Steve Jobs Dies: Is Vegetarian Diet At Fault?


[JEV News, October 7, 2011]

On October 5, 2011, Mr. Steve Jobs, 56, former CEO of Apple, Inc. passed away.

On September 9, 2011, I published an article here, entitled, “Cancer and High-Carb Diet Forums.” I wrote it for alerting every one of the ill impacts of high carbohydrate diet on the health. In the article, I mentioned that readers of this website as well as my facebook asked me if I would write to Steve Jobs with advice for him on his terminal pancreatic cancer. I did, but did not hear from him or anyone around him. When I was writing Steve Jobs with advice, someone warned me that Steve Jobs was a vegetarian. This person even bet that Steve Jobs would not accept any advice such as mine against his vegetarianism.

A news report on his death mentioned that Steve Jobs was a Buddhist. Buddhist’s vegetarianism is based on its core principle “against killing.” And, I highly admire that. However, I often warn others who are vegetarians about the health hazards of vegetarian diet without modification. Although I cannot determine if Steve Jobs was a victim of vegetarian diet, I suspect that it might likely be the case, because vegetarian diet commonly uses carbohydrates as its staple foods.

I posted a comment on the Wall Street Journal upon Steve Jobs’ passing, “I am saddened by the untimely loss of Steve Jobs, who made a great change in modern technology. I am even more disappointed with the fact that modern medicine has failed to recognize the strong link of dietary carbohydrates to the development and proliferation of most, if not all, cancers. Interestingly and yet importantly, we have realized many types of cancer cells are depending on glucose for their survival and metastasis. The use of glucose derivatives tagged tracer for detecting cancers with PET scan is a proof for the close link between glucose and cancer. The most serious mistake that modern medicine has made is the failure of recognizing the positive relationship between the amount of dietary carbohydrates and the level of blood glucose. I wholeheartedly hope many more colleagues in the medical academic and clinical fields will wake up to this important approach for cancer prevention and treatment —carbohydrate restriction.”

Robert Su, Pharm.B., M.D.

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  • Howard Lee Harkness

    Steve Jobs wasn’t just a vegetarian — he was following a really bizarre vegan “macrobiotic” diet in an attempt to improve his health. I remember when I saw the first reports of that and thinking that he would be dead in a year. I was actually wrong about that last part — it took a little more than a year. I remember posting the opinion that his bizarre diet would kill him fairly quickly on a couple of public fora, and getting the knee-jerk flames from the “true believers.”

    I’m 4 years older than Steve Jobs was. I am VERY glad that I abandoned the faith-based vegetarian low-fat diet that I was following in the 90′s, and discovered a more natural and healthier way to eat. I hope to have 20 to 30 good years left.

    • Robert K. Su, MD

      Mr. Harkness, I did not know the detail of Steve Jobs’ dietary choice. I am glad that you just told us about that.
      I am very glad for you that you have switched your diet away from vegan. I have not objection to vegan diet, but it must be modified for health.

      • Anonymous

        I do not think Steve Jobs was vegetarian; I have heard he included fish in his diet but it is yet to be confirmed. Regardless, the type of cancer he had is very deadly, most die within weeks, or 6 months at the most. The fact that he lived with it for 8 years must be a testament to the diet he practiced.

        • Robert K. Su, MD

          Well, I do not have the first-hand information about Steve Jobs. I commented his unfortunate outcome based on the second-hand story. I do not wish to comment beyond the information that I have.

        • Anonymous

          Jobs’ tumor was a neuroendocrine tumor, which could have been cured if he had had his pancreas removed immediately when the tumor was found, before it could metastasize. That is a different tumor from the more usual pancreatic tumors that kill rapidly. If he had followed his doctors’ recommendations, he could have lived a long, healthy life. His staff and family pleaded with him to have the operation, but he refused. He might have been a marketing genius, but he was medically illiterate.

          • Anonymous

            There is no certainty he could have survived if he had not waited 9 months. Someone at the cancer society said that. He went in for kidney stones and so it was discovered accidentally, it may have already been too late, we’ll never know for sure.

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            With my due respect for you all who visit this website, let me ask you a question. Who is “someone” at the Cancer Society said that? Please verify the source of your information.

          • Anonymous

            Well, there is never 100% certainly in science or in life. But it is entirely reasonable to say he would have had a much, MUCH better chance at being cured. And I’m not sure if this person at the cancer society actually knew what they were talking about — most of the media and public don’t even know that there are different kinds of pancreatic cancer. At any rate, I put a lot more faith in the doctors who advised him to have his pancreas removed surgically than any non-medical employee at any cancer society, or any woo-practician in the “spiritual” community.

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            I checked the information as you pointed out, Steve Jobs did have his pancreas removed. However, curing pancreatic cancer is very difficult to almost little chance of success, unless, the patient would adopt dietary changes with carbohydrate restriction. I just wrote an article this morning about using carbohydrate restriction in treatment and prevention of cancer. I personally knew there is one who went into remission in November 2010 and is still living, after adopting carbohydrate restriction in spring 2010 when he was declared in the terminal stage of pancreatic cancer. It is terribly to note that Luciano Pavarotti, Randy Pausch, and Dave Rose are among the cancer victims who had pancreatic cancer and underwent the same procedure as Steve Jobs did. Sad!

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            Please show us the source that substantiates your information?

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            With my due respect for you who post comments here, please verify the source of your information.

  • L.S.

    It’s interesting that you mention him being a Buddhist and therefore a vegetarian. I have several Buddhist friends, none of whom are vegetarians. Even the Dalai Lama is not a vegetarian, since he recognizes his continued good health is important and having that good health requires that he eats meat.
    It is likely that Steve Job’s diet killed him since he was missing a whole host of nutrients found only in animal proteins and fat. If he ate non-fermented soy and grain products his cancer would have been accelerated. We will probably never know.

    • Robert K. Su, MD

      I know that being a Buddhist is not necessarily a vegetarian. Some of them only take up vegan for breakfast. And, some of them only take up vegan one certain days. My late mother who became a vegetarian as a Buddhist of more than 20 years, died at 67 years of her age with cerebral aneurysm, which is a result of atherosclerosis. Of course, she was also hypertensive, had cataracts and postoperative glaucoma, likely had a fatty liver from hypertriglyceridemia. I just want to warn people who insist of being vegetarians about the health hazards of vegan because of its high consumption of carbohydrates.

    • Anonymous

      It is true the Dalai Lama does not practice what he preaches (he advices others to exclude meat). The Buddha said many things and it isn’t always practiced by his followers. The same can be said of Jesus and of Christians. The difference is that the latter will bend their religion to discriminate against others (i.e. keep blacks as slaves in the past, or exclude homosexuals of their rights today). I’ll end this by saying diet is only one factor; Getting the right exercise is just as important when it comes to health.

      • Robert K. Su, MD

        I have known that Dalai Lama began to eat meat for a while because of his health had been deteriorating on vegetarian diet. Again, my information is second-hand. However, he unfortunately had experienced health problem that forced him to modify his vegetarian diet by adding occasional consumption of meat. As I wrote in my article, vegetarian diet is acceptable to me as long as it is modified by avoiding carbohydrates especially the starchy and sugary foods, and adding more fats from natural plants such as coconut oil, and animal fats such as cheese and butter, however, not milk. If it is understandable that eating unfertilized eggs, which are just a single cells, is not deemed “killing”, vegetarian diet is far better for health.

  • Robert K. Su, MD

    When you saw a cancer patient started losing his weight despite that he continued to eat a lot (unfortunately, a lot of carbohydrates), you would have to think why he should be losing weight. It is because the patient’s cancer cells not his fat cells take up a lot of his glucose from his dietary carbohydrates. So, he is practically on carbohydrate-restricted diet for the sake of helping his cancer grow and metastasize. And, this is reason why restricting carbohydrates can help stall the growth of cancer and possibly kill the cancer. This is observed in animal studies.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. There is a lot of misinformation here. Statistics will show that cancer rates are far lower among vegetarians and vegans than the general population. The rate of cancer is soaring these past two decades in the major cities of China, where the influx of wealth have accelerated their diet to match the western meat based diet. In fact, they even eat more meat than Americans now, an observation I made on a couple trips over there. Let me point out that the Shaolin monks are not only known for their fearless king fu, but also for their vegan restricted diet.

    • Robert K. Su, MD

      There is no misinformation here. This is based on science. Have you ever monitored your blood glucose after meal. Try it for a series of two hours following one of your meal, started at fasting, then start your meal, at the same time, regardless of the time when you finish your meal, just take your blood glucose test at an interval of 15 minutes. See what you get. If you can keep your blood glucose level not over 120 mg% or at least not above 150 mg% at all times, your meal is great and safe. As said, I am not against vegetarian diet. My most concern is its heavy consumption of carbohydrates especially those with high in glycemic indices and/or glycemic loads. Recently, John, who had been a vegetarian until I talk him out of it about four weeks ago, asked me to check his MRI and MRA reports of his head. John’s right eye had been swollen in its sclera (the white part of the eyeball) for at least four months. The sclera also had many injected capillaries. The swelling was worst in the morning before he got up and better as the day went on. The reports noted that he had a distended vein superior to his right eye. Based on my medical knowledge, the swelling as well as the injected capillaries were a result of congestion of the venous return, which is usually improved when he is up during because gravity helps ease the venous congestion. The cause of venous congestion is probably due to a stricture of the vein distal to the portion where dilatation is noted in the MRA. Other than a tumor, it is likely a swollen tissue or scar pressing on the vein. I advised him to stop vegetarian diet, in hope that he would have less inflammation inside his body and ease the swelling of the tissue or scar of the vein and improve the venous return. A few days later, he reported that the swelling of the sclera of his right eye and its capillary injection were significantly eased. A few days later, he took a couple pieces of chocolate, his right eye was swollen again in the next morning. Then a few more days later, he tool some peanuts this time, and had a swollen right eye again in the following morning. He told me that he is going to stick with the new diet without carbohydrates. This is a true story. I am very happy that John learned the health hazards of vegetarian diet if the diet has to depend heavily on carbohydrates.

      • Mikael Orberg

        Hey, peanuts and chocolate are both very fat rich “foods”. Peanuts contain around 70% of calories from fat. I would say that fat seems to be the more likely cause of the swollen eye.

        • Robert K. Su, MD

          Yes, they do contain fat. But, contrary to the general belief, sugars mainly coming from dietary carbohydrates are the fire. Fats just provide the energy for the fire. If there is no fire, the energy from fat is not going to cause fire.
          So, if you were correct, John’s switch from vegetarian regimens to carbohydrate restriction should not have improve his symptoms.
          If you would yourself a favor, please visit the reading list of my book and check out some articles from” Reading List: Inflammation (363-506)” I am sure they are very helpful for your understanding of the roles of carbohydrates and fats related to inflammation.

          • Mikael Orberg

            I read some of the articles in the reading list and it was quite interesting.

            I’m still a bit curious of what kind of diet John ate as a vegetarian and what he currently eats?

            Have you heard of the theory that fat blocks the insulinreceptors so that the sugar stays in the bloodstream? Especially when one eats fat with carbohydrate, elimination of sugar decreases causing hyperglycemia, diabetes, candida and similar diseases.

            You can eat a crappy vegetarian diet with Coke & Pizza and you can also eat a lower sugar and fat vegetarian diet with lots of whole foods, fruit and vegetables.

            I’m just saying that vegetarian is not just one diet, it can be composed in many ways.

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            First of all, I am glad that you found the articles on the reading list of my book is interesting. I hope you continued to read more of them, sooner or later, you should understand why I was able to declare “Carbohydrates Can Kill.” I did not make that claim by my emotion, but rather by my understanding of what scientific evidence supports.

            John was a vegetarian because of his belief in buddhism. His vegetarian diet was mainly with brown rice and whole wheat, wheat products such as noodle, bread, cereal, wild rice, soy products, legumes, peanut, tree nuts, vegetables, sweet potato, and fruits. Now, he has given up most of the carbohydrate foods list above except green leafy vegetables, eggs, olive oil, butter, cheese, olive oil, and more tree nuts.

            The theory about fat blocks the insulin receptor from accepting insulin is after all an unproven hypothesis at best. The reason why a diabetic or prediabetic has both hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia is currently reasoned as the insulin receptor are insensitive to the intrinsic insulin (insulin produced by the individual’s own pancreas). Interestingly, the patient’s insulin receptor will react to extrinsic insulin (insulin from outside). If you have known what I have known from literature review that hyperglycemia can cause inflammation to all tissues including beta cells and mutation of the same. What do you think would happen to those beta cells before their premature death as a result of the assault by hyperglycemia. I would suggest at least you read one of my articles, “Diabetes Mellitus Myth #4: Is Diabetes Mellitus A Genetic Disorder?” at
            The last part of your statement, “……………..[E]limination of sugar decreases causing hyperglycemia, diabetes, candida and similar diseases” is correct that hyperglycemia is the major cause of a host of diseases. However, the first part of your statement, “Especially when one eats fat with carbohydrate………….” is incorrect and baseless. You can avoid dietary fat altogether and will get a worse outcome if you replace fat with more carbohydrate. Here is an article of interest. “Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease” at

            Yes, you are correct that diets under one banner are not equal depending on how you compose them. Thus, as said, although I am not against vegetarian diet, I believe the vegetarian diet heavily consuming carbohydrates is a health hazard.

          • Randy Lewis

            Somebody here is supported by the (beef,pork,poultry,dairy) etc. industries or they are in denial about their addiction to eating dead non-human animals. You people need to wake up and grow a pair. Even better eat a pear.It’s about the non-humans we eat and their suffering.Any diet done wrong is unhealthy. Doctor , I hope your disciples will decide to question everything and learn the truth.

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            Mr. Lewis: i let your post stand for now, However, I want you and other visitors to understand the comment policy of this website, “[P]lease feel free to leave your comments! We value your input, but reserve the right to remove remarks that are OFFENSIVE or OFF-TOPICS. Please do not post link to commercial website. Thanks for your understanding!” Please use good rationale and words in discussing this important matter about diet and health.

            As you should have noticed, I personally am not against vegetarian diets as long as they are healthy. (Vegetarian Diet Without Modification Is Unhealthy at I am also against animal cruelty, but I am with those who use animal foods as part of our food chain. You cannot stop those animals in the wild to eat others for their food chain, can you?

          • Mary Titus

            It is not the vegetarian diet that is being critiqued, it is the high carbohydrates that many vegetarians ingest. High glucose levels make a tasty and healthy meal for cancer cells…we don’t want to treat them to meals that will make cancer cells thrive. So anyone on a diet centered around sugar is asking for trouble. The only time my glucose goes too high is after consuming a high amount of carbohydrates. I test my glucose regularly to see what foods I can tolerate, healthily, and which ones I cannot. Fat is easily tolerated and I eat way more fat now than I did as a young adult. So often the best way to test a theory is to just do it yourself.

          • Robert K. Su, MD

            Mrs. Titus, you are so right about how sugars hurt our health. Please keep in mind, all carbohydrates except those indigestible fibers are sugars. Indeed, we all should test our blood glucose level in related to a meal. By doing so, we will learn what we eat is good or bad. To avoid hyperglycemia after each meal is the most important key to good health. I do not know when those who believe in such thing as “Safe Starch” or “Good Carb and Bad Carb” will wake up to the reality — do not abuse your pancreas with hyperglycemia. There is an article shows that even a transient hyperglycemia can cause epigenetic change(s) and last quite a while after the change(s) occur.

    • John Hanson

      Misinformation indeed. You can actually build a meat consumption profile on millions of chinese with only two visits? Let me remind you that even the most stringent dietary trials are frought with error.

      The western diet is not meat based; it is carbohydrate based. Guidelines for the last 40 years have thrust grains at us and warned us of the evils of fat without any level 1 evidence. A CNN articel a few years ago discussed a study showing 63% of american calories came from corn.

      Statistics might show lower cancer rates among veggo’s, but statistics do not indicate cause. It’s complete asumption and dangerous folly. That’s bad science and bad advice. Is that the only self-improvement choice you’ve made? Do you also exercise more, smoke less, and educate yourself better? The whole concept of confounding variables obviously confounds people whose bias overrides their logic.

      Human’s are carnivores. It’s not even debateable. We are in no way built like herbivores. Migrants populated North America by following and eating reindeer. They did not follow pineapples.In fact, there’s never been a vegan or vegetarian society. Even in rich vegan environments, native populations prefer meat. There’s never been a native population found with any significant cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. It’s only when you introduce grains and sugar that people get these western diseases.

      • Robert K. Su, MD

        Yes, agree1

      • Istvan Fekete

        While I very much agree with your first two paragraphs and main points, it seems you go on to contradict yourself with the last one.

        Those native populations also never had industrial factories spewing chemicals into the water and air, they never had cellphones, they never had sedentary lifestyles, they rarely lived into old age…

        The list of possible reason why we would have higher rates of cancer than they did/do go on and on, so saying that it’s because we eat more carbs seems to completely counter what you initially said.

      • Justin Bentley

        Exactly. “Science For Smart People” explains this concept very well. Vegetarians tend to follow the latest health trends for keeping themselves healthy, so saying that they have lower rates of cancer than the standard American public doesn’t necessarily prove that its the removal of meat that is causing it.

        • Robert K. Su, MD

          You are correct.

    • Barry Cripps

      Dr Su is correct in that overconsumption of carbohydrates, Omega-6 fatty acids, and gluten containing grains are the major causes of chronic systemic inflammation, which in turn can lead to cancer. The same factors, along with elements such as High Fructose Corn Syrup then help to feed cancer and allow it to grow unchecked.

      If steve had adopted a Ketogenic, grain free diet early on into his disease, he may still be here today.

      • Robert K. Su, MD

        Unfortunately, I am in total agreement with what you said.

  • Robert K. Su, MD

    As I reply to another message, diets under a banner are not equal. Some vegetarians eat vegan diet on a certain date and some have different composition such as including fish as you pointed out. I am least concerned about what the design of vegetarian diets is. I am only concerned what they should include and avoid for the sake of avoiding the avoidable diseases.

    However, based on my understanding, “macrobiotic diet” is supposedly using grains as its staple. I wonder if the macrobiotic dieters have ever checked their postprandial blood glucose level in a series of two hours. I suspect the readings would be high.

    • Anonymous

      If a diet is based on grains I would be more concerned with pesticide levels in their blood and glucose levels. Steve Jobs died of renal failure from pancreatic cancer, his liver could no longer filter toxins.

  • intros pector

    Just a counter-example: the world’s first 100-year-old marathoner is a vegetarian!

    See these:

    100-year-old Fauja Singh sets world record: Oldest runner to complete a marathon

    • Robert K. Su, MD

      There is no fear of offering a counter-example, if it is sensible and helpful to others. As said, I am not against vegetarian diet. Rather, I am concerned about what a vegetarian diet has. IT is unhealthy if a vegetarian diet consumes heavily on carbohydrates, which, in turn, raises the postprandial blood glucose level and subsequent inflammation.
      I visited the links, which you provided. Mr. Fauja Singh was so thin and old. Unless he had Type 1 diabetes mellitus with no insulin, I suspect that he did not get enough carbohydrates for him to get fatter. Of course, I could not find out the content of his lentil dish. Some recipes of lentil dish include beef!
      A diet under the banner of vegetarian diet is not the same as another diet under the same banner. Besides, if Mr. Singh ate just enough calories for his physical activities, his beta cells might be able to take care of his postprandial blood glucose level without allowing it to rise outrageously. This is the most important point, which concerns me the most.

  • intros pector

    The lentil dish referred to is a soup of split green gram, by default it would have no animal stock/broth in it. For example, see

    An important thing appears to be that one man’s food could be another man’s poison..

    In India, the diets of south Indians and north Indians are traditionally very different, and traditional wisdom is that a north Indian diet is positively unhealthy for a south Indian. It appears widely accepted that a fat-heavy diet is more risky for Indians than other populations. More recently, there has been a scientific study that identifies about 25 different gene pools in India, and as one example, it identified a particular Indian sub-population as being fatally susceptible to a particular form of anaesthesia because of their genes! Here are the links:

  • Anonymous

    All carbohydrates are not created equal, and macrobiotics recognizes that. Please research the guidelines for a true macrobiotic diet before making blanket and misleading statements suggesting that because the macrobiotic diet is mostly grain- and vegetable-based, it promotes indiscriminate consumption of all vegan foods. Many foods which would be considered healthy in a western diet (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, tropical fruits, raw salads) would be prohibited for people with certain conditions (fluid cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis) on a macrobiotic healing diet. I would be interested to see what your tested glucose levels would be two hours after consuming a true macrobiotic meal, as opposed to the peanuts, chocolate, etc., examples that you gave. Macrobiotics is not to be confused with a more general vegan diet, and I think if you do a little more research you will be surprised with the results you obtain.

  • Robert K. Su, MD

    Indeed, animals in the wild who are trying to survive by eating others, which are in their food chain. Humans are the same and eating for survival. To survive, humans have to eat others in their food chain. It is one’s choice to eat the food, which he likes. I am only concerned about how healthy my foods are. I do not eat more foods than I need to stay healthy and survive. When I am healthy and survive, I can help others including animals. So, the discussion here is only for the concern about how healthy each food is, not for debating individual’s ideological preference. Please post your comment accordingly.