Is There a Cancer Conspiracy?

Does Corporate America Secretly Want You to be Sick?

Sounds pretty Orwellian right? I'll admit I've been reading manifold dystopian novels lately, but that isn't the only reason a cancer conspiracy, or really an overall keep-people-sick conspiracy, is beginning to sound plausible to me.

When you are diagnosed with a disease, one of the first things you go looking for is a cause. "Why me?" you wonder. In my case, the doctors explained it away as genetics (I have a strong family history of thyroid cancer). But before they knew about my family history, they basically shrugged their shoulders. Like it doesn't matter what the cause is as long as there is a treatment. Why prevent what can be fixed via expensive medical procedures, most of which are not covered by insurance?

But it is human nature to seek answers, and if you can't blame your genes, you usually blame yourself. Why didn't I eat more superfoods? Why did I microwave so many plastic dinners? Why didn't I exercise more? After all, the media tells us that these are the quick fixes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, etc., so why not cancer? You may already be thinking these things, but if someone else dares to suggest that your bad eating caused your cancer, you want to slap them.

This is a dangerous road to go down. No one deserves cancer. And everything we consume, down to our drinking water, has a certain level of carcinogens in it. So who is to say whether that strawberry poptart was the last straw, the thing that told your body it couldn't win the fight?

HOWEVER, what if we really are slowly poisoning ourselves? What if poptarts (or candy bars or hamburgers or cheese fries, etc.) are not just "junk food," but food filled with addictive chemicals and cancer-causing animal proteins and dairy?

The Forks Over Knives Theory

This is the basic thesis of the Forks Over Knives lifestyle changing documentary/ diet program. The idea that the foods we eat are not just making us overweight, but killing us with terrible debilitating diseases that are reversible, is what makes it different from the usual Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins dieting phenomenons.

A lot of people see FOK as an extreme lifestyle. After all, it is essentially veganism. You are allowed very little animal protein or dairy (5% max). When my mom told me she would be giving up meat and dairy, my reaction was basically "Yeah right, crazy-pants."

I have had a strangely high number of vegetarian friends and roommates in my life and have never been tempted to give up meat myself. I don't consume a lot of fatty red meats, but I do eat a LOT of fish and chicken, which are HEALTHY, right? Hmmm..... Now I'm not so sure. Yes I believe people are naturally omnivorous. But it seems to me that even once-healthy and natural foods are no longer safe due to toxins, hormones, steroids and preservatives.

Here are the basic arguments of FOK:
  1. The foods we eat, especially animal-based and processed foods (ABAP), are directly causing most, if not all, degenerative diseases.
  2. These same diseases can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting ABAP foods and turning to a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).
  3. The ideas that we need meat for protein and dairy for calcium are capitalist lies promoted by corrupt corporations who want us to buy their products. 
  4. Food and health care corporations actually benefit from keeping us sick and have no incentive to promote healthy eating among citizens (globally). 
  5. While genetics predisposes individuals to diseases (like me), whether the disease actually manifests or not depends largely on that person's diet. Hmmm.....
Their evidence includes:
  1. The research of Dr. Campbell (nutritional scientist), who studied children in the Phillipines and found that those eating animal proteins got liver cancer while those who ate WFPB did not. 
  2. The research of Dr. Esselstyn (breast cancer surgeon) who also conducted studies where WFPB patients did not get the same cancers as ABAP patients.
  3. The combined efforts of these doctors, who now use and promote the use of WFPB diet as medicine for degenerative diseases. 
  4.  Dr. Campbell's The China Study, a twenty-year survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan that details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  5. A half-dozen "reality patients" who are filmed while on the WFPB diet, and who lose weight, reverse diseases and eliminate medications.
  6. Other studies mentioned in the film and an impressive list of celebrity/ expert advocates of the diet.
Now if you are like me, you are probably thinking something along the lines of NO WAY am I going to give up ice cream and sloppy joes for the rest of my life. Not even if I wanted to.

The typical carnivorous counterarguments to FOK and other veggie plans are:
  1. Humans are naturally omnivorous (we have those nice shiny canines).
  2. Humans need meat and dairy (why? because the government says so).
  3. Everything we consume is carcinogenic (we're doomed anyway). 
  4. Vegans are scary-thin skeletons who shove scary-gross pamphlets in my face (ack!).
  5. Meat lover's pizza (yum).
Etc. And then there are whole lists of counter-counterarguments from veggies about world hunger, pesticides, antibiotics, natural resources, etc. 

When in Doubt, Cut Back on the Processed Foods

I am not entirely sold on FOK yet. But the notion of "consumercide" makes sense to me. If executives of Nestle and McDonalds and Kraft have infiltrated the boards that determine American health standards (the USDA, the FDA, the health pyramid, etc.), then of course we are going to be manipulated into making unhealthy food choices. We already are manipulated by commercials, deceptive packaging, and misleading labels like "Fat Free" and "Sugar-Free." Have you ever noticed those magazines where the front cover says "Lose 25 pounds!" AND has a picture of a new chocolate cake recipe on the front cover?!

There is no doubt in my mind that processed foods are bad for you. There is no doubt in my mind that animal protein and dairy are bad for you in excessive amounts, and that the processes used to raise and feed and kill these animals are suspect, if not inhumane and unsafe. There is also very little doubt in my mind that if I attempt to completely eliminate two food groups from my diet, for LIFE, I will fail.

However, I have signed on to do a 6 week trial FOK diet with my mom when she gets back from California. Already, I am a bit deterred by the strange, difficult-to-find ingredients in the FOK recipe book. It took me two hours to shop at Walmart, and I never did find brown rice syrup or tahini (which I now know is an Indian herb, NOT sold at Walmart).

This is not going to be easy. But, if I can truly eat my way to better health, garner more energy, lose weight and not have to worry about cancer recurrences, skipping that once-a-month burger might actually be worth it....

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