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Cancer, Obesity and Diabetes: Diseases of Civilization?

Cancer, Obesity and Diabetes: Diseases of Civilization?

Article by Don Goldberg

Cancer, Obesity and Diabetes:

Diseases of Civilization?

Is an overconsumption of white flour, white sugar, and refined sweeteners such as corn syrup responsible for the frightening increase of cancer, diabetes and obesity?

Is the key to cancer prevention, reduced diabetes and obesity the avoidance of the same foods that make your blood sugar run wild?

...with coments by Don Goldberg, R.Ph.

[Dr. Ralph Moss, a leading author and consultant on cancer, has put forward an interesting theory on what is behind the tremendous increase in cancer in our society. He speculates that other diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, are related to the same underlying problem. The following comments are excerpted from Dr. Moss’s excellent newsletter, The Moss Reports. You can subscribe to a free email version of The Moss Reports simply by visiting his web site,]

Cancer: A Disease of Civilization?

Is cancer a disease of civilization? Is it related to other diseases that seem to increase with industrialization? If so, what are the implications for readers living in the 21st century?

Back in the 19th century, many of the diseases that now plague us were rare. Diabetes was twenty-seventh on the list of causes of death in the statistics of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1900. By 1950 it had become the third leading cause of death. The famous surgeon Alton Ochsner, MD, once related that, when he was in medical school in the early 20th century, one of his professors took his class to see the autopsy of a patient who had died of a heart attack. The disease was so rare at that time that his professor feared they might never see another such instance! Obesity was the subject of circus displays, not an everyday occurrence.

Similarly, until the mid-1800s, cancer was relatively rare and was not considered statistically important. This was particularly true outside of the major cities. Then, in the mid-19th century, cancer began its stratospheric rise. Around the same time, well-trained medical personnel began to travel and even to live among indigenous peoples (the so-called “natives”). The news they brought back was startling. These diverse populations, many of whom lived a hand-to-mouth existence, were generally much healthier than their Western counterparts. True, they had a high infant mortality rate and easily succumbed to epidemics that originated in the West such as measles, smallpox and tuberculosis. But they had far less asthma, allergies, indigestion, and heart disease. The same disparity in health was seen between rural and urban populations in Europe. The French or English farmer was much less likely to develop cancer than the cosmopolite of Paris or London. And despite the stereotypical image of Eskimos and South Sea islanders as roly-poly, obesity was extremely rare among such people.

Most startling of all, cancer seemed nonexistent. In 1843, a French surgeon, Stanislas Tanchou, MD, formulated this observation into “Tanchou’s Doctrine”: the incidence of cancer increases in direct proportion to the “civilization” of a nation and its people. This doctrine was embraced by John Le Conte, MD (1818-1891), first president of the University of California, and his enthusiasm led medical missionaries, ship surgeons, anthropologists and others to undertake an avid search for cancer among the Alaskan Eskimo (Inuit), northern Athapaskans of Canada and the native peoples of Labrador. The result was always the same: For 75 years, not a single case of cancer was documented among the tens of thousands of such people studied by competent medical examiners. The Harvard-trained anthropologist, Vilhjalmur Stefannson, for instance, lived for 11 years among the Eskimo and never saw a case. In later life, he wrote a book on the topic, Cancer: A<