NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:24:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1The latest in nutrition related research delivered in easy to understand video segments brought to you by Michael Greger M.D. Michael Greger, M.D. clean Michael Greger, M.D. mhg1@cornell.edu mhg1@cornell.edu (Michael Greger, M.D.) Copyright 2013 - NutritionFacts.org - All Rights Reserved The Latest in Nutrition Research nutrition, nutrition facts, diet, vegan, plant-based diet, healthy eating, nutritional data, cancer, cancer prevention NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org/wp-content/themes/nutritionfacts/images/nutritionfacts_podcast.pnghttp://nutritionfacts.org TV-G Tri-Weekly Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid Tunahttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/30/why-pregnant-women-should-avoid-tuna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-pregnant-women-should-avoid-tuna&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-pregnant-women-should-avoid-tuna http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/30/why-pregnant-women-should-avoid-tuna/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:00:31 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23606 All fish contain small amounts of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, and “fish consumption represents the main source of methylmercury exposure.” In my videos Nerves of Mercury and Fish Fog, I discuss how mercury exposure through fish consumption, even within the government’s safety limits, can have adverse neurological and behavioral effects on child […]]]>

All fish contain small amounts of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, and “fish consumption represents the main source of methylmercury exposure.” In my videos Nerves of Mercury and Fish Fog, I discuss how mercury exposure through fish consumption, even within the government’s safety limits, can have adverse neurological and behavioral effects on child development. Severe exposure can cause overt structural brain abnormalities like microcephaly, a shrunken brain disorder. But we didn’t know whether low exposure could also affect brain size until recently.

Autopsy studies suggest mercury preferentially affects the developing cerebellum, so researchers used ultrasound to measure cerebellum size in newborns of mothers who had high body levels of mercury.

Let’s put those levels into practical terms. In the video, Fish Intake Associated with Brain Shrinkage, you can see the results of a study measuring mercury concentration in human hair. Just one can of tuna a week raises human hair mercury concentration to levels nearly three times as high as the “high” group in the ultrasound study. So the bodies of the women suffering high mercury contamination were considered heavily contaminated, but even just a little canned tuna once in a while could bump our levels even higher. So the high really wasn’t that high. But what did they find?

The researchers demonstrated that babies born to mothers with higher hair mercury levels had cerebellums up to 14% shorter than those born to mothers with lower hair mercury levels. They conclude that prenatal exposure to what may be considered low-levels of methylmercury does indeed influence fetal brain development as evidenced “by decreased size of a newborn’s brain.”

But what about the long chain omega-3 DHA in fish—isn’t that necessary for healthy brain development? That’s the topic of my video Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development.

For more on canned tuna in particular, check out:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to Thomas Hawk / Flickr

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How Fatty Foods May Affect Our Love Lifehttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/28/how-fatty-foods-may-affect-our-love-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-fatty-foods-may-affect-our-love-life&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-fatty-foods-may-affect-our-love-life http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/28/how-fatty-foods-may-affect-our-love-life/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23603 The food industry, like the tobacco companies and other drug lords, has been able to come up with products that tap into the same dopamine reward system that keeps people smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, and eating candy bars (See Are Sugary Foods Addictive?). New research, highlighted in my video Are Fatty Foods Addictive? suggests that […]]]>

The food industry, like the tobacco companies and other drug lords, has been able to come up with products that tap into the same dopamine reward system that keeps people smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, and eating candy bars (See Are Sugary Foods Addictive?). New research, highlighted in my video Are Fatty Foods Addictive? suggests that fat may have similar effects on the brain. If people are fed yogurt packed with butter fat, within 30 minutes they exhibit the same brain activity as those who just drank sugar water.

People who regularly eat ice cream (sugar and fat) have a deadened dopamine response in their brains in response to drinking a milkshake. It’s similar to when drug abusers have to use more and more to get the same high. Frequent ice cream consumption “is related to a reduction in reward-region (pleasure center) responsivity in humans, paralleling the tolerance observed in drug addiction.” Once we’ve so dulled our dopamine response, we may subsequently overeat in an effort to achieve the degree of satisfaction experienced previously, contributing to unhealthy weight gain.

What do fatty and sugary foods have in common? They are energy-dense. It may be less about the number of calories than their concentration. Consumption of a calorie-dilute diet doesn’t lead to deadened dopamine responsivity, but a calorie-dense diet with the same number of calories does. It’s like the difference between cocaine and crack: same stuff chemically, but by smoking crack cocaine we can deliver a higher dose quicker to our brain.

As an aside, I found it interesting that the control drink in these milkshake studies wasn’t just water. They can’t use water because our brain actually tastes water on the tongue (who knew!). So instead the researchers had people drink a solution “designed to mimic the natural taste of saliva.” Ew!

Anyway, with this new understanding of the neural correlates of food addiction, there have been calls to include obesity as an official mental disorder. After all, both obesity and addiction share the inability to restrain behavior in spite of an awareness of detrimental health consequences, one of the defining criteria of substance abuse. We keep putting crap in our bodies despite the knowledge that we have a problem that is likely caused by the crap, yet we can’t stop (a phenomena called the “pleasure trap”).

Redefining obesity as an addiction, a psychiatric disease, would be a boon to the drug companies that are already working on a whole bunch of drugs to muck with our brain chemistry. For example, subjects given an opiate blocker (like what’s done for people with heroin overdoses to block the effects of the drug) eat significantly less cheese — it just doesn’t do as much for them anymore when their opiate receptors are blocked.

Rather than taking drugs, though, we can prevent the deadening of our pleasure center in the first place by sticking to foods that are naturally calorically dilute, like whole plant foods. This can help bring back our dopamine sensitivity such that we can again derive the same pleasure from the simplest of foods (see Changing Our Taste Buds). And this is not just for people who are obese. When we regularly eat calorie dense animal and junk foods like ice cream, we can blunt our pleasure so that we may overeat to compensate. When our brain down-regulates dopamine receptors to deal with all these jolts of fat and sugar, we may experience less enjoyment from other activities as well.

That’s why cocaine addicts may have an impaired neurological capacity to enjoy sex, and why smokers have an impaired ability to respond to positive stimuli. Since these all involve the same dopamine pathways, what we put into our body—what we eat—can affect how we experience all of life’s pleasures.

So to live life to the fullest, what should we do? The food industry, according to some addiction specialists, “should be given incentives to develop low calorie foods that are more attractive, palatable and affordable so that people can adhere to diet programs for a long time.” No need! Mother Nature beat them to it–that’s what the produce aisle is for.

By starting to eat healthfully, we can actually change how things taste. Healthiest means whole plant foods, which tend to be naturally dilute given their water and fiber content. Not only is fiber also calorie-free, but one might think of it as having “negative” calories, given the fermentation of fiber in our bowel into anti-obesity compounds (as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer compounds). For this reason, those eating plant-based diets eat hundreds of fewer calories without even trying. (See my video Nutrient-Dense Approach to Weight Management).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to Burger Austin / Flickr

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Can One Become a Sugar Addict?http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/23/can-one-become-a-sugar-addict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-one-become-a-sugar-addict&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-one-become-a-sugar-addict http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/23/can-one-become-a-sugar-addict/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:00:41 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23300 People have chewed coca leaves for at least 8,000 years as a mild stimulant without any evidence of addiction, but when certain components are isolated and concentrated into cocaine, we’ve got a problem. The same may be true of sugar—people don’t tend to binge on bananas. The isolation of sugar from the whole food may […]]]>

People have chewed coca leaves for at least 8,000 years as a mild stimulant without any evidence of addiction, but when certain components are isolated and concentrated into cocaine, we’ve got a problem. The same may be true of sugar—people don’t tend to binge on bananas. The isolation of sugar from the whole food may be the reason we’re more likely to supersize soda than sweet potatoes, or why we’re less likely to eat too much corn on the cob, but can’t seem to get enough high fructose corn syrup.

The overconsumption of sugar-sweetened diets has often been compared to drug addiction. However, until very recently this parallel was based more on anecdotal evidence than on solid scientific grounds. But now we have PET scans, imaging technology that can measure brain activity. It all started with a publication from the Institute of Clinical Physiology that showed decreased dopamine sensitivity in obese individuals. The heavier they were, the less responsive to dopamine they appeared to be. We see the same reduction in sensitivity in cocaine addicts and alcoholics, which “would suggest that a reduction in dopamine receptors is associated with addictive behavior irrespective of whether it is due to food or to addictive drugs, as seen in substance abusers.”

Dopamine is considered the neurotransmitter primarily involved in the pleasure and reward center of our brain, helping to motivate our drive for things like food, water and sex—all necessary for the perpetuation of our species. It was healthy and adaptive for our primate brains to drive us to eat that banana when there wasn’t much food around. But now that fruit is in fruit loop form, this adaptation has “become a dangerous liability.” The original Coca-Cola formulation actually included coca leaf, but now, perhaps, its sugar content may be the addictive stand-in.

What about artificial sweeteners? Though some are less harmful than others (Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant as opposed to Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia), they could still have adverse effects regardless of their individual chemistry. See my 3-part series:

  1. How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight
  2. Neurobiology of Artificial Sweeteners
  3. Unsweetening the Diet

What about fatty foods like meat? Does fat have addictive qualities as well? Good question! Check out my video Are Fatty Foods Addictive?

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to MattysFlicks / Flickr

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Where are Phosphate Additives Found?http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/21/where-are-phosphate-additives-found/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=where-are-phosphate-additives-found&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=where-are-phosphate-additives-found http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/21/where-are-phosphate-additives-found/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23296 In my videos Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola and Phosphate Additives in Chicken, I talked about the danger of phosphate and phosphate additives, and how phosphates are often added to chicken and turkey to help preserve the meat. But how often is poultry injected with phosphates? The vast majority of chicken products (more […]]]>

In my videos Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola and Phosphate Additives in Chicken, I talked about the danger of phosphate and phosphate additives, and how phosphates are often added to chicken and turkey to help preserve the meat. But how often is poultry injected with phosphates? The vast majority of chicken products (more than 90%) were found to contain these additives. However, most packages did not list the additives on their label.

Sometimes they call the phosphate additives “flavorings” or “broth,” and sometimes the labels don’t say anything at all. In the video, How to Avoid Phosphate Additives, you can see the different ways phosphate additives have been listed (if they are listed at all) on ingredient labels. I’d recommend minimizing one’s intake of anything with the four letters: “phos”. These additives are also used in junk foods and fast food. Some products have phosphorus and aluminum additives. We see this a lot in processed cheeses. One grilled cheese sandwich may exceed the World Health Organization’s provisional tolerable daily intake of aluminum by 428%. (I’ve previously touched on the aluminum in cheese in Aluminum in Vaccines vs. Food). More concerning, though, are the levels of lead in some venison (Filled Full of Lead) and mercury in tuna (The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages).

The food industry no longer has to list phosphorus content on the nutrition facts label. There have been calls from the public health community to mandate that phosphorus content of foods be included back on the nutrition facts label, but I’m not holding my breath.

All these studies bring home the same strong message, “phosphorus-containing additives are present in most meat products and significantly increase the phosphorus content. Moreover, the lack of this information in the Nutrition Facts labels and even in nutrition databases prevents patients and dietitians from accurately estimating the phosphorus content of their food and their daily intake.”

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to Sylvar / Flickr

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Phosphate Additives in Chicken Banned Elsewherehttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/16/phosphate-additives-in-chicken-banned-elsewhere/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phosphate-additives-in-chicken-banned-elsewhere&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phosphate-additives-in-chicken-banned-elsewhere http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/16/phosphate-additives-in-chicken-banned-elsewhere/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23185 In my video Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola, I talked about the danger of phosphorus additives in food. However, when surveyed, most future medical professionals were insufficiently aware—in fact, two-thirds had no clue—of the risks related to prolonged high dietary phosphate intake. Even if they knew it was a problem, they didn’t know […]]]>

In my video Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola, I talked about the danger of phosphorus additives in food. However, when surveyed, most future medical professionals were insufficiently aware—in fact, two-thirds had no clue—of the risks related to prolonged high dietary phosphate intake. Even if they knew it was a problem, they didn’t know which foods had added phosphates. 99% knew that sugar was added to soda, but only 7% knew that phosphates were added. I bet even fewer knew that it’s injected into most packages of meat.

Though this practice remains banned in Europe, 11 different phosphate salts are currently allowed to be injected into meat and poultry in the United States. This despite the fact that phosphate is considered an arterial toxin—causing our arteries to stiffen up within just two hours of consumption. Phosphate additives may also make poultry more dangerous from a food safety standpoint.

Phosphate additives may increase the number of Campylobacter bacteria in chicken exudates. Chicken exudate is the same as poultry purge (colloquially known as chicken “juice”), “the fluid that seeps out from processed poultry carcasses and is often found to be contaminated with considerable numbers of Campylobacter bacteria. It is comprised of water, blood, fats, and other materials added to the poultry during processing.” If chicken isn’t injected with phosphate, the exudates seeping into the package may grow about 100 Campylobacter bacteria. But, add some phosphate to the carcass, and up to a hundred million bacteria may grow.

Why does adding phosphate to poultry increase the number of Campylobacter bacteria? It may be because phosphates increase the survival of Campylobacter—by 100 fold or more. The infectious dose for Campylobacter has been shown to be as little as 500 organisms. How much might there be in chicken? 100,000 can be easily recovered from washes of whole chicken carcasses.

So what does a million times more food-poisoning bacteria mean for the risk to consumers? A mere hundred fold increase in these fecal matter bacteria can mean a thirty fold difference in the number of human outbreaks of Campylobacter, which can leave patients paralyzed (see my video Poultry and Paralysis). But, if the poultry industry doesn’t add phosphates, how are they (in their words) going to “enhance the moisture absorbance, color, and flavor of the meat and reduce product shrinkage?”

Other concerning additives used by the meat industry include asthma-type drugs (Ractopamine in Pork), bacteria-eating viruses (Viral Meat Spray), larvae (Maggot Meat Spray), Arsenic in Chicken, nitrosamines (Prevention Is Better Than Cured Meat), and antibiotics (Drug Residues in Meat).

Since phosphate additives don’t have to be listed on the nutrition label, how do we avoid them? All in my video How to Avoid Phosphate Additives.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to snowpea&bokchoi / Flickr

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What Do Meat Purge and Cola Have in Common?http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/14/what-do-meat-purge-and-cola-have-in-common/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-do-meat-purge-and-cola-have-in-common&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-do-meat-purge-and-cola-have-in-common http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/14/what-do-meat-purge-and-cola-have-in-common/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:00:26 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23181 In my video, Treating Kidney Failure Through Diet, I profiled research suggesting that the use of a plant-based diet for patients with kidney failure would be beneficial. An important function of our kidneys is to filter out excess phosphorus from our bloodstream, so a decline in kidney function can lead to the build-up of phosphorus […]]]>

In my video, Treating Kidney Failure Through Diet, I profiled research suggesting that the use of a plant-based diet for patients with kidney failure would be beneficial. An important function of our kidneys is to filter out excess phosphorus from our bloodstream, so a decline in kidney function can lead to the build-up of phosphorus in our bodies. This in turn can cause something called metastatic calcification, where our heart valves and muscles and other parts of the body can buildup mineral deposits, eventually potentially resulting in bad things like skin necrosis, gangrene, and amputations. Therefore, controlling dietary phosphorus intake is the lynchpin of successful prevention of metastatic calcification. While both plant foods and animal foods have phosphorus, our bodies seem better able to handle phosphorus excretion from plants, so a plant-based diet may help protect against this dreadful condition.

However, we’re beginning to realize that absorbing too much phosphorus isn’t good for anyone, even those with healthy kidneys. Having high levels in our blood has been found to be an independent predictor of heart attacks and mortality in the general population, increasing the risk not only of kidney failure, but also of heart failure, heart attacks, coronary death, and overall death. Dietary intake of phosphate is an important matter not just for persons with kidney disease, but for everybody. It’s thought to cause damage to blood vessels, to accelerate the aging process, and even, potentially, to hurt our bones by contributing to osteoporosis via a disruption of hormonal regulation. The estimated average requirement of phosphorus is less than 600 mg a day, but the estimated average intake in the United States is nearly twice that. How do we stay away from too much of the stuff?

In the video, Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola, we can see the different levels of phosphorus in different foods. It looks like many plant foods have as much phosphorus as many animal foods. So why are plant-based diets so effective in treating kidney failure patients? Because most of the phosphorus in plant foods is found in the form of phytic acid, which we can’t digest. Therefore, while plant and animal foods may have similar phosphate contents, the amount that is bioavailable differs. In plant foods, the bioavailability of phosphates is usually less than 50%, while the bioavailability of most animal products is up around 75%.

So when we adjust for how much actually gets into our system, plant foods are significantly better. It’s like the absorption of heme and non-heme iron: our bodies can protect themselves from absorbing too much plant-based iron, but can’t stop excess muscle and blood-based (heme) iron from animals slipping through the intestinal wall (see my video Risk Associated With Iron Supplements).

The worst kind of phosphorus is in the form of phosphate additives (which are absorbed nearly 100%) that are added, for example, to cola drinks. Why is phosphate added to cola? Without the added phosphate, so many glycotoxins would be produced that the beverage would turn pitch black (see my video on Glycotoxins). Thus, cola drinks owe their brown color to phosphate.

Phosphate additives play an especially important role in the meat industry, where they are used as preservatives for the same reason: to enhance a meat product’s color. Just like the dairy industry adds aluminum to cheese, the meat and poultry industries “enhance” their products by injecting them with phosphates. If one looks at meat industry trade journals and can get past all the macabre ads for “head dropping robots for the kill floor,” you’ll see all ad after ad for injection machines. Why? Because of “increased profitability.” Enhanced meats have better color and less “purge.”

Purge is a term used to describe the liquid that seeps from flesh as it ages. Many consumers find this unattractive, so the industry views phosphate injection as a win-win. When chicken is injected with phosphates, the “consumer benefits through the perception of enhanced quality,” and the processor benefits from increased yield because they just pump it up with water and they sell it by the pound. The problem is that it can boost phosphorus levels in meat nearly 70%, a “real and insidious danger” not only for kidney patients, but for us all.

Another toxic addition to alter the color of meat is arsenic-containing drugs fed directly to chickens (see my video Arsenic in Chicken). Carbon monoxide is used to keep red meat red, anthoxanthins keep salmon pink (Artificial Coloring in Fish) and titanium dioxide is used to whiten processed foods (Titanium Dioxide & Inflammatory Bowel Disease). I’m amazed by the risks the food industry will take to alter food cosmetically (more on this in Artificial Food Colors and ADHD).

There are other harmful additives in soda as well (Is Sodium Benzoate Harmful? and Diet Soda and Preterm Birth).

What else is in poultry purge (chicken “juice”)? Find out in my video, Phosphate Additives in Chicken.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to Michael Scheltgen / Flickr

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What to Eat to Reduce Our Toxic Exposurehttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/09/what-to-eat-to-reduce-our-toxic-exposure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-to-eat-to-reduce-our-toxic-exposure&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-to-eat-to-reduce-our-toxic-exposure http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/09/what-to-eat-to-reduce-our-toxic-exposure/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:00:24 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23012 It is not very common that a single molecule attracts enough interest to merit international scientific conferences of its own. “Ah receptor,” however, “belongs to the rare elite of such molecules.” Ah receptors are an important factor in how our immune system works. For background, see my video, The Broccoli Receptor: Our First Line of […]]]>

It is not very common that a single molecule attracts enough interest to merit international scientific conferences of its own. “Ah receptor,” however, “belongs to the rare elite of such molecules.” Ah receptors are an important factor in how our immune system works. For background, see my video, The Broccoli Receptor: Our First Line of Defense. The latest conference offered “new reports about the way plant-derived compounds in our diet are necessary for a fully functioning immune system of the gut.” One study in particular out of the journal Nature, “expanded our understanding of how diet impacts immunity and health by showing that a plant-derived nutrient profoundly shapes the capacity for intestinal immune defense.” And intestinal defense not only protects us against the pathogens we may ingest, but also against toxic chemicals.

We’re constantly exposed to a wide range of toxins, from such sources as cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, furnace gases, cooked meat and fish, cow’s milk, and even mother’s milk (because of what mothers themselves are exposed to) as seen in my video Counteracting the Effects of Dioxins Through Diet. Many of these pollutants exert their toxic effects through the Ah receptor system. For example, dioxins invade the body mainly through the diet (where we get more than 90% of our exposure) as it concentrates through the food chain, presenting a serious health concern. But there are phytonutrients in fruits, vegetables, tea, red wine, and beans that block the effects of dioxins at levels close to what we find in people’s bloodstream. Just three apples or about a tablespoon of red onion a day may cut dioxin toxicity in half. And the half-life of these phytonutrients in the body is only about 25 hours, so we have to keep eating these health-promoting foods day after day.

At first we just thought that it was only cruciferous vegetables that could dock in these receptors and fend off toxins, but does that make evolutionary sense? As Lora V. Hooper from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute notes, “Given the variety and flexibility of most mammalian diets, a specific dependence on cruciferous vegetables for optimal intestinal immune function would seem overly restrictive. Rather, it seems likely that many other foods contain compounds with similar immune-stimulatory properties.”

Indeed, “the search for foods containing similar immunomodulatory compounds has begun.” We now know that a wide variety of natural plant compounds can counteract the chemical pollution to which we’re all exposed. There is actually one animal product that has also been shown to potentially block the cancer-causing effects of dioxins: camel urine. Camel urine—but not cow urine—was found to inhibit the effects of a known carcinogenic chemical. Importantly, the researchers emphasize that virgin camel urine showed the highest degree of inhibition, performing better than pregnant camel urine, for example. So the next time our kids don’t want to eat their fruits and veggies, we can just say, “It’s either that, or camel pee.”

I report different mechanisms but similar outcomes in Plants vs. Pesticides and Eating Green to Prevent Cancer. So this all suggests a double benefit of eating lower on the food chain, since it would also entail lower exposure to toxic contaminants in the first place (Industrial Pollutants in Vegans).

How Chemically Contaminated Are We? Check out the CDC Report on Environmental Chemical Exposure. Where are dioxins found so we can avoid them in the first place? See Dioxins in the Food Supply.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thanks to Feliciano Guimaraes / Flickr
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Our Immune System Uses Plants To Activate Gut Protectionhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/07/our-immune-system-uses-plants-to-activate-gut-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-immune-system-uses-plants-to-activate-gut-protection&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-immune-system-uses-plants-to-activate-gut-protection http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/07/our-immune-system-uses-plants-to-activate-gut-protection/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=23008 It might seem that our skin is the first line of defense between our insides and the outside world, but our greatest interface with our environment is actually through the lining of our intestines, which covers thousands of square feet. And all that separates our gut from the outer world is a single layer of […]]]>

It might seem that our skin is the first line of defense between our insides and the outside world, but our greatest interface with our environment is actually through the lining of our intestines, which covers thousands of square feet. And all that separates our gut from the outer world is a single layer of cells, 50 millionth of a meter thick – less than the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Compare that to our skin. In the video, The Broccoli Receptor: Our First Line of Defense, you can see a layer of skin, dozens of protective cells thick, to keep the outside world outside of our bodies. Why don’t we have multiple layers in our gut wall? Because we need to absorb stuff from food into our body. It’s a good idea for our skin to be waterproof, so we don’t start leaking, but the lining of our gut has to allow for the absorption of fluids and nutrients.

With such a thin, fragile layer between our sterile core and outer chaos, we better have quite a defense system in place. Indeed, that’s where “intraepithelial lymphocytes” come in.

Intraepithelial lymphocytes serve two functions: they condition and repair that thin barrier, and they provide a front-line defense against intestinal pathogens. These critical cells are covered with Ah receptors. Ah receptors are like locks, and for decades researchers have been searching for a natural key to fit in these locks to activate those receptors and sustain our immunity. We recently discovered a key: broccoli.

Cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts—contain a phytonutrient that is transformed by our stomach acid into the key that fits into the Ah receptor, stimulating our intraepithelial lymphocytes. In other words, broccoli leads to the activation of our immune foot soldiers.

In an editorial about Ah receptors and diet, researcher Lora V. Hooper from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute noted, “From childhood we learn that vegetables are good for us, and most of us eat our veggies without giving much thought to the evidence behind this accepted wisdom or to the mechanisms underlying the purported health-boosting properties of a vegetable-rich diet.” But now we know that “specific dietary compounds found at high levels in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are essential for sustaining intestinal immune function.” Green vegetables are in fact required to maintain a large population of those protective intraepithelial lymphocytes.

Maybe that’s why vegetable intake is associated with lower risk of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, whereas the more meaty Western diet is associated with higher risk of inflammatory bowel diseases. This may be because the activating receptors on our intestinal immune cells are basically sensors of plant-derived phytochemicals.

This raises a broader question: Why did our immune system evolve this requirement for broccoli and other plant foods? Well, when do we need to boost our intestinal defenses the most? When we eat! That’s when we may be ingesting pathogens. Linking heightened intestinal immune activation to food intake could serve to bolster immunity precisely when it is needed. At the same time, this would allow energy to be conserved in times of food scarcity, since maintaining these defenses takes considerable amounts of energy. Why remain at red alert 24 hours a day when we eat only a couple of times a day? We evolved for millions of years eating mostly weeds—wild plants, dark green leafy vegetables (or as they were known back then, leaves). By using veggies as a signal to upkeep our immune system, our bodies may be bolstering our immune defenses when we most need them. Thus, the old recommendation to “eat your veggies” has a strong molecular basis. (Did we really evolve eating that many plant foods? See my video Paleolithic Lessons).

This discovery has been all exciting for the drug companies who are looking into Ah receptor active pharmaceuticals. “However,” as one research team at Cambridge concluded, “rather than developing additional anti-inflammatory drugs, changing diets which are currently highly processed and low in vegetable content, may be a more cost effective way towards health and well-being.”

As remarkable as this story is, it is just the tip of the cruciferous iceberg! See, for example:

How else can we protect our immune function? Exercise (Preserving Immune Function In Athletes With Nutritional Yeast) and sleep (Sleep & Immunity)!

Given the variety and flexibility of most mammalian diets, a specific dependence on cruciferous vegetables for optimal intestinal immune function would seem overly restrictive, no? I address that in my video, Counteracting the Effects of Dioxins

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Images thank to Nomadic Lass / Flickr.

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Dr. Greger Addresses GMOs in New DVDhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/02/dr-greger-addresses-gmos-in-new-dvd/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-greger-addresses-gmos-in-new-dvd&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-greger-addresses-gmos-in-new-dvd http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/10/02/dr-greger-addresses-gmos-in-new-dvd/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:00:07 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24658 The world’s preeminent scientific journal recently editorialized that we are now swimming in information about genetically modified crops, but that much of that information is wrong—on both sides of the debate. “But a lot of this incorrect information is sophisticated,” they write, “backed by legitimate-sounding research and written with certitude.” When it comes to GMO’s, […]]]>

The world’s preeminent scientific journal recently editorialized that we are now swimming in information about genetically modified crops, but that much of that information is wrong—on both sides of the debate. “But a lot of this incorrect information is sophisticated,” they write, “backed by legitimate-sounding research and written with certitude.” When it comes to GMO’s, they quip, “a good gauge of a statement’s fallacy is the conviction with which it is delivered.”

With USDA’s approval this month of Dow Chemical’s commercialization of a new round of GMO crops, it’s more important than ever to assess the human health implications of genetically engineered foods. Any time there’s billions of dollars at stake, combined with flaring political ideologies, it’s hard to know who to trust. So as always, best to stick to the science. This is easier said than done, though–more than 41,000 papers have been published on GMOs in the medical literature, totaling a couple hundred million words. But that’s what you have me for! I live in the library so you don’t have to.

Reviewing all the primary sources I could find on the public health implications of GMO crops I created four new videos:

  • Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn
  • Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy
  • Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?
  • GMO Soy and Breast Cancer

They are all available right now as a video download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 21 (all proceeds go to charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD. The GMO videos are all scheduled to go up on NutritionFacts.org by mid-November, but you can download and watch them right now. The current batch of videos from volume 20 on NutritionFacts.org just ran out, so starting this month and running through December, I’ll be rolling out the videos from this new DVD, volume 21. The DVDs give folks the opportunity to sneak-preview videos months ahead of time, watch them all straight through, and share them as gifts, but there is nothing on the DVDs that won’t eventually end up free online here at NutritionFacts.org. If you’d like the works–40+ hours of video–you can get the complete DVD collection.

Here’s the list of chapters from the new volume 21 DVD — a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

  1. Does Cholesterol Size Matter?
  2. Cooked Beans or Sprouted Beans?
  3. Lifestyle Medicine Is the Standard of Care for Prediabetes
  4. Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension
  5. Protecting Teeth From Hibiscus Tea
  6. Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?
  7. How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?
  8. PCBs in Children’s Fish Oil Supplements
  9. Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?
  10. Turmeric Curcumin and Pancreatic Cancer
  11. Infectobesity: Adenovirus 36 and Childhood Obesity
  12. Juicing Removes More Than Just Fiber
  13. The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts
  14. Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility
  15. Hospitals Selling Sickness
  16. Antibiotics: Agribusiness’s Pound of Flesh
  17. Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn
  18. Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy
  19. Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?
  20. GMO Soy and Breast Cancer
  21. Caloric Restriction vs. Plant-Based Diets
  22. How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?
  23. Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes
  24. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Diet
  25. Inhibiting Platelet Activation with Tomato Seeds
  26. Eliminating 90% of Heart Disease Risk

Order my new DVD at DrGreger.org/dvds or through Amazon. It can also be ordered as a video download at DrGreger.org/downloads.

DVD Subscription

If you were a regular supporter, you’d already be a GMO expert by now, having gotten the new DVD two weeks ago! I now come out with DVDs at an exhausting pace–a new one every 9 weeks. If you’d like to automatically receive them before they’re even available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly donor.

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $15 monthly contributor will receive the next three DVDs for free (as physical DVDs, downloads, or both–your choice), and anyone signing up as a $25 monthly contributor will get a whole year’s worth of new DVDs. If you’re already signed up and didn’t receive your volume 21 yet, please email Tommasina@NutritionFacts.org and she’ll make everything all better.

If you’d rather just watch all the videos online as they launch, but would still like to support my work of cutting through the confusion and educating millions about healthy eating, you can make a tax-deductible donation to NutritionFacts.org using a credit card, a direct PayPal link, or by sending a check to “NutritionFacts.org” c/o Michael Greger, 700 Professional Dr., Gaithersburg, MD 20879.

The Paleo Diet

If you missed it last week, I featured an exclusive guest blog post (a NutritionFacts.org first!) by two of my favorite dietitians,  Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, who argue that plant-based diets may be closer to the actual diets of our paleolithic ancestors than so-called “paleo” diets. Check it out: Will The Real Paleo Diet Please Stand Up?

In my next DVD I’ll address the saturated fat “controversy”–stay tuned!

-Michael Greger

 

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4 Things To Help Prevent Most Diseasehttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/09/30/4-things-to-help-prevent-most-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=4-things-to-help-prevent-most-disease&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=4-things-to-help-prevent-most-disease http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/09/30/4-things-to-help-prevent-most-disease/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=22852 Though I was trained as a general practitioner, my chosen specialty is lifestyle medicine. Most of the reasons we go see our doctors are for diseases that could have been prevented. But lifestyle medicine is not just about preventing chronic disease—it’s also about treating it. And not just treating the disease, but treating the causes […]]]>

Though I was trained as a general practitioner, my chosen specialty is lifestyle medicine. Most of the reasons we go see our doctors are for diseases that could have been prevented. But lifestyle medicine is not just about preventing chronic disease—it’s also about treating it. And not just treating the disease, but treating the causes of disease.

If people just did four simple things—not smoking, exercising a half hour a day, eating a diet that emphasizes whole plant foods, and not becoming obese—they may prevent most cases of diabetes and heart attacks, half of strokes, and a third of cancers. Even modest changes may be more effective in reducing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and all-cause mortality than almost any other medical intervention.

The key difference between conventional medicine and lifestyle medicine is instead of just treating risk factors, we treat the underlying causes of disease, as Drs. Hyman, Ornish, and Roizen describe in their landmark editorial Lifestyle medicine: treating the causes of disease. Doctors typically treat “risk factors” for disease by giving a lifetime’s worth of medications to lower high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and high cholesterol. But think about it: high blood pressure is just a symptom of diseased and dysfunctional arteries. We can artificially lower blood pressure with drugs, but that’s not treating the underlying cause. To treat the underlying cause, we need things like diet and exercise, the “penicillin” of lifestyle medicine (See Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease).

As Dr. Dean Ornish is fond of saying, disregarding the underlying causes and treating only risk factors is somewhat like mopping up the floor around an over-flowing sink instead of just turning off the faucet, which is why medications usually have to be taken for a lifetime. As Dr. Denis Burkitt described, “if a floor is flooded as a result of a dripping tap, it is of little use to mop up the floor unless the tap is turned off. The water from the tap represents the cost of disease, and the flooded floor represents the diseases filling our hospital beds. Medical students learn far more about methods of floor mopping than about turning off taps, and doctors who are specialists in mops and brushes can earn infinitely more money than those dedicated to shutting off taps.” And the drug companies are more than happy to sell rolls of paper towels so patients can buy a new roll every day for the rest of their lives. Paraphrasing poet, Ogden Nash, modern medicine is making great progress, but is headed in the wrong direction.

When the underlying lifestyle causes are addressed, patients often are able to stop taking medication or avoid surgery. We spend billions cracking patients’ chests open, but only rarely does it actually prolong anyone’s life. Instead of surgery, why not instead wipe out at least 90% of heart disease through prevention? Heart disease accounts for more premature deaths than any other illness and is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle, and the same dietary changes required can prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well.

So why don’t more doctors do it?

One reason is doctors don’t get paid to do it. No one profits from lifestyle medicine, so it is not part of medical education or practice. Presently, physicians lack training and financial incentives, so they continue to do what they know how to do: prescribe medication and perform surgery.

After Dean Ornish proved you could open up arteries and reverse our number one cause of death, heart disease, with just a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle changes (see Resuscitating Medicare and Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped), he thought that his studies would have a meaningful effect on the practice of mainstream cardiology. After all, he had found a cure for our #1 killer! But, he admits, he was mistaken. “Physician reimbursement,” he realized, “is a much more powerful determinant of medical practice than research.”

Reimbursement over research. Salary over science. Wealth over health. Not a very flattering portrayal of the healing profession. But if doctors won’t do it without getting paid, let’s get them paid.

So Dr. Ornish went to Washington. He argued that if we train and pay for doctors to learn how to help patients address the real causes of disease with lifestyle medicine and not just treat disease risk factors we could save trillions of dollars. And that’s considering only heart disease, diabetes, prostate and breast cancer. The Take Back Your Health Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate to induce doctors to learn and practice lifestyle medicine, not only because it works better, but because they will be paid to do it. Sadly, the bill died, just like millions of Americans will continue to do with reversible chronic diseases.

By treating the root causes of diseases with plants not pills, we can also avoid the adverse side effects of prescription drugs that kill more than 100,000 Americans every year, effectively making doctors a leading cause of death in the United States. See One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic and my live presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

For those surprised that policy makers wouldn’t support such a common sense notion as preventive health, check out my video The McGovern Report. What about medical associations? Medical Associations Oppose Bill to Mandate Nutrition Training.

There is another reason that may explain why the medical profession remains so entrenched. See my video The Tomato Effect.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations More Than an Apple a Day and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Punchyy / Flickr

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