By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah
As some of you may know, I am from a small town in the north east of England called Middlesbrough - home of the parmo and birthplace of both the magician Paul Daniels and the world-famous explorer Captain James Cook. I recently returned there after working in Pennsylvania, and went to visit one of my grandparents, as part of catching up with all of my family members. Between the constant cups of tea and stale old biscuits, I found myself reading the critically-acclaimed newspaper, The Sunday Mirror. I was mostly just looking at the colourful pictures, but then an article grabbed my attention.
The article reported that 78-year-old fellow Smoggy (someone from Middlesbrough) Allan Taylor had cured his incurable cancer with a new diet. Allan was told he had colon cancer back in 2011 and had around 22cm of his colon removed. He also underwent a three-month course of chemotherapy, but was later told that the cancer had spread to his small intestine. The doctors decided that he would not benefit from extra chemotherapy or surgery and he therefore decided to find his own cure. He began to research colon cancer cures online and took advice from his local health food store on changing his diet. He began replacing red meat and dairy products with 10 portions of raw fruit and vegetables each day. But he believed that one of the crucial ingredients of his new diet was a teaspoon of powdered barley grass in hot water every morning. Months later he received a letter from the hospital saying that his cancer had gone. Allan said: “There is no question in my mind that my diet saved my life”.
This story reminds me of Gemma Hoefkens who claimed that her cancer was cured by homeopathy. They are both pretty difficult to debunk, partly due to the sensitive nature of the subject, but also because of doctor-patient confidentiality; we have to take their word on their medical history, treatments and current health. To give credit to Allan’s story, and to give the impression that his new diet has both cured his cancer and made him strong and healthy, the writers (Dominic Herbert and David Paul) did one of the worst Photoshop jobs I have ever seen. Although I can’t talk about Allan’s claims regarding his cancer, I can talk about two of the more interesting ingredients in his diet.
Barley grass powder: Thought to raise the alkaline level of the blood, reducing acid. Cancer loves acid.
It is true that studies have shown that cancer cells grow faster in an acidic environment. It is also true that cancer cells can’t survive in a basic environment, but then again, neither can any of the other cells in your body. People who use this research to promote changing your body’s pH often neglect to mention that it was performed outside of the human body. Why? Because it is practically impossible to significantly change your blood’s pH. In fact, your body goes to great lengths to keep your body pH fairly constant (7.35 to 7.45), as a change in pH can make you very sick or even result in death. You also have to remember that when Allan is drinking his teaspoon of powdered barley grass in hot water every morning, it is going to his stomach. The stomach is a highly acidic environment, so anything basic (within reason) will not survive very long.
Organic apricot kernels: Thought to break down cancer cells. In regions where they are eaten daily, cancer is unheard of.
I could not find any data regarding regions where apricot kernels are eaten daily, but I have found lots of data about the health risks of doing so. An apricot kernel contains a compound called amygdalin. Amygdalin was first isolated in 1830 and investigated as a possible anti-cancer drug in the 1970s at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A scientist named Kanematsu Sugiura reported amygdalin could inhibit secondary tumours in mice, but not primary tumours. The scientific community was sceptical however, and it was later discovered – in a controlled experiment – that amygdalin has no anti-cancer properties whatsoever. Now, what’s worse than giving cancer patients an ineffective anti-cancer drug? Giving cancer patients an ineffective anti-cancer drug that is metabolised into hydrogen cyanide! An enzyme found in the small intestine called beta-glucosidase is one of the enzymes known to catalyse the decomposition of amygdalin to produce hydrogen cyanide. This means that it is actually possible to ingest a potentially lethal dose of apricot kernels.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be told that I had developed cancer and that it had progressed to the stage where I would not benefit from chemotherapy or surgery. The thought that not only was my life being cut short, but also that towards the end I would not have a good quality of life, is terrifying to me. I really feel for what Allan went through and find it repulsive that there are people who make a living selling false hope to people like him, recommending quack medicines (in my own hometown!) that not only have been shown to be ineffective, but are actually potentially harmful to people who are already critically ill.