Nutrition Science Updates
Supplement Science Updates
Ask Dr. J: Whole Grains
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
No Time to Cook?
Paging through a copy of Discover Magazine from 2005, I noted
with curiosity an article on the use of high-dose vitamin
therapy for the treatment of mental disorders, from psychosis
to attention deficit-hyperactivity to manic-depressive disorders.
The article started out with the story of a farmer who had
found that aggressive pigs could be calmed down with extra
vitamins and minerals in their feed. A friend had children
with mental problems, and when they gave the angry, aggressive
son some supplements all his symptoms disappeared within a
Next, they treated the psychotic daughter with the same formula
and found that she was much better within days, and her symptoms
were almost completely gone in a week. Nine years later both
children were symptom free. Another researcher found that
prisoners’ behavior improved when they were given supplements,
and his research was repeated in England in a placebo-controlled
study with vitamins, minerals, fish oil and GLA from evening
primrose oil. The results were impressive, with the prisoners
in the active treatment group showing 35 percent fewer anti-social
acts than those on the placebo, an unprecedented reduction.
With such results to point to and two remarkable cases of
her own, a research psychologist approached a Harvard researcher
at McLean Hospital, renowned for treatment of mental disorders.
While skeptical, he gave the sample he had been given to a
colleague’s son with bipolar disorder. The boy improved
dramatically within days, and then the boy’s sister
had similarly dramatic results. After further successful experience
with bipolar patients he published his findings, realizing
that he was putting his “career on the line.”
These two researchers were vilified by antagonists to nutritional
therapy. Unfortunately, this threat to their careers was enough
to lead them to stop referring to their experiences with supplements
in the treatment of mental disorders. They also stopped receiving
government grants for their research. It is disturbing that
even qualified and skeptical researchers who see the benefits
of supplements are unable to pursue their observations without
interference from the forces of the status quo.
I have been using such therapies successfully since 1976.
They have been reported since the early 1950’s by such
luminaries as Abram Hoffer, MD, and later by Linus Pauling,
PhD. My first dramatic experience was with a young woman who
had been a top high-school student until a psychotic breakdown
as a senior. She was ill for nine years in spite of numerous
treatments and came to me as a last resort. After three weeks
on diet and vitamins, she started to feel better, and within
three months was almost back to normal. She went back to school,
became a nurse, and never again needed medications. What is
curious to me is that what I have been doing for thirty years
is just being “discovered” by Discover Magazine
— just about fifty years late.
A diet high in refined grains, such as white flour, particularly
white bread, increases the risk of kidney cancer. Italian
researchers compared the diets of 767 patients with renal
cell carcinoma (RCC) in the two years before their diagnosis
with the diets of 1534 controls at the same hospital with
non-cancer diagnoses. They used a food-frequency questionnaire
to evaluate diets.
Their evaluation showed that white bread increased the risk
of RCC by 94 percent, white rice increased it by 29 percent,
and milk and yogurt increase the risk by 27 percent. Vegetables
lowered the risk by 35 percent. (Surprisingly, chicken and
processed meats also lowered risk, but there was no clear
explanation of this finding.)
The same researchers earlier showed that refined grains were
associated with an increased risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia
(BPH). In a study of 1369 patients with BPH compared to 1451
controls, they found that subjects with the highest intake
of refined grains had a 50 percent greater risk of BPH than
those with the lowest intake. On the contrary, subjects with
the highest intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids had a 28
percent reduction of risk of BPH than those with the lowest
intake. In this study, the researchers found that both omega-3
and omega-6 essential fatty acids provided similar benefits.
Research on 77,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study
shows that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption reduces
the risk of developing gallstones. Gallstones form when substances
in bile precipitate and condense into a hard mass, and these
can be painful when passing through the bile ducts, or even
life-threatening. Gallstones may require surgery or ultra-sonic
A diet rich in citrus fruits, leafy greens, and other foods
rich in vitamin C can reduce the likelihood that patients
will require gall-bladder surgery. Those with the highest
levels of consumption had a 21 percent lower risk of needing
surgery than those women with the lowest intake of fruits
and vegetables. Antioxidant vitamins, fiber, and minerals
such as magnesium might all be contributors to the benefits
observed in this study.
Eating lots of fruit is also helpful for men. A new study
shows that men who eat large amounts of vitamin C-rich fruits
(particularly citrus) have a reduced risk of pre-malignant
lesions in the mouth. In the large Health Professionals’
Follow-up Study of 42,311 men, those who consumed the most
fruits had a 30-40 percent lower risk of such lesions, many
of which become squamous cell cancers. The benefit was even
seen in smokers.
A study of 3718 subjects over 65 years old shows that eating
at least two servings of leafy green vegetables per day boosts
cognitive function, reducing the decline seen with aging by
40 percent. Researchers measured immediate and delayed memory
and a “symbol digit” test that measures speed
of thinking, rapid decision making, and mental flexibility.
The subjects were evaluated at baseline and at three and six
years. The most effective vegetables were lettuce, salad,
spinach, kale, and collards. These vegetables contain many
nutrients, including vitamin E, which has previously been
shown to improve cognitive function.
Heart failure is a reduction in the pumping capacity of the
heart muscle leading to accumulation of fluids in the lungs
and/or legs, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A new study
shows that omega-3 oil supplements improve heart function
in patients with heart failure, even if they are already on
a full dose of typical medications.
In this study of 25 heart-failure patients, 15 were given
2 gms of a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplement with
85 percent omega-3 oils (EPA and DHA) and 10 were given a
placebo. They evaluated the patients after four months. Subjects
on the PUFA supplements had improvement in heart rate, heart
rate variability, and cardiac response to blood pressure changes,
all indicators of better heart function, and such improvements
are associated with better prognoses.
Coenzyme Q10 improves cardiac function in patients with heart
failure. A controlled study of 23 patients given CoQ10 with
and without exercise, or exercise alone showed that oxygen
use improved by 10 percent and arterial relaxation improved
by 38 percent in the supplement group, and the effects were
enhanced by exercise. CoQ10 also improved the heart muscle
contraction ability, which is reduced in heart failure. Subjects
received supplements of 300 mg daily, or placebo.
Asthma patients (13 males and 28 females) were treated with
the usual drugs or the drugs plus supplements of coenzyme
Q10 (120 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), and vitamin C (250 mg).
Those treated with the supplements had significant improvement
and were able to reduce their medication doses. These were
patients needing steroids for the management of their symptoms,
so a lower dose can help reduce long-term side effects.
In laboratory studies, the flavonoids quercetin and EGCG
(from green tea) were found to protect retinal cells from
oxidative stress. Researchers stressed the cells with oxidants,
such as hydrogen peroxide. Treatment with the flavonoids blocked
production of oxidative by-products (reactive oxygen species),
reduced cell death, and induced the production of detoxifying
enzymes. Pre-treatment was 80-100 percent effective in reducing
oxidative cell death. Some benefits were seen even if the
flavonoids were added after exposure to the oxidative stress.
Protecting the retinal cells is important in the prevention
of age-ralated macular degeneration as well as visual deterioration
associated with diabetes.
Q. You stress the importance of whole grains, and many conventional
baked goods and cereals are now available with whole grains.
Do you recommend these products for their health benefits?
- DS, New Hampshire, via email.
Whole grains, including brown rice, oatmeal, millet, barley,
whole wheat, and whole corn, are an important part of a healthy
diet. They are easy to prepare from the grains themselves,
but if you do not have the time, you can safely buy a variety
of foods that are made with whole grains. Unfortunately, many
available products that say they contain whole grains are
not really whole grain!
Labels may be misleading. Products may say “contains
whole grains” but most of the grain is refined or white
flour, and the company includes a small amount of whole grain
to justify the label. Other products may contain significant
amounts of whole grain, but also contain large amounts of
sugar and other highly processed ingredients that reduce or
even negate its value. Unless the word “whole”,
appears before “durum” or plain “wheat”,
they are refined flours.
Look for products that are 100 percent whole grain, preferably
organic, with no sugar, margarine, shortening, or processed
oils (commercial vegetable oil), and no chemical preservatives
or conditioners. If they contain ingredients that you do not
recognize, it’s best to avoid them. Large food processors
now make many of their regular products with some whole grains,
but nonetheless they are not always healthful.
It is often easier to find whole grains at health food stores
than in conventional markets. Unfortunately, most health food
stores now carry many products made with refined grains, such
as white flour, and white rice, and lots of refined sugar.
As a result, you have to be careful and read labels wherever
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Kaplan BJ, et al., Treatment of mood lability
and explosive rage with minerals and vitamins: two case studies
in children. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2002 Fall;12(3):205-19.
Kaplan BJ, et al., Improved mood and behavior
during treatment with a mineral-vitamin supplement: an open-label
case series of children. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol.
Popper CW, Do vitamins or minerals (apart
from lithium) have mood-stabilizing effects? J Clin Psychiatry.
Hoffer A, Treatment of organic psychosis
with nicotinic acid. (A single case). Dis Nerv Syst. 1965
Pauling L, et al., On the orthomolecular
environment of the mind: orthomolecular theory. Am J Psychiatry.
Vitamin Cure?, Susan Freinkel, Discover, May 2005
Bravi, F et al., Food groups and renal
cell carcinoma... International Journal of Cancer, published
online, October 2006.
Bravi F, et al., Macronutrients, fatty
acids, cholesterol, and risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Urology. 2006 Jun;67(6):1205-11.
Tsai CJ, et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption
and risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Med. 2006 Sep;119(9):760-7.
Maserejian NN, et al., Prospective study
of fruits and vegetables and risk of oral premalignant lesions
in men. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Sep 15;164(6):556-66.
Radaelli A, et al., Enhanced baroreceptor
control of the cardiovascular system by polyunsaturated fatty
acids in heart failure patients. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct
Belardinelli R, et al., Coenzyme Q10 and
exercise training in chronic heart failure. Eur Heart J. 2006
Aug 1; [Epub ahead of print]
Gvozdjakova A, et al., Coenzyme Q10 supplementation...in
patients with bronchial asthma. Biofactors. 2005;25(1-4):235-40.
Morris MC, Associations of vegetable and
fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change. Neurology.
2006 Oct 24;67(8):1370-6.
Hanneken A, et al., Flavonoids protect
human retinal pigment epithelial cells from oxidative-stress-induced
death. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2006 Jul;47(7):3164-77.
a. Obesity worsens the outcome in women with ovarian cancer.
A study of 216 patients showed that being overweight or obese
led to a shorter time to tumor recurrence and a shorter overall
survival time. In addition, the obese women were more likely
to have diabetes and hypertension, but these were independent
factors that did not appear to influence the behavior of the
cancer. (Pavelka JC, et al., Effect of obesity on survival
in epithelial ovarian cancer. Cancer. 2006 Oct 1;107(7):1520-4.)
b. Exercise intensity matters in improving overall fitness.
Walking at any pace for 10,000 steps per day, using a pedometer
as a guide and motivator, improves aerobic capacity and blood
pressure by about 4 percent, but an aerobic fitness program
using a stationary bicycle or treadmill does even better,
improving aerobic capacity and reducing blood pressure by
10 percent each. In addition, the aerobic program was more
effective in improving body weight, blood lipids, and blood
sugar regulation. The walkers chose their own pace, so many
of them appeared to go too slowly to achieve the most benefits
of exercise. Reuters interviewed Canadian researcher Vicki
Harber about her study. (To get more out of walking, pick
up the pace. Reuters Health, October 12, 2006.)
Whole grains are known to reduce diabetes risk, and a new
study of 41,186 black women, who are more likely to get diabetes
than whites, shows that high magnesium and whole grain intake
led to a 31 percent lower risk of diabetes; after adjustment
for other healthy habits, including eating less red meat and
saturated fat, the benefits of whole grains were the same.
(van Dam RM, et al., Dietary calcium and magnesium, major
food sources, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. black women.
Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct;29(10):2238-43.)
No matter how many quick recipes I have, sometimes the time
available for cooking is too limited even for them (such as
preparing to move to Florida for the winter while still remodeling
our New Hampshire home). At those times, I make it really
simple, such as a baked potato with steamed broccoli, and
a can of sardines or poached eggs (with a sprinkle of curry).
I also heat leftover brown rice (a rice cooker is an invaluable
time saver) with defrosted, frozen organic vegetables and
tofu cubes garnished with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and
freshly ground pepper or cayenne. Lately I baked a butternut
squash and two acorn squashes (cut in half lengthwise) until
the juices started to brown and the flesh was tender. I served
these with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Whole grain bread with
hummus, or with organic peanut butter and a mashed banana
are nutritious and healthy.
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