Can Cholesterol Be Too Low?

Typically, those individuals promoting the myth that low cholesterol levels are dangerous and the topsy-turvey "science" that saturated fat and high cholesterol are not bad, but good, are those individuals and health advisors advocating diets high in animal products, such as the Atkins devotees. Unfortunately, this advice is not merely incorrect; it is dead wrong for hundreds of individuals who heed such dangerous advice and die of heart attacks every day.

When it comes to coronary artery disease, there may be no such thing as lowering total blood cholesterol levels too far. Another recent study, published in the journal Circulation, found that the arteries in male patients with a total cholesterol level as low as 155 mg/dl benefited significantly from cholesterol-lowering medication as well.1 Both regression of atherosclerosis and a dramatic reduction in heart attacks were seen in the group treated.

While some research in the past has raised questions about the safety of very low cholesterol levels, no danger has been proven in larger, more dependable investigations. The new reports, documenting the effectiveness in saving lives with more substantial cholesterol lowering, fuels an ongoing debate about how aggressively to treat heart disease patients whose cholesterol levels are better than average and whether aggressive cholesterol lowering is valuable even in young healthy adults without signs of heart disease.

In the past, it was thought to be good enough to have a cholesterol level better than average. Until recently, doctors advised their patients to strive for a total cholesterol lower than 200 mg/dl. Eventually, this advice was found to be lacking and now we know that it is not very good to be average in a population that ubiquitously develops atherosclerosis. On autopsy, almost all American adults demonstrate significant coronary artery disease (2) and even 78% of young trauma victims who died before the age of 35 demonstrated significant atherosclerosis on autopsy.3 If you eat American food, you will inevitably develop American diseases. It is rare that someone can escape from the biological laws of cause and effect.

Clearly, if we attempt to rival the low cholesterol of populations that eat mostly natural plant foods and do not have heart disease, we are always looking at total cholesterols below 150 mg/dl. The average cholesterol level in rural China, as documented in the massive China Cornell Project, was 127 mg/dl. Heart attacks were rare, and both cancer and heart disease rates plummeted as cholesterol levels fell, which reflected very low animal product consumption. The lowest occurrence of heart disease and cancer occurred in the group that consumed plant-based diets with less than two servings of animal products per week.

There was some controversy years ago about striving for lower, protective cholesterol levels after some studies in the eighties noted that depression, suicide, hemorrhagic stroke, cancer, and death from other causes, were higher in some groups with very low cholesterol groups. Larger, recent investigations studying larger populations did not confirm these questionable findings.

When investigators looked more carefully at the individual characteristics of the studied populations they were able to explain the earlier findings. This issue is complicated because these studies evaluated individuals who were eating the modern American diet, rich in saturated fat and other components of animal products that raise cholesterol, and low in plant derived anti-oxidants, phytochemicals, and essential fatty acids that improve cholesterol ratios. Those who demonstrated very low (ideal) cholesterol levels, while following the traditional, modern, cholesterol-promoting diet, may actually have a compromised health status or undetected chronic disease.

For instance, we know cancer causes less cholesterol production in the liver. Low cholesterol may be associated with cancer, but does not cause it. Researchers showed that cholesterol starts to fall up to 8 years prior to a person dying of cancer, and that those with the greatest drop in cholesterol in a 4 year period without dietary improvements to lower cholesterol were those most likely to develop cancer.4 The low cholesterol did not cause the cancer; the cancer caused the low cholesterol. Those who work to lower cholesterol by avoiding saturated fats, eating a high nutrient diet with lots of raw vegetables, cooked green vegetables, and beans do not have a pathological condition causing their low cholesterol. They earned it.

This is why in rural China where the diets are nearly vegetarian, the average cholesterol levels are low and you see lower cancer rates, not higher. Those with the lowest cholesterol in the China study actually had the lowest cancer rates as well. Obviously, there is a difference between one who has a low cholesterol because his dietary style earns it, and one whose cholesterol seems unjustifiably low on a modern heart-disease-promoting diet that almost everyone in the west eats.

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Dr. Fuhrman Discusses DHA for Children

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. About half of the brain and eyes are made up of fat, much of which is DHA, which is an essential nutrient for optimal brain and eye function.1 Children's diets today are notoriously low in the beneficial omega-3 fats found in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans, leafy greens, and certain fish. I do not recommend fish as a preferred source of these beneficial fats for children because of contamination with pollutants and mercury.

The most commonly used supplement to add DHA to the diet is fish oils, but what is not widely known is that most of us can produce sufficient DHA from short-chain omega-3 fatty acids received from walnuts, flax seeds, and green vegetables. Many fish make their DHA from eating greens, too, from algae.

New products are available that contain DHA from algae, the fish's original source. Unlike fish oil, the algae-derived DHA, grown in the laboratory, is free of chemical pollutants and toxins that may be present in some fish oil-based brands. I recommend favorable DHA products that are designed for purity and are suitable for children. Neuromins is a common (non-fish-derived) brand of DHA sold in most health food stores, and I also have designed and manufactured an all-plant-derived DHA supplement, DHA Purity, available on my Web site and in my office.

DHA is also a normal component of breast milk, and infants fed breast milk score higher on intellectual and visual measurements than those fed baby formulas lacking DHA. Children who were breast-fed, as a group, have higher IQ scores than those who were formula fed.2 Pregnant women should pay close attention to their DHA status to ensure proper DHA supply for prenatal development. Maternal supplementation with DHA during pregnancy, and lactation has been demonstrated to augment children's IQ.3

DHA is present in breast milk, but up until 2002, the United States was the only country in the world where infant formulas were not fortified with DHA, despite a 1995 recommendation by the World Health Organization to do so. In addition, the average DHA content of breast milk in the United States has been tested to be low compared to other countries that consume more fish. In fact, postpartum depression, lower IQ, dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been linked by many scientific studies to the low DHA intake common in the United States.4

Deficiency in DHA fatty acids has been linked to:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Dyslexia
  • Depression
  • Reduced intelligence
  • Sleep problems
  • Temper tantrums
  • Alcoholism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Manic depression 5

The first year of life is a crucial year that sets the stage for your child's healthy body and mind. Exposure to DHA-rich breast milk while the brain is rapidly growing assures that your child will develop his full intelligence potential. To supplement her healthy diet, Mom should be taking a multivitamin plus a daily DHA supplement containing approximately 200 mg of DHA, to assure adequate DHA content in her breast milk. Even after food is introduced, continued breast-feeding is important and necessary past the first birthday for maximum disease resistance, immune function, and brain development.

Once your child is off breast milk, I recommend that parents add a small amount of DHA (50 to 100mg) to their child's orange juice, oatmeal, or other food. Even if you don't do it every day, it still ensures that no child will suffer the consequences of DHA deficiency during these crucial years of brain development. When our children don't consume the right mix of brain boosting nutrients, they have a reduced ability to learn and a lower IQ, and later in life they can develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease. On the other hand, the right mixture of brain-supporting foods will afford our children the ability to reach their maximum potential in life, not just for health, but for emotional stability, happiness, and success in their chosen careers.

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Diet, Chemotherapy, and the Truth: How to Win the War on Cancer

We live in an era where the majority of Americans think that diseases strike us because of either misfortune, genetics, or unknown factors beyond our control. When serious disease "strikes," we run to doctors and expect them to fix us with a pill. Most people have no idea that most diseases--including cancers, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes--are the result of nutritional folly. Because they do not know that adults lived much longer centuries ago, they accept the myth that we are living healthier and longer today.

If we were taught from childhood that the diseases we suffer in the modern world are the tragic consequence of our toxic food environment, we wouldn't be in today's disgraceful situation--where people graduate from high school, college, and even graduate school without learning how to protect, preserve, and restore their precious health. With proper health education, we would learn that our bodies are powerfully resistant to disease when nutritional needs are met. Instead, we have become the victims of the high-tech, mass-produced food culture that is fueling a cancer epidemic unrivaled in human history.

Chemotherapy Mentality
Our technologically-advanced society is suffering from the highest rates of cancer ever seen in human history, rates that are also much higher than in less developed parts of the world. Since 1999, cancer has surpassed heart disease and has become the leading cause of age adjusted mortality for Americans younger than 85. Despite more than a hundred billion dollars in cancer research-- invested largely in the development of drug chemotherapy and screening and detection techniques--we have lost the war on cancer. While there has been a slight reduction of cancer-related deaths in the last 25 years, this is largely the result of the decrease in lung cancer deaths that has resulted from a reduction in cigarette smoking during this timeframe. Mortality rates for most cancers have stayed remarkably steady.

Chemotherapy has contributed to the progress made against cancer deaths from fast-growing cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer, and childhood cancers such as osteogenic sarcoma. But for the major cancers affecting most adult Americans, chemotherapy adds less than one year of disease-free life to those treated.

Science or Profits?
At present, pharmaceutical companies-- not independent medical or scientific researchers--control the vast majority of research and clinical trials. We have lost the judgment and rationale of independent experts and now depend on drug companies to honestly report the risks and benefits of drugs they manufacture and sell. This is like asking the fast-food industry to be in charge of our nutritional advice. The medical studies that drug companies pay for and publicize are heavily biased in favor of the drugs they sell. The economically powerful pharmaceutical industry and the large chemical-food conglomerates wield undue influence on government and the media. Accurate nutritional information is rarely reported because the media cannot produce stories that go against the interests of their advertisers. Instead, the media is quick to report on drug company press releases--self-serving propaganda announcing new anticancer "breakthroughs" that reinforce the myth that we are winning the war against cancer.

Mythical Breakthroughs
Most often, the so-called "benefits" described by drug companies announce improved "response rates," for example, when tumor burden is lessened. But an improved response rate means little if the patient does not survive longer. And even the cancer industry's meager definition of survival--living 5 years beyond diagnosis--can be misleading. If "advances" in chemotherapy result in a higher percentage of people surviving for 5 years than did previously, that can be reported as "progress." But if most of them still die between years 5 and 10, it hardly can be called a big success, especially if the same number or more people would have survived 10 years or longer without the chemotherapy.

Unless overall survival and quality of life are improved, it matters not if chemotherapy resulted in tumor shrinkage, or if a slight increase is seen in 5-year survival statistics. By using virtually meaningless terms like "response rates" and "disease-free survival," researchers can report results that make chemotherapy look more effective than it really is.

Unless patients do some investigating of their own, they have no way of knowing that the glowingly optimistic results reported in the press--and too often parroted by their doctors--are designed to lead them to chemotherapy even though it is a poor choice for both quality and duration of life. The false perception that chemotherapy offers significant life-span benefits for cancer sufferers is dramatically juxtaposed by the fact that so many more people die of cancer today than they did years ago. In fact, a Swedish study showed that the risk of developing cancer and dying of it was three times higher in people born in the 1950s compared with those born in the 1880s. Since 1958, cancer has increased 55 percent in men and only slightly less in women.1

Does Chemotherapy Work?
Let's see how effective chemotherapy actually is with a few common cancers.

  • A meta-analysis of chemotherapy for postmenopausal, estrogen receptor-positive women (the largest group of women with breast cancer) pooled the six largest studies to get the most accurate data on survival and complications. Here is what researchers concluded about the group treated with standard chemotherapy: "No significant survival benefit was observed."2
  • In non-small cell lung cancer (the most common type), the 5- year survival is only about 10 percent. In stage 4, when the cancer has spread to distant sites, the 5-year survival is only 1.6 percent. After looking at multiple studies, it appears that treatment generally results in a very slight improved survival rate at 1 year, but this advantage disappeared at 30 months of follow- up.3
  • Even in small cell lung cancer where chemotherapy has proven effectiveness in life extension, the benefit adds only a few months of life, not years. And during this time the patient can experience serious--even life threatening-- side effects from the treatment.

What Should You Do?
If you have cancer and are considering chemotherapy, it is wise to do a search on all of the studies done on the recommended therapy (using med-line, for instance), so an informed decision can be made. If this were done, most patients likely would refuse chemotherapy. Doctors generally hide and distort the realities of chemotherapy, talking to patients about "shrinking the cancer" and "killing cancer cells," not mentioning the fact that the therapy has not been shown to extend life.

Every patient has to make her own decision. But if I were a woman with postmenopausal breast cancer, I would opt for surgery, without radiation and without chemotherapy, and would then pursue an aggressive nutritional protocol. I also would include antiestrogens if the tumor histology showed it to be estrogen receptor- positive.

War Against Good Nutrition
While the "war against cancer" is being fought with the wet noodle of chemotherapy, we are observing a significant increase in some cancers, such as malignant melanoma, multiple myeloma, and prostate cancer. Our population is heavier and as cancer-prone as ever. While we are pouring billions of dollars into drug companies and cancer centers, millions of people continue to die from what should be a preventable disease.

Almost nothing has been done to teach people about the power of nutritional excellence to protect against cancer. In fact, the media regularly reports that nutrition does not affect cancer. For example, a recent New York Times (G. Kolata, September 27,2005,"Science Times") article reported that diet had only a "hypothetical" relationship with cancer. This ludicrous pronouncement was based on studies that showed that perimenopausal women who eat less fat still have high cancer rates. The Times evidently does not understand that modestly reducing fat and eating more chicken and pasta is not an anti-cancer program.

We are losing the war on cancer, and our government policies are actually worsening the problem. With all of the recent advances in science pointing to phytonutrient deficiency as the major cause of cancer, our efforts should focus on prevention; educating the public about proper diet and nutrition. Millions of lives can be saved. We also can eliminate the tragic consequences and family trauma of living with cancer---diagnoses, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapies, suffering, and premature death, which come from the cancer and very often from the treatment.

Avoiding Cancer
Your body is a self-repairing and self-healing machine. Human cells have all the features necessary to protect themselves from chemical damage to their DNA that eventually results in carcinogenic changes. A cancer cell is essentially a normal cell whose DNA has been damaged to the point that it can no longer control its replication. The process that is creating our modern epidemic of cancer is twofold. One aspect involves the exposure of our cells to damaging stresses such as chemical carcinogens, radon, acrylamides, and high levels of saturated and trans fats and animal protein. At the same time, we have a woefully insufficient dietary intake of plant-derived nutrients, which renders our cells incapable of functioning to their fullest potential for repair and maintenance.

Our cells have built-in, powerful mechanisms to remove or destroy toxic substances, inhibit DNA damage, repair broken DNA cross-links, and remove cells that are injured or abnormal before they become cancerous. In recent years, the term phytochemicals has been used to refer to the thousands of newly-discovered nutrients supplied by plants that---in addition to vitamins and minerals---are necessary for maximal immune system protection and for the promotion of cellular detoxification and repair.

Most of our knowledge about what constitutes the optimal cancer prevention diet comes from both human population (epidemiological) studies and animal studies. Populations that have a high intake of natural, unrefined plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans always have a low incidence of cancer, proportional to the intake of these phytochemcal-rich plant foods.

Even though other factors such as chemicals, pollution, and smoking play a role in cancer etiology, the scientific literature still illustrates that a better diet offers dramatic protection even against nondietary cancer promoters. For example, the Fiji Islands (where smoking rates are high) still has a dramatically lower incidence of lung cancer than Hawaii (where smoking rates are lower). This protection against lung cancer even in heavily smoking Fiji Islanders was shown to be the result of the high intake of green vegetables in Fiji.4

Examining data from numerous epidemiological studies, the World Cancer Research Fund concluded that the evidence that fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of oral, esophageal, lung, stomach, colon, pancreatic, bladder, and breast cancer was convincing. No single substance in a plant-based diet accounts for this relationship; rather, it is the synergistic effect of multiple phytochemical compounds (which number in the thousands).

The National Cancer Institute recommends eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. However, scientific studies suggest that more is better and that much, much more is much, much better at reducing cancer risk. It is a national disgrace that very few Americans follow this very minimal recommendation to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Cruciferous Vegetables
While fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, the consumption of vegetables is more helpful in reducing cancer because they contain much higher amounts of cancer-protective compounds-- especially green vegetables. Among these green vegetables, the cruciferous family has demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects. Isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are perhaps the best studied, have been shown to provide protection against environmental carcinogen exposure by inducing detoxification pathways, thereby neutralizing potential carcinogens.

These vegetables also contain indole-3- carbinol (I3C). Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing estrogen activity. Important recent studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables and the compounds they contain can do the following:


  • halt the growth of breast cancer cells;5
  • dramatically reduce the risk of colon cancer;6
  • prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells and induce death of cancerous cells;7
  • inhibit the progression of lung cancer.8


What makes these studies even more fascinating is the discovery of the gene/diet interaction, which has shown that high intake of greens and cruciferous vegetables provides the food factors necessary to interact with--and prevent-- genetic defects from creating disease. This gene/diet interaction activates a battery of many genes, initiating DNA repair and other protection mechanisms.

These cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms are most powerfully induced by eating a mixture of both raw and cooked cruciferous plant foods. Some of the compounds are water soluble and heat stable, and absorption is increased when cooked, for example, in a soup. Other critical ITCs are heat sensitive and are better transmitted in the raw form.

Carotenoids & Polyphenols
Population studies show an association between high dietary intake of carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables and reduced risk of prostate, breast, and head and neck cancers. A high dietary intake of fruits and vegetables provides a spectrum of carotenoids, including alphacarotene, gamma-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene.

Vegetable juices (carrot, tomato, spinach, and other greens) represent a particularly potent form of carotenoids. Scientists have demonstrated that drinking carrot juice significantly reduces free radical damage to genes. Tomato juice and cooked tomatoes rich in lycopene and other potent antioxidants help reduce the oxidation of the "bad" LDL cholesterol and also have been shown to dramatically help protect against cancer. Carotenoid-rich extracts of carrots and tomatoes have been shown to substantially inhibit the early stages of liver cancer in animals.

Fruits also contain various key phytochemicals. For example, resveratrol, found in grapes, has been reported to exert a variety of anticancer effects. Studies have demonstrated that resveratrol causes growth inhibition of human colon and breast cancer cells. Ellagic acid, found in strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, is another polyphenol that has demonstrated anticarcinogenic potential in animal studies.

This article is from the Healthy Times newsletter, a complete archive of which is available to members of DrFuhrman.com.

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Preventing Heart Attacks with Aggressive Dietary Intervention

Most people think going to cardiologists and radiologists to get evaluated to see if they have a significant coronary blockage will enable an intervention at an early enough point to save their life; they are dead wrong. Angioplasties and stent placements as well as cardiac surgery treat symptoms, not the disease. Seventy to eighty percent of all myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) are caused by plaque that is not obstructive or visible on angiography or stress tests.

Heart attacks result from a defect in the plaque wall which leads to a thrombus (blood clot). Even a small coating of vulnerable plaque, invisible to cardiac testing, can cause a heart attack and typically does. The important point to remember is this: Individuals without major blockages of their great vessels, with only 30 to 50 percent stenosis (narrowing), are even more likely to develop a fatal cardiac event, (compared to those with more significant blockages) yet these individuals are not even shown to have heart disease with a stress test or angiography. Stress testing only identifies blockages that obstruct greater than eighty-five percent of the vessel lumen. A normal stress test is meaningless and does not mean you do not have significant heart disease or won't shortly have a heart attack.

Bypass surgery and angioplasty only attempt to treat a small segment of the diseased heart, usually with only temporary benefit. Since atherosclerotic plaque blankets all the vessels in the heart, bypassing or removing the most diseased portion, still does not address all the shallow and non-obstructive lipid deposits. The major burden of disease is left intact and therefore the potential for a deadly heart attack is largely unaffected. These mechanical interventions do not address the cause of the disease and only treat the symptoms it is not surprising that the patients undergoing bypass and angioplasty experience disease progression, graft shutdown, restenosis, and more procedures because their heart disease continues to advance.

Using surgical and high-tech interventions as a substitute for a healthful diet is doomed to fail. When extensive coronary artery disease is present and surgical/high-tech intervention occurs, we still leave the vast bulk of plaque essentially untreated because atherosclerosis is a dietary-induced disease and is spread all over the heart, not only in those areas visualized by angiograms and then treated. When we combine these marginally effective or ineffective medical interventions with the wrong dietary advice given by most doctors and dieticians (to reduce fat and cholesterol and eat less red meat and more chicken and fish) we get predictable future cardiac tragedies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that following the typical dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association to hold cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day and to reduce dietary fat to less than 30 percent doesn't work.1 These diets fail to realize that the nutritional cause of heart disease is not simply a question of eating less fat. Moderation kills, because heart disease still advances.

There is irrefutable evidence that high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Make no doubt about it: lowering your Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. LDL cholesterol is the bad guy that promotes the plaque that leads to blockages and heart attacks. Thus, the more LDL-cholesterol you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.

The good news is symptoms, as well as blockages, easily melt away with nutritional excellence, without any cardiac intervention. The risks and complications of cardiac interventions and bypass surgeries are simply not necessary when people adopt an effective nutritional strategy. Instead of expensive and invasive medicine, we need doctors to educate and motivate patients to take charge of their own health. While our population is committing suicide with their knives and forks, they run to doctors expecting to be saved. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to escape from the biological laws of cause and effect. Good health has to be earned, it can't be bought.

Compelling data from numerous population and interventional studies show that the combination of a natural plant-based diet and aggressive lipid-lowering will prevent, arrest, and even reverse heart disease. Only via nutritional excellence can you address all the invisible, but potentially dangerous plaque throughout your coronary arteries. Unlike surgery and angioplasty, the dietary approach addressed in this book does not merely treat your heart, but rejuvenates all your blood vessels and protects your entire body against heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, venous thrombosis, peripheral vascular disease, and vascular dementia. It is your most valuable insurance policy to secure a longer life free of medical tragedy.

Studies preformed by Dean Ornish and other investigators have also documented the effects of a low-fat vegetarian (vegan) diet on patients with heart disease and found reversal of the condition occurred in the majority of patients. The reversal was modest, but nevertheless, no study previously showed diet could be so effective at preventing and reversing heart disease.

Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic went a step further and put together a program utilizing a vegetarian plant-based diet with the addition of cholesterol-lowering medication in 18 patients who had severe angiographically demonstrated coronary artery disease. All of these high-risk patients with advanced heart disease were noted to have no coronary events during the following 12 years, and on repeat angiogram, 70% were found to have regression of their disease and none had progression.2 When you consider these 18 patients had experienced 50 coronary events during the 8 years before this study, you have to agree on the effectiveness of combining plant-based nutrition with cholesterol lowering.

I have observed the same thing in my medical practice over the last 15 years: the combination of superior nutrition with a plant-based, vegetable-predominant diet and cholesterol-lowering therapy stops heart disease cold.

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Restless Weight

Restless over your inability to lose weight? Laurie Barclay, MD and D�sir�e Lie, MD, MSEd report that getting sufficient sleep may help reduce weight gain. A study published in the Dec. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine explains:

Short sleep duration in young, healthy men is associated with decreased leptin levels, increased ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Additional studies should examine the possible role of chronic sleep curtailment as a previously unrecognized risk factor for obesity.

If the findings prove to be reproducible and generalizable, and the hormonal changes of leptin and ghrelin due to sleep curtailment cause changes in food intake over time, we might add sleep duration to the environmental factors that are prevalent in our society and that contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Dysfunctional Blindness

Popular erectile dysfunction medications raising concerns! In a Dec. 5 webcast Sidney M. Wolfe, MD talks about the controversy surrounding inadequate warnings that erectile dysfunction drugs can cause blindness:

Fifty reports of ischemic optic neuropathy (ION), usually resulting in irreversible unilateral blindness, in men using the erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra had been received by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by March 2005. But the FDA and the companies have downplayed the link between these drugs and ION, stating, correctly, that the disease also occurs in men with cardiovascular risk factors who do not take erectile dysfunction drugs, but implying that the cause is cardiovascular risk, not the drugs.

Dr. Howard Pomeranz a neuroophthalmologist studying cases of ION in men taking erectile dysfunction drugs has started a full petition on www.worstpills.org for an FDA call to action.

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Government: Half of 55 to 64 Year Olds Have High Blood Pressure

The AP's Mike Stobbe passes along some good news: the government just announced that life expectancy in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of 77.6 years. But, he writes, there are some worrying trends on the horizon:

Half of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group � including the oldest of the baby boomers � have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese. That means they are in worse shape in some respects than Americans born a decade earlier were when they were that age.

In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman has this to say about high blood pressure.

Studies have shown controlling sodium intake and weight loss to be effective in reducing blood pressure, even in the elderly.1 How can you implement these interventions into you lifestyle? It's simple. Eat many more fruits, vegetables, and legumes; eat less of everything else; and engage in a moderate amount of exercise. High blood pressure is relatively simple to control.

I encourage my patients to do what it takes to normalize their blood pressure so they do not require medication. Prescribing medications for high blood pressure has the effect of a permission slip. Medication has a minimal effect in reducing heart attack occurrence in patients with high blood pressure because it does not remove the underlying problem (atherosclerosis), it just treats the symptom. Patients given medication now falsely believe they are protected, and they continue to follow the same disease-causing lifestyle that caused the problem to begin with, until the inevitable occurs--their first heart attack or stroke. Maybe, if high blood pressure medications were never invented, doctors would have been forced to teach healthful living and nutritional disease causation to their patients. It is possible that many more lives could have been saved.
Dr. Fuhrman tells the story of a patient who followed his advice.
Though it took a full two years, Rhonda Wilson dropped her weight from 194 to a slim 119. She was able to come off blood pressure medication as a result of her newfound commitment to a healthful lifestyle. When she first came to me, she was on two medications to control her high blood pressure. These two medications were not sufficient, as her blood pressure was still excessively high. Rhonda did not see normal blood pressure readings for a long time and was not able to stop her blood pressure medication until she became relatively thin. Her story illustrates a common dilemma. It is not unusual for some people to lose some weight, yet still have high blood pressure. Some individuals develop high blood pressure and diabetes even from a small amount of excess body fat. For these individuals, it is even more important to maintain an ideal weight.

UPDATE: You can read the whole government report here.

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