The environmental consequences of our dietary choices

Earlier this month I was given the opportunity to accompany my father (Dr. Fuhrman) to an international global warming conference held by The World Preservation Foundation in London. I knew that attending the conference would enlighten me about how the food choices we make influence not just our own health, but in a much broader sense, contribute to the earth’s “well-being”. At the conference, members of British Parliament convened with scientists, physicians and experts from around the world to share their expertise and enlighten attendees, and people tuning in on the internet and their television sets about measures we can take to preserve the earth’s resources and avert global warming. It was clear from the outset why my father was invited to speak, for those organizing the conference were well aware of how minimizing or eliminating the consumption of animal foods is essential to save the planet from the daunting environmental catastrophes we currently face. If these sobering statistics touch you the way they touched me, they will make you even more impassioned about making the choice to eat predominantly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and avoid animal products. The foods you put in your mouth today really do influence the world of tomorrow. Here are some of the facts about meat production I learned at the conference: 

1)     Raising livestock and their by-products account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide green house gas (GHG) emissions. 

2)     Thirty percent of the entire land surface of Earth is devoted to livestock production, including plants used to feed the livestock.

3)     Replacing meat with plant-derived sources of calories and protein could reduce the land area required to feed the human population by more than 80 percent and recover about 25 percent of the landfor restoration, solar energy capture, or other eco-friendly purposes.

4)     Between 23-30 percent of our global ecological footprint comes from agriculture, primarily livestock production.

5)     Beef takes 70 times more land to produce than vegetables.

6)     80 percent of the world’s soy production is consumed by livestock.

7)     About 50 percent of the world’s grain supply is used to feed livestock. This is while almost 11 million children who live in the countries where these feed grains are grown, die ironically of hunger each year.

8)     In 2009, for the first time, the number of people suffering from hunger exceeded 1 billion. This doesn’t include people facing hunger shortages from natural disasters.

9)     If all 6.78 billion people on Earth began consuming as many animal products as residents of the United States, we would need over 3 planet Earths to meet the demand. If all people on Earth became vegetarians, less than one Earth would be needed to meet food demands.

 

The land and resources required in the production of animal products is startling.   It is sad to think about how many people are starving in the world, while most of the soy, wheat, and corn grown around the globe are fed to livestock.

Earth

I learned so much more at the conference, such as how global warming is melting the ice caps and raising ocean levels and the destruction this will have on our world in the future. I learned more about the essential nature of the Amazon Rainforest as the “lungs of the earth” and how livestock production is fueling continual and rapid deforestation via burning of the rain forests to prep the land for animal feed crops, and how this contributes to the emission of black carbon (soot) in the air that is deposited via wind currents in Antarctica, accelerating the melting. I also became aware of the world’s current water shortages, how much water is used in the production of meat and how our oceans are rapidly being depleted of fish. I began writing about many of these things to include in this post, but this resulted in pages and pages of jaw dropping facts.   I hope to include more about what I learned at the conference in future posts. 

Even though I learned that much land, water, and energy is used to produce meat and the destructive affects this has on our environment, I remain hopeful that the accelerating destruction of our world’s ecology can be turned around. If people understood the big picture: how animal products contribute to chronic disease, is torturous to animals, and hurtful to our planet I think most would willingly make the change to a plant-based diet. The key to solving this problem, just like solving most health problems, is knowledge. 

Vitamin B12 may protect against Alzheimer 's disease

Vitamin B12 is required for important biological functions like red blood cell production, nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. Deficiency in B12 can cause a variety of problems including anemia, depression, confusion, fatigue, digestive issues, and nerve damage. [1]

Vitamins. Flickr: bradley jVitamin B12 is scarce in plant-based diets, and is a common deficiency, especially in the elderly. Of course, diets low in animal products and high in unrefined plant foods dramatically reduce the risk of chronic disease, but these healthful diets do require a supplemental source of vitamin B12. The rates of deficiency increase with age, and about 20% of adults over the age of 60 are either insufficient or deficient in vitamin B12.[2] Recent research has suggested that the current recommendations for B12 intake may be inadequate – not just for the elderly, but even for young people who have adequate absorption capability. Therefore supplementation with vitamin B12 is likely important for most people, and absolutely required for most vegans to achieve sufficient B12 status.[3]

When vitamin B12 takes part in DNA synthesis, it helps to convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, therefore lowering homocysteine levels. [1] Elevated homocysteine is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Since B12 is important for nervous system function, and many cardiovascular disease risk factors are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists hypothesized that adequate vitamin B12 levels would be protective, and elevated homocysteine would be detrimental with respect to the development of Alzheimer’s. They investigated the relationship between homocysteine, B12, and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in a group of 271 healthy older persons (65-79 years of age) over the course of 7 years. Elevated homocysteine was associated with increased risk, and increased B12 with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. [4]

Future studies will evaluate the effectiveness of vitamin B12 supplementation as a preventive measure against dementia, but we don’t need to wait for those results – we already know that B12 is an important supplement to take, and Alzheimer’s prevention may turn out to be an added benefit of maintaining adequate B12 levels.

A health-promoting diet is the most effective way to maintain excellent health and protect against chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But in order to enjoy the strongest protection possible, it is just as important to prevent deficiencies of certain nutrients that may be sub-optimal in an overall health-promoting diet, such as vitamin B12, zinc, DHA, and vitamin D, by taking the necessary supplements.

 

References:

1. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. November 18, 2010]; Available from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12/.
2. Allen, L.H., How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency? Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(2): p. 693S-6S.
3. Bor, M.V., et al., Daily intake of 4 to 7 microg dietary vitamin B-12 is associated with steady concentrations of vitamin B-12-related biomarkers in a healthy young population. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(3): p. 571-7.
4. Hooshmand, B., et al., Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology, 2010. 75(16): p. 1408-14.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

runnerEarly this morning, in the drizzling rain and cool temps of northern Indiana, my oldest son and I ran in my hometown’s annual 4-mile Thanksgiving run. Just before the start, the announcer exclaimed with much enthusiasm that a record 2400 runners had come out for run; making it one of the largest Thanksgiving 4-mile runs in the nation this morning! Then the National Anthem was played and I absolutely lost it as tears of gratitude and joy welled up in my eyes. On this Thanksgiving Day, amongst the sea of runners, I was one of them; a healthy athlete ~ a bona fide runner!     

Just three years prior, I was 100 lbs overweight. I'd been obese for nearly twenty years and had given up hope. I had heart disease, pre-diabetes, chronic fatigue, depression, lower back pain, achy joints, and shortness of breath from just climbing a flight of steps or walking to the mailbox and back.

Well, those days are over . . . for good!

Thanks to making the commitment to follow Dr. Fuhrman’s high nutrient eating plan as outlined on p.179 of Eat to Live, I lost the majority of excess weight within ten months. I no longer have heart disease, pre-diabetes, or any of the above mentioned maladies; and even more importantly, I'm now free from food addiction and the resulting eating disorders that had plagued my life for years. 

As I was nearing the finish line and making my legs give that final extra push, and the exuberant crowd was cheering, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m an obesity survivor!”

This same freedom is for everyone!  

Cheering for all to do whatever it takes to enjoy optimal health this Thanksgiving Day and always ~ you will never regret it! 

The Myth of Moderation

Here in the United States tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and for many, the day typically includes many compromises; especially overeating on disease promoting foods to the point of misery. What a perfect time to be reminded of the pitfalls of the myth of “everything in moderation.” Dr. Scott Stoll, a board certified physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; along with being the team physician for Lehigh University, team physician to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Team, department chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Coordinated Health Medical Director, member of the Whole Foods Medical and Scientific Advisory Board, national speaker on achieving optimal health through nutritional excellence and exercise, and faculty member of the Nutritional Education Institute will be sharing valuable insights to bust the popular moderation fallacy. Welcome to Disease Proof, Dr. Stoll.

 

We are now on the threshold of a beautiful holiday season that is filled with joy, family, wonderful traditions, and numerous dietary landmines. Traditional foods of the holiday season are typically the least healthy and most addictive foods that can trigger destructive cycles of overeating and binge eating.  How can one safely navigate the season ahead? By avoiding the myth of “everything in moderation."

Why do so many people find that by the first of January they have gained weight and derailed their healthy diet? One common justification, as people reach for a piece of chocolate or second piece of dessert, is that one can safely eat everything in moderation. The underlying belief is that somehow the moderate consumption of unhealthy food is okay and won’t cause any harm. However, science has verified that even small amounts of these foods cause harm to the body; and for many that struggle with food addiction and disease, the moderate consumption of addictive, sugar laden and processed foods can be dangerous.

“Everything in moderation” is a deceptive belief, because there is no established standard for moderate intakes of food. 

How much is too much and where does one draw the line? Without a standard, moderation is a continually moving target; motivated by cravings and desires that promote the overconsumption of unhealthy foods. The only outcome in the end is disease, guilt, and feelings of failure.

Moderation thinking ultimately depends on one’s ability to accurately recall food intakes and amounts. How much was eaten today, yesterday, or last week? The preponderance of studies on dietary food recall found that people generally under-report or forget the consumption of unhealthy foods. 

I want to encourage you to enjoy all the beautiful things of the upcoming holiday season and create new memories with healthy food alternatives. Don’t be caught off guard by the myth of moderation, but instead proactively set your eyes on the prize of optimal health. 

 

  • Prepare mentally and have a plan in place regarding how you will handle the tempting seasonal foods that will appear in break rooms, living rooms and dining rooms. 
  • Know yourself, your weaknesses, and the potential for food addiction.  Avoid circumstances that may lead to temptation. 
  • Prepare healthy meals for your guests, or if you are a dinner guest, take healthy alternatives to share with others.

                 fresh produce

Don’t let the myth of moderation lead you astray. Excellent health is never found in moderate effort, but rather in excellent dietary habits that are consistently and diligently applied to each new day and situation over time. 

 

Happy Holidays!

 

image credit: flickr - man eating by subwel; produce by US Army Africa

 

Welcome Aboard the Six Week Holiday Challenge!

Wow ~ many have made the commitment to the six week holiday challenge and the momentum is picking up daily! It’s exciting to witness the enthusiasm that’s building. From the many comments that are pouring in on facebook and the member center, this challenge is giving the motivation, courage, and much needed excuse to stand up to the ongoing pressure from family, friends and colleagues to eat for disease during the holidays. 

If you are sitting on the fence of indecision, I encourage you to jump aboard the challenge today and feel your best by the New Year!  Dr. Fuhrman is offering a free sign-up to the member center for additional support during the six week holiday challenge. The offer is valid through December 4th. 

Here at the beginning, I want to share several inspirational interviews of those who’ve successfully earned their health back, including their success tips; and a few Disease Proof posts to motivate and guide you in your journey to health.  Click on the yellow font to read them. 

 

Scott overcame morbid obesity by losing 333 lbs and is curently a long distance cyclist.

 

Sue lost 100 lbs and is now a fit and active grandmother.

 

Elisa overcame the debilitating symptoms of lupus. 

 

Anthony dropped 143 lbs and is now an active sports enthusiast and father.

 

Gary finally overcame his struggles with weight since youth. 

 

Laurie overcame MS flare-ups and yo-yo dieting and weight fluctuations.

 

Theresa has lost 102 lbs and is still losing.

 

Mike overcame obesity and heart disease.

 

Barb overcame “normal and acceptable” middle aged diseases.

 

 

Reprogram the way you eat

Junk food – as addictive as smoking? 

Your hunger can keep you healthy  

Breaking up is hard to do  

Radical changes produce radical results

The powerful snare of compromise

The powerful freedom of abstinence

Food addiction is no joke

What kind of glasses do you wear?

 

Also, for those interested, there are two, really helpful-for-the-holidays teleconferences by Dr. Fuhrman in the member center library.  These can be heard by anyone who is signed up on the member center.  I download the teleconferences and listen to them while exercising.  They are excellent motivational tools!  The two titles are listed below:

  1. “Curtailing overeating; it is possible to overeat, even on healthy food.”
  2. “Reviewing the basic of metabolism, hunger and catabolism; understanding the critical relationship between hunger vs. food addiction.” 

I encourage everyone to listen to these life-changing teleconferences; knowledge is power!

 

All the best to everyone ~ I can’t wait to hear everyone’s success story in January!  

 

image credit: flickr - by Milica Sekulic 

Today is the Kick-Off!

Since today is the kick-off for the six week holiday challenge, I've asked physician and newly appointed Dean of the Nutritional Education Institute, Dr. Jay Benson, to share a few thoughts with us.  Dr. Benson is well versed in modern, high-tech medicine and the nutritional and natural methods utilized by Dr. Fuhrman, and sees the majority of patients at Dr. Fuhrman’s office in Flemington.  He also works side-by-side with Dr. Fuhrman on nutritional research, gives lectures, and answers questions on Dr. Fuhrman’s Ask the Doctor forums. Welcome to Disease Proof, Dr. Benson. 

 

On your mark…get set…go! The six week holiday challenge officially begins right now!

You've made the commitment to eat for health over the holidays, so what do you do next? Do you hope that everything goes well and wish that the external forces that control your life push you in the right direction? No, no, no. Remember, YOU are in charge of you and your future, and your health destiny is in your hands.  Now that that has been said, this is what are you going to do now……plan and prepare.

As a boy scout, I was required to repeat the boy-scout motto, “Be prepared,” in scout meetings. This motto was chosen for a good reason. It reminded me that my preparations and planning may mean the difference between surviving or not; whether that be deep in the woods, or in the middle of a big city.

The environments that you will be in may bring all types of challenges and dangers, but these can be averted with careful planning and preparation. 

 So let’s get to planning:  

  • Decide exactly what you will eat and when so that you won’t have a choice later. You are more likely to do something consistently if you decide and prepare to do it well in advance. If you wait and see what will happen, hoping that you will not fail, then you are sure to fail. Make it easier on yourself by planning each meal carefully and completely; and then stick to your plans, no matter what. 
  • Get out the healthy recipes that you enjoy the most. Try new recipes and ask your nutritarian friends for their suggestions.  Make sure to keep your refrigerator well stocked at all times with freshly cleaned vegetables, fruits, and cooked beans for quick meals.  [If you are traveling by car, keep a cooler filled with healthy foods at all times.  If you are flying, make it a priority to get to a grocery store upon arrival to stock up.]  Be prepared, at all times, in all situations. 
  • Make a detailed grocery list twice every week and only include foods that are part of your planned meals. By having an inflexible list you will be less likely to succumb to the rampant advertising of unhealthy junk food in the stores. 

 

You can rise above the noise of holiday temptations with careful planning and preparedness; and you will come away with earning great health!  Here's to excellent health for all this holiday season!

 

 

traditional Thanksgiving meal image credit: flickr: carbonNYC

A message from Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Happy Holidays and A New Way to Celebrate

For many of us, the holidays are a wondrous time when we are joyful for what life has provided and we celebrate the season with our family and friends. We are usually offered an abundance of everything. Thanksgiving dinner and holiday parties are festive times that present us with many choices. We also have the choice to spread good will to others.

Unfortunately, the holidays are also associated with trips to the emergency room and deaths from dangerous eating. The emergency room doctors call it “holiday heart” as the busiest time at hospitals are from heart attacks, strokes and other emergencies that occur the next morning after big holiday meals.

So many people use the holiday season as an excuse for gluttony and addictive binges. My team here and I thought about how we could help to encourage people to enjoy the holidays more, with great tasting holiday food that is healthy too, and have as many people as possible set a good example to encourage people to have a truly healthful and happy holiday season.

I take bad nutrition seriously because people die from it. When junk food is eaten, including the traditional, highly-toxic foods served at the holidays, you may get momentary pleasure as it passes the lips in a short amount of time, but the results continue on to compromise your health.  Additionally, not having good health magnifies every emotional problem plaguing your life and exasperates the holiday blues.  Healthy recipes and treats can taste great! It may take more effort to prepare, but there is really no reason to sacrifice your good health.

My Six Week Challenge is dedicated to helping you make the best choices; the ones that will allow you to achieve overall health and quality of life. By pledging to take the challenge, you'll be celebrating your health instead of simply indulging in destructive “fake food”. Can you find friends or family members to join you in taking the challenge too? 

I have created an opportunity for those straddling the fence of commitment. For those who step up to this challenge over the next six weeks and commit to a few simple guidelines throughout the holidays, I am offering:

The challenge involves only a few simple promises to make, taken from my book, Eat To Live.

Here are the fundamentals:

  • Eat a large salad every day
  • Enjoy a generous serving of steamed greens with mushrooms and onions
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with three fresh fruits a day
  • Have at least one fulfilling serving of beans each day

Here's what you are promising to omit:

  • Avoid white flour
  • Avoid sugars & artificial sweeteners

Throughout the challenge, you will have plenty of support. We will answer your questions online in the Member Center. We encourage you to log your progress with "My Health Manager." Seasoned veterans of the Eat To Live diet-style will also be there to help you.

Here is how you get started:

Step 1: Join us on Facebook to share this exciting experience and encourage your friends to also make the commitment for a better life and incredible holiday.

Step 2: If you are not already a member of my online Member Center, sign up for your FREE six week membership*.

Step 3: Enjoy the holidays!

There is more – the challenge is just the start! By joining the challenge you will have the opportunity to participate in a contest where you may be eligible to win an all expense paid trip to my 6th annual 2011 Health Getaway in Park City, Utah at The Grand Summit Hotel at The Canyons resort. The winner or winners will be chosen based on their documented results during the challenge and into the new year. All participants of the challenge will receive details in the following weeks.

I hope you enjoy this holiday gift to help spread the message of good health and healthy eating. 

 

* A $44.95 value. *Offer valid thru December 4th.  Dr. Fuhrman's online store software requires credit card information in order to process an order; including this free offer.  Your credit card will automatically be billed $14.95/month after the initial 6-week period unless cancelled.  You will be notified in plenty of time to cancel if you decide to discontinue the ongoing support of the member center after the holidays.    

Make the Commitment

It’s countdown time for the six week holiday challenge, and momentum is picking up! In just three days it will be the official kick-off.  Here are a few thoughts from Dr. Fuhrman to help navigate the way:

 

image of Dr. FuhrmanDuring the holidays ahead there will be situations where you’ll be offered unhealthy food choices. If you decide that you can only do the six week challenge when the right foods are available, you’ll be on and off it like a yo-yo, and food addictions will take over. If you are serious about caring properly for your body, and are looking for results, you'll need to make the commitment to stay on the road to wellness. No excuses.

I take bad nutrition seriously because people die from it ~ one can’t escape from the biological laws of cause and effect. When junk is eaten, including the traditional, highly-toxic foods served at the holidays, you get a momentary pleasure as it passes the lips in a short amount of time, but then produces continual suffering that lasts; and not having good health magnifies every emotional problem plaguing your life.  Plus, healthy recipes and treats taste better anyway. It may take more effort to prepare, but there is really no reason to sacrifice your good health.

Learn to thoroughly enjoy life and relationships without continually stuffing your mouth with food and drinks.  

You don’t have to proselytize, but you have to set an example for health and happiness. As you eat for optimal health and vitality in the days and weeks ahead you’ll be able to more fully enjoy the special times with family and friends.  You will flourish and this will be the most enjoyable holiday season you've ever had. 

          tomatoes and peas

Don’t wait until the New Year to commit to excellent health, and don’t just “try” the six week challenge; trying is another way of deciding beforehand to fail. It takes commitment to quit addictions and improve health. Commitment is a promise to stick with it no matter what. Make the commitment.  

    

I wish you all the best of health during the upcoming holidays! 

 

image credits:  flickr: tomatoes by yomi955 and peas by coanri

Vitamin D may elevate mood during the winter

The days are beginning to get shorter and we’re spending more time indoors as most of the day’s sunlit hours are occurring during the work day. For our bodies, this is a significant change to adjust to, especially for those of us who live in cooler climates. It’s common to experience some decline in mood during the winter – feelings of anxiety and depression are known to be more prevalent throughout the colder months. For some individuals, these seasonal mood changes along with fatigue, irritability, and appetite changes are especially pronounced, and this is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).[1] Incidence of SAD increases with distance from the equator, and light therapy is an effective treatment for many individuals with SAD. Reduced sunlight exposure, resulting in shifts in circadian rhythms and alterations in serotonin metabolism, is thought to underlie this condition.[2]

Timing of exposure of the retina to light affects the sleep-wake cycle, and inadequate light exposure during the winter disrupts this cycle. Light therapy independent of vitamin D production (ultraviolet light is filtered out), especially in the morning hours, is known to be effective for treating SAD and major depression. SAD has been successfully treated with light therapy since the early 1980s. For depression, a meta-analysis in 2005 revealed that the effectiveness of light therapy was comparable to that reported in many trials of anti-depressant drugs.[3] Light entry into the retina inhibits production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Light therapy helps to restore melatonin, the neurotransmitter serotonin, and other mood-regulating molecules to their normal time cycles and levels of production; consequently depressive symptoms are reduced.[4]

Reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter also means less natural vitamin D production by the skin, , and vitamin D itself may also regulate mood. There is still much unknown about how vitamin D works in the brain, but there are plenty of vitamin D receptors in the brain, and it is thought to affect daily biorhythms and production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin.[1] Also, low circulating vitamin D is associated with SAD and major depression.[5] So far, only a handful trials of vitamin D supplementation for seasonal depressive symptoms have been performed, and some of these used doses that were likely too low to have any measurable effect (400 IU; currently many experts believe that 2000 IU/day or more may be necessary for most people to maintain adequate blood 25(OH)D levels [6]). A dose of 800 IU improved mood of healthy subjects during winter in one trial [7], but had no effect in another trial.[8] A third trial used a dose of 4000 IU/day for six months starting in the summer, and then evaluated feelings of wellbeing during the December-February time period. The 4000 IU dose of vitamin D produced an average 25(OH)D level of 45 ng/ml and improved wellbeing scores compared to a 600 IU dose (average 25(OH)D level of 32 ng/ml). [9]

Current research is investigating the connection between depression and diabetes with a focus on vitamin D. Because depression is associated with insulin resistance, and vitamin D is thought to affect insulin secretion by the pancreas, ongoing studies are evaluating whether vitamin D supplementation can help to prevent diabetes. [10] In fact, healthy adults with low vitamin D levels were more likely to develop diabetes within 10 years compared those with adequate levels, according to a recent study. [11]

Vitamin D is active in essentially every cell and tissue in the human body. It is crucial (for everyone, not just sufferers of SAD ) to maintain adequate 25(OH)D levels (Dr. Fuhrman recommends 35-55 ng/ml) with supplementation. Especially if you note mood or sleep issues during the winter, be sure to accompany vitamin D supplementation with plenty of morning light.

 

References:

1. Bertone-Johnson, E.R., Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence? Nutr Rev, 2009. 67(8): p. 481-92.
2. Lurie, S.J., et al., Seasonal affective disorder. Am Fam Physician, 2006. 74(9): p. 1521-4.
3. Golden, R.N., et al., The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of mood disorders: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence. Am J Psychiatry, 2005. 162(4): p. 656-62.
4. Miller, A.L., Epidemiology, etiology, and natural treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Altern Med Rev, 2005. 10(1): p. 5-13.
5. Murphy, P.K. and C.L. Wagner, Vitamin D and mood disorders among women: an integrative review. J Midwifery Womens Health, 2008. 53(5): p. 440-6.
6. University of California - Riverside (2010, July 19). More than half the world's population gets insufficient vitamin D, says biochemist. ScienceDaily July 28, 2010]; Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100715172042.htm.
7. Lansdowne, A.T. and S.C. Provost, Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 1998. 135(4): p. 319-23.
8. Dumville, J.C., et al., Can vitamin D supplementation prevent winter-time blues? A randomised trial among older women. J Nutr Health Aging, 2006. 10(2): p. 151-3.
9. Vieth, R., et al., Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutr J, 2004. 3: p. 8.
10. Loyola University Health System (2010, March 8). Vitamin D lifts mood during cold weather months, researchers say. ScienceDaily. . November 9, 2010]; Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100303162854.htm.
11. Valencia, W., Abstract 125: Prospective risk of hyperglycemia in a South Florida population with low levels of vitamin D, in World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease 2010.

 

By 2050, diabetes prevalence will double or even triple

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has more than tripled in the past 30 years.[1] As of now, about one in ten Americans (about 24 million people) have type 2 diabetes. The CDC released a statement last week predicting that one-fifth to one-third of all Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050, if current trends continue. [2] Excess weight promotes insulin resistance and is the chief risk factor for type 2 diabetes[3], so this prediction is not surprising given the prevalence of overweight and obesity, which are 68% and 33.8% of adults, respectively.[4]

Glucose monitor

Diabetes is taking a huge toll on the health of our nation:

  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Diabetes doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke.[5]
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness in older adults.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.[6-8]

Diabetes is also taking a huge financial toll. Our unhealthy eating habits may eventually bankrupt our nation:

  • Healthcare costs related to diabetes are estimated to be $174 billion per year.
  • About 1 out of every 10 health care dollars is spent on diabetes.[2]
  • The average type 2 diabetic incurs $6649 in health care costs per year directly attributable to their diabetes. [9]

In order to prevent this prediction from proving true, our country has to change the way it approaches diabetes – we must emphasize prevention. Earlier this year, the editors of the medical journal The Lancet called it a “public health humiliation” that diabetes, a largely preventable disease, has reached such epidemic proportions. In reference to this year’s American Diabetes Association national meeting, they said, “…there is a glaring absence: no research on lifestyle interventions to prevent or reverse diabetes. In this respect, medicine might be winning the battle of glucose control, but is losing the war against diabetes.” [10]

These authors are correct – this is a public health humiliation, because type 2 diabetes is both preventable and reversible. The American diet of refined grains, oils, sugars, and animal products is at the root of the crisis, and keeping glucose under control with drugs in individuals who continue to consume this diet will not prevent diabetes complications.

The cure for type 2 diabetes is already known – removing the cause can reverse the disease.

Many whole, plant foods are high in antioxidants and fiber and have low glycemic load, characteristics that make them effective at preventing and reversing diabetes. [11] As such, there have been a few randomized trials using a plant-based diet to treat diabetes, and they have had impressive results. In a 22-week study published in 2006, a low-fat plant-based diet allowed for an average decrease of 1.23 points in A1C, weight loss of 13 lbs., and 21.2% decrease in LDL cholesterol. Most importantly, 43% of the participants were able to reduce their diabetes medications. An earlier study reported a 28% decrease in fasting blood glucose, as well as reduction or discontinuation of diabetes medications.[12]

Based on my experience with diabetic patients, I believe that a high-nutrient plant-based (nutritarian) diet, focused on green vegetables and beans, along with exercise, is much more effective at reversing diabetes. My eating plan for diabetics, as outlined in my book Eat to Live, has helped hundreds of people get rid of their diabetes. Take Charlotte, for example: At age 56, 5’4” and 263 pounds, upon suffering a stroke, she was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and with significant arterial blockages. She was confined to a wheelchair and was on several medications for all these ills. Charlotte and her husband then embarked on a nutritarian diet style to try to improve her health. A year and half later, Charlotte had lost half her body weight! Most importantly, she is no longer diabetic, and no longer has high cholesterol. Charlotte is now healthy.

Charlotte - before and after

Hundreds of others have exciting disease-reversal stories to tell and have also completely reversed their diabetes and that means that even those severe type II diabetics with failure to adequately control their glucose reading on multiple diabetic drugs, including insulin have made complete recoveries and no longer require any diabetic medications. With a nutritarian diet and exercise; food is more powerful than drugs.

Foods that provide substantial protection against diabetes:

  • Green, leafy vegetables. Pooled data from four studies determined that eating 1.35 servings (about 3.5 cups of raw greens) of green leafy vegetables vs. 0.2 servings or less per day provided a 14% decrease in diabetes risk [13]
  • Beans. Beans are high-nutrient, high-fiber, and low-calorie. They are digested slowly which induces satiety and stabilizes blood glucose. Therefore, beans are the most appropriate source of carbohydrate for diabetics. A study on 64,000 women followed for 4 years found that high intake of legumes were associated with a 38% decreased risk of diabetes.[14]
  • Nuts and seeds. An inverse relationship between nut consumption and diabetes was reported in the Nurses’ Health Study – 5 servings of nuts per week was associated with a 27% decrease in risk.[15]
  • Fresh fruit. Adding three servings of fresh fruit per day to one’s diet can decrease diabetes risk by up to 18%. (Note that those who already have diabetes should limit fresh fruit and focus on low sugar fruits) [16]


With Americans now consuming over 85 percent of calories as animal products and processed foods we could expect this tragic epidemic to continue. The only way to stop this worldwide trend toward dietary suicide is the type of broad public educational effort that has been organized against smoking. Obesity is responsible for more chronic disease than smoking [17]; we must collectively we all must fight against the proliferation and consumption of junk food, fast food, processed foods and commercial and processed meats, which are at the root of the obesity epidemic.

 

References:

1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes Data & Trends. 2008; Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/prev/national/figpersons.htm.
2. Boyle, J.P., et al., Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the US adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence. Popul Health Metr, 2010. 8(1): p. 29.
3. Khaodhiar, L., S. Cummings, and C.M. Apovian, Treating diabetes and prediabetes by focusing on obesity management. Curr Diab Rep, 2009. 9(5): p. 348-54.
4. National Insitutes of Health: Overweight and Obesity Prevalence Estimates. Available from: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/#overweight.
5. American Diabetes Association: Diabetes statistics. Available from: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/.
6. Campbell, P.T., et al., Prospective study reveals associations between colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes mellitus or insulin use in men. Gastroenterology, 2010. 139(4): p. 1138-46.
7. Flood, A., et al., Diabetes and risk of incident colorectal cancer in a prospective cohort of women. Cancer Causes Control, 2010. 21(8): p. 1277-84.
8. He, J., et al., The association of diabetes with colorectal cancer risk: the Multiethnic Cohort. Br J Cancer, 2010. 103(1): p. 120-6.
9. Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. In 2007. Diabetes Care, 2008. 31(3): p. 596-615.
10. Type 2 diabetes--time to change our approach. Lancet, 2010. 375(9733): p. 2193.
11. Jenkins, D.J., et al., Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr, 2003. 78(3 Suppl): p. 610S-616S.
12. Nicholson, A.S., et al., Toward improved management of NIDDM: A randomized, controlled, pilot intervention using a lowfat, vegetarian diet. Prev Med, 1999. 29(2): p. 87-91.
13. Carter, P., et al., Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. Bmj, 2010. 341: p. c4229.
14. Villegas, R., et al., Legume and soy food intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Shanghai Women's Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr, 2008. 87(1): p. 162-7.
15. Jiang, R., et al., Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. JAMA, 2002. 288(20): p. 2554-60.
16. Bazzano, L.A., et al., Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fruit Juices and Risk of Diabetes in Women. Diabetes Care, 2008. 31(7): p. 1311-1317.
17. Rand Corporation. Research Highlights: The Health Risks of Obesity. Worse than Smoking, Drinking, or Poverty. 2002; Available from: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4549/index1.html.

 

Countdown to the Holiday Challenge!

Next Saturday, November 20th, will be the official kick-off for “The six week holiday challenge.”  This week I’ve asked author and motivational speaker, Sarah Taylor, to share a few words with us.  Sarah was the delightful emcee and motivational speaker who warmed the hearts of all at this year’s Health Getaway in San Diego. You will be encouraged by what she has to share.  Welcome to Disease Proof, Sarah.  

 

portrait of Sarah Taylor

Thanks Emily! I love the idea of focusing on the holidays as an opportunity to actually get healthier, rather than an excuse for a six week binge. I don’t think most people get “down-in-the-dumps” in the winter from the weather - I think much of it is a result of eating toxic food in huge quantities, and feeling low self-esteem because of all the bad choices; not to mention an expanding waistline! So, let’s all take Emily’s challenge and use this time to actually get healthier

I also love Dr. Fuhrman’s six-week plan in Eat to Live because there’s a huge amount of power in the 30-60 day window. Studies show that it takes 30-60 days to develop or break a habit; and interestingly, it also takes about the same amount of time to get rid of toxic food cravings. So, the six week holiday challenge is perfect to make permanent changes in one’s habits, which will ultimately revolutionize one’s health. 

Imagine this: instead of waking up on January 1st feeling fat, sick, and depressed; we all wake up feeling proud, energetic, happy, and alive! 

Here are a few ideas to choose from to help establish healthier habits by January 1st:

  •  Commit (or re-commit) to following Dr. Fuhrman’s six week plan
  •  Commit to only eating when truly hungry
  •  Commit to eliminating salt
  •  Commit to drinking a green smoothie every day
  •  Commit to eating at least a pound of greens every day before filling up on other foods
  •  Commit to eliminating all processed sugar
  •  Commit to trying a new nutritarian-friendly recipe every week (even if it’s just a dip or a dressing)

                         

Make 2010 the year that you go through the holidays with energy, vitality, and aliveness! Imagine starting 2011 looking and feeling better than you did before the holidays; and knowing that you have new, well-established, healthy habits that will serve you for a lifetime! 

 

 

fireworks image credit Flickr: Normaron Fishion

Interview with a Nutritarian: Elisa

 

portrait of nutritarian, ElisaWhen I first met Elisa, a registered dietitian, I thought she was the epitome of vibrant health, physical fitness and radiant beauty. I had absolutely no idea that just a couple of years prior, she had suffered such debilitating symptoms from a variety of illnesses that she could no longer work or enjoy normal activities. At the young age of twenty-seven, it seemed like her life was almost over, until she met Dr. Fuhrman. Welcome to Disease Proof, Elisa. 

 

 What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?

 I was a healthy active kid and adolescent; however, in my late teens and early twenties I developed multiple health issues. Over time, my symptoms accumulated in the following order:

  • exercise-induced asthma
  • environmental allergies
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • chilblains (sores on my fingers and toes accompanied by terrible swelling, pain, arthritis)
  • hip problems preventing me from running for 8 years
  • daily debilitating headaches and migraines with a 5 day hospitalization
  • terrible neck pain, mouth ulcers, sore throats, and chronic infections
  • an episode of “mono” (missed work for 1 month at the start of my career)
  • body aches, muscle/joint pain
  • debilitating fatigue, thinning hair, and a very poor quality of life   
  • After 6 years, I received confirmation that I was dealing with a connective tissue disease, which was probably “mild lupus.” I was given no other options and placed on the standard medications. At that point, I had already been on over thirty prescription medications and thirty nutritional supplements.

 

How did you feel then?

I was absolutely miserable and barely making it through my workdays. Eventually, at the age of twenty-seven I was forced to stop working altogether. When I researched Lupus online, I found no treatment options other than medications; which gave me little hope. The medication I was taking thinned my once-thick hair. It also made me lose my appetite, my appreciation for life, and the ability to do the simplest of tasks. My parents and my new husband were my champions. They bought groceries, cleaned the house and washed my clothes. I rarely went anywhere because if I did, I felt so awful afterward it wasn’t worth the effort. I had transformed from a young, healthy and active individual into a sick, suffering existence that I was unwilling to accept. Despite what I was told, I knew that I did not want to be on medications for the rest of my life, and I vowed that eventually I would run again.

 

How did you find out about Dr. Fuhrman? 

A year after my diagnosis in 2008, a family friend shared their patient experience about seeing Dr. Fuhrman with my mother. I was literally typing his name into the search engine as my mother spelled his name over the phone. I immediately ordered his books from the local library, and shortly after that I made an appointment to see him.

 

Elisa joggingHow do you feel now?

With each passing month I feel more and more like my former, productive self. I am thrilled to have my life back! I’m off all medications except Allegra as needed (which I plan to get off completely.) My energy levels are much improved and my overall pain has dramatically decreased. I exercise most days of the week, and I’m up to running 4 miles for the first time in 8 years. I’m now working full-time for the first time in 1.5 years, and I have a renewed appreciation for being pain and inflammation free. I still get run down at times and experience mild symptoms occasionally, but overall my quality of life has improved substantially. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can have a normal life again. Best of all, I have great faith that I will continue to improve over time and become healthier with each passing year. I have regained control of my health destiny and am deeply thankful to Dr. Fuhrman, his family, and his entire staff for all of their sacrifice and dedication through the years.  [To read more details click here.]

 

before

now

sedimentation rate  (inflammatory marker)

   25

   2

ssDNA  (lupus marker)

 130

 66

total cholesterol

 198

 119

 

Do you have any success tip(s) to share with others?

Start making beneficial changes TODAY. Don’t make excuses, and don’t waste time. The sooner you begin to educate and empower yourself by putting high nutrient eating into practice, the sooner you will see sustainable results.

 

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you? 

It has ended my suffering, restored my health, and enriched my life both personally and professionally.

Elisa jogging

Go for it Elisa ~ we are celebrating with you and continually cheering for you!

Does omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy prevent postpartum depression? Improve baby's brain development?

Omega-3 fats are essential – we must take them in from our diets because our body cannot synthesize them. These fats are extremely important for many facets of our health, especially the health of the brain and cardiovascular system.[1] Omega-3 fat is a major structural component of brain cell membranes and the retina – about 60% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of fat, and DHA is the most abundant fat in the brain. [2]
 

As such, DHA is an essential factor in early brain development, and maintaining adequate levels during pregnancy is believed to benefit the child’s cognitive development.[3] The current consensus is that pregnant women should consume at least 200 mg DHA each day to promote normal fetal brain development. Pregnant women are also urged to limit fish consumption because of mercury contamination, which is harmful to the brain of the developing baby.[4] Fish oil or vegan DHA supplements are therefore an attractive option for pregnant women.

Pregnant woman
In 2009, the results of three randomized controlled trials were pooled and showed that babies given supplemental DHA in formula scored higher on a problem solving test at 9 months of age than babies given control formula. However, there is some disagreement in the literature as to whether DHA supplementation during pregnancy and infancy actually improves cognitive development in the child.[5]


A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported an unexpected finding: Pregnant women who took fish oil capsules (800 mg DHA and 100 mg EPA per day) compared to vegetable oil placebo capsules did not have lower incidence of postpartum depression, and their children did not have improved cognitive development at 18 months of age.[6]
Of course, this does not mean that pregnant women shouldn’t bother taking DHA. The developing baby’s only source of DHA for beginning to build its brain tissue is its mother’s dietary intake. DHA supplementation also reduces the risk of preterm birth – a factor known to be associated with compromised cognitive development in the infant and maternal depression.[7]
In reference to the lack of effect on symptoms of depression, the therapeutic effects of omega-3 supplements on depression are due mostly to EPA rather than DHA, according to a recent meta-analysis. [8] I recommend omega-3 supplementation including 1,000 mg of EPA to treat depression – the relatively low dose of EPA used in this trial may therefore be responsible for the lack of effect on depression in this study.


An editorial published in response to the study stated potential reasons why this outcome occurred – these comments also shed light on why there seem to be discrepancies in the medical literature on this subject. One possibility is that the criteria used to measure infant brain development in this study were not sufficiently sensitive to detect small but important differences in cognition in 18-month olds. The criteria used were based on global measures of cognition, and are not designed to detect differences in specific processes such as memory, attention, and problem-solving.[7] As mentioned above, previous studies have seen differences in problem solving in infants given supplemental DHA.[5] Furthermore, there are several cognitive functions that cannot be accurately measured until children reach preschool and school age – the editorial cites a smaller study of fish oil supplementation during pregnancy that found enhanced IQ scores in 4 year olds.[9] I agree that it isn’t possibly to reliably measure intelligence in an 18-month old, and that better results would come from studies that measure cognitive function once the children are in school.


DHA is a vital component of brain tissue, and pregnant women should take at least 200 mg each day to prevent preterm birth and support normal fetal brain development to assure maximum intelligence.

 

References:

1. Yurko-Mauro, K., Cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of docosahexaenoic acid in aging and cognitive decline. Curr Alzheimer Res, 2010. 7(3): p. 190-6.
2. Muskiet, F.A., et al., Is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) essential? Lessons from DHA status regulation, our ancient diet, epidemiology and randomized controlled trials. J Nutr, 2004. 134(1): p. 183-6.
3. Ryan, A.S., et al., Effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on neurodevelopment in childhood: a review of human studies. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2010. 82(4-6): p. 305-14.
4. Koletzko, B., I. Cetin, and J.T. Brenna, Dietary fat intakes for pregnant and lactating women. Br J Nutr, 2007. 98(5): p. 873-7.
5. Drover, J., et al., Three randomized controlled trials of early long-chain polyunsaturated Fatty Acid supplementation on means-end problem solving in 9-month-olds. Child Dev, 2009. 80(5): p. 1376-84.
6. Makrides, M., et al., Effect of DHA supplementation during pregnancy on maternal depression and neurodevelopment of young children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 2010. 304(15): p. 1675-83.
7. Oken, E. and M.B. Belfort, Fish, fish oil, and pregnancy. JAMA, 2010. 304(15): p. 1717-8.
8. Martins, J.G., EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr, 2009. 28(5): p. 525-42.
9. Helland, I.B., et al., Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics, 2003. 111(1): p. e39-44.

 

The Six Week Holiday Challenge

In America there’s a mindset that it’s totally acceptable and expected by well-meaning friends and relatives to gorge on decadent, rich foods during the holidays; aka the “Six Week Holiday Binge.”  It’s been taught and modeled to most of us since childhood, and for many, it’s hard to break free from the culturally engrained habit of eating for disease during that period of time. 

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving paintingI don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with being pulled into the culture’s holiday eating traditions:

  • traditions that are excuses to eat (and drink) for disease; planting seeds of toxic addiction and premature death
  • traditions that cause one to feel “blah”
  • traditions that result in the accepted norm of waking up on January first ~  lethargic, bloated and depressed; necessitating the need for New Years’ dieting resolutions

Whether one has many pounds to lose and needs to overcome toxic food addiction by following Dr. Fuhrman’s six-week eating plan as outlined in Eat to Live; or just wants to fine-tune a healthy habit like: eating only when hungry, or make a new, health promoting recipe each week, or increasing exercise intensity; most all of us can commit to a health improvement during the holidays. 

To help us get and stay motivated, I’ve invited several guest contributors, (including faculty from the Nutritional Education Institute, founded by Dr. Fuhrman), to share their expertise and practical tips to help us successfully navigate the holiday season ahead.  For example, they will instruct on such topics as why moderation fails, sidestepping sweet seductions, eating for health while away from home, and the wonderful benefits of daily exercise.   

The change of one is a transformation ~ the change of many is a revolution. Invite your family, friends and co-workers to jump on-board with you!  Let's all band together and intentionally challenge and change the cultures’ status quo by wholeheartedly committing to eating and exercising for health during the holidays. 

The six week holiday challenge will begin on November 20th and go through December 31st; with the official kick-off on Saturday, November 20th.  Stay tuned to Disease Proof in the weeks to come to be inspired and motivated by the line-up of guest authors!  

We are in control of our health destiny; not the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies, and definitely not the holiday traditions!  It's time to celebrate the holidays feeling well, and wake up on New Year's Day feeling our very best!

 

Let’s hear from you. What will be your six week holiday challenge? 

 

 

"Freedom from Want" painting by Norman Rockwell

Live webcast: Dr. Fuhrman at the World Preservation Foundation Conference in London

DOCTOR TO WORLD COMMUNITY: EAT RIGHT AND THRIVE!
Joel Fuhrman, M.D., To Offer Message of
Hope and Healing at London Scientific Conference


Dr. Fuhrman will be speaking at the World Preservation Foundation Conference on Wednesday, November 3rd at London's House of Parliament. He will address the general assembly and also provide a breakout session for world leaders who want more in-depth information about his nutritional discoveries about preventing and reversing disease and reducing human suffering and the economic burden of chronic diseases.

Dr. Fuhrman's message of improving lives through healthful eating - by embracing a diet-style rich in micronutrients - is receiving worldwide acclaim as thousands of cases demonstrate the reversal of conditions traditionally considered incurable, from heart disease and diabetes to high blood pressure and autoimmune disorders. His program has also allowed thousands of patients to lose weight quickly, safely and permanently.

 Watch the live webcast of the event!

The conference begins at 9:30 am (GMT) in London. Dr. Fuhrman is scheduled to speak at the following times:

Lecture to the General Assembly: 'Curing the incurable through diet' (1:17 - 2:03 GMT)
9:17 am Eastern / 8:17 Central / 7:17 Mountain / 6:17 Pacific

Breakout: 'Reducing health care costs while improving care: A dietary approach' (3:12 - 3:24 pm GMT)
11:12 am Eastern / 10:12 Central / 9:12 Mountain / 8:12 Pacific

How many lives do mammograms actually save?

A recent study has revisited this issue, and the answer seems to be ‘very few’. Women must be given accurate information outlining the risks and benefits of mammography so that they can make an informed decision about whether to be screened.

A study of 40,000 women in Norway aged 50-69, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, investigated the effects of screening mammography on breast cancer mortality. Some counties in Norway conduct mammography screenings, while others do not. Four groups of women were studied: a screening counties group and a nonscreening counties group followed from 1996 to 2005; and also ‘historical’ screening and nonscreening groups, who had been followed from 1986 to 1995. The goal of the study was to find out how much of the reduction in breast cancer mortality that has been observed over time was due specifically to mammography screening. The reduction in breast cancer mortality over time was 10% greater in the screening groups than the nonscreening groups. [1]

Mammogram. Flickr: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

What are the risks and benefits of screening mammography? The Nordic Cochrane Centre, an independent research group that conducts extensive and thorough reviews of the medical literature, assessed the potential benefits and harms of mammography in 2009. These were their conclusions: For every 2000 women that are screened regularly for ten years, one will have her life prolonged. However, 10 healthy women will be unnecessarily treated for breast cancer, either by having a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. Also, 200 healthy women will experience a false alarm, leading to substantial psychological and emotional strain. In their analysis, the Cochrane group stated that it is “not clear whether screening does more good than harm.”[2] In women under the age of 50, false positive results are very common. [3] In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force began recommending against routine screening mammography in women between the ages of 40 and 49.[4]

Mammograms are not nearly as life-saving as we are led to believe. The main problem with mammograms is over-diagnosis. Eighty percent of biopsies initiated by a mammogram result are negative. Furthermore, many slow-growing, non-threatening tumors are being detected and treated; at the same time, the more dangerous and aggressive cancers may be missed because they can grow and become lethal in the time interval between screenings, and by then treatment will not work. [3, 5]

Whether or not to undergo mammography is a personal choice, but it is important to know the true risks and benefits of the screening in order to make a sound decision. Regardless of their decision on this matter, women should not rely solely on detection by mammography to protect them against breast cancer. The take home message is that mammograms can’t be counted on as the sole intervention to save women’s lives—they just don’t do enough. Taking steps to prevent breast cancer from developing in the first place – for example, exercising regularly, maintaining a slim, healthy weight, eating plenty of mushrooms, onions, and cruciferous vegetables, minimizing processed foods and animal products, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, and limiting alcohol consumption – is a much more effective approach than detecting and treating breast cancer after it has begun to develop.

A pamphlet on the potential harms and benefits of mammography screening is available on the Cochrane group’s website.

Read more about diet and lifestyle methods for cancer prevention at DrFuhrman.com.

 

References:
1. Kalager, M., et al., Effect of screening mammography on breast-cancer mortality in Norway. N Engl J Med, 2010. 363(13): p. 1203-10.
2. Gotzsche, P.C. and M. Nielsen, Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2009(4): p. CD001877.
3. Wright, C.J. and C.B. Mueller, Screening mammography and public health policy: the need for perspective. Lancet, 1995. 346(8966): p. 29-32.
4. Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med, 2009. 151(10): p. 716-26, W-236.
5. Esserman, L., Y. Shieh, and I. Thompson, Rethinking Screening for Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer. JAMA, 2009. 302(15): p. 1685-1692.