Disclaimer: if you or someone you know is suffering from serious illness, please note I am not medically qualified ; also that significant lifestyle changes should not be made on the basis of any information in this article without consulting a health professional. Please note that some conventional medical practitioners will view some of the contents of this article, and even non-conventional cancer treatment in general as 'quackery', so do visit your MD/GP and consider their recommendations. Also please remember that only some cancers have been linked to diet. If you are interested in finding out more about 'natural healing' treatment centres (some of which combine conventional medical treatment with non-conventional treatments), please contact me via the main website at http://www.rawforlife.co.uk/.
The 'fruit warners' say that high-fruit diets (typically consisting of lots of sweet fruit, lots of greens, other vegetables and a little fat eg in the form of avocados, nuts and seeds) are dangerous.
So many are the ailments attributed to fruit, that I've chosen here to focus on the two biggies. First, the one that seems almost designed to wipe that smile off the happy little raw fruitie's face - the big C! Second, diabetes/'sugar issues', for, as we all know, fruit contains (crucifix and garlic at the ready!)...sugar!
But, although I'm concerned about the effect of these warnings on healthy raw fooders, it will be necessary to discuss fruit with regard to unhealthy people, as this, it seems to me, is where some of the scariest statements about fruit have emanated from.
So, let's grab the durian by the spikes and start with...
Is it dangerous for cancer patients to eat lots of fruit?
There are many case studies to suggest that the raw food diet, especially when implemented following fasting, can, as one of a range of natural 'treatments' and/or lifestyle changes, help the body heal itself of many tumours.
However, when we hear reports of those who claim to have healed cancer through fasting and diet alone, these are often cases where the cancer had not reached a life-threatening stage. Where tumours are advanced, and negatively affecting the work of vital organs, 'unnatural' treatments may be needed to remove (and quickly!) what a long period of unnatural living has created, and it would be irresponsible of me not to suggest that those with tumours should give conventional medical treatments consideration along with any other. But, once the tumour has gone (through whatever means) a change of lifestyle must be implemented, that is, conditions for health established.
The Hippocrates Health Institute, Florida, which includes amongst its non conventional treatments a raw food diet, has had considerable success with cancer sufferers. One reason would be that the raw vegan diet that is part of the treatment there excludes the foods commonly linked with illness, assisting rather than stymieing the attempts of the body to heal. It allows the body to undertake some serious house-cleaning, then rebuilding.
The raw vegan diet advocated by Hippocrates includes 'greens', wheatgrass, sprouts, nuts and seeds, but is low in fruit; Hippocrates teachers believe that a high-fruit diet is not suitable for people with cancer.
Others who have experienced success with the raw vegan diet as part of a range of treatments for cancer, such as Thomas Lodi at The Oasis of Healing Center also feel that fruit should be restricted, at least in the short term, to those fruits relatively low on the glycaemic index (GI), such as green apples and berries. (Note, however, that pears, cherries, peaches and bananas are also 'low GI'. Whilst watermelon is 'high', the 'high GI' league tends to be dominated by cooked processed foods such as breakfast cereals, white rice and white bread).
But interestingly, there are accounts of people claiming to have healed their cancer on high-fruit diets. Please note - 'claim'. For example, early this century, naturopath Johanna Brandt from South Africa described how her stomach cancer went whilst on a mono-diet of grapes. This was poo-pooed by doctors at the time, but the efficacy of a temporary mono-diet (where only one food is consumed) is recognised by many experts in natural health today, and of course in recent years scientists have come to recognise the role of antioxidants in grapes and other fresh fruits and vegetables in preventing and fighting disease.
The medical doctor Kristine Nolfi ('Raw Food Treatment of Cancer') claims to have healed herself of breast cancer with 'a meal of fruit in the morning, and in the evening, and a meal of vegetables at noon'. Without knowing quantities, this sounds like a diet of at least half fruit (by calories). More recently, Belgian naturopathic doctor, Jan Fries, (the 'Dries Diet') has had considerable success with over 300 cancer patients following a high-fruit diet.
So some are claiming that their bodies have healed themselves on a high-fruit (or even all fruit) diet whilst others are warning against 'high fruit' for those with cancer. How can we reconcile such seemingly conflicting opinions?
The answer could lie in the typical diet of the cancer sufferer...
Often, they will be, or at least will have been just prior to embarking on treatment at a healing centre, on a standard cooked diet. And, at the healing centre, fruit may well be restricted. Now, healers give a variety of reasons for restricting fruit, and these are then reported (and, unfortunately, often misreported via chinese whispers) on the raw food forums.
And one that I've seen time and time again is 'sugar supports cancer'. That's certainly a fact. Strangely, it's rarely followed by the following facts: 'sugar supports healthy skin', 'sugar supports a healthy heart', 'sugar supports healthy kidneys', 'sugar supports a healthy brain' (etc). Everything we eat is converted to sugar (glucose) - it's what our bodies run on! All cells are fed by sugar, whether we eat fruit or not! Fruit gives us glucose directly, whilst our bodies need to work a little harder to convert the complicated sugars from other foods into glucose.
Excess sugar ('spikes') can be a problem for cancer patients, as 'spikes' stimulate the production of insulin (see Dr Neal Barnard's explanation of this process in the 'Diabetes' section later in this article). Cancer cells have a high number of insulin receptors, so gulp up any excess sugar.
According to many natural health experts (and that's not just those following high-fruit diets) it's not sugar that's the problem per se, or at least not the natural sugar found in whole fruits, as, if we are eating correctly - if our bodies are working correctly - eating lots of fruit should not create excess sugar in the body. Rather, the blame lies at the door of something else in the average cooked food diet...
Dr Doug Graham ('80/10/10 Diet')...cancer cells, like all cells, fuel themselves with sugar. But then, all people have roughly the same blood sugar levels, regardless of the diet they eat, except for people who eat high levels of fat. These people tend to have higher than normal blood sugar levels, thus providing excess fuel for cancer cells. ..Eating whole, raw fruit only results in sustained high blood sugar if you are also eating high fat.' (note 'whole' - the fibre of fruit acts as a buffer for the sugar, slowing its release).
So, it's not the fruit that's to blame - it's the excess fat in the blood which causes the sugar to 'back up' (more on this later).
And it's not just sugar levels that are adversely affected by a high fat diet. Researchers have found that cancer cells thrive in an anaerobic environment (one where the oxygen content is low). Dr Doug again: 'Eating a high-fat diet decreases the oxygen content of the blood and tissues and creates an ideal environment for cancer cells to flourish.'
This could explain why Johanna Brandt was apparently successful on her grapes diet. She wasn't eating any fat (although I think it very likely she would have introduced a little after becoming well). It could also explain why Kristine Nolfi was successful. She says she was following an 'exclusively raw fruit and vegetables' diet, so it's reasonably safe to assume that it would have been low in fat. And the fruit-based Dries diet, although vegetarian rather than vegan, has a relatively low amount of fat.
Dr Doug's explanation, and these accounts, suggest that it could be possible for a high-fruit diet to help the body heal itself of (some) tumours, but probably only if the sufferer was following a 100% raw low fat diet not only whilst being treated but also in convalescence and, ideally, thereafter. However, I can also see that, whilst someone is ill, whilst their bodies are not working properly, whilst there may still be fat in their bodies, from a previous diet, that will not allow them to process sugars properly, a 'transition period', where at least the 'high GI' fruit (or lower GI fruit in high quantity) is restricted, might be necessary. And, indeed I can understand those helping cancer suffers to heal being pragmatic, that is, recognising that some of their patients are unlikely to adopt an all-raw vegan diet once out of the centre and may well eat those fatty foods again, and consequently 'playing safe' re advice on consumption of certain fruits.
Nevertheless, the personal accounts mentioned suggest a cancer patient who is committed to switching to a raw vegan diet after healing could be restored to health on a high-fruit diet. Note the word 'could', and the disclaimer at the top of the site! I'd like to tell you of a natural cancer healing centre where the raw vegan diet is high rather than low fruit, but I haven't found one. And, if someone were to set one up, would there be the market? I can quite understand that cancer sufferers, and those advising them, would be more likely to 'go with' the raw food diet that has the well-publicised track record than the more contentious one. For most, the raw food diet itself is radical enough, let alone a variant of it. Johanna Brandt and Kristine Nolfi were both doctors. They would have had the knowledge not only to evaluate conflicting advice, but likely the confidence to try diets which, at that time, must have seemed shocking to many.
In researching this article, I did receive a little encouraging feedback from the forums. One contributor cited the case of a young Italian man, Paulo, who attributed the healing of his mouth cancer to fasting followed by a high-fruit diet.
Perhaps, with the growing popularity of high-fruit diets we will see more reports from those who have seen their bodies heal themselves of cancer on a high-fruit raw diet. I hope so.
Is there any justification for suggesting to healthy raw fooders that high-fruit diets lead to cancer?
This statement is made from time to time on the forums, either explicitly or implicitly, with never a shred of evidence to back it up.
So, different ball game. We're not looking at ill people now, but healthy people on a raw vegan diet, whose bodies should be functioning reasonably well, through their following a diet absent of those foods commonly linked with illness. In particular, I'm talking of those on a low-fat raw vegan diet of the sort advocated by Dr Doug Graham - high in fruit and greens, with a little fat, and hereafter referred to as the '811'-type diet - as those following this sort of diet are so often the targets of the warnings about fruit. (And I'd like to edge into this group myself...although I have just a bit more fat than the 10% (by calories) maximum recommended and my diet departs from 811 in a number of ways, it's still a long way from the cheese melts I used to consume in cooked vegetarian days!).
It's a big leap, and to my mind an incorrect leap, from adopting a 'play safe' approach with cancer patients on, or recently on, cooked-food diets, to warning healthy raw fooders that eating 'too much' fruit is going to 'give' them cancer!
What appears to be common to various schools of thought within the raw food movement is that tumours may start to grow when the body simply cannot cope with the deluge of toxic matter inflicted upon it. Its ability to eliminate the nasties within its daily detoxing depends on two things: the energy available, and the amount of toxins coming into the body. This explains why people who have a relatively poor diet, but high energy through scoring well in other aspects of healthy living (such as fresh air, sunshine, positive thinking etc) may be tumour-free whilst those on a good diet whose energies are sapped through overwork, negative thoughts and don't get enough fresh air (um - says the computer-potato writing this) can succumb to illness.
Consequently, there is nothing to fear from fruit-eating! This is because an 811-type diet will not only exclude the toxins that scientists have linked with cancer (cooked fats, processed meats, acrylamides produced by grilling, baking etc) but will, as fruit is so easily digested, provide the body with more energy than the average diet, better equipping it to cope with any non-diet toxic elements and, yes, any dietary toxic elements such as traces of pesticide in non-organic tropical fruit.
There are no scientific studies I've found linking high fruit-eating with cancer. The only foods that have been linked with cancer are those typical of that consumed on the standard cooked-food diet.
In fact, science overwhelmingly supports the idea that fruit will protect against and help the body fight cancer.
For example (and there are many examples!), scientists at Cornell University, New York, have found that chemicals in the flesh and skin of apples called flavonoids and polyphenols have an antioxidant ability. Antioxidants (all together now!) protect from cancer by 'mopping up' free radicals responsible for cell damage. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Sept 03): 'We propose that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities, and that the benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is attributed to the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in whole foods.'
Cancer associations (and governments) are, based on scientific research, urging people to increase their fruit and veg consumption. Have you heard any of them accompany this with 'oh, but on no account eat too much fruit, as that would be dangerous.'?
Is it 'dangerous' for diabetics to have fruit?
American Diabetes Association: 'Wondering if you can eat fruit? Yes!'
They also say this:
'Questions about fruit keep coming up. Will fruit juice increase blood glucose levels more quickly than a piece of fruit? (...) All carbohydrates, whether rice, potatoes or fruit juice, raise blood glucose about the same....'at about the same speed and about the same amount.
However, that varies based on several factors - whether you eat a piece of fruit after a high-fat meal or sip fruit juice on an empty stomach, what your blood glucose is when you eat the fruit, whether the fruit is cooked or raw, how much diabetes medication you have in your body, etc.'
'after a high fat meal'? Hang on...that reminds me of someone!
Dr Doug Graham: 'I have worked with many diabetics over the past twenty-five years...In every instance...without exception, the use of a low-fat raw vegan diet predominated by sweet fruit has resulted in stabilization of blood-sugar metabolism. Most of my clients were able to completely eliminate their need for insulin and other related drugs within a few weeks or less. (...) Eating whole, raw fruit only results in sustained high blood sugar if you are also eating high fat.'
And many scientific studies have confirmed a causal relationship between fat consumption and diabetes.
Dr Neal Barnard, MD, ('Breaking the Food Seduction') explains: 'Here's the problem: insulin is the hormone that escorts sugar from your bloodstream into the cells of the body. It is like a doorman who turns the knob on the door to each cell, helps sugar go inside, and then closes the door. (...) But everything changes when you eat fatty foods..., or when you gain a significant amount of weight. Insulin can't work in an oil slick. When there is too much fat in the bloodstream, insulin's hand slips on the knob. Unable to open the door to the cells, insulin lets sugar build up in the blood. Your body responds by making more and more insulin and eventually it will get the sugar into the cells (...). Cutting fat from your meals improves what is called insulin sensitivity, meaning that insulin efficiently escorts sugar into the cells of the body.'
As with cancer, it's not the fruit that's to blame, but the standard high-fat cooked food diet. And, as with cancer, I can see the logic in advising diabetics on a standard cooked diet, or recently on one, to 'play safe' with fruits that are high GI, although of course they would also need to restrict their intake of other high GI foods, such as white bread and white rice. However, reports from diabetics who have switched to a raw food diet indicate that this 'transition period' may only be a matter of weeks, and Dr Doug Graham's success with diabetics persuades me that recovering diabetics should, after the transition period, be able to eat the fruit they like, as long as they are on an all-raw low-fat vegan diet.
(Note Dr D was careful to say 'most' diabetics. Most (95%) of diabetics are 'Type II', and the work of Dr Graham, Gabriel Cousens ('There Is a Cure for Diabetes') says that Type II diabetics can be healed through a change of diet. Type I diabetics will, as I understand it, always need to take insulin, but can greatly reduce their dependency on it on a high-fruit diet. The young natural hygienist, Robby Barbaro (www.RobbyBarbaro.org), is a shining example of a Type I diabetic who has greatly reduced his need for insulin on the '811 diet' - 80% sweet fruit!
Will eating lots of fruit give healthy raw fooders diabetes/sugar issues?
First, let's be clear that I'm talking fruit here.
The American Diabetes Association statement made a distinction between fruit and fruit juice. Not only will a blood sugar rise be sustained if there is lots of fat in our blood, but it may be excessive if the sugar is consumed in any form other than within a whole fruit, for example as processed sugar, isolated fructose, or within juice. Dr Doug: 'The soft water-soluble fiber in whole fruits allows their sugars to absorb slowly and gradually.'
A study from the journal Diabetes Care (2008) concluded: 'Consumption of green leafy vegetables and fruit was associated with a lower hazard of diabetes, whereas consumption of fruit juices may be associated with an increased hazard...'. And this is one reason why extended mono diets of fruit juice are not a good idea.
Dr Doug and others promoting a low-fat raw vegan diet say unequivocally that healthy people on a low fat raw vegan diet should not develop 'sugar issues' from fruit-eating.
Raw food promoter Frederic Patenaude: 'I've known many people who are absolutely convinced that whenever they eat a lot of sweet fruit, their blood sugar "goes out of wack''...In reality, in a fairly healthy individual, blood sugar will remain stable no matter how much fruit is eaten. I have tested this myself by testing my blood sugar throughout the day, and I found that it didn't matter how many bananas I ate: my blood sugar remained normal throughout the day. In fact, even when I eat more than 20 bananas in a day (which I do regularly), my blood sugar stays absolutely normal.'
(Although bananas are the low side of medium GI, he did eat an awful lot of them!)
And Fred goes on to quote Steve Pavlina, professional author and speaker, who trialled a high-fruit, low fat diet: 'my blood sugar remained incredibly steady throughout the trial...eating this way gave my blood sugar more consistency than ever. I couldn't spike my blood sugar on this diet if I tried.' And, last summer, I tested my own blood sugar after a couple of weeks on a diet that must have been 80% sweet fruit (including melons, papayas and mangoes). Normal. And, if Type I diabetics such as Robby Barbaro can thrive on a diet high in sweet fruit, I can't see any logical reason why a non-diabetic healthy raw fooder should 'get' diabetes or 'sugar issues' on a high-fruit diet as long as the diet isn't also high in fat.
And look at this....According to a study published by the American Chemical Society, anthocyanins in cherries appear to help the pancreas better regulate insulin levels in the body - these delicious and beautiful fruits are gifts for our bodies!
There are all sorts of unhealthful ways of living apart from poor diet that can make us ill, so, yes, even high-fruit-low-fat-vegan raw fooders can get ill too! But I'm convinced that fruit would not be the culprit in such cases!
Whilst I can understand (although lack the knowledge to fully evaluate) the arguments of those who feel temperance in fruit may be desirable at least in the short term for those whose bodies aren't working properly and for those whose diets are high in fat, I've seen no evidence to suggest that a healthy raw fooder on an 811-type diet has anything to fear from eating as much fruit as they desire.
I'm not saying a high-fruit diet is the only way to be successfully raw. But what does concern me is that some of those who are attracted to fruit have been persuaded to restrict the very food that their bodies are obviously crying out for. And others aren't eating any at all! The zenith of this madness (well, I hope it's the zenith!) is encapsulated in a recent youtube video, in which a 'raw fooder' dispenses 'advice' to others, saying that he eats no fresh fruit or vegetables at all (those fruit/veg he does eat are dehydrated powders, marketed as 'superfoods'). What kind of a 'raw food diet' is that? (Edit - May 09 - the same raw fooder today posted a video reversing what he had said, admitting he'd wasted a lot of money and was sorry for leading people astray. He then took the new video down several hours later.)
I believe the blanket warnings of the 'fruit warners' are unjustified and that healthy raw fooders can eat freely of fruit, provided it's accompanied (as it is on 811-type diets) by lots of green leaves, perhaps some vegetables (eg 'non-sweet' fruit, such as tomatoes and cucumbers), and a little (but not too much) fat.
I don't know of any scientific studies that have linked high consumption of fruit (as opposed to processed sugar, isolated fructose, fruit juice etc) with illness. What is it that the raw food world 'fruit warners' have found that the university research departments have missed?
So I'll stand by the Foolish Claim I made at the beginning of 'Fool for Fruit' Part 1:
'If a healthy person (that is, a person without a serious pre-existing health problem*) on a raw food diet, is attracted to, has desire for, has appetite for, enjoys the taste of, what most would consider a large quantity of 'fruit in general', or a particular fruit, then it is healthy (not dangerous) to eat that quantity'.
*and there is evidence to suggest eating lots of fruit will be no problem in at least some of those cases.
How about celebrating with some of these?
'Thank you's to: Dr Doug Graham (his book '80/10/10 Diet', from http://www.foodnsport.com/), Mario Coss (his article 'The Villification of Fruit' at http://www.positivelyfalse.com/) and my raw food forum friends for suggesting names of those who have healed while on high-fruit diets.