Breast cancer was a rare disease in 1900. Today, by some estimates, one in every eight women will contract breast cancer, many during their childbearing years. The literature on breast cancer shows that the following nutrients are considered protecti
Except for vitamin C and carotene, all of these are exclusively from animal foods, particularly butter and fats from animals allowed to graze.
Virtually every popular book dealing with women’s health contains fundamental misinformation on vitamin A, recommending carotene from plant sources instead. Typical of the confusion is this statement from a book on endometriosis:
“Vitamin A taken too enthusiastically can be toxic, since it is stored in the liver. Betacarotene, however, is not converted into vitamin A unless the body requires it, and you cannot suffer from toxic levels of it.”
Actually, natural vitamin A from cod liver oil and other animal sources is not toxic except in very large amounts. The liver is exquisitely designed to store vitamin A so that this nutrient is available in times of scarcity.
On the other hand, many conditions, such as low thyroid function, prevent conversion of betacarotene into true vitamin A, and even individuals who convert betacarotene easily cannot obtain an optimal amount from plant foods. Finally, both synthetic vitamin A and synthenic betacarotene can be toxic. Yet, books on women’s health usually recommend supplements containing the synthetic forms.
Animal based nutrients promote breast health in many ways. In particular, they support both thyroid and adrenal function. Low cortisone salivary levels are associated with low survival rates in breast cancer patients (J Nat Cancer Inst, 2000; 92: 994-1000). Corticosteroid hormones are secreted by the adrenal glands and help the body deal with stress. Like sex hormones, they are made from cholesterol.
Breast cancer has a strong association with low levels of vitamin D and lack of sunlight (Ann NY Acad Sci, 1999; 889: 107-19).
Although women with breast cancer often develop a deep fear of dietary fats, a study by Walter Willet of Harvard found no correlation between fat intake and breast cancer (JAMA, 1992; 268: 2037-44). In other words, women on low fat diets had just as much breast cancer as women on high fat diets.
Popular writers point to other studies showing a correlation between fat consumption and breast cancer. The problem with such studies is that all fats are lumped together when, in fact, some fats can cause breast cancer while others are protective.
Trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have been positively associated with cancers of organs rich in fat tissues, such as the breast and prostate gland (Enig MG, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, Silver Spring, MD: Enig Associates: 97-8).
Yet, when we checked the indices of all the popular books on breast cancer in one bookstore, we found not one entry for trans fatty acids. These altered fats are found in almost all processed foods, particularly food consumed by vegetarians who want to avoid cholesterol and saturated fat. Processed liquid vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids have also been associated with increased rates of breast cancer (Prog Lipid Res, 1997; 35: 409-57).
The diets of healthy traditional peoples, including Americans at the turn of the century, did not contain these factory produced oils.
Conjugated linoleic acid, on the other hand, has been shown to protect against breast cancer (J Dairy Sci, 1999; 82: 1339-49). It is found in butterfat, beef fat and lamb fat of grass fed animals. Unfortunately, most of the butter in Western countries comes from cows fed only dry feed.
Possibly the biggest scam in the guise of women’s health is the promotion of soy foods rich in plant based oestrogens such as genistein for prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
Women are not being told that an exhaustive report by the UK’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries showed that the phytoestrogens in soy have no protective effect (IEH Assessment on Phytoestrogens in the Human Diet, Final Report to MAFF, November 1997) or that Mark Messina, author of a popular book on soy foods, now admits that soy does not protect adult women from breast cancer. In fact, in 1997, researchers found that dietary genistein stimulated breast cells to enter the cell cycle, a condition that presages malignancy (Cancer Epidemiol Biol Prevent, 1996; 5: 785-94). The same books that recommend calcium, zinc and magnesium as protection against breast cancer do not mention that soy blocks absorption of calcium, zinc and magnesium
(J Am Diet Assoc, 1988; 88: 1562-6). Soy is also a known goitrogen it depresses thyroid function (Nippon Naibump Gakkai Zasshi, 1991; 767: 622-9).
Women diagnosed with breast cancer face difficult choices for treatment. Whatever route is chosen whether orthodox or alternative the right diet will go a long way to increasing the chances of long term survival and improving quality of life. That means a diet rich in protein and fat from grass fed animals and from which all processed foods, including all soy foods, are excluded.
!ASally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD
Sally Fallon is editor of Wise Traditions, the newsletter of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Mary Enig is its scientific editor.