Research: Dairy Consumption and Multiple Births

The New York Times reports mothers who regularly consume dairy are fives times more like to have fraternal twins than those who do not. Experts point to hormones given to diary cows as explanation. Nicholas Bakalar reports:

Dr. Gary Steinman, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, reached that conclusion by looking at the medical records of 1,042 mothers who were vegans consuming no dairy products and comparing them with those of mothers who regularly ate dairy products.

His findings appear in the May issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine. Eating dairy products increases blood levels of insulinlike growth hormone, or I.G.F., and it is this increased hormone level that is associated with increased rates of multiple ovulation.

In a study published in 2000 and cited in the findings, vegan women had concentrations of I.G.F. that were 13 percent lower than those in women who regularly consumed dairy products...

The article also discusses the potential role of synthetic hormones given to cows:

Many dairy farmers inject their cattle with recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone. This increases size and milk production, but it has another effect: cows with higher growth hormone levels produce more twins.

The Five Most Dangerous Things to Feed Your Child

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Onlyourhealth Your Child:

Butter and cheese: full of saturated fat and fat-delivered chemical pollutants

Potato chips and French fries: rich in trans fat, salt, and carcinogenic acrylamides

Doughnuts and other trans fat-containing sweets: rich in trans fat, sugar, and other artificial substances

Sausages, hot dogs, and other luncheon meats: contain N-nitroso compounds that are potent carcinogens

Pickled, smoked, or barbequed meats: places you at risk of both stomach cancer and high blood pressure.

Now that you know Dr. Fuhrman's bad five, check out his fab five.

Marion Nestle Book: Beware Processed Foods

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Dorothy Kalins reviews two new books about food, one of which is by Marion Nestle--an NYU nutrition expert who has been mentioned on Followhealthlife before. Here is some of what Kalins has to say about Nestle's book:

For Singer and Mason, the loveliest phrase in the English language may be "family farm." For Marion Nestle, the most unsavory would probably be "processed foods." For her this means "adding value" through clever (and expensive) marketing, tricky packaging and the employment of harmful salt and sugar. If you find the supermarket increasingly alien, that's because it is. A bewildering 20,000 new products appear on grocery shelves each year. Take Whole Grain Cocoa Puffs, for example. Even sweetened with Splenda (Nestle is not a believer) and with its scant one gram of fiber, this so-called healthy cereal still has the same calorie count of the original. Deep into the more than 600 dense pages of "What to Eat" is a chart showing how added value works: a raw Idaho potato costs $.79 a pound; Terra Yukon Gold chips, $10.21. But Nestle is not the food police. This professor of nutrition and public health at New York University and well-known author of "Food Politics," likes her potato chips just fine. With a calculator in hand and a scientist's skepticism, Nestle shoots straight though food industry hype. She pulls no punches: "The science is complicated," she admits. Then she parses that same science for us with good-humored common sense backed up by file drawers of research. She shakes her head over the American diet: "One third of all vegetables consumed in the United States come from just three sources: french fries, potato chips and iceberg lettuce."

Her book is radiant with maxims to live by: "All margarines are basically the same," she reports, "mixtures of soybean oil and food additives. Everything else is theater and greasepaint." She prefers a bit of butter. She's dismayed that there are more than 400 kinds of yogurt, a product she calls "a fast-selling dairy dessert with the aura of a health food." Most flavored varieties are loaded with sugar. Nutritionally, she finds "the focus on protein is silly � Americans are anything but protein deficient." On chicken: "if you eat the skin, you might as well be eating a hamburger."

Despite their decidedly dark view of where we stand, in terms of eating well, both books give reason for hope. Both see the environmental baby steps taken by McDonald's as steps, nonetheless. If Singer and Mason's stories of animal abuse make you weep � and they will � they also might make you reconsider your position on sirloin. The food world is fraught with ethical choices. As Nestle puts it, "you cast your vote for your choice of food environment every time you put something in your shopping cart or order off a menu. If enough people vote with you, changes will happen."

Q&A On Vitamins

Here's a follow up to the Reuters report on America's vitamin obsession. Four researchers who participated in the National Institutes of Health conference answer questions about which vitamins they recommend and why. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports:

Dr. Meir J. Stampfer, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

How much is known about the health benefits of vitamins?
The list of vitamin supplements for which we have proven benefits is very short. But the list of supplements for which there are possible benefits is pretty long. You have to weigh the cost, risks and benefits while we're still waiting for clinical evidence.

Many people believe that natural supplements are always safe. Are there risks?
You can get too much of certain nutrients. For example, pre-formed vitamin A. It's not too hard to get to a level that's actually bad for you, which can increase the risk of fractures and birth defects. The vitamin companies have been responsive to this new data and have begun replacing pre-formed vitamin A with beta-carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A), which does not have the toxicity. We can't lose sight of the idea that just because it's natural doesn't mean it's necessarily safe. Tobacco and asbestos are natural, yet they are not safe.

Not so fast! In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman makes clear that isolated beta-carotene isn't the answer either:

Scientists are finding that taking beta-carotene supplements is not without risk, and supplements are certainly a poor substitute for the real thing�the assortment of various carotenoid compounds found in plants.

The reason researchers believed beta-carotene had such a powerful anti-cancer effect was that populations with high levels of beta-carotene in their bloodstream had exceedingly low rates of cancer. More recently we found out that these people were protected against cancer because of hundreds of carotenoids and phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables they were consuming. It wasn't that beta-carotene was responsible for the low incidence of cancer; it merely served as a flag for those populations with a high fruit and vegetable intake. Unfortunately, many scientists confused the flag for the ship.

Recently, large scale studies have shown that beta-carotene (or vitamin A) in supplemental form may not be such a great idea.1

In Finnish trials, taking beta-carotene supplements failed to prevent lung cancer and actually increased its incidence.2 This study was halted when the researchers discovered that the death rate from lung cancer was 28 percent higher among participants who had taken the high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Furthermore, the death rate from heart disease was 17 percent higher for those that had taken the supplements than for those just given a placebo.3

Another recent study showed a similar correlation between beta-carotene supplementation and increased occurrence of prostate cancer. At this point, as a result of these European studies, as well as similar studies conducted here in the United States,4 articles in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine all advise us to avoid taking beta-carotene supplements.5

We can learn a lesson from this research. A high intake of isolated beta-carotene may impair absorption of other carotenoids. Taking beta-carotene or vitamin A may hinder carotenoid anti-cancer acitivity from zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and many other crucial plant-derived carotenoids. When my patients ask what multivitamin they should use, I tell them I prefer they take a high-quality multi that does not contain vitamin A or plain beta-carotene. The supplement should contain mixed plant-derived carotenoids, not isolated beta-carotene.

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Nutritional Excellence vs. Menstrual Complaints and Irritable Bowels

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Other conditions that also respond exceptionally well to dietary modification include menstrual complaints and irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers testing similar diets to the one I recommend have noted that a low-fat vegetarian diet increases sex-hormone-binding globulin as it reduces estrogen activity.1 This not only reduces one's risk of breast cancer but also significantly reduces the pain and bloating associated with menstruation.

I also see a large number of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Some feel better within three days of following this diet, although others take a few weeks or longer to adjust to the comparatively large amount of fiber. Both animal products and flour products are triggers for bowel symptoms in many individuals.2 British researchers have documented that increased production of methane and other gaseous products representing increased fermentation in the colon from meats, dairy products, and refined grains correlate with bowel complaints. However, there are other mechanism by which a natural-food diet high in nutrients and fiber reestablishes normal gut motility and tone. It can take time to undo a lifetime of wrong eating; most of my patients need three months to see improvement. Of course, sometimes diets have to be modified for individual uniqueness. In such cases, working with a knowledgeable physician is helpful.

Most chronic illnesses have been earned from a lifetime of inferior nutrition, which eventually results in abnormal function or frequent discomfort. These illnesses are not beyond our control, they are not primarily genetic, and they are not the normal consequences of aging. True, we all have our weakest links governed by genetics; but these weak links need never reveal themselves unless our health deteriorates. Superior health flows naturally as a result of superior nutrition. Our Predisposition to certain illnesses can remain hidden.

Certainly, this method of health is not for everybody. Some would prefer to eat conventionally and take whatever medication is indicated for their condition. That is their inalienable right. However, it is also the right of sick and suffering individuals who seek a natural approach to be aware of how effective aggressive nutritional interventions can be. I would like to take these patients down the streets of Manhattan for a ticker-tape parade to spread the word--you don't have to be sick. Remember, health is your greatest wealth!

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Diet and Disease Prevention

A new study shows the British are healthier than Americans despite U.S. health care spending per person that is more than double what Britain spends.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes:

The US population in late middle age is less healthy than the equivalent British population for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, lung disease, and cancer. Within each country, there exists a pronounced negative socioeconomic status (SES) gradient with self-reported disease so that health disparities are largest at the bottom of the education or income variants of the SES hierarchy. This conclusion is generally robust to control for a standard set of behavioral risk factors, including smoking, overweight, obesity, and alcohol drinking, which explain very little of these health differences. These differences between countries or across SES groups within each country are not due to biases in self-reported disease because biological markers of disease exhibit exactly the same patterns. To illustrate, among those aged 55 to 64 years, diabetes prevalence is twice as high in the United States and only one fifth of this difference can be explained by a common set of risk factors. Similarly, among middle-aged adults, mean levels of C-reactive protein are 20% higher in the United States compared with England and mean high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are 14% lower. These differences are not solely driven by the bottom of the SES distribution. In many diseases, the top of the SES distribution is less healthy in the United States as well.

Based on self-reported illnesses and biological markers of disease, US residents are much less healthy than their English counterparts and these differences exist at all points of the SES distribution.

No one is sure why the two similar cultures have such different results. Gina Kolata of The New York Times takes a crack at it.

The question of which country is healthier, Dr. Nortin M. Hadler, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and others say, turns out to be a perfect illustration of an issue that has plagued American medicine: the more health problems you look for, the more you find. And Americans, medical researchers say, are avid about looking.

The British, doctors say, are different.

"The U.K. has a tradition of independent and perhaps more skeptical primary-care practitioners who are probably slower to label and diagnose people and more reluctant to follow guidelines than their U.S. counterparts," says Dr. Iona Heath, a general practitioner in London. "I have heard it argued that the U.S. believes more in the perfectibility of humanity and the role of science than the Europeans."

Some people call it disease-mongering, says Dr. Lisa Schwartz of Dartmouth Medical School. She once calculated that if everyone had the recommended tests for blood cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index and diabetes, 75 percent of adults in the United States would be labeled as diseased. And new diseases arise by the minute, she says, her favorite example being "restless legs."

Maybe it's overanalysis. Maybe it's stress. Maybe it's something else. We can all guess why it might be that Americans are "sicker" than Brits even though we spend more money on healthcare. (Your thoughts?)

But one thing is certain: the killer diseases in America today, afflictions like type-II diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, need not ruin your health no matter where you live. On Followhealthlife we have trotted out study after study showing that we could make a huge dent in those diseases by abandoning the standard American diet (SAD) in favor a diet based on vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

This post summarizes many of the benefits of a healthy diet in preventing disease. Here is a collection of some of the most important research behind Dr. Fuhrman's work. The role diet can play in precenting cancer is discussed in detail here and here. Dr. Fuhrman says you need not settle for diabetes and that there is a counter attack for heart disease.

The result? Let's not wait around until researchers unravel the mystery of what makes English people seem to be healthier. Instead, let's do what has already been shown to be effective preventing and reversing the chronic diseases that are killing so many of us, starting with a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet that is effective in both Americans and the British.

Heart Disease Quiz

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, accounting for more than 40 percent of all deaths. Each year approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI); nearly 500,000 of them die as result.1 Most of these deaths occur soon after the onset of symptoms and well before victims are admitted to a hospital.

Every single one of those heart attacks is a terrible tragedy, as it could have been avoided. So many people die needlessly because of wrong, weak, and practically worthless information from the government, physicians, dietitians, and even health authorities like the American Heart Association. Conventional guidelines are simply insufficient to offer real protection for those wanting to protect themselves from heart disease.

If you are an American over the age of forty, your chance of having atherosclerosis (hardening) of your blood vessels is over 95 percent. You may think, "Heart disease won't happen to me!" But I have news for you: it has already happened, and you chance of dying from a heart attack because of your atherosclerosis is about 50 percent. You exercise program and your Americanized low-fat diet won't help you much, either. You need to do more.

Quick Quiz: Heart Disease

1. Percentage of children between the ages of four and eleven who already have signs of heart disease?2

A. None
B. 10 percent
C. 40 percent
D. More than 75 percent

2. Percentage of female heart attack victims who never knew they had heart disease and then die as a result of their first heart attack?3

A. None
B. 10 percent
C. 25 percent
D. More than 75 percent

3. Percentage of heart disease patients who undergo angioplasty and then have their treated arteries clog right back up again within six months?4

A. None
B. 10 percent
C. 30 percent
D. None of the above

Keep reading for the answers.

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Howard Stern On Trans-Fat: The Transcript

Yesterday I mentioned Howard Stern ranted about trans-fat. Here's what he actually said.

Stern mentioned that over the weekend he read the article in The New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof, entitled Killer Girl Scouts. Kristof argues, and Stern agrees, that high trans-fat content in food is no less a threat to Americans than Iranian dictators and terrorists organizations.

Here's the discussion from the Stern show:

Howard Stern
You know, I just want to start off by saying, I got a say a right on to a guy in The New York Times this Nicholas D. Kristof dude, who writes for The New York Times. He said in an article yesterday, an opinion piece, exactly what I've been saying for years. Here we're talking about the terrorists and killing us, and of course the horrible situation at the World Trade Center, but even more what's killing us is Girl Scout cookies and McDonalds and things like that. Because, this guy was talking about his daughter going around selling Girl Scout cookies, and he happened to look at the back of the box and the trans-fat that's in these cookies, the hydrogenated vegetable oil, that clogs up your arteries leading lots of cholesterol. It's estimated to kill 30,000 Americans annually and probably more. And what happens is the more of these fat people who eat all this crap, continue to eat it, they end up in the hospital and the taxpayers end up paying all the bills, its draining the economy, fat is draining the economy. Girl Scout cookies have more of this trans-fat, then McDonalds. And you say well if Iranians were running around this country handing out this food that kills us we'd have them all arrested.

Robin Quivers
If they were throwing it at us.

Howard Stern
And then it brings up an unbelievable point that in the country, in one of the Scandinavian counties, I think it was Copenhagen, is that a country?

Robin Quivers
I think that's a city.

Howard Stern
Is that a city? Alright, in Denmark I'm thinking, that's the country. In Denmark they passed a law that said, you can not have more than 2% of fat in food be trans-fat.

Robin Quivers
So that's against the companies they have to make sure.

Howard Stern
That's right. And the result of all that is you walk into a McDonald's in Copenhagen and you order a large meal like chicken nuggets and French fries, you get 0.33 grams of trans-fatty acids. If you walk into a McDonald's in the United States and you order the same meal, you get 10.1 count of grams from trans-fat.

Robin Quivers
That's interesting. I wonder what the other stuff tastes like.

Artie Lange

Howard Stern
I don't know about that. It's a matter of the fry oil. It doesn't have to be bad oil. It could be olive oil or something. The KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) provided almost 25 grams of trans-fat, but Denmark, Russia, and Wiesbaden, Germany, none! Negligible.

Robin Quivers
So it can be done. Why are they trying to kill us?

Howard Stern
Prowl a supermarket and you see Pop Secret butter microwave popcorn has 5 grams of trans-fat per serving, Keebler Chips Deluxe cookies have 1.5 grams of trans-fat per cookie, Drakes Yodels and Ring Dings have 2 grams, a Denny's Carrot Cake has 3 grams, again if this stuff was being sold by a terrorist nation, they would all be under arrest, we would be bombing them right now for killing us.

Robin Quivers
But I said if they were throwing it at us and then you called them terrorists, we would shoot them.

Howard Stern
Right, 33,000 people alone a year, they know for sure, die from this, but you know it's higher.

Robin Quivers
Answer my question, why these companies trying to kill people?

Howard Stern
I don't know.

Artie Lange
Those KFC dinners are insane. You get a big thing of mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, and a lot of fried chicken. And 12 year olds eat it.

Howard Stern
The Bush administration should follow the Danish model and curb the use of trans-fats. And the guy goes on, there's lots of risk we take in life, brain tumors happen to people, you can't do anything about that, plane crashes, foreign leaders like in Iran who want to produce nuclear weapons, you got North Korea, that stuff is hard. This is easy...

...Fix this! Fix the s*!# we eat. I mean it literally is clogging our country up. It's bad news.

Robin Quivers
I want to now fly in a McDonald's hamburger from Sweden or Denmark and one from here and see what they taste like.

Artie Lange
Did you ever have fast food overseas Robin? You do a lot traveling.

Robin Quivers
No! I don't eat fast food here.

Howard Stern
Yeah it would be almost a sin to travel all that way just to eat McDonald's.

UPDATE: According to Dr. Fuhrman there's a reason why Howard Stern knows a thing or two about nutrition:

Howard Stern and Robin Quivers have discussed my Eat To Live diet-style on the air a few years back, they were very impressed with what they found out about it and they obviously had both read the book.

For more information on trans-fat check out this previous post from Dr. Fuhrman's colleague Dr. Steven Acocella: The Nutrition Facts Label to List Trans Fat: From Bad to Worse

Howard Stern On Trans-Fat

Many people don't realize Howard Stern is a health nut, and just this morning, as he was coming on the air, he started railing about trans-fat. You know the stuff that runs rampant in our food, makes us sick, and kills many of us!

Stern said if Iran was selling trans-fat to the U.S., and you looked at the statistics of what it did to Americans, we'd declare war. But for some reason we allow domestic companies to continually infect our food with it.

According to Stern we don't even have strict federal limits on the amount of trans-fat allowed in food. Denmark has tighter restrictions then we do. Crazy, right?

I was curious if anyone else heard Stern's rant? And if you care to weigh in on it?

UPDATE: For more on this check out Howard Stern On Trans-Fat: The Transcript.

"Healthy" By Reputation is not the Same as Healthy

According to the Associated Press Americans are being duped by so-called "healthy foods." Claiming advertising confuses people into buying foods they perceive as healthy (yogurt, granola bars, etc.), but as it turns out are no more good for you than a bowl of sugary cereal. Candice Choi reports:

As concerns grow over rising obesity rates, so does confusion about the difference between what is healthy and what aids weight loss�with many believing the two are interchangeable.

"That's why so many people just give in and so many diets fail," said Christine Gerbstadt, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Foods with wholesome images�nuts, yogurt and granola�are often consumed with abandon by dieters and end up sabotaging them, she said. Many brands of granola, for example, can be packed with up to 600 calories per cup and are loaded with more sugar than a cup of Cap'n Crunch.

While foods like granola and yogurt are certainly more nutritious than a bag of Cheetos, it's important to pick the lower-calorie brands that are not loaded with sugar or fat.

There are some good points in there, but why does she have to malign nuts? If you pick the right nuts, they're absolutely health food.

Fish Fat Affects Heart's Electrical Function

HealthDay News is reporting Omega-3 fats might heighten the risk of potentially dangerous heart condition in some people. New research claims individuals who consume fish more than five times a week are 61 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Randy Dotinga reports:

In recent years, many doctors have urged patients to eat oily fish�such as mackerel, herring, albacore tuna and salmon�or take fish oil supplements. Both contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to better recovery from heart disease and a lower risk in older people of atrial fibrillation, in which the heart's electrical system malfunctions, and the muscle fails to beat in an orderly fashion.

But it's not entirely clear that omega-3 fats are good for the general population without heart disease. And some research has suggested they may actually boost the risk of atrial fibrillation in certain people, such as those younger than 60.

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 17,700 U.S. male doctors who took part in the Physicians' Health Study. The men answered questions about their fish consumption in 1983 and were asked in 1998 if they had developed atrial fibrillation.

After adjusting the data to account for factors like existing heart disease, the researchers found that men who ate fish more than five times a week were 61 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, compared to those who ate fish once a month. In total, about 7 percent of all the men in the study said they developed the condition, which is somewhat common among the elderly but rarer among younger people.

First mercury contamination and now this! Fish is certainly earning an unsavory reputation. If you're alarmed by this research, remember Dr. Fuhrman's recommendation: Only eat lean fish like flounder, sole, or tilapia no more than once or twice a week.

Now, incase you think you're not getting enough Omega-3, consider another recommendation from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Have a tablespoon of ground flaxseed everyday. This will give you those hard-to-find omega-3 fats that protect against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.1 The body can manufacturer EPA and DHA from these omega-3 fats for those of us who do not consume fish. An additional source of omega-3 fat might be a few walnuts or soybeans. Edamame, those frozen green soybeans in the freezer of most health-food stores, taste great and are a rich source of omega-3 fat. A nutritional supplement containing DHA fat is also a good idea, especially for those who are poor DHA converters (which can be determined via a blood test). Vegetable-derived (from microalgae) DHA fat can be found in most health-food stores.

Dr. Fuhrman points out that his DHA Purity is not only a high grade, vegetable-derived DHA supplement (it's made from algae) but it is the only DHA available in America that is kept refrigerated for freshness since the day of manufacturing. Children and adults like the taste, too.

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Refined Foods Raise Your Cholesterol

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Cholesterol Protection For Life:

Once you start eating larger amounts and bigger portions of fruits and vegetables, you will naturally not have as much room for other food like processed or refined food (fake, man-made foods). These foods are lowest in nutrients and will sabotage your long term health. Processed foods are implicated in the scientific literature in the causation of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

When you take the whole wheat berry and process it into white flour to make white bread or pasta, more than 90% of the fiber and vitamin E, as well as more than 75% of the minerals, are lost. Your body breaks down the carbohydrate into simple sugars and the physiologic response is not much different than if you had consumed cotton candy. White pasta, white rice and white bread are just like sugar; because their fiber has been removed, these nutrient deficient foods are absorbed too rapidly. This, in turn, will raise glucose, triglyceride, and insulin levels in your blood. Refined grains are undesirable and will sabotage your weight-loss and cholesterol-lowering efforts.

All refined sweets are low in nutrients and fiber and are rapidly absorbed. These refined sweets include sugar, honey, corn syrup, molasses and corn sweeteners. They all contain insignificant amounts of nutrients (per calorie) and no fiber. More and more studies offer evidence that the consumption of these sweets and white-flour products are a significant cause of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.1

Getting thinner is extremely important to maximally lower your cholesterol and protect yourself from heart disease and cancer. As you get closer to your ideal weight, your weight loss will gradually slow down and then stop. Your body is a very intelligent "machine" and when you eat correctly, it will achieve its ideal weight.

In addition, if you consume a diet that contains 90-100% nutrient-dense food, you can practically disease-proof your body. Superior nutrition has such a powerful effect on the body's ability to defend itself against illness that it can force genetics to take a secondary role; therefore, our genetic weaknesses can remain at bay.

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Where Junk Food Cravings Are Born

Last year NPR posed the question: "Why do we seem to relish salty, sweet, high-fat and fried foods?" After all, anybody on the street will tell you they're no good for us. So why do we eat them? Gary Beauchamp, director of Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center weighs in:

Our human ancestors were largely herbivores, and one of their primary concerns was consuming enough calories.

"Sweet things tend to be calorie-rich and tend to be high in vitamins in the real world," Beauchamp says. "Most or all plant-eating animals have evolved an ability to taste sweet compounds, particularly carbohydrates, and a liking for them."

Likewise, salt is a signal for nutrients such as sodium. As for fat, our cravings become less clear. Some studies suggest people like the buttery texture. Fat is also the richest source of calories. "One way to think about this is that people and animals learn to associate this feel with the feeling of calories in the gut�and that association is what makes these things so attractive," Beauchamp says. He speculates that fatty acids may also enhance the sweetness of sugar and the saltiness of salt.

Similarly, an aversion to bitter foods�including vegetables�may have evolved from the need for early humans to avoid poisonous plants, which often tasted bitter.

Check out the podcast that accompanies the NPR report.

The podcast suggests people have learned to acquire some nasty eating habits: overeating and gobbling up lots of salt and fat to new a few. According to Onlyourhealth Your Child this is a dangerous combination, especially in young children:

The unnaturally high level of sugar, salt, and artificially heightened flavors in processed (fake) foods will lessen or deaden the sensitivity of the taste buds to more subtle flavors, making natural food taste flat. For example, the higher the salt content of your diet, the more your taste buds lose their ability to taste salt. After your taste has toned down its sensitivity to salt, salty things don't taste so salty and your deadened taste buds have lost the ability to enjoy the subtle flavorings in more delicately flavored natural foods. Vegetables have less flavor, fruit isn't as sweet, and nuts taste like wood after just one month of over stimulation with industrial-designed flavors.

Children eat little real food today. By real food, I mean things that are eaten in their natural state. Is an ice pop real food? Are Kool-Aid or macaroni and cheese? Were these foods eaten by primitive man or other primates? Do they contain a reasonable complement of the trace elements, phytochemicals, minerals, and fibers that nature placed in real food? With so much fake food around, why would we expect our children to choose to eat vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, those foods that all the health-giving nutrients?

Don't Coerce Children to Eat

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Onlyourhealth Your Child:

Repeat after me: "I will not be concerned with the number of calories consumed by my child." Remember, it is the internal messages from the brain of your child, finely tuned by metabolic messages, that determine hunger. When there is a true physiologic need for calories and when they are truly hungry, they will eat. You may be able to determine what they eat by what is offered or available in your home environment, but you have almost no ability to force your children to consume more food than their own internal drives tell them they need.

It is especially difficult to get a baby or toddler to overeat. Most young ones will push food away when they are not hungry. By bribing, coaxing, tempting, and teaching our little ones to constantly stuff down a few more bites, they are learning to ignore their body's correct hunger and satiation signals. Over time, and with the help of "fake food" made with artificial flavors and concentrated sweeteners, it is very common for children to become chronic overeaters.

We are designed to consume a diet rich in natural plant fibers and micronutrients. This fiber (bulk) causes stretch receptors in the digestive tract to register that we have consumed enough food. When we eat processed food, which is high in calories and has little fiber, the body's natural satiation mechanism is fooled and we overeat. Appetite can also be driven by taste. The artificially high stimulation of taste with concentrated sweeteners and artificial flavors can make humans eating machines without constraints.

Man-made, high calorie concoctions, designed to appeal to the taste and mindset of children, are chemical inventions created to attract consumption, and do not contain the nutrients needed for good health. Besides containing insignificant amounts of nutrients, they also contain potentially dangerous ingredients such as artificial food colorings and chemical preservatives. In addition, processed foods may also contain trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, other concentrated sweeteners, white flour, butter and nitrates. Heavily baked, smoked, or barbequed foods produce heat-formed by-products with detrimental carcinogenic effects. Parents have allowed the processed food and fast food industry to penetrate the minds and bodies of children like a cult, stealing away the health potential of our children.

Hunting for Calories in the Supermarket is Cheap and Easy

On his blog "On the Table" New York Times contributing writing Michael Pollan provides a compelling take on people's dietary selections, citing low income levels and high cost of fresh produce as major reasons why people eat poorly. Research indicates junk food is more cost effective:

A 2004 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Adam Drewnowski and S.E. Specter offers some devastating answers. One dollar spent in the processed food section of the supermarket � the aisles in the middle of the store � will buy you 1200 calories of cookies and snacks. That same dollar spent in the produce section on the perimeter will buy you only 250 calories of carrots. Similarly, a dollar spent in the processed food aisles will buy you 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of fruit juice. So if you're in the desperate position of shopping simply for calories to keep your family going, the rational strategy is to buy the junk.

Mr. Drewnowski explains that we are driven by our evolutionary inheritance to expend as little energy as possible seeking out as much food energy as possible. So we naturally gravitate to "energy-dense foods" � high-calorie sugars and fats, which in nature are rare and hard to find. Sugars in nature come mostly in the form of ripe fruit and, if you're really lucky, honey; fats come in the form of meat, the getting of which requires a great expense of energy, making them fairly rare in the diet as well. Well, the modern supermarket reverses the whole caloric calculus: the most energy-dense foods are the easiest � that is, cheapest � ones to acquire. If you want a concise explanation of obesity, and in particular why the most reliable predictor of obesity is one's income level, there it is.

Even Organic Cereal and Pasta Aren't Health Foods

Yesterday we talked about Wal-Mart's move to sell more organic foods, and Dr. Fuhrman's conclusion was that the organic label doesn't do much to make processed foods more nutritious.

In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains the deficiencies and dangers of refined carbohydrates:

Processed carbohydrates are deficient in fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, all of which have been lost in processing.

Compared with whole wheat, typical process carbohydrate products are missing:

  • 62 percent of the zinc
  • 72 percent of the magnesium
  • 95 percent of the vitamin E
  • 50 percent of the folic acid
  • 72 percent of chromium
  • 78 of the vitamin B6
  • 78 percent of the fiber

In a six-year study of 65,000 women, those with diets high in refined carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, and pasta had two and a half times the incidence of Type II diabetes, compared with those who ate high-fiber foods such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice.1 These findings were replicated in a study of 43,000 men.2 Diabetes is no trivial problem; it is the fourth-leading cause of death by disease in America, and its incidence is growing.3

Walter Willett, M.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of those two studies, finds the results so convincing that he'd like our government to change the Food Guide Pyramid, which recommends six to eleven servings of any kind of carbohydrate. He says, "They should move refined grains, like white bread, up to the sweets category because metabolically they're basically the same."

Now the let's talk cheese. According to Dr. Fuhrman cheese is a poor dietary selection and strictly prohibited in the Eat to Live plan:

Cheese is the food that contributes the most saturated fat to the American diet is one of the most dangerous foods in the world to consume. Though it tastes good, it should be used very rarely, if at all. Most cheeses are more than 50 percent of calories from fat, and even low-fat cheese are very high-fat foods.

CheesesPercent of Calories from FatPercent of Fat that is Saturated Fat
Cream Cheese89%63%
Gouda Cheese69%65%
Cheddar Cheese74%64%
Mozzarella Cheese69%61%
Mozzarella Cheese, part skim56%64%
Kraft Velveeta Spread65%66%
Kraft Velveeta Light43%67%
Ricotta, whole milk68%64%
Ricotta, part skim51%62%

So based on the information from Dr. Fuhrman it seems organic doesn't necessarily mean nutritious. While organic produce reduces the risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals, organic processed foods and cheese still aren't healthy choices.

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Wal-Mart Going Organic

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocery retailer, will soon be selling a vast array of organic products, including organic produce, breakfast cereals, and macaroni and cheese. According to The New York Times the move is an attempt broaden its appeal to urban and other upscale consumers. The initiative has met mixed reviews, Melanie Warner reports:

Wal-Mart's interest is expected to change organic food production in substantial ways.

Some organic food advocates applaud the development, saying Wal-Mart's efforts will help expand the amount of land that is farmed organically and the quantities of organic food available to the public.

But others say the initiative will ultimately hurt organic farmers, will lower standards for the production of organic food and will undercut the environmental benefits of organic farming. And some nutritionists question the health benefits of the new organic products. "It's better for the planet, but not from a nutritional standpoint," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "It's a ploy to be able to charge more for junk food."

Nestle makes an interesting point. Just how beneficial is all this organic food?

In a previous post entitled "Is Organic Safer?" Dr. Fuhrman talks about organic produce:

Organic food is certainly your best bet, to further limit exposure to toxic chemicals. No one knows for sure how much risk exists from pesticide residue on produce, but here's what we do know: the younger you are, the more your cells are susceptible to damage from toxins. It seems wise to feed our young children organic food whenever possible.

Of course, wash your vegetables and fruit with water and when possible, use a drop of dishwashing detergent and then rinse well to remove all detergent residues for a little more efficient cleaning. Specialty pesticide removal products have not clearly demonstrated any more effectiveness than mild soap and water.

Besides the heightened exposure to chemicals and pesticides from animal products, the most hazardous pesticides are used on some plant foods responsible for the majority of the plant-food-related dietary risk. These foods with the most pesticide residue are: strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherries, apples, and celery. Imported produce is also more likely to contain higher levels of pesticides.1

There is another reason to feed our children organic food when possible. Organic food usually has more nutrients than conventional.2 One study performed at the University of California at Davis found that foods grown organically had higher amounts of flavonoids, which have protective effects against both heart disease and cancer. The researchers found flavonoids were more than 50 percent higher in organic corn and strawberries. They theorized that when plants are forced to deal with the stress of insects, they produce more of these compounds, which are beneficial to humans.3 Overall, organic foods taste better, and organic agriculture protects farmers and our environment.

But here's the important thing to remember: when it comes to nutrition, what you eat is much more important than whether it's organic or not. Processed cereal, frozen pizza, and macaroni and cheese don't magically become health foods when they're organic. And, watermelon or apples don't become unhealthy when they're not organic. Again Dr. Fuhrman:

The large amount of studies performed on the typical pesticide-treated produce have demonstrated that consumption of produce, whether organic or not, is related to lower rates of cancer and disease protection, not higher rates. Certainly, it is better to eat fruits and vegetables grown and harvested using pesticides than not eating them at all. The health benefits of eating phytochemical-rich produce greatly outweigh any risk pesticide residues might pose.

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Health News Bits and Pieces

On any given day you'll find hundreds of health-related news stories circulating throughout the web. Here are a few Associated Press stories that caught my eye:

Salt: Potentially More Dangerous For Vegans and Vegetarians

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Onlyourhealth Your Child:

Although a low-saturated-fat vegan diet may markedly reduce risk for coronary heart disease, diabetes, and many common cancers, the real Achilles' heel of the low-fat vegan diet is the increased risk of hemorrhagic (vessel rupture leading to bleeding) stroke at a late age. Apparently the atherosclerotic (plaque-building) process that creates a local intravascular embolism (traveling clot) may be protecting the fragile blood vessels in the brain from rupture under years of stress from high blood pressure. Admittedly, hemorrhagic stroke causes a very small percentage of deaths in modern countries. It still is worth nothing that if strict vegetarians are to have the potential to maximize their lifespan, it is even more important for them to avoid a high salt intake because salt intake increases blood pressure. Almost all of the soy-based meat analogues and many other health food store (vegan) products are exceptionally high in sodium.

A number of studies both in Japan (where the high-salt had made stroke a leading cause of death) and in the West have illustrated that fewer animal products and a low serum cholesterol were associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.1 Keep in mind, stoke mortality is significantly higher in Japan and exceptionally high in certain areas of China where salt intake is high, in spite of low-fat diets. It is also well established that Third World countries that do no salt their food are virtually immune to hypertension, the age-related rise in blood pressure we see in 90 percent of Americans, and they are immune to the incidence of strokes.

The high salt ? high blood pressure ? stroke causation chain may be more likely a late-life event in a vegetarian successfully maintaining excellent heart health. So avoiding excess sodium may be even more important for a vegetarian than for an omnivore. Of course, excess sodium increases both heart attack and stroke death in all diet styles, but in a vegan, the high-salt diet is even more likely to rear its ugly head as a cause of late-life morbidity and mortality, especially since they will often live longer and not have a heart attack first.

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Beware "Enriched" Foods

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

White or "enriched" rice is just as bad as white bread and pasta. It is nutritionally bankrupt. You might as well just eat the Uncle Ben's cardboard box it comes in. Refining removes important factors: fiber, minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamin E. So, when you eat grains, eat whole grains.

Refining foods removes so much nutrition that our government requires that a few synthetic vitamins and minerals be added back. Such food is labelled as enriched or fortified. Whenever you see those words on a package, it means important nutrients are missing. Refining foods lowers the amount of hundreds of known nutrients, yet usually only five to ten are added back by fortification.

As we change food through processing and refining, we rob the food of certain health-supporting substances and often create unhealthy compounds, thus making it a more unfit food for human consumption. As a general rule of thumb: the closer we eat foods to their natural state, the healthier the food.

One Nation Under Big Macs

Remember Eric Schlosser's 2001 book Fast Food Nation? According to Kim Severson of The New York Times:

In the five years since "Fast Food Nation" was published, America's attention to what it eats has perked up markedly. A movement to overhaul school lunch programs has gained momentum, capped with an announcement last week that soda companies will voluntarily remove sugary drinks from school vending machines. Terms like trans fat, mad cow disease and sustainable agriculture are part of the shopper's lexicon. Fast food companies have animal welfare policies and marketing budgets devoted to making salads as popular as burgers.

Did "Fast Food Nation," which has sold more than 1.4 million copies, serve as the guidebook to this latest food revolution?

We may never really know. Certainly, there have been many factors. But this much is certain: Schlosser is not ready to be quiet. The movie version of Fast Food Nation is about to come out, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Greg Kinnear, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Avril Lavigne and Ethan Hawke. Severson reports:

If the movie is a success at Cannes and in theaters, it may take his message to a wider and much more glittery audience. But it's Mr. Schlosser's newest book, the little sleeper aimed at young people, that could have lasting impact.

Carmen Rios, a Brooklyn teenager, recently read it as part of her work as a reporter for New Youth Connections, an independent student newspaper distributed to New York City high school students.

She grew up eating her mother's Puerto Rican dishes at home but going to McDonald's whenever she had a few dollars. At one point she ate eight meals from McDonald's in a week. "Chew on This" changed everything. Descriptions of the way animals are slaughtered and insects used for food coloring were particularly powerful.

As a result, she's off McDonald's entirely. She's eating fruit and salad.

The Phytochemical Revolution

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

We are on the verge of a revolution. Substances newly discovered in broccoli cabbage sprouts sweep toxins out of cells. Substances found in nuts and beans prevent damage to our cells' DNA. Other compounds in beets, peppers, and tomatoes fight cancerous changes in cells. Oranges and apples protect our blood vessels from damage that could lead to heart disease. Nature's chemoprotective army is alert and ready to remove our enemies and shield us from harm.

Hardly a day goes by when some new study doesn't proclaim the health-giving properties of fruits, vegetables, and beans. Unprocessed plant foods contain thousands of compounds, most of which have not yet been discovered, that are essential for maintaining health and maximizing genetic potential. Welcome to the phytochemical revolution.

Phytochemicals, or plant-derived chemicals, occur naturally in plants (phyto means "plant"). These nutrients, which scientists are just starting to discover and name, have tremendously beneficial effects on human physiology. The effects of our not consuming sufficient amounts of them are even more astounding--premature death from cancer and atherosclerosis.

Eating a wide variety of raw and conservatively cooked plant foods (such as steamed vegetables) is the only way we can ensure that we get sufficient amount of these essential health-supporting elements. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements or adding some vitamins to processed foods will no prevent the diseases associated with eating a diet containing a low percentage of calories from whole natural foods.

Scientists cannot formulate into pills nutrients that have not yet been discovered! If the pills did contain sufficient amounts of all the phytonutrients and other essential substances, we would have to swallow a soup bowl full of pills and powders. To date, researchers have discovered more than ten thousand phytochemicals. No supplement can contain a sufficient amount. Thankfully, you can get all these nutrients today by eating a wide variety of plant-based foods.

Please bear in mind that I am not against nutritional supplements. In fact, I recommend various supplements to many of my patients with various health problems, and a high-quality multivitamin/multi-mineral to almost everyone.

I do not recommend that most people consume supplements containing vitamin A, isolated beta-carotene, or iron, as there are risks associated with excess consumption of these nutrients. The point to be emphasized is that supplements alone cannot offer optimal protection against disease and that you cannot make an unhealthy diet into a healthy one by consuming supplements.

Dr. Fuhrman Addresses Osteoporosis and Protein

In a comment to last week's post Choose Vegetable Calcium Over Animal Calcium Helena sought Dr. Fuhrman's thoughts about Gabe Mirkin's opinion on animal protein and calcium absorption. Here's what Dr. Fuhrman had to say:

Gabe Mirkin, M.D.: Studies done many years ago suggested that eating a lot of protein increases calcium loss in the urine and therefore it was thought that eating protein weakens bones by taking calcium out of them. However, recent studies show that eating protein increases calcium absorption so the extra calcium in the urine comes from increased absorption, not from being take out of bones. Reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Volume 78, Issue 3, 2003) show that eating plenty of protein and lots of foods from plants helps to keep bones strong. Most scientists now feel that a very low-protein diet can cause osteoporosis, while a moderately high-protein diet may help to prevent it.

Dr. Mirkin is not giving enough information to understand the entire story. Let's review some of the evidence from the studies in question and come to some recommendations that are more specific. Even though excessive consumption of animal protein over many years does encourage bone disease and bone loss and a higher consumption of vegetable protein over animal protein is conducive to less osteoporosis it is also true that too little protein in later life (after age 70) when digestive efficiency declines could lead to less calcium absorption, muscle wasting and bone thinning. Studies suggest that both too much protein (animal protein) and too little protein are unfavorable to bone mass. Therefore, it may be advisable as we age to assure adequate protein intake and pay more attention to it especially if we find a decrease in weight and muscle mass with later life aging. Let's review the following relevant studies:

Rapuri PB ; Gallagher JC ; Haynatzka V. Protein intake: effects on bone mineral density and the rate of bone loss in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 77(6):1517-25.
This study investigates the associations of dietary protein intake with baseline bone mineral density (BMD) and the rate of bone loss over 3 y in postmenopausal elderly women. It finds " no association seen between protein intake and the rate of bone loss (in a three-year period). The study did note that all these elderly women did not eat much protein in general and the highest range of protein consumption was only about 70 grams a day. Elderly women with low protein intake at baseline (before the study began were noted to have lower bone mineral density, likely because of a little less muscle mass), because muscle mass and strength is linked to bone mass. This study does not tell us much more than logic and common sense would. Protein digestive efficiency declines in the elderly and getting adequate protein is necessary for adequate muscle and bone mass in later life.

Sellmeyer DE ; Stone KL ; Sebastian A ; Cummings SR. A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001; 73(1):118-22.
This study followed over 1000 elderly women over a 7 - 10 year period. The study scientists concluded that animal foods provide predominantly acid precursors, whereas protein in vegetable foods is accompanied by base precursors not found in animal foods. Imbalance between dietary acid and base precursors leads to a chronic net dietary acid load that may have adverse consequences on bone. The study found increase bone loss and risk of hip fracture in those with a higher ratio of animal protein to vegetable protein. The study scientists concluded that an increase in vegetable protein and a decrease in animal protein may decrease the risk of hip fracture in the elderly. This study illustrates the importance of getting the majority of calories (and protein) from plant sources and cautions that protein from animal food sources should be a minor contributor to total protein requirements for maximizing bone health. Even if some animal protein is added to a diet, it should not be the major source of protein, green vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, should be the major source of protein and animal source a minor source.

Devine A ; Dick IM ; Islam AF ; Dhaliwal SS ; Prince RL Protein consumption is an important predictor of lower limb bone mass in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81(6):1423-8.
This study compared protein intake with bone mineral density in the heel in 75 year old women and illustrated at this later age the higher range of protein intake (above 80 grams a day) had better bone mineral density. They did not follow hip fracture rates. This study shows that as we get older it is important to assure adequate intake of protein (as well as other nutrients).

Kerstetter JE ; O'Brien KO ; Insogna KL. Dietary protein, calcium metabolism, and skeletal homeostasis revisited. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(3 Suppl):584S-592S.
This study showed reduction in calcium absorption and very low protein intakes below .8 mg per kg, and support the other evidence that elderly women should strive to maintain their total protein intake above a gram per kilogram of body weight.


  • It is important to keep exercising to maintain muscularity in our later years.
  • To maximize mineral absorption and bone health, supplements of D and many other nutrients are advisable and become increasingly important as we age as digestive efficiency may decrease.
  • Vegetable protein sources, beans, edamame, nuts, seeds, and green vegetables are the most favorable sources of protein for long life and bone health. Adequate protein intake is important and vegetarian diets should be designed so that adequate protein intake is consumed. Vegetarian diets where the vast majority of calories come from grains and roots such as rice and potato are not ideal for long-term health.
  • Attention to protein intake with supplements or some animal products may be a useful to maintain peek muscle and bone mass to prevent the occurrence of increasing frailty, common in the elderly, but for reasons of cardiovascular health, diets should be designed so that animal products are used sparingly and not the major source of protein in the diet.

Seattle Arsenic Scare

You only have to flip through the archives of Followhealthlife to see how dangerous childhood exposure to toxic chemicals can be. The Seattle Times reports that Seattle residents received a scare when the drinking water of five Seattle schools was found to have arsenic levels that exceed government guidelines. Emily Heffter and Warren King report:

Dr. Catherine Karr, director of the University of Washington's Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, said the long-term risk to children would be very low.

Her rough calculation: If 1 million children, each day for five years, each drank one liter of water with arsenic slightly above the federal standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb), about 10 to 30 more cancers of the bladder or lungs would result.

Water from drinking fountains at five schools�Gatewood, Leschi, Loyal Heights and Van Asselt elementary schools and Alternative Elementary No. 2�was found to have arsenic levels between 11 and 18 ppb.

Only one of the fountains had been in use�at Van Asselt, for eight days, according to district officials.

Choose Vegetable Calcium Over Animal Calcium

A lot of people believe a vegetable-based diet, which excludes milk and cheese, doesn't provide enough calcium. According to Eat to Live fruits and vegetables contain ample amounts of calcium and this veggie-calcium is actually retained more efficiently in our bodies. Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Green vegetables, beans, tofu, sesame seeds, and even oranges contain lots of usable calcium, without problems associated with diary. Keep in mind that you retain the calcium better and just do not need as much when you don't consume a diet heavy in animal products and sodium, sugar, and caffeine.

Dr. Fuhrman points out that despite its reputation, milk's calcium-absorption rate is lower than what you might think:

Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk.1 Additionally since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.

Given the concentrated calcium dose in green vegetables and the health risks associated with of diary products, veggies are a great tool for protecting yourself against bone debilitating diseases like osteoporosis. The Chicago Tribune agrees�kind of.

In an article entitled Shoring Up Your Bones reporter JoAnn Milivojevic re-hashes a lot of the same recommendations for keeping bones strong and dense that you heard as a kid:

An easy way to combine calcium and vitamin D, according to Blatner, is to have an 8-ounce serving of milk and/or fortified soymilk three times a day. She recommends pouring the fortified beverage of your choice on cereal in the morning, blending it with frozen fruit for a smoothie, drinking a glass with lunch or having a glass of hot chocolate for dessert. Cosman cautioned that the milk be low-fat or non-fat: "There's no way taking in all that saturated fat is good for you," she said.

The daily recommended value for vitamin D is 400 international units (IU). You may need more or less depending on your age or food habits. For example, the NOF suggests that postmenopausal women need more because a decline in estrogen means a decline in calcium absorption. Vegans (vegetarians who don't eat eggs or dairy) may also need to take extra steps to ensure they're getting enough calcium through the plant-based foods they eat.

Good sources of calcium include fortified breakfast cereals, milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu and greens such as collards and kale. To get the most nutritional bang for your bite, create such tasty combinations as broccoli and cheese. A half cup of steamed broccoli with an ounce of cheese gets you 20 percent of your daily recommended value of both calcium and vitamin D.

It's encouraging to see mass-media even suggesting vegetables as a sufficient source of calcium, but Milivojevic, like some many others, is clearly reluctant to wipe away her milk mustache permanently. For those loyal to bovine juice Dr. Fuhrman recommends restricting milk consumption to only fat-free skim and taking supplements as needed.

From his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman provides additional insight on role of animal calcium in the standard American diet (SAD):

The American "chicken and pasta" diet style is significantly low in calcium, so adding dairy as a calcium source to this mineral-poor diet makes superficial sense�it is certainly better than no calcium in the diet. However, much more than just calcium is missing. The only reasons cow's milk is considered such an important source of calcium, is that the American diet is centered on animal foods, refined grains, and sugar, all of which are devoid of calcium. Any healthy diet containing a reasonable amount of unrefined plant foods will have sufficient calcium without milk. Fruits and vegetables strengthen bones. Researchers have found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones.2 These researchers concluded that not only are fruits and vegetables rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients essential for bone health, but, because they are alkaline, not acid-producing, they don induce urinary calcium loss. Green vegetables in particular have a powerful effect on reducing hip fractures, for they are rich not only in calcium but in other nutrients, such as vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.3
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Childhood Obesity: Parenting a Better Solution than Manufacturing

Getting kids to eat healthy nutrient-rich food starts early, according to Onlyourhealth Your Child too many parents allow their children to consume the standard American diet. Consequently kids grow up rejecting fresh produce and opting for empty-calorie processed foods. Dr. Fuhrman explains:

The unnaturally high level of sugar, salt, and artificially heightened flavors in processed (fake) foods will lessen or deaden the sensitivity of the taste buds to more subtle flavors, making natural food taste flat. For example, the higher the salt content of your diet, the more your taste buds lose their ability to taste salt. After your taste has toned down its sensitivity to salt, salty things don't taste so salty and your deadened taste buds have lost the ability to enjoy the subtle flavorings in more delicately flavored natural foods. Vegetables have less flavor, fruit isn't as sweet, and nuts taste like wood after just one month of over stimulation with industrial-designed flavors.

Dr. Fuhrman urges that unless parents instill healthy eating habits in their children early on, kids are unlikely to make good dietary selections later:

Kids will not develop the intellectual maturity to consume broccoli and peas instead of French fries and pizza for their health. The more subtle flavors of natural food can't compete. The pizza, pasta, cheese, burger, and soft drink diet will win over the fruit-vegetable-nut diet seven days a week.

This dilemma has health agencies grasping at straws for answers. The New York Times reports the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services are turning to the wrong place for help the processed food industry. Melanie Warner reports:

The report, from the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services, urges food companies to develop products that are more nutritious and to "review and revise" its marketing practices. It also suggests that the Children's Advertising Review Unit, which was set up by the industry, consider creating minimum nutrition standards for foods advertised to children.

Consumer groups hailed the report as a step in the right direction. "This is the first acknowledgment by the F.T.C. that there should be nutrition standards for food that's marketed to kids," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group and frequent critic of junk-food marketing.

But producers claim they are already doing their part:

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a lobbying group that represents packaged food manufacturers, said that the food industry had already undertaken "initiatives to help families improve their health and wellness." The changes, the group says, include new and reformulated products that are healthier, products that are portion-controlled to have just 100 calories and the addition of "healthy lifestyle messages" on food package labels.

Is it really a good idea to rely on the food producers to come up with solutions? Dr. Fuhrman insists if parents really want kids to eat better, the change has to happen in the home:

If you are committed to your child eating healthfully, there is only one way to do--it make your home off-limits to processed food and low-nutrient foods. No white flour products, no cheese, no sweeteners, no ready-to-eat cereal, no fruit juice, no chips, no junk.

Food Triggers and Migraines

From Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Recurrent headaches are not much different. They are almost always the result of nutritional folly and, like other reasons that keep doctors' offices busy, are completely avoidable.

The relationship between food triggers and migraines has been the subject of much debate, with varying results from medical researchers. Headache specialists such as Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic of Columbus Hospital, report that about 30 percent of patients can identify food triggers.1

My experience in treating migraine and severe-headache patients with a more comprehensive nutritional approach has shown that 90 to 95 percent of patients are able to remain headache-free after the first three-month period. These patients avoid common migraine triggers, but also in the healing phase they adhere to a strict natural-food vegan diet of primarily fruits and vegetables rich in natural starches like potatoes and brown rice. These patients must avoid all packaged and processed foods, which are notorious for containing hidden food additives, even though they are not disclosed on the labels. They also avoid all added salt.

15 Common Migraine Triggers
sweetsdairy and cheesesalted or pickled foods
fermented foodschocolatevinegar
pizzasmoked meatsalcohol
monosodium glutamatenutsfood additives
yeasthydrolyzed proteinbaked goods

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Diet Supplements for Weight Loss?

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:

Don't be conned by diet pills, magic in a bottle, or fat absorbers. Anything really effective is not safe, and those that are safe are no effective. To deal with the real problem, you must make real changes. Here is some data on three of the most popular remedies:

Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid): In spite of an interesting theory and some intriguing animal studies, the human studies are unimpressive. In the best study to date, 135 patients were double-blinded to receive either 1,500 mg per day of hydroxycitric acid or a placebo. They were all placed on a high-fiber, low-calorie diet. After twelve weeks, the placebo group had lost more weight.1 Conclusion: garcinia cambogia doesn't work.

Chitosan: This form of chitin, derived from the shells of crustaceans, supposedly traps fat in the intestine and is frequently advertised as Fat Absorb. A review of the data available seems to indicate that you would have to consume entire bottle every day to have much of a reduction in fat absorption. The amount of fat absorbed is minuscule and clinical data shows that Chitosan does not promote weightloss.2 Conclusion: Chitosan doesn't work.

Ephedra alkaloids (ma huang): Though this natural stimulant has a small effect on reducing appetite, the FDA has issued a warning regarding serious and potentially lethal side effects associated with the use of products containing ephedra, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, psychosis, abnormal liver function, seizures, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and stomach pain.3 Ephedra is so dangerous that it has been linked with fatalities--even a low dose has detrimental health effects. Conclusion: it's not worth the risk.

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