The breast cancer/dietary fat relationship, once a key point in getting American women to switch their eating habits, has now been seriously challenged.
A prominent Harvard study of nearly 90,000 American nurses, backed up by somewhat similar studies from other laboratories, has shown no relationship between the risk of breast cancer and the amount of fat we eat.
While it may be tempting for many women to ease off their diet regimes, the relationship between dietary fat and cancer should not be idly dismissed. The problem is that the Harvard study, although well executed, is very narrowly focused, leaving many women understandably confused. A clue to alleviating this confusion may be found when the Harvard data are compared with our findings from rural China. Contrary to Harvard’s conclusions, we found a significant association between dietary fat and breast cancer.
Harvard Study vs. China Project
The Harvard study compared nurses who ate “low-fat” diets with nurses who consumed higher fat diets. Total fat intake ranged from a modest level of 25% to as much as 45% of calories. According to evidence available in other reports, however, the women who consumed the lower amounts of fat, ate so-called “low-fat” foods such as leaner meats, low-fat milk, and low-fat dressings and spreads. Needless to say, they still indulged in eating large amounts of animal-based foods, rather than adding more fruits and vegetables to their diets.
Considerable evidence indicates this may be a formula for failure. The data from rural China, for example, depart from the Harvard data in several important ways. First, we compared people who ate diets containing fat ranging from 6% to 25% of calories (instead of 25-45%). Unlike participants in the Harvard research, we discovered that people in [...]
(In response to a reader’s question concerning Dr. Mercola’s views on The China Study)
I’ve seen the views of Dr. Mercola several times, and this is my response:
For background, it should be noted that Dr. Mercola’s views, when he says that The China Study is “seriously flawed”, parallel very closely those of the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF), a Washington-based agricultural lobbying group, who asserts, among other claims, that high cholesterol diets are healthy even beneficial and who not surprisingly support the consumption of raw un-pasteurized, un-homogenized grass-fed beef and other animal-based food products.
They also, perhaps to be politically correct, recommend the consumption of fruits and vegetables but in a way that is virtually meaningless. They rely heavily on a personal survey that a dentist, Weston Price, did during the 1920s and 1930s when he visited a total of 14 indigenous peoples in various parts of the world to examine and photograph their dental health (dental caries and dental arch formation). However, by principally relying on Price’s findings, WAPF goes far beyond what Price actually did. They would have us believe that he published extensive data to support the health value of cow’s milk and high cholesterol animal based foods and, further, that he ‘discovered’ a fat soluble factor in milk that is likely responsible for these healthy effects of cow’s milk. I read his book and there are no data that Price accumulated, tabulated and interpreted to support that view. Indeed, the so-called fat soluble factor was noted at a time during the early days of vitamin discoveries when little was known about their metabolism and biochemically functional effects, except that they divided into water and fat soluble substances.
Although I find it difficult at [...]
One out of two Americans gets heart disease and half of those die instantly from their first heart attack.
One out of three dies of cancer. One out of eight women gets breast cancer and one out of six men gets prostate cancer. Roughly one out of ten middle-aged Americans has diabetes, and among those over 60, this rate becomes one out of five people. In addition, another one in five Americans has so-called prediabetes.
Unfortunately, many people suffering from these diseases do not realize that their wrong dietary choices since childhood have caused these serious problems. Numerous scientific studies, including “The China Study,” show that there is a strong correlation between an animal-based diet and these ailments. They are very rare in countries where populations live on a plant-based diet. The majority of people in Western countries assume that these diseases are inevitable as they get older, but this is not true!
People need to learn that their health is in their own hands. The fact is, they can be free of illness and brilliantly healthy if they choose a wholesome diet and lifestyle. On the other hand, an incorrect diet and poor lifestyle choices make people sick.
You can choose superior health, once you know how. The solution is very simple. All you have to do is focus on a whole-food, plant-based diet. If you aren’t convinced, you should see how the “SAD” (Standard American Diet) choice consisting of a high-fat, high-protein, high-cholesterol animal-based diet has caused levels of diseases that are common in America to rise drastically among the Japanese people ever since they adopted this diet after World War II. Diseases reaching epidemic proportions in the United States (such as breast cancer, prostate [...]
Question: What is your response to: “A role for milk proteins and their peptides in cancer prevention”, by PW Parodi (Current Pharmaceutical Design 13: 813-828, 2007).
Answer: This paper is a classic illustration of scientific reductionism that creates more confusion than clarification. It starts by stating that the “most reliable approach to establish a causal relationship [between diet and disease] …is…a randomized control trial.” My view is exactly the opposite. A randomized control study design focuses on one factor, one outcome and generally one mechanism at a time. This is not nutrition; it is pharmacology (is this why it was published in a pharmaceutical journal?)
In the introduction to the paper, the author also trashes the correlations-based ecological study design, stating that “correlations tell nothing about [diet and cancer associations]“. It is true that nothing conclusive about causation can be established because of the way that these studies are done but this criticism depends on the assumption that investigators are trying to identify single factor causation, again defying what nutrition is. The fault line in these studies is the formulation of hypotheses. If these hypotheses are formulated to truly reflect the wholistic characteristic of nutrition where multiple nutrients, biomarkers, and outcomes are simultaneously measured, then assessing causation is much more reasonable.
After reading these first few basic assumptions in this paper, the rest of the paper amassed a huge list of observations drawn from narrowly focused, reductionist studies that are trivial, oftentimes contrasting and very confusing. Among the many observations cited in this paper, it is possible to select some to make almost any hypothesis. On this same point, it is also possible to create studies that will show whatever results are desired, especially when these studies [...]
An INVITATION to the READER and the INVESTIGATORS OF THE HARVARD NURSES’ HEALTH STUDY
It was June 1982. At a news conference in Washington, a group of internationally recognized scientists had just finished announcing the National Research Council’s report on diet, nutrition, and cancer1. The report received extensive news coverage, lots of criticism from the industry most affected by the report’s conclusion and – according to some authorities-the highest number of requests for a report ever released by the august National Academy of Sciences (NAS), our sponsor.
Why the attention? Spending about two years, six three-day meetings, a million dollars, and a rather substantial amount of time reviewing what turned out to be a rather large amount of information, we had simply summarized the scientific evidence on the association of diet with cancer. The intense interest that followed was due to our rather provocative recommendations to cut down on fat intake and increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain cereal-based products.
Today, seventeen years later, these dietary recommendations for reducing cancer risk-virtually identical with those for cardiovascular disease-sound very familiar. At that time, however, they seemed to be a hefty message for many, for they indicated a fairly major change in dietary practices-away from the esteemed meat and dairy-focused American eating patterns toward a more plant-based eating style. The recommendations in the report had enormous economic implications, suggested major public policy changes, and challenged some deeply held philosophical and cultural beliefs.
It was in this climate during the early 1980s that the very influential Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard University2 was adopted to investigate the recommendations of this and similar reports.
Although the Nurses’ Health Study has yielded a variety of highly publicized diet and disease reports, [...]