Study Suggests Mechanism of Vegetables' Anti-Cancer Activity--REVISITED

Yesterday DiseaseProof received an interesting comment. Paul had some concerns about the information discussed in a previous post, Study Suggests Mechanism of Vegetables' Anti-Cancer Activity. Dr. Fuhrman offered this response:

You can always reduce your risk of lung cancer by quitting smoking at any point before cancer begins. We can look at dropping lung cancer rates comparing smokers who start smoking young and then quit compared to those who keep smoking. If you quit after 30 years of smoking your risk of lung cancer is half that of a person who continues to smoke (after 10 years), but it does not drop to zero where it would be if you never smoked. Likewise, you can reduce your risk of a variety of cancers with nutritional excellence, even if it is too late to maximally protect yourself or totally eliminate the risk at this age. It is important to note that a much more radical change to nutritional excellence is needed to see a significant reduction in risk at this later age.

But don't forget, even people who have cancer have been shown to live longer eating the healthful, anti-cancer dietary style I recommend in my books. Beneficial dietary changes have been shown in studies to prolong life for people with breast and prostate cancer.

It is important to keep in mind that heart disease and stroke (clots) are the leading cause of death in the modern world. It kills more individuals than all those cancers added up together. If you are still alive you can make a decision right now to never have a heart attack or stroke and make sufficient changes in your eating habits to guarantee this never happens. Utilizing medications to lower cholesterol into the favorable range or utilizing natural substances to lower cholesterol to that favorable range (LDL below 100) is not enough. That will only reduce your risk of a heart attack about 30 - 40 percent. To really knock out the possibility of heart disease you must combine effective cholesterol management with nutritional excellence. Furthermore, when you follow my nutritional guidelines you should protect yourself against dementia as well.

I don't know about you, but it is not enough for me to lower my risk of sudden cardiac death by a mere 30 to 40 percent. I want to drop that risk down one hundred percent if possible. If you study my dietary advice I claim you can achieve dramatic reduction in cholesterol levels, triglycerides and cardiac risk that simply cannot be achieved by (medical) cholesterol lowering alone.

You can retard the aging process now, maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent or reverse diabetes, protect yourself against stroke and the so-common mental decline seen with aging and overall live a better quality, healthier and longer life from making these improvements in your eating habits. Too many people suffer and die needlessly, and I'm sure millions of people at all ages would adopt a healthier diet-style if they learned the profound benefits they would receive.

For more information on this topic check out Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child.

Research: Yes, Diet Has a Huge Role In Health

Last week The New York Times printed an article featuring a study claiming that a low-fat diet does little to prevent cancer and heart disease. Dr. Fuhrman responded with ten reasons to keep eating healthy food despite the headlines.

Today New York Times reporter Gina Kolata continues to further the notion that what you eat might not shape your medical fate:

It's one of the great principles no, more than principles, canons of American culture to suggest that what you eat affects your health.

It's this idea that you control your own destiny and that it's never too late to reinvent yourself. Vice gets punished and virtue gets rewarded. If you eat or drink or inhale the wrong things you get sick. If not, you get healthy. Says James Morone, a professor of political science at Brown University.

Her article cites the rise and fall of numerous fad diets. Dr. David Altshuler, an endocrinologist and geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital is quoted urging caution when making dietary suggestions:
We should limit strong advice to where randomized trials have proven a benefit of lifestyle modification.
Of course, fad diets have never been the answer. And health care professionals should be exceedingly careful in what they recommend--because a lot of common assumptions about food are not supported by science. (T. Colin Campbell's revolutionary research showing the dangers of too much animal protein was born out of his conviction that getting more animal protein to the malnourished of the developing world was the key to good health--instead he found that reducing animal protein in his own diet was the biggest lesson.)

But if you look at the science, there is not a serious case to be made that diet is not tied to health. Just as there are studies showing smoking is not good for you, so are there studies showing certain foods are not good for you, while others can play a huge role in combating chronic disease.

Dr. Fuhrman's dietary recommendations are based on many thousands of studies. Click "continue reading" to see references and summaries to 19 of them that, together, should go a long way to convincing anyone that yes, it does matter what you eat.

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McDonalds Corrects Labels: Food Still Not Healthy

The Chicago Tribune claims that the cost of eating McDonalds is higher than once thought. John Schmeltzer reports:

Correcting a labeling error, the hamburger giant acknowledged Wednesday that the trans fat content in an order of its large fries is one-third higher than previously stated, containing 8 grams of the heart-endangering fat instead of the 6 grams listed on brochures and McDonald's Web site.
Trans fatty acids are the result of food producers adding hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats, thereby turning these oils into harder, more saturated fats. These hardened fats have extended shelf life and are commonly used to fry potatoes in fast food restaurants.

McDonalds' researchers are reportedly trying to find healthier alternatives that won't compromise taste. In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman recommends avoiding the situation entirely:

In a press release in 1990, McDonald's announced, "McDonald's French fries to be cooked in cholesterol-free 100 percent vegetable oil." The switch was to partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Now all the fast food giants--McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Arby's, and Hardee's, as well as almost every brand of French fries in the freezer case of your supermarket--are just as bad for you heart as if they were fried in pig fat.

Trans fats do not exist in nature. They are laboratory-designed and have adverse health consequences. They interfere with the body's production of beneficial fatty acids and promote heart disease.1 As trans fatty acids offer no benefits and only clear adverse metabolic consequences, when you see the words partially hydrogenated on the side of the box, consider it poisonous and throw it in the trash.

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UPDATED Thursday Evening: Dr. Fuhrman on KGO Radio in San Francisco

You can listen online as Dr. Fuhrman discusses recent news about the FDA investigating deaths that may have been related to ADHD drugs. He will be a guest a little after 8pm ET (5pm Pacific) on Thursday, February 9--in about two hours from this writing.

Click here for more of Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts and anecdotes about treating ADHD with diet.

UPDATE: Gardiner Harris of The New York Times explains the new concerns about the effect some prescription stimulants may have on heart disease.

The votes came after F.D.A. medical officers described reports of 25 sudden deaths among people taking stimulants the deaths were mostly children and a preliminary analysis of millions of health records that suggested stimulants might increase the risks of strokes and serious arrhythmias in children and adults. The reports of sudden deaths never exceeded one in a million for any stimulant drug, although the F.D.A. usually receives reports of only a fraction of drug problems.

The preliminary analysis suggested that the stimulants might increase heart risks more than twofold. Such an increase may not be significant in children, whose heart risks are low, but could cause concern in adults, panel members said.

One of the drugs, Ritalin, has been marketed since 1955, and dozens of studies have shown it to be safe and effective. But no studies have been of sufficient duration or included enough participants to evaluate stimulants' long-term effects on the heart.

But the drugs' soaring popularity and increasing use in adults, panel members said, mean that the F.D.A. should study them more closely and warn patients and doctors about the potential risks to the heart.

Arthur A. Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York City and a member of the panel, said that patients assumed that stimulants were safe, but that that confidence was misplaced.

"For us to sit around and talk about it, and for us to not make a very strong warning about the uncertainty of these drugs and their possible risks, would be unethical," Mr. Levin said.

Ten Reasons to Keep Eating Healthy Foods Despite Today's Headlines

Today's newspapers are blaring with crazy headlines. The New York Times, for instance, says that a "Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds."

Dr. Fuhrman draws no such conclusions. "This study compared two groups that both ate unhealthy diets," he says. "Look closely and you will see that the researchers compared a typical, disease-causing American diet, with one that was just marginally better, but still terribly unhealthy."

According to the study's authors, the "low fat diet" they told the women in the study to eat is as follows:

...postmenopausal women in the intervention group were advised to reduce total fat intake to 20% of energy and to consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 6 servings of grains daily; women in the control group continued their usual eating pattern.
As it turned out, the women in the low fat group actually ate just about one more serving of fruit or vegetable per day, fell far short of the even the modest 20%-of-energy-from-fat goal, and consumed the same number of calories as the women who did not modify their diets. As Gina Kolata reports in The New York Times:
In the first year, the women on the low-fat diets reduced the percentage of fat in their diet to 24 percent of daily calories, and by the end of the study their diets had 29 percent of their calories as fat. In the first year, the women in the control group were eating 35 percent of their calories as fat, and by the end of the study their dietary fat content was 37 percent. The two groups consumed about the same number of calories.
Preventing tough diseases like heart disease and cancer with diet requires an approach that is aggressive, multi-faceted, and nuanced. Dr. Fuhrman says research has already shown that simple interventions like those studied here are not effective:
The studies published this week in JAMA are nothing new. Those who conducted those studies should already be aware of hundreds of others studies that demonstrate "low fat" is not the key factor in disease causation. High phytochemical intake, including critical antioxidants in (high-fat) nuts, seeds and avocados contain heart disease and cancer fighting compounds. Eating more low-fat foods such as egg whites, chicken, and pasta does not expose us to the disease-fighting compounds in berries, seeds, nuts, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes and carrots.
Here are ten reasons why it still makes sense to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds:
1. Fruits and vegetables are the right things to eat, and among the best things they could have studied. But an increase of roughly one serving of vegetables and fruits per day--which is what was found in the study--does little to ward off cancer or heart disease. As described on DiseaseProof yesterday, I advocate a diet in which vegetables are 30-70% of calories, and fruit is 20-50% of calories.

2. A fixation on fat content is misleading. I do advocate little to no animal fats or oils (including olive oil). The fat from nuts and avocados is healthy and necessary, and for most of my patients I do not restrict it.

3. In this study, participants were encouraged to eat more grains, when in my diet--largely to achieve the potent anti-cancer and anti-heart disease benefits--I advocate replacing grains with vegetables as the basis of the diet.

4. Children were not included in this study. As we have discussed in greater detail previously, the best way to see the effects of diet on cancer is to examine the diets of children.

5. Even with this non-optimal diet, this study did find a correlation between diet and breast cancer. As The New York Times reports: "The women on low-fat diets had a 9 percent lower rate of breast cancer; the incidence was 42 per thousand per year in women in the low-fat diet group, compared with 45 per thousand per year in women consuming their regular diet."

6. The most important factor in preventing heart disease is LDL cholesterol. In this study, minor dietary changes were studied--and were found to make minor reductions in this all-important statistic. Imagine if they had studied serious dietary improvements.

7. Eating a diet heavy in bread, pasta, white meat, and processed foods can be low in fat, but is a very poor source of the micronutrition, especially phytonutrients, that contribute mightily to overall health. Many of the most important dietary interventions that we recommend were simply not studied.

8. The study was of post-menopausal women. The later in life they are started, the smaller effects dietary interventions can have.

9. Every time very healthy diets have been studied, they yield tremendous results. Consider the references below, as well as this evidence about diet and cancer, and diet and heart disease. In addition, the anecdotal evidence of my 15-year medical practice shows that not one of my active patients has had a heart attack.

10. For you hardened skeptics: there is no downside whatsoever to eating healthy food like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Try it for six weeks. (The details are in Eat to Live.) You'll feel great.

Dr. Fuhrman has day-to-day experience helping people prevent cancer and heart disease with diet. He sees it working every day in his practice, and says this study fails to focus on some of the most important findings in nutrition research.

To win the war on cancer; these positive diet change must occur when we are young.

When our cells are growing they expose their DNA to the damaging effects of low nutrient and low phytochemical intake. The low consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts (only 5 percent of calories consumed by children) results in our unstoppable and growing cancer epidemic. 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 our in our kitchen; but we must start feeding our kids right to unleash the big guns.

Even though the factors initiating cancer causation cannot be eliminated with late-life dietary changes, nutritional excellence even later in life can have dramatic effects at lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. But a much more aggressive change in diet is required to achieve that degree of protection than what was looked at in these recent studies. It has already been established that a diet-style which contains a much larger percent of calories from unrefined plant foods (ninety percent) has dramatic effects on the occurrence of heart disease.

My vegetable-based diet was studied in the medical journal Metabolism in 2001 and was found to lower LDL cholesterol 33 percent and have dramatic effects on cardiac disease markers. Similar plant-based dietary approaches, either vegetarian or near-vegetarian containing mostly vegetables, bean, fruits, and nuts, have also been shown to offer dramatic protection against heart disease, even when adopted later in life.

And finally, some relevant studies to consider:

Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Popovich DG, et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.

Hu FB, Willett WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA 2002 Nov 27;288(20):2569-2578.

Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China study. Am J Cardiol 1998 Nov 26;82(10B):18T-21T

Esselstyn CB. Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic Through Plant-Based Nutrition. 2001 Autumn;4(4):171-177