- The CDC has released new diabetes numbers, and they're shocking. About 7% of the US is now thought to have the disease. Here's one story about the effect diet can have on diabetes.
- "To promote vaccine use, many in the public health community have overstated the risk of flu-related death and the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing it." A Washington Post editorial by these people.
- A discussion of how much exercise children should get every day.
- Study: 20mg/day of iron supplements for pregnant women can have a statistically significant negative impact on the behavior of children.
- A Canadian couple is attempting to live on food from sources within 100 miles of their British Columbia home. The first step was some unplanned weight loss.
Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations to families to avoid flu, including avian flu, stirred some interesting comments--especially the idea that those with the healthiest immune systems may be less protected from avian flu than those with average immune systems. Dr. Fuhrman responds:
Clearly, the concept that powerful and competent host defenses are enabled by nutritional excellence is not merely my opinion; rather it is the reality of human physiology supported by hundreds of scientific studies.
And because I have written books on nutrition to teach applied nutritional excellence does not make my viewpoints any more or less substantiated. However, keep in mind my books contain hundreds of references for all my points and likewise my opinions expressed here are not off the cuff but reflect a lifetime of devoted study to these issues.
The idea that a person eating a nutrient-rich diet is just as likely to develop and suffer the dangerous consequences from an influenza virus as a cheese burgers and soda eating American is simply wrong. Moe importantly such opinions are dangerous as they may lead to tragic outcomes for those mistaking authority for knowledge.
Let's review just a few articles from the scientific literature that further support this concept that nutritional.excellence can offer protection from viral attacks. I will show the reference and post some explanatory comments below each reference.
1. Bendich A. Antioxidant nutrients and immune functions--introduction Adv Exp Med Biol 1990;262:1-12
This short introduction encompasses only a small portion of the literature linking free radical production and consequent effects on immune functions. The role of essential dietary components in modulating these effects is an area of intense and expanding investigation. Each of the nutrients examined in the chapters has distinct functions to support immuno-competency, but in this volume they concentrate on their shared capacity to act as antioxidants
2. Fawzi W. Nutritional factors and vertical transmission of HIV-1. Epidemiology and potential mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2000 Nov;918:99-114
This article shows that the transmission of the AIDS virus is significantly reduced and even made improbable when the host's nutrition is excellent.
3. Beck MA; Levander OA Dietary oxidative stress and the potentiation of viral infection. Annu Rev Nutr 1998;18:93-116. Beck MA Antioxidants and viral infections: host immune response and viral pathogenicity. J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Oct;20(5 Suppl):384S-388S; discussion 396S-397S. Beck MA; Levander OA; Handy J Selenium deficiency and viral infection. J Nutr 2003 May;133(5 Suppl 1):1463S-7S. Rayman MP; The argument for increasing selenium intake Proc Nutr Soc 2002 May;61(2):203-15
These articles above review the literature and studies showing nutritional deficiencies lead to more serious infections. They contain the interesting science that describes how a diet low in anti-oxidents and phytochemicals can enable genetic sequences in the pathogen to alter allowing more serious outcome. Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of several viral infections, including hepatitis, influenza, and AIDS. Dietary oxidative stress due to either various nutritional deficiencies such as selenium or vitamin E increases cardiac damage in mice infected with a myocarditic strain of coxsackievirus B3. Poor diet allows a normally benign (i.e., amyocarditic) coxsackievirus B3 to convert to virulence and cause heart damage. These findings were then documented to occur in humans too. It was found that cardiomyapathy as well as viral induced neuropathy have a dual etiology involving a nutritional deficiency along with a enterovirus that now can create a serious outcome, not permitted in a more nutritionally adequate host. More recently research has shown that the influenza virus also exhibits increased virulence in a nutritional deficient host allowing multiple changes in the viral genome. Interestingly, the influenza virus causes more serious lung pathology and HIV infection progresses more rapidly to AIDS in the micronutrient poor host. Although it has been known for many years that poor nutrition can affect host response to infection, the finding that host nutrition affects the genetic sequence of a pathogen is an important field of future investigations.
4. Levander OA. Nutrition and newly emerging viral diseases: an overview. J Nutr 1997 May;127(5 Suppl):948S-950S. Amati L; Cirimele D; Pugliese V; Covelli V; Resta F; Jirillo E Nutrition and immunity: laboratory and clinical aspects. Curr Pharm Des 2003;9(24):1924-31 Irshad M; Chaudhuri PS Oxidant-antioxidant system: role and significance in human body. Indian J Exp Biol 2002 Nov;40(11):1233-9
Malnutrition has long been associated with increased susceptibility to infectious disease due to an impaired immune response. Now more data has emerged to substantiate the view that oxidants, anti-oxidants and nutritional factors have dramatic positive effect on host recovery, response, resistance and also to protect the virus from mutating into a more dangerous forms. When discussing interactions of nutrition and infection, nutritionists have traditionally considered only the effects of diet on the host. Recent data, however, indicate that host nutrition can influence the genetic make-up of the pathogen and thereby alter its virulence. These symposiums and articles were designed to alert the community of nutritional scientists to this discovery and possible implications for the improvement is public health.
When derived of anti-oxidant nutrients viral infections can cause serious even fatal diseases, that don't occur when deficiency is not present. Immunity when optimized can ward off infection and when infected is more likely to have harmless outcome. It is well known that inappropriate nutrient intake accounts for the maintenance of the immunological equilibrium, in humans and animals. Vitamins, elements, lipids, proteins. phytonutrients, and nucleic acids play an important role in the regulation of cellular and humoral immune responses since single or multiple deficits of these food components have been shown to cause immune abnormalities.
5. Reid AH; Taubenberger JK; Fanning TG. The 1918 Spanish influenza: integrating history and biology. Microbes Infect 2001 Jan;3(1):81-7. Afkhami A Compromised constitutions: the Iranian experience with the 1918 influenza pandemic. Bull Hist Med 2003 Summer;77(2):367-92
The global demographic impact of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic continues to fascinate researchers and scholars. These papers examine the social and demographic effects of this outbreak on society, through a comprehensive investigation of the modes of transmission and propagation, mortality rates, and other distinctive features of various regions, and reveals the importance of taking a country's unique settings into account. For example, Iran was one of the regions hit hardest by the pandemic, with mortality rates significantly higher than in most regions of the world. Contrary to the prevailing notion that the 1918 influenza targeted the young and healthy, this paper suggests that famine, opium, malaria, and anemia were fundamentally responsible for the high mortality in Iran. Clearly those with compromised immunity suffered the most damage.
The touted concept that the pandemic flu of 1918 target the "young and healthy" is not quite accurate. First of all, like today the diet in Western Europe in those days was largely meat, bread, potato, lard, butter and cheese with minimal fresh produce. The so-called, "young and healthy" back then, like today could not be used as an example of those eating a diet to assure nutritional adequacy. The diets of yore were grossly deficient. Today most industrialized nations eat less than five percent of total calories from fresh produce: fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and beans. In spite of the fact that we have new science pointing to the impressive disease protection against heart disease, strokes, dementia, cancer and yes, serous infections, our society still consumes a diet assuring nutritional compromise and tragic medical outcomes..
Those of you naysayers who would like to stay on your chicken and pasta "low fat diet" or your cheeseburger and cokes with your heads buried deeply in the French fries, I say that is your prerogative. As for me, I will use and apply the science of today that shows the protection offered by cruciferous vegetables, raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds and beans to give myself, my family and my patients the greatest potential to live a live a long, healthy life. This is not alternative medicine, it is good medicine.
Tamiflu is going for record-high prices on auction sites. The news media is following the spread of Avian flu among poultry across Asia and into Europe and Africa. The great pandemics of the past---with millions dead---are being cited day in and day out, and it seems that there is nothing we can do to prevent another one in the months and years to come.
Fear is spreading faster than the flu itself. People are frantic, running to get themselves and their children vaccinated out of fear they or their loved ones will die from this viral illness that may spread rapidly throughout the world.
The panic is on.
Almost every year flu season seems to bring with it extraordinary anxiety and fear, especially among parents of young children. This year is perhaps even worse, as the media is full of reports of a deadly H5N1 Avian influenza (or "bird flu") bug, which in theory could mutate to be transmissible from human to human.
Through all the fog of media and worry, let's not lose our bearing and make rash decisions. The important news is that most Americans can and should take six steps to reduce the likelihood of getting an infectious disease like the flu, which are explained below.
First, some background:
Nutrition and Infection
The most effective artillery we have to protect ourselves against the potential damaging effects of influenza and other infectious disease is nutritional excellence. Micronutrients---meaning vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals---fuel various clever host defense mechanisms, including:
- phagocytosis (surrounding and eating viruses) by macrophages and neutrophils
- cell-mediated protection by T cells
- natural killer cells
- antibody production by B cells
It has also been demonstrated that when diets are low in consumption of green and yellow vegetables, (rich in carotenoids) viral illnesses take a more serious form.
Multiple micronutrients including lutein, lycopene, folic acid, bioflavoinoids, riboflavin, zinc, selenium, and many others have immunomodulating functions. That means they influence the susceptibility of a host to infectious diseases and the course and outcome of such diseases. These micronutrients also possess antioxidant functions that not only up-regulate immune function of the host, but also alter the genome of the microbes that can result in more prolonged and serious infection, particularly in viruses. Viruses are able to assume a more virulent form and new more severe infections are more likely to emerge when nutritional deficiencies are present in the host. A healthy immune system adequately armed with a symphonic assortment of plant-derived phytochemicals inhibits DNA variation in the virus that could allow it to better evade host defenses.
About 10 percent of US residents get influenza each year. About 100,000 are hospitalized and 36,000 Americans die each year from the complications of the flu.
The symptoms of the flu include:
- High fever.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Muscle aches.
- Cough, sore throat, nasal congestion are also common.
- Gastro-intestinal symptoms, such a nausea, vomiting and diarrhea is more common in children.
- Severe headaches and muscle aches are what usually differentiate the flu from other viral illnesses and colds.
People stay contagious for about a week after contracting the standard flu.
The good news is that, if you are generally healthy, and eat a healthy diet and get a high percentage of your calories from fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, then you need not panic. The flu is not a dangerous disease in healthy individuals. In spite of the fear that the Avian Flu is an exceptionally virulent strain, with about half of those humans infected having died, it still stands little chance against a truly healthy immune system.
Fifty percent of Americans die of heart attacks and strokes too, but that does not mean those deaths were not 100 percent avoidable with excellent nutrition. About 35 percent of all Americans die of cancer, but those deaths were also largely the result of nutritional folly. When we eat a nutrient-poor diet, diseases flourish. With nutritional excellence our body becomes a miraculous disease-resistant organism. Flu is no exception.
A More Virulent Strain: Bird Flu
The H5N1 bird flu, at the time of this writing, does not transmit easily from birds to humans. Despite the fact that it is now very common in birds in parts of the world, the virus has infected few more than 100 humans. As the WHO points out: "this is a small number compared with the huge number of birds affected and the numerous associated opportunities for human exposure, especially in areas where backyard flocks are common. It is not presently understood why some people, and not others, become infected following similar exposures." Actually only a very small percentage of people in contact with this virus has become infected. At this point it seems most likely that this strain of flu will not become highly endemic.
The concern is that these kinds of flu viruses constantly mutate. It is entirely possible that at some point this virus that is virulent (powerfully contagious and harmful) to birds will develop into a form that will spread efficiently from human to human. In that scenario, it could do a lot of damage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the symptoms of bird flu in humans "have ranged from typical flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications."
So how can we determine which individuals will catch this potentially deadly enemy and in which individuals it will develop life-threatening complications? The answer is that the same three basic factors determine the contagious potential of any flu:
- The size of the inoculum (how large the number of virons in the exposure)
- The virulence of the microbe (how well designed the virus is to evade host defenses)
- The resistance of the host. How effective is the immune system of the host at preventing viral replication.
If this virulent form of the flu does appear in our region we are not without protection. We have control over the size of the exposure, because we can avoid hand to mouth and hand to nasal contact and we can wash our hands after touching people and birds.
Now, once you have contracted the disease, only "the resistance of the host" is important because it is the critical factor that governs the extent of damage. It is this host resistance that plays a major role in infection and we can improve our resistance to make ourselves almost disease-proof. So no matter what kind of flu you are trying to prevent, there are six key steps we should all take to strengthen our immune systems and minimize the impact of the flu.Continue Reading...
Laura Landro is an assistant managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, who wrote a well-reviewed book about her own struggle with breast cancer.
In her column today, she addresses something lots of people are worried about these days: cold and flu season. She cites good research in recommending lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated fat, avoiding processed and junk foods, exercising, and maintaining a normal weight.
As cold-and-flu season arrives, so do the pitches for products that claim to increase the body's natural immunity and ward off infection. And with alarming reports about avian flu and a threatened global pandemic, it may be tempting to load up on mega doses of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements as an added precaution.
But as scientists delve more deeply into how the immune system works, they are finding evidence that it is the complex interaction of nutrients in food that helps the body build its defenses against disease and infection, in part by controlling some types of inflammation that can weaken the immune system. Single nutrients and cocktails of nutrients consumed alone can't provide the same benefit, they warn, and large doses of some supplements such as selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin E may even harm and suppress the immune response.
The best defense against influenza is getting vaccinated as soon as possible -- and the most important way to prevent the spread of colds is frequent hand washing. But experts say that following the most basic tenets of good nutrition -- consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, and eliminating highly processed and junk foods -- can actually help ward off illness.
"There is lot people can do with proper nutrition to improve their chances of warding off the flu or making the disease less pathogenic," or harmful, says Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the nutritional immunology laboratory at Tufts University's Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.
Exercise and maintaining a normal weight are equally important, Dr. Meydani adds, because obesity can also impair immune function and make people more susceptible to many types of infections. Tufts researchers have shown that moderate caloric restriction in humans appears to be beneficial for immunity.
Dr. Fuhrman's take on all this? He could talk all day. His books are essentially all about how to use the lessons of the best research to get your immune system performing at a high level. Certainly his approach is consistent with the core recommendations: lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated fat, avoiding processed and junk foods, exercising, and maintaining a normal weight--but he makes many more specific recommendations about what exactly to eat for optimum health.
For instance, in Disease-Proof Your Child he discusses phytochemicals, which are a recently discovered class of more than 12,000 nutrients that are the subject of a lot of new research. Phytonutrients do all sorts of good things, from detoxifying certain harmful compounds, deactivating free radicals, and enabling DNA-repair mechanisms. From the book:
We cannot acquire a sufficient amount and diversity of phytochemicals in supplements; we must get them from real food, especially because many of them have not been discovered yet. When we pass up eating fruits and vegetables, we are turning our backs on a host of nutrients that can keep us from developing disease.
(In another part of Disease-Proof Your Child he adds that "cold breakfast cereals have as much phytochemical nutrition as the cardboard box they are found in.")
In case you needed another reason to eat your broccoli... (And what if you don't like broccoli? There are plenty of good, healthy recipes in his books, and right here on DiseaseProof.)
Here is a fun letter Dr. Fuhrman recently received from Janine Kroner--the mother of one of his patients.
I thought you might like to hear a cute story related to your vegetable soup and your carb advice you gave me for our son, who is our track star.
Back in May when you started treating our daughter, our son decided to apply proper eating toward his track program. He eats your vegetable soup, or what our kids have now renamed the "Green" soup, everyday. Well he had an amazing spring track season and we would jokingly say it was the green soup with a chuckle. His track friends/teammates found out about it and decided they wanted the soup. It is now cross country season and two of his teammates asked to come for dinner the night before yesterday's meet and have Green soup, sweet potatoes, and pasta. So the three boys ate us out of house and home, hoping the Green soup would work its magic. Well, yesterday the boys had their first meet and won. It was not even close. Not only did they win, but their times were great. When they recovered from the run, they came over to me all excited and said it was the soup. They have now decided they would like to have Green soup parties instead of pasta parties before big meets. Two other moms came to me and asked for the recipe. I found it all pretty entertaining, but hey who knows maybe we're on to something.
Actually, all three of these young men are amazing athletes who have trained hard for months and I do think they would have done well yesterday without the soup, but if it gets them to eat right let there be soup!
Here is the version of Dr. Fuhrman's soup recipe that Janine uses:
Kale and Collards
3 stalks leeks
3 carrots, diced
3 parsnips, diced
Spit peas 1/2 cup
Lentils 1/2 cup
Adzuki beans 1/2 cup
celery juice 10 oz.
carrot juice 20 oz.
30 oz water
Vogue - Vegebase 2 tablespoons (Whole Foods will have this)
-Fill large pot with water, juices, and two tablespoons of VegeBase.
-Put peeled onions, unpeeled zucchinis, carefully cleaned leeks and beans in large pot, and simmer until zucchinis, leeks & onions are soft enough to blend or food process.
-While waiting for veggies to soften in pot, blend or food process all other ingredients until smooth. (I use half of the bunches of greens.)
-You will need a big bowl to put them in while waiting for zucchini, onions, and leeks to soften for food processing.
-When zucchini, onions and leeks are soft, blend or food process them.
-Put everything in the pot and simmer on low for 1.5 hours.
Making Green soup takes some time--but if you have a really big pot you can cook two weeks' worth at once. If you can't find or are missing an ingredient or two it really will not matter.
Every parent wants their child to enjoy the benefits of excellent nutrition.
Many parents have good ideas about which foods their children would ideally eat.
Yet somehow it seems very few parents actually succeed in getting their children to eat a healthy diet.
How can you get your kids to eat well? With four children of his own, and hundreds he has successfully treated with excellent diet, Dr. Fuhrman has a wealth of experience and plenty of tricks.
Dr. Fuhrman gives parents techniques they can use to end "the food wars," and encourage children to joyfully consume things like kale, tomatoes, and carrots. (It happens. Really.)
This DiseaseProof.com podcast is about twenty minutes long, and you can listen directly on the web or by downloading to your portable media player.
Have you noticed? In the last few years, there has been more attention than ever on feeding children healthy foods. Consider all these different groups:
- Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver's campaign is credited with having a profound effect on the British Government's decision to ban junk food from schools.
- In an official proclamation declaring National School Lunch Week, President Bush declared that "by helping our children make healthy choices not only about food but also about their overall well-being, we can reduce the rates of childhood obesity and diabetes and help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other diseases later in life. Nutritious meals can also improve students' concentration and help them succeed in school." And don't forget these related federal programs.
- A coalition of food suppliers has launched a campaign called Eat Smart Grow Strong.
- Stonyfield Farm is leading a grassroots effort to get children to eat healthier food.
- The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a massive, multifaceted campaign designed to help citizens improve nutrition for young people.
- As we'll seein the next post, Cooks Illustrated founder and editor Christopher Kimball, who is also the host of TV's America's Test Kitchen, is on the case too.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are similar public and private programs at regional and local levels across the country and around the globe.
Of course, all of these programs have their strengths and weaknesses. One thing to keep in mind: in programs sponsored by food manufacturers, drug companies, or those with a financial, political, or social motive, the potential is there for the science to be clouded in favor of such views. But the one really good thing is that every one of these programs promotes the idea that children should be getting a greater percentage of their calories from healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruit. Who can argue with that?
The approach Dr. Fuhrman describes in Disease-Proof Your Child takes the generally accepted bandwagon a step further and surveys the science of disease-causation in an impartial way--so that parents who are looking to protect the health of their children can know exactly what they need to do with scientific integrity. The book has precise recommendations to help protect children against later life cancers and most other diseases. The fact that childhood food choices are the major factor governing tragic illnesses later in life has a silver lining: now parents (not doctors and drug companies) have the power to prevent disease.
As Dr. Fuhrman points out, "research scientists have been forced to accept the idea that the causes of cancer are usually set into motion more than 50 years before diagnosis. Our big artillery in the war on cancer is truly in our kitchen; but we must start feeding our kids right to unleash the big guns."