Zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and prostate cancer survival

A study in Sweden examining the effects of zinc and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA on mortality in prostate cancer patients was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in April. Five-hundred twenty-five men with prostate cancer were followed for twenty years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Baseline dietary habits, stage of cancer at diagnosis, and deaths over the twenty years were recorded and analyzed.1

The authors chose to investigate these two nutrients because zinc and omega-3s share the common action of attenuating the inflammatory response, and chronic systemic inflammation may fuel prostate cancer progression. Importantly, zinc and DHA are both difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet.

Zinc is especially concentrated in the prostate, but zinc levels become depleted in cancerous cells. Addition of zinc to cultured prostate cancer cells leads to cell death, possibly by suppressing the activity of inflammatory molecules. A previous study found that long-term zinc supplementation was associated with reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer.2

In the current study, the researchers organized the study participants into quartiles according to their intakes of zinc and DHA. In men who were diagnosed at with early stage cancers, the highest quartile of zinc intake (15.7 mg zinc daily or more) was associated with a 74% reduction in risk of death from prostate cancer compared to the lowest quartile (12.8 mg zinc daily or less). Absorption of zinc tends to be low on a vegan diet – beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds have high zinc content, however these foods also contain substances that inhibit the aborption of zinc.3 A 2009 study of vegetarians found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency.4 To correct for bioavailability, the zinc requirement for vegans may be as much as 50% higher than that of omnivores.5

I recommend zinc supplementation with a multivitamin and mineral to ensure sufficient zinc intake in vegans or those who minimize animal foods.

The connection between omega-3 intake and prostate cancer is somewhat complex. For example, flaxseed oil was found to increase prostate cancer risk, whereas whole flaxseed, EPA, and DHA were found to be protective.6,7,8 EPA and DHA are known to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.9 In this study, the highest quartile of DHA intake was associated with 30% reduced risk of overall prostate cancer mortality, and a 45% risk reduction in men diagnosed at early stages, supporting the idea that DHA is protective against prostate cancer. Plant foods contain ALA, which can be elongated to DHA, but the major food source of DHA is fish, which often contains pollutants and is not acceptable for vegetarians and vegans. For these reasons, I recommend a laboratory cultivated DHA supplement made from micro-algae, which is also a more environmentally sustainable option than fish or fish oil.



1. Meyer MS, Kasperzyk JL, Andren O, et al. Anti-inflammatory nutrients and prostate cancer survival in the Örebro Prostate Cancer Survivors Cohort. [Abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; 2010. Abstract nr 5747

MedPageToday. AACR: Zinc Linked to Prostate Cancer Survival. http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AACR/19685

2. Gonzalez A, Peters U, Lampe JW, White E. Zinc intake from supplements and diet and prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(2):206-15.

3. Hunt JR. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):633S–9S.

4. de Bortoli MC, Cozzolino SM. Zinc and selenium nutritional status in vegetarians. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Mar;127(3):228-33.

5. Frassinetti S, Bronzetti G, Caltavuturo L, et al. The role of zinc in life: a review. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2006;25(3):597-610.

6. Brouwer IA, Katan MB, Zock PL. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is associated with reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease, but increased prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. J Nutr 2004 Apr;134(4):919-22

7. Demark-Wahnefried W, Polascik TJ, George SL, et al. Flaxseed supplementation (not dietary fat restriction) reduces prostate cancer proliferation rates in men presurgery. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Dec;17(12):3577-87.

8. Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Michaud DS, et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):204-16.

9. Spencer L, Mann C, Metcalfe M, et al. The effect of omega-3 FAs on tumour angiogenesis and their therapeutic potential. Eur J Cancer. 2009 Aug;45(12):2077-86. 

The potential danger of feeling great

Over the past few months I've felt the best of my entire life. I can pedal up hills on my bike that last year I could only walk. I can do killer, intense interval workouts at the Y that a year ago I could only dream of doing. My exercise sessions are exhilarating! I'm amazed at how far my body has come in less than two years when I couldn’t even run to catch a fly-away ball in the backyard, or climb a flight of stairs without shortness of breath.

However, therein lies the potential problem.

Dr. Fuhrman recently reminded me that because I had let myself go for so many years I damaged my health in the process; even though I can't see or feel the damage.  He also cautioned me that now it's imperative to keep putting superior nutrition into my body to continue to repair, cleanse and heal the cellular damage caused by years of eating the standard American diet.

In other words, now's not the time to kick back and relax with the I-feel-great mentality and start compromising on superior nutrition. There's a huge difference between mediocre/good nutrition AND excellent/superior nutrition. Plus, it’s those little, innocent compromises that do the most damage, because they pave the way for bigger, more damaging compromises on down the road. It's going to take years of eating superior nutrition to prevent disease and heal the damage that’s already been done. Just because I feel great doesn't mean that my body is out of the woods.

 

Eating for optimal health is for life; no matter how great one feels.

No compromises. No excuses.

 

image credit: dutchlabusa.com

Pesticides commonly found on berries and other fruits may contribute to ADHD

A new study in Pediatrics has made a connection between exposure to organophosphates – pesticides used on berries and other fruit and vegetable crops – and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.1

Organophosphates kill agricultural pests by acting as neurotoxins in insects.  Excessive exposure to organophosphates in humans are now  known to have toxic effects. Children are thought to be most vulnerable because the developing brain is especially susceptible to neurotoxic substances. Organophosphate exposure during fetal development and the first 2-3 years of life has previously been linked to detrimental effects on neurodevelopment in young children, including behavioral problems and deficits in memory and motor skills.1,2 High levels of organophosphate metabolites have also been found in children with leukemia.3

Since dysfunctional acetylcholine signaling is thought to be involved in ADHD, and organophosphates act by disrupting acetylcholine signaling, scientists decided to investigate a possible link between organophosphate exposure and ADHD. The researchers pulled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2000-2004) on urinary metabolites of organophosphates in children 8-15 years of age. 

Their findings showed that children with higher than median excretion of dimethyl thiophosphate, the most common of the organophosphate metabolites, had double the risk of ADHD compared to children with limits below detection. This result is alarming, because it suggests that levels of organophosphate exposure common among U.S. children are capable of promoting ADHD – not just the highest levels of exposure.1

How are children exposed to organophosphates?

fruit

Since organophosphates are commonly sprayed on many agricultural products (including corn, apples, pears, grapes, berries, and peaches), diet is the major source of organophosphate exposure in children.  Insecticides used in and around the home are also potential sources, but diet is believed to be predominant. Forty different organophosphate pesticides are currently in use in the U.S., and based on 2001 estimates 73 million pounds of organophosphates are used per year.1

In 2008, the USDA conducted tests that found malathion (one of the 40 organophosphate pesticides) residues in 28% of frozen blueberries, 25% of strawberries, and 19% of celery.1 The Environmental Working group has found that commercial baby food is the predominant source of organophosphate exposure in infants 6-12 months of age. For young children, the most common culprits are apples, peaches, applesauce, popcorn, grapes, corn chips, and apple juice.4

What can you do to limit exposure?

A study that switched children from conventional to organic foods found a dramatic decrease in urinary metabolites of organophosphates.5  You can reduce your (and your children’s) exposure to organophosphates and other potentially harmful pesticides by buying organic produce whenever possible, especially when buying foods that are most heavily laden with pesticides – celery, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, and grapes  rank among these high-pesticide crops. 

Read more about choosing produce wisely to minimize your family’s exposure to pesticides.

 

References:

1. Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, et al. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. Pediatrics 2010;125:e1270–e1277

2. Harari R, Julvez J, Murata K, et al. Neurobehavioral Deficits and Increased Blood Pressure in School-Age Children Prenatally Exposed to Pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Feb 25. [Epub ahead of print]

Jurewicz J, Hanke W. Prenatal and childhood exposure to pesticides and neurobehavioral development: review of epidemiological studies. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2008;21(2):121-32.

3. Fallon Nevada: FAQs: Organophosphates. http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/clusters/Fallon/organophosfaq.htm

4. Environmental Working Group. Overexposed: Organophosphate Insecticides in Children’s Food. http://www.ewg.org/book/export/html/7877

5. Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, et al. Organic diets significantly lower children's dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Feb;114(2):260-3.

 

 

What kind of glasses do you wear?

two pairs of glasses

For the better part of two years now I’ve been actively involved in interacting with, and observing the victories and struggles of many who have started Eat to Live. I’ve discovered a common thread among those who succeed at getting their health back and those who repeatedly live in cycles of defeat.

It is my observation that gender, age, education, social or financial status, career choice, and even support from others or lack thereof, don’t necessarily determine one’s success or failure. In a nutshell, the commonalities of those who succeed and those who repeatedly fail boils down to what kind of “glasses” the two groups wear. In other words, their perspectives determine the outcome.   

Those who succeed have a mindset from day one onward to do whatever it takes to live in the best, optimal health possible. They are focused on assimilating Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritional information so that they can learn how to take excellent care of their body. They view the opportunity to earn health back as a privilege, and that perspective gives them a tremendous amount of pleasure and satisfaction with the nutritarian eating-style. They thoroughly enjoy eating for health. Even with therapeutic fasting for a couple of days or a long stretch throughout the night, they view it as a means to optimal health; giving the body complete digestive rest to clean toxins and repair damaged cells. As they become healthier with each passing day, they feel great! This “feel good” attitude fuels ongoing success for life.

Conversely, those who repeatedly fail have a mindset from day one onward of dieting. Their finish line is merely a number on the scale.  Typically, they view Eat to Live as just another diet book to lose weight and their focus is on restrictive deprivation. Dieting mentality invites “cheating”, and with continuous cheating taste buds never change and one never gets free from toxic food addiction. It also requires continual mental and emotional exertion, and yields much frustration; resulting in repeated failed attempts, lack of confidence, false guilt and consequent binge eating. This state of being holds one captive in continual poor health for life. 

One’s perspective determines the outcome. 

What kind of glasses do you wear?

 

image credits: somewhereinchicago.blogspot.com; family-eye-care.thrivesmart.com

Saturday Night Live pokes fun at our drug-oriented culture

In our society, it’s normal to take multiple medications every day. We have accepted a belief-system that medicines are our answer to a better, healthier life, while we eat ourselves into pain, suffering and a premature death. We treat preventable chronic diseases with medications instead of treating their causes. We are offered risky medication for osteoporosis and osteopenia, while proper exercise and Vitamin D sufficiency is ignored. We are bombarded by television commercials advertising the next drug that claims to ‘fix’ us, followed by a long list of potential side effects that we choose to ignore.

At least Saturday Night Live understands. This parody, is a take on the Boniva ad featuring Sally Field. Here we are introduced to Preniva – a drug you can take even if there’s nothing wrong with you!

Gaining 1 pound per year increases breast cancer risk

Overweight/obesity is a significant risk factor for breast cancer.1 The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 17% of breast cancers (this equates to 33,000 new cases per year) are due to excess weight alone, and women who are obese when diagnosed are more likely to die from breast cancer after diagnosis.2

Obese womenA study of 72,000 postmenopausal women presented at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting took into account body mass index (BMI) at age 20 and at their current age (55-74), and compared breast cancer risk between those who gained weight and those who did not. They found that a 5 point increase in BMI during these years doubled the likelihood of postmenopausal breast cancer compared to women whose BMI remained stable.3

Although excess weight has been consistently associated with breast cancer risk, the scientists undertook this study because previous studies investigating BMI or body weight during early adulthood were not conclusive. Rather than look simply at BMI at age 20, they looked at the change in BMI over time. Their results clearly indicate that weight gain puts women at risk for breast cancer, and confirms the importance of maintaining a healthy weight for cancer protection.

How much weight gain is risky?

Weight gain of 30 lbs. in a 5’4” woman would produce a 5 point increase. This may seem like a large amount of weight, but over thirty years, it would be a barely noticeable amount – a steady weight gain of 1 pound per year. This study suggests that even 1 pound per year is a dangerous amount of weight gain. And it turns out that this dangerous amount of weight gain is quite common - 60% of the women in the study had increased their BMI by at least 5 points since age 20.4  This tells us that most American women likely do gain this much weight during adulthood, doubling their risk of breast cancer.

Read more about Dr. Fuhrman’s strategy for breast cancer prevention.



References:

1. Cleary MP, Grossmann ME. Minireview: Obesity and breast cancer: the estrogen connection. Endocrinology. 2009 Jun;150(6):2537-42.

2.  Abrahamson PE, Gammon MD, Lund MJ, et al. General and abdominal obesity and survival among young women with breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Oct;15(10):1871-7.

3. Sue LY, Genkinger JM, Schairer C, Ziegler RG. Body mass index (BMI), change in BMI, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2010 Apr 17-21; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; 2010. Abstract number 4823

4. U.S. News & World Report blog: Weight Gain Ups Breast Cancer Risk: 7 Ways to Avoid the Bulge. Deborah Kotz. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-women/2010/04/21/weight-gain-ups-breast-cancer-risk-7-ways-to-avoid-the-bulge

Stroke in the news: Beau Biden, Bret Michaels

BrainStroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death. Almost 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. Although stroke is usually perceived as a condition that afflicts older Americans, it occurs in people of all ages. About 25% of strokes occur in people under the age of 65, and 10-15% occur in those under age 45.1

Yesterday, at the age of 41, Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, suffered what is being called a mild stroke. As of now, there is no available information as to what type of stroke he suffered. Joe Biden himself suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke due to a ruptured brain aneurysm in 1985 at the age of 45.2

Bret Michaels, of the band Poison and a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (a type of hemorrhagic stroke) in April at age 47. He was released last week to a rehabilitation facility.3

What is a hemorrhagic stroke?

Most strokes, about 85%, are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked either by a clot or atherosclerotic plaque. The remaining 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain due to the rupture of a blood vessel. This may be the rupture of a small, damaged artery or an aneurysm. Hemorrhagic stroke is even more devastating than ischemic stroke – the rapid bleeding into the brain compresses the neural tissue, most often resulting in permanent damage or death.1

What makes the small blood vessels of the brain susceptible to rupture?

Hemorrhagic stroke, on average, affects younger people than ischemic stroke does, and the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure.4  Elevated blood pressure places stress on the walls of the small delicate vessels in the brain, and is the foremost risk factor for both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Small vessels contain a much thinner layer of muscle, or no muscle layer at all, making them more susceptible to the effects of elevated pressure.

How to protect yourself from hemorrhagic stroke: Avoid salt!

High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, and Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure. The most effective way to keep blood pressure in a favorable range is to avoid the huge amounts of excess salt that most Americans consume. Stroke mortality is significantly higher in Japan and exceptionally high in certain areas of China where salt intake is high, in spite of low-fat diets.5 It is also well established that Third World countries that do no salt their food are virtually immune to hypertension and strokes.

High-salt consumption may be potentially more dangerous for vegans, vegetarians, and others who have earned low cholesterol levels by eating otherwise healthful diets. Many vegans believe that their low cholesterol levels and decreased atherosclerosis risk make them exempt from all types of cardiovascular disease, but this is not the case. Unlike heart disease, cholesterol is not an important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke. In fact, low cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. A number of studies both in Japan and in the West have illustrated that fewer animal products and a low serum cholesterol were associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.6 The plaque-building process that results in atherosclerosis and premature death may in some way actually protect the fragile blood vessels in the brain from rupture due to high blood pressure. A high-salt diet may dramatically increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in vegans because they can live longer than the general population and not die from a heart attack first. Of course, excess sodium increases both heart attack and stroke death in all diet styles, but in vegans, a high-salt diet may be even more dangerous. To protect against heart attacks, ischemic strokes, and hemorrhagic strokes, you must dramatically curtail salt consumption. 

Excess salt is more dangerous than most people realize. In addition to high blood pressure and stroke, salt contributes to kidney disease, heart diseaseosteoporosis, ulcers, and stomach cancer.7 Avoiding salt is an essential component of a health-promoting, disease-preventing diet.

To learn more, read my articles and newsletters about salt, hypertension, and reducing blood pressure.



References:

1. Centers for Disease Control: Stroke. http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/

American Heart Association: Stroke. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4755

5. Kono S, Ikeda M, Ogata M. Salt and geographical mortality of gastric cancer and stroke in Japan. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1983 Mar;37(1):43-6.

6. Iso HM, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Prospective study of fat and protein intake and risk of intraparenchymal hemorrhage in women. Circulation 2001;103:856.

Yano K, Reed D, MacLean C. “Serum Cholesterol and Hemorrhagic Stroke in the Honolulu Heart Program.” Stroke 1989;20(11): 1460-1465.

7. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S. Diet and the risk of gastric cancer. Gastric Cancer 2007;10(2):75-83

Interview with a Nutritarian: Gary

On January 2, 2010, Gary was fed up with being an unhealthy artist and art professor so he attended a New Year’s Eat to Live Kick Off that I hosted in my hometown. Something “clicked” that day that permanently transformed Gary’s thinking about nutritarian eating, and he’s now on the path to long term, weight loss and health success. Welcome to Disease Proof, Gary!

 

obese "before" pictureWhat was your life like prior to discovering Eat to Live?

I was addicted to food, especially sweets and desserts. I would overeat and get seconds and thirds until I was absolutely miserable. I was also, at one point in my life, about 75 lbs overweight.

 

What motivated you to get your health back?

I’ve always been an unhealthy eater and packed on the pounds at an early age.  In my 20’s I took up bicycling which helped me lose about 40 lbs, but I didn’t have good eating habits established to maintain the weight loss. After a bike ride I would reward my efforts with junk food. 

Then I began working full time, going to college and taking care of my family.  Due to lack of time I quit riding my bike and put all the weight back on.  During my first teaching position as an art professor, I continued to gain weight so I joined Weight Watchers and lost 60 lbs.  Eventually I put most of the weight back on.  Then I met you [Emily] through some friends and was inspired by your weight loss story.  I read Eat to Live and was impressed with the health and nutrition facts in the book.  It gave me the necessary encouragement to lose weight again, because I was motivated to live a healthy and long life without medication.  I followed the six week plan in Eat to Live and experienced tremendous results in weight loss and well-being.  However, I began to get comfortable and lax, and gained a lot of the weight back.  Then on January 2 of this year, I attended the Eat to Live Kick-Off event that you hosted in Fort Wayne.  I heard real life testimonies from nutritarians, and was inspired to earn my health back once again.

One thing that you said that day that stuck in my mind was, "You can't do this with one foot in nutritarian eating and the other foot in the standard American diet.  You have to go all the way." I knew that I had to jump in with both feet in order to permanently succeed.  That was about four months ago, and I am happy to say that I’ve jumped in all the way for the rest of my life. I’ve continued to educate myself on healthy eating and getting the right nutrients, and I’m now at a weight that I have never seen in my life; at least since I began weighing myself years ago.

 

How did you feel before starting ETL?

I felt blasé’ and was self-conscious about my appearance.  I had absolutely no energy and had trouble staying focused.

 

How do you feel now?

I am energetic and feel great!  I am back to riding my bike almost everyday, and I’m even planning a long distance bike trip this summer.

In addition to bicycling, I’ve started doing push-ups every night. When I started I was lucky to accomplish two push-ups. Now I am up to doing two sets of 30. I hope to get to 100 without stopping by the end of summer.

                                         Before weight:  260 lbs                        

                                        Current weight: 173 lbs

 before and after pictures

Success tips that you’d like to share with others in the journey to health:

  • Don't go half way... go all the way. 
  • Get radical about it and lose the excuses!
  • Read, study and get educated on health and nutrition. Read Dr. Fuhrman's book, Eat to Live, and Dr. Campbell’s book, The China Study
  • Learn to cook. You can't succeed at this eating lifestyle with fast food and microwaveable processed crap.  You have to learn to control the food that goes into your mouth. I’ve learned to enjoy cooking and trying new, creative recipes.
  • Learn the value of regimen. We live in a culture that is flooded with choices. Learn to limit choices; by establishing healthy boundaries anyone can succeed!

 

If you could sum up what nutritarian eating has done for you, what would it be?

I want to live to be a hundred years old without medications or radical medical intervention, and I want to still be riding my bike at that age. I now believe I can do this; I now have the tools to make this a reality!

 

Congratulations Gary for taking the plunge and jumping in with both feet for life!

Full Belly Syndrome

obese bellyFor those of us who lived most of our lives with Full Belly Syndrome, meaning only feeling good if we were stuffed; it is crucial that we don't deceive ourselves into thinking that eating nutrient dense foods alone is going to fix our health problems. We MUST say good-bye to a full belly also! Eating "unlimited" greens, beans, and fresh fruits is not a license to stuff ourselves. Binge eating has been a habit that many of us developed over the years, and we must say good-bye to it. Bury it, and don't ever dig it back up. Ever. Full Belly Syndrome is every bit as destructive as SAD food addiction.

There were times in my obese days that I was stuffed to the gills, yet felt compelled to eat more, even if I was feeling miserable. The additional misery somehow felt good, in a sick sort of way. It felt normal.

I actually didn't feel well unless I was miserably stuffed.

Anyone else know what I'm talking about?

I truly believe that we can so trick our bodies into developing habits that even bad habits start feeling good.  Possibly it’s called addiction?

So the moral of this story is we must retrain our bodies to be content with less food, and over time we'll discover that we no longer need to feel full to feel satisfied.

obese bellies

When we are stuffed, the digestive tract is under stress, and our poor pancreas frantically works overtime to get all that extra glucose out of our blood. On top of that, we store excess fat and the cells become resistant to accepting the glucose; therefore, compounding the traffic jam of too much glucose circulating in our bloodstream. If you think about it, it's a pretty cruel thing to do to ourselves.

So, say good-bye to a stuffed belly if you want to be kind to yourself and live in optimal health!

Your body will thank you.

Pregnant women are not getting enough vitamin D

Research on vitamin D is exploding, and we are learning that sufficient blood levels of this vitamin are crucial to our health, and also that a significant proportion of the population, including pregnant women, is deficient. Vitamin D is a key factor in fetal bone growth during the third trimester. For pregnant and nursing women, vitamin D insufficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia and also puts their children at risk of impaired growth during infancy and autoimmune diseases during childhood.1

Pregnant womanDespite these dangers, vitamin D deficiency is common, affecting up to 50% of pregnant women and breastfed infants.1 Most prenatal vitamins, similar to other conventional multivitamins, contain only 400 IU vitamin D, an amount that is known throughout the scientific community to be inadequate for maintaining sufficient blood levels of vitamin D.

The National Institutes of Health considers 2000 IU to be the daily tolerable upper limit of vitamin D intake, but scientists wanted to know whether higher doses would be safe for pregnant women, and more importantly, whether using higher doses to attain sufficient blood levels of vitamin D would reduce the risk of pregnancy complications.

Researchers tested 400, 2000, and 4000 IU doses of vitamin D in pregnant women starting at 12 weeks gestation. They saw significant differences between groups in blood levels of vitamin D (25(OH)D). In healthy adults, a minimum of 30 ng/ml 25(OH)D is thought to be required for vitamin D to properly exert its many vital functions in the body.2 Consequently, I recommend that levels be maintained in the range of 35-55 ng/ml. The 400 IU group maintained 25(OH)D levels of only about 30 ng/ml, and the 2000 IU group reached 25(OH)D of 42 ng/ml by the end of their pregnancies. The 4000 IU group’s levels reached the optimal range earlier on in pregnancy and remained between 40 and 50 ng/ml for the duration of the study. Since there were no differences in any safety measures, and no adverse events were attributed to the supplements, the researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation of up to 4000 IU is safe for pregnant women.3

The researchers then looked at pregnancy outcomes – whether the vitamin D affected pregnancy complications such as pre-term labor, pre-term birth, and infection.

The risk of these pregnancy complications overall was 50% lower in the 4000 IU group than the 400 IU group. Women who had complications on average had lower 25(OH)D levels than women who did not have complications. Importantly, neonatal serum 25(OH)D correlated with maternal 25(OH)D, confirming that the additional vitamin D helped to insure that babies were born with sufficient vitamin D levels.4

As mentioned above, I recommend that 25(OH)D levels be maintained in the range of 35-55 ng/ml. These authors recommend serum 25(OH)D levels of at least 40 ng/ml, and therefore supplementation level of 4000 IU according to their results. However, the level of supplementation necessary for individuals to reach optimal serum 25(OH)D levels may vary. Vitamin D needs of individual pregnant women should be assessed by blood test and supplementation should be adjusted accordingly. For some women that may be 2000 IU, but others may require more. I will continue to monitor these studies, and update my recommendations accordingly. 

 

References:

1. Mulligan ML et al. Implications of vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and lactation. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences.Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(suppl):1080S– 6S.

3. Wagner CL et al. "Vitamin D supplementation during Pregnancy Part I NICHD/CTSA Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT): Safety Considerations" PAS 2010; Abstract 2630.7.

4. Wagner CL et al. "Vitamin D supplementation during Pregnancy Part 2 NICHD/CTSA Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT): Outcomes" PAS 2010; Abstract 1665.6

MedPageToday: PAS: Vitamin D Cuts Risks of Pregnancy. Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today May 01, 2010

http://www.medpagetoday.com/tbprint.cfm?tbid=19847

Refined carbohydrates increase heart disease risk

white bread

Intact carbohydrates – whole grains and starchy vegetables – are more healthful than refined carbohydrates like white rice and white flour products, since they remain rich in micronutrients and fiber.  Carbohydrates’ influence on heart disease was recently investigated based on glycemic index.   The glycemic index (GI) evaluates the blood glucose response per gram of carbohydrate in particular foods on a 1-100 scale.  Glycemic load (GL) is a similar ranking, but is thought to be more meaningful because it takes into account the carbohydrate content of a certain portion size of each food rather than a fixed number of grams of carbohydrate. In general, most refined carbohydrate foods, devoid of fiber to slow down absorption of sugars, are higher in glycemic index than unrefined foods. For example: high GI foods include sugar, white bread, and sweetened breakfast cereals; low GI carbohydrate foods include many whole grains, fresh fruits, beans, and vegetables.1  White potatoes, although they are a whole plant food, are also high in GI and GL, and potato consumption of even one serving per day is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes.2

Foods with a high glycemic index (or glycemic load) produce dangerous spikes in blood glucose. Diets including large quantities of high GL foods increase the risk of diabetes, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, and overall chronic disease.3

The current study followed subjects in Italy for 8 years, divided them into four groups according to intake from high GI and high GL foods, and recorded incidence of coronary heart disease. In women, the groups with the greatest intake of high GI foods were at 68% greater risk of heart disease than those with the lowest intake. Analyzing by glycemic load revealed an even more pronounced effect - women with the highest intake of high GL foods were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to women with the lowest intake - a 124% increase in risk.4

Curiously, in this study, a similar pattern was not seen in men. The researchers noted that triglyceride and HDL levels were more sensitive to GI and GL in women than in men, but they are not sure why. However, a recent and similar study performed in men did find an increased risk of heart attack in men with the highest GI and GL food intake. In any case, most high GL foods are calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, and do not have a place in a health-promoting diet.5

Eating according to nutrient density automatically keeps the glycemic load of your diet low - the low GL carbohydrate sources are also the most nutrient rich – vegetables, beans, and fresh fruits, followed by whole grains and starchy vegetables.

 

References:

1. Foster-Powell K, Holt SHA, Brand-Miller JC. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:5-56.

2. Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, et al. Potato and French fry consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):284-90.

3. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):627-37.

Gnagnarella P, Gandini S, La Vecchia C, Maisonneuve P. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jun;87(6):1793-801.

4. Sieri S, Krogh V, Berrino F, et al. Dietary glycemic load and index and risk of coronary heart disease in a large italian cohort: the EPICOR study. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Apr 12;170(7):640-7.

5. Mursu J, Virtanen JK, Rissanen TH, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and the risk of acute myocardial infarction in Finnish men: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Oct 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Interview with a Nutritarian: Claudia

I first met Claudia on the member center of DrFuhrman.com when I was a rookie at learning the ropes of eating for health. Claudia is a veteran nutritarian and always had something helpful to recommend; supporting me through bumps in the journey, including an unexpected surgery. She’s one of those steadfast encouragers that we all need from time to time. Welcome to Disease Proof, Claudia!   

before and after photo of a female nutritarian

Tell us about your life prior to discovering Eat to Live.

I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 15; however, I didn’t become one for health reasons. I was taught in school that there were four food groups, two of which were meat and dairy. Since I wasn't eating any meat, I was made to feel that this was cause for great concern. In fact, I had an aunt who pleaded with me to at least eat a little bit of meat, so that I wouldn't “get sick and die.” 

My vegetarian diet was similar to the disease-promoting diet that most Americans eat, minus the meat. I didn't care for vegetables at all. Instead, I was addicted to junk foods like pizza, French fries, grilled cheese, and vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. As a result of my food addictions, I had a problem with overeating and struggled with my weight. By the time I was a senior in college, I knew I had a problem because friends and family were commenting that I had put on too much weight. I was always struggling to either lose weight or keep it off. I didn't have a diet-style which was sustainable or would satisfy me long enough to maintain a healthy weight.   Eventually, I eliminated all dairy products which brought my cholesterol down to a healthy level. However, I was still a food addict and eating disease-promoting foods.

 

How did you feel before eating nutrient dense foods?

I was always a low energy person and didn’t like to exercise. Deprivation dieting and exercise were both burdens to me; therefore, I didn’t stick to either of them on a consistent basis. I also developed a large fibroid uterus which placed limitations on my ability to be physically active. 

Just prior to Eat to Live, I’d been following a cooked-starch-based vegan (McDougall) program. I was losing weight, but I always felt hungry on the starch-based diet.  I was always thinking about the next meal, and had to carefully count calories in order to avoid overeating. My food tended to be colorless due to the emphasis on grains and potatoes. My skin looked pale and became extremely dry. 

 

What's different about you now? 

I’m now vibrant, colorful, and alive, and functioning everyday at my very best; enjoying life to the fullest!   I now enjoy an active life and have the energy to do so much more than I ever did before. I feel very blessed to have stumbled across this way of eating, because it has freed me from food addiction, and from the constant cycle of yo-yo dieting. It still amazes me that after failing so many times, that I was finally able to find a diet-style that would be sustainable for a lifetime. I absolutely enjoy the food that I eat now, and I love the fact that I can eat this way, feel great, and stay at an ideal weight. 

I’m also amazed how much my tastes have changed as a result of sticking to this way of eating. I’ve turned into a person who now likes just about every vegetable under the sun. It’s so true that tastes do change. I love knowing that I’m in control of my health destiny, and that I’m not doomed to suffer and die from chronic diseases that plague so many Americans.

Since I was a vegan before becoming a nutritarian, my cholesterol and blood pressure were already good. My triglycerides, which weren't terribly high in the first place, were cut in half when I switched from the cooked-starch-based diet over to ETL; and my HDL (good cholesterol) increased significantly.

My highest weight in my mid-20’s was 145 lbs. (I’m only 4’11”.) In the before picture above, I’m 31-years-old and weigh 120 lbs. Now, at age 52, I weight 90 lbs; which is less than I weighed in high school!

After many years of following ETL, Dr. Fuhrman stated that I’ve achieved the parameters associated with dramatic enhancements in life extension. He also pointed out that symptoms of longevity are often considered abnormal and treatable offenses by conventional doctors who do not recognize cases of extreme good health.

 

Do you have any success tips that you'd like to share with others in their journeys to health?

Yes, success happens. It is only a matter of time. It doesn't matter how many times you have tried and failed in the past.   There are so many of us who have experienced a lifetime of yo-yo dieting before discovering nutritarian eating, which has changed us forever. Anyone can do this. Just know that, and make it so!

 

Thank you Claudia for being a forerunner nutritarian, and for inspiring and encouraging many along the path of eating for health!