NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Tue, 12 Jan 2016 19:50:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Evidence-Based Nutritionhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/12/evidence-based-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=evidence-based-nutrition http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/12/evidence-based-nutrition/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 13:00:51 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28378 Dr. Esselstyn’s landmark study, demonstrating that even advanced triple vessel coronary artery disease could be reversed with a plant-based diet, has been criticized for being such a small study. But the reason we’re used to seeing large studies is that they typically show such small effects. Drug manufacturers may need to study 7,000 people in […]]]>

Dr. Esselstyn’s landmark study, demonstrating that even advanced triple vessel coronary artery disease could be reversed with a plant-based diet, has been criticized for being such a small study. But the reason we’re used to seeing large studies is that they typically show such small effects. Drug manufacturers may need to study 7,000 people in order to show a barely statistically significant 15% drop in ischemic events in a subsample of patients. Esselstyn achieved a 100% drop in those who stuck to his diet, all the more compelling considering that those 18 participants experienced 49 coronary events (like heart attacks) in the eight years before they went on the diet. These patients were the sickest of the sick, most of whom having already failed surgical intervention. When the effects are so dramatic, how many people do you need?

Before 1885, a symptomatic rabies infection was a death sentence, until little Joseph Meister became the first to receive Pasteur’s experimental rabies vaccine. The results of this and one other case were so dramatic compared with previous experience that the new treatment was accepted with a sample size of two. That is, the results were so compelling that no randomized controlled trial was necessary. Having been infected by a rabid dog, would you be willing to participate in a randomized controlled trial, when being in the control group had a certainty of a ‘‘most awful death’’? Sadly, such a question is not entirely rhetorical.

In the 1970’s, a revolutionary treatment for babies with immature lungs called “extracorporeal membranous oxygenation” (ECMO), transformed immature lung mortality from 80% dead to 80% alive nearly overnight. The standard therapy caused damage to infants’ lungs and was a major cause of morbidity and mortality in infants. ECMO is much gentler on babies’ lungs, “providing life support while allowing the lungs to ‘rest.’”

Despite their dramatic success, the researchers who developed ECMO felt forced to perform a randomized controlled trial. They didn’t want to; they knew they’d be condemning babies to death. They felt compelled to perform such a trial because their claim that ECMO worked would, they judged, carry little weight amongst their medical colleagues unless supported by a randomized controlled trial. Therefore, at Harvard’s Children’s Hospital, 39 infants were randomized to either get ECMO or conventional medical therapy. The researchers decided ahead of time to stop the trial after the 4th death so as not to kill too many babies. And that’s what they did. The study was halted after the fourth conventional medical therapy death, at which point nine out of nine ECMO babies had survived. Imagine being the parent to one of those four children.

Similarly, imagine being the child of a parent who died other conventional medical or surgical therapy for heart disease.

In her paper “How evidence-based medicine biases physicians against nutrition,” Laurie Endicott Thomas reminds us that medical students in the United States are taught very little about nutrition (See Evidence-Based Medicine or Evidence-Biased?). Worse yet, according to Thomas, their training actually biases them against the studies that show the power of dietary approaches to managing disease by encouraging them to ignore any information that does not come from a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. Yet humans cannot be blinded to a dietary intervention—we tend to notice what we’re eating—and, as a result, physicians are biased in favor of drug treatments and against dietary interventions for the management of chronic disease.

Evidence-based medicine is a good thing. However, Thomas points out that the medical profession may be focusing too much on one type of evidence to the exclusion of all others. Unfortunately, this approach can easily degenerate into “ignoring-most-of-the-truly-important-evidence” based medicine.

Heart disease is a perfect example. On healthy enough plant based diets, our number one cause of death may simply cease to exist. The Cornell-Oxford-China Study showed that even small amounts of animal-based food was associated with a small, but measurable increase in the risk of some chronic diseases. In other words, “the causal relationship between dietary patterns and coronary artery disease was already well established before Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn undertook their clinical studies.” The value of their studies was not so much in providing evidence that such a dietary change would be effective, but in showing that “physicians can persuade their patients to make such changes,” and in “providing interesting data on the speed and magnitude of the change in severe atherosclerotic lesions as a result of dietary therapy.”

Therefore, any complaints that these studies were small or unblinded are simply irrelevant. Because the evidence of the role of diet in causing atherosclerosis is already so overwhelming, “assigning a patient to a control group eating the standard American diet could be considered a violation of research ethics.”

Evidence of the value of plant-based diets for managing chronic disease has been available in the medical literature for decades. Walter Kempner at Duke University, John McDougall, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Nathan Pritikin, and Denis Burkitt  all warned us that the standard Western diet is the standard cause of death and disability in the Western world. Yet physicians, especially in the US, are still busily manning the ambulances at the bottom of the cliff instead of building fences at the top.

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Esselstyn’s work, I touch on it in:

Sadly, medical students learn little about these powerful tools:

If you haven’t heard of Pritikin, I introduce him here: Engineering a Cure

An intro to Dr. Ornish: Convergence of Evidence

Dr. Burkitt: Dr. Burkitt’s F-Word Diet

The Cornell-Oxford-China Study: China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death

Dr. Walter Kempner: Kempner Rice Diet: Whipping Us Into Shape


-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: clement127 / Flickr

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The Dietary Link Between Acne and Cancerhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/07/the-dietary-link-between-acne-and-cancer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-dietary-link-between-acne-and-cancer http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/07/the-dietary-link-between-acne-and-cancer/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 13:00:32 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28376 Acne is an epidemic skin disease of industrialized countries, reaching prevalence rates of over 85 percent of teenagers. In nearly half of American men and women, acne even continues after adolescence and into the third decade of life. Acne is considered a disease of Western civilization, as in places like Okinawa, Japan, acne is rare or even […]]]>

Acne is an epidemic skin disease of industrialized countries, reaching prevalence rates of over 85 percent of teenagers. In nearly half of American men and women, acne even continues after adolescence and into the third decade of life.

Acne is considered a disease of Western civilization, as in places like Okinawa, Japan, acne is rare or even nonexistent. So acne is not some “physiological” phenomenon of puberty, but may represent “a visible risk indicator pointing to aberrant nutrient signaling promoting chronic epidemic diseases of civilization,” according to a group of German researchers (See Saving Lives By Treating Acne With Diet). What they mean is that the dairy, junk foods, meat, and egg proteins in Western diets all conspire to raise the activity of the enzyme TOR, contributing to acne and obesity. Therefore, using diet to suppress TOR may not only improve acne, but may also prevent the march to more serious chronic TOR-driven diseases of civilization. The excessive TOR stimulation induced by the standard American diet may initially manifest as premature puberty and acne, but then may later contribute to obesity, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

A lot of this research is relatively new. Until recently, for example, only a weak association had been accepted for the role of milk and dairy products in acne formation.  However, there is now substantial evidence supporting the effects of milk and dairy products as enhancers of acne aggravation. Milk is not just food, but appears to represent a most sophisticated hormone signaling system activating TOR, which is of critical concern given that TOR is recognized as the fundamental driving force for a number of serious chronic diseases.

If milk is naturally supposed to stimulate TOR, why the problem? Because we’re drinking milk from the wrong species. Cow’s milk is designed for calves. Baby cows grow nearly 40 times faster than human infants. Cow’s milk has three times more leucine, the primary activator of TOR, than breast milk, so cow’s milk may over-stimulate TOR when consumed by humans. It’s like giving donkey milk to rats—it doesn’t make sense. Furthermore, milk is for babies, so the continued consumption of any kind of milk during adolescence and adulthood is something that never really happened naturally and may have long-term adverse effects on human health.

In this regard, it’s kind of frightening to realize that more than 85 percent of teens in Western countries exhibit acne; it implies that the “majority of our population is living with over-activated TOR signaling, a major disease-causing factor, which may pave the way for the development of other more serious diseases.” A history of acne has been associated with breast cancer risk in women, for example, and prostate cancer in men.

So early dietary counseling of teenage acne patients is thus a great opportunity for dermatologists, who will not only help to improve acne but may reduce the long-term adverse effects of Western diet on more serious TOR-driven diseases. So just like urologists use erectile dysfunction as an opportunity to save lives by putting people on heart-healthy diets, dermatologists can use acne as a way to save lives by putting people on a cancer prevention diet.

How do you turn acne on and off via dietary manipulation of TOR? A “comprehensive dietary strategy to treat acne can only be achieved by higher consumption of vegetables and fruit and reduction of animal-derived food” given preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of natural plant-derived TOR inhibitors in the treatment of acne.

TOR is considered the engine-of-aging enzyme detailed in Why Do We Age? and Caloric Restriction vs. Animal Protein Restriction, as well as my video Prevent Cancer From Going on TOR.

I’ve touched on this topic before in Acne and Cancer and covered acne and dairy in:

Urologists saving the lives of men is detailed in Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death and 50 Shades of Greens.

What else are Okinawans doing right? See The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100.

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: coniferconfier / Flickr

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How to Suppress the Aging Enzyme TORhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/05/how-to-suppress-the-aging-enzyme-tor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-suppress-the-aging-enzyme-tor http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/01/05/how-to-suppress-the-aging-enzyme-tor/#comments Tue, 05 Jan 2016 13:00:32 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28374 Over the last decade, more than 5,000 papers have been published about TOR, an engine-of-aging enzyme inhibited by the drug rapamycin. (What is TOR? Check out my videos Why Do We Age? and Caloric Restriction vs. Animal Protein Restriction.) Rapamycin has been used experimentally to extend lifespan, but is already in use clinically to prevent […]]]>

Over the last decade, more than 5,000 papers have been published about TOR, an engine-of-aging enzyme inhibited by the drug rapamycin. (What is TOR? Check out my videos Why Do We Age? and Caloric Restriction vs. Animal Protein Restriction.) Rapamycin has been used experimentally to extend lifespan, but is already in use clinically to prevent the rejection of kidney transplants. Patients who received rapamycin due to renal transplantation had a peculiar “side effect,” a decrease in cancer incidence. In a set of 15 patients who had biopsy proven Kaposi’s sarcoma (a cancer that often affects the skin), all cutaneous sarcoma lesions disappeared in all patients within three months after starting rapamycin therapy.

TOR functions as a master regulator of cellular growth and proliferation. For example, TOR is upregulated in nearly 100% of advanced human prostate cancers (See Prevent Cancer From Going on TOR). So, reductions in cancerous lesions after rapamycin therapy make sense. TOR may also be why dairy consumption has been found to be a major dietary risk factor for prostate cancer. We used to think it was just the hormones in milk, but maybe prostate cancer initiation and progression is also promoted by cow’s milk stimulation of TOR.

Our understanding of mammalian milk has changed from a simple food to a “species-specific endocrine signaling system,” which activates TOR, promoting cell growth and proliferation and suppressing our body’s internal housecleaning mechanisms. Normally, milk-mediated TOR stimulation is restricted only to infancy where we really need that constant signal to our cells to grow and divide. So from an evolutionary perspective, “the persistent ‘abuse’ of the growth-promoting signaling system of cow’s milk by drinking milk over our entire life span may maintain the most important hallmark of cancer biology, sustained proliferative signaling.”

TOR appears to play a role in breast cancer, too. Higher TOR expression has been noted in breast cancer tumors, associated with more aggressive disease, and lower survival rate among breast cancer patients. Altered TOR expression could explain why women hospitalized for anorexia may end up with only half the risk of breast cancer. Severe caloric restriction in humans may confer protection from invasive breast cancer by suppressing TOR activation.

We don’t have to starve ourselves to suppress TOR; just reducing animal protein intake can attenuate overall TOR activity. Moreover, diets emphasizing plants, especially cruciferous vegetables, have both decreased TOR activation from animal proteins and provide natural plant-derived inhibitors of TOR found in broccoli, green tea, soy, turmeric, and grapes, along with other fruits and vegetables such as onions, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes and the skin of cucumbers.

The downregulation of TOR may be one reason why plant-based in general are associated with lower risk for many cancers. “Are we finally on the threshold of being able to fundamentally alter human aging and age-related disease?” asks researchers in the journal Nature. Only time will tell, but if the pace and direction of recent progress are any indication, the next 5,000 studies on TOR should prove very interesting indeed.

More on dairy and prostate cancer in Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk.

This story continues in my video: Saving Lives By Treating Acne With Diet.

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Grempz / Flickr

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Free App for Android and iPhone and Top 10 Videos of 2015http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/31/free-app-for-android-and-iphone-and-top-10-videos-of-2015/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-app-for-android-and-iphone-and-top-10-videos-of-2015 http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/31/free-app-for-android-and-iphone-and-top-10-videos-of-2015/#comments Thu, 31 Dec 2015 13:00:30 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29023 The second half of my new book (and New York Times Bestseller for the third week in a row—I’m still pinching myself!), How Not to Die, revolves around my Daily Dozen, a checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine. The more I’ve researched over the years, the more I’ve come to […]]]>
The second half of my new book (and New York Times Bestseller for the third week in a row—I’m still pinching myself!), How Not to Die, revolves around my Daily Dozen, a checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine. The more I’ve researched over the years, the more I’ve come to realize that healthy foods are not necessary interchangeable. While some nutrients, such as vitamin C, are found throughout the plant kingdom, other beneficial compounds are found concentrated in certain foods, like the anti-cancer lignans in flaxseeds or the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables. So if we don’t eat them every day we’re going to miss out.

It seems like every time I come home from the medical library buzzing with some exciting new data, my family rolls their eyes, sighs, and asks, “What can’t we eat now?” Or they’ll say, “Wait a second. Why does everything seem to have parsley in it all of a sudden?” My poor family. They’ve been very tolerant.

As the list of foods I tried to include in my daily diet grew, I made a checklist and kept it on a little dry-erase board on the fridge. We would make a game out of ticking off the boxes. This evolved into my Daily Dozen. Now, thanks to the kind volunteer efforts of two software developers, including Allan at digitalboro.com, and photographer Sangeeta at kumarimages.com, no more stinky dry erase marker smell! They came up with a “Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen” smartphone app. Download the free Android app here and the free iPhone app here. I’m hoping it will serve  as a helpful reminder to try to eat a variety of the healthiest foods every day. Perfect timing for all your New Year’s resolutions!

Please pass along any suggestions you have to make the app more useful, and if you yourself dabble in app development we’d love your help to take it to the next level. Like wouldn’t it be cool if it had a graphing function to chart your progress, or social media sharing buttons? Maybe an Apple Watch version? If you’re willing to share your ideas or talents please contact us.

Best of 2015

Thanks to the collective enthusiasm for sharing NutritionFacts.org by our subscribers, twitter followers, and nearly 400,000 Facebook fans, we topped a record 2.2 million page views last month. But it’s not about the numbers; it’s about the people whose lives we’ve touched, changed, or even saved. That is why I volunteer my time to get new videos and articles up each and every day. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made this public service possible.

NutritionFacts.org arises from my annual review of the medical literature. With the help of 10 researchers and a team of 72 active fellow volunteers, we reviewed more than 10,000 peer-reviewed papers on human nutrition in 2015. Right now I’m in the process of recording the next batch of new 2015 videos. How do I choose which studies to highlight? In general, I strive to focus on the most groundbreaking, interesting, and useful findings, but which topics resonate the most? Is it the practical ones, offering cooking or shopping tips? Or those that dissect the studies behind the headlines? Maybe it’s the geeky science ones exploring the wonderfully weird world of human biology? As you can see from the below list. the answer seems to be a bit of all of the above:

#10 Book Trailer for How Not to Die

Book Trailer for How Not to DieComing in at #10 is the video tour I gave of How Not to Die. You can catch a glimpse at the full Daily Dozen list at minute 5:25.

 

 

 


#9 The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail

Saturated Fat Studies Set Up to FailNumber 9 goes part of my two part series on how the dairy and meat industries tried to undermine global consensus guidelines to reduce saturated fat intake. The conclusion can be found in The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public.

 

 

 


 #8 How Many Bowel Movements Should You Have Every Day?

How Many Bowel Movements Should You Have Every Day?No surprise a poop video made the top ten! Most people have between 3 bowel movements a day and 3 a week, but normal doesn’t necessarily mean optimal.

 

 

 


 #7 Ginger for Migraines

Ginger for MigrainesAn eighth teaspoon of powdered ginger was found to work as well as the migraine headache drug sumatriptan (Imitrex) without the side-effects. Just wait to see what it can do for menstrual cramps—stay tuned!

 

 

 


#6 Flax Seeds for Hypertension

Flax Seeds for HypertensionExtraordinary results reported in a rare example of a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of a dietary intervention (flaxseeds) to combat one of our leading killers, high blood pressure. Hibiscus tea may also beat out drugs. See Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

 

 


#5 What Causes Diabetes?

What Causes Diabetes?Saturated fat can be toxic to the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, explaining why animal fat consumption can impair insulin secretion, not just insulin sensitivity. So what should we eat? See another 2015 hit, Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes.

 

 

 


 #4 The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100

The Okinawa Diet - Living to 100In the #4 video of the year I explored what would happen if you centered your diet around vegetables, the most nutrient-dense food group.

 

 

 


#3 If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?

If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?Does the fructose naturally found in fruit and fruit juice have the same adverse effects as excess “industrial fructose” (table sugar and high fructose corn syrup) and if not, why not? After you watch this one you may be interested in the follow-up: How Much Fruit is Too Much?

 

 


#2 The Problem With the Paleo Diet Argument

The Problem With the Paleo Diet ArgumentThe Paleolithic period represents just the last 2 million years of human evolution. What did our bodies evolve to eat during the first 90% of our time on Earth? The other paleo video I did late in 2014 was also very popular: Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise.

 

 

 


#1 Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

Food as Medicine - Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with DietHands down the most popular video was my live 2015 year-in-review. In my 2012 review, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death,  I went through the list of the 15 leading causes of death, exploring the role diet may play in preventing, arresting, and even reversing our top 15 killers. In my 2013 review, More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases I ran through the list on how a healthy diet can affect some of the most common medical conditions. Then came From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food, in which I explore the role of diet in correcting some of our leading causes of disability. This year I covered the most dreaded diseases. What’s my annual review talk going to be about this year? Good question–we’ll both find out when I write it this summer!

 

Thanks to everyone’s end-of-year generosity, we are now powered up to take on another year of providing the latest in evidence-based nutrition. So far I’ve already collected 4,960 papers towards the 2016 batch. Time to get reading!

Looking forward to sharing another healthy happy new year,

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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Starch-Blocking Foods for Diabetics?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/29/starch-blocking-foods-for-diabetics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=starch-blocking-foods-for-diabetics http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/29/starch-blocking-foods-for-diabetics/#comments Tue, 29 Dec 2015 13:00:02 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28371 How did doctors treat diabetes before insulin? Almost a thousand medicinal plants are known antidiabetic agents, including beans, most of which have been used in traditional medicine. Of course, just because something has been used for centuries doesn’t mean it’s safe. Other treatments for diabetes in the past included arsenic and uranium. Thankfully many of […]]]>

How did doctors treat diabetes before insulin? Almost a thousand medicinal plants are known antidiabetic agents, including beans, most of which have been used in traditional medicine. Of course, just because something has been used for centuries doesn’t mean it’s safe. Other treatments for diabetes in the past included arsenic and uranium. Thankfully many of these other remedies fell by the wayside, but scientific interest in the antidiabetic potential of beans was renewed in the past decade.

Diabetes is a global public health epidemic. Although oral hypoglycemic medications and injected insulin are the mainstay of treatment of diabetes and are effective in controlling high blood sugars, they have side effects such as weight gain, swelling, and liver disease. They also are not shown to significantly alter the progression of the disease. Thankfully, lifestyle modifications have proven to be greatly effective in the management of this disease. And if there is one thing diabetics should eat, it’s legumes (beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils).

Increased consumption of whole grains and legumes for health-promoting diets is widely promoted by health professionals. One of the reasons is that they may decrease insulin resistance, the defining trait of type 2 diabetes. The European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the American Diabetes Association all recommend the consumption of dietary pulses as a means of optimizing diabetes control. What are pulses? They’re peas and beans that come dried, and are therefore a subset of legumes. They exclude green beans and fresh green peas, which are considered more vegetable crops, and the so-called oil seeds—soybeans and peanuts.

A review out of Canada (highlighted in my video, Diabetes Should Take Their Pulses) compiled 41 randomized controlled experimental trials, totaling more than a thousand patients, and corroborated the diabetes association nutrition guidelines recommending the consumption of pulses as a means of optimizing diabetes control. They discovered that some pulses are better than others. Some of the best results came from the studies that used chickpeas. In terms of beans, pintos and black beans may beat out kidney beans. Compared to the blood sugar spike of straight white rice, the combination of black or pinto beans with rice appeared to reduce the spike more than kidney beans and rice.

Dark red kidney beans may not be as effective because they have lower levels of indigestible starch. One of the reasons beans are so healthy is they contain compounds that partially block our starch-digesting enzyme, which allows some starch to make it down to our colon to feed our good gut bacteria. In fact, the inhibition of this starch-eating enzyme amylase, just by eating beans, approximates that of a carbohydrate-blocking drug called acarbose (sold as Precose), a popular diabetes medication. The long-term use of beans may normalize hemoglobin A1C levels (which is how you track diabetes) almost as well as the drug.

What about avoiding metabolic derangements in the first place? See my video Preventing Prediabetes By Eating More.

What else may help?

What may hurt?

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Emily Carlin / Flickr

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Which Works Better: Adding Beans or Portion Control?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/24/which-works-better-adding-beans-or-portion-control/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=which-works-better-adding-beans-or-portion-control http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/24/which-works-better-adding-beans-or-portion-control/#comments Thu, 24 Dec 2015 13:00:53 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28369 People who eat the most legumes appear to only have a fraction of the risk for a type of prediabetes known as metabolic syndrome. Legumes are beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils. In one study out of Iran, people who ate three or more servings of beans a week only had about a quarter of […]]]>
People who eat the most legumes appear to only have a fraction of the risk for a type of prediabetes known as metabolic syndrome. Legumes are beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils. In one study out of Iran, people who ate three or more servings of beans a week only had about a quarter of the odds of the disease, compared to those who ate one serving or less.

Bean consumption is associated with lower body weight, a slimmer waist, less obesity and lower blood pressure in population studies, but whether the association of bean consumption with healthier body weight and risk factors of metabolic syndrome is due to physiological effects of the beans themselves or is simply an indicator of a healthy lifestyle is uncertain. Anyone smart enough to eat beans may be smart enough to eat all sorts of other healthy foods, so maybe bean consumption is just a marker for a healthy diet.

A study out of the British Journal of Nutrition put this to the test (highlighted in my video, Preventing Prediabetes by Eating More). The researchers note that reducing belly fat may be the best way to treat metabolic syndrome and reduce the risk of prediabetes turning into full-blown diabetes. “Energy restriction has been the cornerstone of most weight-loss strategies; however, evidence suggests that the majority of individuals who lose weight [by calorie-cutting] regain it during subsequent months or years.” Starving ourselves almost never works long-term. Therefore, they conclude that “it is important to identify foods that can be easily incorporated into the diet and spontaneously lead to the attainment and maintenance of a healthy body weight and improved metabolic control.”

So, for the first time ever, the researchers did a head-to-head test: beans versus caloric restriction. The bean group was asked to eat five cups of lentils, chickpeas, split peas, or navy beans a week, and the caloric restriction group was asked to reduce energy intake. In other words, the bean group was asked to eat more food and the cutting calories group was asked to eat less food. Not-so-surprisingly, the more-food group won. Not only was regular bean consumption as effective as portion control in reducing prediabetes risk factors like slimming waistlines and better blood sugar control, but the bean diet led to additional benefits beyond just calorie reduction, presumably due to some functional properties of the beans and peas.

The researchers concluded that five cups a week of beans, chickpeas, split peas and lentils in an ad libitum diet (meaning subjects weren’t told to change their diet in any other way), reduced risk factors of metabolic syndrome. These effects were equivalent, and in some instances stronger, than telling people to cut 500 calories from their daily diet. These results are encouraging news for individuals with or at risk for type 2 diabetes since they indicate that simple diet changes, such as the inclusion of beans, can have a positive impact on blood sugar control.

What is metabolic syndrome? See: Metabolic Syndrome and Plant-Based Diets.

More on plants versus calorie restriction in:

More on magic beans:

What about treating full-blown diabetes with beans? All in my video: Diabetics Should Take Their Pulses.

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: homami / Flickr

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Which Nut Suppresses Cancer Cell Growth the Most?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/22/which-nut-suppresses-cancer-cell-growth-the-most/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=which-nut-suppresses-cancer-cell-growth-the-most http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/22/which-nut-suppresses-cancer-cell-growth-the-most/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28367 People who eat nuts in their adolescence may have a better chance of fighting off breast cancer later in life, according to data from the Harvard Nurse’s Study. A follow-up study involving the daughters of the nurses corroborated the findings. Those eating more peanut butter, nuts, beans, lentils, soybeans, or corn were found to have just […]]]>

People who eat nuts in their adolescence may have a better chance of fighting off breast cancer later in life, according to data from the Harvard Nurse’s Study. A follow-up study involving the daughters of the nurses corroborated the findings. Those eating more peanut butter, nuts, beans, lentils, soybeans, or corn were found to have just a fraction of the risk for fibrocystic breast disease, which places one at higher risk of cancer. The protective effects were found to be strongest for those most at risk, such as those with a family history of breast cancer.

Another study out of the British Journal of Cancer found that even two handfuls of nuts a week may protect against pancreatic cancer, one of our most fatal malignancies.

Nuts are described as “nutritionally precious,” which may explain some of the mechanisms by which nut components induce cancer cell death and inhibit cancer growth and spread in vitro. But which nuts work the best? In my video #1 Anticancer Vegetable, we learned that two classes of vegetables—the broccoli family vegetables and the garlic family vegetables—most effectively suppressed breast cancer cell growth. In Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better?, cranberries and lemons took the title.

What about nuts? In terms of antioxidant content, walnuts and pecans steal the show. Twenty-five walnuts have the antioxidant equivalent of eight grams of vitamin C (the vitamin C found in a hundred oranges).

But how do they do against cancer? In the video, Which Nut Fights Cancer Better?, you can see a graph of human cancer cell proliferation versus increasing concentrations of the ten most common nuts eaten in the United States. If you drip water on these cancer cells as a control, nothing happens. Hazelnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts don’t do much better. Pine nuts, cashews and macadamias start pulling away from the pack. Almonds appear twice as protective, halving cancer cell growth at only half the dose as pine nuts, cashews, and macadamias. Walnuts, pecans, and peanuts come out as the clear winners, causing a dramatic drop in cancer proliferation at just tiny doses.

More nuttiness:

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Mariya Chorna / Flickr

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How Not to Die hits New York Times Best Seller list!http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/17/how-not-to-die-hits-the-new-york-times-best-seller-list/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-not-to-die-hits-the-new-york-times-best-seller-list http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/17/how-not-to-die-hits-the-new-york-times-best-seller-list/#comments Thu, 17 Dec 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28655 NutritionFacts.org Needs Your Help 2015 marks the 4-year anniversary of NutritionFacts.org. In that time, our videos and pages have been viewed more than 50 million times—20 million over the last year alone. Over the last 30 days we’ve reached the milestone of surpassing 2 million hits in a single month. Unfortunately, the rate of new […]]]>
NutritionFacts.org Needs Your Help
2015 marks the 4-year anniversary of NutritionFacts.org. In that time, our videos and pages have been viewed more than 50 million times—20 million over the last year alone. Over the last 30 days we’ve reached the milestone of surpassing 2 million hits in a single month. Unfortunately, the rate of new donations has not kept up with the rate of new traffic. The more people that access the site, the more lives we save, but the higher the server and email costs.

Financially, 2015 was a great year for NutritionFacts.org thanks to the book advance for How Not to Die. But without new book income in 2016, we are back to relying on our steadfast supporters. The average donation we get is less than $30, but we reach so many millions that even if 1 in 1,000 people pitch in a few bucks we are able to thrive. Please consider doing your part and make a one-time end-of-year donation (we’re a 501c3 nonprofit so donations are tax-deductible). Or even better, become a monthly supporter. 59% of our operating budget now comes from regular supporters who sign up to make small recurring donations every month—they build up! 

Expenses pie chartWhere do donations to NutritionFacts.org go? I don’t take a salary or receive any compensation (other than all the warm fuzzies from helping everyone :), but we do have a growing staff. As you can see in the pie chart, the greatest cost is our research budget. This includes access fees for journal articles and our burgeoning research team.

My goal is to not let a single nutrition study fall through the cracks. There are 30 to 40 papers published on straight nutrition alone every day, in addition to 100 daily studies on cancer, about 20 on heart disease, 20 on obesity, and 20 on diabetes, etc. Even I can’t read 200 papers a day. Twenty people, though, can read 200 papers a day. We can’t afford 20 people, but total coverage is my ultimate goal; otherwise we fall hopelessly behind.

For example, I have an email folder of PubMed alerts on the critical nutrition topics that I follow. (The National Library of Medicine will send you free email alerts any time a study is published on any topic of your choosing—one of the uses of my tax dollars for which I’m most grateful!) In part, because of the 8 months I had to set aside to write the book, I now have 5,000 of these emails sitting in my inbox. That’s when it really struck me. Since each alert can contain up to 200 research summaries, that could be a million citations to go through, with new ones arriving every day. That’s when I realized I needed more help.

Sadly, in order to hire more researchers I’ve had to cut the RD position. So, this will be Joe’s last month. In his all-too-brief tenure with us this year, Joseph Gonzales, RD, answered more than 2,000 questions on the site and responded to innumerable emails. Please join me in wishing Joe a heartfelt thanks for all his hard work. I’m hoping our volunteer army of medical and nutritional professionals will step up to help take up the slack to respond to the multitude of comments and questions posted daily.

Even with this freeing up of funds, hiring additional researchers still puts us $80,000 over our projected 2016 budget. We’ve already raised about $16,000 towards that year-end goal. Would you consider chipping in?

To make a tax-deductible contribution to NutritionFacts.org you can use a credit card, a direct PayPal link, or send a check to “NutritionFacts.org” PO Box 11400, Takoma Park, MD 20913.

As a token of gratitude, anyone donating $30 or more (or becoming at least a $5 monthly donor) will receive a coupon code that can be shared with anyone for a free digital download of any of my nutrition DVDs (must be used by the end of the year).

New Ways to Support NutritionFacts.org
Looking to donate stock securities to support Nutritionfacts.org? It’s as easy as filling out our new form.

Did you know that most Fortune 500 companies and many others offer to match employee charitable donations? Please let us know if we can help you pursue this opportunity to make your donation count even more.

Due to popular demand, we will soon be able to accept donations of Bitcoin, a virtual currency. This allows us to receive payments in any amount, from anywhere in the world, from any computer or mobile device. Coming soon to our Donate Page.

Book Update—WE DID IT!
In it’s first week, How Not to Die sold 25,000 copies, propelling it to #6 on the New York Times Best Seller list. The list will run in print on December 27th, and so hopefully that will dazzle media outlets into covering my work in their new-year-new-you type segments. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’ve started to get feedback from those who delved right into it, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s so heartening to hear that my voice really came through and is resonating with so many people. My favorite endorsement this week came from Dan Buettner of Blue Zones fame:

“This is absolutely the best book I’ve read on nutrition and diet.”
-Dan Buetter, Blue Zones Founder and CEO


Together, let’s save some lives this holiday season. Consider sharing copies of How Not to Die with your friends and family (or at least the ones you want to keep around :)

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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Making Plant-Based Diets the New Normalhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/15/making-plant-based-diets-the-new-normal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-plant-based-diets-the-new-normal http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/15/making-plant-based-diets-the-new-normal/#comments Tue, 15 Dec 2015 13:00:45 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28362 A Nutritional Update for Physicians was published in the official journal of Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States. It told physicians that healthy eating may best be achieved with a plant-based diet, defined as a regimen that “encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy and eggs as well as […]]]>

A Nutritional Update for Physicians was published in the official journal of Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States. It told physicians that healthy eating may best be achieved with a plant-based diet, defined as a regimen that “encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy and eggs as well as all refined and processed junk.”

The Update notes:

“too often, physicians ignore the potential benefits of good nutrition and quickly prescribe medications instead of giving patients a chance to correct their disease through healthy eating and active living. Physicians should therefore consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”

The major downside described is that it may work a little too well. If people are on medications, their blood pressure or blood sugar could actually drop too low, so physicians may need to adjust medications or eliminate them altogether.

The report continues that “despite the strong body of evidence favoring plant-based diets, many physicians are not stressing the importance of plant-based diets as a first-line treatment for chronic illnesses. This could be because of a lack of physician awareness or a lack of patient education resources.” So Kaiser sought to change that. “Want to lose weight, feel better, improve, stabilize, or even reverse chronic disease, and get off some of your medications?” a Kaiser Permanente leaflet (which you can see in my video, What Diet Should Physicians Recommend?) asks. “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then a plant-based eating plan may be for you.” Side-effects include: lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar; reversal or prevention of heart disease, our number one killer; a longer life; a healthier weight; lower risk of diabetes; improvement of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis; and a slowed progression of certain types of cancer.

Kaiser offers tips to get started, such as meal plan ideas, and a list of online resources (including NutritionFacts.org!). The paper ends with a familiar refrain: “further research is needed.” In this case, though, further research is necessary, they explained,  to “find ways to make plant-based diets the new normal for our patients and employees.”

So exciting to see lifestyle medicine suppported. For more on this new medical specialty:

Unfortunately much of medical training is substandard when it comes to nutrition:

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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Coffee for Hepatitis Chttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/10/coffee-for-hepatitis-c/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coffee-for-hepatitis-c http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/12/10/coffee-for-hepatitis-c/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2015 13:00:46 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=28360 Decades ago, researchers in Norway came upon an unexpected finding. Alcohol consumption was associated with liver inflammation (no surprise), but a protective association was found for coffee consumption. These findings were replicated in the U.S. and around the world. Those at risk for liver disease—who drank a lot of alcohol or were overweight—appeared to cut […]]]>

Decades ago, researchers in Norway came upon an unexpected finding. Alcohol consumption was associated with liver inflammation (no surprise), but a protective association was found for coffee consumption. These findings were replicated in the U.S. and around the world. Those at risk for liver disease—who drank a lot of alcohol or were overweight—appeared to cut their risk in half if they drank more than two cups of coffee a day.

Liver cancer is one of the most feared complications of liver inflammation. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the third leading cause of cancer death, and the incidence has been rapidly rising in the United States and Europe, largely driven by the burden of hepatitis C infection and fatty liver disease. Putting together all the best studies done to date, those drinking the most coffee had half the risk of liver cancer compared to those that drank the least. Since the meta-analysis was published, a new study found that male smokers may be able to cut their risk of liver cancer more than 90% by drinking four or more cups of coffee a day. (Of course, they could also stop smoking!). It’s similar to heavy drinkers of alcohol: drinking more coffee may decrease liver inflammation, but not as much as drinking less alcohol.

Liver cancers are among the most avoidable cancers, through hepatitis B vaccination, control of hepatitis C transmission, and reduction of alcohol drinking. These three measures could, in principle, wipe out 90% of liver cancers worldwide. It remains unclear whether coffee drinking has an additional role on top of that, but in any case such a role would be limited compared to preventing liver damage in the first place. But what if you already have hepatitis C or are among the 30% of Americans with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease due to obesity, which may quadruple one’s risk of dying from liver cancer? Coffee seems to help with hepatitis C, reducing liver damage, disease activity, and mortality. It was only the lack of randomized, interventional studies on the topic that prevented us from concluding that coffee has a protective effect.

But in 2013 we got such a study, a randomized controlled trial on the effects of coffee consumption in chronic hepatitis C (highlighted in my video, Preventing Liver Cancer with Coffee). Forty patients with chronic hepatitis C were randomized into two groups: the first consumed four cups of coffee/day for 30 days, while the second remained coffee “abstinent.” Then the groups switched for the second month. Two months is too soon to detect changes in cancer rates, but the researchers were able to demonstrate that coffee consumption reduces oxidative DNA damage, increases the death of virus infected cells, stabilizes chromosomes, and reduces fibrosis, all of which could explain the role coffee appears to play in reducing the risk of disease progression and of evolution to cancer.

Is it time to write a prescription for coffee for those at risk for liver disease? Some say no: “[A]lthough the results are promising, additional work is needed to identify which specific component of coffee is the contributing factor in reducing liver disease and related mortality.” There are, after all, more than 1000 compounds that could be responsible for its beneficial effects. But that’s such a pharmacological worldview. Why do we have to know exactly what it is in the coffee bean before we can start using them to help people? Yes, more studies are needed, but in the interim, moderate, daily, unsweetened coffee ingestion is a reasonable adjunct to therapy for people at high risk such as those with fatty liver disease.

Daily consumption of caffeinated beverages can lead to physical dependence. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can include days of headache, fatigue, difficulty with concentration, and mood disturbances. But this dependence could be a good thing: “The tendency for coffee to promote habitual consumption may ultimately be advantageous if its myriad potential health benefits are confirmed.”

More on coffee in:

Broccoli can boost the liver’s detoxifying enzymes (Prolonged Liver Function Enhancement from Broccoli) but one can overdo it (Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice?).

What other foods might reduce DNA damage? See:

-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 DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Matthew Wicks / Flickr

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