Doctor's Note

See my last video Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies for background on this class of xenoestrogens.

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

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

Farmed Fish vs. Wild Caught. Which is worse?

Breast feeding is one way to offload toxins, but it is The Wrong Way to Detox.

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

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  • Annie

    I’m so glad that I no longer eat fish…my kids were born in the eighties and back then I did eat as much fish and meat that I could afford…I thought it would make them smarter…
    Hopefully things were safer then…and they are fine but now I worry about my grandchildren….
    Every body seems to want to attack any body that is a vegan…are we so programmed to think that we need to eat animals to be healthy?
    Thank you so much for all that you are to be admired

    • bk

      where do non meat eaters get their B12?

      • Brandon Klinedinst

        Beer, Miso, or supplements.

        • Timar

          Beer is not a source of B12, nor is Miso, Sauerkraut or any other fermented plant food. Yeast and lacotbacilli produce some compounds very similar to B12, so in mass spectrometry it appears as if such foods contain significant amounts of B12, but this pseudo “B12” has no vitamin function whatsoever. Be wary of any suggestion that such foods would consitute be a reliable source of B12 for vegans. Supplementation is the only way to go!

          • livefood

            B12 (a.k.a. cobalamin) is actually not a vitamin like the other vitamins. It is a microbe (bacteria) that is produced by microorganisms internally (synthesised in the gut) and elsewhere (e.g. in soil by microbes that live in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots). What something like Sauerkraut is doing is aiding in creating an environment where these gut bacteria can thrive. Alcohol can actually cause a B12 deficiency along with antibiotics (taken directly or indirectly through consumption of milk or meat from animals that are fed antibiotics) as they kill off these microorganisms.

          • Timar

            Vitamin B12 is a microbe? Are you kidding me!?

            The B12 produced by bacteria in the large intestine is hardly absorbed at all (B12 is absorbed in the small intestine). In the past the B12 from the feces contributed to dietary intake because of lacking hygiene (e.g. wiping the a** with the hand and then eating). I don’t think that is a desirable source of B12, though. Moreover, alcoholism does not lead to B12 deficiency, but to folate deficiency which may cause similar symptoms. Last but not least, there are many good reasons to avoid factory farmed animal products, but residues of antibiotics in the meat or milk are generally not an issue.

            You should not spread such nonesense when you don’t really know what you are taking about.

      • Lily

        As I recall whzt Dr. Greger said was that B12 supplements and B12 fortified foods (such as many cereals -check nutrition labels) are the only reliable food sources of B12 for vegans. B12 is essential for good health.

      • gr

        Where do meat eaters get their B12 and fiber?

  • BK

    where do non meat eaters get their B12 other than supplements?

    • Thea

      bk: fortified foods such as non-dairy milk and nutritional yeast can be a source of B12 for people who do not eat animals. Dirty vegetables, dirty water and poor dental hygiene can also work, but modern humans have safer ways of getting their B12.

      It is also helpful to remember that people over 50 (? I think it was 50) are supposed to take a B12 supplement even if their diet includes copious amounts of meat.

      For more information:

      • Veganrunner

        Dirty streams don’t sound very appetizing do they Thea? I once picked up a bad case a Giardia. Best to supplement!

        • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

          I also prefer methylcobalamin in a tablet over rotting teeth ! :-)

          • Thea

            Dr Planstrongdoc: You and I could form a club.

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

            I`m in !

        • Thea

          Veganrunner: I’m with you. No thanks to dirty streams. Yikes.

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          Had the seconds worst case of the runs of my life after drinking from a bad mountain stream in France ^^ , the other being a 2 week over date meat containing steam bun called baozi.
          Anyway I learned my lesson not to drink from a stream below where lifestock graze.

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    The safe side: Eat mostly plants….

  • Thea

    Another awesome video. Since it isn’t pointed out in the video description, I’ll give a shout-out here: This is another great video to share with (soon to be) nursing mothers!

    • Lily

      ….and soon to be pregnant mothers, keep all these birth defect causing xenoestrogens out of the umbilical cord. So sad to think of all the young women gobbling fish oil thinking it will make their babies smarter, and it is feminizing their sons.

  • Timar

    Widely inconsistent fearmongering IMO. Yes, we should take alkyphenol pollutants very seriously, but for me that means to objectively and dispassionately gauge the risk associated with their exposure instead of spinning inconsistent evidence into a scary plot in order to promote a vegan diet (however appropriate a plant based diet may be for ethical and other health concerns)

    Just three examples of the many incosistencies showing up in this video: in the first video Dr. Greger argues that the increasing rates of allergies in Japan are due to the increased consumption of animal products, but while consumption of meat and milk are on the rise (but still way below Western countries), fish consumption has gone down since 1989. How does that fit with the fact mentioned in the second video, that fish shows by far the highest level of alkyphenols? I doesn’t. Then look at the graph at the end of the second video. Formula milk, which is usually plant-based, shows higher level of alkyphenols than human breast milk. How does that fit with that cute graphic showing rising levels through the food chain? It doesn’t. At finally a note about bisphenol A vs. soy isoflavones: they are not as different as suggested in this video. In fact, they show very similar selective estrogen receptor binding und consequentially very similar gene expression profiles. Just look at this study:

    Does that mean that soy isoflavones are dangerous, as some Paleo preachers suggest? No, it doesn’t, as we have plenty of epidemiological evidence for their safety. Does it mean that bisphenol A is harmless or even healthy? Not necessarily so. It does mean that we need more evidence to come to sound conclusions. Until then, indulging in ideologically motivated fearmongering is just as inappropriate as in dwelling in consumerist ingnorance.

    • b00mer

      RE: fish consumption:From the data in the previous video, during the years 1958-99, rice consumption decreased 2.5x, meat consumption increased 7x, milk consumption increased 7x, and fish/shellfish consumption increased 1.25x

      It is only during the last interval (1989-99) that fish consumption decreased from its all time high at 105 g/day to 71 g/day, which is still higher than 56 g/day, the initial level reported in 1958.

      So it stands that consumption of all categories of animal products, including fish, has increased since 1958, which is in line with the surge in allergies seen since the first case in 1964 to the present day rate of “millions of cases/year” (quotation per Dr. Greger in previous video).

      Even if fish consumption had actually decreased within the relevant time period, the magnitude of the increase in other animal products could still have possibly offset the decrease in fish consumption and still resulted in higher levels of phenol consumption. Some sort of weighted analysis would need to be done to take into account amounts consumed and phenol concentrations of each food.

      RE: Formula:
      Which formulas are you talking about when you state “Formula milk, which is usually plant-based […]”?

      With a quick google search for infant formula, the seemingly major brands (Enfamil, Similac, Gerber) all show dairy milk as their first or second ingredient in the majority of their formulations. The only exceptions I saw were for the specifically labelled “soy-based” option that each brand offers. Other than that, they all seem to be milk-based.

      So, to conclude, you make three points regardling “widely inconsistent fearmongering”:

      Point #1: Dr. Greger’s interpretation of the data you use in this point seems more relevant

      Point #2: seems outright false, unless my quick and crude research into the infant formula world is in fact giving me skewed results

      Point #3: You present one source which makes you question the benefits/safety of isoflavones and the danger of BPA, then appear to answer your own question given the overall balance of evidence in both topics which you seem to be aware of, then seem flummoxed by the idea of making any conclusions about anything. I was unable to extract a cogent argument from this section to respond to.

    • Claudia

      Over 90% of soy in the US is GMO. The only long-term study on GMO corn (2yrs) by Scientist Seralini of France shows increased prevalence of cancerous tumors and shortened lifespan in rats. If you see mention of the editor’s retraction of that study online, look deeper and you will see that it is supposedly based on “weak” evidence. Check out photos of the results and see if you think they are “weak.” Further, note that a former Monsanto scientist is now an associate editor on that journal. Something rotten in the state of Denmark here? Seralini is now fighting the retraction.

      • b00mer

        “Over 90% of soy in the US is GMO.”

        The majority of this is fed to animals or found in processed food. The vast majority of soy-based products available are either labelled as organic or non-gmo certified. Between all of the grocery stores I have access to, I literally could not buy GM tofu if I wanted to. Even the processed soy based foods that are marketed to vegetarians/vegans e.g. faux meats, milks, etc are more often than not labelled as non-gmo. The fear of GMO soy may be a reason to avoid animal products or some processed foods, but would not factor into the decision to eat most soy-based foods.

  • I’m a bit confused by this statement: “Water animals and birds concentrate these compounds to levels several thousands of times greater than those in the environment, because these are fat-soluble chemicals.” If they’re fat soluble, then other foods high in fat–including land animals, their mammary secretions–would also concentrate them, as you point out. Could you clarify why water animals and birds might be more problematic?

    Also, what source are you citing for this statement? “This group also found that fish was the worst.” The fine print in the video is too tiny for my aging eyes

    • Merio

      look at the “sources cited” under the video… for that graph you got to look the 5th study ( Analysis of alkylphenol and bisphenol A in meat by accelerated solvent extraction and liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry
      ) from the top…

    • guest

      And what about nuts and seeds? Avocados? Surely they might be accumulated too?

  • Glad I didn’t eat fish – or any other meats – during my pregnancies!

  • DGH

    Jonathan Safran Foer talks about our war on the oceans – overfishing. It is irresponsible for me to eat fish with knowledge of the environmental and ecological catastrophe on marine organisms that have been inflicted for the past 200+ years. Others can do as they please; I do not wish to promote the suffering of sentient beings (“hook, line and catch…”)

  • Em Crone

    Very very interesting. I have had asthma my whole life. I have had excema my whole life. I am also ALLERGIC to shellfish!!!! I can eat fish, but not shell fish.
    Also, my excema is quite controlled and I THOUGHT it was since I take krill oil (good quality fish oil) capsules….they help a lot!! I do NOT use any topical steriods creams.
    Thoughts on this from anyone? This brings up so many questions for me!! I must know more!

    • b00mer

      Hi Em, do you eat a plant based diet aside from the krill oil? If not it might be worth a try. If you think it’s the omega-3s from the krill oil responsible for the improvements, you could try flax or chia as a plant based alternative. Also, have you seen the eczema topic page on this site? Dr. Greger has several videos all related to this topic:

      Also while not specifically about eczema, this video talks about sensitive skin in general, and improvements in hydration and barrier function from flax consumption:

    • Gregory Steinke

      It’s the chemical pollutants that are the concern. Perhaps the krill oil you are using is less polluted. Another issue is that it is not clear to me when the exposure to the chemical pollutants causes the problem. Is it only when you are a fetus, infant, and/or child? Does the exposure matter as much as an adult if you are not breast feeding, pregnant, or planning to be pregnant? I don’t know if these studies exist yet.

    • guest

      Avoid tomatoes and all nightshade plants. (Goji berries and possibly some of the other super-food berries marketed to us are also nightshades.) Consider going without citrus fruits. Avoid all oils.

  • DanielFaster

    Also, endocrine disruptors appear to be widespread in all plastics including plastic food packaging such as PET, Tritan, BPS etc. and even more potent in some “BPA-free” plastics than in BPA plastic – no more plastics in my kitchen!

  • monopoly970 .

    It is interesting that Japan has highest life expectancy in world and their main diet consist of fish… and also have a lower cancer rate then a large majority in the world, actually it is strange that many of the countries with lower rates cancer tend to eat lighter meats ie fish and poultry. Not saying that this video doesn’t make interesting points, but, I don’t think it conclusive enough to say hey don’t eat fish cause it will give you cancer and other diseases.

    • b00mer

      1. Just because they eat fish, doesn’t mean they eat copious amounts of it. Data from nutritional surveys show that the diet consumed in the 1970s, which is considered to show a traditional or pre-westernization diet, contained about 12-15% protein. Considering fish (e.g. tuna) is about 65% protein, this indicates they fish wasn’t the basis of their diet, but rather something eaten sparingly. Furthermore, that 12-15% of their diet which is coming from protein, isn’t only coming from fish; you have to reserve some of that percentage for all of the other foods in the diet which all contribute protein. For example, rice is 7-10% protein, green leafy vegetables average 50% protein, and tofu is 43% protein. So the fact that they ate some fish does not translate to the concept that they ate lots of fish.

      2. It’s not just that they ate fish and had lower cancer rates, therefor fish doesn’t cause cancer. The fish they consume is within the context of a diet with broad spectrum chemotherapeutic activity: green tea, green vegetables, sea vegetables, soy, mushrooms, etc. You can think of it as another layer on the “Asian Paradox”, in which smoking is relatively common across Asia, yet they see lower lung cancer rates than western countries.

      3. Given how much in vitro data we have on the nasties in poultry and fish (oncogenic viruses, industrial pollutants, heavy metals, endogenous carcinogens like polyaromatic hydrocarbons and herterocyclic amines, growth hormone promoting amino acid composition, saturated fat, etc), it isn’t logical to hypothesize that “lighter meats” are the reasons some cultures see some protection against certain cancers. What would be appropriate is the hypothesis that cultures eating lighter *amounts* of any meat see lower rates of cancer. And indeed that is what has been observed.

      • Thea

        b00mer: That’s such a quality reply. Thanks for the great read and backing up your thoughts with data. This is one post that I’m going to keep. (I was going to try to reply, but your response is way better than what I would have done. So, thanks again.)

      • monopoly970 .

        Well you are right in saying the Japanese diet isn’t copious amount of fish although it is more then just sparingly and I say that from first hand experience as I visited Japan for a couple months and fish (well perhaps it better said seafood) was quite regular. Furthermore, I wasn’t making hypothesis on whether eating fish decreases cancer, or that industrial pollutants can’t cause harm. All i said that it was interesting that populations that eat lighter meats such as fish and poultry have a lower cancer rate. However, lets make things short and sweat the point I was making is quite simple eating fish and poultry on a regular basis will not give all these diseases this video suggests you will get. In other words I criticizing the fear mongering that this video contains.

        • b00mer

          Hi monopoly970, did you visit Japan in the 1970’s or more recently? The diet I’m describing is the “traditional” Japanese diet, eaten prior to 1980. As they have increased their consumption of animal products (including fish), their rates of disease (allergies as mentioned in this series, as well as heart disease and certain cancers) have gone up.

          Also, going by your logic that:

          “eating fish and poultry on a regular basis will not give all these diseases”,

          one could also say that smoking on a regular basis will not give all these diseases, since the Japanese have lower rates of cancer despite their smoking habits. But, given the known carcinogen content in cigarettes, we know that this conclusion does not make sense. Instead we form hypotheses about why they have lower lung cancer rates *despite* their tobacco consumption.

          Education is not fear-mongering. Critique is healthy, but the basis for your critique and subsequent conclusion (i.e. that fish does not cause cancer) is not logical, since you are not acknowledging two important factors:

          1) amount of meat eaten in addition to type of meat eaten

          2) the majority of the diet being plant-based foods that provide well documented chemotherapeutic effects

          • monopoly970 .

            Well anyways as much I would like to continue trolling you with cooperate based research I am too lazy. I am gonna be honest I’ve read Dr.Vandenberg papers who is really one of the leads on this debates and it pretty obvious that endocrines disruptors can cause harm. However, you saying this is education is beyond me and shows that perhaps you need to review what education is… Education is a presentation of both sides of the argument without making any personal judgments (and there is another side of this debate argument it not very well established anymore, but a few legit criticism are there), not a single sided argument that consistently suggests that if continue to eat fish and poultry you’ll get diseases. You get the difference? this video is a opinion that tries to fear monger not education.

  • Do you have any information as it relates to skin care products. We have developed an impressive skin and body care line that is certified free of estrogenic-activity chemicals and additional harsh ingredients. GMO-free, Soy-free, Corn-free. Soy-free, packaging is BPA free. Even the manufacturing facility is certified EA-free. Its important that the consumers understand about endocrine disruptors, but I feel it is still a mental overload topic.

  • Crystena

    First time I’m hearing this info. I have eczema and allergies and I’m always interested in the causes, how to overcome the condition and how to prevent it. I once wondered that it might be okay to take fish oil even if you’re plant based but seeing as how so much accumulates in animal fat in today’s polluted world, it’s not safe, especially if you susceptibilities for things, in this case, allergic conditions. I wish all mother’s would know info like this so they could prevent it in their children, when it’s severe it can be THE worst thing to deal with for a kid.

  • Rosie S.

    I see this discussion is about a year old, but I just had a comment to make that might be relevant to future related topics. I was reflecting on agricultural recycling of animal wastes, and your comments about feeding off humans — lactation.

    Traditional practices in many cultures had the cooking and eating of the placenta (human tissue) after childbirth. It was often fed to the new mother — eating one’s own bodily tissues. Assuming lactation prevented fertility until weaning, and the stair-step pattern of offspring, that mom may have eaten several of her own placentas in her reproductive lifetime. With the contaminants in our food supplies and environment, what risks / benefits might such a practice pose for the mother and her offspring as placental tissues recycle nutrients and modern environmental toxins back to the mother?

  • Galya Gerstman

    Hello, Dr. Greger. I just read this statement from the Natural Health site, posted on “Researchers at the University of Southern California and the National University of Singapore found that postmenopausal women who ate an average of 1.5 to 3 ounces of fish or shellfish daily were 26% less likely to develop breast cancer during the 5 years of the study than those who ate less seafood.” So does the consumption of fish prevent cancer, as is implied here, or contribute to it, as your videos suggest?

  • joshhead

    Did i miss it? I didn’t hear the word sardine once in the video. I have always heard that if you were going to eat fish, sardines would be the healthiest/safest bet.