The Mammogram Debate: Myth of "Early Detection"

From the May 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Mammograms never detect “early” breast cancer. By the time a cancer is visible to the human eye on a mammogram, it is already teeming with over a hundred billion cancer cells—which have been there for at least eight years—and it already has had ample time to spread to other parts of the body. In the majority of cases, the cancer has spread outside the breast, but the small groups of cells that have traveled to other parts of the body may be undetectable for years.

Most breast cancers found on mammograms, even the ones with negative lymph nodes that appear to be localized, will later be found to have metastasized. Lumpectomy for breast cancers that are thought to be localized only stop the cancer in a minority of cases, because in most cases microscopic cancerous cells already have left the breast. Women with larger tumors or with positive lymph nodes are treated with radiation and then chemotherapy in an attempt to destroy both the localized cancer cells and those that have migrated.

Mammograms enable us to treat more patients who are found to have breast cancer, but if the treatments are not very effective, what good is it to detect it earlier? Chemotherapy for breast cancer still should be considered experimental, because the chemotherapeutic agents used have a dismal track record in producing long-term survival of more than 15 years. Chemotherapy has been shown to offer some survival benefit in young (pre-menopausal) women with breast cancer, because the cancer is more aggressive in that age range, but not a significant increase in life expectancy in older women.1,2 More aggressive cancers are more sensitive to chemotherapy.

Mammograms done in the thirty-five to fifty age range—before menopause—are even more controversial. Many respected medical authorities are clearly against mammograms in this age group. First of all, the risk of having breast cancer before age fifty is about one in a thousand. The dense breast tissue, and the high incidence of benign disease of the breast in young women, leads to decreased accuracy of mammograms. The chance of having breast cancer in this age group may be exceptionally low, but the chance of having an abnormal finding, necessitating further views, ultrasounds, and repeated tests and biopsies, is quite high.

In 1995, a meta-analysis of thirteen studies found no evidence that mammograms before age fifty saved lives. That same study did show a benefit for women over the age of fifty. Researchers at the RAND Corporation, a think tank in California, performed a cost/benefit analysis and did not recommend women below age fifty receive mammograms because—at a cost of over 1.1 billion dollars annually—there was no evidence of benefit.3

In January 1997, a National Institute of Health consensus conference was conducted to consider whether or not screening mammography reduces breast cancer mortality among women aged forty to forty-nine. The twelve-member panel represented the fields of oncology, radiology, gynecology, geriatrics, and public health. Thirty-two experts presented scientific data to the panel. The panel, working with this data and with data in the scientific literature, concluded that mammography recommendation for women in their forties was not warranted.4

Since this time, most researchers reluctantly have been forced to accept the consensus that mammograms are not beneficial in this age group. Many greeted this conclusion with dismay and outrage. Other groups, most notably the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association, reaffirmed their recommendations that even these younger women should get annual mammograms. By contrast, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Physicians do not recommend routine mammograms in the age range of thirty-five to fifty.

For more on The Mammogram Debate check out these posts:

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Ineffective Anti-Cancer Remedies: Pancreatic Enzymes

From the January 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

The theory that cancer was caused by a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes was a speculative notion proposed over a hundred years ago and then rejected. Alternative practitioners frequently unearth this outmoded and disproven theory and use it to fool gullible people.

To be clear, pancreatic enzymes are a legitimate therapeutic intervention when there is pancreatic insufficiency, such as with pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. However, no study has ever shown a health or survival benefit from using enzymes when the patient's own enzyme producing machinery is intact. Unless you have pancreatic disease, your pancreas is still capable of producing adequate digestive enzymes.

Pancreatic enzymes are used in your body's digestive process. The specific amount of each enzyme you need is finely tuned, based on the precise components of the food ingested. Excess digestive enzymes can injure the digestive tract. Contrary to what is claimed in alternative medicine circles, pancreatic enzymes are not benign. When people who do not need enzymes take them, they harm themselves.

Here are three factors you need to consider:
1. Supplemental pancreatic enzymes significantly lower the level of enzyme production by the pancreas and result in lessening of enzyme response to food stimuli. This leads to a dependency on enzymes whose amount is not adjusted to accurately suit the food ingested. Our body's own regulatory computer does a precise job that can't be matched by any alternative practitioner's guess.1


2. Chronic use or high-dose use of digestive enzymes has been found to be associated with fibrotic strictures of the colon.2

3. Higher levels of pancreatic enzymes are associated with inflammatory bowel disease.3
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Woman's Courage Leads to Years of Vibrant Health

From the January 2003 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

It is always a special pleasure to see longtime patients who have been with me since my medical practice began thirteen years ago. The vibrant health of these patients is a tribute to their ongoing efforts and to the powerful healing capacity that resides in all of us.

A dramatic recovery
I remember the first time I saw Alicia. She came to me complaining of recurrent urinary tract infections. Her episodes were painful. She had been taking antibiotics every two to three months for years and had experienced no permanent relief. She was fed up with the continual infections and urinary burning and was concerned about taking antibiotics so frequently. She wanted to know if there was anything she could do to stop the infections without having to keep taking the antibiotics.

I explained the role of the immune system and how it can protect us against infections and suggested to Alicia that if she followed my high-nutrient diet and eliminated all processed carbohydrates, she might be able to rid herself of this recurrent problem. As you would expect from someone who had suffered for so long, she had numerous concerns, doubts, and fears that I tried to allay. I spent time during those early visits describing the nutritional foundation of most of the illnesses that plague Americans.

Breaking the cycle
In order to break the cycle, Alicia agreed to take cranberry tablets (two to three times daily) the instant she felt any symptoms coming on. I also asked her to call me immediately to describe her symptoms, so that we could determine if she should begin a water-only fast at that time.

The goal was to see if we could provoke a heightened immune response from her body that would break the cycle. Once her nutritional status became strong enough, I knew we could overcome the bacteria with a powerful immune response. Once that was accomplished, her immune system's reaction to the bacterial antigens would be stronger in the future and more likely to prevent recurrences.

Alicia made a radical change in her diet. She included an assortment of seeds—flax, sunflower, and sesame—and ate her daily one-pound requirement of green vegetables. Like clockwork, four weeks into the plan she developed a severe infection. She phoned me, complaining of burning with urination. The discomfort was severe enough to make her want to resume her antibiotics.

Alicia's courage

I asked Alicia to wait and see if two or three days of water-only fasting would help stimulate a more powerful immune response—one that would result in a more long-term remission. She bravely agreed. By the end of the second day, the symptoms lessened, and on the third day they completely resolved. For the first time, she resolved her infection without taking any antibiotics. That was thirteen years ago, and she has not had another urinary tract infection since.

Additional successes
Over the years, Alicia resolved other health problems, too. Beginning in her teenage years and continuing into her twenties, Alicia had experienced very irregular menstrual cycles. Sometimes she went without a period for six months. Her gynecologist did some blood work and diagnosed Alicia with a form of polycystic ovary syndrome. He told her that she might have trouble having children, but not to worry because fertility drugs could help take care of that. She was not reassured.

Fortunately, after a few years of following my nutritional recommendations, Alicia's periods became more regular. She became pregnant four times (never needing medication to induce ovulation) and has four beautiful children. Her follow-up visits with her gynecologist have confirmed that she no longer has polycystic ovary syndrome.

A powerful tool

Superior nutrition is a powerful tool, one that patients and their physicians would be wise to use more regularly. I routinely see people recover from the so-called chronic illnesses that medical science only partially understands. And it always is a pleasure.

Weight Loss Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk

Now in case you needed even more reason to maintain a healthy bodyweight—listen up guys—according to the Associated Press losing weight lowers a man’s risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Daniel Yee reports:
After tracking the weight of nearly 70,000 men between 1982 and 1992, researchers from the American Cancer Society and the Duke University Prostate Center found that men who lost more than 11 pounds had a lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer than men whose weight remained the same over a decade.


Previous studies have found that obese men have a higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. This study appears to be the first to indicate that recent weight loss can decrease that risk.

Ineffective Anti-Cancer Remedies: Glyconutrients

From the January 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Ambrotose is a product sold by Mannatech, Inc., a multilevel company whose distributors boast that this substance is a powerful treatment for patients with cancer. Mannatech calls plant sugars "glyconutrients," and by definition these glyconutrients are present in almost all natural plant foods, especially root vegetables and mushrooms.

We must always keep in mind that multilevel marketing products are sold by local people trying to expand their down-lines, and all health claims must be looked at with extra skepticism. The parent company is not liable for any unsubstantiated or unethical claims because they legally divorce themselves from any claims made by their distributors. The parent company uses terms such as "support for the immune system" or "used on cell surfaces."

"Advanced Ambrotose" is said to contain gum acacia, aloe vera gel extract (inner leaf gel) or Manapol powder, oat fiber, brown macroalgae (undaria pinnatifida) sporophyll, vegetarian glucosamine-HCl, ghatti gum, gum tragacanth, and xylitol.

Searching the scientific literature on Ambrotose does not result in any findings, but the primary ingredient, "arabinogalactan," is a valuable compound. Arabinogalactans is plentiful in carrots, radishes, tomatoes, corn, pears, coconut, and wheat, among others. Gum arabic, a common food additive, is also composed of highly branched arabinogalactans (from which the substance derives its name). Despite the fact that glyconutrients have some valuable cellular function, the point is we all eat plenty of this already without taking Ambrotose. There is no data to suggest that adding this supplement to a healthful diet will add significant health benefits.

* Due to concerns by Mannatech, Inc. comments have been disabled for this post.

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Nutritional Wisdom: "Childhood Diets Can Create Adult Cancers"

Dr. Fuhrman’s radio show Nutritional Wisdom airs live Wednesdays at 11am EST with an encore presentation Thursdays at 3pm EST on VoiceAmerica. Here’s a peek at this week’s episode:

Cancer is not a disease that happens overnight. According to Dr. Fuhrman, childhood diets create adult cancer. Once you hear this show, you will wonder why this information is not on the front pages of every newspaper in the country. If you have kids, know anyone who does, or just want to understand why cancer rates have boomed in modern times, then listen in.

Check out the Nutritional Wisdom category for previous episodes.

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Health Points: Tuesday

The better restaurateurs never used trans fat and find it inexplicable that there’s an argument about it. They think it is not in their self-interest to feed people things that are likely to kill them.
Dr Miles Fisher, consultant physician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: "Santa is the archetypal picture of abdominal obesity." He added: "The image of Santa is of a round, jolly person and it is meant to be one of hilarity, but if you have obesity around your tummy, then it is very bad for you.
The apparent protective effect of alcohol has to do with something that happens in brain cells, the study found. The researchers also assessed more than 500 patients who suffered severe injuries to the torso and found no effect of blood alcohol levels on the death rate.
Yes, just two martinis to send me over the edge into the realm of intractable nausea and vomiting. What I would have given for a little Zofran... I had the displeasure of experiencing my scallops and salmon twice...
As with all studies relating to diet, however, there is always the possibility that the benefit stems from something other than an altered diet -- like increased intake of other foods like fruits and vegetables, weight loss, or better overall health that accompanies the decrease in fat.
A national stress survey the association conducted in January showed one in four people in the United States agrees that "when I am feeling down or facing a problem, I turn to food to help me feel better." The October survey showed that the proportion increases to one in three people during the holidays.
The study included 30 young women who would eat a meal of pasta with tomato sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese, under two different scenarios. In the first scenario, study participants were given a large spoon and told to eat as quickly as possible. In the other scenario, participants ate with a small spoon, which they put down after each bite, and were told to take small bites and chew each bite 15 to 20 times. When eating quickly, the women took in an average of 646 calories in 9 minutes. But when they slowed down, they consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes. The women rated eating slowly as more pleasant.
In general, doctors’ advice is listen to your body. If you are tired or achy, take a rest. Take days off and vary the intensity of your workout. Robert Irwin, a chiropractor in suburban Albany New York, counsels runners to watch out for signs they’re working out too hard, such as a resting heart rate 10 beats a minute over the normal rate.

“You have to have recovery time even if you are healthy,” Irwin said. “Give yourself some time to rest.”

Ineffective Anti-Cancer Remedies: Shark Cartilage and Essiac Tea

From the January 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Shark cartilage

This is a perfect example of how a good story can sprout a billion dollar industry. After the book Sharks Don't Get Cancer aired on television, showing cancer patients using shark cartilage apparently doing well, millions of cancer sufferers took (expensive) shark cartilage for years, until the first well-designed study followed cancer patients over time and found the shark cartilage had no discernible effect. Since then, manufacturers have stopped claiming that shark cartilage has any beneficial anti-cancer properties.

Essiac tea

Essiac tea is an herbal remedy that was prescribed and promoted for about 50 years by Rene M. Caisse, a Canadian nurse who died in 1978. Shortly before her death, she turned over her "ancient" formula and manufacturing rights to the Resperin Corporation. Essiac tea generally is a mixture of four herbs: burdock root, sheep sorrel, rhubarb root, and slippery elm bark. It was claimed that this secret combination of herbs directly attacks cancer, and that no one knows why many people no longer have cancer after consuming the product. It is said to work "synergistically." Several animal tests using samples of this tea have shown no anti-tumor activity, nor did a review of data on 86 patients performed by the Canadian federal health department during the early 1980s.
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Member Center: A Meat Eater's Rant

Got a question for Dr. Fuhrman? Want to ask him directly? Do you know about the “Ask the Doctor” section of DrFuhrman.com? That’s where Dr. Fuhrman can address your individual concern or inquiry. Like this one.

Recently one member wanted doctor’s reaction to this tirade by someone bashing the vegetable-based/vegan diet and promoting the advantages of gobbling up lots of animal products and organ meats. Here’s the actual rant:
It's disgraceful that you steer (or help steer) people toward veganism in your capacity as a professional nutrition consultant. No one in your profession should ever be allowed to practice if they approve of veganism as being healthy and safe for most, especially over the long haul. Meat and fish contain many nutrients that are either absent from, or present in only scarce amounts in, plant foods. Here are some examples:


Creatine is used to form adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP), our ultimate source of cellular energy. Creatine availability is critical during situations when neither fat nor glucose can be processed quickly enough to form ATP, such as during the first few seconds of high-intensity physical activities like sprinting and picking up heavy objects. Creatine supplements have been shown in numerous studies to aid performance in power-oriented sports, and to improve muscular strength in patients with congestive heart failure [Kreider RB].

Creatine only occurs naturally in animal foods, with meat by far the richest source. Not surprisingly, habitual vegetarians exhibit poorer creatine status than omnivores [Maughan RJ].

Meat, along with certain species of fish and seafood, is a rich source of taurine, an important amino acid whose concentration in eggs, milk, and plant foods ranges from negligible to none [LaidlowSA][Pasantes-Morales H]. Taurine is found in high concentrations in the heart, brain, and central nervous system, where it helps stabilize the cellular response to nervous stimulation. Taurine possesses antioxidant capabilities and has been shown in double-blind clinical trials to improve cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure [Schaffer SW][Azuma J][Azuma J].

Taurine cannot be found in plant foods. Humans can manufacture their own taurine but with far less efficiency than herbivorous animals, as evidenced by significantly lower blood taurine levels in vegans and rural Mexican women reporting low meat intakes [Laidlaw][Pasantes-MoralesH].

Carnitine is a remarkable amino acid that plays a pivotal role in energy production, and is absolutely essential for the fat-burning process to proceed. Because of its pivotal role in energy production, high levels of carnitine are found in the heart and skeletal muscle. Clinical trials have observed markedly improved survival outcomes resulting from carnitine supplementation in patients with heart failure and coronary heart disease [Davini P][Rizos I][Singh RB][Iliceto S]. A review of the scientific literature shows that this versatile amino acid has been shown to benefit anorexia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, male infertility, sexual dysfunction and depression in aging men, and pregnancy outcomes. Exercise, even at moderate levels, can cause a significant drop in muscle carnitine levels; in patients with angina and respiratory disorders, carnitine enhances exercise tolerance [Kelly GS][Cavallini G][Gentile V].

The richest food source of carnitine, by far and away, is meat. Compared to omnivores, vegetarians repeatedly exhibit lower blood levels of carnitine [Krajcovicova-Kudlackova M][Lombard KA]. Carnitine status appears to also be worsened by the high-carbohydrate diets recommended by folks like Campbell. In healthy men receiving the same amount of dietary carnitine, blood levels of this all-important amino acid rose significantly in individuals following a high-fat, low-carb diet, while no change in carnitine levels were observed in individuals on a high carb, low-fat diet [Cederblad G].

Meat is the only food containing significant amounts of carnosine, an amino acid with some rather interesting and highly beneficial properties [Chan KM]. Carnosine is a potent antioxidant, being particularly effective in protecting cellular fats against free radical damage. Research shows carnosine may accelerate wound healing, boost the immune system, protect against cataracts, reduce gastric ulcer formation, rid the body of toxic metals, and even help fight against cancer [Hipkiss AR]. The most potent effect of carnosine however, appears to be its ability to prevent glycation, which, along with free-radical production, is a major contributor to degenerative illness and the aging process [Price DL, et al].

The potent anti-glycation effects of carnosine may explain why a comparison of vegetarians, vegans and meat-eating omnivores revealed the latter to have significantly lower levels of nasty glycation end-products known as advanced glycosylation end-products (AGEs) circulating in their bloodstreams. The difference couldn't be explained by total carbohydrate intake, blood sugar, age or kidney function, as all these variables were similar between the vegetarian and omnivorous groups [Sebekova K].

Meat, especially red meat, is the richest source of B-complex vitamins. The B vitamins perform a myriad of crucial functions in the body and requirements for these vital nutrients are dramatically increased during periods of stress, illness and physical activity. Unfortunately, the body can't store a surplus of B-vitamins for times of increased need, so optimal amounts must be consumed daily.

Meat, especially red meat, is also a rich source of iron. Iron forms an essential component of hemoglobin, the red pigment in blood that transports oxygen from the lungs to the various body tissues. Insufficient iron intake can result in impaired immune function, decreased athletic performance and lack of energy. A double-blind Swiss study of women aged 18-55 who had sought medical advice for fatigue, found that most of the women had low blood concentrations of iron. After four weeks, a significantly greater number of women receiving iron supplements reported a decrease in fatigue symptoms than those receiving placebo [Verdon F]. Australian women complaining of fatigue showed similar improvements when treated with either iron supplements or a high-iron diet [Patterson AJ].

Those who need to boost their iron stores should look to red meat rather than supplements or plant foods. When previously sedentary women were challenged with 12 weeks of aerobic exercise, a high meat diet protected iron stores more effectively than iron supplements[RM Lyle]. Heme iron (the form of iron found in meat) is far more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron from plant sources. Men and women on lacto-ovo vegetarian diets consistently exhibit lower blood levels of iron, even when consuming similar total amounts of dietary iron as omnivores [Alexander D][Hunt JR].

Animal foods are also by far and away the richest source of zinc. Apart from oysters, meat is the richest source of this mineral, with red meats again containing greater amounts of this mineral than white meats. Zinc is essential for optimal growth and repair, being involved in the actions of several vital hormones and hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body. Zinc is essential for the formation of superoxide dismutase, one of the body's most potent antioxidants. Zinc deficiencies can result in growth retardation in children, significantly weakened immune function, poor wound healing and muscle loss, lowered testosterone levels and sperm counts, and have also been linked to depression and gastric cancer [Prasad AS][Brown KH][Siklar Z][Dardenne M][Ibs KH][Maes M][Nakaji S][Prasad AS][Hunt CD].

Overt zinc deficiencies are common to Third World countries where animal protein consumption is low. Milder, 'sub-clinical' zinc deficiencies also appear to be a common phenomenon in modernized nations. Those who follow low fat diets are at even greater risk of zinc deficiency [Retzlaff BM][Baghurst KI, et al].

Animal foods, most notably brains and fatty fish, are the only dietary source of long chain omega 3 fats such as DHA and EPA (special algae supplements containing LCPUFA have only recently become available). Some plant foods do contain omega-3 fatty acids, but in a form known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). To obtain the LCPUFA the body needs, ALA must be converted endogenously to longer-chain omega-3s such as DHA and EPA. The conversion rate, however, is very low, with clinical studies repeatedly showing that omega-3 fats from plant sources to be vastly inferior to those from animal foods when it comes to boosting long-chain omega-3 status [Fokkema MR][Francois CA][Tang AB, et al].

Numerous studies have shown that vegetarians consume far lower levels of long-chain omega-3 fats--not surprising considering their avoidance of meat and fish [Rosell MR, et al]. Studies of pregnant women show that, compared to omnivores, vegetarians have significantly lower levels of DHA in their breast milk, with vegans displaying the lowest levels of all. These negative fatty acid profiles are reflected in infants, with vegan newborns displaying significantly lower red blood cell levels of DHA. This is an ominous finding, given the critical role that omega-3 fats play in healthy immune function and cognitive development [Williams C][O'Connor DL][Helland IB][Moriguchi T][Dunstan JA].

Along with lowering one's omega-3 levels, low meat intakes also increase the concentration of omega-6 fats inside the body. A high dietary and bodily ratio of omega-6: omega-3 fats increases the risk of numerous diseases, including cardiovascular disease. A sizable portion of heart attacks are triggered when blood clots lodge themselves in narrowed coronary arteries and prevent the flow of blood to the heart, a process also known as arterial thrombosis. One of the early and key events in the development of thrombosis is platelet aggregation, the 'clumping together' of blood platelets. Researchers from Melbourne, Australia, compared heavy-meat eaters, moderate-meat-eaters, lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans and found that as meat consumption increased, platelet aggregation decreased. Heavy-meat-eaters displayed the lowest levels of platelet aggregation, while vegans displayed the highest levels.

While meat eaters ate more of the omega-6 fat arachidonic acid, vegetarians consumed significantly higher concentrations of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid and significantly lower amounts of long chain omega-3's. The resultant unfavorable omega-6: omega-3 is believed to be responsible for the higher levels of thromboxane A2 (TXA2) seen in the vegetarian group[Li D]. TXA2 is an eicosanoid that stimulates platelet aggregation. Chilean researchers have similarly observed significantly lower blood levels of EPA and DHA, and concomitant increases in blood platelet aggregation, among vegetarians [Mezzano D].
Now, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s response. As usual he pulls no punches in his support of the vegetable-based (and not necessarily vegan) diet:
Most people eating omnivorous diets in America are severely deficient in antioxidants and phytochemicals because of a low percentage of calories from fruits and vegetables; especially raw vegetables and green vegetables. It is this major deficiency that is a large component in the development of cancer.


Most people eating vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diets in America are severely deficient in antioxidants and phytochemicals because of a low percentage of calories from fruits and vegetables; especially raw vegetables and green vegetables. It is this major deficiency that is the biggest factor in the development of cancer, however it has been shown that this deficiency is less compared to the meat-eating counterparts.

But since we are talking here about lifespan and not about success as a linebacker on the Chicago Bears, and since the major cause of death in America is heart disease, it is still true that a person with less B-vitamins, iron, zinc, fatty acids and amino acids on the “junkatarian” vegan diet will still have lower risk of a life threatening disease compared to the average meat-eating American.

We are not just adding up nutrients here, it is end points (age of death and cause of premature death) that should be our main consideration, not just what nutrients might be optimized with one type of diet versus another.

So, while a conventional and unsupplemented vegan diet may be low in Omega-3 fatty acids, B12, other B-vitamins, zinc, and many non-essential amino acids, there are still other advantages that make this less-than-optimal diet better than the conventional omnivorous diet. When supplemented appropriately even the conventional vegan diet would grant a higher probability of a longer life than a conventional omnivorous diet.

When we are considering my nutritional recommendations it is a horse of a different color because we are not comparing a low-nutrient vegan diet to a low nutrient omnivorous diet. We are comparing a vegetable-based vegetarian, flexitarian (near vegetarian diet) that emphasizes lots of green vegetables both raw and cooked in the menus.

Plus my conservative supplemental recommendations assure nobody is low in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, B12 or Vitamin D. Some people call this diet-style Eat to Live to match the name of my best-selling book, but it may be more descriptively be described as a high nutrient density, vegetable-based, flexitarian diet. So let’s call it Eat to Live for simplicity here. Since green vegetables are rich in iron, zinc and B-vitamins, you can no longer critique this type of vegan diet as being low in these nutrients. The typical essential amino acids that a vegan diet is low in is lysine and methionine, but these are not deficient in a vegan diet that follows my Eat to Live recommendations as lysine is high in nuts and seeds and beans are rich in methionine and greens have both.

In other words, it would be extremely rare for someone following a truly healthy and well-designed vegan diet to be dangerously low in any essential or non-essential amino acids. When all the essential amino acids are adequately present, the non-essentials will also be produced in an adequate fashion. But even if they were relatively low in amino acids compared to a meat eater that lowness would most likely be a good thing not a bad thing because lower protein diets are linked to longer life and lower cancer risk, not the other way around.

The writer, who proposed a higher level of non-essential amino acids from animal products is favorable, may be able to show muscle growth is enhanced, but he can’t show lifespan is enhanced or cancer rates are lowered because the preponderance of the evidence shows less animal proteins, less cancer.

What is interesting is my book Eat to Live is critiqued on Amazon for not recommended the “proven” benefits of a diet containing grass-fed animal products. As if there are studies showing the consumption of more grass-fed animal products lower cancer rates or increase lifespan? People are just so ignorant about nutrition it is frightening. And, because the review is on Amazon, I cannot comment on some of those inaccurate and even ridiculous critiques.

In fact even a study this month December 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is just about this topic. It is a study that shows that less animal products result in less cancer and more animal protein raises IGF-1 and promotes breast and prostate cancer.

To conclude, my recommendations to eat a whole food, high vegetable, plant-based diet with less than three serving of animal products a week (vegan or flexitarian) is still hands down the most healthful diet to eat. I can’t speak on behalf of other vegetarian diets; they may be less than ideal. This does not mean that a vegan diet is healthier or more lifespan promoting compared to one that eats a small serving of animal products a few times a week. This we don’t know yet.

Here's a good article on the missing nutrients in a vegan diet go to: VeganOutReach
Be sure to click “continue reading” or “permalink” for more references and resources.
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Health Points: Thursday

“I don’t think people who count calories eat at McDonald’s,” said Michelle Iadarola of Staten Island. Although she rarely eats at McDonald’s, she was about to order a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (440 calories) because she was in a hurry. The calorie count made no difference.

The law is considered radical both by people who hold food companies partly responsible for the obesity crisis and by those who see the government’s regulation of food deemed unhealthy as an affront to freedom of choice.
This doesn’t mean that the road is not long and rough. I do feel disappointed when I end up caving to myself and eating food that I shouldn’t. Eating for comfort and stress relief is something that I do have to get a grip on, and will. Sometimes I do get feeling down about my progress, especially when I get into these places where I struggle to get the scale moving. Losing weight is tough, and I want to be as honest about my experience as possible. It’s not all good, but I do try to find the positive. I’m sorry if sometimes this doesn’t come through, I will be more vigilant about it in the future.
Dr. Teri Brentnall, an associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Washington in Seattle, announced the discovery Tuesday during a news briefing in New York, saying the discovery marks one of the biggest advances in pancreatic cancer.

With the gene now in hand, scientists have a marker that can be spotted in blood tests. Brentnall has used such a test in her Seattle studies. By testing for the cancer, she said, doctors can mount an assault on the cancer before it starts.
  • People thought that low-fat snacks were 20-25 percent lower in calories (confusing low-fat with low-calorie - in fact low-fat snacks tend to be about 15% less calories).
  • Normal weight people would eat 30 more calories per session (i.e. when presented with a low-fat snack).
  • Overweight people would eat an average of 90 more calories when presented with a low-fat option.
"We have identified several ingredients that may be associated with the outbreak. These include lettuce, ground beef and cheddar cheese," Dr. Christopher Braden, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a teleconference late Wednesday. "The most likely food vehicle is lettuce. But we are still looking at other food items."
Obesity cannot go unchecked and it is a threat to the health and welfare of children and adults alike, as obesity is linked to greater increased risks for a number of life-threatening diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But, it is uncomfortable to think that one of the solutions to childhood obesity is a scalpel.
In a study of older women, researchers found that a physically active smoker had a 35 percent lower risk of lung cancer than a sedentary smoker.

Even so, one expert called that reduction trivial because smoking itself is so risky. And Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, the study’s lead author, stressed that exercising does not give women a free pass to smoke.

Gimme a Shot of Snail Venom?

Okay, everyday I scour the newswires and blog feeds for relevant information on health, fitness, and nutrition, but, I’m a natural humorist, so part of me is always on the look out for the unusual—the out-there! Things like baseball’s worst burger, the fatness of Australian pets, or, my personal favorite, this insane comment from another low carb loony. Well here’s a new one. Kristina Collins of The Cancer Blog discusses the potential of tropical snail VENOM as pain medication:
Conotoxin is toxin made by cone snails, which are fish eating snails that inhabit tropical coral reefs. Each of the 500 species of cone snail produces roughly 50 to 100 distinct conotoxins which they use to immobilize prey. Researchers believe that this sea snail venom could be used to create a pain medication to replace morphine.
Now, I’m no doctor and maybe conotoxin has lots of merit, but it sure seems weird to me. Then again, penicillin is made from fungus and no one finds that odd. Man, science is crazy—although this is good PR for poisonous tropical snails.

Ineffective Anti-Cancer Remedies: Colloidal Silver

From the January 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

The term "colloidal" means the particles are very small so that they disperse evenly into the medium. The promoters of colloidal silver make some fantastic claims. They claim silver is a needed mineral by the body, that it extends life span, and that it protects against cancer. They claim that mineral deficiencies lead to a weakened immune system and cancer. Colloidal silver supplements also are heavily advertised as powerful antimicrobials and immune system stimulants, capable of curing up to 650 different diseases. Machines are even marketed on the internet so people can make their own colloidal silver at home.

At one time, silver products were useful as germicides, but they've been replaced gradually by less toxic and more effective antibiotics. (Not that antibiotics are not toxic too, but at least their toxicity is recognized, and they are not sold as a health food.) Clearly, anything with the ability to kill living bacteria in our body must be pretty toxic. It always amazes me that alternative enthusiasts think that toxic natural substances that have the ability to kill bacteria or cancer cells in cell culture are healthful for us to consume.

The main reason why the use of colloidal silver was halted by the medical profession was its severe and sometimes irreversible side effects. Colloidal silver accumulates in the body's tissues and causes a disfiguring skin condition called argyria. Skin pigmentation, especially around the nose and mouth, turns bluish, permanently. Those affected have been described as looking like corpses suddenly come to life. The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is 0.01 mg/m3 for all forms of silver. Besides argyria and argyrosis (graying of the whites of the eyes), exposure to soluble silver compounds may produce other toxic effects, including liver and kidney damage, irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory, and intestinal tract, and damage to blood cells and nerves.1

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Magic Beans

Beans, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, but they’re actually pretty strong medicine. Now I’m no doctor, so I’ll defer to one. In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman points out that, among beans’ many other talents, they can decrease a person’s risk of colon cancer and even reproductive cancers. Take a look:
A large recent study examined the eating habits of 32,000 adults for six years and then watched the incidence of cancer for these subjects over the next six years. Those who avoided red meat but at white meat regularly had a more than 300 percent increase in colon cancer incidence.1 The same study showed that eating beans, peas, or lentils, at least twice a week was associated with a 50 percent lower risk than never eating these foods…


..Beans, in general, not just soy, have additional anti-cancer benefits against reproductive cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.2
Now, I doubt you thought about that when you were singing, “Beans beans a magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot.” Want more bean factoids? Vegan Grandma has got a whole bunch of them:
In some Eastern cultures, legumes have been a basic dietary staple for more than 20,000 years. The lima and pinto bean were cultivated for the first time in the very earliest Mexican and Peruvian civilizations more than 5,000 years ago, being popular in both the Aztec and Inca cultures.
Be sure to check out the part of the post where she lists the many different varieties of beans. You’ll see things like Adzuki Beans and Cranberry Beans—I’m getting hungry already! Continue Reading...

High Protein Diets and Cancer

No surprise here. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News reports high protein diets may increase cancer risk:
"Many people in the United States and Italy are eating 50 percent more protein than what is recommended," Dr. Luigi Fontana, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis said. "If we eat 50 percent more calories than recommended, we become overweight and obese. What happens if you eat 50 percent more protein than required -- we don't know."


He speculated that eating too much protein increases the risk for cancer and also accelerates aging, "but we need more studies to see if my hypothesis is true or false."

One expert also thinks that a high-protein diet increases the risk for certain cancers.

"We recently published a paper that also shows that a high-protein diet is bad for you. It reduces survival; it increases the risk of cancer," said Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology.
For more on the meat-disease connection check out these previous posts:

Health Points: Thursday

  • I’m sure most parents would agree, too many kids just sit around the house all day playing video games and futzing with the computer. Who goes outside to play anymore? No wonder why childhood obesity is on the rise. You know what we need? A kiddy gym. Virginie Montet of the AFP reports two sisters thought this was a pretty good idea. Introducing Youth Visions:
Tonya Manago, a former paralegal, and her sister Keitha Howerton opened the gym last April when Manago noticed that her daughter was putting on weight.

Desha, nine, has since managed to lose 12 pounds (5.5 kilos) and now weighs 116 pounds (53 kilos), while her girlfriend Ravin, who is 10 and weighs 257 pounds (117 kilos) has reached star status at the gym by losing 22 pounds (10 kilograms).
  • Now, I’m not a smoker, so a ban on smoking in public places doesn’t really upset me, but I admit, losing the romance of a smoke-filled bar is a little depressing. Well people in Ohio, a tobacco-producing state, are about to see that imagine dissipate. According to The Chicago Tribune Ohio is poised to join the smoking prohibition:
Starting Thursday, forget about smoking in Ohio bars, restaurants, bingo halls and private clubs. Even the last bastions of smoke-filled heaven, bowling alleys, will be off-limits for smokers. Ashtrays have effectively been outlawed.


This is the thrust of one of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the nation, approved by voters last month, making Ohio the first state in the Midwest to go smoke-free and the first tobacco-producing state to enact such a ban.
  • Oh that zany “Diet Detective” Charles Stuart Platkin is at it again. This time the king of calorie-counting is going to help you overcome those pesky “Diet Villains.” Just take his diet quiz and all will be revealed, your troubles will melt away—insert tongue in cheek. From The Seattle Times:
Mostly G's: The health nut. You shop only in health-food stores, buy organic, follow a vegetarian diet, take loads of vitamins and preach about the virtues of eating "healthy." Nevertheless, you're overweight.


The fix: Don't confuse the concept of eating foods that have health benefits with eating to lose weight. Even if foods are healthy, calories still count.
Beta carotene, an antioxidant found in such foods as squash and carrots, was -- and still is, in some circles -- considered a powerful cancer fighter and a combatant against free-radical damage. While the evidence regarding the latter still, at least ostensibly, holds true, some new research suggests that beta-carotene is completely ineffective as a cancer fighter (of course, it can be argued that by helping to fight against free-radical damage, beta carotene is also battling against the increased risk of developing cancer).
According to a study led by Dr. Evelyn Cohen Reis, of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, parents of youngsters who are obese and have high blood pressure or elevated triglycerides are likely to have the same issues.


"What we took from that was, 'Gosh, you could look at the children's health and help predict whether the parents are at increased risk of heart disease,' " Dr. Reis said.
  • Are you a cell phone addict? Do you know one? Personally, I’m not into cell phones—the obsession with texting and ring tones is a mystery to me. But hey! At least we now know that they don’t cause cancer. A new study involving 420,000 Danish cell phone users determined cellular phones don’t trigger cancer. More from the Associated Press:
Cell phones beam radiofrequency energy that can penetrate the brain’s outer edge, raising questions about cancers of the head and neck, brain tumors or leukemia. Most research has found no risk, but a few studies have raised questions. And while U.S. health officials insist the evidence shows no real reason for concern, they don’t give the phones a definitive clean bill of health, either, pending long-term data on slow-growing cancers.

Food-Cancer Connections

What causes cancer? The answer seems larger than life—like pondering the age old question, “Why are we here?” For a long time I assumed you only got cancer from toxic chemicals or unlucky genes. I never imagined eating habits could have something to do with it. Good thing I read Eat to Live:
Most Americans are not aware that the diet they feed their children guarantees a high cancer probability down the road.1 They don’t even contemplate that eating fast-food meals may be just as risky (or more so) than letting children smoke cigarettes2…
More reason to put fast-food in the junk category, but what about meat (or animal products) in general? Back to Eat to Live:
In China, animal-food consumption correlated well with early menarche and increasing levels of sex hormones. Serum testosterone levels had the best correlation with breast cancer, even better than estrogen. Of note is that increasing levels of testosterone significantly increases the risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer. Testosterone rises as well with increasing levels of obesity, and being overweight is another consistent risk factor.3
Let’s also check out what Dr. Fuhrman has to say about dairy, refined foods, and fats? More from Eat to Live:
Dioxin is a highly toxic chemical compound that even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits is a prominent cause of many types of cancer in those consuming dairy fat, such as butter and cheese4…


…Medical investigations clearly show the dangers of consuming the quantity of processed foods that we do. And because these refined grains lack fiber and nutrient density to turn down our appetite, they also cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and significantly increased cancer risk5…

…Numerous epidemiological and clinical trials have shown that diets low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates correlate with lower body weights worldwide. High-fat diets always show a direct response relationship not only to obesity but also to heart attacks and cancer.6
Now this next question should be obvious, “What kind of diet reduces the risk of cancer?” Well Eat to Live has gotten us this far, let’s go full-circle with it:
Phytochemicals, or plant-derived chemicals, occur naturally in plants. These nutrients, which scientists are just starting to discover and name, have tremendously beneficial effects on human physiology. The effects of our not consuming sufficient amounts of them are even more astounding—premature death from cancer and atherosclerosis…


…Plant fibers—the indigestible and unabsorbed part of the plant foods—are now looked at in a completely different way than in the past. We now understand that it is not merely the amount but the variety of fiber in the diet that protects against cancer. Our digestive tract is teeming with many species of bacteria that convert these fibers into numerous essential fatty acids and other nutritive substances with strong immune-enhancing and anti-cancer properties.7 These bacterial degradation products are essential for optimal health and protection against various cancers, especially colon cancer...

…Eating a wide variety of raw and conservatively cooked plant foods (such as steamed vegetables) is the only way we can ensure that we get a sufficient amount of essential health-supporting phytochemicals. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements or adding some vitamins to processed foods will not prevent the diseases associated with eating a diet containing a low percentage of calories from whole natural foods.
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Ten Ways to Help Prevent Breast Cancer

From the May 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

Overall, no one can disagree with the fact that mammograms do nothing to prevent breast cancer and very little to save women’s lives from breast cancer. We just have not seen this happen in the era of extensive mammogram use. In the meantime, don’t just sit back and hope you don’t contract cancer. Be proactive and adjust your diet and lifestyle to achieve a high level of health, so that any abnormal cells never can overcome your body’s powerful immune defenses. Early, precancerous changes in the breast can be normalized by nutritional excellence. Women can prevent breast cancer, and even if they have cancer they can significantly increase their chances of survival with nutritional excellence.

The best ways a woman can protect herself from breast cancer are as follows:
1. Do not drink alcohol.
2. Do not smoke.
3. Do not take estrogen.
4. Have babies and nurse them for two years each.
5. Avoid dietary carcinogens, which are predominantly found in fatty fish and dairy fat.
6. Eat a high-nutrient, vegetable-based diet as described in my book, Eat To Live. Green vegetables are the most powerful anti-breast cancer food. Take note that a vegetarian diet does not show protection against breast cancer as much as a diet rich in green vegetables, berries, and seeds. It is the phytochemical nutrient density and diversity of the diet that offers the most dramatic protection against cancer, not merely the avoidance of meat or fat.
7. Take a multivitamin to assure nutritional completeness and take at least 100mg of DHA daily.
8. Use one tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily.
9. Don’t grill or fry foods. Steaming vegetables or making vegetable soups should be the major extent of cooking.
10. Exercise at least three hours a week, and maintain a lean body with little body fat.