Obesity Mortality Overtaking Smoking
Mad Cow Testing
Degenerative Aging Protection
Ask Dr. J: Oral Chelation-Beware
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of the Month: Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention show that obesity will soon overtake smoking as
a preventable cause of death. The epidemic of obesity is in
large part (no pun intended) due to the high level of sweet,
refined, fatty foods that have stormed into the diet, and
the infiltration of these fast-snack restaurants into our
schools and hospitals.
Even more worrying is the government position, and that of
the American Dietetic Association (ADA), that there are no
such things as bad foods, only bad overall dietary choices.
As if you could take a combination of McBurgers, chicken corn
dogs, bacon-fries, Twinkies, Snickers, chips, and Cherry Garcia,
put them all in a blender, and make a healthful lunch. Of
course, you can’t take a collection of empty calories
and make a nutritious meal.
With the increasing concerns about the appearance of bovine
spongiform encelopathy (or BSE, also called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease) in the United States, it is understandable that some
cattle farmers, especially those who raise their beef naturally,
want to test their herds, and report the results of these
tests to their consumers. This they are not allowed to do.
The USDA, which oversees the testing for BSE, until recently
has limited testing to their own single lab, and some beef
suppliers claim that this is not enough.
The USDA claims that their concern is that private testing
might be inaccurate, and further alarm the public. They recently
expanded their own inadequate testing for BSE, but they still
do not let private labs or individual farmers set up testing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the USDA threatens criminal
action against anyone testing without their approval. It seems
that they are more concerned about alarming the public than
While testing for BSE does not guarantee safety, partly because
testing may not reveal the presence of the disease in the
early stages, it is at least one step to enhance the confidence
of the consumer that at least their food has been screened.
Cattle-raising practices have been changed to eliminate feeding
potentially-infected cattle byproducts to other cattle. I
think everyone believes that the USDA is meant to protect
people as much as possible, but they also aim to protect the
industry that they regulate, and they balance the needs of
the consumer with the commercial impact of their decisions.
Testing in Europe and Japan is much more rigorous than in
the United States, partly due to the claim that the US beef
supply is safe from BSE, but whether this is true, or remains
true, can only be known if testing is thorough and reliable,
and the USDA needs to “beef up” its efforts if
the public is to remain confident. This does not, of course,
affect any of the other dangers of excessive meat consumption.
Antioxidants are nutritionally-derived protective compounds
that scavenge damaging oxygen-related free radicals (called
reactive oxygen species, or ROS) and prevent them from disrupting
the functions of cell membranes and the genetic materials
DNA and RNA. They also prevent the oxidation of lipids in
blood and tissues. Well-known antioxidants or cofactors, such
as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc, have
a long history of value in treatment and prevention of disease.
In subjects undertaking intense exercise, the high stress
increases the metabolic production of ROS, and consequently
increases muscle damage. Research shows that supplements of
vitamins C, E, and selenium not only reduce the oxidative
load, but also alleviate the resulting muscle damage.
Supplements of vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and selenium
can prevent chromosome damage, the genetic changes underlying
carcinogenesis. Researchers gave subjects supplements and
examined their white blood cells during replication. They
found that the supplements improved plasma antioxidant status,
and reduced abnormal cells and chromosome breaks. The benefits
were even greater in smokers.
Many other food compounds with antioxidant activity have
been discovered in recent decades, including coenzyme Q10,
alpha-lipoic acid, and a group of compounds known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols include flavonoids, anthocyanidins, isoflavones,
catechins, lignan, and a number of sub-categories, all of
which work together with other antioxidants to protect against
cancer, atherosclerosis, strokes, diabetes, vision loss, and
premature aging of the skin.
These compounds are found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables,
seeds, and legumes. Recent research continues to confirm the
value of consuming a large amount and a wide variety of these
foods and taking supplements. Many of the studies are in cell
cultures or in animals, but they are promising for human health.
They have antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects,
and help with allergies and immunity.
For example, in cell cultures, quercetin and polyphenols
from black tea (theaflavin) and green tea (catechins) were
able to protect mitochondria from ROS. The liver cells survived
better when treated with these antioxidants before being exposed
to a potent generator of oxidative stress.
In one interesting study with practical implications, researchers
incubated meat with gastric juice and found a dramatic increase
in the production of lipid hydroperoxides and destruction
of carotenoids, related to the exposure to iron or myoglobin.
When tea-derived catechins or red-wine polyphenols were added
to the mix, the oxidative byproducts were reduced to zero
and carotene destruction was totally blocked.
A recent report shows that anthocyanidins are present in
cacao beans, and that the particular compounds are effective
at scavenging ROS that lead to lipid peroxidation.
While all of this may seem like an argument to include tea,
wine, and chocolate in your diet, this is not necessarily
a healthy way to get your antioxidants. The problem is the
sugar in chocolate, the caffeine in tea, and the alcohol in
wine can create their own problems, and you can get these
benefits from other foods and supplements.
Grapes and grape juice have many of the same antioxidants
as wine, and caffeine-free teas and supplements can provide
catechins, while anthocyanins are found in grape skins, cranberries,
blueberries, and supplements of pine bark and grape seeds.
These potent antioxidants help protect the brain and other
tissues against aging and degeneration, enhance immune function,
and inhibit excessive clotting inside narrowed arteries by
blocking platelet aggregation.
Quercetin is found in apples and yellow onions and in supplements.
It is yet another substance that inhibits platelet aggregation
and it also reduces allergic reactions by blocking the release
of histamine. In a recent study, quercetin was able to enhance
the anti-cancer effect of cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug.
A number of flavonoids can reduce carcinogenesis by blocking
both the initiation and the promotion phases that lead to
cancer. One from tangerines, called tangeretin, is particularly
helpful. Investigators evaluated this by feeding rats the
nutrients while exposing them to aflatoxin, a mold derivative
that causes liver cancer. Other citrus flavonoids have been
shown to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activities.
The activity of many herbs is based on the flavonoids that
they contain and other antioxidants. Flavonoids are among
the active components of ginkgo biloba, bilberry, elderberry,
and milk thistle, among others. Cinnamon, for example, contains
antioxidants that are more potent in lab studies than vitamin
Some antioxidant supplements provide levels that are unattainable
from diet alone, and some, but not all, studies suggest that
they are of great value in preventing and treating the chronic,
degenerative diseases that are common in industrialized societies.
It is clear that no one nutrient is sufficient to provide
adequate protection, which is why it is important to eat a
wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds, as
well as to take supplements.
Q. Do you recommend any good oral chelation
— DF, New Hampshire, via email.
Not in the usual sense, but it depends on what you are looking
for. Chelation therapy is used in conventional medicine as
a treatment for heavy metal toxicity, but most people know
of it as an integrative medicine treatment for hardening of
the arteries and heart disease. For this treatment, no oral
chelation products have been shown to be either safe or effective.
EDTA is the most commonly known drug used as an intravenous
treatment for symptoms of atherosclerosis, including angina,
claudication, and brain vascular disease. Some promoters have
offered EDTA in oral supplements along with a few vitamins,
but little EDTA is absorbed through the intestinal tract,
and it is not possible to achieve blood levels provided by
If you have heart disease, then in addition to nutrition,
exercise, and dietary supplements, IV EDTA chelation may well
help you, but oral EDTA has not been shown to be safe in the
amounts in many of these supplements (it may carry heavy metals
from the intestinal tract into the body). The promoters say
that it is approved as a food preservative, so it must be
safe. However, the amounts added to foods are extremely small,
and they are unrelated to the amounts in oral chelation, so
this is very misleading. EDTA is quite safe when given IV
rather than by mouth.
If you are looking for treatment of heavy metal exposure,
such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, this is a different
story, although oral EDTA is still not the proper treatment.
Alpha-lipoic acid (500 to 1000 mg) has antioxidant and chelating
properties, and can help reduce the toxicity of metals such
as lead and mercury. Vitamin C is also a mild chelator.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is particularly helpful in removing
mercury, especially when combined with another supplement
called DMSA (dimercapto succinic acid). Typical doses of NAC
are 500 to 1000 mg twice a day. DMSA doses vary, usually between
100 to 500 mg twice a day.
Phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate or IP6), from beans and
grains, is a good chelating agent, and supplements of zinc
and selenium also help to remove heavy metals from the body.
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USDA Prohibits Mad-Cow Tests By Outside
Labs, Causing Outcry. Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2004
Feng Q, et al., Anticarcinogenic antioxidants
as inhibitors against intracellular oxidative stress. Free
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Middleton E Jr, Effect of plant flavonoids
on immune and inflammatory cell function. Adv Exp Med Biol.
Kanner J, Lapidot T, The stomach as a bioreactor:
dietary lipid peroxidation in the gastric fluid and the effects
of plant-derived antioxidants. Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Dec
Borska S, et al., The effects of quercetin
vs cisplatin on proliferation and the apoptotic process...
Folia Morphol (Warsz). 2004 Feb;63(1):103-5.
Palazzetti S, et al., Antioxidant supplementation
preserves antioxidant response in physical training and low
antioxidant intake. Br J Nutr. 2004 Jan;91(1):91-100.
Dusinska M, et al., Nutritional supplementation...decreases
chromosomal damage in humans. Mutagenesis. 2003 Jul;18(4):371-6.
Siess MH, et al., Mechanisms involved in
the chemoprevention of flavonoids. Biofactors. 2000;12(1-4):193-9.
Manthey JA, et al., Biological properties
of citrus flavonoids pertaining to cancer and inflammation.
Curr Med Chem. 2001 Feb;8(2):135-53.
Ellnain-Wojtaszek M, Investigation of the
free radical scavenging activity of Ginkgo biloba L. leaves.
Fitoterapia. 2003 Feb;74(1-2):1-6.
Lin CC, et al., Antioxidant activity of
Cinnamomum cassia. Phytother Res. 2003 Aug;17(7):726-30.
Ballatori N, N-acetylcysteine as an antidote
in methylmercury poisoning. Environ Health Perspect. 1998
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Patrick L, Mercury toxicity and antioxidants:
... in the treatment of mercury toxicity. Altern Med Rev.
Excess lead was in the Washington, DC, water supply for over
a year before the information was made public and action was
taken to rectify the problem, which is not yet solved (D.C.
Lead Issue Was Debated for Months, Washington Post, March
16, 2004). The EPA, water officials, and local government
were wrangling while the unaware public continued to drink
the water. As you can’t depend on regulators, the safest
way to protect yourself is with a solid-carbon-block (not
granulated carbon) water filter (such as those made by MultiPure)
or drinking bottled water.
Vitamin E helps to reduce the risk of prostate and bladder
cancers. In one study, subjects with the highest blood level
of vitamin E, from food and supplements, had a 53 percent
lower risk of prostate cancer. Alpha-tocopherol was better
than gamma tocopherol, which also lowered risk (and is also
of benefit in other ways). In the other study, bladder cancer
risk was reduced by high dietary E, and supplements slightly
enhanced that benefit. (More Evidence Found of How Vitamins
Prevent Cancer, Reuters, March 28, 2004).
Phytoestrogens are isoflavones derived mainly from soy, red
clover, and other beans. These phytochemicals are associated
with increased rates of bone formation. Cultures with high
soy intake have much lower rates of osteoporosis. In one study
(Atkinson C, et al., The effects of phytoestrogen isoflavones
on bone density in women... Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):326-33.),
177 women between the ages of 49 to 65 were administered either
isoflavones or a placebo for one year. Those who received
the isoflavones did significantly better than the placebo
group in terms of bone density.
Split pea soup is a hearty and tasty staple of vegetarian
cooking (without the hambone, of course). Sauté some
diced onions and crushed garlic with olive oil, freshly ground
pepper, cumin, thyme, and a dash of cayenne (more if you like
it spicy) until the onions are starting to turn brown. Add
some diced celery, carrots, and chopped parsley, stir them
around until they are well mixed, and add 1-2 cups of dried
green and yellow split peas. You can also add a half cup of
barley to the mix to vary the texture and flavor. Boil 2-4
quarts of dilute vegetable broth (you can get organic broth
from Imagine Foods or use other brands), and put all together
in a large soup pot. Simmer and stir regularly until the peas
are cooked, adding more water as needed, or use a crock pot
so you don’t have to watch it or worry about stirring
or sticking. Serve with whole wheat bread.
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