2012 was NutritionFacts.org’s first full year in existence. This year we added about 10,000 twitter followers, 10,000 facebook fans, and 20,000 new subscribers, whose collective enthusiasm in sharing this body of work resulted in over 6 million views. But it’s not about the numbers; it’s about the people whose lives have been changed or even saved. On my wish list is to put up a “testimonials” page so I can share with everyone the kinds of stories that land in my inbox every week. People who found the site, improved their diets, and whose pain went away, whose disease went away, whose lives returned. As one person wrote me last week, “My doctor is shocked, thrilled and hugged me!” That is why this site exists. That is why I’ve volunteered my time to get a new video up every day. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made this public service possible. If you’d like to join others who have supported this free, nonprofit, noncommercial effort please consider donating here.
NutritionFacts.org arises from my annual review of the scientific literature. Over the last year 6,733 papers were published on human nutrition in the English language. Right now I’m in the process of recording the first batch of 2013 videos. How do I choose which articles to highlight? In general I strive to focus on the most groundbreaking, interesting, and practical findings, but which topics resonate the most? I went back to see which videos were most popular this year to guide my selection and thought others might be interested in what I found:
Coming in at #10 was the first in a three-week video series exploring the phenomenon of nitrate-rich vegetables improving athletic performance while reducing oxygen needs (which overturned a fundamental tenet of sports physiology!). I find the whole story fascinating with tangents like Bacon and Botulism, but you can jump straight to the end with So Should We Drink Beet Juice or Not?
Along with videos like Antioxidants in a Pinch, this video makes practical the overwhelming new antioxidant database I start profiling in Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods. It compares standard American breakfast fare to a smoothie that contains berries, white tea leaves, and Indian gooseberry (amla) powder (introduced in Amla Versus Cancer Cell Growth).
One mechanism by which caloric restriction may extend one’s lifespan is by upregulating dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the most abundant steroid hormone in the human body. Though DHEA supplements are discouraged, this video suggests there may be a natural way to conserve levels as we age. Longevity appears to be a perennial favorite. One of the most popular videos of 2011 was Research Into Reversing Aging.
We’d known that animal protein intake is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, but only recently discovered that plant-based diets may not only help prevent such conditions, but treat them as well, resulting in the longest recorded remission rates for Crohn’s disease. Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell was another wildly popular video this year, but just barely missed the top ten.
Why does removing meat and eggs from one’s diet improve mood? (as explored in Improving Mood Through Diet) Although it could be the arachidonic acid (Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation), this video offered an alternative explanation. It’s the third of a three-part series, preceded by The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin and A Better Way to Boost Serotonin.
This video answered the question: Whose blood is better at killing cancer cells? People who eat a standard diet and exercise strenuously or those who eat a plant-based diet and just exercise moderately? This is a follow-up on a video about an extraordinary set of experiments, Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay. How does simple lifestyle changes make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer in just a matter of days? You can jump ahead (*spoiler alert*) to The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle.
A single meal of meats, eggs, and dairy can cause a spike of inflammation within hours that can stiffen one’s arteries. Originally this was thought to be the result of saturated animal fat causing our gut lining to leak bacterial toxins into our blood stream leading to endotoxemia. It turned out though, that it appeared to be the bacterial toxins present in the animal products themselves (See the follow-up videos The Exogenous Endotoxin Theory and Dead Meat Bacteria Endotoxemia). Even when the bacteria are killed by cooking, the toxins in their cell walls may still trigger inflammation within the human body.
This is another along the lines of a A Better Breakfast and Antioxidants in a Pinch. The antioxidant content of a number of popular beverages is compared: black tea, coffee, Coke, espresso, grape juice, green tea, hibiscus (Jamaica flower) tea, milk, Pepsi, Red Bull, red tea, red wine, and white wine. Which beat out even powdered (matcha) green tea?
A competing risks analysis of the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study compared the danger of smoking cigarettes to the danger of animal product consumption (cholesterol) and the benefits of plant foods (fiber) to the benefits of exercise. This is the study that found that the daily consumption of the amount of cholesterol found in a single egg may cut a woman’s life short as much as smoking 25,000 cigarettes! Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies offers similar insight for men as well.
Hands down the most popular video was my 2012 year-in-review. Recorded live, it was my attempt to explore the role diet may play in preventing, treating, and even reversing the top 15 killers in the United States (in as entertaining a way as I could!). The breadth of NutritionFacts.org is one of its strengths, covering more than 1,500 topics, but I realize it can be a bit overwhelming. My annual review talks are my attempt to bring it all together. Stay tuned for the 2013 review in July!
I’m really excited about all the new material I’m poring through. Make sure you don’t miss a day by subscribing to my daily, weekly, or monthly email newsletter.
Happy New Year!
-Michael Greger, M.D.