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Frequently Asked Questions

 


People in my support group are talking about following either the Renewal Diet or the Hallelujah Diet to help fight their cancer. They sound desperate to me, willing to grab onto anything promoted on the Internet or by someone at their church. Do you know anything about these diets? Are they helpful? Are they any different from what is on your website?

The two diets in question are essentially very similar in that they both advocate strict vegan (no animal products) eating.

The Renewal Diet promoted by Timothy J. Smith M.D. focuses on organically grown, unprocessed, chemical-free foods selected from what the author describes as the New Four Food Groups: grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. The prime focus of The Renewal Diet is actually to slow the aging process but chapter 13 of the book (1) is about the cancer prevention qualities of the diet.

The Hallelujah Diet is promoted by Rev. George Malkmus and is purported to have cured his colon cancer as well as several other health problems that he and his wife experienced prior to following the plan (2). This diet consists of a raw vegetarian/fruitarian diet that requires you to eliminate the five so-called white foods that Malkmus purports are the cause of most of the existing health problems. These white foods are meat (which contains white fat), dairy, salt, sugar, and white flour. The Hallelujah Diet also requires you to purchase and use a product called Barleygreen®, which is a powdered form of barley grass.

There is an established benefit associated with a plant-based diet (3) for primary cancer prevention. In fact, over 200 published scientific research studies have shown that consuming higher amounts of fruits and vegetables (non-organic, from the regular grocery store) offer a significant protective advantage reducing cancer risk (4).

A common health concern for those consuming a vegan diet is the development of a deficiency of vitamin B12 (5), large amounts of which are naturally found in animal foods such as fish, milk products, eggs, meat, and poultry. It is important to note that the neurological symptoms associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency are considered irreversible.

Barleygreen®, the product that sets the Hallelujah diet apart from other similar vegan diets, is purported to provide an indirect, natural means to avoid B12 deficiency due to the fact that barley and other cereal grasses have been found to contain small amounts of B12 (5). However, a study that monitored the nutritional status of people consuming the Hallelujah diet (5) reported that a significant number were vitamin B12 deficient, and thus Barleygreen® does not appear to provide its purported benefits. The study concluded that people following the Hallelujah and other vegan diets would do well to consume B12 in a supplement or in vegan-friendly foods such as fortified breakfast cereals.

It is notable that a more recent study (6) showed people consuming the Hallelujah diet also had additional significant nutritional deficiencies, including inadequate intakes of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, selenium, protein and zinc. The followers subjectively reported an improved quality of life but were clearly at very high risk of many significant nutrient deficiencies.

These nutrient deficiencies are particularly detrimental for people fighting to recover from cancer, as they are all required for the body to heal and repair tissues and also to rebuild and optimize the function of the immune system. It should be noted that, while anecdotal success stories abound, I am aware of no published research in which either diet has been evaluated in cancer survivors.

To answer the last part of the question, the diet recommended on this web site, the Renewal, and the Hallelujah diet have many aspects in common. I emphasize the daily consumption of multiple plant foods such as 9+ servings/day of fruits and vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, beans, legumes, soyfoods, nuts and seeds (including flaxseed), and green tea. You will see that many of the specific foods recommended in the two diets in question are the very same as my Top 20 list. Healthy fats like olive oil are also encouraged.

However, both the Renewal and Hallelujah diets do have some significant differences from the recommendations on this website. As already mentioned, both the Renewal and Hallelujah diets are strict vegan diets that require one to eliminate all animal products, which increase the probability of developing nutritional deficiencies.

The anti-cancer diet described on this website is nutritionally complete. It recommends the consumption of fatty fish (salmon, white albacore tuna, ocean trout, sardines, or mackerel), in addition to low-fat dairy foods and eggs. These foods are important sources of protein and vitamin B12, along with additional vitamins and minerals (7). The types of fish and eggs recommended on this website are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which evidence suggests may play a role in both preventing (8) and treating (9) cancer.

Besides the nutritional differences, the Renewal and Hallelujah diets both start from the philosophical premise that their advice provides fixed, definitive answers. This premise makes it difficult to adapt should new information be brought to light. The advice contained in this website, however, is based on current scientific information and can be adapted if evidence is found to suggest that it should be.

Any effective diet for optimizing health should be able to be followed for a lifetime. On a personal note, I admit that I gag at the taste of the Barleygreen®. I drank it once and could not force myself to give it a second try. Even my brother, who introduced me to Barleygreen®, no longer drinks it due to the undesirable taste. In contrast, I have been consuming all components of the diet recommended on this web site since 1995. The meals and shakes are tasty and filled with foods that I enjoy while I maximize my body's ability to fight cancer.

In conclusion, to increase the odds of surviving cancer, one size definitely does not fit all (10). That fact is true for both cancer therapies and subsequent nutritional advice. I strongly urge all cancer survivors to seek the nutritional expertise of the Registered Dietitian at your cancer center or clinic. A comprehensive nutritional plan needs to be individualized to fit your specific needs in order to optimize the odds of long-term survival from your specific type of cancer along with overall health and quality of life.

If your cancer center or clinic does not provide the services of a Registered Dietitian with expertise in oncology nutrition, please ask your oncologist or oncology administrator why not. Please advocate for yourself and future patients that this critical (and often missing) component of comprehensive cancer care be made available to you proactively as part of your cancer treatment and recovery care plan.

References

1. Smith T. Fighting Cancer with Your Fork: The Cancer Prevention Diet. Available: http://www.renewalresearch.com/book/fighting_cancer_with_your_fork.html. Accessed February 25, 2003.
2. Diet Ministry.Com. Information about the Hallelujah diet; Available: http://www.dietministry.com/info.asp. Accessed February 25, 2003.
3. Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, 1997.
4. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer protection: a review. J Am Diet Assoc 1996;96:1027-1039.
5. Donaldson MS. Metabolic vitamin B12 status on a mostly raw vegan diet with follow-up using tablets, nutritional yeast, or pro-biotic supplements. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 44; 2000: 229-34.
6. Donaldson, MS. Food and nutrient intake of Hallelujah vegetarians. Nutr Food Sci 2001;31:293-303.
7. Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding Nutrition (8th ed); 1999: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont CA.
8. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty
acids.Biomed Pharmacother 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.
9. Hardman WE. Omega-3 fatty acids to augment cancer therapy. J Nutr 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3508S-3512S.
10. Weitzman S. Alternative Nutritional Cancer Therapies. International Journal of Cancer Supplement 11; 1998: 69-72.

This question was researched and answered by Patrick Johnson as a component of the graduate level course Dietetics 692 (Medical Nutrition Therapy) at Eastern Michigan University. This final answer was edited and approved by Diana Dyer, MS, RD.

 

faq posted 3/03

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Vegetarian Nutrition What do you recommend for an anti-cancer diet to people who choose not to eat soy foods?posted 2/04
Vegetarian Nutrition Should I drink wheatgrass juice to help fight my cancer?posted 2/04

 


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These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.

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