Whereas infectious diseases were the primary causes of death during the Age of Pestilence and Famine, our current era of human disease, the Age of Degenerative and Man-Made Diseases, counts lifestyle diseases—heart disease, chronic lung disease, and cancer—as the top killers.
This pandemic of chronic disease has been ascribed in part to the near-universal shift toward a diet dominated by animal-sourced and processed foods—in other words, more meat, dairy, eggs, oils, soda, salt, sugar, and refined grains. China is one of the best-studied examples. There, a transition away from the country’s traditional, plant-based diet was accompanied by a sharp rise in diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
The same kind of diet that may help prevent common cancers just so happens to be the same kind of diet that may also help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other leading causes of death. Unlike drugs—which tend to only target specific conditions, can have dangerous side effects, and may only treat the symptoms of disease—a healthy diet can benefit all organ systems at once, has good side effects, and may treat the underlying cause of illness.
That one unifying diet found to best prevent and treat many of these chronic diseases is a whole-food, plant-based diet, defined as an eating pattern that encourages the consumption of unrefined plant foods and discourages meats, dairy products, eggs, and processed foods.
The truth is that adhering to just four simple healthy lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases: not smoking, not being obese, getting a half hour of daily exercise, and eating healthier—defined as consuming more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and less meat. Those four factors alone were found to account for 78 percent of chronic disease risk. If you start from scratch and manage to tick off all four, you may be able to wipe out more than 90 percent of your risk of developing diabetes, more than 80 percent of your risk of having a heart attack, cut by half your risk of having a stroke, and reduce your overall cancer risk by more than one-third. For some cancers, like our number-two cancer killer, colon cancer, up to 71 percent of cases appear to be preventable through a similar portfolio of simple diet and lifestyle changes.
Image Credit: Illia Uriadnikov © 123RF.com. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Cancer
All Videos for Cancer
The Efficacy and Safety of Creatine for High Homocysteine
Those on a healthy plant-based diet with elevated homocysteine levels despite taking sufficient vitamin B12 may want to consider taking a gram a day of contaminant-free creatine.
Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Animal Protein?
Might animal protein-induced increases in the cancer-promoting grown hormone IGF-1 help promote brain artery integrity?
Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Saturated Fat?
How can we explain the drop in stroke risk as the Japanese diet became Westernized by eating more meat and dairy?
Stainless Steel or Cast Iron: Which Cookware Is Best? Is Teflon Safe?
What’s the best type of pots and pans to use?
The Role of the Toxic Food Environment in the Obesity Epidemic
Implausible explanations for the obesity epidemic, such as sedentary lifestyles or lack of self-discipline, serve the needs of the manufacturers and marketers more than the public’s health and the interest in truth.
Pandemics: History & Prevention
How to treat the cause by preventing the emergence of pandemic viruses in the first place (a video I recorded more than a decade ago when I was Public Health Director at the HSUS in Washington DC).
What Are the Best Beverages?
A review of reviews on the health effects of tea, coffee, milk, wine, and soda.
The Metabolic Harms of Night Shifts and Irregular Meals
What shift workers can do to moderate the adverse effects of circadian rhythm disruption.
Benefits of Garlic for Fighting Cancer and the Common Cold
Raw garlic is compared to roasted, stir-fried, simmered, and jarred garlic.
Chronobiology – How Circadian Rhythms Can Control Your Health & Weight
Given the power of chronotherapy—how the same dose of the same drugs taken at a different time of day can have such different effects—it’s no surprise that chronoprevention approaches, like meal timing, can also make a difference.
The Benefits of Early Time-Restricted Eating
Calories eaten in the morning count less and are healthier than calories eaten in the evening.
The 5-2 Diet and the Fasting-Mimicking Diet Put to the Test
The effects of eating only 5 days a week or a fasting-mimicking diet 5 days a month.