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Excerpt from "The Protein Myth"

How a Plant-Based Diet Can Save Our Lives

by David Gerow Irving

A plant-based diet high in carbohydrates and fiber protects against and dramatically lowers the risk of the major killer diseases. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, refers to the diseases caused by the consumption of animal protein and fats as diseases of affluence because these are the diseases which people living in affluent countries are prone to get and die from. They are heart disease [and stroke], cancer (colon, lung, breast, brain, stomach, liver, esophageal, leukemia), and diabetes. According to statistics taken from the American Cancer Society, in an affluent country like America where animal protein and fat consumption is high, males have a significantly good high chance of getting cancer (47%), and females are not far behind (38%).

Poorer societies fall victim to what Campbell terms diseases of poverty, not because of diet, but because of other factors like the environment, prenatal care, malnutrition, and their healthcare system. These diseases are pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, peptic ulcer, digestive disease, pulmonary tuberculosis, parasitic disease, rheumatic heart disease, metabolic and endocrine disease other than diabetes, diseases of pregnancy, and many others.

People living in poorer countries consume little animal protein and live largely on a plant-based diet. But when these countries manage to climb the economic scale of achievement to enter the ranks of the affluent nations, they soon become subject to the diseases of affluent nations, and their citizens die accordingly. That is because their diets change from one that is based on plants to one that is based on animals.

It defies the imagination that our healthcare organizations and medical researchers have not eagerly welcomed these discoveries about animal protein that could save so many lives. On the contrary, they resist learning about them, and, in some cases, as we shall see, do their best to discredit the research. Yet scientists have consistently made and continue to make the same kinds of observations.

In 1981, world-renowned epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll, working with Richard Peto, completed studies showing that approximately 30 percent of cancer is diet related, second only to smoking as a principal cause. (Peto would later become a member of Campbells China team.)

A University of Oxford Vegetarian Study conducted between 1980 and 1984 comparing 6000 vegetarians and 5000 non-vegetarians with cross-sectional vegan analysis showed that vegans had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels with intermediate values for the vegetarians. [The diet of vegetarians may include some animal products. Vegans consume no animal products.] The non-meat eaters also had a lower mortality rate for heart disease and cancer, with a higher death rate from heart disease associated with total animal fat, saturated animal fat, and dietary cholesterol. A fourteen year study completed in 1988 of 34,000 Seventh-Day Adventists in California against other Californians showed that the people who avoided meat, fish, and poultry had a far lower incidence of prostate, ovarian, and colon cancer than meat-eaters. An 11 year study done in Germany that was finished in 1992 reported that 1,904 vegetarians and persons leading a healthy life style had less cancer than half of the population, with less ischemic heart disease for strict vegetarians who avoided meat. (Ischemic refers to a blockage, stoppage, or constriction of a blood vessel leading to decreased blood flow to bodily tissue or an organ.) In addition, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in assessing a 1994 study in the United Kingdom, showed that “cancer rates for vegetarians are 25 to 50 percent below population averages, even after controlling for smoking, body mass index, and socioeconomic status.”

The trend is unmistakable. A study in the British Medical Journal made in 1998 noted that about half of lung, bowel, breast, and prostate cancer deaths in the United Kingdom were virtually absent in much of the developing world, and that migrants from the developing world began to develop these diseases once they moved from low risk to high risk areas. The study concluded that these cancers should be largely preventable.

The link between animal protein and disease has been reported by a number of other sources as well, and the evidence continues to mount. A 2006 study at Harvard involving 135,000 people revealed that those who ate grilled skinless chicken had a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer than those who did not. Concerning breast cancer, a 2007 study of more than 35,000 women published in the British Journal of Medicine found that women who ate the most meat were more likely to develop the disease. And, in the same journal, an earlier study found that "up to 80% of bowel and breast cancer may be preventable by dietary change." Pancreatic cancer has also now been identified with the consumption of animal protein. In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers recently reported that people with the most animal fat in their diets had a higher risk for developing pancreatic cancer. According to the study, researchers observed positive associations between pancreatic cancer and intakes of total, saturated and monosaturated fat overall, particularly from red meat and dairy food sources. The researchers did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fat from plant food sources."

As significant as these kind of studies appear to be, such evidence seems to mean little to the American Cancer Society which states that it it is not possible to conclude at this time [2006]… that a vegetarian diet has any special benefits for the prevention of cancer.

This, in general, describes the attitude of mainstream healthcare thinking. When this position is examined closely, though, as it will be in this book, it cannot withstand careful scrutiny. It becomes further untenable in light of breakthroughs in disease prevention involving nutrition that the public has begun to pick up on and recognize as having real applicability to their personal lives. This includes the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., and Dr. Dean Ornish, whose work will be examined more closely in chapter 10. These physicians have proved conclusively that heart disease can be arrested and reversed through nutrition by means of a plant-based diet. Nutritional disease prevention and reversal therapy like this has also been successfully carried out for prostate cancer (Dr. Ornish), and diabetes. (See chapter 10.)

In the United States and Western societies, where most people die from diseases of affluence, they are already free from the tyranny of diseases of poverty. But they also have the opportunity to escape the tyranny of the diseases of affluence. As the facts now undeniably show, all they have to do is to stop consuming a high-fat, animal-based protein diet and change to one that is plant-based.


David Gerow Irving has written poetry, fairy tales, plays, short stories, essays, newspaper articles, magazine articles, and a novel (in MS), The Voice in the Stone, about the 14th century mystic, Meister Eckhart. Two other novels are in progress. One of these, In the Shadow of the Innocents, is about vivisection. David has been a vegan for over 25 years and is an animal rights activist. His articles have appeared on numerous blogs and journals. A Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia University and an accomplished musician and composer, his compositions are performed in the United States and Europe. David has lived in Boston, Vienna and Graz (Austria), San Francisco, and New York City. He was born a twin in Kankakee, Illinois and grew up in Bluffton, Indiana. David presently lives in Sidney, New York in the upper Catskill Region where he attends to and is attended by his three cats, Looney, Goldie Boy, and Lewie-Lew.

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