I wasn't going to write a post today, but then I saw this advertisement for of all things - a multivitamin - in my email, and it's just too good to pass up.
It's an ad for Centrum "Cardio", which according to the manufacturer's claims, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, and MAY reduce the risk of heart disease. Well, there you go. Why change your diet when you can get all the nutrients you need, plus phytosterols which lower your cholesterol levels, in just a little pill?
Doesn't this start to smell a little... snake oilish?
So here's the rub on phytosterols: Phyto means "plant" in Latin. Sterol is a lipid, and together, phyto-sterols are well known for lowering real chole-sterol levels because (much like phytoestrogens vs. real estrogen) they block cell receptor sites - prohibiting cholesterol to be absorbed into cells. You can bet that phytosterols are only found in plant foods: fruit, veg.s, whole grains, and legumes. This is why people who eat lots of these foods don't have high cholesterol. (That, and the fiber in these foods binds with cholesterol and pulls it out the back door.)
And where do we find cholesterol in foods? Solely in foods of animal-origin: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Also, saturated fat from these foods converts into cholesterol in our bodies.
So how are we really going to lower our cholesterol levels? Not by taking isolated phytosterols from a pill, that's for sure.
Just a few more words on snake oil - I mean, supplements.
Here's what the Stanford Nutrition Studies department has to say about why they don't seem to work:
"Researchers in this field have speculated that there may be two possible explanations for the discrepancy between these two types of studies (why nutrients in food do provide benefits vs. nutrient supplements do not). First, the doses used in the clinical trials were too high (antioxidants can act as pro-oxidants in very high doses). Second, the specific antioxidants included in the recent trials contain isolated antioxidants in pill form, which may not be as efficacious as consuming whole foods that contain a combination of antioxidants and other components found in food that may work synergistically with them."
Let's see, what are these researchers saying? Antioxidant supplements (which include all kinds of vitamins and minerals) act as pro-oxidants in high doses. And when nutrients are isolated from food, they just don't work like they do when found in food (the synergistic effects of food).
In other words, supplement studies funded by the supplement industry show THEY DON'T WORK. In addition, THEY CAN BE DANGEROUS.
I know I've said this before, but I just thought you might want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. When you invest extra money on food and food preparation, or cooking, know that you are investing in your own health - and this investment will have many returns. If you are saving money for retirement or your family's future, you may not be able to enjoy those savings if you are not simultaneously investing in healthy foods now.
Have you ever seen a movie or read a book set in early America, where there's a "snake oil" salesman? Usually he's standing on a literal soapbox, pitching his claim that his oil is a panecea, or cure-all. And of course, people are lining up to buy it.
Today we look back and think how silly our great-grandparents were to believe this con-artist. But really, who's being conned?
WE are. Every one of us who is convinced - by the supplement industry - that we need to take vitamin/mineral supplements. This is just a slightly different twist on snake oil, and it's a multi-million (even billion) dollar con game.
Let's look at just how similar it all is: First, the snake-oil salesman needs to present a need, to show that we just can't be healthy without his product. With supplements, it's simply making it look virtually impossible to eat healthy enough to get all the nutrients we need. This makes us scared; we can't possibly be getting all we need via our diet.
Next, the con-artist must do his best to play down any risks from his oil. The supplement industry is great at muting any studies showing ill-effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation - yet there are myriad. Some show that our bodies never absorb the nutrients in supplements (expensive urine), while others show antioxidant supplements create free radical damage (oxidation which leads to cancer and plaque), or deplete our body's stores of other nutrients.
The following is an excerpt from Stanford University's Nutrition Studies Department:
"A long history of epidemiological studies has suggested that dietary (food-derived) antioxidants are associated with prevention from heart disease. However, several recent large clinical trials using high doses of antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin E, beta carotene, and vitamin C, have yielded disappointing and controversial results. Despite these null findings, the use of antioxidant supplements in the U.S. continues to grow."
Hmmm... I wonder why despite these "disappointing and controversial results" the use of supplements continues to grow? Perhaps the snake oil salesmen are using those millions of dollars in marketing - even to doctors and health professionals. Soap boxes have become prime time commercials, brochures and advertisements playing on our greatest fears.
However, considering how many Americans consume nutrient supplements, by simple logic, we would be the healthiest people on earth. Unfortunately, we're just the opposite.
So cover all your bases by eating a plant-based diet with all the fruit, veg.s, whole grains and legumes (beans, nuts and seeds) that I keep advocating. Choose locally-grown, in season, organic produce for the most nutrients. Subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box for fresh, organic, nutrient-laden produce. To find a CSA near you, check out http://www.localharvest.org/csa/. Yes, it's more money, but think of all the money your saving from not buying supplements - or paying for medication.
The same website I mentioned in my last post on Alzheimer's disease has also published this study on folic acid:
Folate Deficiency May Triple Dementia Risk in the Elderly
New research by investigators at Chonnam National University Medical School, in Kwangju, Republic of Korea, found that individuals who were folate deficient at study outset were 3.5 times more likely to develop dementia. However, individuals with lower folate levels but who were not folate deficient at baseline were also at significantly increased dementia risk.
In a nutshell, if your folic acid stores are low, you're going to lose brain cells... and not just if you're old. As mentioned previously, Alzheimer's is showing up in younger, middle-aged folks, and by the time you've lost enough brain tissue to be diagnosed with "dementia" or Alzheimer's, you've been losing these precious cells for a very long time.
Which is why we need to eat healthy now: so we don't pay for it later.
Where do we find folate? Only in fruit, veg.s, whole grains and legumes. NOT in supplements, as many antioxident nutrients can act as "pro-oxidants" (free radicals) when in supplement form.
Please everyone, eat healthy... So I have people my age to talk to when I'm old.
According to Yahoo News today, 10 million baby boomers are currently at risk for Alzheimer's disease. If you've followed this horrific illness, you'll have noticed that it's victims are becoming increasingly younger - sometimes only in their late 40's.
So here's some nutrition research about what prevents Alzheimer's, from "Aging and Alzheimer's Newsblog:
Study researchers examined the diets of 8,085 people older than 65 years of age who did not have dementia at the start of the study. During the four years that study participants were tracked, 183 of the participants developed Alzheimer?s disease, while 98 developed another form of dementia. The researchers found that people who regularly consumed omega-3 rich oils, such as canola, flaxseed, and walnut oil, were 60% less likely to develop dementia than those who did not regularly consume such oils. The study also found that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables lowered dementia risk by 30%.
Remember that Omega-3 fatty acids are found throughout foods, not just oils. Foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and of course, legumes (beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, peas).
Also, keep in mind that this study did not factor in consumption of the latter foods (whole grains and legumes).
So, imagine if you ate a diet rich in all these four food groups. What do you think the likelihood of developing dementia would be? I'd imagine pretty low. Which is why I'm trying my best to persuade everyone to eat per se. So let's keep those precious brain cells healthy! I've heard that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Do you know what's so crazy about vitamin K? It's a key component in blood clotting and bone density. It's also created in large measure by our intestinal flora ("good" bacteria that live in our intestines). We also need to eat foods rich in this vitamin, leafy green vegetables being prime among them.
But here's what's truly crazy: when we take antibiotics for a prolonged period, we can create a vitamin K deficiency, since all those good bacteria get wiped out. I've heard many students over the years remark that when they were on antibiotics they noticed they bruised easily. That's because their bodies weren't producing healthy amounts of platelets to prevent internal bleeding.
Newborns in the U.S. are given a shot of vitamin K at birth. This is because their intestines have absolutely no bacteria, and therefore, newborns have no vitamin K. That means if they develop a cut or bruise within the first week of life, they can easily bleed to death. However, at day 7, newborns are now producing as much K as anyone else, and are no longer at risk. On day 8, when traditional Jewish custom (according the Old Testiment book of Leviticus) prescribes circumcision of newborn boys, babies actually produce 150% more vitamin K than day 7 or day 9... Which makes the 8th day obviously the safest day (ever) for any kind of surgery. Regardless of how you feel about circumcision, you have to admit that this 3,500 year old law is pretty amazing.
But perhaps what the medical establishment seems to believe about this vitamin is the most astonishing.
Apparently many people who develop unhealthy blood clots (due to a diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats) are being told by doctors to *limit their intake of vitamin K*. That means these people who are at major risk for heart attack and stroke are literally being told to stay away from leafy green vegetables, for fear that vitamin K might heighten their risk of blood clots. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, since K only promotes platelets when the body needs them: the healthy platelets that keep us from prolonged bleeding. Eating foods rich in this vitamin could never cause unhealthy blood clots, which is why people who do eat lots leafy green vegetables are not the same people dying of heart disease.
Anyway, I just thought I'd share with you all the interesting - and frustrating - facets of vitamin K.
I just thought I'd remind you all to drink your water along with all that sunlight. Remember, most Americans (and probably most human beings) are chronically dehydrated. We don't feel our thirst reflex until our body is quite dehydrated. Dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime fatigue and headaches. It also causes our body to store more fat (our liver cannot metabolize fat quickly) and creates a false sense of hunger. Water - along with poop and sweat - flushes toxic waste out of our system and reduces our likelihood of all types of cancer. And of course, drinking water means we're not drink calorie-laden beverages that make us fat but not full.
I know you all know this... but thought it'd be worth a reminder :-) So drink up!
After hearing for years to avoid direct sunlight for fear of skin cancer, would you believe sunshine is making a comeback? Yes, all due to a very important nutrient sunlight produces upon hitting our skin: that's right, vitamin D.
Too much sunbathing can give us wrinkles, sure, not to mention increase our risk of skin cancer. But too little sunshine (vitamin D) puts us at risk of other types of cancers and would you believe - premature aging? Twin studies (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov. 2007) show folks with the highest levels of vitamin D have the lowest levels of inflammation and body stress - both key determinants in the biology of aging. In fact, the difference between those with the highest levels of vitamin D verses those with the lowest is believed to be equivalent to 5 fewer years of aging.
What an easy way to keep ourselves healthy. And liven our spirits (sunshine helps fight depression - as if you didn't already know that).
And if that weren't enough, vitamin D also may help reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
So what'chya waiting for? Get outside and enjoy the spring. It's for your health.
Since I spread the word yesterday about animal protein's role in premature puberty I've heard about another potential factor: exposure to sexual content. Apparently, there is a hypothesis that children in the U.S. see so much sexuality in the media that it messes with their own reproductive hormones and sends them into puberty earlier. This may be true to some extent, but I'm dubious.
Why? Because unfortunately this is in no way limited to American children.
I've traveled all 'round this great big world and spent much time studying other cultures as well. Even though not all children have televisions, many children sleep in the same room (a very small room indeed) as their parents. Those children grow up seeing and hearing more than most children are exposed to on T.V. Also, many cultures do not have the taboos we have on children being fondled by adults or older children. In some cultures, incest is not even frowned upon. And of course, most of us know that many girls are taken as wives during their early teens - well before their own pubescence. None of these cultures see children entering puberty nearly as early as kids in the U.S., but often five or more years later.
Also, let's look at children in the U.S. raised on low animal protein diets. We can assume they're more or less exposed to the same stuff as other American children; only their diets would be different. Guess what? Vegetarian and vegan children enter puberty much later, at ages similar to girls in rural China.
That said, I do agree that children worldwide should not be exposed to sexual content via television or otherwise.
I think it's strange how mammagrams are touted for "preventing" breast cancer when what they actually do is "find" breast cancer that's already been advancing for some time - usually years. I'd like to see some of that money diverted into preventing cancer outright; in other words, I'd like media to shine light on the incredibly powerful role of nutrition in cancer "preclusion".
Again, The China Study (by T. Colin Campbell, PhD) has taught me more on the power of nutrition in breast cancer preclusion.
Check it out: rural Chinese girls don't enter puberty until around 17 years old (between 15-19). This is due to the very low levels of animal protein they consume. Animal protein increases steroid (sex) hormones like estrogen and testosterone whose responsibility is to us grow. The more animal protein in our diet, the more steroid, or growth, hormones. Which of course is why the average girl in the U.S. enters puberty at age 11.
Dr. Campbell also found that Chinese women had estrogen levels of only half of those of western women, again due to their diets. They also entered menopause 3-4 years earlier.
Put all this together, and we find that over their lifetime, rural Chinese women have only 35-40% of the longterm estrogen exposure that American women have. In other words, the Chinese women have 60-65% LESS estrogen exposure than most western women.
Which helps us explain why the breast cancer rate in Chinese women is only 1/5th that of ours.
Let's not just catch breast cancer, let's stop it from starting in the first place. Nutrition is our biggest weapon - let's use it and give it to others as well.
When I was putting my notes together for my nutrition class last week, I noticed that there are simply too many detrimental attributes of milk protein (casein). More than I had previously thought. I don't even want to know if yet more exist.
If you recall a post I wrote on Dec. 10th (2007), you'll remember that researchers (Harvard ones, no less) determined that milk protein seems to make women less fertile. They found that women who consumed whole-fat dairy products were less likely to suffer from infertility than women who ate low- or non-fat dairy. Their conclusion for this strange and unexpected finding was due to added bovine protein found in lower fat versions of milk and yogurt. Milk protein is often added to increase the creaminess lost when fat is removed.
So that really caught me off guard: conservative Harvard nutrition researcher Dr. Walter Willet casually remarking (in his book, The Fertility Diet) that milk protein is linked with infertility.
And of course just last week I wrote about how another nutrition researcher (T. Colin Campbell, PhD.) found that as milk protein increased in the diet of rats, so did cancer promotion.
Not to mention all the other things you find in milk that I've already written about. Hormones like IGF-1 (a known cancer promoter in humans), antibiotic residues and toxins that accumulate in mammal milk. Or the fact that milk is the #1 cause of iron-deficiency anemia in children, since all the calcium in milk lowers iron store in the body, and because milk protein causes intestinal bleeding.
I know I sound like I have some sort of agenda against dairy... and I suppose I do. I'm tired of the Dairy Council making us believe children need to drink cow's milk. I'm tired of how milk makes kids not only anemic, but overweight, congested, and constantly contracting ear infections. And now I'm sick to think that some women cannot conceive - or have breast cancer - from foods they simply doesn't need, but ironically, are being told they do need in order to prevent bone loss.
Sorry guys, but I don't like that people are making money at the expense of our health, and possibly our lives.