High Fat Diet Linked to Breast Cancer?

One of the great things about our growing community is how people like Denise Minger have emerged from near obscurity to become recognized leaders in certain areas. When it comes to parsing the scientific studies, very few people have the combination of skills, understanding of the scientific method and probability, AND the willingness to dig deep into the minutiae to get to the essence of a study. Denise is one of those rare people. If you haven’t read Denise’s take-down of the China Study, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Lucky for us, Denise has taken the time to dig into the latest research on diet and breast cancer in today’s guest post. (Thank you!) Without further ado, Denise…

If you’ve been scanning the health news lately (or live within earshot of some gloating low-fat adherents), you might’ve noticed a flurry of recent headlines linking fat and cholesterol to breast cancer. In case you haven’t, this should get you up to speed:

Catch the drift?

These doomful blurbs sprang from a mouse study published earlier this month in the American Journal of Pathology, showing that mice fed a higher-fat, cholesterol-enriched diet developed bigger and more aggressive tumors than mice eating their normal “chow” diet. According to the researchers, this suggests that “cholesterol accelerates and enhances tumor formation.” And if the news stories are to be trusted, that means we should curb the fat and toss back some statins with our Healthy Whole Grain dinners.

Even if you’re not a woman, chances are good that you’ve encountered one before, and maybe even spent some time inside one’s womb. And considering about one out of every seven women will face breast cancer in her lifetime, dietary links with this disease tend to be a hot topic for health-minded folks of either gender. So what’s going on with this study? Can it tell us anything important, or is it another one for the lame-research slush pile?

Of Mice and Women

If you don’t want to trudge through the full text of the study linked above, here’s the rundown. The researchers took two groups of mice: one wild, ordinary-mouse-on-the-street strain and one special strain that’s predisposed to developing mammary tumors. For both the wild and the tumor-prone mice groups, half got a standard chow diet and half got a Western diet. These are the only food details offered in the paper:

Female mice hemizygous for the PyMT transgene were given either a Western diet (57BD; LabDiet, Richmond, IN) containing 20.2% fat, 16.8% protein, and 48.0% carbohydrate, or a chow diet (5010; LabDiet) containing 4.5% fat, 23.0% protein, and 50.1% carbohydrate, at age 4 weeks and thereafter ad libitum. Although fat content of the diet was increased, carbohydrate content was not altered. Moreover, energy values of the 2 diets were similar (4.43 kcal/g and 4.14 kcal/g for Western and chow diets, respectively).

Fair enough. From this description, you’d think the main difference between the diets was fat content: 4.5 percent in one and 20.2 percent in the other (with slightly lower protein and carbohydrate levels to compensate). But whenever we hear a diet described only in terms of macronutrient ratios with no assurance that the food variables are controlled, it’s usually a bad sign (and an inevitable slush pile omen). Fortunately, Google exists. Even though the paper’s lips are zipped about the actual ingredients of the diets, the spec sheets for both the chow diet 5010 and “Western diet” 57BD are posted online, so we can figure out exactly what these mice were eating.

Food vs. “Food”

It turns out the chow-diet mice—the ones who got fewer tumors—were feasting on a mix of:

  • Ground corn
  • Dehulled soybean meal
  • Wheat middlings
  • Fish meal
  • Ground wheat
  • Wheat germ
  • Brewers dried yeast
  • Ground oats
  • Dehydrated alfalfa meal
  • Porcine animal fat
  • Ground soybean hulls
  • Soybean oil
  • Dried beet pulp
  • And a bunch of added vitamins and minerals.

Not exactly a five-star cuisine, but most of these ingredients aren’t alien substances to mice. It’s passable fare.

But what about the high fat diet that promoted so much tumor growth? Was it the same as above, just slathered in a few pats of butter? Alas, the “Western diet” mice weren’t even eating food. Along with a small amount of added cholesterol, their diet consisted of:

  • Sucrose (31%)
  • Milk fat (21%)
  • Casein (19 %)
  • Maltodextrin (10%)
  • Powdered Cellulose (5%)
  • Dextrin (5%)
  • And the typical vitamin and mineral array.

Bon appétit.

It’s a marvel the Western diet got labeled “high fat and cholesterol” when it’s only 21 percent fat and nearly a third pure table sugar. It’s also a marvel that the researchers pegged the tumor-enhancing effects of the Western diet on its cholesterol content rather than on any of the other differences it had with the chow diet (for example: everything). In fact, the protein source alone might play a role in spurring the big, speedy tumors found in the Western diet rats, since so much of their diet was casein. Dare I reference my old pal T. Colin Campbell, whose research showed isolated casein tends to boost tumor growth in rodents when it exceeds 5 percent of their diet? I dare. There may be something uniquely cancer-promoting about isolated complete proteins (like casein) in a purified diet, probably due to the fact that they promote growth in general but lack the matrix of protective substances found in whole foods.

But the most interesting thing here is that hefty dose of sucrose in the Western mouse diet. Even back in the 80s, researchers were noting an association between sugar consumption and breast cancer, speculating that:

A possible connecting link between sugar consumption and breast cancer is insulin. This is an absolute requirement for the proliferation of normal mammary tissue and experimental mammary tumours may regress in its absence. Insulin secretion occurs in response to blood glucose level and could be excessive if the regulatory mechanism is overtaxed by large sugar intake.

There’s a growing body of research addressing the insulin-breast cancer link, and unlike with fat, the findings are more consistent. High insulin is associated with a greater risk of death from breast cancer, may lead to a greater risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and may be a risk factor for breast cancer independent of estrogen. Although insulin responses to sugar vary between mouse strains, there’s some evidence that mice fed sucrose as their primary carbohydrate (opposed to other foods like cornstarch) have higher levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1. Both insulin and IGF-1 can potentially stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells and hike up testosterone levels (which also has some compelling links with breast cancer). And one study examining the effects of different sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrate on mammary tumors in mice showed that the sucrose-eating mice had 100 percent tumor incidence by the end of the study.

Since the researchers were mostly concerned with fat and cholesterol in this study, they didn’t examine potential pathways between tumor growth and insulin, or consider whether the high sugar and casein content of the Western diet had anything to do with cancer promotion. I’ve got a hunch there are some untapped clues there, but from this study, we’ll never know for sure.

The Cholesterol Connection

Although most of the media outlets pounced on the “high fat” part of this study, the researchers themselves were more intrigued by the effects of cholesterol. Interestingly, the mice exhibited lower cholesterol as their tumors grew—suggesting that the tumors seemed to guzzle cholesterol and use it for cell proliferation, causing a drop in serum levels. (This jibes with a trend we’ve seen in humans, where certain cancer patients have significantly lower cholesterol than the rest of the population.) The researchers speculate that lowering blood cholesterol could help limit tumor growth in humans, and they conclude: “Drugs that target cholesterol metabolism could be used in addition to drugs that may facilitate the elimination of breast cancer cells.” (Did you hear that? Could it be the joyous clinking of the statin companies’ wine glasses?)

Even if tumors (breast or otherwise) do hoard cholesterol, there’s no way to tell from this study whether cholesterol actually promotes their growth, and if deliberately lowering your levels would do a darn thing for cancer prevention. In fact, the researchers note that “it is not unreasonable to assume that liver function may be affected in this disease” and that “plasma lipoprotein levels could be influenced by reduced hepatic lipoprotein secretion”—in which case the breast tumors might not be reducing cholesterol by using it for their own growth, but the body is simply producing less of it.

So What Do We Take Away From It All?

This study might’ve uncovered an interesting role of cholesterol in tumor growth, but it’s hard to tell what the significance would be even if that’s the case. Given the total lack of a control diet and the sketchy assembly of ingredients in the Western cuisine, we can’t glean much of anything about the role of fat or cholesterol in human breast cancer. The only things saving this study from that slush pile are the three nuggets of wisdom it confers: Don’t be born a tumor-prone mouse, don’t eat a foodless diet based on table sugar and casein, and read the full text of studies before letting news headlines make you nervous.

For More Insightful Research Analysis Visit Denise’s Blog, Raw Food SOS

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140 thoughts on “High Fat Diet Linked to Breast Cancer?”

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  1. Excellent analysis here. I just love what media can do to blow things out of proportion. I will not be surprised if someone tells me in the future that all the eggs we eat in my family will give my wife breast cancer!

    1. I agree. News like this create paranoia and a stress response. Followed by inflammation and eventually disease process kicks in. Lets listen to our bodies pre installed intelligence and follow or hearts rather then indoctrinated research. Enjoy your pastured eggs, they will be healthy as long as a chickens healthy too 🙂

  2. Wow, excellent work dissecting this. This encourages me to maintain my thorough skepticism of research articles. It is exhausting to apply this level of scrutiny, but ultimately it is necessary. If only we could explain that to a lot of these scientists…

  3. Love reading breakdowns of studies like these from a statistical perspective. It’s information that is often very hard to find! Thanks Denise!

    One thing I wonder – what is the remaining mystery percentage of macronutrient in each of the diet? Those given percentages don’t add up to 100 in either case, not even close. The “chow” diet totals 85%, and the “western” totals 77.6%.

      1. there is no calorie in vitamins or minerals and therefore they do not enter in the macronutrient %. The explanation is a big mistake in this article. Protein, Carb and Lipids must add up to 100%. the only other factor is alcohol but I doubt the diets included alcohols.

  4. The absence of fish meal in diet 2 may also be a significant difference, since omega-3 fatty acids have anti-tumor properties.

  5. Mark,

    I’m living with a couple of scientist students from University of Maryland, and to be perfectly honest, they are terrible. They overlook information that they deem “unneccesary”, they poo-poo anything unconventional, and ultimately they are looking more and more to be backing Conventional Wisdom on faith rather than through science. It is horribly frustrating to deal with this utter blindness.

    Thank you for your continued effort clearing through the muck of modern society.

    1. Nice! I am an undergrad there, I hope I don’t meet them! But it’s important to be able to change the way people think about these things for the better.

    2. Funny. I learned how to critically think at UMD. I guess it boils down to who your mentors are and how open your mind is.

  6. Denise Minger, you effing rule.

    You should really do this full time, you’re so good at it. I don’t know how you would make a living at it, but the talent is definitely there.

  7. That is awesome, I always get so frustrated when I see those headlines, great she can break it down and straighten it out!

  8. Kudos to Niesy yet again –

    and jeeeze – a study up against a 1/3 SUGAR diet ??- do you get the idea that these studies are absolutely set up to create the sensations that drive the CW to its anti-meat/fat/cholesterol frenzy?

    i do – and i posted this yesterday but the thread got so long i would like to bring it up again – the is from a PEER REVIEW MEDICAL JOURNAL: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”

  9. Now would you like to have a go at the Statin study that’s made all the news today here in the UK!

    I had to turn the radio off after about 30 seconds as I yelled ‘change what you eat’!

  10. Wow science is so awesome .. . great analysis, if I hadn’t read the full text I wouldn’t have known that their diet was actually sucrose and 21% fat

  11. I am so thankful for Denise and people like her. We can’t get this info anywhere else, and it’s desperately needed. It angers me that these so-called scientists get any attention at all, since they are a blot on the reputation of any real scientist.

  12. Love how they called sucralose and casein a “western diet.” I was expecting the mice to be eating Big Macs and fries. 🙂 Great job Denise!

    1. They might be better off with Big Macs and fries. Worth a study, at least by these standards.

      1. Might be better off with ground up cereal boxes. Let’s see how mice do on Chocolate Coated Sugar Bombs. Don’t they carry the American Heart Association Seal of Approval?

    2. Got news for you…take a look at what folks are putting into their shopping carts next time you go to the grocery store…most of the “food”, which I prefer to call food-stuffs because it is really not food, is carb-laden, which breaks down to “sugar”. If it does not fly, swim, walk on four legs, or grow from the earth, it is not food.

      1. Yes! As soon as my wife and I opened our eyes to what is “food,” we see people at restaurants and the grocery store and look at what they are buying or eating and always follow up with “Yup, no mystery there,” or a scarcastic “I don’t know WHY I can’t lose weight”

      2. You’re not kidding. When you look at the cart, you begin to understand why so many people are suffering from weight, health and social issues.

  13. There have been many studies like this before, same set up, different date, and every time they have been refuted due to the fact that a mouse, or certain types of mice have not evolved to devour these types of diets, even if the diet was pure in fats, many mice evolved eating grains and because of that, flourish on low fat,grain diets. We humans evolved differently. Secondly the diets that contain fat’s always contain more sugar, etc, Anti fat people, give it a rest, you can’t win this one!

    1. The anti fat people have *money* behind them, so yes they can and are winning.

  14. So, that was a beautiful first read of the day. Thanks!

    On a similar note, my foray into resarching my health began in 1998, when I found out I had two breast tumours. I had been eating extremely low fat, so high carbs in whatever form, and even though I still ate lots of veggies and (very lean) meat, it wasn’t enough to keep my body from disease.

    At that time, I was also breathing in a lot of xylene, acetone, and chemicals from rubber cement because I was in art college, spending about 60 hrs per week in that environment.

    After only four months of this high carb, low fat, chemical-breathing regimen, I was deathly ill.

    My college happened to ban all breathable/vapourous chemicals over the break during which my tumours were found, and I quit my low fat regime, and changed to grain-free, dairy-very-limited, and whole-unprocessed food. I quit everything with a solvent- shampoo, lotions, soap, antipersperant, detergents, etc…, anything in a package, really.

    Four months later, and after a LOT of sleep, I was tumour-free and have had no recurrence despite having an otherwise still frustratingly fragile constitution, and few year’s return to limited grain-eating with my whole foods.

    My understanding of cancer at that time was that isopropyl alcohol is a solvent that shuts down the immune response specifically to cancer, sugar feeds tumours, and if there’s a tumour growing somewhere in the body, it isn’t a specific type of cancer, but a whole terrain that is diseased, so treating a tumour is like sweeping the sand off the beach.

    It’s the terrain that has been made hospitable to disordered function of the immune system responses. It has to be wholistically addressed so that the body regains its structural/functional integrity, which naturally doesn’t include the development of disease.

    I have a much more wholistic understanding of the body now, but that was enough information at that time for me to develop my own protocol, and heal from cancer.

    I don’t consider anedotes science, but I do know that removal of solvents from my life, holing up to sleep, and eating fat, whole foods and no grain, were the only changes I made to my life then- no meds, no chemo, no surgery, no radiation, just me, being told I was crazy, but considering that if my body was that sick, why would I subject myself to even more strain from drugs and iotrogenic trauma?

    Anyway. Headlines that say that animal fats kill just don’t phase me. I know for sure that they’re wrong.

    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing! That was a great confirmation for me. You did a great thing for yourself and I think that your testimony would help many people.

      Just wondering… did you eliminate high carb fruits? Were you eating mostly low carb whole foods?

      Thanks so much and I hope to hear back from you! :0)

      1. Yes, I incidentally did low carb because I genuinely don’t enjoy much sweet fruit. My choice fruits have always ben tart berries, so that’s what I ate the most of, and I add in a tart navel orange, snack on lemon slices, and also avocado and olives.

        I didn’t know about “low carb” then; I just tried to eat as cleanly as I knew how, and to avoid things that caused me to feel ill, like grapes, apples, bananas, and other sweet fruit. Grains made me sleepy, so they were an easy-to-spot problem.

        I started eating bone-in, skin-on meats, too, because quitting packaged foods meant buying meat from farmers at the market, and they would hack the carcasses apart right there, and laugh if asked for “boneless, skinless.” So, again, it was incidental to seeking clean food that I happened upon what ultimately allowed my body to heal.

        Now I know why it worked! Lol. If I had not been healing, there’s no doubt that I would have continued to seek information, but it *was* working, so I just kept doing what I was doing.

        1. Thank you so very much for your reply!!! It was wonderful to get more information and I am sure that your post will help many others as well!!!!!!!!

          Thanks again and may you always have great health!!!!

    2. Almost a year later, I just wanted to say thank you, Imogen, for sharing your story too. As a 31 year old woman fighting breast cancer while pregnant, it is encouraging to read success stories from others who healed themselves through dietary and lifestyle changes. It has been 3 months since my diagnosis and a lot of alternative cancer-fighting protocols say to avoid meat. I still eat 2 eggs a day (from our own chickens) for baby’s sake, but I’m really missing my grass-fed, hormone-free beef! This article and your comments give me hope that I can eat red meat again too! Anyway, thank you for sharing!

  15. It seems to me to be a classic case of declaring a conclusion then doing everything you can to prove it.

    Great article here.

  16. Even if the mice ate a diet higher in fat composed of real food and this resulted in higher cancer rates — well so what? This shouldnt be generalized to humans. Why? Because mice are herbivores and eat foods very different from a natural human diet.

    1. No, mice and rats are omnivores. They are used in studies because their digestive systems have similarities to humans.

  17. My wife, doesn’t miss a beat.

    Wife: As far as I know, only one thing has ever been proven to be linked to breast cancer.
    Me: What’s that?
    Wife: Having breasts.

    1. Bah ha ha ha!

      Yes, I just wanted to write a post laughing.

      Your wife is one smart cookie… Erm, beef jerky. Smart beef jerky. It really doesn’t have the same ring though, doesn’t it? Do you think Mark can accept cookies for their literary value?

  18. Though not nearly of Denise’s caliber, I, too have discovered some inconsistencies in reviewing other health studies….always blaming fat for some negative condition.

    When you dig into the guts of it, turns out that there are numerous other factors that could be responsible, but are never accounted for. So how can people believe all these studies?

  19. Couldn’t it just be that people with high cholesterol are just not as prone to cancer?

  20. What about the maltodextrin and dextrin listed in the “western” diet in the study? I thought those are corn-based sugars, so it appears the diet may have been close to 40% sugar!!!

  21. The main problem with these experiments is that we only hear .01% of the actual science behind the experiment and those experimenting seem to think that the body is a closed system, un-impacted by other important factors… Bummer so many people will be reacting in a scared manner to studies like this — and most likely taking the wrong steps…

  22. I would have stopped at the diets. I apparently knew more about control groups in high school than these people do. The only interesting result would have been if they were the same. The fact that the two groups had different results doesn’t prove anything. What a waste of research money.

  23. The biggest crime in nutrition research today is the case-control studies in which only one variable ought to be changed (for example, fat content), but actually 10 or 12 or 20 variables are actually changed (like the two entirely different chow recipes here). Researchers then stick their results in a fancy statistical package and churn out some barely significant numbers, all in the belief that they’ve tested one variable (not even realizing how many confounders they let into the mix!).

    Who is approving these studies in the first place? I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do have to wonder just how much drug company money is driving these sloppy setups.

    1. A major problem is that in nutrition science you can’t change just one variable when you’re dealing with macronutrients.

      For instance, suppose you are studying the effect of saturated fat on cancer. You have two groups of mice, and feed one ten times more saturated fat than the other group. However, for the “control” group, do do you feed them a diet with fewer fat calories than the fat group, or a diet with the same number of calories contained in ten times more unsaturated fat?

      Whichever you choose, the “control” group will have more than one variable different from the experimental group.

      1. This is true, but they would have come closer to relevant results if they’d at least fed both groups actual food.

        In a nutritional study, the fact that from an evolutionary understanding and solid evidence of this, bodies metabolise specifically *food* for nutrients seems a rather significant consideration that isn’t demonstrated by this study.

        I’d *expect* to end up with cancer on the diet given those mice- either group! The difference is most likely one of endurance (how *long* it would take to succumb to cancer) than of macronutrient make-up.

    2. Unfortunately the level of statistical education required to gain a science degree is dismally basic so that any monkey can become a scientist and start spreading their ignorance backed up by a bunch of pretty numbers.

  24. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Denise!

    How do we stem the tide of all this junk science given legitimacy by the agro-pharma-media-industrial complex? Whoever approved that study design needs to be banned from anything called science and the outlets who published it at face value need to be publicly shamed.

  25. Thank you Denise for once again leveling your laser beam focus on tearing apart another poorly designed nutrition study. I’ve looked into it and it turns out that just about the whole enterprise of animal research linking diet to disease (mostly rodent or lagomorph research) compare “standard” lab diets that look an aweful lot like the SAD to high-fat diets that actually usually have just as much if not more sugar then the conventional one AND the higher proportion of fat comes from industrial oils (e.g., crisco or other oils containing high amounts of oxidized linoleic acid). For shame! The whole enterprise is built on faulty treatment diets! I have a rat lab and would love to start investigating high-fat diets consisting of industrial oils versus natural oils to see if there are large differences (which I suspect there will be). Just have to get funding to do this, which will be very difficult in today’s funding climate and with the prevailing conventional wisdom. NIH is full of scientists who adhere to the current models (they’ve based their careers on them so they’ve got a vested interest in NOT questioning them!).

    1. Have you read this paper?

      ““Control” laboratory rodents are metabolically morbid: Why it matters” PNAS April 6, 2010 vol. 107 no. 14 6127-6133

    2. Just submit your proposal as “an investigation into health advantages of an industrial oil supplemented diet vs one high in saturated fats,” then act all surprised when you publish findings.
      If you’re allowed to.

      Seriously, as an undergrad bio major at UC Irvine, I had the privilege of attending, by invitation, a grad seminar course on scientific study design. We were taught that science = replicable experiments, what a confounding variable is, etc. Then we read current & classic research papers and evaluated them by these principles.
      Best class ever! -but class size was only about a dozen people, and I think it was only offered in the spring. Also it was in the psych dept. Not many of the hundreds of premeds churned out by that school ever learned what we did that quarter formally. You’d think a course covering the topic would be required by 2nd year.

      1. Haha, that just might work. I teach this kind of scientific scrutiny in my undergraduate seminar on animal cognition. The students really enjoy finding alternative accounts for any empirical result. I coax them through the processes of setting up better designs that attempt to rule out the alternative accounts we think up. It’s a fun game, and useful! You’re right that this is severely lacking in medical school (to the best of my knowledge).

  26. Great information. Speaking from very recent experience men need to worry about breast cancer just as much as women, although it is much, much rarer. I am a 36 y/o male who was diagnosed with breast cancer back in November and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. Not sure weather I am going to have chemo yet or not. Mine appears to be estrogen driven and I may just have to do hormone therapy. It is a life changer. I had 17 lymph nodes removed and now have to take precautions to try and avoid getting lymphedema. A little less of lifting heavy things for me now!! I am pretty bummed that I don’t get to follow the upper body portion of the Primal Blueprint Fitness program as much as I was trying to before. Just wanted to mention this. Men need to keep in mind that they too can get breast cancer.

  27. People look at the P.O. or the D.M.V. or government schools, and understand why they are nightmares of inefficiency. But then they act surprised when government science turns out to be sloppy mess rigged by lobbyists and bureaucrats to funnel money, not make discoveries.

    We are doomed by our faith in authority. Yet again.

  28. Nark & Denise:

    Fabulous job of outting this study! After reading this I am amazed this got through peer review! Well, with the anti-fat bias out there perhaps not so amazed but it shows just how people, both men and women, lose all reason & logic when it comes to certain aspects of female anatomy….LOL.

  29. Peer Review is merely an appeal to authority, no more proof of quality than a celebrity endorsement.

    Peer Review is P.R., nothing more.

    1. Good to point out….peer review is only as useful as the “peers” doing the reviewing. Since most published studies in JAMA et. al. are done by CW thinkers (I use that term looslely…like the way my pre-primal pants fit), it stands to reason that their “peers” share their views, so as long as the study doesn’t rock the SS Status Quo, these studies are published in journals that include this tripe.

      It’s like being convicted by a jury of your “peers,” also known as “a group of people who weren’t important/smart enough to get out of jury duty.”


  30. Look at the first paragraph from emaxhealth: “Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson determined how the American diet that high in fat and cholesterol makes cancer tumors grow and spread faster, in a mouse study.”

    The stuff being espoused here borders, if not is, a flagrant CRIME. Imagine the people coming across this stuff and then further deciding to eat lower fat and thus get health problems?

    I hope she sent her writing to the lead researcher, Philippe G. Frank, and the entire team at Thomas Jefferson University, as well as to the American Journal of Pathology, EMaxhealth, DrCutler, and the Medical Daily. It probably wouldn’t do anything, but at least they’d realize there’s more and more people not buying their BS.

  31. the Medical Industrial complex using the media for their purposes….thank you for the post.

  32. Some of the missing percentages account for fibre, moisture, vitamins and minerals. The diets are not even close in caloric content. The actual “Physiological Fuel value” is only 3.42 kcal/g of the regular mouse-chow. Though I would really like to know how they ‘inactivate’ some of the calorie content in that food…

    Interesting that this lovely composition of a “western diet” was also available as an irradiated pellet. Any mention in the (cancer) study if that was the food of choice perhaps? It was made with fats preserved with Ethoxyquin, which is a known carcinogen that also reduces the blood plasma level of Vit E and impairs Selenium (known to protect against cancer). After seeing the diet breakdown there was no point of looking at the study.

    I’d like to see a study on how much time and money is wasted on all these useless studies. Anyone???

    Priceless btw how they first list dehulled soybeans, just to add soybean hulls again later. Come to think of it, that western diet reminds me of ingredient lists one mind find on the odd tub of commercial ice cream. Just add a little artificial flavour and colour and you’re almost there…

  33. Kudos to Denise for her excellent analysis of this study and Mark for this wonderful platform where truth can be told. It’s so hard to get to the bottom of what hits “the news” about diet these days. It’s nice to know I have a place to come where people take time to read the fine print and decipher what really happens in those studies.

    The fish meal in one mouse pellet vs. none in another was a major stand-out when I read the ingredients in the study. Not controlling for such basic variables makes it surprising this kind of dreck gets published.

  34. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics (sic). Mark Twain.

    Anybody besides me think it’s weird that the Susan Koman Fndn holds bake sales?????

    1. Most of those foundations are just a money making machines. If anyone is looking for cure for cancer the first thing they need to do is start eating a healthy organic diet, sleep, drink water, stop stressing and enjoy life. That will cure pretty much everybody from almost everything.

      1. No. You can’t cure cancer by changing your diet. Advice like that has the potential to cause real harm, perhaps even kill people.

        1. WRONG!!! I had biopsy confirmed prostate cancer in June of 2002. My PSA was 5.2 in July. By Jan 2003 it was back down to 2.5 and has stayed below 3.7 ever since. I have had NO treatment from any doctor, just routine PSA tests. I started a low carbohydrate, high fat, adequate protein diet in February 2002. When I got the biopsy results I started using supplements that I found researching on the internet. I used PUBMED and university sources.

          Though it would take a lot of time, I can DOCUMENT what I have done since I live alone and save all my receipts for groceries, etc. And a check with my medical insurance carrier would confirm that I have had no treatment.

          Here is a link to a plot of my PSA.
          I have ALL the lab reports for these tests.

        2. Sorry, but a diet change is really the most prominent thing that can give the body what it needs to heal… Put gasoline in a diesel’s fuel tank and it immediately stops running…

          The human body will still run on foods that don’t produce health but unfortunately not for long…

          Some people have weaker immune systems than others and those are usually the ones who die from diseases… especially from chemo and radiation!

          I tried to get my father to change his diet when he had lung cancer and he wouldn’t listen and he had radiation and chemo and three months later he died…

          On the other hand… My grandson was stricken with cancer that filled half of his body… we completely changed his diet and he was cancer free in 3 months…

          The lies have got to stop!! Way too many people die needlessly for lack of the truth!

  35. Nice article Denise! It’s rather unfortunate that so many studies are so poorly designed.

    I’m kind of curious about the cancer causing properties of casein protein isolate. While the science is still controversial there is evidence that certain specific variants casein protein (specifically BCM7) are highly inflammatory in the body. I wrote up a short summary of what I was able to find out back in January: https://www.geekbeast.com/2011/01/04/the-case-with-casein/

    I’m kind of curious as to what other people think about this, especially considering that I’ve added a whole bunch of whole milk back into my diet.

  36. Thank you for providing your analysis for this study, Denise. As a woman who is scared silly by the “1 in 7 women will get breast cancer” statistic, I’m relieved not to have to give up my primal diet and go back to a low-fat diet to try to avoid breast cancer.

    1. You ought not be “scared silly” by the one in seven statistic until you sort out where you fit in the demographics.

      1. Are you trying to inject rational thought into an irrational fear?

    2. A good book on false positive medical tests is Calculated Risks by Gerd Gigerenzer. He uses breast cancer specifically as an example. Many of the positive tests are false positives, and some of the tumors are so slow-growing that one might even consider leaving them alone.

  37. Hey do you guys eat Greens + on Paleo. Its got wheat grass? Wheat grass no go?

  38. Denise, I await your first book. Your writing is truly engaging… not what one would expect from a critical analysis of a mouse study.

    Mice in my woolshed tend to primarily food on barely or wheat through the tiny holes they make in the bottom of the sack. That is, until they encounter the cat…

  39. I would like to point out also that yes high fat is bad when it is coming from these highly processed oils plus carbs and factory farm meats and dairy. These high fat diets should contain natural occuring oils, grassfed meats, and raw dairy or at least as close to it as you can find. I sometimes wonder if everyone understands this point.

  40. My 15 year old read the article and said,”they’re missing half of their experiement because they didn’t have proper control by changing the ingredients…and they seem to be calling sugar, hi-fat. Every H.S. student knows this from Middle School science class.”

  41. My vague understanding is that cancer is the unnaturally rapid growth of mutated cells. Isn’t cholesterol necessary in cell construction? Could the cholesterol be being sucked up to grow these cancerous cells?

    1. A rapidly growing cell will need more cholesterol, but in comparison to the grams of this nutrient that your body makes every day, the amount in your diet is not very significant. Your body makes about 70% of the cholesterol you need, with only 30% coming from your diet.

      Therefore it is unlikely that you could have any effect on the growth rate of a cancer cell by changing your diet.

  42. Denise Minger, you may be my new hero. I only just heard of you for the first time a few days ago. Read your articles on the China Study. Amazing work, greatly appreciated. Please continue shedding light on studies like this one that become summarized headlines fed to the general public. I have a feeling you’ve found your calling, or it found you. You seem to have the ability to expose the truth (humorously, at that) in the studies that others want to twist to their agenda. Thanks.

  43. Great post, too bad we can’t get this reported as widely and publicaly as the psuedo scientists did

  44. Don’t listen to this Denise person!

    Fat and cholesterol makes you get cancer!!

    Go get on statins ASAP!! It’s your only chance!

  45. For those promoting a low fat, low or no meat diet to prevent breast cancer, I have two words:

    Linda McCartney.

  46. Thank you so much Denise. As an everyday housewife, without a lot of higher education, I really appreciate how skillfully you break these bogus studies down so that people like myself can understand them. It really helps that you have a wonderfully engaging writing style.


  47. Being fat is linked to cancer but eating too much fat isn’t linked to cancer if you are at an ideal weight in regards to your BMI. But if you eat a lot of fat, you probably eat a lot of everything and eat too much in general, so then you are fat and then you are more likely to have cancer. Correlation does not equal causation. I talk about this a lot on my blog…

    1. If you eat a lot of clean animal fat, you will likely *not* eat a lot of everything else, because you’ll be sated, with stable blood-sugar.

      Welcome, and I hope you stick around to read about the necessity of clean animal fats in the human diet. 🙂

  48. Denise, you rock!
    Why is there still no donate button on your blog?
    And please do alert your loyal readers to this post. Not everyone hanging on your every word also hangs out over here.

  49. Nice takedown. Almost every “study” is absolutely flawed.

    The best studies these days are the ones you do on yourself. If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t, drop it and find something that does!

    Oh, and sugar isn’t an option. =)

  50. Thanks for such a detailed analysis, Denise and Mark. As Daniela Huppe wrote in the comments above, once I saw the composition of the two feeds that were being compared I stopped reading. Neither the rest of the study design nor the results matter when there is such a big design flaw. Good job looking up the chow components, Denise.

    As a molecular biologist, who has actually worked in a lab studying obesity in a rodent model (rats) and seen this very thing happening – labs ordering chow from a catalogue without looking at the composition of the foods, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I tried once to put forth the idea to my then boss that perhaps fats have been wrongly demonised, and that several different academic organisations are now saying that a higher protein diet may be beneficial compared to a higher carb diet. None of it mattered to my boss who was convinced that eating too much protein would ‘screw up your kidneys’ and fats are obviously the problem and ‘complex carbs’ are the best thing since sliced bread (pun intended!). I gave up arguing eventually, also because the main focus of their work was not diet composition per se, but was looking at maternal weight gain during pregnancy and how this affects the child’s appetite and chances of getting diabetes later in life (affects both badly). Unfortunately, other than the small but emerging group of scientists who conduct studies and publish results comparing paleolithic/primal diets with CW diets, the large majority of academics in this field are still firmly stuck in the old way of thinking.

    Anyway, just wanted to point out one more thing that hasn’t been mentioned. The wild-type (WT), aka control mice in the study are not actually ‘ordinary mouse on the street’ strains. No mice reported in any scientific studies are this. Mice used for scientific research are usually from a handful of different strains available world-wide and commonly used for research. In this study, the only different between the WT and the mutant mice is the one gene, the PyMT trans-gene.

    These mouse strains have all be inbred for hundreds of mouse-generations and maintained in a sterile or semi-sterile lab environment. If let out into the real world, these mice would probably die of massive infections as their immune systems have never seen real-world bugs and have not had time to build up immunity – another reason why we should be very careful extrapolating study results between mice and men, especially in diseases where the immune system may have a role – eg inflammation and cancer, as normal, steady-state immune profiles of inbred lab strains of mice are very different from that of a human living out in the real world.

    Sorry for the long comment. I’m a long time reader, very rare commenter, but this one I had to say something for.

    1. thanks for sharing your experience, Meg. It’s very informative!

  51. The scary thing is most common folk will just read the headline and take it as truth without even bothering to read the rest of the article.
    Cholesterol = Breast Cancer.

    1. Hear, hear! It’s great when people like Denise and Gary Taubes absolutely destroy these studies, because all they are is manipulated statistics that prove the author’s pre-conceived notions…and nothing more.

      They want a specific outcome so they use numbesr, smoke, and mirrors to create an unsubstantiated bunch of data to help make their point. The scientific process that I learned about IN 7TH GRADE doesn’t work that way. Great science SHOULD create more questions, and prove you wrong more often than it confirms your own suspicions. That leads to better research in the future. Sadly, this rarely happens in the world of statins and CW. Nowadays, research is done to sell more pills and promote pre-determined agendas. Very sad. Max Planck is rolling over in his grave.

        1. I stopped reading when she started using thermodynamic. Of which she obviously as absolutely no understanding.

          Don’t get me wrong, thermodynamic works.

          But “calorie in/ calorie out” only work for a closed system WITHOUT any intelligent intervention. The human body is not a closed system and hormones acts as the intelligent intervention, they rule what happen, when and how!

        2. @Uber: The physics of conservation of energy have definitely not been disproved. The fact of the matter is that we can use the energy we ingest or otherwise take “in to our system” in a whole variety of ways. We can store it in fat, we can build muscle, we can make our hearts beat, we can walk, we can dream, etc.. Really there isn’t anything our body does that isn’t using energy. That being said, to say that ingesting 3500 calories above one’s base metabolism will inevitably lead to gaining a pound of fat would be absurd. Surely the body would use some of that energy for something other than simply storing fat.

          Really the bickering over whether or not the whole energy balance thing makes sense seems to be nothing more than people not understanding one another.

  52. “The scary thing is most common folk will just read the headline and take it as truth without even bothering to read the rest of the article.
    Cholesterol = Breast Cancer.”

    Yes, exactly. I am trying to understand why our society is getting more ignorant. It is a growing trend. People read a headline or watch the news and take the lies as gospel. Why does this happen? Also, why are these scientist evil? They are putting peoples lives in danger from BAD science. Thanks to people like Denise and Mark who help us understand the truth hidden in lies!

    1. It’s not that they’re individually “evil”. It’s that the modest transgressions that led to each report add up to more than the whole. In order to get grant money to run experiments, they have to produce papers that get accepted for publication, which means they can’t upset anybody with a stake in the status quo getting upset. They have an incentive to sin at all levels, from conception to the press release designed to get them glory and then quickly bury the report.

  53. Denise–you’ve done it again with your witty writing style and wonderful sense of humor. We need more scientists like you!
    You hear so much about the link between fat and breast cancer. This study and Denise’s analysis really makes you wonder. I know I’ve become much more critical about what I read when it comes to nutritional studies, thanks to Denise!

  54. Wow thanks for the link! I agree, but with most food we have that is processed I think that everything we put in our mouth that is not “Organic” to say is harming us in many ways not just cancer But TONS more! So funny how it takes Studies…to realize what God put here for us is the best for us ; ) Love this post!

  55. How do they manage to call that a Western diet with a straight face and no air quotes? As a commenter above said, simply feeding the mice McDonald’s burgers and fries would more closely approximate a Western diet.

    I’m wondering if comparative data exactly like this wasn’t already available from the chow manufacturers, which would mean that there was very little potential to get new information from this study. It would also explain why next to no thought went into the study design.

  56. Denises excellent job here highlights a link that i tried to post here yesterday – (hasn’t been approved??) but if you google :

    Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

    you’ll get a peer reviewed medical journal essay on why these studies almost always go awry and are undependable (even the ones we LIKE the results of folks!)…

  57. Most research studies are total BS. Roger Haeske did an interview with Dr. Jennifer Daniels. In the interview she talks about her experiences in medical school when she was asked to falsify research data. When she refused to do so the strangest things started happening. You can listen to the interview here:

  58. I love this article – it demonstrates how glaringly obvious facts are overlooked as potential causative factors in cancer (i.e. high sugar – high insulin) so that “researchers” can back up conventional beliefs. How useless, misleading and dangerous for those who don’t investigate these studies for themselves.

  59. How does this kind of rubbish even get published?

    Thankyou, Denise, for keeping such a keen, sceptical eye on the latest “research.”

  60. Ok, I get your point, AND I agree with it. But “Even though the paper’s lips are zipped about the actual ingredients of the diets” is not the means to start to discredit a paper. I hope you realize space is limited in papers, and the AUTHORS pay to have it published. So the longer it is, the more it costs. So why put in a paper (ex. nutrient breakdown of food) what can easily be found in other papers or *gasp* by searching Google (just like you did!). This isn’t so conspiracy!

    1. It is when the *conclusion* doesn’t take into account the design of the study, and most importantly in a nutrient-focused study, the nutrient-make-up of the control group(s).

      Let’s not feign sympathy for poor starving scientists just doing the work for the greater good, unless they actually are. I don’t buy it in this case.

  61. Denise, you did an amazin job.
    I have to say, I had a big laugh when I first saw the headline about sat. fats causing tumors, but I’m glad someone actually did the work dissecting this:) Kudos to you.

  62. Like Yogi Berra said “It’s like deja vu all over again”…just like the Framingham Mass. studies done decades ago…these “scientists” just don’t give up!

  63. More great work from Denise. I am currently doing a Med Phys master’s degree and have recently posted about cancer, positron emission tomography and the Warburg effect on my new blog… PET gives a much better idea of which food is most associated with tumour growth.

  64. ‘Bad’ cholesterol saves lives; it does not take lives. LDL allows the blood to flow through injured blood vessels without causing a life-endangering situation.
    I have a feeling that the only reason cholesterol was low in the mice with tumors was because it was sent to the tumors to protect the body.


  65. One thing I find interesting when reading about people like Christina Applegate, also a vegetarian and daughter of breast cancer survivor, is how she had regular mammograms starting at age 30 and by 36 had breast cancer. I believe she said she had one a year and then one every 6 months. I have also read about other women that were “at risk” doing this and then getting a fast growing tumor. Many studies done all over the world have shown mammograms increase the cases of breast cancer, not decrease. I fear we are causing cancer with all of this “Prevention” that is making so many people very rich.
    This diet study is another example of telling us to do something that will make us sick.

    “Breast cancer rates increased significantly in four Norwegian counties after women there began getting mammograms every two years. The study concludes that the reason for the sharp spike in cancer rates is that some of the cancers detected by mammography would have spontaneously regressed if they had never been discovered on a mammogram and treated with chemotherapy and radiation. They go on to state that some invasive breast cancers simply go away on their own, healed by the body’s own innate immune system.”

  66. I’ll merely add my kudos to the rest. This is an excellent analysis of the study, and thank you for taking the time to do so.

    Reading the comparative dietary components was eye-opening, yet, I’m not terribly surprised to find the study deliberately skewed to produce the results the researchers were looking for. How tragic they weren’t interested in an unbiased, untainted answer.

  67. Hooray for the ray of sanity that more and more are paying attention to! My not so healthy daughter just (finally) made it to 14 days no wheat and read ME an article in Reader’s Digest by Gary Taubes! Miraculous! Thanks Mark and Denise and others! Will be connecting to this on my own blog for the older folk!

  68. “read the full text of studies before letting news headlines make you nervous”

    Best sentence ever! Thanks for the great article.

  69. Two randomized human studies ( 7 years or more) have shown that high fat diet is not likely to cause breast cancer. The first one was WHI done in US 2006 (many of you know it ) and the second one was only recently published (Canadian RCT): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21199800
    How much have you heard of these in media?

    The most effective ways to prevent breast cancer seem to be: 1) avoid obesity 2) avoid excess alcohol.

    If you wish, you can have a look my take on breast cancer: https://www.slideshare.net/pronutritionist/breast-cancer-eng-5443354

  70. Well, if a high sugar diet is linked to cholesterol problems (high triglycerides…), then perhaps the tumor was just eating lots of sugar, lowering blood sugar levels, and consequently lowering cholesterol too? Just another (possibly ridiculous) idea!

  71. As soon as I saw the word “mice” I was suspicious. Thanks for digging up the data for us.

    I’ve read a number of reports that say high HDL mildly reduces the risk for breast cancer in premenopausal women.

  72. Excellent exposé!

    There are thousands of papers using similar diets and erroneously calling them “high fat” or “high cholesterol”. “SAD” (Standard American Diet) would be more appropriate.

    Unfortunately Test Diet 57BD at https://www.testdiet.com/PDF/57BD.pdf has been deleted, and there is no mention of 57BD on the testlab website either.

    Test Diet 57BD is referenced in other publications too, these studies are now not repeatable.

    The heat of exposure must be too great for the guilty.