The standard American diet (SAD) is having dire consequences on our current and future generations. Today’s food environment is adversely affecting children’s health and setting them up for health concerns, chronic diseases, and shorter lives. In this article, learn about the detrimental effects of poor nutrition, read the alarming statistics, and find out what you can do to help reverse these trends and give today’s children the gift of health.
It is possible to enjoy Halloween and make it a healthy celebration as well.
There is a clear impact of nutrition on the potential development of Alzheimer’s disease and other late-life cognitive disorders. Green vegetables, berries, and other plant foods reduce risk, whereas animal products and processed foods increase risk.1-4 However, the damaging effects of unhealthy foods on the brain occur throughout life. Research now suggests that the typical American childhood diet including burgers, pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, processed sweetened cold cereals, sweets and soda negatively affects school performance and learning. Overall math performance in the U.S. lags far behind many other developed nations5, and it is likely that the nutrient-poor American diet is a significant contributing factor.
We as parents are strongly committed to supporting our children’s academic achievement. We want the best for our children, and we take an active interest in their schooling; we do everything we can to make sure that they will be well educated and able to compete as working adults in our increasingly technological world. However, how many parents think about the impact of the foods they give their children on their academic performance?
Parents must give their children’s brains the right raw materials with which to learn – and start early. Breast milk provides a DHA-rich foundation for a healthy brain, and when solid foods are added, their nutritional quality is of paramount importance for the brain’s continued development. Several studies have now found that dietary patterns in early childhood affect IQ scores years later. In one study, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables upon introducing solid foods was associated with higher IQ and better memory skills when at 4 years of age.6 Similarly in another study, children who regularly ate cookies, chocolate, other sweets, soda, and chips during the first two years of life showed decreased IQ at age 8 compared to children who did not eat these foods. Nutrition during this formative period has a meaningful long-term effect, providing building blocks to construct the growing brain.7 The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, so a healthful, antioxidant-rich diet is especially beneficial for the brain and is likely involved in this link between natural plant foods and higher IQ scores.
Young children who are fed processed, nutrient-poor foods are likely to become unhealthy teenagers, and eventually unhealthy adults. Now twenty-three percent of teens in the U.S. are prediabetic or diabetic, 22% have high or borderline high LDL cholesterol levels, and 14% have hypertension or prehypertension.8
A recent study tested cognitive abilities and performed brain MRIs on teens with and without metabolic syndrome, a combination of at least three diet-related metabolic abnormalities among a list including insulin resistance, high triglycerides and hypertension. The teens with metabolic syndrome had lower spelling and math scores, lower IQs, and reduced attention span. Their brain MRIs showed a smaller hippocampus, especially in those with insulin resistance – extremely important since the hippocampus is a part of the brain involved in learning new information.9 This means that our American obesity-promoting, diabetic promoting diet actually can cause parts of the brain to shrink. The researchers concluded that insulin resistance and other components of the metabolic syndrome, as a result of a poor diet, may impair teenagers’ academic performance, and maybe even their learning abilities throughout their lifetime.
The time to feed your children healthfully is now. A diet rich in greens, berries, other fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure that children get the array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing and constantly learning brains. Junk food is not for kids.
Image credit: Flickr - stu_spivack
1. Otsuka M, Yamaguchi K, Ueki A. Similarities and differences between Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia from the viewpoint of nutrition. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2002;977:155-161.
2. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 2003;60:194-200.
3. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr 2009;139:1813S-1817S.
4. Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol 2012.
5. University of Southern California: U.S. Education Spending and Performance vs. the World. [Infographic]. http://mat.usc.edu/u-s-education-versus-the-world-infographic/. Accessed October 12, 2012.
6. Gale CR, Martyn CN, Marriott LD, et al. Dietary patterns in infancy and cognitive and neuropsychological function in childhood. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2009;50:816-823.
7. Smithers LG, Golley RK, Mittinty MN, et al. Dietary patterns at 6, 15 and 24 months of age are associated with IQ at 8 years of age. Eur J Epidemiol 2012;27:525-535.
8. May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics 2012;129:1035.
9. Yau PL, Castro MG, Tagani A, et al. Obesity and metabolic syndrome and functional and structural brain impairments in adolescence. Pediatrics 2012;130:e856-864.
August is National Breastfeeding month, and the CDC has released some encouraging news: between 2000 and 2010 the percentage of new mothers who chose to nurse their babies has climbed. In 2000, 35 percent of new moms nursed for six months, and 16 percent nursed for at least one year; in 2010 those numbers rose to 49 percent and 27 percent.1 This is excellent news for the health of our nation’s children, as it is well known that breastfeeding is associated with a multitude of health benefits for both the child and mother.2 Breast milk is the ideal food for infants, a naturally complex combination of nutritional and immunologic factors that cannot be replicated by formula.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the child:
- Development of the immune system:
The immune system is not yet fully active upon birth, and children are especially vulnerable to respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections during the first two years of life. Breast milk has a “programming” effect on the immune system, providing antibodies that protect the baby from infection, antimicrobial compounds, and a variety of immunomodulatory substances that promote the maturation of immune function. Also there is new evidence that breast milk also contains healthy bacteria that may help to populate the baby’s gut flora.3 The immune benefits of breast milk translate into a reduced risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, diarrhea, respiratory conditions and ear infections in early life.
- Reduced risk of overweight in childhood:
Breast-fed infants grow more slowly and are leaner during the first two years of life compared to formula-fed infants, likely due to the lower protein content of breast milk compared to formula.4 This early slow growth may exert a long-duration protective effect, since the risk of overweight in childhood and adolescence is reduced by 22% in breast-fed infants.5
- Reduced risk of childhood leukemia.2
- Reduced risk of type 1 diabetes in childhood.4
- Enhanced cognitive development and school achievement, likely due to the DHA content of breast milk. The first year of life is a crucial time for brain development, and DHA-rich breast milk provides the building blocks for the baby’s brain.5\
- Adults who were breast-fed as infants have a reduced risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premenopausal breast cancer.2, 5-8
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:
- Reduced risk of breast cancer, possibly due to the reduced exposure to ovarian hormones. A large-meta-analysis found that the risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3 percent for every year of breastfeeding.9
- More favorable lipid, glucose and insulin levels.4
- Longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Nurses’ Health Study, there was a 14-15 percent decrease in risk for each year of breastfeeding.10
- Reduced weight retention after giving birth.4
Optimal duration of breastfeeding
I agree with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which are for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, with continued supplemental breastfeeding to two years. Two years is likely the appropriate age because it is the time at which the spaces between the cells lining the baby’s gastrointestinal tract close; before that time, those spaces allow the mother’s protective antibodies from breast milk to be absorbed. The new data from the CDC, although the trend is promising, suggest that breast feeding in the U.S. is not adequate – three-quarters of infants are no longer being breast-fed by their first birthday.
Proper nutrition is vitally important to health during all stages of life, and especially during the rapid cellular growth that occurs during fetal development and infancy. Early nutrition is a significant determinant of long-term health, and it starts with a woman’s nutritional status even before she becomes pregnant, followed by good nutrition throughout pregnancy and nursing, and then setting a good nutritional example for children. Breastfeeding is most protective of a child’s health when the mother is in good health.
1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding Report Card. United States/2013. 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013BreastfeedingReportCard.pdf. Accessed
2. Hoddinott P, Tappin D, Wright C: Breast feeding. BMJ 2008;336:881-887.
3. M'Rabet L, Vos AP, Boehm G, et al: Breast-feeding and its role in early development of the immune system in infants: consequences for health later in life. J Nutr 2008;138:1782S-1790S.
4. Gunderson EP: Breast-feeding and diabetes: long-term impact on mothers and their infants. Curr Diab Rep 2008;8:279-286.
5. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. World Health Organization; 2007.
6. Owen CG, Martin RM, Whincup PH, et al: Effect of infant feeding on the risk of obesity across the life course: a quantitative review of published evidence. Pediatrics 2005;115:1367-1377.
7. Owen CG, Whincup PH, Kaye SJ, et al: Does initial breastfeeding lead to lower blood cholesterol in adult life? A quantitative review of the evidence. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:305-314.
8. Martin RM, Middleton N, Gunnell D, et al: Breast-feeding and cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort and a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:1446-1457.
9. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast C: Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet 2002;360:187-195.
10. Stuebe AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, et al: Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA 2005;294:2601-2610.
Infertility affects 10-15% of couples trying to conceive, and it is estimated infertility is at least in part due to the male in at least one-third, and up to 60% of these cases.1,2 Several dietary factors affecting fertility have been identified in women. Can men also improve their diet to improve their fertility?
Certain micronutrients are thought to contribute to male reproductive fitness. Oxidative stress can damage sperm, and accordingly higher blood antioxidant capacity, carotenoids, and vitamins C and E have been associated with higher sperm count and motility. Infertile men have been shown to have lower circulating levels of these antioxidant nutrients compared to fertile men.3,4 Adequate folate, abundant in green vegetables, may also promote fertility by preventing DNA damage in sperm.5 In contrast, higher saturated fat consumption, and cheese specifically, have been linked to lower semen quality.2,6,7
Omega-3 fatty acids may also contribute to semen quality. Previous observational studies had shown that higher omega-3 fatty acid intake associated with higher rate of favorable sperm morphology (shape), and that fertile men tend to have higher blood omega-3 levels than infertile men.2,8 Deficiency in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA was shown to produce infertility in male mice, adversely affecting sperm count, morphology and motility. DHA supplementation restored these parameters to normal.9 Similarly, in a study of infertile men, DHA+EPA supplementation improved sperm counts compared to placebo.10
A new study has built on this previous omega-3 data by testing the effects of regular walnut consumption on semen quality in healthy young adult men (21-35 years old). Walnuts are rich in ALA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid and the precursor to DHA and EPA. However, there are many anti-inflammatory and beneficial compounds in walnuts that could be collectively responsible for the health benefits found in walnuts. They contain more than a dozen phenolic acids, numerous tannins (especially ellagitannins), and a wide variety of flavonoids. The control group maintained their usual diet and was instructed to avoid eating nuts. The intervention group added about 3 ounces (75 grams) of walnuts to their usual diets each day for 12 weeks. Blood omega-3 ALA concentrations increased in the walnut group. Sperm vitality, motility and number of normal-morphology sperm were enhanced compared to baseline in the walnut group, whereas there were no changes in the control group.11 This new study suggests that ALA (found in walnuts and flax, chia and hemp seeds) in conjunction with other beneficial nutrients in walnuts makes them a valuable food for male fertility.
Couples who plan on becoming pregnant should follow a healthful, high-nutrient diet (including plenty of ALA-rich nuts and seeds), not only to better their chances of conceiving, but also to protect the future health of their children. Children’s health is influenced by their parents’ diets even before conception.12
In addition to focusing on whole plant foods, maintaining a healthy weight and minimizing exposure to agricultural pesticides (by eating organic produce when possible and minimizing animal foods) and endocrine disrupting chemicals (such as BPA and phthalates) are additional factors that can help to maintain favorable semen quality.13-19
1. FamilyDoctor.org: Male Infertility [http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/male-infertility.html]
2. Attaman JA, Toth TL, Furtado J, et al: Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Hum Reprod 2012;27:1466-1474.
3. Benedetti S, Tagliamonte MC, Catalani S, et al: Differences in blood and semen oxidative status in fertile and infertile men, and their relationship with sperm quality. Reprod Biomed Online 2012;25:300-306.
4. Minguez-Alarcon L, Mendiola J, Lopez-Espin JJ, et al: Dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with semen quality in young university students. Hum Reprod 2012;27:2807-2814.
5. Boxmeer JC, Smit M, Utomo E, et al: Low folate in seminal plasma is associated with increased sperm DNA damage. Fertil Steril 2009;92:548-556.
6. Afeiche M, Williams PL, Mendiola J, et al: Dairy food intake in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormone levels among physically active young men. Hum Reprod 2013.
7. Jensen TK, Heitmann BL, Jensen MB, et al: High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:411-418.
8. Safarinejad MR, Hosseini SY, Dadkhah F, et al: Relationship of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with semen characteristics, and anti-oxidant status of seminal plasma: a comparison between fertile and infertile men. Clin Nutr 2010;29:100-105.
9. Roqueta-Rivera M, Stroud CK, Haschek WM, et al: Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation fully restores fertility and spermatogenesis in male delta-6 desaturase-null mice. J Lipid Res 2010;51:360-367.
10. Safarinejad MR: Effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on semen profile and enzymatic anti-oxidant capacity of seminal plasma in infertile men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratospermia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study. Andrologia 2011;43:38-47.
11. Robbins WA, Xun L, FitzGerald LZ, et al: Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a Western-style diet: randomized control dietary intervention trial. Biol Reprod 2012;87:101.
12. Ng SF, Lin RC, Laybutt DR, et al: Chronic high-fat diet in fathers programs beta-cell dysfunction in female rat offspring. Nature 2010;467:963-966.
13. Juhler RK, Larsen SB, Meyer O, et al: Human semen quality in relation to dietary pesticide exposure and organic diet. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 1999;37:415-423.
14. Swan SH: Semen quality in fertile US men in relation to geographical area and pesticide exposure. Int J Androl 2006;29:62-68; discussion 105-108.
15. Bonde JP: Male reproductive organs are at risk from environmental hazards. Asian J Androl 2010;12:152-156.
16. Nordkap L, Joensen UN, Blomberg Jensen M, et al: Regional differences and temporal trends in male reproductive health disorders: semen quality may be a sensitive marker of environmental exposures. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2012;355:221-230.
17. Pflieger-Bruss S, Schuppe HC, Schill WB: The male reproductive system and its susceptibility to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Andrologia 2004;36:337-345.
18. Mocarelli P, Gerthoux PM, Needham LL, et al: Perinatal exposure to low doses of dioxin can permanently impair human semen quality. Environ Health Perspect 2011;119:713-718.
19. Jensen TK, Andersson AM, Jorgensen N, et al: Body mass index in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormones among 1,558 Danish men. Fertil Steril 2004;82:863-870.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Moms out there! Whether you are called Great Grandma, Grandma, Mom, or Mommy we honor all of you this special day!
I thought it would be inspirational to feature a new mom, Katie, that I met a couple of years ago on Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center. We eventually became Facebook friends, and then I finally got to meet her in-person last summer at Dr. Fuhrman’s Health Getaway on Amelia Island. I’ve been so impressed how she’s radically changed her eating habits and now enables her young family to eat for the best health possible too. [In fact, she even went on to become a certified nutritional trainer through Dr. Fuhrman’s NET program!] When pictures of her relatively recent, second pregnancy started showing up on Facebook, she glowed with health and vitality! It’s amazing what eating for health can do to a young woman’s life. Welcome to Disease Proof, Katie.
What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian approach?
I ate a very unhealthy diet before learning about Dr. Fuhrman. My favorite foods were things like pizza and chocolate. I was a vegetarian for a few years; but a very unhealthy one. Since I was slim I figured I was healthy enough.
I always had terrible allergies and also struggled with sinus issues. A few years before becoming a nutritarian an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor told me I would need to have surgery to alleviate my severe sinus infections. I also had debilitating migraine headaches. Finally, I also developed severe and painful cystic acne when I was around 18 which continued into adulthood.
How do you feel now?
I feel so much better now it is amazing. I didn't know how bad I felt until I realized how good I could feel. My allergies, sinus issues, migraines and acne all resolved after becoming a nutritarian. And I have more energy and am able to think more clearly now.
Since you weren’t a nutritarian yet during your first pregnancy, did you notice a difference between the two pregnancies, labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery time?
Towards the end of the pregnancy with my first daughter my mom gave me a copy of Dr. Fuhrman’s book, Disease Proof Your Child. It completely changed my perspective on nutrition. Each of my pregnancies were uncomplicated, but I had gained 15 pounds more during my first pregnancy than my second. I also had horrendous heartburn with my first, and just mild heartburn with my second.
With my first, I went two weeks past my estimated due date and had to be induced. The labor was very difficult, and my recovery was rather slow. With my second daughter I went into labor naturally two days after my due date and overall it was a wonderful, drug-free experience. My recovery time seemed to be much easier as well.
Do you have any success tip(s) to share with others; especially to young mothers of small children?
- The most important factor to changing my way of eating was learning as much as I could about the science behind Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations. I spent hours poring over the information in Dr. Fuhrman's books and on his Member Center.
- We keep meals very simple at our house and cook large batches of soups over the weekend so we don't have to cook much during the week. I also like to make green smoothies or micro salads so I can get large amounts of greens in quickly while taking care of my kids.
Katie’s favorite micro salad:
4 cups chopped kale
2 cups mixed greens
2 cups chopped green or purple cabbage
3 medium carrots, chopped into chunks
1 apple, chopped into chunks
Place all ingredients in a food processor (you may have to process each ingredient individually depending on the size of the container) and process to desired consistency. Top with beans and a nut based dressing. Enjoy!
In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you and your young family?
It has changed me and my family forever. My husband and I will definitely eat this way for the rest of our lives, and we hope our daughters will continue to as well. My 3-year- old loves the food she eats and has been healthy her whole life. She’s never had an ear infection or needed antibiotics. I'm incredibly grateful to Dr. Fuhrman for this life-changing information and to everyone on the Member Center for sharing such personal and inspiring experiences. I'm also very thankful to my mother for giving me Disease Proof Your Child and for providing a wonderful example of what it means to eat to live. I also want to thank my husband for all of his support who, despite his initial hesitation, has fully embraced nutritarian eating.
Katie, you are truly a wonderful role model for all mothers, young and old! Congratulations on radically improving you and your family’s health by choosing the nutritarian diet-style.
Blessings to all mothers today, and keep up the great job of leading your family’s health destiny!
Talia Fuhrman, the oldest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Fuhrman, may possibly be one of only a handful of young adults in the US that has now been eating high-nutrient foods since birth. I thought it would be motivational to interview Talia, age 25, not only to inspire the young people of America, but also to encourage all the parents who are doing their best to raise children to eat for health in a culture that promotes just the opposite.
What was it like for you growing up in a home that had ample selections of delicious and healthy foods to eat at all times?
As bad as the American obesity and disease epidemic is today, times were certainly different when I was a child and a teenager. These days people know what a vegan means, more people are vegetarians and overall, we are seeking the birth of an increasingly health-conscious America. When I was younger, my family was an odd anomaly in our community of standard American eaters. My feelings about living in this healthy-eating environment evolved over time and became so much more positive as I grew from my childhood and into my early teens.
I definitely felt different from my peers! It would be impossible not to feel different when my parents were preparing cashew cream kale for dinner and zucchini filled “brownies” in my lunches when my friends were opening boxes of cookies and obsessing over their Lunchables lunch boxes and Lucky Charms cereal. Prior to middle school, I wanted to be like my friends and would beg my parents to have the pizza served on Fridays at my school’s cafeteria and cake at birthday parties. Fights with my parents about food often occurred at home, but they allowed me to have some of my favorite “junk foods” like pretzels at the mall and pizza at school every now and then. If they had been too strict and didn’t allow me to eat any conventional foods, I think this would have put a dent in our relationship as I grew older.
I did absolutely love the foods my parents made for me at home and I didn’t feel deprived with the plentiful selection of healthy fruits and vegetables, and it was only in social settings that I desired to be like my friends and eat what they were eating. As a child, some of my favorite foods were strawberry banana “ice cream” made with frozen bananas and soymilk, and sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk and cinnamon. I loved organic strawberries and I have vivid memories of running around our living room while eating lettuce leaves. When my dad began preparing homemade date-nut balls, which he now sells on DrFuhrman.com as “date-nut pop’ems,” that was a very good day.
What did your parents do to help you make the transition into social settings away from home?
They taught me why it was important to eat healthy foods and the negative consequences of eating junk foods. My parents did a good job of teaching me that their desire for me to eat healthy foods was out of love for me and wanting me to be a healthy person. Once I was old enough to make my own eating choices, they let me make my own decisions in social settings. I never went to a birthday party in which my parents wouldn’t let me have a slice of pizza or piece of cake if I wanted it, and if I decided to make a poor eating choice, I was taught that I would be the one to pay the price with a stomach ache, runny nose or feeling ill.
What were the teen years like for you?
Understandably, my teenage years were very different from those of my childhood. I matured and took it upon myself to read and educate myself about nutrition and had no desire to eat the same foods as my peers. I packed my own school lunches filled with hearty salads and whole-wheat avocado, hummus sandwiches, for instance. I was the girl who ate dried persimmons and macadamia nuts for lunch and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I never dealt with weight gain, fatigue or acne and always had energy.
Tell us about your young adult years. Why did you pursue an undergraduate degree in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell, and why are you now working so hard to develop a blog for young people?
Throughout my life, I had exposure to seeing how what we eat affects the quality of our lives; not simply whether or not we will get cancer in our later years, but how we feel on a daily basis. I spent my childhood and teens hanging out in my dad’s office where I got to meet patients who got rid of debilitating health conditions by committing to the nutritarian lifestyle. My passion for nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle blossomed when I was a teenager from the combination of seeing these success stories and my innate love of science.
When I was a freshman in college, I did go through a doubtful phase and questioned whether or not I would get sick of studying nutrition. I pursued a few other career choices but none of them gave me as much satisfaction as studying nutrition. I am passionate about helping people get healthier and never suffer from pain due to avoidable health conditions, and this is why I am developing a blog for a younger audience. The teen years and our 20s are when we start to form our lifestyle and eating habits that we will take with us into adulthood.
My goal for the blog is to foster a positive community in which healthy eating is fun and learning about nutrition isn’t boring. I want to provide all the information that I know about nutrition to a younger audience in a way that is easy to understand, enjoyable, and even stylish. My dream is that living a healthy lifestyle will become what younger people will want to do because it makes them feel good, and because they can have fun with it too. It’s not as difficult as most people think to make smart, health promoting eating choices. Yet, teens and young adults I’ve encountered are totally in the dark, and have no idea they are laying the groundwork for their future health with that they eat today. The first step will be to have the knowledge about which foods are good for us and why it’s important to consume them. After that, people just need to learn how to prepare tasty meals that incorporate these foods. It can become a creative process of trial and error and a rewarding one too. My blog will have easy to prepare, tasty recipes to help people get started in making meals and desserts that are both healthy and delicious as well as nutrition advice that is written in a fun and youthful way.
Thank you Talia ~ we wish you all the best and can’t wait to see what unfolds in the days and years ahead! To view Talia’s blog click here.
image credit: portrait by Esther Boller
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
At one point Gabriela had almost come to the end of her rope trying to figure out a solution to her six-year-old son’s ongoing illnesses. She was tired of the repetitive trips to the emergency room and doctors treating his symptoms with inhalers and medications, all to no avail. However, today she is one happy mother as her son now has his health and life back by following Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritional recommendations that she discovered on PBS last year. Welcome to Disease Proof, Gabriela.
What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?
My husband and I were at a breaking point! Our son, Kevin, was at the emergency room nearly every month, and we couldn’t take the stress any longer.
Everything we had to go through took a toll on our relationship, and it also affected Kevin’s childhood. He missed school often, and we didn’t take him anywhere, because we were afraid that he would get worse. It was hard to see our son suffer and not be able to do anything about it.
How did Kevin feel then?
I lost count of how many times we took him to the doctor, but he was ill all the time. The longest he went without getting sick was 5 days. He got ear infections, bad colds, reoccurring episodes of croup, and a cough that wouldn’t go away.
One time Kevin had an episode in which he was coughing nonstop for weeks. It got to be so bad that his stomach would hurt from coughing so much.
He couldn’t run because he’d start coughing and have difficulty breathing whenever he got agitated. Therefore, he couldn’t play like the other kids when we went to the park.
How does Kevin feel now?
Many kids in Kevin’s class have been sick, but he is not affected anymore. He only had a runny nose that lasted for less than two days, and a mild cough that went away overnight. He hasn’t been sick or taken any medication since June of this year.
Do you have any success tips to share with others?
I wanted Kevin to eat more fruits and vegetables so I started to decorate his plates to make them look fun. One day I posted a picture on Facebook and everyone loved it so much that I created a special page where I post what I give to him every day for breakfast. [Click here]
Kevin loves the dishes I make for him, and this helped me turn mealtime frustration into happy memories. Now, he eats all the fruits and veggies he needs for the day.
In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for Kevin and your family?
At last, Kevin can play and run as much as he wants; he can finally enjoy his childhood and be a normal kid, and we don’t have to worry about him getting sick anymore!
To read Kevin’s Success Story on DrFuhrman.com click here.
Thank you Gabriela and Kevin for inspiring all of us to better health ~ keep up the great job!
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is its name and disrupting the our hormone function is its game. We should all be aware of what BPA is, the health conditions it’s associated with and where it’s lurking in our environment because this chemical is dangerous and it is found in many of the products we use each and every day.
The health problems linked to BPA are astounding. A mounting body of research shows that BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics our hormones, therefore interrupting their normal functioning. This is serious given how much our delicate hormone balance influences our health. Disruption of hormone levels due to BPA have been linked to breast cancer1, prostate cancer2, cardiovascular disease3, diabetes4, obesity5, infertility6, birth defects7, miscarriages8, developmental disorders in children9, premature puberty in young girls10, severe attention deficit disorder11, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (like our limbs), sexual development problems12-14, and feminizing of males or masculine effects on females.15-17 It seems like a lovely substance, doesn’t it? No doubt the evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would have loved to douse that poisonous apple with a nice shiny layer of BPA. She might have permanently poisoned Snow White if she had.
A new study even shows that BPA negatively affects not just those who eat and touch BPA laden items, but it also affects multiple generations of their children.18 This study, published by the journal Endocrinology, studied trans-generational effects of BPA on mice. One group of mice was fed BPA laden food and another group was fed their regular diets. Behavior was monitored and so was the behavior of three subsequent generations. Genetic testing was also conducted on all of the animals.
Remarkably, the mice that were exposed to BPA in the womb were less social and more isolated than the other group, as was the case for their children and their children’s children. These mice spent less time exploring, playing and engaging in friendly behavior with the other mice. This is not the normal behavior of mice and shows that BPA can influence brain activity for generations. Notably and frighteningly, the BPA exposed mice were exposed to levels of BPA that humans would normally be exposed to via our diets. While mice behavior and human behavior are obviously not the same, mice are a good laboratory model for what could happen to humans. The researchers even likened the behavioral issues they found in the BPA-exposed mice to autistic children and children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
To make matters worse, the same study found that 90 percent of Americans have BPA in their blood. Forget watching a horror movie, all we need to do to get a good scare is learn about the health effects of BPA and its ubiquity in our environment. That is, if we do not educate ourselves on which materials contain it and don’t make efforts to avoid it.
Thankfully, with a bit of education we can steer clear of BPA as easily as a graceful decline of a receipt or the simple renouncement of tin can usage. BPA is found in quite a few unsuspecting places, which is why doing one’s homework really pays off. Your jaw just may drop when you learn how many places BPA can be found, but thankfully there are plenty of alternatives. Education really is power and this has never been truer than in the case of the malicious, microscopic villain that is BPA.
So which products are likely to contain BPA?
- Receipts- these pieces of paper are coated with a BPA-based coating that rubs off onto our fingers and whatever else it comes in contact with.
- Canned food- cans are lined with an epoxy resin that’s made of BPA, so watch out for soups, canned tomato sauces, fruits and vegetables. Glass jars, frozen foods and paper cartons are our best alternatives. One exception: the company Eden Organics produces a line of canned beans that are BPA free. They use oleoresin, which is a natural mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from plants. The can maker, Ball Corporation, says that Eden is the only company to date that makes BPA free cans. More information on their cans is available on the Eden Organics website.
- Avoid contact with plastic- use glass appliances and storage containers rather than plastic tubs to store leftovers. Stainless steel containers are wonderful substitutes for plastic lunch bags and takeout clamshells.
- “BPA-free” plastics are not safe- a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that those plastics purported to be safer that those containing BPA were lined with BPA alternatives that could be just as noxious.
- Dental sealants are a BPA warehouse- BPA is the most frequently used dental sealant material and it’s used in composite fillings used to treat cavities. Dental treatments have been linked to social problems in children, leading a slew of pediatricians to advocate the use of other materials. However, this change has yet to manifest itself in safer dental care so our best bet is to brush regularly, floss and visit our dentists for regular cleanings.
- Alcoholic beverages- wine and beer are fermented in BPA-resin lined vats. If you enjoy your fair share of alcoholic drinks, this may just be the motivation you need to eschew that glass of wine or beer. Your hormones will thank you.
- Infant formula and baby bottles- if you thought BPA in alcohol was sad, this one may be even sadder; I believe the worst is when helpless infants are exposed to BPA. We already knew breastfeeding was best for the little ones, but this news provides even more of an incentive to do so. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, glass bottles and un-canned, powdered formula is second best.
- Plastic utensils- alas, BPA is found in almost all plastics, plastic utensils included. Although not possible all the time, bring your own utensils when as much as you can.
- Aluminum soda cans- as if Coca Cola and Pepsi weren’t bad enough on their own, now we know they contain BPA as well as over the top amounts of high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Stay away, just stay away.
- It’s in your dollar bills- yup, BPA makes its residency on our money because the ink it’s printed on is pure BPA. Other than avoiding touching money, which is impossible for most, our best option is to wash our hands after we exchange the moolah.
There you have it. While completely avoiding BPA is likely impossible, knowing which products contain BPA will help us greatly reduce our exposure. Maybe you and I, and all those we share this article with, can make ourselves part of the ten percent of Americans with undetectable blood BPA levels and help that percentage grow.
Image credit Flickr: p_a_h
1. Lozada KW, Keri RA (2011). Bisphenol A Increases Mammary Cancer Risk in Two Distinct Mouse Models of Breast Cancer Running title: Bisphenol A and mouse mammary cancer risk. Biology of Reproduction Papers in Press. Published on June 2, 2011 as DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.090431.
2. Ho S. Tang W. Prins GS, et al.Developmental Exposure to Estradio and Bisphenol-A Increases Susceptibility to Prostate Carcinogenesis and Epigenetically Regulates Phosphodiesterase Type 4 Variant 4. J of Cancer Research.
3. Melzer D, Rice NE, Lewis C, et al. Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration with Heart Disease: Evidence from NHANES 2003/06. PLOS ONE 2010; 5(1): e8673.
4. Lang, IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, et al. Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults. JAMA 2008; 300(11):1303-1310.
5. Carwile JL, Michels KB. Urinary bisphenol A and obesity: NHANES 2003-2006. Environmental Research 2011; 111(6): 825-830.
6. Meeker JD, Ehrlich S, Toth TL, et al. Semen quality and sperm DNA damage in relation to urinary bisphenol A among men from an infertility clinic. Reproductive Toxicology 2010; 30(4): 532-539.
7. Brieno-Enriquez MA, Toran N, Martinez F, et al. Gene expression is altered after bisphenol A exposure in human fetal oocytes in vitro. Mol Hum Reprod 2012; 18(4): 171-183.
8. Sugiura-Ogasawara M, Ozaki Y, Sonta S, Makino T, Suzumori K. (2005). Exposure to bisphenol A is associated with recurrent miscarriage. Human Reprod, 20:2325-2429.
9. Friedrich MJ. Bisphenol A and Reproduction. JAMA 2011; 305(1): 28.
10. Howdeshell KL, Hotchkiss AK, Thayer KA, et al. Environmental toxins: Exposure to bisphenol A advances puberty. Nature 1999; 401: 763-764.
11. Behavioral characterization of rats exposed neonatally to bisphenol-A: responses to novel environment and to methylphenidate challenge in a putative model of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. J of Neural Trans 2008; 115(7): 1079-1085.
12. Nagel SC, Boechler M, WV Welshons, et al. Relative binding affinity-serum modified access (RBA-SMA) assay predicts the relative in vivo bioactivity of the xenoestrogens bisphenol A and octylphenol. Environ Health Perspect 1997; 105(1): 70-76.
13. Li D, Zhou Z, Qing Y, et al. (2009). Occupational exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA) and the risk of self-reported male sexual dysfunction. Human Reprod, doi:10.1093/humrep/dep381.
14. Lang IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, et al. Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults. JAMA 2008; 300(11): 1303-1310.
15. Howdeshell KL. Andrew KH, Thayer KA, et al. Environmental toxins: Exposure to bisphenol A advances puberty. Nature 1999; 401: 763-764.
16. Braun JM, Yolton K, Dietrich KN, et al. (2009). Prenatal bisphenol A exposure and early childhood behavior. Environ Health Perspect, 117:1945-1952.
17. Lang IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, et al. (2008). Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. J Am Med Assoc, 300:1303-1310.
18. Edwards M, Gatewood JD, Wolstenholme JT, et al. Gestational Exposure to Bisphenol A Produces Transgenerational Changes in Behaviors and Gene Expression. Endocrinology 2012. Published online before print.
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