USDA Against Organic Foods
Natural Cancer Protection
Supplements for Cancer
Ask Dr. J: Gingivitis
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of the Month: Holiday Stuffed Pumpkin
The USDA recently implemented their widely publicized organic
standards, after massive public comment, and extensive revision
and acceptance of some of the suggestions made by the public
and the organic food industry. The original plans were shameful
in their allowance of sewage sludge fertilizer, irradiated
foods, and genetically engineered products. If a producer
wants to adhere to stricter standards than the USDA’s,
they will have no way of informing their customers because
of restrictions in the new law.
With all of the hoopla that the USDA generated, and all the
pats on the back they gave themselves, they are not really
supporters of organic agriculture. Among other things, they
do not allow any suggestions that organic foods are in any
way better than conventional foods. On top of this, on October
24th, the head of food security of the USDA said that consumers
should be wary of organically grown foods!
While all naturally occurring foods may have some associated
risks, these risks are far less than those from the highly
processed foods about which the USDA never sends warnings.
Take hot dogs as an example, made from the scraps of the meat
processing industry, including ears, tails, and other parts
that cannot normally be sold as meat. The higher levels of
pesticides and other farm chemicals in non-organic foods,
especially in meat products, is a chronic and insidious danger,
as they cannot usually be tasted or smelled. Choose organic,
plant-based foods as the bulk of your diet.
While eating meat itself has known dangers even if it is
not contaminated (and it often is), highly processed meats
are even worse. They are high in salt, fat, artificial ingredients,
and nitrites as a color preservative. These are known carcinogens,
and the situation is even worse when the foods are cooked,
and worse still when they are grilled, as they often are.
In renouncing organic foods while they take credit for standardizing
them, the USDA sounds like an agency that could have been
conceived by George Orwell in his book, 1984 (which now seems
so long ago, but the USDA is trying to catch up).
My advice is to ignore the USDA, while still being careful
to handle all your foods carefully and in a hygienic manner,
washing vegetables before eating them, and making sure they
are fresh. If you choose animal products, cook them properly
and handle them in a way that does not contaminate your vegetable
products. Make sure your cutting boards are clean, and use
different ones for plant-based and animal products. Even without
special handling, you are at low risk from organic foods.
The USDA is a protectionist organization, protecting the
industrial food producers from the increasing demand for cleaner,
safer, healthier food, including organic foods. This is the
fastest growing segment of the food industry, and it is not
reassuring that the USDA now regulates it.
I have written several times about the value of curcumin,
derived from turmeric, as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant,
and in reducing Alzheimer’s disease progression and
MS in an animal model of the disease. Now, research shows
that it protects against cancer.
As so many substances in foods and supplements are helpful
in preventing cancer and slowing its progress, or for treatment
and reducing the side effects of other therapies, I thought
it would be valuable to review some of them.
Curcumin prevents tumor progression in animals. The recent
study showed that growth of human pancreatic cancer cells
is inhibited by incubating them with curcumin for two hours.
You can easily add curcumin to your diet by eating more meals
with curry, and using turmeric either fresh or dried in cooking.
Many foods appear to protect against cancer because of the
phytochemicals and antioxidants they contain, many of them
flavonoids and isoflavones, but not all. Sulforaphane, phenethylisothiocyanate
(PEITC), and indole 3-carbinol are all found in the cabbage
family (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower,
collards, kale, bok choy, arugula) also known as cruciferous
vegetables, or the brassica family.
These compounds block enzymes that promote tumor growth,
stimulate production of messenger molecules that support immune
defenses, and inactivate food toxins and carcinogens. They
also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells.
(The same foods also contain lots of folic acid and vitamin
C, both of which protect against lung, colon, and other cancers,
as well as heart disease.)
The garlic and onion family of foods, also including scallions,
leeks, and chives, contain sulfur compounds called allylic
sulfides that inhibit cancer in mice, partly by protecting
a glutathione antioxidant enzyme. They also block the carcinogenic
effects of aflatoxin, derived from molds. Other studies show
that garlic also induces apoptosis in cancer cells.
Fruits contain a number of compounds that fight cancer. Carotenoids
comprise a variety of protective antioxidant plant pigments:
alpha and beta carotenes, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
High levels of these phytonutrietns in the blood are associated
with lower rates of all cancers and all-cause mortality. Choose
lots of orange, red, yellow, and green plant foods for these
Strawberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, pineapples, tomatoes,
and sweet peppers also have special phytochemicals that go
beyond carotenoids. These include three acids: ellagic, chlorogenic,
and p-coumaric. Numerous animal studies have shown reduction
of cancer with higher intakes of these foods, partly from
inactivation or decreased formation of carcinogens, and by
transporting them out of cells.
Flavonoids from citrus fruits and isoflavones found in beans,
including soybeans, alfalfa, and peanuts, are beneficial.
The soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein can block cancer
cells from being turned on. They may also inhibit new blood
vessels that tumors need to grow. Genistein is a weak estrogen
that blocks the effects of stronger estrogens, decreasing
the incidence of estrogen-related tumors. Lignans are found
in flaxseeds and whole grains. They are phytoestrogens that
lower the risk of cancer. In animals they reduce breast cancer
growth and metastasis.
A number of other foods are also important in reducing the
high rates of cancer that we see in the US and other industrialized
countries with a highly processed food supply. Mushrooms,
whole grains, hot peppers, beets, and leafy greens, are some
of the examples.
In past issues I have referred to many supplements that are
protective against cancer. Coenzyme Q10, vitamins E and C,
beta-1,3 glucan, calcium D-glucarate, flavonoids, anthocyanidins,
selenium, and of course, curcumin. For patients with cancer,
many of these same supplements may be beneficial in helping
them prevent the growth and spread of a tumor, or in protecting
their immune function to help fight the disease.
Many patients are treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy,
and they are often told by their doctors to avoid taking their
antioxidant supplements during treatment. They are given the
impression that such supplements may interfere with their
treatment. This is not the case.
So far, the evidence all points to a protective effect of
the supplements, no matter what other treatments are administered.
In addition, the supplements appear to reduce the sometimes
devastating side effects of the treatments, such as nausea,
diarrhea, hair loss, and profound fatigue.
In one study of lung cancer patients, those given high dose
antioxidants and other nutrients survived far longer than
would be expected, and it worked best in those who started
the supplements at the earliest opportunity. They also tolerated
their other treatments better than those without supplements.
In another study of patients with bladder cancer, the recurrence
rate was cut in half if they were given supplements, and the
average survival time was doubled. These are not perfect protection
from side effects, or cures (although in some cases they may
be), but supplements are an important part of any cancer treatment,
as well as prevention, along with (not instead of) a healthy
diet of whole, fresh plant-based foods.
Q. What supplements should my girlfriend take for periodontal
disease? She already takes 30 mg of coenzyme Q10, but she
smokes. CA, Spain, via Internet
A. Periodontal disease, or gingivitis, is a serious health
problem, as it is the number one cause of tooth loss. Chronic
infection and inflammation of the gums may lead to bleeding,
tenderness, and pus, but gingivitis is usually painless and
asymptomatic. Smoking weakens the gums.
Recent medical evidence strongly suggests that gingivitis
is a risk factor for chronic disease such as heart disease
and strokes, either due to the inflammation itself, or to
the oral bacteria that may infect other tissues. Inflammation
of any kind has been linked to vascular disease.
The first defense is a healthy diet of fresh vegetables,
fruits, whole grains and beans, with high levels of flavonoids
and antioxidants. Their roughage helps to clean the teeth
and gums during chewing. After eating, it is essential to
clean the teeth with flossing and brushing (toothpaste optional).
Floss into the gum crevices. A gum stimulator and oral irrigator
can also help.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids can improve the strength of the
gum tissue, and protect from infection. I usually recommend
supplements of 2000 to 4000 mg of C, and 1000 to 2000 mg of
mixed bioflavonoids. Flavonoids reduce inflammation and have
anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin turns up again here
as an anti-inflammatory and heart protector (300 to 600 mg).
Gingivitis patients have low levels of antioxidants and coenzyme
Q10. Studies over 20 years ago showed that Q10 supplements
of 50 to 100 mg helped restore normal gum tissue. More recent
research shows that topical coQ10 can reduce plaque and gingival
pockets. As coQ10 can also help heart disease, part of its
benefit may be from restoration of normal gums. For heart
disease, the usual dose is 100 to 200 mg. I recommend the
chewable form as it also delivers topical coQ.
Folic acid applied topically as a mouth rinse is one further
way to heal the gums. A one minute rinse with a solution containing
5 mg of folate generates healing within 4 weeks.
•Last month I mentioned the recent increase in obesity.
A new study shows that obesity can damage arteries even if
it is not associated with other risk factors. (De Michele,
M, et al., Association of Obesity and Central Fat Distribution
With Carotid Artery Wall Thickening in Middle-Aged Women.
Stroke 2002, 10.1161/01) At each level of weight increase
the researchers found a direct correlation with thickening
of the carotid arterial wall lining, and it was independent
of hypertension, usually thought to be the cause of vascular
problems in obese subjects. The same group also showed that
obesity is directly related to the development of varicose
veins (Iannuzzi A, et al., Varicose veins of the lower limbs
and venous capacitance in postmenopausal women: Relationship
with obesity. J Vasc Surg 2002 Nov;36(5):965-968).
•Arsenic in drinking water is associated with an increased
risk of bladder cancer, and tumors of the kidneys, liver,
and lungs. The latest research shows that exposure to arsenic
also makes bladder cancers more aggressive. (Moore LE, et
al., Arsenic-related chromosomal alterations in bladder cancer.
J Natl Cancer Inst 2002 Nov 20;94(22):1688-96). Arsenic is
naturally present in the earth’s crust and water, but
higher levels come from industrial waste, and it may also
get into the water supply by leaching from pressure treated
wood, in which arsenic is used as a preservative.
• A new study on diet and blood vessels shows that high
levels of vitamin E in the diet protect against carotid plaque
formation (Iannuzzi A, et al., Dietary and circulating antioxidant
vitamins in relation to carotid plaques in middle-aged women.
Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Sep;76(3):582-7). In this research, using
carotid ultrasound, the total amount of dietary vitamin E,
plasma vitamin E levels, and the ratio of vitamin E to cholesterol
in the blood were all correlated with less atherosclerotic
Start with a medium pumpkin, and cut a hole in the top large
enough for your hand, and at an angle (to put back on later).
Remove the seeds (clean, dry, and toast these for a snack).
Scoop out one third of the flesh (but maintain the walls)
. Boil two cups of barley, millet, or brown rice. Stir fry
onions, garlic, and minced carrot and celery in olive oil
with some thyme, marjoram, a pinch of cayenne to taste, and
a touch of soy sauce. Add the grain and the pumpkin with some
minced parsley, chopped walnuts (add raisins and cranberries
if you like), stir fry this mixture briefly, and put it all
back in the pumpkin with the lid. Bake this at 375 until tender.
Another option: cut squash or smaller pumpkins in half, follow
the same recipe, put the mix in each half, and cover with
foil to bake.
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USDA: Organic Foods May Be More Contamination-Prone (Reuters)
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