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Fourfold Healing Newsletter
Exploring the Fourfold Path to Healing                                December 2005

As we move into the busy holiday season,
I hope you'll take a few minutes to read our latest newsletter. In this edition, I've taken a hard look at heart disease and heart attacks, with a close examination of the theories that form the basis of much of today's treatment. I'm particularly pleased to share with you a report from a dynamic study group in Brazil, If you have any interest in this topic, I think you'll find the information of great value.

As an addition to the newsletter, I've included a book review this round, something I've been wanting to do for months. I hope you'll find this useful as well.

No holiday season is complete without a cheery and nutritious recipe, this time a very simple but delicious Cranberry sauce. Enjoy!

Warmest wishes to you and your family for the holiday and coming year.
Tom Cowan

The Fourfold Path to Healing
A great holiday gift for family,
friends and yourself!


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IN THIS ISSUE:                       

Focus:  Redefining Heart Dis-ease TherapeuticsDigitalis and Strophanthus
I would venture that there are not five western trained physicians on the planet who are not completely convinced that the cause of heart attacks are the blockages in the coronary arteries. In fact, a common synonym for a heart attack is to say the patient has had a coronary, meaning he has an illness of his coronary arteries.
     The whole edifice of cardiology, whether conventional or alternative, is based on strategies for detecting, stopping, clearing, or bypassing blockages in the coronary arteries. The presumption of all this is the “fact” that it is the coronary arteries that are the root of the trouble. Meanwhile studies continue to show that arterial blockage is the CONSEQUENCE, not the cause, of the heart attack.
     Because of my interest in the heart, I have been studying this seeming paradox for a long time.

Read on…
Is there any way to affect the heart cells so that they are able to extract oxygen more efficiently and therefore be less susceptible to the acidosis that is the underlying basis of a heart attack? One thing, of course, is to avoid stress, but there is another perhaps more straightforward possibility.
     It has been known for centuries that there are a few plant medicines that clearly increase the efficiency of the heart cells. The medicines in these plants are called cardiac inotropes because they increase the ability of the heart to “pump” blood by increasing the efficiency of the cells and improving the overall contractibility and elasticity of the heart. The two main plants that do this are Strophanthus, an African vine, and Digitalis, common foxglove, which makes the heart glad, and is a good friend of the old man.


Guest ReportTwo Heart Disease Theories, Same Therapeutic Treatment  by Carlos Monteiro, independent researcher and president of Infarct Combat Project. He is a defender of the Myogenic Theory of myocardial infarction since its development in 1972.

Book Review:  "Should I Be Tested for Cancer?"        Nourishing Recipe: Cranberry Sauce
Update: WAPF Conference Report

Other editions


Focus:  Redefinng Heart Dis-ease

I would venture that there are not five western trained physicians on the planet who are not completely convinced that the cause of heart attacks are the blockages in the coronary arteries. In fact, a common synonym for a heart attack is to say the patient has had a coronary, meaning he has an illness of his coronary arteries. The whole edifice of cardiology, whether conventional or alternative, is based on strategies for detecting, stopping, clearing, or bypassing blockages in the coronary arteries. Some say the blockages are from cholesterol, others say it is homocsyteine, still others say it is inflammation that causes the blockages, even perhaps in the form of an undetected infection. When therapeutic strategies based on these fail, the next step is to bypass the blockages with an operation called a coronary artery bypass graft (or CABG for those into sauerkraut), or roto-rooter them out with the whole array of modern devices available to the modern cardiologists. The presumption of all this is the “fact” that it is the coronary arteries that are the root of the trouble. I, and others, beg to differ.

In a 1998 editorial in The American Journal of Cardiology (1998 Oct 1; 82(7): 896-897), Dr. W.W. O’Neill commented about a paradox in recent findings. In a number of trials of myocardial infarctions (hereafter referred to as MIs, more commonly known as heart attacks), many of the patients who suffered recent MIs were not found to have blockages in the arteries that led to the area of the heart that had suffered the infarction. This should have been big news, for what this cardiologist was saying was that when we look carefully at the angiograms (the test where we squirt dye into the arteries in the heart to see if they are blocked) of people who are having or who have recently had an MI, in some we find the artery is blocked and in others we don’t. This is actually a shocking statement, but to realize how shocking and controversial it really is we need to look at some history here.

Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, heart attacks were first becoming prominent in American society, due largely to the rapid change in the American diet. Doctors wondered what was causing this relatively new phenomenon. Many theories were proposed, but the one that stuck was called the Thrombogenic Theory of Myocardial Infarction. Essentially this theory postulated that heart tissue, like any other tissue in the body, has a blood supply. When this blood supply is compromised by, say, plaque buildup in that blood vessel, then the cells “downriver” from the blockage will have their blood supply choked off, and under certain situations those cells will be deprived of their necessary food and oxygen and eventually will die. When they are dying because of inadequate flow, there is a painful feeling around the heart which we call Angina. When the cells actually die, we can that an Infarction. This is often a catastrophic event and many patients die as a result of the dysfunction of the heart itself as a consequence of their MI, or heart attack.

Many cardiologists and other doctors disagreed early on with this theory. They asked why it is only the heart that infarcts in this way. After all, this plaque development is in no way specific to the coronary (heart) arteries. Why do we not hear of liver attacks, foot attacks, and so on? Another criticism of the theory revolved around the well known phenomenon of collateral circulation: In many parts of the body, when an artery is blocked, the body “bypasses” the blocked vessel and makes a secondary (so-called collateral) circulation. Why not in the heart as well? These were the two main reasons many physicians didn’t buy the blocked coronary artery theory.

Since the thrombogenic theory was accepted in the early 40s as bottom line fact-of-the-matter, there have been a number of studies that have attempted to document that all people having MIs have blocked arteries to that area of the heart. But these studies have all failed miserably to show this connection. In a paper by Murakami in 1998 (Am J Cardiology, 1998;82 :839-44), the author found that, of those with an acute MI, 49% have a recent thrombus (blockage), 30% have no thrombus, 14% had moderate plaque (not considered enough to cause an MI), and 7% had “another condition”. Roberts, in an earlier paper (Circulation, 1972; 49:1), showed that in cases of acute MI with sudden death, 50-60% had evidence of sufficient thrombus to account for the MI. Spain and Bradess’s 25-year autopsy study of patients who died of heart attacks found 25% had sufficient thrombus to account for their MI and 75% had atherosclerosis (arterial blockages of some degree) (Am J Med Sci, 1960; 240:701). And finally and perhaps most importantly, these same authors in another paper (Circulation 1960, 22: 816) found that the longer the time elapsed between the MI and the autopsy, the more likely they were to find blockages. After one hour only 16% had sufficient blockage to account for the MI, whereas after 24 hours the total increased to 53%. The authors concluded that the arterial blockage is the CONSEQUENCE, not the cause, of the heart attack. This is why in every study I have seen, the longer the time interval between the MI and either the angiogram or autopsy, the more likely you are to see the blockage. How can we account for the results of these studies? Even if the number is 75%, the highest in the literature, what happened to the other 25%? Why did they also have an MI if their arteries weren’t blocked?

Because of my interest in the heart, I have been studying this seeming paradox for a long time. The usual explanations for this inconsistency between the theory and the facts is that some people have a spasm of their coronary arteries which, in the absence of the plaque, is enough to kill them in some cases. The trouble with this theory is that as far as I know no one has ever seen this occur, and it seems a bit implausible that a completely healthy artery somehow goes into a spasm, and next thing you know, the person dies. The more I thought about it, I felt something was wrong with this whole story.

Very recently, through a serendipitous internet encounter, I ran across a different theory which may explain the whole series of facts surrounding the cause and thus the treatment of MI/angina. The myogenic theory proposed by the Brazilian cardiologist Dr. Mesquita states that, rather than coronary artery disease causing MIs, the blockages are actually the consequence of the MI. According to Mesquita’s theory, the heart, because it is such an active organ and has such a high oxygen demand (like the brain, the other site of “infarctions” which we call strokes), is always a bit tenuous in its ability to extract enough oxygen from the blood. Exercise or other physical or mental activity increases the need for the heart cells to extract even more oxygen. As a result of stress, particularly chronic stress, the small blood vessels in the heart become constricted, which then compromises what we call the micro-circulation in and around the heart cells. This leads to decreased oxygen supply, especially with physical exertion, then anaerobic metabolism (meaning without air), then acidosis as the lactic acid builds up through this metabolism with an oxygen deficit and eventual death of the cells. After the cells die, an inflammatory reaction occurs which eventually compromises the artery leading to that artery, filling it with inflammatory debris that we see on autopsy and angiograms.

Let me try to explain this in another way. Under stress, especially chronic stress, the body over-excretes adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones cause the small blood vessels all over the body to constrict, which is why doctors and dentists, when they don’t want a tissue to bleed while they are suturing, inject Adrenaline in the area. Constricted blood vessels – and these are the small vessels, capillaries, not the coronary arteries – choke off the blood flow and hinder the removal of the wastes, predominantly acidic waste products. If this continues for many years and is exacerbated by increased demand like exercise, then the heart cells can die or become infarcted. It has nothing to do with plaque or blockages in the bigger arteries as these the body can easily bypass as they build up very slowly through the years. This explanation fits all of the known facts about the timing and development as well as the epidemiology of MIs, particularly in relationship to the crucial role that chronic stress plays on the development of MIs. I would also add that it is perfectly compatible with my claim that the heart is not the “pump” of the body.

This decades-long study by Dr. Mesquita is a truly remarkable contribution to our understanding of cardiology and the etiology of heart disease. Because of this, I have included in this issue a report by Carlos Monteiro on Dr. Mesquita’s studies (see below).

If this Myogenic theory is correct, then the billions of dollars spent on clearing out arterial blockages is essentially an exercise in futility, which is pretty much what the studies on longevity have shown. I am not saying that after an acute MI it is not important to “flush out” the artery. After the event, this flushing can be helpful, although probably not needed. What I am saying is that this clearing of arterial blockages does nothing to address the true cause of this illness.

The next step is to ask the question: Is there any way to affect the heart cells so that they are able to extract oxygen more efficiently and therefore be less susceptible to the acidosis that is the underlying basis of the MI? One thing, of course, is to avoid stress, but there is another perhaps more straightforward possibility. It has been known for centuries that there are a few plant medicines that clearly increase the efficiency of the heart cells. The medicines in these plants are called cardiac inotropes because they increase the ability of the heart to “pump” blood by increasing the efficiency of the cells and improving the overall contractibility and elasticity of the heart. The two main plants that do this are Strophanthus, an African vine, and Digitalis, common foxglove. I discuss these two in the next piece in this edition.

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Digitalis and Strophanthus

Digitalis is probably the oldest heart medicine, in fact one of the oldest medicines of any type, still in common use. Commonly known as the beautiful plant Foxglove, one still finds digitalis growing in most herbal and flower gardens in the western hemisphere. It is a striking plant, growing very tall and straight with amazing speckled bells coming off a central stalk. The mythos surrounding digitalis is that it makes the heart glad and is an especially good friend of the old man. Traditionally, it has been used for the condition known as dropsy in which, appropriately enough, the circulation slows down and can’t go uphill through the veins anymore. Eventually gravity takes over and the blood and fluid fall to the feet and into the lungs. The feet become swollen and lifeless, and the choking fluid builds up in the lungs. In modern times, we call this condition congestive heart failure.

Digitalis is a positive inotropic agent, which means it makes the heart “pumping” action more effective. In terms of how I see the heart, rather than increasing the pumping action of the heart, I would say it increases the flow of the circulation and improves the elasticity of the cardiac chambers. When the heart chambers are more elastic, they can hold back the blood more efficiently. Therefore when the gates open the forward flow is more effective. Almost miraculously, when patients with dropsy are given digitalis, within days they can breathe again, the fluid circulates, the swelling goes out of the feet and in many cases even erections, so dependent as they are on blood flow, will return. Truly the friend of the old man.

On a cellular level, science has shown that digitalis works its magic on the cell membrane, increasing the activity of the sodium/potassium pump, thereby keeping the electrical charge on the cells intact. This is important from the myogenic theory point of view, as it is the activity of the sodium/potassium pump that prevents acidosis from occuring. Acidosis is the central pathological mechanism behind myocardial infarction. Even better, digitalis has this effect not only for the heart cells but for every cell of the body. Many famous alternative oncologists, such as Max Gerson, MD, view this sodium/potassium imbalance and subsequent acidosis as the central mechanism in the development of cancer. (For more information on digitalis use in the treatment of cancer, visit the Digitalis page on our website.)

In a number of studies over the years, a surprising finding keeps showing up which has only recently become explainable. In autopsies and other studies of patients who died of or had an MI, trace amounts of digitalis compounds (digoxin and digitoxin) have been found in the blood, even in patients who had never taken the drug. As with opium and endorphins, the two main ingredients in digitalis are mimics of the endogenous (meaning normally within the body) hormones that regulate the contractions and rhythms of the heart. In other words, digitalis in some ways is an externalized replica of the way the heart communicates with itself. It is the plant form of the communication of the heart.

It should be no surprise then that studies of the use of digitalis for angina and myocardial infarction show digitalis’s remarkable ability to prevent or reverse the symptoms of myocardial disease, even in acute situations.

I first encountered Strophanthus about 25 years ago from my primary teacher in medicine, a German physician by the name of Otto Wolff, MD. He was passionate about Strophanthus, even having gone so far as to make a few treks into the African jungles to observe the habits of this tremendous creeping vine firsthand. He observed the indigenous native tribesmen who dipped their arrows into a slurry made of an extract of the seeds of Strophanthus, which they used to temporarily paralyze their prey. The Strophanthus seeds were found to contain an oily substance with a chemical called oubain, which was found to be a potent cardiac inotrope, even stronger that digitalis.

Initial enthusiasm for strophanthus as a medicine was tempered when it was claimed that the oubain could not be absorbed into the body through the oral route. As time went on, much to Dr. Wolff’s disappointment, it was nearly abandoned as a medicine. Then a few studies were done in association with the one remaining manufacturer of oubain, the medicine now being called Strodival. One study of patients with angina showed 81% of patients had complete remission of their anginal (chest pain) symptoms, as compared to 72% of the control group who did not take Strodival and whose angina worsened (World Research Foundation report). A second study showed that after MI, the use of Strodival decreased the evidence of progression of the MI – often within minutes – in 85% of the subjects, a remarkable result. It was found that, as with digitalis, the heart uses oubain in its endogenous communication system. It is as if digitalis and strophanthus contain exact copies of the hormones that the heart uses to regulate its own beat and elasticity.

Luckily for us, the fears of my dear teacher Otto Wolff may not come to pass. A number of cardiac clinics and hospitals in Europe have rediscovered the cardiac tonic effect of strophanthus as well as its swift onset of action. It is said that a sublingual dose of Strodival will often stop angina within minutes and can also have a positive effect on developing MIs again within a very brief period of time.

I would encourage all my patients with an interest in digitalis and strophanthus in the treatment of angina/MI to read carefully the following article, visit the website, and then get in touch with me to discuss this further.

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Guest Report:  Two Heart Disease Theories, Same Therapeutic Treatment
by Carlos Monteiro

“I wish it was easy to write about Digitalis – I despair of pleasing myself or instructing others
in a subject so difficult. It is much easier to write about a disease than a remedy.
The former is in the hands of nature and a faithful observer with an eye to tolerable judgment
can not fail to delineate a likeness; the latter will ever be subject to the whims,
the inaccuracies and the blunders of mankind."
William Withering, Letter, Sep 29, 1778

For centuries, drugs that increase the power of contraction of the failing heart have been used to treat congestive heart failure (sometimes called dropsy). The cardiac effect is due to the content of cardiac glycosides. Squill or sea onion, Urginea (Scilla) maritima, a seashore plant, was known by the ancient Romans and Syrians and possibly also by the ancient Egyptians. Squills were used erratically, but some prescriptions indicate that they may have been used for the treatment of edematous (sodium retention) states. The toxic effect of the strophanthus species was known from poisoned arrows used by the natives in Africa. Digitalis, derived from the foxglove plant, Digitalis purpurea, is mentioned in writings as early as 1250: A Welsh family, known as the Physicians of Myddvai, collected different herbs, and digitalis was included in their prescriptions. However, the drug was used erratically until the 18th century, when William Withering, an English physician and botanist, published a monograph describing the clinical effects of an extract of the foxglove plant. In 1785, the indication and the toxicity of digitalis were reported in his book, An Account of Foxglove and Some of its Medical Uses with Practical Remarks on Dropsy and Other Diseases. In the 19th century, digitalis was called “a God-given remedy” or the “opium of the heart”.

Theory 1: Herrick’s Coronary Thrombosis (Thrombogenic) Theory
In his classic paper written in the early 20th century, James Bryan Herrick (besides presenting his proposition of a pathophysiological triggering mechanism) wrote of his therapeutic experience using digitalis and strophanthin for angina pectoris and coronary thrombosis:

“...If these cases are recognized, the importance of absolute rest in bed for several days is clear. It would seem to be far wiser to use Digitalis, Strophanthus or their congeners than to follow the routine practice of giving Nitroglycerin or allied drugs. The hope for the damaged Myocardium lies in the direction of securing a supply of blood through friendly neighboring vessels, so as to restore so far as possible its functional integrity. Digitalis or Strophanthus, by increasing the force of the heart’s beat, would tend to help in this direction more than the Nitrites. The prejudice against Digitalis in cases in which the Myocardium is weak is only partially grounded in fact. Clinical experience shows this remedy to be of great value in Angina, and especially in cases of angina with low blood pressure, and these obstructive cases come under this head. The timely use of this remedy may occasionally in such cases save life. Quick results should also be sought by using it hypodermically or intravenously. Other quickly acting heart remedies would also be of service."

Herrick’s priority in his treatment approach was to preserve the myocardium in front of coronary thrombosis. This clinical approach was largely ignored by his colleagues; perhaps it didn’t sound plausible, possibly due to the absence of experimental support. Or perhaps Withering was right in his despair of trying to explain a remedy (see above quote). Regardless, the fact is that Herrick’s therapeutic approach isn’t largely discussed at medical schools or in scientific papers. As a result, most physicians remain in total medical ignorance about his clinical practice in the treatment of angina and acute myocardial infarction (AMI), also known under the general term “heart attack”. Herrick’s Thrombogenic Theory was adopted, but his therapeutic conduct was forgotten.

“The cardiac patient does not die from coronary disease, he dies from myocardial disease!”
George E. Burch, cardiologist and teacher, 1972

Drew Luten, professor at Washington University School of Medicine, said in his book The Clinical Use of Digitalis, published in 1936: “There is no evidence that the mere occurrence of coronary thrombosis constitutes an indication for digitalis.” He also said: “Without minimizing the possibility of risk inherent in the theoretical objections above noted, it should be kept in mind that the existence of any special danger from digitalis in patients with coronary thrombosis has not been proved.” Nonetheless, there was no citation in Drew Luten’s book about the positive clinical experiences from Herrick and others regarding the safe and effective use of digitalis in front of coronary thrombosis.

This repeated omission over time has certainly contributed to the formation of the current dogma on how to deal with heart disease.

Even so, different doctors in different times and countries have used Digitalis and Strophanthin (Ouabain) in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction and angina. Some doctors also used it as prevention therapy. In Germany today, some 3,000 physicians still use the oral (sublingual) Strophanthin in angina and acute myocardial infarction.

Theory 2: Mesquita’s Myogenic Theory of Myocardial Infarction
In 1972, Quintiliano H. de Mesquita, a Brazilian cardiologist, professor and scientist, developed a new pathophysiological explanation for the triggering of heart attacks or acute myocardial infarction which he named "Myogenic Theory".

In Myogenic Theory cardiac glycosides, such as digitalis or strophanthin/ouabain, are compatible remedies for acute myocardial infaction. According to Mesquita, the treatment with these cardiotonics should be started as early as possible in order to correct the regional myocardial collapse in progress.

Mesquita also stated that cardiotonic administration protects the myocardial fibers in collapse, ischemia, and is useful in preventing the necrosis which certainly could occur in without the use of this remedy. Once past the acute period, the cardiotonic should be used as a maintenance treatment, which blends with the myocardial infarction prophylaxis, in order to defend the ischemic myocardium in its functional side. (Cardiac ischemia is the name for lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle.)

Professor Quintiliano de Mesquita and his team at Matarazzo Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, have applied cardiotonics intravenously (digitalis or strophanthin/ouabain) in 1,183 patients with acute myocardial infarction, recording a survival rate of almost 90%. By using intravenous strophanthin in 126 cases of unstable angina, he avoided the AMI with 0% hospitality mortality rate. In 1975, he was awarded the Ernst Edens Traditionspreis, a prize given by the International Society to Fight against Myocardial Infarct, located in Stuttgart- Germany.

In 2002 Quintiliano de Mesquita published a new paper that presented his clinical experience using digitalis over a period of 28 years in the prevention of congestive heart failure and acute coronary syndromes (unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction and sudden death). The study involved 1,150 cardiac patients. The global mortality rate for the patients without previous myocardial infarction was 14.2%, while the global mortality for the patients with previous myocardial infarction was 41.0% (1.4% per year). Surprisingly, the cancer mortality in the wake of this 28-year study was just 1.7% in total, confirming studies that show digitalis useful as anti-cancer agent, inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis (cell death).

Quintiliano de Mesquita’s 2002 case study used the following cardiac glycosides: Digitoxin, Digoxin, Acetildigoxin, Lanatoside-C, Betametildigoxin or Proscillaridin-A (Scilla), at therapeutic daily doses - nontoxic, preferably lower.

Some special remarks about digitalis:

  Beyond its properties as inotropic positive agent which stimulates cardiac contractility, low doses of oral digitalis have potentially beneficial modulating effects by decreasing excessive neurohumoral responses, improving symptoms, and protecting against the progressive deterioration of cardiac dysfunction. The noradrenaline/adrenaline blocking by low doses of digitalis can also be helpful in preventing acute coronary syndromes triggered by mental stress.

  It is important to note that during the 19th century the term congestive heart failure was also used to designate other diseases of the heart and, until the beginning of the 20th century, digitalis was prescribed for the treatment of organic heart disease, including angina. At that time digitalis was extensively indicated in hypertension cases to prevent heart failure.

  The recent discovery of endogenous cardiotonic hormones (digitalis-like substances) in mammals serves as a new important argument for the Myogenic Theory. From our point of view cardiac glycosides and other cardiotonics found in nature are the “insulin for heart disease” because they can complement an eventual and deficient production of endogenous cardiotonic hormones produced by the human body and thus support cardiac metabolism and protect the heart from the infarction, as proposed in Myogenic Theory.

  In parallel, an unusual but interesting new hypothesis states that alterations in the metabolism of endogenous digitalis-like compounds and in their interactions with the Na/K-ATPase may be associated with the development of cancer.

About Carlos Monteiro
Carlos Monteiro is an independent researcher and president of Infarct Combat Project. He is a defender of the Myogenic Theory of myocardial infarction since its development in 1972, helping Dr. Mesquita and his team as assistant and collaborator. After Dr. Mesquita’s death in 2000, he continued the fight, as an independent researcher, for the Myogenic Theory point of view. Infarct Combat Project is an international non-profit organization, Internet based, providing information, research and education to fight heart disease. ICP was created in 1998 at  Email:

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Book Review by Dr. Cowan

Should I Be Tested for Cancer?
by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H.

Gilbert Welch, M.D. is a family practice physician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, in my former home state of New Hampshire. He has written one of the most important and controversial books on medicine since Medical Nemesis was written by Ivan Illich in the late 1960s. Dr. Welch’s book takes on perhaps the most sacred cow in all of conventional medicine (which, by the way, Dr. Welch counts himself as a practitioner of conventional medicine), getting screened for early disease detection. Does catching illness at its early stage, in particular cancer, improve the outcome? At first glance, this question is so obvious as to be almost ludicrous. After all, if you diagnose a serious illness like cancer early, then certainly the patient stands a better chance of surviving. Dr. Welch decided to take a look at all the studies done throughout the entire world that were attempts to prove this theory, and he then wrote a book about what he found.

Before I get into the book, let’s be clear about some definitions. We are talking here about screening for cancer on a person who is well, has no signs of illness, who goes in for a test because it is the “designated” time. This study and my comments do not include a person with a cough, difficulty passing urine, a breast lump, or other signs and symptoms. These people are not being screened; in this situation, we are looking for a reason for their difficulty. This is a different (although somewhat unexplored) situation altogether.

We are talking only about screening. As an interesting historical note, in the 1940s more than 97% of visits to medical practitioners were generated by the patient to address some issue concerning that person. Now, more than half of all medical visits are exclusively about screening, “prevention,” including things such as annual physicals, well baby exams, vaccination, etc., or about following up or treating “illnesses” that were unnoticed by the patient and found by the doctor. Until now there has been very little data on whether this enormous industry of prevention actually does anyone any good. We now have that information concerning the subject of cancer, thanks in part to this book.

According to Dr. Welch only two studies have ever shown a survival benefit from the disease that was being screened for. The first is called the HIP mammography study, one of the largest mammogram studies ever done. In this study the deaths-per-1,000 rate for breast cancer fell from about 6.8 in the unscreened to about 5 per 1,000 in the group that had yearly mammograms. A modest, but significant drop. The second study was called the Minnesota fecal occult blood test, in which people in Minnesota were screened for blood in their stool every year for ten years as a way of detecting cancer of the GI tract. Again, almost identical numbers were found, a drop from a death rate of 6 per 1,000 from colon cancer in the unscreened group to about 4.8 per thousand in the screened group. The amazing thing about both of these studies, again the only two he claims showed a significant drop in the death rate from any screening study, is that when you chart not the death rate from breast or colon cancer but the all-cause death rate meaning simply who was alive in 10 years, the rates were an identical. EXACTLY identical. On that same note, I sometimes tell my patients: If you care about what you die of, then you could do a screening test. If you care whether you’ll die or not, then don’t bother. (All my patients fall into the second category!)

Dr. Welch also studies epidemiological data concerning prostate cancer over the past 40 years. He states that in the TURP era, when the diagnosis of prostate cancer was made by sticking a long brush up the man’s penis and running it back and forth a few times (not a lot of men signed up for that test), the incidence of prostate cancer was about 100 per 100,000 men. In 1990 when the blood test for prostate cancer came into wide use, the PSA test, the incidence skyrocketed to about 220 cases per 100,000 men. The whole point of this endeavor was that finding it early would result in fewer deaths from this disease. However, plotting out those numbers instead shows only a SLIGHT increase in the prostate cancer death rate since the introduction of the PSA test. Recently, I had dinner with a retired doctor who spent his whole life diagnosing prostate cancer on slides. I asked him, “What is the incidence of prostate cancer in a 75 year old man who dies from a car accident.” His reply surprised me: “Whatever you want it to be.” He explained that if you give him 10 minutes to search, he will find cancer cells in about 15% of these men. If you tell him to take the whole week and find any prostate cancer cells if they are present, he will find it in 100% of these men!

Dr. Welch reviews many studies like these I’ve mentioned all with similar results. The conclusions he comes to are that screening for cancer has never been shown to improve outcomes for patients, and that it is an enormously expensive (we’re talking trillions of dollars here), fear-producing, somewhat futile undertaking. What are some the reasons for this futility? Among them is that most cancer will never actually hurt a patient; screening inherently finds mostly slow-growing cancer, whereas the more aggressive tumors more likely to hurt an individual are found by the person himself. Also the treatments we use may do more harm than good. We as a society get scared literally to death by all this cancer fear mongering. And by spending all this money on useless tests we are bankrupting ourselves and therefore unable to spend the money where it might do some good, for example on cleaning up the rivers. There are probably many other reasons for the failure of screening as a preventive measure. That it has and continues to fail will not be disputed by anyone who reads Dr. Welch’s enlightening book.

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Nourishing Recipe

A Recipe from Jessica Prentice  -  Fresh Cranberry Sauce

There is no reason to buy canned cranberry sauce for this holiday season. It is very easy to make and tastes much better.


12 oz fresh cranberries
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)
honey to taste


  • Wash the cranberries and put in a pan. Pour the maple syrup and water over them, add the optional spices, and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook until the cranberries pop open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
  • Stir and taste. Add honey by spoonfuls, stirring, until it is a little bit sweeter than you want because it will lose some of its sweet taste when you chill it.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to eat.

Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is at work on a book about food and culture, due out in Spring 2006 from Chelsea Green Publishing.         © 2005 Jessica Prentice


Update - WAPF Conference report

The 6th Annual Wise Traditions conference contributed by Larry Wisch

The 6th annual Wise Traditions Conference was held November 11-13 in Chantilly, VA. What follows is a brief report from my experience there as the San Francisco chapter leader and first time conference participant.

The Weston A. Price Foundation conference was founded in 1999. In that first year there were 64 attendees at the conference. This year nearly 900 people attended, of which about 150 of us were local chapter leaders. This international organization now has a total of 7,500 members and 350 chapters worldwide.

With 40 exhibitors and 10 sponsors, the conference center felt like a combination of a farmers’ market and green festival. Attendees could meet and ask questions of many of the suppliers that advertise in the WAP quarterly Wise Traditions. The food hall had farmers’ stalls selling raw cheeses, grass-fed meats, dense fresh breads, salmon jerky, ferments, raw butter, coconut concoctions, natural root or ginger beers, and much more.

In the tradition of conscious nutrition, lunches and dinners at the event were catered by Chefs John Umlauf and K. Michael Sullivan. "Have a little fruit on your whip crème". What a pleasure to attend a conference at a hotel and not fear the food!

Information on the program and schedule of speakers can be found on the WAPF website at This year, there were 35 interesting presenters, all of whose talks will be available through Pfeffer Productions at (443) 528-3997.

In addition to the keynote speeches, there were different tracks each day. I followed the lacto-ferment track on day one and the cancer track on day two. Other tracks covered biological dentistry, fertility issues, nutrition in schools and hospitals (what a novel concept!), and heart disease. Of course, issues of raw milk and of appropriate fats were also discussed.

High points for me were the talks by Sally Fallon, Tom Cowan and Sandor Katz. Sally has a way of presenting radical information in a digestible manner (pun intended). Dr. Cowan received a standing ovation for his cancer presentation. Sandor gives practical lessons and great samples about fermentation and food activism. Three doctors spoke at length on Vitamins A, D and B12. I'd rather ingest them than hear about them, but the audience seemed attentive.

The event wasn’t all lectures and presentations. On Friday evening there was a dance and on Saturday an awards banquet. I must have been at the right conference because everyone I met was interesting and fun to chat with.

On Monday there was a day long meeting of chapter leaders. Eight presenters gave reports on the works proposed or in progress. Topics ranged from web-based ordering systems to San Francisco's Nourishing Our Children Campaign to a nutrition curriculum to local WAPF franchise stores. Very inspiring developments.

I recommend attending this conference, and will continue to do so whenever I can. What a great opportunity for education in an environment of like-minded, concerned people.

Larry Wisch is a San Francisco WAPF chapter head.

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