NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Mon, 04 May 2015 16:15:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Red Dye No. 3 and Thyroid Cancerhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/30/coloring-to-dye-for-dangers-of-red-no-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coloring-to-dye-for-dangers-of-red-no-3 http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/30/coloring-to-dye-for-dangers-of-red-no-3/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:00:30 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25879 Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? Foods “are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” Food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients and to make the food […]]]>

Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? Foods “are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” Food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients and to make the food appear better or of greater value than it is.” Otherwise cherry popsicles might actually look as if they had no cherries in them!

I’ve talked about the role of food dyes in causing ADHD symptoms in kids (See Food Dyes and ADHD), but what about their role in cancer?

Due to cancer concerns, Red dye #1 was banned in 1961. Red #2 was banned in 1976, and Red #4 was banned soon after. But what about Red No. 3, used today in everything from sausage to maraschino cherries? It was found to cause DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, comparable to the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA, but Red No. 3 was also found to influence children’s behavior over 30 years ago and to interfere with thyroid function over 40 years ago. Why is it still legal?

By 1985, the FDA had already postponed action on banning the Red No. 3 twenty-six times, even though the Acting Commissioner of the FDA said Red No. 3 was “of greatest public health concern,” imploring his agency to not knowingly allow continued exposure (at high levels in the case of Red No. 3) of the public to “a provisionally listed color additive that has clearly been shown to induce cancer while questions of mechanism are explored. The credibility of the Department of Health and Human Services would suffer if decisions are not made soon on each of these color additives.” That was over 30 years ago. (To see the 1985 article published in the New York Times, check out my video, Red no. 3, Coloring to Dye for).

At the end of the day, industry pressure won out. While FDA scientists and FDA commissioners have recommended that the additive be banned, there has been tremendous pressure to delay the recommendations from being implemented.

In 1990, concerned about cancer risk, the FDA banned the use of Red No. 3 in anything going on our skin, but it remained legal to continue to put it in anything going in our mouths. The FDA also said they planned to end all other remaining uses of Red No. 3, lamenting that the cherries in 21st century fruit cocktail “could well be light brown.”

But over 20 years later it’s still in our food supply. After all, the agency estimated that the lifetime risk of thyroid tumors in humans from Red No. 3 in food was at most one in a hundred thousand. Based on the current U.S. population that’s 3,000.

This whole fiasco might become clearer once you watch my video Who Determines if Food Additives Are Safe?

I’ve touched on food coloring additives before:

Some other videos on popular food additives include:

-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.

Image Credit: Kathleen Franklin / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/30/coloring-to-dye-for-dangers-of-red-no-3/feed/ 9
How to Reduce Exposure to Alkylphenols Through Your Diethttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/28/how-to-reduce-exposure-to-alkylphenols-through-your-diet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-reduce-exposure-to-alkylphenols-through-your-diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/28/how-to-reduce-exposure-to-alkylphenols-through-your-diet/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25870 Alkylphenols are industrial chemicals that are found in hair products, spermicides, cleaning products and detergents. They are considered endocrine disruptors. For more information on alkylphenols, check out my video Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies. Concern about alkylphenols first surfaced decades ago when a group at Tufts observed an excessive proliferation of human breast cancer cells in certain […]]]>

Alkylphenols are industrial chemicals that are found in hair products, spermicides, cleaning products and detergents. They are considered endocrine disruptors. For more information on alkylphenols, check out my video Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies.

Concern about alkylphenols first surfaced decades ago when a group at Tufts observed an excessive proliferation of human breast cancer cells in certain types of plastic containers, something that would normally only be seen if the cells were exposed to some type of estrogen. They identified an alkylphenol leaching from the plastic as the culprit, having “estrogen-like properties when tested in the human breast tumor cells.” Excessive proliferation of human breast cancer cells is never good, so countries in Europe started banning and restricting the use of these chemicals. However, the U.S. EPA has been slow to respond.

A half million tons of alkylphenols continue to spew out into the environment every year, so much so that now that they come down in the rain and then accumulate up the food chain.

One study, highlighted in my video, Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors, examined the Japanese food supply to find out which foods had these potentially allergy-exacerbating endocrine disruptors. The researchers found that chicken and fish had the highest levels. Water animals and birds concentrate these compounds to levels several thousands of times greater than those in the environment because these are fat-soluble chemicals. “Therefore, they can easily contaminate foods of animal origin, which are thought to represent the most important source of human exposure to many organic pollutants,” not just the alkylphenols. Another research group also found that fish was the worst.

Which kind of fish? Anchovies, mackerel, salmon and cod seem to have the highest levels. In fact, salmon was the only food found contaminated with nonylphenol diethoxylate, which is even more potent than regular nonylphenol. The levels of contamination in fish were at the concentrations that start to make breast cancer cells go crazy in vitro.

These findings are consistent with the fact that seafood consumption has been associated with severe asthma, current and severe rhinoconjunctivitis, (seasonal pollen allergies), and current and severe eczema (an allergic-type disease of the skin) in adolescent populations around the globe.

If these synthetic xenoestrogens are playing a role, what about natural phytoestrogens, such as those found in soy foods? It turns out that in patients with asthma, consumption of a diet with moderate to high amounts of soy phytoestrogens is associated with better lung function and better asthma control. If anything then, it’s these chemical pollutants, which come down in the rain, contaminate the soil, the plants, and then concentrate up the food chain in the fat of animals. We’re now the animals at the top of the food chain, like the polar bear or bald eagle, building up higher levels of these synthetic xenoestrogens.

Thankfully, there aren’t many cannibals around anymore. However, there is one group that continues to feed off human tissues—babies (See The Wrong Way to Detox). Alkylphenols have been found to concentrate in human breast milk, particularly in women who eat fish. The highest levels of these endocrine-disrupting pollutants were recorded in milk samples from mothers who said they ate fish at least twice a week, consistent with the fact that seafood consumption represents an important source of alkylphenol intake. Even these “slightly elevated levels of endocrine disruptors in the milk of mothers with a seafood-rich diet may be associated with adverse effects on neurological development, fetal and postnatal growth, and memory functions on breastfed infants, because these contaminants may interfere with the endocrine [hormonal] system.”

Since these toxins concentrate in fat, the highest concentrations may be found in straight animal fat, such as chicken fat, lard, tallow, or fish oil. Consumption of fish oil capsules and processed fish products has been associated with alkylphenol concentration in mothers’ milk, again due to bioaccumulation up the food chain. And then we recycle the leftover remains of farm animals into farm animal feed, so the levels can get higher and higher in animal products.

As one commentator noted, while these pollutants do contaminate human milk, they also contaminate cow’s milk—humans and cows live in the same polluted world. In fact, infant formula was found to be over five times more contaminated, so breast is still best, absolutely. But these kinds of studies are important in order to provide good suggestions for food choices to nursing mothers to prevent excess exposure to these pollutants in their infants.

We can kind of cut out the middlefish and move lower down the food chain in hopes of decreasing our exposure to industrial toxins.

Endocrine disruptors have also been linked to conditions such as male infertility (Male Fertility and Diet and Xenoestrogens and Sperm Counts) and early onset of puberty (Protein, Puberty, and Pollutants and Xenoestrogens and Early Puberty).

What other industrial pollutants build up in the aquatic fish chain? See, for example:

Farmed Fish vs. Wild Caught. Which is worse?

How Long to Detox from Fish Before Pregnancy? If it’s too late, How Fast Can Children Detoxify from PCBs?

-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.

Image Credit: Andrea Pokrzywinski / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/28/how-to-reduce-exposure-to-alkylphenols-through-your-diet/feed/ 4
Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergieshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/23/alkylphenol-endocrine-disruptors-and-allergies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alkylphenol-endocrine-disruptors-and-allergies http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/23/alkylphenol-endocrine-disruptors-and-allergies/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25866 In my video Preventing Childhood Allergies, I noted a study in Japan that found higher maternal intake of meat during pregnancy was significantly associated with about three times the odds of both suspected and physician-diagnosed eczema. The researchers suggest that certain components of meat may affect the fetal immune system. But what about the moms, […]]]>

In my video Preventing Childhood Allergies, I noted a study in Japan that found higher maternal intake of meat during pregnancy was significantly associated with about three times the odds of both suspected and physician-diagnosed eczema. The researchers suggest that certain components of meat may affect the fetal immune system. But what about the moms, themselves? A plant-based diet may also help alleviate allergies in adults. See Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants and Preventing Allergies in Adulthood.

Seasonal allergies have exploded in Japan in the past few decades, starting with the first reported case in 1964 and now affecting millions every year. We’ve seen a rising prevalence of allergic diseases around the industrialized world in past decades, but perhaps nothing quite this dramatic.

Some have suggested that profound changes in the Japanese diet may have played a role. Over the latter half of the century total meat, fish, and milk intake rose hundreds of percent in Japan, so researchers decided to look into dietary meat and fat intake and the prevalence of these seasonal pollen allergies. No association with overall fat, but “higher meat intake was significantly associated with an increased prevalence.”

Saturated fat wasn’t associated with increased prevalence either, so what other constituents in meat may be to blame? The researchers considered the cooked meat carcinogens, the heterocyclic amines, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the nitrosamines.

A new review, highlighted in my video, Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies, however, raised an intriguing possibility. There’s a class of industrial pollutants called alkylphenols, recognized as common toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals that tend to accumulate in the human body and may be associated with allergic diseases. A variety of studies have shown how they may exacerbate allergen-induced inflammation, “suggesting that alkylphenol exposure may influence the onset, progression, and severity of allergic diseases.” These toxic xenoestrogens can be found in human breast milk, in our body fat, in our urine, in our bloodstream, and even in the umbilical cord blood going to our babies. How did it get there? Through contaminated food.

It all goes back to a famous study about the reduction of penis size and testosterone levels in alligators living in a contaminated environment. I don’t know what you do for a day job, but these researchers observed that a population of juvenile alligators living on one lake in Florida exhibited a “significantly smaller penis size” and lower blood concentrations of testosterone compared to animals on some different lake. The most important difference between the two lakes was that Lake Stubby was fed by relatively polluted waters. They attributed the “short penis phenomenon” to estrogen-mimicking (xenoestrogenic) environmental metabolites of DDT that still pollute our Earth. This seminal work introduced the concept of endocrine disruptors. Environmental xenoestrogens might result in feminization of exposed male animals. And that’s just the shriveled tip of the iceberg.

Since then, endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been implicated in the dramatic rise over the last 50 years of diseases like breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, obesity, and fertility (such as dropping normal sperm counts), genital birth defects such as penile malformations, preterm birth, neurobehavioral disorders in children linked to thyroid disruption, and earlier breast development in young girls. Because genes do not change fast enough to explain these increases, environmental causes must be involved. Since our greatest exposure to the environment is through our gut, it’s no surprise that our greatest exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals is through diet.

To find out which foods may contain these alkylphenol endocrine disruptors, check out my video Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors.

More on endocrine disruptors in:

A different class of chemicals has been found to be associated with smaller penis size in humans. See Chicken Consumption and the Feminization of Male Genitalia.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videoshere 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.

Image Credit: Mark Freeth / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/23/alkylphenol-endocrine-disruptors-and-allergies/feed/ 10
Slowing Cognitive Decline with Berrieshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/21/how-to-slow-brain-aging-by-two-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-slow-brain-aging-by-two-years http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/21/how-to-slow-brain-aging-by-two-years/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:00:02 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25863 A plant-based diet is thought to have played a significant role in human evolution and the consumption of whole plant foods and even just extracts have repeatedly been associated with a decreased risk of aging related diseases. And by healthy aging I’m not talking preventing wrinkles, what about protecting our brain? “Two of the most […]]]>

A plant-based diet is thought to have played a significant role in human evolution and the consumption of whole plant foods and even just extracts have repeatedly been associated with a decreased risk of aging related diseases. And by healthy aging I’m not talking preventing wrinkles, what about protecting our brain? “Two of the most dreaded consequences of dementia with aging are problems moving around and difficulty remembering things. Dementia robs older adults of their independence, control, and identity.”

Fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, so might they work for brain diseases as well?

There has been a proliferation of recent interest in plant polyphenols as agents in the treatment of dementia. There are 4,000 different kinds of polyphenols found ubiquitously in foods of plant origin, but berries are packed with them, possessing powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There’s a subset of polyphenols called anthocyanidins, which are found in blue and purple pigmented fruits and berries. These polyphenols are uniquely and specifically capable of “both crossing the blood–brain barrier and localizing in brain regions involved in learning and memory.” And that’s precisely where we need them.

The brain takes up less than 2% of body weight but may burn up to 50% of the body’s fuel, creating a potential firestorm of free radicals. Maybe these brain-seeking phytonutrients in berries could fight oxidation and inflammation, and even increase blood flow? This raised a thought-provoking idea. Maybe a “nutritional intervention with blueberries may be effective in forestalling or even reversing the neurological changes associated with aging?” It would be a decade before the first human trial was conducted, but it worked! “Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults,” suggesting that “consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate brain degeneration with age.”

What other blue or purple foods can we try? Concord grape juice was also tested and had a similar benefit, suggesting that supplementation with purple grape juice may enhance cognitive function for older adults with early memory decline. Why use juice and not whole concord grapes? Because then you couldn’t design a placebo that looked and tasted exactly the same to rule out the very real and powerful placebo effect. And also because the study was funded by the Welch’s grape juice company.

This effect was confirmed in a follow-up study, showing for the first time an increase in neural activation in parts of the brain associated with memory using functional MRI scans. But this brain scan study was tiny: just four people in each group. And same problem in the blueberry study: it had only nine people in it.

Why haven’t large population-based studies been done? Because we haven’t had good databases on where these phytonutrients are found. We know how much vitamin C is in a blueberry, but not how much anthocyanidin—until now. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, highlighted in my video, How to Slow Brain Aging by Two Years, followed the cognitive function of more than 16,000 women for years, and found that “long-term consumption of berries was related to significantly slower rates of cognitive decline, even after careful consideration of confounding socioeconomic status” (that is, even after taking into account the fact that rich people eat more berries). The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study was the first population-based evidence that greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were highly associated with slower rates of cognitive decline, and not just by a little bit. “The magnitude of associations were equivalent to the cognitive differences that one might observe in women up to two and a half years apart in age.” In other words, women with higher intake of berries appeared to have delayed cognitive aging by as much as two and a half years.

Why shouldn’t we just take some anthocyanidin supplement? Because there hasn’t been a single study that found any kind of cognitive benefit by just giving single phytonutrients. In fact, the opposite is true. “Whole blueberries appear to be more effective than individual components, showing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” These findings have potentially substantial public health implications, as increasing berry intake represents a fairly simple dietary modification to test in older adults for maintaining our brain function.

What other ways could we improve our memory and cognitive function?

 What other near-miraculous properties of berries are there?

I add them to my morning smoothie: A Better Breakfast.

-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.

Image Credit: Angelo Desantis / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/21/how-to-slow-brain-aging-by-two-years/feed/ 33
What is ‘Meat Glue’?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/16/what-is-meat-glue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-meat-glue http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/16/what-is-meat-glue/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:00:49 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25861 The so-called “meat glue enzyme” transglutaminase is used by the meat industry to add value to meat by gluing together smaller scraps into a larger chunk. And it’s not just used to make fake steak—the American Meat Institute estimates that it’s used in about “eight million pounds of meat every year in the United States.” […]]]>

The so-called “meat glue enzyme” transglutaminase is used by the meat industry to add value to meat by gluing together smaller scraps into a larger chunk. And it’s not just used to make fake steak—the American Meat Institute estimates that it’s used in about “eight million pounds of meat every year in the United States.” Transglutaminase can be used to cross-link pieces of any type of meat, fish, or meat product, and hence can be used to produce large chunks of virtually intact looking meat or fish out of small meat or fish cuttings. When researchers actually tested for transglutaminase in 20 samples of meat from the supermarket, they found meat glue in only two of the samples—in a sample of salmon and a sample of turkey (See Is Meat Glue Safe?)

Where does meat glue come from? For decades, the sole commercial source of transglutaminase was from the livers of guinea pigs. Now it can be sourced much cheaper. However, the future of meat glue remains uncertain because of “communication difficulties.”

One of the reasons the industry uses meat glue enzymes is because, “restructured meat can be made from underutilized portions of the carcasses.” For example, you can get away with adding up to 5% tendons to beef, and some people can’t tell the difference.

This has raised food safety concerns. There is a “risk that otherwise discarded leftovers of questionable microbial quality could find their way into the reconstituted meat.”

One can actually take a microscope and see introduced E. coli O157:H7 along the glue lines where meat pieces were enzymatically attached, which shows that the restructuring process can translocate fecal matter surface contamination into the interior of the meat.

Furthermore, people who have problems with gluten may develop problems when ingesting meat treated with the meat glue enzyme, since it functions as an auto-antigen capable of inducing an autoimmune reaction. (Many gluten reactions may not actually be to gluten, though. See my video Is Gluten Sensitivity Real? and most need not worry about gluten sensitivity. See my video Is Gluten Bad For You?).

Some meat additives, however, may actually improve food safety. See Meat Additives to Diminish Toxicity, Viral Meat Spray and Maggot Meat Spray.

More on E. coli O157:H7 in my video, Meat May Exceed Daily Allowance of Irony. For those interested in the politics of this “Jack-in-the-Box” strain, see my blogs E. coli O145 Ban Opposed by Meat Industry and Supreme Court case: meat industry sues to keep downed animals in food supply. From a population perspective, the E. coli in chicken is more of a concern. See my video Avoiding Chicken To Avoid Bladder Infections.

-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.

Image Credit: Wheeler Cowperthwaite / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/16/what-is-meat-glue/feed/ 16
Is Liquid Smoke Safe?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/14/does-liquid-smoke-cause-cancer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=does-liquid-smoke-cause-cancer http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/14/does-liquid-smoke-cause-cancer/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:00:44 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25849 We know smoke inhalation isn’t good for us, but what about smoke ingestion? Decades ago, smoke flavorings were tested to see if they caused DNA mutations in bacteria—the tests came up negative. Even as more and more smoke flavoring was added, the DNA mutation rate remained about the same. But the fact that something is […]]]>

We know smoke inhalation isn’t good for us, but what about smoke ingestion? Decades ago, smoke flavorings were tested to see if they caused DNA mutations in bacteria—the tests came up negative. Even as more and more smoke flavoring was added, the DNA mutation rate remained about the same.

But the fact that something is not mutagenic in bacteria may have little predictive value for its effect on human cells. A group at MIT tested a hickory smoke flavoring they bought at the store against two types of human white blood cells. Unlike the bacteria, the mutation rate shot up as more and more liquid smoke was added. But, “there is no evidence that mutagenic activity in a particular human cell line is more closely related to human health risk than is mutagenic activity in bacteria.” In other words: just because liquid smoke causes DNA mutations to human cells in a petri dish, doesn’t mean that it does the same thing within the human body.

A good approach may be to just analyze liquid smoke for known carcinogens, chemicals that we know cause cancer.

Damaging DNA is just one of many ways chemicals can be toxic to cells. A decade later researchers tested to see what effect liquid smoke had on overall cell viability. If you drip water on cells, nothing happens, they keep powering away at around 100% survival, but drip on more and more wood fire smoke, and you start killing some of the cells off. Cigarette smoke is more toxic, but three out of four of the brands of liquid smoke they bought at the supermarket killed off even more cells, leading them to conclude that the cytotoxic potential of some commercial smoke flavorings is greater than that of liquid cigarette smoke, a finding they no doubt celebrated given that the researchers were paid employees of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Unfortunately they didn’t name names of the offending brands. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited about a new study, where they tested—and named–15 different brands of liquid smoke. This maximum “response” they were measuring was p53 activation.

P53 is a protein we make that binds to our DNA, you can see this illustrated in my video, Is Liquid Smoke Flavoring Carcinogenic?. It activates our DNA repair enzymes. So a big p53 response may be indicative of a lot of DNA damage,and a few of the liquid smoke flavorings activated p53 almost as much as a chemotherapy drug like etoposide, whose whole purpose is to break DNA strands.

Other flavorings didn’t seem as bad, though there was a hickory smoke powder that ranked pretty high, as did the fish sauce, though smoked paprika didn’t register at all.

The p53-activating property in liquid smoke was eliminated by standard baking conditions (350°F for 1h), so if you’re baking something with liquid smoke for long enough, it should eliminate this effect, though just boiling—even for an hour, or slow cooking doesn’t appear to work.

They conclude “If the DNA-damaging activities of liquid smoke were thought to be deleterious, it might be possible to replace liquid smoke with other safer, smoky substances.” Why do they say if thought to be deleterious? That’s because they’re not really measuring DNA damage, they’re measuring p53 activation, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

P53 is considered “Guardian of our Genome,” guardian of our DNA. It’s considered a tumor suppressor gene, so if something boosts its activity is that good or bad? It’s like the broccoli story. Cruciferous vegetables dramatically boost our liver’s detoxifying enzymes. Is this because our body sees broccoli as toxic and is trying to get rid of it quicker? Either way, the end result is good, lower cancer risk.

It’s a biological phenomenon known as hormesis – that which doesn’t kill us may make us stronger. Like exercise is a stress on the body, but in the right amount can make us healthier in the long run. So, for example, teas and coffees caused p53 activation as well, but their consumption is associated with lower cancer risk. So it’s hard to know what to make of this p53 data. Due to the limitations of the available tests it’s hard to calculate the genotoxic potential of liquid smoke, or any other food for that matter. A better approach may be to just analyze liquid smoke for known carcinogens, chemicals that we know cause cancer.

This was first attempted back in 1971. One of the seven liquid smoke flavors researchers tested contained one polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon known to be cancer-causing, but there’s a bunch of similar carcinogens researchers didn’t test for. A later study, however, tested across the board, looking specifically at five different carcinogens in retail liquid smoke seasonings.

The recommended daily upper safety limit for these carcinogens is 47. Hickory smoke flavoring has only 0.8 per teaspoon, so we’d have to drink three bottles a day to bump up against the limit. And mesquite liquid smoke has only 1.1.

It turns out that most of the carcinogens in smoke are fat soluble, so when we make a water-based solution, like liquid smoke, we capture the smoke flavor compounds without capturing most of the smoke cancer compounds. The only time we need to really worry is when eating smoked foods—foods directly exposed to actual smoke. For example, smoked ham has 21.3 per serving, and smoked turkey breast has 26.7 per serving. One sandwich and we may be halfway to the limit, and one serving of barbequed chicken takes us over the top. Eating less than a single drumstick and we nearly double our daily allotment of these carcinogens. Nothing, however, is as bad as fish. Smoked herring? 140 per serving. And smoked salmon? One bagel with lox could take us ten times over the limit.

I’ve touched on those cooked meat carcinogens before. In Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens I explored the role of these cooked meat chemicals in tumor growth. PhIP: The Three Strikes Breast Carcinogen explored their role in cancer invasion. Reducing Cancer Risk In Meateaters offered some mediation strategies. Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine? showed how even vegetarians may be at risk and Cancer, Interrupted: Green Tea and Cancer, Interrupted: Garlic & Flavonoids explored some counter measures.

Some smoke compounds may be a concern even if we don’t eat them. See Meat Fumes: Dietary Secondhand Smoke. Even the smell of frying bacon may be carcinogenic: Carcinogens in the Smell of Frying Bacon.

Some plant foods exposed to high temperatures may also present a concern. See Is Yerba Mate Tea Bad for You? and Acrylamide in French Fries. What about Carcinogens in Roasted Coffee?

The broccoli liver enzyme boost story is covered in The Best Detox.

-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.

Image Credit: eric forsberg / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/14/does-liquid-smoke-cause-cancer/feed/ 14
Does Antioxidant Intake Matter for Stroke and Heart Disease?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/09/food-antioxidants-stroke-and-heart-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-antioxidants-stroke-and-heart-disease http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/09/food-antioxidants-stroke-and-heart-disease/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:00:07 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25845 In my video Food Antioxidants and Cancer, I talked about how antioxidants from whole plants are associated with lower cancer risk. It turns out that total antioxidant capacity of diet may also be protective against stroke, the world’s leading cause of death after heart disease. This is in contradiction to all the antioxidant supplement studies […]]]>

In my video Food Antioxidants and Cancer, I talked about how antioxidants from whole plants are associated with lower cancer risk. It turns out that total antioxidant capacity of diet may also be protective against stroke, the world’s leading cause of death after heart disease. This is in contradiction to all the antioxidant supplement studies that failed to show benefit. This may be because the food antioxidant studies took into account thousands of different compounds, in doses obtained from a usual diet, rather than individual nutrients at unnaturally high levels.

The buildup of oxidized fat is considered the hallmark of fatty streak formation, the earliest manifestation of atherosclerotic plaques. The oxidation of fat can happen outside the body, every time we cook it, but oxidized fats are not only formed in foods, but may also be generated during digestion, especially in stomach acid. Our stomach may be like a “bioreactor for the oxidation of high-fat, cholesterol-rich foods. Muscle foods contain large amounts of endogenous catalysts which accelerate fat oxidation.” As poultry sits in our stomach, the oxidation may build up minute by minute.

Turn out chickens are bled of only about half their blood, and the remaining residual can be a powerful promoter of fat oxidation, so there are those in the industry advocating an additional decapitation step, but if oxidation is the problem, antioxidants can be part of the solution.

We know antioxidant pills don’t work. While extensive experimental data “have revealed a central role for oxidative stress in the stiffening of our arteries and suggested a potential role for ‘antioxidant’ treatment in cardiovascular disease, experimental data has not translated into clinical benefit. Most antioxidant vitamin trials have failed to reduce heart disease and death and may in fact even be detrimental. As a result, some have even questioned the supposedly central role of oxidative stress in the disease process.” The fact that pills didn’t work was described as a critical blow to the whole free radical theory of aging.

But high-dose single-antioxidant supplements are not a good substitute for the very complex antioxidant network of thousands of compounds in foods, present at concentrations far below those used in those pill trials. No one had ever looked at the overall effect of the complex antioxidant network in our diet in relation to our leading killer, coronary heart disease… until now. A large prospective population-based cohort study, highlighted in my video Food Antioxidants, Stroke, and Heart Disease, measured total antioxidant capacity of people’s diets: “The total antioxidant capacity measures, in one single value, the free-radical-reducing capacity of all antioxidants present in foods and all the synergistic effects.” They observed that “higher total antioxidant capacity of diet was statistically significantly associated with lower risk of incident heart attack in a dose-response manner,” meaning, potentially, the more high antioxidant plant foods in one’s diet, the better.

Which foods have the highest antioxidant content? See:

It’s the heme iron in chicken blood that may be contributing to fat oxidation in the stomach. That’s one of the targets of the Meat Additives to Diminish Toxicity.

More on reducing stroke risk can be found in my videos Preventing Strokes with Diet and Whole Grains May Work As Well As Drugs.

I have more than 150 videos on heart disease. Heart Disease Starts in Childhood and One in a Thousand Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic are among two of the most recent.

-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.

Image Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/09/food-antioxidants-stroke-and-heart-disease/feed/ 16
Does Antioxidant Intake Matter for Cancer?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/07/food-antioxidants-and-cancer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-antioxidants-and-cancer http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/07/food-antioxidants-and-cancer/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25842 The USDA removed their online antioxidant database of foods, “concerned that ORAC values were routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products.” Indeed, supplement manufacturers got into my-ORAC-is-bigger-than-your-ORAC contests, comparing their pills to the antioxidant superfood du jour, like blueberries. We know there are lots of bioactive compounds in whole plant […]]]>

The USDA removed their online antioxidant database of foods, “concerned that ORAC values were routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products.” Indeed, supplement manufacturers got into my-ORAC-is-bigger-than-your-ORAC contests, comparing their pills to the antioxidant superfood du jour, like blueberries. We know there are lots of bioactive compounds in whole plant foods that may help prevent and ameliorate chronic disease in ways that have nothing to do with their antioxidant power, so I understand the USDA’s decision. So should we just eat lots of whole healthy plant foods and not worry about which one necessarily has more antioxidants than the other, or does one’s dietary antioxidant intake matter?

We have some new data to help answer that question. Researchers recently analyzed total dietary antioxidant capacity and the risk of stomach cancer, the world’s second leading cancer killer. A half million people were studied, and dietary antioxidant capacity intake from different sources of plant foods was indeed associated with a reduction in risk. Note that they say dietary intake; they’re not talking about supplements.

Not only do antioxidant pills not seem to help, they seem to increase overall mortality—that’s like paying to live a shorter life. Just giving high doses of isolated vitamins may cause disturbances in our body’s own natural antioxidant network. There are hundreds of different antioxidants in plant foods. They don’t act in isolation; they work synergistically. Mother Nature cannot be trapped in a bottle.

Similar results were reported with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: the more ORAC units we eat per day, the lower our cancer risk drops (though antioxidants or not, green leafy vegetables were particularly protective. Going from eating one serving of green leafy vegetables per week to a serving a day may cut our odds of lymphoma in half).

Should we be worried about antioxidant intake during cancer treatment, since most chemo drugs work by creating free radicals? According to some of the latest reviews, highlighted in my video Food Antioxidants and Cancer, there is no evidence of antioxidant interference with chemotherapy, and antioxidants may actually improve treatment and patient survival.

But should we take a multivitamin? See Should We Take a Multivitamin?

What about fish oil supplements? Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?

I recently covered how and why we should strive to eat antioxidants with every meal in an important three-part series:

  1. Minimum “Recommended Daily Allowance” of Antioxidants
  2. How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA”
  3. Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal

Preferentially getting one’s nutrients from produce not pills is a common theme in the nutrition literature. See, for example:

Antioxidants may also slow aging (See Mitochondrial Theory of Aging), reduce inflammation (See Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants), improve digestion (See Bulking Up on Antioxidants), and help prevent COPD (See Preventing COPD with Diet). So where are antioxidants found? See my series that starts with Antioxidant Content of 3139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods.

What about the role of antioxidants in other leading causes of death? That’s the subject of my video, Food Antioxidants, Stroke, and Heart Disease.

-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.

Image Credit: Arya Ziai / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/07/food-antioxidants-and-cancer/feed/ 12
Is buying organic worth it? A review of the science in new DVDhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/02/is-buying-organic-worth-it-a-review-of-the-science-in-new-dvd/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-buying-organic-worth-it-a-review-of-the-science-in-new-dvd http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/02/is-buying-organic-worth-it-a-review-of-the-science-in-new-dvd/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:00:28 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=26365 One of the most common questions I get when I speak is “What do you think about buying organic?” As with any question like this, I first try to gently explain that what I or anyone else thinks doesn’t really matter. What matters is the science: What the best available balance of evidence shows right […]]]>

One of the most common questions I get when I speak is “What do you think about buying organic?” As with any question like this, I first try to gently explain that what I or anyone else thinks doesn’t really matter. What matters is the science: What the best available balance of evidence shows right now. How else could we possibly make decisions for something as critical as the health of ourselves and our families?

I put together a 5-part video series summarizing the best science comparing the nutritional content, pesticide risk, heavy metal toxicity, and food poisoning risk of organic versus conventionally raised foods, including a video on practical tips for making your own DIY fruit and vegetable wash:

  •  Are Organic Foods More Nutritious?
  •  Are Organic Foods Safer?
  •  How to Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Wash
  •  Are Organic Foods Healthier?
  •  Are the Benefits of Organic Food Underrated or Overrated?

They are all available right now as a video download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 24 (all proceeds go to charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD. The organic food videos are all scheduled to go up on NutritionFacts.org next month, but you can download and watch them right now.

I’m excited to announce that the downloads are now in HD and have all the chapters marked like in the physical DVD.

The current batch of videos from volume 23 on NutritionFacts.org just ran out, so starting now and running through June, I’ll be rolling out the videos from this new DVD, volume 24. 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.

In the image above you can see the list of chapters from the new volume 24 DVD — a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org. 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 an organic food expert by now, having gotten the new DVD last week! I now 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 24 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 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, a direct PayPal link, or by sending a check to “NutritionFacts.org” PO Box 11400, Takoma Park, MD 20913.

NutritionFacts.org Research Fund

Time and time again you’ve heard me kvetch about the corrupting role money has played in the field of nutritional science. Financial considerations decide which foods get studied, which studies get published, and which findings get disseminated to the public. And when a company funds its own research, you always have to worry if the inherent conflict of interest is biasing the results. That really hit home when I was recording the video, Nutritional Yeast to Prevent the Common Cold. The video ends with a concern that some brands of nutritional yeast may be contaminated with lead.

What a frustrating experience it was hounding these companies to answer simple questions about the safety of their products. Then I had a revelation: Why not do our own testing? Even if all the companies did get back to me, why should we believe what they say? So I am hereby announcing the NutritionFacts.org Research Fund. Do you eat nutritional yeast? Even if you don’t, do you want to know if the companies were lying? Then donate to the Fund and as soon as we’ve raised enough I’ll send off samples from each of these brands to an accredited lab and we’ll find out.

Any money left over in the Fund will go to future research projects. Want to know if there are heavy metals in popular brands of amla or turmeric? Should we check Eden Foods preliminary bean results? Check for oxidation by-products in DHA supplements? You tell me! Leave your suggestions and comments on the Research Fund page and we’ll post all the results when they come in.

-Michael Greger

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/04/02/is-buying-organic-worth-it-a-review-of-the-science-in-new-dvd/feed/ 13
Orange Aromatherapy for Anxietyhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/03/31/does-orange-aromatherapy-reduce-anxiety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=does-orange-aromatherapy-reduce-anxiety http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/03/31/does-orange-aromatherapy-reduce-anxiety/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:00:51 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25837 Aromatherapy — the use of concentrated essential oils extracted from plants to treat disease — is commonly used to treat anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of psychiatric disorders in the general population. However, their treatment is challenging, because the drugs used for the relief of anxiety symptoms can have serious side […]]]>

Aromatherapy — the use of concentrated essential oils extracted from plants to treat disease — is commonly used to treat anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of psychiatric disorders in the general population. However, their treatment is challenging, because the drugs used for the relief of anxiety symptoms can have serious side effects.

Thankfully, credible studies that examine the effect of essential oils on anxiety symptoms are gradually starting to appear in the medical literature. However, in most of these studies, exposure to the essential oil odor was accompanied by massage. This makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the effect of the aroma itself.

A typical example includes this study where patients in the intensive care unit the day after open-heart surgery got foot massages with orange-scented oil. Why not back massages? Because they just had their chests cracked open so they have huge sternotomy wounds. Patients showed a significant psychological benefit from the aromatherapy massage.

But how do we know the essential oil had anything to do with it? Maybe it was just the massage. If that’s the case, then great—let’s give people massages! I’m all for more ICU foot rubs. “There is considerable evidence from randomized trials that massage alone reduces anxiety, so if massage is effective, then aromatherapy plus massage is also effective.” One study where cancer patients got massaged during chemo and radiation even found that the massage without the fragrance may be better. The researchers thought it might be a negative Pavlovian response: the patient smells the citrus and their body thinks, “Oh no, not another cancer treatment!”

More recently the ambient odor of orange was tested in a dental office to see if it reduces anxiety and improves mood. Ambient odor of orange was diffused in the waiting room and appeared to have a relaxant effect—less anxiety, better mood, and more calmness—compared to a control group where there was no odor in the air. No odor, that is, except for the nasty dentist office smell. Maybe the orange scent was just masking the unpleasant odors. Maybe it had nothing to do with any orange-specific molecules. More research was necessary.

So in another study, highlighted in my video, Orange Aromatherapy for Anxiety, researchers exposed some graduate students to an anxiety-producing situation and tested the scent of orange, versus a non-orange aroma, versus no scent at all. The orange did appear to have an anxiety-reducing effect. Interestingly, the observed anxiety-reducing effects were not followed by physical or mental sedation. On the contrary, at the highest dose, the orange oil made the volunteers feel more energetic. So orange aromatherapy may potentially reduce anxiety without the downer effect of Valium-type drugs. Does that mean we can get the benefits without the side effects? I’ve talked about the concerns of using scented consumer products before, even ones based on natural fragrances (Throw Household Products Off the Scent), and there have been reports of adverse effects of aromatherapy.

Alternative medicine isn’t necessarily risk-free. For example, there are dozens of reported cases of people having their hearts ruptured by acupuncture. Ouch.

But the adverse effects of aromatherapy were mostly from skin irritation from essential oils being applied topically, or even worse swallowed. Certain citrus oils can also make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

Lavender may also help for both anxiety (Lavender for Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and migraines (Lavender for Migraine Headaches).

The only other aromatherapy-related video is Wake Up and Smell the Saffron, though I have others on natural ways do reduce anxiety, including:

 Natural, though, doesn’t always mean safe. See, for example:

Of course eating citrus is good too! I have videos on Reducing Muscle Fatigue With Citrus and Keeping Your Hands Warm With Citrus, but Tell Your Doctor If You Eat Grapefruit.

-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.

Image Credit: Tim Sackton / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/03/31/does-orange-aromatherapy-reduce-anxiety/feed/ 12