What are the Diet and Nutritional Risk Factors in Disease?
A Vegan Health Article from All-Creatures.org

These vegan health articles are presented to assist you in taking a pro-active part in your own health.

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From Keith Nemec, M.D.

The National Academy of Science estimates that nutritional factors account for up to 60 percent of the cases of cancer; some sources say as high as 80 percent. Cancers of the colon, rectum, kidney, prostate, uterus, and breast are linked with the consumption of fat and protein, especially meat and animal fat. In the book, Healing Nutrients, by Dr. Patrick Quillin, it is stated: “It has now been well accepted that proper nutrition could prevent 50-90% of all cancer.” Other sources say 90% of all cancer is environmentally caused and thus preventable. These environmental factors can be broken down into: 1) diet (35-60%); 2) tobacco (30%); 3) alcohol (3%); 4) radiation and sunlight exposure (3%); 5) pollution of air and water (1-5%); 6) medications (2%). Of these, nutrition, or diet, is the most important cause.

It is amazingly good news that up to 90% of all cancer can be controlled by taking charge of our lives. It is our own responsibility to make choices in life that positively affect us. I am glad that my choices can prevent up to 90% of cancer that might otherwise destroy me.


Typical animal fat and even some vegetable fat are heavy stressors on health. Dr. John McDougall states in his book The McDougall Plan, “Of all the macronutrients in a rich diet, excess fat causes the greatest burden on the body. Eventually, the body fails to compensate from this burden, and disease results. After we eat a meal high in any type of fat, our blood cells actually stick together in clumps that plug the blood vessels.” This results in decreased circulation of oxygen (up to 25% for 4-6 hours), vital nutrients and disease-fighting white blood cells, along with increased blood pressure and chances of heart attack and stroke.

Countries with a higher intake of animal fat have a greater incidence of breast cancer. Japanese women who eat meat daily have a risk of breast cancer 85 times higher than those who rarely or never eat meat. The Surgeon General’s report on Nutrition and Health stated: “Indeed, a comparison of populations indicates that death rates for cancers of the breast, colon and prostate are directly proportionate to the estimated dietary fat intakes.”

How else does fat affect the body? Higher fat diets increase estrogen levels (female sex hormones) in the blood, which in turn increases the growth of breast tumors. Vegetarian women have much lower estrogen levels than non-vegetarians, which greatly reduces their cancer risk. Studies have shown, though, that when a strict vegetarian adds eggs and cheese to his/her diet, the cancer risk becomes almost the same as that of a meat eater. How little fat should we have in order to avoid these risks? The National Cancer Institute has recommended no more than 30% of our total caloric intake be from fat. However, studies of the Japanese in the 1950s showed that cancer rates were very low when fat intake was limited to about seven percent of total calories. Dr. McDougall recommends 10% calories from fat, all from vegetable sources.

It is important to remember that we need fat — the good fat which vegetable sources like flax seeds, olives, safflower, sunflower, and sesame seeds can provide. Without the essential fatty acids that these provide, many systems of the body no longer function properly, especially the nervous system which is coated with myelin sheaths, which need fatty acids. Diets too low in essential fatty acids have been linked to various diseases of the nervous system, especially multiple sclerosis. So remember, you need some of the right kind of fat every day.

Protein risk

Cells need protein to grow and maintain the body’s health, but excessive protein has a reverse effect. When we eat too much protein, the excess has to be broken down by the liver and excreted through the kidneys as urea (This is very stressful to the kidneys potentially causing damage to the microtubules). Urea tends to pull more water out of your body acting as a diuretic, which causes the kidneys to excrete not only more water but more minerals, especially calcium. So not only does a higher intake of protein cause kidney disease but also osteoporosis. This calcium loss is also attributed to the calcium being pulled out of the bones to buffer (because of its alkalinity) the acid imbalance that the protein digestion leaves. A study of the African Bantus, who eat a low protein (47 grams/day) and low calcium (400 milligrams) diet, revealed that they are essentially free of osteoporosis. Interestingly, the native Eskimos, who consume a fish-laden diet very high in protein (250-400 grams/day) and calcium (2,000 milligrams), have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.”

The high protein diets of most Americans, containing over 100 grams per day, causes calcium to be lost from the bone, and it ends up in the urinary tract as kidney stones. An interesting fact is that protein consumed in excess of our needs causes destruction of kidney tissue and progressive deterioration of kidney function. By the eighth decade of life, people of affluent societies commonly lose 75% of their kidney function.


In the United States, farmers use 845 million pounds of the nearly 3 billion pounds of active pesticide ingredients every year, at a cost of about $5 billion.

Pesticides pose a wide range of dangers, from cancer to birth defects, from damage to the nervous system to immune system deficiencies. In 1990, the World Health Organization estimated 3 million severe pesticide poisonings worldwide, 220,000 of which resulted in death. Some of the more recent studies estimate up to 25 million cases annually. These cases only include the ones that are obvious poisonings and does not consider all the symptoms that may not be thought to be related to pesticides, like general malaise (ill feeling), headaches, suppression of the immune system causing frequent illness, lack of energy, and other toxic-related symptoms.

In a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1992, some unsettling news was discovered. In this study of pesticide residue in produce, the USDA revealed underlying potential health risks in the nation’s produce supply. The reports findings were that even after washing and peeling fruits and vegetables collected in 1992, pesticide residue was found on about 60% of the 5,750 samples. Also stated in the report: Many samples contained multiple residues, with as many as eight found in one sample. Further facts revealed that 25 different pesticides were found in the apples sampled, 21 of which are either carcinogenic, neurotoxins (toxic to the nervous system) and/or toxic to the endocrine system. How can this be allowed? The answer was found when the food industry, which joined forces with the chemical industry on the pesticide issues, boasted that less than 2% of the washed, peeled, and cored samples violated current EPA standards. The problem is that the alleged “safety” provides a false security, because the standards themselves are not necessarily safe.


Many chemicals are added to our foods to preserve the food and extend its shelf life, or to enhance flavor, thicken, emulsify (keep oil and water mixed together), pickle, or color. These are all chemicals that are not natural to the body. They have to be broken down by the liver and increase the toxic load and eventual buildup of toxins in the body. Your white blood cells have to remove them from your bloodstream by digesting them. This poses a major health threat, because if your white blood cells are wasting energy and effort eating your dinner or the preservatives and additives in your dinner, they cannot fight bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and cancer. This opens your body up to all kinds of diseases, especially cancer formation. Here are a few to give you an idea of their effect on your health.


This additive is used to preserve food containing oil; it slows rancidity. In 1982 it was found to induce tumors in the stomach of rats. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, considers BHA to be possibly carcinogenic to humans, and the State of California has listed it as a carcinogen.


This preservative is similar to BHA. Reports also show increased incidence of tumors with its use.

Artificial colorings

Synthetic food dyes have long been suspected of being a potential health hazard. Red Dye No. 3 has been banned for some purposes because it caused thyroid tumors in male rats. Yellow No. 5 is associated with allergic reactions in some people including hives, running or stuffy noses, and, occasionally, severe breathing difficulties. The Federal Drug Administration has estimated that between 47,000 and 94,000 Americans are sensitive to Yellow No. 5.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)

Aspartame is dangerous to phenylketonurics (PKU), or people who don’t metabolize phenylalanine (which is in aspartame). High levels of this amino acid can lead to mental retardation.

Other studies have shown other possible effects from aspartame use. They include altered brain function, behavior changes, dizziness, headaches, epileptic-like seizures, and menstrual problems. Even more alarming is the study that showed an increased risk of brain tumors.

Nitrites and nitrates

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are used to preserve meat and keep its red color. Nitrates are not harmful until they are converted into nitrites in the body; then the nitrites combine with another compound in the body called secondary amines to form nitrosamines, extremely potent cancer-causing chemicals. Philip Hartman, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University has stated that nitrites have long been a significant cause of stomach cancer.

Additives and hyperactivity

In 1989, a study looked at children’s behavior after making several dietary changes. The study involved 24 hyperactive boys between the ages of 31⁄2 and six. All had sleep problems or physical symptoms such as stuffy noses or stomachaches. In the study, the children were fed a vitamin-rich diet including special food that was low in sugar, and food devoid of colorings, flavorings, MSG, caffeine, preservatives, chocolate, dairy products, and other substances that parents said might affect their child. After four weeks on the diet, 10 of the boys averaged a 45% improvement in behavior, and more than half showed some improvement.


Hormones are very definitely linked to an increase in cancer, especially of the breast. As stated earlier, high fat-diets increase the amount of estrogen that the body secretes, which in turn promotes growth of tumor tissue especially in the breast. Hormones are entering our bodies at alarmingly high rates. Now beef and chicken and all dairy products contain BGH — or synthetic bovine growth hormone. This is given to increase the weight and milk production of these animals. But, once again, when we ingest these hormones through our food supply, our risk of getting cancer increases. Growth hormones make cells grow faster and this includes cancer cells which all people have in their bodies.

Have you ever noticed how the size of an average professional football player in the last 50 years has increased by at least 50 pounds? When we eat food containing growth hormones, we are going to grow, but this is endangering the normal hormonal balance of the body. If a man consistently takes testosterone to become more muscular or stronger, eventually his own body stops producing the hormone. The same is true with thyroid hormone and most others. God made our bodies to function perfectly in homeostasis, with nothing added. Why eat foods or consume drinks that increase your cancer risk and throw your body out of balance?


Caffeine is a stimulant drug and is found in tea, coffee, and cocoa. It increases stomach acid secretion and can raise blood pressure. It also can cause nervousness, sleep problems, nausea, and restlessness. Caffeine completely throws off the blood sugar balance and keeps the body from healing because it is kept in a constant state of stress and tension similarly to always running away from a lion. You cannot rest and heal if you are always running.

Caffeine can interfere with reproduction and cause birth defects. In animals, such defects as cleft palate, missing fingers and toes, skull malformation, and delayed bone growth increase when they consumed amounts of caffeine equaling that found in three cans of pop per day. Caffeine also can aggravate fibrocystic disease of the breast in women. There has been some correlation to the link between bladder cancer and caffeine intake. Caffeine also acts as a diruetic, robbing the body of its needed water supply.


Alcohol has long been known for its damaging affects on the liver. All natural therapists agree that if the liver is not functioning properly, you will get very sick. Toxic load buildup is a great irritation on the system as a whole, as well as on the cellular level. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or actual death and scarring of the liver tissue. This irreversible damage leads to a premature death. It was the ninth leading cause of death in the United States in 1990.

You will be surprised to know how much alcohol is too much. According to Nan Kathryn Fuchs, Ph.D., a healthy liver can handle only two to three teaspoons of alcohol per hour; it takes as long as 24 hours to eliminate the alcohol and the byproducts from just one drink.45 One-third of all Americans drink, and 10 million are alcoholics.

Some of the effects of alcohol, besides liver problems, are as follows:

• Alcohol decreases the heart’s work capacity. According to Nathan Pritikin, “Just two cocktails will cut it about 20% for about 24 hours. If you are a two-drink-a-day person, you have already deprived yourself of 1⁄5 of your heart.

• Dr. Patrick Quillin reported in a study that the rate of strokes in drinkers is double that of non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers have more than five times the stroke risk of non-drinkers.

• Excessive alcohol consumption raises blood pressure.

• Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing a variety of cancers, including cancers of the throat, mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, breast, lung, rectum, pancreas, head, neck, and liver.

• Excessive alcohol consumption results in loss of white blood cells (which fight bacteria , viruses, fungi, and cancerous cells).

• Excessive alcohol consumption depletes our bodies of Vitamins C and A, folic acid, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

• Excessive alcohol consumption causes decreased absorption of calcium and causes calcium to be leached from our bones. Heavy drinkers are likely candidates to develop osteoporosis.

Excerpt taken from the book Total Health = Wholeness: A Body, Mind and Spirit Manual by Dr. Keith and Laurie Nemec. For more information go to Total Health Institute http://www.totalhealthinstitute.com.

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All-Creatures.org Health Position and Disclaimer

We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.