NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:46:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hives from Tick Bite-Induced Meat Allergieshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/27/hives-from-tick-bite-induced-meat-allergies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hives-from-tick-bite-induced-meat-allergies http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/27/hives-from-tick-bite-induced-meat-allergies/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:35 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27359 In a previous video Alpha Gal and the Lone Star Tick, I started talking about a tick bite-induced meat allergy, called Alpha-Gal, that is unlike any other food allergy we know. The most interesting feature of the reactions may be that first symptoms can occur hours after eating meat. Normally, an allergic reaction to a […]]]>

In a previous video Alpha Gal and the Lone Star Tick, I started talking about a tick bite-induced meat allergy, called Alpha-Gal, that is unlike any other food allergy we know. The most interesting feature of the reactions may be that first symptoms can occur hours after eating meat. Normally, an allergic reaction to a bee sting, for example, happens within minutes. With this meat allergy, we could have a piece of bacon for breakfast and our throat wouldn’t start closing off until the afternoon. Because the cause and effect are temporarily separated, we often blame other factors, such as what we ate for lunch, or we just call it “spontaneous” or “idiopathic” anaphylaxis, which is just doctor-speak for “we have no idea what the cause is.”

The delay likely occurs because the alpha-gal is probably absorbed along with the fat in meat, given that the allergic reaction occurring four to five hours after meat ingestion corresponds to the peak absorption time of fatty acids from the intestinal tract.

What makes the allergy even more difficult to diagnose is that the majority of victims experience only occasional overt reactions, despite regular meat consumption. Fattier meats, like pork rinds, may provoke episodes more consistently and severely, but still don’t trigger a reaction every time.

Tick bite-induced meat allergy is on the rise. Ten years ago we didn’t even know this thing existed, but now in tick-ridden states as many as 20% of the population have these anti-meat allergic antibodies (See Tick Bites, Meat Allergies, and Chronic Urticaria). And more and more people are coming in affected, though probably no more than 10% who test positive go on to experience hives or serious allergic reaction to meat.

We’re also seeing it more and more in kids. Researchers in Virginia have found that it is not uncommon, though identification of the allergy may not be straightforward. Unlike in adults, who frequently present with systemic reactions, the majority of children with this syndrome present with just skin manifestations, such as hives. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not serious. In fact, nearly half the kids ended up in the ER, and about 1 in 12 needed to be hospitalized.

Up to a quarter of the population breaks out in hives at some time in their lives, but some children can be affected for weeks or months. It can be triggered by infections, foods, drugs, parasites, or be autoimmune, but in a large subset of cases we don’t know what the trigger is, and so, call it chronic “idiopathic” urticaria. It’s a common thing pediatricians see. The only cure is avoiding and eliminating whatever is triggering it, but in three quarters of cases we have no clue.

We now know that many children who had been diagnosed with mysterious hives or allergic reactions and may have been specifically told that the reactions were not a result of a food allergy, may have actually been suffering from anti-gal meat allergies. The serious nature of the reactions and the rising frequency of allergic swelling and hives across all age groups underscore the importance of identifying what’s going on, and physicians should keep this new diagnosis in mind.

Allergies to meat might be more common than previously thought, as much as 2% of the population (which would mean millions of people). But to put this in context, Americans are much more likely to suffer an anaphylactic reaction due to seafood, tick bite or not, no matter where they live. A national survey of emergency rooms found shellfish was by far the most frequently implicated food, and unlike many other allergies, kids don’t tend to outgrow fish and shellfish allergies.

Some fish allergies are actually allergies not to the fish, but to worms in the fish, like anisakis, which are found particularly in cod, anchovies, and squid. Exposure to these parasites in fish, living or dead, is a widespread problem. In fact, we can even have an allergic reaction to the parasitic fish worm when we eat chickens that were fed on fishmeal. This is one of the ways someone who’s allergic to fish could get triggered by chicken.

Because of these worms, researchers recommend that people stop eating seafood and sushi altogether, because besides inducing allergenic reactions, the worms may cause a leaky gut syndrome, which often is unrecognized and can predispose someone to other, more important pathologies than just being itchy all over.

I previously covered anisakis in Allergenic Fish Worms and other allergenic parasite reactions in Chronic Headaches and Pork Tapeworms.

The worms might not be the only thing increasing allergies in fish. See:

I also did a 4-part series on allergies in general if anyone’s interested:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Meredith P. / Flickr

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How a Tick Bite Can Lead to Food Allergieshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/25/how-a-tick-bite-can-lead-to-food-allergies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-tick-bite-can-lead-to-food-allergies http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/25/how-a-tick-bite-can-lead-to-food-allergies/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:04 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27356 In the beginning, Aristotle defined two forms of life on planet Earth: plants and animals. Two thousand years later, the light microscope was invented and we discovered tiny, single-celled organisms like amoebas. Then, the electron microscope was invented and we discovered better characterized bacteria. Finally, in 1969, biologists recognized fungi as a separate category, and […]]]>

In the beginning, Aristotle defined two forms of life on planet Earth: plants and animals. Two thousand years later, the light microscope was invented and we discovered tiny, single-celled organisms like amoebas. Then, the electron microscope was invented and we discovered better characterized bacteria. Finally, in 1969, biologists recognized fungi as a separate category, and we’ve had at least five kingdoms of life ever since.

In my video, Higher Quality May Mean Higher Risk, I talk about the potential downsides of consuming proteins from within our own kingdom, such as the impact our fellow animal proteins can have on boosting our liver’s production of a cancer-promoting hormone called IGF-1.

In Eating Outside Our Kingdom, I talked about other potential advantages of preferably dipping into the plant and mushroom kingdoms for dinner, not only from a food safety perspective (we’re more likely to get infected by animal pathogens than Dutch Elm Disease), but because of the potential for cross-reactivity between animal and human proteins. Our immune system is more likely to get confused between a chicken leg and our own legs than it is with a banana, so there may be less potential to trigger an autoimmune reaction, like degenerative brain diseases or inflammatory arthritis (See Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis). In attacking some foreign animal meat protein, some of our own similarly composed tissues may get caught in the crossfire.

It’s not just proteins. If you remember the Neu5Gc story (see Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5GC), sialic acid in other animals may cause inflammation in our arteries (see  Nonhuman Molecules Lining Our Arteries) and help breast tumors and other human cancers to grow (see How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies). Now a new twist has been added to the story.

The reason Neu5Gc triggers inflammation is because humans lost the ability to make it two million years ago, and so when our body is exposed to it through animal products, it’s treated as a foreign molecule, causing inflammation. But there’s also another oligosaccharide called alpha-gal that humans, chimps, and apes lost the ability to make 2 million years ago, but is still made by a variety of animals, including many animals we eat.

Anti-gal antibodies may be involved in a number of detrimental processes that may result in allergic, autoimmune, and autoimmune-like diseases, such as auto-immune thyroid disorders. We see higher levels of anti-gal antibodies in Crohn’s disease victims. These antibodies even react against about half of human breast tumors, and we can find them in atherosclerotic plaques in people’s necks. However, those are all mostly speculative risks. We do know that alpha-gal is a major obstacle to transplanting pig organs, like kidneys, into people, because our bodies reject alpha-gal as foreign. In fact, alpha-gal is thought to be the major target for human anti-pig antibodies.

It’s interesting that if we look at those that abstain from pork for whatever reason, they have fewer swine-specific immune cells in their bloodstream. Researchers speculate that oral intake of pork could ferry swine molecules into the bloodstream via gut-infiltrating lymphocytes to prime the immune response. So we can have an allergic reaction to eating pig kidneys too, but such severe meat allergies were considered rare, until an unusual report surfaced. First described in 2009, the report included details on 24 cases of meat allergies triggered by tick bites.

Within a year, it was obvious that the cases should be counted in hundreds rather than dozens. By 2012, there were thousands of cases across a large area of the southern and eastern U.S., and new cases are now popping up in several countries around the world.

The culprit, the lone star tick, so-called because females have a white spot on their back, are famous for causing Masters’ disease, a disease similar to Lyme syndrome, also known as STARI (southern tick associated rash illness). But thanks to the lone star tick steadily expanding its range (even as far as Long Island, NY), it’s not necessarily just so Southern any more.

What is the relevance of tick bites to the production of allergy-causing anti-meat antibodies to alpha-gal? Good question. What we know is that if you get bitten by one of these ticks, you can develop an allergy to meat (See Alpha Gal and the Lone Star Tick). This appears to be the first example of a response to an external parasite giving rise to an important form of food allergy. We don’t know the exact mechanism, but it may be because there’s something in the tick saliva that’s cross-reacting with alpha-gal, or because the tick is injecting you with animal allergens from its last meal.

What role may these tick-bite induced allergies play in the development of chronic hives and other allergic skin reactions in children? See Tick Bites, Meat Allergies, and Chronic Urticaria.

Here’s some videos unearthing the IGF-1 story:

Neu5Gc is what opened up this whole can of worms:

I wonder if alpha gal is playing a role in the improvements in arthritis and Crohn’s on plant-based diets: Dietary Treatment of Crohn’s Disease and Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab / Flickr

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What Do Eggs Do To Our Arteries?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/20/what-do-eggs-do-to-our-arteries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-do-eggs-do-to-our-arteries http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/20/what-do-eggs-do-to-our-arteries/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:00:05 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27351 In reaction to the study that found a similar exponential increase in artery clogging plaque in both smokers and egg eaters, one critic countered that eggs have beneficial effects on vascular endothelium, the inner lining of our arteries, citing a 2005 study on egg consumption and endothelial function, funded by the American Egg Board (highlighted […]]]>

In reaction to the study that found a similar exponential increase in artery clogging plaque in both smokers and egg eaters, one critic countered that eggs have beneficial effects on vascular endothelium, the inner lining of our arteries, citing a 2005 study on egg consumption and endothelial function, funded by the American Egg Board (highlighted in my video, Eggs and Arterial Function).

The study was done on a group of men and women eating the standard American diet, were overweight, had “normal” cholesterol, (which is to say extremely high cholesterol–LDL levels twice as high as could be considered optimal). As the authors of a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology note, it’s often not appreciated “that the average blood cholesterol level in the United States, the so-called normal level, was actually too high,” accelerating heart disease and “putting a large fraction of the so-called normal population at a higher risk” for coronary heart disease, our number one killer.

If we threw a lit match into a flaming pool of gasoline and saw no real difference in the height of the flames, we can’t conclude that throwing lit matches into gasoline is not a fire hazard. But that is exactly what the Egg Board study concluded. When the addition of eggs didn’t make the arterial function worse than it already was, they concluded that “short-term egg consumption does not adversely affect endothelial function in healthy adults.”

The egg board paid for a follow-up study using folks who were even worse off, with a mean total cholesterol of 244. They reported that egg consumption had no effect on endothelial function… as compared to sausage and cheese. Yet instead of sounding the alarm that eating eggs is as bad for arterial function as a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin (!), the researchers concluded that egg consumption was found to be non-detrimental to endothelial function and cholesterol levels. The subjects started out with life-threatening cholesterol, and ended up with life-threatening cholesterol.

Why don’t endothelial function and cholesterol levels get even worse? Because there’s a plateau effect. We can basically max out on our cholesterol absorption. After a certain level of intake, it’s just another match to the fire. If we’re already consuming the standard American diet averaging 400mg of cholesterol daily, even adding two jumbo eggs to our diet may not have a sizeable impact. But to people trying to eat healthy, those two eggs could shoot their cholesterol up 20 points.

However, a fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute was found to be beneficial. That is, not eating eggs lowers cholesterol levels and improves endothelial function—and that’s what these people needed. Their arteries were already hurting, they needed something to bring the fire down, not more matches. The subjects were apparently eating so unhealthily that adding eggs couldn’t make things much worse, but eating oatmeal instead of eggs made things better, helping to quench the fire. So even the Egg Board-funded studies said that not eating eggs is better for our arteries, yet these are the same studies that pro-egg folks cite to claim beneficial vascular effects.

More on the reaction to the Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis study in my video, Debunking Egg Industry Myths, as well as further discussion of the effects of the cholesterol in eggs on the cholesterol levels in the blood of egg consumers. More on that in:

I previously featured a food that actually does benefit vascular function. See Walnuts and Artery Function. Though the nut industry did try a similar tactic, see my video Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering. The beef, soda, and dairy industries may also be guilty of experimental manipulation. See BOLD Indeed: Beef Lowers Cholesterol and Food Industry “Funding Effect”.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Pietro Bellini / Flickr

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Dietary Cholesterol Affects Blood Cholesterol Levelshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/18/dietary-cholesterol-affects-blood-cholesterol-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dietary-cholesterol-affects-blood-cholesterol-levels http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/18/dietary-cholesterol-affects-blood-cholesterol-levels/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27349 In my video, Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis, I profiled a study showing that both smoking and eating eggs can harm our arteries. But even egg yolks alone were associated with artery-clogging plaque buildup nearly two thirds as bad as smoking. This certainly ruffled some feathers. Yes, eggs are by far the number one source […]]]>

In my video, Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis, I profiled a study showing that both smoking and eating eggs can harm our arteries. But even egg yolks alone were associated with artery-clogging plaque buildup nearly two thirds as bad as smoking.

This certainly ruffled some feathers.

Yes, eggs are by far the number one source of cholesterol in the American diet, but some letters to the editor protested that dietary cholesterol may have very little impact on blood cholesterol levels, citing a study published in 1971 performed on eight people. But if one looks at dozens of studies together, covering hundreds of study subjects, we find that blood cholesterol concentration is “clearly increased by added dietary cholesterol.” In my video, Debunking Egg Industry Myths, there is an extreme example just to illustrate: a year in the life of a study subject taken on and off eggs. First, the researchers take him off eggs, putting him on a cholesterol-free diet, and his blood cholesterol plummets within just three weeks. Then they give him lots of eggs, and his cholesterol shoots back up, stays high until they take the eggs away and put him back on the cholesterol free diet, and so on and so forth. The researchers were essentially turning his high blood cholesterol on and off like a light switch (made out of eggs).

Of course the only reason we care about our cholesterol levels or how much plaque is building up inside our arteries is because we want to avoid the consequences, like a heart attack. So do eggs increase our risk of cardiovascular disease? The latest meta-analysis, the latest compilation of all the best studies on egg consumption and risk of heart disease going back to 1930, found that, overall, those who ate the most eggs had a 19% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a 68% increased risk of diabetes, and, once you have diabetes, an even greater 85% increased risk of heart disease. It didn’t take much; less than a single egg a day was associated with a significantly increased risk of heart disease. Just over half an egg a day may increase heart disease risk 6% (40% in separated diabetes patients), and the risk of diabetes by 29%. The researchers conclude that their findings support the American Heart Association dietary guidelines, which advise restricted egg consumption in adults for preventing cardiometabolic disease, like diabetes, our seventh leading cause of death, and heart disease, our number one killer.

More on the diabetes connection in Eggs and Diabetes and Bacon, Eggs, and Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy.

More on eggs and the egg industry in general:

There’s more to heart disease than just cholesterol buildup. In my video, Eggs and Arterial Function, I explore what effect egg consumption has on endothelial function, the ability of our arteries to relax normally.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Rebecca Siegel / Flickr

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Do Walnuts Really Improve Artery Function?http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/13/how-walnuts-can-improve-artery-function/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-walnuts-can-improve-artery-function http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/13/how-walnuts-can-improve-artery-function/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:00:11 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27083 Good news for nut lovers: Eating at least one serving of walnuts per week may drop our chances of a cardiovascular-related death by 50%. However, walnut consumption may only drop our cholesterol levels about 5%. How could we get a 50% drop in cardiac mortality from just a 5% drop in cholesterol? Walnuts must have […]]]>

Good news for nut lovers: Eating at least one serving of walnuts per week may drop our chances of a cardiovascular-related death by 50%. However, walnut consumption may only drop our cholesterol levels about 5%. How could we get a 50% drop in cardiac mortality from just a 5% drop in cholesterol? Walnuts must have some other heart-protecting benefits besides lowering cholesterol.

The ability of blood vessels to relax and open normally is considered an excellent barometer of underlying vascular health. For example, even after controlling for other risk factors, 80% of those with better than average arterial function survived cardiac event-free over the years, whereas 80% of those with below average dilation didn’t. So what effect do nuts have? A 2011 review in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases found five clinical trials analyzing the effect of nut consumption on arterial function, and all three studies on walnuts showed an improvement in endothelial function measured in the arm. The study on pistachios also found a positive effect, but the study on hazelnuts was a wash.

A subsequent study on hazelnuts, however, did find a significant improvement in arterial function, so the data for hazelnuts is mixed, whereas two subsequent walnut studies (highlighted in my video, Walnuts and Artery Function) confirmed walnuts’ benefits. Therefore, eight studies to date have investigated the effect of nuts on brachial artery function; seven out of eight showed a significant improvement in arterial function, one showed a negligible effect, and none found nuts made things worse.

Half the studies, though, used the added nuts to replace foods in the diet known to have a negative effect on endothelial function. For example, in one study, walnuts replaced meat and dairy, which have been shown to be detrimental, so no wonder arterial function got better. When we do a study like that, we can’t tell if the benefits are because of the addition of the good stuff or the removal of the bad. In three of the other studies, nuts replaced olive oil, which tends to lead to a worsening of endothelial function. Therefore, in these four studies, the beneficial effects of the walnuts may have been exaggerated.

However, the other four studies just added nuts as a snack or with a meal, without replacing any specific foods, and found that nuts significantly improved arterial functioning. Given their association with longevity (see Nuts May Help Prevent Death), I encourage everyone to eat an ounce of nuts a day (unless of course you’re allergic). Only about 1% of people report nut allergies, but still, that eliminates nut consumption for millions of Americans.

What else can nuts do? See, for example:

Don’t nuts make us fat, though? You may be surprised—see Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence.

Which type of walnut is better? Black Versus English Walnuts.

What about the phytates in nuts–do we need to soak or toast them? See:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 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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Salmon May Be the Greatest Source of Dietary Pollutantshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/11/salmon-may-be-the-greatest-source-of-dietary-pollutants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salmon-may-be-the-greatest-source-of-dietary-pollutants http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/11/salmon-may-be-the-greatest-source-of-dietary-pollutants/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 12:00:23 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27078 In my video Diabetes and Dioxins, I explored a nationwide study that found a strong dose-response relationship between industrial toxins and diabetes. Since then, Harvard researchers have reported a link between persistent pollutants like hexachlorobenzene and diabetes in their Nurse’s Health Study (See Food Sources of Perfluerochemicals). This is supported by an analysis they did […]]]>

In my video Diabetes and Dioxins, I explored a nationwide study that found a strong dose-response relationship between industrial toxins and diabetes. Since then, Harvard researchers have reported a link between persistent pollutants like hexachlorobenzene and diabetes in their Nurse’s Health Study (See Food Sources of Perfluerochemicals). This is supported by an analysis they did of six other studies published since 2006 that showed the same thing. The Harvard researchers conclude that “past accumulation and continued exposure to these persistent pollutants may be a potent risk factor for developing diabetes.”

Where is hexachlorobenzene found? In a U.S. supermarket survey, salmon and sardines were most heavily tainted with hexachlorobenzene, with salmon “the most contaminated food of all.” Farmed salmon specifically is perhaps the greatest source of dietary pollutants, averaging nearly ten times the PCB load of wild-caught salmon.

Wait, isn’t there a flaw in this argument? Since many of these chemicals were banned in the 70’s, the levels inside people have been going down, whereas the rates of diabetes have been shooting straight up. Therefore, how could pollutant exposure be causing diabetes? This puzzle may be explained by our epidemic of obesity. The nationwide study found that the association between these toxins and diabetes was much stronger among obese subjects than among lean subjects. As people get fatter, the retention and toxicity of pollutants related to the risk of diabetes may increase.

So we’re not just exposed by eating the fat of other animals; our own fat can be a continuous source of internal exposure because these persistent pollutants are slowly but continuously released from our fat stores into our circulation.

They don’t call them “persistent pollutants” for nothing. These chemicals have such a long half-life that people consuming regular (even just monthly) meals of farmed salmon might end up retaining these chemicals in their bodies for 50 to 75 years.

Hexachlorobenzene in fish has been tied to diabetes; what about the mercury? A 1995 study highlighted in my video, Pollutants in Salmon and Our Own Fat, out of Japan found that diabetics do seem to have higher mercury levels in their body. Mercury alone does not seem to increase diabetes risk, though. It may be the simultaneous exposure to both dioxins and mercury that increases risk, so the safety limits for dioxins and mercury individually may underestimate the risk when they’re consumed together in seafood.

So while the pharmaceutical industry works on coming up with drugs to help mediate the impact of these pollutants, a better strategy might be to not get so polluted in the first place.

Unfortunately, because we’ve so contaminated our world, we can’t escape exposure completely. You have to eat something. Some foods are more contaminated than others, though. Exposure to these pollutants comes primarily from the consumption of animal fat, with the highest levels found in fatty fish like salmon. Farmed Atlantic salmon may be the single largest source of these pollutants, and that’s the kind of salmon we most commonly find in supermarkets and restaurants.

We hear about advisories warning pregnant women to avoid the consumption of food containing elevated levels of pollutants and mercury, but as a public health journal article points out, since these toxins bio-accumulate in the body for many years “restricting the exposure to these pollutants only during pregnancy would not protect the fetus or future generations against the harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals.”

For the existing links between seafood and diabetes risk, see Fish and Diabetes and I explored this concept of our own body fat as a reservoir for disease-causing pollutants in Diabetes and Dioxins.

More on hexachlorobenzene in my video Food Sources of Perfluorochemicals.

Our body has a tougher time getting rid of some toxins than others:

The best way to detox is to stop toxing in the first place.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Sharon Mollerus / Flickr

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Dr. Greger Takes on Smoothies in New DVDhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/06/dr-greger-takes-on-smoothies-in-new-dvd/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-greger-takes-on-smoothies-in-new-dvd http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/06/dr-greger-takes-on-smoothies-in-new-dvd/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 12:00:42 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27687 Smoothies have been one of the most requested topics, but for years there seemed to be little pertinent research. I was surprised when I reprised my search this year to find hundreds of studies, so it’s smoothie-time! I rarely do such long contiguous video series any more, but I had neglected the topic for so […]]]>
Smoothies have been one of the most requested topics, but for years there seemed to be little pertinent research. I was surprised when I reprised my search this year to find hundreds of studies, so it’s smoothie-time! I rarely do such long contiguous video series any more, but I had neglected the topic for so long I wanted to get them out. I review the latest science in five new videos:

  • Are Green Smoothies Good for You?
  • Are Green Smoothies Bad for You?
  • Green Smoothies: What Does the Science Say?
  • Liquid Calories: Do Smoothies Lead to Weight Gain?
  • The Downside of Green Smoothies

They are available right now as a video download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 26 (all proceeds go to this charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD. The smoothie videos are all scheduled to go up on NutritionFacts.org in September, but you can download and watch them right now.

Wait a second. Why spend five videos sifting through the science, profiling all the original experiments, and turning it into one big detective story when I could have just cut to the chase and did a five second video and basically said “Drink them” or “Don’t drink them”? Because I don’t want you to ever do anything just because I or anyone else “said so.” That’s one of the problems with the field of nutrition. Everyone seems to have their respective gurus who too often make pronouncements without explaining their reasoning and citing their sources. Can you imagine that flying in any other field of science? It’s not what he said or she said; it’s that the best available balance of evidence bears out. Two plus two equals four no matter what your favorite mathematician says.

The current batch of videos from volume 25 on NutritionFacts.org just ran out, so starting now and running until October, I’ll be rolling out the videos from this new DVD, volume 26. The DVDs give folks the opportunity to sneak-preview videos months ahead of time, watch them all straight through, and share them as gifts, but there is nothing on the DVDs that won’t eventually end up free online at NutritionFacts.org. If you’d like the works–40+ hours of video–you can get the complete DVD collection.
Here’s the list of chapters from the new volume 26 DVD — a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:
  1. Brown Fat: Losing Weight Through Thermogenesis
  2. Boosting Brown Fat Through Diet
  3. High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice
  4. Does Chocolate Cause Weight Gain?
  5. Fatty Meals May Impair Artery Function
  6. Olive Oil and Artery Function
  7. Coffee and Mortality
  8. Why is Meat a Risk Factor for Diabetes?
  9. How May Plants Protect Against Diabetes?
  10. Treating Dry Eye Disease with Diet: Just Add Water?
  11. Putrefying Protein and “Toxifying” Enzymes
  12. How to Reduce Carcinogenic Bile Acid Production
  13. Are Green Smoothies Good for You?
  14. Are Green Smoothies Bad for You?
  15. Green Smoothies: What Does the Science Say?
  16. Liquid Calories: Do Smoothies Lead to Weight Gain?
  17. The Downside of Green Smoothies
  18. Diet and Climate Change: Cooking Up a Storm
  19. Music for Anxiety: Mozart vs. Metal
  20. Plant-Based Diets for Improved Mood and Productivity
  21. Caution: Anti-inflammatory Foods in the Third Trimester
  22. Alzheimer’s May Start Decades Before Diagnosis
  23. Alzheimer’s and Atherosclerosis of the Brain
  24. Whole Beets vs. Juice for Improving Athletic Performance
  25. Oxygenating Blood With Nitrate-Rich Vegetables
  26. The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100

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

DVD Subscription

If you were a regular supporter, you’d already be a smoothie expert by now, having already received the new DVD. I now come out with new DVDs every 9 weeks. If you’d like to automatically receive them before they’re even available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly donor.

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $15 monthly contributor will receive the next three DVDs for free (as physical DVDs, downloads, or both–your choice), and anyone signing up as a $25 monthly contributor will get a whole year’s worth of new DVDs. If you’re already signed up and didn’t receive your volume 26 yet, please email Tommasina@NutritionFacts.org and she’ll make everything all better.

If you’d rather just watch all the videos online as they launch, but would still like to support my work of helping to educate millions about healthy eating, you can make a tax-deductible donation to my 501c3 nonprofit organization NutritionFacts.org using a credit card, a direct PayPal link, or by sending a check to “NutritionFacts.org” PO Box 11400, Takoma Park, MD 20913.

The Nutritional Yeast Research Results Are In

Thanks to everyone who donated to the NutritionFacts.org Research Fund, we were able to test eight brands of nutritional yeast for the presence of the toxic heavy metal lead. The good news is that we couldn’t find any in most brands, but a few did have detectable levels. The lead contamination was so low that all brands complied with the exceedingly (and justifiably) strict California Prop 65 standards, but I do I advise pregnant women who eat more than a third of a cup a day on a regular basis choose one of the brands that tested free from detectable lead until we know more. Joseph includes details and direct links to all the testing reports in this morning’s blog post Three Brands of Nutritional Yeast Contain Detectable Lead Levels But the Risk is Minimal. What should we test next? Please post your suggestions to the Research Fund page.

If you would like to participate in a research study yourself, you’re in luck! Scientists at Tufts University are currently recruiting adults ages 18+ for an important study on diet and disease. Take the recruitment survey here: http://bit.ly/tuftsresearch

If you’d like to attend a scientific conference and directly learn about cutting-edge nutrition research, I’m speaking at a few in the coming months and would love to see you there:

Keep hydrated out there!

-Michael Greger

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Dr. Greger’s 2015 Live Year-in-Review Presentationhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/04/dr-gregers-2015-live-year-in-review-presentation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-gregers-2015-live-year-in-review-presentation http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/08/04/dr-gregers-2015-live-year-in-review-presentation/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 12:00:52 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27345 View my new live presentation here: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet Every year I scour the world’s scholarly literature on clinical nutrition, pulling together what I find to be the most interesting, practical, and groundbreaking science on how to best feed ourselves and our families. I start with […]]]>

View my new live presentation here: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

Every year I scour the world’s scholarly literature on clinical nutrition, pulling together what I find to be the most interesting, practical, and groundbreaking science on how to best feed ourselves and our families. I start with the thousands of papers published annually on nutrition (27,000 this year–a new record!) and, thanks to a crack team of volunteers (and now staff!), I’m able to whittle those down (to a mere 8,000 this year). They are then downloaded, categorized, read, analyzed, and churned into the few hundred short videos. This allows me to post new videos and articles every day, year-round, to NutritionFacts.org. This certainly makes the site unique. There’s no other science-based source for free daily updates on the latest discoveries in nutrition. The problem is that the amount of information can be overwhelming.

Currently I have more than a thousand videos covering 1,931 nutrition topics. Where do you even begin? Many have expressed their appreciation for the breadth of material, but asked that I try to distill it into a coherent summary of how best to use diet to prevent and treat chronic disease. I took this feedback to heart and in 2012 developed Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, which explored the role diet may play in preventing, arresting, and even reversing our top 15 killers. Not only did it rise to become one of the Top 10 Most Popular Videos of 2012, it remains my single most viewed video to date, watched over a million times (NutritionFacts.org is now up to more than 1.5 million hits a month!).

In 2013 I developed the sequel, More Than an Apple a Day, in which I explored the role diet could play in treating some of our most common conditions. I presented it around the country and it ended up #1 on our Top 10 Most Popular Videos of 2013. Then in 2014 I premiered the sequel-sequel, From Table to Able, in which I explored the role diet could play in treating some of our most disabling diseases, landing #1 on our Top 10 Most Popular Videos of 2014.

Every year I wonder how I’m going to top the year before. Knowing how popular these live presentations can be and hearing all the stories from folks about what a powerful impact they can have on people’s lives, I put my all into this new 2015 one. I spent more time putting together this presentation than any other in my life.  It took me an entire month, and when you see it I think you’ll appreciate why.

This year, I’m honored to bring you Food as Medicine, in which I go through our most dreaded diseases–but that’s not even the best part! I’m really proud of what I put together for the ending. I spend the last 20 minutes or so (starting at 56:22) going through a thought experiment that I’m hoping everyone will find compelling. I think it may be my best presentation ever. You be the judge.

You can watch it at no cost online, but it is also available on DVD through my website or on Amazon. If you want to share copies with others, I have a five for $40 special (enter coupon code 5FOR40FAM). All proceeds from the sales of all my books, DVDs, downloads, and presentations go to the 501c3 nonprofit charity that keeps NutritionFacts.org free for all, for all time. If you want to support this initiative to educate millions about eradicating dietary diseases, please consider making a donation.

After you’ve watched the new presentation, make sure you’re subscribed to get my video updates daily, weekly, or monthly to stay on top of all the latest.

-Michael Greger

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Three Brands of Nutritional Yeast Contain Detectable Lead Levels But the Risk is Minimalhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/07/30/three-brands-of-nutritional-yeast-contain-detectable-lead-levels-but-the-risk-is-minimal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-brands-of-nutritional-yeast-contain-detectable-lead-levels-but-the-risk-is-minimal http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/07/30/three-brands-of-nutritional-yeast-contain-detectable-lead-levels-but-the-risk-is-minimal/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:32 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=26768 Note from Dr. Greger: In short, we found detectable amounts of lead in samples of Frontier, KAL, and Whole Foods brand nutritional yeast, but the lead levels were so low that they all comply with the exceedingly (and justifiably) strict California Prop 65 standards. Still, I advise pregnant women who eat more than a third […]]]>

Note from Dr. Greger: In short, we found detectable amounts of lead in samples of Frontier, KAL, and Whole Foods brand nutritional yeast, but the lead levels were so low that they all comply with the exceedingly (and justifiably) strict California Prop 65 standards. Still, I advise pregnant women who eat more than a third of a cup a day on a regular basis choose a different brand. No detectable lead levels were found in Bob’s Red Mill, Bragg, Dr. Fuhrman, Red Star, or NOW Foods brand nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast has grown in popularity and is being introduced into many new dishes and recipes. It has a nice “cheesy” flavor and texture that can be used in sauces and soups or sprinkled over salads and popcorn. Dr. Greger recently covered how the beta glucan fiber in nutritional yeast can modulate our immune system and help to maintain our body’s defense against pathogens (See Dr. Greger’s video on Nutritional Yeast to Prevent the Common Cold). It seems beta glucans can be found in many foods, including mushrooms, which have been shown to boost immunity as well.

A safety concern arose when Dr. Greger was notified that California’s prop 65 warning stickers were found on packages of nutritional yeast, suggesting there’s something in it exceeding cancer or reproductive safety limits. It turns out the problem was lead. There are many contaminants in the environment and in our food supply, even found in our children, which is probably why California has such strict guidelines on contamination. For example, California considers candies with lead levels in excess of 0.10 parts per million (ppm) to be excessively contaminated. State law requires products that contain more than half of a microgram of lead per daily serving to carry a label warning consumers. Could nutritional yeast carry lead levels this high?

We reached out to some of the companies who produce nutritional yeast in hopes to better understand the situation. We asked if they perform lead testing and if they could share any information. The results of Dr. Greger’s inquiries can be found in his video here. He was frustrated by the lack of responsiveness and so decided we should take it upon ourselves to do our own testing. The NutritionFacts Research Fund was created and thanks to generous donor support we tested samples from 8 companies for the presence of lead in hopes to spur them to do their own testing.

We hired an independent lab to conduct our tests for lead. I shipped out 8 samples of nutritional yeast in their original package. The lab used standard practices for lead testing known as Official Methods of Analysis set by AOAC International. Lab technicians determined the lead values based on California Prop 65 standards. Here are the results from the brands we tested:

Bob’s Red Mill  - Test report shows no detectable lead (<0.01 ppm).

BraggTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Dr. Fuhrman -  Test report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Frontier CoopTest report shows lead levels at 0.021 ppm. It would take six tablespoons a day (based on the manufacture’s listed density) to exceed the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Maximum Allowable Dose Level (MADL) for chemicals causing reproductive toxicity.*

KALTest report shows lead levels at 0.011 ppm. It would take seven tablespoons a day to exceed the MADL.*

NOW FoodsTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Red StarTest report shows no detectable lead (< 0.01 ppm).

Whole Foods - Test report shows lead levels at 0.012 ppm. It would take six tablespoons a day to exceed the MADL.*

So what do all those numbers mean? None of the brands tested exceeded California prop 65 standards. No matter what brand, consuming a typical serving (2 tablespoons) per day is still well within safe limits. I will certainly continue to include the stuff in my diet. Dr. Neal Barnard once said, “It’s not about ALL foods in moderation, it’s about healthy foods in moderation. Broccoli is great, but you don’t want to just eat broccoli. Kids exercising is wonderful, but you don’t want them to exercise all the time.”

-Joseph Gonzales, R.D.

*Note from Dr. Greger: The Maximum Allowable Dose Level for lead as a developmental toxin is 0.5 micrograms a day. How are MADL’s calculated? Basically scientists figure out what the “no observable effect level” is, the level at which no birth defects or reproductive toxicity can be found, and then introduce a 1000-fold safety buffer. So for example, let’s say there’s some chemical that causes birth defects if expectant moms are exposed to two drops of the chemical a day, but there’s no evidence that one drop a day is harmful. Do they set the Maximum Allowable Dose Level at one drop? No, they set it at 1/1000th of a drop to account for scientific uncertainty and to err on the side of caution. So by saying six tablespoons a day of nutritional yeast may exceed the MADL is in effect saying that the level of lead found in 6,000 tablespoons of nutritional yeast may cause birth defects. Like mercury, though, as far as I’m concerned the less lead exposure the better. I hope this will inspire companies to do further testing to see if the levels we found were just flukes.

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Dioxins Stored in Our Own Fat May Increase Diabetes Riskhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2015/07/28/dioxins-stored-in-our-own-fat-may-increase-diabetes-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dioxins-stored-in-our-own-fat-may-increase-diabetes-risk http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/07/28/dioxins-stored-in-our-own-fat-may-increase-diabetes-risk/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:00:49 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=27077 Finding higher diabetes rates among those heavily exposed to toxic pollutants—such as those exposed to Agent Orange, chemical plant explosions, toxic waste dumps, or heavy metals in fish from the Great Lakes—is one thing. Would the same link be found in a random sampling of the general population? Yes. A strong dose-dependent relationship was found […]]]>

Finding higher diabetes rates among those heavily exposed to toxic pollutants—such as those exposed to Agent Orange, chemical plant explosions, toxic waste dumps, or heavy metals in fish from the Great Lakes—is one thing. Would the same link be found in a random sampling of the general population? Yes. A strong dose-dependent relationship was found between the levels of these pollutants circulating in people’s blood and diabetes. Those with the highest levels of pollutants in their blood stream had 38 times the odds of diabetes.

Interestingly, there was “no association between obesity and diabetes among subjects with non-detectable levels of pollutants.” In other words, “obesity was a risk factor for diabetes only if people had blood concentrations of these pollutants above a certain level.” We know obesity predisposes us to diabetes, but according to this study, highlighted in my video, Diabetes and Dioxins, this is perhaps true only if our bodies are contaminated with industrial pollutants. This finding implies that virtually all the risk of diabetes conferred by obesity is attributable to these pollutants, and that obesity might only be a vehicle for such chemicals. Could we be carrying around our own little toxic waste dump on our hips?

Now it’s entirely possible that the six pollutants they looked at were not themselves causally related to diabetes. Rather, they could just be surrogates of exposure to a mixture of chemicals. After all, 90% of these pollutants in our diet come from animal foods. Except for individuals living or working around industrial sites where these chemicals were used or dumped, the most common source of exposure to PCBs is from diet, from foods of animal origin, especially seafood. The strong relationship the researchers found between certain pollutants and diabetes may just be pointing to other contaminants in animal products.

If these pollutants are particularly found in seafood, are people who eat fish at higher risk for diabetes? See my videos Fish and Diabetes, and Pollutants in Salmon and Our Own Fat.

For more on dioxins, see:

For more on PCBs, see:

These pollutants may also play a role in our rising epidemic of allergic diseases. See Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies and Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Agustin Ruiz / Flickr

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