by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Part 2
Principals in Practice: Development and
Promotion of Diet and Health Policy
Case #2 is an experience I had in respect to the aflatoxin question: concerning whether or not it caused liver cancer. You may recall when I was discussing the experimental animal data showing that rats administered aflatoxin - a potent chemical carcinogen (causes cancer) for rats - and then subsequently fed either 5% or 20% casein (the casomorphine protein from milk/cheese/yogurt).
I'm sure you'll recall that the animals that were given the 20% casein protein in this particular case, they were the ones that developed the tumors. The animals that were given the 5% did not.
There was this observation, and it was the multiple ways that we looked at that observation, that became so convincing that casein had this particular property of being able to increase cancer growth rate that got me going down the track that I eventually did.
It also suggested that maybe antitoxin really is not that important as had been expected back in the 60's. When aflatoxin was first discovered, it being a mold toxin being present in peanuts and corn, when it was first discovered as being so potent in causing liver cancer in rats, there was a lot of concern and rightfully so, about the possibility that it might cause human liver cancer and I know there are a lot of countries where there is a lot of human liver cancer.
In any case, experimental animal studies suggested that maybe low levels of aflatoxin consumed by humans was not the main player in causing liver cancer. Rather, it seemed that nutrition, particularly protein intake and dairy even more particularly, was involved in this. So it remained an open question for some 15 or 20 years.
I think from the time I started this work as to whether aflatoxin was a significant human carcinogen, or whether it was something else like nutrition. I should also add something else that has been subsequently discovered like hepatitis B virus, which incidentally is a very significant factor in causing liver cancer but I won't have an opportunity to get into the details of that.
So, the question remained open: was aflatoxin really important or not? I mean there were huge amounts of money being spent in various countries around the world, especially through international agencies being spent to try and bring under control the amount of moldy peanuts that may be present that were designed for human consumption. Or, the amount of moldy corn that was destined for either human or animal consumption especially animals that may in turn be consumed by humans.
And so this notion had arisen in many communities around the world both regulatory communities and the public was that here we have this aflatoxin compound, the most carcinogenic chemical ever discovered and it could be the answer to why people get liver cancer in areas of the world where aflatoxin consumption was thought to be higher.
We had an opportunity in our China Study to explore this question in more depth and breadth than all the rest of the studies put together... There was already supporting evidence that aflatoxin might be important. In contrast, there was also evidence from chemical studies that aflatoxin was not carcinogenic for humans at all. In fact, there was very strong evidence to indicate that it did not play a role in human liver cancer.
So the question became of great interest, not just to the aflatoxin liver cancer, hepatitis scientific communities, but also it became of interest in terms of just basic cancer itself. What was important? Was it the chemical carcinogen? Was it the virus? Was it nutrition? What was it? So in our study in China we had an opportunity of looking at this question from a rather broad point of view, measuring all kinds of nutritional characteristics as you may recall.
We also measured aflatoxin exposure in 3 different ways and using one
of the ways was very precise and a very good method. In fact, it was
the best method that was available at the time. We did this study and we
had a total of 65 communities to compare as opposed to 17, which was a
total of all the other earlier studies. We also looked at hepatitis B
virus exposure and a whole host of different factors that may be related
to liver cancer.
So, we really had an opportunity to look from a very broad perspective to see whether aflatoxin was involved or not.
I should also point out that in that study, we had a big range of cancer mortality rates for the different communities that we were examining, so we had a big broad range of liver cancer rates, of aflatoxin exposure and of nutritional characteristics. It was ideal to have a fairly careful evaluation of this question.
The aflatoxin analysis was done by a chemist who is now at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine - a chemist who had begun to distinguish himself and his chemical work,and who believed very strongly in the idea that this carcinogen was terribly important for us to bring under control. I basically made arrangements for him to do the analysis of the urine samples that we got from the subjects in our studies. Urine samples incidentally being collected because that's the way we measured aflatoxin exposure simply by measuring how much of the aflatoxin metabolite came out of the urine. So our study was done, we sent our samples to him and he very carefully analyzed all thee urine samples and much to his displeasure, there was no relationship to aflatoxin intake.
In fact, if anything, it almost suggested that the higher aflatoxin intake, the lower the risk of liver cancer. So, I say that, because there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that aflatoxin had anything to do with human liver cancer.
This came at a time when the international and national agencies who determine what's carcinogenic and what's not had already concluded that aflatoxin was a very serious carcinogen and they had regulations being placed around the world about how much aflatoxin should be allowed in food. And there were methodologies being developed and enormous amounts of money being expended just on this question concerning aflatoxin exposure.
What did we find? We found no relationship with aflatoxin; interestingly, we found a highly significant relationship with nutritional exposure and the way we determined that was looking at plasma cholesterol which tends to reflect nutritional characteristics and it turned out the higher the cholesterol levels the higher was the risk of liver cancer. Also, we learned that before in our time, that people who had been predisposed to Hepatitis B virus or had been chronically infected by that virus, that they too also had a much higher risk. So what came out of our study, which like I said was the most comprehensive study ever done, was that cancer was largely a nutritional viral disease, at least in the case of this liver cancer. It was not a chemical carcinogen disease, even with the most potent chemical carcinogen that we've ever had.
So why am I telling you all this? The person who actually did the analysis for the aflatoxin became really quite upset about it. He would not co-op with the paper. He would have nothing to do with this, he said because it basically countered the popular opinions of the day, it ran right up against the face of a lot of regulations that were being established in international trade as to how foods could be traded across borders; which were largely triggered by how much aflatoxin they had.
In any case, he wanted nothing to do with it. (Dr. Flora: "Don't confuse me with the truth!" he shrieked!" :[ )
Instead, he and his colleagues it turned out later also had an association with a small industry to produce an analytical methodology to analyze for aflatoxin.
So, suddenly we came in with this report that suggested that aflatoxin wasn't nearly as important as it otherwise would be, it certainly brought in his interest in that. But more to the point, that group also had an interest in aflatoxin still being regarded as an important carcinogen because if, in fact, we made the assumption that aflatoxin was important, they had come up with a chemical that they thought could be administered as a drug in order to reduce the risk for people who would otherwise be getting liver cancer when they were consuming aflatoxin. Thus, if aflatoxin's not important, than this drug was not important. And, it turns out that the drug that was being proposed for use was a very potent and a very toxic chemical, at least toxic to the liver.
I raised some objections but unfortunately ran into some difficulties with that group because it involved a group of scientists at NIH as well. I pointed out that if they did that study (they wanted to do it in China) first off, they were running a very high risk of causing more deaths and more health problems than solutions based on the information that we had.
They went ahead and did the study, conducted it for a total of eight years, and finally quit, because according to their report, they ended up with unforeseen health problems in these people and I still, to this day, don't know how serious those "unforeseen health problems" were, but the whole project was abandoned after many millions of dollars were spent to do it.
Now I will tell you once again, that particular episode illustrated something to me quite apart from the personal thing. I don't want to get into that, but it indicated something tome about the way we think about science. Those folks wanted to think that cancer was caused by a very specific chemical and therefore treated or prevented by a very specific chemical.
They did not, under any circumstances, want to consider the possibility that nutrition working its ways might be playing a role.
(Dr. Flora: Later, it was shown by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn that the aflatoxin "seeds" itself in us when we eat something that contains it, like moldy peanuts, peanut butter, flour, grain or corn and their products, and then later, when the dairy casomorphine enters our bodies, the tumors begin to grow. When the dairy is withdraw, the tumors shrink. When it is offered again, the tumors grow once more. It's like the glue that takes two types of chemicals to cause the reaction of bonding. The casein is the major ingredient in Elmer's Glue, seriously! Mold and Pus...)
To be continued...
Peace and Love Be With You,
Dr. Flora van Orden III
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