Counseling Sheet

Diet, Disease, and Behavior

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Despite widespread campaigns and untold millions of dollars poured into research to try to decrease the incidence of cancer, three things have been obvious for many years, cancer is increasing in our population at a rate of more than 1% per year, cancer is a very serious and common disease; and, something in our environment promotes cancer. While diets high in fats and animal products have been recognized as prime offenders in causing many cancers, now comes evidence that common American beverages are associated with the production of cancer in some organs - bladder, ovaries, pancreas, breast, and prostate.

Early in 1979, reports began to appear in medical journals linking the use of common beverages with lumpiness of the breasts. Coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate contain chemical substances called methylxanthines, which are capable of increasing cell growth in the breasts of susceptible women to cause fibrocystic breast disease. This very common disease is responsible for about 90% of the operations on the breast.

Methylxanthines work by stimulating a certain chemical within the cell that controls growth activity. This cellular chemical is called cyclic AMP. It is normally broken down by an enzyme after it has sent a brief growth signal into the cell. However, caffeine, theophylline from tea, and theobromine from chocolate block the destroying enzyme, jam the cyclic AMP signal in its "on" position, causing the target cells to continue to grow. It is estimated that over half of women with fibrocystic disease of the breast will have a complete regression of the cystic lumps in the breast within two months of stopping the use of coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. The prostate gland in men is very similar in cell composition to female breast. It appears to respond in the same way to the growth signal of cyclic AMP to cause benign prostatic hypertrophy.

Dr. John P. Minton, of Ohio State University in Columbus, performed the pioneer work in this area, and pointed out that women with fibrocystic disease have four times the normal risk of breast cancer. Dr. Minton reported more than five times as much cyclic AMP in malignant breast tissue as in healthy breasts, and three times as much as in fibrocystic lumps. Habitual overheating the breasts further encourages the development of breast disease. The two parts of the human body that normally remain cooler than other parts are the female breasts and the male scrotum. The scrotum is carried in a relaxed position in hot weather, allowing the testes to be separated from body heat, if the clothing is not restrictive. In young boys, if a testis does not descend properly from the abdomen into the scrotum, urologists will perform an operation to remove the testis, to reduce the likelihood of cancer in that testis. Overheating the female breasts, similarly, results in an increase in disease of the breast. Since breast cancer is four times more likely to occur in diseased breasts than in normal breasts, it is desirable not to overclothe the breasts, and to engage in vigorous exercise daily to promote circulation, induce proper sweating, and encourage cellular resistance to disease.

The types of food one eats are prominent on the list of things that cause a craving for alcoholic drinks. Several animal studies indicate that the taste for a ten percent alcohol solution is influenced by the diet fed the animal. In one laboratory, rats were fed a diet typical of many Americans. When the rats were given the choice of water or a ten percent alcohol solution, they chose to drink five times more alcohol solution than a paired group of rats fed a vegetarian control diet.

After stabilizing the diet for ten weeks, the rats on the popular U.S. diet were consuming an average of over 40 ml of 10% alcohol per 100 gm body weight per week. They were switched to a vegetarian diet. Within one week, the alcohol consumption had decreased to less than five ml, instead of 40 ml as previously. In three weeks, the rats had almost completely stopped drinking alcohol. Then the popular U.S. diet was resumed. Within four weeks, they were back up to 40 ml. On certain diets, the alcohol consumption could be doubled by simply adding coffee and quadrupled when coffee, sugar, and spices were added. Below is a typical study:

Group 1: used alcohol as 52% of fluids

Diet: Sweet rolls, apple pie, doughnuts, green beans, hot dog, chopped salad, mustard, chocolate cake, pickle relish, candy bar, spaghetti and meat balls, cookies, coffee, coke, French bread, and eleven common spices

Group 2: used alcohol as 18% of fluids

Diet: Standard commercial laboratory chow

Group 3: used alcohol as 2.2% of fluids

Diet: Vegetarian diet

Because of the dulling effect on brain cells of toxic chemicals resulting from fermentation (incomplete digestion), any practice that increases the buildup of these toxins in the blood will promote poor memory, including eating between meals or within several hours of going to bed as incomplete breakdown of foods is much more likely to occur during the slower digestion of the evening, especially during sleep. A study done in Australia and reported at the World Cancer Congress in April, 1994, at Sydney, Australia, showed that limiting eating to 6 hours a day, and fasting for the other 18 hours, could help prevent cancer. During the 18-hour fasting period there is an increase in the body's corticosteroid levels which have an anti-inflammatory effect, protecting against cancer, asthma, allergies, arthritis, and probably other inflammatory types of diseases.

Do not drink generously of beverages or liquid foods at meals as the liquid portion of the meal must be absorbed before digestion of the solid parts begins. The delay leads to toxic fermentation. Recipes that produce complex mixtures of foods are more likely to initiate fermentation than single foods prepared simply.

The variety of foods one uses at one meal should be small. Especially, one should avoid combinations such as milk, sugar, and eggs, which are much more likely to ferment when combined than when used separately. Fruit-vegetable mixtures, for the same reasons, are also capable of dulling the mind. Eat fruits at one meal, and vegetables at the next. One should never overeat, as overeating promotes toxic fermentation, and drains the body of electrical energy in the attempt to process a large mass of undigested food. Even nontoxic food chemicals can make unions in the blood which have a deleterious effect on the functioning of nerves.

To prevent overeating, get up from the table knowing that you could comfortably still eat more. Satisfy only hunger, not appetite. Since disease, disability, and early death are much less when food intake is low, maintain the lowest caloric intake at which your weight is stable and your strength is still good. People have lived successfully following this rule for many centuries.

The digestive tract prepares itself to receive a meal. Beginning with the salivary glands, the entire digestive tract prepares the digestive juices to be of good strength and adequate in quantity. This preparation requires a tremendous expenditure of chemical and physical energy on the part of the body. If a regular mealtime pattern has been developed, the preparation for meals will be made precisely on time. If the meal is delayed, or is more than an hour early, the preparation for digestion will be out of synchrony with the meals, causing expenditure of energy to be lost, which weakens the body, makes it more susceptible to infections, and promotes incomplete digestion of food. Eating between meals, even nibbling a few peanuts, causes stagnation of food in the stomach.

In order to avoid stomach and bowel disease, the stomach needs to finish its work in 3-1/2 to 4 hours after the meal and rest for an hour or two while getting recharged for the next meal; therefore, one should allow 5 or more hours from the end of one meal to the beginning of the next, with nothing eaten between.

If people eat between meals, they are less likely to obtain a balanced diet, according to studies that have been done among university students. The more frequent the between-meal snacking, the greater the development of cavities. The number of cavities per year can be predicted with fair accuracy by counting the number of snacks taken each day. Both overweight and underweight are more common in snackers. Allergies are more common among those who snack between meals.

If a third meal is taken at all, it should be light and early, and described as supper. A light meal would be equivalent to a piece of bread and a small dish of fruit. One should not go to bed with undigested food in the stomach. Heavy foods empty slowly from the stomach, fats and salt being the slowest. Other deleterious practices are eating too fast, large bites, and poor chewing. Still others are the use of hot or irritating spices, vinegar, and other fermented foods including cheese.

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