Standard American Smorgasbord

Overkill, too much, excess, a lot—all words and phrases that I’d use to describe most American’s dietary habits. But is it our fault? Well, one public interest group seems to believe restaurants are responsible for our extreme eating. Will Duhman of Reuters reports:
Michael Jacobson, the group's executive director, took aim at "table-service" chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday's and Uno Chicago Grill. Such places increasingly stuff their dishes with extra unhealthy ingredients, he said.

"What we're finding is that table-service restaurants have launched into a whole new era of extreme eating," Jacobson said. "If we're going to deal with the epidemic of obesity and the tremendous prevalence of heart attacks and strokes, we're going to have to do something about restaurant foods."
If you follow Eating to Live on the Outside you can certainly see their point. Restaurants just pile on the junk. Take bacon for example, nowadays it’s on everything from salads to steak. It’s practically a condiment. So is it right to point the finger at restaurants or is it our responsibility to learn how to eat right and live well? I’ll let Dr. Fuhrman answer that:
My work over the last few years has demonstrated that I can affect dramatic change in even initially resistant people, not by merely appealing to their rational minds, but by giving them the confidence and tools to overcome their subconscious fears, addiction and cravings. Fear of a looming health crisis may be a motivator too, but even more important is the learnable body of knowledge that is critical to help addicts, especially food addicts get well.
In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman offers up some healthy alternatives that are basically the opposite of the nutrient-sparse calorie-dense restaurant junk food, and, they'll keep you from packing on the pounds:
An important corollary to the principle of limiting high-calorie food is that the only way for a human being to safely achieve the benefits of caloric restriction while ensuring that the diet is nutritionally adequate is to avoid as much as possible those foods that are nutrient poor.

Indeed, this is the crucial consideration in deciding what to eat. We need to eat foods with adequate nutrients so we don’t need to consume excess “empty” calories to reach our nutritional requirements. Eating foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber, and low in calories, “fills us up,” so to speak, thus preventing us from overeating.

Ban McDonald's?

Here’s one way to curb obesity, ban fast food. According to the Associated Press Prince Charles wants to ban McDonald’s:
Charles made the comments while visiting the Imperial College London Diabetes Center in Abu Dhabi for the launch of a public health campaign, The Press Association reported.

"Have you got anywhere with McDonald's? Have you tried getting it banned? That's the key," Charles was quoted as asking one of the center's nutritionists.

Acrylamides Found in Prune Juice and Olives

From the May 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Acrylamide, a cancer-causing substance that caused scares when it was found in fried potatoes and other popular foods, is also found in olives and prune juice, U.S. regulators reported recently. Relatively high levels were also found in arrowroot cookies, commonly given to small children as teething biscuits. Peanut butter, cookies, and fried chicken were also sources.

Dr. Fuhrman comments:
It is prudent to avoid acrylamides, a potent carcinogen in animal studies. We learn something new every day, and I no longer recommend roasted peanut butter for children. Try the freshly ground raw cashew and raw almond butter now available at
Continue Reading...

KFC: Short of Devine Intervention

Okay, we all agree that Kentucky Fried Chicken is junk, right? And short of divine intervention, nothing is going to make that food healthy. Well apparently the suits at KFC feel the same way because they’ve issued a request for the Pope to bless their new fish sandwich. Believe it or not, Fast Food News is on it:
In a PR move to promote the new fish sandwich, KFC has concocted a publicity stunt that at least borders on sacrilegious: they've officially asked the Pope (yes, the one in Rome with the big hat) to bless their new sandwich.

According to KFC's press release: "The company has asked the Pope himself for his blessing, with KFC President Gregg Dedrick sending a personal letter to the Vatican... The company has turned to Pope Benedict XVI, beseeching him to bestow his Papal blessing for this innovative new menu item."
Hello, welcome to Kentucky Fried Crucifixion. May I take your order?

Sal Monella meet Peter Pan

How’d you like a peanut butter, jelly, and salmonella sandwich? Because that’s exactly what you’d get if you buy Peter Pan or Wal-mart brand peanut butter. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News reports 329 people have been sickened in 41 states:
As the official count of those sickened rose to 329 in 41 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late Thursday that "product testing has confirmed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella Tennessee in opened jars of peanut butter, obtained from ill persons.”

The CDC reported that 51 of the 249 patients for whom clinical information is available were hospitalized and that there are no deaths. However, news reports Friday said a Pennsylvania family had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Wednesday claiming an elderly woman had died after eating tainted peanut butter.
To be honest, I can’t believe people eat that name brand peanut butter anyway. I dislike all of them, way to salty and unnatural tasting. I only buy peanut butter that says “just peanuts” on the label. And no, I don’t consider it the end of the world that the oil rises to the top. I’ve got plenty of spoons to deal with that. Crisis averted.

Trans Fat Free Scouts

The Girl Scouts are bringing the pain. These seemingly peaceful little girls in the green outfits have no love for trans fat. According to Blogging Baby the Girl Scouts have bounced trans fat from their cookies:
This year, when you're buying your Thin Mints, you can feel even better about helping the Girl Scouts, because those delicious little cookies are now virtually trans-fat free. According to the Girl Scouts organization, the cookies will still taste the same, but they will be more heart-healthy, as long as you eat them in moderation, of course. "If it says zero grams, but contains partially hydrogenated oil, people should know it does contain a little bit of trans fat," says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "If somebody ate several servings of those foods a day, someone could consume 2 or 3 grams of trans fat, which is significant."
This still doesn’t exactly redeem them—the cookies that is.

Less Worry about Mad-Cow?

This makes me glad I don’t eat beef. Remember a few years back. Before SARS and Avian Flu were all the rage. Mad-Cow Disease was the top dog. It was in more headlines than the Anna Nicole Smith saga. Well I guess the nation isn’t worried about it anymore. The Seattle Times reports that U.S. mad-cow testing laboratories are closing their doors. Sandi Doughton explains:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently scaled back mad-cow testing by more than 90 percent, leading to closure of the WSU lab and several others around the country. The agency has backed off plans for a mandatory animal-tracking system, which can help identify the source of an infection and other animals at risk, and now says the program will be voluntary.

Several of the unappetizing — and risky — practices that came to light in the wake of the initial mad-cow case are still allowed, including the use of cow blood as a food supplement for calves.

And even the prohibition on slaughtering sickly cows, called downers, for human consumption has not been made permanent, though it is being enforced.
I hardly think I’m alone on this, but I worry about this stuff. Now even though I don’t eat beef, I don’t want some dangerous epidemic running amuck in our food supply. Why are we not concerned about this anymore? Oh that’s right. The new season of American Idol is on.

Binge Eating is the Diagnosis

Earlier this month Nicholas Bakalar of The New York Times reported on a new survey pointing to binge eating as an actual diagnosis. Here’s a little of the article:
The first nationally representative study of eating disorders in the United States, a nationwide survey of more than 2,900 men and women, was published by Harvard researchers in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry. It found prevalence in the general population of 0.6 percent for anorexia, 1 percent for bulimia and 2.8 percent for binge-eating disorder…

… 'It confirms that anorexia nervosa and bulimia are uncommon but serious illnesses, especially among women,'' Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, director of the eating disorders research unit of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center said. ''It also finds that many more individuals, especially those with significant obesity, are troubled by binge eating, and underscores the need to better understand this problem.''
I was curious to get Dr. Fuhrman’s thoughts on this, so I asked him. You’ll see that he isn’t all that impressed:
My thoughts are that the diagnosis of the disease (naming it) is not the cause of it and eating nutrition-less foods play a role in triggering overeating and other addictive behaviors. If the American diet relied more on natural, high fiber, plant foods, food addictions would dramatically be reduced.

Childhood Eating: The Pack Mentality

Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel and seen those nature shows with hungry hyenas frenzying over a fallen gazelle? That’s exactly what this next report reminded me of, except, it involves children and not blood thirsty predators of the Serengeti. Although some of you might be able to relate to that comparison. According to new research when young children are part of a large group they eat more. Eric Nagourney of The New York Times explains:
The researchers, who report their findings online in The Archives of Disease in Childhood, say it has often been observed in animals and adults that consumption goes up as the number eating increases. People will even keep eating past the point when their appetite has been satisfied…

…The tools of the study were simple: hungry children, a snack area and that mainstay of childhood, graham crackers. The researchers looked at how children ate when they were in groups of three or nine. They found that in the larger groups, the children ate 30 percent more.
Here’s what troubled me about this study. The researchers used graham crackers—in other words—junk food. Now, if you’re familiar with Dr. Fuhrman’s concept of toxic hunger, you know that sugary refined flour treats like graham crackers contribute to it. Now before I continue, here’s a refresher on toxic hunger. From Disease-Proof Your Child:
A few hours after eating, feeling weak, headachy, tired, mentally dull, and stomach cramping or discomfort is not true hunger! These symptoms of stomach cramping and fluttering, headaches and fatigue that begin when digestion is completed I call “toxic hunger” because these symptoms only occur in those who have been eating a toxic diet. These are withdrawal symptoms from an unhealthful diet, and this discomfort is mistakenly interpreted as the need to eat more frequently and take in more calories. Continual eating stops the discomfort, just like frequent coffee drinking stops the headaches from caffeine withdrawal.
So this brings me to this question. By feeding participants graham crackers, wouldn’t that by default increase their risk of overeating? After all, graham crackers are nothing more than standard American snack food. It seems to me that it would have made more sense to conduct this study using natural or “real” food. That way you avoid the risk of toxic hunger, which obviously would taint the results.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What would have been a good food to use?” How about green vegetables? According to Dr. Fuhrman green veggies do a great job of filling you up, provide lots of essential nutrients, and don’t contain a lot of calories. Check out Foods That Make You Thin for more that:
Green vegetables are so incredibly low in calories and rich in nutrients and fiber that the more you eat of them, the more weight you will lose. One of my secrets of nutritional excellence and superior healing is the one pound-one pound rule. That is, try to eat at least one pound of raw green vegetables a day and one pound of cooked/steamed or frozen green vegetables a day as well. One pound raw and one pound cooked--keep this goal in mind as you design and eat every meal. This may be too ambitious a goal for some of us to reach, but by working toward it, you will ensure the dietary balance and results you want. The more greens you eat, the more weight you will lose. The high volume of greens not only will be your secret to a thin waistline but will simultaneously protect you against life threatening illnesses.
But you know what? I’m sure a lot of people succumb to social influence and kids are probably no different. Take me for example, I come from an Italian family and if you don’t eat—or in most cases overeat—there’s automatically something from with you. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the findings of this study were the same, even if they ditched the graham crackers in favor of something healthier. Although, what do you think about this? If children are raised around good food and people who don’t overeat, might they be able to resist the social feeding frenzy? I’ll leave that one to speculation.

No More Soda in Thailand's Schools

Why is the world getting fatter? Many would argue—and I would agree—that the standard American diet is to blame, but another popular whipping-boy is sugary drinks. And the AFP reports, Thailand is set to put the clamps on selling soft drinks in schools:
Chantana Ungchusak, a dentist in charge of the campaign, said the project aimed to educate children from kindergarten up to primary school about limiting their sugar consumption.

"Thai kids now are facing obesity and tooth cavities because they eat fast food," Chantana told AFP.

Caffeine, Risk, and Babies

For a long time I was a coffee guy. Three cups a day in fact. Coffee so black I used to stir it with a dipstick. Needless to say, I don’t partake in the java anymore. Why? Well according to Dr. Fuhrman coffee and caffeine can contribute to major health problems, like cardiac arrhythmias and heart disease. There’s more on that in Eat to Live:
Caffeine addicts are at higher risk of cardiac arrhythmias that could precipitate sudden death.1 Coffee raises blood pressure and raises cholesterol and homocysteine, two risk factors for heart disease.2
Also, Dr. Fuhrman insists that caffeine consumption can interfere with your body’s ability to overcome toxic hunger and leave you further out of touch with true hunger. Back to Eat to Live:
Eating more food suppresses caffeine-withdrawals headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. When you are finally finished digesting the meal, the body more effectively cleans house; at this time people experience a drive to eat more to suppress caffeine-withdrawal symptoms. You are prodded to eat again, eating more food than you would if you were not a caffeine addict.
Now, not only does Dr. Fuhrman recommend avoiding caffeine as an adult, but he considers it especially verboten for pregnant mothers. He talks about that in Disease-Proof Your Child:
Caffeine has been a controversial topic for decades. Evidence clearly concludes that heavy coffee drinkers have an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight infants, but evidence is not clear for moderate users of caffeine.3 Nevertheless, is wise to stay away from as many potentially harmful substances as possible. The bottom line, if in doubt, don’t do it.
Personally, I agree with him. There are plenty of other things to drink. You don’t HAVE to drink coffee or caffeine. Just because as a culture we associate mornings with caffeine, doesn’t mean you need to follow the rest of lemmings off the cliff. But apparently for some, this isn’t satisfactory.

Dutch researchers claim that reducing caffeine consumption during pregnancy from three cups of coffee a day to one has no effect on the baby’s birth weight. Nicholas Bakalar of The New York Times reports:
The researchers recruited 1,207 pregnant women at 20 weeks’ gestation or less who reported drinking at least three cups of caffeinated coffee a day. About half of the women were randomly assigned to drink caffeinated coffee, while the other half were instructed to drink decaf for the duration of their pregnancies, with no other changes in their usual consumption of tea or caffeinated soft drinks.

After adjusting for prepregnancy weight, smoking status and other variables, the average birth weight of babies in the decaf group was a statistically insignificant one-half ounce higher than that of babies in the coffee-drinking group.
Again, if something as trivial as your beverage preference has even the slightest risk of harming your unborn child, why not put the kibosh on it? Uh duh!

For more on coffee and health, check out these previous posts:
Continue Reading...

Get Sufficient Rest and Sleep for Recovery

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times, here is Dr. Fuhrman’s fifth secret to longevity:

Adequate sleep is a necessary component of good health. Our modern society stays up late into the night and wakes in the morning to an alarm clock—long before sleep requirements have been fulfilled. To make matters worse, most Americans partake in stimulating substances—such as caffeine and sugar—to remain artificially alert during the day.

During sleep, your body removes the buildup of waste in the brain. Sufficient sleep is necessary for the normal function of your nervous and endocrine systems. Most civilizations in human history recognized the value of mid-afternoon naps. The desire for a rest, short sleep, or “siesta” after lunch should not be seen as an abnormal need, but rather a normal one. People who “cover up” their lack of sleep by using drugs (such as caffeine) as food and/or food (such as highly processed, sugary foods) as drugs sometimes claim (even boast) that they can get by with very little sleep. As you begin to live more healthfully, you may quickly recognize that you need more sleep than you previously thought.

We need to avoid stimulants in order to be in touch with our body’s need for sleep, and only by meeting these needs can we maximize the body’s tremendous capacity for ongoing repair and regeneration of cells.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Avoid Toxins, Including Medication

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times, here is Dr. Fuhrman’s fourth secret to longevity:

Our environment has become very polluted. Between contamination of our food and water supplies and the use of chemical cleaners and insecticides in our homes and weed killers on our front lawns, most of us simply cannot avoid being exposed to a little poison here and a little poison there.

Drugs of all kinds are part of our toxic problem. The first thing we were taught in the pharmacology course in medical school was that all drugs are toxic. Whether prescribed by a physician, or by the drug pusher on the street corner, prescription medication is not health food. It is best to live in a manner to avoid the need for medicinal substances.

Antibiotics are some of the most frequently used and most toxic of all drugs. More studies are documenting the relationship between antibiotic use and occurrence of cancer in later life. Most recently, a study illustrated a doubling of breast cancer in women who used antibiotics frequently in their life. This is especially frightening when you consider that 95 percent of all antibiotics used are prescribed inappropriately. For most medical visits, physicians cause more harm than good and prescribe dangerous drugs, instead of teaching patients how to build and maintain high-level health.

Take steps today to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals that enter your body. If possible, plant your own organic garden; support organic agriculture and purchase organic food; politically support a clean environment; and do not put chemical weed killers and insecticides on your property. Use nontoxic cleaners, and try to manage insects and pests without contaminating your home. Eat low on the food chain (plant-based diet) and avoid animal fats, which are known to contain the highest levels of dangerous chemical pollutants.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Regular Exercise Pays Big Health Dividends

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times, here is Dr. Fuhrman’s third secret to longevity:

Despite the well-known benefits of exercise, only about 15 percent of Americans engage in regular physical activity. In people of all body weights, poor aerobic fitness is an independent risk factor for all-cause mortality.1

Exercise is important for healthy psychological function and to maintain significant muscle and bone mass as we age. It has been shown to improve mental function; to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; and to improve sleep patterns, aiding healthful cycles of deep sleep.

If you plan on living a long time, you want to have your bones last along with you. A good measurement of your bone density and strength is to test the strength of the muscle that moves that bone. Bone density correlates perfectly with muscle strength. As we condition our muscles and gain strength, our bones thicken and strengthen along with the muscle. Without regular exercise along the way, your bone structure can deteriorate as you get older. Some people survive with weak bones, but their quality of life suffers when they are immobilized by arthritis and osteoporosis.

Ideally, exercise should be a part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. If you have a busy work schedule and commute, get in fifteen minutes of exercise every day before your morning shower. For example, if you routinely shower every morning, work up a sweat with some abdominal crunches, back extensions, toe raises, walk up and down the stairs in your home, mock jump rope, and then take your shower. Keep in mind; it is important to exercise your lower back frequently. Get in the habit of exercising the same time every day. Make the days where you do not exercise the exception, not the rule.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Continue Reading...

Salt Wars: The Phantom Menace

Salt, when you hear the word, what thoughts come to mind? “Too much salt is bad for me.” Or, “That reminds me, I’ve got to check my bid on Ebay for that Elvis salt & pepper shaker set that I simply must have.” Heck, maybe you even have one of these lines, “My grand daddy lived to the ripe ole’ age of ninety-six and he put salt on everything from pasta to pickled pigs feet.”

That pretty much sums up salt’s MO. Lot’s of people who think it’s bad and limit their exposure to it, and then there are others who dump it on everything. As for Dr. Fuhrman, he’s no fan of salt. In fact, he considers it to be one of the seven worst foods for health and longevity. Here’s all seven:
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Potato Chips and French Fries
  • Doughnuts
  • Salt
  • Sausage, hot dogs
  • Pickled, smoked or barbequed meat
Now not everyone shares Dr. Fuhrman’s disdain for salt. Rather, some “diet experts” basically endorse consumption of salty food. Take Dr. Atkins for example, he’d like people to use salted pork rinds as a substitute for dinner rolls and toast—and for making pie crusts! No, I'm not joking. Check it out over at
Atkins rivals the creativity of the raw-food chefs of today in his uses for pork rinds. Pork rinds are chunks of pigs’ skin that are deep-fried, salted and artificially flavored. He recommends people use them to dip caviar. Or, perhaps for those who can't afford caviar, one can use fried pork rinds as a "substitute for toast, dinner rolls...You can use them as a pie crust... or even matzo ball soup (see our recipe on p. 190)."[144] Matzo balls made out of pork rinds?--now that is a diet revolution!
You’ve got to wonder about recommendations like this, especially since according to Dr. Fuhrman salt consumption has been linked to the development of stomach cancer and hypertension. Consider this excerpt from Eat to Live:
Any excess salt added to food, outside of what is contained in natural foods, is likely to increase your risk of developing disease. Salt consumption is linked to both stomach cancer and hypertension.1 For optimal health, I recommend that no salt at all be added to any food. The famous DASH study clearly indicates that Americans consume five to ten times as much as they need and that high sodium levels over the years has a predictable effect on raising blood pressure.2 Just because you don’t have high blood pressure now doesn’t mean that you won’t. In fact, you probably will have high blood pressure if you keep eating lots of salt over the years.
So, what happens when dangerous diet information is put out there? The masses eat it up. For example, from Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb here’s Jimmy Moore’s take on salt:
Unless you are salt-sensitive (and it just so happens that I am!), there is no reason why you should watch your salt intake. An overwhelming majority have no reason to cut down on their salt intake. NONE! The fact that a minority of the population has sensitivity to salt should not make this a universal recommendation.
Luckily for Jimmy, he’s “salt-sensitive.” So he is limiting his exposure to it, but saying that the majority of people have no reason to avoid salt, well, that seems a little misguided because in addition to the hypertension and stomach cancer risk, Dr. Fuhrman associates salt intake with osteoporosis and heart attacks. More from Eat to Live:
Salt also pulls out calcium and other trace minerals in the urine when the excess is excreted, which is a contributory cause of osteoporosis.3 If that is not enough, high sodium intake is predictive of increased death from heart attacks. In a large prospective trial, recently published in the respected medical journal The Lancet, there was a frighteningly high correlation between sodium intake and all cause mortality in overweight men.4 The researchers concluded, “High sodium intake predicted mortality and risk of coronary heart disease, independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure. These results provide direct evidence of the harmful effects of high salt intake in the adult population.”
Now these dangers are clear, but arguably the biggest problem with salt is it shows up where you least expect it to. Sure, you can crack down on your habit of burying every meal in it, but, that’s only half the battle. Sally Kuzemchak of Prevention magazine explains that the main problem with salt is that it’s everywhere:
It's crammed into cheese slices and canned vegetables and sprinkled into cinnamon-raisin bagels and sandwich bread. You can consume a day's worth of the mineral with an order of mu shu pork with rice from your local Chinese restaurant, according to an analysis by the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest, in Washington, DC. As much as 80% of the sodium we get every day comes from these processed and prepared foods—not the salt shaker.
Sally also points to additional research highlighting the dangers of high-sodium diets:
There's also evidence to suggest that high-sodium diets may up the risk of gastric cancer. And in a small study from Colorado State University, a high-salt diet (more than 5,000 mg per day) worsened lung function in people with exercise-induced asthma, which occurs in as many as 90% of asthmatics. A low-salt diet improved it.
Information like this really makes you wonder how Dr. Atkins could endorse eating salty snacks like pork rinds. Now, the concern over people’s salt exposure is growing. Back in September Melanie Warner of The New York Times reported that the American Medical Association wants the government and the food industry to limit the amount of salt that can be used in food production. More from the report:
Specifically, the medical association, which had never before called for regulation of a food ingredient, asked the F.D.A. to revoke salt’s long-time status as a substance that is “generally recognized as safe,” a classification that warrants little oversight. Instead, the F.D.A. should regulate salt as a food additive, the medical group said.

If the recommendation were adopted, packaged-food companies would have to adhere to limits on allowable sodium levels for various categories of food, and speed up the search for an alternative to salt as a preservative and flavor enhancer.
What I take away from all this is more evidence of people’s emotional attachment to food, in this case salt; when you talk with Dr. Fuhrman he often refers to this phenomenon. Sometimes people are so blinded by their emotional crush on certain foods that they can’t face facts. The evidence shows that salt is bad for us, but, I guess some people just can’t stand the thought of a lonely pepper shaker.
Continue Reading...

Prevent Deficiencies with Plant-Based Nutrition

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times, here is Dr. Fuhrman’s second secret to longevity:

As seemingly healthful as one’s diet may be, disease, accelerated aging—or even death—can occur if that person is missing B12, vitamin D, or any other individual nutrient. For example, one well-known advocate of a fruit-based, raw-food diet, died in his sixties of a vitamin B12 deficiency. The B12 deficiency leads to high levels of homocysteine, which can destroy the heart and blood vessels, even while the person eats an otherwise excellent vegetarian diet.

The most dramatic finding in nutritional science in the last fifty years is the power of plant-derived phytochemicals to affect health. Phytochemicals, along with the rich assortment of powerful antioxidants found in unrefined plant foods, fuel a defensive system that removes toxic cellular metabolites that age us. Phytochemicals also are required for maintenance and repair of our DNA.

Cancer may be promoted by toxic compounds, but we have cellular machinery, fueled by phytochemicals, to detoxify and remove noxious agents and to repair any damage done. Our body is self-healing and self-repairing when given sufficient nutrient support to maximize efficiency of protective cellular machinery. But, only when we consume large amounts of green vegetables and a diversity of natural plant foods can we maximize phytochemical delivery to our tissues.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Eat Fewer Calories and Live Longer

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times, here is Dr. Fuhrman’s first secret to longevity:

Eating more calories than the body needs to maintain a thin, muscular weight ages us. Extra calories (whether from fat, carbohydrate, or protein) are especially toxic when they are low nutrient calories—the so-called “empty” calories of refined and highly-processed foods. For our cells to be well nourished and maintain a clean internal environment, all of the calories we eat must be nutrient-rich. The most nutrient-rich foods are vegetables, beans, fruits, grains, and nuts and seeds. Refined foods, oil, sugar, and white flour are examples of calorie-rich but nutrient-poor foods. Centenarian studies in Europe illustrate that those individuals living into their hundreds were likely to have consumed a plant-based diet consisting of fewer than 2000 calories per day. Multiple studies have confirmed that the thinnest people live the longest.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Diet-Blog: Are We Too Obsessed With Processed Food?

Okay readers. Let’s hear it, “Yes!” Just watch television for a few minutes and you’re bound to be bombarded with numerous ads for sugary breakfast cereals, reduced fat mini-cupcakes, or low-carb crackers. The industrial revolution never ended, it just shifted focus. Diet-Blog ponders our obsession with processed junk food:
Go to any grocery store, and you'll see rows and rows of shelves filled with processed food. Many boast various health claims – less sugar, more fiber, low fat, heart healthy – you get the picture…

… In my opinion, it's time to get back to basics and consume foods that will nourish our bodies. Then we might actually see a decline in obesity rates and our next generation might not die before their parents.
Now Dr. Fuhrman also has a gripe with refined foods, centering on their lack of important dietary fiber and nutrients. He elaborates on this in Eat to Live:
The reality is that healthy, nutritious foods are also very rich in fiber and that those foods associated with disease risk are generally fiber-deficient. Meat and dairy products do not contain any fiber, and foods made from refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, and pasta) have had their fiber removed. Clearly, we must substantially reduce our consumption of these fiber-deficient foods if we expect to lose weight and live a long, healthy life.

Fiber intake from food is a good marker of disease risk. The amount of fiber consumed may better predict weight gain, insulin levels, and other cardiovascular risk factors than does the amount of total fat consumed, according to recent studies reported in the October 27, 1999, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.1 Again, data show that removing the fiber from food is extremely dangerous.
For more on America’s obsession with industrialized food check out these recent posts:
Continue Reading...

Seven Secrets of Longevity

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

A careful study of long-lived people and long-lived populations around the world—combined with a comprehensive understanding of animal experiments effecting animal life span—makes it clear that decisive action must be taken if we wish to retard aging and protect ourselves against the diseases of aging. (Check out Animal Fat and Cancer and Animal vs. Plant Foods and Heart Disease in Pictures.)

With so many conflicting theories and ideas swirling about, it is not surprising that there is mass confusion in the general population about what is healthy and what is not. However, there is nothing confusing about the scientific evidence regarding health. Health excellence, high-level mental and physical performance as we age, disease prevention, and longevity all are linked to certain well-documented behaviors. In short, health is the result of healthful living, and healthful living involves seven key concepts.

The human body has a built-in capacity for healing and rejuvenation. This inborn process can be inhibited by a variety of influences, such as personal habits and the environment. The best and most effective methods for renewing health are to follow the requirements of proper diet, wholesome environment, appropriate activities, and adequate sleep.

The idea that you can purchase health or longevity by taking Growth Hormone, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, or IV vitamin drips has not been backed up by animal or human studies. You simply cannot purchase longer life from a health food store or from an anti-aging physician who dispenses hormones. Food choice is the single most important factor effecting human health, and it is easily within our control. Good food choices, in combination with other important health factors, give you your best possible chance for a long and rewarding life.

The seven key concepts in longevity are listed below. Your best health insurance is to keep these guidelines in mind and to put them into practice. The finest health care in the world is proper self care—learning to live so healthfully that you can safely avoid hospitals, doctors, drugs, and surgery.

Today, many people in our society mistakenly think heart disease and cancer are the result of living longer—a natural consequence of aging. (A similar misconception is the notion that disease is largely genetic and beyond our control.) Healthy populations around the world see no heart disease or cancer in their eldest. Plus, there are no strokes in populations consuming natural food diets with no added salt.

Disease is not caused by aging. Disease is caused by those negative influences that stress the body over the years and lead to eventual cellular dysfunction and breakdown. Water dripping on a rock over thousands of years may eventually wear a hole in the rock. But it is not time that makes the hole; it is the water hitting the rock over and over. In a similar way, we create the diseases of aging through our behavior. Fortunately, we can just as easily create a long, hundred year life span, free of serious illness from birth to a gentle death.

Here's more from this Followhealthlife miniseries:

Drugs for Autoimmune Disease

From the November 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

Immunosuppressive medications used by rheumatologists for autoimmune diseases are fraught with danger. That is the reason these drugs are used only by rheumatologists and not by internists, family physicians, or other medical specialists. Rheumatology is a medical specialty developed to prescribe and monitor the side effects of these high-risk medications.

Cytotoxic (toxic to cells) agents and chemotherapeutic agents, traditionally used in cancer therapy, also have become an established part of therapy for autoimmune diseases. The most powerful and dangerous drugs in the medical arsenal often are needed to control the raging immune system in cases of autoimmune illnesses. In rheumatology, chemotherapy is designed to decrease immune cell production and suppress the immune system, which is why these drugs are sometimes called immunosuppressive drugs, instead of chemo. Although much of the initial data on toxicity was accumulated in the setting of cancer treatment, these agents can cause illness or death even at the doses used to treat autoimmune disease. For this reason, the risks of treatment with a cytotoxic agent or any of the other immunosuppressive agents must weigh against the potential benefits.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned health-care professionals of an increased risk of lymphoma, leukopenia, and opportunistic infections with fatal outcome associated with the use of Remicade. Imuran is known to have mutagenic and carcinogenic potential and cause pancreatitis. All the immunosuppressive agents increase one’s risk of cancer. The risk of developing malignancies is related to the duration of immunosuppressive drug exposure in general. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology followed 1,773 patients started on treatments by rheumatologists for ten years and found a 400% increased rate of cancer in the treatment group in the ten-year period compared to controls.1

Doctors know the dangers of these drugs, and patients are supposed to be informed about them. Patients choose conventional medical care because they wrongly assume there is no other approach. The rationale for doctors is that we can’t have a person suffering with pain while their joints and internal organs are being destroyed by autoimmune illnesses. Patients and their doctors evidently believe the increased likelihood of cancer and a premature death from immunosuppressive drugs is worth the risk. Unfortunately, patients are not informed of the nutritional options.

A significant body of literature exists documenting the effectiveness of nutritional intervention for treating autoimmune diseases, but these articles are not being read by doctors or distributed to patients with autoimmune disease. I feel strongly that giving a potentially life-threatening drug with no other option for treatment is malpractice and should be stopped.

A packet of medical journal articles documenting the results achievable with nutritional intervention could be given to every patient, and physicians could offer simple nutritional protocols for people initially presenting with autoimmune diseases. The earlier this information is given, the better, because it is early on—before years of medication use—when there is the greatest possibility of achieving a remission.

Autoimmune illness is serious. It causes immense suffering and pain and can kill. Autoimmune diseases, just like heart disease and cancer, are caused predominantly by the inadequate diet consumed in our youth and are potentially preventable with prolonged breast-feeding and better childhood nutrition. It is always preferable to prevent illness rather than just offer treatments to the sick. However, even after these diseases develop, recovery is still possible in most cases. The opportunity to live a life fully recovered, free of illness, and free of the toxic effects of drugs should not be passed up. Today, we have an epidemic of autoimmune illnesses that continues to grow daily, and the offices of rheumatologists are flooded with suffering people. I am hoping that one day rheumatologists only will treat a small segment of patients with autoimmune disease; the rest will simply recover with modern nutritional intervention.
Continue Reading...

Protection Against a Banana Attack

Did you know being attacked with fresh fruit is a serious problem? Don’t laugh. Assaults with a deadly banana are on the rise. Hey, I said don’t laugh! Okay fine. Don’t believe me. Well drill sergeant John Cleese has this message for you:
Well let me tell you something my lad. When you’re walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don’t come crying to me.
Hopefully you’ve been scared straight. Now check out this self-defense video and you’ll have all the skills you need to keep the banana-attackers at bay:

College Campuses Kick Trans Fat

Okay, let me take a moment to say this, I’m amazed by the flashflood of bans against trans fat. Part of me feels it’s a good thing, but the other part is mystified by how forthright it’s been. A year ago trans fat seemed like a small issue, and now, as both a nation and an economy, we stand united against it. How’d this happen?

Clearly I don’t know, but I almost wonder if there are other motivations at work. Have industrialized food producers developed a heart? Or does proclaiming that your products contain no trans fat sound like a great marketing plan? The latter seems more likely to me. What do you think?

Well, while you mull that over, check out this report in The Philadelphia Inquirer. According Amanda Rittenhouse the food on many college campuses is going trans fat free. Read on:
A zero-trans-fat Hawk wrap at St. Joseph's University. A trans-fat-free "Vegedelphia" cheesesteak at Penn. Trans-fat-free bread, tortillas and cookies at Drexel.

As the nation takes steps toward a trans-fat-free finish line - with 19 states considering bans or restrictions - some local universities have already tightened their belts against trans fats.

At most of the schools, the ban was prompted by deadlines from food-service providers such as Aramark, which has about 500 collegiate contracts, and Sodexho, which has 816. Aramark set a March 31 deadline for a trans-fat ban; Sodexho completed its ban in January 2006.
If you’ve missed any of the recent happens surrounding trans fat, take a gander at these posts:

Animal Fat and Cancer

In preparation for this post I decided to sift through Followhealthlife’s archives for posts discussing the link between animal products and cancer. And in the end, even I was surprised by the number of them. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Meat-Disease Connection
“Red met is not the only problem. The consumption of chicken and fish is also linked to colon cancer. A large recent study examined the eating habits of 32,000 adults for six years and then watched the incidence of cancer for these subjects over the next six years. Those who avoided red meat but at white meat regularly had a more than 300 percent increase in colon cancer incidence.3 The same study showed that eating beans, peas, or lentils, at least twice a week was associated with a 50 percent lower risk than never eating these foods.”
Do Primitive Peoples Really Live Longer?
“Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.1”

Magical, Mythical Protein?
“Study after study has shown that as protein consumption goes up, so does the incidence of chronic diseases. Similar studies show that the incidence of chronic diseases also goes up when carbohydrate and fat consumption go up. This is because if the consumption of any of the macronutrients exceeds our basic requirements, the excess hurts us. Americans already get too much protein (and fat and carbohydrates), and this is reflected in soaring increases in the diseases of excess—heart disease, high-blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and numerous others.”
Now this brings me to these graphs, which I’ve been sitting on for a while now, and honestly I don’t know why. Dr. Fuhrman sent them over months ago with this batch of graphs that illustrate the relationship between animal and plant foods and heart disease. So, without any further ado, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s graphs on animal fat and cancer:

Animal Fat vs. Cancer Above Age 55

Animal Fat vs. Female Breast Cancer

Animal Fat vs. Intestinal Cancer

And for more information on cancer and animal products, take a look at these previous posts:
Continue Reading...

Eat like a Primate

Personally, I’m of the belief that humans came from monkeys. In college I took a class called Human Origins which made it pretty evident that modern man evolved from hulking ape-like vegetation-chewing primates. Not the fierce predators some would have you believe.

In fact, when we weren’t busy hanging around in trees munching on copious amounts of leaves and fruits. We were totally preoccupied with not becoming a well-equipped predator’s lunch. In my opinion, it was that constant stress of being hunted that helped us develop higher brains.

But who am I say this? I’m just a writer who happened to take a few electives outside my degree requirements. So how do I know what earlier human beings were eating? And for that matter, how do I know what modern man should be eating now? Well, let’s take a look at a couple recent reports and see if we can figure that out.

Back in November The New York Times examined the diet of the Paranthropus, one of our very early ancestors. And according to research the Paranthropus were rather Fuhrman-friendly, regularly munching on green vegetation, fruits, and nuts. Reporter Henry Fountain explained:
The researchers used a laser to ablate small layers of enamel from the fossilized teeth of a 1.8-million-year-old P. robustus specimen. By analyzing the concentrations of carbon isotopes in the enamel they were able to determine whether P. robustus was eating grasses or the fruits and leaves of trees and bushes. Grasses use a different photosynthetic pathway than trees and bushes and have a higher concentration of carbon-13, which gets incorporated in animal tissue when the foods are eaten.
This makes a lot of sense to me. Back in my Human Origins class I remember the professor passing around skulls of early hominins. The skull structures were very robust, with flat-looking molars, and room for huge chewing muscles. To be honest, they looked a lot like gorilla skulls, and not at all like predator skulls. For anyone who’s ever had to give a cat or a dog pill, you know what I mean, especially when you look at their teeth.

My opinions on human evolution are a big part of the reason why I think Dr. Fuhrman is right on target with his dietary recommendations. If eating hearty amounts of fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts worked for our ancestors, who are we to muck up millions of years of evolution with lots meat, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners? So this begs the question, how would modern people fair eating a diet that closely resembles that of our primate cousins?

Now, I’ve got to thank Stephen for sending this to me—great catch man! A group of people in the United Kingdom volunteered to eat as monkeys do; lots of raw veggies, fruits, nuts, and small portions of oily fish and honey. The experiment was designed to uncover the health benefits of bringing our diet back to basics. So how’d they do? Claire Heald of BBC News reports:
Overall, the cholesterol levels dropped 23%, an amount usually achieved only through anti-cholesterol drugs statins.

The group's average blood pressure fell from a level of 140/83 - almost hypertensive - to 122/76. Though it was not intended to be a weight loss diet, they dropped 4.4kg (9.7lbs), on average.

The regime provided an education for all, and a permanent change for some.

"The main lesson that they took away was to eat more fruit and veg," says Ms Garton. They also cut salt intake from a group average of 12g a day, to 1g (against a guideline maximum of 6g) and reduced saturated fat - which makes cholesterol - from 13% to 5% of calories (recommended, 11%).
Not only did the volunteers reap these rewards, but they also reported never going hungry and in many cases not being able to finish their daily ration; check out Foods That Make You Thin more on this. Additionally, once they finished withdrawing from things like caffeine, the volunteers enjoyed good energy levels and improved mood. And, on a funny note, the volunteers joked about their newfound gassiness as their bodies adjusted to their healthy diet. Now for more on that, take a look at this post, adeptly named Adjusting to a Healthy Diet:
Don’t forget that when you change your diet to one that is so much lower in salt and higher in nutrients your blood pressure will drop significantly and you will begin a detoxification process that can be compared to stopping additive drugs. You may actually feel worse, not better for a week or two.

During this temporary adjustment period that usually lasts less than a week, and rarely more than two weeks, you might feel fatigue, headaches, gassy, or other mild symptoms as your body withdraws from your prior toxic eating habits. For example, stopping dangerous but stimulating foods, including caffeine, causes temporary fatigue and headaches.
Studies like this make it abundantly clear, even to somebody like me with only a limited understanding of anthropology, that as far as diet goes, humans appear to be better off keeping it simple. Low-carb cookies, low-fat potato chips, grilled chicken, diet-cola, orange drink, salted pork, and free-range beef only seem to complicate things.

Dr. Fuhrman on Total-Body Scans

Do you watch Scrubs? I do—big fan! And for months I’ve been waiting to quote my favorite television character, Dr. Perry Cox. Well guess what newbie? That day has arrived! Here’s what Dr. Cox has to say about full-body scans, “I think showing perfectly healthy people every harmless imperfection in their body just to scare them into taking invasive and often pointless tests is an unholy sin.” As you’ll see, Dr. Fuhrman would agree. From the March 2003 edition of Healthy Times:
The ads read something like this: Visit your local Preventive Health Radiologist Specialists who can add years to your life by offering you a Total-Body CT Scan for only $1,000—an insignificant amount when you consider your valuable health.

If you are a wealthy hypochondriac, a total-body CT scan may be the perfect self-indulgent gift, since it is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only can you go back year after year, but the harmful effects ensure that your illnesses won’t all be in your head.

Radiation exposure
A total body scan gives you about 1500 millirems of radiation, which is about the same as 150 chest x-rays. And that is just the beginning of your cancer-causing over-exposure to radiation. These scans often find some benign polyp or scar tissue in your lung, kidney or liver that will necessitate more radiological studies—at three-month intervals—just to check that there is no further growth. This assures that whatever was found is harmless.

These additional tests—which are recommended to more than 30 percent of patients—rarely find an undiagnosed condition, yet they expose a significant number of people to further unnecessary radiation exposure. Furthermore, inconclusive results create a great deal of anxiety for patients and their families as they wait for the test results.

Keep in mind, almost 90 percent of non-smoking men die of heart attacks, strokes, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. A total body scan is not the most effective method of determining risk or detecting any of these diseases. You do not need a scan to tell you that if you are eating the typical American diet, you are at risk. Traditional methods of detection, such as blood tests and colonoscopies, are more effective at detecting early disease than a total body scan, and they do not expose you to a hefty dose of cancer-promoting radiation. For a non-smoker, exposing your lungs and heart to all this radiation is a foolish “preventive” measure.

Unnecessary added risk
Almost 90 percent of non-smoking women die of heart attacks, strokes, colon cancer, and breast cancer. A total body scan is not the best way to determine risk or detect any of these diseases. It is not a legitimate screening tool for the breast, and the radiation will increase your risk of developing an unusual type of cancer (including breast) down the road. The mammograms most women already get increase their risk of developing radiation-induced breast cancer, so adding another 1500 millirems is a really dumb idea.

My recommendation is to avoid this high-radiation medical intervention and allow your physician to direct any tests you need based on established protocols, medical history, and periodic blood tests.

Adolescents Don't Eat Their Veggies

I believe it. When I was in high school I barely ate any fruits and vegetables. My diet was almost entirely comprised of bagels, cream cheese, cookies, chicken, pizza, and the occasional veggie side dish. Looking back on it, it seems like the standard American diet really takes hold during people’s teenage years. What do you think?

Not sure? Well, take a look at this report by Eric Nagourney of The New York Times. According to new research as kids grow up they eat less and less vegetables, especially during their teenage years. Here’s more:
Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 young people about their eating habits in 1999; when they surveyed the same group five years later, most of the teenagers were eating fewer fruits and vegetables.
The timing could not be worse, and the researchers said it was important “to understand why consumption is decreasing among adolescents and to develop more effective interventions for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption during this critical developmental period.”
I wonder why this happens. My guess is the seeds of this problem are sown early on. Dr. Fuhrman discusses this in Disease-Proof Your Child:
If childhood memories of vegetables included being forced to choke down peas, it does not help to nurture positive feelings and an affinity toward the taste of peas. Children will learn to enjoy these foods best by watching adults appreciate the flavors and health benefits in a subtle manner, which will lead to a lifetime appreciation of vegetables prepared in a variety of interesting ways.

No More Candy Ads for Kiddies

Here’s progress for you. Feeling the heat from TV watchdog groups in Europe and the UK, Masterfoods the producer of Mars and Snickers candies will stop targeting ads to children under the age of twelve. More from BBC News:
Masterfoods will stop advertising in magazines and television programmes intended for children under the age of 12 by the end of the year.

Masterfoods, which also makes Twix and Maltesers, already has a policy of not targeting children under six.

The move comes after TV watchdog Ofcom said it would ban junk food advertising during TV shows aimed at under-16s.
Via Blogging Baby.

Fruit and Veggie Contamination

Contamination of our food supply is a big deal, but, I feel its something that often goes unspoken. Why? For starters, it’s a huge issue, and for most people it’s just easier to pretend like it’s not happening than to takes steps towards rectifying it. Also, those responsible for jeopardizing our food don’t want to be sought out; keeping the issue quiet is smart business sense.

But for those of us who realize the danger, mercury contamination in fish and pesticide residue on produce are probably the most salient examples of toxic exposure. For example, about a year ago The Chicago Tribune detailed the plight of a piece of swordfish shipped from Singapore to the United States. Reporters Sam Roe and Michael Hawthorne revealed some daunting findings:
When the Tribune bought and tested this particular piece of fish, the results showed not just high amounts of mercury, but levels three times the legal limit.
That’ll make you think twice next time you’re at the fish market; check out Fishing for the Truth for a list of fish Dr. Fuhrman considers safe to eat. The other big issue is pesticides and their role in tainting our fresh fruits and vegetables. Now of course that kicks up the debate as to whether or not we should buy organic produce. Dr. Fuhrman talked about this in Is Organic Food Safer? Take a look:
Some scientists argue that the extremely low level of pesticide residue remaining on produce is insignificant and that there are naturally occurring toxins in all natural foods that are more significant. 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.
Okay let’s stay with the pesticide issue. Which fruits and veggies are the most contaminated? This is something that every person should know. Well I’ve got two answers for you, here’s the first one. From Diet-Blog, the twelve produce items that have the highest pesticide residue:
1. Strawberries
2. Bell peppers (green and red)
3. Spinach (tied with number 2)
4. Cherries (grown in the United States)
5. Peaches (grown in Chile)
6. Cantaloupe (grown in Mexico)
7. Celery
8. Apples
9. Apricots
10. Green beans
11. Grapes
12. Cucumbers
Now, from Reduce Your Pesticide Exposure By 90%, here’s Dr. Fuhrman’s list of the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables:
1. Apples
2. Bell peppers
3. Celery
4. Cherries
5. Imported grapes
6. Nectarines
7. Peaches
8. Pears
9. Potatoes
10. Red raspberries
11. Spinach
12. Strawberries
Sure, the lists might be a little different, but between the both of them you get a pretty good idea of which fruits and veggies to look out for. But one thing Dr. Fuhrman and Diet-Blog completely agree on is the advantages of eating lots of fruits and vegetables dwarf the risks of pesticide residue. More from Diet-Blog:
It's sobering - but I believe that the health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks from ingesting the pesticides on them. Washing and peeling can significantly reduce pesticide levels. Buying locally grown and in-season also helps as produce is often treated (with fungicides) to increase shelf-life and for long-distance distribution.
Sounds a lot like Dr. Fuhrman, doesn’t it?

EGCG: Voodoo Nutrition?

I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe something simply because someone says it’s true. I especially don’t buy into glorious marketing schemes. My motto, prove it. And it seems Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal feels the same way, because he plans to investigate the claims surrounding EGCG. Susan Haigh of the Associated Press explains:
An Enviga Web site claims that the drink's blend of green tea and caffeine burns more calories than it contains and can help drinkers maintain an ideal weight. According to a Nestle study, young people who drank three of the 12-ounce drinks a day burned an average of 106 calories.

Blumenthal demanded copies of all scientific studies, clinical trials, tests and papers that prove the calorie-burning claim by next week.

Unless there are credible scientific studies, claims "may be nothing more than voodoo nutrition," Blumenthal said. "Promise of wondrous weight loss must be supported by science, not magic."

Even More Bad News for Trans Fat

Someone might have to talk the trans fat makers of America off the ledge. Friday Marriott hotels announced plans to drop trans fat, yesterday we learned Burger King is looking to get rid of it, and today, Michigan is trying to pass legislation that would phase out trans fat by July 2008. John Flesher of the Associated Press reports:
"Protecting the public health is a basic function of government agencies," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. "When the federal government moves too slowly, states and cities will sometimes fill the void. That's what's happening with trans fats."

Ten states have pending bills to restrict or prohibit trans fats in restaurants: Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Trans fat bans for public school cafeterias have been proposed in California, New Hampshire, Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Virginia. A dozen states are considering labeling requirements.

Megnut Sums Up Unhappy Meals

Last week Michael Pollan dropped the hammer on Nutritionism, and provided lots of reasons why Americans aren’t exactly making the wisest dietary decisions. Now, I tried my best to crystallize the main point, but, let’s face it—that was long an article! Loaded with tons of quality information, heck, even I think I left a lot out. Good thing Megnut did a great summing it all up. Here’s a bit of it:
1. Eat food. Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Non-dairy creamer? You're out. You too, breakfast-cereal bars.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
Science keeps changing, so trying to follow fads won't guarantee health. You have a better chance at health by just eating a well-balanced diet.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup. All those signs point to food that's been processed. More process = less nutrients and vitamins, never mind the environmental costs of producing the food.

Get Ready, Get Set, Cook

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease-Proof Your Child:

An important thing to remember is most of the foods your children and family consume can be simple fruits, raw vegetables, and nuts that require no preparation. Always keep lots of fresh fruit and raw vegetables such as sliced peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, okra, raw string beans, English peas, and snow pea pods available and left out in bowls on the kitchen table at all times, so the children can grab and snack on them as they please. These vegetables are fine to leave unrefrigerated for a few days, and you will be surprised at how the raw vegetables and raw nuts slowly disappear. Instead of flowers to decorate your tables, use bowls of seasonal fruit. It is fine for you children to forage during the day and eat less at mealtimes. Offer an array of healthful food and let them control their own intake. Over time you will realize you do not need to cook and prepare a complete array of foods at dinner. A salad, one cooked main dish, and a simple fruit-based dessert are sufficient.

Steaming vegetables and making soups is called water-based cooking. Water-based cooking is the preferred way to cook because you can avoid cancer-causing acrylamides that are created when foods are browned by baking or frying.

Never eat browned or overly cooked food. Burnt food forms harmful compounds. If by accident something is overcooked and browned, discard it. Avoid fried food and food sautéed in oil. Experiment with low heat cooking to prevent nutritional damage to the food and the formation of dangerous heat-generated compounds.

I consider dairy fat dangerous and since so many children are lactose intolerant, many of my recipes show you how to make calcium-rich and nutrient-rich meals without diary. Soy milk is available fortified with vitamin D and calcium, and I find it very useful for making delicious smoothies and fruit-based deserts. There are many brands to pick from that all taste slightly different. It is easy to find one that suits your taste and the taste preferences of your child.

Also, get yourself a good food processor or quality blender for many of my recipes. I recommend owning a centrifugal juicer, an orange juicer, and a food processor or high-quality blending machine. The blenders that contain a plunger to stir and force the food down into the blades are helpful for making fruit-based sorbets, sauces, and dressings.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Month

Honestly, I didn’t know there was such a thing, but apparently February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month. Eating disorders are a bit of a mystery to me. I was a chubby kid growing up—clearly eating disorders never gained a foothold. So if eating disorders are alien to you too, Dr. Deborah Serani offers up some quick factoids, like these uncategorized eating disorders:
*Eating problems with some, but not all, of the characteristics of a full-fledged eating disorder; for example, people who severely restrict food intake, but who do not meet the full criteria for anorexia nervosa

*Chewing food and spitting it out (without swallowing)

*Bingeing and purging irregularly, such as at times of increased stress

BK Dropping Trans Fat

The trans fat beat down continues. It seems Burger King is now looking into cooking oils that don’t contain trans fat. Fast Food News is on it:
Following just days after McDonald's announced their limited introduction of a new trans-fat-free cooking oil for their fries, Burger King has announced their own "in-restaurant testing with several trans fat-free cooking oils."

"We have been working for more than two years to identify trans fat-free cooking oils," said Schaufelberger. "Our goal has been to identify trans fat-free oils that allow for the same great taste and texture quality."

Marriott Bounces Trans Fat

Not exactly a good week for trans fat. Wednesday the AP reported Los Angeles wants restaurants to begin phasing it out, and now, Marriott Hotels are giving trans fat the boot. More from the Associated Press:
Marriott International Inc. said Thursday it will eliminate trans fats from the cooking oil used by its restaurants at more than 2,300 hotels in the United States and Canada.

The world's largest hotel company by revenue said it will no longer use partially hydrogenated oils across all its brands, which include Marriott, Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn. Marriott has already cut the oils from breads, salad dressings, cookies, muffins and other pastries.

Antibiotics for Colds, Bronchitis, and Sinusitis

From the January 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Antibiotic use has skyrocketed in recent years, but the misuse of antibiotics isn't a new problem. Since the 1970s, medical studies have concluded that as much as 80 percent of all outpatient prescriptions are prescribed inappropriately.

Antibiotic sales are soaring, but—in direct response—so are drug-resistant infections. As more and more antibiotics are used inappropriately, more and more strains of bacteria are mutating and becoming resistant to antibiotics. As a result, many patients who have infections that in the past could have been appropriately and effectively treated with antibiotics will die because the antibiotics will no longer work.

Drug companies are a big part of this problem. They promote the use of their products through widespread advertising and the practice of giving free samples of the more potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics to doctors. The more widely these newer (and often ten times more expensive) antibiotics are used, the greater the chances that the bacteria will develop resistance.

Demanding patients
Many patients don't think a doctor is doing his job if he doesn't prescribe antibiotics or other medication. If he doesn't prescribe the medication they want, some patients actually will look for another doctor who will. For example, Robert Dristan is an emergency room physician well aware of the dangerous and inappropriate overuse of antibiotics. He told me that he sees a steady stream of patients with colds, bronchitis, or the flu. He always patiently describes the viral nature of these ailments, explains that no antibiotic can kill a virus, and informs patients that inappropriate use of antibiotics for these conditions could only harm them. He said that on more than one occasion, patients for whom he did not prescribe antibiotics returned, waving bottles of pills in his face, triumphantly stating, "My doctor said I almost had pneumonia." Patients can easily find a doctor willing to fabricate a diagnosis to justify coming to the rescue with a treatment.

Once a patient called me screaming on the telephone that her husband came to me for an antibiotic for his terrible cold, and all he got was a lecture. She wanted her money back and said she and her husband would never be coming again. Numerous patients have made similar demands. Most doctors perpetuate this problem because they give in to the pressure to prescribe antibiotics. They like to appear that they are offering an important and necessary service by writing prescriptions.

Powerful medicine
Antibiotics are not harmless. Their use should not be undertaken without a convincing prognosis that serious harm will result if the antibiotic is not used. Antibiotics kill the normal bacteria that inhabit the intestines. These healthy bacteria serve an important function in digestion and production of fatty acids and nutrients. The use of antibiotics, and the change in flora that results, reduces vitamin absorption (for example, of vitamin K) and can lead to nutritional deficiency.

Furthermore, the use of antibiotics results in yeast overgrowth. It can cause severe allergic reaction, as well as food and environmental allergies to develop more readily.
Overuse of antibiotics also can result in future infections with more serious (and resistant) bacterial organisms. Side effects can range from mild diarrhea and stomach upset to severe bone marrow suppression and serum sickness.

When to use antibiotics
Antibiotics are the appropriate treatment for severe bacterial infections. These infections include cellulitis, Lyme disease, pneumonia, joint infections, cat bites, meningitis, and bronchitis in a long-term smoker. Bronchitis in a non-smoker is just a bad cold. Almost every viral syndrome involves the bronchial tree and sinuses. The presence of yellow, brown, or green mucus does not indicate the need for an antibiotic. Likewise, sinusitis is not an appropriate diagnosis for the routine use of an antibiotic. Antibiotics should be reserved for the more serious sinus infections that show evidence of persistent symptoms lasting more than a week, such as continual fever and headache that accompanies facial pain and facial tenderness.

Childhood ear infections, a multi-billion dollar industry
Ear infections (otitis media) are the most common medical problem in children under seven years of age in the United States. Not only do nine out of ten children develop at least one ear infection each year, almost one-third of them develop chronic congestion with fluid in the middle ear that can lead to hearing loss and make the child a candidate for myringotomy or tube placement. Children who are breast fed for over a year have been shown to have many fewer infections than those weaned earlier.1 Studies also point to the fact that most ear infections early in life are viral, not bacterial.2 The vast majority of ear infections resolve nicely on their own, whether bacterial or viral, without an antibiotic. An international study following 3,660 children treated by general practitioners in nine countries showed that antibiotics did not improve the rate of recovery from ear infections.

It is common practice in this country to treat all ear infections with an antibiotic. Whether bacterial or not, our children get a routine prescription for an antibiotic at every minor illness. This cycle often is repeated many times, which may beget other medical problems in adulthood. This use of antibiotics early in life is likely a contributor to the increasing incidence of allergies and asthma and other problems later in life. Medical studies have linked a significant increased incidence of asthma, hay fever, and eczema to those who received multiple antibiotic prescriptions early in childhood, especially in the first year of life.3

Conservative treatment
In Europe, antibiotics are used for ear infections only when there is persistent drainage or persistent pain because these infections resolve on their own, without treatment, over 85 percent of the time.4 Studies show that the majority of ear infections are of viral etiology. For example, a microbiologic survey found that 75 percent of pediatric ear infections were caused by common respiratory viruses.5 Generally speaking, the use of antibiotics should be reserved for serious infections, not conditions the body is well equipped to resolve on its own. More and more physicians and authorities are recommending only treating ear infections with antibiotics when symptoms are not improving after three days and they are accompanied by drainage, fever, or persistent pain. Instead, ear drops for pain relief and other pain relievers can be used if the child is too uncomfortable to sleep.

A British study reported on 168 children treated in this manner. Antibiotics only were used if the illness followed an unusual course with high fever or profound weakness, or if the child had a history of purulent meningitis or a concurrent documented bacterial infection. They followed up on any child ho did not recover in the typical time frame. s a result of this well-designed protocol, antibiotics were recommended by the physicians in only 10 children—fewer than 6 percent of all children presenting with acute ear infections. No serious complications, such as mastoiditis, meningitis, or permanent hearing loss, were observed.6

This is similar to the way I treat childhood ear infections, except I also incorporate nutritional excellence, which I find reduces even further the likelihood of needing an antibiotic. The children of families who adopt my dietary recommendations simply stop getting ear infections.

Continue Reading...

Fad Diets: Low-Carb the New Low-Fat?

What do you think? Is the standard American diet a problem? Now, I’m no health expert, but I can answer that—with a resounding YES! Just look at yesterday’s post The Standard American Shockwave, and you’ll see that everything the standard American diet touches turns bad. So then, what makes it so terrible? Dr. Fuhrman explains in Eat to Live:

The reason people are overweight is too little physical activity, in conjunction with a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet. Eating a diet with plenty of low-fiber, calorie-dense food, such as oil and refined carbohydrates, is the main culprit.

As long as you are eating fatty foods and refined carbohydrates, it is impossible to lose weight healthfully. In fact, this vicious combination of sedentary lifestyle and eating typical “American” food (high fat, low-fiber) is the primary reason we have such an incredibly overweight population.

Now if you consider the exercise component, the standard American diet becomes more complex. So, perhaps it should be more aptly named the standard American lifestyle. But, for the purposes of this post, let’s stay focused on diet and ignore the lack of sufficient physical activity. I know, kind of hard to overlook, but try.

Okay just diet, so let’s look at what we’ve got: high fat foods and various refined fare. Let’s start with the refined foods. What’s the problem with them? Well, Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, all the fiber and nutrients have been stripped out of them until they’re basically just empty calories. For more on this, I refer to Michael Pollan’s recent article on nutritionism. In it, he talks about the ebbs and flows of processed food. Here’s a peek:

The typical real food has more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can’t easily change its nutritional stripes (though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem). So far, at least, you can’t put oat bran in a banana. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might be either a high-fat food to be avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather, while the processed foods are simply reformulated. That’s why when the Atkins mania hit the food industry, bread and pasta were given a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the protein), while the poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the cold.

Now this brings me to the next topic of discussion, the high-fat portion of the standard American diet, but more specifically the mass media phobia of it; which is ironic because Americans deep down love their fat. A lot of industrialized foods make claims to be “low-fat” which in many cases I’m sure they are, but this begs the question, what about calorie content? Well to answer that, let’s take a look at this article from Men’s Health magazine. It reports that the low-carb fad is destined to follow the same road as the low-fat diet, and ultimately, forget all about total calorie consumption:

We've been here before - about 10 years ago, in fact. The last time a diet craze swept the country, it ushered in more than 3,000 new food products on the wings of just three simple words: Eat less fat. And yet, in the ensuing decade, the number of overweight Americans increased by 15 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the average American man's waist size increased by an inch and a half. Weight management became even more difficult, because the supermarket became more confusing, and the three simple words that were supposed to squeeze us back into our wedding suits let us down, terribly.

And it's about to happen all over again. "Consumers think carb-free is calorie-free, which it's not," says Leslie Bonci, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "They think someone's giving them permission to eat that food. And what's going to happen is, we're going to see people start to gain weight."

In January of this year, more than 400 people who work in the food industry gathered at the Adam's Mark hotel in Denver for the first-ever LowCarbiz Summit to learn how they could profit from the new craving for low-carbohydrate foods. What they heard at the start was a warning from Fred Pescatore, M.D., a protege of Dr. Robert Atkins, the original low-carb guru: "We can't be like low-fat," he said. "We can't be just a fad."

And then, for 2 days, they learned ways to turn the low-carb craze into exactly that. In between snacking on low-carb foods and drinking Bacardi and diet cola (the official adult beverage of the low-carb movement), conference goers attended sessions like "Low Carb for the Nondieter" and "The Scientific Case against Low Carb: Know What the Industry's Detractors Are Saying and How to Respond."

Are you starting to see where I’m going with all this? Years back the country demanded low-fat everything. So what ensued? Decades of diet-books and food products proclaiming the benefits of a low-fat eating. And what did we get? Something now commonly referred to as the standard American diet, an epidemic of obesity and all the problems that go along with it; diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. And that’s not it.

We also got the avalanche of reactionary diets known as low-carb, South Beach, Atkins, or whatever catchy name some marketing company has come up with today. They basically say, “We’ve forsaken fat for too long! The real devil is carbs. Embrace the meat.” And we as a meat-loving, but fat-nervous culture eat it up. Why? Well because we recognize that the verson of the low-fat diet we have come to understand hasn’t worked. So why not give something that goes against the grain a try? Actually, the low-fat diet that has been forced down our throats all these years would more appropriately be described as the standard American low-fat diet. After all, how much better for us is it than the actual standard American diet? And how does it really differ?

But here’s the problem, and this why I think the Men’s Health article is right on target. The low-carb diet is now following the same path as the standard American low-fat diet. Lots of products touting the low-carb label—just like all the foods with the low-fat stamp of approval! And what are we left with? Tons of industrialized calorie-dense nutrient-stripped foods that people gobble up assuming they are eating intelligently, but all the while, not realizing that they’re consuming more and more empty calories. Isn’t this is exactly what caused us the problems we now have!

For me the answer is clear, realize that the average standard American diet and the standard American low-fat diet has failed, abandon all processed foods and their over-hyped claims, and perhaps most imporant of all, ignore the reactionary claims of the low-carb diet. How’d I arrive at this conclusion? That should be an easy one to figure out. I’m just regurgitating what’ve learned from Dr. Fuhrman. He’ll tell you, you want to lose weight, not consume too many calories, still get plenty of nutrients, and protect yourself from disease? A vegetable-based nutrient-dense diet is the answer. Just take green vegetables for example, look how they stack up against other foods. Check out this table from the Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables:

Nutrients present in 100-calorie portions
  Broccoli Sirloin Steak Romaine Lettuce Kale
Protein 11.2 gm 5.4 gm 7.5 gm 11 gm
Calcium 322 mg 2.4 mg 374 mg 470 mg
Iron 3.5 mg .7 mg 7.7 mg 5.8 mg
Magnesium 74.5 mg 5 mg 60.5 mg 97 mg
Fiber 4.7 g 0 4 g 3.4 g
Phytochemicals Very High 0 Very High Very High
Antioxidants Very High 0 Very High Very High
Folate 257 mcg 3 mcg 969 mcg 60 mcg
B2 .71 mg .04 mg .45 mg .32 mg
Niacin 2.8 mg 1.1 mg 2.2 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 1.04 mg 1.2 mg 1.2 mg gm .55 mg
Vitamin C 350 mg 0 100 mg 329 mg
Vitamin A 7750 IU 24 IU 10,450 IU 23,407 IU
Vitamin E 26 IU 0 32 IU 34 IU
Cholesterol 0 5.5 mg 0 0
Weight 307 gm 24 gm 550 gm 266 gm
  (10.6 oz) (.84 oz) (19 oz) (9.2 oz)

And here's one more from Foods That Make You Thin:

Caloric Ratios of Common Foods
Foods Calories Per Pound Calories Per Liter Fiber Grams Per Pound
Oils 3,900 7,700 0
Potato chips of French fries 2,600 3,000 0
Meat 2,000 3,000 0
Cheese 1,600 3,400 0
White Bread 1,300 1,500 0
Chicken and Turkey (white meat) 900 1,600 0
Fish 800 1,400 0
Eggs 700 1,350 0
Whole Grains (wheat and rice) 600 1,000 3
Starchy Vegetables (potatoes and corn) 350 600 4
Beans 350 500 5
Fruits 250 300 9
Green Vegetables 100 200 5

I often wonder. If produce companies started sticking health claims on fresh fruits and vegetables and bolstered them with huge advertising budgets, would people finally realize that they’re the real health foods? Maybe so, because after all history would seem to predict that.

What Epidemiologic Studies Tell Us

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease-Proof Your Child:
  • Saturate fat is a powerful cancer promoter.
  • Refined sugar and white flour promote cancer.
  • Root vegetables and whole grains offer minimal cancer protection.
The largest and most impressive epidemiologic study was the China Project. The New York Times called this investigation the "Grand Prix of all epidemiologic studies" and "the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease." 1

The reason this large undertaking, involving hundreds of researchers from Cornell and Oxford universities, produced such respected data is because China was the perfect test tube, "a living laboratory," to detect the effects food has on the incidence of different cancers. The people in one small area of China eat a certain diet, while just 100 miles away they may eat a vastly different one. The investigators were able to study populations with a broad rage of dietary differences. In addition, the Chinese individuals who were tested had lived their entire lives in the same town, and therefore the dietary effects were present for the subjects' entire lives. In America, there is comparatively little difference in diet form one city to the next.

This project reported disease rates from towns that ate almost a complete plant-based diet and from other areas that ate a significant amount of animal products. The researchers found that as the amount of animal products increased in the diet, even in relatively small increments, so did the emergence of the types of cancers that are common in the West. The researchers noted that most cancers increased in diet proportion to the quantity of animal products eaten and decreased relative to the amount of fruits, vegetables, and beans consumed.

The more animal products in the diet, the great the cancer occurrence.

The more fruits and vegetables in the diet, the less cancer they found.

Areas of China with exceptionally low intakes of animal products were virtually free of the cancers and heart disease that develop in most people living in Western countries. Even lean meats, chicken, eggs, and wild and naturally raised livestock (without hormones and antibiotics) were shown to increase the heart attack and cancer rates in proportion to the amount consumed by the population under study. Green vegetable consumption showed a strong protective effect.2

Continue Reading...

Certified Organic Cloned Meat

That’d certainly make a great title for a science-fiction book, but it might be a reality sooner than you think. According to The Washington Post there’s quite a debate going on about whether or not cloned-meat can be called organic. Rick Weiss has more:
In the opinion of some in the biotechnology arena, the federal definition of organic food would allow them to label food from clones as organic, as long as those clones were raised organically.

"My interpretation is that it's not excluded at this time," said Barbara Glenn, chief of animal biotechnology at the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization.

But the mere thought that a clone might earn the coveted organic label makes even the most mild-mannered foodies rabid.

"Over my dead body," said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization in Washington.
Very creepy if you ask me.