A woman who turned to vegan and raw foods after a cancer diagnosis has died, despite claiming that her diet had cured her illness.
Mari Lopez, a YouTuber from Texas who vlogged alongside her niece, Liz Lopez, under the account name Liz & Mari, passed away from stage four cancer in January. Liz uploaded a YouTube video announcing Mari’s death on Sunday, attributing it to her decision to undergo radiotherapy and stop following a raw food diet.
According to the Evening Standard, Mari changed her diet on the day she received her cancer diagnosis, which showed that the disease had spread to her bones and lungs. In a 2016 video titled “Stage 4 Cancer Natural Transformation,” Mari said that she spoke to God after finding out about the cancer, and her previous struggles with depression and alcoholism. It was this that prompted her to radically alter her diet. God “enlightened me,” she explained to viewers, when “something popped up the computer about juicing.”
Mari subsequently began a raw juice diet that avoided all meat, dairy, sugar, and alcohol, claiming that as a result, her cancer was cured within three months. In the same 2016 video, Mari said, “I started juicing in October [...] 90 days and I’m back to normal. When I went back to the doctors In February [...] they couldn’t find any cancer.” She and Liz went on to share videos about juicing and other cancer sufferers who also followed raw food diets on their YouTube channel.
However, in December last year, Mari’s cancer returned. According to her niece’s statement in the video uploaded on Sunday, this was when Mari began radiotherapy and stopped her juicing diet.
In the video, Liz claimed that it was this switch away from a “juicing, raw vegan diet” that resulted in her aunt’s death. She told her viewers, “My aunt passed away in December because her cancer came back. [She] was inconsistent in her diet and spiritual life.”
Liz also said: “My aunt didn't continue juicing [or her] raw vegan diet when she got diagnosed again—she chose to do radiation and chemo.”
The idea that certain raw or vegan diets can cure illness is part of a worrying trend within the wellness industry. Clean Eating blogger Delicious Ella maintains that her Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, a chronic illness that can cause fatigue and dizziness, was cured by a change in her diet, while other bloggers have lied outright about the curing effects of following supposedly “clean” diets. In 2016, a British army officer died after receiving “treatment” from a Californian wellness resort that claimed an alkaline diet could cure cancer—treatment that largely consisted of intravenous drips of a baking soda solution.
Rebecca McManamon, a British Dietetic Association-registered oncology specialist dietician, told MUNCHIES over email, “I would not recommend ‘clean eating’ approach following a cancer diagnosis. There is no scientific definition of a ‘clean eating diet.’”
She continued: “People may choose a vegan diet for many reasons and if they did so, a dietitian would support them through their treatments. However, often there are higher energy and protein needs due to cancer itself and some treatments such as surgery, so we need to keep up with increased demand to prevent muscle and weight loss which are associated with worse treatment outcomes.”