Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations to families to avoid flu, including avian flu, stirred some interesting comments--especially the idea that those with the healthiest immune systems may be less protected from avian flu than those with average immune systems. Dr. Fuhrman responds:
Clearly, the concept that powerful and competent host defenses are enabled by nutritional excellence is not merely my opinion; rather it is the reality of human physiology supported by hundreds of scientific studies.
And because I have written books on nutrition to teach applied nutritional excellence does not make my viewpoints any more or less substantiated. However, keep in mind my books contain hundreds of references for all my points and likewise my opinions expressed here are not off the cuff but reflect a lifetime of devoted study to these issues.
The idea that a person eating a nutrient-rich diet is just as likely to develop and suffer the dangerous consequences from an influenza virus as a cheese burgers and soda eating American is simply wrong. Moe importantly such opinions are dangerous as they may lead to tragic outcomes for those mistaking authority for knowledge.
Let's review just a few articles from the scientific literature that further support this concept that nutritional.excellence can offer protection from viral attacks. I will show the reference and post some explanatory comments below each reference.
1. Bendich A. Antioxidant nutrients and immune functions--introduction Adv Exp Med Biol 1990;262:1-12
This short introduction encompasses only a small portion of the literature linking free radical production and consequent effects on immune functions. The role of essential dietary components in modulating these effects is an area of intense and expanding investigation. Each of the nutrients examined in the chapters has distinct functions to support immuno-competency, but in this volume they concentrate on their shared capacity to act as antioxidants
2. Fawzi W. Nutritional factors and vertical transmission of HIV-1. Epidemiology and potential mechanisms. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2000 Nov;918:99-114
This article shows that the transmission of the AIDS virus is significantly reduced and even made improbable when the host's nutrition is excellent.
3. Beck MA; Levander OA Dietary oxidative stress and the potentiation of viral infection. Annu Rev Nutr 1998;18:93-116. Beck MA Antioxidants and viral infections: host immune response and viral pathogenicity. J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Oct;20(5 Suppl):384S-388S; discussion 396S-397S. Beck MA; Levander OA; Handy J Selenium deficiency and viral infection. J Nutr 2003 May;133(5 Suppl 1):1463S-7S. Rayman MP; The argument for increasing selenium intake Proc Nutr Soc 2002 May;61(2):203-15
These articles above review the literature and studies showing nutritional deficiencies lead to more serious infections. They contain the interesting science that describes how a diet low in anti-oxidents and phytochemicals can enable genetic sequences in the pathogen to alter allowing more serious outcome. Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of several viral infections, including hepatitis, influenza, and AIDS. Dietary oxidative stress due to either various nutritional deficiencies such as selenium or vitamin E increases cardiac damage in mice infected with a myocarditic strain of coxsackievirus B3. Poor diet allows a normally benign (i.e., amyocarditic) coxsackievirus B3 to convert to virulence and cause heart damage. These findings were then documented to occur in humans too. It was found that cardiomyapathy as well as viral induced neuropathy have a dual etiology involving a nutritional deficiency along with a enterovirus that now can create a serious outcome, not permitted in a more nutritionally adequate host. More recently research has shown that the influenza virus also exhibits increased virulence in a nutritional deficient host allowing multiple changes in the viral genome. Interestingly, the influenza virus causes more serious lung pathology and HIV infection progresses more rapidly to AIDS in the micronutrient poor host. Although it has been known for many years that poor nutrition can affect host response to infection, the finding that host nutrition affects the genetic sequence of a pathogen is an important field of future investigations.
4. Levander OA. Nutrition and newly emerging viral diseases: an overview. J Nutr 1997 May;127(5 Suppl):948S-950S. Amati L; Cirimele D; Pugliese V; Covelli V; Resta F; Jirillo E Nutrition and immunity: laboratory and clinical aspects. Curr Pharm Des 2003;9(24):1924-31 Irshad M; Chaudhuri PS Oxidant-antioxidant system: role and significance in human body. Indian J Exp Biol 2002 Nov;40(11):1233-9
Malnutrition has long been associated with increased susceptibility to infectious disease due to an impaired immune response. Now more data has emerged to substantiate the view that oxidants, anti-oxidants and nutritional factors have dramatic positive effect on host recovery, response, resistance and also to protect the virus from mutating into a more dangerous forms. When discussing interactions of nutrition and infection, nutritionists have traditionally considered only the effects of diet on the host. Recent data, however, indicate that host nutrition can influence the genetic make-up of the pathogen and thereby alter its virulence. These symposiums and articles were designed to alert the community of nutritional scientists to this discovery and possible implications for the improvement is public health.
When derived of anti-oxidant nutrients viral infections can cause serious even fatal diseases, that don't occur when deficiency is not present. Immunity when optimized can ward off infection and when infected is more likely to have harmless outcome. It is well known that inappropriate nutrient intake accounts for the maintenance of the immunological equilibrium, in humans and animals. Vitamins, elements, lipids, proteins. phytonutrients, and nucleic acids play an important role in the regulation of cellular and humoral immune responses since single or multiple deficits of these food components have been shown to cause immune abnormalities.
5. Reid AH; Taubenberger JK; Fanning TG. The 1918 Spanish influenza: integrating history and biology. Microbes Infect 2001 Jan;3(1):81-7. Afkhami A Compromised constitutions: the Iranian experience with the 1918 influenza pandemic. Bull Hist Med 2003 Summer;77(2):367-92
The global demographic impact of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic continues to fascinate researchers and scholars. These papers examine the social and demographic effects of this outbreak on society, through a comprehensive investigation of the modes of transmission and propagation, mortality rates, and other distinctive features of various regions, and reveals the importance of taking a country's unique settings into account. For example, Iran was one of the regions hit hardest by the pandemic, with mortality rates significantly higher than in most regions of the world. Contrary to the prevailing notion that the 1918 influenza targeted the young and healthy, this paper suggests that famine, opium, malaria, and anemia were fundamentally responsible for the high mortality in Iran. Clearly those with compromised immunity suffered the most damage.
The touted concept that the pandemic flu of 1918 target the "young and healthy" is not quite accurate. First of all, like today the diet in Western Europe in those days was largely meat, bread, potato, lard, butter and cheese with minimal fresh produce. The so-called, "young and healthy" back then, like today could not be used as an example of those eating a diet to assure nutritional adequacy. The diets of yore were grossly deficient. Today most industrialized nations eat less than five percent of total calories from fresh produce: fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and beans. In spite of the fact that we have new science pointing to the impressive disease protection against heart disease, strokes, dementia, cancer and yes, serous infections, our society still consumes a diet assuring nutritional compromise and tragic medical outcomes..
Those of you naysayers who would like to stay on your chicken and pasta "low fat diet" or your cheeseburger and cokes with your heads buried deeply in the French fries, I say that is your prerogative. As for me, I will use and apply the science of today that shows the protection offered by cruciferous vegetables, raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds and beans to give myself, my family and my patients the greatest potential to live a live a long, healthy life. This is not alternative medicine, it is good medicine.