Genetically modified corn causes organ damage?

Genetic modification of corn plants usually involves the addition of a gene that will either make the plant resistant to a herbicide that will be sprayed on it or cause the plant to produce a pesticide that will kill crop-damaging pests. 

Monsanto, an agriculture and biotechnology corporation, sells 90% of the world’s genetically modified (GM) seeds.1 Monsanto lost a court case in Europe and were forced to hand over their data from a 3-month feeding study they had performed on rats using three varieties of their GM corn. 

A group of French researchers following up their similar 2007 study re-examined Monsanto’s data using different statistical analyses. The researchers did find some differences between GM corn fed rats and and controls rats using their chosen analyses – most of these changes implied altered kidney or liver function, which could indicate toxicity. 2

The question is – how relevant are these changes? Do they really translate into toxicity in humans? We can’t really know yet. Even the authors of the study stress that the parameters measured are ‘signs of toxicity’ but not ‘proof of toxicity’. Additional longer studies will need to be done to clarify these findings and determine whether GM corn varieties are safe. 

The deletion or addition of one gene can change the expression of hundreds or even thousands of other genes, making the genetically modified plant quite different from the original. We don’t know for sure if GM corn is dangerous, but based on the physiological changes that took place in this study, it might be dangerous.

Most of the GM corn that is produced in the U.S. is consumed by farmed animals like cattle and pigs, not by humans. But if GM corn is damaging to the health of these animals, how does this affect the humans that eat them? Also some ingredients in processed foods like high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, and soy products can potentially be from GM sources (if not labeled organic). We can make a conscious decision not to consume GM foods by avoiding meat and processed foods that contain GM corn or soy ingredients. 

 

 

References:

1. Wikipedia: Monsanto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

2. de Vendômois JS et al. A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health. 2009; 5(7):706-726

 

Salt update

On January 20th,2010, about a week after NYC Mayor Bloomberg proposed a controversial salt reduction initiative, evidence was presented in the New England Journal of Medicine that salt reduction truly can save lives.

Using mathematical models, the authors were able to make estimates of cardiovascular disease rates based on a population-wide 3 g decrease in salt consumption (1200 mg sodium). 

By their projections, a 3 g salt reduction would result in 60,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease, 32,000 fewer strokes, and 54,000 fewer heart attacks each year. This is comparable to the cardiovascular benefit from smoking cessation efforts.   These estimates don’t even take into account the beneficial effects on other diseases related to salt excess, like osteoporosis, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.

Health care costs were predicted to decrease by $10 billion to $24 billion, making this type of intervention much more cost-effective than medicating people who have hypertension. With health care reform at the forefront of American politics, this study highlights the value of prevention in bringing down costs. Since about 80% of salt in the diet is already in the food when it is purchased, this intervention must occur at a national policy level rather than a personal responsibility level – hopefully, these data will not be ignored by policymakers.

A 1200 mg decrease in sodium consumption would represent a 34.3% drop in sodium consumption of average Americans, somewhat more ambitious than the 25% reduction proposed by Mayor Bloomberg. But based on the above figures even a 25% reduction is likely to bring cardiovascular benefits.

 

References:

Bibbins-Domingo K et al. Projected Effect of Dietary Salt Reductions on Future Cardiovascular Disease. NEJM. Published at www.nejm.org January 20, 2010 (10.1056/NEJMoa0907355)

Appel LJ and Anderson CAM. Compelling Evidence for Public Health Action to Reduce Salt Intake. Published at www.nejm.org January 20, 2010 (10.1056/NEJMe0910352)

 

NYC cracks down on salt!

First New York City banned trans fat, then required chain restaurants to post calorie counts, then warned about weight gain from sugary sodas, and now it’s taking on salt.

 

Mayor Bloomberg has called for a nation-wide initiative to reduce sodium content of packaged and restaurant food by 25% over the next five years. The program would be voluntary for the food manufacturers and restaurant chains.

Of course, cutting sodium by 50% would be even better, but this is a respectable first step.   A reduction in sodium intake by 50%, according to a recent meta-analysis, is estimated to reduce the rate of stroke by 23% and cardiovascular disease by 17%.1

A similar voluntary salt reduction program has been in action in the U.K. since 2003, and has so far has managed to reduce the average salt consumption consumption from 9.5g (approx. 3,800 mg sodium) to 8.6g (approx. 3,400 mg sodium). This year, the U.K. has set more challenging salt reduction goals for 2012.

Salt is dangerous - I have always warned people about excess salt consumption - here are some facts:

  • The human diet, for millions of years, did not contain any added salt – only the sodium present in natural foods. This equates to less than 1000 mg of sodium per day. 
  • Today, according to the CDC, Americans typically consume 3500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure
  • 80% of sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods. As NYC health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “Most of the salt we consume is in the food when we buy it.”  The Center for Science in the Public Interest has found several chain restaurant meals that contain over 6,000 mg of sodium!
  • And finally, sea salt is not healthier than table salt – all salt comes from the sea, and it doesn’t matter if it’s pink or gray or white, it’s still about 98% sodium chloride. It’s salt, and it’s dangerous. 

Many people interpret public health policies such as these as the “food police” telling us what we can and cannot eat. I see it as the opposite – progress in consumer freedom. By putting a limit on the amount of salt in foods that can be sold to us, we now have the choice. We, not the corporations that sell food to us, are in control of our salt intake. We are able to purchase packaged food and eat at restaurants without consuming dangerous levels of sodium. For those who prefer to ignore the risks of high sodium intake, no one is outlawing salt shakers.

Even more troubling, others see this as an ‘insignificant’ issue compared to health care reform, the economy, unemployment, etc...

Our health and quality of life are insignificant? Heart disease, stroke, kidney disease – insignificant? I don’t think so. People who die from diseases of nutritional ignorance are not around to worry about the economy.

But won’t cutting salt make the foods bland? First, the program plans to reduce salt gradually so that foods will not appear to be bland. And actually, excess salt deadens the sense of taste - if you cut down your salt intake, your taste buds will adjust over time, becoming more sensitive to salt. By avoiding salty foods, you regain your ability to detect and enjoy the subtle flavors in natural foods.

What do you think about this new push in New York City to improve people’s diets? I think it is great.

 

References:

1. Strazzullo P et al. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies BMJ 2009;339:b4567 ; http://www.onlyourhealth.com/archives/osteoporosis-sodium-acidbase-balance-and-bone-health.html

2. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S. Diet and the risk of gastric cancer. Gastric Cancer 2007;10(2):75-83

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/11salt.html

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/11/new.york.salt/index.html

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/as_salt_on_science_t5MDuh3FqtTWpMS5bs282J 

Eggs and poultry with skin double prostate cancer recurrence risk

Approximately 1300 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer were followed for two years to document their dietary patterns and recurrence or progression of their disease. In this study, two specific animal foods were found to be risky - the men that ate the most eggs or poultry with skin were twice as likely to have their disease recur or progress.1

This study makes three important points.

  1. Diet does matter, even after a prostate cancer diagnosis.
  2. There is something in chicken, specifically in the crispy outer portion and skin that is powerfully cancer-inducing. Heterocyclic amines, carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures, are a probable culprit. A November 2009 study of 175,000 men showed an increase in prostate cancer risk with consumption of barbequed and grilled meat.2
  3. Consumption of eggs and egg whites is not without risk. Eggs are high in animal protein, which has been linked to cancers. Our populations’ idea that more protein is favorable and that egg (whites) are the perfect food does not hold up to scrutiny. Eggs also could affect prostate cancer due to their high choline content – egg consumption increases the amount of choline in the plasma, and high plasma choline increases prostate cancer risk.3 

Four previous studies implementing a plant-based diet and exercise following prostate cancer diagnosis found a decrease in prostate cancer progression rates.4 

Dietary strategy for prostate health 

 

References:

1. Richman EL et al. Intakes of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs and risk of prostate cancer progression. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec 30. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Sinha R et al. Meat and meat-related compounds and risk of prostate cancer in a large prospective cohort study in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Nov 1;170(9):1165-77. Epub 2009 Oct 6.

3. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Meat-not-linked-to-prostate-cancer-recurrence-risk

4. R. W.-L. Ma, K. Chapman. A systematic review of the effect of diet in prostate cancer prevention and treatment. J Hum Nutr Diet, 22, pp. 187–199 

Master Food Addiction or It Will Master You

                     

It’s the beginning of a new year. Many are off the starting blocks of eating for health. However, along the way there’s that nine-letter obstacle to overcome. ADDICTION. 

Addiction is that all-consuming craving that pulls one back into a bad habit. Another way of putting it is being continually “stuck in a rut.” Captured.

If you are caught in the continual cycle of food addiction and emotional eating, to break it, you MUST get radical. 

That means you must pay the price to get free. That means making continual choices every single day of your life, through thick or thin, to never allow the circumstances of life be the excuse to quit and give into unhealthy indulgences.

You must:

  • renew your mind continually by studying Dr. Fuhrman’s books and articles; and listen to his various teleconferences and programs
  • eat those greens whether you like them in the beginning or not
  • go for that walk whether you feel like it or not 
  • post your temptations and struggles and ask for help from others
  • and/or talk with others on the Tuesday night phone chats
  • ask Dr. Fuhrman questions on Ask the Doctor
  • stick to the plan; no matter what; no matter how you feel; no excuses

In other words, you must get radically aggressive. Don’t be a passive by-stander. Roll up your sleeves and get in there and fight. Fight hard. Contend for freedom. 

Know that cravings will subside significantly and then eventually go away as you continue to fill up on the wonderful bounty of nature’s delicious and nourishing foods: pomegranates, kiwis, berries, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, bok choy, roasted peppers and garlic, lentils, nuts and seeds.   In fact, when the addiction goes away, you'll naturally desire foods that promote optimal health.  That's the ultimate beauty of committing to Dr. Fuhrman's high nutrient diet-style!  

donuts and candy                      

You must master the cycle of food addiction and emotional eating or it will master you. 

There are no shortcuts. No magic pills. No easy ways out.

But it is so worth doing what it takes to get free. You will never regret any effort you put forth. The return investment will be the enjoyment of renewed health, vitality, and psychological freedom . . .for the rest of your life! 

Many have conquered the downward spiral of food addiction and emotional eating. YOU can overcome it also.

Rise up and be the conqueror today!

Stick to the plan. No matter what. No matter how you feel. No excuses.

 

Are you mastering food addiction and emotional eating? What practical step(s) do you need to take today to fortify your commitment to freedom and optimal health?

 

image credits: Emily Boller

The Average American Youth: Nutritionally Uneducated, Nutrient Deprived

It is no secret that young people in America eat unhealthy diets.  What most people might not be aware of is just how unhealthy teens are actually eating.  According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a meager 9.5 percent of high school students in the United States eat two or more servings of fruits and three or more servings of vegetables a day, which are the amounts recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  As the fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations given by the USDA are conservative compared to actual ideal requirements as suggested in scientific studies, the number of teens who consume enough nutrients is actually considerably less than 9.5 percent.  Tragically, the majority of high-school and college students don’t eat any fruits and vegetables at all.  It is tragic because such behavior is predictive of the development of serious chronic disease in their adult lives.

Girl eating pizza

While one might think this information is shocking, teenagers themselves are not solely to blame. Most, if not all, high-schools fail to educate teens about the importance of eating healthfully, and the limited information that is given is almost worthless. They cook foods such as pastries and macaroni and cheese in cooking classes and no effort is made to teach the link between diets low in produce and later life cancer and heart disease. Young people are constantly bombarded by advertisements from fast food, soda and snack companies trying to promote their products.  Due to the popularity and high-publicity of many chain restaurants and snacks, eating unhealthy is not just considered normal, but cool.  Junk foods such as soda, candy, chips, white-flour products and processed snack items abound around school campuses and are the most convenient and available food choices.  Seventy-five percent of high schools currently serve lunches that are high in saturated fat and salt and low in nutrients, according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 

In addition to the paltry supply of fruits and vegetables available on school campuses, students are loading up on soda to fulfill caloric needs. In fact, soda is the food (if you can call it that) that supplies the most calories to the American diet. Most of these calories come from high fructose corn syrup, equivalent to about 10 teaspoons of sugar. The typical soda offers, 150 calories, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, and is packed with artificial food colors and sulphites.

Soda consumption is linked to osteoporosis, attention deficit disorder (ADD), insomnia, kidney stones, and tooth decay. Worst of all, soda is linked to obesity. In fact, the risk of obesity increases a dramatic 60 percent for each can of soda a person drinks per day. Teenagers and children, whom most soft drinks are marketed toward, are the largest consumers. Currently, teenage boys drink, on average, three or more cans of soda per day, and 10 percent drink seven or more cans each day. The average for teenage girls is two cans per day, and 10 percent drink more than five cans every day.

This year, let’s try to educate our youth.  If nothing is done to improve the eating habits of young people, I fear for my generation. The current climate of nutritional ignorance will lead to a future population of suffering and sickly adults riddled with chronic diseases, If you are trying to get healthier and lose weight, make it a family effort and try to teach your children about the importance of eating healthy and avoiding junk foods too.  Small efforts can result in big changes. It is never too early to make nutritious eating choices.Girls buying vegetables

What do you think?  What strategies should be implemented? What can we do to instill healthy eating values in our junk food world? 

Diet high in omega-6 fats increases risk for ulcerative colitis

 

Ulcerative colitis falls under the category of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It is an autoimmune disease in which excessive inflammation kills cells in the lining of the colon, leaving ulcers behind. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that commonly causes abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea, and it carries with it an increased risk of colorectal cancer. In some severe cases, the colon must be surgically removed. Clearly, this condition also causes a great deal of emotional trauma.1

Recent studies have identified dietary patterns that may predispose individuals to ulcerative colitis. High intake of fats, refined sugars, and fried potato products were positively associated with ulcerative colitis, and fruit consumption was found to be protective.2

Most recently, omega-6 fatty acids have been investigated. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that we must obtain them from our diet for good health, but the typical American diet contains an excessive amount of omega-6, which can produce a pro-inflammatory environment in the body.

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fat that is highly concentrated in red meat, cooking oils, and margarines. In the digestive system, linoleic acid is metabolized into arachidonic acid, which incorporates into cell membranes of the colon. When arachidonic acid is broken down further, its products are pro-inflammatory – these products are found in excess in the intestinal cells of patients with ulcerative colitis. For these reasons, scientists believed that excess linoleic acid might be linked to ulcerative colitis risk.

A prospective study of over 200,000 men and women in Europe found that the subjects who consumed the highest levels of omega-6 linoleic acid were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The researchers also found a negative association between the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and ulcerative colitis – subjects in the highest level of DHA intake decreased their risk by 77%.3

Avoiding excess levels of linoleic acid is simply accomplished by eating a diet that is based on whole plant foods and limits animal products and added fats. A diet of natural whole foods provides us with omega-6 fatty acids in appropriate amounts - not in excess – producing an anti-inflammatory environment.

For those who already have ulcerative colitis, it is important to know that the condition can be improved and sometimes completely resolved with dietary changes – conventional treatment of IBD often includes immunosuppressive drugs with dangerous side effects. Specific dietary recommendations for sufferers of IBD are outlined in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease newsletter

References:

1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ulcerativecolitis.html#cat59

2. Shah S. Dietary Factors in the Modulation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Activity. MedGenMed 2007; 9(1):60

3. Tjonneland A et al. Linoleic acid, a dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, and the aetiology of ulcerative colitis: a nested case-control study within a European prospective cohort study. IBD in EPIC Study Investigators. Gut. 2009 Dec;58(12):1606-11. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B15S720091202