Sources of Saturated Fat in Common Foods

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child.

Ever wonder how much saturated fat there is in your favorite foods?

Saturated Fat Content of Common Foods
FoodGrams of Saturated Fat
Cheddar Cheese (4 oz)24
American Processed Cheese (4 oz)24
Ricotta Cheese (4 cup)20
Swiss Cheese (4 oz)20
Chocolate Candy (4 oz)20
Cheeseburger, Large, Double Patty18
T-bone Steak (6 oz)18
Braised Lamb (6 oz)16
Pork--Shoulder (6 oz)16
Butter (2 tbsp)14.5
Mozzarella, Park Skim (4 oz)12
Ricotta Cheese, Part Skim (4 oz)12
Beef--Ground, Lean (6 oz)11
Ice Cream, Vanilla (1 cup)10
Chicken Fillet Sandwich 9
Chicken--Thigh, No Skin (6 oz)5
Whole Milk, 3.3% Fat (1 Cup)5
Plain Yogurt5
Two Eggs (4 oz)4
Chicken Breast (6 oz)3 oz
Salmon (6 oz)3
Walnuts (2 oz or 24 halves)3
2% Milk (1 cup)3
Tuna (6 oz)2.6
Turkey, White, No Skin (6 oz)2
Almonds (2 oz or 48 nuts)2
Sunflower Seeds (2 oz)2
Flounder (6 oz)0.6
Sole (6 oz)0.6
FruitsNegligible
VegetablesNegligible
Beans/LegumesNegligible

Source: Composition of Foods-Raw-Processed-Prepared, Agriculture Handbook8. Series and Supplements. United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service, Minnesota Nutrition Data System (NDS) software, developed by the Nutrition Coordinating Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. Food Database version 5A, Nutrient Database version 20, USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Release 14 at www.nal.usda.gov.fnic.

Fight Fire With Veggies

The image of rough and tough firefighters swapping war stories over tofu burgers and steamed greens may seem alarming, but for members of Firehouse 2 in Austin Texas it's vegan or bust. Deborah Bluementhal of The New York Times explains what prompted these "dinosaurs" to abandon their carnivorous ways:

A routine cholesterol test left Specialist Rae, 37, shaken. The American Heart Association ranks anyone with a level of 240 or more high risk; Specialist Rae's hit 344.


"I was floored, scared," he said. "I had no clue."

Spooked by the outcome of his test. Specialist Rae asked fellow Firefighter Esselstyn for advice. Esselstyn, 43, a former professional triathlete explained that meat isn't necessary for optimal health. Esselstyn a vegan had good reason to make his claim:

Firefighter Esselstyn knew through his father's work that a strict vegan diet would help. His father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., had been a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and still conducts research there.


Dr. Esselstyn's 12-year trial with patients with what looked like terminal heart disease showed that a very-low-fat, plant-based diet with cholesterol-lowering medicine could bring striking improvement.

Heart disease "never need exist," Dr. Esselstyn said, but if it does, "it never need progress."

How could someone with a bad ticker drag me out, Esselstyn explains. This concern attracted other members of Engine 2 to veganism as well. The switch seems to be working. Recently Specialist Rae achieved a cholesterol score of under 200.

Austin is taking notice of their herbivorous firemen. Shouting terms of endearment as the red engine drives by. A local eatery even named a sandwich after them, "The Engine 2 Veggie Sandwich." They even have their own goofy website promoting their diet, with links to several articles about their efforts.

You might recognize the name of one of the firefighters. Firefighter Esselstyn's father Caldwell B. Esslestyn Jr., M.D. is a leading advocate of a consuming a vegetable-based diet to prevent and reverse heart disease. Dr. Esseltyn's work has been discussed here before. To learn more about his research click here, or check Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection For Life.

Dr. Fuhrman's Fab Five

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child.

Berries: Add berries to morning cereals. Make dessert sorbets from frozen berries. My kids love frozen strawberries blended with an orange or orange juice. We usually add a slice of dried pineapple and use our Vita-Mix to make a smooth and delicious strawberry sorbet.

Greens: Make steamed greens with a cashew butter cream sauce. Kids love it. We blend raw cashews and a few dried onion flakes with some soy milk and make a great sauce for chopped kale or broccoli.

Seeds: Seeds are super nutritious wonder foods. Try sprinkling some lightly toasted unhulled sesame seeds and sunflower seeds on salads and vegetables. We like to grind some into a powder and use it like salt on food.

Beans: Beans are fiber and nutrient packed. They give soups that chewy goodness and long-lasting satiety. Add a mixture of split peas, lentils, and adzuki beans to soups and simmer over low heat for about three hours.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a wonderful food in their own class. Whether you consider them a fruit or vegetable, it matters not. Slice them into pita pocket sandwiches. Mash some almond butter with a fork into some tomato sauce to add to the vegetable-tomato-sprout avocado pita pocket. What a great school lunch.

Here are some fab-five-ulous recipes:

Mild Bean Chutney
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup diced green peppers
½ lemon
½ cup diced red onions
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or raisin vinegar
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup red kidney beans
1 cup black beans

Add the tomatoes to a small covered pot and steam the shredded cabbage, carrots, and green peppers for only 5 minutes on the lowest flame possible in the pot. Stir in juice of ½ lemon and the diced red onions, corn, peas, spices, and beans. Serve cold on top of shredded lettuce. Serves 4-6.

Red-Hot Hummus
1 cup canned (unsalted) chickpeas
3 tablespoons unhulled raw sesame seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pinch of chili powder to taste

Blend ingredients in blender or food processor until creamy. If necessary, add a small amount of water to assist in blending. Serve as dip or sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts. Serves 4.

Blueberry and Flax Yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup regular soy milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 medjool or 6 Deglet Noor dates

Blend until smooth. Chill and serve. Great for school lunches too. Serves 1.

Gina Kolata's Video Assault on Your Good Sense

New York Times reporter Gina Kolata's work has come up again and again on DiseaseProof.

We just happened across a feature on The New York Times website that has video of Kolata discussing some of her recent work.

Her "Health Minute" video piece about the relationship between diet and cancer is shocking. Here are some quotes:

  • "You might have assumed that what you eat makes a big difference in whether you get cancer... "
  • "Many scientists say that there is still a reason to eat a healthy diet, but cancer prevention is probably not one of them. If there are effects, they are likely to be small, and swamped by other factors."
She also urges those with cancer not to feel guilty about what they ate--which is surely generous and kind, but not supported by research that I have seen.

The basis of her story is the Women's Health Initiative study that was wholly flawed. "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," says Dr. Fuhrman.

He likens it to studying those who smoke 50 cigarettes a day, and comparing them to those who some 60 cigarettes a day. If you find little difference in their cancer rates, does that mean cigarettes don't affect cancer?

What's more, the study merely assessed the efficacy of "low-fat foods" which is not the most important designation in determining cancer-fighting potential. Some high-fat foods like nuts, seeds and avocados contain heart disease and cancer fighting compounds, points out Dr. Furhman, who adds that "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."

If you haven't read it yet, please do check out the still relevant longer response to Gina Kolata's original article--complete with references to medical studies etc.

Doubt About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal doubts the benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Despite vast research showing a reduced number of deaths from cardiovascular disease due to consumption of omega-3. Dr Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation isn't convinced. Reuters reports:

"People should not stop consuming omega-3 fats or eating oily fish as a result of this study," he said in a statement issued by the foundation.

"Until now, medical research has demonstrated a benefit from omega-3 fats in protecting people from heart and circulatory disease. This systematic review of numerous studies concludes that there is no clear evidence either way," he added.

Dr. Fuhrman says this does little to alter his conviction that for those who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, getting more from diet or supplementation is beneficial:

Interesting study, it shows that higher fish intake or use of fish oil did not significantly affect mortality one-way or the other. I guess we would expect to find that. Fish and fish oil are over-hyped as being such wonder foods that will make everyone live longer.

But now let's put this in perspective. Giving B12 to the entire population will not have a significant effect on lifespan either, but give B12 to those B12 deficient people and it will be very significant for them.

This study specifically excluded those studies that checked and monitored blood levels of omega-3 fats. Those studies that do monitor such levels definitely show a strong relationship between fatal heart attacks and omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood.1

Since most people are not deficient in these fatty acids, taking more is not protective, but in a vegan population who does not eat any fish, a certain percent will be deficient in DHA. DHA deficiency is an important thing to avoid; it can lead to depression, dementia and later life neurological deterioration. And this study did not show fish or fish oil would not increase lifespan in a vegan population or a group documented to be low in omega-3 fatty acids, which has already been demonstrated in other studies.

So this finding takes the edge off all the high intake of fish and fish oil hype, but it does not make it less important to make sure that a deficiency does not exist in anything (including long chain omega-3's) and it is still important to take a supplement or to have ones blood drawn to make sure your level is adequate.

So even if this study is correct and that eating fish or taking fish oil or (vegan) DHA supplement does not have a significant effect on longevity for most people, there are still other good reasons to assure nutritional adequacy with supplementation. Epidemiological data indicate decreased plasma DHA interacts with genetic and other environmental influences to predispose people to dementia. Approximately 40% of fatty acid phospholipids in the brain are DHA. Individuals with dementia have lower plasma phospholipid DHA levels in the brain compared to controls. Prospective studies have reported consumption of at least 1 fish serving per week decreases risk of Alzheimer's disease by 60%. Preliminary data suggest that after adjustment for age, gender, apoE genotype, and homocystine levels, the top quartile of plasma DHA of approximately 2.7 or more servings of fish/week or 180 mg or more DHA/day is associated with 50% decreased risk of dementia.

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Less Risk in Your Diet?

According to the results of a national telephone survey Americans are consuming less undercooked ground beef, raw fish, oysters, and runny eggs. The study examined consumption of foods linked to E. coli, vibrio, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. The LA Times reports:

The report, made public Tuesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, found that the percentage of people eating risky foods dropped from 31% in 1998 to 21% four years later. It was based on results of telephone surveys of 15,000 to 20,000 people conducted by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, known as FoodNet.

It seems "risky food" only refers to short term risk in terms of this study. Dr. Fuhrman says animal products like hamburger, milk, and certain seafood can have long-term risks that are equally dangerous. Consider this excerpt from Eat to Live:

The link between animal products and many different diseases is as strongly supported in scientific literature as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. For example, subjects who ate meat, including poultry and fish, were found to be twice as likely to develop dementia (loss of intellectual function with aging) than their vegetarian counterparts in a carefully designed study.1 The discrepancy was further widened when past meat consumption was taken into account. The same diet, loaded with animal products, that causes heart disease and cancer also causes most every other disease prevalent in America including kidney stones, renal insufficiency and renal failure, osteoporosis, uterine fibroids, hypertension, appendicitis, diverticulosis, and thrombosis.2

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Research: Magnesium Does a Body Good

According to Ed Edelson of the HealthDay News a recent study published in the March 28 issue of Circulation links high intake of magnesium with a reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome refers to the cluster of conditions that contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Edelson explains:

The components of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, elevated blood fats and low levels of HDL cholesterol, the "good" kind that helps keep arteries clear. Having at least three of these factors increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The study began in 1985 and monitored more than 4,600 Americans. The conclusion showed that individuals consuming increased amounts of magnesium had a 31 percent lower chance of developing metabolic syndrome than those who did not.

According to researchers good sources of magnesium are halibut, dry roasted almonds, cashews, spinach, whole-grain cereals, avocados, bananas and raisins. Although, Dr. Fuhrman contends you should avoid halibut due to mercury contamination. (More on mercury.)

Dr. Ka He, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University encourages people to incorporate nutritious food into their diet when they are young so that can enjoy better health as they age. He urges that eating magnesium-rich food is only part of being healthy:

Magnesium is just a small part of the healthy heart story, He said. The standard recommendations for avoiding smoking, getting more physical activity, eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer fatty foods are essential for health.

Research: Loneliness Raises Blood Pressure

From a new study released in the March Psychology and Aging, as described by the Associated Press:The loneliest people studied had blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than those who weren't lonely, suggesting that loneliness can be as bad for the heart as being overweight or inactive, the researchers said.

Grand Rounds: Volume 2, Edition 27

Dr. Fuhrman's post about The Fallacy of the Metabolic Type Questionnaire is included in this week's edition of Grand Rounds hosted by NHS Blog Doctor. Click here to check it out.

CalorieKing

Ever wonder how many calories are in a sausage McGriddle or the amount of protein in a Subway turkey wrap? CalorieKing.com offers a comprehensive breakdown of the nutrients and calories in the food served by many popular restaurants. So next time you need to know how much fat is in Jack in Box's Southwest Pita, you'll know where to go.

Frankenpork

Gina Kolota of The New York Times reports that cloned pigs may be the nutritional holy grail. Recently researchers from three major universities genetically modified a group of swine to make pork that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Harvard professor of clinical medicine Alexander Leaf says:

"People can continue to eat their junk food," Dr. Leaf said. "You won't have to change your diet, but you will be getting what you need."

The article glosses over the important point: even with beneficial omega 3 fatty acids pork meat still contains saturated fats and cholesterol. This is from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live, in which he discusses the risk of heart disease as it relates to the consumption of animal products:

Poring through nation-by-nation mortality data collected by the World Health Organization, I found that most of the poorer countries, which invariably consume little animal products, have less than 5 percent of the adult population dying of heart attacks.1 The China Project confirmed that there were virtually no heart attacks in populations that consume a lifelong vegetarian diet and almost no heart attacks in populations consuming a diet that is rich in natural plant foods and receives less than 10 percent of its calories from animals.

For more of Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts about meat, read his post from Friday.

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Our Fat Land

Granted it's a few years old, but Michael Pollan's review of Greg Critser's book Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World is worthy of mention. Pollan an author and contributing writing for The New York Times details the book's investigation of America's super-sized obesity epidemic; which Critser believes was and is driven by capitalism.

Fat Man On The Move

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is extremely important for reaching optimal health and bodyweight. Peter James Spielmann of the Associated Press reports one obese man is taking serious steps towards better health:

Steve Vaught is trying to shed unwanted pounds the long, slow way: step by step as he walks across the United States.


Vaught, 39, began his trek last April in Oceanside, Calif., and has covered more than 2,300 miles. As the distances have mounted, so too has interest in his journey, with supporters monitoring his progress online and newspapers and television stations tracking the adventure.

Vaught began the trip to lose weight and break the bad habits that led to his obesity. "When I first started this walk, I weighed around 410 pounds, and I was carrying an 85-pound backpack," Vaught wrote on his Web site earlier this month as he crossed Ohio.

To monitor Steve's journey check out his website, click here.

The Healthy Way to Integrate Meat Into Your Diet

This post is part of an on-going review of the recommendations of celebrity doctor Joseph Mercola, D.O. For an overview, see Monday's post.

As I have explained over the last few days, see The Meat and Butter Diet. I believe Dr. Mercola is aggressive beyond reason in recommending meat as a health food.

There is, however, some reasonable evidence in the scientific literature to support the idea that people should include some animal products in their diet. There are primarily three weaknesses of a vegan diet, they are:

  • Plant foods do not contain B12 (all vegans should take B12).
  • Some people have a need for more taurine, and may not get optimal amounts with a vegan diet. (Some vegans need to take a taurine supplement, or they could get a blood test to assure adequacy).
  • Some vegans may not produce ideal levels of DHA fat (from the conversion of short-chain omega-3 fats) found in such foods as flax and walnuts, if they don't eat fish. I advocate that vegans and people who do not eat fish should supplement with DHA or get a blood test to assure adequacy.

Obviously, these three areas of potential deficiency on a vegan diet are easily remedied by taking a few supplements. There are loads of advantages of a vegetarian diet however that also should be considered, but that is not the topic of this article. And clearly a poorly designed vegetarian diet or one that is not supplemented properly with B12, Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), can be dangerous for one's health, but that still cannot be used as an argument to justify dietary recommendations with lots of high saturated fat animal products.

Meat in a Vegetable-Based Diet
Ignoring the ethical and environmental benefits to a vegan diet, which undoubtedly are substantial; claiming that a vegan diet-style is healthier and will make one live longer than a diet-style that contains even a small amount of animal products is not an argument that can be made with good scientific integrity.

We have substantial evidence from not only the China Study, but thousands of other studies to conclude that animal products when consumed in even moderate amounts such as 20 ounces a week can contribute to the development of chronic disease and are not health promoting. Many of these studies are referenced in my book Eat To Live and some can be reviewed elsewhere on this blog. However, these studies and the China Study cannot be used to validate the necessity of a strict vegan diet for optimal health as vegan populations were not studied in this enormous project. The lowest ranges of animal products consumed in the China Study were in the range of 1.7 servings per week or about 10 ounces per week.

Below that level of animal product consumption supplementation with B12 become critical for populations. If there were studies with large populations on vegan diets, a J-shaped* curve would likely be experienced, showing that as diets get lower than one serving of animal products per week, later life morbidity and mortality would start to be increased. The reason for this is that strict vegans who don't take supplements will likely develop B12 deficiencies (rural villagers do not take supplements) leading to life shortening events, lessening the reduction in heart attack or cancer deaths achieved by the reduction of animal foods.

Besides B12, there are also nutritional advantages to a small amount of animal products for some individuals, as there are individual differences in the production of non-essential amino acids, and reduction in the absorption and metabolism of essential amino acids that makes the ingestion of additional amino acids beneficial for some individuals, such as those with digestive impairments. For others, the addition of pre-formed DHA from fish or fish oil may be beneficial because the enzymes converting short-chain omega 3 fatty acids (obtained from plant) to these longer chain fats (what is already present in fish) may not be as efficient in some individuals. It also may be possible that some people have heightened needs for DHA, taurine or other protein components as they age and digestion and conversion is decreased. I have counseled thousands of individuals on vegan and near vegan diets over the last 15 years and have found these recurring issues when investigating patients with health problems and health concerns after doing extensive evaluations to discern a cause of their complaints.

A Research-Based Approach
It is too frequent that writers on both sides, the vegan proponents and those advocating inclusion of substantial amounts of animal products as health supporting, have pre-formed biases and try to defend their views, rather than evaluating all the evidence with logic and clarity. Nevertheless, the reality is that for the majority of individuals, allowing under 10 - 12 ounces of animal products per week does not appear to have disease risks as long as the animal products are low in saturated fat and not contaminated with parasites or toxic pollutants. Certainly, I have no desire to promote the consumption of animal products, and I am always willing to modify my recommendations if more science suggests that this guideline is not accurate in any way. However, we have to go with whatever data we have available today, and I suggest that for those who want to include animal products in their diet, we cannot with good science insist that this small amount is cancer or heart disease promoting.

I argue that either way of eating (vegan or non-vegan) can be made health-supporting (and should be supplemented appropriately to assure nutritional adequacy) and that debating which is better is not a valuable exercise. Therefore, I advocate a plant-based (vegetable-based) diet that is either vegan or one that is near vegan with a small amount of animal products, and my food pyramid designed for public guidance contains two to three servings of animal products permitted per week, assuming that the total ounces per week is under the 10 - 12 ounces range. Beef and cheese are too high in saturated fat and should not be considered health-supporting foods to be utilized on a regular basis in one's diet. Plus those animal foods rich in fat are much higher in environmental pollutants.

FISH: Not the Easy Answer
Even though some fish in the diet has been shown to be beneficial at reducing heart disease risk, presumably because of those beneficial fish oils, and there are studies that indicate some fish in the diet is longevity promoting.1 I still do not recommend people eat much fish. We do not need to eat fish to get those benefits from fish oil, we can take a supplement for that and there is too much good evidence linking fish consumption with higher rates of breast cancer, plus the pollutants in fish are of a major concern. Whether it is the pollution in fish or the cancer promoting effect from the high level of animal protein, eating fish is linked to a higher rate of breast cancer. When 23,963 women were followed as part of the Diet, Cancer and Health study, what stood out most was the link between fish consumption and breast cancer. The conclusion of the researchers was, "this study showed that higher intake of fish was significantly associated with higher incidence rates of breast cancer."2 Surprisingly, women consuming little or no fish were found to have approximately half the incidence of breast cancer compared to high consumers of fish. This study should not be ignored. It received scant media attention. Frequent fish consumption has also been linked to increased occurrence of thyroid cancer.3

If fish are consumed on a regular basis it should be a maximum of once per week and it should be of the cleanest variety, not those in the highest range of mercury or other pollutant contamination. That limits the choice in most cities in the continental US to ocean perch, shrimp, haddock, scallops, talapia, hake and trout, eliminating swordfish, pike, mackerel, shark, lobster, tilefish, grouper, sea bass, marlin, snapper and halibut as simply too high in mercury and bluefish, herring, clams, crab and oysters as simply too polluted. Most other fish are in-between these two categories.

EGGS, WHITE MEAT FOWL, FAT FREE DAIRY: Guidelines
Therefore, I do not recommend the eating of fish more than a few times a month, and I would much rather people who eat some animal products utilize eggs, (especially those high omega-3 eggs) and white meat fowl, such as turkey, chicken or fat-free dairy.

To conclude, if you want to eat animal products on a regular basis, limit the consumption to one or two servings of two eggs or egg whites, or one serving of eggs and one serving of white meat turkey a week, or one serving of eggs and one serving of low-fat dairy and one serving of white meat or an occasional fish. Do not eat fish for the supposed health benefits of fish. It is not advisable to consume enough fish to get enough omega-3 fats for your heart health. (It is much more reasonable to just take a daily amount of DHA to assure nutritional excellence and adequacy, such as my DHA Purity, which is algae-derived DHA and refrigerated to maintain freshness.)

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Lower LDL, Lower Chance of Coronary Heart Disease

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine concludes that long-term lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are associated with a dramatically reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Low Levels of Pollutants and Cancer

In his book Disease-Proof Your Child, Dr. Fuhrman suggests feeding children organic food when possible, to safeguard them from chemicals and pesticides. More and more scientists contend that even low levels of contaminants pose a cancer risk. Patty Curtis of The Guardian Unlimited reports:

Liverpool University scientists argue that low levels of chemicals from pesticides and plastics could affect the development of babies before they are born and increase their likelihood of developing cancer later in life.


The organochlorines also accumulate in breast milk, raising the possibility that babies are vulnerable while breastfeeding, Professor Vyvyan Howard and John Newby say.

The scientists suggest parents might consider going organic to avoid contamination.
We're talking about chemicals which could potentially cause cancer in children at parts per billion and parts per trillion levels, rather than parts per million and thousands," Professor Howard, who is on the government's advisory committee on pesticides, told the Guardian. "Preventative measures for these types of cancer have focused on educating the public about the danger of tobacco smoke, improving diet and promoting physical activity. We should now, however, be focusing on trying to reduce exposure to problematic chemicals."

In the end the study does not conclusively prove the link between low levels of pollutants and cancer in humans, but animal studies have confirmed a link.

For more information on the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals check out these posts: Is Organic Food Safer? and Early Exposure to Pesticide: Revisited

Examining Dr. Atkins' Death--UPDATED

This post is part of an on-going review of the recommendations of celebrity doctor Joseph Mercola, D.O. For an overview, check out Monday's post.

As I was going through Dr. Mercola's website, I found that he attacks the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. That group, he claims, "horribly distorted the facts behind the death of Dr. Robert Atkins, one of Dr. Mercola's mentors."

I happen to know something about this, and am compelled to add my thoughts.

It is Dr. Mercola who is distorting the facts. Before Dr. Atkins was hospitalized near the end of his life, he weighed about 200 pounds. Atkins' medical record showed he had atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, had suffered from a previous heart attack, and had high blood pressure. However, many would have you believe he was merely a healthy guy who died after slipping on a patch of ice.

Of interest is that one of my patients, who had severe coronary artery disease which he developed on the Atkins diet, who now has reversed his heart condition under my care, was friends with Dr. Atkins and they used the same cardiologist. This successful man had no motive to make up this story. He told me that after Atkins died his cardiologist (who was Dr. Atkins' doctor too) mentioned to him that Atkins had a heart attack, that is why he fell--he did not slip.

Dr. Atkins' wife quickly switched cardiologists to find one who would aid in the cover-up. The only point to be made here is these guys advocating a high meat diet are unfortunately hurting themselves too, not just their followers, but it is a shame that people have to suffer and even die needlessly from the advice of these high-meat advocates.

UPDATE: TheSmokingGun.com has a wealth of information regarding the death of Dr. Atkins, including a leaked copy of his actual death certificate. The autopsy report medical examiner's report shows a 77 year old white male with a medical history of myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. The hand writing reads of these three conditions. Also check out Snopes.com for more information.

Tomorrow we will examine healthy ways to integrate meat into your diet.

Documentary Charts Group Diabetes Reversal with Diet

In his book Eat to Live, on this blog, in the media, and in his practice Dr. Fuhrman often discusses his many patients who have completely reversed their diabetes with diet. Here's a quote from Eat to Live:

Diabetes patients are told to learn to live with their diabetes and to learn to control it because it can't be cured. "No, no, and no!" I say. "Don't live with it, get thin and get rid of it, as many of my patients have!" More than 90 percent of my Type II diabetics are able to eventually discontinue their insulin within the first month.

Here are a couple of sample stories:

A documentary is currently being made that follows the progress of diabetics who go to a desert spa and give up sugar, junk food, meat, dairy, alcohol, fried foods--and instead eat mainly fresh fruits and vegetables for 30 days.

The diabetes, at least in many cases, effectively disappears.

You can watch an early version of the documentary online, which is well worth it. (If you have trouble opening that video file--it uses Windows Media Player--click here for more options.) Very interesting stuff. You can learn more about the movie on the official website.

Via We Like it Raw

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Revitalizing The Road Warrior

Business travelers are prone to bad eating habits and physical inactivity. This coupled with rising healthcare costs is inspiring company-run wellness programs designed to target the needs of the road warrior. Christopher Elliott of The New York Times reports on the actions of the Parksite Group:

The new programs do more than educate frequent travelers about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle punctuated by deep-fried meals. They use online journals, Web-based support groups and other technologies to keep employees healthy while they are on the road.

It is too early to gauge the effectiveness of these programs, but there are some notable early successes. In 2004, for example, Parksite's health care premiums soared by 23 percent. But last year, after its wellness program began to take hold, its costs did not change even as other employee expenses were rising. The wellness program is run by the ComPsyche Corporation of Chicago.

Programs like this are encouraging, but experts insist changing behaviors requires more:

"In order to change your behavior, you need more than just one workshop," said Mindy Paulet, director of the work-life programs at Purdue University, who administers a wellness course developed by Human Kinetics, which is based in Champaign, Ill. "A workshop can't change your behavior. It can't change a sedentary or inactive employee. That takes time."

The Meat and Butter Diet

This post is part of an on-going review of the recommendations of celebrity doctor Joseph Mercola, M.D. D.O. For an overview, see Monday's post.

Keep in mind, I am not arguing that a vegan diet is healthier or will lead to a longer life compared to someone who eats a small amount of animal products, such as a little fish or eggs in their diet. But I am arguing that as the amount of animal products increases in a diet-style forcing natural plant foods off the plate to become a smaller percentage of total caloric intake, the modern diseases that kill over 80 percent of Americans (heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes) will occur in greater and greater likelihood in every genetic type. My review of over 60,000 articles in the scientific literature supports the conclusion that animal products if consumed should be held to a maximum of ten percent of total caloric intake, reduced from 40 percent in America today and certainly significantly reduced from 60 percent on the Zone and South Beach diets and 80 percent of total caloric intake on the Atkins type diets, and somewhere in between these level on Dr. Mercola's high protein type diet. Dr. Mercola's recommendation are somewhat similar to the Weston Price Foundation, another group that advocates a diet rich in meats based on distorted science and old scientific views that have been disproven by the preponderance of the evidence. The difference is that the Weston Price Foundation does not use a questionnaire to determine if you are the type that deserves a diet rich in high saturated fat animal products, they just teach that everybody is healthier eating a diet chock full of animal products.

Dr. Mercola and the Weston Price Foundation flood the internet with their saturated fat is good for you message. They produce articles with supposedly scientific references that either quote the same bunch of people (each other), ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or distort what was said in the study, claiming saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease. They all use the same distorted logic that it is the consumption of trans fats that are responsible for heart attacks, not saturated fats. They didn't inform the reader that the reason trans fats are bad is because they have been processed to saturate their carbon bonds so they behave in the body as saturated fats. Because trans fats are bad or worse, does not make saturated fats good. It is similar to the twisted logic of the Weston Price crowd who present the work of this dentist who traveled around the world showing that populations who did not eat processed foods had good teeth, to argue that because some of these cultures ate lots of animal products that must mean diets rich in animal products are good. Because processed foods, sugar, corn syrup and white flour are bad, does not make a diet high in animal products lifespan promoting. Weston Price used some very short-lived people as examples of good health, just because their teeth looked good. Fortunately, we know more today than we did in the early 1900's. We know which foods contain the full spectrum of nutrients that resist aging and we know that the diseases that afflict modern civilization are not the consequence of aging; they are the consequence of nutritional ignorance. And we also know that saturated fat raises cholesterol and is an important cause of heart disease, but not the only cause. Too bad so much nutritional ignorance is promoted on the internet, in books and in the media, it only leads to more people being confused.

Quoting Dr. Mercola's website:

Some of you might be watching your weight and be rather hesitant to add butter into your diet. Have no fear. About 15% of the fatty acids in butter are of the short and medium chain variety which are NOT stored as fat in the body, but are used by the vital organs for energy.

Once you get into these high zones of animal product intake there is no genetic type that is not going to have their health damaged by such a high consumption of animal products. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence in the scientific literature to support this (about 1500 references alone in my book, Eat To Live), but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Mercola's comments on the studies linking meat to colon cancer is to protect yourself with high quality grass-fed beef or high quality butter. I remember once a patient told me that they can't get lung cancer because they use high quality tobacco, farmed without pesticides, that's a good one!

People who are fixated to their rigid views, especially addicts will look to rationalize their behavior even if the excuse can't withstand scientific scrutiny. Dr. Mercola has to overlooks all the data that shows that it is not merely the barbequing of meat, processed or commercial meats that are linked to heart attack and cancer it is other important features that are also present in grass-feed beef.

Let's review a few of these scientific studies on colon cancer to illustrate:

Chao A. Thun JT. Connell CJ. Et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA. 2005;293:172-182.
This study concludes that examining meat consumption over many years prior to the diagnosis of cancer illustrates that prolonged high consumption of red and processed meat increases (more than doubles) the risk of colon cancer. In this study even two to three ounces of red meat or processed meats a day increase risks significantly.

Sesink AL; Termont DS; Kleibeuker JH; Van der Meer R Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium.Carcinogenesis. 2001; 22(10):1653-9

Hughes R; Cross AJ; Pollock JR; Bingham S Dose-dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation.Carcinogenesis. 2001; 22(1):199-202
These two studies go into the mechanism via which red meat promotes colon cancer. Since red meat contains no fiber, it remains in the gut much longer than fiber-filled foods.They describe the biochemical effects of this slower transit time, including heightened exposure to red meat's nitrogenous metabolites. In other words, red meats' slower transit time in the bowel promotes prolonged exposure to these carcinogenic compounds (naturally occurring N-nitroso compounds) when a larger percentage of the diet is made of animal products rather than plant materials. Another important mechanism reported was the high haem content of red meat, because dietary haem increased cytolytic (cell-killing) activity and colonic epithelial proliferation, thus explaining why red meat is more colon cancer promoting compared to fish or chicken.

Heart disease also occurs not just because of the processing of meats or the fact that beef is grain fed and not grass fed, but because of other intrinsic properties of animal foods, and the fact that we require a significant exposure to a full symphony of natural antioxidants and phytochemicals in unprocessed plant matter that we are not getting as animal products increase and the percentage of vegetation decreases.

Tomorrow, DiseaseProof will feature a look at the real cause of Dr. Atkins' death, while on Friday I will discuss the healthy way to integrate some meat into your diet.

Pop'ems Popping Up Places

Forbes magazine recently included Pop'ems in its list of the Healthiest Candies. Dr. Fuhrman was quoted in the article as well. Check out Slashfood.com for more discussion on the list.

For more information on Pop'ems click here.

Grand Rounds: Volume 2, Edition 26

Grand Rounds is a weekly account of the goings-on in the medical blogging community. DiseaseProof is mentioned in this week's edition hosted by HealthyConcerns:

And I'm probably only smiling because I'm already a vegetarian, but I'll selfishly admit that Disease Proof's report on how reducing animal products consumption results in better health.

The Fallacy of the Metabolic Type Questionnaire

This post is part of an on-going review of the recommendations of Joseph Mercola, M.D. D.O. For an overview, see yesterday's post.

On his website, Dr. Joseph Mercola advocates people fill in a detailed questionnaire to help him determine which of three types they fall into. (Of course you must buy this questionnaire from him, a few pages of information at a price of 59 dollars before the software can add up your score, determine how much you love your meat and then he can know the right diet for you.)

This supposedly will help you decide what type of diet is best for your health. Instead of using blood type, eye color, shoe size, or date of birth of your first born, Dr. Mercola has determined a better way. His questions have a lot to do with how you feel when you eat meat. He divides the types into three categories. The indented section below is cut and pasted from Dr. Mercola's website.

PROTEIN TYPES do better on a low-carbohydrate, high-protein and relatively high-fat diet. Depending on your Metabolic Typing profile, these ratios are then perfected to help you make wise food choices.

CARBO TYPES normally feel best when the majority of their food is carbohydrate. Yet, there are major differences between classes of carbs such as vegetables and grains. Learning which types of carbs are best for your unique physiology is just one way in which Metabolic Typing excels.

MIXED TYPES require a combination of foods somewhere between the carbo and protein type groups. This is actually the most challenging type to have and requires a great deal of fine-tuning while "listening" to your own body with the help of Metabolic Typing.

Changing your dietary habits is indeed a good thing, but avoiding meat and animal protein just isn't the healthiest choice for most people, based on their body's unique metabolic type. Each type benefits from varying ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to feel great and avoid chronic degenerative diseases, like those associated with obesity.

Dr. Mercola says avoiding meat is not a good idea for most people because their metabolic type indicates that red meat is needed and good for them. He also explains that the Atkins diet is good, because of its critical recognition of the glycemic index of food, but it is not as good as Dr. Mercola's because he (Dr. Mercola) takes into account the metabolic typing of the individual thus adjusts the diet for that person's particular need.

Dr. Mercola's viewpoints on nutrition and health would fail nutrition 101; too much science contradicts him. He may not be as dangerous as Atkins, but he is a very poor choice to be offering nutritional information to the masses because his advice is not just an unscientific gimmick, it can promote an earlier death or a life-ending cardiac event, especially in his high-protein type.

Dr. Mercola does make some good points as do most nutritional gurus, but the problem is the overall advice that may not be lifespan-favorable because of his faulty logic and misinterpretation of the data.

Vegetarian vs. Meat-Eating is Misleading. High Nutrition vs. Low Nutrition is What Counts.
Dr. Mercola correctly points out that most vegetarians may not have excellent health because of their overdependence on grains. I agree. Not that my agreement determines truth, but clearly the literature is abundant with evidence that demonstrate that the foods with the best correlation with longer life and resistance against later life diseases are vegetables, beans, raw seeds, fruit and raw nuts; not grains. Eliminating animal products and continuing the consumption of processed grain foods is not a longevity diet. The bottom line here is most vegetarians are unhealthy for the same reason most non-vegetarians are unhealthy, and that is they eat too much processed foods. Whole grains are not nutrient-rich food and may form a minor part of the diet, but when consumed as baked, fried, toasted and shot out of canons, they are low-nutrient junk foods that are powerfully disease-promoting.

Also there is no disagreement here that some people are not going to get all their nutritional needs met on a vegan diet and will need to add supplements to make the diet complete or add a small amount of animal products. Rather, the most critical disagreements involve two issues. The first issue is that if you add the (large) amount of animal products Dr. Mercola allows or recommends (including red meat and butter) especially the large amounts recommended in his protein-type, you will be powerfully promoting heart disease and cancer.

A Diet Safe for No One.
The scientific literature is clear; there is no genetic type that has immunity from such a disease-causing, high saturated fat diet-style. All Americans, not just some, develop atherosclerosis on a diet so rich in animal products. Over ninety percent of Americans eventually develop atherosclerosis and hypertension from the low intake of unprocessed vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. Our high intake of animal products AND processed foods and our low intake of unrefined plant food is the dietary pattern undeniably associated with these avoidable illnesses and a premature death from heart attacks or stroke.

And the second issue is that his metabolic typing questionnaire is not an accurate way to determine a person's nutritional needs. When he advises his "protein type" to eat a diet where most calories are supplied by animal products, he is appealing to that person's food preferences and addiction and not only deviating from scientific integrity here, but promoting dietary suicide to his uneducated entourage to make a buck. His opinion is without scientific foundation in both these areas, and unquestionably can lead people to a shorter lifespan.

Dr. Mercola's position on saturated fat (high in cheese, butter and red meat) runs counter to thousands of medical research studies showing that saturated fat is the food factor most promoting high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Though Dr. Mercola (like Atkins) denies the saturated fat--> high cholesterol--> heart disease link. Dr. Mercola's topsy-turvy advice actually promotes the consumption of high saturated fat foods and makes ridiculous health claims for coconut oil (ninety percent saturated fat) including weight loss, detoxification, viral killing, heart disease reversing and other unsubstantiated silliness'. Good health comes from nutritional excellence, not from a jar of oil. See the comments of this post for more of my thoughts on coconut oil.

Nevertheless, filling out a questionnaire that tells you whether you digest meat better or worse or feel better after you eat it, or whether you like dark meat better than light meat is like asking a smoker if they feel better after they smoke to determine whether smoking is healthy or not. In fact, the more you crave something and the worse you feel when you stop consuming it is a good sign that you are addicted to it and it is harming you, not helping. For example, most people with hypoglycemic symptoms feel better when they eat a mostly animal-based diet, yet these same people get completely well once they are off the high-protein diet they have been using to lessen their symptoms. and their body is no longer nitrogen toxic. In other words, they no longer feel ill when their withdrawal symptoms have been allowed to come to completion, and they are off the high nitrogen diet.

For many of you that are familiar with my voice on these issues you will know that I advocate a diet rich in nutrients, especially antioxidants and phytochemicals and the large percentage of everybody's diet must be from unrefined plant foods no matter what your genetic type is. I teach there is not one perfect ratio of fat, carbohydrate and protein that are right, there is a broad range of acceptable intakes here, based on body weight, exercise habits and legitimate medical tests. However, Americans generally eat too much carbohydrate, too much protein and too much fat. We need to eat a diet lower in all three sources of calories and much, much richer in nutrients. In order to do this you must understand the nutrient density of all foods and eat more foods higher on the nutrient density ladder, and less low nutrient foods and this is what my book Eat To Live is about.

Furthermore, of course there are genetic differences, and adjusting nutritional advice to fit individual needs is accurately done with blood work, and other accepted medical tests. For example a heightened intake of Vitamin D or B12 or taurine might be indicated for someone who tests deficient in these substances, and some people might require a higher amount of long-chain omega-3 fats because of lower genetically-mediated conversion, indicating an individual with a more fish-dependent genetics. Nevertheless, these issues are best addressed with blood work (facts) not with some flakey secretive questionnaire that is sold for a high price on a website. Those individuals who may need extra long-chain fatty acids or additional protein should achieve this without a diet rich in red meat and saturated fat.

Luckily nutritional science has advanced to the point where we can chose a diet-style that enables us to dramatically lower our cholesterol, maintain a normal blood pressure into later years and not have heart disease or strokes. I continually inform people of the risks in following bad nutritional advice.

Over the next few days, we will investigate:

Those Stickers on Your Fruit in the Grocery Store

They tell a story.

According to Food & Wine (via Megnut):

The numbers tell you how the fruit was grown. Conventionally grown fruit has four digits; organically grown fruit has five and starts with a nine; genetically engineered has five numbers and starts with an eight.
Megnut also has word that you will basically never see a five-digit code that starts with an 8, because papayas (84394) were the only GM foods to get their own code so far.

Metabolic Type: Unscientific Premise, Dangerous Advice

Dr. Joseph Mercola is a prolific writer with a large following. Much of his advice is well-founded and worth reading.

Lately, however, I have been asked by readers of DiseaseProof to assess some of his more outlandish claims: for instance, that coconut oil has miraculous properties, that "metabolic type" (as determined by a $59 online survey) determines dietary requirements, that special butter and grass-fed beef are wonderful health foods.

By looking at these things in detail, I have found that in some cases Dr. Mercola is not practicing good science.

That does not mean everything he advocates is wrong or that his diet is not better than the much worse diet that most Americans eat. However his judgment and nutritional advice is not scientifically based and demonstrates poor judgment and bias.

For instance, there has never been a study showing that any blood type or "metabolic type" is protected from the dangerous effects (primarily heart disease and cancer) of a diet rich in red meat and butter. His advice appeals to the majority of Americans who are addicted to meat and want to justify their dangerously high consumption of saturated fat (butter, cheese and meat) with rationalizations that lack adequate scientific support. Prudent people must recognize that red meat and butter (even if consumed raw from grass-fed cows) must be avoided or consumed in very minimal quantities by all types of people to assure protection against premature aging and the leading causes of death.

I have already addressed his claims about coconut oil, in the comments of a previous post.

Over the next few days, we will investigate:

Obesity's High Threat Level

Earlier this month U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated that America's obesity epidemic may pose a bigger threat than terrorism.

It's more than a little ridiculous how practically everything in Washington is likened to some form of terrorism these days. But there's no point in pretending the obesity epidemic isn't on a massive and deadly march straight through the heart of America.

Dr. Fuhrman reacts to the Surgeon General:

We graduate from high school, college, even graduate and professional schools and we never gain the most knowledge we need to be in control of our health destiny. We live in a society that believes that we protect our health with access to medical care and drugs; it doesn't work.

We can win the war on cancer and heart disease, not with more money put into medical interventions and drugs, but by unleashing the big artillery found in our kitchens; berries, green vegetables, beans and seeds to name a few. The science is important and motivating because we are eating ourselves into a tremendous amount of needless and tragic diseases in this country and our cancer rates have increased unrelentingly each year for the last seventy years. But aside from all the convincing scientific data, it is just as important to show people how they can deal with their picky eaters, get their family to like the healthful foods at the family table and make healthy eating great tasting and fun. My experience has been that after gaining the knowledge, people can transition their family over to a disease-preventive lifestyle and enjoy the change.

Here's a tool to consider: Dr. Fuhrman's free podcast will help parents succeed in introducing healthy foods to your children.

PCRM Calls Gov. Pataki a Cheese Pusher

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says the middle of an obesity epidemic is no time for New York school children to be taught that cheese is a health food:

Students in New York—many of whom are already overweight—may soon be taught that eating pizza is good for you. As part of New York's 2006 Ag Literacy Day on March 20, volunteers will read to New York state elementary children the book Extra Cheese Please!: Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza, which ends with a girl enjoying a slice of cheese pizza and includes a recipe for the fat-laden snack.

Given the nation's childhood obesity epidemic, this book is a surprising choice by New York Agriculture in the Classroom. Twenty-eight percent of New York adolescents were overweight or at risk of becoming overweight in 2004, according to the New York Department of Health. Cheese and other dairy products are principal sources of saturated fat and cholesterol.

The goal of Ag Literacy Day is to promote awareness and appreciation of New York state agriculture, and dairy products are New York's leading agricultural commodity. However, there are many other New York commodities worth promoting to the state's schoolchildren, including apples, grapes, melons, and butternut squash.

Eggplant Invasion

Hungry? Try these eggplant inspired creations...

Eggplant Patties


2 eggplants, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of oregano
1 tbsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Slice eggplant into 1/3 inch-thick-patties. Mix together all ingredients in a flat-bottom bowl. Let the eggplant patties marinate in the mixture for 15-20 seconds. Wet napkin with olive oil and wipe down a nonstick baking tray or aluminum foil, creating a thin coat of oil. Then bake the eggplant on the tray or sheet of aluminum foil at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Mushrooms can be used instead of or in addition to the eggplant.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Beans

1 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, chopped
½ cup raisins
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 cups garbanzo or other beans, cooked or canned

Steam the eggplant for 10-12 minutes. Cook the onion and pepper over a low flame in a covered skillet with 2 tablespoons of water for 6-8 minutes. Then add the eggplant, raisins, lemon juice, and ketchup and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes. Mix in the beans.

Rolled Eggplant

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin, flat, wide strips
1 pepper, diced (red or green)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups nonfat tomato sauce

Bake eggplant in a lubricated pan at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until flexible. Saute pepper, onion, and garlic in water to make the filling. Take the strips of partially cooked eggplant and roll them up with the filling mix in the middle. Cover with nonfat tomato sauce and bake at 250 degrees for another 30 minutes.

Atkins Diet: Not What this Doctor Ordered

According to Dr. Fuhrman's books, Americans consume about 40 percent of their calories from animal products, which has contributed to the increase of cancer and heart disease in the past fifty years. So how does this information impact high-protein weight-loss plans like the Atkins diet? Consider this passage from Eat to Live:

The Atkins diet (and other diets rich in animal products and low in fruits and unrefined carbohydrates) is likely to significantly increase a person's risk of colon cancer. Scientific studies show a clear and strong relationship between cancers of the digestive tract, bladder, and prostate with low fruit consumption. What good is a diet that lowers your weight but also dramatically increases your chances of developing cancer?


A meat-based, low-fiber diet, like the one Atkins advocates, includes little or no fruit, no starchy vegetables, and no whole grains. Following Atkin's recommendations could more than double your risk of certain cancers, especially meat-sensitive cancers, such as epithelial cancers of the respiratory tract.1 For example, a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute looked at lung cancer in nonsmoking women so that smoking would not be a major variable. Researchers found that the relative risk of lung cancer was six times greater in women in the highest fifth of saturated-fat consumption than those in the lowest fifth.

The March 18 issue of Lancet includes research suggesting that the Atkins diet can also cause some other major health complications. Steven Reinberg of Healthday News reports on a case from the study:

The patient had followed the Atkins diet, including Atkins supplements. She went to the hospital with difficulty breathing and was diagnosed with a condition called ketoacidosis.


Ketoacidosis results when dangerously high levels of acids called ketones build up in the blood. Ketones are produced in the liver during starvation. A low-carbohydrate diet such as Atkins can lead to ketone production, Lessnau's team notes.

"She had to be admitted to the intensive care unit," Lessnau said. "The diet actually caused her acidosis."

Lessnau is surprised that this problem with the Atkins diet has not been reported before. "This is something that is not well-diagnosed or may be underreported," he said.

"The Atkins diet is not a safe diet in everybody," Lessnau said. "It can cause potentially life-threatening problems."


Dr. Fuhrman says most weight loss plans are a waste of your money.

For more about how Dr. Fuhrman does recommend losing weight, read this outline, and these thoughts on diets.

Continue Reading...

Eat More Kale!

Bo is a guy who sells t-shirts from a booth at a farmer's market in Montpelier, Vermont. He is also, he writes, a "special educator/foster parent (and recently a proud dad) who prints each shirt one-at-a-time."

Eat More Kale!

A while ago, he made some t-shirts for friends that said "Eat More Kale" across the chest.

I thought that was the end of the story. I was very mistaken. Folks from the farmer's market began to request their own "EAT MORE KALE" shirts. With Paul and Kate's blessing I began printing what was soon to be my best-selling design. As for "what does it mean?" It means something different to so many people. Some take it literally, others see it as social commentary. It reminds me to think of what I eat. It makes me think of good food grown in a sustainable manner by local farmers.
In any case, his shirts are all over the world now. Eat more kale! It's one of Dr. Fuhrman's super foods.

Obesity Epidemic's Unforeseen Toll: Larger Passengers Inspire Fatal Boat Accident

BBC news reports that a ferryboat accident in Baltimore, which killed five, was caused in part by the fact that Americans weigh so much more, on average, than they used to. The water taxi was built using 1940s weight guidelines, which assumed the weight of an average rider was 140 pounds. Just a few decades later, the average is closer to 170. In the end the boat was carrying 700 pounds more than its maximum limit, making it too low in the water to operate safely in bad weather.

A simple solution has been proposed: markings on the hull could show how low a boat is in the water.

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European Research: Restricting Animal Products Reduces Weight Gain, Cancer

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman warns against eating regular quantities of animal products, refined grains, and oils, urging you instead to get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts:

Vegetable and fruits protect all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our country are mostly plant-food-deficiency disease. Raw vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer properties of all foods.


Research shows that those who avoid meat and diary have lower rates heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.1

Studies have confirmed that individuals consuming a vegetarian diet (one based on plant matter and not dairy or refined grains) live longer than non-vegetarians and almost never get heart attacks.

With this in mind, consider this recent weight loss study from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The eating habits of 22,000 people, meat eaters and vegetarians, were tracked over five years. In the end results found that all participants gained a few pounds, but individuals who adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least. Reuters reports:

"The weight gain was less in the vegans than in the meat-eaters and somewhere in between in the other groups," said Tim Key, of Britain's Cancer Research UK charity and the University of Oxford, who conducted the study.


"The lowest weight gain was in people who changed their diet to eat fewer animal products," he told Reuters.

In addition to stressing the importance of physical activity for sustained health, the study also comments on the link between diet and cancer:

[The study] also showed that diet is second only to tobacco, as a leading cause of cancer, and, along with alcohol, is responsible for nearly a third of cancer cases in developed countries.
Continue Reading...

Knock Out Obesity and High Cholesterol with Veggies

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman calls obesity "the number one health problem in the United States."

If the current trend continues by the year 2030 all adults in the United States will be obese. The National Institutes of Health estimate that obesity is associated with a twofold increase in mortality, costing society more than $100 billion per year.1
Of course, regular readers of this blog know pretty well what he recommends as a solution: a healthy diet rich with vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts.


Dr. Fuhrman's approach was shown in a study to reduce LDL cholesterol 33%, making it the only nutritional approach shown to be more effective than statins.

Now there's news of a milder nutritional intervention that has been getting some milder--but promising results. A study published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating nutrient rich foods like tofu and oatmeal help lower cholesterol. Beth Duff-Brown of the Associated Press reports:

Jenkins, Canadian research chair in metabolism and nutrition at Toronto, and Dr. Cyril Kendall, also of the University of Toronto, studied 55 middle-aged men and women who had high cholesterol and were at risk for heart disease.


The participants were already on a heart-healthy diet. They were then prescribed a diet that included more specific foods, such as raw almonds, tofu and other soy foods, viscous fibers such as oatmeal, barley, okra and eggplant, and plant sterol-enriched margarine.

After a year, the group who stuck faithfully to the new eating plan lowered their cholesterol by an average of 29 percent. Jenkins said the rate was comparable to results from participants who had taken a statin drug for one month before starting the diet, as well as general studies of patients on such drugs.

Continue Reading...

Ambien: Sleep and a Snack

It may seem strange, but one side effect of the popular sleeping pill Ambien is reportedly a sleep-related eating disorder, which causes some Ambien users to unknowingly sleepwalk into their kitchens, raid the refrigerator and gorge on snacks. Stephanie Saul of The New York Times reports:

"These people are hell-bent to eat," said Dr. Mark Mahowald, who is director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis and is researching the problem.

He and colleagues are preparing a scientific paper based on their findings that a sleep-related eating disorder is one of the unusual side effects showing up with the widespread use of Ambien. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have made similar findings.

By coincidence, just a couple of days ago on DiseaseProof, while discussing caffeine, Dr. Fuhrman said:

Of course, I would prefer people not engage in addictive habits in general, because that inevitably leads to eating more food to treat their addictive withdrawal symptoms, and continues their addictive relationship with food and drink contributing to their ill health in general.

The New York Times and Your Health

Ahh, The New York Times. I love it for having a lot of great reporting. I hate it for having some wacky judgment from time to time.

Last month The New York Times published a massive, convincing, yet horribly misguided article on the futility of low fat diets. Lots of people took it as permission slip to gorge themselves on burgers, fries, ribs, and chocolate shakes. Dr. Fuhrman offered a comprehensive rebuttal at the time.

His main point was that the study in question proved little, as neither group studied ate a low-fat or healthy diet. (He said it was like studying one group that smoked 50 cigarettes and comparing it to a group that smokes 60 cigarettes a day. If you find they both get sick at about the same rate, does that really prove cutting down smoking doesn't help your health?)

He's not alone in his criticism on the underlying study, which is called the Women's Health Initiative. In today's New York Times Jane E. Brody uses a nearly identical rationale to explain why she's still eating right and exercising:

As I read them, the findings of the Women's Health Initiative on bone disease border on meaningless.
And, as long as you're poring over The New York Times today, keep your eyes open for irony. Eric Nagourney who writes, amazingly, about research showing that health coverage in the news can be dangerously misleading. (More on that study.)

Busy Week for Coffee

Last week's story about the genetic factors associated with coffee consumption stirred up discussion.

Yesterday Dr. Fuhrman reacted to a related study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Today there's word of new dangers hidden in your cup of joe--in the study, researchers detected a potentially damaging "fight or flight" response in test subjects who had a lot of caffeine.

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Caffeine Freaks: Get Tested

Following up on last week's news linking coffee consumption with risk of heart attacks Dr. Fuhrman provides some additional thoughts on the study printed in The Journal of the American Medical Association:

This article notes that some people are homozygous for a gene that controls caffeine elimination in the liver and others are heterozygous. So, similar to the genes for eye color, in this case a person who inherits only one dominant gene will detoxify caffeine slower--and therefore be more at risk for its heart attack promoting properties.

Of interest was the strong association with the non-fatal heart attacks occurring in younger people. Noting that some individuals who metabolize caffeine slower, and thus eliminate it slower, have double the heart attack risk compared to non-caffeine drinkers or those who metabolize caffeine quickly.

Bottom line, if you drink coffee, and are unwilling to cut back to one cup a day or less, at least get this test to see if you are a slow caffeine metabolizer.

Of course, I would prefer people not engage in addictive habits in general, because that inevitably leads to eating more food to treat their addictive withdrawal symptoms, and continues their addictive relationship with food and drink contributing to their ill health in general.

Research: Vitamin B Ineffective Against Heart Disease

Gina Kolata writes in The New York Times:

A widely promoted B-vitamin regimen for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes has shown no beneficial effects in people at high risk, researchers are reporting in two new studies.


The widely accepted hypothesis was that B vitamins -- folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 -- could protect against homocysteine, an amino acid that some doctors said was as important and dangerous a risk factor for heart disease as cholesterol.

Studies of populations had shown that the higher the homocysteine level in the blood, the greater the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And studies of animals had indicated that homocysteine could actually damage the tender linings of arteries, setting the stage for atherosclerosis.

B vitamins, however, reduce blood levels of homocysteine. The vitamins, which are found in a variety of foods, have no known harmful effects. And if people take the vitamins as supplements, their homocysteine levels plummet. About 35 percent of Americans take B vitamins, mostly in the form of multivitamin pills, according to the Council on Responsible Nutrition, a trade group.

So it seemed reasonable that taking the vitamins would be protective. It might be even better than taking statin drugs, some said, which are well established to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

It was not, the new studies found.

This is another example of the blind leading the blind. The problem is the way research is conducted in general and our typical medical approach in trying to give every patient some cookbook response to their high homocysteine level, rather than treating every patient as an individual.


High Homocysteine Levels Are Markers for Poor Diet
In my experience, a high homocysteine level is mainly important as a marker indicating a diet low in vegetables, especially the folate rich greens. In other words, it is one of the blood signs of a poor diet.

Fixing the homocysteine level without fixing the diet shouldn't be expected to do much because it is hundreds of important nutrients and factors that are missing not just the folate. A pill can't take the place of the symphonic effect of a diet that is naturally folate and nutrient rich.

One of the researchers quoted in The New York Times, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has a similar, but vaguer idea. Again, Gina Kolata:

The most likely explanation for the studies' results, Dr. Yusuf said, was that homocysteine levels were not the cause of disease. Instead, he said, they are probably a sign of heart disease, much like fever is a sign of infection. Treating a fever with aspirin does not cure the infection, and lowering homocysteine levels with B vitamins does not cure disease either.

The Bottom Line For Your Health: High Homocysteine Levels Still Must be Addressed These studies show that homocysteine lowering therapies do not work on a gross scale to reduce heart attack deaths---but that does not mean that a person who has a significant homocysteine elevation should not address the cause of such an elevation.


I am in the process of revising my book Cholesterol Protection For Life (the new version will be available in about a month) and recently wrote about this issue. Here are some relevant excerpts:

Is homocysteine an important indicator of heart disease?

Maybe and maybe not, it depends on how high your homocysteine level is and the cause of the elevation. Homocysteine is an independent risk factor for heart disease. That means even if your cholesterol is favorable, heart disease can sometimes be caused by an elevated homocysteine.

A high homocysteine can also be a contributory cause of high blood pressure and place you at higher risk of stroke. Homocysteine can be elevated secondary to increased need for B12, B6 or folate. It is rare, but still possible for a person with a perfect diet and ideal cholesterol levels to develop chronic disease from an elevated homocysteine level.

Theoretically, most people eating a plant-based diet rich in vitamins, especially folate, only have to be concerned with consuming adequate B12 to assure a normal homocysteine level. However, there are other causes. Some uncommon cases of individuals who have a very high homocysteine level, normal B12 (documented by a methylmalonic acid, MMA test) and also normal folate levels on blood tests. These people should be instructed to take extra folate as they likely have a genetic defect converting folate to its more active form.

After reviewing scores of medical studies on the relationship between high homocysteine and the increased risk of Alzheimer's, stroke, heart attack and dementia one has to conclude that there is a clear cut relationship between high homocysteine and serious disease. However, this is a complicated subject, where confusion abounds, and the right way to lower homocysteine or whether we should attempt to lower it at all is still debated. Clearly we have more to learn as more time and further research is revealed in years to come.

One reason there is such contradictory information in the scientific literature is because the researchers appear to have such poor working knowledge of excellent nutrition and are not targeting the therapy to match the corresponding cause(s) of the homocysteine elevation. Instead, both researchers and most physicians are simplistically giving the same conventionally-designed, nutritional supplement to a cohort of patients with different causes for the high homocysteine.

Physicians think about high homocysteine as only one problem, like high cholesterol, when there could be multiple reasons for the abnormality, so often the solution does not fit the problem. There should not be a one size fits all solution to an elevated homocysteine.

Homocysteine levels above 20 micro mol/l are associated with a 10 fold increased risk of heart attack compared to levels below 9 micro mol/l. 1 These high elevations of homocysteine should not be ignored. Doing so could result in an easily avoidable medical tragedy.

For example, homocysteine can be elevated from:

  • A poor diet, low in folate-containing vegetables.
  • A B12 deficiency
  • An uncommon defect in conversion of folate to the active form (even in a person eating a healthy diet)
  • Kidney disease

Address High Homocysteine Levels With Recommendations Targeted to the Cause
Consider an abnormal homocysteine that may require treatment above 15, not above 10. Levels between 10 and 15 have not been consistently associated with worse outcomes.2
If one homocysteine is elevated above 15, make sure a blood level of B12, and MMA (methlymalonic acid) and a folate level is drawn.

Mild elevations of homocysteine between 10 and 15 do not appear to place people at higher risk. In most of these cases, the mild elevation is just a marker for a low nutrient diet in general and the correct treatment is the improvement of the entire diet, not just a supplement to lower homocysteine. Folate alone in these cases cannot compare with the value of actually eating a diet rich in folate and gaining all the other essential cardio-protective compounds that are found in natural plant foods. It is similar to taking a cholesterol-lowering drug instead of eating healthfully; a pill cannot take the place of the full symphony of dietary elements that contribute to heart and vascular health.

When the abnormality (elevated homocysteine) is due to B12 deficiency it is wise to take more B12. Whether you are consuming sufficient B12 or not is best ascertained by a normal MMA (methylmalonic acid) because a B12 level in the 200 to 400 range, which is considered in the normal range could still be abnormal. Paradoxically, MMA is actually a better marker for B12 deficiency than B12 itself. If the MMA is elevated a B12 deficiency exists, even if the B12 is in the normal range. When this is the case, extra B12 is the correct treatment for the elevated homocysteine.

If the folate level is excellent (15 - 25) and the B12 level is normal (as documented with a normal MMA) and the homocysteine is still significantly elevated,then the cause of the elevation is most likely a genetic defect in folate conversion. In this case, folate (or folic acid) supplementation may not be totally effective; because the patient is just taking more of the folate that they don't convert effectively to begin with. They don't need more folate, rather they need more of the biologically active form of folate that they don't make well (called methyl tetrahydrofolate or formyl tetrahydrofolate.)

So if the B12 is normal and the folate is normal, and the homocysteine is still significantly elevated, it may make more sense to take a supplement containing additional tetrahydrofolate, and not just pile on huge doses of folate (folic acid) attempting to drive the homocysteine down with overwhelming high doses of folate.

In conclusion, it is wise to target therapy based on known deficiencies and not just blanket patients with high dose supplements that they do not need. Nevertheless, an attempt to uncover the cause of the homocysteine elevation and lower it accordingly may be an important intervention for patients with unique needs.

Medical Research Still Has a lot of Questions to Answer About Homocysteine.
In the meantime, it should be recognized that a vegetable-based diet rich in fresh produce with fruit, beans, raw nuts and seeds, naturally low in saturated fat and in sodium is our most powerful protection against disease. It lowers blood pressure as much as drugs and, in heart patients, is at least twice as effective at reducing death rates and heart attacks as drugs.3 The day may come when a physician, who does not offer such a diet to his heart patients is himself at high risk for being sued for malpractice.

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Too Much Soy?

Over at Vegan Lunchbox, there's a little debate going on about how much soy is too much. Among those cited is John Robbins, who writes:

It's not that long ago that soybeans were considered by most Americans to be "hippie food." But then medical research began accumulating, affirming that soy consumption reduced heart disease and cancer risk, that it lengthened lives and enhanced their quality, and that it provided an almost ideal protein to substitute for animal proteins that almost inevitably come packaged with cholesterol and saturated fat.
Cookbook author and chef, Bryanna Clark Grogan weighs in:
Some people are allergic to soy, but then, some people are allergic to wheat, corn, peanuts and many other foods-- that does not mean that they are bad for the rest of us! There is some serious "soy-bashing" going on out there and some of the claims are downright ridiculous! Do your research and make an informed decision!

Soyfoods are, in fact, one of the MOST studied foods in history--studies on soy and humans go back to the turn of the 20th century. Soy is not a "miracle" food, but it is a source of inexpensive and high-quality protein, with proven anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant and cholesterol-lowering properties.

What does Dr. Fuhrman have to say about it? Dr. Fuhrman agrees that incorporating soy and soy products into one's diet will provide a wealth of disease preventing nutrients. But as this exerpt from Eat to Live explains, a diet should not be centered on soy, or any one food for that matter:

Soy products such as soy burgers, soymilk, and soy cheese are much more popular and available today. Recently, the FDA approved soy-containing products as heart-healthy and allowed health claims for soy protein.

Studies have shown soy's beneficial effects on cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors. However, there is no reason not to expect the same results from beans of any type--it's merely that more studies have been done on soy than on any other beans. There are numerous studies indicating that soybeans are rich in various anti-cancer compounds such as isoflavones. Most beans are rich in these beneficial anti-cancer compounds, and many different flavonoids with anti-cancer effects are found in beans of various color. I always recommended the consumption of a broad variety of phytochemical-rich foods to maximize one's health. Beans are no exception--try to eat different types of beans, not just soy.

You should be aware that soy nuts, soymilk, and other processed soy products do not retain many of the beneficial compounds and omega-3 fats that are in the natural bean. The more the food is processed, the more the beneficial compounds are destroyed. Remember, though, tofu and frozen or canned soybeans are a good source of omega-3 fat and calcium.

Recently, a few studies appeared showing potentially negative effects of consuming too much soy. One particularly troublesome study done in Hawaii suggested that men with higher tofu intake had more cognitive decline and brain atrophy with aging than men who ate little tofu.1 This data contradicts evidence that Japanese men, who consume tofu regularly, have better cognitive function and lower rates of Alzheimer's disease than American men.2 Obviously, more studies are needed to clarify these suggestive findings and to determine if there is something in tofu or related to tofu consumption that may be harmful. After reviewing these findings, Dr. Harris had soy products from Hawaii tested for aluminum levels and found a significantly higher level of aluminum in tofu from Hawaii than in tofu from the mainland. The aluminum factor may be a plausible explanation for the alleged "brain aging" properties of soy.

In any case, the evidence is not sufficient to warrant being fearful of consuming soybeans as part of a healthful diet. However, this brings to mind my basic theme of nutritional biodiversity--eat a variety of plant foods, and do not eat a soy-based diet.

Most of the processed soy products can be tasty additions to a plant-based diet, but they are generally high in salt and are not nutrient-dense foods, so use them sparingly. In conclusion, the soybean is a superior food, containing the difficult-to-find omega-3 fats. Beans in general are superior foods that fight against cancer and heart disease, which is why you will benefit from using a variety of beans in your diet.

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Giving Up Myths about Protein is Like Changing Your Religion

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Remember those four basic food group charts we all saw in every classroom in elementary school? Protein had its own box, designated by a thick steak, a whole fish, and an entire chicken. Dairy foods had their own special box as well. A healthy diet, we were taught, supposedly centered on meat and milk. Protein was thought to be the most favorable of all nutrients, and lots of protein was thought to be the key to strength, health, and vigor. Unfortunately, cancer rates soared. As a result of scientific investigations into the causes of disease, we have had to rethink what we were taught. Old habits die hard; most Americans still cling to what they were taught as children. There are very few subjects that are more distorted in modern culture than that of protein.

Keep in mind that we do need protein. We can't be healthy without protein in our diet. On the other hand, plant foods have plenty of protein, and you do not have to be a nutritional scientist or dietician to figure out what to eat and you don't need to mix and match foods to achieve protein completeness. Any combination of natural foods will supply you with adequate protein, including all eight essential amino acids as well as unessential amino acids.

It is unnecessary to combine foods to achieve protein completeness at each meal. The body stores and release amino acids needed over a twenty-four-hour period. About one-sixth of our daily protein utilization comes from recycling our own body tissue. This recycling, variation from meal to meal in amino acid "incompleteness." It requires no level of nutritional sophistication to get sufficient protein, even if you eat only plant foods.

It is only when a vegetarian diet revolves around white bread and other processed foods that the protein content falls to low levels. However, the minute you include unprocessed foods such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, or nuts, the diet becomes protein-rich.

Still need more convincing? Check out this post from last month: Popeye Was Right--Greens Pack a Powerful Punch

Obesity All Over the News

The global obesity epidemic is getting plenty of attention, and rightly so.

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live he address the state of obesity and weight loss and many of the health complications of being overweight:

Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue—extra weight leads to an earlier death, as many studies confirm.1 Overweight individuals are more likely to die from causes, including heart disease and cancer. Two thirds of those with problems also have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or another obesity-related condition.2 It is a major cause of early mortality in the United States.3 Since dieting almost never works and the health risk of obesity are so life threatening, more and more people are desperately turning to drugs and surgical procedures to lose weight.

Health Complications of Obesity
Increase overall premature mortalityLipid disorders
Adult onset diabetesObstructive sleep apnea
HypertensionGallstones
Degenerative arthritisFatty infiltration of liver
Coronary artery diseaseRestrictive lung disease
CancerGastrointestinal diseases

(Rather than losing weight with a temporary diet, Dr. Fuhrman advocates permanently shifting the focus of eating to the healthiest and most nutritious foods.)

Recent news is full of new angles and thoughts on obesity. Reuters reports one such study links obesity to migraines:

As BMI increased, so did the frequency of migraine attacks. The [research] team notes that 4.4 percent of the normal weight group had 10 to 15 headache days per month. This increased to 5.8 percent in the overweight group, 13.6 percent in the obese group and 20.7 percent in the morbidly obese group.

The percentage of subjects who reported severe migraines also increased with BMI group, from 53 percent in subjects of normal weight to 57 percent in the overweight group, 59 percent in the obese group and 65 percent in the morbidly obese group.

According to Reuters another study claims that many parents can't admit their children are overweight:

Many parents do not identify their child as "overweight," but will select a sketch of a heavier model when asked to choose one representative of their child, new study findings show.

"Comparisons between images and sketches showed that parents' visual perceptions of their children more clearly reflect their child's physical appearance than words they might use to classify the child's weight," study author Dr. Helen J. Binns, of Northwestern University in Chicago.

The AFP is reporting that Sweden will begin screening four-year-olds for obesity:

In addition to registering Swedish four-year-olds' height and weight development, pediatricians will be asked to survey their BMI, which measures the relative percentages of fat and muscle mass in the body by dividing weight in kilos by height in meters and which is considered the best index for obesity.

"In most children, weight problems won't surface until later, but by checking four-year-olds we hope to find people who are especially at risk, who are genetically predisposed to become overweight," Carl-Erik Flodmark, head physician at the child obesity center in Skaane in southern Sweden.

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Soda Bubble Popping?

Melanie Warner of The New York Times reports that for the first time in twenty years the number of cases of soda sold in the United States declined. This is great news for those who believe that soft drinks cause obesity. According to research, people's demand for variety and healthier choices is attributed to the drop off:

In a research report yesterday, William Pecoriello, a beverage analyst at Morgan Stanley, said he expected the soda category to continue to decline at a 1 percent clip over the next few years. His research shows that 64 percent of the growth in bottled water is a result of people switching from soda to what nutritionists say is the healthiest beverage anyone can drink.

Even diet sodas, once a booming category, have slacked off. Diet Pepsi's case volume was down by 1.9 percent in 2005 and Diet Coke's was virtually unchanged, up only 0.1 percent, according to Beverage Digest.

Mr. Pecoriello attributed this to changing attitudes about diet soda. "According to our research, consumers say they don't like the taste, are worried about artificial sweeteners and," he wrote, do not view diet soft drinks "as 'healthy.'"

Mercury, Pesticides, PCBs and Then Some

As we have blogged about before, Dr. Fuhrman has some strong ideas about toxins.

One of the big toxins to worry about is, of course, mercury. But there are others, like chlordane, the DDT Family (DDT, DDD, and DDE), dieldrin/aldrin, mirex, toxaphene. The Oceans Alive website has information about all of these pesticides. There are also whole pages on dioxins, PCBs, and mercury.

All of Dr. Fuhrman's books have ideas about how to avoid toxins, much of which is available on DiseaseProof. For instance, there are some practical strategies in this post about mercury and another about organic food.

Coffee is Not for Everyone

Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press reports a new study is claiming that some coffee drinkers may be at greater risk for nonfatal heart attacks. Research found a genetic trait that splits coffee drinkers into two groups, those with a reduced risk of heart attack or those at an increased risk:

Research on more than 4,000 people in Costa Rica found that about half had the trait and were considered "slow caffeine metabolizers." The other half had the opposite trait, which caused their bodies to rapidly break down or metabolize caffeine, and coffee-drinking in this group appeared to reduce heart attack risks.

Among slow-metabolizers, those who drank two or more cups of coffee daily were at least 36 percent more likely to have a nonfatal heart attack than those who drank little or no coffee. Even higher risks were found for younger slow metabolizers -- those under 50. They were up to four times more likely to have a heart attack than slow metabolizers in their age group who drank little or no coffee.

University of Toronto researcher and co-author of the study, Ahmed El-Sohemy remarks:

The new study "clearly illustrates that one size does not fit all," El-Sohemy said. "Perhaps in the future we'll be making different (dietary) recommendations based on people's genetic makeup."

Here are Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts on consumption of caffeinated beverages from his book Eat to Live:

Clearly, excessive consumption on caffeinated beverages is dangerous. Caffeine addicts are at higher risk of cardiac arrhythmias that could precipitate sudden death.1 Coffee raises blood pressure and raises cholesterol and homocysteine, two risk factors for heart disease.2

Besides increased risk of heart disease, there are two other problems. First caffeine is a stimulant that allows you to get by with less sleep and reduces the depth of sleep. Such sleep deprivation results in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and interferes with glucose metabolism, leading to insulin resistance.3 This insulin resistance, and subsequent higher baseline glucose level, further promotes heart disease and other problems. In other words, caffeine consumptions promotes inadequate sleep, and less sleep promotes disease and premature aging. Adequate sleep is also necessary to prevent overeating. There is no subsidence for adequate sleep.

The second issue is that eating more frequently and eating more food suppresses caffeine-withdrawals headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. When you are finally finished digesting the meal, the body more effectively cleans house; at this time people experience a drive to eat more to suppress caffeine-withdrawal symptoms. You are prodded to eat again, eating more food than you would if you were not a caffeine addict.

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Delving Into the Archives

Even though it's only a few months old, DiseaseProof has already accumulated a pretty big library posts and podcasts on various health topics. If you ever feel like searching through those archives (either by clicking on a topic at the left and then scrolling through relevant results, or better yet typing a keyword in the search box at the upper left) you'll see there's all kinds of interesting stuff.

Here's a rundown of some of the more popular posts from our first few months:

Nuts and Seeds Are Excellent Foods!

Nuts and seeds are a natural part of the diet of homo-sapiens. They are perfectly adapted to the taste and ability of humans to pick, dry, store, and crack. No wonder study after study shows raw nuts and seeds not only lower cholesterol, but protect against common diseases of aging. I recommend almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias, filberts, and walnuts; and sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds. These delicious natural foods are high in nutrients and healthful unsaturated fats.

Nuts are an excellent natural food. Because they have hard shells and are picked off large trees with deep roots, nuts are relatively well protected from pesticides and environmental pollution. Nuts are a clean source of the healthful type of fats. They also are a good source of protein, which makes up about 15 to 25 percent of their calories.

Nuts and seeds are wonderful foods that can help ensure that your children develop healthy bodies and minds. In fact, one important key to your children's ongoing good health is to eliminate dairy products (low-nutrient foods, containing saturated fat) from their diets and make raw nuts and seeds (high-nutrient foods, containing unsaturated fat) their major source of fat.

Avoid roasted and salted nuts; they lose too many beneficial compounds. However, it is okay to place nuts in the toaster oven on low for a minute or two to enhance the crispness and flavor.

Try these nutty recipes:

Peach Ice Cream with Nut Pie Shell

16 oz. frozen sliced peaches
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup ground macadamias
1/2 cup ground pecans
4 coconut-date rolls

Make the nut crust by kneading the ground nuts with the date rolls and pressing into the bottom of a glass pie pan. Blend the frozen peaches with the soymilk and spoon into nut crust before serving.

Golden Delicious Cheese

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw blanched almonds
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

Grind the cashews and almonds into a powdered meal in a VitaMix or coffee grinder, and then blend the ground nuts with the apple slices. Spread the mixture into a flat storage dish, uncovered, and store in the refrigerator until it hardens, somewhat like cheese.

Also try this recipe for Date Nut Pop 'Ems.

Going nuts looking for organic nuts? Check out Jaffe Bros. at www.organicfruitsandnuts.com.

More Pop in the Obesity Debate

Yesterday, Dr. Fuhrman discussed recent research about soft drinks and obesity. Today in The New York Times, Eric Nagourney has more on recent research into the soda/obesity connection:

Writing in Pediatrics, researchers reported on what happened when they asked a group of teenagers to stop drinking sweetened beverages for 25 weeks — and had nonsweetened drinks delivered to the teenagers' homes to encourage them to stick to their commitment.

The researchers, led by Cara B. Ebbeling of Children's Hospital Boston, found that the teenagers' consumption of the high-calorie drinks went down by about 80 percent during the study and that the teenagers who had been the most overweight had significant reductions in their body mass indexes at the end of the 25 weeks.

The researchers acknowledge that there is little proof that drinks sweetened with sugar or corn syrup play a major role in obesity compared with other foods. But the study says that as the obesity rate among young people has gone up, so has their consumption of the drinks, which are heavily advertised.

Forecasting 2010: Will Half of American Kids be Overweight?

According to the Associated Press recent studies predict that by 2010 nearly half of the children in North and South America will be overweight. If present trends continue about 38 percent of all children will be fat. Many experts are alarmed:

"We have truly a global epidemic which appears to be affecting most countries in the world," said Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force and author of an editorial in the journal warning of the trend.

The percentages of overweight children also are expected to increase significantly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Egypt have rates comparable to fully industrialized nations, James said.

He estimated that, for example, one in five children in China will be overweight by 2010.

"They're being bombarded like they are in the West to eat all the wrong foods. The Western world's food industries without even realizing it have precipitated an epidemic with enormous health consequences," he said.

For more information on the childhood obesity epidemic read the following posts: Warning Labels from the Surgeon General on Soda?, Childhood Obesity: Growing In The Wrong Direction, Stopping Childhood Obesity--Thinking Outside the Box, and New York Nixes Full-Fat Milk in Schools.

Warning Labels from the Surgeon General on Soda?

Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press reports that new studies by two groups of researchers claim that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks actually causes obesity. While it is widely agreed that soda contributes to weight gain, labeling soda as a standalone cause is a new idea that's ruffling some feathers. Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Thun says:

"Caloric imbalance causes obesity, so in the sense that any one part of the diet is contributing excess calories, it's contributing causally to the obesity," Thun said. "It doesn't mean that something is the only cause. It means that in the absence of that factor there would be less of that condition."


Does it merit a warning on soda cans?

"I think it would be a good candidate for a warning," Thun said. "It's something that should be seriously considered."

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child he discusses soft drinks and rising obesity rates:

Obesity rates have risen in tandem with soda consumption in the United States, and in the last twenty years the consumption of soft drinks by teenagers had doubled.1 Twelve to nineteen-year-old boys consume thirty-four teaspoons of sugar a day in their diet, and about half of that comes from soft drinks. Children start drinking soft drinks at a very young age, and advertisements and promotions by the soft drink manufacturers are aggressively marketed to the young.


Annual Soft Drink Production US.gif

Source: Data from the National Soft Drink Association, Beverage World, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org)

Soft drinks and processed foods are full of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is not only fattening, but this inexpensive and ultra-concentrated sugar has no resemblance to real food made by nature. It is another experiment thrust upon our unsuspecting children with unknown dangerous consequences. Besides sugar, corn syrup, and chemicals, these drinks often contain caffeine, an addictive stimulant. Children crave more and more as they get older. By adolescence most children have become soft-drink addicts. It is no surprise that six out of the seven most popular soft drinks contain caffeine. Contrast this high level of sugary "liquid candy" with the meager intake of fresh produce by children and teenagers, and it is no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic beyond all expectations.

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Informed Eating

DiseaseProof isn't the only online information source for healthy eating and living. Recently Dr. Fuhrman came across InformedEating.org an organization that advocates a diet based on whole, unprocessed, organically grown plant foods; very similar to Dr. Fuhrman's position. Their current newsletter has lots of articles worth reading:

  • Kraft and Philip Morris Scientists Caught Comparing Notes
  • Economics of Fast Food: It's the Burgers Stupid
  • Industrialized Food Linked to Mental Illness
  • Kellogg and Nick Sued Over Food Marketing
  • Update on Connecticut's School Food Battle
  • Florida Students Protest Candy Sale
  • Suing the Pants Off SpongeBob

Another Reason to Lose Weight

Steven Reinberg of the HealthDay News reports that a new study may show a link between obesity and sensitivity to pain. One third of the individuals observed are obese and exhibited a lower tolerance for pain. This finding didn't surprise many researchers:

"For subjective indicators of pain, obese people indicated similar levels of pain to non-obese people," said study author Charles Emery, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. "But when we looked at objective indicators, we found that the obese group had a lower threshold for pain."


Emery believes that obese people may have more experience with pain because of their weight. "They may be used to some degree of pain," he said.

But obese people appear to experience greater pain than non-obese people, Emery added. "It is important to look at both objective indicators of pain, as well as subjective indicators," he said. "We need to keep in mind that the subjective rating may not be reflective of physiological processes that are going on."

One expert found the study results compatible with what is known about how people experience pain.

"These results do not surprise me at all," said Dr. Doris K. Cope, director of the Pain Medicine Division at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Three Healthy Recipes to Try This Weekend

Black and Blue Beans and Greens
½ cup black beans
½ cup white beans
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp. Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 tsp. VegiZest
1 bunch of kale, chopped or sliced in strips, stems removed
3 medium white onions
10 oz. spinach, chopped or sliced in strips (or one box frozen spinach)
4 small zucchini
Small bunch fresh dill, chopped

Start cooking the beans in 3 cups of water with the bay leaf, garlic, and seasonings. Then peel the onions and add them along with the spinach, zucchini, kale, and dill on top of the cooking beans and let simmer over a low flame for at least 2 hours. Then stir up the mixture well, breaking up the zucchini and onion now that they are soft and mushy.

Squash Fantasia
1 cup dried apricots
½ cup raisins or currants
1 cup orange juice
4 butternut squashes
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

Soak dried apricots and raisins in orange juice overnight. Cut squash in half, scoop out seed bowl, and remove seeds. Place in baking dish with ¼ inch of water at the bottom and cover lightly with silver foil. Bake in oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop apricots and raisins in food processor or hand chopper. Chop sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in food processor or hand chopper. Mix seeds and moist dried fruits together. Remove the squash from the oven and scoop the seed-fruit mix into the bowl of the squash. Add a little more orange juice if necessary to fill the bowl. Bake for 15 more minutes. Remove the squash from oven and serve as is, or for children mash the squash, mixing it with fruit/mix before serving.

Pita Apple Bake
2 apples, chopped
¼ cup raisins (optional)
2 tbsp. water or apple juice
1 tbsp. ground flaxseed (optional)
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 whole-wheat pita, split and separated

Heat the apples, raisins (if desired), and water or juice over a low flame for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and mix in flaxseed and cinnamon. Cut pita in half and fill with apple mixture. Toast in the toaster oven on high for 3 minutes. Try it with other fruits, like pears or peaches, too.

Childhood Obesity: Growing In The Wrong Direction

Obesity is rapidly becoming one the nation's worst epidemics. A dangerous trend considering the variety of diseases linked to obesity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The growing number of overweight children is especially concerning. This article on KidsHealth.org discusses the issue and provides tips to help kids beat the bulge:

Overweight children are at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - all once considered exclusively adult diseases. But overweight children may also be prone to low self-esteem that stems from being teased, bullied, or rejected by peers. Overweight children are often the last to be chosen as playmates, even as early as preschool. Children who are unhappy with their weight may be more likely than average-weight children to develop unhealthy dieting habits and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and they may be more prone to depression, as well as substance abuse.

Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child is devoted to helping parents keep their children free of disease through proper nutrition. In the book he offers this stern warning about childhood obesity:

Obesity is the most common nutritional problem among children in the United States. On in three kids in America are overweight, and the problem is growing. The number of children who are overweight has more than doubled during the past decade. Social forces, from the demise of cooking to the rise of fast food, as well as dramatic increases in snack food and soda consumption, have led to the most overweight population of children in human history. Added to this dietary disaster is television, computer, and video technology that entertains our youngsters while they are physically inactive. Unless parents take a proactive role in promoting and assuring adequate nutrition and an active lifestyle, you can be sure the children of American will continue this downward spiral into obesity and ill health. Obese children suffer physically and emotionally throughout childhood and then invariably suffer with adult heart disease, and a higher cancer incidence down the road.

State Food Regulations in Jeopardy

Food contamination has become a reoccurring topic on DiseaseProof. Dr. Fuhrman recommends avoiding or limiting intake of dangerous foods. This can prove difficult because a lot of foods have been discovered to contain toxic compounds, such as milk, fish, and even bottled water. Unfortunately it may get harder to avoid these foods because as Marian Burros of The New York Times reports a new federal bill may threaten many state regulations:

Erik D. Olson, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "What the bill would do is assure the lowest common denominator of protection. Cheaper food that has poisonous chemicals in it is no bargain. They [state regulations] are being responsible and protecting citizens when the federal government hasn't done its job."

In a letter opposing the bill, the Association of Food and Drug Officials, an organization of state regulators, said that proponents of the bill had misinterpreted it and that it extended well beyond uniform labeling. "Under this bill," it said, "a state cannot have any law, not just a food law, which is not identical to the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act."

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture also opposes the bill. In a letter to members of the House, the president of the association, J. Carlton Courter III, said the bill "threatens existing food safety programs," including milk, retail food protection and shellfish sanitation. About 80 percent of food safety inspections in the United States are conducted at state and local levels.

For more information on food contamination read these posts: The Keystone State Acts to Reduce Mercury Emissions, Is Organic Food Safer?, Early Exposure to Pesticide: Revisited, and Fishing for the Truth.

Soy Bean Thoughts from the Member Center

Dr. Fuhrman mentions in Eat to Live that soy products such as soy burgers, soymilk, and soy cheeses have grown in popularity, resulting in their widespread availability. Despite the positives of soy consumption, many people harbor worries over the bean. In the member center of DrFuhrman.com he talks with a few concerned members:

I.
Forum Member: Please give me some advice and direction concerning the use of soy milk, my physician is very upset with me that I started using soymilk, he states it is very dangerous and can cause many thyroid and autoimmune diseases, please clear this up for me, I am a 46 year old female who has had an hysterectomy and do not take any estrogen replacement.


Dr. Fuhrman: Is your physician a real doctor? Or does he just play one on TV? Before you accept a dramatic and radical claim about the dangers of soymilk, you should ask this person to show you some scientific medical journal articles that support his assertion.

Bottom line, there is evidence that substituting soy formula for breast milk has long-term harmful consequences, but no data to suggest that consuming soy milk as an adult has any negative health consequences as he claims. Keep the soymilk and get rid of the doctor.

II.

Forum Member: Should men with prostate problems (enlarged) or women who want to avoid breast cancer take ground flaxseeds? I read something about flaxseed oil and estrogen. Also, can soymilk be safely taken, or do soy products contain estrogen that may promote breast cancer?


Dr. Fuhrman: Of course. All people should regularly use some ground flax or hemp seeds, but not the oil. Soy does not promote breast cancer. In fact, research shows it has protective effects. This has been answered in depth with references on this forum in the past. Did you try to do a search for it?

That does not mean I recommend processed soy products or soy powders. It means using some tofu, frozen soybeans or some soymilk in your diet is okay.

III.

Forum Member: When I was diagnosed with an under active thyroid and began meds, I was told to stay away from soy products. I have much difficulty getting my body to lose weight and I attribute this to slow metabolism from the thyroid condition. Can you give me some information about soy and how it reacts with thyroid medications?


Dr. Fuhrman: I can assure you that eating some soy beans or tofu as part of a well-rounded diet will have zero effect on your thyroid gland. It is true that being raised on soy formula instead of breast milk as an infant increases your risk of hypothyroidism later in life, but this does not mean that eating some soy products causes thyroid problems.