It is therefore surprising to look at statistics on smoking and cancer of the 19th century. During the fourth quarter of that century, statistical figures show that the Belgians among Europeans and Canadians among North Americans, actually smoked more than they do today. Despite such figures, cancer statistics for both countries show that the incidence of lung cancer was virtually negligible—that is, if any form of cancer may be called that. In
some statistical reports, lung cancer is not mentioned at all. Where it is mentioned, it appears almost invariably and numerically below tongue cancer. But tongue cancer was, and certainly continues to be, a rather rare form of cancer apparently caused by heavy pipe smoking as we know today.
Doctored statistics and profit motives
The question is if such figures may be believed. There seems to be no reason why they shouldn’t be. The reports from that period are quoted in a 1910 publication, when tobacco was not implicated in any way with any health risks. The association of tongue cancer with pipe smoking is relatively recent, as is the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Then the statistical figures were official, and there was no conceivable reason at the time to publish false or doctored statistics, as cigarette manufacturers have done more recently and with persistence to spare. There were powerful profit motives for the latter. There were no motives whatever to tamper with the earlier statistics. On the contrary, in the 19th century tobacco smoking was considered a healthy and manly habit, even if foul-smelling at times. And tobacco’s capacity to speed up the metabolic processes of the organism, no doubt helped to keep the male population of the times tolerably trim.
Somewhat similar examples to these of the 19th century are also known from the 20th. Late in the 20th century, some of the world’s greatest smokers were the Greeks. Yet their figures for lung cancer were lower than a great many other nationalities that smoked considerably less, in spite of the connection between lung cancer and tobacco smoke that had been well established by this time.
The meaning of warped statistics
If this is so, one may wonder how real is the link between smoking and lung cancer. The 19th century statistical picture seems to belie what the latter part of the 20th century has generally taught us, despite exceptions such as the Greeks. What is one to think?
It seems that the statistical contradiction is only apparent. There is no doubt at all about the association of smoking with lung cancer. The seemingly “warped” statistics and the low lung cancer rates of the 19th century among Belgians and Canadians, provide indisputable epidemiological proof of the role of nutrition in disease prevention, and reflect the extent of protection that healthy foods can bestow, even in the face of such a cancer causing agency as smoking.
A vigorous immune system
The reason for the low lung cancer rates among Belgians and Canadians of the late 19th century is undoubtedly a vigorous immune system. An immune system supported by eating habits that now remain only among people with a generally conservative attitude towards foods such as the Greeks.
Earlier both Belgians and Canadians ate a lot less sugar, and one need not elaborate here the evils of too much sugar eating. They are far too well known. They ate a lot more bread, in fact 3-5 times as much as they do now, and much of this bread had its full complement of bran. Now we know the multiple benefits of whole bread and bran in particular, in lowering cholesterol, speeding up the metabolism of estrogens, etc. They ate their vegetables and fruits in season, if for no other reason than lack of choice. But this meant getting all the benefits these plant foods had to offer, in terms of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and the indispensable phytochemicals.
At the same time, by being unable to obtain a favorite vegetable or fruit the year round, obliged the people to vary their plant diet. Meat came from free ranging animals, not from feed lots where the animals are fed the refuse of other industries and are loaded with antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, food additives, and all the synthetic paraphernalia of modern food production, were still in their infancy.
The verdict of recent research
In short, their immune system was in a far better position to protect them from cancer. Few informed persons doubt today that a vigorous immune system is the best protection against most cancers, as against most other chronic degenerative diseases.
Recent research overwhelmingly supports this view. One study after another and from virtually all continents, point out that persons with diets deficient in plant foods, are at higher risk of cancers of the mouth and lungs, such as are typically caused by smoking. At the same time, it is strikingly obvious that out of all cancers, the smoking cancers are the most consistently related to dietary prevention. In a nutshell, if you smoke now or smoked sometime in the past, you cannot afford a diet poor in vegetables and fruits.
If you give up smoking, you take a step in the right direction, but you are still at risk. You will minimize the risk by eating the right foods. The best protective foods against lung cancer are beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, collard greens, green tea, kale, lettuce, low-fat milk, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Eat as many as you can of these raw or in salads. But all vegetables and fruits are helpful. The rules to follow are that with vegetables, the darker green a leafy vegetable is, the better. And with fruits, the more pronounced the yellow-orange color, the better. A deeper color simply signifies a greater quantity of beneficial ingredients. If you can afford it, and you can arrange it, give solid preference to organically grown products.
And if you are so unlucky as to have lung cancer, or for that matter any other cancer, do not believe anyone who tells you that you can eat anything you like, as if your intake of food is of no consequence to your health or to your life. Today, this is the mark of a very ignorant citizen of the 21st century..