Back to Our Roots- Curry and Cancer

Image Credit: peddhapati / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Why are Cancer Rates so Low in India?

It is estimated that many tumors start around the age of 20. However, detection of cancer is normally around the age of 50 or later. Thus, it takes cancer decades to incubate. Why does it take so long? Recent studies indicate that in any given type of cancer, hundreds of different genes must be modified to change a normal cell into a cancer cell. Although cancers are characterized by the dysregulation of cell signaling pathways at multiple steps, most current anticancer therapies involve the modulation of a single target. Chemotherapy has gotten incredibly specific, but the ineffectiveness, lack of safety, and high cost of these monotargeted therapies has led to real disappointment, and drug companies are now trying to develop chemo drugs that take a multitargeted approach.

Many plant-based products, however, accomplish multitargeting naturally and are inexpensive and safe compared to drugs. However, because drug companies are not usually able to secure intellectual property rights to plants, the development of plant-based anticancer therapies has not been prioritized. They may work (and work better for all we know), and they may be safer, or even fully risk free.

If we were going to choose one plant-based product to start testing, we might choose curcumin, the pigment in the spice turmeric (the reason curry powder looks yellow). Before we start throwing money at research, we might want to ask some basic questions, like “Do populations that eat a lot of turmeric have lower cancer rates?” The incidence of cancer does appear to be significantly lower in regions where turmeric is heavily consumed. Population-based data indicate that some extremely common cancers in the Western world are much less prevalent in regions where turmeric is widely consumed in the diet.

For example, “overall cancer rates are much lower in India than in western countries.”  U.S. men get 23 times more prostate cancer than men in India. Americans get between 8 and 14 times the rate of melanoma, 10 to 11 times more colorectal cancer, 9 times more endometrial cancer, 7 to 17 times more lung cancer, 7 to 8 times more bladder cancer, 5 times more breast cancer, and 9 to 12 times more kidney cancer. This is not mere 5, 10, or 20 percent more, but 5, 10, or 20 times more. Hundreds of percent more breast cancer, thousands of percent more prostate cancer—differences even greater than some of those found in the China Study.

The researchers in this study, highlighted in my video Back to Our Roots: Curry and Cancer, conclude: “Because Indians account for one-sixth of the world’s population, and have some of the highest spice consumption in the world, epidemiological studies in this country have great potential for improving our understanding of the relationship between diet and cancer. The lower rates of cancer may, of course, not be due to higher spice intake. Several dietary factors may contribute to the low overall rate of cancer in India. Among them are a “relatively low intake of meat and a mostly plant-based diet, in addition to the high intake of spices.” Forty percent of Indians are vegetarians, and even the ones that do eat meat don’t eat a lot. And it’s not only what they don’t eat, but what they do. India is one of the largest producers and consumers of fresh fruits and vegetables, and Indians eat a lot of pulses (legumes), such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils. They also eat a wide variety of spices in addition to turmeric that constitute, by weight, the most antioxidant-packed class of foods in the world.

Population studies can’t prove a correlation between dietary turmeric and decreased cancer risk, but they can certainly inspire a bunch of research. So far, curcumin has been tested against a variety of human cancers, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast, prostate, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, and head and neck cancer, for both prevention and treatment. For more information on turmeric and curcumin, check out Carcinogen Blocking Effects of Turmeric Curcumin and Turmeric Curcumin Reprogramming Cancer Cell Death.

I’m working on another dozen or so videos on this amazing spice. This is what I have so far:

Amla, dried Indian gooseberry powder, is another promising dietary addition:

I add amla to my Pink Juice with Green Foam recipe. Not all natural products from India are safe, though. See, for example, my video Some Ayurvedic Medicine Worse than Lead Paint Exposure.

More on the antioxidant concentration in spices in general in Antioxidants in a Pinch. Why do antioxidants matter? See Food Antioxidants and Cancer and Food Antioxidants, Stroke, and Heart Disease.

Which fruits and vegetables might be best? See #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Best Fruits for Cancer Prevention.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

132 responses to “Why are Cancer Rates so Low in India?

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  1. I need to start cooking more Indian food. It’s a good thing it’s so tasty. Just remember guys, most Indian restaurant food is loaded with butter and cream.

      1. Ghee is definitely the preferred frying medium, but the day to day food is basically a simple dal, vegetable dish, and rice. The rich and creamy dishes are reserved for special occasions.

        1. Ghee is definitely NOT the preferred frying method in India, its used mainly for lighting lamps in this day and age, coconut oil is used and mustard oil but not ghee unless your making sweets.

          1. Background: I grew up in India. We never cooked anything with ghee at home. It was expensive for most middle class families for cooking purposes. Once in a while like guests at home, my parent would put a bit of ghee in dal (like a teaspoon for 6-8 people). It is only super-rich people who would regularly eat ghee.

            The restaurant-style Indian food served in America resembles what is served at occasions like weddings. It is not possible to cook, and no one would eat like that at home.

              1. Ashutosh, stay away from Soyabean oil, just keep with Peanut Oil or Mustered seed oil, Soybean itself is the complex hybrid product. Every company shows soy and it’s oil is healthy is just marketing strategy.

          2. +Geoffmd
            Sorry you are spreading bullshit, I am half Indian and half swedish and my grandmother and father always cook with Ghee. I never heard that they use Ghee for lamps.
            My father have owned 4 restuarants and my grandmother have been cooking her whole life since age of 14 and she learned how too cook her mother, and her mother was taught by her mother and it goes on waaaaaaay back!

            1. Really not much BS. Personally, I can’t eat much oil because it 1. causes indigestion; and, 2. causes oil cysts. Eating large quantities of oil is no good for anyone. Unlike proteins and starches, oils are transported directly through the gut wall and into the lymphatic system. Too much oil intake simply clogs one’s lymph and can cause congestive cancers. I agree with most of the article. I’d add that one should eat a non-inflammatory diet as much as possible. That means low meat, high vegetable, low sugar, high pluses, etc. Inflammatory diets are linked to and causative of most chronic illness. Turmeric also helps reduce inflammation as does ashwagandha. I eat both every day if possible.

            2. I am from India. We DO NOT use Ghee for frying as a normal practice. It is used only on special occasions. Northern India uses mostly peanut oil and southern India uses mostly coconut oil.

            3. Take it from an Indian, living in India who grew up in the “City of Temples”, both ghee and oil are used to light lamps, not only in households, but also in Hindu Temples. India’s very diverse, a lot of people use only ghee in every day cooking and even more people stick to different kinds of vegetable, seed and nut oils.

        1. This is true. I make both northern and southern dishes by roasting my spices in a dry pan instead of in oil. It all tastes delicious.

      2. Veganrunner: Sounds like you got some knowledgeable answers to your actual question. I just wanted to share that PCRM’s 21 Day Kickstart program has an Indian version, which is still in English, but all the recipes are Indian ones. It is my understanding that those recipes were developed by natives. So, those recipes should be a way to make some reasonably authentic tasting Indian food without the animal products. (The 21 Day Kickstart program is free, though requires registration.) Just sharing in case you would be interested.

        1. Thanks Thea. The reason I was asking is because I have a patient who refuses to give Ghee up. He is under the impression it is a health food. One of his Indian friends told him so and he is sticking to it! She also said to eat walnuts so it isn’t all bad advice. I was wondering if anyone knew of this tradition/belief. But I think Brydon gave a good answer–“used for special occasions.”

          1. Veganrunner: Very interesting. This is the second time in a relatively short time where I have heard of someone who has seriously taken health advice from someone who isn’t qualified. The other person was swearing by what her masseuse told her. :-O

            As you say, you already have an answer. But I was wondering if maybe the following would also help? This short Jeff Novick video doesn’t mention ghee, but the same principle would apply. Of course, your patient may not be able to make the connection…

            Good luck with your patient.

          2. I am Indian Pharmacologist and try answering some questions. Yes Indians use lot of spice in food. Turmeric is traditional and compulsion in many foods. Turmeric is an hall mark to be used in all sacred occasions. In marriage it is used on bride / groom face. Many events of day involves Turmeric.

            Coming to Ghee. Yes Consumption of Ghee is extremely good for health. But the ghee what we are suppose to use is clarified butter extracted from Butter milk and not from the milk solids. Now by research it is known that butter can slim you down and we believe Ghee also should.

            If any recipe is required please do ask @Veganrunner:disqus

          3. Not all fat is bad. it essential for our health. There are 4 category of lipids, High density lipid, Low density Lipid and Very Low density Lipid. So its a good fat and bad fat or precisely good lipid and bad lipid. Good lipid means low cholesterol, healthy skin etc bad lipid means high cholesterol etc. HDL are good one. Increasing concentrations of HDL particles are strongly associated with decreasing accumulation of atherosclerosis within the walls of arteries. This is important because atherosclerosis eventually results in sudden plaque ruptures, cardiovascular disease, stroke and other vascular diseases. HDL particles are sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol” because they can transport fat molecules out of artery walls, reduce macrophage accumulation, and thus help prevent or even regress atherosclerosis.
            Ghee is made from Butter which is tributyric acid , a very simple lipid compund, easy to digest. So ghee contain high amount of GOOD lipid and GOOD Callories while Peanut oil, Cottonseed oil etc have high amount of Bad lipid.In India, Ghee is important thing for children. It is assumed to improve health, make their bone and muscle mass strong. You would rapidly gain weight but the kind you can loose rapidly.
            Frying in oil or ghee is important as it basically organic extraction method where active compund in spices are extracted out which will be biologically unavailable ( can not be absorbed by body) if not fried.
            I can explain more, mail me if you have any query at:-

      3. You can replace ghee in most Indian dishes with coconut milk or coconut oil. I know, coconut oil and milk are bad too but probably not as bad as ghee, which is even worse than butter.

        1. Milk is very bad I agree, but coconut oil is extremely good for brain and antimicrobial. It keeps you slim. Try putting on wt by using oil. You fail totally and become slim.

        2. Why would you though…it is a healthy fat. So is coconut oil. The curcumin benefits the body from the addition of healthy fats. Healthy fats are required by the body. The worst thing we as humans put in our body is sugar.

          1. lady: It’s hard to believe this statement: “The worst thing we as humans put in our body is sugar.”–>when a diet that includes nothing but white rice, fruit and sugar can be given to the most seriously ill of people and end up bringing back people’s eye sight. Here is information about Kempner’s diet: NutritionFacts also has some great info about the healing effects of kempner’s diet:

            I’m not saying sugar is the healthiest of choices. But sugar is hardly the devil you are painting it to be either. Especially when compared to saturated fat and cholesterol.

            You seem very taken with the idea of “healthy fats”. I’m not sure how you define a “healthy fat”, but I would define a healthy fat as fat which is part of a food which in turn has a large body of evidence to support it’s health promoting effects.

            It turns out, your body makes all the fat it needs except for some omega 3 and 6. And you don’t need much of 3 and 6 to be healthy. You can get such “healthy fats” easily from whole foods like say flaxseeds and almonds and broccoli. Meanwhile consuming fats in percentages above what your body needs, perhaps 10-15% (the exact percent is up for debate), leads to health problems. We know this because of the many many studies which address this point from many angles. We also know that consuming certain types of fat like saturated fat,such as found in coconut oil, or the especially lethal combination of saturated fat and cholesterol found in ghee, is especially harmful. For starters, check out: And:

            All else being equal, there is nothing overtly health promoting about oils. Oils are just like sugar in that sugar is a macro nutrient separated from the whole food, thus completely devoid of all nutrition except that macro nutrient. In other words: Beet sugar is beats without everything but the simple carbohydrate, sugar. Coconut oil is coconuts without everything but the fat, including a lot of saturated fat. And there is a large body of evidence showing that oils, including oils high in saturated fat, are not good for you. I invite you to explore the information on this site.

            If you want to add some “healthy fat” to your turmeric/curcumin, add some whole nuts. Best to skip the oil.

      4. Yeah – that’s why CVD and diabetes are so rampant in India. No mention made of that little nugget in this blokes POS website. Interestingly, this clown also neglected to mention that india has one of the poorest life expectancies in the world compared with even the US. Furthermore, they are the 9th highest country in the world to suffer from oral CANCER – nope he missed that one too.

        Don’t believe me?

        Oh…. and if you listen to this goon, apparently nobody gets cancer in India because they all eat the perfect diet…. well then can you tell me why they are 163rd out of 224 for life expectancy when every EU/US country is significantly better? (not a great source, but if you check the WHO data, it’s correct)

        Must be all that cows milk we drink.

        Unbelievable cr@p. Wake up to this clown. And stop giving him your money. If you want to make a difference, give it to Indian health charities.

  2. Perhaps it is because life expectancy in India is so low! You began your article by noting it can take 50 years for a cancer to grow.

    1. This is true. India has very high heart disease rates.

      “Seventy-nine per cent of men and 83 per cent of women were found to be physically inactive, while 51 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women were found to have high fat diets. Some 60 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women were found to have a low intake of fruit and vegetables, while 12 per cent of men and 0.5 per cent of women smoke.
      Moreover, the prevalence of biological and metabolic risk factors was also found to be high. Overweight and obesity was reported in 41 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women. High blood pressure was reported in 33 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women, while high cholesterol was found in one-quarter of all men and women. Diabetes (and or metabolic syndrome) was also reported in 34 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women.”

      Source for above:

  3. Iskador (mistletoe) is a plant based cancer treatment used widely in Western Europe and very little in US. Rudolf Steiner was one of the first to identify this treatment back in early 20th Century.

  4. A Great Recipe for increasing turmeric consumption, especially if you don’t cook much curry:

    Aromatic Brown Basmati Rice

    This is an East-Indian rice side with sweet spices and a touch of turmeric for color. The traditional whole spices add special flavor and make a lovely presentation. Cook the rice in stock to for depth of flavor…so tasty it makes any Indian meal a company dinner.

    • 1 1/2 cups brown rice

    • 3 1/4 cups low sodium vegetable stock

    • 1(or more) teaspoon turmeric

    • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (check sodium content of stock)

    • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, smashed with the side of a knife

    • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed

    • one 3-inch cinnamon stick

    • 9 green cardamom pods

    • 6 whole cloves

    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

    1. Gather ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and cloves into a piece of cheesecloth and tie off loosely.

    2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until the water has absorbed and the rice is tender.

    3. Remove the cheesecloth bag. Mix in the cilantro just before serving. Top with a sprig of cilantro.

    1. NBMaggie: This looks SO delicious! And easy/something I can see myself doing. Thanks for taking the time to post the recipe. This one is also going on my “recipe to-do” list. Thanks!

  5. Thanks again Dr Greger! In an age of so many “good sounding” but speculative opinions about everything, I really appreciate your reliance on reputable, peer reviewed evidence; especially the sources compiled below every video comment. I’d even like to see that here (with numbered references?). Anything to emphasize your comments are far from a typical blog entry.

    1. I think it would be hard to number references because he links to other videos, which of course have ample citations. We can still click the hyperlinks and see the individual references :-) Thanks for your kind words! I agree, “Anything to emphasize your comments are far from a typical blog entry.”

  6. Excellent post! I’m moving in with an Indian family in a few months and will have to learn to love spicy food. (Leaving out the ghee, of course!)

    1. I would suggest the turmeric spice, either fresh root or powder, rather than curcumin capsules. I’m not sure a reliable curcumin supplement, but perhaps others have more experience and can weigh-in?

        1. I don’t, sorry. I go for the powder and sometimes the root. One time I juiced the root and my juicer turned yellow. True (uneventful) story. Good luck!

      1. Thank you Joseph I will try the fresh root of turmeric spice. If you have any reliable place to buy, please let me know :)

          1. Thank you Joseph :) it is just difficult to trust in any source of real ingredients! But i will still keep checking at Mountain Rose Herbs’ web site

    2. A good place to buy bulk herbs and spices, etc online is Mountain Rose Herbs. They actively work to protect and preserve the earth. They are dedicated to sustainable business practices and support small organic farms around the world, as well as efforts to protect our wild lands.

      1. I just checked the web site but they are out of stock of turmeric root. If you have any other suggestion please let me know.

        1. Just this morning I saw fresh turmeric root at Sprouts Market but it was expensive. The turmeric powder I use these days is from a company called Terrasoul. It’s organic and I’m very happy with the product. I bought it online directly from the company but it’s available at Amazon, too. I’ve used other organic turmeric brands from Amazon and they’re all pretty good, too. One has to be careful buying turmeric, or any other spice, from Indian stores because 1) the spices are not organic 2) the turnover is low, which affects the freshness. Good turmeric powder has a bright color between orange and yellow (saffron, amber?). If it’s pale yellow, it’s best days are behind it. (I’m from that part of the world and have been eating turmeric all my life, so I’m pretty familiar with it.)

  7. sorry, are we talking about the same country?.. according to the stats in that, india has, overall, one of the HIGHEST rates of cancer in the world. I seriously don’t know if i can trust this website for unbiased information. It seems as though whenever a new video comes out and you double check the facts, it becomes evident that what we are actually dealing with is a thinly disguised springboard for either preaching veganism or having a bash at ‘animal products’.
    I can’t think of much in india that we can be proud of in terms of nutrition.And how ironic that India, of all countries in the world, should be looked at through vegan tinted specs, in order to say something positive about EITHER vegetarianism or veganism.There are nationwide deficiencies of iron , b12, choline and even d3 of this would be so if they had regular access to clean animal foods that supply these nutrients. And please remember that Ghandi himself tried to live off a vegan diet with his followers, but later concluded that it was detrimental to their health (which of course it is. They drank some milk to correct, at least partially, the imbalance)
    We should, with heads hung low in shame, remember that in India there is an epidemic of b12 deficiency that has crippled the nations health. Millions of children are born with massively impaired cognitive function, often because of the parents stubborn refusal to eat foods of ‘animal’ origin. Are we contributing to this gross misinformation? this website claims to be impartial and yet will not address such real burning issues amonst this poor population of people; and that, just for the sake of upholding a religious ideology (i.e ‘veganism’).Come on folks, this is peoples lives we are dealing with here. Remember that the possibility that “a large percentage may have a subclinical vitamin deficiency are not simply theoretical within populations in India” And,” It has been known for >3 decades that vegetarians
    in India have lower serum cobalamin concentrations than do
    with the lowest concentrations being in vegans” This is not some wacky study looking at correlation..we are talking about the hard science of nutrition, which does not respect our ideologies. So how does the b12 factor influence cancer? In numerous ways: if indian women could only get their b12 levels UP ( even if it were just from a few glasses of clean, raw milk if they had issues with ‘meat’) they would massively reduce their risk of cervical cancer .That is just one example.But remember that cancer aside briefly, 60% of indian women are aenimic..pray, what is that to be proud of ? will curcumin sort that out ? And more importantly, how would vegetarian foods help these poor women ? A half of all kids under the age of 4 are malnourished….plant foods to the rescue? Get real people.No plant foods are going to supply the b12, d3 ,retinol or omega 3 etc that are among the most common nutritional deficiancies found with the indian populations We just need honest people to acknowledge this.

    1. gunter73
      the reference you site reports 7 lakhs Indians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015. 7 lakhs in case you do not know is 700,000. that is out of population of 1,200,000,000.In Us according to 2012 report 13 million people were living with cancer. 13 million is 130 lakhs out of population which is 1/6th of Indian population.

      1. Hi G-man, be that as it may, I still don’t think we have a lot to celebrate about the health of the indian nation; that is why i broght up the issue of is an absolute epidemic, and one which saddens us. We desparately need practical solutions to this problem.

    2. Did you read the articles that you referenced? It talked about the difference between traditional India and now. Traditionally, India had very low rates of cancer, but with all their GMO and pesticide laden farms now, things seem to be changing. It does not seem that you are interested in finding out about what could make sense here, but rather, trying to create conflict with Dr. Greger. I don’t find your post informative or interesting, just creating conflict for its own sake. Do you really think that India isn’t the land of most sophisticated and greatest use of spices for health? Then who is?
      John S
      PDX OR

      1. Hi John, I personally love indian cuisine more than any other in the world (!)..not only that but years of personal involvement with indians has given me a great soft spot for them..that was the reason for my post. When we have all ‘said our bit’ those issues i raised are still there..and they make me sad. And no doubt they do with you as well. India has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Not , i believe , primarily because of diet. But certainly diet has played a role. John, i love all those spices and am fully aware of their healing power..but my point is that they wont address the harcore nutritional deficiency problems that the indain people suffer, simply because the spices wont supply the body with those nutrients.

    3. India is one of the few countries in the world where compassion and mercy for animals is actually part of the mainstream culture, I can’t see why anyone would want to reverse this and contribute to the horrible stain on humanity that is industrial animal agriculture. If there is a nationwide B12 deficiency as you say, the obvious solution would be to have the government mandate fortification of common foods with B12 rather than convince poor people to go against their religious/ethical beliefs and buy food that they likely can’t afford anyway. As for iron, there are plenty of plant sources of iron, it’s a matter of educating people on how to obtain enough. Remember that anemia is common among women even in western countries where they are eating loads of meat. D3 can be obtained from sunlight, my guess is that more people are doing office jobs now so don’t go out enough during the day so this is also a matter of education.

      1. You said “India is one of the few countries in the world where compassion and mercy for animals is actually part of the mainstream culture”

        Well perhaps keeps in the culture, but things are pretty ugly now:

        “India has been the largest exporter of beef in the world since last
        year, and has further widened its lead over second-ranked Brazil with a
        projected total of 2.4 million tons exported in 2015 against Brazil’s 2

        The USDA report, released earlier this month, predicts that global
        beef exports overall will rise to a record 10.2 million tons, 3% higher
        than the October 2014 forecast.

        Beef has also overtaken basmati rice as India’s largest agricultural food export in terms of value, according to data from the country’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products’ Export Development Authority, cited by the Economic Times newspaper.

        Although the slaughter of cows, sacred for the Hindus that make up
        India’s majority population, has long been banned in several parts of
        the country, states like Maharashtra — one of its largest — recently expanded the ban
        to include bulls and bullocks as well. However, since India’s exports
        are composed entirely of water-buffalo meat or carabeef, the bans will
        not affect the figures cited in the report.”

      2. Hi Doug, I take your point about the fortification and thanks for attempting to address the issue with a cool head (!) I think the people of India, just as anywhere else, have the right to choose for themselves. Some of them refuse to eat any animal products and for them the fortification idea is certainly a solution. For the vegetarians who drink milk for a food source of b12, that milk shoul be made available and should be clean ( an aside, I dont personally drink milk). I would never suggest that they should eat anything against their conscience, but that would also include a purely plant-based diet.

    4. You must get a good workout jumping to conclusions, huh? NUTRITION FACTS, not vegan facts…get it? Veganism is some arbitrary cult that abducted you against your will to elucidate us poor malnourished souls? So you’re here to inform us that eating a plant based diet is somehow deficient? Did you even read the articles you so magnanimously provided
      because you missed some critical info…as others already stated. What is YOUR agenda? Try another website, this one is based on science, not your personal belief that killing animals is a need to feed you! What do you think the animals you favor for your dinner eat, to grow up to be on your precious plate? Plants…oh how does Bessie manage???
      And MILK? Spare me! Unless you are a baby cow sir, why would you suck on COW’s milk? Human milk is for human babies, and contains the right proportion of nutrients for them. Cow’s milk exists to make a calf grow into a half ton cow in a year…not a healthy goal for people, not to mention the foreign proteins that confound our biochemistry and cause many health issues. Once any animal is weaned, milk is not necessary. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. So I gotta ask, are you an infant or a calf…based on your sarcastic rant it’s hard to guess.
      By the way, B12 is made by SOIL BACTERIA, not animals. It would do anyone well to take some supplementation, since we have depleted the soil and have become so anal about a speck of it on our produce anyway, and even cows don’t get to graze the earth since they are forced to eat the crap the factory farms feed them. (as if they don’t stand in enough of their own all day) Instead of their natural diet of grass they are forced to ingest cheap chemical laden grains, other dead animals, antibiotics to keep them alive under grotesque conditions, and other unsuitable slop, and their flesh concentrates all the other pollutants you so enjoy. Yumm, chow down!
      Or do you prefer “free range” instead? LOL, yeah, that’s sustainable, great option. Not a possibility when we have more cows than people nor the land to sustain them. Or piggies. Or chickens. (And all those lovely by-products). When you see one of those animals, do you start salivating, chase after them at high speed, crush their neck in your pointy snout and vicious canines, and rip out their bloody innards with your sharp claws like any other carnivore? And digest it in your highly acidic stomach and exceptionally short carnivore intestine so it doesn’t putrefy like in us biologically herbivorous humans? Or maybe you are merely an omnivore, like a bear, or a racoon, or a skunk. Oh wait, they have pointy snouts, sharp teeth and vicious claws too…hmmm. Do you have a picture to share?
      Eating animals is what advanced our brain growth and allowed us to evolve from apes into smart folks like you, right? Yep, just like all those other omnivores and carnivores… Gee, what hampered their brains, eating all that meat? Maybe they never learned to harness fire and cook so they could get more nutrients for brain growth?
      So ‘prey’, what is your “deficiency” that you are compelled to spew your “anemic” ideology here? “HONEST people” can deal with the truth without bending reality to suit their personal tastes and preferences. Many of us have experienced first hand the healing effects of an appropriate diet in the return of health and shedding of disease, it speaks for itself quite clearly if you aren’t into denial. Forcing your biased and slanted opinions down the throats of those who know better prompts me to offer you some more real science, outside of this “preachy” “animal product bashing” one, to sink your frightful canines into…

      1. Sorry Charzie but you’re reply is just too overweaning. You have failed to address even one of the issues I raised in what i wrote. They are real issues involving real people that call for real solutions beyond eating a handfull of soil.And seeing as you took it on yourself to remind me that this website is concerned with ‘science’, why did you not reply to my post with cool-headed scientific answers? As it is you have simply resorted to borderline insult accompanied with a seething rage..but all that aside there are some things you mentioned that i would like to address..first up, I did not say that a plant-based diet cannot cure disease: it can. But lacking any clinical experience, you seem to assume that a plant-based diet will cure the spectrum of diseases that are all connected with b12 deficiency. Even Dr Gregor himself will tell you that is simply not true. There is such an epidemic in India. How do you suggest this be dealt with? The reason I mentioned milk is that many Indians who dont eat meat drink milk because it contains a modest amount of vitamin b12..if they choose, for whatever reason, not to eat meat or drink milk they run the risk of developing one of the b12 deficiency diseases. I think a five year old can work that out.
        The basic problem with your approach to health and nutrition is that issues such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘animal welfare’ and the likes are a SEPARATE issue. I dont actually disagree with you on those issues, but they are SEPARATE from a discussion of say retinol or d3 or b12..the issues i broght up in my post which you failed to address. This ‘fudging’ of human health with environmental issues forces people to become dishonest. I guarantee that if you listen to Dr Essylstyn or Dr Macdougall or one of the other ‘plant-based’ doctors speak for more than an hour, they will all at some point in their talk/lecture bring up environmental issues.. They are two totally different issues.

        1. If I was overweening, I was just mirroring your haughty, opinionated, diatribe. You know what they say about opinions…

  8. I’ve been adding whole frozen amla (indian gooseberries) to my breakfast oatmeal, purchased at my local Indian grocery. Would the frozen fruit possibly be subject to heavy metal contamination?? If Dr. Greger regularly eats powdered amla, can I assume the gooseberry component of triphala, which he warns against, is safe?

    1. Dr. Greger initially praised triphala due to its impressive antioxidant capacity but later withdrew his recommendation based on the presence of various contaminants in some of the samples tested. Banyon Botanicals sells all manner of ayurvedic products. I questioned them re: this issue. They responded by reciting the testing and quality control measures that they employ which are documented on their website. I was satisfied with their response and have been purchasing triphala as well as tulsi and hingvastak from them.

    2. My bigger question is: Can we trust the produce, frozen produce, and dried spices – imported from India – available at most Indian groceries?

      1. Cathy: The only safest – or least unsafe – way to buy anything grown in India is to buy organic products imported by a reputable US company. If the frozen amla you use is not organic, I think using them is taking a chance. PsychMD mentioned Banyon Botanicals. Another good company is Organic India. I take triphala tablets made by Planetary Herbals.

  9. Listing countires by life expectancy, India ranks #150 out of #193 countries, near the bottom of the list (but they don’t get cancer). I’ve lived in India and the average Indian is in very poor health (but they don’t get cancer). The grass isn’t always greener on the ‘other side’.

    1. You must take into account that in a lot of India (countryside areas) the living conditions are the ones of a third world country, sanitation is terrible, what would you expect?

      I don’t think that even the cities there fare much better. Similarly, some countries in Africa part of the population have healthier diets than in Western countries, yet their life expectancy is not surprisingly, what you would expect from third world countries.

    2. Now India is changing as it follows western diet. All times meat, soft drinks, medicine for small health problem etc.

      India has become poor country, because politicians are stashing trillions of $ by corruption. When there is lack of justice, poor finance, diet always takes a hit. To use Knowledge they need money

  10. The life expectancy in India is only 65. Are they just dying of something else before they have a chance to get cancer?

    1. Brain: Wow, this is great news! For those who don’t eat fish the only way to get DHA directly is through Algal DHA, which is expensive. Thanks for posting.

  11. Turmeric is truly the next wonder drug. Does anyone know just how much Tumerick you need daily to be effective ? Also does taking the tumor it as a capsule work just as well?

  12. We in India seeing cancer rate is steadily increase in the past 5 years… every one is using white polished rice rice… lot of refined oil… meat intake is on rise…. spices which they use are highly adulterated… Its all globalization invasion in every country….. Health Retreat Center

  13. “Americans get between 8 and 14 times the rate of melanoma” Anybody stop to think whether the dramatically higher levels of melanin in the average Indian’s skin might have something to do with this??

  14. I am truly believe that plan base diet it’s best treatment for cancer, I got diagnosed stage 2 B breast cancer in Nov. 2013. I’m only 32 at that time, I was scared,my little girl only 2 month old. I starting to search best treatment for cancer and then I found Dr. Greger. Learned a lot. I rejected chemo and radiation. Start to cut meat little by little, around August 2014, after I finished 3 times surgery, I became a vegan and I feel better and better and better every day. I didn’t take any drugs, my treatment just eat healthy and do exercise that’s all. My doctors are worried, but all the test results are showing I’m fine, I’m cancer free. And I feel really good, I don’t feel any sickness at all. Right now I am back to normal, back to my old job, work full time, with two kids, life is good. I’ll keep my healthy lifestyle for my rest of my life, because it works, and I believe I have many many years to come. God bless everyone!

    1. Jojo: Thanks for sharing your story. I can just imagine how scared you were. Congratulations on being cancer free. I hope it continues that way for the rest of your life. And congratulations on eating a healthy diet. That can be a hard change for some people to make, even with a health condition. But you did it. You should be proud.

  15. What brand(s) of Amla do you use in your pink drink so as to avoid contamination with toxic heavy metals?

    Thanks for the great service you provide, Dr. Greger

      1. (Note: While they are out of the powdered one, they do have the dehydrated version for the same price. Depending on how the dehydrated product ends up being, you might be able to just get that and grind it up yourself in a food processor. Or maybe enjoy it better in the chunky form??? Just an idea.)

  16. aloha, from memory (I’m in Thailand now) Harvard U. wondering why vegetarians have a 70% less chance of getting cancer decided to look into it: what were vegetarians doing or not doing as the case maybe. Harvard researchers found that chlorophyll wraps itself around the mutagen and the cancerous cell was now too large to penetrate a healthy cell. So, your body just eliminates it. Tamils are primarily vegetarians so it would be interesting to know if their cancer rates were even lower than non-Tamil rates. (Much like the Seven Day Adventists vs other Christians.) Another factor with a plant based diet, especially one with a lot of “leafy green vegetables”, is the body’s ph goes into the alkaline range and this also suppresses cancers, viruses and spoors. (Acidic ph is just the opposite in creating an environment in which these mutagens thrive.)

  17. Indians also consume much less food than westerners – it’s a poor country. Did the studies control for caloric restriction which has for many decades demonstrated similar effects?

  18. “Contaminated vegetarianism” of Asian Indian is fallacy. The true Indian diet life style should be taken from Rural India where stuff like Ice cream, saturated fats and fried foods are not seen. It will be interesting study the prevalence of Heart diseases in Urban vs and rural Indian population to reinforce this view. Yes, typical Indian diet comprises ghee and butter which is proved to be good for health particularly brain. Honey, Butter and ghee is often prescribed in Ayurveda while recent studies have de-linked the saturated fats ( not trans-fats or artificial hydrogenated fats) with heart diseases but they seem to be pronounced effect when viewed in conjunction with life style. Hence a deductive inference about a particular food as bad of good seem to be inconclusive unless a holistic factors are taken for study which is highly unlikely in the present research studies.

  19. One of the reasons why the cancer case counts in India are low is that the government there does not have a mechanism to keep statistics. Rural India (which is 95% of India) does not have proper hospitals, so no one knows the causes of deaths of majority of its population. (Another possible, may be not probable, reason could be that people die of Denge fever before they could develop cancer). So before you switch to clarified butter to fry your food and praying to cows, ask an Indian from India if cancer in India is a huge epidemic or not.

    1. Cancer is rising here in India. It is only rising in urban India where American food chains like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Dominos etc are popular. Lot of Indian diet is increasingly getting westernized.

    2. you are correct but if people die we know the cause right? the main reason is more vegetarian based diet. and less process meat is main factor.

  20. The average life expectancy in India is 66, so many people are dying before they are ever diagnosed. Colin T Cambpell also showed in the China study with his rat experiment that the high protein rats lived longer despite developing cancer. The low protein rats didn’t live very long, but developed less cancer.

    1. Steve: re: “… the high protein rats lived longer despite developing cancer. The low
      protein rats didn’t live very long, but developed less cancer.”

      This is not true. Here’s what The China Study says top of page 61 of my copy: Rats generally live about 100 weeks, so the study was 100 weeks long. And the result was: 100% of the rats on the “high” animal protein diet were dead or near dead at 100 weeks. And 100% of the animals on the low animal protein diet were alive at 100 weeks. “This was a virtual 100 to 0 score, something almost never seen in research and almost identical to the research in India.” (meaning that the results were not a one-off anomaly.) FYI: plant protein did not have the same detrimental effect as the animal protein.

      I put “high” in quotes above, because the “high” group was only high in comparison to the low group. My understanding is that getting 20% of calories from animal protein is not all that uncommon for people in say America.

      Eventually, every animal dies. But those rats who were getting the low protein diet were extremely lucky and lived longer than the group of rats getting the high animal protein diet. In other words, the very opposite of what you wrote above according to Campbell. Do you have access to a different quote from the book that I am missing?

      1. You sure about your info? Did you know there was a second part to the study that Campbell did not mention?

        “Campbell never tells us, however, that these Indian researchers actually published this paper as part of a two-paper set, one showing that low-casein diets make aflatoxin much more acutely toxic to rats (1), and the other showing that these same diets make aflatoxin much less carcinogenic (2).

        In the very paper (2) that Campbell cites as “a revelation to die for,” showing that a high-protein diet turns the cancer switch to the “on” position, the low-protein diet proved lethal to the animals. The investigators gave rats a small dose of aflatoxin every day for six months and fed them either a 5 percent casein or 20 percent casein diet. The experiment carried on for two years, in fact, but they stopped adminstering aflatoxin at six months for the simple reason that half the animals on the low-protein diet had died. They had typical symptoms of aflatoxin toxicity including liver necrosis (cell death), proliferation of bile duct tissue, and fatty liver.

        All the animals receiving 20 percent casein, on the other hand, were still alive at that point. For the remainder of the two years, the rats receiving 20 percent casein continued to live longer, but many of them developed liver cancer or pre-cancerous changes, while none of the rats fed 5 percent casein developed liver cancer.”

        1. Madhavan TV, Gopalan C. Effect of Dietary Protein on Aflatoxin Liver Injury in Weanling Rats. Arch Pathol. 1965;80:123-6.

        2. Madhavan TV, Gopalan C. The Effect of Dietary Protein on Carcinogenesis of Aflaxtoxin. Arch Pathol. 1968;85(2)133-7.

        – See more at:

  21. On average compared to Indians Americans are lighter skinned, fatter, exercise less, live longer ~(14years), are more likely to take birth control pills, and drink more alcohol. There are likely many other differences that an average person could think of just off the top of their head that might also be causal factors or at least serve to explain part of the statistical difference in rates of cancer between the two populations.

    Scientific conclusion: it must be the cumin. Oh and I happen to have a bottle for sale right here ….

  22. I’m high right now and soaking in information on the internet.
    I’m Indian and god damn right Turmeric or Haldi(Hull-thee) as we call it reduces risk of cancer considerably. Indian moms always ask if you’re getting Haldi in your food.

    1. Ed: I would guess that the answer is “multiple reasons”. Probably not everyone eats the same amount. And different people have different amount of other risk factors. (Different exercise. Different animal protein intakes. etc) And finally, life/biology is complicated. Even people who never smoke in their lives can still get lung cancer. And some people who smoke every day can manage to avoid cancer. That doesn’t mean that smoking does not affect the *risk* levels of getting cancer. Note that all these types of studies are about affecting risk levels. There’s almost never a magic bullet or a guarantee. Does that make sense?

  23. You clearly missed this paper.

    Frankly, doctor to doctor, you’re a disgrace.

    You actually have the nerve to allow: “how not to die – in stores now”???

    Seriously?? And that’s supposed to tell people what exactly? Not to be born?

    Your disgraceful online rants which I’ve had the misfortune to witness combine suggestion, a confusing elixor of occasional true facts mixed with emotive pseudo-logic which culminates in false promises of “wellness”, appealing to a voracious and determined audience who lap up every word – despite an utter paucity of evidence and rejection/rebuke from your peers. Yeah sure, some will hail you as a visionary just like Gallileo, but we both know that is about as realistic as some of your theories – or god being real.

    As a trained doctor, how do you sleep at night doing this? Ah yes – of course, a bed of ca$h gleefully handed over by members of your sucker-cult.

    Of course this same cult will no doubt pile in on my post attempting to tear it apart with all sorts of bogus argument (assuming it doesn’t get deleted), but I’m sure even you remember basic psychology training? Ah yes. Of course you do. Unbelievable,shameless, unscientific hypocrite.

    1. Educated Person to Rude and Sadly Uninformed Doctor: Here’s a fact for you: Doctor Greger makes $0 off his book, website, speaking engagements, etc. Nothing. All proceeds are donated to charities. That’s because Dr. Greger is about promoting the science and skipping the conflict of interest. Also, probably because you have not bothered to even glance at the table of contents of How Not To Die, you completely misunderstand the meaning of the title.
      We allow disagreements on this site, but not ad homine (personal) attacks. That’s why your post is being deleted. If you would like to come to the table with calm, logical arguments (and preferably references) about a point of nutrition, you would be welcome back.

  24. Perhaps the rates are so much lower because Indians have such a short life-expectancy. Not sure I’d use India as an example to promote a vegetarian diet….

  25. Well I see lots of comments in discussion section going towards Health benefits of Ghee(Clarified Butter). I used to love Ghee but my father citing health impact, stopped use of Ghee in our house :( . Ayurveda considers ghee as medicine and it is used widely for cure of cough etc. TIME magazine and so many other publishing houses have included Ghee as one of the most healthy food in the world. You can search that for yourself. But the key point here is How do you eat Ghee? If you use ghee for deep frying or even Indian Cooking, Let me guarantee you that You are on wrong path. Ghee has to be eaten raw, either by mixing in legume preparations, applying on whole wheat fresh bread or as a dressing. Same way you use Extra Virgin Olive Oil. No one uses extra virgin olive oil for Frying or cooking….right?

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. I am having trouble finding anything wrong with the link. It takes me to the PubMed entry for the article “Curcumin and cancer: an “old-age” disease with an “age-old” solution” and I can see the reference in the blog on pg. 134 of the article. Please let me know if this clears up the issue or if you have any other concerns or would like for me to send you a copy of the article. Thank you and happy holidays!

  26. Great information sir, yes vegetarian is always good, indian spices are amazing. Non-veg is harmful to health and the eart.

  27. Have you ever checked out Neem? Or Tulsi? Both have amazing health benefits and have been used in cancer treatment in India.

  28. My guess is also that not all cancers are (were) recognized in India because of being poor and therefore not being able to go to a doctor or hospital.

  29. Mustard oil is the main cooking oil for most curries in northern and western India while coconut oil is much preferred in southern Indian style cooking.. I believe it’s the preparations and use of wholesome spices which adds not only to the flavour of Indian food but its overall nutritional value.. clarified butter or ghee is anyday healthier than cheese, margarine or normal butter in general.. moreover clarified butter is not used in day to day cooking, it is mostly reserved for occasional meals and special dishes… also Indians believe in freshly prepared food and not packaged food etc which is another important factor contributing towards its nutritional value. Along with that red meat is least consumed in India. Most Indian prefer vegetarian dishes for their everyday food and save meats and poultry for once in a while menu..

  30. Turmeric is used very widely in india in all foods since many years. We apply turmeric even on wounds like cut because it prevents it from being septic and strong healing power. In fact in most of the Ayurveda anti septic creams have turmeric. Also turmeric is known to be great for skin and that why it is applied on face as well.We put turmeric in hot milk and drink it. Because turmeric is also known to have anti viral properties. Now it is discovered that turmeric has curcumin which fights cancer. When you add turmeric it gives the food yellowish color and great aroma. Apart from turmeric there are other Indian spices known to have great benefits for health. Ayurveda uses all these effectively for making their medicines.

    1. Neem is used in storing rice and wheat. Neem leaves are put into rice and wheat containers to preserve it from getting grain beetles. Neem leaves are good for skin. You put some neem leaves in water and use that water for bathing. Tulsi is very common in india. Infact you will find tulsi plants in most of the indian homes as it is considered as auspicious. Tulsi also has anti viral properties. There are two types of tulsi. Green and Black.

  31. I am from India and I do not believe these statistics and data collection – Despite living in a good city like Bangalore – I know that some of my relatives died of cancer and it took a while for it to be even diagnosed as Cancer. Even with that – how and who are collecting the statistics in a country with poor regulations and even poor compliance with regulations.

    But, if we are talking of things about 20-30 years back, when there was less alcohol, less eating out, more family time – I never heard of any of my relatives die before 80-90 years old – not one of them smoked, not a drop of alchohol, never went to a restaurant to eat out of pleasure. Eating out was only when the mom could not cook.

    Can American be cancer free ? I am not a doctor or a statistician, but if I were to speculate like what is happening in this forum – (1) Cook and eat your own food (2) No Alchohol (3) moderate exercise, even if it is a 20 minute walk daily (4) Be happy and be grateful for each day on this planet, do not envy the iPhone X – a Nokia 3310 is still a good choice when you compare to the lives which 80% of the people in this world do not have.

  32. It’s because India has one of the lowest Meat consumption rates (3,29kg/2017)!!!!
    For example Australia has the highest cancer rate and also the second largest meat consumption (94,61kg/2017)!!!

  33. Clearly, lower rates of cancers in India are due to the much lower life expectancy (ca 68 years) compared with “Western” countries (e.g., ca 81 years in UK). Cancer is a disease of old age. Evidently, cancer rates will increase with life expectancy as India develops just as they have in the “Western” world. Searching for miracle foods is a red herring.

  34. I recently watched a TED talk in which data was presented that showed that men who ate cooked tomatoes 3 times a week (or more) had a 40 to 50 % reduction in prostate cancer rates. This is due to the anti-angiogenisis properities of tomatoes. I have been to India many times and tomatoes are just about in every meal (I was in Gujerat).

  35. Well I’m from Pakistan and since we were part of India, our cuisines are more or less the same. The food is of course very delicious around here too. To answer some confusion regarding use of Ghee or oil etc, well in Pakistan, Ghee is still used in most of the rural areas in daily cooking whereas in cities the culture of cooking oil (mainly canola, sun flower and olive oil) is prevalent now and ghee is rarely used. The food is generally very spicy just like North Indian food and the use of meat and chicken is very high. Normal staple food are meat, Chicken, daal, vegetables eaten with rice or bread (roti).

    I don’t have stats for cancer rates in Pakistan but one thing is for sure, it is rising at a very high rate, especially in the last 3-4 years. I’m also quite sure cancer rate in India would be lower than us mainly because majority of Indians do not eat that much meat as we do and eat more vegetables. The use of spices such as turmeric would be more or less the same. However the main cancer causing culprit to me is meat, the intake of which should be limited.

  36. Thank you for sharing this. I too love Pakistani and Indian food, but we have to make our own, otherwise there is too much oil. I had originally assumed that with all the vegetarians in your area, that cardiovascular disease would be lower than the west, but this is not the case in the published clinical research.. The culprit is likely the fat in the oils and the cholesterol (and fat) in the ghee.

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