Treat nutrition and cancer research cautiously.
That was the title of a Reuters Health news article (see link below, 12-5-12). And why should we treat nutrition and cancer research cautiously? Because everything you read in the news or see on television is not necessarily true.
A new report from two professors at Stanford and Harvard respectively sheds some light on a big problem in this country. There is a ton of information coming at all of us continuously—so much information that we never really know what to believe.
In my own case back in 2002 when I first began studying about the “optimal diet for humans,” I found myself searching for legitimacy, credibility and authenticity. I was seeking to understand the “big picture” about food and found it difficult to do so in the early days. In the article, I thought Professor Fung summed up the problem very well:
“You have all these individual studies, and people are not getting together and trying to figure out what is going on in terms of the entire picture,” said Teresa Fung, a professor of nutrition at Simmons College in Boston.”It’s a system problem. It’s also how science is reported,” Fung, who also has an adjunct appointment at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Reuters Health.
The researchers began their study by creating a list of 50 random food items. They then researched all the studies that had been done on those foods for the past 35 years. And most of what they found was based on weak evidence.
For 40 of the 50 food items, they found a total of 264 studies. And guess what, “Of those, 103 suggested the ingredient was tied to an increased risk of cancer, and 88 to a decreased risk.”
Confusion over clarity. That’s a phrase I picked up from The China Study in 2005 and I have been blogging about it for the past two years. Like profits over health, confusion over clarity is the way industry would prefer things to remain.
A confused food customer is a good food customer. That’s because after hearing conflicting advice enough times about a particular food, the average consumer is going to conclude that the scientists will never get it right—so she should just keep eating what she enjoys. In another quote from the article, the same case was made about too many studies but not enough “big picture” truths:
“We have seen a very large number of studies, just too many studies, suggesting that they had identified associations with specific food ingredients with cancer risk,” said Dr. John Ioannidis from the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California, who worked on the analysis. That back-and-forth can distract the public from associations that do have solid evidence behind them, such as the increased cancer risk tied to smoking or the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables, he said.
The Bottom Line. People everywhere are confused. That’s because they’ve never found the legitimacy, credibility and authenticity that I was seeking in 2002 through 2004.
Fortunately for me, I did—when I began to study the works of Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Dean Ornish of the UCSF. After reading all of their works and the works of other pioneering medical doctors, I chose this simple definition of optimal nutrition:
The closer we get to eating a diet of whole, plant-based foods, the better off we will be. —T. Colin Campbell, PhD
And that “better off” includes all chronic diseases. We now know that we can easily prevent or reverse almost all of them—including many kinds of cancer. How much simpler could it be? When I saw this article, I sent a note to Dr. Campbell, asking if he had seen it. He wrote back:
I didn’t see it but it is SO TRUE! I have two reasons–one coming from enthusiastic marketers who manage to get the semblance of a study done, the other from people who don’t understand the limitations of reductionist research. Regards, Colin
- Source article. Treat nutrition and cancer research cautiously: study | Reuters
- Related article. via Kathy Freston: A Vegan Diet (Hugely) Helpful Against Cancer
- Earlier blog. Riding the cancer train to fame and fortune
- Earlier blog. Dr. Ornish. Turning off cancer genes, reversing heart disease
- Earlier blog. The “war on cancer” turns 41; now a major industry…
- Are you a colonoscopy customer?
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation