The War On Cancer

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy’s spotlight onglobal corporations.

In 1971, many sponsors of the War on Cancer predicted a cure by 1976. Instead, this multibillion dollar research program has proven to be a failure.




The age adjusted total cancer mortality rate climbed steadily for decades until the early 1990s, when the rate started to fall slowly, due largely to reduced smoking. To encourage continued support for cancer research, now exceeding two billion dollars annually in the U.S. alone; researchers and administrators have misled the public. In 1987, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) “artificially inflate the amount of ‘true’ progress”, concluding that even simple five-year survival statistics were manipulated. The NCI termed five-year survival a “cure” even if the patient died of the cancer after the five-year period. Also, by ignoring well known statistical biases, the NCI falsely suggested advances had been made in certain cancer therapies. [1]

Failure of toxic “therapies”

In 1971 when the U.S. declared war on cancer, scientists still hadn’t identified the immune defense system. Doctors and scientists, along with the American Cancer Society, continue to refer to a non-contagious condition with no incubation period or identifiable foreign invader as a “disease”. Scientists have requested and received billions in grants from the federal government, non-profit organizations, corporate and private donors. However, according to critics, like the New England Journal of Medicine, the “war on cancer” is a failure. According to John C. Bailar III, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McGill University:

“Despite $30 billion spent on research since 1970, cancer remains undefeated, with a death rate not lower but actually higher than when they started. The effect of new treatments for cancer has been largely disappointing. The failure of chemotherapy to control cancer has become apparent even to the oncology establishment.” [2]

The late Professor of Medical Physics, H.B. Jones, was a leading U.S. cancer statistician. In a 1969 speech to the American Cancer Society, he stated that studies had not proved that chances of survival were improved by early intervention. In fact, according to his studies, untreated persons with cancer lived up to four times longer and with a better quality of life than treated ones. He was not invited back. According to the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet:

“If one were to believe all the media hype, the triumphalism of the medical profession in published research, and the almost weekly miracle breakthroughs trumpeted by the cancer charities, one might be surprised that women are dying at all from breast cancer.” [3]

Cancer for profit

According to the oncologist, Glen Warner, M.D.:

“We have a multi-billion dollar industry that is killing people, right and left, just for financial gain. Their idea of research is to see whether two doses of this poison is better than three doses of that poison.” [4]

NCI & clinical trials for hydrazine sulfate

According to “The $200 Billion Scam”, published in Penthouse in 1997:

“In the 25 years since the federal government declared War on Cancer, an estimated $200 billion has been spent by U.S. taxpayers and private investors on research that has produced so little bang for the buck that it makes the Pentagon’s $600 toilet seats look like bargains for every American home. The cancer industry has become a huge jobs program for brilliant, even highly motivated, doctors and other scientists, whose efforts are misguided by the economic forces behind the industry. Directly put, it’s in the interests of all the fat cats in government and private enterprise who earn their living and status from what is largely a failed enterprise, to stick with it. That is why a drug like hydrazine sulfate is dumped on by the cancer establishment, instead of given legitimate support and honest evaluation.”

The General Accounting Office (GAO) defied logic, reason, and science to give its blessing to the NCI’s deliberately biased testing of hydrazine sulfate which produced false results to make it appear ineffective. NCI higher administrators who wrote the report also and ignored evidence pointing to rigged clinical trials. [5]

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society ACS is largest non-religious charity in the world. As of the fiscal year ending in August of 2007, the ACS had a net revenue 1.17 billion dollars. [6] ACS’s daily expenditures exceed one million dollars with only approximately 16% going into patient cancer programs. The rest is funneled into expensive research and bureaucratic overhead. Meager prevention programs are designed not to offend the industry. The average American diagnosed with cancer spend upwards of $25,000 of their savings on cures to save or lengthen their lives. However, claims of ‘progress’ include many people with benign diseases. Those in remission for longer than 5 years are declared cured, although many of those will die from either cancer or treatment after five years. [7] Corporate donors include processed food industryand pharmaceutical industry giants like PfizerSanofi-AventisAstraZenecaNovartis and Walmart as well as Metropolitan Life Insurance[8]

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

A look at financial relationships between large facilities such as the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and corporations making billions in profits from chemotherapy drugs, is extremely telling as to its continued use in the face of such failure. Furthermore, expensive laboratories and diagnostic equipment have already been paid for by large corporations.

Craig B. Thompson, MD President and CEO of MSKCC, is also on the Board of Directors for Merck Corporation.[9]

James D. Robinson III Honorary Chairman, is also former Chairman of Bristol-Myers Squibb, the world’s largest producer of chemo drugs. Paul Marks, MD, MSKCC’s former President and CEO, is the former Director of Pfizer. Another board member, Richard Furlaud, recently retired as Bristol Myers’ president. [10]

The late Richard Gelb was Vice-Chairman of the MSKCC board as well as CEO of Bristol-Myers. [11][12]

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency in the U.S. government conducting and funding medical research. MSKCC Director Thomas Kelly, M.D., Ph.D. serves on the both the NIH Advisory Committee and Scientific Management Review Board. [13]

Cancer United

Cancer United is a pharmaceutical industry front group established by the Weber Shandwick public relations firm. It is funded entirely by Roche[14]

Cancer & animal testing

More is spent on cancer than any other medical problem. There are more people living off of cancer than cancer sufferers.Millions of laboratory animals, including rats, mice, monkeys, guinea pigs, cats and dogs have been injected with cancerous material or implanted with malignancies.[15][16] Why hasn’t progress been commensurate with the effort and money invested? One explanation is the unwarranted preoccupation with animal testing. Crucial genetic, molecular, immunologic and cellular differences have disqualify animal models as an effective means to a cure. Mice are most commonly used, although “Mice are actually poor models of the majority of human cancers”; according to the industry’s own laboratory animal publication. According to leading cancer researcher, Robert Weinberg:

“The preclinical (animal) models of human cancer, in large part, stink… Hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted every year by drug companies using these models.” [17]

A widely discussed 2004 article in Fortune magazine entitled “Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer” [18] laid the blame on animal research. The basic approach in the 1970s was to grow human cancer cells in a lab dish, transplant them into a mouse whose immune system had been tweaked to not reject them and throw experimental drugs at them to see what happened. However, few successes in mice are relevant to people. According to Fran Visco, who founded the National Breast Cancer Coalition four years after being diagnosed with cancer in 1987, “Animals don’t reflect the reality of cancer in humans. We cure cancer in animals all the time, but not in people.”

Newsweek combed through three decades of high-profile successes in mice for clues to why the mice lived and the people died. According to oncologist Paul Bunn, who leads the International Society for the Study of Lung Cancer:

“Animal models have not been very predictive of how well drugs would do in people. We put a human tumor under the mouse’s skin, and that micro-environment doesn’t reflect a person’s—the blood vessels, inflammatory cells or cells of the immune system.”

Human tumors that scientists transplant into mice and then attack with their weapon du jour, almost never metastasize. For decades, scientists ignored metastatic cells (which are responsible for 90% of all cancer deaths) because metastasis didn’t occur in animal models. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, researchers focused on increasingly detailed molecular mechanisms, instead of looking into the real problem. [19] See also animal testing.

Cancer & diet

Food Additives & adulteration

Today, over 6,000 synthetic chemicals are officially condoned for use in the processed food industry. These include some that are known carcinogens. Processed foods contain high levels of the debilitating, denatured ingredients such as white sugar, refined starch, pasteurized cow’s milk, land mined salt and hydrogenated vegetable oils. The human immune system correctly recognizes chemical food additives as toxic foreign agents and attempts to rid the body of them; thus causing severe biochemical reactions and stress on the immune system.

After years of daily exposure to inorganic chemicals, the immune system breaks down and burns out, leaving the body vulnerable to microbes, toxins and cancerous cells. The food industry has duped the public and government health agencies into believing that their products are safe for human consumption; even in the face of abundant scientific evidence to the contrary. In fact, such information is in the public domain and openly available to anyone who seeks it.[20] See also processed food industry.

Animal products & health issues

The China Study culminated a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan is widely thought to be the most comprehensive study on nutrition and related diseases to date. The project produced over 8,000 statistically significant associations between diet and disease. The findings indicated that the consumers of the most animal-based foods suffered the most chronic diseases while those with the most plant based diets avoided these diseases and were the healthiest. Chronic diseases included heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Also studied were the effects of diet in reducing or reversing the risks of chronic disease. The study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and irresponsible scientists. [21] According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell, “we’re basically a vegetarian species, should be eating a wide variety of plant foods and minimizing animal foods.” [22][23]

The focus of published reports on dairy consumption are infections, colic, intestinal bleeding, anemia, allergies and more serious issues of diabetes and viral infections of bovine leukemia, an AIDS like virus. Common childrens issues include ear infections, tonsil infections, bed wetting and asthma. Adult issues include heart disease, arthritis, respiratory distress, osteoporosis, leukemia, lymphoma and cancer. Overall health issues include milk contamination by pus cells and chemicals such as pesticides. [24] Most cows’ milk contains toxins such as herbicides, pesticides and dioxins and up to 52 powerful antibiotics; blood, pus, feces, bacteria and viruses. Both organic and non-organic milk contain fat, cholesteral and various allergens as well as 59 active hormones. This includes the powerful Growth Factor One (IGF-1) which has been identified in the rapid growth cancer. [25] It has been positively documented and affirmed that dairy consumption leads to clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes and exposure to contaminants. [26][27] Research has demonstrated a calcium wash or a loss of calcium and other critical minerals like potassium, magnesium and iron from the blood stream as a direct result of dairy consumption starting at 24 ounces per day. [28] Low animal protein diets create a positive calcium balance, whereas high animal protein diets create a negative balance resulting in bone density loss. While many have turned to low fat dairy products, these products contain higher concentrations of protein. Low fat and particularly non-fat dairy products have actually been shown to increase osteoporosis, kidney problems and some cancers. [29]

See also meat & dairy industry, sections 4 & 5 & section 6 on animal products & health issues.


Public health takes aim at sugar and salt


The war on obesity and other lifestyle ills has opened a new battlefront: the fight against sugar and salt.

It may be a fight for our lives.

In the last few years, evidence has mounted that too much of these appealing ingredients—often invisibly insinuated into beverages, processed foods, and restaurant fare—harms health.

Research at the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere, for example, has tied sugary drinks to an epidemic of obesity in the United States. The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and the average teenage boy consumes nearly three cans of sugary drinks a day. Is it any wonder that about two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese?

Obesity, in turn, raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers. Meanwhile, studies have linked salty diets to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

At HSPH, the Department of Nutrition is helping to lead the charge for healthier consumer fare. In April, at a widely covered press conference, the department’s faculty publicly challenged beverage makers to create a class of drinks with 70 percent less sugar—a partial reduction that could lower obesity and diabetes rates within a year, they believe. On the salt side, experts estimate that cutting average sodium consumption by one-half could prevent at least 150,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Bolstering this two-pronged public health campaign has been a shift in national political philosophy. “The previous administration believed that market forces solved everything and that regulation was off the table. But market forces, left alone, damaged the economy,” says Walter Willett, Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition. “That also applies to the food supply and health. Market forces don’t promote a healthy diet—in fact, they do exactly the opposite. We made a lot of progress on trans fat. Now the biggest issue, outside of too many calories, is the huge amount of sugar and salt.”

As in many recent public health campaigns, New York City has been ahead of the pack. Its “Healthy Heart-Cut the Salt” program, now a nationwide effort by a coalition of health organizations and public agencies, works with food industry leaders on a voluntary framework to cut salt in their products. “New York City created a market for trans-fat-free foods, and it will create a market for lower-sodium foods,” Willett predicts. In May, President Barack Obama picked Thomas R. Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner, to direct the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), installing a fierce advocate for lowering salt and taxing sugary beverages in a position to bring about change.


In the School’s current battle plan, the prime target is sugar in sodas, fruit juices and other cloying drinks. Here’s why:

  • Downing just one 12-ounce can of a typical sweetened beverage daily can add 15 pounds in a year.
  • In children, one sweetened beverage a day fuels a 60 percent increase in the risk of obesity—and American teenaged boys drink almost three times that much.
  • This April, an HSPH study linked sugary drinks to increased risk of heart disease in adults. Scientists have long known that sugar reduces the “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood. Consistent with this effect, the April study showed that it wasn’t just weight gain that raised heart disease risk, but sugar itself—eating an otherwise healthy diet or being at a healthy weight only slightly diminished the risk.
  • In 2004, the Nurses’ Health Study found that women who had one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who rarely imbibed these beverages.

As a dietary enemy, sugar is cleverly camouflaged, because it is dissolved in liquid. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. “If people thought about eating 17 teaspoons of sugar, they’d become nauseated,” Willett says. “But they are able to drink it right down and go for another.” While we normally balance a big meal by taking in fewer calories later, that compensation doesn’t seem to occur after guzzling soft drinks—possibly because fluids are not as satiating as solid foods, or because sweet-tasting soft drinks whet the appetite for high-carbohydrate foods.

Willett and Lilian Cheung, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and editorial director of The Nutrition Source, urge people to choose drinks far lower in sugar and calories: options such as water, tea, seltzer with a splash of juice, coffee with one lump of sugar.

“If we can shift the present American norm back to a lower expectation of sweetness, people will adjust their palates, particularly the younger population,” says Cheung.


Almost 80 percent of the salt in the American diet comes not from the salt shaker, but from processed or restaurant foods. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2005 and 2006, the average American on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet devoured more than 3,400 mg of salt per day (mg/d). That’s substantially more than current dietary guidelines, which recommend that adults in general consume no more than 2,300 mg/d—about a teaspoon.

Several years ago, the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-Sodium clinical trial (DASH-Sodium), led by HSPH’s Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention, found that the biggest blood-pressure-lowering benefits came to those eating at the lowest sodium level tested, 1,500 mg/d. For those prone to high blood pressure, people over 40 and African Americans—groups that together represent nearly 70 percent of the population—the CDC likewise advises no more than 1,500 mg/d.

That 1,500 mg/d threshold would require cutting sodium in processed and restaurant foods by about 80 percent. Though it may sound drastic, the goal is more urgent than ever. In 1982, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called on the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in processed foods—yet sodium consumption has steadily drifted upward. By 2000, men were eating 48 percent more salt than they did in the early 1970s, and women 69 percent more.


To wean ourselves from excess sugar, the Department of Nutrition’s challenge uses a benchmark of one gram of sugar per ounce, which equates to a 12-ounce soda that contains three teaspoons of sugar and 50 calories. “We’ve suggested that manufacturers provide an option in between high-sugar and sugar-free drinks,” Willett says, “to help people step down if they can’t go cold turkey from full sugar to no sugar.”  The department is currently discussing the challenge with Obama administration officials. While Willett and others are not directly in contact with manufacturers, the challenge’s press coverage has stirred debate within the beverage industry, and several small start-ups are introducing low-sugar drinks.

The HSPH challenge further proposes that the FDA require manufacturers to label the fronts of their cans and bottles with information on total contents rather than per-serving quantities. Currently, most consumers assume that a single package of chips or bottle of soda is a single serving. Only upon close inspection do they discover that there are two or more “servings” in the package. Willett has called for an initial reduction of salt in processed foods of up to 20 percent—a change that studies show does not perceptibly affect taste.


In its forceful call to action, HSPH joins a growing chorus of health experts demanding change. “New Horizons for a Healthy America: Recommendations to the New Administration,” a report issued in April by the Commission on U.S. Federal Leadership in Health and Medicine: Charting Future Directions, describes sugary beverages and salty processed foods as “serious concerns” for the Obama administration. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has also pressed Congress and the administration to act.

Looking to economic levers to cut consumption, Willett proposes a national sales or excise tax of up to 18 percent on sodas and candy. Along with CSPI, the Department of Nutrition submitted a letter to Congress in June supporting a tax on full-sugar beverages; Willett has also testified before the Massachusetts Legislature in support of such a bill. Some of this tax could be used to subsidize healthy but relatively expensive alternatives, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Willett would also rewrite government procurement policies to help set new industry standards. In his view, food services at military facilities, hospitals, government organizations, and schools should all phase out highly sweetened beverages in favor of low-sugar options.

And Willett has called for a ban on child-focused marketing for sweetened drinks—since children and teens drink most of their sugary calories at home. “There should be strong regulations, with real teeth in them, against advertising to children. It’s immoral—criminal, even—to have children’s health undermined for the sake of profit,” he says. To this end, Willett has also contemplated lawsuits on behalf of children: “If a child is encouraged to consume these beverages by a fast-food chain, without being warned of the consequences, and they develop diabetes, is there not some liability?

“We will use all levers possible, as we have done for trans fat elimination,” he adds.  “Public education is central to this effort, and talking to journalists is a great multiplier of information.” A Reuters news service story on the department’s industry challenge was picked up from Canada to China, and in JuneUSA Today ran a major story on the topic. Nutrition department investigators are also preparing a scientific review article for a leading medical journal about the deleterious consequences of high-sugar drinks.

The HSPH Department of Nutrition is raising funds to set up a research and information center that would conduct, compile, and disseminate studies on the health implications of sugar-sweetened beverages. The center’s mission: to educate policy makers and the public.

So far, food manufacturers have not widely reformulated their products, for fear of losing customers and getting ahead of taste trends. But other nations, such as Finland, have proven not only that palates can grow more refined when governments embark on full-scale efforts steering people toward more wholesome fare, but that population health dramatically improves when they do. (See: What Other Countries Have Done)

For now, Willett intends to point public health’s artillery toward sodas and other sweetened drinks. “Going for the low-hanging fruit is the first step, and the sugared beverage area is the place,” he says. “These products are in a class with tobacco. There’s only harm, no benefit.”

Photograph: Kent Dayton/HSPH

Larry Hand is associate editor of the Review.
Madeline Drexler is guest editor of this issue of the

Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson’s Disease: Overview and Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease (also known as idiopathic paralysis agitans) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that affects as many as 1 million Americans. It occurs when groups of neurons in specific areas of the brain (known as the substantia nigra and locus ceruleus) malfunction and die.

As a result, the brain does not produce enough dopamine, a chemical messenger that is important for movement and coordination. Without enough dopamine, Parkinson’s disease patients have difficulty with movements and activities of daily life, and may have mood and memory problems.

The cause is unknown, but researchers think that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. However, Parkinson’s-like symptoms can occur in individuals who are exposed to several toxins (such as pesticides; MPTP, which is a contaminant of opioid narcotics; and high levels of the mineral manganese), infections of the brain and spinal cord, head trauma, or certain medications that affect dopamine receptors (such as antinausea medications, antipsychotic medications, and reserpine).

Parkinson’s disease affects approximately 1 percent of Americans over age 50. The typical age of onset is the late 50s, although 10 percent of cases occur in people under 40.


The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually appear gradually and increase in severity over the course of years. Patients tend to have slowed movements (called bradykinesia) and appear stiff or rigid. They may have a tremor at rest, usually in the hand or thumb.

As the disease progresses, patients have more and more difficulty maintaining balance, walking, talking, and completing daily activities (such as eating, writing, dressing, and combing their hair).

Patients with Parkinson’s disease often experience some degree of depression, and may have other psychologic symptoms, including hallucinations. This may occur due to the disease itself or as a side effect of medications. Also, dementia is common in people with Parkinson’s disease, occurring in about one-third of cases.


Parkinson’s disease is usually diagnosed clinically when an experienced neurologist observes the characteristic physical and neurologic symptoms. There are no tests to definitively confirm the disease but testing, such as a CT scan, MRI, or spinal tap, may be useful to rule out other diseases.

If the diagnosis is in doubt, a doctor may begin a trial of a Parkinson’s medication to see if it improves symptoms. If so, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed.


There is no known cure for Parkinson’s, but medical and nutritional therapies can decrease the symptoms and may slow the course of the disease.

The first step is to eliminate any drugs or medications that may be causing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These include antinausea medications, antipsychotic medications, reserpine, and others.

The most common medical drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease are medications that mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain, most commonly levodopa (Sinemet). Other medications may also be useful, including bromocriptine, pergolide, entacapone, tolcapone, and selegeline.

Medications are also available to treat some of the specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For example, benztropine may be effective to treat tremors. Clozapine or quetiapine may decrease hallucinations.

Physical, occupational, and speech therapies are usually very helpful for patients to improve activities of daily living, achieve or maintain independence, and interact better with their environment. Outside of therapy sessions, patients should try to maintain as active a lifestyle as possible.

There has been some coverage in the media of surgical treatments for Parkinson’s disease. While these may be helpful in treating advanced disease or in patients with specific symptoms (such as severe tremor or rigidity), they are not considered useful for most patients.

Parkinson’s Disease: Nutritional Considerations

Nutritional Considerations for Reducing Risk

Although there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, research studies are investigating whether dietary changes decrease the risk of disease. The following steps are under consideration:

  • Avoiding animal fat: Some studies have shown that Parkinson’s disease is more common in people who eat high levels of animal fat and saturated fat. Avoiding animal fat brings other benefits, of course, such as lower cholesterol and reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Avoiding dairy products: A large study (called the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study) found a higher risk for Parkinson’s disease in men who had high intake of dairy products. Researchers think this may be due to chemicals found in dairy products called tetrahydroisoquinolines. Further, dopamine neurons may be damaged by other chemicals in dairy products, including beta-carbolines, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls.
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages: Some studies have found that people who drink several cups of coffee or tea daily have a lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This may be related to the high levels of antioxidants in both tea and coffee.

Nutritional Considerations for More Effective Treatment

Dietary changes may also improve the effectiveness of medical treatment. In some patients, the standard levodopa medication may not successfully improve symptoms. If so, there are several nutritional changes that may help.

  • Eating a low-protein diet during the daytime can be helpful because protein may decrease the availability of levodopa to the brain.
  • In addition, vitamin supplements and foods high in vitamin B6 (such as fortified cereals and grains, beans, meat, poultry, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) may also decrease the availability of levodopa to the brain. Therefore, limiting these foods and supplements may be useful.
  • Parkinson’s disease often causes weight loss. Patients should try to maintain a healthy body weight by eating regular meals and between-meal snacks that have sufficient calories from whole grains (100 percent whole oats, oat bran, bulgur, barley, brown rice), fruits, 100 percent fruit juices, and vegetables.
  • Patients may want to consult with a nutritionist for help in making healthy food choices.

Fed Up With “Fed Up”

By T. Colin Campbell, PhD June 3rd, 2014 News45 Comments

In case you missed it, a new diet and health documentary movie called “Fed Up” was released in theaters on May 9. I’ve never written a movie review before—in fact, I am not much of a moviegoer. But my wife, Karen, and I decided to see this one, partly because this topic has been my career and partly because it seems that an unusually strong public relations effort was mounted to get people to see it.

But mostly, what specifically drew my attention was an op-ed piece by NY Times health science writer Mark Bittman who recommended it, so I took him at his word.

First, for the film’s credits. It mainly speaks of a problem that almost everyone agrees on—the sickening sweetness of too much sugar, especially for children. Who can disagree? But this message seems to me to be the beginning, the middle and the end of the film and it took almost two hours to hammer home what appears to be an obvious truth. A second message blames authorities (especially a few academics) for shoving so much sugar down our throats, a thought shared by many discontented citizens these days.

So, now, let’s look at some stories that failed to make it into the film. First, there is the title. It provides gravitas suggesting that the film is going to tell us what is the real cause of the big health problem that we suffer. They say it’s our excessive consumption of sugar that causes obesity that causes, in turn, other diseases, although they mostly left it to our imagination what these might be. Our really big health problem is obesity, so the film says, and if we could only eliminate this heavy-weight problem, our sickness would disappear. And, we can do this, of course, by eliminating sugar from our diets. So simple…..!

This is a very reductionist idea that seriously short-changes the far more comprehensive diet and health connection. Obesity should not be considered an independent disease outcome or a stepping-stone to other disease outcomes. Obesity was first granted its own independent disease status, with its own medical code number, about twenty years ago to make it easier for physicians to charge a fee for their obesity-treatment services and to bring more public attention to the problem—or so it was said at that time. I was not supportive of this decision then and still do not do so today. Any disease with independent disease status suggested to me that treatments targeted specifically for obesity might be developed, like weight loss pills, bariatric surgery or counting calories. And so it has come to pass, with little or no gain in long-term health.

Obesity is only one member of a broad spectrum of symptoms and illnesses, which are now known to share the same dietary lifestyle. And further, sugar is only one nutrient-like chemical member of a vast array of nutrient-like substances in food. It is unscientific and irresponsible for this film to target a specific cause of one outcome while ignoring countless other outcomes that share the same (collective) cause.

I know of no evidence that were we to eliminate all sugar from our diets, presumably leaving the rest of the diet the same, we could rid ourselves of disease and restore our health.

In a debate of sorts, four scientists, each having reputable research experience, compared their interpretations of the evidence for and against sugar, in its various forms of consumption (high fructose corn syrup, sugar-sweetened beverages, sucrose and/or fructose solutions) as a cause of obesity, diabetes and a few clinical indicators of these diseases. Their evaluations were just published in the April issue of Diabetes Care, the official journal of the American Diabetes Association.[1][2]

It may come as a surprise but the evidence showing sugar to be a major factor in obesity is relatively weak. There certainly is some evidence but closer examination shows that much of this evidence may be attributed to its contribution to calories or other factors not measured, an interpretation shared by both research groups. However you may choose which side of this debate you prefer, I am inclined to favor the argument that sugar is problematic[1] even though the effect is less scientifically qualified than we all tend to believe.

To make the film more authentic, the producers interviewed a large number of people they call experts on the topic of diet and health. In most scientific research disciplines, there usually are guidelines as to who qualifies as an expert. Based on the criteria used in my discipline, I have serious trouble agreeing that journalists (even those who are widely known) are ‘experts’. For that matter, I am equally concerned with some professionals (physicians and even nutrition and food science researchers) who allow themselves to be considered as experts simply because they may have a professional degree but have no relevant clinical or research experience. When these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ are less than candid about their professional qualifications and experiences, they tend to say almost anything they want. Thus, they are more inclined to rely on their personal and institutional prejudices, feeling free to cherry pick which cause and which effect to paint grand pictures. It would help if there were more transparency, which applies both to supporters and deniers of the connection between whole plant-based foods and their remarkable health benefits. The consequence of not being clear about qualifications and biases is that the public mostly cannot know who speaks sense and who speaks nonsense, who speaks truthfully and who tells lies. In such a maelstrom, important ideas can easily be destroyed.

The film hammers the food industry who contributes to this ‘sugar-dependent’ obesity problem—an understandable observation—but reserves its most critical comments for government advisory panels who make food and health policy. They begin with the 1976-1977 McGovern Committee of the U.S. Senate who initially advocated a “low fat” diet, a position affirmed by a few more advisory committees on diet and health during the 1980s and 1990s. According to the film, consumers entered this epic journey adopting low fat diets and actually got fatter! This happened, so they say, because we replaced the missing fat by increasing the consumption of more and more sugar-dense products.

False! During this period (from about 1975 to about 2000), I know of no evidence that we actually ate less fat. If anything we consumed more fat (reviewed in The China Study, page 95[3]). Moreover, the film refers to ‘low fat’ diets as those containing about 30% of diet calories that was recommended by policy makers. This is not low fat, at least when compared to the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet, at about 10-15% fat. The WFPB diet, of course, also is rich in nutrients and related substances now known to prevent and/or reverse a wide spectrum of health problems—including obesity.

The missing message in this film is that concerning the effects of a multiplicity of dietary factors/nutrients, which prevent a wide range of seemingly diverse diseases and which does so remarkably quickly—days to a few weeks. To explain the significance of this concept, I find it useful to group foods into three classes, animal-based, plant-based and processed or convenience foods.

The benefits of these foods are best assessed by their nutrient contents, most of which were not mentioned in the film. It is very clear that for optimum health, we must consume a wide variety of antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (this includes dietary fiber) that are only produced by plants and that must be consumed as whole foods, thus giving the whole food plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle. Based on fundamental evidence from many years ago, this diet easily provides all the protein and fat needed for good health, as well as appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is the balance of these nutrients and their integrated functions that explains the exceptional disease prevention and reversal effects of this diet now being observed. In modern day parlance, this diet is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing, and capable of controlling hormone dependent aberrant cell growth (as occurs, for example, in cancer growth). These, and others, are very complex systems that account for the remarkable biological effects of the foods comprising the WFPB dietary lifestyle. Animal-based and processed foods have no capability for producing the same benefits.

The ‘authorities’ in this film are mostly the same people who have been chanting the same mantra against the WFPB diet at other venues and in other media. They are making headway with the public, partly because they use reductionist argument and experimentation and partly because they have ready access to resources and supporters who want to maintain the present systems of food production and health care.

This “Fed Up” film, aptly named from more than one perspective in my view, is an abysmal failure that lures unassuming consumers to ignore the big picture while mostly maintaining the present status quo. The film’s assertions have little or no credence or potential to resolve the health crisis (poor health, high health care costs) in the U.S.


a b Bray, G. A. & Popkin, B. M. Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes? Health be damned! Pour on the sugar. Diabetes Care 37, 950-956 (2014)
Kahn, R. F. & Sievenpiper, J. L. Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes? We have, but the pox on sugar is overwrought and overworked. Diabetes Care 37, 950-956 (2014)
Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M., II. The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. (BenBella Books, Inc., 2005)

Added sugars in diet linked to heart disease deaths

Related Stories

External Links

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Consuming too much sugar can increase the risk of premature death from heart disease, a finding that is fuelling calls for the Canadian and U.S. governments to offer dietary limits on sugar.

For an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day, drinking the equivalent of a bottle of pop sold in vending machines would exceed the level that a new U.S. study suggests raises the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).


Excess sugar added not only to desserts but many other processed foods isn’t as benign as once thought. (Canadian Press)

“A higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD mortality,” lead author Quanhe Yang of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and co-authors conclude in this week’s issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers analyzed national health and diet surveys between 1988 and 2010 of more than 30,000 Americans with an average age of 44. They found the fatal heart risk became elevated once added sugar intake surpassed 15 per cent of total calories.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” said Laura Schmidt, a health policy specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Previously, sugar used in processed or prepared foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals and yeast breads, has been linked to increased risks for non-fatal heart problems and with obesity. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit aren’t included.

Sugar is hugely important to the trillion-dollar processed food industry, said Michael Moss, a journalist in New York and author of the book, Salt Sugar Fat.

“They’re a very powerful lobby,” Moss said in an interview Tuesday.

“It’s very frustrating for consumers, especially when you go in and buy a product, look at the label and there’s a blank spot next to sugar. There is no government recommendation on how much sugar you should be capping yourself on and consuming in a day.”

The Canadian and U.S. governments don’t provide dietary limits for added sugar and there isn’t a consensus on how much is too much.

“What we really need as Canadians is more information,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor in Ottawa. “We need food labels that don’t allow for sugar synonyms and actually list the amount of added sugar there.”

To get a sense of sugar amounts, Freedhoff suggests that consumers take the number of grams of sugar on a package and divide by four to get the number of teaspoons.

Yang’s findings add to a growing body of rigorous studies that demonstrate added sugar “is not as benign as once presumed,” Schmidt said.

“Proponents of sugar taxes and sugar controls have a new arrow in their quiver and it’s this linkage to deadly heart disease,” Moss said. “That’s a very powerful tool in the hands of policymakers.”

Schmidt notes that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams a day or six teaspoons of sugar for women (five per cent of a 2,000-calorie a day diet) and 38 grams or nine teaspoons a day for men (7.5 per cent of daily calories).

In 2005, a panel at the Institute of Medicine, which advises the Canadian and U.S. governments, recommended added sugar make up less than 25 per cent of total calories. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 10 per cent.

Expert committees from the Institute of Medicine have concluded there’s no evidence of harm attributed to current sugar consumption levels, the Canadian Sugar Institute said in a statement to CBC News.

A spokeswoman for the trade group said Canadian sugar intakes are about 11 per cent of total calories. “There is no magic number because our age, gender and activity levels are all different.”

In the study, 831 people died from heart disease during the 15-year followup. The researchers took
other factors that contribute to heart problems, including smoking, inactivity and excess weight into account.

Heart disease: treatment using vegetables over drugs

Cardiologist Dr. Shane Williams holds information sessions about veganism at his clinic in Bracebridge, Ont.

Cardiologist Dr. Shane Williams holds information sessions about veganism at his clinic in Bracebridge, Ont. (

External Links

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Many doctors treating heart disease tend to prescribe drugs known as statins like Lipitor, but some physicians in Canada are trying a new method: a vegan diet.

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. It kills 47,627 Canadians every year.

Dr. Shane Williams is a community cardiologist in Bracebridge, Ont. He’s been a vegan since 2010.  Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or honey.  They do however, eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.

“People do not know the power of food,”  Williams told CBC News

For the past four years, the cardiologist has been slowly refocusing his patients on lifestyle changes.

“The challenge is that this takes time,” said Williams.

Starting in 2011, he started using a plant-based diet for patients who were interested and added group counselling sessions circling on veganism.

Dr. Shane Williams

Williams says cardiologists need to spend at least an hour with their heart patients talking about their food habits and discussing alternatives. (

Williams says this is making a big difference in patients who are willing to keep an open mind about their diet.

“I see it here first hand, and it is simply amazing,” he said.

Liam Cragg, 59, ofBracebridge, Ont. is one case.

In 2012, he went to the hospital because he exhibited  signs of a heart attack. Cragg followed up with his family doctor a week later who referred him to Williams. After four months on a mostly plant-based regime, Cragg noted a big difference.

“I was at least 30 pounds lighter, my waistline had shrunk by four inches and my knees didn’t ache anymore,” said Cragg.

Williams says he commonly spends 60 minutes or more with patients at their initial assessments.

“My experience is that most cardiologists tend to spend 15 to 25 minutes on a first assessment,” explains Williams, who says he’s trying to get “into the mechanics of a particular patient’s motivation for their eating habits.”

The cardiologist would like to see more doctors take an alternative approach in treating patients and specifically, honing in on their behaviour.

“What concerns me is that most doctors do not realize the power of food as an alternative to medication,” said Williams.

He is not alone about his theories about veganism and heart disease.

Herbivore vs Carnivore

Dr. William Roberts, a prominent cardiovascular pathologist and the editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, also believes that a vegan diet is the solution to heart disease in the Western world.

Roberts contends that the cause of heart disease is elevated cholesterol from not eating vegan.


Some experts argue humans are made for plant-based diets. While carnivores have sharp teeth, the majority of ours are flat, which is ideal for grinding fruits and vegetables. (

“Human beings are far more like herbivores than carnivores,” he said.

Some experts argue that the structure of our teeth, and the length of our intestinal tract, are indications that humans are more herbivore oriented. While carnivores have sharp teeth, the majority of ours are flat, which is ideal for grinding fruits and vegetables. Carnivores have short intestinal tracts, but ours are very long.

Meat consumption has been linked to higher risks of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes and there’s a lot of evidence connecting diet and disease.

For example, in plant-based cultures like rural China, central Africa, the Papua highlanders in New Guinea and the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, coronary artery disease is almost nonexistent.

When these people adopt Western, animal-based diets however, they quickly develop heart disease.

Roberts argues that the plant-based diet is both cost effective and safe.

“If we put everyone on drugs then thousands of people would suffer side effects, so of course a vegan diet is the least expensive and safest means of achieving the plaque preventing  goal,” he said.

Statins can be effective

But, statins, which are cholesterol-lowering drugs, are one of the most commonly used medications in North America and there’s some argument that they’re effective, if used properly.

A study, published in Annals of Family Medicine last week, analyzed 16,712 responses from people aged 30 to 79 years-old. Americans who filled at least two prescriptions for statins were classified as statin users.

According to the authors, many people at high risk for heart disease were not getting the statins they should be.

“A lot of people who [might have] benefited aren’t on statins, and we don’t know why that is,” said Dr. Michael Johansen, the study’s lead author.

‘Statins should be reserved for very sick people, and a healthy diet is for everyone.’– Dr. John McDougall, leading expert on diet and heart disease

He said this could be for a number of reasons, including doctors who aren’t prescribing them, patients who don’t have health insurance, or people who aren’t taking medications they’re given.

“As doctors we need to make sure patients understand the benefits, and are being compliant. We need to make sure everyone has access to these drugs from an insurance, and access to care perspective,” said Johansen.

Dr. John McDougall, an American physician and a leading authority on diet and heart disease, says statins should be the last solution.

McDougall thinks that heart disease can be prevented and treated with a diet consisting of starches, vegetables and fruits, but no animal products or added oils.

“Statins should be reserved for very sick people, and a healthy diet is for everyone,” said McDougall.

Back in Bracebridge, Williams and McDougall will be holding what they call an “immersion weekend” sometime in late summer or early fall at the clinic with McDougall participating in a Skype discussion with patients.

Food before drugs

For Williams the focus should be on prevention.


‘The best way to prevent heart disease is to be a vegetarian-fruit eater, a non-flesh eater,’ says Dr. William Roberts, leading cardiovascular health expert. (

“What we’re told by pharmaceutical companies is that only 10 per cent of the cholesterol in our bloodstream is what we consume, and the rest is made by our liver. What they don’t tell us is that the Western diet causes the liver to over produce cholesterol — a pretty significant ‘oops we forgot to tell you’ on the part of pharmaceutical companies,” said Williams.

The plaque that builds up in our arteries is made of cholesterol, but when our cholesterol is low enough there’s nothing for our body to build plaque with.

“The best way to prevent heart disease is to be a vegetarian-fruit eater, a non-flesh eater and a non-saturated fat eater,” said Roberts.