Image Credit: Dustin Kirkpatrick.

How Not to Die from Cancer

After Dr. Dean Ornish conquered our number-one killer, heart disease, he moved on to killer number-two. What happens if cancer is put on a plant-based diet? Ornish and colleagues found that the progression of early-stage prostate cancer could be reversed with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors.

If the blood of those eating the Standard American Diet is dripped onto cancer cells growing in a petri dish, cancer growth is cut down about 9 percent. And if they’ve followed a plant-based diet for a year? Their blood can slash cancer growth by 70 percent. So the blood circulating throughout the bodies of those eating plant-based diets had nearly eight times the stopping power when it came to suppressing cancer cell growth.

That was for cell growth of prostate cancer, the leading cancer-killer specific to men. In younger women, breast cancer is the top cancer-killer. Researchers wanted to repeat the study with women using breast cancer cells, but they didn’t want to wait a whole year to get the results. Women are dying now. So they figured they’d see what a plant-based diet could do after just two weeks against three different types of human breast cancer.

As you can see in my video How Not to Die from Cancer, the study showed cancer growth started out at 100 percent, but then dropped after the subjects ate a plant-based diet for 14 days. A layer of breast cancer cells was laid down in a petri dish, and then blood from women eating the Standard American Diet was dripped on it. As you can see in the video, even the blood of women eating pretty poor diets had some ability to break down cancer. After just two weeks of eating healthfully, though, blood was drawn from those same women—so they effectively acted as their own controls—and was dripped on a new carpet of breast cancer cells. You can see for yourself that only a few individual cancer cells remained. Their bodies cleaned up. After only 14 days on a plant-based diet, their bloodstream became that much more hostile to cancer.

Slowing down the growth of cancer cells is nice, but getting rid of them all together is even better. This is what’s called apoptosis, programmed cell death. After eating healthfully, the women’s own bodies were able to somehow reprogram the cancer cells, forcing them into early retirement.

In my video, you can see what’s called TUNEL imaging, which allows researchers to measure DNA fragmentation, or cell death. With this technology, dying cancer cells appear as little white spots. From the start of the study, you can see one small white speck in the upper left of the image, showing that the blood of an average woman on a typical American diet can knock off a few breast cancer cells. After 14 days of healthy, plant-based living, however, her blood turned that one small white speck into a multitude of white spots. It’s as if she’s an entirely different woman inside! The same blood now coursing through these women’s bodies gained the power to significantly slow down and even stop breast cancer cell growth after just two weeks of eating a plant-based diet.

What kind of blood do we want in our body? What kind of immune system? Do we want blood that just rolls over when new cancer cells pop up, or do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny of our body with the power to slow down and stop them?

The dramatic strengthening of cancer defenses shown in the study was after 14 days of a plant-based diet—and exercise.The researchers had the women walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Given there were two factors, how do we know what role the diet played? Researchers decided to put it to the test.

In my video, you can see a chart that first shows how blood taken from those who ate a plant-based diet and had a routine of mild exercise, such as walking every day, over an average of 14 years, exhibited significant cancer cell clearance. The researchers then compared the substantial cancer-stopping power of plant eaters to that of an average sedentary American, which you can see is basically nonexistent.

The researchers also analyzed a third group. Instead of 14 years on a plant-based diet, they had 14 years on a Standard American Diet, but they also had 14 years of daily, strenuous, hour-long exercise, like calisthenics. They wanted to know if you exercised hard enough and long enough could you rival some strolling plant eaters.

The answer? There’s no question that exercise helped, but literally 5,000 hours in the gym was no match for a plant-based diet.

Once again using TUNEL imaging to analyze cancer cell death, the researchers found that even if you are a couch potato eating fried potatoes, your body isn’t totally defenseless. Your bloodstream can kill off some cancer cells, which you can see in my video as a couple white spots in the first image of that series. If you exercise for 5,000 hours, you can kill many more cancer cells, evidenced by the many more white specks appearing throughout that image. But nothing appears to kick more cancer tush than a plant-based diet, as that image is filled with white spots indicating cancer cells killed off.

Why is this the case? We think it’s because animal proteins, such as meat, egg white, and dairy protein, increase the level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a cancer-promoting growth hormone involved in the “acquisition or progress of malignant tumors.”

In my video, you can see the results of a study that nailed IGF-1 as the villain. Just as in the previous studies, subjects went on a plant-based diet and cancer-cell growth dropped, while cancer-cell death shot up. This experiment, however, had a kicker: It added back to the cancer just the amount of IGF-1 that had been banished from your body as a result of eating and living healthier. In doing so, it effectively erased the “diet and exercise” effect. It’s as if the subjects had never started eating healthfully at all, with the cancer-cell growth rates and death rates returning to the same levels as before the plant-based diet intervention.

The reason one of the largest prospective studies on diet and cancer found “the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters” may be because they eat less animal protein, and thereby end up with less IGF-1, which means less cancer growth.

How much less cancer growth? A study found that middle-aged men and women with high protein intakes had a 75 percent increase in overall mortality and a fourfold increase in the risk of dying specifically from cancer. Does the protein source matter? Yes. It was specifically animal protein, which makes sense, given their higher IGF-1 levels.

The academic institution where the study was done sent out a press release with a memorable opening line: “That chicken wing you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette.” It went on to explain that “eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die from cancer…—a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.”

What was the response to the revelation that diets high in meat, eggs, and dairy could be as harmful to health as smoking? One nutrition scientist replied it was “‘potentially even dangerous’ to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese,” but why? Because, they argued, a smoker might think “‘why bother quitting smoking if my cheese and ham sandwich is just as bad for me?’”

This reminds me of a famous Philip Morris cigarette ad that tried to downplay the risks of second-hand smoke. The ad included a chart with “everyday activities” and “reported relative risk,” in an attempt to say second-hand smoke wasn’t all that bad. The chart showed that while it increases the risk of lung cancer by 19 percent, drinking one or two glasses of milk every day may be three times as bad with a 62 percent higher risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer risk could be doubled if you frequently cook with oil, and heart disease risk tripled if you eat non-vegetarian or multiplied six-fold by eating lots of meat and dairy. Philip Morris’s conclusion? “Let’s keep a sense of perspective.” The “risk of lung cancer from second-hand tobacco smoke [was put] well below the risk reported by other studies for many everyday items and activities.”

That’s like saying, “Don’t worry about getting stabbed, because getting shot is so much worse.” Two risks don’t make a right.

Of course, you’ll note Philip Morris stopped throwing dairy under the bus once it purchased Kraft Foods.


The first time someone visits NutritionFacts.org can be overwhelming. With videos on more than 2,000 health topics, where do you even begin? Imagine stumbling onto the site not knowing what to expect and the new video-of-the-day is about how a particular spice can be effective in treating a particular form of arthritis. It would be easy to miss the forest for the trees, which is precisely why I created a series of overview videos that are essentially taken straight from my live, hour-long 2016 presentation How Not to Die: Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

The other videos in this overview series are:

Inspired to learn more about the role diet may play in preventing and treating cancer? Check out these other popular videos on the topic:

I’ve also produced an entire series on mammograms. You can find all of those videos here.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

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.


106 responses to “How Not to Die from Cancer

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

  1. Dr. Ornish has done a lot of good studies all using the very same diet.

    He is the George Washington Carver of Plant-Based eating.

    When, oh when is his Alzheimer’s study results coming?

    He started teasing about that a long time ago.

    1. I forwarded this to my husbands prostate cancer doctor at Duke Cancer center.
      My husband has been following an 80% plant based. He has a few bad habits that certainly don’t help cancer growth however his last scan showed less cancer in part of the body where cancer had spread. MDs told him he would not be around when first diagnosed in 2017. Drugs initially helped slow it down and it appears it’s holding it off for now!!

      1. Don’t forget fasting as it’s reported to boost atophagy and lower IGF-1 among other things.  Be sure to catch Dr. G’s fasting for cancer webinar on the 25th.  It costs $30 and you  need to sign up.

        1. Heather

          The first comment doesn’t seem particularly intelligent to me. The study found that:

          ‘intake of plant protein was associated with lower total mortality, with multivariable-adjusted HRs of 0.89 (95% CI, 0.83-0.95) for quintile 2; 0.88 (95% CI, 0.82-0.95) for quintile 3; 0.84 (95% CI, 0.77-0.92) for quintile 4; and 0.87 (95% CI, 0.78-0.96) for quintile 5, with quintile 1 as the reference category (P = .01 for trend). For cause-specific mortality, this association with plant protein intake was evident for cardiovascular disease (CVD)–related mortality (HRs, 0.84 [95% CI, 0.73-0.96] to 0.70 [95% CI, 0.59-0.83]; P = .002 for trend). Isocaloric substitution of 3% energy from plant protein for red meat protein was associated with lower total (HR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.55-0.80), cancer-related (HR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.45-0.82), and CVD-related (HR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.39-0.86) mortality; substitution for processed meat protein was associated with lower total (HR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.38-0.75) and cancer-related (HR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.30-0.85) mortality.’

          In the context of a background diet that in Japan’s case is reputedly high in salt, cigarettes and binge drinking (all known carcinogens), it’s perhaps not surprising that meat didn’t stand out as particularly carcinogenic. But so what? It was clear that plant consumption was protective and replacing red meat with plant protein reduced total mortality and cancer mortality.

          The second comment also fails to understand the results. Or perhaps that correspondent didn’t read them.

  2. There has recently been a lot of press about a study showing that eating meat is not bad for you at all. I completely disagree with this of course but am very interested in Dr. Gregor’s take on this study.

  3. It’s clearly not just a small coterie of US ;vegan’ doctors saying this.

    The World Health Organization concluded that processed meat is carcinogenic and red meat is probably carcinogenic’
    https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pr240_E.pdf

    International studies continue to underline this point – see for example this Japanese study published just 6 weeks ago

    “Findings In this cohort study of 70 696 Japanese adults followed up for a mean of 18 years, higher intake of plant protein was associated with lower total mortality. Moreover, substitution of plant protein for animal protein, mainly for red or processed meat protein, was associated with lower risk of total, cancer-related, and cardiovascular disease–related mortality.
    Meaning A higher intake of plant-based proteins may contribute to long-term health and longevity.”
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2748453

    1. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recommends a balanced diet that includes: 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables. whole grains and legumes. They also recommend staying low fat.

      1. Garlic and onions are on the superfood list against Leukemia.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15158086

        Cruciferous vegetables / Sulforaphane would be on the list.

        (Broccoli sprouts has the most Sulforaphane- see Dr. Greger’s videos)

        Blueberries

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29607443

        Turmeric (use with pepper)

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30955364

        Ginger

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31214760

        Tomatoes, Potatoes (Sweet Potatoes) Eggplant

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25821990

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17199331

        Carrots

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22263789

            1. Higher meat intake was associated with an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia (hazard ratio = 1.45, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 2.07 for the fifth vs. first quintile; P for trend = 0.06)

          1. A study found that regular intake of oranges, orange juice, and bananas was associated with roughly a 50% reduction in leukemia risk among children 2-14 years old.

            I don’t know if that would hold for adults, but it adds oranges and bananas to the food list.

        1. Deb,

          Did Dr. Greger ever mentioned anything about Turmeric and Hormone positive breast cancer? I read that it might interfere with the Hormone treatment, any comments/research please, thank you.

          1. Hi Deb, thanks for your question. What I could find was that, since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has tested more than a thousand different compounds for chemopreventive, or cancer-preventing, activity. Only a few dozen have made it to clinical trials, and curcumin, turmeric’s bright-yellow pigment, is among the most promising. Chemopreventive agents can be classified into different subgroups based on which stage of cancer development they help to fight: Carcinogen blockers and antioxidants help prevent the initial triggering DNA mutation, and antiproliferatives work by keeping tumors from growing and spreading. Cur cumin is special in that it appears to belong to all three groups, meaning it may potentially help prevent and/or arrest cancer cell growth.
            https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/turmeric/

          2. Dr. Greger has a video on the topic of how to block estrogens and inhibition of estrogen synthesis in breast cancer. It was on soy though.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvSLeoUVb54&list=PLxluCvbHvJucsHEuiyQOLqBTO4iWSh_n-&index=35&t=0s

            There are studies on PubMed with turmeric.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5563402/

            Bayet-Robert et al. [64] performed a clinical phase I dose escalation trial of combination docetaxel chemotherapy with curcumin in advanced and metastatic breast cancer patients. The authors confirmed the safety profile of this combination therapy which was consistent with that observed with a monotherapy of docetaxel. Additionally, curcumin/docetaxel combination proved antitumour activity and a superior response rate in comparison to docetaxel in monotherapy. The recommended dose of curcumin is 6.0 g/day for seven consecutive days every 3 weeks in combination with a standard dose of docetaxel which proved its feasibility, safety, and tolerability. However, some scientific evidence demonstrated that dietary curcumin can inhibit chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in models of human breast cancer lines (MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and BT-474) [314]. The chemotherapeutic agents evaluated were camptothecin, mechlorethamine, and doxorubicin-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, additional clinical studies are required to demonstrate the avoidance of curcumin (in both supplements and intake foods containing curcuma) in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

    1. Albert,

      When I was researching alternative cancer therapies a few years ago, the one thing I really liked about what they did was that they immediately made a list of all potential causes of cancer. Environmental toxins, root canal dead teeth, fungi, bacteria, viruses, etc, and they would walk through the list and change each thing.

      There are things like eating too much soy or taking multivitamins which come to mind immediately.

      Salt was one that contributed to certain cancers.

      Oil is a big one and it is easy to miss the oil in things like plant milk.

      1. Increasing to the higher cancer kill rate superfoods from the lower kill rate vegetables and fruits is a factor.

        Increasing the garlic and onion and cruciferous and berries versus other fruits and vegetables

        Understanding which foods to eat raw and which foods to cook and how to prepare foods for the highest benefit.

        For instance, Dr. Furhman emphasizes eating onions raw.

        Cruciferous is another which you either eat raw or do the hack and hold or add mustard – because the enzyme is important. Understanding things like that Broccoli Sprouts have the highest amount of Sulforaphane and that the Sprouts have maximum Sulforaphane after 2 days growing are the types of things where people could be eating the right foods, but miss the benefits.

        Turmeric has more benefits if you use it with pepper would be another example.

    2. Albert,

      I would say that there are no guarantees: eating a plant based diet reduces your risk of developing cancer, but not to zero. Nor does eating meat increase your risk of developing cancer to 100%.

      Overall, eating a plant based diet reduces the risk of developing lots of conditions.

      I had a 1 in 2 chance of developing breast cancer, due to family history, and I was diagnosed with it at age 63 — my other family members were diagnosed in their mid 30s or late 40s. At the time, I wondered if my vegetarian diet had slowed the development of my cancer — and I admit that I did not always eat a healthy diet. It improved in my late 40s, when I started exercising (no weight loss after a year, though I was much more fit) and then changing my eating habits to include portion control and making healthier choices (leading to a weight loss of about 25 lbs over about 18 mos).

      After I discovered this website (as well as a few others) while researching nutrition after my diagnosis — about which I was told ABSOLUTELY NOTHING by any of my doctors — I dropped the dairy products and eggs, and began eating more whole foods, including more beans and whole grains and veggies. My diet has improved considerably. But obviously, I am late to the table.

      So, I knock wood, too. And try to enjoy every day.

      1. Dr. J.,

        Dr. McDougall emphasizes that we all have cancer.

        He said that even if people have very advanced cancer, changing the diet to WFPB changes the doubling time of the cancer and the more you change your diet, the more you change that doubling time.

        So, yes, you very likely did slow it down.

        I have wondered the same thing because my mother and her father both died very young of cancer, as did other members of her family and there was also cancer on my father’s side of the family – both of his parents died of cancer.

        My mother ate modestly and didn’t develop the obesity, which I did, but I have outlived her and I wondered if it was the fact that I had become allergic to meat when I was younger.

        1. My mother died at 53. Her father died younger than that. He died the year she was born.

          I honestly didn’t think I would still be alive.

          I could never figure it out because half of my relatives had longevity and half died really young of either cancer or heart attacks.

          Being overweight, I really thought it would be game over by now.

  4. The other thing that comes to mind is reducing stress. Exercise is great at doing that, but also getting yourself out of a stressful environment if possible would help. Beyond that, deep breathing, yoga and meditation.

        1. I will throw things like cell phones and wifi and living too close to power lines as factors for people who get cancer even though their diets are good.

          RoundUp – which can be even on organic produce (if in lower amounts)

          There are things like exposure to asbestos and use of talcum powder and all sorts of things like that, which have been shown to contribute to cancer.

          1. Getting enough Vitamin D is one.

            But not so much sun that you get skin cancer.

            There are a lot of little logistics like that in this process. It is easy to mess up.

            People can take pills with folic acid or Beta-Carotene or green tea extract and get worse and a lot of health-oriented people do turn to supplements.

    1. I agree Vic, stress reduction therapies all play a part in preventing, as well as healing, the major diseases plaguing our society such as heart disease and cancer. Dr Ornish has made stress reduction an integral part of his programs. Other lifestyle factors like losing extra pounds and maintaining an ideal weight are also important .. obesity is linked to 13 cancers. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20171003/obesity-linked-to-13-types-of-cancer

      Vegans do indeed get cancer, but making good lifestyle choices can certainly lower our risk.

        1. Vic,

          I had been waiting for that study.

          All I knew is that, after a year on Keto, my friend had what the Dr. described as a very large tumor.

          It does seem like some cancers may respond to it, but the oils and animal products make it seem like putting out a match in an oil burner. My oil delivery service says that you could put a match out in it, and most of the time, it might be safe, but you are still playing with fire, IMO.

        1. YR, Well, after following your link out of curiosity, I learned a new word today: “Pessary”

          Learn something new every day ;-)

  5. When I was reading Dr. Ornish’s latest blog re: his new book he emphasized getting out and getting sunshine daily. I don’t know if sunshine on your skin is better than taking Vit D supplements but it probably is if you don’t overdo it.

    Since I retired from Seattle to Augusta, GA (100 degrees today, in Oct!), I have an abundance of it.

    1. Vic,

      You are 100 degrees in October, and I was in long-sleeves and raincoat until June 21st and we are already back with rainy, breezy 50-degree days.

  6. Here’s some guidelines from an article by UC San Fran:
    https://osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/integrative-medicine-resources/cancer-and-nutrition/faq/cancer-and-fasting-calorie-restriction

    Here are some take-home tips from our literature review:

    1. In general, follow an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of colorful fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, herbs and spices.

    2. Low to moderate carbohydrate intake with low glycemic starches

    3. Healthy fats at every meal, including good sources of Omega-3s

    4. Moderate protein intake of 3-4 ounces per meal from a combination of animal and plant proteins

    5. Lengthen the time between dinner and breakfast to allow for a longer overnight fast, with the goal of 13 or more hours, for example dinner by 6:00 pm and breakfast after 7:00 am.

    6. Short-term water fasts of 1-3 days to possibly help re-generate the immune system and increase cellular protection against oxidative stress. Working with a healthcare provider, you can determine how often it may be appropriate for you to engage in a fast.

    7. If you are a cancer patient, water fasting 2-3 days prior to treatment and up to one day following treatment to optimize the efficacy of treatment and reduce treatment-related side effects may be considered, but only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

    1. Dr. Longo warns against going too far over 13 hours. I am going to say to lower your risk of getting gall stones, but I have trouble keeping track of everything.

      The animal products, it is keeping it to 5% of the calories or less.

      1. Thank you for bringing up Dr. Longo. I’ve just started reading The Longevity Diet. Unfortunately, I really don’t think that I can start adding even small amounts of animal products to my diet now. I can’t see it is good for them, me, or the planet. And the consumption of lots of oil and nuts is contrary to what the good plant based docs are saying. It’s very confusing indeed!

        1. las vegan,

          All of the Whole Food Plant-Based doctors recommend against oil. Most of them allow a small amount of nuts. Anywhere from 1 nut to 1 ounce for most people. More if the person is very thin and athletic and is trying to not lose weight.

          You don’t have to add animal products at all and you don’t have to add oil. Nuts is where this community starts to get confusing, but if you like them, eat some.

    2. Vic,

      To what cancer “treatments” do your guidelines refer?

      First, there’s surgery. Often followed by radiation therapy, 5 days a week, for maybe 3-6 weeks. Then there’s chemo, which can have varying regimens and last for weeks or more. And endocrine therapy, a pill daily for up to 5 years and more. No doubt there’s more that I don’t know about. Biological therapies. Immunotherapies. Etc.

      I think your guidelines are too simplistic, and probably not supported by evidence, or good evidence.

      1. Hey Dr. J. These are not ‘my’ guidelines but I think reasonable and go along with some of what Dr. G talks about, along with a WFPB diet and exercise.

        As far as treatments, yeah, treatments and I’d like to avoid any of them if I can, especially chemo, which I’m sure is the one they’re referring to.

        My story is prostate cancer at 70 and my urologist wanted to do surgery and my oncologist wanted to do radiation. I went on a vegan diet, exercised daily and later on started a daily time restricted feeding schedule (~ 18 off and 6 on) as well as a 7 day fast. My next MRI showed the cancer had been stopped in its tracks. So which lifestyle change made the most difference? Don’t know and don’t care; I’ll continue to do them all going forward.

        As Deb pointed out, maybe I’ve just significantly slowed it down, and I do realize that PC is different than other cancers.

  7. A few years ago, I began eating a mostly plant-based diet. I’d never eaten much meat to begin with, as I don’t care for it. A year and a half ago, I tried going wholly plant based, giving up dairy milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs. A few months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. (Estrogen/progesterone positive, HeR negative, invasive ductal grade 2). My cancer nutritionist reviewed my food diary and noticed I was getting only about 20 grams of protein, where I should be getting 60.
    I felt very deprived not having some of the foods I ate as a vegetarian, so have added back occasional free-range organic eggs, yogurt and (rarely) cheese, in addition to ramping up my intake of legumes, tofu and edamame. I feel much better,

    1. Barbara,

      Sorry about your cancer diagnosis. It sucks, right?

      But wow!! You got to see a cancer nutritionist? I’ve never even heard of one; it was certainly not an option where I was treated (Yale Smilow Cancer Hospital).

      Also, my understanding is that if you eat a varied diet, generally following the guidelines of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app, with veggies and fruits, beans and legumes, and in moderation nuts and seeds, you will be consuming plenty of protein. Most plant based whole food eaters are not protein deficient. So I wonder what happened with your diet?

      Eg: “ The average requirement is 42 grams of protein a day. Non-vegetarians get way more than they need, and so does everyone else. On average, vegetarians and vegans get 70% more protein than they need every day.” (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/do-vegetarians-get-enough-protein/)

      Maybe your ramping up your intake of legumes, tofu and edamame would have been enough? Do you eat grains? There are lots of options besides wheat, though some are not really “grains” but small seeds; they include rice (but not white rice), barley (hulled is best if you can find it), quinoa, polenta (corn grits), oats, millet, amaranth, buckwheat groats, etc

      My husband (diagnosed with prostate cancer 14 years ago) and I (diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago) in the last few years switched from vegetarian to plant based whole food eating — and he just told me that he doesn’t miss the eggs and dairy products. Nor do I. We seem to be doing fine.

      My electric pressure cooker (mine is an Instant Pot) really helped us to increase our intake of both beans and whole grains. There are all kinds of wonderful recipes for soups, stews, and more containing beans and/or whole grains, as well as lots of veggies, spices, and sometimes even fruit. It’s a whole new world of delicious eating!

      But I am glad that you are feeling much better. That’s important. You do what you need to do.

  8. Your blogs are very informing and instructive, thank you for all your investigations
    I am particularly interested in Alzheimer’s disease; I follow a WFPB no SOS way of eating and heard in an interview with Dr Perlmutter that a low fat high carb diet increases in a 85% the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s, being a woman with family issues on Alzheimer. What do you think? What can I do?

    1. There is no evidence that a low fat high carb diet increases Alzheimer’s risk (the Jim Beam and Camels diet excepted) . There have been societies that ate low fat high carb diets for millennia. I am not aware that they had high rates of Alzheimer’s. Exactly the opposite if anything.

      Perlmutter is not a reliable source iof information on health and nutrition. However, he is an expert on making sensational (and misleading) claims that help him sell lots of books, supplements etc
      https://www.thecut.com/2015/06/problem-with-the-grain-brain-doctor.html

      I’d suggest viewing Dr Greger’s videos on this matter instead eg

      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/flashback-friday-preventing-alzheimers-with-lifestyle-changes-and-diet/

    2. Ana,

      The Adventists – fewer than 5% of the people get Alzheimer’s. The Nun’s study very few of the high carb vegan nuns get Alzheimer’s. The Okinawans didn’t have a problem with Alzheimer’s until they changed to a more animal-based diet and their was mostly carbs. Dr. Popper recently spoke about Finland which is the country with the #1 rate of Alzheimer’s, they did a study where lowering the fats and moving more toward WFPB, there was a 90% change in Alzheimer’s rate. I would listen to the Sherzai’s about it. I am waiting for Dr. Ornish’s study to finish.

      Either way, it isn’t about the macro “high carbs” however in a study I looked at recently, if you eat REFINED carbs (white flour) it increased risk, but if you eat Whole Grains, the risk decreased.

      I have brain problems, which have been improving with WFPB and this is a big issue for me. For the most part, the diet you are eating is the most protective, BUT, you NEED to supplement B12 and get your omega 3’s and Vitamin D because HOMOCYSTEINE is the thing which you still have to worry about on WFPB. You don’t have to worry all that much, but you have to supplement B12 and eat your Folate. Some studies say only the Folate matters, but other studies it was the combination of B12 and Folate (which comes from plant foods, don’t supplement with folic acid – see Dr. McDougall’s folate trap video) A lot of people are moving away from supplementing with B12 and Omega 3, but being B12 deficient can rot your spine and even kill you and lowering Homocysteine is already such a good thing..

  9. I am a big fan of both Dr. Ornish and Dr. Greger. I was a vegetarian for a very long time and have been vegan for the past 10 years. I have enjoyed the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruises for many years and have tried to follow the dietary advice of the many doctors and health professionals on this cruise.
    I am responding to this blog because I was recently diagnosed with high-risk aggressive prostate cancer. I want people to know they should eat a whole-food plant-based diet. When I when totally vegan and gave up ice cream and cheese, I lost over 20 pounds and felt great.
    However, going vegan and eating a whole-food plant-based diet is not a cure-all. You can still get sick. You can still get cancer. I still have more tests scheduled to see if the cancer has metastisized, by I am encouraged that even this type of cancer can be successfully treated. I will continue my vegan diet.

    1. Stephen,

      Praying for you.

      There is a lot of good information on this site for it.

      I already see that Tom posted one.

      If you have pain or have to have surgery, I am going to recommend a Micropulse ICES PEMF.

      I use it and it is excellent for wound healing and pain, plus, people have had cancer shrink with it. That is anecdotal, but Bob Dennis has gotten excellent reports for cancer. He is very hands on and keeps in contact with people who buy one.

      1. There is a TED Talk about Tumor Treating Fields and how electromagnetic fields can act as an anti-mitotic in cancer. It is a slow process, but while you are using it, cancer cells can’t divide.

        Bob is one of the least product-promoting people in the PEMF industry and he sells his for $429 to $1500 depending on whether you would need to treat multiple sites.

  10. 9 years ago, I was in the midst of heavy chemo for breast cancer. Under this therapy my tumor GREW. I had a mastectomy but still was given little chance of survival. I was told that I would likely not survive. I began to learn what I could to help myself. I turned to a diet of fresh clean plant foods. Well….I’m still here!

  11. This is sad because I have too many friends and a relative who died of cancer. When they were discovered to be in stages of cancer, and although I knew a WFPB diet would be key to their health and possible recovery, it is just so hard to “give advice” like this to someone who has discovered a cancer. They are under so much pressure as it is regarding their awful medical treatments. But now, thanks to the science presented here, I have something more tangible to present to them.

    1. Adrienne,

      When my brother got kidney cancer, I just started bringing healthy meals every day for lunch. He appreciated that. My sister-in-law felt threatened by it but eventually did want the help, too.

      Months later, they aren’t WFPB, but they DO eat some vegan meals.

      For my up-coming birthday, we talked about whether to have it at someone’s house or out and out it is because I need meal selections. But my sister-in-law said that she could have the mushroom burger, too. One meal at a time.

  12. I am so fed up with so many conflicting studies that seem to be based on solid research. Personally I definitely favor the plant based approach but now what gives with the latest research that states eating meat really is okay?? No wonder the SAD stays strong. People will go with what suits them. Damned be the facts. But what are the facts??

    1. Kristina,

      We have been discussing that study on these pages and the sponsor of the study has ties to the industries which stand to lose if WFPB becomes the new HAPPY. (versus SAD)

  13. I ended up watching another video of a plane crash landing in water.

    This one, the man had his cell phone in a waterproof container and called his friend from the water.

    But he said that hypothermia becomes the issue in a half-hour.

    I ended up learning that if you are ever in cold water, you can lengthen your survival closer to 4 hours by huddling together with other people or by getting in the HELP position.

    And more than 9 hours if you have a survival suit and I ended up finding one for $25 on ebay.

    Nope, I am not going to get one, but it is helping me deal with the plane crash by learning what helps people survive.

    1. Well, my final How not to die in an airplane crash is.

      Don’t fly often
      Be careful which types of airplanes and which routes and what weather to travel in.
      Sit in the back of the plane in the row with an exit and know how to open it. Wear waterproof and fireproof clothing like LL Bean sells. Wear fireproof gloves and socks and underwear and they sell fireproof face masks. Have a fully charged cell phone in a water and fireproof sack and maybe a water pouch in that so you don’t drink the sea water and go crazy. Getting of the plane within a minute and a half is key to survival and people won’t make it off especially if people try to bring belongings or even just if everybody brings a seat cushion. About 8 to 12 people made it off with one exit with everybody remaining calm and almost none of them bringing anything.

      but within a half hour you will wish you had brought your seat cushion and hadn’t worn shorts and flip flops. Huddling together like the penguins and staying near the plane is how you are more likely to be found. And if sharks come, you fight them like crazy. Kick and punch them over and over again. They don’t like that.

      1. And if it IS your time to die:

        “Many people in spirit have communicated through psychic mediums that their spirit left their body before the plane or automobile crashed, before the bullet hit their body, and before the pain of any death experience got too bad. When this occurs, we experience our death while out of our body, yet still connected to it spiritually.”

        https://bestpsychicdirectory.com/When-Does-Our-Spirit-Leave-Our-Body-Death

        1. YR,

          I agree with you.

          When I was young, I almost drown in a rip current of a far away hurricane. We weren’t supposed to go in the water, but we were out-running the waves and an undertow pulled me in and I couldn’t get back to shore.

          My mother was very good at saving people’s lives. I don’t know how she knew how to, but she generally did. Except her own.

          What I remember is that time stopped completely while I was being pulled under. It was very peaceful. I am a Christian and I am not afraid of death, but I process tragedy by learning from it.

          There are wearable accessories which sound like killer whales, which scare sharks away. Not sure if it would backfire and call all the killer whales. If there are piercing alarms, that might get rid of them and help the passing boat here something. Maybe a blinking light like cyclists sometimes wear.

            1. Deb, I can’t imagine why I’d want killer whale sounds ring tomes for my flip-top, rarely used, no-bells-and-whistles cell phone. :-D

              1. Laughing.

                YR,

                I have gone through a deeply spiritual process examining how many areas of my life are like flying where I just do a “fingers-crossed, head-in-the-sand” process and don’t even want to really know what I would do if something went wrong. I am a Christian and I would pray and believe I would see God on the other side and absent from the body is present with Christ and I am a “personal relationship with a living Savior, free gift, come just as you are, just say yes” type of Christian, but what I will say is that I had my head in the sand about how to eat and honestly didn’t know how to eat and my Diabetic friend who DID buy Dr. Barnard and Dr. Fuhrman’s books sent me a recipe today and it was something like cheese and butter and everything but the bagel salt mixture and something else and I know that she is so afraid of carbs that she is doing butter and cheese rolls and she is TRYING right now to reverse her “worst lab reports ever” and yet hold onto Gundry and Keto and somehow the airplane analogy became almost a game – a true “How Not to Die” above my spiritual process.

                I almost hear the questions floating in the air.

                As if someone is leading through a process starting with what do you pack in your carry on luggage or do you take one? Then, where do you sit and where do you make your connections? I always like Chicago, but learned not to go there in the Winter the hard way. I think I mostly liked the automated bathrooms and that they had pizza.

                In Christianity, it is “How now shall I live?”

                I know so many smart people who are sitting at the front of every plane because it is first class and there is more leg room and yet, if they were playing a “How Not to Die in a plane crash” every single one of them would switch seats if there was an option. But they also eat as if there aren’t going to be consequences and there is a way where many of us show up unprepared for many things in our lives.

                The people who survived this airplane crash showed up with things like fireproof gloves and sat in the safest section of the plane.

                Honestly, I am doing soul-searching and I am also learning real answers of how to improve your chance of surviving a plane crash and I am also evaluating my fear and I know that counselors have people get on planes, but was I wiser when I didn’t see any risks or am I wiser now that I do?

                I was thinking about blood clots and there are ways to not have those, but a whole lot of people get them. I know more than one person who had their eardrums burst. But I take Benadryl before boarding and a half hour before landing because I have had ear pain before.

                Anyway, there is a wake and funeral this week and it will be packed and people will learn what they learn or maybe not want to look at things and choose that.

                I don’t always know what is wisdom, but I do know that it was the one who showed up with fireproof gloves way before the snowfall who saved lives. My mother was like that except that she believed the media and the schools about eating.

                1. About the airline industry though, what I realized is that they are doing an actuarial acceptable loss for the sake of convenience and comfort process.

                  You might ride a bicycle without a helmet, but you probably wouldn’t ride a motorcycle without a helmet. You might ride in a car without a seat belt, but you probably would not ride in a race car without one.

                  Somehow high rise buildings and airplanes have people showing up in shorts and flip flops and high heels and the Titanic people will have long discussions for decades about life boats, but there is almost no way that people can survive a water crash without dying from trying to get the cushions off instead of getting out and the person near the escape windows isn’t a professional of some sort who knows how to open the exits and the planes go under fast enough that by the time the stewardess does an organizing process that would already be the wrong process.

                  There aren’t fire blankets – like what firemen have – particularly in the front of the plane.

                  They do this mask coming down process and that is probably the one that gets used the absolute least.

                  That is on top of the other discussions about plane maintenance and if some models of planes are dangerous and whether they should even be flying in some weather conditions, etc.

                  And if they are going to fly, I want the stewardess to have a laser pointer so that when we are in the water, the coast guard can find us easier.

                    1. The seats on the plane should be lined in the stuff firemen use with the ability to have barriers rise up if the plane is going to crash.

                    2. The decision of whether to take a seat as a floatation device is a perfect moral dilemma. If you delay the passengers behind you getting out, they could die. If you don’t have something to hold onto out in the water, you could die. It is not as contrived a moral dilemma as the ones they do as plot points on television.

                    3. Regarding the plane crash video.

                      Everybody, except for one person got off, but when I thought about who analyzed the data better, the only person who died was a person who was officially a health and safety person. Did everybody else on the plane look and inwardly say, “This isn’t safe. I know we are close to land. Let’s leave the plane cushions and get off.” And was the health and safety person looking around for violations in safety and didn’t get off?

                    4. I found a pretty good article on surviving a plane crash with the studies.

                      https://www.theflightexpert.com/how-to-survive-a-plane-crash/

                      There are little tidbits like the rear third of the plane is the most likely to survive and you are more likely to survive if you are within 5 rows of an exit and more likely to die if you aren’t. The first 4 rows of the plane are more likely to die.

                      Aisle seats in the middle 1/3rd of the plane have the lowest levels of survival.

                      Middle seats in the back 1/3rd of the plane have the highest survival.

                      They give advice to not wear clothing which will melt to your skin and to not be reading the first 3 minutes and last 8 minutes of the flight.

                      They give how to fasten the seat belt to better keep you safe in impact and say that people waste time trying to get their seat belt off is a main issue.

                      90 seconds is their guideline for getting out. Survival decreases if you don’t get out in 90 seconds.

                    5. Popular Mechanics said that being behind the wing had the highest rate of survival, followed by the overwing section and the area just in front of the wing. They had taken every flight and looked up every passengers seat to see where they had been sitting.

                    6. It turns out that there are studies for most of it. They don’t add in things like maybe take off your glasses and rings and put them in a pouch for takeoff and landing because you will hate every piece of metal in touch with your skin if there is a fire.

                      There are statistics for which position to use to brace yourself with to prevent whiplash and whether to lace your fingers or not depending on which position you choose, etc.

                      I probably could have started with the studies, but I always start with my own reasoning, and it turns out that I wasn’t far off. They say 5 rows away from an exit, and they even have data on people 2 seats away from the exit jumping over the seats.

                      So, if any of you travel, there really are right answers to all of it.

                    7. The Mythbusters didn’t even crash into anything and they were in serious pain. That is what I saw on all of their faces. They weren’t moving very fast after.

                      I know if you are flying you want shin pads and maybe one of those inflatable pillows where you lean forward.

                      You want to be seated in the row of the exit because your shins are going to be really hurting and you only have 90 seconds to get out.

                    8. I am finished analyzing plane crashes.

                      The Myth Busters expressions was all I needed. I will probably not fly much.

                      On Saturday I had slid off the end of the bed while sorting socks and I hit my neck on the wall and injured myself but only slightly. Enough to adjust my risk taking.

  14. Dr. Greger

    I thank you for all your wonderful research and efforts fighting heart disease and cancer but I have to tell you I must be an exception to the results of your study. I had a radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer in 2011. They did not get it all so I had radiation in 2012.
    Since then I’ve had chemotherapy, hormone treatment and now Zytiga and Dexamethasone. That is starting to lose its effectiveness so with all the common options gone I am just about ready to start on some form of trial. I have late stage metastatic,, castrate resistant prostate cancer with a significantly diminishing life expectancy. I am 66 years old.

    All of the above may not be too unusual but I’ve been on a strict plant based diet for at least 6 years now, do not drink alcohol and play tennis typically 5 days a week. I originally went on a plant based diet as I ended up with an absolutely brutal case of hemorrhoids
    after the radiation. Once I read that it was also a good cancer fighting tool I was 100 % on board. Perhaps I just I have a more aggressive form of cancer than the average person but my concern is if individuals who already have cancer may have false hope when they read this and will believe that switching to a plant based diet will be the miracle cure.

    I have to admit though that I have a high energy level and a high quality of life which I attribute to my lifestyle and diet. I also have peace of mind that no matter what my final outcome is I’ve done everything I can do to improve my odds. I am not meaning to be critical as I love how you have taken a lead in an area that the general public needs much more information on. I just wanted to relay my reaction when I read your article on cancer and a plant based diet.

    Thank you
    Larry

    1. Larry,

      sorry to hear about your PC.  Mine so far hasn’t spread beyond G6 and I attribute that to a plant based diet and exercise.  The other avenue I’ve gone down that you may want to consider is fasting. There’s a great book called ‘Cancer as a Metabolic Disease’ by Thomas Seyfried, a sr. biologist as Boston College.  It’s a tough read, more like a medical textbook, but the bottom line from my reading is.

      1. Caloric Reduction – Don’t overeat but if you’re on a PB diet you’re probably OK there.
      2. Everybody should do a 7 day fast at least once a year.

      So I did the 7 day fast and a couple 3-4 day fasts.  When I had my MRI at 7 months from diagnosis it was at the lowest risk, PI-RADS 1.  Of course I don’t know how much the fasting helped and your prostate cancer is obviously the aggressive variation but fasting could be another option for you to try; why not?

      Also, I’m sure you know that Dr. G is doing his third of three fasting webinar’s on the 25th, and this one’s on fasting and cancer.  Worth watching.

      1. Happy for you Vic and sorry for your situation, Larry!

        I am the one who started this whole thread as before my diagnosis of prostate cancer (Gleason 8), I had been on a plant-based diet all my life. Over the past few years, I had become more strict with purposeful consumption of more whole foods. I had been taking ground flax seed – love the cruciferous veggies, etc. And I would fast every Monday, sometimes starting Sunday afternoon. I exercise just about every day, sleep well, drink lots of water, and am socially and spiritually connected, etc. Then I was found to have prostate cancer. So my dietary and lifestyle habits were not initiated because of the cancer diagnosis, but oblivious to it.

        I am happy on this diet and lifestyle – don’t want to change. However, it seems clear to me that cancer sometimes comes regardless of diet and lifestyle. We have to face whatever life throws at us and do the best we can with what we have. So, while Dr. G’s work is invaluable for everyone, it is especially for those who need to change to a WFPB diet. For those of us already on this diet and getting cancer, there can be a guilt trip that somehow we didn’t measure up. For those of us in this category it is sometimes nice to hear that others are sharing the same fate.

        ASW

        1. Albert

          Thank you so much for sharing this. It is comforting to know that my situation is not that unique.
          I had just two terrible years after surgery and radiation when I thought I would never get better. After getting better I have viewed my remaining time as bonus time. As only those with advanced cancer can appreciate every day is a blessing.

  15. It makes sense that the first step of surviving cancer would be getting diagnosed as early as possible! Maybe it would be a good idea to get checked up for prostate cancer. That’s the kind of thing that you need a professional to take a look at.

  16. Dear Dr Gregor,

    Greetings!

    I read the entire article/transcription on cancer prevention and vegan diet.

    My 30 year old son is battling esophagus adenocarcinoma T3, NO MO GE junction cancer. He underwent 4 cycles of FLOT chemotherapy and thereafter surgery. Now he is recuperating. He will be again put on 4 cycles of chemotherapy.

    Now you emphatically say that those who are vegan have almost neglible chances of getting cancer.

    My son is a pure vegetarian, no alcohol, no tobacco, no eggs, no fish and no smoking even remotely. My son maintained healthy lifestyle yet at an young he is battling cancer. We live in New Delhi, India. In our family he is the first person so far who is diagnosed with cancer.

    My question to you is that what caused my son esophagus adenocarcinoma cancer which is generally at an older age and is amongst abusers of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food ?

    May I request you to recommend my son nutrition values so that cancer does not recur.

    I would grateful Dr Gregor.

    Best regards
    Alok Verma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This