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Dr. Greger on Plant-Based Athletes, the Best Way to Cook Veggies, and More

Dr. Greger on Plant-Based Athletes, the Best Way to Cook Veggies, and More

Last week, October 25, was my birthday. Thank you to everyone who donated to NutritionFacts.org, which I began as a labor of love dedicated to my grandma’s near miraculous recovery from heart disease thanks to lifestyle medicine pioneer Nathan Pritikin. That’s why I went into medicine, that’s why I started NutritionFacts.org, that’s why I wrote How Not to Die, and that’s why 100% of the proceeds I get from my books are all donated to charity. I just want to do for everyone’s family what Pritikin did for my family. If you still want to help celebrate my journey, you can make a tax-deductible donation to keep NutritionFacts.org exploding out into the world.

New DVD covers plant-based athletes, the best way to cook veggies, and much more

My new DVD is out today and is available as a streaming video so you can start watching it immediately. As you can see, there’s a variety of topics covered, from eggs and breast cancer, “vitamin B17,” light vs. dark roast coffee, and the best foods for bad breath. All of these videos will be rolling out for free online starting at the end of November, but if you don’t want to wait, you can watch them all streaming right now. You can also order it as a physical DVD.

Here’s the full list of chapters from the new volume—a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

  1. Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Warts and Cold Sores  
  2. Is Lipstick Safe Given the Lead Contamination?
  3. The Gladiator Diet: How Vegetarian Athletes Stack Up 
  4. The First Studies on Vegetarian Athletes 
  5. Vegetarian Muscle Power, Strength, and Endurance 
  6. Benefits of Blueberries for Heart Disease 
  7. Which Coffee Is Healthier: Light vs. Dark Roast 
  8. Does Low Acid Coffee Cause Less Acid Reflux? 
  9. What About Kosher and Organic Chicken? 
  10. Brain Healthy Foods to Fight Aging 
  11. Do Lutein Supplements Help with Brain Function?  
  12. Is Fiber an Effective Anti-Inflammatory?  
  13. Dietary Cholesterol and Cancer  
  14. Eggs and Breast Cancer  
  15. Oxidized Cholesterol 27HC May Explain 3 Breast Cancer Mysteries 
  16. Do Apricot Seeds Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure?  
  17. Does Laetrile (Amygdalin or Vitamin B-17) Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure? 
  18. Is Butter Really Back? What the Science Says 
  19. Are Cannabis Edibles Safe? 
  20. Benefit of Dates for Colon Health  
  21. Are Vegetarians at Risk for Eating Disorders?
  22. Do Mobile Phones Affect Sleep? 
  23. Is Ginger Beneficial in a Diabetic Diet?  
  24. How to Treat Periodontitis with Diet 
  25. Best Foods for Halitosis and Gingivitis 
  26. Best Way to Cook Vegetables 

Order my new DVD at DrGreger.org/collections/dvds, on Amazon, or as a video download/streaming at DrGreger.org/collections/downloads. And remember, if you watch the videos on NutritionFacts.org or YouTube, you can access captions in several different languages. To find yours, click on the settings wheel on the lower-right of the video and then “Subtitles/CC.” 

If you were a regular supporter, you’d already be an expert on these new topics by now, having already received a link to the new DVD. New DVDs and downloads are released every nine weeks. If you’d like to automatically receive them before they’re even available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly donor.

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $25 monthly contributor will receive the next three downloads for free, and anyone signing up as a $50 monthly contributor will get a whole year’s worth of new DVDs (as physical DVDs, downloads, streaming, your choice). If you signed up for physical copies, and do not yet have it, please email DVDhelp@NutritionFacts.org and we’ll make everything all better.

 

Announcing “Flashback Fridays” 

In the last dozen years I have created more than 1,500 videos. How often have you seen me on my Live Q&A’s saying “I’ve got a video on that!”? There’s such a treasure trove of life-changing information now that I’ve decided to start digging into the video vault and bringing back some of the classics, complete with an updated Doctor’s Note on Fridays, starting Nov 9.

I need your help in choosing which videos to feature on Flashback Fridays. What are the favorites you’re always sending to family and friends? What videos changed the way you live your life? What were some of the most interesting, groundbreaking, practical findings you learned? Please let me know by voting here.

 

The Truth About Food

Dr. David Katz just came out with a new book, The Truth About Food: Why Pandas Eat Bamboo and People Get Bamboozled.  All book proceeds go to a great charity (the True Health Initiative). A man after my own heart!

 

 

 

 

Live Q&A November 15

Every month I do Q&As live from my treadmill, and November 15 is the day.

  • Facebook Live: At 12:00 p.m. ET go to our Facebook page to watch live and ask questions.
  • YouTube Live Stream: At 1:00 p.m. ET go here to watch live and ask even more questions! 

You can find links to all of my past live YouTube and Facebook Q&As right here on NutritionFacts.org. If that’s not enough, remember I have an audio podcast to keep you company at http://nutritionfacts.org/audio.

 
 
 

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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How to Improve Artery Function

How to Improve Artery Function

Endothelial dysfunction is the initial step in the development of peripheral artery disease, heart disease, and stroke. As I discuss in my video Plant-Based Diets and Artery Function, the remarkable finding is that progressive endothelial dysfunction—the decline in the functioning of our arteries—is not an inevitable consequence of aging. We can retain the arterial function we had in our 20s into our 60s, like the elderly Chinese in my video Tea and Artery Function. This may be due in part to green tea intake, but “[o]ther important dietary differences relating to increased consumption of vegetables and fish, with lower consumption of [other meat and dairy] in the traditional Chinese diet, may be contributing to the protection observed in older Chinese arteries.”

It’s probably not the fish. Pooling all the best double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that fish oil supplementation has no significant effect on endothelial function. In by far the largest study done to date, a comparison of doses of fish oil equivalent to one, two, or four servings of fish per week found no effects of these long-chain omega-3 fats. This is consistent with studies that have looked at whole fish consumption as well.

Overall, there was no significant association between fish intake and endothelial function. In fact, in women, those eating the most fish had the worst arterial function. Women who ate fish more than twice a week had significantly impaired endothelial function compared to those who never or only rarely ate fish.

So, if it’s not the fish, could it be the plants? Vegetarian diets appear to have a directly beneficial effect on endothelial function. Indeed, vegetarians’ arteries dilate four times better than omnivores’ arteries. But, could that simply be because vegetarians tend to smoke less? Within five minutes of smoking a single cigarette, our endothelium is brought to its knees, completely clamped down, and this happens if you’re a smoker or simply breathing in second-hand smoke. But the diet study excluded all smokers completely. The beneficial effects were independent of non-dietary risk factors. In fact, a healthy diet may even trump smoking. The preservation of endothelial function in older Chinese may help explain why they have such low heart attack rates despite their high prevalence of cigarette smoking. And, the improved arterial function was well correlated with the duration of eating vegetarian: The longer they ate healthy, the better their endothelial function appeared to be.

That was a cross-sectional study, though, a snapshot in time, so you can’t prove cause and effect. What we need is an interventional trial—put people on a plant-based diet and see if their arterial function improves—which is exactly what Dr. Dean Ornish did, showing a significant boost in arterial function compared to control.

Is this just some intangible risk factor test result, though, or does it actually have real world implications? Are their arteries naturally dilating so much better that their chest pain actually improves?

Ornish showed that on his plant-based diet and lifestyle program, cardiac patients had a 91 percent reduction in angina attacks. In contrast, control group patients, who instead were told to follow the advice of their personal physicians for diet and lifestyle advice, had a 186 percent increase in reported angina attacks. This “marked reduction in frequency, severity, and duration of angina [chest pain with the plant-based lifestyle intervention]…was sustained at similar levels after 5 years. This long-term reduction in angina is comparable with that achieved following coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty,” but without the knife.

But that was back in the 1990s, when Ornish was only studying a few dozen patients at a time. How about a thousand patients put on a healthy lifestyle track with a whole-food, plant-based diet? Within three months, nearly three-quarters of angina patients became angina-free.


Wait a second. The Ornish program involves a number of other healthy lifestyle interventions, such as exercise. How do we know it was the diet? That’s precisely the topic of my Plant-Based Treatment for Angina video.

What would happen if, instead of going on a plant-based diet, you went on a low-carb diet? You don’t want to know. But if you must, check out Low-Carb Diets and Coronary Blood Flow.

For more on green tea, see Tea and Artery Function.

What effects might other foods have? See:

And don’t miss my overview video: How Not to Die from Heart Disease.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The Best Diet for Chest Pain

The Best Diet for Chest Pain

The Dean Ornish program that led to improved arterial function and the dramatic drop in angina attacks—a 91 percent reduction in reported frequency of angina—is not just about putting people on a plant-based diet. It also involves recommendations for moderate exercise and stress management. We know exercise alone can improve endothelial function, so how do we know diet had anything to do with it? This is the subject of my video Plant-Based Treatment for Angina.

Going back to Ornish’s first publication, he put cardiac patients on a plant-based diet, with no added exercise—just diet and stress management—and got the same 91 percent reduction in angina attacks within just 24 days. And Dr. Esselstyn was able to improve angina using a plant-based diet as the only lifestyle intervention. There are published case series going back to the 1970s documenting this. One study participant, Mr. F.W., had chest pain so severe he had to stop every nine or ten steps. He couldn’t even make it to his mailbox. He started on a strictly plant-based diet, and, a few months later, he was climbing mountains with no pain.

We know plant-based diets can reverse heart disease, dissolving away plaque and opening up arteries—in some cases without drugs or surgery—but that doesn’t happen in 24 days. “[T]he improvements in anginal symptoms are too rapid in onset and [too great] in magnitude to be explained by the gradual regression” of the atherosclerotic plaque. So, maybe it’s this improvement in function as well as structure.

What is it about plant-based diets that improves our arteries’ ability to dilate? Is it macronutrient differences? Simply the lack of the deleterious effect of meat? Maybe it’s the drop in cholesterol. Endothelial function improves if we lower our cholesterol low enough, by any means necessary. One study took PET scans measuring blood flow to the heart before and after three radically different ways to lower cholesterol. The first method used drugs, and the second used a low-fat diet—a really low-fat diet with less than 2 percent of calories from fat. And the third? No diet at all—that is, 90 days without food; the researchers had a central line placed to basically drip enriched sugar water straight into the subjects’ bloodstream for three months. These researchers were not messing around. The treatment protocol didn’t include any exercise or stress management, either. They wanted to isolate out the effect of cholesterol lowering on cardiac blood flow.

The study participants started out with miserable cholesterol levels and with diminished blood flow to their hearts, so-called perfusion deficits, areas of the heart muscle that aren’t getting adequate blood flow. After cholesterol lowering, their cholesterol levels were still terrible, but, with the improvement, there was an improvement in blood flow and their angina attacks were cut in half. When they stopped the treatment and their cholesterol went back up, the blood flow to their heart muscle went back down. So, cholesterol lowering itself appears to improve blood flow to the heart, and the researchers think it’s because when cholesterol goes down, endothelial function improves.

There’s a new category of anti-angina drugs, but before committing billions of dollars of public and private monies to dishing them out, maybe “we should take a more serious and respectful look at dietary strategies that are demonstrably highly effective for treating angina and that have also been shown to reduce subsequent cardiac morbidity. To date, these strategies have been marginalized by the ‘drug pusher’ mentality of orthodox medical practice; presumably, doctors feel that most patients will be unwilling or unable to make the substantial dietary changes required…While this may be true for many patients, it certainly is not true for all. And, in any case, angina patients deserve to be offered the very-low-fat diet alternative”—the Ornish or Esselstyn diet alternative— “before being shunted to expensive surgery or to drug therapies that can have a range of side effects and never really get to the root of the problem.”

In response, a drug company executive wrote in to the medical journal, “Although diet and lifestyle modifications should be a part of disease management for patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, many patients may not be able to comply with the substantial dietary changes required to achieve a vegan diet…” So, of course, everyone should go on their fancy new drug, Ranolazine. It costs thousands of dollars a year to take it, but it works. Collectively, the studies show that at the highest dose, Ranolazine may prolong exercise duration as long as… wait for it… 33.5 seconds!

It does not look like those choosing the drug route will be climbing mountains anytime soon.


See a comparison of the arterial function of vegetarians versus omnivores in my Plant-Based Diets and Artery Function video. How about comparing the Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners? If those on plant-based diets aren’t getting a regular, reliable source of vitamin B12, though, their artery health can suffer. See Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health.

Cholesterol may do more than just impair the function of our arteries. Check out the images in my video Cholesterol Crystals May Tear Through Our Artery Lining. For even more, watch How Do We Know that Cholesterol Causes Heart Disease?andOptimal Cholesterol Level.

Does Cholesterol Size Matter? Watch the video to find out.

Three things increase our cholesterol level: Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero. What about moderation? Well, how moderate do you want your disease? See Everything in Moderation? Even Heart Disease? to learn more. And, be sure to check out How Not to Die from Heart Disease.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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The Best Foods to Slow Your Metabolism

The Best Foods to Slow Your Metabolism

The largest component of our daily energy budget is resting metabolic rate. As I discuss in my video Slowing Our Metabolism with Nitrate-Rich Vegetables, the direct effects of physical activity are relatively small compared to how many calories we expend just living and breathing. Now, during something like training for the US Army’s Special Ops or climbing a four-mile-high mountain, we may burn 4,000 calories a day. For most people, however, the calories we burn just lying around existing exceeds normal physical activities. Thus, our resting metabolic rate can have implications for controlling our weight.

Researchers have shown that dietary nitrate found in beets and green leafy vegetables improves the efficiency of the little power plants within our cells, boosting athletic performance by extracting more energy from every breath. So, if we eat a lot of vegetables, might it slow our metabolism since our body can function so much more efficiently with the calories we give it?

Indeed, researchers found that after giving people a dose of nitrate equivalent to a few servings of spinach or beets, their resting metabolic rates slowed on average about 4 percent. That’s nearly a hundred calories a day. If our bodies burned that many fewer calories each yet we didn’t eat any less, couldn’t we could put on a few pounds? Of course, green leafy vegetables may be the healthiest food on the planet, so we shouldn’t decrease our greens intake to try to control our weight. What’s going on? Researchers think perhaps it was a way our body evolved to use vegetables to help preserve energy during lean times in our ancient past. That is, slowing our metabolism may have benefits for our longevity.

What else similarly slows our metabolism? Caloric restriction, such as eating every other day. This may be one reason why caloric restriction is associated with a longer lifespan in many animals. Maybe like a candle, burning with a smaller flame allows us to last longer. It’s hard to walk around starving all the time, but it’s easy to replicate that same metabolic benefit by eating a big salad every day.

This may be why eating leafy green vegetables is among the six most powerful things we can do to live longer, along with not smoking, not drinking heavily, walking at least an hour a day, getting seven hours of sleep a day, and achieving an ideal weight. Doing even just one of these six may cut our risk of premature death by around 20 to 25 percent.


What’s that about boosting athletic performance? See:

Don’t want to carry beets out onto the track with you? Try fennel seeds: Fennel Seeds to Improve Athletic Performance.

What else can greens do? Check out How to Regenerate Coenzyme Q10 Naturally.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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Almonds vs. Rice vs. Potatoes for Osteoporosis

Almonds vs. Rice vs. Potatoes for Osteoporosis

Currently, an estimated ten million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, causing more than a million fractures, including hundreds of thousands of hip fractures, a common reason people end up in nursing homes. Many older women say they’d rather be dead than break their hip and end up in a home.

Bone is a living, “dynamic organ that is constantly renewed through a process of remodeling and modeling” involving bone breakdown by cells that eat bone, called osteoclasts, and bone formation by cells that build bone, called osteoblasts. Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone loss and bone gain, most often related to hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Is there anything we can do to help tip the balance back in bone’s favor?

There are a number of specific compounds in plant foods that look promising, but, as I discuss in my video Almonds for Osteoporosis, they are based on in vitro studies where researchers basically just drip some plant compound like cranberry phytonutrients on bone cells in a petri dish and see a boost in bone-builder cells or a drop in bone-eater cells. But no matter how much people like cranberry sauce, they’re not injecting it into their veins. For phytonutrients to reach the bone, they first have to get absorbed from the digestive tract into our bloodstream and make it past the liver before they can circulate to our skeleton. So, what we need is a so-called ex vivo study, where you take people, feed them a food—or not, draw their blood a few hours later, and then drip their blood onto bone cells to see if there’s any difference.

Normally, I’m not impressed with studies funded by marketing boards that pay for studies like the one that found that eating almonds improved cycling distance and athletic performance—compared to cookies. But the study I discuss in my video mentioned above was brilliant, not surprisingly, given it was performed in the world-famous lab of Dr. David Jenkins. There was a population study that suggested that eating almonds could protect against osteoporosis. Researchers could have simply dripped some almond extract on bone cells, but that’s not testing the whole food. Instead bone cells could be treated with the blood obtained from donors who had been fed the whole food to directly test the effects of these foods at the cellular level.

So, researchers exposed human osteoclasts, the bone-eating cells, to blood obtained before and four hours after eating a handful of almonds. But, wait. If you ate a handful of almonds every day, wouldn’t you gain weight? That’s almost 200 calories a day. Women in one study added to their regular diet a handful of almonds—like 35 nuts—as a mid-morning snack and were instructed to eat as much as they wanted for lunch and dinner that day. What happened? They ate less. In fact, they ate so much less, they canceled out the nut calories. In the study, the participants all had the same breakfast and then 0, 173, or 259 calories’ worth of almonds as a snack, before eating as much lunch and dinner as they wanted. The nuts appeared to be so satiating that the subjects ate less for lunch or dinner such that, at the end of the day, there was no significant difference in total caloric intake amongst any of the three groups. Part of the reason we don’t tend to gain weight when adding nuts to our diet may be because we end up flushing nearly one third of the calories down the toilet because we just don’t chew well enough. This is why we think there’s so much less fat in our bloodstream after eating whole almonds compared to the same amount of almond oil taken out of the same quantity of nuts.

Back to the study: So, researchers wanted to see if they could suppress the activity of the cells that eat away our bones. What did they find? Blood “serum obtained following the consumption of an almond meal inhibits human osteoclast formation, function, and gene expression…[providing] direct evidence to support the association between regular almond consumption and a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis.” The researchers also tried before and after eating other meals, including rice and potatoes, to make sure there wasn’t just some effect of eating in general. But, no: The protective effect did appear specific to the almonds.


What about dairy products? See my Is Milk Good for Our Bones? video.

And what about calcium supplements? Check out Are Calcium Supplements Safe? and Are Calcium Supplements Effective?.

Surprised by the lack of weight gain from eating all those nuts? You won’t be after watching Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence. And if you think that’s surprising, Pistachio Nut for Erectile Dysfunction will really shock you.

Want to learn more about ingenious ex vivo studies? See:

One possible mechanism for why nuts may be so healthy for our bones can be found in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis. What about the power of prunes? See Prunes for Osteoporosis.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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How to Make Your Own CoQ10

How to Make Your Own CoQ10

Chlorophyll is the green pigment that makes green leaves green. If you search for chlorophyll in the medical literature, a lot of what you find is about fecal fluorescence, a way to detect the contamination of carcasses in the slaughterhouse with feces to reduce the risk of food poisoning from pathogens harbored within animal feces. Fecal matter gets on meat either “with knife entry through the hide into the carcass, and also splash back and aerosol [airborne] deposition of fecal matter during hide removal”—that is, when they’re peeling off the skin. If, however, the animals have been eating grass, you can pick up the poo with a black light. As you can see in my video How to Regenerate Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Naturally, a solution of chlorophyll is green, but, under a UV light, it lights up as red. So, if you have a black light in a chicken slaughter plant, you can get a drop on the droppings. The problem is most chickens aren’t outside anymore. They’re no longer pecking at grass so there’s less fecal fluorescence. We could let them run around outside or we could save money by just adding a chlorophyll supplement to their feed so we can better “identify areas of gut-spill contamination” on the meat.

The reason I was looking up chlorophyll was to follow-up on the data I presented in my Eating Green to Prevent Cancer video, which suggests that chlorophyll may be able to block carcinogens. I found a few in vitro studies on the potential anti-inflammatory effects of chlorophyll. After all, green leaves have long been used to treat inflammation, so anti-inflammatory properties of chlorophyll and their break-down products after digestion were put to the test. And, indeed, they may represent “valuable and abundantly available anti-inflammatory agents.” Maybe that’s one reason why cruciferous vegetables, like kale and collard greens, are associated with decreased markers of inflammation.

In a petri dish, for example, if you lay down a layer of arterial lining cells, more inflammatory immune cells stick to them after you stimulate them with a toxic substance. We can bring down that inflammation with the anti-inflammatory drug aspirin or, even more so, by just dripping on some chlorophyll. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons kale consumers appear to live longer lives.

As interesting as I found that study to be, this next study blew my mind. The most abundant energy source on this planet is sunlight. However, only plants are able to use it directly—or so we thought. After eating plants, animals have chlorophyll in them, too, so might we also be able to derive energy directly from sunlight? Well, first of all, light can’t get through our skin, right? Wrong. This was demonstrated by century-old science—and every kid who’s ever shined a flashlight through her or his fingers, showing that the red wavelengths do get through. In fact, if you step outside on a sunny day, there’s enough light penetrating your skull and going through to your brain that you could read a book in there. Okay, so our internal organs are bathed in sunlight, and when we eat green leafy vegetables, the absorbed chlorophyll in our body does actually appear to produce cellular energy. But, unless we eat so many greens we turn green ourselves, the energy produced is probably negligible.

However, light-activated chlorophyll inside our body may help regenerate Coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is an antioxidant our body basically makes from scratch using the same enzyme we use to make cholesterol—that is, the same enzyme that’s blocked by cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. So, if CoQ10 production gets caught in the crossfire, then maybe that explains why statins increase our risk of diabetes—namely, by accidently also reducing CoQ10 levels in a friendly-fire type of event. Maybe that’s why statins can lead to muscle breakdown. Given that, should statin users take CoQ10 supplements? No, they should sufficiently improve their diets to stop taking drugs that muck with their biochemistry! By doing so—by eating more plant-based chlorophyll-rich diets—you may best maintain your levels of active CoQ10, also known as ubiquinol. “However, when ubiquinol is used as an antioxidant, it is oxidized to ubiquinone. To act as an effective antioxidant, the body must regenerate ubiquinol from ubiquinone,” perhaps by using dietary chlorophyll metabolites and light.

Researchers exposed some ubiquinone and chlorophyll metabolites to the kind of light that makes it into our bloodstream. Poof! CoQ10 was reborn. But, without the chlorophyll or the light, nothing happened. By going outside we get light and, if we’re eating our veggies, chlorophyll, so maybe that’s how we maintain such high levels of CoQ10 in our bloodstream. Perhaps this explains why dark green leafy vegetables are so good for us. We know sun exposure can be good for us and that eating greens can be good for us. “These benefits are commonly attributed to an increase in vitamin D from sunlight exposure and consumption of antioxidants from green vegetables”—but is it possible that these explanations might be incomplete?


This blog post has it all: a mind-blowing mechanism, practical applicability, and poop. What more could you want?

Interested in learning more about the potential downsides of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs? I’ve produced other videos on the topic, including Statin Cholesterol Drugs and Invasive Breast Cancer and The Actual Benefit of Diet vs. Drugs.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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We Have Specific Fruit and Vegetable Receptors

We Have Specific Fruit and Vegetable Receptors

According to a recent survey, the number of Americans adults who say they are eating ‘pretty much whatever they want’ is at an all-time high,” which unfortunately includes “too few fruits and vegetables,” as well as “too little variety.” Half of all fruit servings are taken up by just six foods: orange juice, bananas, apple juice, apples, grapes, and watermelons. Only five foods—iceberg lettuce, frozen potatoes, fresh potatoes, potato chips, and canned tomatoes—make up half of all vegetable servings. We’re not only eating too few fruits and veggies. We’re also missing out on the healthiest fruits, which are berries, and the healthiest vegetables, which are dark green leafies. The fruit and vegetable palette for our palate is sadly lacking.

Why does dietary diversity matter? As I discuss in my video Specific Receptors for Specific Fruits and Vegetables, different foods may affect different problems. Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are associated with lower risk of colon cancer in the middle and right side of our body, whereas risk of colon cancer further down on the left side of our body appears to be better lowered by carrots, pumpkins, and apples. So, “different F/V [fruits and vegetables] may confer different risks for cancer” of different parts of even the same organ.

Variety is the spice of life—and may prolong it. “Independent from quantity of consumption, variety in fruit and vegetable consumption may decrease lung cancer risk,” meaning if two people eat the same number of fruits and vegetables, the one eating a greater variety may be at lower risk.

It’s not just cancer risk. In a study of thousands of men and women, a greater quantity of vegetables and a greater variety may independently be beneficial for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Even after removing the effects of quantity, “each different additional two item per week increase in variety of F&V [fruit and vegetable] intake was associated with an 8% reduction in the incidence of T2D [type 2 diabetes].” Why? Well, it “may be attributable to individual or combined effects of the many different bioactive phytochemicals contained in F&V. Thus, consumption of a wide variety of F&V will increase the likelihood of consuming” more of them.

“All the vegetables may offer protection…against chronic diseases,” but “[e]ach vegetable group contains a unique combination and amount of these [phytonutrients], which distinguishes them from other groups and vegetables within their own group.” Indeed, because “each vegetable contains a unique combination of phytonutriceuticals (vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and phytochemicals), a great diversity of vegetables should be eaten…to get all the health benefits.”

Does it matter, though, if we get alpha-carotene or beta-carotene? Isn’t an antioxidant an antioxidant? No. “It has been shown that phytochemicals bind to specific receptors and proteins” in our bodies. For example, our body appears to have a green tea receptor—that is, a receptor for EGCG, which is a key component of green tea. There are binding proteins for the phytonutrients in grapes, onions, and capers. In my video The Broccoli Receptor: Our First Line of Defense, I talk about the broccoli receptor, for instance. Recently, a cell surface receptor was identified for a nutrient concentrated in apple peels. Importantly, these target proteins are considered indispensable for these plants foods to do what they do, but they can only do it if we actually eat them.

Just like it’s better to eat a whole orange than simply take a vitamin C pill, because, otherwise, we’d miss out on all the other wonderful things in oranges that aren’t in the pill, by just eating an apple, we’re also missing out on all the wonderful things in oranges. When it comes to the unique phytonutrient profile of each fruit and vegetable, it truly is like comparing apples to oranges.


This is one of the reasons I developed my Daily Dozen checklist of foods to incorporate into one’s routine. Download the free iPhone and Android apps, and be sure to watch my video Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist.

I discuss how produce variety—not just quality and quantity—may be important in Apples and Oranges: Dietary Diversity and Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation, so I hope you’ll check them out. You can also learn more about why combining certain foods together may be more beneficial than eating them separately in Food Synergy.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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Health Benefits of Citrus Zest

Health Benefits of Citrus Zest

New data demonstrating a DNA protective agent present in at least some fruits and vegetables found that the agent was heat sensitive and determined it was not vitamin C. This was confirmed in a study that tried vitamin C directly and found no effect on DNA protection or repair of DNA strand breaks.

If not vitamin C, what could the DNA protective agent be? The carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, found primarily in citrus, seems to be at least one candidate, as I discuss in my video Citrus Peels and Cancer: Zest for Life? If you expose cells to a mutagenic chemical, you can cause physical breaks in the strands of DNA. However, in less than an hour, our DNA repair enzymes can weld most of our DNA back together. What happens if we add some of that citrus phytonutrient? We can effectively double the speed at which DNA is repaired. But, this was determined in a petri dish. What about in a person?

In one study, subjects drank a glass of orange juice and their blood was drawn two hours later. The DNA damage induced with an oxidizing chemical dropped, whereas if they had just had something like orange Kool-Aid instead of orange juice, it didn’t help.

So, do people who eat more fruit walk around with less DNA damage? Yes, particularly women. Does this actually translate into lower cancer rates? It appears so: Citrus alone is associated with a 10 percent reduction in odds of breast cancer.

Given to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, citrus phytonutrients were found to concentrate in breast tissue, though many complained of “citrus burps” due to the concentrated extract they were given. So, researchers evaluated topical application as an alternative dosing strategy, recruiting women to apply orange-flavored massage oil to their breasts daily. This request was met with excellent compliance, but it didn’t work. We actually have to eat, not wear, our food. 

Why not just take carotenoid supplements to boost our DNA repair? Because it doesn’t work. Although dietary supplements did not provoke any alteration in DNA repair, dietary supplementation with carrots did. This suggests that “the whole food may be important in modulating DNA repair processes…”

Though orange juice consumption was found protective against childhood leukemia, it was not found protective against skin cancer. “However, the most striking feature was the protection purported by citrus peel consumption” . Just drinking orange juice may increase the risk of the most serious type of skin cancer. Daily consumption was associated with a 60 percent increase in risk. So, again, better to stick with the whole fruit. We can eat citrus extra-whole by zesting some of the peel into our dishes.


Now you know why my favorite citrus fruit is kumquat—because you can eat the peel and all!

For other foods that may keep our DNA intact, see my Which Fruits and Vegetables Boost DNA Repair? video. Kiwifruit (Kiwifruit and DNA Repair), broccoli (DNA Protection from Broccoli), and spices (Spicing Up DNA Protection) may also fit the bill.

Interested in learning more about citrus? Check out:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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Should Plant-Based Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy?

Should Plant-Based Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy?

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of DHA supplementation of pregnant and breastfeeding women failed to find any clear and consistent short- or long-term benefit for psychomotor, mental, visual, or physical development. Perhaps DHA supplementation during pregnancy has no effect because the body wisely protects the growth of the baby’s brain by drawing off of maternal stores of DHA, upregulating maternal DHA synthesis, and preferentially shuttling it to the fetus. But what if moms don’t start out with large maternal stores? In other words, maybe DHA failed to help women who were already getting enough, but perhaps women with very low intakes would benefit from DHA supplementation. My video Should Vegan Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy? explores the evidence available to date.

It’s interesting to note that, by 1978, researchers already were suggesting a plant-based diet as the diet of choice in the treatment of our number-one killer, heart disease, but babies breastfed by vegan moms had significantly less DHA in their bloodstreams, presumably because the moms had significantly less DHA in their breast milk.

The question is whether these differences are of any consequence. The growth and development of vegan and vegetarian born children are normal as long as they’re getting their B12, and “[t]here is no evidence that neural or intellectual functions are impaired.” In fact, the two studies we have on kids in vegetarian communities showed they had higher IQs, though that may be because their parents tended to be better educated. However, even though the kids seemed fine, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that there may be some “subtle differences…in visual or neural functioning.”

It would be interesting to compare the function of babies getting vegan breast milk levels versus general population levels. In one of the studies I profile in my video, it shows that vegans hit a level of 14, vegetarians 30, and omnivores 37. Another study compared 0 to 32, 64, and 96, and, though 32 worked better than 0, more than 32 didn’t add anything. This could explain why the general population at 37 doesn’t benefit from additional DHA supplementation. But what about down at 14? Most studies at that level show no advantage over 0, though one study found a benefit supplementing at as low as 5, but that doesn’t help us.

Just because babies breastfed by vegan moms have significantly lower DHA levels in the blood, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have lower levels in their brain, which is where it counts. What we need is a randomized, controlled trial in non-fish-eaters of DHA supplementation. Until then, it’s going to remain uncertain. So, what should pregnant and breastfeeding women who avoid fish do in the meanwhile? Low intake of DHA doesn’t “necessarily equate with fetal DHA inadequacy,” but new data suggest that some infants may not be getting enough and could benefit from their moms supplementing. Given this, I recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women on plant-based diets to follow the consensus guidelines to get about 200mg of preformed DHA from an uncontaminated source, like algae oil, which is probably the best combination for all women given the state of our world to minimize exposure to toxic pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs, and mercury. 


To gain a better understanding of why algae oil is better than purified fish oil, I encourage you to watch my video Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA.

I’ve discussed concerns about pollutants in seafood during pregnancy in a number of my videos:

Finally, for more on taking long-chain omega-3s to protect your heart, see: 

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA Supplements?

Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA Supplements?

One of the reasons breastfed infants may have better cognitive and visual development is because human milk contains long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids like the omega-3 DHA, while most available infant formulas do not, based on data I discuss in my video Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA?. Infants given control formula without DHA didn’t do as well as those given DHA-fortified formula, and neither group did as well as the breastfed infants, who serve as the “gold standard.” This was enough to convince formula manufacturers to start adding DHA to their infant formula starting back in 2002.

The question then became how much to add? Easy, right? Just add the amount that is naturally found in breast milk. However, the DHA level in breast milk is extremely variable depending on what the mom is eating. There are a number of healthy populations who don’t eat any seafood, for example, and they have much lower levels in their milk yet seem fine. So this makes it difficult to determine the optimal amount to add to formula or, for that matter, what to recommend for pregnant and breastfeeding women. “Consensus guidelines recommend that women should aim to consume an average of 200 mg” of DHA daily during pregnancy. “Simply encouraging pregnant women to eat more fish is not so simple, because most fish are to some extent contaminated” with toxic pollutants, such as mercury. (See my video Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development for more on this.) For most fish, such as tuna, the brain damage caused by the mercury would exceed the benefit from the DHA.

Additionally, some pollutants, like PCBs, can get stuck in our bodies for decades, so it’s not enough to just eat clean during pregnancy.

What about purified fish oil? The methods supplement manufacturers use, like distillation, leave considerable amounts of PCBs and other pollutants in the products, so much so that when taken as directed, salmon, herring, and tuna oils would exceed the tolerable daily intake of toxicity.

Thankfully, one can get the benefits without the risks by getting DHA from algae instead, which is where the fish eventually get it from themselves. So, pregnant and breastfeeding moms can cut out the middle-fish and get DHA directly from the source—at the bottom of the food chain where we don’t have to worry about toxic pollutants.

Until recently, we thought everyone should take these long-chain omega-3s for their heart. However, the balance of evidence is now such that doctors “should not recommend fish oil intake or fish consumption solely for the primary or secondary prevention of CHD,” coronary heart disease. But what about for expectant and breastfeeding mothers? What does the latest science show? Putting all the studies together, it turns out adding DHA to formula does not appear to help infant cognition after all, similar to other recent compilations of evidence that show “no significant benefit.” In fact, at least four meta-analyses, or systematic reviews, have reached a similar conclusion. These were based mostly on the standard series of measurements known as the Bayley Scales for Infant Development. If other tests were used, would there be different results? So far, no. Giving women DHA supplements during pregnancy did not appear to help with other outcomes, like attention span or working memory, either.

Although there may be no significant benefit to infant cognition, what about other things like vision? Six trials have been done to date supplementing pregnant women. Four showed no effect, and the two trials that showed benefit had some problems. So, while we really don’t know at this point, if all the studies so far show either nothing or benefit, why not just take them to err on the side of caution?

There may not be any demonstrable “clear and consistent” benefits, but there are new studies on this coming out all the time. If it’s harmless, maybe women should just take it to be on the safe side? The problem is that it may not be harmless in large doses. In a study in which women were given a whopping 800mg of DHA a day during pregnancy, infant “girls exposed to higher-dose DHA in utero [in the womb] had lower language scores and were more likely to have delayed language development than girls from the control group.”

So, the “absence of clear positive effects and the possible presence of negative effects in the children raise the question whether DHA supplementation is justifiable…” But it was a really large dose, suggesting that there may be “an optimum DHA level below and above which DHA might be detrimental to the developing brain.”


So, maybe too much is detrimental, but what about too little? I discuss that in Should Vegan Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy.

Other videos on the concerns about the pollutants in the aquatic food chain include:

For more on fish oil, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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The content for this post was sourced from www.NutritionFacts.org

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