Counteract the winter blues naturally

The connection between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy mood state is often overlooked; however it is well known that exercise and other natural methods are effective at alleviating depression symptoms.  My natural protocol for depression has helped many sufferers of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) improve their symptoms without the risks and side effects associated with antidepressant medications. Even for those of us who do not suffer a mood disorder, it is common to experience some decline in mood during the winter. Fortunately, there are natural methods that help to alleviate the winter blues.

Exercise

Exercise is known to be as effective as antidepressant drugs or cognitive behavioral therapy for improving the symptoms of depression.  Exercise works by increasing the production of serotonin, a mood-elevating neurotransmitter, which is often low in those with depression. The combination of aerobic exercise plus strength training is better than aerobic exercise alone, and yoga has also been shown to improve symptoms.1-4

Sunrise. Flickr: SashaW

Light exposure

In the winter, we tend to spend most the day’s sunlit hours indoors, at work or just staying warm at home. Exposure of the retina to morning light helps the brain to properly regulate its production of melatonin and therefore our sleep-wake cycle; inadequate light exposure during the winter can disrupt this cycle. During the winter, if getting natural sunlight isn’t possible, a therapeutic light is an effective substitute; it corrects the body’s clock, restores normal melatonin production, and stimulates production of serotonin.5  SAD has been successfully treated with light therapy for nearly thirty years, and light therapy is also highly effective for depression, comparable to the effects of anti-depressant drugs, so it is effective even for non-seasonal depression.6 Light therapy is an excellent tool for anyone who experiences sadness, fatigue, or disrupted sleep patterns, and especially if you note this associated with winter.  

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain health; DHA is primarily associated with cognitive function, and EPA with mood.7 A recent meta-analysis of 28 trials determined that EPA supplementation is effective for improving depression symptoms.7,8  EPA and DHA are considered long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, in contrast to the shorter ALA found in plant foods, such as flax, hemp, and chia seeds, walnuts and leafy greens. The primary source of EPA is fish, although a small amount ALA from plant foods can be converted to DHA and EPA in the body. Since conversion efficiency is low for many people, in addition to eating ALA-rich foods daily, I recommend a DHA + EPA supplement for everyone, and additional EPA for those with depression.9-11

High-nutrient diet

Two recent studies compared mood scores in subjects eating vegetarian or omnivorous diets.  In an observational study, vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists reported more positive mood and lower levels of depression and anxiety compared to omnivore Adventists.12  In a second study by the same research team, subjects were assigned to different diets for two weeks. The subjects in the vegetarian group increased their mood scores after the two weeks, but those on the omnivorous diet did not.13  These results suggest that plant foods contain substances that positively affect mood. One possibility is the high antioxidant content of plant foods; the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, and markers of oxidative stress are indeed associated with a higher incidence of depression.14

In October 2012, another study found a connection between fruit and vegetable consumption and healthy mood.  The authors collected data on the diets of 80,000 people, and analyzed scores on a life satisfaction questionnaire relative to the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed daily. Even after adjusting for many other parameters such as employment status, marital status, income, illness, education, and other dietary variables, greater fruit and vegetable consumption was strongly correlated with greater life satisfaction scores.15

In addition to antioxidants, vitamins and minerals may factor into the positive effects of fruits and vegetables on mood. Several B vitamins contribute to the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, folate for example.16,17 Folate deficiency is known to increase the risk of depression; about one-third of people with depression are folate-deficient.17-20 Also, a low-sodium, high-potassium diet has been shown to have a positive effect on mood.21 Green vegetables and legumes are rich in folate, and all whole plant foods are naturally rich in potassium and low in sodium.

Vitamin D

Reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter means less natural vitamin D production by the skin. Scientists don’t know exactly how vitamin D works in the brain, but it is thought to affect the production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin.22  Low blood vitamin D levels are associated with SAD and depression, and there is evidence that supplementing with vitamin D helps to maintain a healthy mood state.23, 24 For example, a 4000 IU/day dose of vitamin D for six months starting in the summer improved wellbeing scores in February compared to a lower (600 IU) dose.25 Vitamin D is active in essentially every cell and tissue in the human body, and contributes to many facets of health.  It is crucial for everyone to maintain adequate blood vitamin D levels (a 25(OH)D of 35-50 ng/ml) with supplements.

The natural brain-healthy properties of a high-nutrient diet, regular exercise, adequate vitamin D and omega-3 stores, and light exposure combine to promote a positive mood, even in the cold, gray days of winter.

 

Image credit: Flickr - SashaW 

 

References:
1. Gill A, Womack R, Safranek S. Clinical Inquiries: Does exercise alleviate symptoms of depression? J Fam Pract 2010;59:530-531.
2. Uebelacker LA, Epstein-Lubow G, Gaudiano BA, et al. Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. J Psychiatr Pract 2010;16:22-33.
3. Saeed SA, Antonacci DJ, Bloch RM. Exercise, yoga, and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders. Am Fam Physician 2010;81:981-986.
4. Ma Q. Beneficial effects of moderate voluntary physical exercise and its biological mechanisms on brain health. Neurosci Bull 2008;24:265-270.
5. Miller AL. Epidemiology, etiology, and natural treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Altern Med Rev 2005;10:5-13.
6. Golden RN, Gaynes BN, Ekstrom RD, 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;162:656-662.
7. Kidd PM. Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Altern Med Rev 2007;12:207-227.
8. Martins JG. 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;28:525-542.
9. Harnack K, Andersen G, Somoza V. Quantitation of alpha-linolenic acid elongation to eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid as affected by the ratio of n6/n3 fatty acids. Nutr Metab 2009;6:8.
10. Davis BC, Kris-Etherton PM. Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:640S-646S.
11. Arterburn LM, Hall EB, Oken H. Distribution, interconversion, and dose response of n-3 fatty acids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:1467S-1476S.
12. Beezhold BL, Johnston CS, Daigle DR. Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults. Nutrition Journal 2010;9:26.
13. Beezhold BL, Johnston CS. Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutr J 2012;11:9.
14. Tsuboi H, Shimoi K, Kinae N, et al. Depressive symptoms are independently correlated with lipid peroxidation in a female population: comparison with vitamins and carotenoids. J Psychosom Res 2004;56:53-58.
15. Blanchflower DG, Oswald AJ, Stewart-Brown S. Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables? Social Indicators Research 2012.
16. Coppen A, Bolander-Gouaille C. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol 2005;19:59-65.
17. Miller AL. The methylation, neurotransmitter, and antioxidant connections between folate and depression. Altern Med Rev 2008;13:216-226.
18. Ng TP, Feng L, Niti M, et al. Folate, vitamin B12, homocysteine, and depressive symptoms in a population sample of older Chinese adults. J Am Geriatr Soc 2009;57:871-876.
19. Sachdev PS, Parslow RA, Lux O, et al. Relationship of homocysteine, folic acid and vitamin B12 with depression in a middle-aged community sample. Psychol Med 2005;35:529-538.
20. Watanabe H, Ishida S, Konno Y, et al. Impact of dietary folate intake on depressive symptoms in young women of reproductive age. J Midwifery Womens Health 2012;57:43-48.
21. Torres SJ, Nowson CA, Worsley A. Dietary electrolytes are related to mood. Br J Nutr 2008;100:1038-1045.
22. Bertone-Johnson ER. Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence? Nutr Rev 2009;67:481-492.
23. Murphy PK, Wagner CL. Vitamin D and mood disorders among women: an integrative review. J Midwifery Womens Health 2008;53:440-446.
24. Lee DM, Tajar A, O'Neill TW, et al. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with depression among community-dwelling European men. J Psychopharmacol 2011;25:1320-1328.
25. Vieth R, Kimball S, Hu A, 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;3:8.

 

 

Interview with a Nutritarian: Peter Max

“I’m positive and optimistic. It’s all about brightness. We are living in a euphoric world all we need to do is see it. I paint that.” ~Peter Max

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the world-renowned artist, pop culture icon and enthusiastic nutritarian, Peter Max. Famous for his artwork since the 1960s, he is known for his use of patriotic American icons and symbols in his artwork. Max has painted for six U.S. Presidents and he has been the official artist at major events such as the Grammy Awards, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Super Bowl, just to name a few. In addition to his artistic pursuits, he is a fervent defender of environmental causes as well as human and animal rights. Max is the epitome of a passionate individual and it is evident that he exudes just as much enthusiasm for health and wellness as he does towards his artwork.

Were you always interested in nutrition and wellness?

My interest in nutrition and the “we are what we eat” mindset kicked into high gear in the 1960s when I met Swami Satchidananda in Paris in the 1960s.  It was this one encounter that changed my diet forever and I became a vegetarian immediately afterwards.  He really captivated a group of us and each one of us stopped doing drugs and took an interest in yoga, self-awareness and how what we eat influences our well-being and long-term health.  I didn’t learn about Dr. Fuhrman until a decade ago, but once I read Eat To Live I was hooked and haven’t looked back since.  I went from being just a vegetarian to a committed nutritarian.  I have to say that Dr. Fuhrman has been one of the biggest guiding lights in my life and I recommend his books to everyone I meet.  That is how much I believe in the power of his nutritional program. 

What is your diet like now?

Each day I drink a green smoothie and I make sure to eat large salads, beans, berries, nuts and seeds.  There is a big difference between being a vegetarian and being a nutritarian.  I haven’t eaten processed foods for years and eat grains rarely now. Seeking to optimize the nutrient per calorie ratio of the foods we eat makes so much sense and it has become my way of life.   

How do you feel now that you’ve been a nutritarian for a decade?

I can honestly say that I have never felt better in my entire life.  I feel 25-30 years younger and have enough energy to work all day as an artist and travel without limitations. I do pushups every morning and walk up the steps instead of taking the elevator. The nutritarian diet makes me feel light and never weighed down. 

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

I love that as I am getting older, I don’t have to worry about health problems that may have otherwise left me incapacitated and unable to pursue my artwork.  Being a working artist is important to me and gives me such joy. I’m grateful that I feel as healthy as I do and am able to continue doing what I love. There is nothing better than the gift of health because without it we can’t enjoy life to the fullest and participate in the activities that give meaning to our lives.  Thank you, Dr. Fuhrman! I really cannot express how thankful I am to know you and see how much you are helping people take control of their own health.

And thank you, Peter! It was an honor to interview someone who not only contributes beautiful artwork to the world, but has a kind heart to go along with it.  What a fantastic role model to look up to.  We wish you continued success with your artwork and only the best of health in the days to come.

There is No Greater Joy

"The most effective treatment for breaking any bad habit or addiction is abstinence."    -Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

I've never been drunk, in fact, I don't drink alcohol. I grew up in a home where alcohol wasn’t consumed, so therefore, I didn't acquire a taste for it. However, during college I lived in a house with 28 other girls, and most Saturday and Sunday mornings I witnessed the various hangovers from the drinking parties the night before. I felt so sorry for them. I couldn't understand why they would do such a thing to torture their poor bodies so much.

Well, just a couple of years later when I was in the midst of my own hangovers from toxic food addiction, I could finally understand. When a poisonous addiction takes over, it tortures both body and mind. After a toxic food binge I would feel bloated, painfully miserable, and disoriented for several hours until the foods got out of my system; only to eat them all over again.

For me, being free from toxic food hangovers has been even more exciting than losing weight or getting health restored. To anyone who doesn't understand that concept, be thankful. Be very thankful. To be imprisoned to habitual bingeing hangovers is a terrible captivity, and I was in the dark abyss for over 20 years.

  • I dreaded birthday parties and holiday feasts, yet craved them at the same time.
  • I dreaded the way I'd feel after eating fake stuff, yet couldn't live without it.
  • I even dreaded getting up many mornings to face another day of bingeing; dreading it, yet craving it. What insanity.

Perhaps that's why I'm so staunch about abstinence to the point others may think I'm extreme and crazy. I know how deep one can dig into the pit of food addiction. I've seen what it can do to my body and sanity, and I’ve seen what it can do to others as well . . . and I don't give a rip what anyone thinks about my decision to be abstinent.

Have you ever experienced food binge hangovers, and are you free from them?

If not, you can be starting right now.

 

Freedom is two-fold:

1) One must eat for health by carefully following the nutritional guidelines in Eat to Live; flooding the body with comprehensive micronutrient adequacy to meet the biological needs of the body.

2) And abstain from those foods and situations that trigger addictive binges. Abstinence is a self-enforced restraint from indulging that usually causes one to feel worse for the first several days before feeling better. The key to successfully overcoming an addiction is to never give into the impulse to indulge, no matter what. There is no other way out.

 

Once you cross the threshold where toxic food binges no longer overpower you, you will be free for the rest of your life! You’ll naturally prefer eating less when you consume high-nutrient foods instead of fake foods; you’ll naturally get more pleasure out of eating and living; and you’ll enjoy a healthy body and sane mind that is free from the physical and mental torment of the addiction.

Contend for your freedom today. Eat for health and remain abstinent from triggers. 

There is no greater joy!

 

[The pictures are of yours truly. The image at the top was taken on July 10, 2008, the day I committed to follow Eat to Live; and the image on the left was taken this past summer, four years later. This coming July I will celebrate my fifth year anniversary of being free from food addiction! Click here to view my journey to freedom.]

Eating Right Gives the Most Protection During This Flu Season

 We are having lots of viral illness going around, and I was asked to comment on the flu vaccine again.  Certainly, with the flu virus circulating this season, flu-phobia is everywhere.  Plus, there is a shortage of flu vaccines, so what are we to do?   The answer is eat right, get enough sleep, and keep your hands away from your face (until right after you wash them).  It is very difficult to get a significant viral inoculum if you do not put your hands near your mouth and nose.  Remember, when you are in public, such as at work or school resist the temptation to touch your face or put your hands near your nose or mouth.  That works, because you can’t get enough virus in the orifices of your body just by breathing the air, unless someone coughs right on you.  

Flu shot sign. Flickr: paulswansenPlus, the flu shot is not very effective anyway.  Please consider that over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness; both produce the same symptoms, such as fever, headache, aches and pains, cough, and runny nose.  Laboratory tests are required for doctors to tell the two illnesses apart.  Both illnesses last for days and both rarely lead to death or serious illness. Even in the best-case scenario, vaccines might be effective against only some influenza A and B, but those represent less than 10% of all circulating viruses.  

Each year, the World Health Organization makes recommendations for which viral strains should be included in the upcoming year’s flu vaccinations.  So the vaccines may have some effectiveness against specific viral strains, but the degree to which the vaccine-included strains match the virus actually in circulation varies from year to year. 

So that means that even if you are in that 10 percent of sick people with flu-like symptoms who really have influenza A or B, only about half of those vaccinated will be helped by the vaccine because the other half will have strains that were not included in the vaccine.1  And even with the best matching conditions the vaccine may diminish your symptoms somewhat, but not necessarily preclude you from catching the flu.  The internationally renowned Cochrane Collaboration investigated this issue directly by reviewing all the relevant studies, involving over 70,000 participants.  The most impressive thing about this meta-analysis was that the authors were completely independent from the U.S. vaccine manufacturers and the powerful pharmaceutical and vaccine lobby, so the reported results were unbiased.

They assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that even under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration), 4% of unvaccinated people and 1% of vaccinated people became infected – the vaccine had only a minor benefit. They authors estimated that under average conditions, 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms or you would have to be vaccinated every year for 100 years, to save yourself one flu episode. Interestingly, the study showed that flu vaccine did NOT significantly affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost, and did not prevent flu-associated complications or those rare flu-associated deaths.1, 2  So even though the vaccine had some very slight effects, the benefits were very small.  In fact, in  children two years and younger they found the effectiveness of the vaccine was no better than a placebo.3 

The Cochrane review’s authors were highly critical of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, with its members having financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies. They noted that industry-funded studies were more likely to report findings favorable to the vaccines, that there was evidence of “widespread manipulation of conclusions” in those studies. The authors disagreed with the CDC’s  recommendation for universal vaccination at all ages without clear evidence of significant effectiveness and safety.  Certainly the elderly, the group most vulnerable to non-pandemic flu, should benefit the most, but this also is not observed as the vaccine does not work well in the elderly because of their decline in immune function.3, 4

To summarize, the vaccine does have some slight effects in reducing flu incidence and severity, but in those at most at risk, the very young and the very old, it is not yet clear whether the vaccine has any protective effect at all.

Those of us that are healthy need not worry about the dangers of the flu anyway.  No treatment, drug or vaccine is without risk, and you only have to read the circular with the vaccine to be informed of those clear risks.  Also, if you do get a flu shot, never get a shot from a multi-use vial, which contains more mercury and preservatives than the single dose vials. 

On the other hand, eating your G-BOMBS has no known side effects.  

 

Image credit: Flickr - paulswansen

References:

1. Cochrane Summaries: Vaccines to prevent influenza in heatlthy adults. [http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults]
2. Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010:CD001269.
3. Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;8:CD004879.
4. Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Al-Ansary LA, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010:CD004876.

 

Interview with a Teen Nutritarian: David

David is your typical, 14-year-old teenager that was severely addicted to the standard American diet. In fact, he was resistant to have anything to do with eating for health, even though his parents and siblings had embraced nutritarian eating and radically improved their health and quality of life because of it. However, on Father’s Day weekend this past summer David had a wake-up call; a frightening experience with dangerously high blood pressure and the telltale symptom of a TIA (transient ischemic attack); aka mini stroke. Today, six months later and 27 lbs lighter, he’s a changed person as a result of eating high-nutrient foods. Welcome to Disease Proof, David.

 

 

               June                                                 August                                                  December

 

 

What was your life like before Father’s Day weekend?

My parents and siblings were nutritarians so there was always plenty of healthy food to eat, but I refused to eat it. At every chance I could get away from home I ate whatever junk food I could find, and without my mom knowing it I bought donuts, candy, and other stuff.  Because I wouldn’t eat “Fuhrman food’ as I called it, my mom didn’t force me to eat it because my dad didn’t think she should; after all, I wasn’t a little kid anymore. My mom wouldn’t prepare junk food so I learned to cook my own meals. I ate frozen pizzas and lasagna, macaroni and cheese, pot pies, and all kids of frozen processed meals. Even with that, there were many foods that she wouldn’t buy for me like processed cereals, milk, cheese, and butter. 

 

How did you feel?

I didn’t feel well most of the time. It was hard for me to move around because I was tired and would get out of breath easily, so I didn’t exercise. I was always thirsty, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose; it was always stuffy.  Plus, because I was tired a lot I just slept whenever I could.      

 

What was your wake-up call?

During a family crisis my mom requested no junk food be brought to our house. However, some thought nutritarian eating was extreme and felt sorry for me so they asked me for a list of my favorite foods anyway.  It was great!  I loved it because I could eat anything I wanted.  A week later, in the middle of the night, the entire right side of my body, including my leg, arm, and jaw was numb and tingly, and I was very scared. I woke my parents up, and my mom took my blood pressure and it was 158 / 108. The next day she contacted Dr. Fuhrman, and according to my symptoms he said that I had experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or mini stroke that happens before a major stroke*. Immediately, on Father’s Day, I became a nutritarian. Within a week my blood pressure came down to a healthy range, but for several weeks I was scared to fall asleep at night, because I was afraid of having a stroke during the night.

* Dr. Fuhrman states that “Thousands of teens have strokes each year and the number is on the rise. According to a recent article in the Journal of Neurology, strokes in children, teens, and young adults are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. Strokes in teenagers - like the one that led to the death of Miss Teen Hawaii, Sheryl Wolfe – or Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle” who recently suffered a mini-stroke ( transient Ischemic attack) – are not as rare as people think, and the devastating consequences of strokes have caused rehab facilities and nursing homes to cater to this young population. As the American diet gets worse we see these diseases of nutritional ignorance occur at younger and younger ages. National hospital discharge data from 42 states were examined in children, teens and young adults, comparing the rate of stroke in these groups from 1995-1996 to 2007-2008. The rate of strokes in young people was increasing before 1995, but in the ten years since then stroke hospitalization rate increased another 35 percent.”

 

How do you feel now?

I have a lot more energy. I’ve lost 27 lbs so far and my blood pressures are consistently around 113 / 72. I no longer have numbness or tingly feelings, and the best thing is I’m not afraid of falling asleep and having a stroke in the middle of the night.  I’m no longer thirsty all the time, tired, or have shortness of breath, and because of that I like to run, workout at the Y, and lift weights. Plus, I can now breathe through my nose for the first time that I can ever remember; I always had a stuffy nose. According to a blood test in June I was pre-diabetic, and now with nutritarian eating I won’t have to worry about getting diabetes. I just feel better all over, and my mom says that I’m happier and not grumpy anymore.    

 

What would you tell kids who love junk food and hate even the thought of eating healthy?

 

Try nutritarian eating all the way for just one week. Do it cold turkey, 100%; no cheating. After that week is over then re-assess your opinion and see if it changes. I gutted it out mentally for one week, and it was hard, but I knew it would be worth it to feel better and be healthier. Now I’m glad I did. 

I still sometimes like eating junk food when I’m away from home, but I know nutritarian eating is healthier for me, and I always feel better when I stick to it.

 

What are your favorite foods now?

My favorite foods are tomatoes, cucumbers, Honey Crisp apples, green peppers, snap peas, sautéed onions, hummus, and my mom’s Oatmeal/Almond Bars. 

 

Easy Oatmeal/Almond Bars

5-6 ripe bananas

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups raisins

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

2 cups unsalted sunflower seeds

2 cups chopped raw almonds

1 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl mash the bananas and then stir in remaining ingredients. Press mixture into the baking pan and bake for 40 min. Let cool. Cut into bars.

 

Congratulations David and keep up the great job!

 

 

image credit:  bottom image by Yaro Photography

Americans have poorer health and shorter lives than peers

A new report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council revealed bleak statistics on the comparative health of the citizens of the United States compared to sixteen other high-income countries.

The report revealed that Americans have been dying earlier, on average, than almost all other countries. Of the sixteen countries ranked, American males ranked last in life expectancy and American females ranked sixteenth out of seventeen. The report notes that this trend has been ongoing and progressively worsening since 1980; Americans are dying prematurely with poorer health during their lives. The report states:

“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”

The report identified nine key areas in which Americans demonstrate poorer health status; a few of note are the direct results of poor nutrition and lifestyle habits: obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Out of the 17 countries, the U.S. was ranked 2nd in the number of ischemic heart disease deaths and 3rd in diabetes deaths. Americans consume more calories per person than any other country in the world, and our eating habits are killing us. Obesity was a significant contributor to the shortened life expectancy observed in Americans; obesity accounted for 42 percent of the reduction in life expectancy American females and 67 percent of the reduction in males.

It is well known that the U.S. spends more money on health care per person than any other nation.

The report noted that Americans have greater “control” over blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and still have the next-to-highest death rate from ischemic heart disease. We take more medication for heart disease risk factors, and yet are more likely to die from heart disease. We spend the greatest amount of money, and die the earliest. More medical care does not buy better health.

It’s time for our country to wake up. Our health, happiness, and economic stability are suffering at the hands of our dietary choices.

There were several additional non-nutritional factors that contributed to the relatively short life expectancy of Americans, including infant mortality rate, injuries and homicides, drug-related deaths, HIV and AIDS.  In addition to disease-causing eating habits, behavioral factors such as drug abuse, lack of seat belt use, drunk driving and gun violence are contributing to the poor health and shorter lifespan of Americans. The report also cited deficits in our health care system, higher levels of poverty and income inequality than other countries, and geographical environments built around cars, which discourage physical activity.

Clearly, there are some issues not under our individual personal control that must be tackled by public policy. However, this report also highlights those factors that we as individuals can address – today – to increase our own likelihood for a long and healthy life: our weight and our risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Excess weight, heart disease, and diabetes are inevitable consequences of the standard American diet plus inactivity, but they are not truly inevitable. We can prevent these conditions by making wiser food choices and prioritizing physical activity. Each of us must take responsibility for our own health and longevity. A high-nutrient diet based on protective plant foods is an excellent place to start.

 

Reference:

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. January 9, 2013. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/US-Health-in-International-Perspective-Shorter-Lives-Poorer-Health.aspx

The 2012 Holiday Challenge summary

fireworksThe change of one is a transformation; the change of many is a revolution.

While most of the nation indulged on disease promoting foods over the holidays and became sicker, more bloated, and feeling more blah; many experienced exciting health improvements during the past several weeks thanks to the support of Dr. Fuhrman’s 2012 Holiday Challenge. 

Any change, whether big or small, is an awesome celebration, and we can honestly proclaim that a health revolution happened once again this year as a result of the challenge.  Congratulations to all who participated and contributed to this nation’s health revolution!

 

 Below are just a few of the testimonials:

 

  • I lost five pounds. My blood pressure dropped from 118/80 to 104/72. I have more energy in the afternoons, I’m no longer hungry between meals., I was able to drop my daily migraine medicine, my IBS symptoms are reduced, and I have less trouble with asthma, I’m also in a better mood, and I don’t have that tired, funky feeling anymore. I look forward to continual healing. Thanks so much for the challenge; I wouldn’t have tried Eat to Live over the holidays without it.
  • I lost eight pounds and yesterday I went shopping for new clothes. Last time I went shopping I was a size 8; now I’m a size 4! I can hardly believer it! My skin is clearer, I have more energy, I have more stamina when exercising, I have a positive attitude, and about ninety percent of my depression/anxiety symptoms have gone away! I still have some weight to lose and more muscle toning to do, but I’m so excited to start 2013 as a size 4!
  • I started the Holiday Challenge at 218 and now I weight 204! Yeah! I’ve been able to cut back on my reflux meds and my mood and energy levels are elevated. 
  • My fasting blood glucose is now down to 125 mg/dl, and I started at 237 mg/dl. I’ve lost 20.2 lbs and my waist is down 5 ¾”. I’m no longer a couch potato, and I’m up to working out 90 minutes every day. I’m also no longer depressed and anxious. (I was so anxious prior to starting Eat to Live that I rarely left the house, except to go to the doctor or dentist one or two times a year.) Now I’ve been out of the house several times. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but I feel great!
  • I lost 31 lbs and feel really good and motivated. I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds!
  •  I lost 12 lbs and feel in control, and I’m excited about losing more!
  • I lost 15 lbs. I have more to lose, but I’m really happy with the changes so far. I don’t feel bloated, I crave green smoothies, I no longer reach for food when I’m upset or stressed, because I know it will make me feel worse and not help solve my problems, thanks to Dr. Fuhrman’s Motivational Outreach Program. I just started exercising again, and I feel lighter and finally have the energy required to even think about exercising. During the holidays, the standard American diet foods started to look really unappetizing to me! After years of yo-yo dieting, this is the first time I’ve lost weight without feeling hungry. I’m looking forward to feeling even healthier and getting to my goal weight.
  • I lost 12 lbs, but more than that I feel so much more alive and full of energy. In fact, I feel so much better than I have in many years. And guess what, I’ve discovered a new addiction; it’s Eat to Live! I can’t wait to see how I’ll feel after the next six weeks, and the next. On New Year’s Eve I went out to eat and none of the food tasted good to me while everyone else was raving about it and going nuts over the desserts. I’m thrilled at the change in my taste and appetite. All of this reinforces my commitment and conviction about this program. I am so grateful to Dr. Fuhrman and everyone on the Member Center for the support. 
  • Before Thanksgiving I weighed around 220 lbs and now I weigh 203 lbs. Needless to say I’m overjoyed! It has been very easy, and I haven’t been hungry. 
  • I started the Holiday Challenge two weeks late, but I still lost 24 lbs. Previously, I had constant cravings and an overwhelming desire to eat horribly unhealthy foods. That is gone! My heartburn has disappeared, and I’m now “regular”. I no longer have blood sugar swings, and this was the first time in my life that I was able to handle social situations without overeating. This holiday season was my healthiest ever! I’m really looking forward to more health benefits in the upcoming days, months, and years! 

 

Image credits: flickr, fireworks by bryasaa / flickr, produce by nutrilover

Overweight people live longer; yeah right!

Right on the front page of every newspaper and news outlet today was “Overweight People Live Longer." Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and they are generally aware excess fat on the body is not healthy.  So when word of a study like the recent one on body mass index (BMI) categories and mortality starts spreading through the news outlets, everyone listens, and many take the conclusions to be fact. Sadly this kind of news coverage does a disservice to an already overweight and misguided public, allowing them to believe that their excess body fat won’t harm them and influence many to maintain or add some pounds.  I wonder how much more breast cancer and how many needless deaths this information will cause. 

This was a meta-analysis, pooling data from different studies that analyzed death from all causes with consideration of various BMI categories (normal weight: 18.5 – 24.9; overweight: 25.0 – 29.9; obesity: 30 or greater). The researchers found a small (6 percent) reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality for overweight compared to normal weight individuals, and an 18% increase in risk for obese compared to normal weight individuals.1

Eating. Flickr: ActiveSteveEating. Flickr: amaretteEating. Flickr: permanently scatterbrainedEating. Flickr: Matt ryall

Does that mean almost every study on fitness, and the benefits of dietary excellence in the last 40 years was wrong?  So, should we nutritarians pack on some extra pounds, exercise less, eat some cheese doodles and lounge on the couch watching more TV, so we can live longer?  Hah, and the moon is made of green cheese too.  This paper found an association here between lower BMI and a slight decrease in mortality rate, but for a variety of reasons, this is bad science and should never have been reported.

This study is essentially worthless because it did not exclude people with chronic disease recorded at baseline.  Sick people become thinner.  It is well known that illnesses cause a lower body weight.  The American diet is so disease-causing and weight-promoting that almost all relatively healthy people become overweight, leaving mostly the chronically ill and those with occult illnesses (not yet diagnosed) at a normal or near normal weight. 

A number of medical conditions may cause unintentional weight loss, including depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, autoimmune diseases, occult cancer and digestive disorders. What proportion of the normal weight group had one or more of these conditions?  The study did not say, but the list below suggests that it’s a large proportion of those in the normal weight category.   The fact is, the American diet is so fattening and unhealthy that if someone is eating the American diet and is not overweight, they most likely have something wrong with them. Below is a list of conditions that cause weight loss, and the estimated prevalence of these conditions in the general population:

  • Alcoholism – 12.5%.2
  • Anxiety disorders - 18%.3
  • Asthma - 7.7%.4
  • Autoimmune Disorders – 7.6-9.4% 5
  • Celiac disease – 1%.6
  • COPD – 5.1%.4
  • Depression – 8%.7
  • Drug addiction – 2.6%.8
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome – 10%.9

Depression, Anxiety and Alcoholism alone could account for the findings in this study and affect about 20 percent of the population.  Plus the study did not consider subclinical disease, in other words medical problems that have not yet been diagnosed.  For example, there are many with some hidden cancer, not yet diagnosed (called occult cancer) that keeps them thin.  Studies like this always underestimate the impact of overweight and obesity on premature mortality. 

Plus, the only measured outcome was all-cause mortality.  We still see increasing mortality from diabetes and heart disease as weight increases and the increased mortality in the normal weight group was from more unusual causes.  We also know that the overweight live a lower quality life – with heart disease, arthritis, or another lifestyle-related disease or disability. Excess weight is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, liver disease, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, and impotence and infertility.10 Let’s not ignore all that.  

In the end, what we can conclude from this study is that many researchers are confused about health and nutrition and because of that their work can just add more confusion.   With the majority of Americans significantly overweight many must be rejoicing in line at those fast food joints after hearing this today.  So please don’t skip the gym and head out to Drunkin Doughnuts tonight for some deep fried flour and sugar with artificial colorings and flavorings.  There is no getting around, you are what you eat.    

 

Image credits (Flickr): amarette, ActiveSteve, permanently scatterbrained, Matt Ryall

References: 

1. Flegal KM, Kit BK, Orpana H, et al: Association of all-cause mortality with overweight and obesity using standard body mass index categories: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 2013;309:71-82.
2. Hasin DS, Stinson FS, Ogburn E, et al: Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence in the United States: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:830-842.
3. National Institute of Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml. Accessed January 3, 2013.
4. Akinbami LJ, Moorman JE, Bailey C, et al: Trends in asthma prevalence, health care use, and mortality in the United States, 2001-2010. NCHS Data Brief 2012:1-8.
5. Cooper GS, Bynum ML, Somers EC: Recent insights in the epidemiology of autoimmune diseases: improved prevalence estimates and understanding of clustering of diseases. J Autoimmun 2009;33:197-207.
6. Talluri SK, Besur S, Talluri J: Abstract #74: A Population-Based Survey of Celiac Disease in the United States. In 2012 National Conference on Health Statistics; 2012.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: FastStats. Depression [http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/depression.htm]
8. Compton WM, Thomas YF, Stinson FS, et al: Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV drug abuse and dependence in the United States: results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:566-576.
9. El-Serag HB: Impact of irritable bowel syndrome: prevalence and effect on health-related quality of life. Rev Gastroenterol Disord 2003;3 Suppl 2:S3-11.
10. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Overweight and Obesity Causes and Consequences. [http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html]

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