The Role of Bovine Leukemia Virus in Breast Cancer

The Role of Bovine Leukemia Virus in Breast Cancer
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As many as 37% of human breast cancer cases may be attributable to exposure to bovine leukemia virus.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Up to 20% of all cancers are linked to infections—particularly viruses—and the list of potentially carcinogenic infectious agents is growing. It could be great if we found a virus that contributed to breast cancer risk, because then, we might have new ways to prevent and treat it. Currently, the dietary link between meat and dairy and breast cancer is considered a saturated fat effect. But, there is a cancer-causing cow virus that infects the mammary gland cells of cows. Infectious virus is then released into the milk supply. And, since most U.S. dairy herds are infected, scientists figured Americans are often exposed to this bovine leukemia virus. But, we didn’t have proof, until 2003—34 years after the virus was first identified.

Early on, our best available tests failed to find antibodies to the virus in human blood. When our immune system is exposed to a virus, it creates antibodies to attack it. No antibodies; no exposure. So, this led to the prevailing opinion that this virus poses no public health hazard. Those tests were state of the art at the time, but extremely insensitive, compared to more modern techniques.

So, researchers decided to re-examine the issue, now that we had better tests. So, they took blood from about 250 people just to answer the question: Do any humans have antibodies to bovine leukemia virus? And 191 of them did; 74%—not that we should be surprised. By then, nearly 90% of American dairy herds were infected. And in the latest national survey, 100% of the big factory farms were infected when you test the milk coming out of those operations.

So, why isn’t there an epidemic of udder cancer out there? Well, see, dairy cattle are hamburgered so young that there’s not a lot of time for them to develop gross tumors. And, that’s how most women may be getting infected. Although pasteurization should knock out the virus, who hasn’t eaten a pink-in-the-middle burger at some point in their life?

The bottom line is that the long-held assumption that bovine leukemia virus is not a public health hazard is no longer tenable. This whole field of investigation needs to be reopened, with the next step determining whether humans are actively, actually infected. The presence of antibodies is generally interpreted as an indicator of past or present infection. But, theoretically, maybe we just made antibodies to dead virus we ate—virus that had been killed by cooking, or pasteurization. Just because three-quarters of us have been exposed doesn’t mean we were actively infected with the virus.

To prove that, we’d actually have to find the retrovirus actively stitched into our own DNA. Well look, millions of women have gotten breast surgery. Why not just look at that tissue? Researchers did, and, in 2014, published their findings in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. And, 44% of samples tested positive—proving for the first time that humans can be infected with bovine leukemia virus.

The final step then, is to determine if the virus is actually contributing to disease. In other words, are the bovine leukemia viruses we’re finding in breast tissue cancer-causing, or just harmless passengers? One way to figure that out is to see if the virus is more often present in those with breast cancer. But no one had ever looked for the virus in breast tissue from cancer victims, until now. The presence of bovine leukemia virus DNA in breast tissues was strongly associated with diagnosed and confirmed breast cancer. As many as 37% of breast cancer cases may be attributable to BLV exposure. As many as 37% of human breast cancer cases may be attributable to exposure to bovine leukemia virus.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Wayne Stadler via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Up to 20% of all cancers are linked to infections—particularly viruses—and the list of potentially carcinogenic infectious agents is growing. It could be great if we found a virus that contributed to breast cancer risk, because then, we might have new ways to prevent and treat it. Currently, the dietary link between meat and dairy and breast cancer is considered a saturated fat effect. But, there is a cancer-causing cow virus that infects the mammary gland cells of cows. Infectious virus is then released into the milk supply. And, since most U.S. dairy herds are infected, scientists figured Americans are often exposed to this bovine leukemia virus. But, we didn’t have proof, until 2003—34 years after the virus was first identified.

Early on, our best available tests failed to find antibodies to the virus in human blood. When our immune system is exposed to a virus, it creates antibodies to attack it. No antibodies; no exposure. So, this led to the prevailing opinion that this virus poses no public health hazard. Those tests were state of the art at the time, but extremely insensitive, compared to more modern techniques.

So, researchers decided to re-examine the issue, now that we had better tests. So, they took blood from about 250 people just to answer the question: Do any humans have antibodies to bovine leukemia virus? And 191 of them did; 74%—not that we should be surprised. By then, nearly 90% of American dairy herds were infected. And in the latest national survey, 100% of the big factory farms were infected when you test the milk coming out of those operations.

So, why isn’t there an epidemic of udder cancer out there? Well, see, dairy cattle are hamburgered so young that there’s not a lot of time for them to develop gross tumors. And, that’s how most women may be getting infected. Although pasteurization should knock out the virus, who hasn’t eaten a pink-in-the-middle burger at some point in their life?

The bottom line is that the long-held assumption that bovine leukemia virus is not a public health hazard is no longer tenable. This whole field of investigation needs to be reopened, with the next step determining whether humans are actively, actually infected. The presence of antibodies is generally interpreted as an indicator of past or present infection. But, theoretically, maybe we just made antibodies to dead virus we ate—virus that had been killed by cooking, or pasteurization. Just because three-quarters of us have been exposed doesn’t mean we were actively infected with the virus.

To prove that, we’d actually have to find the retrovirus actively stitched into our own DNA. Well look, millions of women have gotten breast surgery. Why not just look at that tissue? Researchers did, and, in 2014, published their findings in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. And, 44% of samples tested positive—proving for the first time that humans can be infected with bovine leukemia virus.

The final step then, is to determine if the virus is actually contributing to disease. In other words, are the bovine leukemia viruses we’re finding in breast tissue cancer-causing, or just harmless passengers? One way to figure that out is to see if the virus is more often present in those with breast cancer. But no one had ever looked for the virus in breast tissue from cancer victims, until now. The presence of bovine leukemia virus DNA in breast tissues was strongly associated with diagnosed and confirmed breast cancer. As many as 37% of breast cancer cases may be attributable to BLV exposure. As many as 37% of human breast cancer cases may be attributable to exposure to bovine leukemia virus.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Wayne Stadler via flickr

Doctor's Note

For some historical background leading up to these shocking findings, see my last video, Is Bovine Leukemia Virus in Milk Infectious?

I couldn’t wait to read the meat and dairy industry journals to see how they’d try to spin this. Find out what I found out—in my next and final video in this series, Industry Response to Bovine Leukemia Virus in Breast Cancer.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

126 responses to “The Role of Bovine Leukemia Virus in Breast Cancer

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      1. I am not sure of raw milk. Pasteurized milk may technically not “kill” a virus at 161F (pasteurization temperature).

        https://www.reference.com/science/temperature-viruses-die-604d2a531fb11268

        “While extreme high or low
        temperatures technically do not kill viruses, the influenza virus and
        many others are deactivated at temperatures ranging from 165 to 212
        degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point for water. Since viruses lack many
        of the basic structures and functions necessary to be considered a
        living organism, they technically cannot die”




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        1. In the Buehring et al paper referenced in the video, the authors write “pasteurization renders BLV noninfectious”. Two previous studies were referenced for this statement and I have not read them yet, but hoping to find their techniques sound, even though they were done in the 1970s & 80s.




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        2. While the basic structure of a delta retrovirus like BLV is a rather wimpy thing and easily destroyed by temperature, basic solvents, and other means, there is a catch. BLV floating around in a cow as a virion is rare, at best. Rather, BLV infects an immune cell known as a B cell and then produces a DNA copy of its RNA genome and inserts this into the genome of the B cell. It causes this B cell to expand out exponentially and every time the B cell genome DNA is duplicated, so is the BLV genome. This BLV DNA copy would be much more stable to degradation than the viral RNA and would likely survive most of the treatments discussed here. Trick is, how would that get into human cells?




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            1. “A case-controlled study was published in 2015 which suggests a possible association between breast cancer, and BLV. However, more recently, another case-control study conducted on Chinese patients did not find any association between BLV and breast cancer. In addition an exhaustive analysis of 51 whole genomes of breast cancers do not show any trace of BLV DNA and thus excludes a clonal insertion of BLV in breast tumor cells and strongly argues against an association between BLV and breast cancer.” Source: Wikipedia. The documentary only mentions an association in breast cancer tissue, they don’t talk about about the rates of BNV antibodies or DNA in healthy breast tissue. Most likely they are comparable.




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    1. Yes, but does this exist just on factory farms? Vital, I think, to clarify this. It might be further proof that factory farms might be wrecking our food supply.




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        1. Milk boils at 212 degrees, they will not take it that high or it would ruin it. That’s why pasteurization is at 161 degrees. The problem is, viruses take up to 212 degrees to be killed




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      1. at around 55 seconds in the video dr greger says ‘most’ dairy herds are infected. that would mean big, small , of every type. there was a post in the comment section on the previous video in this series where a person mentions the testing of over 900 farms and over 700 come positive for the disease. however milk is collected from huge numbers of farms, mixed together and sold under one label.




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        1. p.s. this testing mentioned as an example was in the new jersey area as i recall and the milk sold under one label. i am so glad i am enjoying my soy milk in coffee, ty dr greger!




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      2. BLV has been eliminated from many European herds, simply by culling infected animals. In the US, this was thought to be “not cost effective.”




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    2. It is hard to believe that a cancer causing virus found in something most people consume has not made the news. I winder what is going on to keep this from spreading more widely. Time to exercise some google muscles and find out more. Be back later with some findings.




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      1. You’re surprised that in a country where the media and government (etc. etc.) are bought and paid for, that this information is being suppressed? Par for the course, I’d say, sadly. Never a better time to be vegan! :-) Thanks Dr. G…..




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  1. Just out of curiosity, this raises the question of whether or not men can be affected by this virus or is it just limited to breast tissue? Can the BLV be found, for instance, in prostate tissue and cause cancer there? I don’t eat meat or dairy, but it would be valuable to know this to show to my friends who do still eat meat and dairy.




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    1. Dr Jane Plant, in England, who is a scientist, not an MD, had breast cancer come back five times and her doctors were giving her two months to live. At that point she stopped all dairy and recovered. Since then she has written a couple of books on the subject and helped many men and women recover from breast, prostate, ovarian, etc primarily by removing all dairy products from their diets. All were cancers related to sex hormones. That was many years ago, so it has stood the test of time.




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      1. Thanks for the reference. I hadn’t heard of the books before. I drank cows milk as a child as did most all of us. It was only when I broke away from the mainstream media propaganda and started doing some critical thinking that I began questioning why we drink secretions from another species! It was then when I stopped milk altogether but still ate cheese occasionally thinking it may be more “neutral”. Finally went entirely WFPB on discovering Dr G on this website several years ago.




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        1. We, too, grew up on milk, drinking a big glass with every meal. I continued drinking it for many years as an adult. I even made my own yogurt, cottage cheese, camembert cheese and used it in cooking long after I stopped drinking it. I’ve also had breast cancer, though a less common one that didn’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors. But it did have androgen receptors. So, maybe it could have been caused by milk or any number of other supposedly healthy foods.

          We’re on the right track now. My husband and I just started 10 days at True North Health Center eating whole foods plant based, with no sugar, oil or salt. People have come here and made tremendous health turnarounds after their doctors had nothing to help. I’ve been cooking this way for the last few years, but my husband got a wake-up call when his cholesterol and blood sugar numbers went up (he was eating sweets, cheese, salami, milk-based protein drinks, etc. even though I wasn’t bringing them home) so this was his idea. I’m thrilled, because he will believe the doctors over me even if I said the same things!




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            1. Costs vary with the type of accommodations as well as depending on what your insurance will or won’t pay for. See promotinghealth.com. We’re on Medicare but we have different types of supplemental insurance. Mine is through United Health Care (AARP-promoted), it costs quite a bit more than his, and they will pick up the total tab for doctor visits and most lab tests. His is an Advantage plan, much less monthly than mine, but won’t pay anything for this as it is out of network. However, he was the one who needed to be there more than me.

              Neither plan would pay for the room and board portion, or for travel. Even so, costs were much less than some other places we looked into. Together we spent a bit under $2,500 for 10 days. We each had doctor visits to begin and end the session. Doctors checked on us in our rooms twice a day, and were available for things that came up. There are MDs, NDs, DCs, massage therapists, a psychologist, and other practitioners. For example, I spent an hour with David Goldman, who has a master’s degree in both nutrition and some kind of sports training (I forget the title), so that was an extra. But I’ve wanted to go to someone to help with what kind of exercise I need for upper body, especially. Yet I had hesitated because I didn’t know how to understand if someone was qualified or not.

              There were lectures and/or cooking demonstrations twice a day, with staff members and a few others. The meals were copious, fresh and mostly organic. Staff people were friendly and helpful, other patients were open to visiting and forming friendships. It is in a neighborhood that was beautiful for walking, with lovely older homes, a historic cemetery, and a few business corners nearby. And, a bonus for us, it was raining at home the whole time we were gone, while in lovely Santa Rosa we only had a couple of rainy days, then blissful 70-80 degrees of sunshine the rest of the time.

              Many there were fasting, most on water only, a few on juice. Others were coming off fasts, slowly transitioning back to whole foods. We didn’t fast, but plan to do some brief fasts at home. Some were fasting for as long as a month, and everybody seemed to be turning around health issues. Two cleared up eczema in just a few days, everybody lowered blood pressure, and we’ll check Dave’s cholesterol and blood sugar levels after a few more weeks of this diet at home.

              If you’re lucky enough to live where there is an Ornish program it will be covered by Medicare and maybe other insurance.




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          1. What is wrong with oil? You need vegetable oils, in particular omega-3 oils (also found in small fish, very important as they are anti-inflammatory and inflammation is really the mother of all diseases..) but all unsaturated fatty acid-rich oils are important as they bring you essential fatty acids that your body needs and can’t produce on its own (that;s why we call them “essential”).




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            1. We get our essential fatty acids from foods like flax, nuts, seeds and other veggie sources. Believe it or not, even broccoli has some fat! Refined oils are alien to human nutrition, since they are highly processed and very calorie-dense. Fish oils have been shown to be inflammatory, along with animal proteins of all sorts. They stimulate cancer growth, and have been shown to do so for at least 40 years. To learn more you can look up the work of T Colin Campbell, mostly at Cornell, or you can hear his talks on Youtube.

              The things you learn from Dr Greger, Dr Esselstyn, Dr McDougall, and others who promote a whole foods plant based diet are well researched and even the researchers are checked to be sure they aren’t promoting a commercial agenda, since that happens all the time. Commercially generated research keeps people confused, and confused people tend to keep doing what they are already doing, which in this case is buying junk food or eating at fast food restaurants.




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        1. It goes beyond sex hormones. I had triple negative breast cancer, which didn’t have receptors for either estrogen or progesterone and I have no doubt it came from the two prior years of eating a lot of “properly raised” beef and dairy. I was even making cheese! I know cancer usually, or maybe always, grows over a long period, but this cancer was large when found and had not been detectable a year earlier.

          Dr Campbell showed decisively, over about 40 years, how animal protein stimulates cancer growth and withholding animal protein stops cancer growth. So it’s in the fat, the milk, but especially the protein, and whether sex hormones are involved or not, animal protein stimulates cancer growth.

          I’m fortunate to be well seven years later, and I attribute much of that to my whole food plant based diet.




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    2. I wouldn’t discard it generating other cancers, remember that they tested for breast cancer, only because they had the tissues from breast surgeries, they should now test for other cancers. Could also be generating leukemia? prostate? let’s hope they hurry to test.




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  2. is factory farming the cause of this?

    Are the small, traditional herds of dairy exempt? The classic herders that go way way back, traditional USA farmers using pristine and natural ways of raising dairy herds, the many european traditional small herds raised naturally free from the chaos of factory farms – organic and biodynamic standards, or, does this cancer virus infect these and even “wild” cattle?




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    1. the study said that even 84% of farms with small herds of cattle that were tested detected the virus. That is very close to 100%, i highly doubt the 20% that did not detect it were all organic farms.

      Also viruses are spread regardless if individuals are raised in ‘healthy’ conditions. Maybe less likely, but definitely still possible.




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  3. WOW! This is huge! I mean the study has been around for a year and we get to know only now! Well, thanks to NF at least we now know. I’m sorry for those who won’t get a chance. I also wonder what meat and dairy industry have been doing to keep this secret.




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  4. Sceptics will not care about this as it’s not 100%. When can we hope to have a more definitive conclusion about the 37%?
    What about the 63% of cases that weren’t attributable to BLV exposure? Any thoughts?




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    1. In tobacco, once an exposure-disease relationship is considered causal (i.e., the Surgeon General, Royal College of Physicians, or IARC review all available data and conclude that the evidence is sufficient to infer that a causal relationship exists), then epidemiologists or others calculate the attributable risk — the fraction of cases or deaths that would not have occurred in the absence of the exposure variable. I think it will take more research before scientists at AICR/WCF or IARC conclude that the relationship between BLV and breast cancer is causal (don’t wait for them to act before you give up dairy though). An attributable risk of 37% does not mean the relationship is not causal. It’s just that there are other causes of the disease in question. For example, the risk of lung cancer attributable to cigarette smoking is 85-90% (there are some other causes of lung cancer, like certain occupational exposures and even air pollution, but they are less influential than active smoking), while that for heart disease is ~20% (if memory serves), because there are other major independent causes of heart disease.




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    2. It might not be the only cancer it generates, we only know about this one, because it is the only one they tested so far given the availability of breast tissues from surgeries. Expect more.




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  5. This just further reinforces that dairy, meat and animal products in the future will be considered as much as a hazard to our health as cigarettes. Will take a while though as the terrible industries are clinging on to their profits, although brave individuals like Dr. Greger are shedding light on this terrible reality one video and article at a time. It is quite sad though to see how many people still smoke after nearly 60 years of public acknowledgement that it causes cancer. Will it be the same for animal protein consumption?




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      1. There is really no case for arguing that grains or cereals pose heath risks for the great majority of people who do not have any sensitivities to these foods. All credible health authorities are agreed upon this point :eg

        “Dietary fibre can help to ensure a healthier digestive system and reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Eating a diet high in fibre and wholegrain cereals (such as multi-grain bread) can also lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and can help you maintain a healthy body weight.”
        http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/21775/cancer-information/cancer-risk-and-prevention/healthy-weight-diet-and-exercise/fibre-wholegrain-cereals/

        Nor is there any reason to think that potatoes not cooked in hard or liquid fats, or subject t very high temperatures are unhealthy
        http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579.php




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        1. As McDougall will vehemently attest to, and for some further testimony check out the extreme but enlightening odyssey of “Spudfit” aka Andrew Taylor. Briefly…

          “At the beginning of 2016, in the depths of mental and physical despair, Andrew had a simple idea to treat food addiction by quitting food, in much the same way an alcoholic should quit alcohol. He ended up quitting
          all foods except potatoes, in a simple experiment to see what would happen. Pretty soon Andrew’s story went viral around the globe as people were captivated by his incredible weight loss and physical and mental health improvements.”




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      2. Unlikely. Each three servings of whole grains consumed daily is associated with:

        17% lower all-cause mortality,
        19% lower coronary heart disease risk and mortality,
        12% lower stroke risk and mortality,
        22% lower cardiovascular disease risk and mortality,
        15% lower total cancer mortality,
        22% lower respiratory disease mortality,
        51% lower diabetes mortality,
        26% lower infectious disease mortality, and
        22% lower mortality for all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes.

        Benefits increase right up to seven servings per day.




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          1. Dose-response analyses don’t imply a linear correlation throughout the possible range, there’s typically some levelling off, and there particularly was for diabetes mortality (see figure 8 in the cited paper).




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        1. Putting aside sweet potatoes (which is a red herring) in this discussion. Who did the studies? Who paid them? Who reviewed them? I have as much confidence in ‘industry studies’ on diet as I do in studies for cancer by the pharma industry.
          Evidence? Cultures that do not eat grains and cereals never have cases of short-sightedness (myopia) until they move to cultures that do. The world record holder for 26 and 13 mile marathons (at aged 104) only eats a plant, seed, nut and pulse diet. Clients I advise to follow this same diet show a definite reversal of various lung diseases within 30 days. It is very easy for a person with various chronic diseases to prove this one way to the other. Follow this diet for 60 days and then decide. We can discuss this for even but 60 days is an easy period to prove the point, one way or another.




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          1. Sorry to break your bubble, but Big Whole Wheat isn’t a major funder of prospective epidemiology. The meta-analysis covered 45 studies with 60 papers issued, with most studies funded by the NIH or similar public health agencies in the respective countries. The were all published in peer-reviewed journals, and you can see the list in the references here.

            Strong claims like myopia is due to cereal consumption require equally strong proof. A more plausible connection can be made between close-focusing and myopia. Short-sightedness may just be the downside of literacy.

            There are some issues I have with grains, like their relatively high methionine content. However, in the general population this appears more than offset by their other benefits, which I believe owe a lot to fermentable fiber, modulating the microbiota, reducing intestinal permeability to endotoxins etc, and hence reducing chronic inflammation. Beans have similarly effective fermentable fibers. There’s little wrong healthwise with a plant, seed, nut and pulse diet (akin to Dr. Fuhrman’s recomendations). I don’t think 7 billion of us could eat this way, as the planet doesn’t have enough arable land for crops with at best 25% of the calorie yield of cereals and potatos.




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      3. I think the distinction that must be made is that whole grains are not the same as refined grains and sugars. As many here have eloquently pointed out whole grains have been associated only with positive health benefits that include lowering almost every chronic disease as well as all cause mortality. You are making a mistake by grouping them in the same category with refined, processed grains and sugars and processed foods that contain them.




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        1. It may be true that whole grains are ‘better’ but that does not make them ‘healthy’. In any case all studies should be revisited in the light of newer evidence not to mention the greater realisation of diet related diseases. Human and the ecological survival of this planet may depend upon a plant, seed, nut and pulse diet replacing animals and fields of grains and cereals with trees. Trees (deciduous) and the rain they attract build soil (from rotting leaves) , prevent desertification and create wind breaks for growing of crops. A wonderful US charity “Trees for the Future’ are proving this in Africa.




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          1. There is no evidence that I am aware of that consuming whole grains and cereals is unhealthy (except perhaps for a relatively small number individuals with specific diagnosed allergies and sensitivities).

            Would you care to provide some actual evidence (not anecdotes or fad diet books) for your claims? Claims, incidentally, that are rejected by all credible health authorities around the world and directly contradicted by the great majority of published studies.




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            1. Surely no one needs actual evidence to realise that industrialised cereals are crap food?
              Your own common sense would tell you that a product grown in toxic earth, sprayed with carcinogens and processed to within an inch of it’s life is to be avoided like the plague.




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              1. Evidence is always needed. It is especially important when people make extraordinary claims that whole grains (which have fed essentially every civilisation on Earth since the beginning of recorded history with no obvious evidence of ill-effects) are in fact unhealthy. These, incidentally, are claims which no serious scientific body or health authority accepts.

                You should also note that Andrew is not just claiming that processed grains and potatoes are unhealthy. He claims that all grains and potatoes are unhealthy.

                By the way, ignoring or, even worse, rejecting the evidence because it contradicts someone’s opinions is not normally considered “common sense”..




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                1. Tom, there is scientific consensus that: milk, meat, GMO, cooked foods, foods from factories, foods in industrial farm, foods from fish farms, etc etc etc are all OK for humans to eat and many say they are healthy. I gave up this crap at aged 40 when both of my parents died in their early 60s from eating these foods and listening to doctors who are scientific? Now at aged 70 people say I still look 40. I don’t want to convince you but I hope enough people are reading this who develop a district of science as I have and just their own conmen sense to only eat really healthy foods from plants, seed, nut and pulse diet.




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                  1. I, and virtually everybody here, would probably agree with you that eating only organic, unprocessed or only minimally processed foods from plants including pulses, nuts and seeds would be a very healthy diet.

                    However, I am just not aware of any credible evidence that plant foods like whole grains and boiled/steamed potatoes are unhealthy which is what Andrew seems to be arguing.

                    Yes, some science is bought. I have in mind research funded by the meat and dairy industry, the Atkins Foundation etc. But the nut and eg olive producers etc also do the same thing albeit on a smaller scale However, even with industry-funded studies, results are seldom actually falsified nor are they totally meaningless. The problem is more often the “spin” placed on the results or the conclusions that the authors, media commentators, product marketers and other people draw from them. Or the data or related studies that are excluded from the analysis. The large-scale observational saturated fat studies are a case in point. They find no association between saturated fat consumption and mortality in Western countries. These are valid findings. The claim or implication that this is because saturated fat is harmless or even healthy is the spin that is often put on these studies. It is not supported by the total available scientific evidence.

                    As a general principal, eating only “really healthy foods from plants, seed, nut and pulse diet” is a good approach. But we really need the science to tell us which are the really healthy foods and which ones are better/safer cooked or even avoided altogether (like perhaps apricot kernels or mushrooms collected from the local woodland by the next-door neighbour).

                    Simply dismissing the findings of all studies that do not accord with our pre-conceived opinions is not the same thing as having a healthy scepticism about the reported implications or conclusions of individual scientific studies.




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                    1. I agree with most of what you wrote above . I say safety first and my recommendation is to go with the healthiest plan you can for you and your family. Leave the things that are in doubt to others except of course that mass growing of grains and cereals (and other mass crops) and the pesticides used could hasten the extinction of the human race if the bees disappear.
                      It was Albert Einstein that said that but what does he know? ;}




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                    2. Tom,

                      I can’t agree with you more. There are loads of studies that are funded by industry and are appropriate for some level of interpretation. What I find is most consistently disturbing and an ongoing issue is the conclusions reached based on their results, are published with a tag line that clearly does not reflect the science and the methodology is questionable. Keep in mind this is not intended to suggest all studies by industry are this slanted.

                      The issue you aptly raise is the gorilla on the block. When and how often do consumers have the time or science background to interpret a study, in depth, and reach their own conclusions ? The average reader, not referring to those reading this commentary as they are seeking answers and their inquisitiveness is to be commended, will only read the advertisement piece and headline leading to the completely misleading outcome, intended by the sponsor.

                      Unfortunately, a number of published papers are indeed literally paid advertisements when one notes the methodology and clearly the intentionality of the outcomes. Does this negate all science, heck no. But in context, those with deep pockets have the advantage of being able to spread the word (butter ?) in a very compelling way, spinning the real deal into something it’s not..

                      For a good oversight of the problems including one of the key issues, reproducibility, a quick read at: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong, might be in order.

                      Dr. Alan Kadish Moderator for Dr. Greger




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                    3. Thank you. The Economist article was a useful if sobering read.

                      As a personal comment, I have been particularly disappointed by some of the papers published in the BMJ in recent years. It is a high profile journal that has long had an excellent reputation. I get the impression that editorial policy has changed in the last 5 years or so and simply catching the eyes of mainstream media has become an objective in itself.




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                2. Great reply. I just wanted to share a thought. You wrote, “Evidence is always needed.” I was thinking about asking for evidence myself. Then I thought it through: It is so hard to provide evidence when one doesn’t believe in evidence/science… Really, how does someone supply any actual evidence if science is all bought? The absurdity of the position makes it impossible to go anywhere logical in the conversation.




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      4. Right, cereals and potatoes are in the same league as this:

        “Major modern diseases such as Ebola virus disease, salmonellosis and influenza are zoonoses. Zoonoses can be caused by a range of disease pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites; of 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic.”

        Among them: Flu history is frightening: The 1918 influenza pandemic swept the world within months, killing an estimated 50 million people — more than any other illness in recorded history for the short time frame involved.

        http://www.birdflubook.org/resources/Claas133.pdf

        Prior to the 20th Century, the best known zoonoses were, amongst others, rabies, anthrax, glanders, tuberculosis, plague, yellow fever, influenza, and certain zoonotic parasitic diseases.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11189711

        BLV is another one to the huge list.




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    1. Technically, you can’t change the fact that you were exposed to something… you can’t “alter” the fact that you were exposed in the past. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot reduce/eliminate your future level of exposure. For example, you can avoid beef/dairy in the future, which will limit continued and additional harm. But I think what you are really asking is, “has my past exposure caused irrevocable harm, and am I now doomed to wait and see whatever harm that is”. The answer to that is basically No. In addition to avoiding future exposures, you can also do many things to increase the power of your immune system to fight and kill cancer cells and keep you healthy and strong despite past exposures. Eating a whole foods plant based diet, as Dr. Gregor advocates (and presents his research on) can help your body and your immune system to operate at peak efficiency, and find and destroy cancer cells, and eliminate cancerous DNA mutations as they form. This will allow you body to eliminate or slow the progression of any cancers that are forming in your body (either due to BLV exposure, or any other carcinogenic exposures). Ultimately, if your diet into the future is healthy enough, you have a strong probability of never getting a ‘critical mass’ of cancer in your system as to overwhelm your immune system and lead to serious illness or disease.




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  6. The same cell types that excrete BLV into cow’s milk are infected in the breasts of women, where they appear to be actively replicating (6% of samples were positive for its shell protein). There haven’t been any studies using modern techniques to determine whether BLV is in human breast milk, but the possibility is chilling.




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      1. I hesitated writing that, as one never knows what ideas strangers will pick up on the internet. Breastfeeding has overwhelmingly positive effects on infant development, maternal bonding etc.




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  7. I know that this is off-topic, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of places on the internet encouraging the use of hydrolyzed collagen or gelatin. Anyone know of any hard science on this topic?




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    1. Its possible modern diets are glycine deficient, and collagen is one third glycine by AA count. However, getting it from gelatin (etc) introduces a lot of hydroxyproline, which is metabolized and excreted as urinary oxalate. That, I believe, is why vegetarians have a lower risk of kidney stones. I expect there to be a small epidemic of stones in avid collagen supplementers. There are less problematic sources of glycine, both dietary (seeds, almonds, beans) and a pure (cheaper, too for Gly content).




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    1. It is probably impossible to know for sure. But lack of pasteurisation (heat treatment) probably makes viral survival more likely. although curing does seem to help as this 1976 study of foot and mouth disease viruses showed.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/184130

      However, more sensitive modern technologies may detect virus survival where older methods did not.

      Also, I understand that viral infection of dairy products remains a concern for the industry although I am not aware of BLV being transmissible by airborne infection
      http://aem.asm.org/content/77/2/491.full

      As far as other infections are concerned, the CDC advises
      “Aged cheeses made from raw milk are generally okay to eat because germs usually die off during the aging process. However, outbreaks associated with these cheeses have been identified.
      Reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. For every outbreak and every illness reported, many others occur, and most illnesses are not part of recognized outbreaks. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Avoid raw milk, it’s just not worth the risk.”
      http://www.cdc.gov/features/rawmilk/




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      1. I would like to make the point that the United States dairy industry does not test with any regularity for BLV because they feel it is not cost effective. This is because the science in the past has not been able to detect transmission to human beings. Because of improved detection science we can now see that BLV is, in fact, transmissible to humans.The European dairy industry does test for BLV and culls any animals that have it. Here is an interesting link to a U of Michigan study of BLV in dairy herds in their state (from 2010). Note that the paper shows an increase of BLV infection in the herds as the cows age, up to 50% in the herds. The milk from these herds is put in vats where the entire amount is then contaminated.
        https://msu.edu/~mdr/vol17no3/blvFinal.html




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  8. I haven’t had time to listen to the video, but would this be in Bovine serum used in vaccines? I would think that would be the main culprit rather than ingested milk products.




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    1. ‘But, there is a cancer-causing cow virus that onfects the mammary gland cells of cows. Infectious virus is then released into the milk supply’…. The video is definitely worth the few minutes to watch!




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        1. Yes but human exposure to FBS via vaccine is tiny whereas human exposure to dairy is huge by comparison. And viral transmission of disease via food is a known risk factor As World Health Organization papers have noted
          “Data from recent studies have shown that foodborne viral infections are very common in many parts of the world despite the measures already in place to reduce bacterial contamination.”
          and
          “The meeting identified three major routes of viral contamination of foods: i) human sewage and faeces; ii) infected food handlers; and iii) animals for zoonotic viruses.”
          http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/Viruses_in_food_MRA.pdf

          I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the risk of BLV infection via food ingestion.




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          1. Oh I’m not dismissing it. I just wondered since injecting a substance bypassed all natural defense mechanisms, trace amounts can do serious damage.




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            1. Julie – your question re: bovine serum in vaccines made me nauseous to think about. It is an excellent question. My cousin was once a Harvard biology professor before becoming Vice President of Heska ,an animal pharmaceutical company, in charge of research. Although this is not a well-known fact, we have discussed many times that animals, particularly dogs, regularly develop cancer – sarcoma – at the vaccination injection site on their hips. My brother’s dog developed sarcoma on her hip tissue which was removed once before it grew back again, caused gait difficulties, and contributed to her death. I did not realize the bovine serum connection to vaccines until your question but your question has instantly turned into a possible hypothesis for these soft tissue cancers in our animals.
              This, then, makes me ask this question: could it be that the mercury in children’s vaccines was not the culprit contributing to Asberger’s syndromes in children but a viral component is? This would also help explain why Asberger’s often presents itself after a few years and the forward development of the child stops. Viruses are known to live quietly in tissues and cause problems on their time frames. Think Herpes virus which lives in the nerve root then comes out when it “chooses”.
              Additionally, proponents of the raw milk movement should be made aware of this worrisome information.
              Thank you so much for asking your question.




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    2. Vaccines for humans use fetal bovine serum, which would be exposed only if FLV circulated in the bloodstream or replicated in uterine tissue and passed throught the placental-uterine interface. The subsequent filtration steps won’t remove viri, but then its tested for known infectious viruses and often gamma irradiated to inactivate any viruses. Whether that’s enough, or they test for FLV, I can’t say.

      On the other hand, veterinary vaccines often use serum from mature animals at slaughter, and may not go through as much further processing. Its seems a good vector for transmission to entire dairy herds.




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      1. Darryl – you seem to know quite a bit about this subject. Please see my post below re: cancer at injection sites of animals receiving vaccines. I’m wondering how one would find out if bovine serum is tested for BLV specifically? If Dr. Greger’s staff is reading, . . perhaps this is something you could look into or perhaps someone following this conversation might know. I am now very, very curious. Thank you!




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      2. I had a friend in grad school who’s research would have been made a lot easier if she’d had a defined component medium. For some reason no one even told her to make sure she used the same lot number of FBS.




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  9. Although this is a science-based site (Thankyou Dr. G!!!) and we are cautioned to refrain from repeating or beginning urban myth and/or legend, I thought I’d like to throw into this discussion the fact that men have breast tissue as well as women and men, also, can develop breast cancer. But in addition to the fact that men also have risk for breast cancer, it is worth the reminder that the prostate tissue develops from the same beginning cellular structure as the breast. Without statistics at hand, I will throw out there that prostate cancer is probably just as common anymore as breast cancer in women. Both are highly correlated (China Study) with dairy consumption. My hope is that Dr. Beuhring and her team can begin to look at resected prostate tissue in addition to resected breast tissue. I am going to make the sad projection that BLV will be found there as well.




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    1. It was a case-controlled study, comparing tissue from a control group, tissue from breast reduction surgery with mastectomy-derived tissue from breast cancer patients.

      The full text is here:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4557937/
      Last paragraph:
      “A case-control study is not conclusive in itself. Validation by other investigators is essential, and a prospective study showing that viral
      infection preceded detectable cancer development would be desirable to support the idea of a causal association of BLV with breast cancer [59]. Regardless of causality or of how the virus has been acquired by humans, if BLV were substantiated as a risk factor for breast cancer,
      its detection in breast fluid cells or tissues might serve as a biomarker to identify women at higher risk for developing breast cancer and perhaps warranting closer monitoring leading to early detection and treatment. Also since BLV is a retrovirus, the opportunity presents
      itself to explore the effectiveness of anti-retroviral therapy in limiting or eliminating BLV before breast cancer could be initiated.”




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  10. I used to consume animal products during my childhood and youth, but now I’m vegan. If I already have this virus, am I still at risk of getting breast cancer caused by this virus?




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  11. Does this apply just to milk and some cheeses or all dairy? Does organic make a difference? If organic doesn’t address this issue, what substitutes are there for cream cheese, yogurt and butter (things I use a lot in cooking and/or my pre-adolescent girls love). I shudder to think how much dairy I’ve been feeding my daughters thinking it’s good for them. What alternatives should I use? Thank you!




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    1. Nut butters and avocados are sometimes useful. Avocados can be used in sweet as well as savory applications. Of course, these are quite fatty and excessive fat consumption isn’t good. I’ve been indulging in cashew cream a bit too much lately (just soak some raw cashews in water for a few hours then whiz up in a blender with some water). Bean purees are good; often I will substitute cheese in wraps with a combination of hummus and nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor. Applesauce, mashed bananas and pureed prunes are sometimes used in place of fats in baked goods. Banana ice cream is really good – freeze banana slices and pulse in a food processor. Some vegans make use of a lot of coconut oil, but isn’t a healthful option. There are a lot of packaged substitutes (cheeses, yogurts) at stores like Whole Foods (ironic name in this instance) which aren’t whole foods and overall aren’t that healthful, but as an occasional treat…

      I think Dr Greger is coming out with a cookbook soon, and there are (I hope) vegan cookbooks at your local public library. Maybe some folks on here can recommend some specific titles.

      There’s also a lot of vegan channels on youtube. Here’s an example:
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtuwIdM0Zx7xCiZSa_clRzw
      A lot of recipes aren’t really up to Dr Greger’s / whole foods plant based diet (WFPB) standards for health, but they would likely appeal to your girls and are probably better than the animal-based versions in most cases.




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      1. Thank you, Lemon! I think like many things I just have to start making changes, probably slower than I would like, for my kids. They already eat a lot of fruit and veggies and only small amounts of meat. We’ve eliminated processed meats for the most part. But I need to find alternatives for making things like creamy pasta and wean us all from putting parmesan cheese on it. I will try the nutritional yeast – I’ve heard about it but never actually used it. My younger daughter eats a cream cheese sandwich every single day for lunch – that will be the tough one to replace!

        I understand the arguments against dairy and feel that it is good to eliminate that. But I also have an extended family member who is my age – he has been Paleo for some time and is in excellent shape. Of course, he does Cross Fit, so it’s hard to say whether it’s the meat or the exercise. For now, we will have meat although reading through this site beef is knocked out, chicken has some sort of issue as I recall and I’ve always felt pork needed to be limited. I guess we’ll eat fish :)

        Do you have any concerns about tofu? I’m around menopause so try to limit to organic, although unfortunately restaurants, who always makes it so tasty in Thai and Chinese dishes, don’t use organic.




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        1. I have a 14 yr old daughter. We were eating poultry a couple of times a week when we both decided that we wanted to stop, and I’m glad we did. She wanted to try veganism for a little while but she just can’t give up her cheese and milk.

          I’m trying to do things to help reduce her risk of breast cancer; there’s a lot of videos on this site on ways to do so, e.g. consuming mushrooms – which she likes, but only on quesadillas and pizzas! Last week I made calzones with a mushroom and cashew based ‘cheese’ filling. I think she found the taste of the whole wheat dough too bitter, unfortunately. If I push too much, she will become resentful and so I go slowly.

          As for me, I still eat some seafood on occasion; there’s negatives associated with it that you will see also on this site, mostly due to man-made pollution. For overall health, I look to the epidemiological evidence. You’ll note that the ‘Blue Zones’ all have low or no meat consumption, though some of these populations do consume fermented dairy and seafood (usually in small amounts).

          I like tofu in normal, dietary amounts. It seems to be protective against breast cancer and is a good source of magnesium and calcium. There’s a video on optimal soy dose:
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-soy-is-too-much/
          I wish the term ‘serving’ had been defined, though. I’d prefer if it were standardized to grams of soy protein.

          As for restaurant tofu, the frying process worries me more than organic/conventional. Oxidized (rancid) polyunsaturated oils, advanced glycation end products, and lots of sodium. For home, though, I do buy organic just because I prefer organic agriculture.

          Related videos:
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/why-do-asian-women-have-less-breast-cancer/
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/gmo-soy-and-breast-cancer/
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-true-shelf-life-of-cooking-oils/
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/glycotoxins/
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-a-sugary-grave/
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/sodium-and-arterial-function-a-salting-our-endothelium/




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        2. 1proudDaughter, this is my favorite creamy pasta sauce. It is much lower fat and also without the very long list of why one should not go near dairy. http://thevegan8.com/2013/12/28/vegan-garlic-alfredo-sauce/ My wife has a thing for fettuccini Alfredo and she even likes this better than the dairy based stuff. It takes a bit of experimenting to get the consistency just right but when done well it is great. It also gives you a chance to add tons of veggies to it.




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          1. Stewart E: I finally got around to trying this recipe. It is GREAT!

            I simplified the process a fair amount, but basically use the same ingredients. The recipe is so good, I’ve made it twice now in short order and that’s something I rarely do. I love that the sauce has so much real onion in it. (FYI: using the higher antioxidant red onion works just fine…)




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    2. 1proudDaughter: You got some great responses from lemonhead, and I think you two had a good conversation. I thought I might add to the discussion by addressing the part of your question about what is affected and whether organic makes a difference. I recommend checking out the NutritionFacts topic page for dairy: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/dairy This page was recently updated and you can see that this virus we are talking about on this page is just one health reason to avoid dairy. The vast majority of reasons to avoid dairy would apply to all dairy and whether organic or not.
      .
      I agree that this is a tricky situation and whether cold turkey or a slow weaning is best is something only you can decide. I just thought I would offer the thought that the more food choices can come from within your daughters, the better. So, yes you have to find alternatives that are yummy, but it would help keep the diet self-sustaining if your daughters felt passionate about following it. You might look into documentaries like Cowspiracy and maybe even something like Earthlings. If your daughters saw themselves as saving the planet (which they would be doing their part to do), they might lead the way in getting rid of the dairy out of your house. Compassion for the suffering of others caring about their future can be more motivating to young people than their own health. If you feel that Earthlings is too much for them, there might be other videos which make the same point in a way that you feel would work for your family. That’s just an idea.
      .
      I’ve been thinking about that cream cheese sandwhich. It maybe more work than you want to do, but I’ve been making a delicious cashew-based cream cheese. It involves making my own rejuvalac and blending up a mixture, etc. So, that may not interest you. I just mention it in case you want details. Another option is to buy the vegan commercial cream cheese as a transition food. It’s not the healthiest thing in the word, but it would be better in my opinion than the real dairy and would serve as a transition to healthier foods going forward. Again, just an idea.
      .
      Best of luck to you and your family.




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      1. Thanks! Good suggestion, although the cream cheese loving daughter (only 6 years old) is of course the daughter who refuses to eat nuts (unless she doesn’t realize she is).

        I’m wondering if feta cheese has the same concerns.




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  12. Reason 1,001 to give up dairy – and be vegan. Reading the China Study was enough for me. Then, learning how cruel the dairy industry is….never, ever touch the stuff. Non-dairy, vegan…nothing lost, all gain. Thank you Dr. Greger.




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  13. I am a physician and would like to share this info with colleagues and patients. But having encountered skepticism regarding the importance of a vegan diet for other things, I am anticipating many questions. Is there evidence that breast cancer rates have decreased in countries where BLV has been eliminated from the herds?
    In 2012, the US had the 9th highest breast cancer rates with several European countries having higher rates (Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Iceland, United Kingdom) and several slightly lower rates (Ireland, Germany, Italy, Finland, Luxembourg) than the US. Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland were also in the top 20.
    Is it too soon to see a reduction in rates? How long ago did these countries eliminate BLV from the herds?




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  14. the results of Buehring et al were not reproduced with whole genome PCR approach. See recent publication.
    Gillet and Willems Retrovirology (2016) 13:75
    DOI 10.1186/s12977-016-0308-3
    “Whole genome sequencing of 51 breast cancers reveals that tumors are devoid of bovine leukemia virus DNA”.




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    1. I decided to contact Buehring herself and ask what she had to say about that article. This is her response. Take it for what you will.

      ‘It appears that CGA sequences are not “natural” human specimens. First of all the CGA includes only human genome sequences and would not include “loose” virus not integrated into the human genome. BLV usually does not integrate until the very late advanced disease in cattle. In our technique (in situ PCR) we found the virus primarily in cytoplasm, and therefore not integrated in the human genome. Previous studies by Reyes and Cockerell found that unintegrated BLV was capable of mRNA transcription that led to protein synthesis, so integration was not necessary to have an effect. Even the final sentence of the Belgians’ article (“Our present study based on whole genome analysis excludes a clonal insertion of BLV in tumor cells..”) suggests that “clonal insertion” means integration into the human genome. They didn’t mention anything about the fact unintegrated BLV is also very active.’

      Basically, the analysis didn’t find BLV integrated into the cancer cell DNA, but this study didn’t account for BLV that might not be integrated into the DNA, and BLV that isn’t integrated into DNA can still have an effect on surrounding tissue.




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