Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: An Environmental Scan

Table of Contents

3.14.1.3 Plant-Based Diet

The literature contains numerous studies indicating that a change from the typical Western diet that is high in fat, dairy and processed foods can negatively impact overall health. The nutritional science literature is growing at a rapid rate and there are too many components to review in this report, rather a focus is taken on the work of Dr. Colin Campbell. The Rasch Foundation is currently looking at the nutritional science literature and more detailed information is expected to become available in the near future.

Viewed as the most complete research study along with extensive analysis of diet and lifestyle with respect to disease is the China Study (now specifically referred to as the China Study I). This study focused on nutritional science, included over 300 variables and was conducted in China and Taiwan in more than 2,000 counties. The premise of the study was to examine the diet and other nutritional aspects of this population because of their strikingly lower prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer compared to other nations. The vast majority of the population of China and Taiwan adhere to a plant-based diet, although this is expected to change as more influence from the Western world concerning nutrition becomes widespread in these countries.

The consumption of animal protein and in particular high cholesterol levels in China was associated with various forms of cancer including: anal, brain, leukemia and certain cancers of childhood (Campbell 2008b). Conversely, other research studies completed in the Netherlands, which has some of the highest rates of animal consumption in the world, failed to replicate the results found in the China Study. Dr. Campbell emphasizes that this does not necessarily mean there isn’t a true association between the intake of animal fat and cancer but that simply reducing the amount ingested may be a necessary factor but not sufficient to impact overall cancer rates. “Only as cholesterol levels drop even further, into the strikingly low levels seen in China, do cancer rates decline” (Campbell 2008b).

Regarding lymphoma, individuals who ate beef, pork or lamb daily compared to those who ate the same foods less than once per week had 2 times the risk of NHL and this was also found among those who consumed other red meats (Campbell 2008c). Similar findings also applied to those who ingested fats and particularly trans fats, they too had an increased risk of developing lymphoma as did those whose diets were high in fat and especially partially hydrogenated oils (common to fried foods, fast foods, some margarine products and numerous baked goods). In terms of a lower risk of lymphoma, women who consumed 6 or more servings of fruits and vegetables compared to those who ate 3 servings had a 40% lower risk of developing this cancer. The reduced risk of NHL was also found among participants who ate a gluten-free diet and maintained a healthy weight (Campbell 2008c).