[ the skeptics club ]
current events commentary


The Hallelujah Diet: Real Benefit or Dietary Quackery?
Copyright 1998 by Stephen Cumblidge


Claiming that a diet is "good" is a subjective statement that generally doesn't demand any skeptical inquiry, but claiming that a diet can cure or prevent cancer does require examination. This examination is a good idea, as if the diet can indeed deliver on its promises then the world would benefit from the knowledge, and if a diet like the Hallelujah diet has no real effect, then that should be show as well.

The Hallelujah diet sounds like it has a lot in common with other fad diets. The article in the collegian, and a subsequent letter to the editor, claim that the diet is responsible for curing or preventing diseases such as cancer without any clinical proof that this is the case. Why do I feel the need to see clinical, scientific proof before I accept a cure as legitimate? Because the scientific method is generally the best way to determine if something actually works, or if people are only seeing what they want to see.

Some of the warning signs that this diet is a fad diet is are the claims made as to the health effects of the diet, as well as the poor understanding of medicine. The following health claims are made in the article:

Connie Bailey of Port Matilda had Grave's disease and said she overcame it by eating right and drinking plenty of fluids including raw carrot juice and plenty of water.
Betz said cancer growth has proven to be conquered through the Hallelujah diet.
I really wish that the Hallelujah diet was actually proven to stop cancer growth. Unfortunately this is not the case. Some interesting if not very accurate "information" is given in the following paragraph:
The five main factors that contribute to disease are a poor diet, poor physical condition, gradual exposure to radiation and toxic substances in the environment and diet, tobacco and illegal drug use, and stress and emotional distress, Betz said.
One has to wonder which diseases Betz is talking about. I find it interesting that sanitation/cleanliness, proper cooking, immunization, and heredity are not mentioned as factors. Vaccines and clean drinking water have done more than just about any other factors to lower the death rate of many diseases that have plagued mankind for as long as we have been on the Earth. Many third world nations eat "All Natural" foods, but have a high incidence of "All Natural" diseases such as dysentery and have high rates of malnutrition. Environmental radiation has yet to be shows as a cause of cancer, as it is at such low levels that its effects are difficult to measure. Areas of the US with high background radiation do not have higher cancer rates as one would expect.

Another aspect to this which makes me suspicious is the "All Natural" bent to the diet. Nature is not the nice and friendly all-loving force it is often portrayed as being. Nature is full of toxins and diseases that are very dangerous and destructive. As I stated above, "unnatural" chemicals such as chlorine in drinking water have saved countless lives and improved the standard of living a great deal. "Unnatural" preservatives have also saved lives by reducing food spoilage and the food poisoning that can occur with spoilage. Cooking food kills germs. Try eating "All Natural" mistletoe berries some time. Just because something is "All Natural" does not mean that it is "good", "better", or even safe.

Chemicals are not the magic fountain of goodness either, don't get me wrong. Many chemicals such as DDT have been found to be harmful to humans and the environment. Chemicals that are to be added to food should and do have to pass many scientific tests to make sure that they are safe.

I would like to see clinical tests of diets such as the Hallelujah diet to find out if there is any validity to the claims. If diet can help reduce the cancer rate then this could be a huge help to mankind. The effects of diet is being studied right now by real researchers, with mixed results so far. Time and careful experimentation will tell. It is, for now, too early to go around shouting that the Hallelujah diet cures or stops cancer.