U.S. Government Launches Massive Study of Children

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health, is gearing up to track roughly 100,000 children from before birth. It's one of the most ambitious studies ever of this kind. This is from the NICHD's press release:

In the search for environmental influences on human health, and their relationship to genetic constitution, National Children's Study researchers plan to examine such factors as the food children eat, the air they breathe, their schools and neighborhoods, their frequency of visits to a health care provider, and even the composition of the house dust in their homes.

Initial results will be available in 2010, although the study will last for decades.


Looking for a Few Good Cases

A major national television news magazine is interested in following a handful of children as Dr. Fuhrman treats their disease with excellent nutrition. If you are in reach of Dr. Fuhrman's 19126, New Jersey office and are interested, e-mail us.

Financial assistance may be available.

School Food: Canada to Mimic Britain?

Caroline Alphonso reports in The Globe and Mail that some in Canada are optimistic Canada will follow Britain's lead in banishing lots of unhealthy foods from schools.

If you read the whole article, it sounds like Canadian parents interested in feeding their children healthy food should plan on sack lunches for at least a few more years. There are plenty of obstacles to Canada following suit. For instance, in Canada the provinces control their own school districts, so no single political action could change the whole country's school lunches.

Then there are the entrenched obstacles, which Alphonso describes:

For school boards, the vending machines and food contracts are a lucrative revenue source at a time when they have been struggling with budget cuts.

The money helps pay for team uniforms and trips.

Brian Woodland, spokesman for the Peel District School Board, which serves the Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon areas west of Toronto, said his board is working within its food contract to make sure at least one healthy meal is offered daily in high-school cafeterias at a lower price than the regular meals.

There is no discussion of changing what is being sold in high-school vending machines, he said. In elementary and middle schools that have vending machines, bottled water, apple juice and orange juice are sold.

If high schools do not serve both the healthy foods and the junk foods, students "will walk to the mall or the nearby fast-food restaurant," Mr. Woodland said.

But Lucy Valleau, chairwoman of the school nutrition working group of the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, said schools should be "role-modelling healthy behaviour."

"The school should be a safe haven for students to go. They should be safe and have healthy food choices," she said.

"There's no need to be selling food with minimal nutrition value in secondary-school cafeterias," Ms. Valleau said.

A Younger Focus for the American Heart Association

In Dr. Fuhrman's books, he points to an emerging body of research showing that the diet of the very young is especially important in determining lifelong health, and the likelihood of getting many kinds of chronic diseaese.

It seems they must be reading some of the same studies at the American Heart Association, because they just announced a new initiative aimed at the very young. Here's how Reuters describes the decision:

Because there is now ample evidence that the process of heart disease begins at a young age, the new guidelines encourage parents and pediatricians to take a "primordial prevention" approach -- taking steps in a child's infancy to prevent heart disease risk factors from developing.

Previous dietary recommendations from AHA were not intended for children under age 2, who need a higher percentage of fat in their diet to support growth. The new guidelines, published online in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, for the first time provide guidance for the under-2 set.

By no means am I suggesting that these are stolen from the pages of Disease-Proof Your Child. (It is a happy coincidence to find so many different experts agreeing, and in any case there are plenty of differences--for instance Dr. Furhman's book is much more in-depth and includes many more dietary disease prevention techniques.) But anyone who has read Disease-Proof Your Child will recognize almost all of the new AHA pointers, which include:
-feeding breast milk exclusively for the first four to six months and continuing through the first year
-taking care not to overfeed infants
-introducing healthy foods repeatedly even if they are refused at first
-avoiding feed high-calorie, low nutrient foods
-delaying the introduction of juice, and limiting quantities

Dr. Samuel Gidding, who was instrumental in creating the new AHA guidelines, is quoted by Reuters quoting some of Dr. Fuhrman's favorite statistics, including that many toddlers eat no fruit in a typical day, and that french fries are the most commonly consumed vegetables. Like Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Gidding also asserts that parents must model healthy eating for their children.

Hopefully America is paying attention!

The AHA also have a practical list of ten things parents can do to encourage healthy hearts in their children.

Study: Lots of Vegetables Can Lower Lung Cancer Risk

Matthew B. Schabath, Ph.D. led a team at the University of Texas in a case-control study that followed 1,674 patients with lung cancer with 1,735 matched healthy controls. From July 1995 through October 2003 they were surveyed to ascertain aspects of their health and diet. In their study released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers announce a correlation was found between plant-based foods and reduced lung disease. This is from an article describing the study on Intelihealth:

A diet higher in plant-derived compounds known as phytoestrogens is linked with a lower lung cancer risk, according to a study in the September 28 issue of JAMA.

Phytoestrogens are plant-derived nonsteroidal compounds found in soy products, grains, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables, according to background information in the article. They have weak estrogen-like activity.

The three main classes of phytoestrogens are isoflavones, lignans, and cumestrans. A fourth group of plant-derived steroidal compounds believed to have estrogenic properties are the phytosterols.

Phytoestrogens have been shown to have a protective effect against some solid tumors, but there has been little epidemiologic research focused on dietary intake of phytoestrogens and lung cancer risk.

This is especially interesting in light of yesterday's article in The New York Times which questioned the ability of diet to play a role at all in stopping cancer.


Jamie Oliver is on the Case

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is trying to get children to eat healthier food in schools and at home. His campaign is called Feed Me Better, and has involved taking over school kitchens in England and making the food fresher and healthier. Today he was on the Today show, which I missed, but I'm told that at one point he was shown auditing the contents of one family's fridge. Every fresh vegetable they had was for their pets. None for the humans!

I can't quibble with Jamie Oliver's excellent efforts to encourage young people to eat better food. But be warned: he recommends a lot of things (pasta, cheese, and meat) that are not the absolute healthiest. He should really read Disease-Proof Your Child.

Study: Soda Linked to Gullet Cancer

In the New Scientist, Shaoni Bhattacharya has news of a link between cancer of the esophagus and soft drinks from the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans:

Mohandas Mallath, head of the digestive diseases department at Tata Memorial Hospital, India, and colleagues found a "very significant correlation" between the rise in consumption and esophageal cancer globally. The effects took about 20 years to come through, they believe.

The trend was seen in other countries where fizzy drinks have risen in popularity, such as the UK and Australia. But in countries where soft drinks have not caught on like Japan or China, there has been no increase in the cancers affecting the esophagus, the tube linking the mouth and stomach.

For more news about studies linking diet and cancer, be sure to read Dr. Fuhrman's post from yesterday.


British Schools Overhaul Food Offerings

What we feed our children can have a huge impact on lifelong health, so it's important to make good choices. In the United Kingdom, the government has looked into what children are eating in schools, and have decided it's time for a major overhaul. Whole categories of sugary, salty, and fatty foods will not be allowed.

Joe Harvey is director of the Health Education Trust, and applauds the move. In BBC's coverage of the "School Foods Ban" he points out that there have been a lot of profits from schools for purveyors of unhealthy foods:

"They're not there to make a profit for the confectionery and soft drink industry. They're there to care for children."

Making the decision not to eat certain unhealthy things is undoubtedly smart, but it hardly guarantees good nutrition. Avoiding sugar and fat is just one step (and from a child's point of view, not a very fun one). Getting kids to love leafy greens, beans, raw nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other healthy foods is another important step, and one that takes some sustained nurturing, explaining, and role-modeling.

NY Times Questions Diet as Cancer Prevention

In The New York Times today, Gina Kolata raises the question: can a healthy diet prevent cancer? After surveying the results of recent case control and cohort studies, she concludes that the benefits of a healthy diet are "hypothetical and elusive" when it comes to preventing cancer.

There's a lot of great research in Ms. Kolata's article, but unfortunately the studies she cites examine only modest dietary changes, over relatively short periods, in adults. A broader look at the research reveals a very different picture, and a convincing case that diet is an important tool in preventing cancer, especially in children and young people.

Understanding Different Kinds of Studies
There are different ways of studying the relationship between nutrition and cancer.
Epidemiological studies look at populations with varying characteristics for comparison. These have shown overwhelmingly that there is a connection between diet and cancer.
Case control studies compare two groups: one with the disease in question, and one without. (Past food intake is determined by questionnaires.)
Cohort studies follow two groups over time, looking for differences that appear years later.

As the Times acknowledges, hundreds of epidemiological studies show in any number of convincing ways that there likely is a connection between diet and cancer. In The China Study, for instance (which the Times earlier called "the Grand Prix of all epidemiological studies" and "the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease") researchers compared the varying diets in various Chinese towns, and found that as the amount of animal products increased in the diet, even in relatively small increments, so did the emergence of the types of cancers that are common in the West. The researchers noted that most cancers increased in direct proportion to the quantity of animal products eaten and decreased relative to the amount of fruits, vegetables, and beans consumed. Areas of China with exceptionally low intakes of animal products were virtually free of the cancers and heart disease that develop in most people living in Western countries.

The China Study is one of many epidemiological studies showing a diet-cancer connection. Among those aged 50-75, cancers of the digestive tract, breast, and prostate are 20 times higher in the United States than in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. The huge geographic variability in the incidence of these cancers suggests dietary factors as the main cause. When people from a low-risk country migrate to the United States, their cancer rates increase considerably, and their offspring get cancer at the same rate as other Americans. This demonstrates that the lower incidence of these cancers in Asia is not due to a lower genetic susceptibility in Asians, but rather to the lack of exposure to Western lifestyles.

Fat, particularly animal fat, has been implicated as a cause of cancer, while the consumption of fruits and vegetables had been shown to protect against cancer. For instance, Boyd et al reported on this in a 1993 study published in the British Journal of Cancer, as did Steinmetz et al in a 1996 article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and La Vecchia et al in a 1998 article in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Studies on laboratory animals also implicate omega-6 oils and saturated fat intake as cancer promoters. (Examples include Hursting et al in a 1990 Preventive Medicine article, Zhao et al in Nutrition and Cancer in 1991, Fay et al in Cancer Research in 1997.)

The Times article draws heavily on the many recent cohort and case-control studies that have been something of a fly in the ointment. They have created confusion and doubt, because with a few exceptions, they have not confirmed the findings of the epidemiological studies.

Case control studies have shown an association with animal fat consumption and cancer, but this was not considered convincing evidence, as patients with cancer have a tendency to exaggerate their prior fat intake on diet recall questionnaires.

The cohort studies are more respected because they follow separate groups over a long time period. The cohort studies have not shown a clear-cut relationship between dietary fat (even saturated fat) and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon or have only shown a moderate relationship. The Nurses Health Study showed that American women who reduced their fat intake did not see a decreased incidence of breast cancer.

Why do the epidemiologic and cohort studies show different results? Do these conflicting results mean that saturated fat is not a significant risk factor for cancer? Is a high-fiber diet that includes large amounts of natural, unrefined plant foods such as fresh fruit, raw nuts and seeds, vegetables, and beans not protective? Is this huge amount of data collected in the China Project and other convincing epidemiological studies wrong?

Cohort Studies: Measuring Too Little, Too Late
Because all the epidemiological studies can't be wrong, there are two possibilities. The first is that these cohort studies followed adults who are past the age when diet plays a significant role. The middle-aged adults who attempted to eat more carefully to prevent cancer were already past the age when diet has its most powerful effect. In China, for example, the dietary pattern observed was present during gestation, infancy, childhood, and beyond.

The second possibility is that the lower ranges of saturated fat intake tested were not sufficiently low to be protective. The dietary variation from one group to another may not have been enough to show a significant difference. (For instance, people eating lots of pasta and chicken, but not lots of leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, etc. would be considered to be eating a low fat diet, but they would not be eating the diet that the evidence suggests would be optimal for cancer prevention. As I explain elsewhere, they key to a healthy diet is nutrient density.)

The bottom line is that these studies on adults in Western countries are not very accurate. They follow adults who made only modest dietary changes later in life, and who were likely past the age when dietary influence can have a profound effect on cancer occurrence.

Childhood Diet is Key
The piece of the puzzle that The New York Times missed is the research relating to diets during childhood. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests diet among children, especially very young children, can have a strong effect on the likelihood of later cancer. A lot of the reason why I wrote the book Disease-Proof Your Child was to put that research together all in one place.

When you examine what children eat and its effect on cancer, epidemiologic, case control, and cohort studies all fall much more in line with the idea that a healthy diet can reduce the likelihood of cancer.

This makes some sense: the growing body, with its dividing cells, is at greater risk when exposed to all types of negative and toxic influences. With loosely spooled DNA, children are literally more exposed.

Researchers have noted many examples of events in youth that cause cancer decades later. For example, the largest groupings of cancer spikes among those who survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings occurred 40 to 45 years after exposure (according to Pierce et al in a Radiation Research article published in 1996.)

Also in Japan, a forty-one-year National Nutrition Survey detected a massive drop in dietary fiber after World War II. An average intake of 27.4 grams per day in 1947 was reduced to 15.8 grams by 1963. Fat intake increased form 18 grams in 1950 to 56.6 grams in 1987. Twenty-three to 24 years after the heightened consumption of animal products began, there was a correlating increase in colon cancer. Those with the highest consumption of plant fiber in childhood had the lowest incidence of colon cancer.

In a 1998 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, Caygill et al found that incidence of breast cancer correlated strongly with body weight---several decades before the cancer occurred. Those who were overweight as young women were more likely to get breast cancer. Some researchers conclude that dieting later in life may be too late.

Dr. Jerald Silverman of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State University used a grant from the American Institute for Cancer Research to study mice who are very susceptible to breast cancer. He fed some a high-fat diet. Other groups he switched to low-fat diets at various stages of their lives. The study showed the same things we see in human studies: those mice fed the high-fat diet had more cancer, and more of the cancer spread to the lung. The earlier the change to the healthier lower-fat diet, the better the mice fared.

Breast cancer is not the only cancer that has been shown to behave in this way. Colon cancer has a weak association with obesity in adults. But high body weight in adolescence correlates much more strongly with eventual colon cancer, according to Must et al in their follow up to the Harvard Growth Study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992.

Engeland et al tracked 1.1 million Norwegian women, and found that women who were heavier and taller as youngsters were 56 percent more likely to develop ovarian cancer. Their results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2003. Similarly, Harvard Medical School researchers have found that women who reported being overweight by age eighteen were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer later in life.

Numerous studies report links between high caloric intake in childhood and cancer. Frankel et al reported in the British Medical Journal in 1998 that they studied 3,834 subjects for more than half a century, and found a positive association between calories consumed during early life and later mortality from every cancer other than those related to smoking. With every additional MJ/day (238 calories) there was a 20% increased risk of mortality from the most common cancers. Fewer calories consumed during childhood provided protection against all three common cancers. The researchers noted that their findings were consistent with similar animal studies and human studies showing correlation between height (which can be at least partly caused by high caloric intake, especially from high-growth foods like dairy) and cancer, and concluded that their study "confirms the importance of optimal nutrition in childhood."

Just as there are studies showing that diet during childhood can increase the risk of cancer, there are other studies demonstrating that certain foods can reduce that risk. For instance, Sullivan published research in Family Practice News showing that teenagers who eat more high-fiber, high-antioxidant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts have a lower occurrence of benign breast disease, the precursor marker of breast cancer.

In countless studies, early puberty has been repeatedly associated with breast cancer. But what causes early puberty? Lots of research implicates childhood diet.

In 1998, the UK Department of Health's Working Group on Diet and Cancer of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy made public their cohort study showing that higher consumption of produce and protein-rich plant foods such as beans and nuts is associated with a later menarche, and the higher consumption of protein-rich animal foods--meat and dairy--is associated with an earlier menarche and increased occurrence of adult breast cancer.

Similarly, a 1999 study published by Berkey et al in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed children from birth and found that the girls who consumed more animal products and fewer vegetables between the ages of one and eight were prone to early maturation and puberty. The strongest predictor of early puberty was a diet rich in animal protein before the age of five. Many studies have shown convincingly that estrogen levels in children can be managed through diet.

Cho et al followed 100,000 women between the ages of 26 and 46, and found that the younger the woman was, the greater effect diet could have on later breast cancer incidence. Those results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2003.

These are just some of the ways that a healthy diet, especially for young people, can reduce cancer risk. As I describe in Disease-Proof Your Child, an excellent diet can also reduce exposure to pesticides and hormones--which have been shown in studies to have links to cancer. The book also explains how a diet rich in the healthiest foods can have a dramatic effect in reducing asthma, ear infections, allergies, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders.

Pomegranates for Your Prostate

The Daily Mail mentions a small study involving cancer in mice that has been conducted at the University of Wisconsin.

A total of 24 mice were divided into three groups. One was given normal water to drink, while the others had their water supplemented with 0.1% or 0.2% of pomegranate juice.

The doses were chosen to mirror how much juice a typically healthy person might be willing to consume daily.

The results were dramatic, the scientists said. Cancer progression was significantly slowed in mice receiving the higher pomegranate dose.

The study was mentioned on VegSource, which also links to a study from March showing pomegranates may help prevent heart disease, too.

When I first went to Dr. Fuhrman he told me to put a little bit of pomegranate juice--as well as ground flax, nuts, and fresh fruit--on my morning oatmeal. Especially if that fruit is blueberries, that makes for a delicious breakfast.

Study: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Cancer in Mice

The New Scientist has word of a study suggesting mothers can reduce their daughters likelihood of developing breast cancer by getting lots of omega-3s during pregnancy and breast-feeding:

Elaine Hardman at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana looked at the effects of mothers' diets on mice predisposed to develop breast cancer. Female mice whose mothers ate a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids and which ate the same diet themselves after weaning all developed tumours by six months. The diets of most people in western countries are much richer in omega-6 oils than omega-3s.

In mice whose mothers ate a diet richer in omega-3s, or mice fed this diet only after weaning, tumour rates fell to 60 per cent. In female mice fed the omega-3-rich diet and whose mothers ate it as well, the rate fell to just 13 per cent, Hardman told a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research this week.

Store Wars

It has been around for a while, but there must still be people out there who have yet to see this incredible animated video which spoofs Star Wars while waging war against processed food. One of the characters is called Obi Wan Cannoli. You get the idea.

Kentucky's Chronic Disease

Laura Ungar reports in today's Louisville Courier-Journal about the terrible state of things in Kentucky. The state is among the worst in the US when it comes to cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that are influenced by diet, exercise, and quitting smoking.

The title of her article is Bad Habits Give Birth to Chronic Diseases. The title implies the good news: changing habits can reverse chronic disease.

Ms. Ungar points out that the nature of fighting disease is shifting. It used to be that people got sick (with infections, etc.) and doctors cured them. The prevalant diseases at the moment, however, are not curable by doctors, but instead are best prevented with a long-term healthy approach.

Kentuckians would be much healthier if their major diseases were caused by germs.

Then a vaccine or antibiotics might prevent or cure what ails us.

But in the Bluegrass State, we suffer from such chronic illnesses as lung cancer, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes � which are much more difficult to control because they are linked to harmful habits long accepted in Kentucky.

And we start down this road at a young age with habits that too often continue into adulthood.

The state ranks worst in the nation for teen tobacco use and above the national average for high school students who are obese. Adults smoke at the highest rate in the nation and exercise at the lowest rates. Many residents eat high-fat diets without enough fruits and vegetables, which combine with sedentary lifestyles to help make Kentucky the seventh-fattest state in America.

The article also quotes a nursing professor:

"It's ridiculous. It's just way out of whack," Ellen Hahn, a University of Kentucky nursing professor, said of spending on prevention. As a society "we don't value prevention. We just wait until a crisis happens and throw money at it."

Stephen Steams Broccoli

The food blog Stephen Cooks is a temple to food--some healthy, some not so healthy. One of the most basic recipes he has to offer is one that he says he makes at least once a week, and it's for steamed broccoli with scallions, garlic, vinegar etc. Dr. Fuhrman would want you to leave out the salt and oil, which are both optional anyway.

Stephen says that it gets raves, which is not hard to believe. Most of were raised on overcooked and tired broccoli. It's time to realize once again that there's no reason broccoli can't be a vegetable of choice.


Quick Soy Cheese Pita Pizza

It's pizza day over at Slashfood, so it's a good time to trot out Dr. Fuhrman's healthy pizza recipe from Disease-Proof Your Child:

Quick Soy Cheese Pita Pizza
4 large whole-wheat pitas
1 cup no-salt tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red onions
10 ounces frozen broccoli florets, thawed and chopped fine
1 cup white soy cheese

Slice edges of pita and seperate to make 8 pita pizzas. Lay flat on baking tray and spoon on the tomato sauce. Sprinkle evenly with the mushrooms, onions, and broccoli and cover with a light application of shredded soy cheese. Bake on a low temperature (200 degrees) in the over for 15 minutes.


Nutrient Density: the Key to Health

Your diet is the cornestone of your health. At the end of the day all that matters is the number of calories and the amount of nutrients that you have ingested. The combination of lowering calories and increasing nutrition is a combination punch that will prevent disease, dramatically slow the aging process and help us to live longer, more youthful lives! That's why I developed this simple Health Equation. The Health Equation describes Nutrient Density. Forget calories and start analyzing the nutrient density of the foods that you eat.

Macronutrients the Source of all Calories

Macronutrients are the nutrients that contain calories, thereby supplying us with energy.

Micronutrients- the Basis for Superior Nutrition
Micronutrients are those nutrients that don't contain calories, but have other essential roles to play. Examples of some micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and fiber. There are thousands of them.

My health equation simply states that in order to maintain superior health and a youthful vigor into later years we must maximize micronutrients as we minimize macronutrients. In other words eat as many micronutrients as you can for each calorie of macronutrient. To do this we must eat less fat, less protein and less carbohydrate as we increase our consumption of high nutrient foods.

The foundation of nutritional science is this simple formula:

Health = Nutrients / Calories (H = N / C)

This concept describes the nutrient density of your diet. The key to both longevity and maintaining a healthy weight is to eat predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients (non-caloric food factors) compared to calories.

We do not want to be deficient in any macronutrient. However, consuming more of any one of these three macronutrients than we need can have detrimental effects on our long term health. Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate are the only macronutrients that exist. All calories consist of one of these three macronutrients. If you are overweight, you have consumed more calories than you have utilized. Micromanaging the percent of fat, protein or carbohydrate isn't going to change the amount of calories much. You need to consume fewer calories.

Therefore, almost all overweight individuals need to consume less protein, less fat and less carbohydrates; the source of calories. Don't worry about not consuming enough. Unless you are anorexic, it is very rare to find an American deficient in fat, protein or carbohydrates. Inhabitants of modern western societies generally consume more macronutrients than needed.

Are micronutrients in our diet really that important?
Could we just take a vitamin pill and eat a low nutrient diet and do almost just as well? The answer that you will come to understand is that micronutrient intake is the most crucial factor that determines our health and that optimal micronutrient intake can only be achieved if we eat a relatively large quantity of non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables contain the most nutrients per calorie of any other food. They also contain large amounts of not yet named compounds (phytochemicals) essential for maximizing health and preventing disease. Keep in mind that micronutrients include many that have not yet been discovered. New nutrients are being discovered all of the time. The incredible nutrient density of non-starchy vegetables and their ability to promote health and reduce our caloric drive is one of the secrets to Eat To Live and a long, healthy life.

Calories - Less is More
There are very few things in science that are proven. By "proven" I mean that every study performed on the subject, has always shown the same thing, and shown it convincingly. There is only one proven way to extend lifespan and retard aging.

Here it is:
When you feed an animal (and that can be an animal of any species) less food in a high or at least adequate micronutrient environment it will live considerably longer. The thinnest animals always out live the ones that are heavier. This has also been confirmed with studies on humans, the thinnest of us, live the longest.

Scientists have known for over sixty (60) years that if you reduce caloric intake below a certain set point while maintaining adequate nutrition you can extend life. This experiment has been performed on numerous species, including primates (we are primates too). In each case, the average animal lifespan was increased 25 - 50 percent. Reducing calories not only extends life it delays the onset of old age. You literally live younger longer. In all clinical studies published to date, animals fed reduced calorie diets were also more disease resistant. Evidence for increased lifespan by caloric restriction is enormous and irrefutable. Calorically-restricted animals are not only more cancer resistant, but oxidative stress is inhibited and youthful features of young tissue are retained with aging.

What is clear is that health and longevity are inversely proportional to caloric intake. Calorie reduction is the closest thing that science has to a fountain of youth. Typical studies suggest that you would have to reduce calories by about 30% to achieve significant life-extending benefits. This means that someone who would normally require 2200 Calories would need to reduce intake to 1800 calories in order to achieve life-extending benefits.

However, it must be noted that if one eats less food that is low or deficient in nutrients and as a result consumes less calories in a low nutrient environment, diseases will appear that will destroy the dramatic effects of caloric restriction.
Dr. Fuhrman talks about these issues in more detail in his books, and in the member center of DrFuhrman.com.

Eat Your Greens

Yet another medical study shows health benefits of leafy greens. This time researchers at Tufts are finding that folate, a B vitamin prevalant in greens, helps to protect against cognitive decline in older adults. (Thanks to VegSource for the heads up.)


The website FatFreeVegan.com was created by a group of people who are inspired by Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live, and involves a collection of hundreds of healthy recipes.

But there is an important point to make about the name of the website: the diet Dr. Fuhrman recommends for his patients is not fat free, and is not necessarily vegetarian.

"One thing that makes my diet different from other diets is that I encourage the intake of nuts, seeds, or avocados, except for people who are overweight," explains Dr. Fuhrman. "People who eat nuts and seeds have better blood profiles, better cholesterol, more antioxidants, and other health benefits�even though they are getting more 15% or more of their calories from fat. In fact, for some athletes I recommend a diet that has 40-50% of calories from fat. Also, I don't think children should be on very low-fat diets, and I'm not a fan of different diets for children and adults because they should be encouraged to eat together. If the children need adequate fat for proper development, parents should have some too and the scientific literature supports that it is the quality and nutrient density of the fat source, not the amount of fat that is critical here."

In his various books, Dr. Fuhrman also expresses that a healthy diet can have room for occasional servings of animal products.

(Also worth examining: FatFreeVegan.com has a cursory summary of the six-week plan Dr. Fuhrman advocates in Eat To Live. It makes a lot more sense after you read the book.)

The Lancet: Breast Feeding Saves Lives

The benefits of breast feeding are many, varied, and (at least in some settings) profound. According to a recent paper, widespread breastfeeding could save millions of lives around the globe.

In the new issue of the medical journal The Lancet, Sonia Bechara Coutinho, Pedro Israel Cabral de Lira, Marilia de Carvalho Lima, and Ann Ashworth report on the "Comparison of the effect of two systems for the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding." In the article's introduction, they report some chilling numbers about how many child deaths would be prevented if mothers would breast feed.

Most of the 10*8 million child deaths during the year 2000 were from preventable causes... If 90% of infants were exclusively breastfed at 0-5 months and continued to be breastfed from 6 months to 11 months, there would be an estimated 13% reduction in child deaths worldwide.2 This potential reduction in mortality is higher than for any other level-1 intervention. Current rates of exclusive breastfeeding are far below 90% in most countries, and in some, for example in Latin America, even the duration of breastfeeding is short.

...We report a randomised trial comparing the effect on rates of exclusive breastfeeding of two systems to promote breastfeeding in northeastern Brazil. The interventions were a hospital-based system, in which maternity staff were trained with the course content for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), and a combination of this hospital-based system and a community-based system providing ten postnatal home visits.

The study found that home visits significantly increased the chances that babies would be exclusively breast fed.
The patterns of exclusive breastfeeding in the two trial groups for days 10-180 differed significantly (p<0*0001), with a mean aggregated prevalence of 45% among the group assigned home visits compared with 13% for the group assigned none.

Why Take Vitamins?

Dr. Fuhrman advocates a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals from natural food sources. So why does he also recommend supplements?

I asked him that recently as part of an upcoming podcast, and he said there are many reasons. One, for instance, is that the vast majority of us do not get nearly enough sunshine to create the vitamin D we need. He also talked about the importance of NOT supplementing vitamin A or beta carotene, while praising caratenoids and phytochemicals (things about which I know very little).

When the podcast goes live in the next week or so, you can listen to Dr. Fuhrman's entire answer yourself. In the meantime, NBC has put the same question to Dr. Andrew Weil, who responds, in part, like this:

The main reason I take supplements is for insurance against gaps in my diet. Also, researchers are finding that some important vitamins (D and E particularly) and minerals are protective against disease in amounts that may be difficult to obtain through diet alone, no matter how conscientious you are. This is another reason I take supplements faithfully and encourage my patients to do so as well.

I recommend a comprehensive antioxidant and multivitamin for women and men as the basic foundation for nutritional insurance. My recommended daily antioxidant regimen includes 200 mg of vitamin C, 400 to 800 IU of natural vitamin E (or 80 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols), 200 mcg of selenium, 15,000 to 20,000 IU of mixed carotenoids, and 30 to 100 mg of coenzyme Q10.

Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations are somewhat different. In fact, he does not endorse or recommend taking such high levels of vitamin E and some others, which, he says "have been shown to increase mortality" in high doses. For more of Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts about supplements click here.

Should French Fries Be Labeled "Cancerous?"

Thanks to the VegSource blog for pointing out this fascinating article about a food fight playing out in the California courts. As Melanie Warner tells it in The New York Times:

California's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, filed suit in August against McDonald's; Burger King; Frito-Lay, owned by PepsiCo; and six other food companies, saying that they should be forced to put labels on all fries and potato chips sold in California. The proposed warning might say something to this effect: "This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer."

Dr. Campbell's China Study

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. is the author of The China Study, a multi-faceted and highly respected research project and book that demonstrates with solid science a number of the research principles Dr. Fuhrman discusses.

The China Study has its roots in Dr. Campbell's efforts as a young researcher to try to find ways to get people in developing countries to eat more animal protein like milk, eggs, and meat. Decades later, after one of the largest health research projects ever, he concludes that more animal protein does not inspire good health.

The research behind the China Study is far-reaching. In fact, it has been called the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted, and it was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University (where Dr. Campbell is a professor), Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.

As Dr. Campbell explains in the introduction of The China Study, he didn't set out to disprove many of the assumptions of American nutrition. It just worked out that way:

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The Anthropology of Gluttony

The current Johns Hopkins magazine examines the seven deadly sins. Anthropologist Sidney Mintz (who has written a fair amount about food--including Sweetness and Power and Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom) tackles Gluttony in a well-reasoned essay:

The ubiquity of the food itself is an important element in how much of it we eat, and we have it available now in theaters, next to supermarket checkout counters, cluttering up the lobbies of symphony halls, in laundromats, gymnasia, and (McDonalds, no less) in our hospitals. (Shhh � not yet in our cemeteries.)

I think that we Americans, in particular, are led down the path by the much-touted insistence that sophisticated people should be able to do many things at once. How often are we told by people who want to sell us things that busy folks like us have no time, and must learn to multitask? Chronically subject to low-key distraction by the other things we're doing, we may fail to notice what (or how much) we're eating. Clever devices, like plastic cup holders in automobiles, make it convenient to consume almost uninterruptedly. Takeout and TV dinners, energy bars, and soft drinks everywhere encourage and enable us to eat continuously. Fortunately for the food producers, the eating that makes us sophisticated also makes the GDP rise. The nag factor � an American crotchet ensuring that children get to eat what they want, whenever they want it (nurturing their individuality, perhaps?) � also comes into play.

The composition of the foods we are offered is an element in how much we eat � featuring as they do sweet and fat tastes � but also, of course, in how fat we're getting. Sweeteners and fats have not only overtaken but surpassed complex carbohydrates � the carbs we briefly loved to hate � in everyday meals. That movement from carbs to fat and sweet has been going on at least since World War I.



Nutrition Researcher: Frank Hu

One of the world's most respected nutrition and disease prevention researchers is Frank Hu, MD, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Hu has been instrumental in many of the studies that Dr. Fuhrman cites. Anyone who wants to know more about nutrition research would be smart to follow his work. Here are some of the studies Dr. Hu has been involved with.

2002 Diabetes in Men Study
This study, released in 2002, tracked 42,000 men for twelve years. At the beginning of the study, none had diabetes. 1,321 cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed during the study. All participants were asked repeatedly about their diets, and those who ate what the researchers called the "western diet" (high in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains) and were obese and inactive were at a mich higher risk to get type 2 diabetes.

A Harvard School of Public Health press release describes the study. "The implications of the study are straightforward," says Dr. Hu in the release. "To substantially decrease the chances of getting type 2 diabetes and developing potentially serious complications like blindness, kidney failure and heart disease, men should change their eating pattern and increase their intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish. They should also get plenty of exercise and avoid weight gain."

2004 Study of Weight and Exercise in Women
More than 115,000 women were studied between 1976 and 2000. The findings were clear: being overweight and not exercising both significantly affected mortality. "There is no question that one should be as active as possible no matter what your weight is, but it is equally important to maintain a healthy weight and prevent weight gain through diet and lifestyle," Dr. Hu says in a press release describing the study.

2004 Study of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
This study attempted to assess some of the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on health. More than 91,000 participants filled out questionnaires between 1991 and 1999, and the results were remarkable: those who had more than one sugared soft-drink per day had an 80 percent increased risk of diabetes compared to those who had one per month.

"This is the first study to show a strong positive association between sugar-sweetened beverages, including regular sodas and fruit punches, and diabetes risk," said Frank Hu in a press release describing the study. "Our study suggests that limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, especially soft drinks, is an important public health strategy to curb the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes."

2000 Studies of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
Two studies taken together showed coronary heart disease was dramatically reduced among women who stopped smoking and ate a healthier diet. The studies tracked 86,000 women over a 14-year period.

Here's how Dr. Hu summarized his findings: "Taken together, these studies give strong support to the theories that much of heart disease can be prevented through changes in diet and lifestyle. This newest study shows that a person's risk can drop very quickly by improving their diets and by quitting smoking."

You can read more about Dr. Hu's research at the Harvard School of Public Health website.

Prince Charles: No McMeals, Please

We learn from the food blog Slashfood that the man who would be king addressed a group of food executives at his estate, and urged them to consider a much heavier emphasis on "slow food."

The Diet That Defeats Diabetes

How can we lower high glucose levels, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lose weight and not need to take drugs such as insulin and sulfonylureas which cause weight gain?

Here is the simple answer---the best diet for humans to live longer in superior health is also the best diet for one with diabetes. That is a diet with a high nutrient per calorie ratio as described in my book, Eat To Live. When one eats a diet predominating in nature's perfect foods---green vegetables, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, raw nuts and seeds and limited amount of fresh fruit, it becomes relatively easy for people to eat as much as they want and still lose weight relatively quickly. This includes lots of great tasting food, great recipes, but no oil, butter, cheese, flour or sweets. My experience has demonstrated that those choosing to follow my nutritional recommendation have their diabetes melt away astonishingly fast even before they have lost most of their excess weight.

One of Many Success Stories
James Kenney was referred to my office from his nephrologist at St. Barnabus Hospital in Livingston, 6108032618. Mr. Kenney was originally referred to the nephrologist by his endocrinologist (diabetic specialist) at the Joslin Clinic because of kidney damage that resulted from very high glucose readings in spite of maximum medical management.

First Visit
At his first visit, Jim weighed 268 pounds and was taking a total of 175 units of insulin per day. He had already suffered from severe complications of Type 2 diabetes, including two heart attacks and Charcot (destructive inflammation) joint damage in his right ankle. In spite of this huge dose of insulin and six other medications, Jim's glucose readings averaged between 350 - 400. This was the case "no matter what I eat," he said. Jim told me that he was already on a careful ADA diet, and was following the precise dietary recommendations of the dietician at the Joslin Clinic.

He started my Eat To Live program right away and I immediately reduced his insulin dose down to 130 units per day. Jim and I spoke on the phone over the next few days, and I continued to decrease his insulin gradually.

Five Days
After five days, Jim's glucose was running between 80 and 120, and he had lost ten pounds. At this juncture, I put him on 45 units of Lantus insulin at bedtime and 6 units of Humalog regular insulin before each meal for a total of 63 units per day.

Two Weeks
At his two week visit Jim had lost 16 pounds. I stopped his blood pressure medications and he was taking a total of 58 units per day of insulin.

One Month
After the first month of my Eat To Live program, I was able to stop all of Jim's insulin and start him on Glucophage. He lost 25 pounds in the first five weeks and his blood glucose readings were well controlled without insulin. His blood pressure also came down to normal and he no longer required any blood pressure medications.

Five Months
Five months later: No more diabetes medication, and a 60-pound weight loss Five months later, Jim was off all medications for diabetes, no longer had high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and was more than 60 pounds lighter. His kidney insufficiency had normalized as well.

This case illustrates not merely how powerful the diet from my Eat To Live approach is, but how the standard dietary advice given to diabetics from conventional physicians and dieticians is insufficient. Jim Kenney would likely be dead by now had his nephrologist not referred him to me for an effective dietary approach.

New Vegan Baby Food

There seem to be more and more healthy baby food options all the time. At just about any grocery store you can get organic, vegetarian baby food, which is very convenient especially when travelling.

Thanks to BloggingBaby and TreeHugger we now have word of a new line of baby food which takes things a step further. Not only is this baby food line organic, but it also has options that are biodynamic, vegan, and "allergy aware."

The Pressure to Eat "Normal" Food

For starters, please realize that I am not a medical doctor. My name is Henry Abbott, and I am a patient of Dr. Fuhrman's, and a father (and a professional blogger, part of the team who will contribute to Onlyourhealth.com for Dr. Fuhrman).

My wife and I have a daughter who is about to turn two. Thankfully, she loves to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and is a very healthy girl.

But as I'm sure a lot of you know, there are times when it seems the world just really wants you to feed your child a "normal" diet of soda, french fries, chicken strips, nachos, milkshakes, and cupcakes.

This can come up almost anywhere--at day care, schools, churches, birthday parties, holidays, on vacation, visiting family... When other kids are snacking on doughnuts, pizza, or Doritos, we are often handing our daughter cantaloupe, broccoli, or date nut pop-'ems. (Which is not to say she hasn't had her share of cake and pizza--"stuff" happens.)

Sometimes, though, it just feels a little weird to be so bothered about diet. What would be so bad about being mainstream? So what if she eats chicken fingers and french fries for dinner? What's wrong with a "normal" American child's diet?

If you're reading this, chances are you already know more about healthy eating than I do. So you probably don't need this information. But there's strength in numbers, so I'll trot out my theory for you all the same: Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease-Proof Your Child is essentially 254 pages of answer to that question. And I'm not going to re-hash it all for you here. But as a reminder, the simple answer is this: the "normal" diet is no good! In the quantities we eat them, sugar, fat, and other unhealthy foods lead to all sorts of diseases. What's more, that diet lacks lots of things--from fatty acids to flavinoids--that we really need to have a good shot at living a healthy and happy life.

It's a strange (and I'd wager temporary) reality that the diet most kids eat these days is extremely damaging to young people.

We have all heard about the obesity epidemic. But that's just the beginning. As Dr. Fuhrman explains in the book's introduction:

American children are the heaviest around the globe, and they are getting heavier at a faster rate than other children around the globe1. This spread of obesity foreshadows an explosion in degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer waiting to erupt on our children's future. Together we can stop this tragedy from ever happening.

Before I read Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live, a year or so ago, I never really imagined that there was much evidence to support the idea that the junk food I eat today could become prostate cancer, diabetes, or a heart attack down the road. Sure, everyone tells you to eat a healthy diet to avoid such things, but it still seemed to be almost a random connection. The various nutrition coaches, talk show guests, and best-selling "experts" I had heard saying not to eat this or that always seemed a little unreliable, goofy, or too left-of-center to really be credible.

But it turns out there are studies upon studies from the most respected journals. Dr. Fuhrman's writing references hundreds upon hundreds of scientific studies that are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Annals of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and hundreds more like them.

To my admittedly inexpert eyes, the evidence looks solid that the diet Dr. Fuhrman advocates does, in fact, seriously reduce the likelihood of any number of diseases. It also just makes me feel better--more energetic, focused, and happy. (And a piece of news from the new book is that the younger you are, the more a healthy diet can benefit you. No kidding: Dr. Fuhrman reports that pre-conception is the optimum time to start eating well to maximize the child's chance of good health.)

Other doctors I have talked to agree with the basics of his diet without reservation. I have talked to "normal" doctors about my diet, and they have nodded, and said, in essence "of course that's why you're so healthy." Dr. Fuhrman reports that other doctors tell him all the time they completely believe what he advocates works.

So why isn't every doctor telling every patient to eat this way? I assume it's because they simply don't have the nerve to ask their patients to eat that way. They don't want to rock the boat that much. They don't want to tell their patients, in great detail, what to eat.

But some of that is changing. For instance, Dr. Fuhrman is currently in California for a number of media appearances and talks about his new book. Tomorrow, he will address doctors at a large health insurance company. They have even been talking about including some of his dietary recommendations as standard operating procedure. It makes a lot of sense for a health insurance company to lead the charge--every disease they prevent saves them hundreds or thousands!

In any case, no matter what happens with the insurance company, my point is that the truth has a way of spreading. Everywhere you go these days people are talking about fatty acids and omega-3s. More and more people are avoiding refined wheats and sugars. Organic food consumption is up.

My hunch: we who believe in feeding our kids healthy food--if we hang in there, we won't be the oddballs with the cantaloupe in the corner for long. As the truth about "normal" food spreads through the media, schools, doctors, insurance companies, families, and by every other means imaginable--well eventually they'll put the cantaloupe on the table in the middle of the room, and a few outcast parents will be smuggling cupcakes in the corner.

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Toxic Chemicals in Seafood

Keep in mind, there is a significantly larger exposure to toxic chemicals in animal products compared to plant foods. By eating lower on the food chain and reducing our intake of animal products, one automatically reduces exposure to toxic chemicals. Plants have the least fat-soluble pollutants, animals that eat plants have more, and animals that eat animals have the hightest levels of these toxic compounds. Fish that eat smaller fish will store the toxic compounds from every fish it ever ate, including all the fish eaten by the fish it just made a meal of. It is important to avoid lobster, shellfish, catfish, and predator fish such as tuna, bluefish, striped bass, shark, and swordfish, where toxins such as PCB, DDT, dioxin, and mercury are likely to build up due to the compounding effects of eating lots of smaller fish. One gets larger doses of more toxic compounds from these contaminated animal products than would be possible to take in from produce.

This passage is from the chapter entitled "Understanding the Causes of Cancer and Other Illnesses" from Joel Fuhrman M.D.'s new book Disease-Proof Your Child.

Kids Eat Well at Harlem's Promise Academy

As part of their excellent series on school lunches, The New York Times today profiles Harlem's Promise Academy.

Schools across the country are experimenting with healthier food, but as one expert quoted by the Times points out, this may be the most aggressive effort anywhere. At the Promise Academy, kids who had never had a fresh peach or raspberry are suddenly being offered lunch that is thick with local zucchini and swiss chard. There is no soda, and snacks consist of fresh local fruit.

One child, named Ebony, is quoted saying this: "I was like, 'I don't want to eat that.' But I had to, because there was nothing else. Then it was like, 'This is good.'"

Thanks to an aggressive stance from school developer Geoffrey Canada, the culinary talents of chef Andrew Benson, and a food budget that is slightly inflated thanks to grants and donations, the effort seems to be paying off. The article includes anecdotes about children who didn't know what swiss chard was a year ago asking their parents to buy some to eat at home. There are even cooking classes for the whole family. One school parent, who is a diabetic, says she is thrilled her children are learning a new way to eat.

Goodbye to Medications, Hello to Long-Term Health

The following story comes from 30-year-old Shawn Powers in Indian River, Michigan.

I wanted to send a sincere thank you. On a whim, I googled for a diet plan to help with blood pressure. Eat to Live happened to be the first I ran into. I drove a half hour to the bookstore, and bought a copy. I read the whole book that afternoon.

I could go on and on about struggles, cravings, relief from cravings, addiction, etc. -- but I'll just put my current results as an "attaboy" for the doctor.

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Parents, Children, and Sugar

Over at the Blogging Baby weblog there is an interesting discussion going on now about kids and sugar.

One of the consistent themes in Dr. Fuhrman's work--for children and adults alike--is that it is smart to avoid refined sugars. The diet he recommends is rich in nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables--and does not include any refined sugars at all. However, as a parent of four, Dr. Fuhrman understands the challenges of parenting at birthday parties, county fairs, and other junk-food-centric occasions. In his new book Disease-Proof Your Child, this is what he recommmends:

As your child gets older, birthday cake and other unhealthy foods might be offered on occasion. If no fuss is made and nothing discussed, three things might occur: the child might have a few bites and nothing more, she might eat the whole piece, or she might not even like the sweet or artificial taste.

My daughter Cara found birthday cake distasteful. We always fed our children a good meal of their favorite foods before they left the house prior to birthday parties or other events to make sure they were not hungry when exposed to this kind of food. By the time they were older and faced with parents distributing soda and doughnuts at soccer games, they were already knowledgeable enough to say no thank you on their own. They knew the health consequences of such eating habits.

If your children choose to eat junk food on occasion, let it go. Try not to make them feel bad about it. You will know how healthfully they eat when they are home, which should be more than 90 percent of their intake. Control what is done in the home and make sure that 90 percent of the time the family is eating at home. The best approach is to control what you can control and don't try to control what you can't.

The goal is for your children to eat healthfully because they want to, and do so whether their parents are around or not.

Dairy, Fast-Growing Kids, and Cancer

Scientific studies have consistently repeated the observation that most common cancers are associated with stimulated growth in childhood, especially growth fueled by a diet heavy in growth-promoting animal products. This protein- and fat-rich diet is enabling today's children to exceed the height predicted by their parental genetics. But children who mature early and grow taller than expected by parental height have been shown to be at higher risk of breast, prostate, colorectal, leukemic, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.1

Animal models have displayed this phenomenon for decades.2 We now have the data to conclude that the same is true for humans. Growth can be equated with aging; slower growth leads to slower aging and longer life. We used to think rapid growth in our children was a beneficial phenomenon. "Drink your milk. It will help you grow big and strong," parents parroted to their children. Over the years, however, scientists have noted that animals that grow faster and mature quicker, die younger. Now we find that drinking "growth promoting" cow's milk in early childhood may have negative effects. Humans are designed to be raised on human milk in the first few years of life, not cow's milk. Human milk makes for slower growth. Cow's milk is specially designed for baby cows, and it supplies the nutrients to facilitate the rapid growth natural to cows.

Epedimiological studies consistently show low death rates from breast and prostate cancer where dairy consumption is very low.3 In areas of the world where breast-feeding is routinely continued past the second birthday, the intake of cow's milk is exceedingly low. It is likely that this combination of more breast milk and a much later introduction of cow's milk explains the results of these studies linking very low intake of dairy to lower incidence of breast and prostate cancer.

This passage is from the chapter entitled "Understanding the Causes of Cancer and Other Illnesses" from Joel Fuhrman M.D.'s new book Disease-Proof Your Child.

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Healthy Food Reduces Exposure to Toxic Dioxins

In his book Disease-Proof Your Child, Dr. Fuhrman cites a 2003 study from the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science.

Here are some the study's findings:

Dioxins and DLCs are long-lasting compounds that accumulate in the body fat of animals and people. Although dioxins are ubiquitous in the environment, the fats in meat, poultry, fatty fish, whole milk, and full-fat dairy products are the principal source of most people's exposure. However, fetal and infant exposure depends on the amount in the mother's body because these compounds can cross the placenta and also collect in the fat in breast milk.

High levels of dioxins have been linked to endocrine-related conditions, developmental problems, and susceptibility to cancer, among other health hazards. However, more research is needed to discern whether small amounts of dioxins are toxic and at what levels they begin to pose risks. Further improvements in analytical tools and methods will enable researchers to better characterize any possible risks associated with low-level exposure. Dioxin levels in the environment have declined dramatically in recent decades -- by as much as 76 percent since the 1970s, according to some measurements. Dioxin levels in foods have decreased greatly as well.

The committee was not asked to offer any judgments about the risks of human exposure through foods, but rather to recommend risk-management options that would further reduce dioxin exposure among the general population and vulnerable groups until the health risks are defined. The report recommended no mandatory limits on dioxins, given the current lack of precise data on both the risks and the current amounts of the compounds in foods and feeds.

Minimizing girls' and young women's intake of dioxins during the years before pregnancy is the only practical way to reduce dioxin exposure in fetuses and breast-feeding infants, the report says. Given the health and social benefits of breast-feeding, the committee recommended strategies to reduce accumulated body levels of dioxin, rather than to discourage breast-feeding.

To reduce dioxin exposures in all children -- especially girls -- government-sponsored food programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, should increase the availability of foods low in animal fat.

The diet Dr. Fuhrman outlines for children in Disease-Proof Your Child is rich in fatty acids from avocado and/or raw nuts and seeds (instead of dairy fat) for a number of reasons. He offers suggestions and recipes for the family that utilize these healthier, nutrient-rich fat sources.. As Dr. Fuhrman describes, getting the vast majority of calories from foods that have been proven to be extremely healthy (like fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds) helps to alleviate many health risks. How convenient to know that at the same time, you can avoid pernicious toxins like dioxins.


Picking Blackberries

Dr. Fuhrman considers blackberries one of the healthiest foods on the planet. He's also a big fan of finding pleasure in food. On the NPR website, there is a transcription (and a live recording by the author) of Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney's poem "Blackberry Picking."

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot among others, red, green, hard as a knot. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for picking.

It's worth hearing the whole thing. Anyone who has ever picked blackberries will know what he's talking about.

Healthy Eating Tips for an Unhealthy World

In the member section of his website, Dr. Fuhrman often answers questions from patients. Occasionally, we share highlights of those question and answer sessions on Followhealthlife. Here Dr. Fuhrman addresses a question from someone who hopes to follow the diet advice from his books Disease-Proof Your Child and Eat to Live, but finds it can be hard in certain social situations.

QUESTION: Any tips on staying away from sweets and treats that are constantly around us? Healthy eating is often considered a fringe pain in the pallet. Do you have any ideas for maintaining healthy eating in America's culture?

DR. FUHRMAN: Absolutely. This is exactly why I've developed this blog and my website, DrFuhrman.com. Because you're right, we are in a society where a person who eats sanely so they maintain an ideal weight or so they do not have a heart attack is seen as being odd, where the people who are essentially killing themselves with food are in the majority. And it does help to get the emotional support of a community of like-minded people.

There are also a lot of simple tricks and things we've learned from experience that help -- little things like making a big pot of vegetable bean soup once a week, taking plenty of extra food with you to work, or making great tasting healthy desserts -- in other words not putting yourself in a position where you're hungry when the only foods around you are unhealthy ones.

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The Basics of a Healthy Diet

In the member section of his website, Dr. Fuhrman often answers questions from patients. Occasionally, we share highlights of those question and answer sessions on Followhealthlife. For instance, the following exchange occured this past spring, which is about the kind of diet Dr. Fuhrman recommends in his books Disease-Proof Your Child and Eat to Live. This question addresses Dr. Fuhrman's idea of getting the maximum nutrition from the minimum number of calories.

QUESTION: It seems hard to disagree with the formula Health = Nutrients/Calories. Can you flesh out your approach a bit, with a quick summary of what you advocate in Eat to Live?

DR. FUHRMAN: There are a few points that together make the H = N/C approach unique. One is the concept of nutrient density; that is, as you start to meet the body's nutrient needs, it desires less food. This mean we're not going to crave food as much or want to eat as often.

Another is that when you eat foods that have toxic properties or that aren't healthy for you, they create addictive withdrawal symptoms once you stop eating them. Since those addictive withdrawal symptoms are relieved by frequent eating, they drive people to eat more frequently than is necessary. For example, if you stop drinking coffee you get headaches. You can get rid of the headaches by breaking the caffeine habit or by drinking more coffee. Likewise, when you eat a diet that contains processed foods and trans fats, lots of saturated fats and lots of salt, your diet is relatively toxic and when you stop eating for a few hours, you start to feel lousy. Feeling weak, achy, abdominal spasms, and headachy, are not how one feels true hunger.

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