Over half a million (595,690 estimated) people die of different types of cancer each year in the United States. We spend billions of dollars per year trying to find a cure for the disease. The National Cancer Institute was given a budget of $5.21 billion in 2016, an increase of more than $260 million from 2015. What's interesting is, when you think about it, we already have a cure for the disease.
Did you know that less than 2% (that's being conservative) of all cancers are the result of purely genetic factors? In other words, almost all cases (over 98%) of cancer are the result of one's lifestyle choices. So, we spend billions of dollars annually trying to find ways to treat and reverse the symptoms of cancer, yet we don't seem to care about what caused the cancer in the first place. The underlying cause of the disease is, in fact, our diet and lifestyle!
Let's quickly explore 2 of the most commonly known cancers in the US: colorectal and breast cancers.
Colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer stems from a growth, called a polyp, which forms in the colon or rectum. There are endless studies that suggest fiber intake is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. Furthermore, decreasing meat consumption and increasing fiber consumption, alone, has been shown to decrease your chance of colorectal cancer by over 65%. Where does fiber come from? Plant foods.
There is also a significant link between your bowel movements and colorectal cancer (and other digestive cancers). Studies have shown that the longer it takes for your food to go from your mouth to the toilet, the more likely you are to develop the cancer. Although many people may be going "regularly," that doesn't necessarily mean they're in the clear. People eating a common western diet (including meat & dairy) can take over a week to pass food through their system. So your trip to the bathroom just now was likely last weeks filet mignon finally leaving your body. Yes, most westerners are walking around with a week's worth of food in them! No wonder their bodies don't have the energy to fight diseases and other ailments, because they're constantly working to get food out the door! Conversely, those who eat a diet consisting of mainly plants have been shown to pass food through their system in a day or two. Without getting into too much science here, let me sum this up: colorectal and other digestive cancers simply stem from having week's worth of shit literally backed up in our bodies. Want to clear the traffic jam? You need fiber (from plants!).
Next, let's talk about breast cancer, which sees 230,000 diagnoses (mostly women) each year. I feel like we all know a woman in our lives that had or is battling breast cancer. Breast cancer does not form overnight, instead it starts forming decades in advance of ever being detected. In fact, studies have shown, similar to heart disease, that breast cancers can start forming as early as the womb as a result of a mother's diet! (That's crazy!) So, although many doctors use the term "early detection," the tumors have actually been forming for years and years. Like other cancers, diet and lifestyle has been shown to prevent the cancers from forming altogether.
Eating a diet of mostly plants, reducing alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy constant weight has been shown to decrease the chance of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with a history of breast cancer by 62%. Furthermore, eating a plant-based diet and walking daily has been shown to improve cancer defense in just two weeks! These are just a few small changes that can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women by almost two thirds.
Similar to heart disease and other cancers, cholesterol intake has been directly linked to an increased chance of breast cancer. Cancers have been shown to feed off of and grow from cholesterol, specifically “bad” LDL cholesterol. Where does LDL cholesterol come from? The consumption of animal products. Conversely, fiber consumption, yet again, has been shown to drastically decrease a woman’s chance of breast cancer. A study done by Yale University showed that women who consumed more than 6 grams of fiber a day, from plant sources, had a 62% lower chance of breast cancer than those consuming less than 6 grams. Dozens more studies have found very similar results: more fiber, less cancer. In particular, broccoli, beans, flax seeds, and soy have all been shown to decrease the chances of and even treat breast cancer.
I could continue writing about other types of cancers and diseases like alzheimer's, diabetes, etc. but I would be repeating myself over and over. There are 3 reoccurring themes that have been shown to prevent ALL of them: consume less "bad" LDL cholesterol, consume more fiber, and exercise (as simple as a walk) daily. Again, where does LDL cholesterol come from? Animals. Where does fiber come from? Plants.
The bottom line is, if you want to dodge heart disease, cancers, lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s and all other diseases and live a long happy life, you need to eat whole plant foods and stop eating meat, dairy, and processed foods. And it’s never too late to start, as many of these diseases are reversible. It’s really that simple!
For more information and sources on how our diet and lifestyle has been shown to prevent (and even reverse!) all the most common diseases among us today, read How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Gregor.
In conclusion, it’s sad that we spend billions of dollars each year trying to find cures for the diseases that are killing us. We look to drugs to solve the problem and stop the symptoms. Yet, we don’t seem to care about what caused the disease in the first place. The diseases are a result of the consistent lifestyle choices we make over a long period of time. Why try to cure the symptoms when we can prevent what causes the symptoms? If we improve our lifestyle habits and are able to effectively prevent the disease, then we don’t need a cure. Prevention is the cure. Imagine if we, instead, spent billions of dollars on better educating the American people about the long-term impact of their daily lifestyle decisions?
For more on this subject and the countless benefits of eating a whole food vegan diet, check out my book Eat Green Make Green.