Steve Jobs died this week, and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is lifting a tall glass of carrot juice to his memory. That’s what Jobs gave out to trick or treaters one Halloween, and PETA reminds us not only of that, but of some of the many other positive steps Jobs took for health and the environment. Jobs played a role in Disney’s 2006 decision not to renew its Happy Meal toy deal with McDonalds, for example, and more recently decided to “green up” Apple’s manufacturing operations in China and elsewhere.
Sadly PETA and other vegetarian groups have chosen to honor Jobs’s commitment to animal welfare and the environment without acknowledging the role that his vegan or near vegan diet may have played in his death.
I say “may have played” because none of us knows what caused the pancreatic cancer that led to Steve Jobs’s death. Diet doubtless played a role, but lifestyle factors, environmental toxicity and genetic proclivities would have contributed as well. Certainly, Jobs was exposed over the years to massive bombardment from WiFi and other electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Medical treatments involving radiation, chemotherapy, a modified Whipple surgery, a liver transplant and immuno-suppressive drugs may also have contributed to his demise.
It’s human nature to look for something, or someone, to blame whenever someone dies too young, but the answers are rarely clear cut. At best, blaming provides simplistic answers, and at worst can be a juvenile “I told you so.” Not long after Jobs’s death on Wednesday, readers began asking me to comment on Jobs’s death and how his diet — and especially soy — might have contributed to it. In fact, I never met Jobs and have no first hand knowledge of what he ate.
Based on media reports in Forbes and Fortune, however, Jobs seems to have favored organic foods and a plant-based diet. A Google search turns up lots of claims that he was “vegan,” one reference to “fruitarian leanings,” the possibility that he tried healing through macrobiotics, a few people saying he was “pescatarian,” and a satire of his vegan ways on www.MacComedy.com. A posting this week on www.scienceblog.com, by “Mike” says: “There might be some truth to Jobs being a vegan . . . I was at Apple during the time Jobs came back to Apple in 1996/1997. The company cafeteria within weeks of his returning dramatically expanded and improved its vegetarian and vegan menus.” Finally, Jobs was often reported dining at The Greens restaurant in San Francisco with Dean Ornish, MD, bestselling author and promoter of extremely low-fat, plant-based dietary regimens.
None of the articles and websites I’ve seen talk about Jobs’s soy consumption, but Sean Glazier, a programmer from the Netherlands who often consulted in the Silicon Valley, contacted me Thursday. Glazier reports that the Apple environment was extremely vegan friendly, with soy milk flowing freely at coffee stations, Silk soymilk for sale in vending machines, and soy meats served up in company cafeterias. Jobs ordered catered meals for meetings and there were always soy options. “During the 90’s especially, I am sure Steve ate plenty of soy products.”
With the timely release of Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography Steve Jobs on October 24, we may learn more about Jobs’s dietary and lifestyle preferences.
Presuming Jobs ate a fair amount of soy, the question is, how might it have affected his health? Again, hard to say, given our lack of information about dose and duration. If we look to science, the studies on soy and cancer development are inconsistent and often contradictory. Soy sometimes prevents cancer but also can cause, contribute to or accelerate the growth of cancer. Soy isoflavones have been proven to be mutagenic, clastogenic and teratogenic, and are listed as “carcinogens” in many toxicology textbooks, including the American Chemical Society’s 1976 Chemical Carcinogens. In addition, modern industrial soy processing techniques used to make soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein and other modern soy products create toxic and carcinogenic residues Finally, soybeans naturally contain goitrogens, allergens, protease inhibitors and other antinutrients and toxins that damage the digestive, immune and neuroendocrine systems, putting consumers at increase risk for many health problems, including cancer. These facts led the Solae Company in 2005 to withdraw a petition to the FDA, in which the company had requested a soy/cancer health claim. (To read WAPF’s request for denial, go to: http://www.westonaprice.org/2004-action-alerts/2004jul11). Yet the soy industry and vegan proponents persist in touting soy as a safe, proven and all-natural cancer answer.
In terms of pancreatic cancer, the protease inhibitors in soy protein interfere with protein digestion, put stress on the pancreas and cause hyperplasia and hypertrophy. Animal studies indicate soy-heavy diets can cause pancreatic cancers that originate in the exocrine cells that produce digestive enzymes. About 95 percent of pancreatic cancers are exocrine cancers, the type that felled actors Michael Landon and Patrick Swayze. Steve Jobs, however, suffered from a much rarer, neuroendocrine form of pancreatic cancer. Known as islet cell carcinoma, this type represents only about five percent of pancreatic cancers, and originates in the insulin-secreting beta cells.
Soy couldn’t possibly have helped Jobs, and may have contributed to his cancer’s development, but without additional information it would inappropriate to blame his cancer on soy. But it is fair to say that years before diagnosis he would probably have suffered from subclinical malnutrition if, in fact, he’d been on a low-fat, plant-based diet that included a lot of soy. Lab testing likely would have turned up deficiencies in vitamins A, D, K, B2, B6 and B12; the sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine, cysteine and taurine; DHA and EFA fatty acids; and calcium, zinc, carnitine and CoQ10. Such deficiencies are commonly found in vegan and near-vegan clients. They neither build the body nor allow detoxification, and so set the stage for the development of cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Most alternative MDs and health practitioners find serious illness among vegans in their clinical practices, yet PETA and other vegan groups dismiss the idea that non-junk food vegan diets cause nutritional deficiencies and blame animal products alone for the ills of civilization. PETA also wildly, nakedly and bloodily –many would say crudely and offensively — promotes the myth of healthy, sexy vegans.
Similar ideas — more soberly presented — come from the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine, whose “Cancer Project”promotes cancer prevention via a low-fat, high-soy vegan diet. The fact that this perfect prescription didn’t work for Jobs, Linda McCartney or many other prominent vegetarians does not seem to stop these “responsible physicians” from continuing to make irresponsible health guarantees.
Could anything have saved Steve Jobs? No way to know, but I think he would have had his best shot at recovery with Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez in New York City. Dr. Gonzalez has an impressive track record of helping people recover from pancreatic and other cancers. He prescribes specific diets and supplement programs based on extensive interviews and labwork. To learn more about his programs, listen to this fascinating interview with Dr Joseph Mercola and Dr. Gonzalez: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/09/dr-nicholas-gonzalez-on-steve-jobs.aspx?e_cid=20111009_SNL_Art_1
Would Jobs have been best served by a WAPF diet that contained ample amounts of fat, cholesterol and even red meat? Would a more modest amount of animal foods have better suited him? Might he have been one of the few people who thrives on a carefully designed diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in animal foods? Had he been a patient of Dr. Gonzalez, Jobs would have learned the code to a well-designed, high-functioning iJobs diet. As it stands, the one thing we know for sure is Steve Jobs is dead. Sadly, his diet did not save him.
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This blog was written on my iMac desktop. I am deeply grateful for its sleek and functional design as well as the beauty of my iphone. Steve Jobs has also inspired me over the years. My favorite quote is:
For more great quotes by Jobs visit: www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/05/the-best-steve-jobs-quote_n_997300.html#s338869
To read my article “George Clooney Declines to be the Scent of Mr. Tofu,” the tale of a truly tasteless PETA campaign visit: www.naughtynutritionist.com and click “Articles.”
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