A couple weeks ago I taught my seminar "Preventing Cancer Through Nutrition", and I just have to share this experience with you.
Near the end, when I quoted from The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD., a woman who had also been influenced by this book shared her story with us... Let's call her, "Tonya". Tonya told us how five years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after much research into nutrition she opted out of chemo and other drugs. Of course, her doctors thought she was crazy.
But here's the deal: Today, five years later, Tonya is a living testimony of the power of diet to fight cancer. She is has been cancer-free ever since this turning point, and she looks amazing. Tonya chose a vegan, or plant-based diet, which is similar to what many other people turn to fight cancer: a macrobiotic diet.
My friend Meg Wolff has a story just like Tonya's - or perhaps even more extreme, and thus, all the more inspirational - and she knows many more people with similar stories. To be encouraged by Meg Wolff's amazing website, click here.
As I said in another recent nutrition seminar (quote me on this!): "The good news is that what we put in our bodies is so powerful. And the bad news is that what we put in our bodies is so powerful. But perhaps the best news is we have the power to CHOOSE what we put in our bodies. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise." (Okay, so maybe I added the last sentence just now!)
But really guys, let's stop being afraid of cancer. We have the resources to prevent it, just as Tonya, Meg and so many other people have demonstrated. Let's learn from their example.
When's is the last time you visited a rest home? There's one around the corner from my house, and let me tell you, if you need a motivation to eat healthy now - visit one.
As you see people talking to themselves, and the mentally intact: completely bedridden, using a bedpan and wearing adult diapers - whom someone else has to change - you just might be inspired to do whatever it takes to stay healthy while you can. And you're luck, turns out what you eat has a LOT to do with how well you age.
A recent study published in The Lancet Oncology found that comprehensive lifestyle changes, including a low-fat vegan diet, increase the body’s ability to fight premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Twenty-four men participating in a prostate cancer study switched to a plant-based diet and added daily exercise and relaxation techniques. Among other beneficial effects that were previously reported, the intervention led to increased levels of telomerase, an enzyme that protects and repairs DNA. Blood levels of telomerase increased by an average of 29 percent during the study.
(Ornish D, Lin J, Daubenmier J, et al. Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. Lancet Oncol [advance online publication]. September 16, 2008; DOI 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70234-1.)
Okay, so I'll admit I've never heard of telomerase before, but this is an incredible finding. If telomerase plays a role in protecting and repairing cell DNA - which thus protects against cancer and cell death (premature aging) - and the men who adopted a plant-based diet had 29% more telomerase than men who did not... that's VERY significant. Not only will these men be much less likely to die at a younger age, but they will be healthy while they are alive. How many people, young or old, do you know who are healthy while they are alive?
Most people have forgotten what it feels like to be healthy, but every once in a while I get to follow up with someone who has read this blog or my book, or attended a seminar who tells me what it's like to re-gain their health. Usually it starts with having more energy, then weight loss, and often some biomarker, like their cholesterol, goes way down. In general, I suppose you could describe these people as being more alive.
So, maybe our goal shouldn't just be to stay out of rest homes. Maybe it should be to be more alive while we're alive.
By the way, for those of you who are motivated to change your diet but need a little help, please visit my friend Jennifer Brewer's meal planning website at NourishingNutrition.com. She is the recipe Queen!
So I just responded to an urgent, confused email from a friend wondering about today's news as reported in The Times of India. Apparently, it's also been airing on FOX and the Today Show.
Here's how it starts out:
Eating veggies shrinks the brain
14 Sep 2008
MELBOURNE: "Scientists have discovered that going veggie could be bad for your brain-with those on a meat-free diet six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage.
Vegans and vegetarians are the most likely to be deficient because the best sources of the vitamin are meat, particularly liver, milk and fish. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anaemia and inflammation of the nervous system. Yeast extracts are one of the few vegetarian foods which provide good levels of the vitamin.
The link was discovered by Oxford University scientists who used memory tests, physical checks and brain scans to examine 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87.
When the volunteers were retested five years later the medics found those with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 were also the most likely to have brain shrinkage. It confirms earlier research showing a link between brain atrophy and low levels of B12."
I'd like to point out that as far as I can tell this study, published in the journal Neurology, was not done on vegetarians, but rather, "normal" elderly people. I'm not sure then, why the article connects going "veggie" to B12 deficiency: B12 deficiency in the elderly is nothing new, and it is usually caused by the lack of an enzyme necessary to digest B12 from food, called the Intrinsic Factor. Many peoples' digestive system stops producing the Intrinsic Factor as they age, and even if they were to consume loads of the vitamin B12 in their food, it would not be absorbed. Clearly, eating more meat would not benefit these people.
Also, B12 deficiency from diet is rare: the liver can store B12 for up to 3 years, and some B12 is produced by healthy intestinal flora. Even so, most vegans or strict vegetarians are aware that B12 is the one and only nutrient that is not begotten by plant foods, and so take a supplement or consume foods like soy milk or cereal fortified with B12. Most soy milks are fortified, as are most cereals in the U.S.
I think what's ironic is that B12 is produced by bacteria found in healthy soil, which is then (theoretically) consumed by livestock, thus delivering B12 in milk and meat. However, assuming that most livestock today are consuming grass grown in healthy soil is an iffy assumption at best. Instead, many livestock are fed grain and other feeds that may not harbor any B12 from soil. So to say vegetarians are more at risk than non-vegetarians is quite SENSATIONAL at the least, and ridiculous at best.
Just funny that, since the author of the article didn't exactly say this. She actually said something closer to what I've already written.
To quote the author:
"Many factors that affect brain health are thought to be out of our control, but this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory,’ says Anna Vogiatzoglou of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University.
…this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory.
Anna Vogiatzoglou, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University ‘Research shows that vitamin B12 deficiency is a public health problem, especially among the elderly, so more vitamin B12 intake could help reverse this problem."
(Italic emphasis mine)
Also, interesingly enough, there are many more people at risk of brain shrinkage from B12 deficiency according to The Times in India article:
"Brain scans of more than 1,800 people found that people who downed 14 drinks or more a week had 1.6% more brain shrinkage than teetotallers. Women in their seventies were the most at risk.
Beer does less damage than wine according to a study in Alcohol and Alcoholism.
Researchers found that the hippocampus-the part of the brain that stores memories - was 10% smaller in beer drinkers than those who stuck to wine.
And being overweight or obese is linked to brain loss, Swedish researchers discovered. Scans of around 300 women found that those with brain shrink had an average body mass index of 27 And for every one point increase in their BMI the loss rose by 13 to 16%."
So even moderate drinkers of non-hard alcoholic drinks, and... obese people are at risk of brain loss. Maybe the article could have mentioned that vegetarians and vegans are the least likely population to have a high BMI? Oh, that wouldn't be nearly as attention-grabbing as a title like "Eating Veggies Shrinks the Brain". But then, truth just isn't sexy.
Labels: B12 deficiency
Yeast infections are awful, and way too common. Almost as common as yeast infections is wacky dietary advice as to how to treat them. Let's venture into this advice and try to make some sense of it.
How many times have you heard that people (usually women) with yeast infections should stay away from foods containing yeast and sugar? Honestly, if you had a nickel for each time, just how wealthy might you be? Unfortunately, this is the simple solution. (If you've been reading this blog for very long you know that simple solutions are simply ridiculous.)
Here's the scoop: Unless you're a diabetic, the sugar you eat will not build up in your bloodstream to unhealthy levels that beckon yeast to flourish. If you are a diabetic and your blood sugar isn't within healthy levels, this is likely to be a problem. But as for non-diabetics, functioning insulin doesn't allow our blood sugar to stay high long enough for bacteria and yeast infections. Yes, there would be a higher concentration of glucose in the urine, but that would give us urinary infections, if anything. That said, cutting back on sugar is never a bad idea for any of us.
Then of course, there's the "stay away from beer and foods containing yeast" camp. This would make perfect sense, since putting yeast in one end of the body could possibly allow more yeast at the other end, except that the yeast used in breads and beer are completely different varieties of yeast, and therefore have nothing to do with one another. So there's that.
And I know you've heard about eating yogurt, what with it's beneficial bacteria and all. But then again, if you're familiar with my blog, you know dairy has far too many risks to take lightly. So how's this: replenish the intestinal flora with the same cultures found in soy yogurt.
But here are some interesting causes of yeast infections - and this is by no means an exhaustive list, for more please refer to this fun link. Let's start with antibiotics, but please don't limit that to the antibiotics you take when you have an infection: antibiotics also include antibiotic soaps and cleansers. Antibiotics are also found in our FOOD SUPPLY, and especially in meats, eggs, and dairy, although also in commercially grown produce. So you might say eating an organic, plant-based diet is a great way to cut down antibiotics in your body.
Steriods, such as oral contraceptives, are also known contributors to yeast infections. Yet again, please don't limit steroids to oral contraceptives. Steriods are also found throughout the American food supply, in the same foods we find antibiotics. One article I read mentioned that steriods and antibiotics are believed to be the main reason yeast infections have doubled in the past few decades. That would make sense, considering how much our food supply has morphed in the same few decades.
And lastly, perfumed toilet paper, laundry detergent, douches, and color-dyed underwear can all play a role in yeast infections. So just one more reason to be eco-friendly.
There are also some great home remedies to treat yeast infections online, which I can't say I've tried (I've never had this problem, thank God), but seem simple, logical and healthy. Feel free to comment if you've found a remedy that's worked for you... and share the wealth.
After giving a very long, in-depth essay of myriad studies relating dairy consumption and prostate cancer in men, The Cancer Project (headed up by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.) gives us this conclusion:
"Evidence from international, case-control, and cohort studies suggests that men who avoid dairy products are at lower risk for prostate cancer incidence and mortality, compared with others. In case-control and cohort studies, the relative risk of prostate cancer among subgroups with the most frequent milk consumption, compared with those at the lowest consumption levels, falls in the range of 1.3 to 2.5. These findings raise two important questions: Does the observed relationship represent cause and effect, and is available evidence sufficient to justify a recommendation that milk-drinking men alter their dietary habits?
Findings supporting a cause-and-effect relationship include the relative consistency of this association in diverse populations, evidence of a dose-response relationship, plausible biological mechanisms that underlie the observed associations, and no reasonable alternative explanation for these findings. Perspective is lent to the second question by a comparison with evidence linking alcohol use and breast cancer risk. Although somewhat fewer studies have addressed the association between milk and prostate cancer, their demonstrated effect, strength, and consistency of evidence approach those relating alcohol to breast cancer risk, an association that is now widely accepted and incorporated into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.44"
Okay, so if we have all these powerful studies linking dairy products to prostate cancer, why don't we see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans changed to suit what we know? Or why have most Americans never heard of said correlation? (To see all the research quoted for the above conclusion, read href="http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/diet/prostate_dairy.php">.)
Perhaps because that would be bad for business?
Here's some encouragement as to how powerful a plant-based diet can be. BTW: Some of my favorite legume-dishes are falafel, hummus and tempeh. If you haven't tried tempeh, it's a great meat-replacer for sandwiches (I add avocado slices, hummus, pesto, and cucumbers). So yes, eating "healthy" can be very tasty... and easy.
This is from the website of Jay Lavine, MD, "The Nutrition MD":
He says there's a compound called "mitochondrial superoxide dismutase"(impress your friends by dropping this in casual conversation) that works together with the mineral manganese as an antioxidant in the body. Research has shown higher levels of this enzyme, abbreviated MnSOD, help protect against chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's.
A recent study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition (2008) examines levels of MnSOD in vegetarians vs. non-vegs. They found that the vegetarian group had "a 3-fold increase in the expression of the MnSOD gene" as compared with the nonvegetarian group.
The best dietary sources of manganese include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and tea by the way.
Dr. Lavine cites that superior manganese status of vegetarians has been documented in the past. The Nutrition MD also reminds us that "simply following a vegetarian diet is not enough to insure adequate manganese intake. It must be a healthful diet, rich in the whole plant foods mentioned previously. For example, whole wheat flour contains over five times as much manganese as refined flour."
Five times more manganese in whole wheat flour! I bet that's why people who change to a healthier diet are constantly telling me they have more energy. Not to mention they lose copious amounts of weight... not a bad side effect.
Last night, while watching Stephen Colbert's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, I realized how simple we make things out to be - things that are not, in fact, simple. Of course the thought was spurred by political ideas, but also applies to nutrition in far too many ways for me to recount... but I'll do my best.
When people develop calcium deposits - sometimes resulting in kidney stones - and are told by their doctor that they must be ingesting too much calcium. That's the simple answer. But it couldn't be less true.
In fact, calcium deposits and kidneys stones are usually caused by consuming too much animal protein which depletes the calcium from the bones (calcium buffers the acid produced by excess protein). That's why so many people developed kidney stones when they were on low-carb diets, by the way.
Or when we're told osteoporosis is a disease of not consuming enough calcium. Simple. Bones are mainly comprised of calcium, therefore, porous bones must come from too little calcium in our diet.
To the contrary, osteoporosis is caused by the same thing that causes calcium deposits: too much animal protein. But that's way to complicated, not to mention that it's more difficult to change your diet vs. pop some supplements.
When I worked for WIC, we saw childhood anemia left and right (or better said, we saw kids with anemia). Doctors usually prescribed an iron supplement, which was unfortunate since the primary cause of iron-deficiency anemia in children is milk. There's actually a name for this condition: milk-induced iron deficiency anemia. Turns out, bovine proteins cause blood to be lost in the intestines, thus causing iron loss. Also, calcium and iron compete in the body for absorption, so too much calcium from milk causes iron depletion.
Another oversimplified nutritional problem: constipation. What are people told to do for this disorder? Of course: take a fiber supplement.
But the one that gets me the most... When we make the simplification (or perhaps, totally unfounded assumption) that the chronic diseases we have are GENETIC. I that were true, wouldn't it also be true that our great-great grandparents would have had Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease? And come to think of it, they would have also been quite overweight - both as children and adults. But when I look at pictures from history, I see mostly slender, healthy-looking people.
I've cited two studies on this blog already that show our diets actually change our genetics. A healthy diet and lifestyle has the power to "switch off" disease-causing genes, and "turn on" health-promoting ones. We should be seeing many more studies confirming links between diet and genes in the near future, so stay tuned.
Until then, just remember: nothing is ever how it seems... and the food you put in your body is more powerful than you think.