Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

Does eating healthy make a difference after a lifetime of junk food?

salad vegetables

Most people who start to get interested in healthier eating wonder sometimes if there is a point to it all. If you ate junk food your entire life, can you still undo some of the damage you did? There is good news and bad news. The bad news: you could still get cancer. The good news: there is a good chance you can reverse all damage to your arteries. Even though you might still get cancer, your chances at survival are much higher if you adopt a healthy diet.

There are three major diseases that kill people nowadays: heart disease, cancer and type II diabetes. In this article, I will discuss the role of diet in those diseases.


Cancer develops over years and years. Two years of healthy eating may not be enough to reverse cancer that has been growing for over ten years. That does not mean all is lost. If you smoked your entire life you are at an increased risk of dying from lung cancer, even after you quit. Your lungs do not repair immediately. Ten years after quitting smoking, your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's. That is depressing and promising at the same time. Keep in mind that studies that show those results do not factor diet into account at all. It is known that especially cruciferous vegetables have a powerful anti cancer effect.

Experts are not as unanimous about the protective effects of diet on cancer as they are on the effects of diet on heart disease. Some even say diet has almost no effect on cancer at all. It is important to have a careful look at the studies they cite. Most of the time this will be case control studies, where the researchers study two groups of people: one with a healthy diet and one with a standard diet. Often, those diets do not differ that much. The healthy diet will have one more serving of fruits and vegetables and a little less fat than the unhealthy diet, and that's it. There have been no large studies where people were put on an extremely high vegetable diet. Even based on these studies that essentially compare an unhealthy diet with a slightly less unhealthy diet, experts say that a healthy diet plus exercise can prevent 30% of all cancers.

Heart Disease

If you have the good fortune not to die from your first heart attack you got when you did not even know you had heart disease, you have a good chance to completely recover. This is not just optimism from guru doctors, this is actually a well established medical fact. A diet that is very high in plant foods and very low in animal fats will lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack enormously.


Type II Diabetes

Type II diabetes does not kill by itself, but it has a number of serious complications that kill or seriously affect quality of life. Type II diabetes often responds very well to behavioral changes: eat less, eat better, exercise more, get enough sleep (between six and eight hours).

From the Guru's

Success stories

The real reason to eat healthy

Today, about 30% of all people die from heart disease, and 30% die from cancer. By adopting a healthy diet you increase your chances of living long enormously, even though you cannot completely undo the damage you did. That's not the only reason to eat healthy though. It is not just how long you live that counts, it is also the quality of your life. If you eat really healthy you will feel better and suffer less from allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression and other diseases.

June 9, 2006