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April 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's Monthly Newsletter


CONTENTS (online at

I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
    A. Milk and Multiple Sclerosis
    B. Macular Degeneration: Go Nuts for Your Eyes
    C. Cinnamon: Spice Up Your Life

II. Mad Cow Disease: We have until midnight tonight

III. Vegan "Iron Chef" Competition!

IV. My Thoughts on Violence and Activism

V. Personal Update - Back in business

VI. MAILBAG: "Meateaters cooking up new AIDS epidemic?"



A. Milk and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a devastating disease characterized by your 
immune system attacking the insulation of your own nerve cells, 
causing unpredictable short-circuiting within your nervous system, 
which commonly interferes with vision, speech and mobility.

But why would your immune system do such a thing? We know that other 
diseases of so-called immune "autoaggression" may be caused by 
something called "molecular mimicry," in which a foreign protein 
looks just like one of the body's own proteins. So then when the body 
makes antibodies against the foreign invader, it also unintentionally 
makes antibodies against some of the body's own proteins.

For example, there is a protein in bovine milk that looks like a 
protein in the human pancreas, and so human babies exposed to the 
milk of cows may try to fend off the foreign bovine protein and, in 
doing so, destroy their pancreas's ability to produce insulin, 
leading to type I diabetes.

Numerous population-based studies around the world have linked 
multiple sclerosis to dairy product consumption,[1-3] but cause and 
effect could never be proven. So a prestigious research team of 
German, Swedish, British and American scientists set out study bovine 
milk proteins and see if they could find any milk protein that 
cross-reacted with human nerve-sheath proteins. And now, for the 
first time ever, they found it.[4]

If a milk protein is causing or contributing to multiple sclerosis, 
why don't more people come down with the disease? Like all diseases, 
susceptibility has both a genetic and an environmental component. We 
don't know why in some people the bovine milk protein is able to 
sneak through the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system 
and potentially trigger an inflammatory response that ends with your 
own nerves as victims of collateral damage.

This research is still in the preliminary stage, and blaming dairy 
for multiple sclerosis remains speculative, but evidence is mounting 
that this disabling disease may just be yet another problem inherent 
to humans eating the bodies and body fluids of fellow mammals.


B. Macular Degeneration: Go Nuts for Your Eyes

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United 
States. As a physician, every disease is personal, but in this case 
particularly so as my 94 year-old grandfather suffers to this day 
with this debilitating condition. We've suspected that total fat 
consumption increases one's risk for the disease, but for the first 
time ever, Harvard researchers studied people in the early stages and 
tried to correlate all the different kinds of fat with progression of 
vision loss. They took a few hundred folks, found out what kind of 
fat they were eating and followed them for 5 years.[5]

They found that overall, the more fat people ate, whether in meat, 
dairy products or processed baked goods, the faster the progression 
of the disease, with only one exception: nuts. Those that ate just 
one or more servings of nuts a week seemed to cut the rate of 
progression in half. The researchers weren't sure if it was the 
cholesterol-lowering fiber, the vitamin E, or the copper or 
magnesium, or whether it was the special anti-inflammatory 
anti-clot-forming antioxidant phytonutrients in nuts. The hope is 
that the 8 million Americans suffering macular degeneration may be 
driven less nuts by their vision loss if they can only be driven to 
more nuts.


C. Cinnamon: Spice Up Your Life

I'm hoping to finish up a new DVD based on my anti-cancer talk next 
month in which I delve into the Oxidant Stress Theory of disease and 
review some of the unique phytonutrient antioxidants in plant foods. 
Most of us remember the blueberry story that soaked the press 5 years 
ago describing the antioxidant power of the berry's blue pigment. The 
anti-cancer properties of blueberries literally... come out of the 
blue. Whether we were talking about the orange beta carotene in sweet 
potatoes, or the red lycopene in tomatoes, the colors themselves are 
the antioxidants.

The blueberry study tested only 40 fruits and vegetables, though. 
Newer data shows that blueberries, the previous "number one" 
antioxidant food, got their little blue butts kicked down to number 
six. Just when we thought blueberries were the winners, someone 
tested walnuts, which then took the lead. And now, just when walnuts 
were getting cocky, someone looked at herbs and spices, which almost 
all blow walnuts out of the water. We now know that lots of the 
flavor compounds in herbs are powerful antioxidants as well. The 
flavors are the antioxidants. So there's these compounds called 
gingerols. Guess where they're found? Don't forget rosmarinic acid... 
So for maximum nutrition we should eat colorful and flavorful foods.

On a per weight basis herbs and spices rule the plant kingdom, but 
how many grams of cloves can people eat? And just because herbs and 
spices are at the top of the antioxidant ladder doesn't necessarily 
translate into clinical benefit. While U.S. scientists continued to 
tinker our tax dollars away force-feeding rodents blueberry pulp, 
researchers in Pakistan had the novel idea of actually studying human 

Researchers took 30 men and 30 women-all with type II diabetes-and 
gave half of them capsules containing cinnamon and half of them 
placebo capsules. After 40 days, those eating just 1/4 teaspoon of 
cinnamon a day not only had significantly better blood sugar control, 
but their cholesterol dropped almost 30%-that's like what you see in 
cholesterol-lowering drugs!

Why hasn't this study been plastered all over the front pages? It was 
certainly published in a prestigious American medical journal. 
Perhaps it's because, although the statin medications net drug 
companies billions in profit every year, a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon 
costs me less than a penny a day in the bulk bin at my local co-op. 
And the research suggests that even just a pinch a day (less than 1/8 
teaspoon) might have a similar effect.[6]. Are other spices as 
medicinal as cinnamon? I guess we'll just have to wait for the 
government of Pakistan to fund more studies.


II. MAD COW DISEASE: We Have Until Midnight Tonight

The USDA is accepting public comments on their new mad cow 
regulations ( up 
until April 12, 2004. They have received over 2600 comments so far, 
and the meat industry is madder than the cows-they estimate doing 
things like excluding downer-cow brains from hamburgers will cost 
them $150 million a year. But that's a drop in the bucket for them. 
Please everyone email the USDA at 
by tonight and include the docket number "Docket 03-025IF" in the 
subject line. And tell your friends to write in too!

One proposal is to exclude cattles' small intestines from human 
consumption in the U.S.  In Europe, though, all of the intestines are 
excluded from human food, from the small intestine down to the 
rectum,[7] in part because there is concern that the colon may also 
be infectious.[8] Tell the USDA that they should follow Europe's 
example and exclude all cow and calf rectum, colon, and anus from the 
American food supply.

I've even written a limerick to signify the event:

We do not need meat to sustain us
And what they do to the cow is just heinous
But if you've got to be crass
You should pass on the ass
And surely not dine on the anus. :)

Another proposal is to exclude skull, brain, eyes, vertebral column, 
and spinal cord from processing into meat products from cows over 30 
months of age, even though infection has been found in the brains of 
cattle as young as 20 months.[9] In Europe, these risky tissues are 
excluded from any cow over only 12 months of age.[10] In the U.S. the 
brains, eyes, and spinal cords from cattle under 30 months "can be 
rendered to produce products identified as beef stock, beef extract, 
and beef flavoring without any identification of the source materials 
other than 'beef'..."[11] This presents an unacceptable risk to the 
American public. We should follow the EU's lead and exclude these 
tissues from cattle over 12 months of age-it's a no brainer! :)

The most important proposal, though, is to exclude flesh from downer 
cattle from the human food supply. Critics of the downer exclusion 
will no doubt argue that many downed animals are unable to get up due 
to a traumatic injury and are therefore being excluded 
inappropriately. In Europe, though, where 1 out of every 4 cows is 
tested, hundreds of cases of Mad Cow disease are found in animals who 
appear perfectly healthy.[12]  In fact, even the Washington State 
Holstein who had Mad Cow disease didn't appear sick. Luckily it seems 
she had a birthing injury which may have left her unable to stand, 
and she was thus flagged to be among the small percentage of downer 
cows tested.[13] The Canadian case similarly wasn't displaying CNS 
symptoms. Ask the USDA to make the downer ban permanent, exclude all 
downed animals-pigs, sheep, and other livestock-and require downed 
animals be humanely euthanized immediately wherever they become 


III. Vegan "Iron Chef" Competition!

This year is the 30th annual Vegetarian Summerfest to be held July 
21-25, and the festive folks at NAVS, the North American Vegetarian 
Society, have quite an extravaganza planned. The Summerfest has 
always been a fantastic family-friendly five-day feast of 
cutting-edge educational sessions (at last year's Summerfest I broke 
my speaking record-13 talks in 4 days!), entertainment, and good 
wholesome vegan food. But this year they are going to outdo 

First off, how about a vegan "Iron Chef" style cookoff? It's going to 
be me and Howard Lyman versus professional Chefs Ken Bergeron (winner 
of a mere 3 Gold Medals at the International Culinary Olympics) and 
restaurant owner Cathi DiCoco. Looks like the two mad cowboys are 
going to have to kick some Bergeron butt. :)

And if that wasn't enough, I just got word that I can finally let the 
carrot out of the bag--the original vegan M.D., Dr. Michael Klaper, 
is returning to Summerfest for the first time in years to unveil the 
preliminary results of his ground-breaking Vegan Health Study. We're 
hoping to do some joint sessions-the two Dr. Michael's tag-teaming! 
It's going to be quite an event. And you heard it here first! Go to to register.


IV. My Thoughts on Violence and Activism

Every year I facilitate discussions on violence at the national 
animal rights conference (July 8-12 this summer-check out As a neutral facilitator, I try to get people to 
arrive at their own conclusions on the matter, but for anyone 
interested in my thoughts, I was privileged enough to have an article 
published in the latest issue of the best animal rights publication 
currently out there, Satya. You can read the whole issue online at or, even better, subscribe at


V. PERSONAL UPDATE - Back in Business

I am typing this on my new laptop (!) thanks to the incredible 
generosity of this movement. Eight people stepped forward with 
donations large and small to support my work after my emergency 
appeal last month as my computer fell ill. One organization came 
forward as well-the Boston Vegetarian Society-promising to chip in 
whatever extra I needed to make my new laptop a reality.

The Boston Vegetarian Society is probably the most active vegetarian 
society in the United States. Soon to celebrate their 20th 
anniversary, in addition to all their monthly programs, they put on 
the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, an all-volunteer endeavor which 
brings thousands of people from all over to learn about vegetarianism 
and veganism in a free fun friendly setting. Mark your calendars-it's 
October 23rd this year. For more info check out  They are doing such good work in the world; 
I'm honored they considered me part of their mission.

You never know how dependent you are on something until it's gone. My 
laptop is my life (how sad is that?), and I got my life back. Thank 
you everyone.

I'm sorry this issue came out so late-I was busier than usual doing 
everything from debating the USDA in Alabama to speaking a half a 
dozen times at the swanky Conference on World Affairs. Now that I'm 
settling down to hopefully finish the vegan nutrition book this 
Summer I should be able to get the newsletreally live anywhere, and it 
take me months before I'm able to 
get back to my mail drop addresses. But, if you don't need me to get 
anything in a timely fashion, I always update my latest "mailing" 
address depending on what area of the country I'm in on my website at


VI. MAILBAG: "Meateaters cooking up new AIDS epidemic?"

One astute reader caught a story[14] a few weeks ago about Simian 
Foamy Virus, another AIDS-like retrovirus infecting people eating 
monkey meat in the area of Africa where blood consumption originally 
caused HIV to jump species. It took 20 years for HIV to incubate in 
the human population before it's genetic material had a chance to 
mutate into AIDS. Is Simian Foamy Virus the next AIDS? We should know 
in a few decades.

Providing economic alternatives to help people move away from hunting 
and eating gorillas, monkeys and chimps would not only help preserve 
these endangered species, but development efforts might also reduce 
the risk that ongoing cross-species transmission of retroviruses 
could spark future epidemics similar to AIDS.

Meanwhile, bird flu continues to threaten. A few weeks ago the 
Director-General of the World Health Organization got on TV and 
warned that another influenza pandemic was inevitable.[15] Why? As a 
virologist at the University of Ottawa explained, "If you get a virus 
into a high-density poultry operation and give it a period of time, 
generally a year or so, then you turn that virus into a highly 
virulent virus. That's what always happens... You have to say that 
high intensity chicken rearing is a perfect environment for 
generating virulent avian flu virus."[16]

Quoting the WHO Director-General, "We know another [human] pandemic 
is inevitable," he said. "It is coming."[17]


(Full text of specific articles available by emailing
[1] Medical hypotheses 19(1986):169.
[2] Neuroepidemiology 11(1992):304.
[3] Annals of Neurology 49(1997):55.
[4] Journal of Immunology 172(2004):661.
[5] Archives of Ophthalmology 171:1728.
[6] Diabetes Care 26(12):3215.
[7] Official Journal of the European Communities. Commission Decision 
of 27 December 2000.
[8] European Scientific Steering Committee. Listing of Specified Risk 
[10] Official Journal of the European Communities. Commission 
Decision of 27 December 2000.
[11] Federal Register. Docket No. 03-038IF.
[12] European Commission. BSE Cases in Cattle.
[13] December 2003.
[14] The Times (London) March 19, 2004.
[15] BBC News March 18, 2004.
[16] Canadian Press April 07, 2004.
[17] BBC News March 18, 2004.


If anyone missed previous months, check out my newsletter archive at

Until next month,
peace, love, and broccoli,

(206) 312-8640

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