NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:19:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Egg Consumption and LDL Cholesterol Size http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/28/egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/28/egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:00:38 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29772 Maria Fernandez has received nearly a half million dollars from the egg industry and writes papers like “Rethinking dietary cholesterol.” She admits that eggs can raise LDL cholesterol, bad cholesterol, but argues that HDL, so-called “good cholesterol,” also rises, thereby maintaining the ratio of bad to good. To support this assertion, she cites one study […]]]>

Maria Fernandez has received nearly a half million dollars from the egg industry and writes papers like “Rethinking dietary cholesterol.” She admits that eggs can raise LDL cholesterol, bad cholesterol, but argues that HDL, so-called “good cholesterol,” also rises, thereby maintaining the ratio of bad to good. To support this assertion, she cites one study that she performed with Egg Board money that involved 42 people.

If we look at a meta-analysis, a measure of the balance of evidence, the rise in bad is much more than the rise in good with increasing cholesterol intake. The analysis of 17 different studies showed that dietary cholesterol increases the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol, suggesting that the favorable rise in HDL fails to compensate for the adverse rise in total and LDL cholesterol. Therefore, increased intake of dietary cholesterol from eggs may indeed raise the risk of coronary heart disease.

The Egg Board responded (as seen in my video, Does Cholesterol Size Matter?) by saying that the increased heart disease risk associated with eating eggs needs to be put in perspective relative to other risk factors, arguing that it’s worse to be overweight than it is to eat eggs, to which the authors of the meta-analysis replied, “Be that as it may, many people do not find it a major hardship to cut back on egg intake, whereas most people find it impossible to lose weight permanently.”

Fine, Fernandez admitted, eggs increase LDL, but she claims that the increase is in large LDL, arguing that large, fluffy LDL particles are not as bad as small, dense particles. Indeed, large LDL only raises heart disease risk of women by 44%, instead of 63% for small LDL. Light large buoyant LDL still significantly increases our risk of dying from our #1 killer. The difference is similar for men: large LDL only increases risk of heart attack or death by 31%, instead of 44%. As the latest review on the subject concluded, LDL cholesterol has “clearly been established as a causal agent in atherosclerosis … Regardless of size, LDL particles are atherogenic.” Yet Egg Board researcher, Fernandez, wrote that the formation of larger LDL from eggs is considered protective against heart disease, relative to small LDL. That’s like saying getting stabbed with a knife is protective–relative to getting shot!

Health practitioners should bear in mind, she writes, that “restricting dietary cholesterol puts a burden on egg intake” and leads to the avoidance of a food that contains dietary components like carotenoids and choline. She wrote this in 2012, before the landmark 2013 study showing that choline from eggs appears to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death, so she can be excused for that. But what about the carotenoids in eggs, like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are so important for protecting vision and reducing cholesterol oxidation? As I explored previously, the amounts of these phytonutrients in eggs are miniscule. One spoonful of spinach contains as much as nine eggs. Comparing the predictable effects on eye health of organic free-range eggs versus corn and spinach, the effect of eggs is tiny.

What about the effects of eggs on cholesterol oxidation? We’ve known for decades that LDL cholesterol is bad, but oxidized LDL is even worse. Therefore, according to Fernandez, since eggs have trace amounts of antioxidants, eggs may prevent cholesterol oxidation. But the science shows the exact opposite. Consumption of eggs increases the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation. The researchers found that not only does eating eggs raise LDL levels, but also increases LDL oxidizability, in addition to the oxidizability of our entire bloodstream. This was published 18 years ago, yet Fernandez still tries to insinuate that eggs would reduce oxidation.

She acknowledges receiving funding from the American Egg Board, and then claims she has no conflicts of interest.

This is why a site like NutritionFacts.org can be so useful, because even when a paper is published in the peer-reviewed medical literature, it can misrepresent the science. But who has time to check the primary sources? I do! If you’d like to support this work, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

Here are some other videos in which I contrast the available science with what the egg industry asserts:

Only the meat industry may be as bold: BOLD Indeed: Beef Lowers Cholesterol?

For more on the role of cholesterol, see:

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Kool skatkat / Flickr

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How to Protect Our Telomeres with Diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/26/how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/26/how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:33 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29770 In my video, Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?, I discussed how stress reduction through meditation might be able to lengthen telomeres, the protective caps at the tips of our chromosomes that tend to deplete as we age. What about exercise? We can’t always change our situation in life, but we can always go out for […]]]>

In my video, Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?, I discussed how stress reduction through meditation might be able to lengthen telomeres, the protective caps at the tips of our chromosomes that tend to deplete as we age.

What about exercise? We can’t always change our situation in life, but we can always go out for a walk. London researchers studied 2,400 twins, and those who exercised more may have pumped up their telomeres along with their muscles. Apparently it doesn’t take much either. The “heavy” exercise group was only averaging about a half-hour a day.

These were mostly folks in their 40’s, but does it still work in your 50’s? Yes. A study out of South Korea found that people in their 50’s who work out three hours a week had longer telomeres.

In my video, Telomeres: Cap It All Off with Diet, you can see the telomere lengths of young healthy regular folk controls at around age 20, and then at age 50. As we’d expect, the older subjects’ telomeres were significantly shorter. What about athletes? The young athletes started out in the same boat, with nice, long, young, healthy telomeres capping all their chromosomes. The older athletes, in contrast to the controls, appeared to still have the chromosomes of 20-year-olds. But these were marathon runners, triathletes running 50 miles a week for 35 years.

What was it about the Ornish intervention that so powerfully protected telomeres after just three months? We saw that stress management seems to help, but what about diet and exercise? Was it the plant-based diet, was it the walking 30 minutes a day, or was it just because of the weight loss? In 2013 a study was published that can help us anser just that question.

The researchers took about 400 women and randomized them into four groups: a portion-controlled diet group, an exercise group, a portion controlled diet and exercise group, and a control group for a full year. In the video, you can see a comparison of the length of each group’s telomeres. After a year of doing nothing, there was essentially no change in the control group, which is what we’d expect. The exercise group was 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise like jogging. After a year of that, they did no better. What about just weight loss? Nothing. The same thing for exercise and weight loss, no significant change either.

So as long as we’re eating the same diet, it doesn’t appear to matter how small our portions are, or how much weight we lose, or how hard we exercise. After a year, the subjects saw no benefit. On the other hand, the Ornish group on the plant-based diet, who lost the same amount of weight after just three months and exercised less than half as hard, saw significant telomere protection.

It wasn’t the weight loss or the exercise: it was the food.

What aspects of a plant-based diet make it so protective? Studies have associated more vegetables and fruit, and less butter, with longer telomeres. From the latest review, foods high in fiber and vitamins are strongly related to longer telomeres. However, the key may be avoiding saturated fat. Swapping just 1%  of saturated fat calories in our diet for anything else can add nearly a whole year of aging’s worth of length onto our telomeres.

Saturated fats like palmitic acid, the primary saturated fat in salmon, and found in meat, eggs, and dairy in general, can be toxic to cells. This has been demonstrated in heart cells, bone marrow cells, pancreatic cells, and brain cells. The toxic effects on cell death rates happen right around what you’d see in the blood stream of people who eat a lot of animal products. It may not be the saturated fat itself, however, as saturated fat may just be a marker for the increased oxidative stress and inflammation associated with those foods.

With this link to saturated fat, it’s no wonder that lifelong low cholesterol levels have been related to longer telomeres and a smaller proportion of short telomeres—in other words, markers of slower biological aging. In fact, there’s a rare congenital birth defect called progeria syndrome, where children age 8-10 times faster than normal. It seems associated with a particular inability to handle animal fats.

The good news is that “despite past accumulated injury leading to shorter telomere lengths, current healthy behaviors might help to decrease a person’s risk of some of the potential consequences like heart disease.” Eating more fruit and vegetables and less meat, and having more support from friends and family, attenuate the association between shorter telomeres and the ravages of aging.

To summarize: inflammation, oxidation, damage and dysfunction are constantly hacking away at our telomeres. At the same time, our antioxidant defenses, healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction are constantly rebuilding them.


 

I’ve asked this diet versus exercise question in a few other contexts. See:

Though dietary change appears more impactful, I’m a big fan of walking. See Longer Life Within Walking Distance and for my personal favorite exercise, Standing Up for Your Health.

For more on the role saturated fat may play in disease, see, for example, my videos Heart Disease Starts in Childhood and Treating Multiple Sclerosis with the Swank MS Diet.

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: AJC ajcann.wordpress.com / Flickr

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How Many Minutes of Daily Meditation to Combat Stress? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/21/how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/21/how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 12:00:43 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29768 In the film The Holiday, Cameron Diaz exclaims “Severe stress … causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate.” Did Hollywood get the science right? The enzyme that builds and maintains the caps at the tips of our chromosomes (called telomeres) appear to slow the aging of our cells. […]]]>

In the film The Holiday, Cameron Diaz exclaims “Severe stress … causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate.” Did Hollywood get the science right?

The enzyme that builds and maintains the caps at the tips of our chromosomes (called telomeres) appear to slow the aging of our cells. Do people who are stressed have shorter telomeres? To answer that question, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco measured the telomere lengths in mothers of chronically ill children—what could be more stressful than that? The longer a woman had spent being the main caretaker of her ill child, the shorter her telomeres. The extra telomere shortening in the most stressed mothers was equivalent to that caused by at least a decade of aging. We see the same thing in caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and those suffering severe work-related exhaustion. Even those abused as children may grow up with shorter telomeres.

There’s not much we can do about our past, but if we manage our stress now, can we grow some telomeres back? If we go on a meditation retreat and meditate for 500 hours, we can indeed boost our telomerase activity (the enzyme that restores our telomeres)—but there’s got to be a quicker fix.

In an exciting study from UCLA and UC San Francisco (highlighted in my video, Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?, caregivers of family members with dementia were randomized to just 12 minutes of daily meditation for eight weeks, or just about ten hours in total. The meditators experienced significant benefit, including better mental and psychological function accompanied by an increase in telomerase activity, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced cellular aging.

Here’s a link to the backgrounder video that presents the original Ornish study: Research Into Reversing Aging. I cover the comparable effects of diet and exercise in my video Telomeres – Cap It All Off with Diet.

I have a few videos on using aromatherapy and other modalities to help deal with stress:

For life extension in general, see:

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Nickolai Kashirin / Flickr

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Now Hiring! http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/19/new-positions-apr-2016/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-positions-apr-2016 http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/19/new-positions-apr-2016/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 12:00:14 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=30056 Interested in dedicating yourself to advancing a lifesaving cause? Due to the tremendous success of How Not to Die, traffic on NutritionFacts.org is up 36%! That’s the largest quarterly bump in our history. We’re up to nearly 100,000 views a day. And donations are double what they were this time last year. I was initially […]]]>

Interested in dedicating yourself to advancing a lifesaving cause?

Due to the tremendous success of How Not to Die, traffic on NutritionFacts.org is up 36%! That’s the largest quarterly bump in our history. We’re up to nearly 100,000 views a day. And donations are double what they were this time last year.

I was initially hesitant when I was approached to write the book because of all the time it would take me away from the website. How many more people could the book reach than the millions my work was already reaching online? But the book’s runaway success turned into the best of both worlds—tens of thousands of copies sold through mainstream outlets like Costco and at the same time drawing unprecedented attention to my online videos. The number of people signing up to get daily, weekly or monthly notifications of all the new online content shot up 25% since the book came out. And though everything is free (and always will be!), many subscribers became monthly supporters to express their gratitude and help keep us chugging away.

This tremendous new outpouring of support marks a turning point for NutritionFacts.org. For most of these last five years, our goal was just to keep our heads above water, keeping the server bills paid and maintaining the site’s research integrity. But now we can go beyond the bare minimum. With just a skeleton crew, we’ve already been able to build up an amazing mass of volunteers, followers, and supporters. Imagine how many people we could help if we expanded our capacity. For example, did you know NutritionFacts.org currently has 152 active volunteers? And the only reason we can’t take on more is because we simply don’t have the capability. That’s why I’m so excited to announce Volunteer Director as the first of three new full-time, remote (work from home) positions:

Position #1: Volunteer Director
The Volunteer Director would be in charge of managing remote volunteer projects, and creating a sustainable, friendly volunteer community by recruiting and retaining the best volunteers around the world. They will define new volunteer projects and use creative ways to source and recruit outstanding and committed individuals. The ideal candidate is passionate about evidence-based nutrition, and thrives in a goal-driven environment. She or he should have experience with volunteer management, feel confident working in remote teams, and be very organized and self-motivated. For more on requirements and responsibilities (and to apply!) click here.

Position #2: Development Director
The Development Director would help maintain NutritionFacts.org user and supporter engagement, manage donations, and renew our annual state-by-state non-profit registration status. I’m embarrassed to say our average turnaround time getting back to folks that contact us through the website has slipped to 90 hours, but hopefully that will soon change! The ideal candidate is passionate about NutritionFacts.org’s mission, is detail-oriented, self-motivated, and has great interpersonal skills. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in working on a remote team to have real impact and help manage a high-growth and well-respected non-profit organization. Click here for the application and more details.

Position #3: Social Media Director
Did you know NutritionFacts.org has more than a million Facebook and Google+ followers? We try to keep everyone informed, but how about a strategy to harness that energy to educate others? What we need is a Social Media Director. This professional would ideally be self-motivated, organized, insightful, creative, and experienced in publishing content and growing audiences across key social platforms. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to work on exciting nutrition and health-related topics while helping the digital presence of an online nonprofit. Go to NutritionFacts.org/employment for more details.


Nutritionfacts.org strives to offer competitive nonprofit salaries and health benefits (beyond just the kale health plan :). Unfortunately, NutritionFacts.org is not able to sponsor work visa applications, so applicants have to be U.S. citizens or otherwise legally authorized to work in the United States. NutritionFacts.org is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to a policy of nondiscrimination on any basis including race, color, age, sex, religion, national origin, the presence of mental, physical, or sensory disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Speaking of staffing changes, I’m excited to announce that Katie Schloer, our fearless Program Director, will be promoted to Executive Director to help coordinate all the new staff. And our Director of Operations Tommasina Miller became so excited working at NutritionFacts.org about the potential for online outreach to save lives, that she is leaving us to go to coding school to learn how to create websites herself. Congrats to them both!

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

PS: NutritionFacts received an amazing response from the developer community with the open sourcing of our free Daily Dozen Android and iPhone app.  Thanks to our wonderful contributors, and lead Maintainer, John Slavick, our Android App will be receiving its first major upgrade since release on the Play store very soon.  

We want to keep both apps in sync as we continue moving forward.  Currently, we are currently looking for a dedicated repository maintainer to head up the Daily Dozen iOS version.  The maintainer would be responsible for collaborating with our current Android maintainer and NF project lead, Christi Richards on the future direction of the app, code promotion strategy, and general repository maintenance.  If you’re a developer and think this might be a great fit, please contact Christi for more details on how to get started.

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Can Turmeric Help with Alzheimer’s? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/14/can-turmeric-help-with-alzheimers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-turmeric-help-with-alzheimers http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/14/can-turmeric-help-with-alzheimers/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:00:40 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29764 The spice turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (See Preventing Alzheimer’s with Turmeric), but what about treating Alzheimer’s disease with turmeric? An exciting case series was published in 2012 (highlighted in my video, Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric): three Alzheimer’s patients were treated with turmeric, and their symptoms improved. In case number one, an 83-year-old woman […]]]>

The spice turmeric may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (See Preventing Alzheimer’s with Turmeric), but what about treating Alzheimer’s disease with turmeric? An exciting case series was published in 2012 (highlighted in my video, Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric): three Alzheimer’s patients were treated with turmeric, and their symptoms improved.

In case number one, an 83-year-old woman started losing her memory and feeling disoriented. She started having problems taking care of herself, wandering aimlessly and became incontinent. After taking a teaspoon of turmeric per day however, her agitation, apathy, anxiety and irritability were relieved and she had less accidents. Furthermore, she began to laugh again, sing again, and knit again. After taking turmeric for more than a year, she came to recognize her family and now lives a peaceful life without a significant behavioral or psychological symptom of dementia.

Case number two was similar, but with the additional symptoms of hallucinations, delusions and depression, which were relieved by turmeric. She began to recognize her family again and now lives in a peacefully serene manner. And the third case, similar as well, included an improvement in cognition.

Researchers concluded that this was the first demonstration of turmeric as an effective and safe “drug” for the treatment of the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. They call it a drug, but it’s just a spice you can walk into any grocery store and buy for a few bucks. They were giving people like a teaspoon a day, which comes out to be about 15 cents.

Two trials using curcumin supplements rather than turmeric, however, failed to show a benefit. Curcumin is just one of hundreds of phytochemicals found in turmeric. Concentrated into pill form at up to 40 times the dose, no evidence of efficacy was found. Why didn’t they get the same dramatic results we saw in the three case reports? Well, those three cases may have been total flukes, but on the other hand, turmeric, the whole food, may be greater than the sum of its parts.

There is a long list of compounds that have been isolated from turmeric, and it’s possible that each component plays a distinct role in making it useful against Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, researchers suggested that a mixture of compounds might better represent turmeric in its medicinal value better than curcumin alone. But why concoct some artificial mixture when Mother Nature already did it for us with turmeric? Because you can’t patent the spice. And if you can’t patent it, how are you going to charge more than 15 cents?

I’ve previously addressed the thorny issue of patenting natural plant remedies in my video: Plants as Intellectual Property – Patently Wrong?

The whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts theme is one that comes up over and over:

What else might the cheap, easily available spice turmeric do? It may help fight arthritis (Turmeric Curcumin and Rheumatoid Arthritis and Turmeric Curcumin and Osteoarthritis) and cancer:

But it’s not for everyone: Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric?

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Steven Jackson / Flickr

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Might Turmeric Help Prevent Alzheimer’s? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/12/might-turmeric-help-prevent-alzheimers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=might-turmeric-help-prevent-alzheimers http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/12/might-turmeric-help-prevent-alzheimers/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 12:00:58 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29761 There are plenty of anti-inflammatory drugs out there that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but stomach, liver, and kidney toxicity precludes their widespread use. So, maybe using an anti-inflammatory food like the spice, turmeric, found in curry powder, could offer the benefits without the risks? Before even considering putting it to the test, […]]]>

There are plenty of anti-inflammatory drugs out there that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but stomach, liver, and kidney toxicity precludes their widespread use. So, maybe using an anti-inflammatory food like the spice, turmeric, found in curry powder, could offer the benefits without the risks? Before even considering putting it to the test, though, one might ask, “Well, do populations that eat a lot of turmeric have a lower prevalence of dementia?” And indeed, those living in rural India who do just that may actually have the lowest reported prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In rural Pennsylvania, the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease among seniors is 19/1000. Nineteen people in a thousand over age 65 develop Alzheimer’s every year in rural Pennsylvania. In rural India, using the same diagnostic criteria, that same rate is three, confirming they have among the lowest reported Alzheimer’s rates in the world.

Although the lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s in India is generally attributed to the turmeric consumption as a part of curry, and it is assumed that people who use turmeric regularly have a lower incidence of the disease, let’s not just assume. As highlighted in my video, Preventing Alzheimer’s with Turmeric, a thousand people were tested, and those who consumed curry at least occasionally did better on simple cognitive tests than those who didn’t. Those that ate curry often also had only about half the odds of showing cognitive impairment, after adjusting for a wide variety of potential confounding factors. This suggests that curry consumption may indeed be associated with better cognitive performance.

Of course, it probably matters what’s being curried—are we talking chicken masala, or chana masala, with chickpeas instead of chicks? It may be no coincidence that the country with among the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s also has among the lowest rates of meat consumption, with a significant percentage of Indians eating meat-free and egg-free diets.

Studies have suggested for nearly 20 years now that those who eat meat—red meat or white meat—appear between two to three times more likely to become demented compared to vegetarians. And the longer one eats meat-free, the lower the associated risk of dementia, whether or not you like curry.

There’s another spice that may be useful for brain health. See my video Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s. What about coconut oil? See Does Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer’s? In terms of preventing cognitive decline in the first place, check out my video How to Slow Brain Aging By Two Years.

I’ve raised the issue of plant-based diets and dementia in Alzheimer’s Disease: Grain Brain or Meathead?

For more on spices and inflammation, see Which Spices Fight Inflammation? and the follow-up, Spicing Up DNA Protection.

What about treating Alzheimer’s disease with the spice turmeric?  That’s the topic of my video, Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric.

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Marcel Oosterwijk / Flickr

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Eating Garlic and Raisins May Help Prevent Preterm Birth http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/07/eating-garlic-raisins-may-help-prevent-preterm-birth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eating-garlic-raisins-may-help-prevent-preterm-birth http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/07/eating-garlic-raisins-may-help-prevent-preterm-birth/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 12:00:41 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29758 The United States has one of the worst premature birth rates in the world, now ranking 131st worldwide. Even worse, over the last few decades, the rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has been going up. We’ve known that preterm delivery is associated with significant problems during infancy, and almost three quarters of all […]]]>

The United States has one of the worst premature birth rates in the world, now ranking 131st worldwide. Even worse, over the last few decades, the rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has been going up.

We’ve known that preterm delivery is associated with significant problems during infancy, and almost three quarters of all infant deaths. Unfortunately, even preemies who survive past infancy may carry a legacy of health issues, such as behavioral problems, moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disabilities, and psychiatric disorders in half of those born extremely preterm by the time they reach school-age. There’s even evidence now that adults born very prematurely are at increased risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. And babies don’t even have to be born that premature to suffer long-term effects. Even so-called near-term births at 36 or 37 weeks are now thought to be related to subtle developmental problems. So, what can pregnant women do to decrease this risk?

66,000 pregnant women were studied to examine whether an association exists between maternal dietary patterns and risk of preterm delivery. Researchers compared a so-called “prudent” diet (vegetables, fruits, oils, water as beverage, whole grain cereals, fiber rich bread), which was more plant-based versus a “Western” or traditional Scandinavian diet (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, processed meat products), and found that the “prudent” pattern was associated with significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery.

Inflammation is thought to play a role in triggering delivery; so, a diet characterized by high intakes of vegetables, fruit, and berries can reduce both systemic and local inflammation, and the lower saturated fat levels would also be associated with reduced inflammation. Any foods in particular?

A significant percentage of preterm deliveries are thought to be related to infections and inflammatory conditions in the genital tract. Garlic is well-known for its antimicrobial properties, and also has probiotic dietary fibers that feed our good bacteria. Dried fruit is also packed with fiber and has antimicrobial activities against some of the bacteria suspected to play a role in preterm delivery.

Researchers (highlighted in my video, Garlic and Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth) studied the garlic, onion, and dried fruit intake of nearly 19,000 pregnant women, and indeed, they observed a reduced risk of spontaneous preterm delivery related to groups of garlic and onion family vegetables and dried fruits. In particular, garlic stood out for the vegetables and raisins stood out for the dried fruit. Both were associated with a reduced risk of both preterm delivery and preterm pre-labor rupture of membranes, which means your water breaking prematurely (before 37 weeks). And it didn’t seem to take much. The so-called “high” garlic intake associated with the lowest risk was just about one clove a week or more, and “high” raisin intake was defined as just one of those mini snack boxes of raisins a month.

Here’s the video on aspartame (NutraSweet) and diet soda during pregnancy: Diet Soda and Preterm Birth.

Some other popular pregnancy videos include:

More on garlic in #1 Anti-Cancer Vegetable and Cancer, Interrupted: Garlic and Flavenoids.

Videos on dried fruit include:

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Isabel Eyre / Flickr

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Dioxins in U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/05/dioxins-in-us-farm-raised-catfish/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dioxins-in-us-farm-raised-catfish http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/05/dioxins-in-us-farm-raised-catfish/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:00:57 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29753 Dioxins are highly toxic pollutants that accumulate in tissue fat. Almost all dioxins found in people who don’t work in toxic waste dumps or something similarly hazardous are believed to come from food, especially meat, milk, and fish, which account for about 95% of human exposure. We tend to only hear about it in the […]]]>

Dioxins are highly toxic pollutants that accumulate in tissue fat. Almost all dioxins found in people who don’t work in toxic waste dumps or something similarly hazardous are believed to come from food, especially meat, milk, and fish, which account for about 95% of human exposure. We tend to only hear about it in the news, though, when there’s some mass poisoning.

In 1957, for example, millions of chickens began dying, blamed on toxic components in certain feed fats. Factory farming was taking off, and the industry needed cheap feed to fatten up the birds. They ended up using a toxic fleshing grease from hide stripping operations in the leather industry that were using dioxin-containing preservatives. A subsequent outbreak in 1969 resulted from a pipe mix-up at a refinery that was producing both pesticides and animal feed.

In the 1990’s, a supermarket survey found the highest concentrations of dioxins in farm-raised catfish. The source of dioxins was determined to be the feed, but that’s surprising, since catfish aren’t fed a lot of animal fat. Turns out it was dioxin-contaminated clay added to the feed as an anti-caking agent, which may have originally come from sewage sludge. The same contaminated feed was fed to chickens; so, what may have started out in sewage sludge ended up on the plates of consumers in the form of farm-raised catfish and chicken.

How widespread of a problem did it become? This affected five percent of U.S. poultry production; that’s people eating hundreds of millions of contaminated chickens. And if it’s in the chickens, it’s in the eggs. Elevated dioxin levels were found in chicken eggs too. When the source of the feed contamination was identified, the USDA estimated that less than 1% of animal feed was contaminated, but 1% of egg production means over a million eggs a day. But the catfish were the worst. More than a third of all U.S. farm-raised catfish were found contaminated with dioxins thanks to that ball clay. So, the FDA requested that ball clay not be used in animal feeds. They even asked nicely, writing, “Dear producer or user of clay products in animal feeds, continued exposure to elevated dioxin levels in animal feed increases the risk of adverse health effects in those consuming animal-derived food products… we are recommending that the use of ball clay in animal feeds be discontinued…We look forward to the industry’s cooperation.” (You can see the original letter in my video, Dioxins in U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish).

So, how cooperative did the industry end up being? Half a billion pounds of catfish continued to be churned out of U.S. fish farms every year, but only recently did the government go back and check. Published in 2013, samples of catfish were collected from all over the country. Dioxins were found in 96% of samples tested. Yeah, but just because catfish are bought in the U.S. doesn’t mean they came from the U.S. And indeed, some of the catfish were imported from China or Taiwan, but they were found to be ten times less contaminated. And indeed, when they checked the feed fed to U.S. catfish, more than half were contaminated, and so, it seems likely that mined clay products are still being used in U.S. catfish feeds. Even “just small amounts of mineral clays added to fish feeds, together with the fact that catfish can be bottom-feeders may lead to higher than acceptable dioxin residues in the final catfish products.”

The Institute of Medicine suggests strategies to reduce dioxin intake exposure, such as trimming the fat from meat, poultry, and fish, and avoiding the recycling of animal fat into gravy, but if almost all dioxin intake comes from animal fat, then eating a more plant-based diet could wipe out about 98% of exposure. Thus, “a vegetarian diet or even just eating more plants might have previously unsuspected health advantages along with the more commonly recognized cardiovascular benefits and decreased cancer risk.”

This is a good illustration of how we can’t necessarily rely on regulators to protect our families’ health. More on dietary dioxins and what we can do about them in Dioxins in the Food Supply and Counteracting the Effects of Dioxins Through Diet.

Even wild fish are exposed to industrial pollutants spewed into our waterways. See, for example:

Farmed fish is the worst, though: Farmed Fish vs. Wild-Caught.

Other pollutants in our food supply and how to avoid them:

Though the best way to detox is not to tox in the first place, our bodies can eventually get rid of much of the toxin load:

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Brent Moore / Flickr

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Dr. Greger’s new Google Talk http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/03/31/dr-gregers-new-google-talk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-gregers-new-google-talk http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/03/31/dr-gregers-new-google-talk/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 12:00:59 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29862 I was recently honored to be invited to Google to present on How Not to Die, and they made it into an official Talk@Google! View the presentation I’ve been giving around the country on my book tour for free at bit.ly/googlegreger. It’s basically a 2016 updated version of my Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death […]]]>

I was recently honored to be invited to Google to present on How Not to Die, and they made it into an official Talk@Google! View the presentation I’ve been giving around the country on my book tour for free at bit.ly/googlegreger. It’s basically a 2016 updated version of my Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death talk.

It’s been such a pleasure and privilege to meet so many people whose lives my work has touched over the last few months touring around the country. With my speaking tour winding down (only about 50 cities left—phew!), I’m eager to catch up on all the research I’ve missed. I just completed the next nine weeks of NutritionFacts.org videos, available now in sneak preview form as part of my new DVD, in which I do a deep dive into the subject of vinegar.

Vinegar has been used as a weight-loss aid and folk remedy for diabetes for centuries, but does it actually work? Find out in my new 5-video series:

  • Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Weight Loss?
  • Vinegar and Artery Function
  • Can Vinegar Help with Blood Sugar Control?  
  • Optimal Vinegar Dose
  • Vinegar Mechanisms and Side Effects

*Spoiler alert*: Let’s just say I now try to sneak vinegar into all my family’s meals.

I also have new videos queued up over the next few months on wheatgrass juice, Paleo diet bone broth, and protein combining. If you don’t want to wait, all of these videos are available now as a digital download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 30 (all proceeds go to charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD.

The current batch of videos from volume 29 are about to run out on NutritionFacts.org. So, starting next month and running until June, I’ll roll out the videos from this new DVD, volume 30. 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—50+ hours of video—you can get the complete DVD collection.

Here’s the list of chapters from the new volume 30 DVD—a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

  1. Specific Receptors for Specific Fruits and Vegetables
  2. Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA?
  3. Should Vegan Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy?
  4. Is Something in Tobacco Protective Against Parkinson’s Disease?
  5. Peppers and Parkinson’s: The Benefits of Smoking Without the Risks?  
  6. Lead Contamination in Bone Broth
  7. Avoiding Adult Exposure to Phthalates
  8. Brown, Black, Purple and Red Unlike White on Rice  
  9. The Protein Combining Myth
  10. Shaking the Salt Habit
  11. Curing Painful Diabetic Neuropathy  
  12. Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Weight Loss?
  13. Vinegar and Artery Function
  14. Can Vinegar Help with Blood Sugar Control?  
  15. Optimal Vinegar Dose
  16. Vinegar Mechanisms and Side Effects
  17. Meat Industry Reaction to New Cancer Guidelines
  18. Which Fruits and Vegetables Boost DNA Repair?
  19. Citrus Peels and Cancer: Zest for Life?
  20. Slowing Our Metabolism with Nitrate-Rich Vegetables
  21. Finger on the Pulse of Longevity
  22. Slow Your Beating Heart: Beans vs. Exercise
  23. How to Prevent Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  24. Striking with the Root: Turmeric Curcumin and Ulcerative Colitis
  25. Wheatgrass Juice for Ulcerative Colitis
  26. Lose Two Pounds in One Sitting: Taking the Mioscenic Route

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 vinegar expert by now, having already received the new DVD. I come out with new DVDs 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 30 yet, please email DVDhelp@NutritionFacts.org and we’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 helping to educate millions about healthy eating, you can make a tax-deductible donation to my 501c3 nonprofit organization NutritionFacts.org using a credit card, Bitcoin, a direct PayPal link, or by sending a check to “NutritionFacts.org” PO Box 11400, Takoma Park, MD 20913.

New Volunteer Positions

After spending much of the last few months on the road since the publication of How Not to Die (already in it’s 8th printing!), I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. More than 12,000 articles have been published in the scientific literature on nutrition in the last four months.

If you are a university student or faculty member or work at a hospital that grants online access to academic journals, please consider joining our Article Retrieval Team (see details and application). I would send you a list of articles I need, and you would try to locate, download, and file them for me (as part of Fair Use nonprofit research, not public distribution). If that sounds like something you could help with, please apply today!

Calling All Open Sourcerers

githubIf you are an app developer or designer, you can contribute to NutritionFacts.org’s free Daily Dozen app for Android and iPhone, now an open-source project on Github — meaning anyone, including you, can play a part in its future development.  Check out the latest details here on how to get started, links to our Github repositories, Contribution Guidelines, and more!

If none of that last paragraph made any sense to you, don’t worry—there are still ways you can help! Keep an eye on our ever-changing volunteer, internship, and employment pages.

In health,
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, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

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When Charities Collaborate With the Food Industry http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/03/29/collaboration-new-vectors-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collaboration-new-vectors-disease http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/03/29/collaboration-new-vectors-disease/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 12:00:32 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29750 When the history of the world’s attempts to address obesity is written, one researcher writes, “the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry.” For instance, Yum! Brands, who owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, linked up with a leading U.S. breast cancer charity, to sell pink buckets of fried chicken. Save the […]]]>

When the history of the world’s attempts to address obesity is written, one researcher writes, “the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry.” For instance, Yum! Brands, who owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, linked up with a leading U.S. breast cancer charity, to sell pink buckets of fried chicken.

Save the Children, an organization aiming to positively change the lives of children, was initially a staunch supporter of soda taxes. Recently, however, the organization withdrew its support, saying that support of the soda taxes did not fit the way Save the Children works. Perhaps, it is only a coincidence that it was seeking a grant from Coca-Cola and had accepted a $5 million grant from Pepsi.

Through these partnerships, the food industry seeks to emphasize that inactivity — not the promotion and consumption of its calorie-rich products — is the prime cause of obesity. But studies showing that obesity is rising even in areas where people are exercising more are most likely explained by the fact that increases in physical activity levels are being outstripped by our eating activity levels. We can’t outrun our mouths.

As stated by researcher, Bruce Neal, from the University of Sydney (highlighted in my video, Collaboration with the New Vectors of Disease), “The message is plain – the primary driver of the obesity epidemic in the United States is now the food supply, and interventions targeting physical activity are not going to resolve it. So, while physical activity is good regardless, it will not address most of the burden of ill health caused by obesity. That is going to require a new focus on the root cause of the problem—the American diet.”

This researcher adds, “At the heart of the ‘energy in’ side of the obesity problem is the food and beverage industry. Put simply, the enormous commercial success enjoyed by the food industry is now causing what promises to be one of the greatest public health disasters of our time. As fast as we rid the world of the microbial causes of pestilence and famine, they are replaced by new vectors of disease in the form of trans-national food corporations that market salt, fat, sugar, and calories in unprecedented quantities. So, policy makers should work on pricing strategies that subsidize the cost of healthier foods.”

First, we need to shift relative prices to make it more expensive to consume animal products compared to fruit, vegetables and beans. Second, we need to increase demand for plant foods, which is not as easy given the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies – our tax payer dollars going to make animal products artificially cheap.

Dr. Bruce Neal then concludes, “The food industry will rail against the ‘nanny state’ and fight tooth and nail for its right to market a range of options to responsible individuals able to make choices for themselves–it’s the American way. For context though, these arguments are no different to those used by the tobacco industry, which also markets habituating unhealthy products in pursuit of profit. In the case of tobacco, the American people have agreed that controls must be applied to limit the harms caused. Poor diet is now responsible for an even greater burden of disease than tobacco, and food companies must be controlled in the same way if the harms are to be reduced. As unpalatable as this may be, the food industry would do well to strengthen their public health conscience, given that consumers are always going to need their goods, something that cannot be said for the tobacco industry.” You hear that a lot in public health circles, how we have to work with the companies, because unlike tobacco, we have to eat. But just like yes, we need to breath, but we don’t need to breathe smoke; yes, we need to eat, but we don’t need to eat junk.

Is it our physical activity or eating activity? See Diet vs. Exercise for Weight Loss and How Much Exercise to Sustain Weight Loss?

I touched on the pink buckets of KFC in my video Breast Cancer Survival, Butterfat, and Chicken.

For more on the idea of subsidizing healthy foods or at least stopping tax money to supporting junk, check out my video Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods.

It’s sad when non-profits collaborate with companies that contribute to suffering, but seems particularly egregious when the Registered Dietitian group does it. See Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conflicts of Interest.

In health,
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 DeathMore Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Rafael Edwards / Flickr

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