Gina Kolata's Video Assault on Your Good Sense

New York Times reporter Gina Kolata's work has come up again and again on Followhealthlife.

We just happened across a feature on The New York Times website that has video of Kolata discussing some of her recent work.

Her "Health Minute" video piece about the relationship between diet and cancer is shocking. Here are some quotes:

  • "You might have assumed that what you eat makes a big difference in whether you get cancer... "
  • "Many scientists say that there is still a reason to eat a healthy diet, but cancer prevention is probably not one of them. If there are effects, they are likely to be small, and swamped by other factors."
She also urges those with cancer not to feel guilty about what they ate--which is surely generous and kind, but not supported by research that I have seen.

The basis of her story is the Women's Health Initiative study that was wholly flawed. "Look closely and you will see that the researchers compared a typical, disease-causing American diet, with one that was just marginally better, but still terribly unhealthy," says Dr. Fuhrman.

He likens it to studying those who smoke 50 cigarettes a day, and comparing them to those who some 60 cigarettes a day. If you find little difference in their cancer rates, does that mean cigarettes don't affect cancer?

What's more, the study merely assessed the efficacy of "low-fat foods" which is not the most important designation in determining cancer-fighting potential. Some high-fat foods like nuts, seeds and avocados contain heart disease and cancer fighting compounds, points out Dr. Furhman, who adds that "eating more low-fat foods such as egg whites, chicken, and pasta does not expose us to the disease-fighting compounds in berries, seeds, nuts, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes and carrots."

If you haven't read it yet, please do check out the still relevant longer response to Gina Kolata's original article--complete with references to medical studies etc.

Less Risk in Your Diet?

According to the results of a national telephone survey Americans are consuming less undercooked ground beef, raw fish, oysters, and runny eggs. The study examined consumption of foods linked to E. coli, vibrio, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. The LA Times reports:

The report, made public Tuesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, found that the percentage of people eating risky foods dropped from 31% in 1998 to 21% four years later. It was based on results of telephone surveys of 15,000 to 20,000 people conducted by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, known as FoodNet.

It seems "risky food" only refers to short term risk in terms of this study. Dr. Fuhrman says animal products like hamburger, milk, and certain seafood can have long-term risks that are equally dangerous. Consider this excerpt from Eat to Live:

The link between animal products and many different diseases is as strongly supported in scientific literature as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. For example, subjects who ate meat, including poultry and fish, were found to be twice as likely to develop dementia (loss of intellectual function with aging) than their vegetarian counterparts in a carefully designed study.1 The discrepancy was further widened when past meat consumption was taken into account. The same diet, loaded with animal products, that causes heart disease and cancer also causes most every other disease prevalent in America including kidney stones, renal insufficiency and renal failure, osteoporosis, uterine fibroids, hypertension, appendicitis, diverticulosis, and thrombosis.2

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European Research: Restricting Animal Products Reduces Weight Gain, Cancer

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman warns against eating regular quantities of animal products, refined grains, and oils, urging you instead to get most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts:

Vegetable and fruits protect all types of cancers if consumed in large enough quantities. Hundreds of scientific studies document this. The most prevalent cancers in our country are mostly plant-food-deficiency disease. Raw vegetables have the most powerful anti-cancer properties of all foods.

Research shows that those who avoid meat and diary have lower rates heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.1

Studies have confirmed that individuals consuming a vegetarian diet (one based on plant matter and not dairy or refined grains) live longer than non-vegetarians and almost never get heart attacks.

With this in mind, consider this recent weight loss study from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The eating habits of 22,000 people, meat eaters and vegetarians, were tracked over five years. In the end results found that all participants gained a few pounds, but individuals who adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet gained the least. Reuters reports:

"The weight gain was less in the vegans than in the meat-eaters and somewhere in between in the other groups," said Tim Key, of Britain's Cancer Research UK charity and the University of Oxford, who conducted the study.

"The lowest weight gain was in people who changed their diet to eat fewer animal products," he told Reuters.

In addition to stressing the importance of physical activity for sustained health, the study also comments on the link between diet and cancer:

[The study] also showed that diet is second only to tobacco, as a leading cause of cancer, and, along with alcohol, is responsible for nearly a third of cancer cases in developed countries.
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Obesity All Over the News

The global obesity epidemic is getting plenty of attention, and rightly so.

In Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live he address the state of obesity and weight loss and many of the health complications of being overweight:

Obesity is not just a cosmetic issue�extra weight leads to an earlier death, as many studies confirm.1 Overweight individuals are more likely to die from causes, including heart disease and cancer. Two thirds of those with problems also have hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or another obesity-related condition.2 It is a major cause of early mortality in the United States.3 Since dieting almost never works and the health risk of obesity are so life threatening, more and more people are desperately turning to drugs and surgical procedures to lose weight.

Health Complications of Obesity
Increase overall premature mortalityLipid disorders
Adult onset diabetesObstructive sleep apnea
Degenerative arthritisFatty infiltration of liver
Coronary artery diseaseRestrictive lung disease
CancerGastrointestinal diseases

(Rather than losing weight with a temporary diet, Dr. Fuhrman advocates permanently shifting the focus of eating to the healthiest and most nutritious foods.)

Recent news is full of new angles and thoughts on obesity. Reuters reports one such study links obesity to migraines:

As BMI increased, so did the frequency of migraine attacks. The [research] team notes that 4.4 percent of the normal weight group had 10 to 15 headache days per month. This increased to 5.8 percent in the overweight group, 13.6 percent in the obese group and 20.7 percent in the morbidly obese group.

The percentage of subjects who reported severe migraines also increased with BMI group, from 53 percent in subjects of normal weight to 57 percent in the overweight group, 59 percent in the obese group and 65 percent in the morbidly obese group.

According to Reuters another study claims that many parents can't admit their children are overweight:

Many parents do not identify their child as "overweight," but will select a sketch of a heavier model when asked to choose one representative of their child, new study findings show.

"Comparisons between images and sketches showed that parents' visual perceptions of their children more clearly reflect their child's physical appearance than words they might use to classify the child's weight," study author Dr. Helen J. Binns, of Northwestern University in Chicago.

The AFP is reporting that Sweden will begin screening four-year-olds for obesity:

In addition to registering Swedish four-year-olds' height and weight development, pediatricians will be asked to survey their BMI, which measures the relative percentages of fat and muscle mass in the body by dividing weight in kilos by height in meters and which is considered the best index for obesity.

"In most children, weight problems won't surface until later, but by checking four-year-olds we hope to find people who are especially at risk, who are genetically predisposed to become overweight," Carl-Erik Flodmark, head physician at the child obesity center in Skaane in southern Sweden.

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Delving Into the Archives

Even though it's only a few months old, Followhealthlife has already accumulated a pretty big library posts and podcasts on various health topics. If you ever feel like searching through those archives (either by clicking on a topic at the left and then scrolling through relevant results, or better yet typing a keyword in the search box at the upper left) you'll see there's all kinds of interesting stuff.

Here's a rundown of some of the more popular posts from our first few months:

Childhood Obesity: Growing In The Wrong Direction

Obesity is rapidly becoming one the nation's worst epidemics. A dangerous trend considering the variety of diseases linked to obesity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The growing number of overweight children is especially concerning. This article on discusses the issue and provides tips to help kids beat the bulge:

Overweight children are at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - all once considered exclusively adult diseases. But overweight children may also be prone to low self-esteem that stems from being teased, bullied, or rejected by peers. Overweight children are often the last to be chosen as playmates, even as early as preschool. Children who are unhappy with their weight may be more likely than average-weight children to develop unhealthy dieting habits and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and they may be more prone to depression, as well as substance abuse.

Dr. Fuhrman's book Onlyourhealth Your Child is devoted to helping parents keep their children free of disease through proper nutrition. In the book he offers this stern warning about childhood obesity:

Obesity is the most common nutritional problem among children in the United States. On in three kids in America are overweight, and the problem is growing. The number of children who are overweight has more than doubled during the past decade. Social forces, from the demise of cooking to the rise of fast food, as well as dramatic increases in snack food and soda consumption, have led to the most overweight population of children in human history. Added to this dietary disaster is television, computer, and video technology that entertains our youngsters while they are physically inactive. Unless parents take a proactive role in promoting and assuring adequate nutrition and an active lifestyle, you can be sure the children of American will continue this downward spiral into obesity and ill health. Obese children suffer physically and emotionally throughout childhood and then invariably suffer with adult heart disease, and a higher cancer incidence down the road.

Soy Bean Thoughts from the Member Center

Dr. Fuhrman mentions in Eat to Live that soy products such as soy burgers, soymilk, and soy cheeses have grown in popularity, resulting in their widespread availability. Despite the positives of soy consumption, many people harbor worries over the bean. In the member center of he talks with a few concerned members:

Forum Member: Please give me some advice and direction concerning the use of soy milk, my physician is very upset with me that I started using soymilk, he states it is very dangerous and can cause many thyroid and autoimmune diseases, please clear this up for me, I am a 46 year old female who has had an hysterectomy and do not take any estrogen replacement.

Dr. Fuhrman: Is your physician a real doctor? Or does he just play one on TV? Before you accept a dramatic and radical claim about the dangers of soymilk, you should ask this person to show you some scientific medical journal articles that support his assertion.

Bottom line, there is evidence that substituting soy formula for breast milk has long-term harmful consequences, but no data to suggest that consuming soy milk as an adult has any negative health consequences as he claims. Keep the soymilk and get rid of the doctor.


Forum Member: Should men with prostate problems (enlarged) or women who want to avoid breast cancer take ground flaxseeds? I read something about flaxseed oil and estrogen. Also, can soymilk be safely taken, or do soy products contain estrogen that may promote breast cancer?

Dr. Fuhrman: Of course. All people should regularly use some ground flax or hemp seeds, but not the oil. Soy does not promote breast cancer. In fact, research shows it has protective effects. This has been answered in depth with references on this forum in the past. Did you try to do a search for it?

That does not mean I recommend processed soy products or soy powders. It means using some tofu, frozen soybeans or some soymilk in your diet is okay.


Forum Member: When I was diagnosed with an under active thyroid and began meds, I was told to stay away from soy products. I have much difficulty getting my body to lose weight and I attribute this to slow metabolism from the thyroid condition. Can you give me some information about soy and how it reacts with thyroid medications?

Dr. Fuhrman: I can assure you that eating some soy beans or tofu as part of a well-rounded diet will have zero effect on your thyroid gland. It is true that being raised on soy formula instead of breast milk as an infant increases your risk of hypothyroidism later in life, but this does not mean that eating some soy products causes thyroid problems.