From the blog DESTROYED BY SCIENCE
Claim 3: Juicing can cure cancer
It’s almost as if, the further down the rabbit hole one goes, the less scientific this meme gets. Juicing what, exactly? It’s difficult to know where to even start with this claim; because honestly, it’s an incredibly vague one. There are so many different fruits and vegetables that this could be referring to, and systematically searching the literature to determine whether there is any evidence to support using the juice of one of these as a cure for cancer is clearly a little beyond the scope of a blog post. We can approach it in a more general way though, so here goes.
Drinking carrot juice may not cure your cancer; but it can turn you orange. That is evidence based (1).
The most common themes for curing your cancer by “juicing” seem to be claims that carrot juice cures cancer, or that certain dietary protocols such as Gerson Therapy cure cancer (2). For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Gerson Therapy, I can tell you that it involves drinking 12-13 glasses of juice a day (probably organic only), amongst other
interesting bullshit recommendations such as coffee enema detoxes. It’s worth mentioning here that the Gerson protocol was mentioned in the literature review on cancer diets (3) I included in Part 2 when discussing the alkaline diet claim, and surprise, surprise! There isn’t any good evidence to suggest that oncologists should recommend this diet to cancer patients as a cure or even as an adjuvant to therapy, as it poses a health risk.
A Google search on “juicing” and cancer doesn’t bring up a great deal of peer reviewed literature on the topic. It does bring up a pile of anecdotes though. Certainly there are people out there attributing their recovery from cancer to one or more juices. But these personal stories, as warm and fuzzy as they are; do not mean that these people had their cancer cured by drinking juice. It doesn’t matter how many of them there are – anecdotes do not equal hard evidence that fruit juice cures cancer. Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge the dishonesty involved in some of these anecdotes; especially in the sense that some stand to gain financially from convincing others that their warm fuzzy story is evidence.
I’ll start with one of the main culprits here, Chris Wark; since his tale is representative of many other anecdotes one would come across. Chris Wark runs a blog called “Chris Beat Cancer: A Chemo-Free Survivors’ Health Blog” (4). Reading his blog, it is quite clear that he attributes his own, and other fellow juicer’s survivals to God and dietary protocols. Although he gives a shoutout to his surgery; there isn’t really an acknowledgement that he wasn’t told “you must have chemotherapy, or you will die”. It was recommended to him as an adjuvant to surgery, to decrease the chances of the cancer returning.
I’m not going to describe Wark’s case in detail; because David Gorski has already done a very thorough job of dissecting it here (5). Having surgery and then claiming that it was juice or other dietary changes that cured the cancer seems to be a very common theme in “juicing cured my cancer” stories, as Gorski points out in his article. He discusses some other cases featured on Wark’s blog in the “Let’s dismiss what surgeons have done to help treat our cancer” section.
The bottom line here is – do you think these blog posts/anecdotes are really rigorous evidence that drinking juice cures cancer? Would Wark feature the stories of people who have died after choosing treatment protocols such as Gerson therapy? Because this has happened, that is evidence based. One of the more famous examples of this is that of Jess Ainscough; who sadly died of her cancer after refusing surgical treatment in favour of the Gerson protocol. Gorski has also written about this case (6) and includes a run down on the
science pseudoscience behind the Gerson Therapy. Ainscough was well known for her promotion of the Gerson therapy, and sadly her mother, Sharyn Ainscough also passed away, of breast cancer, after making the same decision to use Gerson Therapy instead of conventional treatments.
Stories like these are truly awful, examples of how pseudoscience has gone too far and although I do feel that Ainscough’s insinuation to the public on more than one occasion that the protocol was healing her, was incredibly deceptive; I also share Gorski’s opinion that she and her mother were definite victims in this journey. They are by no means the only ones either. If you look at the website, What’s the Harm, in the alternative medicine section (7); there are more stories of people who have died after choosing treatments like Gerson Therapy. Naturally, none of these kinds of stories are mentioned in the testimonial section of Wark’s blog. Because, “My relative/friend tried this and died” is not the kind of story you can use to sell nutritional coaching sessions.
Without a doubt, the absolute worst part of all of this, is the fact that people like Chris Wark sell their ideas to people and convince them to forgo life saving treatments in favour of alternative therapies that have not been proven to work. He absolves himself from responsibility by saying that he doesn’t prevent and cure disease (8); shifting any success – but also the burden of any failure, on to the customer:
“I am not a doctor. I don’t prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure disease. I do not practice medicine. I have no certifications of any kind and I don’t plan on getting any. What I do have, is over 10 years of experiential expertise, and I don’t need a degree or license to share that with you. As you can tell by the vast amount of info on this site, I am an avid researcher on nutrition and natural therapies, and I know many people who have healed themselves.”
And that 10 years of experiential expertise that he wants to share with you? That will set you back a cool $125 an hour.
As with cannabis oil, there may be some compounds in fruits or vegetables that have the potential to have anti cancer activity. These properties and any studies relating to them are pounced upon by juicing proponents as proof of their claims; but just like with cannabis, the studies that show potential are performed using purified extracts of various compounds, rather than the juice itself. A good example isthis study (9) on bioactive compounds found in carrot juice extracts. Of note, the study is not a clinical trial on humans, it is in vitro, on human lymphoid leukaemia cell lines (may not be effective for other cancer types). The researchers looked at five fractions of carrot juice extract and five purified bioactive compounds. Another similar study (10) done previously by the same authors reached a similar conclusion – that carrots may be an excellent source of bioactive chemicals for the treatment of leukaemia.
The common theme here is that plants are full of interesting chemicals, many of which are bioactive. Some may have potential to treat cancer. But this potential doesn’t mean that carrot juice will cure cancer; any more than eating bark off the Pacific Yew tree will allow you to consume enough paclitaxel (11) to cure breast cancer. If a chemical in carrots or pomegranates or goji berries that is found to have cytotoxicity is ever to be used as a treatment; it will most likely be in a purified form, and in an exact dosage. And just as with cannabinoids, if or when this happens, it will be known as chemotherapy.
Falcarinol, one of the bioactive chemicals found in carrots
That brings me to the end of my rant about “juicing” not being a cancer cure. You can check out theThe New Horsemen group on Facebook for a thread that covers cancer cure claims; they have information on Gerson Therapy and add new sources when they come across them. If you come across a claim you haven’t seen debunked before, feel free to come post in the Healthy Skepticism group on Facebook.
That covers all the claims about “cures”, so in Part 4, I’ll go over the generalised fear mongering about conventional treatment, discuss the claim that research foundations searching for a cure are bullshit; and finally, talk about the illogical idea that allopathic medicine doesn’t want to cure patients, since that would be customers lost. Thanks for reading!
(1) Orac,. (2005). Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. “Orac Knows”): The Orange Man.Oracknows.blogspot.com.au. Retrieved 17 November 2015, from http://oracknows.blogspot.com.au/2005/04/orange-man.html
(2) Gerson Institute,. (2011). The Gerson Therapy | Gerson Institute. Retrieved 13 November 2015, from http://gerson.org/gerpress/the-gerson-therapy/
(3) Huebner, J., Marienfeld, S., Abbenhardt, C., Ulrich, C., Muensted, K., & Micke, O. et al. (2014). Counseling Patients on Cancer Diets: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Clinical Practice. Anticancer Research, 34(1), 46. Retrieved from http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/34/1/39.full
(4) Wark, C. (2015). Chris Beat Cancer. Chris Beat Cancer. Retrieved 13 November 2015, from http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/
(5) Gorski, D. (2013). Yes, Chris beat cancer, but it wasn’t quackery that cured him « Science-Based Medicine. Sciencebasedmedicine.org. Retrieved 13 November 2015, from https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/chris-beat-cancer/
(6) Gorski, D. (2015). The Gerson protocol, cancer, and the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior” « Science-Based Medicine. Sciencebasedmedicine.org. Retrieved 13 November 2015, from https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-gerson-protocol-and-the-death-of-jess-ainscough/
(7) Whatstheharm.net,. (2015). What’s The Harm?. Retrieved 14 November 2015, from http://whatstheharm.net/index.html
(8) Wark, C. (2012). Health & Cancer Coaching. Chris Beat Cancer. Retrieved 14 November 2015, from http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/coaching/
(9) G. Zaini, R., Brandt, K., R. Clench, M., & L. Le Maitre, C. (2012). Effects of Bioactive Compounds from Carrots (Daucus carota L.), Polyacetylenes, Beta-Carotene and Lutein on Human Lymphoid Leukaemia Cells. Anti-Cancer Agents In Medicinal Chemistry, 12(6), 640-652. http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/187152012800617704
(10) Zaini, R., Clench, M., & Le Maitre, C. (2011). Bioactive Chemicals from Carrot ( Daucus carota) Juice Extracts for the Treatment of Leukemia. Journal Of Medicinal Food, 14(11), 1303-1312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2010.0284
(11) National Cancer Institute,. (2015). Science and Nature Team Up Against Breast and Ovarian Cancers. Retrieved 15 November 2015, from http://www.cancer.gov/research/progress/discovery/taxol