Esophageal cancer cases have increased by over 653% since the mid 1970s, and although we don’t know for a fact what causes it, we do know that food regulations changed dramatically in that time period. Food became more acidic, high fructose corn syrup replaced ‘expensive type sugars’ and sugary sodas became the most consumed beverage in the United States. The statistics are alarming. Renowned ear, nose and throat specialist, and author Dr. Jonathan Aviv joined me for an interview this week to discuss why esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in America and the importance of consuming a low acid high fiber diet.
Candace Rose: Why is esophageal cancer the fastest growing cancer in America?
Dr. Jonathan Aviv: “Everything I’m about to discuss with you is supported by peer reviewed publications to the extent that you want to believe peer reviewed publications certainly is an extremely high standard of reporting scientific data. These things are not my opinions, what I have done is connect the various dots of seemingly unrelated events. Since the mid 70s esophageal cancer is by far the fastest growing cancer in American and Europe incidentally. Almost all of the other cancers are down or flat in incidence. Esophageal cancer is out of control, a 653% increase since the mid 70s. You asked a great question – why? What happened? What caused this? I believe there are two events – legislative intervention by the government and food industry changes.
Starting with the legislative intervention, imagine seeing a picture of the food and drug administration building and it’s sort of crumbles down to title 21. Title 21 is a little known law enacted by the FDA in the mid 70s. Its purpose is very noble, it was to prevent food poisoning, so the FDA said that any food in a can or a bottle needs to be acidified to prevent bacterial overgrowth. That sounds great, right? But the unintended consequence of this is that foods that we know to be healthy suddenly may not be. I’ll give one example to crystallize that thought. You know what a banana is, your readers know what a banana is…it’s a very healthy whole food that’s actually a near neutral acidity level. Baby banana food in a bottle is 100 times more acidic because of the preservatives. The acid insinuation into our life starts in infancy, I think very few people realize that. You can read title 21, it’s hundreds and hundreds of pages. The essence is that any food in a can or a bottle – you can look, it’ll say citric acid, ascorbic acid – that’s wonderful, but do we want to be feeding our kids that? I don’t think so. So that’s one issue, and if you want to just summarize it, just imagine a picture of a banana and imagine holding in your hand a jar of baby food. That jar, a hundred times more acidic than that banana. Food industry changes, that’s quite remarkable. I think when we distill it to a banana and baby banana food and look at the differences our eyebrows just keep going up.
The second thing that happened and this is a broader change over many years, but beginning around the same time, the food industry began to make changes in the way they made food and processed foods. So processed foods happen with greater and greater frequency. Again, I’ll give a couple of examples just to crystallize these thoughts. Sugar was typically made from relatively more expensive cane sugar and beet sugar, but because of food industry changes, government subsidies, ultimately weather calamities (and this takes place over several years) the food industry went from these more expensive type sugars to less expensive corn based sugars. We’ve all heard of something called high fructose corn syrup, people say what’s the issue? And again you can scour the literature, you can go back and forth, you see things on both sides of the equation. Sugar is sugar, however in trying to manufacture high fructose corn syrup there is sulfuric acid in there, which is very acidic. The chemicals used in the food processing have a physiologic affect of loosening the muscle that separates the stomach from the esophagus. The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. There’s a protective barrier between the stomach which contains acid, acid breaks down food and the esophagus. That proactive barrier is essentially deactivated with these chemicals, so you have a situation where the natural protective barriers are deactivated and what’s in the stomach which should stay in the stomach goes where it shouldn’t, which is up towards the esophagus and towards the throat.
These two events – do we know for sure? No, but when you look at trends and you match trends in society versus this disease, they match pretty frequently and we have scientific explanations and there’s one other substance from the food industry that people often talk about, but it’s a big issue and sugary sodas. In 1975 sugary sodas/carbonated sodas overtook caffeine as the most commonly consumed beverage in America, and we never looked back. The relative acidity of Coca Cola is about two and a half, which is almost like the battery acid in your car.
One of the great ironies in pop culture is that when you turn on the TV and you look at a show like “American Idol” or “The Voice” and you look at the judges table – what’s on their table? Books? Calculators? Computers? No, there’s a cup of branded cola on their table. The substance that can destroy voices sponsors the beautiful voice shows. Not much difference I think than the tobacco companies sponsoring the Olympics. When you look at these shows and you’re listening to these voices, you don’t realize that your eye is seeing. I don’t think people are aware of this.”
Candace Rose: In your book you’ve also provided us with a section called the Acid Watcher Diet. What are the foods to avoid and which ones we should be eating?
Dr. Jonathan Aviv: “The Acid Watcher Diet is described in “Killing Me Softly From Inside” is a low acid high fiber nutritionally balanced diet, so it has a balanced amount of proteins, fats and carbs, so it’s not a deprivation diet where you say ‘don’t eat fats or don’t eat carbs’. You need these balances to sustain the diet. The foods to avoid are caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, mint, citrus, tomato, onion, garlic. Now I know I’ve just mentioned everyones eight favorite food groups, however there’s a theme there and a lot of these substances, in particular caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and mint have physiologic effects. Again, they all loosen the muscle that separates the acidic stomach from the esophagus. The same thing with onion and garlic, they’re actually not very acidic, but it’s the physiologic affects of those substances that make them such a problem for people with acid reflux and can perpetuate their complications.
On the sweet side (on the plus side) the foods to have are anything green. You’ve heard the expression green is good, but we’re talking about food. Vegetables, a lot of fruits they’re excellent. There’s nothing wrong with certain types of animal protein too. I see no problem with that, but the essentials of the diet is about a pound of vegetables and a half a pound of fruit a day. You may think that’s a lot, but if you hold five carrots in your hand, that’s a pound of vegetables….so it’s not a lot. One of the things that we have found is that you can take acidic healthy things like berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (very healthy fruits that are unfortunately very acidic) however if you add a cup of almond milk which is not acidic, it’s actually alkaline and has a PH above eight (seven being neutral) to the berries in a smoothie with or without a banana to give it a little more of a taste there you can neutralize the acidity of those berries and have a very healthy breakfast for instance.”
Candace Rose: Thank you Dr. Aviv, where can we go for more information?