Time to resume posting on this blog. The last time I posted was in August 2007. I had been busy and also doing other things.
I must thank Dr Ang Peng Tiam, who is described on one website as “a medical oncologist who is regarded as one of the best in his field in Singapore and in the region” for giving me the, er, “incentive” to start blogging again.
The background is this: On Wednesday, June 4, Dr Ang wrote a column in Mind Your Body, in which he advised:
“Don’t listen to old wives’ tales. Cancer patients often think they cannot eat dairy products, meat or sugar because these will make the cancer grow faster. Some start taking only organic foods or become vegetarian. I tell them a balanced diet is especially important when they are undergoing chemotherapy.”
I sent a letter to STForum. It was quite strongly worded, so I wasn’t surprised that my letter was not published.
Here it is:
Dr Ang Peng Tiam is rude, wrong, unscientific and grossly irresponsible when he describes as “old wives tales” the beliefs that cancer patients should best avoid sugar, meat and milk products, adopt a vegetarian (or near vegetarian) diet and eat mostly organic foods. (It takes two to fight cancer, Mind Your Body, June 4)
He is rude to the entire community of natural health practitioners and a section of the medical profession that subscribe to such beliefs, by referring to them as “old wives”. Such name calling has no place in any discussion on any subject.
He is also wrong to say that such beliefs are old. The idea that diet is linked with cancer (and other illnesses) became popular only recently, arising from scientific research.
Nancy Appelton PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, lists 76 harmful effects of excessive sugar consumption, giving scientific references mostly from the 1980s onwards. Apart from being directly associated with various types of cancer, sugar weakens immune function – and this allows cancer cells to spread.
Dr Colin T Campbell led The China Health Study – the biggest, long-term nutritional study ever undertaken. Dr Campbell grew up on a dairy farm, drinking a gallon of milk a day and believing that milk was wholesome and necessary. Today, he is a leading voice that warns against the great harm of milk.
The US-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has more than 100,000 members, including thousands of medical professionals, led by Dr Neal Barnard. It recommends a pure vegetarian diet and its website, www.pcrm.org is packed with scientific references about the harm of meat, milk and dairy.
Against all these, there is a great body of scientific literature about phytonutrients – plant nutrients – helping the body prevent and fight degenerative diseases, including cancer. And the few studies on organic foods generally show them to contain more nutrition, particularly phytonutrients.
Dr Ang dismissed all this science and more. Instead, he highlighted one isolated case of a young commando who survived toxic chemotherapy while adopting a high-calorie, high-protein diet that included milk shakes. Medical science calls such examples “anecdotal evidence” and rejects them.
By dismissing science as “old wives tales” and focussing on a single anecdotal evidence, Dr Ang is being unscientific in his approach. This makes him grossly irresponsible as a doctor and a man of science.