NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:06:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1The latest in nutrition related research delivered in easy to understand video segments brought to you by Michael Greger M.D. Michael Greger, M.D. clean Michael Greger, M.D. mhg1@cornell.edu mhg1@cornell.edu (Michael Greger, M.D.) Copyright 2013 - NutritionFacts.org - All Rights Reserved The Latest in Nutrition Research nutrition, nutrition facts, diet, vegan, plant-based diet, healthy eating, nutritional data, cancer, cancer prevention NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org/wp-content/themes/nutritionfacts/images/nutritionfacts_podcast.pnghttp://nutritionfacts.org TV-G Tri-Weekly The Top Three DNA Protecting Spiceshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/22/the-top-three-dna-protecting-spices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-top-three-dna-protecting-spices&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-top-three-dna-protecting-spices http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/22/the-top-three-dna-protecting-spices/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:58 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25022 In my video Which Spices Fight Inflammation? I profile a landmark study that compared the ability of different spices to suppress inflammation. The study also compared the spices’ ability to protect DNA. Cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric were able to significantly stifle the inflammatory response, but can they also protect DNA? If a tissue sample […]]]>

In my video Which Spices Fight Inflammation? I profile a landmark study that compared the ability of different spices to suppress inflammation. The study also compared the spices’ ability to protect DNA. Cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric were able to significantly stifle the inflammatory response, but can they also protect DNA?

If a tissue sample is taken from a random person, about 7% of their cells may show evidence of DNA damage, actual breaks in the strands of their DNA. If we then blast those cells with free radicals, we can bring that number up to 10%. But if the person has been eating ginger for a week, DNA damage drops to just 8%. In the video, Spicing Up DNA Protection, you can see a comparison of DNA damage in cells from people eating different spices. Those who hadn’t been eating any herbs or spices were vulnerable to DNA damage from oxidative stress. But just including ginger in our diet may cut that damage by 25%—the same with rosemary.

Turmeric is even more powerful—DNA damage was cut in half. And this was not just mixing turmeric with cells in some petri dish: This is comparing what happens when you expose the cells of spice eaters versus the cells of non-spice eaters to free radicals and count the DNA fracture rates.

And not only did the turmeric work significantly better, but it did so at a significantly smaller dose. One and a third teaspoons a day of ginger or rosemary was compared to practically just a pinch of turmeric (about an eighth of a teaspoon a day)—that’s how powerful the stuff is. I encourage everyone to cook with this wonderful spice. It tastes great and may protect every cell in our body, with or without the added stress. Counting the DNA breaks in people’s cells before and after a week of spices without the free radical blast revealed no significant intrinsic protection in the ginger or rosemary groups. However, the turmeric still appeared to reduce DNA damage by half.

This may be because curcumin is not just an antioxidant—it also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Catalase is one of the most active enzymes in the body: each one can detoxify millions of free radicals per second. If we consume the equivalent of about three quarters of a teaspoon of turmeric a day, the activity of this enzyme in our bloodstream gets boosted by 75%!

I suggest cooking with it rather than, for example, just throwing it in a smoothie. Why? Because this effect was found specifically for heat-treated turmeric. In practice, many herbs and spices are only consumed after cooking, so the researchers tested turmeric and oregano in both raw and cooked forms. In terms of DNA damage, the results from raw turmeric did not reach statistical significance. However, the opposite was found for its anti-inflammatory effects. So we might want to eat it both ways.

“Practical recommendations for obtaining curcumin in the diet might be to add turmeric to sweet dishes containing cinnamon and ginger.” I add it to my pumpkin pie smoothies (a can of pumpkin, frozen cranberries, pitted dates, pumpkin pie spice and some nondairy milk). We can also cook with curry powder or turmeric itself. The researchers suggest something called “turmeric milk,” which is a traditional Indian elixir made with milk, turmeric powder, and sugar. I’d suggest substituting a healthier sweetener and a healthier milk. Soy milk, for example, might have a double benefit. If you’re taking turmeric to combat inflammation, osteoarthritis sufferers randomized to soy protein ended up with significantly improved joint range of motion compared to dairy protein.

For some other extraordinary benefits of spices, see:

There are a few herb and spice caveats. See, for example:

Too much turmeric may also not be a good idea for those at risk for kidney stones (See Oxalates in Cinnamon).

Feel free to check out my Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe for another way to spice up your 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 Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Todd Huffman / Flickr

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The Top Four Anti-Inflammatory Spiceshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/20/the-top-four-anti-inflammatory-spices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-top-four-anti-inflammatory-spices&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-top-four-anti-inflammatory-spices http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/20/the-top-four-anti-inflammatory-spices/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:00:29 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24941 Once in a while I come across a study that’s so juicy I have to do a whole video about it (Which Spices Fight Inflammation?). A group of researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville and Pennsylvania State set up a brilliant experiment. We’ve known that ounce per ounce, herbs and spices have some of […]]]>

Once in a while I come across a study that’s so juicy I have to do a whole video about it (Which Spices Fight Inflammation?).

A group of researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville and Pennsylvania State set up a brilliant experiment. We’ve known that ounce per ounce, herbs and spices have some of the greatest antioxidant activities known. But that’s only ever been tested in a test tube. Before we can ask if an herb or spice has real health benefits, it is first necessary to determine whether it is bioavailable — whether the active ingredients are even absorbed. This had never been done, until now.

The researchers could have taken the easy route and just measured the change in antioxidant level in one’s bloodstream before and after consumption, but the assumption that the appearance of antioxidant activity in the blood is an indication of bioavailability has a weakness. Maybe more gets absorbed than we think but doesn’t show up on antioxidant tests because it gets bound up to proteins or cells. So the researchers attempted to measure physiological changes in the blood. They were interested in whether absorbed compounds would be able to protect white blood cells from an oxidative or inflammatory injury—whether herb and spice consumption would protect the strands of our DNA from breaking when attacked by free radicals. I cover the DNA findings in my video, Spicing Up DNA Protection. They also wondered if the consumption might alter cellular inflammatory responses in the presence of a physiologically relevant inflammatory insult. What does this all mean?

The researchers took a bunch of people and had each of them eat different types of spices for a week. There were many truly unique things about this study, but one was that the quantity of spices that study subjects consumed was based on the usual levels of consumption in actual food. For example, the oregano group was given a half teaspoon a day—a practical quantity that people might actually eat once in a while. At the end of the week, they drew blood from the dozen or so people they had adding, for example, black pepper to their diets that week, and compared the effects of their blood to the effects of the blood of the dozen subjects on cayenne, or cinnamon, or cloves, or cumin. They had about ten different groups of people eating about ten different spices. Then they dripped their plasma (the liquid fraction of their blood) onto human white blood cells in a Petri dish that had been exposed to an inflammatory insult. The researchers wanted to pick something really inflammatory, so they chose oxidized cholesterol (which is what we’d get in our bloodstream after eating something like fried chicken. If oxidized cholesterol is a new concept for you, please check out its role in heart disease progression in my video Arterial Acne). So they jabbed the white blood cells with oxidized cholesterol and measured how much tumor necrosis factor (TNF) they produced in response.

TNF is a powerful inflammatory cytokine, infamous for the role it plays in autoimmune attacks like inflammatory bowel disease. Compared to the blood of those who ate no spices for a week, black pepper was unable to significantly dampen the inflammatory response. What about any of the other spices? The following significantly stifled the inflammatory response:

  • cloves
  • ginger
  • rosemary
  • turmeric

And remember, they weren’t dripping the spices themselves on these human white blood cells, but the blood of those who ate the spices. So the results represents what might happen when cells in our body are exposed to the levels of spices that circulate in our bloodstream after normal daily consumption—not megadoses in some pill. Just the amount that makes our spaghetti sauce, pumpkin pie, or curry sauce taste good.

There are drugs that can do the same thing. Tumor necrosis factors are such major mediators of inflammation and inflammation-related diseases that there are TNF-blocking drugs on the market for the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and ankylosing spondylitis, which collectively rake in more than $20 billion a year ($15,000–$20,000 per person per year). At that price, the side effects better be hugs and rainbows. But no, the drugs carry a so-called “black box warning” because they can cause things like cancer and heart failure. If only there was a cheaper, safer solution.

The spice curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric, is substantially cheaper and safer, but does it work outside of a test tube? There’s evidence that it may help in all of the diseases for which TNF blockers are currently being used. So with health-care costs and safety being such major issues, this golden spice turmeric may help provide the solution.

See Antioxidants in a Pinch and How to Reach the Antioxidant RDA to see the extent to which even small amounts of spices can affect one’s antioxidant intake.

Another elegant series of “ex vivo” experiments exploring the cancer fighting power of lifestyle changes can be seen in the videos starting with Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay.

Mushrooms (Boosting Immunity While Reducing Inflammation), nuts (Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell), and purple potatoes (Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Purple Potatoes) may also reduce inflammation (along with plant foods in general, see Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants and Aspirin Levels in Plant Foods). In fact so well that plant-based diets can be used to treat inflammatory conditions. See, for example, Dietary Treatment of Crohn’s Disease, Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Potassium and Autoimmune Disease. Animal products on the other hand may increase inflammation through a variety of mechanisms, including endotoxins (How Does Meat Cause Inflammation?), arachidonic acid (Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation), and Neu5Gc (The Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5Gc).

-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.

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Superbugs on Retail Chickenhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/15/superbugs-on-retail-chicken/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=superbugs-on-retail-chicken&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=superbugs-on-retail-chicken http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/15/superbugs-on-retail-chicken/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 13:00:48 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24937 One of the most concerning developments in medicine is the emergence of bacterial super-resistance—resistance not just to one class of drugs, like penicillin, but to multiple classes of drugs (so-called multi-drug resistance). In the 2013 Retail Meat Report, the FDA found that more than a quarter of the Salmonella contaminating retail chicken breast were resistant […]]]>

One of the most concerning developments in medicine is the emergence of bacterial super-resistance—resistance not just to one class of drugs, like penicillin, but to multiple classes of drugs (so-called multi-drug resistance). In the 2013 Retail Meat Report, the FDA found that more than a quarter of the Salmonella contaminating retail chicken breast were resistant to not one but five or more different classes of antibiotic treatment drugs.

Throughout history there has been a continual battle between humans and pathogens. For the last half century, this battle has taken the form of bugs versus drugs. When we developed penicillin, the U.S. Surgeon General declared, “The war against infectious diseases has been won.” However, the euphoria over the potential conquest of infectious diseases was short lived.

In response to our offensive, bacteria developed an enzyme that ate penicillin for breakfast. In fact, bacteria can excrete such large quantities of the enzyme that they can destroy the drug before it even comes into contact. So we developed a drug that blocks the penicillin-eating enzyme. That’s why you may see two drug names on an antibiotic like Augmentin—one is the actual antibiotic (amoxicillin), and the other is a drug that blocks the enzyme the bacteria tries to use to block the antibiotic (clavulanate). But the bacteria outsmarted us again by developing a blocker blocking blocker—and so it goes back and forth. However hard we try and however clever we are, there is no question that organisms that have “been around for three billion years, and have adapted to survive under the most extreme conditions, will always overcome whatever we decide to throw at them.”

So we went from first generation antibiotics, to second generation antibiotics, to third generation antibiotics. We now have bacteria that have evolved the capacity to survive our big-gun third generation cephalosporins like ceftriaxone, which is what we rely on to treat life-threatening Salmonella infections in children.

Where are these super-duper-superbugs found? According to one study profiled in my video, Superbugs in Conventional vs. Organic Chicken, “almost 90% were isolated from chicken carcasses or retail chicken meat.”

But what if we only ate antibiotic-free organic chicken? In the first such study ever published, researchers compared multidrug-resistant bacteria in organic and conventional retail chicken meat. All of the conventional chicken samples were contaminated; however, the majority (84%) of organic chicken meat samples was also contaminated. So 100% versus 84%. Organic is definitely better, but odds are we could still be buying something that could make our family sick.

Where do these antibiotic resistant bacteria come from if organic producers are not using antibiotics? A possible explanation is that day-old chicks come from the hatcheries already infected with these bacteria before they arrive at the farms. Or, they could become contaminated after they leave the farm in the slaughter plant. Organic chickens and conventionally raised chickens are typically all slaughtered at the same plants, so there may be cross-contamination between carcasses. Finally, factory farms are dumping antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria-laden chicken manure out into the environment. Researchers can pick up antibiotic-resistant genes right out of the soil around factory farms. So even meat raised without antibiotics may be contaminated with multi-drug resistant bacteria.

In a cover story in which Consumer Reports urged retailers to stop selling meat produced with antibiotics, the researchers noted some store employee confusion: “An assistant store manager at one grocery store, when asked by a shopper for meats raised without antibiotics, responded, ‘Wait, you mean like veggie burgers?’” On second thought maybe the employees weren’t so confused after all.

I addressed this issue previously in videos such as:

Isn’t it illegal to sell meat contaminated with dangerous bacteria? Unfortunately no. See why in my video Salmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly But Not Illegal. Reminds me of the case I wrote about in Supreme Court case: meat industry sues to keep downed animals in food supply.

-Michael Greger, M.D

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

Image Credit:  Chilanga Cement / Flickr

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Foods for Computer Eye Strainhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/13/foods-for-computer-eye-strain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-computer-eye-strain&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-computer-eye-strain http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/13/foods-for-computer-eye-strain/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24871 What happens to our eyesight when we sit in front of a computer all day? As researchers from the SUNY College of Optometry note in a study profiled in my video, Dietary Treatments for Computer Eye Strain, the rise in computer screens “has led to an increase in ocular and visual problems, including eye discomfort, […]]]>

What happens to our eyesight when we sit in front of a computer all day?

As researchers from the SUNY College of Optometry note in a study profiled in my video, Dietary Treatments for Computer Eye Strain, the rise in computer screens “has led to an increase in ocular and visual problems, including eye discomfort, blurring of distant objects, eye strain, and asthenopia (visual fatigue).” This has caused so-called “nearwork-induced transient myopia.” That’s when after staring at a computer screen for a while we look out the window and things start out all blurry. Our vision becomes blurred because our poor little ciliary muscles pulling at our lens are locked in this constant state of contraction to keep that near focus. Over time, this may have long-term adverse consequences.

How to Combat Computer Eye Strain

Experts in the field recommend taking 4-12 minute breaks staring out the window every hour.

We can also aid our vision with our diet. A double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study, for example, found a significant improvement in refractive values and eyestrain symptoms when subjects ate black currants compared to a placebo.

However, what passes for currants in the U.S. are usually champagne grape raisins, not actual black currants, which were banned in the U.S. a century ago at the behest of the lumber industry. The lumber industry feared that they might spread a plant disease that affects white pine (which we hardly even harvest any more). Black currants are, however, currently making a comeback (and the ban has been lifted in some states), though any anthocyanin-rich berry might have similar benefits (such as bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, black raspberries and red raspberries).

Foods vs. Supplements

Why bother with whole bilberries or black currants when we could just take anthocyanin supplements? Because, as we’ve seen over and over again, when we test supplements, we’re lucky if they actually contain what is listed on the label. Furthermore, even for products containing bilberries, one study found that labeling was often uninformative, misleading, or both, something for which the herbal supplement market is infamous. The largest study to date found that it appears most herbal supplement labels lie.

Bilberries vs. Nazis

Bilberries gained notoriety during World War II when it was said that pilots in the British Royal Air Force “were eating bilberry jam to improve their night vision.” It turns out this may have been a story concocted to fool the Germans. The real reason the Brits were able to suddenly target Nazi bombers in the middle of the night before the bombers even made it to the English channel was likely not because of bilberries, but because of a top secret new invention the British needed to keep quiet: radar.

For best results when it comes to computer eye strain, stick to whole berries with blue and red pigments, and don’t forget to give your eyes a break each hour.

For other videos on protecting our vision, check out Greens vs. Glaucoma, where I listed the best foods to help prevent glaucoma; in Dietary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration I did the same for age-related macular degeneration. I’ve also addressed the Dietary Treatment of Glaucoma.

By using a standing or treadmill desk, we can avoid some of the other adverse health effects of sitting at a computer all day. See my video Standing Up for Your Health. I’m now up to 17 miles a day!

-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: GBloniarz / Flickr

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Currant Treatment for Glaucomahttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/08/currant-treatment-for-glaucoma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=currant-treatment-for-glaucoma&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=currant-treatment-for-glaucoma http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/08/currant-treatment-for-glaucoma/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24868 In my video, Dietary Prevention for Age-Related Macular Degeneration, I discussed how eating goji berries with nuts and seeds can help build up yellow plant pigments such as lutein and zeaxanthin in our eyes to help fight age-related macular degeneration. But once we’ve preserved the pigment in our retinal pigment epithelial cells, we need to […]]]>

In my video, Dietary Prevention for Age-Related Macular Degeneration, I discussed how eating goji berries with nuts and seeds can help build up yellow plant pigments such as lutein and zeaxanthin in our eyes to help fight age-related macular degeneration.

But once we’ve preserved the pigment in our retinal pigment epithelial cells, we need to keep them alive. This may be where anthocyanin phytonutrients come in. Anthocyanins (from the Greek anthos, meaning flower, and kyanos, meaning blue) are natural plant pigments that make pansies look purple and turn green cabbage into purple cabbage, yellow corn into purple corn, brown rice to purple rice, white potatoes to blue potatoes, orange carrots to purple carrots, and keeps blueberries blue and blackberries black.

As we age, our critical retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer starts to break down. However, we may be able to decelerate that aging with blueberries. In the study I profile in my video, Dietary Treatment of Glaucoma, human RPE cells bathed in blueberry anthocyanins had fewer free radicals and a lower proportion of aged cells, suggesting that blueberries and other red, blue, and purple pigmented fruits and vegetables may help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Blueberries may be especially important for blue eyes, as can be seen in my video Greens vs. Glaucoma.

Preventing disease is nice, but what if we already have a disease like glaucoma, an incurable eye disease in which our optic nerve (which connects our eyes to our brain) starts deteriorating, and we start losing our visual fields?

A few years ago, Japanese researchers showed they could apparently halt the progression of glaucoma with black currants. They gave people black currants for six months and found that black currants significantly boosted the blood flow to their optic nerve. The results suggest that black currants might be a safe and valuable option, but because the study was not double-blind and there was no control group, I didn’t report on it when it was initially published. But now we’ve got just such a study. Glaucoma patients were split into two groups—half got black currants; the other half didn’t.

The study measured the deterioration of the patients’ visual fields in both groups in the two years leading up to the study. Despite taking the best glaucoma drugs on the market, the subjects’ visual fields deteriorated. Then the study starts. The berry-free control group continued to worsen, but the berries appeared to stop the disease in its tracks after both one and two years. And since there’s no downside to berries (only good side-effects), in my professional opinion everyone with glaucoma should be eating berries every day.

For more on the latest science on preventing and treating vision loss, check out Greens vs. Glaucoma, where I detailed the best foods to help prevent glaucoma. My previous treatment of glaucoma can be found here: Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther.

I’ve mentioned anthocyanins before in:

They may be why purple potatoes (Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Purple Potatoes) and purple cabbage (Superfood Bargains) may be preferable. Anthocyanins are the pigments in red and purple cabbage that allow for the kitchen chemistry in Testing Your Diet with Pee & Purple Cabbage.

More on currants in Enhanced Athletic Recovery Without Undermining Adaptation.

-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: Rachel / Flickr

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Top 10 Most Popular Videos of 2014http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/06/top-10-most-popular-videos-of-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-10-most-popular-videos-of-2014&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-10-most-popular-videos-of-2014 http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/06/top-10-most-popular-videos-of-2014/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 13:00:26 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25579 2014 was another banner year for NutritionFacts.org. Thanks to the collective enthusiasm for sharing this work from our subscribers, twitter followers, and 200,000 fans, we averaged more than 1.3 million views per 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 […]]]>

2014 was another banner year for NutritionFacts.org. Thanks to the collective enthusiasm for sharing this work from our subscribers, twitter followers, and 200,000 Facebook fans, we averaged more than 1.3 million views per 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 every day. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made this public service possible. If you’d like to join others who have supported this free, nonprofit, noncommercial effort please consider making a tax-deductible donation here.

So far I’ve recorded nearly a thousand videos. If you’re new to the site, where do you even start? Well you can subscribe (for free, of course, like everything else on the site) to get emails daily, weekly, or monthly so as to not miss any of the new ones. As for the existing 50 or so hours of content, you can browse through the 1500+ topics I cover or use the search box to explore any type of food or disease condition. Annually, though, I try to compile the top ten most popular videos of the year to inspire everyone to fulfill their healthy New Year’s resolutions and offer a sampling of what folks seemed most interested in sharing.

NutritionFacts.org arises from my annual review of the scientific literature. With the help of a team of fellow volunteers, in 2014 we downloaded, categorized, and reviewed 17,533 papers on human nutrition from the medical literature. 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 practical findings, but which topics resonate the most? Is it the practical ones like The Best Way to Cook Sweet Potatoes, offering cooking or shopping tips? Or is it the ones that dissect the studies behind the headlines? Maybe 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 What’s the Best Mouthwash?

What's the Best Mouthwash?

Coming in at #10 is one of the practical ones that changed my own family’s day-to-day rituals. For extra credit, gargle with the green tea concoction, especially now during cold season (Can Gargling Prevent the Common Cold?).

 

 

 

#9 Low Carb Diets and Coronary Blood Flow

Low Carb Diets and Coronary Blood Flow

I profile the only study to actually measure the blood flow within the hearts of those on low carb diets.

 

 

 

 

#8 Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?

Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?Documentation of the seismic shift within the nutrition community as the balance of evidence shifted against the advice to eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements

 

 

 

  

#7 Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?An answer to the perennial question as an excuse to explore the nutrients that Americans are really deficient in, like fiber and potassium (see 98% of American Diets Potassium Deficient). Those eating plant-based diets average higher intakes of nearly every nutrient (Nutrient-Dense Approach to Weight Management).

  

 

 

#6 Second Strategy to Cooking Broccoli

Second Strategy to Cooking BroccoliThis is another real ritual changer. For background, watch The Best Detox. The first strategy is described in Sometimes the Enzyme Myth is the Truth.

 

  

 

 

#5 Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise

Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of ExerciseI’ve got a whole series of new videos coming out on paleo-type diets–there’s actually been some small clinical trials published now. For more see Paleolithic Lessons, and one of the most popular blog posts of 2014, Will The Real Paleo Diet Please Stand Up?

 

 

 

  

#4 If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?

If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?This was my follow-up to the video How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much? Next up in this series is going to be about how much fruit is too much–stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

#3 What Diet Should Physicians Recommend?

What Diet Should Physicians Recommend?A video of hope! A sign of how fast times are changing…

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?

Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe?The last of my series using Freedom of Information Act documents to offer a peek behind the food industry curtain. More behind-the-scenes emails in Eggs and Cholesterol: Patently False and Misleading Claims.

 

 

 

 

#1 From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

From Table to AbleHands down the most popular video was my live 2014 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. Last year’s More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases ran the list on how a healthy diet can affect some of the most common medical conditions. This year represents the third of the trilogy, in which I explore the role of diet in correcting some of our leading causes of disability. 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!

 I think if you compare some of the new videos to the Top Ten of 2012 and the Top Ten of 2013 you’ll agree that there’s been a big improvement—I’m embarrassed to even watch some of my old videos! I’m now able to offer more depth, and breadth, and context because of your support. Thanks to so many of you chipping in, 2014 was the first year we’ve been fully staffed, so I can concentrate on the research while others coordinate the volunteers and tackle all the logistics. And 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 2,379 papers for the 2015 batch. Time to get reading!

Looking forward to sharing another healthy happy new year,
-Michael Greger, M.D.

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Foods for Macular Degenerationhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/01/foods-for-macular-degeneration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-macular-degeneration&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-macular-degeneration http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/01/01/foods-for-macular-degeneration/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24863 Anyone who has gotten a bad sunburn knows how damaging the UV rays in sunlight can be. Imagine what those same rays are doing to back of our eyeballs (our retinas). The eye is designed to take sunlight and focus it like a magnifying glass into the back of our eyes. Thankfully, we have a […]]]>

Anyone who has gotten a bad sunburn knows how damaging the UV rays in sunlight can be. Imagine what those same rays are doing to back of our eyeballs (our retinas). The eye is designed to take sunlight and focus it like a magnifying glass into the back of our eyes. Thankfully, we have a layer of cells called the retinal pigment epithelium that supports and protects our delicate retinal eyesight machinery. The layer builds up yellow plant pigments like zeaxanthin from our diet, absorbing blue light and protecting the retina from photo-oxidative damage. The yellowing of our corneas when we develop cataracts may actually be our bodies’ defense mechanism to protect our retinas. In fact, when cataracts are removed, the risk of blindness from macular generation shoots up (because we removed the protection). Instead of trading one type of vision loss for another, it’s better to pigment the back of our eyes through diet instead of pigmenting the front of our eyes with cataracts. The pigment in the back of our eyes is entirely of dietary origin, “suggesting that the most common cause of blind registration in the Western World could be delayed, or even averted, with appropriate dietary modification,” according to authors of a study on age-related macular degeneration.

Where in our diet do we get these pigments? The egg industry brags that eggs are a good source, but have nearly six high-lutein, free-range, certified organic eggs a week for three months and the pigmentation in one’s eyes may only marginally increase (see Egg Industry Blind Spot). Instead of getting the phytonutrients from the egg that came from the chicken that came from the corn and blades of grass the chicken pecked on, we could get it from the source. One cup of corn and a half cup of spinach a day for three months seems to dramatically boost the protective eye pigment in subjects. In the video, Dietary Prevention of Age Related Macular Degeneration, you can see a comparison of the amount of these phytonutrients from eggs compared to corn and spinach. If we cut out the middlehen and get these nutrients from plants directly, we see a substantially larger increase in protective eye pigment.

Three months after the subjects stopped eating the corn and spinach, the levels of these pigments remained relatively high, indicating that once we build our macular pigment up with a healthy diet, our eyeballs really try to hold on to it. So even if we go on vacation and end up eating more iceberg lettuce than spinach, our eyes will hold out until we get back.

Eggs can increase zeaxanthin levels in the blood, but they can also raise bad cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Thus, as researchers conclude, “an egg yolk-based dietary strategy to increase plasma zeaxanthin cannot be recommended, and an alternative, cholesterol-free, food source is desirable.” One such alternative would be goji berries, which have up to 60 times more zeaxanthin than eggs. A modest dose of goji markedly increases levels in our body. Consumption of goji berries may be an effective, safe whole food strategy to increase zeaxanthin in the bloodstream.

But we don’t need it in our blood, we need it in our eyes. A group of researchers performed a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial to test the effectiveness of goji berries at increasing pigment levels. To preserve eyesight in the elderly in traditional Chinese medicine, people are often prescribed 40 to 100 goji berries a day. In this study, participants consumed only about 15 berries a day for three months. Even at this small dose researchers  found that goji berries could protect against loss of pigment and prevent the buildup of debris that builds up in the back of the eye. Both loss of pigment and debris buildup are associated with age-related macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in older men and women, affecting more than ten million Americans, so increasing our consumption of these pigments as a society could significantly decrease the prevalence of blindness. In the above study, researchers gave the goji berries in milk so the butterfat could increase the absorption of these carotenoid pigments. A healthier way to get the same effect would just be to eat goji berries with nuts or seeds—in other words, goji trail mix.

Though they didn’t appear to boost a measure of immune function (Boosting Natural Killer Cell Activity), goji berries are one of the most antioxidant packed snacks out there. A tip on getting them inexpensively can be found in my video Are Goji Berries Good for You?

-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: Marufish / Flickr

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Foods for Glaucomahttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/30/foods-for-glaucoma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-glaucoma&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-for-glaucoma http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/30/foods-for-glaucoma/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24833 Glaucoma is the second leading cause of legal blindness in white women, and the number one cause of blindness in African-American women. In a study I profile in the video Greens vs. Glaucoma, researchers chose a population of African-American women to study the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on glaucoma risk because they were […]]]>

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of legal blindness in white women, and the number one cause of blindness in African-American women. In a study I profile in the video Greens vs. Glaucoma, researchers chose a population of African-American women to study the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on glaucoma risk because they were specifically interested in studying the effect of foods with the highest concentration of those eye-protecting phytonutrients like zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is found primarily in plants such as kale and collard greens. (It is also found in eggs—find out how much in Egg Industry Blind Spot). However, we’d be lucky if we could find one in ten white people eating even a single serving of these dark green leafy vegetables a month, whereas nearly nine out of ten African-American women in the study consumed this amount.

What did the researchers find? Well, as I’ve stressed over the years, all fruits and vegetables are not the same (see for example, How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA). Whether the participants hardly ever ate bananas or had one or more every day didn’t seem to matter much in terms of the risk of glaucoma. However, eating only a couple oranges every week was associated with dramatically lower risk. Orange juice was not associated with a lower risk, though, even if drunk every day. A similar finding was found for peaches: fresh peaches seemed to help, but canned peaches didn’t.

Similarly the intake of vegetables in general as a catch-all term didn’t seem to matter. For example, whether subjects ate a green salad twice a week, once a week, or zero times a week didn’t seem to matter when it came to reducing glaucoma risk, but most people’s salads are pretty pitiful. It was a different story for kale and collard greens: just two or three servings a month was associated with half the risk of glaucoma compared to once a month or less.

It may be especially important for white people to consume kale and collard greens. The lighter our eye color, the more greens we need to eat. Blue eyes let 100 times more light through, so people with blue or gray eyes appear significantly more vulnerable to damage compared to brown or black. Green and hazel fall somewhere in the middle.

This is interesting: carrots appeared to be less protective in black women compared to white women. They suggest it could be a difference in food preparation methods. Perhaps the African-American subjects tended to eat carrots raw, limiting the absorption of certain nutrients, while they chopped and prepared their collard greens with oil, making the nutrients more bioavailable because the absorption of carotenoid phytonutrients depends on the presence of fat. This is why I encourage people to eat nuts or seeds with the greens—such as a little tahini sauce or something.

Why not just take a zeaxanthin pill? We don’t know what exactly it is in these wonderful foods that’s working their wonders, so it’s probably better to just eat our greens rather than supplements. In fact, people that take calcium or iron supplements may even be doubling, quadrupling, or septupling their odds of glaucoma. It’s better to get most of our nutrients from produce, not pills.

I wish there were more studies on under-represented populations. I’ve covered a few, such as Preventing Breast Cancer By Any Greens Necessary, but I am constantly on the lookout for more.

My other videos on glaucoma include Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther and Dietary Treatment of Glaucoma. For more on eye health check out my video, Dietary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

-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: bruno garciact / Flickr

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How Long to Avoid Fish Before Conception?http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/25/how-long-to-avoid-fish-before-conception/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-long-to-avoid-fish-before-conception&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-long-to-avoid-fish-before-conception http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/25/how-long-to-avoid-fish-before-conception/#comments Thu, 25 Dec 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24830 Mothers’ increased consumption of fish before and during pregnancy leads to increased exposure to both mercury and the long-chain omega 3 DHA. Mercury may negatively affect brain development in one’s unborn baby, whereas DHA may stimulate brain development. However, the negative effect of mercury appears to outweigh the beneficial effect of DHA for most species […]]]>

Mothers’ increased consumption of fish before and during pregnancy leads to increased exposure to both mercury and the long-chain omega 3 DHA. Mercury may negatively affect brain development in one’s unborn baby, whereas DHA may stimulate brain development. However, the negative effect of mercury appears to outweigh the beneficial effect of DHA for most species of fish (see Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development).

Unfortunately, women of childbearing age appear less aware and knowledgeable about this problem than other women, despite FDA and EPA campaigns to inform every OB/GYN and pediatrician in the country about the potential risks of mercury in fish.

Since mercury sticks around in the body, women may want to avoid fish with high levels of mercury for a year before they get pregnant, not just during pregnancy. The rationale for avoiding fish for a year before pregnancy is because the half-life of mercury in the body is estimated to be about two months. In a study I profile in my video How Long to Detox from Fish Before Pregnancy a group of researchers fed subjects two servings a week of tuna and other high mercury fish to push their mercury levels up, and then stopped the fish. Slowly but surely their levels came back down (see the video for the graph). I know a lot of moms are concerned about exposing their children to mercury containing vaccines, but if they eat even just a serving a week of fish during pregnancy, the latest data shows that their infants end up with substantially more mercury in their bodies than if they were injected with up to six mercury-containing vaccines.

Given the two-month half-life of mercury, within a year of stopping fish consumption our bodies can detox nearly 99% of the mercury. Unfortunately the other industrial pollutants in fish can take longer for our body to get rid of. Certain dioxins, PCBs, and DDT metabolites found in fish have a half-life as long as ten years. So getting that same 99% drop could take 120 years, which is a long time to delay one’s first child.

The fact that we can still find DDT in umbilical cord blood decades after the pesticide was banned speaks to the persistence of some pollutants. There’s a shortcut for moms, but it’s The Wrong Way to Detox.

What effects do these other pollutants have? Well, high concentrations of industrial contaminants are associated with 38 times the odds of diabetes—that’s as strong as the relationship between smoking and lung cancer! Isn’t diabetes mostly associated with obesity though? Well, these pollutants are fat-soluble, so “as people get fatter the retention and toxicity of persistent organic pollutants related to the risk of diabetes may increase.” This suggests the shocking possibility that obesity “may only be a vehicle” for such chemicals.

Now the pollutants could just be a marker for animal product consumption, which may be why there’s such higher diabetes risk, since more than 90% of the persistent organic pollutants comes from animal foods. And indeed, in the U.S. every additional serving of fish a week is associated with a 5% increased risk of diabetes, which makes fish consumption about 80% worse than red meat. PCBs are found most concentrated in fish and eggs (Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants), which may be why there are lower levels of Industrial Pollutants in Vegans. This may also help explain the remarkable findings in Eggs and Diabetes.

More on the risks of mercury can be found in these videos:

-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: Tatiana Vdb / Flickr

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Boosting Anti-Cancer Immunity with Berrieshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/23/boosting-anti-cancer-immunity-with-berries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boosting-anti-cancer-immunity-with-berries&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boosting-anti-cancer-immunity-with-berries http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/23/boosting-anti-cancer-immunity-with-berries/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 13:00:20 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24798 For disease prevention and health maintenance, berries of all colors have “emerged as champions.” Research has focused mainly on cancer prevention and treatment. Studies show that the anticancer effects of berries are partially mediated through their abilities to counteract, reduce, and also repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries may also have many […]]]>

For disease prevention and health maintenance, berries of all colors have “emerged as champions.” Research has focused mainly on cancer prevention and treatment. Studies show that the anticancer effects of berries are partially mediated through their abilities to counteract, reduce, and also repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries may also have many other positive effects, such as boosting detoxifying enzymes.

One of the more remarkable effects is that of blueberries on natural killer cell counts. Natural killer cells are part of our immune system’s rapid response team against cancer cells, eliminating cancer cells through the activation of cancer cell suicide via death receptors. They’re called natural killers because they don’t require activation by prior exposure. We don’t want to wait until our second tumor before our immune system starts fighting.

We have about two billion of these soldiers circulating in our blood stream at any one time, but we may be able to get a troop surge with blueberries. Researchers had athletes eat about a cup and a half of blueberries a day for six weeks to see if that would reduce the oxidative stress of long-distance running. They indeed saw a blunting of the spike in oxidant stress. But that’s not what sets that study apart.

The number of natural killer cells in the blood typically decreases after prolonged endurance exercise, dropping by half to only about one billion—that is, unless we’ve been eating lots of blueberries. In the video, Boosting Natural Killer Cell Activity,  you can see a graph comparing natural killer cell numbers with and without blueberries.  Those who ate blueberries retained close to the standard two billion cells. This is because six weeks of blueberries had doubled the resting number of natural killer cells up to over four billion. This has never before been demonstrated in humans. There was a study on goji berries, but despite a cup a day for a month, there was no significant change in the number of natural killers.

Another study, though, showed a significant increase in natural killer cell activity thanks to the spice cardamom. (Cardamom and blueberries—I never thought we’d be fighting cancer with blueberry muffins!) When researchers took some lymphoma cells in a petri dish and added cardamom, nothing happened. However, if we add some natural killer cells, about 5% of the cancer cells are wiped out. Add a little more cardamom, and our troops do better still. And then if we add more and more spice, then all of a sudden the natural killer cells are killing cancer like crazy—the same number of natural killer cells, but they’re now able to kill off ten times more cancer cells. While cardamom alone had no effect on cancer cells even at the highest dose, it seemed to enhance our natural killer cells’ killer instincts.

The same thing was found for black pepper: Black pepper alone, nothing, but when combined with natural killer cells, there seemed to be a boosting effect up to around 30 or 40% cancer cell clearance. If cardamom and black pepper are combined, they synergize and their individual effects are doubled. The researchers conclude that “Taken together, these data strongly suggest that black pepper and cardamom have the potential to markedly enhance the anti-cancer activity of natural killer cells.”

Exercise itself can improve immune function in general (See Preserving Immune Function in Athletes With Nutritional Yeast), but the blueberry finding, so far, is unique. The oxidative stress part of the story is told in Reducing Muscle Soreness With Berries.

It is true that the blueberry study was funded by the North American Blueberry Council and the North Carolina High-bush Blueberry Council. However, just because the study was funded by blueberry councils doesn’t necessarily mean the science is suspect, but we would want to see the study independently verified, especially one so dramatic.

What else can berries do? Check out:

You can check also out my blueberry smoothie recipe here in 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:  Stein Lauritsen / Flickr

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