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The Vegetarian World Forum
No. 3 Vol. IX - Autumn 1955 pp.22-28:


Dr. Douglas Latto

FEW people realise that a defective diet is the chief cause of illness and many doctors themselves are unable to recognise this. It is occasionally realised if the effects are immediate such as sickness following the excessive use of alcohol, or after over-eating on Christmas day. Doctors recognise that if a patient is anaemic from deficiency of iron, or has rickets or scurvy from deficiency of vitamin D and C respectively, the diet is at fault, and usually correct it. To substitute the missing factor, however, is not sufficient, and Major-General Sir Robert McCarrison has shown that, if the patient is deficient in Vitamin D and has rickets, the patient is also having an insufficient quantity of other allied vitamins and mineral salts, even though this is to a considerably less degree, and the best thing to do is to put the patient onto a balanced diet and possibly boost the deficient vitamin to speed up recovery.

If, however, the patient has pneumonia, heart trouble, arthritis, asthma, cancer, or many other illnesses I could mention, it is not generally realised that a defective diet is the chief causal factor. It must be recognised that the nervous and mental strain and stress may play a small part. When a person is fit, healthy and vital, however, little obstacles met with m every day life are taken in his stride, whereas when a person is ill, or in a state of sub-health, all the little obstacles and set backs seem like mountains.

Many patients say to me "It can't be my diet, doctor, as I am moderate in all things." Yet with this "Western civilization" diet we require more and more doctors, and now in Gt. Britain we have one doctor for every 800 of the population, and all are working very hard. More and yet more hospital beds are required every year and bigger and better hospitals are being built. The building of these hospitals should not be looked upon as progress but a reproach to our way of living. Over 40 per cent of the beds in these hospitals are required for patients suffering from nervous and mental disorders, and in Gt. Britain one person in twenty spends some time of his life in a hospital for nervous disorders.

Disseminated sclerosis which was rare prior to World War I is now very common and we have 30,000 cases.

Heart disease (which includes coronary thrombosis), blood pressure, and strokes, accounts for some 40 per cent of our deaths and frequently when reading the morning paper we see that some famous person has dropped dead from a stroke or a heart attack when he should have been in his prime. Many other diseases are rapidly on the increase such as diabetes and cancer. We now have over 40,000 diabetics in our country and one in every six persons dies from cancer; that is, we have 100,000 deaths from cancer every year. This alone means a tremendous amount of misery and suffering.

I WOULD now like to go on to discuss and criticize the orthodox medical approach to a number of diseases but before doing this I would like to record here the great respect I have for the orthodox medical profession. Many doctors work unceasingly and selflessly to help their patients and their kindness and encouragement does far more than many themselves realise to help the patient to get better. Orthodox medicine must not be looked upon as fixed and static. They are making constant changes, not all for the better, but nevertheless many of these changes are in the right direction. For example, 20 years ago vaccines were frequently used to treat disease, this was injurious to the patient and a great strain on the animal kingdom from which they were derived. This was replaced largely in 1937 by the introduction of prontosil, "M and B" and the other sulphonamides; these substances were mineral in origin; they were later replaced by penicillin and the other antibiotics. These are obtained from moulds of plant origin, and although they tend to suppress illnesses and are used rather too freely, the move is going on in the right direction.

In the Hospital for Sick Children at Gt. Ormond Street, London, many cases of a disease known as Coeliac Disease are treated by the method used by Bircher-Benner of Switzerland; are are given raw vegetables and fruits. At Brompton Chest Hospital in London, patients with asthma are advised to reduce starches and sugars and to avoid milk, and many of the heart specialists of Harley Street, London, are using raw diets, as advocated by the Bircher-Benner, for heart failure and various other heart disorders. Kidney failure during pregnancy is now no longer treated by an operation, stripping the kidney capsule and other heroic types of operation; but is treated by putting the patient on a protein free diet.

Doctors are using diets more and more and patients overweight with high blood pressure are usually given a diet to reduce their weight, this as a rule reduces the blood pressure at the same time.

In the North Carolina Medical Journal in 1945, Dr. Walter Kempner described a rice diet which he had used successfully in the treatment of kidney disease and high blood pressure. It is now used frequently in this country. The monotony of the diet, however, is its one big disadvantage. Patients with pernicious anaemia need no longer be given raw liver, and liver by injections but can be controlled by having Vitamin B12. At Reading, where there is the second largest pernicious anaemia clinic in Gt. Britain, there are at present 180 cases of pernicious anaemia and no liver is used. All are controlled by the use of Vitamin B12. I could give many other examples but time and space will not permit.

ON the other hand the orthodox medical man tends to treat many acute diseases by suppressing them and to treat chronic diseases symptomatically. Acute rheumatic fever is treated by aspirin or other salicylates; this appears to cure the patient but merely suppresses the condition and it therefore tends to recur and is again suppressed with salicylates. This may go on for a number of times and the patient only too frequently is left an invalid with a defective heart and is no longer a useful member of the society. Acute rheumatic fever treated by fasting, raw fruit, water treatment and other accessory treatments, and then shown how to live on a vegetarian food reform diet, has no recurrence of the trouble. Similarly, pneumonia is suppressed with penicillin and many other acute diseases are suppressed.

Chronic diseases are treated symptomatically:

Asthma is treated by adrenaline and other similar substances.

Migraine is treated by aspirin, ergometrine, etc. This takes away the headache but does nothing to cure the liver which is usually the root of the trouble in these cases.

Constipation is treated by aperients.

Arthritis is treated by aspirin, gold injections, protein shock injections, cortisone, A.C.T.H., and Butazolidine (which is a strong Swiss aspirin derivative).

Blood pressure is treated by rest, sedatives (phenobarbitone), hexamethonium bromide, sympathectomy, etc. All these illnesses and many more I would mention are only treated symptomatically and the cause of the trouble which is a defective diet remains unaltered.

With poliomycitis (infantile paralysis), it is now known to be due to three types of virus. These are now known to multiply in the bowel, invade the blood stream, then get into the nerves, and so to the spinal cord and brain and thus cause paralysis.

The Salk vaccine contains the dead remains of the three types of virus and is injected to produce anti-bodies in the tissues, which will kill the virus when it enters the blood stream. This is a possible way of suppressing the disease. As it is known to multiply in the bowel the obvious answer is to keep the bowel healthy with a vegetarian food reform diet, and to avoid the indiscriminate use of sulphonamides and antibiotics which upset the bacterial flora of the bowel and are one of the causes of the great increase of virus diseases. (e.g., virus pneumonia).

Cancer. I went to a large cancer research institute and there I was told that they were not really interested in the cause or cure of cancer but were only interested in the intellectual side. They said this with their tongues in their cheeks, but I found to my disappointment it was not far from the truth.

AS I was not satisfied with my first introduction to the subject of cancer research, I spent some time at the Chest-Beattie Cancer Research Institute, Royal Cancer Hospital, Fulham Road, London. There I found cancer research was carried out along three main lines.

  1. Work on the mechanism of cancer production.
  2. Attempts at treating cancers by chemicals, X-rays, etc., in man and animals.
  3. Studies of malignancies dependent on hormonal imbalance in man and animals.

Work on mechanism of cancer production.

I saw there literally, thousands of rats and mice with various types of cancers. These tumours were sectioned and the sections can be enlarged by a special £10,000 microscope and the picture thrown onto a screen enlarging each cell 60,000 times to allow the cells to be examined individually.

The following will be a little involved and tedious but in fairness to the cancer researchers I would like to record it.

The cells are known to contain nucleic acid, which is necessary for all cell division and growth and for its genetic survival. There are two types of nucleic acid of which you will be hearing more presently.

  1. De-oxy-ribo-nucleic acid which is present in the nucleus of each cell and
  2. Ribo-nucleic acid which is present in the nucleus but also in the cytoplasm of the cell (that is, outside the nucleus).
    (a) The cancer producing substances are investigated and the effects on cells noted.
    (b) The cellular constituents of the cancer cells are studied.
    (c) Some immunological aspects are studied. (H.N. Green, of Leeds, B.M.J., 1954).

Attempts at treating cancer by chemicals.

Treatment of cancer by:

  1. substances toxic to rapidly 'dividing cells
    (a) nitrogen mustards (used in lymphocytic 1eukamia)
    (b) myelaran (used in myaloid leukemia)
    (c) deep X-ray and radium gamma rays
    (d) certain anti-melabolities
    - (i) anti-folic acid derivatives
    - (ii) anti-purines (6 mercapto-purin)
    - (iii) attempts at enzymic treatment
    -- (a) ribo-nuclease which breaks down ribo-nucleic acid
    -- (b) xanthine oxidase which transforms xanthine, part of ribo-nucleic acid, into uric acid.

Studies of malignancy dependant on hormonal imbalance:

  1. Biological-the giving of oestrogens in cases of cancer of the prostate.
    The giving of thyroid which depresses cancer in some instances.
  2. Bio-chemical investigation, e.g., what do people excrete before and after adrenalectomy.
  3. Surgical - the results of removal of the ovaries, testicles, adrenal glands, and even removal of the pituitary is now undertaken and these are found to slow down cancer formation.

It is probable that if a person had his reproductive glands and pituitary removed at the age of 20 he would be very unlikely to develop cancer.

The above research is merely attempting to suppress the cancer and again to treat the condition symptomatically.

For example, the use of oestrogens for cancer of the prostate causes enlargement of the breasts, and although it tends to slow down the growth of the prostatic cancer it is now causing a great number of cases of cancer of the breast in men.

True research, I believe, into the cause and prevention of cancer, could be much more satisfactorily carried out by investigation and observation of the diets of various races. (I purposely avoided the use of the word uncivilized).


The Hunzas, a small tribe living 8,000 feet up in the Himalayan mountains are know to be very healthy and fit. They live on an almost vegetarian diet, they avoid the use of artificial chemicals on their land, they use fresh foods, and all dead animals and human waste material are returned to the soil. (This valuable material is not thrown out to sea and then artificial fertilizers substituted).

Major General Sir Robert McCarrison, who r is now 79 and in charge of post-graduate medical education in Oxford, lived with the Hunzas for seven years. In this country I mentioned that we have one doctor for every 800 of the population, and yet Sir Robert was looking after some 10,000 Hunzas and they were so healthy that he was practically unem ployed. He was so struck by their health and endurance that he put one large colony of rats on the Hunza diet, and a similar large colony on the conventional English diet (not that I hold with animal experiments). He observed them for 2.5 years which is equivalent to about 50 human years. The Hunza rats kept very well, were good natured, produced good litters and fed their young easily. The English rats had miscarriages, were frequently unable to rear their young, got every illness in the medical textbook, including cancer, arthritis, nephritis, etc. Some got illnesses which are not in the medical text-book such as gangrene of the tail. They even had mental diseases, became bad tempered and started eating each other. All this is graphically described in Major-General Robert McCarrison's now famous Cantor lectures delivered before the Royal Society of Arts in 1936, which were later published by Faber and Faber.

He goes on to say that during seven years with the Hunzas he saw no case of dyspepsia, gastric or duodenal ulcer, appendicitis, mucous colitis, or cancer. Incidentally there was no sub-health and although they were great mountaineers, there were very few accidents because they were lithe and supple and not tense. He describes them as being very bright and happy and also mentions that there was no police force and no crime.

It is interesting to note there were no cases of appendicitis and yet when I was working in Oxford at the Radcliffe Infitmary an acute appendix was taken out every twelve hours day and night all the year round, (The population of Oxford is about 98,000, the infirmary serves the surrounding small towns and villages).

Many appendices are removed as a sort of encore to some other major abdominal operation; and missionaries who are going abroad come in to have their appendix removed to avoid being caught out in the bush.


In Egypt only 2.5 per cent of the population die from cancer as opposed to 16 per cent in Great Britain. It is not quite fair to compare these figures as many die at a relatively young age from smallpox, etc., due to the greater heat and less hygienic conditions. However in 1924, Professor Eliot Smith dug 30,000 mummies. He found very little dental decay except in the luxury classes, some arthritis, three kidney stones, one gall stone, no case of rickets and no cancer. The Egyptians were then living on unsophisticated foods. They were almost entirely vegetarians, but now unfortunately they are becoming more and more westernised.


Dr. Ernest Tipper in a book entitled The Cradle of the World and Cancer, described how he lived for 20 years with simple peoples in the Niger Delta in Africa and saw very little cancer.

It is interesting to note that the negro slaves taken to America living in their own primitive ways did not get cancer, and yet when they were liberated and adopted the diet of their white brothers, got cancer as frequently as they did.

The Watussi tribe in Africa

In a book called The Fabulous Congo, by Felice Bellotti, the giant Watussi tribe are described. They are reported to keep very healthy and live on a frugal vegetarian diet.


On reading an article in the Lancet recently, I got the impression that the Kurds, a tribe living in Iraq, lived on simple unsophisticated foods such as butter made from sheeps' milk, fruits, vegetables, etc. It also stated that although they are heavy smokers they practically never get cancer of the lung. I made a mental note that this would be a good point for my lecture. I try to avoid getting carried away with enthusiasm and thus weakening my case by unintentionally making incorrect statements.

I therefore wrote to professor Critchley of the RoyaI Medical College, Baghdad, to confirm or refute these statements. He replied as follows:

"There are no accurate statistics regarding deaths in Iraq, least of all from Kurdistan . . . Many parts of Kurdistan are without hospitals and medical attention and a fear of hospitals still persists amongst many of the rural Kurds . . . I have also learned to mistrust any statistics or information given to me without checking every item. I hope to do a small survey in an isolated Kurdish village, but it will not be on a large scale so may only give an indication of the health, diet etc., of these fascinating people."

He went on to say he would send me more details after he had done his survey. The above type of mistake is only too frequently made, but as true research into disease and cancer progresses it should be made less and less.


Small unsophisticated communities can even be found in England. At Mount St. Bernard Abbey, Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, the monks live on a vegetarian diet. They grow their own crops, make their own bread and are said to keep in excellent health. As it is a closed Order I was unable to visit them and confirm these facts. They are only allowed meat when they are ill.

One might argue on the other hand that being inside a Monastery wall they were away from the strain and stress of the world. However, communities inside the walls differ markedly in health depending on their diet. For example, Saile took the blood pressure of 100 Carthusian, Cistercian, and Carmelite Monks, all meat abstainers and found it considerably lower than a similar number of Benedictine monks - meat eaters.

RECENTLY I was visiting Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C., at St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Cowfold, nr. Partridge Green, Horsham, Sussex, England. He was spending a week-end at the Monastery and happened to mention in the course of conversation that the monks kept exceptionally healthy. I pricked up my ears at this and later went to the Father Prior, a very nice man and a Swiss, and he invited me to the Monastery.

I went early one morning and he showed me the relics of the saints and many other things he thought would interest me. (I left my dog in the car as no females are allowed inside the walls except the hens.) He took infinite trouble to find out the information I wanted to know and finally handed me over to another monk who was a sort of managing director. He was an Englishman with a great sense of humour and a happy twinkling eye. I found out that the monks only have one meal a day at 10 a.m. They may have a drink in the afternoon. They never have meat, they have fish about two to three times a week. They grow their own fruit and vegetables and sell what they do not require for themselves. They make their own bread. They fast on Friday and just have bread and water. The Father Prior told me that they just appear to fade out when their life is spent and that they seldom die from cancer. There were no ill monks when I was there. I found the monks bright and alert, irrespective of their age and they seemed full of the joy of life.

This is a Carthusian Order and was founded in 1084. They have lived on this simple regime since then. However, Pope Urban V (1362-1370) thought that these monks were too strict with themselves and decided to have the rules mitigated to make life easier for them and so that, he thought, they might live longer. The monks themselves, however, did not wish the rules of their Founder to be changed and a deputation of 27 monks went to the Pope. They had very little difficulty in convincing the Pope that their diet was satisfactory as their ages ranged from 88 to 95 years.

Lastly I would like to say that the prevention of cancer and most diseases lies in our own hands and that if we learn to live properly we can avoid almost all diseases.

The present world food shortage could easily be answered by:

  1. Going onto a vegetarian diet.
  2. Avoiding eating as we do at present - three times as much as we require.
  3. Avoiding wasting large areas of the world for our addictions such as hops for beer, barley for whisky, apples for cider, grapes for wines, tobacco for smoking, not to mention tea, coffee and cocoa.

A vegetarian food reform diet is a great help to health, to happiness and thus to spiritual development.


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