November/December 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's "Monthly" Newsletter
CONTENTS online at http://www.DrGreger.org/newsletters.html
I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
A. AGEd Meat
B. Vegans Need to Eat More Greens, Beans, and Nuts
C. Raw versus Cooked Vegetables for Cancer Prevention
D. Meat, Cheese, Eggs, and Lymphoma
E. Berries to Prevent Metastases?
F. Cancer-Fighting Cranberries
G. Eggs and Ovarian Cancer
II. Mad Cow and Cancer DVDs Now on Video
III. Personal Update--Spring 2005 Speaking Tour
I. LATEST UPDATES IN HUMAN NUTRITION
A. AGEd Meat
The acronym of Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (AGE's, also known as glycotoxins) is an appropriate one. These AGE's accumulate in joints and cause arthritis; they accumulate in the brain contributing to Alzheimer's disease, and they accumulate in arteries causing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. They build up in the eye and cause cataracts, build up in the kidneys, contributing to kidney failure, and build up in the penis causing male erectile dysfunction. In fact there's a whole theory (the Maillard Theory) that blames nearly all the complications of aging on the buildup of these toxic compounds.
Where does this AGE stuff come from? Like free radicals, our body naturally produces these toxic AGE's every day. But, also like free radicals, there are a number of external sources we have control over so as to minimize our exposure. Cigarette smoke, for example, is a potent source of these glycotoxins, but we also get them through our diet.
Researchers at Mount Sinai recently measured the amount of AGE's in over a hundred common food items. They found that the five foods most tainted with Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (per serving) were broiled hot dogs, oven-fried chicken, oven-fried fish, McDonald's Chicken Nuggets, and broiled chicken breast. It turns out AGE's are found predominantly in meat.
In fact, investigators with the famous Women's Health Study reported this September that the AGE's in meat may be why women who eat meat five or more times a week are at significantly higher risk for developing diabetes.
Dry heat, protein and fat seem to conspire to produce these glycotoxins. So while a broiled hot dog has over 10,000 units of AGE's per serving, a boiled hot dog has just under 7,000 (an apple or banana, in comparison, only has about 10 units). "Foods that contain mostly carbohydrates," the researchers note, "starches, fruits, vegetables.... contain the lowest AGE concentrations." At high enough temperatures, though, high fat and protein plant foods like broiled tofu and roasted nuts can also form significant AGE concentrations as well.
The Mount Sinai researchers offer three suggestions for decreasing one's intake of AGEs: "Firstly, reduced intakes of AGEs can be achieved by reducing high-AGE sources such as full-fat cheeses, meats and highly processed foods..." Secondly, they recommended using cooking techniques that minimize AGE formation. In general, boiling, steaming, and microwaving were the cooking methods resulting in the least amount of AGEs, whereas frying, roasting and broiling were the worst. "Third," the investigators conclude, "the importance of selecting unprocessed nutrients when possible cannot be overemphasized." They noted, for example, that the AGE content in infant formula was found to be a 100-fold higher than in human breast milk, and expressed concern that this could lead to immune abnormalities in the developing infant.
The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to find way to somehow counteract AGE's within the body, but perhaps a smarter strategy is for people to just not consume so many of them in the first place. This means centering one's diet around whole plant foods which have ideally not been exposed to temperatures above about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
B. Vegans Need to Eat More Greens, Beans and Nuts
Low fat vegetarian and vegan diets have proven remarkably successful in the treatment of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Many practitioners are hesitant, though, to put people on such diets fearing their nutritional adequacy. This is ironic, given that when people switch from an omnivorous diet their intake of many nutrients greatly improves. They tend to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, of course, but also experience favorable increases in antioxidants like
Beta carotene and vitamin C, B vitamins like thiamin and folate, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.
The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (a great organization--visit http://www.pcrm.org
recently published a dietary analysis of a few dozen women transitioned to a self-selected low fat vegan diet. Although the intakes of most vitamins and minerals improved or stayed the same, the consumption of some nutrients dropped. They conclude: "To increase intakes of these nutrients, people following a low-fat vegan diet should emphasize legumes [beans, lentils] and whole grains for protein; supplemental sources of vitamin D and B12, such as fortified cereals and soymilk to increase vitamin D and B12 intakes; leafy greens, beans, and fortified soymilks and juices to increase calcium intake; and whole, unrefined grains, nuts and seeds to increase phosphorus, selenium and zinc intakes." 
There are so many wonderful vegan convenience foods out there now, but the healthiest (not to mention often cheapest and more environmentally friendly) foods are still those that grow out of the ground.
C. Raw versus Cooked Vegetables for Cancer Prevention
We know that vegetables in general prevent cancer, but a researcher at the Columbia University School of Public Health recently attempted to determine whether they are more protective raw or cooked. Unfortunately, we have no studies directly comparing raw versus cooked veggies, so researchers had to review the totality of available research (published over the last decade) in an attempt to tease out the difference.
Cooking destroys some cancer-fighting nutrients, yet enhances the absorption of others. For example, by cooking your dark green leafy vegetables, studies show you may be destroying half of the antioxidant carotenoids. At the same time, cooking may double carotenoid bioavailability, such that in the end your body might wind up with the same amount.
Cooking vegetables increases the content of one type of fiber (soluble), which may help prevent cancer by decreasing insulin levels, but cooking decreases the content of another type (insoluble), which may help prevent cancer in a different way (by binding and excreting carcinogens).
Cooking may reduce cancer risk by destroying some of the pesticides present in non-organic produce, but cooking also destroys enzymes that may have beneficial effects. Wait, though, the American Dietetic Association just reviewed raw foods diets (October 2004) and concluded that one's stomach acid destroys the plant enzymes anyway so it doesn't matter if cooking destroys them first. Yes, but digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach.
Raw garlic (in homemade salsa, guacamole, pesto, etc.) may be healthier than cooked because of an enzyme called alliinase, which produces a DNA-protecting compound called allicin when chewed in your mouth. One minute worth of microwaving, though, completely inactivates this enzyme, such that when you then chew it you absorb little or none of the protective allicin compound.
The same thing happens in broccoli. There's an enzyme (called myrosinase) that produces special compounds whenever the plant's cell walls are ruptured (i.e. when you chew) that rev up your own liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens. But cooking inactivates the enzyme, such that people chomping down on steamed broccoli only seem to get about a third as much of these special cancer-fighting compounds. At the same time, cooking one's broccoli seems to increase the bioavailability of other cancer-fighters (called indoles) which help your body control hormone levels. Bottom-line, we should eat a combination of both cooked AND raw vegetables, which is exactly what the Columbia researcher found:
"It is clear from this review that both raw and cooked vegetables are inversely related to [in other words protective against] several... cancers. Although more of the studies showed a statistically significant inverse [protective] relationship between raw vegetables and cancer than either cooked or total vegetables, the literature is too varied to compare definitively... In the meanwhile the public should be encouraged to increase their vegetable intake and to consider eating some of them raw."
D. Meat, Cheese, Eggs, and Lymphoma
Since the 1970's, the incidence rate of lymphoma, a cancer of the body's lymphatic system, has nearly doubled. Although the increase is not completely understood, a number of risk factors have been uncovered. The latest study, published by researchers at the University of Toronto, looked at dietary factors for this often fatal disease.
The most significant dietary indicators of risk found were meat, cheese, and eggs. Those eating meat every day seemed to have a 30% greater risk of developing lymphoma. Those that ate just 3 servings of cheese a week had a 38% increased risk, and those that ate three eggs a week had a whopping 49% greater risk.
Those that ate nine or more servings of dessert foods like cake, cookies, and doughnuts every week were also at increased risk (24%). Investigators speculate that this may be due to the trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) present in these foods. So to all the junk-food college vegans out there living off Little Debbie cake doughnuts this holiday season... please reconsider. :)
E. Blocking Metastasis with Berries?
The difference between a benign tumor and a malignant tumor is the ability to spread. No matter how big most tumors get, as long as they don't spread to other parts of the body, you're usually pretty safe. Your body knows this, and so attempts to wall off any tumors by wrapping them in scar tissue. A benign tumor turns malignant when it learns how to break free by secreting enzymes (called metalloproteinases) that can dissolve the scar tissue cage your body encased it in. There are components of our diet, though, that can inhibit this jailbreak enzyme and keep the tumor in its place.
We know there are special phytonutrients in blue-green algae, green tea and in the spice turmeric that inhibit this tumor enzyme and thus may help keep tumors at bay. For the first time, though, a new study shows that berries also seem to contain substances that powerfully inhibit these tumor enzymes. The researchers conclude: "The raspberry extracts, blackberry extracts, and muscadine [grape] extracts, or the fruits themselves could potentially play a role in cancer prevention by blocking metastasis."
Cranberries are one of the cheapest (and healthiest) berries, but tend to only be available this time of the year, so make sure to buy extra and freeze them. Frozen in an airtight container they should keep for nearly a year.
F. Cancer-Fighting Cranberries
Cranberries, one of only three commonly-eaten fruits native to North America, have been shown to exert a wide variety of health benefits including the prevention of urinary tract infections. In 2002, researchers dripped a number of fruit extracts on human liver cancer cells in a Petri dish to see if any of them would slow down tumor growth. Out of the near dozen common fruits they tried, the most potent inhibitor of cancer growth was cranberries. So in 2003, researchers pitted cranberries against three other types of human cancers--breast, cervical and prostate--and the cranberries won again, significantly restraining cancer cell proliferation. Now UCLA researchers are back, this time testing cranberries against a whole panel of 9 different human cancer cell lines.
Sprinkling just a few millionths of a gram of powdered cranberries on human oral, colon and prostate cancer cells brought their growth to a screeching halt, inhibiting their proliferation as much as 99.6%. The researchers concluded "The observed antiproliferative activities of cranberry phytochemicals against tumor cells provide some basic evidence for the potential anticancer effects of cranberry polyphenols and suggest that studies of cranberry extracts should be carried out... ultimately in human cancer prevention trials."
What do you do with cranberries though (other than sauce, that is)? Check out
http://vegweb.com/recipes/fruit/index-fruit-cranberries.shtml for some healthy cranberry recipes.
I'm sipping some blended into my flax smoothie right now as I type.
G. Eggs and Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer has earned a reputation as a silent killer, because it eludes early detection and has an alarming fatality rate that hasn't really changed in over 50 years. Currently in the U.S. it's the fifth leading cancer cause of death for women. In other areas of the world, though, rates are as much as 5-fold lower. When women move from low risk countries (like Japan) to the U.S. their risk jumps up, suggesting environmental rather than genetic factors are culpable for the wide variation in risk. Canadian researchers recently published a study of dietary factors that may be to blame.
"In summary," the researchers conclude, "our population-based case-control study found that women with higher consumption of dietary cholesterol and eggs were at an increased risk of ovarian cancer." On the other hand, the food that was the most powerful protector against ovarian cancer in this study were the cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale, collards, etc.
Because estrogen is synthesized from cholesterol, researchers speculate that women with cholesterol in their diet may have higher levels of circulating hormones that may increase cancer risk. Other researchers propose that it may not be the cholesterol itself, but instead the organochlorine pesticides which concentrate in animal fats.
Eggs are one of the most concentrated sources of cholesterol in the food supply, but cholesterol is found in all animal foods. Cholesterol is made by the liver, and since plants don't have little livers, the only source of cholesterol in the human diet is food derived from animals.
Women may be able to protect their eggs (and their lives) by not eating the eggs of chickens.
II. MAD COW AND CANCER DVDS NOW ON VIDEO
If you ever wanted to stocking stuff either of my new DVDs but the person whose feet the stockings belong to doesn't have a DVD player, I'm thrilled to announce that I now have all three of my DVDs on VHS, thanks to the contribution of wonderfully generous husband and wife activist team in Washington State.
To order by check, you can send a check for $10 postage paid to Michael Greger, M.D., 185 South St. #6, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
To order any of the videos by credit card, go to http://www.DrGreger.org/dvd.html
As always, all the money I get from the sales of all my books, CD's, DVD's and videos goes not only to charity, but specifically to animal-friendly charities.
III. PERSONAL UPDATE--SPRING 2005 SPEAKING TOUR
Starting in January I'm going back on the road full-time until at least May. I'm so excited--not only will I have my new Atkins book out, but I've got two phenomenal new talks, an Atkins one and my Stopping Cancer one, both of which incorporate a dynamic rapid-fire slide show of images, humor, cartoons, etc. Believe me, it's like no PowerPoint presentation you've ever seen! In fact the test audience feedback (thank you Boston, Fort Myers, and Lexington) was so positive I'm now going back and converting ALL of my old talks into vibrant visual presentations.
As if all that wasn't fun enough, I'm going to blog. Yeah, I didn't know what the word meant either, but it turns out there are all these neat new ways to have a running online diary (so-called "blogging"). People have always encouraged me to write a book about my wild adventures on the road. Well, now you'll be able to read a running live account of my travels. I can post pictures, all my favorite hate mail, feedback I get from talks, and share the inspiration I get from all the grassroots groups across the country fighting for a healthier and more compassionate world.
I plan on speaking in the following 40 states:
District of Columbia
If you don't see your state listed, let me know and maybe we can set something up. If your state IS listed, then since I'm going to be in the neighborhood anyway and would love to pack in as many talks as possible (maybe I can even break my 40 talks a month record from last year!), go to
http://www.DrGreger.org and click on the "Speaking Request" button to set up a talk for me in your hometown (I'll of course come speak for free).
I want to make it as easy as possible to set up a talk, so I'm planning on having a ready-made publicity kit you can download with preprinted fliers, press releases and step-by-step instructions on securing and publicizing a venue. In fact, if there is anyone out there with graphic design skills you'd be willing to donate to help me come up with fliers for all my talks, that would be very much appreciated.
In other personal news, it has been wonderful to be back at Cornell teaching. Tribe of Heart, makers of The Witness and the groundbreaking Peaceable Kingdom (PERFECT for every nonvegetarian on your gift list--you can order a box of 10 of their films for $100 at
http://tribeofheart.org/shopsite_sc/store/html/index.html were generous enough to put me up for my time in Ithaca this semester. I also, of course, want to thank Dr. Colin Campbell for sharing his class with me. I've had the honor to read a preprint copy of his new book The China Project, which is sure to shake up the nutrition world when it hits stores in early 2005.
So whatever happened with the threatened lawsuit from the Atkins Diet Corporation? They're still threatening. After I posted their legal threat up on my http://www.AtkinsExposed.org website accompanied by my point-by-point rebuttal, they replied with "Please be advised that Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. reserves the right to take further action against Dr. Greger and his website at any time without further notice."
Maybe one of the reasons they're being timid is that they themselves are currently being dragged through the courts for almost (allegedly) killing one of their customers. Read the story in the "In the Press" section of http://www.AtkinsExposed.org (which I continually update). There's also a new Search function on the website, and I've recently added four more full-text medical articles exposing the high fat fad in the "Expert Opinions" section.
The former Atkins dieter who managed to live through his massive (and allegedly Atkins-induced) heart attack is not suing for money. He just wants warning labels placed on Atkins books and products. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lawyer representing him suggested this wording for the warning:
"Works for Some People; Kills Others."
(Full text of specific articles available by emailing article-request@DrGreger.org)
1 Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 15(2003):616.
2 Journal of Neural Transmission 105(1998)439.
3 Journal of Hypertension 20(2002):1483.
4 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 811(1997):115.
5 British Journal of Ophthalmology 85(2001):746.
6 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 11(2000):1744.
7 Urology 50(1997):1016.
8 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959(2002):360.
9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94(1997):13915.
10 Diabetes Care 27(2994):2108.
11 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104(2004):1287.
12 Current Pharmacological Design 10(2004):3361.
13 Journal of the National Cancer Institute 82(1990):282.
14 Journal of Nutrition 128(1998):913.
15 Plant Foods in Human Nutrition 55(2000):207.
16 Journal of AOAC International 79(1996)::1447.
17 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104(2004):1623.
18 Journal of Nutrition 131(2001):1054.
19 Nutrition and Cancer 38(2000):168.
20 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1422.
21 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1665.
22 New England Journal of Medicine 339(1998):1085.
23 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50(2002):7449.
24 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51(2003):3541.
25 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52(2004):2512.
26 Seminars in Surgical Oncology 10(1994):242.
27 Cancer Research 35(1975):3240.
28 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1521.
29 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 11(2002):1112.
30 Journal of the American Medical Association 280(1998):2001.
31 Preventive Medicine 29(1999):87.
32 Journal of the American College of Nutrition 14(1995):491.
33. Nutrition 20(2004):738.
This issue is dedicated to the memory of my feline companion Samantha who, after 18 years, died in my arms today, November 27, 2004.
Low Carb Lies Exposed:
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HEART FAILURE: Diary of a Third Year Medical Student (full text now available free):
The thinker that most changed my life: Noam Chomsky
The single article that most changed my life:
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