally, today I would like to close with a quote of the day by a Kentucky philosopher. I will probably lead off with this quote in my speech at the University of Kentucky on February 13. My topic for that speech is: “The Big Picture About Food—and how it relates to the promotion of health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.”

People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.—-Wendell Berry

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to Vegan Diet, Steve Jobs and Pancreatic Cancer. Revisited

  1. Susan says:

    You may be interested in ready Dr. McDougall’s post regarding Steve Job’s cancer – the fact that it began in his 20’s and that his vegan diet may have helped prolong his life into his 50’s.

  2. huracan says:


    Thanks for that post!

  3. barbaraH says:

    Okay, Sal vented yesterday and today it’s my turn. 🙂

    Can we please let Steve Jobs rest in peace?

    Your reader answered her own question by quoting you – “diet alone can help, but is not the surefire bullet/protector.” I don’t know that anything more needed to be said. Nonetheless, you added that “there simply is not enough solid data to conclude anything about the role of diet in Steve’s cancer and death.” Okay, fine. Exactly. Eating a plant-based diet reduces the risk of cancer; it doesn’t take it down to zero. There are many other factors.

    But then you go on to say that “The evidence suggests that his chances of death from pancreatic cancer would have been less if he had consumed no animal fat for his entire life.” Isn’t this in contradiction to what you said before? I don’t think there’s really any evidence that shows a correlation between the small quantities of animal protein and fat that Steve Jobs ate, and his particular kind of pancreatic cancer. And as Dr. McDougall point out, there were other environmental factors that were most likely involved in his illness. Maybe you were making a different point that I’m misunderstanding.

    Dr. McDougall makes many valid points in this particular newsletter, and I found it very respectful of Steve Jobs. I appreciated that he said this: “Hopefully, my account will bring some peace of mind to his family and friends after his untimely death.” I am a big fan of your blog in general, but I feel that your posts about Steve Jobs have not been as respectful. No offense meant, but I hope you can find some other way to get traffic to your site without periodically trotting him out.


  4. Leo M. Schwaiger says:

    Those interested in learning about the power of live foods should be aware of the work of Dr. Max Gerson, MD. There are videos which can be accessed from the Internet which should be seen by everyone. He cured Albert Schweitzer of diabetes at age 75, his wife of TB and his daughter of a rare skin condition. Hopefully, the following links might provide the videos:

    Wishing you all the very best in health and happiness.

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