Eat fiber-rich foods now, not later!

There are a few different classifications of fiber, and their common characteristic is resistance to digestion in the human small intestine.   Eating fiber-rich foods is associated with a number of health benefits:

  • Fiber promotes weight maintenance by slowing gastric emptying; and adding volume to food, promoting satiety
  • Fiber helps to prevent diabetes by slowing entrance of glucose into the bloodstream, curbing glucose (and insulin) spikes after meals
  • Soluble fiber (a type of fiber abundant in oats and beans) has cholesterol-lowering effects.
  • Cardiovascular health – a pooled analysis of 10 prospective studies found that an increase of 10 grams of dietary fiber per day was associated with a 24% decrease in deaths from coronary heart disease.1
  • Digestive health – fiber adds bulk and acts as a stool softener, making bowel movements faster and easier, and preventing constipation and diverticular disease.
  • Fermentation of fiber and resistant starch by bacteria in the large intestine helps to prevent colorectal cancers 2

Fiber vs. fiber-rich foods: Fiber can be isolated and taken as a supplement or added to a processed food, but these are not the recommended ways to get your fiber.  Although fiber itself has beneficial properties, fiber-rich whole foods come packaged with disease-fighting phytochemicals.  There have been inconsistencies in the results of studies on fiber and colorectal cancer, probably because it appears to be high-fiber foods, not fiber alone that reduces risk. 3-8

The American Heart Association recommends consuming 25 grams of fiber each day –a nutritarian diet far exceeds that recommendation, providing about 60-80 grams of fiber each day, since the vast majority of my recommended food pyramid is made up of fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, seeds and beans.  

A study relating dietary fiber intake to lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease was presented at the American Heart Association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism conference last week. Data from the 2003-2008 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys were analyzed. The researchers used a mathematical algorithm to predict lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease, based on diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and history of diabetes.  All of the participants were free of cardiovascular disease at the start.  

The algorithm placed participants in groups of either high or low lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.  Then they were arranged into four groups according to the ratio of their intake of dietary fiber to calories - dietary fiber only, no fiber supplements were included.  The lowest fiber intake was 0.1g/1000 calories, and the highest was on par with a nutritarian diet, 49.1g/1000 calories.

Individuals aged 20-39 in the highest quartile of fiber intake were almost twice as likely to be in the low risk category than those in the lowest quartile. Middle aged individuals in the highest quartile were about 50% more likely to be in the low risk category. Interestingly though, a similar association was not seen in 60-79 year olds.  The researchers theorized that many older adults with high fiber intake may have already developed significant risk for heart disease before they added more high-fiber foods to their diet.   They concluded that starting to increase fiber intake at a younger age helps to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.9,10

It is important to eat healthfully your entire life to get maximum benefits, however once you have not eaten properly for the first 60 years, then to get the disease-protective benefits to dramatically reduce heart attack, stroke and cancer risk from a plant-based diet (vegan or flexitarian) later in life, it is not good enough to just be good, you have to be great.  In other words, a nutritarian diet with attention to the most nutritionally powerful and protective plant foods is necessary, not just the dietary mediocrity practiced by most vegans and vegetarians.

Eating to Live is a lifetime commitment – just like it takes years for heart disease to develop, it takes years to build up protection against heart disease.  No matter what your age, you can benefit from improving your diet – but the point is, the time to start is right now and the place to start is with a nutritarian diet that pays attention to the disease-fighting nutrients in foods. Once you are past middle age, the way to start is not with some wishy-washy low fat, high fiber diet.  That is not good enough, you have to do better than that and pay attention to the micronutrient-richness of your meals and achieve comprehensive nutritional adequacy, which is the core of my message.  

 


References:

1. Pereira MA, O'Reilly E, Augustsson K, et al: Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med 2004, 164:370-376.

2. O'Keefe SJ, Ou J, Aufreiter S, et al: Products of the colonic microbiota mediate the effects of diet on colon cancer risk. J Nutr 2009, 139:2044-2048.

3. Singh PN, Fraser GE: Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in a low-risk population. Am J Epidemiol 1998, 148:761-774.

4. Uchida K, Kono S, Yin G, et al: Dietary fiber, source foods and colorectal cancer risk: the Fukuoka Colorectal Cancer Study. Scand J Gastroenterol 2010, 45:1223-1231.

5. Park Y, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al: Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association 2005, 294:2849-2857.

6. Michels KB, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci E, et al: Fiber intake and incidence of colorectal cancer among 76,947 women and 47,279 men. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 2005, 14:842-849.

7. Terry P, Giovannucci E, Michels KB, et al: Fruit, vegetables, dietary fiber, and risk of colorectal cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 2001, 93:525-533.

8. Wakai K, Date C, Fukui M, et al: Dietary fiber and risk of colorectal cancer in the Japan collaborative cohort study. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 2007, 16:668-675.

9. Northwestern University (2011, March 23). Load up on fiber now, avoid heart disease later. . In ScienceDaily; 2011.

10. Ning H, Van Horn L, Shay CM, et al: Dietary Fiber Intake and Long Term Cardiovascular Risk: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) 2003-2008. In American Heart Association: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism 2011.


 

Beetroot Juice Powers Up Exercise Stamina!

Beets are powerful juju. Not only will they turn your pee red, but a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, claims beetroot juice boosts stamina and can help you exercise longer.

The research team believes that the findings could be of great interest to endurance athletes. They could also be relevant to elderly people or those with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases.

The research team conducted their study with eight men aged between 19 and 38. They were given 500ml per day of organic beetroot juice for six consecutive days before completing a series of tests, involving cycling on an exercise bike. On another occasion, they were given a placebo of blackcurrant cordial for six consecutive days before completing the same cycling tests.

After drinking beetroot juice the group was able to cycle for an average of 11.25 minutes, which is 92 seconds longer than when they were given the placebo. This would translate into an approximate 2% reduction in the time taken to cover a set distance.

And root vegetables, like beets and carrots, are loaded with fiber and powerful antioxidants, like cartonoids and betacyanin, which protect against cancer by stopping cell mutations.

Via EurekAlert!

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Losing Weight May Protect Against Cancer

Unless it’s a big bag of money, no one likes carrying around extra weight. Even cute little love handles can be bad.

And having too much abdominal fat has been linked to stroke and heart failure, but losing weight can work wonders.

A new study in the journal The Lancet Oncology claims women who underwent weight-loss surgery had a lower risk of cancer. Great news?

Losing weight is a fantastic idea, but weight-loss surgery is a bad idea. Dr. Fuhrman lists depression, malnutrition, gastritis and vitamin B12 deficiency, as potential side-effects of bariatric surgery.

Instead, try fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are low in calories and high in fiber, which means you can eat until you're stuffed, protect yourself against cancer and still lose weight!

Via Journal Watch.

Image credit: 'Playingwithbrushes'

Obesity Ups Risk of Endometrial Cancer

New findings in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reveal women under 45 with a body mass index greater than 35—over 30 is considered obese—have nearly 22 times more risk of endometrial cancer. The study involved 421 women, ages 20 to 54, diagnosed with endometrial cancer and 3,159 randomly selected women. Data showed women younger than 45 at the time of their last period with a BMI above 35 had a 21.7 times higher risk of cancer; HealthDay News reports.

Luckily, maintaining healthy body weight and preventing cancer can be knocked out in one shot! According to Dr. Fuhrman, foods like fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber to keep you slim and plant foods are loaded of cancer-preventing nutrients and phytochemicals.

In related news, obesity in late adolescence to early adulthood—specifically 14 to 30 years of age—was found to increase risk of pancreatic cancer by as high as 60%.

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What Vegans May Be Missing...

Certainly a plant-based diet which minimizes animal products is the best approach for losing weight, preventing and reversing disease, and optimizing health. However, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, and those not consuming fatty fish like salmon each week, should be aware of recent studies that suggest they may be deficient in a critical and essential nutrient, especially EPA & DHA, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fat and is the precursor of the longer chain omega 3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and to a lesser extent DHA can be made in the body from ALA. Primary sources of these fatty acids are certain fish and seafood.

As a result, vegetarian, and especially vegan, diets provide little EPA and DHA directly. A recent study reviewed the varying dietary fat intake across vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, and semi omnivores and its impact on essential omega-3 fatty acid availability in tissues. It concluded that vegetarians were left with reduced levels of omega-3 and recommended that they consume additional direct sources of EPA and DHA, regardless of age or gender, for physical, mental and neurological health benefits.1

In addition, ALA, EPA, and DHA are especially important for the prevention of certain cancers, particularly those of the breast and colon, and possibly of the uterus and the skin, and are likely to reduce the risk of postpartum depression, manic-depressive psychosis, dementias, Parkinson's, hypertension, toxemia, diabetes, and to a certain extent, age-related macular degeneration.2

Although vegetarian diets are generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than are non-vegetarian diets and may appear to offer cardiovascular health benefits due to higher intakes of antioxidants and fiber, the lack of direct EPA or DHA dietary sources may cause an adverse effect.3,4

With all of this documented research, it is not surprising that when I draw blood for fatty acid analysis on many of my patients, I find that a large percentage of individuals who do not eat fish or seafood regularly do not have optimal levels of DHA, even those eating walnuts and flaxseeds on a regular basis. I often see patients eating otherwise excellent diets with itchy dry skin, seborrheac dermatitis and other signs of DHA deficiency.

Although, there are some vegans and vegetarians regularly consuming walnuts and flaxseeds (which supply adequate ALA) may produce enough DHA on their own and may not require supplementation. However, because this issue is so imperative to their health it should be confirmed with a blood test before assuming that the conversion level is adequate. In order to assure optimal production of DHA fat, without recommending that the consumption of fish or refined fish oils, I recommend taking a vegetable sourced DHA supplement. DHA alone can deliver the same benefits of fish oil, since the intake of DHA can cause a natural retro-conversion to EPA internally.

Laboratory cultivated DHA is made from microalgae and is a pure form of DHA without environmental contamination. It is grown in the laboratory, not collected in the wild. It has no mercury or other toxins, which is a concern even for non-vegans who are cautious about eating fish or seafood.

DHA has been shown to protect against dementia, depression, inflammatory diseases, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, and to offer significant benefits for overall cardiovascular health.

There are other problems with consuming fish oils. The main problem is that the fat turns rancid as it sits on store shelves. As a result, many people complain of burping, indigestion, a foul taste, and long lasting fish-breath. I have also observed that rancidity of this fish fat can place a stress on the liver. Patients of mine have had blood tests showing abnormal liver function when consuming fish oil in significant amounts and then have had these tests return to normal when the fish oils were stopped.

Fortunately, vegetable derived DHA, from microalgae, is an alternative. However, even algae derived DHA can become rancid if not cared for properly. We go through great lengths to deliver the purest and freshest DHA product available on the market today. My DHA Purity is manufactured under strict conditions to ensure purity. Every step of the way, from production to packaging, transportation and storage, this product is kept refrigerated and handled to ensure optimal freshness.

In conjunction with a high nutrient, plant-based diet, I advise all people take a daily DHA supplement from a clean source. Early in life, DHA is supplied via the placenta and from breast milk. While adequate DHA is particularly important for pregnant and nursing women and young children, it is beneficial for all ages!

1. Kornsteiner M, Singer I, Elmadfa I. Very low n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status in Austrian vegetarians and vegans. Ann Nutr Metab. 2008; 52(1):37-47.

2. Bourre JM Dietary omega-3 fatty acids for women. Biomed Pharmacother. 2007; 61(2-3):105 12.

3. Davis BC; Kris-Etherton PM Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(3 Suppl):640S-646S

4. Lee HY; Woo J; Chen ZY; Leung SF; Peng XH Serum fatty acid, lipid profile and dietary intake of Hong Kong Chinese omnivores and vegetarians. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000; 54(10):768-73.

Image credit: CB Photography

Vegetable Diets Better for Diabetes

Appearing in the journal Nutrition Reviews, new findings suggest vegetarian and vegan diets offer significant benefits for diabetes control, more so than non-vegetarian. Clinical trials show individuals with type-2 diabetes on low-fat vegan diets had improved glycemic control, compared to conventional diets. Weight-loss is part of the explanation why, but reduced consumption of saturated fat and increased intake of fiber and plant nutrients offer additional advantages; Unbound Medline reports.

Plant foods, like green veggies, garlic and nuts, are potent diabetes-fighters, helping to keep glucose levels within normal range and eventually allowing people to kick their diabetes for good, unlike taking insulin, which can actually make things worse!

And last month, a report claimed Hispanic teenagers who started eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugar, lowered their risk of type-2 diabetes.

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More Fiber, Less Sugar Cuts Diabetes Risk in Latinos

New findings in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggest eating more fiber and less sugar can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes in adolescent Latinos. For the study, 66 overweight Latino teenagers were put into three groups. One group attended weekly classes on nutrition, specifically reducing sugar and increasing fiber. Group two was given nutrition education twice a week and did some strength training. The final group served as a control. After 16 weeks teens who ate less sugar and more fiber had substantial drops in blood glucose and insulin levels; Reuters reports.

In New York City, type-2 diabetes hits ethnic groups hard as they abandon traditional diets in favor of standard American fare, 800,000 people in NYC have diabetes. Yesterday, a study showed 22% of Hispanic children in America, ages 1 to 4, are obese. Dr. Fuhrman recommends the whole family eat healthy early to promote good eating habits later in life.

In related news, research shows children going to high school within walking distance of fast food restaurants are more likely to eat less fruits and vegetables and drink more soda.

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Cholesterol Crystals Tied to Heart Attacks

A study in the American Journal of Cardiology claims cholesterol in the arteries crystallizes from a liquid to a solid, expanding and disrupting plaque, leading to potential heart attack and stroke. Researchers examined coronary arteries from patients who died from cardiovascular events and when compared to a control group, they discovered cholesterol crystals following a cardiac attack damaged artery linings and appeared much further away from the site of attack, putting survivors of an attack at higher risk; ScienceDaily reports.

Cutting cholesterol is a bid deal! Studies show the more animal products in a population's diet the higher their cholesterol levels and the more heart attacks they have, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with fiber and plant nutrients, effectively cuts cholesterol, even putting cholesterol-lowering medications to shame.

And a recent report showed why lowering cholesterol and blood pressure is still the major preventer of heart trouble. Actually, in the May 2006 edition of Healthy Times, Dr. Fuhrman discusses how superior diet protects against and reverses cardiovascular disease.

Image credit: Michigan State University

Low Blood Pressure, Low Cholesterol Still Great for Heart Health

Two old standbys ring true! Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists claim maintaining low blood pressure and reducing LDL, or bad, cholesterol still provide the greatest protection against cardiovascular trouble. For the study, researchers recruited 3,437 men and examined their arteries with ultrasound probes and the men with the lowest levels of LDL cholesterol and the lowest blood pressure levels had the least growth of fatty deposits in the linings of their blood vessels; HealthDay News investigates.

Good thing fruits and vegetables have been shown to lower cholesterol and lower high blood pressure. Healthy plant nutrients and fiber do it naturally. Just don’t be like this guy, his diet was based on butter and when he had emergency surgery to save his life. His heart was coated in fat! The video is very yucky.

And in recent news, salt was found to reduce an enzyme that lowers blood pressure and eating eggs everyday, which are very high in cholesterol, was found to increase heart failure risk by 8% to 23% among middle-aged men and women.

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Obesity Shortens Lifespan the Same as Smoking...

Smoking is a drag, no pun intended, but apparently obesity is equally bad. New findings published in The Lancet found moderate obesity shortens life expectancy by up to 4 years and severe obesity can shave off 10 years. Scientists compare these effects to lifelong smoking. The study followed 895,000 people in Europe and North America. During the study 100,000 participants died. Researchers claim carrying a third more than your optimum weight can shorten your life by roughly 3 years, for most people that is 50 to 60 extra pounds; from Medical News Today.

Obesity news is never good. Just last week obesity was linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as well as poor reproductive ability in women, and just a little bit of belly fat makes it hard to breathe. Maybe that’s because your mouth is always stuffed with food!

So, if you’ve got a weight problem. Consider this. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber. This fills your stomach quickly without all the extra calories, i.e. you’ll lose weight.

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