The Standard American Shockwave

Now, if you’re looking for praise of the standard American diet, you’re at the wrong place. Need proof? Here’s a few of my favorite DiseaseProof bashings of the standard American diet. Oh how sad it is. Enjoy:
Well if those didn’t get your dander up, this sure will. According to new research the wonderment (sarcasm) that is the standard American diet has wreaked havoc on what used to be one of the healthiest groups of people in the world, the Okinawans. Diet-Blog’s got the skinny:
This has all changed - and I was shocked to read that Okinawa Island now has the highest rate of obesity in Japan (almost double that of the rest of Japan). Diabetes affects 8.2% of Okinawans compared to 5.7% nationally (via am New York).


After World War II Okinawa was under US administration for 27 years, and during that time a number of large military bases were established. Along with the military came American food - burgers, soda, and french fries.
The Okinawan’s aren’t the only ones ravaged by the introduction of Big Macs and Krispy Chicken. In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman tells the sad tale of the Cretans:
In the 1950s people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete, were lean and virtually free of heart disease. Yet over 40 percent of their caloric intake come from fat, primarily olive oil. If we look at the diet they consumed back then, we note that Cretans ate mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and some fish. Saturated fat was less than 6 percent of their total fat intake. True, they ate lots of olive oil, but the rest of their diet was exceptionally healthy. They also worked hard in the fields, walking about nine miles a day, often pushing a plow or working other manual farm equipment.


Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They're still eating a lot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted. Today, heart disease has skyrocketed and more than half the population of both adults and children in Crete is overweight.1
For more on the Okinawan research, visit The Okinawa Study.
Continue Reading...

NY Times: Michael Pollan on Nutritionism

Hopefully you had the opportunity to read Michael Pollan’s recent article in The New York Times Magazine. In it, he proposes lots of reasons for America’s dietary indiscretions; misinformation, bad science, and the rise of industrialized food, to name a few.

Needless to say, my Fuhrman-senses were tingling. Especially concerning the concept of “nutritionism.” According to Pollan, “The term nutritionism refers to the widely shared but unexamined assumption that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient.” Meaning it’s up to scientists to discover the hidden healthful particles (nutrients) in food and then this will help us make informed decisions about which foods appropriately fuel our bodies and give us sustained health. Sounds good, right?

Well, as Pollan explains, historically these types of scientific discoveries—and their good intentions—tend to get mucked up along the way and ultimately become misconstrued. One might even argue bastardized. More from the article:
This is a great boon for manufacturers of processed food, and it helps explain why they have been so happy to get with the nutritionism program. In the years following McGovern’s capitulation and the 1982 National Academy report, the food industry set about re-engineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and less of the bad, and by the late ’80s a golden era of food science was upon us. The Year of Eating Oat Bran — also known as 1988 — served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran’s moment on the dietary stage didn’t last long, but the pattern had been established, and every few years since then a new oat bran has taken its turn under the marketing lights. (Here comes omega-3!)


By comparison, the typical real food has more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t easily change its nutritional stripes (though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem). So far, at least, you can’t put oat bran in a banana. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might be either a high-fat food to be avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were given a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the protein), while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold.

Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.
Now if you ask me, Pollan hits the nail right on the head. All this time and money wasted on figuring out which nutrient is going to be today’s fountain of youth. And when one is discovered, food-marketers from across the country just want to know one thing, “How can we use it to make people believe our mass-produced junk food is healthy?” Meanwhile fresh fruits and vegetables are staring us right in the face. Go ahead, let out a little sigh.

If you’re familiar with Michael Pollan’s work you know that he strongly supports a vegetable-based diet for health, disease-prevention, and longevity. So I kind of figured Dr. Fuhrman would agree with him here. And he does for the most part, but, unlike Pollan, Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t feel our grandparents were the best eaters. From the article, here are Pollan’s comments:
The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy; you would simply eat the way your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat. The question is, Are we better off with these new authorities than we were with the traditional authorities they supplanted? The answer by now should be clear.
Personally, despite this little disparity, I still think Michael Pollan is onto something—something good. For me, it all comes down to filtering out bad information. And yes, that takes steely resolve. You have to differentiate junk science from good science, marketing from the truth, and perhaps most important of all, learn to ignore dangerous reactionary claims. Dr. Fuhrman’s thoughts on Pollan’s piece should help explain where I’m coming from:
I think in the future more and more intelligent people will realize the message is clear. And certainly there will be more and more examples of others parroting a similar message to mine.


Eat less, eat mostly plants, don't eat processed foods. We agree. These are the main points.

I still don't think our grandparents ate too great, so we can do better than ever before with what we know about nutrition today. Too bad there are so many nuts out there confusing this issue, (Atkin's, Weston Price, Zone, Eat For Your Blood Type, Dr. Mercola's Metabolic Typing, Glycemic Index) leading the addicted masses into more and more confusion, so they miss the main points.
Maybe that’s what’s happening? All these fad diets get the press because they fly in the face of conventional thinking. And why not? It’s common knowledge that the standard American diet isn’t working. Don’t believe me? Just look at the obesity rates in this country, or the prevalence of cancer and heart disease. If you read these types of news reports for too long, you’d want to try something radical too!

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman remarks that he doesn’t feel everyone will embrace his vegetable-based diet, mainly because of the influence of outside factors. After all, why meet the problem head on when you can devour an entire box of “enriched” chocolate breakfast cereal or have some doctor write you another prescription? I felt now was an appropriate time to mention this:
The social and economic forces that are pulling our population toward obesity and disease will not be defeated by one book preaching about achieving superior health with nutritional excellence. The “good life” will continue to bring most Americans to a premature grave. This plan is not for everyone. I don not expect the majority of individuals to live this healthfully. However, they should at least make that decision by being aware of the facts rather than having their food choices shaped by inaccurate information or the food manufacturers. Some people will choose to smoke cigarettes, eat unhealthfully, or pursue other reckless habits.

Red Meat, Heart Disease, and Diabetics

Now I’m not a red meat eater, and haven’t been for several years. Why? Well it’s one of those foods, along with bacon, potato chips, and doughnuts that I simply don’t trust. And according to Food Navigator there’s another reason to be suspicious of it—especially if you’re diabetic. New research has determined diabetics who eat lots of red meat increase their risk of heart disease by fifty-percent. Check it out:
The research looked at the effects of red meat and dietary iron intake on the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) among the 6,161 women with diagnosed type-2 diabetes enrolled in the Nurses Health Study…


… After adjusting the results for confounding factors such as age and BMI, the researchers report that high intake of heme iron from red meat, poultry and seafood was associated with a significantly increased risk of CHD for these diabetic women.
Issues surrounding red meat are no stranger to this blog. In fact, this past November a new study determined a link between red meat and cancer. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News was all over it:
"We found that higher red meat intake may be a risk factor for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer among premenopausal women," said lead author Eunyoung Cho, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The majority of breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive, and the incidence of hormone receptor-positive tumors has been increasing in the United States," she added.
And let’s not forget this University of San Diego School of Medicine press release claiming milk and red meat contain a unique molecule which promotes diseases. More from the release:
The study’s senior author, Ajit Varki, M.D., UCSD professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, and co-director of the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center, said that although it is unlikely that the ingestion of Neu5Gc alone would be primarily responsible for any specific disease, “it is conceivable that gradual Neu5Gc incorporation into the cells of the body over a lifetime, with subsequent binding of the circulating antibodies against Neu5Gc (the immune response), could contribute to the inflammatory processes involved in various diseases.”
Some other posts worth taking a look at:

Cholesterol Levels and Heart Attacks

Adapted from the revised version of Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection for Life:

There is irrefutable evidence that high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Make no doubt about it: lowering your LDL cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.

The latest recommendation from most medical authorities and medical organizations such as the American College of Cardiology is to lower LDL cholesterol level below 100. This is in accordance with what has been observed for years in epidemiology studies. People in countries who ate a more simple plant-based diet did not have heart attacks and those populations are always found to have much lower cholesterol levels than was thought to be acceptable in the past. For instance, the average total cholesterol in rural China was 127 and the average LDL was below 80. Heart attacks in rural China were exceedingly rare. The same thing was observed in multiple interventional and population studies, such as the Harvard Health Study; those with LDL’s below 100 were not observed to have heart attacks. Medical authorities are now finally in agreement that much lower cholesterol levels are needed to be truly protective.

It would be foolish for anyone not to maintain an LDL cholesterol below 100 or total cholesterol below 150 mg/dl. Less than 10% of the adult population in America, however, actually has cholesterol levels that meet these newest recommendations, designed for more significant reduction in cardiac deaths.1

Recent medical trials reinforce the importance of maintaining LDL levels below 100 for significant protection and have led medical authorities to recommend cholesterol-lowering drugs to the vast majority of Americans.

When resorting to medical intervention, rather than dietary modifications, other problems arise, reducing the potential reduction in mortality possible, as these individuals are at risk of serious side effects from the medication. The known side effects for various statins (the most popular and effective medications to lower cholesterol) include hepatitis, jaundice, other liver problems, gastrointestinal upsets, muscle problems and a variety of blood complications such as reduced platelet levels and anemia. Continue Reading...

Are the Inuit Healthy?

The Inuit, know anything about them? Personally, I don’t know much, just that they’re Eskimos. So, ever the good student, I decided to do a little Wikipedia search. Sure enough I turned up some interesting information. Here’s the introduction:

Inuit (Inuktitut syllabics, singular Inuk) is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic coasts of Siberia, Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Labrador, and Greenland. Until fairly recent times, there has been a remarkable homogeneity in the culture throughout this area, which traditionally relied on fish, sea mammals, and land animals for food, heat, light, clothing, tools, and shelter. Their language, sometimes incorrectly called Inuktitut, is grouped under Inuit language or Eskimo-Aleut languages.

Okay, if animal foods are an integral part of Inuit society, then I’ve got a question. How is their health? What’s the answer? Well, that depends on who you ask. For example, this report was emailed to me by a reader. According to Margaret Munro of The Vancouver Sun a new study links the Inuit’s game rich diet to “remarkable” protection against heart disease and cancer. Take a look:

While accelerating environmental and social meltdown is putting huge stress on Arctic communities, the study of almost 1,000 Inuit in northern Quebec shows the diet rich in game continues to offer remarkable protection, says lead researcher Dr. Eric Dewailly of Laval University.


"The study shows that they still have huge benefit and protection," says Dewailly. He and his colleagues presented the results of the on-going study here yesterday at the annual scientific meeting of ArcticNet, a northern research consortium.

Now this report is troubling, because if you remember from a previous post the Inuit, and other primitive people, aren’t exactly tipping the life-expectancy scale. More on that from Do Primitive Peoples Really Live Longer:

Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.1…


…We now know that greatly increasing the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and raw nuts and seeds (and greatly decreasing the consumption of animal products) offers profound increased longevity potential, due in large part to broad symphony of life-extending phytochemical nutrients that a vegetable-based diet contains. By taking advantage of the year-round availability of high-quality plant foods, we have a unique opportunity to live both healthier and longer than ever before in human history.

So what’s the deal with this report? Or more specifically, is the study flawed? I don’t know, but here’s what Dr. Fuhrman had to say about it:

The research did not show that the Inuits live a long time or are healthy. The statements in the article made conclusions not supported by the research. The research merely was tracking the declining health of the Inuits since the spread of processed junk food among younger people. We can’t look to this group as an example of long-lived healthy people.

Now for all my fellow nerds out there, Dr. Fuhrman also recommended checking out John Robbins’s book Healthy at 100. In it he lists the world’s healthiest people, and surprise-surprise the Inuit didn’t make the cut. From the online table of contents, here is the list:

1. Abkhasia: Ancients of the Caucasus
Where people are healthier at ninety than most of us are at middle age


2. Vilcabamba: The Valley of Eternal Youth
Where heart disease and dementia do not exist

3. Hunza: A People Who Dance in Their Nineties
Where cancer, diabetes, and asthma are unknown

4. The Centenarians of Okinawa
Where more people live to 100 than anywhere else in the world
Continue Reading...

Heart Disease: Still Hitting the South Hard

Maybe heart disease should be considered an epidemic. Have you watched television lately? Every other commercial is for some sort of cholesterol-lowering medication. Goes to show you, there’s a lot of money to be made in disease. Well then, the pharmaceutical companies must be making a fortune in the south because according to the Associated Press, heart disease is still a big problem in the southern states. Tom Breen reports:
Mississippi had the highest fatality rate from cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, at nearly 406 deaths per 100,000 people.


Oklahoma was next, with nearly 401 deaths per 100,000; Alabama, with 378 deaths; Tennessee, with nearly 374 deaths per 100,000; and West Virginia, with 373.

There were twice as many angioplasties recorded in Southern states as compared to other regions, and the report found similar ratios of bypass surgery, open-heart surgeries and pacemaker implants.