NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Fri, 29 Jul 2016 11:53:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The 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 2016 - NutritionFacts.org - All Rights Reserved The Latest in Nutrition Research NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/podcast.jpg http://nutritionfacts.org The latest in nutrition related research delivered in easy to understand video segments brought to you by Michael Greger M.D. TV-G Tri-Weekly Donate to NutritionFacts.org Inhibiting Platelet Activation with Tomato Seeds http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/28/inhibiting-platelet-activation-tomato-seeds/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/28/inhibiting-platelet-activation-tomato-seeds/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 12:00:08 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32464 In the prevention of cardiovascular disease, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is crucial. Preventing the oxidation of cholesterol may be one of the mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, hyperactivity of platelets is also critically important in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, as I’ve covered […]]]>

In the prevention of cardiovascular disease, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is crucial. Preventing the oxidation of cholesterol may be one of the mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, hyperactivity of platelets is also critically important in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, as I’ve covered before (See Inhibiting Platelet Aggregation with Berries).

In recent years, it has been shown that platelets are not only involved in the arterial clotting process, but also that they play an active role in the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis from childhood. By the end of our teens, atherosclerotic lesions are present in most people living in industrialized societies, and so suppressing the over-activity of platelets may be beneficial not only for heart disease, but for cancer, allergies, and diseases for which inflammation plays a major role.

The antioxidant properties of fruits and veggies are well known. However, their anti-clotting effects on platelets are less known. Preliminary studies have demonstrated the platelet activation suppressing activity of a variety of fruits and vegetables. They suppress platelet activation so well that they can actually mess up platelet function tests. And, the effects are so long-lasting that fasting the morning of your blood test may not be sufficient.

Out of 16 different fruits tested, tomatoes came out number one. The anti-platelet activation components in tomatoes are water soluble, so we don’t have to eat them with fat; heat stable, meaning we can cook tomatoes without losing the benefits; and concentrated in the yellow fluid around the seeds. This is why tomato pomace beat out tomato juice, sauce, or ketchup. Pomace is basically the seeds and the peel, which the industry throws away, and it may be the healthiest part. And the more tomato seeds the better. But this study was measuring platelet activation in a petri dish. Grapefruit came in number two here, and grapefruit juice at least didn’t appear to help when people actually drank it. Would drinking tomato juice actually help?

Platelets of patients with diabetes are characterized by intensified activation, so 20 diabetics were asked to drink a daily cup of tomato juice for three weeks or a tomato-flavored placebo beverage, and there was a significant drop in platelet activation.

A study done by the Rowett Research Institute, highlighted in my video, Inhibiting Platelet Activation with Tomato Seeds, found this works in healthy people as well. Within three hours of consumption, two tomatoes lowered platelet activation, and six tomatoes worked even better. Also, the effects were more wide-ranging than those of aspirin in that the tomatoes targeted multiple pathways of platelet activation.

About one in four people are aspirin resistant, meaning aspirin doesn’t work to calm down their platelets, whereas only 3% of study subjects were found to be tomato resistant.

This finding indicates an advantage of the tomato extract’s broad antiplatelet activity profile over single-target drugs such as aspirin. Also, when researchers stuck tubes into people while they were eating tomatoes, they found no changes in blood clotting times, implying that supplementation with tomatoes should not result in a prolonged bleeding times, so one might get the best of both worlds: less platelet activation without the bleeding risk. But if tomatoes don’t thin our blood, do they work?

Researchers out of North Carolina State University report that, “consumption of tomato products has been found to be protectively correlated with a lower incidence of acute coronary events, less development of early atherosclerosis, and lower mortality from heart disease.”

If you don’t like tomatoes, kiwifruit recently beat them out in a test tube study of platelet activation. Strawberries may help too, but we have data showing kiwis may actually work in people, and two kiwis appeared to work just as well as three kiwis. It appears to work for green-on-the-inside kiwifruit; and for yellow-on-the-inside kiwifruit. In this case, though, one a day seemed to help whereas two-a-day did not, which seems a little strange. And there haven’t been any studies to see if kiwifruit eaters actually have fewer strokes and heart attacks, so the best evidence for a dietary intervention to decrease platelet activation currently rests with tomatoes.

One of my favorite videos, The Tomato Effect, is actually not about tomatoes at all, but talks about the power of a diet composed entirely of plants to combat the heart disease epidemic. After all, Heart Disease Starts in Childhood.

I do have some others that really do touch on tomatoes, though:

More on kiwis here:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Rusty Clark / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/28/inhibiting-platelet-activation-tomato-seeds/feed/ 24
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/26/preventing-alzheimers-disease-diet/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/26/preventing-alzheimers-disease-diet/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 12:00:18 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32458 Up to half of Alzheimer’s cases may be attributable to just seven risk factors shown in my video, Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, exercise, smoking, depression, and mental exercise; and that’s not including diet because there are so many dietary factors that researchers couldn’t fit them into their […]]]>

Up to half of Alzheimer’s cases may be attributable to just seven risk factors shown in my video, Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, exercise, smoking, depression, and mental exercise; and that’s not including diet because there are so many dietary factors that researchers couldn’t fit them into their model. But, they acknowledged that diet might be another important modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, there is growing evidence that dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk, as well as slower cognitive decline, but which constituents of the Mediterranean diet are responsible?

The traditional Mediterranean diet is a diet high in intake of vegetables, beans, fruit, and nuts, and low in meat and dairy. When researchers tried to tease out the protective components, fish consumption showed no benefit, neither did moderate alcohol consumption. The two critical pieces appeared to be vegetable consumption, and the ratio between unsaturated fats and saturated fats, essentially plant fats to animal fats.

In studies across 11 countries, fat consumption appeared to be most closely correlated with the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, with the lowest fat intake and Alzheimer’s rates in China to the highest fat intake and Alzheimer’s rates in the United States. But this is grouping all fats together.

Harvard researchers examined the relationships of the major fat types to cognitive change over four years among 6,000 healthy older women, and found that higher saturated fat intake was associated with a poorer trajectory of cognition and memory. Women with the highest saturated fat intake had 60 to 70% greater odds of worse change on brain function. The magnitude of cognitive change associated with saturated fat consumption was equivalent to about six years of aging, meaning women with the lowest saturated fat intake had the brain function of women six years younger.

What if one already has Alzheimer’s, though? Previously, a group of Columbia University researchers reported that eating a Mediterranean-style diet was related to lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but whether a Mediterranean diet—or any diet for that matter—is associated with the subsequent course of the disease and outcomes had not been investigated, until now.

In a study highlighted in my video, Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Diet, researchers found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may affect not only risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but also subsequent disease course, as higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower mortality. And the more they adhered to the healthier diet, the longer they lived. Within five years, only 20% of those with high adherence died, with twice as many deaths in the intermediate adherence group. In the low adherence group, within five years, more than half were dead, and by ten years, 90% were gone. By the end of the study, the only people still alive were those with higher adherence to the healthier diet.

For more on the Mediterranean diet, check out:

I do have a bunch on dietary factors in cognitive decline, though:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Shawn Allen / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/26/preventing-alzheimers-disease-diet/feed/ 21
Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/21/preventing-alzheimers-lifestyle-changes/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/21/preventing-alzheimers-lifestyle-changes/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:00:53 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32452 It’s safe to say that Alzheimer’s disease research is in a “state of crisis.” For the past two decades, over 73,000 research articles have been published, yet little clinical progress has been made. The reason a cure may be impossible is because lost cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients are due to fatally damaged neuronal […]]]>

It’s safe to say that Alzheimer’s disease research is in a “state of crisis.” For the past two decades, over 73,000 research articles have been published, yet little clinical progress has been made. The reason a cure may be impossible is because lost cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients are due to fatally damaged neuronal networks, and dead nerve cells cannot be brought back to life. Consequently, replacement with new brain cells—even if it were technically possible, cannot be done without creating a new personal identity. One may live, but is it really a cure if their personality is lost forever?

Developing drugs that try to clear out the plaques from advanced degenerated brain tissue, therefore, makes about as much sense as bulldozing tombstones from graveyards in an attempt to raise the dead. Even if drug companies figured out how to halt further disease progression, many Alzheimer’s victims might not choose to live without being able to recognize family, friends, or themselves in a mirror.

Thus, prevention of Alzheimer’s seems to be the key. Alzheimer’s disease, like heart attacks or strokes, needs to be prevented by controlling vascular risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling what’s called “chronic brain hypoperfusion,” the lack of adequate blood flow to the brain over the years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This means a healthy diet, physical exercise and mental exercise.

In the video, Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Lifestyle Changes, you can see a visual of the potential number of Alzheimer’s cases that could be prevented every year in the United States if we could just reduce diabetes rates 10 percent or 25 percent, since diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. And, so is high blood pressure, depression, not exercising your body, smoking, and not exercising your brain. Altogether, a small reduction in all of these risk factors could potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of devastated families.

If modifiable factors such as diet were found conclusively to modulate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to the degree suggested by this research, then we would all indeed rejoice at the implications.

My mom’s mom died of Alzheimer’s. It is worth preventing at all costs.

Up to half of Alzheimer’s cases may be attributable to just those seven risk factors, and that’s not even including diet, because there were so many dietary factors that they couldn’t fit them into their model. What role does diet play? That’s the subject of my video, Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Diet.

So far these are some of the videos I’ve done on dementia prevention and treatment:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: clement127 / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/21/preventing-alzheimers-lifestyle-changes/feed/ 25
How Much Added Sugar is Too Much? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/19/much-added-sugar-much/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/19/much-added-sugar-much/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:00:06 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32449 In 1776, at the time of the American Revolution, Americans consumed about four pounds of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 pounds, and by 1994 to 120 pounds. Now, we’re closer to 160 (See How Much Added Sugar is Too Much?). Half of table sugar is fructose, taking up […]]]>

In 1776, at the time of the American Revolution, Americans consumed about four pounds of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 pounds, and by 1994 to 120 pounds. Now, we’re closer to 160 (See How Much Added Sugar is Too Much?). Half of table sugar is fructose, taking up about 10 percent of our diet. This is not from eating apples, but rather the fact that we’re each guzzling the equivalent of a 16-ounce soft drink every day; that’s about 50 gallons a year.

Even researchers paid by the likes of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and The Coca Cola Company acknowledge that sugar is empty calories, containing “no essential micronutrients, and therefore if we’re trying to reduce calorie intake, reducing sugar consumption is obviously the place to start.” Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worse than just empty.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that “the fructose added to foods and beverages in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup in large enough amounts can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.”

Fructose hones in like a laser beam on the liver, and like alcohol, fructose can increase the fat in the liver. The increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most remarkable medical developments over the past three decades—the emergence of fatty liver inflammation as a public health problem here and around the globe.

These may not be messages that the sugar industry or beverage makers want to hear. In response, the director-general of the industry front group, the World Sugar Research Organization, replied, “Overconsumption of anything is harmful, including water and air.” Yes, he compared the overconsumption of sugar to breathing too much.

Under American Heart Association’s new sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150. That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the day. The new draft guidelines from the World Health Organization suggest we could benefit from restricting added sugars to under 5 percent of calories. That’s about six spoonfuls of added sugar. I don’t know why they don’t just recommend zero as optimal, but you can get a sense of how radical their proposal is given that we consume an average of 12-18 spoonfuls a day right now.

This underscores why a whole foods, plant-based diet is preferable to a plant-based diet that includes processed junk.

I’ve touched on the harm of refined sugars before in:

For healthful alternatives in baking, see The Healthiest Sweetener, and for beverages, Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Adam Engelhart / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/19/much-added-sugar-much/feed/ 67
Caloric Restriction vs. Plant-Based Diets http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/14/caloric-restriction-vs-plant-based-diets/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/14/caloric-restriction-vs-plant-based-diets/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 12:00:12 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32481 Hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States every year are attributed to obesity, now overtaking smoking as perhaps the main preventable cause of illness and premature death. In particular, excess body fatness is an important cause of most cancers, according to a meta-analysis of studies done to date. For some cancers, about half […]]]>

Hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States every year are attributed to obesity, now overtaking smoking as perhaps the main preventable cause of illness and premature death. In particular, excess body fatness is an important cause of most cancers, according to a meta-analysis of studies done to date. For some cancers, about half of the cases may be attributable to just being overweight or obese.

What’s the connection, though? Why do individuals who are obese have increased cancer risk? To answer this question, we must consider the biochemical consequences of obesity, like IGF-1; insulin like growth factor one is a cancer-promoting growth hormone associated with a variety of common cancers in adults, as well as children. Kids who got cancer had about four times the levels of IGF-1 circulating in their bloodstream, whereas people growing up with abnormally low levels of IGF-1 don’t seem to get cancer at all.

I’ve talked about this cancer-proofing mutation (See Cancer-Proofing Mutation), the role animal protein intake plays in boosting IGF-1 production from our liver (Protein Intake & IGF-1 Production), which may explain plant-based protection from cancer (The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle), and how plant-based one has to eat (How Plant-Based to Lower IGF-1?), but our liver is not the only tissue that produces IGF-1; fat cells produce IGF-1 too. That may help explain this “twenty-first century cancer epidemic caused by obesity.”

So, of course, drug companies have come up with a variety of IGF-1 blocking chemo agents, with cute names like figitumamab, but with not-so-cute side effects “such as early fatal toxicities.” So, perhaps better to lower IGF-1 the natural way, by eating a plant-based diet, as vegan women and men have lower IGF-1 levels. Maybe, though, it’s just because they’re so skinny. The only dietary group that comes close to the recommended BMI of 21 to 23 were those eating strictly plant-based diets; so, maybe it’s the weight loss that did it. Maybe we can eat whatever we want as long as we’re skinny.

To put that to the test, we’d have to find a group of people that eat meat, but are still as slim as vegans. And that’s what researchers did – long-distance endurance runners, running an average of 48 miles a week for 21 years were as slim as vegans. If we run 50,000 miles, we too can maintain a BMI of even a raw vegan. So, what did they find?

If we look at blood concentrations of cancer risk factors among the groups of study subjects, we see that only the vegans had significantly lower levels of IGF-1. That makes sense given the role animal protein plays in boosting IGF-1 levels.

But the vegan group didn’t just eat less animal protein, they ate fewer calories. And in rodents at least, caloric restriction alone reduces IGF-1 levels. So, maybe low IGF-1 among vegans isn’t due to their slim figures, but maybe the drop in IGF-1 in vegans is effectively due to their unintentional calorie restriction. So, we have to compare vegans to people practicing severe calorie restriction.

To do this, the researchers recruited vegans from the St. Louis Vegetarian Society, and went to the Calorie Restriction Society to find folks practicing severe caloric restriction. What did they find?

Only the vegan group got a significant drop in IGF-1. These findings demonstrate that, unlike in rodents, long-term severe caloric restriction in humans does not reduce the level of this cancer-promoting hormone. It’s not how many calories we eat, but the protein intake that may be the key determinant of circulating IGF-1 levels in humans; and so, reduced protein intake may become an important component of anti-cancer and anti-aging dietary interventions.

That same data set that compared plant eaters to marathon runners was also featured in Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension and Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners.

These studies are highlighted in my video Caloric Restriction vs. Plant-based Diets.

More on the caloric consumption and longevity:

What exactly is IGF-1 and what is the relationship to animal protein consumption?:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Heather Hammond / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/14/caloric-restriction-vs-plant-based-diets/feed/ 60
GMO Soy and Breast Cancer http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/12/gmo-soy-breast-cancer/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/12/gmo-soy-breast-cancer/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 12:00:46 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32476 In response to concerns raised about the toxicity of Monsanto’s roundup pesticide, which ends up in GMO foods (See Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?), Monsanto’s scientists countered that these in vitro experiments used physiological irrelevant concentrations, meaning dripping roundup on cells in a petri dish at levels far above what would be realistically found […]]]>

In response to concerns raised about the toxicity of Monsanto’s roundup pesticide, which ends up in GMO foods (See Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?), Monsanto’s scientists countered that these in vitro experiments used physiological irrelevant concentrations, meaning dripping roundup on cells in a petri dish at levels far above what would be realistically found in the human body.

Sure, it’s probably not a good idea to mix up your alcohol with your roundup and chug the stuff, or try to commit suicide by drinking or injecting it. And there are rare cases of Parkinson’s reported after getting directly sprayed with it, or working for years in a pesticide production plant, but that’s not your typical consumer exposure.

As shown in my video GMO Soy and Breast Cancer, some of the researchers responded to the accusation claiming they used the kinds of concentrations that are used out in the fields. Therefore every little droplet we spray worldwide is above the threshold concentration they found to cause adverse effects. Monsanto’s folks responded saying, “Yes, that’s the concentration we spray, but that’s not the concentration that human cells are bathing in. Once it gets into drinking water or food, it’s highly diluted.” And, they’re quick to point out, if we look at people with the greatest exposure—pesticide workers—the vast majority of studies show no link between the use of Roundup and cancer or non-cancer diseases. There are a few suggestive findings suggesting a link with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One study of pesticide applicators suggested an association with multiple myeloma, and one study of the children of pesticide applicators found a tentative association with ADHD, but again these are folks experiencing a much greater exposure level than the general population that may just get a few parts per million in their food. But there had never been any studies done on the tiny levels found circulating in people’s bodies, until now.

In a study out of Thailand, the maximum residue levels were set at parts per million (the concentrations found within human bodies is measured in parts per billion). The study found glyphosate can activate estrogen receptors at a few parts per trillion, increasing the growth of estrogen receptor positive human breast cancer cells in a petri dish. These results indicate “that truly relevant concentrations of the pesticide found on GMO soybeans possesses estrogenic activity.”

But consumption of soy is associated with lower breast cancer risk (See BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy), and improved breast cancer survival (See Breast Cancer Survival and Soy).

That may be because most GMO soy in the U.S. is fed to chickens, pigs, and cows as livestock feed, whereas most of the major soy food manufacturers use non-GMO soy. Or it could be because the benefits of eating any kind of soy may far outweigh the risks, but why accept any risk at all when we can choose organic soy products, which by law exclude GMOs.

The bottom-line is that there is no direct human data suggesting harm from eating GMOs, though in fairness such studies haven’t been done, which is exactly the point that critics counter. This is why we need mandatory labeling on GMO products so that public health researchers can track whether GMOs are having any adverse effects.

It is important to put the GMO issue in perspective though. As I’ve shown (See Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Causes of Disease), there are dietary and lifestyle changes we can make that could eliminate most heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer. Millions of lives could be saved. A healthy enough diet can even reverse our number one killer, heart disease. So, I’m sympathetic to the biotech industry’s exasperation about GMO concerns when we still have people dropping dead from everything else they’re eating. As one review concluded “consumption of genetically modified food entails risk of undesirable effects… similar to the consumption of traditional food.” In other words, buying the non-GMO Twinkie isn’t doing our body much of a favor.

For more on the public health implications of genetically engineered crops in our food supply, check out the these videos:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image: Nesbitt_Photo / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/12/gmo-soy-breast-cancer/feed/ 31
Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/07/monsantos-roundup-pesticide-glyphosate-safe/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/07/monsantos-roundup-pesticide-glyphosate-safe/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 12:00:55 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32459 GMO soy has been found to be contaminated with pesticide residues (see Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy), but are these levels anything to worry about? I explore this question in my video Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?. Researchers out of Norway described the amount of pesticide residues found in GMO […]]]>

GMO soy has been found to be contaminated with pesticide residues (see Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy), but are these levels anything to worry about? I explore this question in my video Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?.

Researchers out of Norway described the amount of pesticide residues found in GMO soy as high compared to the maximum allowable residue levels. The legal limit for glyphosate in foods had been set at 0.1-0.2 mg/kg; so, these exceed the legal limits by an average of about 2000%, whereas organic and conventional non-GMO soy both had none.

So, what did Monsanto do? Did the industry ditch the whole GMO thing, go back to using fewer pesticides so that residue levels wouldn’t be so high? Or, they could just change the definition of high. What if they could get authorities to raise the maximum residue level from 0.1 or 0.2 up to 20? Then the residue levels won’t look so high anymore. And this is exactly what they did. The acceptance level of glyphosate in food and animal feed has been increased by authorities in countries that use Roundup-Ready GM crops. In Brazil, they went up to ten, and the U.S. and Europe now accept up to 20. In all of these cases, the maximum residue level values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new evidence indicating glyphosate toxicity was less than previously understood, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in GMO soybeans—otherwise it wouldn’t be legal to sell the stuff.

What evidence do we have, though, that these kinds of residues are harmful? For 12 years, we’ve heard that Roundup interferes with embryonic development, but that study was about sea urchin embryos. For 14 years, we heard that Roundup may disrupt hormones, but that’s in mouse testicles.

Blogs will dish about concerning new studies implicating Roundup in male fertility, but if we look at the study, it’s about rat testicles. Some blogs cite studies with disturbing titles like “prepubertal exposure alters testosterone levels and testicular shape,” but they’re talking about puberty in rats, though that doesn’t make as catchy a blog title.

Why not use human tissue? Women are having babies every day—why not just experiment on human placentas, which would otherwise just get thrown away? In 2005, researchers did just that. And despite all the negative effects in rodents, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup didn’t seem to have much of a toxic effect on human cells even at high doses, or have much effect on a hormone regulating enzyme, leading Monsanto-funded reviewers to conclude that regardless of what hazards might be alleged based on animal studies, “glyphosate is not anticipated to produce adverse developmental and reproductive effects in humans.”

But pure glyphosate isn’t sprayed on crops, Roundup is, which contains a variety of adjuvants and surfactants meant to help the glyphosate penetrate into tissues. And indeed, when the study was repeated with what’s actually sprayed on GMO crops, there were toxic and hormonal effects even at doses smaller than the 1 or 2% concentration that’s used out on the fields.

Similar results were found for other major pesticides. It took until 2014, but eight out of nine pesticide formulations tested were up to one thousand times more toxic than their so-called active ingredients. So, when we just test the isolated chemicals, we may not get the whole story. Roundup was found to be 100 times more toxic than glyphosate itself. Moreover, Roundup turned out to be among the most toxic pesticides they tested. It’s commonly believed that Roundup is among the safest, though, an idea spread by Monsanto, the manufacturer. However, this inconsistency between scientific fact and industrial claim may be attributed to the huge economic interests involved.

What is glyphosate? Check out: Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn.

It’s the dose that makes the poison, though. Do we have evidence that the levels of Roundup chemicals not only found on crops, but also in our bodies after eating those crops actually have adverse effects? That’s the subject of the video: GMO Soy and Breast Cancer.

Commercial interests can have a corrupting effect on the science of nutrition and hold sway over institutions that are supposed to operate in the public interest. See for example:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine

Image Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/07/monsantos-roundup-pesticide-glyphosate-safe/feed/ 49
GMO Soybeans Compared to Conventionally Grown and Organic Soy http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/05/gmos-safe-case-roundup-ready-soy/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/05/gmos-safe-case-roundup-ready-soy/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 12:00:17 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31091 As I discussed in the video, Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn, genes from GMO crops were found in pregnant women. There is debate on the direct threat of the inserted genes, but the real danger may come from pesticides associated with genetically modified foods. As stated in an article published in Science […]]]>

As I discussed in the video, Are GMOs Safe? The Case of BT Corn, genes from GMO crops were found in pregnant women. There is debate on the direct threat of the inserted genes, but the real danger may come from pesticides associated with genetically modified foods. As stated in an article published in Science and Engineering Ethics, “genetically engineered seed biotechnology typically has not been used to increase crop yields, nutrition, or drought tolerance but instead for profitable pesticide-resistant products… 80% of GMO crops are bioengineered only for pesticide resistance. Not surprising, given that the top five biotech companies are chemical companies that manufacture pesticides.”

This allows farmers to spray herbicides directly onto the crops, raising a theoretical possibility that the levels of herbicide residues on food we buy at the supermarket may have increased. Or at least it was theoretical… until now.

Monsanto’s roundup-ready soybeans are the number one GM crop, genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide, Roundup—also sold by Monsanto. This allows farmers to spray fields with the Roundup herbicide glyphosate, which then kills the weeds while leaving the soy standing.

Monsanto maintains that roundup ready soybeans are compositionally equivalent to that of conventional soy, a concept that is used to argue that GMO foods are therefore as safe as non-GMO. Monsanto did not report the level of pesticide residues, however. In fact, some of the comparison tests were done on Roundup-ready soybeans that hadn’t been sprayed at all, which is the whole point of having Roundup-ready plants. In contrast to real-life samples from the market, transgenic crops intended for scientific studies are often produced without the application of herbicides or at doses lower than those typically used by farmers. It wasn’t until a study published in 2014 when the full composition of ready-to-market soybeans was analyzed.

You can see the analysis in my video, Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Roundup Ready Soy. There was a significant amount of glyphosate found in the GMO beans, along with a glyphosate breakdown product called AMPA. There was no glyphosate or AMPA found in organic soy. What about conventional non-GMO soy where glyphosate is just sprayed on the soil to kill weeds between crop cycles? Also none. So, GMO soybeans are really not equivalent; they appear to have substantially more pesticide residues. The debate then shifts from the safety of Roundup ready soybeans, to the safety of Roundup itself.

I discuss whether or not the glyphosate residues on GMO soy are something to be concerned about in my video Is Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Glyphosate Safe?

More on GMO soy can be found in my video GMO Soy and Breast Cancer.

What can happen when food industries self-regulate? See, for example:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Chafer Machinery / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/07/05/gmos-safe-case-roundup-ready-soy/feed/ 32
Free Meal Plan with Dr. Greger-Approved Recipes http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/30/not-die-cookbook/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/30/not-die-cookbook/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 12:00:46 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=32357 The good news: I’m writing a cookbook. When I set out to write How Not to Die I wanted to create more than just a reference book. Yes, I tried to pull together all of the most compelling evidence on the role diet can play in preventing and reversing disease, but I also sought to […]]]>

The good news: I’m writing a cookbook.

When I set out to write How Not to Die I wanted to create more than just a reference book. Yes, I tried to pull together all of the most compelling evidence on the role diet can play in preventing and reversing disease, but I also sought to make it a practical guide for translating those thousands of studies into an actionable guide to day-to-day healthy living. That became the second half of the book, in which I centered my recommendations around a daily dozen checklist of foods I try to fit into my own daily routine.

The response to the Daily Dozen has been tremendous! While I offered some thoughts on ways to incorporate things like turmeric or flax seeds into your diet, we’ve been getting flooded with requests for more recipes. The science is there, but how can you make anything taste good without adding salt, oil, or sugar? So I’m excited to announce my plans for a companion How Not to Die Cookbook (all my proceeds, as always, go to charity).

The bad news: Given all the recipe testing and food photography, it’s not going to be out until December 2017, more than a year away.

269e6743-be36-4f23-8185-058f497c9882But in the meantime, there is great news: a new tech startup called Lighter has created meal plans based on recipes they developed to fit my specifications

action item.001 Sign up for free at http://www.lighter.world/providers/Michael_Greger

You can also follow the culinary stylings of other leaders in the evidence-based nutrition movement like Dr. Neal Barnard and Julieanna Hever (or anyone from ultramarathoners to NFL athletes). I was honored to be among the first invited to aid in furthering their mission to help the world eat better. “Everyone,” reads one of their mottos, “deserves nourishing, delicious meals.”

Another FreebieVegnews

Vegworld Magazine, run by the Texas power duo featured in the documentary The Marshall Plan, has generously offered free one-year subscriptions to all NutritionFacts.org subscribers.

  action item.001If you subscribe to NutritionFacts.org, sign up for your free one-year subscription to the magazine here.

Sign up for Our New Volunteer Newsletter

staffThanks to the tremendous influx of support this year, we have doubled our operations staff. Read more about all the new hires on our About page. Kristina, for example—our Registered Dietitian turned NutritionFacts.org Social Media Director—has increased our Instagram followers nearly 15% in just three weeks. Check it out!

Kate and Steven were hired to help coordinate our ever-growing army of volunteers, the lifeblood of NutritionFacts.org. We are launching a special email newsletter to keep current volunteers up to date, as well as relay new volunteer opportunities and quick, simple things anyone anywhere can do to support our mission.

action item.001Sign up for our new volunteer newsletter at http://nutritionfacts.org/volunteer

Currently our most urgent need is for volunteers with university or hospital library access who can help us retrieve scientific studies. Right now, our article retrieval team is pulling about 700 papers a week, but to feed the voracious appetite of our 19 researchers we really need to get up to around 2,000 a week. So if you are affiliated with an institution with electronic access to medical journals please consider pitching in.

We Didn’t Have T-Shirts… Until Nowtshirt

How can we afford to employ 26 people? Because of your donations!

As a fundraiser, we are selling NutritionFacts.org t-shirts and tote bags. This offer is for a limited time only, so get yours before July 17 at: https://www.booster.com/Nutrition-facts
 

Live Q&A with Dr. G

36888609 - minimalistic illustration of a doctor holding a blackboard with ask your doctor text, eps10 vectorAs my speaking schedule starts to wind down, one of the things I’ll miss most is the audience participation. Questions help me gauge interest in particular subjects to better guide my choice of topics for new videos. Though thanks to modern technology, I now realize I can do Q&A with people around the world without having to leave my treadmill!

So I’m going to be doing two live half-hour Q&A sessions on Tuesday, July 19th 2016:

  • Facebook Live: At noon ET on 7/19 go to our Facebook page to watch live and ask questions.
  • Twitter Periscope: At 7pm ET on 7/19 go to our Twitter page to watch live and ask even more questions! 

Looking forward to answering as many questions as I can—talk to you soon!

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/30/not-die-cookbook/feed/ 67
Is Insecticidal GMO Corn Safe? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/28/gmos-safe-case-bt-corn/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/28/gmos-safe-case-bt-corn/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 12:00:38 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31089 Recently, the prominent science journal Nature editorialized that we are now swimming in information about genetically modified crops, but that much of the information is wrong—on both sides of the debate. “But a lot of this incorrect information is sophisticated, backed by legitimate-sounding research and written with certitude,” adding that with GMOs, “a good gauge […]]]>

Recently, the prominent science journal Nature editorialized that we are now swimming in information about genetically modified crops, but that much of the information is wrong—on both sides of the debate. “But a lot of this incorrect information is sophisticated, backed by legitimate-sounding research and written with certitude,” adding that with GMOs, “a good gauge of a statement’s fallacy is the conviction with which it is delivered.”

To many in the scientific community, GMO concerns are dismissed as one big conspiracy theory. In fact, one item in a psychological test of belief in conspiracy theories asked people if they thought food companies would have the audacity to be dishonest about genetically modified food. The study concluded that many people were cynical and skeptical with regard to advertising tricks, as well as the tactics of organizations like banks and alcohol, drug, and tobacco companies. That doesn’t sound like conspiracy theory to me; that sounds like business as usual.

We must remember there is a long legacy of scientific misconduct. Throw in a multi-billion dollar industry, and one can imagine how hard it is to get to the truth of the matter. There are social, environmental, economic, food security, and biodiversity arguments both pro and con about GMOs, but those are outside my area of expertise. I’m going to stick to food safety. And as a physician, I’m a very limited veterinarian—I only know one species (us!). So, I will skip the lab animal data and ask instead: What human data do we have about GMO safety?

One study “confirmed” that DNA from genetically modified crops can be transferred into humans who eat them, but that’s not what the study found, just that plant DNA in general may be found in the human bloodstream, with no stipulations of harm (See Are GMOs Safe? The Case of Bt Corn).

Another study, however, did find a GMO crop protein in people. The “toxin” was detected in 93 percent of blood samples of pregnant women, 80 percent of umbilical cord blood samples, and 69 percent of samples from non-pregnant women. The toxin they’re talking about is an insecticidal protein produced by Bt bacteria whose gene was inserted into the corn’s DNA to create so-called Bt-corn, which has been incorporated into animal feed. If it’s mainly in animal feed, how did it get into the bodies of women? They suggest it may be through exposure to contaminated meat.

Of course, why get GMO’s second-hand when you can get them directly? The next great frontier is transgenic farm animals. A genetically modified salmon was first to vie for a spot at the dinner table. And then in 2010, transgenic cows, sheep, goats and pigs were created, genetically modified for increased muscle mass, based on the so-called mighty mouse model. Frankenfurters!

But back to children of the corn and their mothers. When they say it’s a toxin, it’s a toxin to corn worms, not necessarily to people. In fact I couldn’t find any data linking BT toxin to human harm, which is a good thing since it’s considered one of the few pesticides considered so non-toxic that it’s sprayed on organic fruits and vegetables.

For more on on the public health implications of genetically modified crops, see:

I did a similar “controversial issue” video series on gluten. See:

For those interested in the genetic engineering of livestock, I published a few papers myself on the topic:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Jen Wilton / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/28/gmos-safe-case-bt-corn/feed/ 71
Why Does the Meat Industry Routinely Feed Animals Antibiotics? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/23/latest-antibiotics-agribusiness/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/23/latest-antibiotics-agribusiness/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:00:37 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31086 When farm animals are fed antibiotics, they can develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts. Manure contamination of meat can then transfer these gut bacteria to humans. These bacteria can even spread to vegetarians, since drug-resistant bacteria in the animal feces can also spread to people through crops or the environment. Exhaust fans can blow MRSA […]]]>

When farm animals are fed antibiotics, they can develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts. Manure contamination of meat can then transfer these gut bacteria to humans. These bacteria can even spread to vegetarians, since drug-resistant bacteria in the animal feces can also spread to people through crops or the environment. Exhaust fans can blow MRSA superbugs straight out into the surrounding area from pig or poultry operations. This may explain why human MRSA infections in Europe have been tied to just living in a region with industrial pig production, whether or not people have direct contact with livestock. These findings may not just be limited to Europe.

European factory farms pale in comparison to what we have here in the U.S. From an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine: “proximity to swine manure application to crop fields and livestock operations was each associated with MRSA and skin and soft-tissue infections [in people in the U.S]. These findings contribute to the growing concern about the potential public health impacts of high-density livestock production.”

An article published in Lancet Infectious Diseases explains that, “achievements in modern medicine, such as surgery, the treatment of preterm babies, and cancer chemotherapy, which we today take for granted, would not be possible without access to effective treatment for bacterial infections. Within just a few years, we might be faced with dire setbacks, medically, socially, and economically, unless real and unprecedented global coordinated actions are immediately taken” to protect these wonder drugs. Therefore, the use of antibiotics just to promote the growth of farm animals to slaughter weights should be banned worldwide. Europe stopped feeding pigs and chickens tetracycline and penicillin to promote growth about 40 years ago, something the U.S. meat industry continues to do to this day.

The Pew Commission recently published a five year update on their landmark blue ribbon commission report on current agricultural practices that found “the present system of producing food animals in the United States presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health.” Their number one recommendation was to ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics, but agriculture lobbies are not going to give up the use of antibiotics without a fight (See Antibiotics: Agribusinesses’ Pound of Flesh).

In December 2013, the FDA released “Guidance for Industry,” their voluntary, non-binding recommendation for industry. They recommend antibiotics no longer be used to just fatten animals for slaughter, but emphasize that they are just that: toothless, non-legally enforceable suggestions. As mentioned in the Pew Commission report, “this voluntary approach has come under withering criticism from the public health and medical communities concerned about the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens.”

The USDA is even considering going backwards, eliminating the requirement to even test for Staph aureus at all in the Federal School Lunch Program. They understand that “school-aged children are considered a ‘sensitive population’, hence, more stringent requirements, including sampling plans, may be considered to help assure safety and public confidence. However, the cost of such programs must be weighed against the cost of buying the food needed to support the program.”

As one University of Iowa epidemiologist said, “although human health should take priority over farm animals, farmers will be reluctant to change until researchers can come up with safe and cost-effective practices to replace the use of antibiotics.” How much are antibiotics really saving the industry? The net bottom-line benefit from the use of antibiotic feed additives may only be about $0.25 per animal, which means eliminating the risky practice of feeding antibiotics by the ton to farm animals would raise the price of meat less than a penny per pound.

For those not familiar with MRSA, please see my past videos on the topic:

For more on antibiotic use on the farm, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Adapted From: AJC ajcann.wordpress.com / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/23/latest-antibiotics-agribusiness/feed/ 33
Fast Food Restaurants in Children’s Hospitals http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/21/time-hospitals-stop-selling-sickness/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/21/time-hospitals-stop-selling-sickness/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:00:12 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31084 The food industry spends billions on advertising. Promotion costs for individual candy bars can run in the tens of millions. McDonald’s alone spends a billion dollars on advertising every year. Such figures dwarf the National Cancer Institute’s million dollar annual investment promoting fruit and vegetable consumption or the 1.5 million spent on cholesterol education. That […]]]>

The food industry spends billions on advertising. Promotion costs for individual candy bars can run in the tens of millions. McDonald’s alone spends a billion dollars on advertising every year. Such figures dwarf the National Cancer Institute’s million dollar annual investment promoting fruit and vegetable consumption or the 1.5 million spent on cholesterol education. That McBillion goes a long way.

Children’s food preferences are being molded by McDonald’s even before they learn to tie their shoelaces. By the early age of three to five years, preschoolers preferred the taste of foods and drinks if they thought they were from McDonald’s. This was true even for carrots—baby carrots placed in a bag with the McDonald’s logo reportedly tasted better. And if they get sick, children can continue to eat McDonald’s in the hospital.

Nearly 1 in 3 children’s hospitals have a fast food restaurant inside, leading parents to have more positive perceptions of the healthiness of McDonald’s food (See Hospitals Selling Sickness). They can also just buy the naming rights altogether: The Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital, for example. In teaching hospitals, though, Krispy Kreme tops the list. Hospitals may wish to revisit the idea of serving high-calorie fast food in the very place where they also care for the most seriously ill.

This is reminiscent of the fight against tobacco back in the 1980’s when public health advocates made radical suggestions, such as not selling cigarettes in hospitals. By working to make our hospitals ultimately smoke-free, we become part of a global campaign to completely eliminate the tobacco scourge. The task is difficult, but so was eradicating smallpox. Maybe it’s time to stop selling sickness in hospitals.

For more on health entities appeasing the junk food industry, see my video Collaboration With the New Vectors of Disease. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the registered dietitian organization, has quite the shady history which I document near the end of my 2014 annual review presentation From Table to Able.

Even cynical me was surprised by my profession’s hostility towards nutrition. See:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: davef3138 / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/21/time-hospitals-stop-selling-sickness/feed/ 26
Dietary Estrogens and Male Fertility http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/16/dietary-estrogens-male-fertility/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/16/dietary-estrogens-male-fertility/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 12:00:29 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31082 In my video, The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts, I discussed the association between high saturated fat intake and reduced semen quality. But what’s the connection? One of the most recent papers on the topic found that a significant percentage of the saturated fat intake in the study was derived from dairy products. […]]]>

In my video, The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts, I discussed the association between high saturated fat intake and reduced semen quality. But what’s the connection? One of the most recent papers on the topic found that a significant percentage of the saturated fat intake in the study was derived from dairy products. Residues of industrial chemicals may bioaccumulate up the food chain into animal fat, and some of these lipophilic (fat-loving) chemicals may have hormone-disrupting abilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency performed a national survey of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants in the U.S. milk supply (highlighted in my video, Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility). The EPA team noted that since milk fat is likely to be among the highest dietary sources of exposure to these pollutants, it’s important to understand the levels in the dairy supply. The team tested milk from all over the country and found a veritable witches brew of chemicals. They estimate that dairy products alone contribute about 30% to 50% of our dioxin exposure. And “like dioxin, other toxic pollutants tend to be widely dispersed in the environment, bioaccumulated through the food chain and ultimately result in low-level contamination in most animal fats.”

This may explain higher pollutant concentrations in fish eaters. Xenoestrogens like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are associated with the fats of fish or animal flesh and cannot be fully removed by washing and cooking, and so can accumulate in our fat, too. Xenoestrogens are chemicals with demasculinizing or feminizing effects. But even in a non-polluted world, animal foods also have actual estrogens, which are unavoidable constituents of animal products. All foodstuff of animal origin contains estradiol, which is at least 10,000-fold more potent than most xenoestrogens. Dietary exposure—meat, dairy products and eggs—to these natural sex steroids is therefore highly relevant, as the hormones in these animals are identical to our own.

Estrogens are present in meat and eggs, but the major sources are milk and other dairy products. By drinking a glass of milk, a child’s intake of estradiol is 4,000 times the intake of xenoestrogens in terms of hormone activity. Modern genetically-improved dairy cows can lactate throughout their pregnancy. The problem is that during pregnancy, estrogen levels can jump as much as 30-fold.

Cheese intake has specifically been associated with lower sperm concentration, whereas dairy food intake in general has been associated with abnormal sperm shape and movement. Lower sperm concentrations by themselves may just represent a potential suppression of sperm production due to higher estrogen levels, but abnormal shape and movement suggests that dairy intake may be implicated in actual direct testicular damage.

While milk products supply most of our ingested female sex steroids, eggs are a considerable source as well, contributing about as much as meat and fish. This could be expected, as eggs are produced directly in the hens’ ovaries.

Meat may also contain added hormones. In the U.S., anabolic sex steroids may be administered to animals for growth promotion, a practice banned in Europe twenty-five years ago. A study in New York found progressively lower sperm counts associated with processed meat consumption. However, similar studies in Europe after the ban found the same thing; so, it may not be the implanted hormones, but rather a consequence of other meat components, such as the saturated fat raising cholesterol levels.

We’ve known for decades that men with high cholesterol levels show abnormalities in their “spermiograms”: decreased sperm concentration, about a third of the normal sperm movement, and half the normal sperm shape. Twenty-five years later, we’re finding the same thing. In the largest study to date, higher blood cholesterol levels were associated with a significantly lower percentage of normal sperm. Cholesterol was also associated with reductions in semen volume and live sperm count. These results highlight the role of fats in the blood in male fertility, and should be of concern given the rising prevalence of obesity and cholesterol problems. Although a healthier diet may be associated with healthier sperm counts, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do not seem to help.

What about the phytoestrogens in soy? See The Effect of Soy on Precocious Puberty.

More on hormones in dairy in:

Neurotoxic chemicals in the dairy supply have been blamed for neurological conditions as well. See my video Preventing Parkinson’s Disease with Diet.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/16/dietary-estrogens-male-fertility/feed/ 31
Preserving Male Reproductive Health With Diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/14/role-diet-declining-sperm-counts/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/14/role-diet-declining-sperm-counts/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:00:14 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31080 In 1992, a controversial paper was published suggesting sperm counts have been dropping around the world over the last 50 years. However, this remains a matter of debate. It’s notoriously difficult to determine sperm counts in the general population for obvious reasons. If you just go ask men for samples, less than 1 in 3 […]]]>

In 1992, a controversial paper was published suggesting sperm counts have been dropping around the world over the last 50 years. However, this remains a matter of debate. It’s notoriously difficult to determine sperm counts in the general population for obvious reasons. If you just go ask men for samples, less than 1 in 3 tend to agree to participate.

Finally though, a study of tens of thousands of men studied over a 17-year period was published. It indeed found a significant decline in sperm concentration, about a 30 percent drop, as well as a drop in the percentage of normal looking sperms. Most sperms looked normal in the 90’s, but more recently that has dropped to less than half. This may constitute a serious public health warning.

Semen quality may actually be related to life expectancy. In a study of more than 40,000 men visiting a sperm lab during a 40-year period, they found a decrease in mortality was associated with an increase in semen quality, suggesting that semen quality may therefore be a fundamental biomarker of overall male health. Even when defective sperm are capable of fertilizing an egg, creating a child with abnormal sperm may have serious implications for that child’s future health.

What role may diet play? I profiled a first-of-its-kind Harvard study suggesting that a small increase in saturated fat intake was associated with a substantially lower sperm count, but not all fat was bad. Higher intakes of omega-3’s were associated with a more favorable sperm shape. This may help explain why researchers at UCLA were able to improve sperm vitality, movement, and shape by giving men about 18 walnuts a day for 12 weeks. Walnuts have more than just omega 3’s, though. They also contain other important micronutrients. In a study of men aged 22 through 80, older men who ate diets containing lots of antioxidants and nutrients, such as vitamin C, had the genetic integrity of sperm of much younger men.

The antioxidants we eat not only end up in our semen, but are concentrated there. The amount of vitamin C ends up nearly ten times more concentrated in men’s testicles than the rest of their bodies. Why? Because sperm are highly susceptible to damage induced by free radicals, and accumulating evidence suggests that this oxidative stress plays an important role in male infertility. So, more fruits and vegetables and perhaps less meat and dairy, but the Harvard data were considered preliminary. They studied fewer than 100 men, but it was the best we had… until now.

A much larger follow-up study, highlighted in my video, The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts, found that the higher the saturated fat intake the lower the sperm count, up to a 65 percent reduction. These findings are of potentially great public interest because changes in diet over the past decades may be part of the explanation for the recently reported high frequency of subnormal human sperm counts. In any case, the current findings suggest that adapting dietary intake toward eating less saturated fat may be beneficial for both general and reproductive health.

Why is high dietary intake of saturated fat associated with reduced semen quality? What’s the connection? Sex steroid hormones in meat, eggs, and dairy may help explain the link between saturated fat intake and declining sperm counts. That’s the subject of my video, Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility.

More on male infertility in my videos Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood and Male Fertility and Diet.

Diet also has a role to play in sexual dysfunction:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Julia Mariani / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/14/role-diet-declining-sperm-counts/feed/ 15
Why Smoothies are Better Than Juicing http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/09/juicing-removes-just-fiber/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/09/juicing-removes-just-fiber/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 12:00:40 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31078 Studies such as a recent Harvard School of Public Health investigation found that the consumption of whole fruits is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas fruit juice consumption is associated with a higher risk, highlighting the dramatic difference between eating whole fruits and drinking fruit juice. Cholesterol serves as another […]]]>

Studies such as a recent Harvard School of Public Health investigation found that the consumption of whole fruits is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas fruit juice consumption is associated with a higher risk, highlighting the dramatic difference between eating whole fruits and drinking fruit juice. Cholesterol serves as another example. If we eat apples, our cholesterol drops. On the other hand, if we drink apple juice, our cholesterol may actually go up a little. Leaving just a little of the fiber behind—as in cloudy apple juice—was found to add back in some of the benefit.

We used to think of fiber as just a bulking agent that helps with bowel regularity. We now know fiber is digestible by our gut bacteria, which make short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) out of it. SCFAs have a number of health promoting effects, such as inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria and increasing mineral absorption. For example, experimentally infused into the rectum of the human body, SCFAs can stimulate calcium absorption, so much so that we can improve the bone mineral density of teenagers just by giving them the fiber naturally found in foods like onions, asparagus, and bananas.

Our good bacteria also use fiber to maintain normal bowel structure and function, preventing or alleviating diarrhea, stimulating colonic blood flow up to five-fold, and increasing fluid and electrolyte uptake. The major fuel for the cells that line our colon is butyrate, which our good bacteria make from fiber. We feed them, and they feed us right back.

If the only difference between fruit and fruit juice is fiber, why can’t the juice industry just add some fiber back to the juice? The reason is because we remove a lot more than fiber when we juice fruits and vegetables. We also lose all the nutrients that are bound to the fiber.

In the 1980’s, a study (highlighted in my video, Juicing Removes More Than Just Fiber) found a discrepancy in the amount of fiber in carob using two different methods. A gap of 21.5 percent was identified not as fiber but as nonextractable polyphenols, a class of phytonutrients thought to have an array of health-promoting effects. Some of the effects associated with the intake of dietary fiber in plants may actually be due to the presence of these polyphenols.

Nonextractable polyphenols, usually ignored, are the major part of dietary polyphenols. Most polyphenol phytonutrients in plants are stuck to the fiber. These so-called missing polyphenols make it down to our colon, are liberated by our friendly flora and can then get absorbed into our system. The phytonutrients in fruit and vegetable juice may just be the tip of the iceberg.

For those that like drinking their fruits and vegetables, these findings suggest that smoothies may be preferable. I can imagine people who eat really healthy thinking they get so much fiber from their regular diet that they need not concern themselves with the loss from juicing. But we may be losing more than we think.

Why are polyphenol phytonutrients important? See, for example, my video How to Slow Brain Aging by Two Years

Not that fiber isn’t important in its own right. Check out:

For more on smoothies, check out:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Craig Sunter / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/09/juicing-removes-just-fiber/feed/ 72
Virus in Chicken Could Be Linked to Obesity http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/07/virus-in-chicken-could-be-linked-to-obesity/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/07/virus-in-chicken-could-be-linked-to-obesity/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 12:00:35 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29898 Recently, there has been research examining the connection between poultry consumption and weight gain. One study out of the Netherlands examining about 4,000 people, correlated chicken consumption with weight gain. Another study followed 89,000 people in four other countries and found that animal protein intake was associated with long-term weight gain, and poultry was the […]]]>

Recently, there has been research examining the connection between poultry consumption and weight gain. One study out of the Netherlands examining about 4,000 people, correlated chicken consumption with weight gain. Another study followed 89,000 people in four other countries and found that animal protein intake was associated with long-term weight gain, and poultry was the worst, with 40 percent more weight gain than red meat or processed meat.

What makes poultry so bad? Yes, chickens are fatty these days because of the way we’ve genetically manipulated them—up to ten times more fat and calories than they used to have—but one bizarre theory postulated that it might be due to an obesity-causing chicken virus. In one study, one in five obese humans tested positive to the chicken virus SMAM-1, with those exposed to the chicken virus averaging 33 pounds heavier than those testing negative.

SMAM-1 was the first chicken virus to be associated with human obesity, but not the last. The original obesity-causing chicken virus SMAM-1 was able to effectively transmit obesity from one chicken to another when caged together, similar to a human adenovirus Ad-36, a human obesity-associated virus first associated with obesity in chickens and mice. Ad-36 spreads quickly from one chicken to another via nasal, oral or fecal excretion and contamination, causing obesity in each chicken. This, of course, raises serious concerns about Ad-36-induced adiposity in humans.

The easiest way to test this hypothesis is to experimentally infect humans with the virus. However, ethical reasons preclude experimental infection of humans, and so, the evidence will have to remain indirect. In the absence of direct experimental data, we must rely on population studies, similar to how researchers nailed smoking and lung cancer. About 15 percent of Americans are already infected with Ad-36; so, we can follow them and see what happens. That’s exactly what a research team out of Taiwan did (highlighted in my video Infectobesity: Adenovirus 36 and Childhood Obesity). They followed 1,400 Hispanic men and women for a decade and found that not only were those exposed to the virus fatter than those who were not, but also over the ten years, those with a history of infection had a greater percentage of body fat over time.

Most studies done to date on adults have found a connection between exposure to Ad-36 and obesity, and all studies done so far on childhood obesity show an increase in prevalence of infection in obese children compared to non-obese children. We’re now up to more than a thousand children studied with similar findings. Obese children who tested positive for the virus weighed 35 pounds more than children who tested negative.

The virus appears to both increase the number of fat cells by mobilizing precursor stem cells and increase the accumulation of fat within the cells. If we take liposuction samples of fat from people, the fat cell precursors turn into fat cells at about five times the rate in people who came to the liposuction clinic already infected. Fat taken from non-infected people that was then exposed to the virus start sucking up fat at a faster rate, potentially inducing obesity without increasing food intake.

Just as Ad-36 can be transmitted horizontally from one infected chicken to another in the same cage, subsequently causing obesity in each chicken, this same virus is also easily transmitted among humans, raising the question as to whether at least some cases of childhood obesity can be considered an infectious disease. Researchers publishing in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity speculate that this animal adenovirus may have mutated to become a human adenovirus capable of infecting humans and causing obesity.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Glasseyes view / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/07/virus-in-chicken-could-be-linked-to-obesity/feed/ 28
New DVD, New Staff, New Search Function, New Live Presentation, and Updated App http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/02/new-dvd-new-staff-new-search-function-new-live-presentation-updated-app/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/02/new-dvd-new-staff-new-search-function-new-live-presentation-updated-app/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 12:00:39 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=31245 The new batch of upcoming videos is done and it includes a new 6-part video series on vitamin D. The last time I covered this controversial topic was 4 years ago, during which time 15,950 scientific papers on the topic were published. Having an influential vitamin D supplement lobby doesn’t help matters, not to mention […]]]>

vol31The new batch of upcoming videos is done and it includes a new 6-part video series on vitamin D. The last time I covered this controversial topic was 4 years ago, during which time 15,950 scientific papers on the topic were published. Having an influential vitamin D supplement lobby doesn’t help matters, not to mention the highly lucrative vitamin D lab testing industry. Then there’s the sunscreen trade, the dermatologist faction, and a multi-billion dollar tanning industry. Did you know there are more tanning salons than Starbucks? With so many powerful commercial interests trying to manipulate the message, it can be hard to get at the truth. But that’s what you have me for! Stay tuned:

  • Do Vitamin D Supplements Help with Diabetes, Weight Loss, and Blood Pressure?
  • Will You Live Longer if You Take Vitamin D Supplements?
  • How Much Vitamin D Should You Take?
  • The Optimal Dose of Vitamin D Based on Natural Levels
  • The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?
  • The Risks and Benefits of Sensible Sun Exposure

I also have new videos queued up over the next few months on turmeric, protein, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, meat hormones, and natural treatments for morning sickness. If you don’t want to wait, all of these videos are available now as a digital download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 31 (all proceeds go to charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD.

The current batch of videos from volume 30 are about to run out on NutritionFacts.org. So, starting next month and running until August, I’ll roll out the videos from this new DVD, volume 31. The DVDs give folks the opportunity to sneak-preview videos months ahead of time, watch them all straight through, and share them as gifts, but there is nothing on the DVDs that won’t eventually end up free online here at NutritionFacts.org. If you’d like the works—50+ hours of video—you can get the complete DVD collection.

Here’s the full list of chapters from the new volume 31 DVD—a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

  1. Natural Treatments for Morning Sickness
  2. Reductionism and the Deficiency Mentality
  3. Is Fish “Brain Food” for Older Adults?
  4. Is it Worth Switching from White Rice to Brown?
  5. Gut Dysbiosis: Starving Our Microbial Self
  6. Which Has More Caramel Coloring Carcinogens: Coke or Pepsi?
  7. Changing a Man’s Diet After a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
  8. American Medical Association Complicity with Big Tobacco
  9. Turmeric or Curcumin: Plants vs. Pills
  10. The Great Protein Fiasco
  11. Do Vitamin D Supplements Help with Diabetes, Weight Loss, and Blood Pressure?
  12. Will You Live Longer if You Take Vitamin D Supplements?
  13. How Much Vitamin D Should You Take?
  14. The Optimal Dose of Vitamin D Based on Natural Levels
  15. The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?
  16. The Risks and Benefits of Sensible Sun Exposure
  17. Berries vs. Pesticides in Parkinson’s Disease
  18. Can Morbid Obesity Be Reversed Through Diet?
  19. What Diet Best Lowers Phthalate Exposure?
  20. Prunes for Osteoporosis
  21. Sodium and Arterial Function: A-salting Our Endothelium
  22. Zeranol Use in Meat and Breast Cancer
  23. The Most Potent Phytoestrogen Is in Beer
  24. What Are the Effects of the Hops Phytoestrogen in Beer?
  25. The Hispanic Paradox: Why Do Latinos Live Longer?
  26. What’s the “Natural” Human Diet?

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

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $15 monthly contributor will receive the next three DVDs for free (as physical DVDs, downloads, or both—your choice), and anyone signing up as a $25 monthly contributor will get a whole year’s worth of new DVDs. If you’re already signed up and didn’t receive your volume 31 yet, please email DVDhelp@NutritionFacts.org and we’ll make everything all better.

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

Untitled.001Welcome Jenny, Kate, Kristina, and Steven!

Please join me in congratulating and welcoming the latest additions to the NutritionFacts.org team, our new Development Director, Volunteer Director, Social Media Director, and Volunteer Coordinator.  We’re so excited they will all will be joining us this month.Find out more about them on our About page. 

We’re growing by such leaps and bounds that we’re going to need all the help we can get!

Search by Language

searchMost of the work on NutritionFacts.org gets done by volunteers. One major project has been to translate videos into other languages. We have more than 80 volunteer translators translating into more than 30 languages! The first video in the last batch had 27 translations the day it went live. But how can you tell which videos are in which languages? Our new search function!

Thanks to Christi, our rockstar web developer and CTO, the search function on NutritionFacts.org has been totally revamped. Click on the search box and you can now sort and filter results by title, date, type and language. Want to know which videos are available in Spanish, Hebrew or Chinese? Now you can!

Volunteer Needs

What we need now are more translators. If you know another language please consider chipping in and translating some of your favorite videos to help save lives around the world. Sign up at http://nutritionfacts.org/volunteer

You’ll note we’re still in desperate need of volunteer article retrievers as well. If you’re a student or faculty at an institution that grants you academic journal access, please consider helping us sift through the scientific literature. Please note it may take a few weeks for our hopefully-soon-to-be-hired Volunteer Director to get back to you, but please consider signing up today to help translate or sift so she or he can hit the ground running.

My Best YouTube Speech Ever?

yt speechOver the years, people have recorded my live presentations with their phones and camcorders, but they’ve never really been captured professionally… until now! Thanks to Viva and the College of Naturopathic Medicine, on my recent trip to London my new How Not to Die talk was recorded and edited by a videography team and it’s available free at http://bit.ly/londontalk. It’s similar to the talk I gave at Google but modified for a UK audience. The British suffer from the same leading causes of death, just in a slightly different order.

Dr. John McDougall has graciously offered to allow me to post a U.S. version recorded at his Advanced Study Weekend. As soon as we get our Social Media Director on board to do its promotion justice, I will post it. Until then, I think the London recording is the best capture of my most powerful presentation to date. I hope you’ll help me share it with the world.

Free Android App Completely Revamped

dailydozenThanks to the volunteer efforts of John Slavick, a major update has been made to the Android version of my Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app. Now you can track, graph, and chart your progress over time—how cool is that?

Wish the iPhone version were that awesome too? If you’re an app developer we need your help! If you want to make the Android app even better or help the iPhone app catch up, the Daily Dozen app is an open-source project, meaning anyone with the know-how can play a part in its future development.  Check out the latest details here on how to get started.

Finally, let me apologize if the website has been slow for you over the last few weeks. We’ve had so much traffic recently the servers have even crashed a few times! To deal with the surge in interest, rest assured we’re not only adding new staff but new bandwidth as well.

It’s a good problem to have!

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/06/02/new-dvd-new-staff-new-search-function-new-live-presentation-updated-app/feed/ 1
Treating Pancreatic Cancer with Turmeric Curcumin http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/31/treating-pancreatic-cancer-with-turmeric-curcumin/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/31/treating-pancreatic-cancer-with-turmeric-curcumin/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 12:00:02 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29896 Pancreatic cancer is among the most aggressive forms of human cancer, characterized by a very high mortality rate. It represents the fourth leading cause of cancer death in United States, killing 32,000 people annually. With a five-year survival rate of only three percent and a median survival rate of less than six months, pancreatic cancer […]]]>

Pancreatic cancer is among the most aggressive forms of human cancer, characterized by a very high mortality rate. It represents the fourth leading cause of cancer death in United States, killing 32,000 people annually. With a five-year survival rate of only three percent and a median survival rate of less than six months, pancreatic cancer carries one of the poorest prognoses. The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is one of the worst things a doctor ever has to tell a patient. The only FDA-approved therapies for it, Gemcitabine and Erlotinib, produce objective responses in less than ten percent of patients, while causing severe side-effects in the majority. There is a desperate need for new options.

Clinical research to test new treatments is split into phases. Phase I trials are just to make sure the treatment is safe, to see how much you can give before it becomes toxic. Curcumin, the natural yellow pigment in the spice turmeric has passed a number of those. In fact, there was so little toxicity, the dosing appeared limited only by the number of pills patients were willing to swallow.

Phase II trials are conducted to see if the drug actually has an effect. Curcumin did, in 2 of the 21 patients that were evaluated. One patient had a 73 percent tumor reduction, but the effect was short-lived. One lesion remained small, but a curcumin-resistant tumor clone emerged. The other patient, who had a stable disease for over 18 months, showed slow improvement over a year. The only time that patient’s cancer markers bumped up was during a brief three-week stint where the curcumin was stopped.

So, curcumin does seem to help some patients with pancreatic cancer, and most importantly, there appears to be little downside. No curcumin-related toxic effects were observed in up to doses of eight grams per day. What happens after eight grams? We don’t know because no one was willing to take that many pills. The patients were willing to go on one of the nastiest chemotherapy regimens on the planet, but didn’t want to be inconvenienced with swallowing a lot of capsules.

The only surefire way to beat pancreatic cancer is to prevent it in the first place. In 2010, I profiled a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the largest such study in history, which found that dietary fat of animal origin was associated with increased pancreatic cancer risk.

Which animal fat is the worst? The second largest study (highlighted in my video: Turmeric Curcumin and Pancreatic Cancer) has since chimed in to help answer that question. Researchers found that poultry was the worst, with 72 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer associated with every 50 grams of daily poultry consumption. Fifty grams is just about a quarter of a chicken breast. The reason white meat came out worse than red may be because of the cooked meat carcinogens in chicken, the heterocyclic amines that build up in grilled and baked chicken. These mutagenic chemicals have been associated with a doubling of pancreatic cancer risk (See Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens).

Meat has been associated with significantly increased risk, whereas fake meat is associated with significantly less risk. Those who eat plant-based meats like veggie burgers or veggie dogs three or more times a week had less than half the risk of fatal pancreatic cancer. Legumes and dried fruit appear to be similarly protective.

My grandfather died of pancreatic cancer. By the time the first symptom arose, a dull ache in his gut, it was too late. That’s why we need to work on preventing it.

I previously touched on pancreatic cancer prevention in Poultry Exposure Tied to Liver and Pancreatic Cancer and attempts at pancreatic cancer treatment in Gerson Therapy for Cancer and Gerson-style Therapy vs. Chemotherapy.

For more on the heterocyclic amine cooked meat carcinogens:

I’ve done a bunch of videos on turmeric and various cancers:

And more on this amazing spice (and more to come):

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Sara Marlowe / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/31/treating-pancreatic-cancer-with-turmeric-curcumin/feed/ 28
Preventing Breast Cancer with Flax Seeds http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/26/preventing-breast-cancer-with-flax-seeds/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/26/preventing-breast-cancer-with-flax-seeds/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 12:00:37 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29894 I’ve previously discussed the role of dietary lignans in the reduction of breast cancer risk and improvement in breast cancer survival, based on studies that showed that women with breast cancer who ate the most lignans appeared to live longer (Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence and Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence). […]]]>

I’ve previously discussed the role of dietary lignans in the reduction of breast cancer risk and improvement in breast cancer survival, based on studies that showed that women with breast cancer who ate the most lignans appeared to live longer (Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence and Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence). However, lignans are found throughout the plant kingdom—in seeds, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, berries—so, how do we know lignans aren’t merely a marker for the intake of unrefined plant foods? For example, those who eat lots of plants—vegetarians—have about eight times the lignan intake compared to omnivores.

In a petri dish, lignans have been shown to both have direct anticancer growth activity against human breast cancer cells and to prevent cancer cell migration. But it wasn’t until 2005 that it was put to the test in people. Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial (as seen in my video, Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?) of flaxseeds, the world’s most concentrated source of lignans, in breast cancer patients. The researchers found that flax appears to have the potential to reduce human breast tumor growth in just a matter of weeks. Therefore, I started recommending ground flax seeds to breast cancer patients.

Can lignans also help prevent breast cancer in the first place? High lignan intake is associated with reduced breast cancer risk, but again lignan intake may just be saying an indicator of high plant food intake in general. So, researchers from the University of Kansas gave women at high risk for breast cancer a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds a day for a year, and found on average a drop in precancerous changes in the breast.

What about women who regularly eat flax seeds? Outside of an experimental setting, there just weren’t a lot of women eating flax seeds regularly to study—until now. Matching 3,000 women with breast cancer to 3,000 women without, a study published in Cancer Causes and Control found that consumption of flaxseed (and of flax bread) was associated with a 20–30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. The researchers note that, as flaxseeds are packed with lignans, only a small daily serving of flaxseed is required to attain the level of lignan intake associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk. Researchers concluded: “As it appears that most women do not consume flaxseed and that small amounts may be associated with reduced breast cancer risk, interventions to increase the prevalence of flaxseed consumption might be considered.”

The latest review summarizes the association between flax and decreased risk of breast cancer, better mental health, and lower mortality among breast cancer patients. The only other study of flax and brain health I’m aware of was an exploration of 100 commonly used drugs and supplements on cognition in older adults, which found that flax is one of the few things that appears to help.

How else may flaxseeds aid in preventing and treating breast cancer? There’s an inflammatory molecule called interleukin-1, which may help tumors feed, grow, and invade. Our bodies therefore produce an interkeukin-1 receptor antagonist, binding to the IL-1 receptor and blocking the action of IL-1. The activity of this protective inhibitor can be boosted with the drug tamoxifen—or by eating flax seed. In premenopausal women, the proinflammatory profile of interleukin-1 can be counteracted by a dietary addition of a few spoonfuls of ground flax. One month of flax may be able to increase the anti-inflammatory inhibitor levels by over 50 percent, better even than the drug.

Yes, having one’s ovaries removed may reduce breast cancer risk as much as 60 percent, but at the cost of severe side effects. The drug tamoxifen may reduce the incidence of breast cancer by more than 40 percent, but may induce other severe side effects such as uterine cancer and blood clots. That’s why less toxic (even safe!) breast cancer preventive strategies, such as dietary modifications, need to be developed. These lignan phytoestrogens in flaxseeds may be one successful route given the data showing reduced breast cancer risk and improved overall survival.

Lignans are not a magic bullet to prevent breast cancer—we can’t just sprinkle some flax on our bacon cheeseburger—but as a part of a healthy diet and life-style, they might help to reduce breast cancer risk in the general population.

Flaxseeds may also help fight hormone-mediated cancers in men. See Flaxseed vs. Prostate Cancer and Was It the Flaxseed, Fat Restriction, or Both?

What else can these puppies do? See:

I have another 100+ videos on breast cancer if you want to become an expert and help take care of yourself and/or the women in your life. Here’s a few recent ones to get you started:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Alisha Vargas / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/26/preventing-breast-cancer-with-flax-seeds/feed/ 32
Children’s Supplements Found Contaminated With Pollutants http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/24/childrens-supplements-found-contaminated-with-pollutants/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/24/childrens-supplements-found-contaminated-with-pollutants/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 12:00:10 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29892 A number of case-control studies have found that giving kids cod liver oil supplements may increase their risk of asthma later in life. Case-control studies are done by asking about past behavior in cases (those with asthma) versus controls (those without asthma) to see if certain past behaviors are more likely among the disease group. […]]]>

A number of case-control studies have found that giving kids cod liver oil supplements may increase their risk of asthma later in life. Case-control studies are done by asking about past behavior in cases (those with asthma) versus controls (those without asthma) to see if certain past behaviors are more likely among the disease group. The problem is that asking people to remember what they were doing years ago, when most people can’t remember what they had for breakfast last week, is unreliable. When interpreting the results from case-control studies, we also can’t rule out something called reverse causation. Maybe cod liver oil doesn’t lead to asthma, but asthma led to the use of cod liver oil.

It would therefore be nice to see a cohort study. In a cohort study, researchers would take people without asthma and follow them over time to see if those taking cod liver oil are more likely to develop it. Because people without the disease and their diets are followed over time, cohort studies bypass the problems of recall bias and reverse causation.

In 2013, we finally got one such study. 17,000 people free of asthma were followed over 11 years. Researchers knew who was taking cod liver oil and who wasn’t, and then sat back and watched to see who got asthma over the subsequent 11 years. The researchers  found that cod liver oil intake was indeed significantly associated with the development of asthma. They thought it might be the excessive vitamin A in the cod liver oil that was causing the problem, but there are also a number of substances in fish oil we may not want our children exposed to.

Researchers from Philadelphia University, highlighted in my video PCBs in Children’s Fish Oil Supplements, recently looked at 13 over-the-counter children’s dietary supplements containing fish oil to assess potential exposure to PCBs, toxic industrial pollutants that have contaminated our oceans. PCBs were detected in all products. Could we just stick to the supplements made from small, short-lived fish like anchovies instead of big predator fish like tuna to reduce the impact of biomagnification? Or use purified fish oils?  No, the researchers found no significant difference in PCB levels whether the supplements were labeled as molecularly distilled or how high up the food chain the fish were.

The researchers concluded that while children’s dietary supplements containing the long-chain omega-3’s from fish oils may claim to benefit young consumers, “daily ingestion of these products may provide a vector for contaminant exposure that may off-set the positive health effects.” What positive health benefits are they talking about?

Researchers publishing in the journal, Early Human Development, found that infants given DHA-fortified formula may have better development of their eyes and brains compared to infants getting non DHA-fortified formula. What was the source of the DHA? Not fish, but algae-derived DHA. In that way, we can get the benefits of omega 3’s without the contaminant risks. But of course, breast milk is the gold standard, significantly better than either of the formula fed infants. So, the best source of omega-3’s is mom.

It’s bad enough when supplement manufacturers exploit adults when they’re sick and vulnerable with pills that are often useless or worse, but taking advantage of our parental drive to do what’s best for our children, with contaminated products that may make them sick, makes me sick.

More on supplements in:

And speaking of which, Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?

Also check out these videos on fish oil and DHA: Omega-3’s and the Eskimo Fish Tale and Should We Take EPA and DHA Omega-3 For Our Heart?

What about omega 3’s for our child’s growing brain? See my video Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development

We can also be exposed to PCBs in food. See Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants.

More on the polluted aquatic food chain in:

What can we do to lower the risk of childhood asthma and other allergic-type diseases? See:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Lars Plougmann / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/24/childrens-supplements-found-contaminated-with-pollutants/feed/ 13
No More Than a Quart a Day of Hibiscus Tea http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/19/no-more-than-a-quart-a-day-of-hibiscus-tea/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/19/no-more-than-a-quart-a-day-of-hibiscus-tea/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:00:37 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29890 Over the counter antacids are probably the most important source for human aluminum exposure in terms of dose. For example, Maalox, taken as directed, can exceed the daily safety limit more than 100-fold, and nowhere on the label does it say to not take it with acidic beverages such as fruit juice. Washing an antacid […]]]>

Over the counter antacids are probably the most important source for human aluminum exposure in terms of dose. For example, Maalox, taken as directed, can exceed the daily safety limit more than 100-fold, and nowhere on the label does it say to not take it with acidic beverages such as fruit juice. Washing an antacid down with orange juice can increase aluminum absorption 8-fold, and citric acid–the acid found naturally concentrated in lemon and limes—is even worse.

Just as sour fruits can enhance the absorption of iron (a good thing), through the same mechanism they may enhance the absorption of aluminum (a bad thing). This raises the question of what happens when one adds lemon juice to tea? Previously, I concluded that the amount of aluminum in tea is not a problem for most people because it’s not very absorbable (See Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?). What if we add lemon? Researchers publishing in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found no difference between tea with lemon, tea without lemon, or no tea at all in terms of the amount of aluminum in the bloodstream, suggesting that tea drinking does not significantly contribute to aluminum getting inside the body.

The researchers used black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea, but what about the “red zinger” herbal tea, hibiscus? The reason hibiscus tea is called “sour tea” is because it has natural acids in it like citric acid. Might these acids boost the absorption of any hibiscus’ aluminum? While a greater percentage of aluminum gets from the hibiscus into the tea water than from the other teas, there’s less aluminum overall.

The real question is whether the aluminum then gets from the tea water into our bodies. We don’t have those data; so, to be on the safe side we should assume the worst: that hibiscus tea aluminum, unlike green and black tea aluminum, is completely absorbable. In that case, based on these data and the World Health Organization weekly safety limit, we may not want to drink more than 15 cups of hibiscus tea a day, (based on someone who’s about 150 pounds). If you have a 75 pound 10-year-old, a half-gallon a day may theoretically be too much. Recent, more extensive testing highlighted in my video, How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?, suggests that aluminum levels may reach a level twice as high.  Therefore, to be safe, no more than about two quarts a day for adults, or one quart a day for kids or pregnant women. Hibiscus tea should be completely avoided by infants under six months—who should only be getting breast milk—as well as kids with kidney failure, who can’t efficiently excrete it.

There is also a concern about the impressive manganese level in hibiscus tea. Manganese is an essential trace mineral, a vital component of some of our most important antioxidant enzymes, but we probably only need about two to five milligrams a day. Four cups of hibiscus tea can have as much as 17 milligrams, with an average of about ten. Is that a problem?

One study from the University of Wisconsin found that women given 15 milligrams of manganese a day for four months saw, if anything, an improvement in their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant enzyme activity. Another study, using 20 milligrams a day, similarly showed no adverse short-term effects, and importantly showed that the retention of dietary manganese is regulated. Our bodies aren’t stupid; if we take in too much manganese, we decrease the absorption and increase the excretion. Even though tea drinkers may get ten times the manganese load (10 or 20 milligrams a day), the levels in their blood are essentially identical. There is little evidence that dietary manganese poses a risk.

These studies were conducted with regular tea, though; so, we don’t know about the absorption from hibiscus. To err on the side of caution, we should probably not routinely exceed the reference dose of ten milligrams per day, or about a quart a day for adults and a half-quart for a 75 pound child.

I’ve actually changed my consumption. Given the benefits of the stuff, I was using it as a substitute for drinking water, drinking around two quarts a day. I was also blending the hibiscus petals in, not throwing them away, effectively doubling the aluminum content, and increasing manganese concentrations by about 30%. So, given these data, I’ve cut back to no more than a quart of filtered hibiscus tea a day.

Lemon can actually boost the antioxidant content of green and white tea. See Green Tea vs. White. For a comparison of their cancer-fighting effects in vitro, Antimutagenic Activity of Green Versus White Tea.

Before that, I covered another potential downside of sour tea consumption in Protecting Teeth From Hibiscus Tea, and before that, a reason we should all consider drinking it in: Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

For more on the iron absorption effect, see my video Risks Associated with Iron Supplements.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: mararie / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/19/no-more-than-a-quart-a-day-of-hibiscus-tea/feed/ 42
Aluminum Levels in Tea http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/17/aluminum-levels-in-tea/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/17/aluminum-levels-in-tea/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 12:00:53 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29874 While aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth, it may not be good for our brain, something we learned studying foundry workers exposed to particularly high levels. Although the role of aluminum in the development of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s is controversial, to be prudent, steps should probably be taken to lessen our […]]]>

While aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth, it may not be good for our brain, something we learned studying foundry workers exposed to particularly high levels. Although the role of aluminum in the development of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s is controversial, to be prudent, steps should probably be taken to lessen our exposure to this metal.

There are a number of aluminum-containing drugs on the market (like antacids, which have the highest levels), though aluminum compounds are also added to processed foods such as anti-caking agents in pancake mix, melting agents in American cheese, meat binders, gravy thickeners, rising agents in some baking powders and dye-binders in candy. Therefore, it’s better to stick to unprocessed, natural foods. Also, if you cook those natural foods in an aluminum pot, a significant amount of aluminum can leach into the food (compared to cooking in stainless steel).

When researchers tried the same experiment with tea, they got a few milligrams of aluminum regardless of what type of pot they used, suggesting that aluminum was in the tea itself. Indeed, back in the 1950’s, researchers noticed that tea plants tended to suck up aluminum from the soil. But it’s the dose that makes the poison. According to the World Health Organization, the provisional tolerable weekly intake—our best guess at a safety limit for aluminum—is two mg per healthy kilogram of body weight per week, which is nearly a milligram per pound. Someone who weighs around 150 pounds probably shouldn’t ingest more than around 20 mg of aluminum per day.

Up to a fifth of aluminum intake may come from beverages; so, what we drink probably shouldn’t contribute more than about four mg a day, the amount found in about five cups of green, black, or oolong tea. So, should we not drink more than five cups of tea a day?

It’s not what you eat or drink, it’s what you absorb. If we just measured how much aluminum was in tea, it would seem as though a couple cups could double aluminum intake for the day. But if we measure the level of aluminum in people’s bodies after they drink tea, it doesn’t go up. This suggests that the bioavailability of aluminum in tea is low, possibly because most of the extractable aluminum in brewed tea is strongly bound to large phytonutrients that are not easily absorbed; so, the aluminum just passes right through us without actually getting into our bodies. Probably more than 90 percent of the aluminum in tea is bound up.

One study out of Singapore, highlighted in my video, Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?, did show a large spike in aluminum excretion through the urine after drinking tea compared to water. The only way for something to get from our mouth to our bladder is to first be absorbed into our bloodstream. But the researchers weren’t comparing the same quantity of tea to water. They had the study subject chug down about eight and a half cups of tea, or drink water at their leisure. Therefore, the tea drinkers peed a lot more; so, the aluminum content cup-for-cup was no different for tea versus water. This suggests that gross aluminum absorption from tea is unlikely and that only a little aluminum is potentially available for absorption.

So, although as few as four cups of tea could provide 100 percent of our daily aluminum limit, the percentage available for absorption in the intestine may be less than 10 percent. It is, therefore, unlikely that moderate amounts of tea drinking can have any harmful effects—for people with normal aluminum excretion. Tea may not, however, be a good beverage for children with kidney failure, since they can’t get rid of aluminum as efficiently. For most people, though, tea shouldn’t be a problem.

On a special note, if you drink tea out of a can, buy undented cans. The aluminum in dented cans can leach into the liquid, boosting aluminum levels by a factor of eight while sitting on store shelves for a year.

What about the levels and absorbability of the aluminum in my other favorite type of tea? Find out in my video, How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?

The tea plant also sucks up fluoride. So much so that heavy tea drinking can stain the teeth of children. See my video Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk.

Why should we go out of our way to drink tea? See:

Is Caffeinated Tea Dehydrating? Find out by watching the video!

For more on metals in our food supply, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Toshiyuki IMAI / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/17/aluminum-levels-in-tea/feed/ 48
Rinse Your Mouth After Sour Foods and Drinks http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/12/rinse-your-mouth-after-sour-foods-and-drinks/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/12/rinse-your-mouth-after-sour-foods-and-drinks/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 12:00:44 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29871 Hibiscus tea has been found to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as a leading hypertension drug without the potential side-effects (which include everything from lack of strength to impotence, including rare cases of potentially fatal liver damage). Hibiscus, though, may have adverse effects of its own. As I’ve reviewed previously in Plant-Based Diets: […]]]>

Hibiscus tea has been found to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as a leading hypertension drug without the potential side-effects (which include everything from lack of strength to impotence, including rare cases of potentially fatal liver damage). Hibiscus, though, may have adverse effects of its own.

As I’ve reviewed previously in Plant-Based Diets: Oral Health, people who eat plant-based diets appear to have superior periodontal health, including less gum disease and fewer signs of inflammation, like bleeding. However, they also have twice the prevalence of dental erosions, areas on the teeth where the enamel has thinned due to more frequent consumption of acidic fruits and vegetables. Therefore, after we eat something like citrus, we should swish our mouths with water to clear the acid from our teeth.

This includes beverages. I’m a big fan of hibiscus tea, but it’s not called “sour tea” for nothing. In a study highlighted in my video, Protecting Teeth from Hibiscus Tea, researchers at the University of Iowa dental school tested 25 different popular teas and found two with a pH under 3 (as acidic as orange juice or coca cola): Tazo’s passion and Bigelow’s red raspberry, both of which contain hibiscus as their first ingredient.

To see if these teas could actually dissolve teeth, the researchers took 30 extracted molars from people and soaked them in different teas. And indeed, out of the five teas tested, the greatest erosion came from the tea with the most hibiscus. The researchers left the tooth sitting in the tea for 25 hours straight, but this was to simulate a lifetime of exposure. The bottom line is that herbal teas are potentially erosive, particularly fruity and citrusy teas like hibiscus. To minimize the erosive potential, we can use a straw to drink the beverage. And as I mentioned above, after consuming an acidic food or drink we should also rinse our mouth with water to help neutralize the acid.

For more on the effects of hibiscus on blood pressure, see the previous video, Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

Are there other potential downsides to tea drinking? That’s the topic of my videos: Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea? and How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?

For more on avoiding drug side-effects by choosing more natural treatments can be found in videos like:

For more on diet and oral health, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: T.Kiya / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/12/rinse-your-mouth-after-sour-foods-and-drinks/feed/ 55
Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/10/plant-based-diets-for-hypertension/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/10/plant-based-diets-for-hypertension/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 12:00:43 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29869 Recently, researchers from Taiwan pitted the herbal tea hibiscus against obesity. They gave hibiscus to overweight individuals and reported that subjects showed reduced body weight. However, after 12 weeks on hibiscus, subjects only lost about three pounds, only one and a half pounds over placebo. Hibiscus is clearly no magic fix for obesity. The purported cholesterol-lowering […]]]>

Recently, researchers from Taiwan pitted the herbal tea hibiscus against obesity. They gave hibiscus to overweight individuals and reported that subjects showed reduced body weight. However, after 12 weeks on hibiscus, subjects only lost about three pounds, only one and a half pounds over placebo. Hibiscus is clearly no magic fix for obesity.

The purported cholesterol-lowering property of hibiscus tea looked a bit more promising. Some older studies suggested as much as an 8% reduction from drinking two cups a day for a month. When all the studies are put together, though, the results are pretty much a wash. This may be because only about 50% of people respond at all to drinking the equivalent of between two to five cups a day, though those that do may get a respectable 12% drop. That’s nothing like the 30% one can get within weeks of eating a healthy, plant-based diet, though.

Hibiscus may really shine in treating high blood pressure, a disease affecting a billion people and killing millions. Up until 2010, there wasn’t sufficient high quality research to support the use of hibiscus tea to treat hypertension, but there are now randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies where hibiscus tea is compared to artificially colored and flavored water that looks and tastes like hibiscus tea, and the tea lowers blood pressure significantly better.

We’re still not sure how it works, but hibiscus appears to boost nitric oxide production, which could help our arteries relax and dilate better. Regardless, an updated review acknowledged that the daily consumption of hibiscus tea may indeed significantly lower blood pressures in people with hypertension.

How does hibiscus compare to other blood pressure interventions? The premier clinical trial when it comes to comprehensive lifestyle modification for blood pressure control is the PREMIER Clinical Trial. Realizing that nine out of ten Americans are going to develop hypertension, researchers from John Hopkins randomized 800 men and women with high blood pressure into one of three groups. One was the control group, the so-called “advice only group,” where patients were just told to lose weight, cut down on salt, increase exercise and eat healthier. In the two behavioral intervention groups, the researchers got serious. Eighteen face-to-face sessions, group meetings, food diaries, physical activity records, and calorie and sodium intake monitoring. One intervention group just concentrated on exercise; the other included exercise and diet. Researchers pushed the DASH diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables and low in full-fat dairy products and meat. In six months, subjects achieved a 4.3 point drop in systolic blood pressure, compared to the control, slightly better than the lifestyle intervention without the diet.

A few points might not sound like a lot—that’s like someone going from a blood pressure of 150 over 90 to a blood pressure of 146 over 90—but on a population scale, a five point drop in the total number could result in 14% fewer stroke deaths, 9% fewer fatal heart attacks, and 7% fewer deaths every year overall.

A cup of hibiscus tea with each meal didn’t just lower blood pressure by three, four, or five points, but by seven points, from an average of 129 down to 122. In fact, tested head-to-head against a leading blood-pressure drug, Captopril, two cups of strong hibiscus tea every morning (five tea bags for the two cups) was as effective in lowering blood pressure as a starting dose of 25mg of captopril taken twice a day.

So, hibiscus tea is as good as drugs, without side-effects, and better than diet and exercise? Well, the lifestyle interventions in the PREMIER study were pretty wimpy. As public health experts noted, the PREMIER study was only asking for 30 minutes of exercise a day, whereas the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of an hour a day.

Diet-wise, the lower the animal fat intake, and the more plant sources of protein the PREMIER participants were eating, the better the diet appeared to work. This may explain why vegetarian diets appear to work even better, and the more plant-based, the lower the prevalence of hypertension.

On the DASH diet, subjects cut down on meat, but were still eating it every day, so would qualify as nonvegetarians in the Adventist 2 study (highlighted in my video Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension) which looked at 89,000 Californians. It found that those who only ate meat on a weekly basis had 23% lower rates of high blood pressure. Those who cut out all meat except fish had 38% lower rates. Those eating no meat at all, vegetarians, have less than half the rate. The vegans—cutting out all animal protein and fat—appeared to have thrown three quarters of their risk for this major killer out the window.

One sees the same kind of step-wise drop in diabetes rates as one’s diet gets more and more plant-based, and a drop in excess body weight, such that only those eating completely plant-based diets in the Adventist 2 study fell into the ideal weight category. Could that be why those eating plant-based have such great blood pressure? Maybe it’s just because they’re so skinny. I’ve previously shown how those eating plant-based just have a fraction of the diabetes risk even at the same weight, but what about hypertension?

The average American has what’s called prehypertension, which means the top number of our blood pressure is between 120 and 139. We don’t have hypertension yet, which starts at 140, but we may be well on our way. Compare that to the blood pressure of those eating whole food plant-based diets. In one study, those eating plant-based didn’t have blood pressures three points lower, four points lower, or even seen points lower, but 28 points lower. However, the group eating the standard American diet was, on average, overweight with a BMI over 26, still better than most Americans, while the vegans were a trim 21—that’s 36 pounds lighter.

Maybe the only reason those eating meat, eggs, dairy, and processed junk had such higher blood pressure was because they were overweight. Maybe the diet per se had nothing to do with it?

To solve that riddle we would have to find a group still eating the standard American diet, but as slim as vegans. To find a group that trim, researchers had to use long-distance endurance athletes, who ate the same crappy American diet, but ran an average of 48 miles per week for 21 years. Anyone who runs almost two marathons a week for 20 years can be as slim as a vegan—no matter what they eat!

How did the endurance runners compare to the couch potato vegans? It appears that if we run an average of about a thousand miles every year, our blood pressures can rival some couch potato vegans. That doesn’t mean we can’t do both, but it may be easier to just eat plants.


Those who’ve been following my work for years have seen how my videos have evolved. In the past, the hibiscus results may have been the whole article or video. But thanks to everyone’s support, I’ve been able to delegate the logistics to staff and concentrate more on the content creation. This allows me to do deeper dives into the literature to put new findings into better context. The posts are a bit longer, but hopefully they’re more useful—let me know what you think!

For such a leading killer, hypertension has not gotten the coverage it deserves on NutritionFacts.org. Here’s a few videos, with more to come:

So, should we all be drinking hibiscus tea every day?  This is the first of a four part series on the latest on hibiscus. Stay tuned for the next three:

For another comparison of those running marathons and those eating plants, see: Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Amy / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/10/plant-based-diets-for-hypertension/feed/ 102
How to Treat Prediabetes with Diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/05/how-to-treat-prediabetes-with-diet/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/05/how-to-treat-prediabetes-with-diet/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 12:00:39 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29867 For people with prediabetes, lifestyle modification is considered “the cornerstone of diabetes prevention.” Diet-wise, this means individuals with prediabetes or diabetes should aim to reduce their intake of excess calories, saturated fat, and trans fat. Too many of us consume a diet with too many solid fats and added sugars. Thankfully the latest dietary guidelines […]]]>

For people with prediabetes, lifestyle modification is considered “the cornerstone of diabetes prevention.” Diet-wise, this means individuals with prediabetes or diabetes should aim to reduce their intake of excess calories, saturated fat, and trans fat. Too many of us consume a diet with too many solid fats and added sugars. Thankfully the latest dietary guidelines aim to shift consumption towards more plant-based foods.

Lifestyle modification is now the foundation of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology guidelines, the European Diabetes Association guidelines, and the official standards of care for the American Diabetes Association. Dietary strategies include reducing intake of fat and increasing intake of fiber (meaning unrefined plant foods, including whole grains).

The recommendation to consume more whole grains is based on research showing that eating lots of whole grains is associated with reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. New research even suggests that whole grains may protect against prediabetes in the first place.

According to the American Diabetes Association’s official standards of care (which you can see in my video Lifestyle Medicine Is the Standard of Care for Prediabetes), dietary recommendations should focus on reducing saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat intake (meat, dairy, eggs and junk food). Recommendations should also focus on increasing omega 3’s, soluble fiber and phytosterols, all three of which can be found together in flax seeds; an efficient, but still uncommon, intervention for prediabetes. In one study, about two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day decreased insulin resistance (the hallmark of the disease).

If the standards of care for all the major diabetes groups say that lifestyle is the preferred treatment for prediabetes because it’s safe and highly effective, why don’t more doctors do it? Unfortunately, the opportunity to treat this disease naturally is often unrecognized. Only about one in three patients report ever being told about diet or exercise. Possible reasons for not counseling patients include lack of reimbursement, lack of resources, lack of time, and lack of skill.

It may be because doctors aren’t getting paid to do it. Why haven’t reimbursement policies been modified? One crucial reason may be a failure of leadership in the medical profession and medical education to recognize and respond to the changing nature of disease patterns.

“The inadequacy of clinical education is a consequence of the failure of health care and medical education to adapt to the great transformation of disease from acute to chronic. Chronic disease is now the principal cause of disability, consuming three quarters of our sickness-care system. Why has there been little academic response to the rising prevalence of chronic disease?”

How far behind the times is the medical profession? A report by the Institute of Medicine on medical training concluded that the fundamental approach to medical education “has not changed since 1910.”


 

I hope my work is helping to fill the gap with the information about preventing and treating chronic disease that medical professionals are not getting during training. That’s actually how this all started. I would make trips to Countway Library of Medicine at the beginning of every month in medical school to read all the new journal issues. I felt I had a duty to my patients to stay on top of the literature. But hey, since I’m doing so much work, might as well share it! So, what started as an email newsletter morphed into a medical school speaking tour into a DVD series and then now all online for everyone.

For more on preventing and treating prediabetes/diabetes, see:

For more on lifestyle medicine:

And for insight into the sad state of nutrition in medical training, Doctors Know Less Than They Think About Nutrition and Medical School Nutrition Training.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Alden Chadwick / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/05/how-to-treat-prediabetes-with-diet/feed/ 67
Are Sprouted Lentils Healthier Than Canned Lentils? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/03/sprouted-lentils-healthier-canned-lentils/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/03/sprouted-lentils-healthier-canned-lentils/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 12:00:04 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29774 Beans, chickpeas, split peas and lentils are packed with nutrients and play a role in the prevention of chronic disease, but most can’t be eaten raw. Some can be sprouted, though. Boiling is the most common cooking method, which is used for canned beans. Which is healthier, though, cooked or sprouted? The easiest way to […]]]>

Beans, chickpeas, split peas and lentils are packed with nutrients and play a role in the prevention of chronic disease, but most can’t be eaten raw. Some can be sprouted, though. Boiling is the most common cooking method, which is used for canned beans. Which is healthier, though, cooked or sprouted?

The easiest way to compare healthfulness is to measure nutrient levels—such as the anthocyanin pigments that make kidney beans so pretty—thought to account for some of beans’ protective benefits against chronic disease. Sprouted beans have more of some anthocyanins, but less than others. We find this same pattern across the board with the other phenolic phytonutrients: sprouted beans have more of some, less of others. Because the positive effects of these compounds may be related to their antioxidant capacity, we can compare the overall antioxidant power of boiled versus sprouted beans. In that case, boiled appears to have a marginal edge.

Ideally, though, rather than merely comparing concentrations of phytochemicals, we’d measure physiological effects. For example, we might look at the effect of boiled versus sprouted beans against cancer cell growth. That’s exactly what researchers did. In my video Cooked Beans or Sprouted Beans?, you can see the concentrations of bean extract needed to cut the breast cancer growth rate in half in a petri dish. Boiled beans do about 40 times better than raw beans—the same cancer growth inhibition at just a fraction of the concentration. Sprouted beans do about the same.

We can’t eat most beans raw, but I wanted to include them to show you a fascinating phenomenon. No amount of raw bean extract appears to totally stop the growth of breast cancer cells, but just small amounts of cooked or sprouted beans can. We find the same thing with killing off cancer. No amount of raw bean extract can fully kill off breast cancer cells, but both boiled and sprouted beans can.

Similar results were found for melanoma cells, a type of malignant skin cancer. Processing the beans—either cooking or sprouting—boosted anticancer activity in vitro. However, against kidney cancer, raw and boiled worked, but sprouted didn’t at all.

There has also been interest in brain protection. Given that elderly persons who report always eating legumes may be significantly less likely to experience cognitive decline, a group of Chinese researchers decided to compare the protective effects of boiled versus sprouted beans on astrocytes.

Astrocytes are the most abundant type of cell in our brain. They are star-shaped cells that keep our brain running smoothly. Should they become damaged, though, they may play an important role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. So, if we’re thinking clearly, we should thank our lucky stars.

To see if beans help protect astrocytes from damage, we’d have to first make sure bean extracts wouldn’t cause any damage. Cooked beans don’t seem to hurt cells at all, and sprouted beans seem to even help them grow a little. If we add an oxidative chemical to the cells, we can kill off about a quarter of them. However, if we add that chemical along with some boiled bean extract, the astrocytes were partially protected at higher doses. Sprouted bean extract didn’t appear to offer significant benefit.

What’s the takeaway? As far as I’m concerned, we should eat beans in whichever way will get us to eat the most of them.

I do love my lentil sprouts, one of the healthiest snacks on the planet (along with kale chips). I can grow my own in just 2 to 3 days. But using canned beans I can get similar nutrition in about 2 to 3 seconds.

Sprouting is so much fun, though! I’ve got a bunch of videos on broccoli sprouts, for example: Biggest Nutrition Bang for Your Buck.

But again, whichever way we like them we should eat them. Why? See:

Mostly I just used canned. See Canned Beans or Cooked Beans?

Other videos on practical prep tips include:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Veganbaking.net / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/05/03/sprouted-lentils-healthier-canned-lentils/feed/ 61
Egg Consumption and LDL Cholesterol Size http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/28/egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/28/egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:00:38 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29772 Maria Fernandez has received nearly a half million dollars from the egg industry and writes papers like “Rethinking dietary cholesterol.” She admits that eggs can raise LDL cholesterol, bad cholesterol, but argues that HDL, so-called “good cholesterol,” also rises, thereby maintaining the ratio of bad to good. To support this assertion, she cites one study […]]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the role of cholesterol, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Kool skatkat / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/28/egg-consumption-and-ldl-cholesterol-size/feed/ 163
How to Protect Our Telomeres with Diet http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/26/how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/26/how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:33 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29770 In my video, Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?, I discussed how stress reduction through meditation might be able to lengthen telomeres, the protective caps at the tips of our chromosomes that tend to deplete as we age. What about exercise? We can’t always change our situation in life, but we can always go out for […]]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: AJC ajcann.wordpress.com / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/26/how-to-protect-our-telomeres-with-diet/feed/ 30
How Many Minutes of Daily Meditation to Combat Stress? http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/21/how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/21/how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 12:00:43 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=29768 In the film The Holiday, Cameron Diaz exclaims “Severe stress … causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate.” Did Hollywood get the science right? The enzyme that builds and maintains the caps at the tips of our chromosomes (called telomeres) appears to slow the aging of our cells. […]]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

For life extension in general, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

Image Credit: Nickolai Kashirin / Flickr

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/21/how-many-minutes-of-daily-meditation-to-combat-stress/feed/ 15
Now Hiring! http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/19/new-positions-apr-2016/ http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/19/new-positions-apr-2016/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 12:00:14 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=30056 Interested in dedicating yourself to advancing a lifesaving cause? Due to the tremendous success of How Not to Die, traffic on NutritionFacts.org is up 36%! That’s the largest quarterly bump in our history. We’re up to nearly 100,000 views a day. And donations are double what they were this time last year. I was initially […]]]>

Interested in dedicating yourself to advancing a lifesaving cause?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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

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

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

]]>
http://nutritionfacts.org/2016/04/19/new-positions-apr-2016/feed/ 18