Protein and Cancer

What would cross your mind if someone said to you that there is evidence suggesting a linkage between the formation of cancer and the amount of protein you consume. Would you get scared? Would protein suddenly disappear from your diet? Would you believe it? For the majority of our lives, most of us have been told that it is necessary to consume ample amounts of protein. While protein is necessary in maintaining fine fettle, there is research that suggests that different types of proteins have different effects on the body, claiming that there are such things as good proteins, and bad proteins.

The human body is composed of various proteins that carry out various functions. According to WebMD, proteins make up hair, skin and nails. Proteins are used to make enzymes, hormones, body chemicals and are also building blocks for bones, muscles and blood. Essentially, proteins are necessary for life.

However, have you ever considered how much protein you consume in one day? Have you ever though about what kinds of protein you are consuming? Do you presume that the types of proteins you consume have anything to do with your over well-being? Is there such thing as too much protein? Could the quantity and quality of protein you consume inevitably promote a certain disease in your body; a certain type of cancer perhaps?

Unfortunately friends, according to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, evidence derived from multiple studies suggest that there is a link between protein consumption and the development of cancer. He conveys this information to the public in The China Study. 

To truly understand Dr. Campbell’s research, you must first understand the stages of cancer development. It’s not like you wake up one morning and have a full blown tumor, there are several different stages in cancer development.

Stage 1 Initiation: Various forms of cancer are caused by a variety of contrasting factors such as genetics or high exposure to carcinogens. The research Dr. Campbell conducted had to do more-so with carcinogens than it did with genetics, so I’m going to focus on explaining carcinogens. Carcinogens are toxins that are present in everyday life such as BPA in plastic. While these toxins may ultimately cause tumor formation, they must first be turned on or activated by an enzyme in your cell, which is a process that is quite uncommon. We are exposed to so many different toxins on a day to day basis, it’s a good thing that our bodies work this way because if they didn’t, a lot more of us would develop cancer at a rapid rate. Anyway, once the toxin is activated in our cells, it is able to bind to DNA. Once it binds, it damages the DNA and when these cells are replicated, they replicate with the same damaged DNA. This means that you now have more “bad” cells, which continue to divide and divide until you have a cluster of cancerous cells.  Below is a diagram straight from The China Study explaining cancer initiation. The AF or alfatoxin represents the toxin or carcinogen Dr. Campbell used in his experiments.  screenshot2012-03-11at1-38-55pm

When Dr. Campbell initially began his work, he wanted to discover if the amount of protein consumed had an effect on cancer initiation. He studied the effects protein had on alfatoxin, which is a carcinogen that effects liver cancer. He did his research using mice. One group of mice was fed 5% protein and the other group was fed 20% protein and what he found was astonishing. He found that low protein(5%) consumption led to a 76% decrease in the alfatoxin enzyme activity, less alfatoxin entered the cell, less alfatoxin bound to DNA, and cells multiplied more slowly! In other words, the enzyme which would normally allow alfatoxin to bind to the DNA in cells was 76% less efficient! Hello people!! This decrease in protein consumption suggests that consuming less protein stops cancer initiation significantly.

I know, I know. What I just told you only refers to cancer initiation. So your next question might be something like, what if you already have cancer? Could the amount of protein you consume have anything to do with tumor development once cancer is already initiated? The answer, according to Dr. Campbell is yes. Before I tell you how, let’s first understand stage two of cancer; promotion.

Stage 2: Promotion: Promotion is essentially the development of a tumor. This process can take up to several years to occur in humans. Right after initiation, microscopic cell clusters form on the outside of the cell. These little cells are known as foci, and they will eventually become tumor cells. In order for a tumor to grow, the cancerous cells need promoters. Promoters are dietary factors that essentially promote growth. There are also things known as anti-promoters that prevent the cell from growing. If you have more promoters than anti-promoters you have cancer. If the proper needs of a cancer cell are not met, they will not grow. So let’s think of some promoters. What do you think cancer likes? Things like junk food, cigarettes, and chemicals? You got it! However, if you give cancer cells whole grains, fruits, veggies, vitamins and minerals, they will not grow because these are considered anti-promoters.

So Dr. Campbell wanted to know if the amount of protein consumed during promotion had anything to do with tumor growth, or foci formation (since the foci are the tiny little cells that will eventually become the tumor. Remember?) Once again he fed one group of mice 5% protein and one group 20% protein and he found that foci development was three times higher in the mice that consumed 20% protein! He then thought, okay, well what if one group of mice is exposed to more alfatoxin than another group? Surely that must have something to do with foci development right? WRONG. He dosed one group of mice with a high amount of alfatoxin and fed them 5% protein. He dosed the other group of mice with low alfatoxin and fed them 20% protein. Guess which group saw a larger increase in foci development? The group that was dosed with lower alfatoxin, but fed 20% protein saw an increase in foci development nine times that of the other group. NINE TIMES! Do you know what this means people?! This insinuates that foci development is entirely dependent on how much protein is consumed! Is anyone as excited about this as I am?

There you have it, evidence that suggests that high levels of protein lead to cancer initiation and development. Surely it cannot be all protein though right? Right! Dr. Campbell used casein in his experiments. For those of you who are unfamiliar with casein, casein is protein derived from milk. It comes from cows. It is animal protein. Dr. Campbell conducted the same studies using gluten (the protein from plants) and found that there was only a 1% increase in foci development, and that gluten did not promote cancer initiation what-so-ever. In certain cases, he found that plant protein stopped the growth of tumors, and even reversed the growth of tumors! (ARE YOU SERIOUS?!)

Essentially, the take away message from all of this is: animal protein, especially in high amounts is suggested to be carcinogenic, while plant protein is not. Animal protein = bad. Plant protein = good. Any questions?

Actually, I have a rhetorical question for all of you; a take-away message if you will. If this is so abundantly clear, why don’t more people know about this? Why is this not common knowledge? Why is this not taught in schools? I mean after-all, it was scientifically proven, wasn’t it? It isn’t just some theory. A large group of people, especially those in the scientific community must know about this right? This study wasn’t published yesterday either, it was published in 2006. That’s ten years ago! And for all of you science-y people out there who are answering this question saying “Well, things in science need to constantly be tested in order to be accepted as fact.” I know. However, there is no substantial evidence that refutes these findings. In fact, the majority of research conducted after these findings that had to do with animal protein support this evidence, and people still don’t know about it. What about people that are in charge of discovering cancer treatments? Do they know? Does the government know? They must, right? They funded the research didn’t they? Do the people in charge of regulating the school food system know? If they do, why are they pushing milk on students when the main protein in milk is casein? Is there more to all of this than we think?




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