Want to Reduce Cancer and Heart Disease with your FORK?

On a cold November night in 1984, my father made a life-changing dinner announcement. It hit the family with the impact of Rocky's knuckles against a frozen side of beef. Our family dinners would never be the same. While chewing on the delicious bite of flank steak that my mom had caught in the wild hunting grounds of the local super market, I listened intently. I soon realized that I was eating the last steak of my life... and willingly!

My father (also a doctor of chiropractic) explained the methods used to produce the animal products that fill our refrigerators. We also learned about the many health benefits of vegetarianism and having less meat in our diet. The rest of this article will focus on those health benefits, and leave the moral and ethical questions raised while examining the production of animal-based foods to your own discretion. By reading this article, you will become familiar with how changing your eating habits can reduce your risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

In examining over 200 studies, it was found that the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables provides you with SIGNIFICANT protection against cancer at multiple sites of the body. People who eat higher amounts of fruits and vegetables benefit from about one-half the risk!1

Vegetartians have been found to have a 40% greater chance of being cancer-free than meat eaters.2-4 

What is the connection between the consumption of animal flesh and dairy products and higher cancer rates? Scientists believe in a number of possible causes. Meat lacks the fiber and the protective nutrients found in plants that help stave off cancer. Furthermore, meats have animal proteins, saturated fats and dangerous compounds formed during the cooking process... all factors that increase the risk of cancer.

Long-term vegans (those consuming no animal products) appreciate a 57 percent lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared to meat eaters. Vegetarians (those who still consume some animal products such as dairy and eggs) have a 24 percent decrease.5

During a two week study period, healthy volunteers changed their eating habits to a vegetarian diet. The following decreased values associated with better heart and vascular health were observed in blood test findings6:

  • 25 percent less of total cholesterol
  • 33 percent less of LDL cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (know as “the bad cholesterol”)
  • 20 percent fewer triglycerides
  • A 21 percent decrease in the total/ HDL cholesterol ratio (higher ratios indicate an increased risk of a heart attack)

The many nutrients and fiber found in plant-based meal plans provide heart healthy benefits. People consuming more fruits and vegetables also tend to have a lower saturated fat and cholesterol intake which is associated with a lower cardiovascular disease risk.

Changing your eating habits can be EASY! The greatest difficulty I had was to tell my father that I would not wear the T-shirt that he brought back from a seminar on vegetarianism. The shirt fit well, but sporting its bold message of “VEGETARIANS ARE SPROUTING UP ALL OVER” would have compromised my standing with my school mates! The transition to better eating habits can be accomplished in little steps over a long period of time, or in an instant. The biggest barrier that you face is ignorance. What to buy, how to prepare it, and will you meet all of your nutritional needs are common questions raised prior to making the change.

To get help, visit one of the area's health food stores or the health food section of your super market. Resources such as The Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org) can prove to be invaluable. The easiest start, which takes no additional know-how, is to designate one meal during the week to be either vegetarian or vegan. A big salad with raw sunflower seeds and/or kidney beans on it is a tasty example. Eating one raw salad each day has been shown to lower the mortality rate for heart disease by 26 percent.7 Keep adding more meals at different times as your knowledge grows. If you still choose to eat meat, consider decreasing the portion size while increasing the vegetable amount on your plate (especially raw green veggies). Find new and exciting ways to eat vegetable proteins such as garbonzo beans and lentils. Raw nuts and seeds not only are great protein sources, but provide healthy fats. Consider using smoothies with vegetable and/or whey protein powders. For more information on using smoothies, please visit my website (rosenthalchiropractic.com) and read my past Living Well Magazine article entitled New Year Resolution for 2014: Dink your way to a THINNER waist!

The intention of this article is not to pass judgement, pressure you, or stress you out! The only goal is to plant a seed and help you realize that each choice that you make either improves your chances of remaining healthy or not. You are the master of your plate and the wielder of your fork! By following the steps above, you can lower your chances of cancer and heart disease. Your health will improve and your life may even be extended! Have fun and keep it simple with little steps. If you insist on making the change a public statement, call me... I may have an old T-shirt that will fit you!

1. Steinmetz K, Potter J. Vegetables, fruit and cancer, I. Epidemiology. Cancer Causes Control 1991;2(suppl):325-57.

2. Thorogood M, Mann J, Appleby P, McPherson K. Risk of death from cancer and ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. Br Med J 1994; 308:1667-70.

3. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Eilber U. Mortality patterns of German vegetarians after 11 years of follow-up. Epidemiology 1992;3:395-401.

4. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R. Dietary and lifestyle determinants of mortality among German vegetarians. Int J Epidemiol 1993;22:228-36.

5. Thorogood M, Carter R, et al. Plasma lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations in people with different diets in Britain. Br Med J 1987;295: 351-3.

6. Jenkins DJA, Popovich D, Kendall C, et al. Effect of a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and nuts on serum lipids. Metabolism 1997;46:530-7.

7. Key TJA, Thorogood M, Appleby PN, et al. Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of 17-year follow up. BMJ 1996;313:775-79.