What Is The Planetary Diet?

Is Your Diet Destroying The Planet?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

Earth Day has come and gone, but you are still committed to saving the planet. You save energy. You recycle. You drive an electric car. But is your diet destroying the planet?

This is not a new question, but a recent commission of international scientists has conducted a comprehensive study into our diet and its effect on our health and our environment. Their report (W. Willet et al, The Lancet, 393, issue 10170, 447-492, 2019 ) serves as a dire warning of what will happen if we don’t change our ways. I touched on this report briefly in a previous issue of “Health Tips From The Professor,” What Is The Flexitarian Diet , but this topic is important enough that it deserves an issue all its own.

The commission carefully evaluated diet and food production methods and asked three questions:

  • Are they good for us?
  • Are they good for the planet?
  • Are they sustainable? Will they be able to meet the needs of the projected population of 10 billion people in 2050 without degrading our environment.

The commission described the typical American diet as a “lose-lose diet.” It is bad for our health. It is bad for the planet. And it is not sustainable.

In its place they carefully designed their version of a primarily plant-based diet they called a “win-win diet.”  It is good for our health. It is good for the planet. And, it is sustainable.

In their publication they refer to their diet as the “universal healthy reference diet” (What else would you expect from a committee?). However, it has become popularly known as the “Planetary Diet.”

I have spoken before about the importance of a primarily plant-based diet for our health. In that context it is a personal choice. It is optional.

However, this report is a wake-up call. It puts a primarily plant-based diet in an entirely different context. It is essential for the survival of our planet. It is no longer optional.

If you care about global warming…If you care about saving our planet, there is no other choice.

How Was The Study Done?

The study (W. Willet et al, The Lancet, 393, issue 10170, 447-492, 2019 ) was the report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems. This Commission convened 30 of the top experts from across the globe to prepare a science-based evaluation of the effect of diet on both health and sustainable food production through the year 2050. The Commission included world class experts on healthy diets, agricultural methods, climate change, and earth sciences. The Commission reviewed 356 published studies in preparing their report.

 

Is Your Diet Destroying The Planet?

When they looked at the effect of food production on the environment, the Commission concluded:

  • “Strong evidence indicates that food production is among the largest drivers of global environmental change.” Specifically, the commission reported:
  • Agriculture occupies 40% of global land (58% of that is for pasture use).
  • Food production is responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater use.
  • Conversion of natural ecosystems to croplands and pastures is the largest factor causing species to be threatened with extinction. Specifically, 80% of extinction threats to mammals and bird species are due to agricultural practices.
  • Overuse and misuse of nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizers causes eutrophication. In case you are wondering, eutrophication is defined as the process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as phosphates from commercial fertilizer) that stimulate the growth of algae and other aquatic plant life, usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen. This creates dead zones in lakes and coastal regions where fish and other marine organisms cannot survive.
  • About 60% of world fish stocks are fully fished and more than 30% are overfished. Because of this, catch by global marine fisheries has been declining since 1996.
  • “Reaching the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming…is not possible by only decarbonizing the global energy systems. Transformation to healthy diets from sustainable food systems is essential to achieving the Paris Agreement.”
  • The world’s population is expected to increase to 10 billion by 2050. The current system of food production is unsustainable.

When they looked at the effect of the foods we eat on the environment, the Commission concluded:

  • Beef and lamb are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and land use.
  • The concern about land use is obvious because of the large amount of pasture land required to raise cattle and sheep.
  • The concern about greenhouse gas emissions is because cattle and sheep are ruminants. They not only breathe out CO2, but they also release methane into the atmosphere from fermentation in their rumens of the food they eat. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and it persists in the atmosphere 25 times longer than CO2. The single most important thing we can do as individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less beef and lamb. [Note: grass fed cattle produce more greenhouse gas emissions than cattle raised on corn because they require 3 years to bring to market rather than 2 years.]
  • In terms of energy use beef, lamb, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs all require much more energy to produce than any of the plant foods.
  • In terms of eutrophication, beef, lamb, and pork, all cause much more eutrophication than any plant food. Dairy and eggs cause more eutrophication than any plant food except fruits.
  • In contrast, plant crops reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

 

What Is The Planetary Diet?

In the words of the Commission: “[The Planetary Diet] largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils. It includes a low to moderate amount of seafood, poultry, and eggs. It includes no or a very low amount of red meat, processed meat, sugar, refined grains, and starchy vegetables.”

When described in that fashion it sounds very much like other healthy diets such as semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, DASH, and Flexitarian. However, what truly distinguishes it from the other diets is the restrictions placed on the non-plant portion of the diet to make it both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Here is a more detailed description of the diet:

  • It starts with a vegetarian diet. Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, soy foods, and whole grains are the foundation of the diet.
  • It allows the option of adding one serving of dairy a day (It turns out that cows produce much less greenhouse emissions per serving of dairy than per serving of beef. That’s because cows take several years to mature before they can be converted to meat, and they are emitting greenhouse gases the entire time).
  • It allows the option of adding one 3 oz serving of fish or poultry or one egg per day.
  • It allows the option of swapping seafood, poultry, or egg for a 3 oz serving of red meat no more than once a week. If you want a 12 oz steak, that would be no more than once a month.

This is obviously very different from the way most Americans currently eat. According to the Commission:

  • “This would require greater than 50% reduction in consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat and sugar, and greater than 100% increase in the consumption of healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.”
  • “In addition to the benefits for the environment, “dietary changes from current diets to healthy diets are likely to substantially benefit human health, averting about 10.8-11.6 million deaths per year globally.”

What Else Did The Commission Recommend?

In addition to changes in our diets, the Commission also recommended several changes in the way food is produced. Here are a few of them.

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel used to transport food to market.
  • Reduce food losses and waste by at least 50%.
  • Make radical improvements in the efficiency of fertilizer and water use. In terms of fertilizer, the change would be two-fold:
    • In developed countries, reduce fertilizer use and put in place systems to capture runoff and recycle the phosphorous.
    • In third world countries, make fertilizer more available so that crop yields can be increased, something the Commission refer to as eliminating the “yield gap” between third world and developed countries.
  • Stop the expansion of new agricultural land use into natural ecosystems and put in place policies aimed at restoring and re-foresting degraded land.
  • Manage the world’s oceans effectively to ensure that fish stocks are used responsibly and global aquaculture (fish farm) production is expanded sustainability.

What we can do: While most of these are government level policies, we can contribute to the first three by reducing personal food waste and purchasing organic produce locally whenever possible.

What Does This Mean For You?

If you are a vegan, you are probably asking why the Commission did not recommend a completely plant-based diet. The answer is that a vegan diet is perfect for the health of our planet. However, the Commission wanted to make a diet that was as consumer-friendly as possible and still meet their goals of a healthy, environmentally friendly, and sustainable diet.

If you are eating a typical American diet or one of the fad diets that encourage meat consumption, you are probably wondering how you can ever make such drastic changes to your diet. The answer is “one step at a time.”  If you have read my books “Slaying The Food Myths” or “Slaying the Supplement Myths,”  you know that my wife and I did not change our diet overnight. Our diet evolved to something very close to the Planetary Diet over a period of years.

The Commission also purposely designed the Planetary Diet so that you “never have to say never” to your favorite foods. Three ounces of red meat a week does not sound like much, but it allows you a juicy steak once a month.

Sometimes you just need to develop a new mindset. As I shared in my books, my father prided himself on grilling the perfect steak. I love steaks, but I decided to set a few parameters. I don’t waste my red meat calories on anything besides filet mignon at a fine restaurant. It must be a special occasion, and someone else must be buying. That limits it to 2-3 times a year. I still get to enjoy good steak, and I stay well within the parameters of the Planetary diet.

Develop your strategy for enjoying some of your favorite foods within the parameters of the Planetary Diet and have fun with it.

The Bottom Line

 

Is your diet destroying the planet? This is not a new question, but a recent commission of international scientists has conducted a comprehensive study into our diet and its effect on our health and our environment. Their report serves as a dire warning of what will happen to us and our planet if we don’t change our ways.

The Commission carefully evaluated diet and food production methods and asked three questions:

  • Are they good for us?
  • Are they good for the planet?
  • Are they sustainable? Will they be able to meet the needs of the projected population of 10 billion people in 2050 without degrading our environment.

The Commission described the typical American diet as a “lose-lose diet.”  It is bad for our health. It is bad for the planet. And it is not sustainable.

In its place they carefully designed their version of a primarily plant-based diet they called a “win-win diet.”  It is good for our health. It is good for the planet. And, it is sustainable.

In their publication they refer to their diet as the “universal healthy reference diet” (What else would you expect from a committee?). However, it has become popularly known as the “Planetary Diet.”

The Planetary Diet is similar to other healthy diets such as semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, DASH, and Flexitarian. However, what truly distinguishes it from the other diets is the restrictions placed on the non-plant portion of the diet to make it both environmentally friendly and sustainable (for details, read the article above).

I have spoken before about the importance of a primarily plant-based diet for our health. In that context it is a personal choice. It is optional.

However, this report is a wake-up call. It puts a primarily plant-based diet in an entirely different context. It is essential for the survival of our planet. It is no longer optional.

If you care about global warming…If you care about saving our planet, there is no other choice.

For more details read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Preventing Gestational Diabetes With Vitamin C

How to Get More Vitamin C During Pregnancy

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

Does the belief that some mothers are preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin C have any merit?

preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin cEach year about 280,000 women in the United States will develop gestational diabetes in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes has increased by 56% between 2000 and 2010 and now represents 7% of all pregnancies in the US.

These are alarming statistics because gestational diabetes can have devastating consequences for both the mom and the unborn baby. For example, gestational diabetes:

  • Can cause excessive birth weight that causes the baby to become stuck in the birth canal, which requires a C-section and/or may cause brain damage to the baby.
  • Can cause early (preterm) birth and/or respiratory distress symptom in the newborn infant.
  • Can lead to preeclampsia (high blood pressure), which causes several other problems.
  • Is associated with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life for both the mom and her baby.

Because of these risks it is of paramount importance that you get your blood sugar levels under control if you develop gestational diabetes. The first line of defense against gestational diabetes is diet, exercise, and weight management (more about that later). If that fails to get your blood sugar under control, your physician may recommend oral diabetes medications. However, the American Diabetes Association does not recommend their use during pregnancy because their safety has not been established in pregnant women. Instead, they recommend insulin because that does not cross the placenta.

So, what can you do? Gestational diabetes is like type 2 diabetes in that it is caused by insulin resistance. In last week’s issue of “Health Tips From the Professor,”  I discussed two recent publications that suggest vitamin C improves blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics. Could vitamin C do the same thing for gestational diabetes? One recent study, (C. Liu et al, Clinical Nutrition), says the answer may be yes.

How Was The Study Done?

preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin c studyThis study recruited 3,009 pregnant women from the ongoing Tongji Maternal and Child Heart Cohort study in the Wuhan region in China. Their average age was 28 and their average BMI was 20, which is in the healthy range. [Note: This is significantly different than in the United States, where a significant percentage of women enter pregnancy in the overweight or obese category.]

Gestational Diabetes was assessed by an oral glucose tolerance test (the most accurate method) during weeks 24-28 of pregnancy (third trimester). Of the participants, 344 (11.4%) developed gestational diabetes.

Diet and supplement use were assessed during their first prenatal care visit and at the beginning of each trimester. The assessment was conducted by a trained interviewer. The adequacy of vitamin C intake was based on Chinese standards and was divided into inadequate (<115 mg/day (range = 10-110), adequate (115-200 mg/day), and above adequate (greater than 200 mg/day (range = 200-567)).

In terms of supplementation:

  • 44% of the population used supplements containing vitamin C.
  • 6% of the population got their supplemental vitamin C from a multivitamin.
  • Not surprisingly, multivitamin use was much higher in the group with above adequate vitamin C intake.

 

Preventing Gestational Diabetes with Vitamin C

 

preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin c fruits and vegetablesThe major findings of this study were:

  • Dietary intake of vitamin C was inversely proportional to gestational diabetes.
  • Women with above average dietary vitamin C intake had a 26% lower risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • The primary dietary sources of vitamin C in the Chinese population were, in descending order, green leafy vegetables, cabbage, citrus fruits, chili peppers, and berries. These 5 foods accounted for 80% of the vitamin C in their diet.
  • A multivitamin supplement had no effect on gestational diabetes.

The authors concluded: “Sufficient dietary vitamin C intake (more than 200 mg/day) may protect pregnant women from developing gestational diabetes. Therefore, sufficient vitamin C from fruits and vegetables should be recommended.”  This means preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin C may be possible.

The authors pointed out that their data on multivitamin use was consistent with a recent US study (Y. Song et al, Diabetes Care, 34: 108-114, 201) showing that multivitamin use did not affect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but vitamin C supplementation did decrease risk. The authors said: “Whether pure vitamin C supplements have an effect on gestational diabetes risk needs further research.”

What Does This Study Mean For You?

  • preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin c meaningA recent study conducted in China reported that >200 mg/day of dietary vitamin C reduced the risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy by 26%.
  • The study found that multivitamin use did not affect the risk of developing gestational diabetes but did not assess the effect of vitamin C supplementation on the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • The Chinese consume a primarily plant-based diet. Fruit and vegetable consumption is much less in the US. Consequently, dietary vitamin C intake in the US is much less. For example:
  • The average dietary vitamin C intake in the Chinese study was 163 mg/day. In contrast, the average intake for women of childbearing age in the US is 91 mg/day.
  • In the US 12% of women of childbearing age are deficient in vitamin C and an additional 20% are getting less than the RDA of vitamin C from their diet.

This is a small study and needs to be confirmed by larger studies. However, the idea that vitamin C may help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes is consistent with recent studies suggesting vitamin C helps with blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes (see my recent issue of “Health Tips From The Professor:” Vitamin C and Diabetes).

So, what should you do to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes if you are pregnant or treat it if it develops when you are pregnant?

#1: Diet: Here is what the American Diabetes Association recommends:

  • Eliminate sodas, sweets, and highly processed foods from your diet. Also avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking.
  • Consume a variety of whole foods from all 5 food groups. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy, and low-fat meats.
  • Practice portion control. You are not really eating for two. Frequent small meals are better than 2 or 3 large meals.
  • You may want to consider a moderately low carb diet, but this is not the time to be cutting out nutrient-rich food groups. If you wish to go this route, I would suggest the low-carb version of the Mediterranean diet (minus the red wine, of course).

#2: Exercise: Exercise is a key component for controlling blood sugar levels. Consult with your physician about the best exercise program for you.

#3: Weight Management: The current recommendation for weight gain during pregnancy is between 25 to 35 pounds if you are at normal weight and 15-25 pounds if you are overweight. If you are gaining more than that, ask your physician for referral to a dietitian who can help you limit your weight gain. This is not the time to go on any extreme weight-loss diet.

  • For example, contrary to what you hear from keto advocates, this is not the time to go on the keto diet. Recent studies suggest that ketosis adversely affects brain development in the fetus. Until we know more, there is no reason to risk harm to your unborn baby.

#4: Diabetes Medications: The American Diabetes Association does not recommend diabetes medications if you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. They recommend insulin instead. However, some physicians still prescribe diabetes medications for women with gestational diabetes.

preventing gestational diabetes with vitamin c pills#5: Vitamin C: If you wish to avoid insulin or diabetes medications, you may want to try increasing your vitamin C intake first. Based on the current study and other recent studies, here are my recommendations:

  • Start with adding more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables to your diet. If your diet is like that of most US women of childbearing age, you will want to more than double your dietary vitamin C intake.
  • Consider adding a vitamin C supplement. In my previous “Health Tips From The Professor” I discussed a study showing that 1,000 mg/day improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Don’t think of vitamin C as a “magic bullet.” It will not control gestational diabetes by itself. It should be thought of as part of a holistic program that includes diet, exercise, and weight management.
  • The only caution I am aware of for vitamin C supplementation during pregnancy is that the newborn baby may metabolize vitamin C more rapidly. You will want to continue vitamin C supplementation while you are breastfeeding as a precaution.

 

The Bottom Line

 

  • A recent study conducted in China reported that >200 mg/day of dietary vitamin C reduced the risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy by 26%.
  • The study found that multivitamin use did not affect the risk of developing gestational diabetes but did not assess the effect of vitamin C supplementation on the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • The idea that vitamin C may help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes is consistent with recent studies suggesting vitamin C helps with blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.
  • The Chinese consume a primarily plant-based diet. Fruit and vegetable consumption is much less in the US. Consequently, dietary vitamin C intake in the US is much less.

This is a small study and needs to be confirmed by larger studies. However, the idea that vitamin C may help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes is consistent with recent studies suggesting vitamin C helps with blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.

So, what should you do to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes if you are pregnant or treat it if it develops when you are pregnant?

#1: Diet: Here is what the American Diabetes Association recommends:

  • Eliminate sodas, sweets, and highly processed foods from your diet. Also avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking.
  • Consume a variety of whole foods from all 5 food groups. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy, and low-fat meats.
  • You may want to consider a moderate low carb diet, but this is not the time to be cutting out nutrient-rich food groups. If you wish to go this route, I would suggest the low-carb version of the Mediterranean diet (minus the red wine, of course).

#2: Exercise: Exercise is a key component for controlling blood sugar levels. Consult with your physician about the best exercise program for you.

#3: Weight Management: The current recommendation for weight gain during pregnancy is between 25 to 35 pounds if you are at normal weight and 15-25 pounds if you are overweight. If you are gaining more than that, ask your physician for referral to a dietitian who can help you limit your weight gain. This is not the time to go on any extreme weight-loss diet.

  • For example, contrary to what you hear from keto advocates, this is not the time to go on the keto diet. Recent studies suggest that ketosis adversely affects brain development in the fetus. Until we know more, there is no reason to risk harm to your unborn baby.

#4: Diabetes Medications: The American Diabetes Association does not recommend diabetes medications if you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. They recommend insulin instead. However, some physicians still prescribe diabetes medications for women with gestational diabetes.

#5: Vitamin C: If you wish to avoid insulin or diabetes medications, you may want to try increasing your vitamin C intake first. Based on the current study and other recent studies, here are my recommendations:

  • Start with adding more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables to your diet. If your diet is like that of most US women of childbearing age, you will want to more than double your dietary vitamin C intake.
  • Consider adding a vitamin C supplement. Don’t think of vitamin C as a “magic bullet.” It will not control gestational diabetes by itself. Instead, it should be thought of as part of a holistic program that includes diet, exercise, and weight management.

For more details read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Vitamin C and Diabetes

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

vitamin c and blood sugar glucose testType 2 diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people in the US living with diabetes has more than tripled. In 2017 the CDC reported that 30.3 million Americans (9.4% of the population) had diabetes. Another 84.1 million had pre-diabetes, a condition which, if left untreated, will develop into diabetes within 5 years.

That is concerning, because type 2 diabetes can have devastating health consequences. It increases inflammation and oxidative damage. It significantly increases your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and some cancers. Then there is kidney disease, nerve pain, and loss of limbs.

It is the hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) associated with diabetes that plays a major role in many of these poor health outcomes. That is why so much effort is focused on helping people with type 2 diabetes gain better control of their blood sugar. Management of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes involves both medications and a healthy lifestyle (weight control, a healthy diet, and exercise). Unfortunately, despite their best efforts and the best efforts of their doctors, millions of Americans with diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels.

Is there a positive relationship between vitamin C and diabetes?

What if there were a simple, inexpensive intervention that could help diabetics control their blood sugar levels? Recent research suggests that vitamin C might be that intervention. Nobody is claiming that vitamin C is THE solution to blood sugar control. However, the recent research suggests it may be a useful addition to diabetes drugs and a healthy lifestyle.

 

Does Vitamin C Improve Blood Sugar Control?

 

vitamin c and blood sugar pillsThe idea that vitamin C may improve blood sugar control has been around for decades based on studies showing that vitamin C helps clear glucose from the circulation. Now, however, we are starting to understand how vitamin C does that.

But before I discuss how vitamin C may improve blood sugar control, the professor in me feels a need to explain what I call Diabetes 101. In type 1 diabetes the pancreas has become unable to produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes tissues have become resistant to the effects of insulin. I will focus on type 2 diabetes.

Glucose is the primary sugar in the bloodstream. Whenever blood sugar (glucose) increases, our pancreas responds by producing insulin. Insulin binds to receptors on our tissues and signals them to take up glucose and rapidly metabolize it. As a result, glucose is rapidly cleared from the circulation and blood sugar levels return to normal.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Simply put, our pancreas is still producing insulin, but our tissues have become less efficient at responding to it. Initially, the pancreas responds by overproducing insulin. A new homeostasis is achieved. Blood insulin levels are abnormally high, but glucose is still cleared from the circulation reasonably well. We call this pre-diabetes.

Eventually the pancreas loses the ability to overproduce insulin. Because our tissues are still insulin resistant, glucose is cleared from the circulation slowly. We now have trouble keeping blood sugar levels under control. We call this type 2 diabetes.

There are two major theories at present for why vitamin C may help diabetics control their blood sugar levels:

  • One theory holds that oxidative stress reduces the ability of the pancreas to release insulin. This theory suggests vitamin C improves insulin release from the pancreas, and the extra insulin overcomes insulin resistance and improves the ability of our tissues to clear glucose from the circulation.
  • The other theory holds that oxidative stress plays an important role in causing insulin resistance. This theory suggests vitamin C reduces insulin resistance and improves the clearance of glucose from the circulation by this mechanism.

There is some experimental evidence for both mechanisms. It may be that both play a role in vitamin C’s ability to improve blood sugar control.

How Were The Studies Done?

vitamin c and blood sugar studyIn terms of the effect of vitamin C on blood sugar control, there are two recent studies that have provided intriguing results.

The first study (Y. Song et al, Diabetes Care, 34: 108-114, 2011) was designed to see if supplementation with multivitamins or individual vitamin and mineral supplements affected the risk of developing diabetes among older US adults. It utilized data from the National Institutes of Health – American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health Study.

The study enrolled 566,402 AARP members ages 50-71 in 1995-1996. Upon entry into the program, participants filled out a dietary survey that included supplement usage. In 2004-2006 a follow-up survey was mailed out to surviving participants that asked about occurrences of major chronic diseases.

Because the onset of a major disease is known to affect supplement usage, all participants with pre-existing diabetes or who developed diabetes prior to 2,000 were excluded from this analysis. Of the remaining 232,007 participants, 217,877 did not have diabetes and 14,130 had developed diabetes between 2000 and the end of the study.

The second study (SA Mason et al, Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 21: 674-682, 2019 ) was a double blind, placebo controlled study design to determine whether supplemental vitamin C improved blood sugar control in people who already had type 2 diabetes.

In this study 31 adults (average age 62 years) were enrolled in the study. All the subjects were borderline obese and had type 2 diabetes. Five of the patients were being managed with lifestyle changes only. The other 26 patients were on one or more diabetes medications to help control their blood sugar levels.

The subjects were advised to avoid supplementation prior to the study. They were then given either 1,000 mg of vitamin C (two 500 mg capsules) or a placebo to take for 4 months. After the first 4-month period they were put on a “washout” protocol with no supplementation. Then they were put on a second 4-month regimen in which they received the opposite tablets (Those who received vitamin C during the first 4 months received a placebo during the second 4 months and vice versa.) Compliance with the protocol was determined by measuring blood levels of vitamin C.

The subjects were outfitted with a continuous blood glucose monitor for a 48-hour period at the beginning and end of each 4-month regimen. They were given standardized meals during those 48-hour test intervals and their blood sugar response to the meals was continuously monitored over the next 48 hours.

Vitamin C and Diabetes

 

vitamin c and blood sugar glucose meterThe results of the first study were:

  • Multivitamins and most of the individual supplements tested had no effect on the risk of developing diabetes over the next 10 years. The only supplements that reduced the risk of developing diabetes were vitamin C and calcium.
  • Vitamin C reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 9%.
  • The benefits of vitamin C appeared to be limited to individuals who did not use multivitamins and who had low dietary intake of vitamin C (No surprises there. Supplementation is usually most effective when it is filling in nutritional gaps).

This study has several obvious limitations:

  • It is an association study, so it does not prove cause and effect.
  • It does not tell us whether vitamin C prevents diabetes or simply improves blood sugar control in people who are borderline diabetic.
  • It did not measure how much supplemental vitamin C people were taking. However, based on what is available in the marketplace, it is probably safe to assume it was between 500 and 1,000 mg/day.

However, this study did lay the groundwork for the second study.

The results of the second study were that 4 months of vitamin C supplementation reduced:

  • The blood sugar response to standardized meals by 36%.
  • The duration of high blood sugar following a standardized meal by 1.7 hours.
  • The amount of time during the day with high blood sugar levels by 2.8 hours.

These are all important improvements for anyone with type 2 diabetes. In the words of the authors: “The improvement in total daily time spent with hyperglycemia [high blood sugar] is of potential clinical importance as the risk of complications in type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with previous hyperglycemia.”

The authors went on to say: “Compliance in the present study was high [people did not find it difficult to take 2 tablets a day] and the number of reported adverse effects was low, suggesting that vitamin C may be safely and consistently used in addition to [emphasis mine] primary diabetes treatment. Given the potential side effects with common anti-diabetic medications…, the idea that a relatively benign and inexpensive vitamin supplement might play a role in managing diabetes has particular appeal.”

Note: This was a very well-designed study. Its weakness is its small size. While it is consistent with other recent studies, larger clinical trials are needed to confirm this effect. 

What Do These Studies Mean For You?

vitamin c and blood sugar meaningThe idea that vitamin C may help with blood sugar control has been around for decades. These studies provide experimental support for that idea. While both studies have limitations, they are consistent with other recent studies. Much more research is needed, but it is good to finally see the hypothesis being rigorously tested.

So, what do these studies mean for you? Here is the take home message:

  • Although more studies are needed, vitamin C appears to help with blood sugar control.
  • We don’t know how much vitamin C is needed, but the most recent study was done with 1,000 mg/day. That is more than can be obtained from diet alone.
  • The improvement in blood sugar control was significant, but it was not huge. Vitamin C will not replace a healthier weight, a healthy lifestyle, and exercise.
  • You should think of vitamin C as something you add to the treatment plan your doctor recommends for type 2 diabetes. At best it may allow your doctor to reduce the amount of medication they prescribe.

If you have type diabetes, here are my recommendations:

  • If you are overweight, try to attain and maintain a healthier weight.
  • Eat a whole food, primarily plant-based diet. Avoid sodas, sweets, and highly processed foods. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans in their natural, unprocessed state. Include small amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy. Think of them as the garnish, not the main course.
  • Add a daily vitamin C supplement.
  • If that is not enough, ask your doctor what medications he or she recommends.

Other nutrients that may help are chromium, taurine and alpha lipoic acid. Herbs that may help are bitter melon and gymnema.

 

The Bottom Line

 

What is the association between vitamin C and diabetes? The idea that vitamin C may help with blood sugar control has been around for decades. Two recent studies provide experimental support for this idea. The second study showed that 4 months of 1,000 mg/day vitamin C supplementation reduced:

  • The blood sugar response to standardized meals by 36%.
  • The duration of high blood sugar following a standardized meal by 1.7 hours.
  • The duration of the day with high blood sugar levels by 2.8 hours.

These are all important improvements for anyone with type 2 diabetes. In the words of the authors: “The improvement in total daily time spent with hyperglycemia [high blood sugar] is of potential clinical importance as the risk of complications in type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with previous hyperglycemia.”

While this study has limitations, it is consistent with other recent studies. Much more research is needed, but it is good to finally see the hypothesis that vitamin C improves blood sugar control being rigorously tested.

So, what do these studies mean for you? Here is the take home message:

  • Although more studies are needed, vitamin C appears to help with blood sugar control.
  • We don’t know how much vitamin C is needed, but the most recent study was done with 1,000 mg/day. That is more than can be obtained from diet alone.
  • The improvement in blood sugar control was significant, but it was not huge. Vitamin C will not replace a healthier weight, a healthy lifestyle, and exercise.
  • You should think of vitamin C as something you add to the treatment plan your doctor recommends for type 2 diabetes. At best it may allow your doctor to reduce the amount of medication they prescribe.

For more details and my recommendations read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Maximizing Polyphenols Benefits

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Gut Bacteria And Polyphenols

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

How to maximize polyphenols benefits?

grape polyphenolsPolyphenols are ubiquitous in the plant world. There are many kinds of polyphenols, and they are found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. You probably already know that polyphenols are also found in tea, coffee, chocolate, and many herbs and spices.

Polyphenols are thought to have a wide array of health benefits. For example, the polyphenols in grapes are thought to:

  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
  • Prevent or delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The amazing thing is that polyphenols are effective at all. They are poorly absorbed and rapidly eliminated from the circulation. For example, resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red grapes, only stays in the circulation for a few hours.

In the case of resveratrol, we know that, during its brief time in our bodies, it turns on “anti-aging” genes that control things like inflammation, protection against free radical damage, cholesterol metabolism, blood sugar control, and blood pressure. We are less certain how other polyphenols exert their beneficial effects during the short time they are in our bodies.

When we scientists are facing a problem like this, it stimulates our creative thinking. We start asking questions like:

  • Can we improve the absorption of beneficial polyphenols into the bloodstream?
  • Would that improve their effectiveness and health benefits?

A recent review (D Zhao et al, Critical Reviews In Food Science and Nutrition: Jan 7, 1-29, 2019) looked at the first question. It summarized the most promising strategies for improving the absorption of grape polyphenols. We don’t yet know the answer to the second question.

Before I discuss the most promising strategies, the professor in me wants to cover Polyphenols 101, something I call “The Symbiotic Relationship Between Gut Bacteria and Polyphenols”.

 

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Gut Bacteria and Polyphenols

 

polyphenols gut bacteriaThe world of polyphenols is complex. For example:

  • Resveratrol is the best-known and best-studied polyphenol in grapes, but there are dozens of other beneficial polyphenols in grapes.
  • Each of these polyphenols have unique metabolic pathways and unique health benefits.
  • Each variety of grapes has a unique blend of polyphenols.
  • Each polyphenol is metabolized differently by our gut bacteria and by enzymes in our body.
  • You start with dozens of polyphenols in the grape and end up with hundreds of metabolites in the body.
  • Some of these metabolites are better absorbed. Some are not absorbed at all. Some of these metabolites are highly active. Others are inactive. The possibilities are endless.

As if that weren’t enough, there are two more complexities to factor into the equation.

  • There is a symbiotic relationship between gut bacteria and polyphenols.
  • Our gut bacteria influence the metabolism and absorption of the polyphenols in our diet.
  • The polyphenols we consume influence the population of bacteria in our gut.
  • The kinds of fiber we consume influence which bacteria populate our gut, and that, in turn, influences how we metabolize the polyphenols we consume.

Faced with this level of complexity, there have been two types of approaches to improving the absorption of polyphenols.

  • The pharmaceutical approach, which tries to bypass the complexities of polyphenol absorption.
  • The natural approach, which tries to optimize the complexities of polyphenol absorption.

The review (D Zhao et al, Critical Reviews In Food Science and Nutrition: Jan 7, 1-29, 2019) gives examples of each type of approach, which I will discuss below.

 

Maximizing Polyphenols Benefits

 

polyphenols effectivenessPharmaceutical Approaches: These are approaches designed to bypass the complexities of polyphenol absorption. The authors considered the following two strategies to have the most probability of success:

  • Chemical alteration of polyphenol structure. This is a classical pharmaceutical strategy. You start with naturally occurring compound that has medicinal benefit. Then you chemically modify it in multiple ways until you find a chemical modification that is efficiently absorbed and is stable in the circulation. There are two drawbacks to this approach:
  • You have created a new compound with its own properties. You have created a drug that needs to be tested for safety and efficacy. Resveratrol, for example, offers a cautionary tale. A drug company modified it. The modified form was efficiently absorbed and was stable in the bloodstream. They thought they had created the perfect drug. Unfortunately, when they tested it, they found out it was toxic.
  • Even if you did optimize safety and efficacy of the polyphenol, you have only optimized one polyphenol out of the dozens found in the real food.
  • Incorporate the polyphenol into nanoparticles that are absorbed so efficiently by the intestine that they effectively bypass metabolism by gut bacteria. This is a strategy currently being explored by drug companies to improve the efficacy of poorly absorbed drugs. Even if successful, this approach has the same type of drawbacks.
  • This is a relatively new technology. There are some concerns it may not be safe.
  • Foods have dozens of polyphenols. A nanoparticle strategy may improve the absorption of one or two polyphenols, but it is unlikely to replace the real food.

maximize polyphenols benefitsNatural Approaches: These approaches are designed to optimize the complexities of polyphenol absorption.

  • Develop a probiotic supplement containing bacteria that improve polyphenol uptake. There is some promising research in this area.
  • However, when we talk about gut bacteria, the phrase “It takes a village” takes on a whole new meaning. There may be dozens of bacteria involved in improving polyphenol uptake, not just one or two. The probiotic supplement may need to be a horse pill
  • Add fiber to the diet to support the growth of the gut bacteria that enhance the absorption of polyphenols. This may be the most promising strategy.
  • Studies have already shown that pectin and similar non-digestible polysaccharides improve the absorption of polyphenols found in grapes and many other foods.
  • While grapes are low in pectin, other fruits (most notably apples, peaches, citrus fruit, apricots, and plums) are high in pectin. Legumes and some vegetables are also high in pectin. The only reason you don’t find them on most lists of high pectin foods is these lists are for foods that have enough pectin to make good jams without any added pectin. Legumes and vegetables are also high in insoluble fibers, which interfere with the gelling required for a good jam. Besides, kale or pea jam are probably not high on anyone’s list of favorite jams.
  • The best thing about this approach is that it is completely natural. It involves eating a plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables whole grains, and legumes, something humans have been doing for thousands of years. This a diet chock full of beneficial polyphenols and the fiber needed to support the gut bacteria that help us utilize those polyphenols. There are no side effects. There is no danger associated with this approach. 

Once again, Mother Nature knows best.

Addendum

While writing this article I happened to read “The People’s Pharmacy” column by Joe & Terry Graedon in our local paper (Yes, I still read a physical newspaper). They were talking about combining pectin with grape juice to relieve arthritis pain. Some of the polyphenols in grape juice have anti-inflammatory effects. But, grape juice alone is not very effective at relieving arthritis pain. However, it turns out that pectin plus grape juice, something called “purple pectin remedy,” is a home remedy for arthritis pain relief that has been around since the 1940s. They did not discuss a mechanism, but now we know how it works.

Note: I suppose if you are getting your grape polyphenols from grape juice, wine, or some other liquid source, you could stir in some pectin to improve their absorption. However, my recommendation would be to consume a primarily plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes along with your liquid polyphenol source.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Resveratrol and other polyphenols found in grapes have many health benefits. However, these polyphenols are poorly absorbed. A recent review described ongoing research into approaches for improving the absorption of grape polyphenols

I discuss the various approaches that are being studied in my article above. Some are pharmaceutical approaches that involve structural alterations to the polyphenol or nanoparticle delivery systems to improve absorption. Others involve probiotics that contain bacterial strains that enhance polyphenol absorption. Each of these approaches have limitations, or dangers, or both.

The most promising approach was to simply add fiber to the diet to support the growth of the gut bacteria that enhance the absorption of polyphenols.

  • Studies have already shown that pectin and similar non-digestible polysaccharides improve the absorption of polyphenols found in grapes and many other foods.
  • While grapes are low in pectin, other fruits (most notably Apples, peaches, citrus fruit (especially the skin), apricots, and plums) are high in pectin. Legumes and some vegetables are also high in pectin. The only reason you don’t find them on most lists of high pectin foods is these lists are for foods that have enough pectin to make good jams without any added pectin. Legumes and vegetables are also high in insoluble fibers, which interfere with the gelling required for a good jam. Besides, kale or pea jam are probably not high on anyone’s list of favorite jams.
  • The best thing about this approach is that it is completely natural. It involves eating a plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables whole grains, and legumes, something humans have been doing for thousands of years. This a diet chock full of beneficial polyphenols and the fiber needed to support the gut bacteria that help us utilize those polyphenols. There are no side effects. There is no danger associated with this approach.

Once again, Mother Nature knows best.

Note: If you are getting your grape polyphenols from grape juice, wine, or some other liquid source, you could stir in some pectin to improve their absorption. However, my recommendation would be to consume a primarily plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes along with your liquid polyphenol source.

For more details read the article above. You will also find an interesting story about the “purple pectin remedy”.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Are Eggs Bad For You?

Do Eggs Increase Heart Disease Risk?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

are eggs bad for youThe “eggfusion” (That’s short for egg confusion) continues.

  • First there were the warnings that eggs were bad for your heart because egg yolks contained cholesterol, and cholesterol was to be avoided at all costs.
  • Then experts decided that dietary cholesterol wasn’t all that bad for you. It was saturated fats, obesity, and lack of exercise that raised “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in your bloodstream.
  • That was followed by several US studies suggesting that eggs in moderation (one per day) did not affect your risk of heart disease.
  • Then, about a year ago, a major study claimed that an egg a day actually lowered your risk of heart disease.

Now, the latest headlines claim that eggs increase your risk of heart disease, and you should avoid them. Are eggs bad for you? No wonder you are confused. Let me review the latest study and put it into perspective by comparing it to previous studies.

How Was The Study Done?

are eggs bad for you studyThis study (WW Zhong et al, JAMA, 321: djw322, 2017 combined the data from 6 clinical trials in the United States that assessed dietary intake and measured cardiovascular health outcomes. In all, these studies included 29,615 adults who were followed for an average of 17.5 years.

The diet of the participants was assessed upon entry into each of the clinical trials. The primary variables derived from the dietary information were cholesterol and egg consumption. Diet was not assessed at later times in these studies.

The primary outcomes measured were heart disease and all-cause mortality. In this study heart disease was an umbrella term that included fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and death from other heart-related causes.

The association of cholesterol and eggs with heart disease and mortality were similar. Similarly, the effect of cholesterol and eggs on both heart disease risk and mortality were similar. Most people know how many eggs they eat but have no idea how much cholesterol they consume. Thus, for simplicity I will just focus on the association between egg consumption and heart disease risk.

 

Do Eggs Increase Heart Disease Risk?

do eggs increase heart attacksHere are the main findings from this study.

  • Each additional half an egg consumed per day (which is equivalent to 3-4 eggs per week) was associated with a:
  • 6% increased risk of heart disease. While that doesn’t sound like much, the increased risk was over 13% for one egg per day and almost 27% for two eggs per day.
  • The increased heart disease risk associated with one half egg per day was greater for:
  • Women (13% increase) than men (3% increase)
  • People who already had high blood cholesterol (7% increase) than people who already had low cholesterol levels (0% increase). This suggests that the effect of eggs on heart disease risk primarily affects people who are already having trouble controlling their blood cholesterol levels – either due to genetics or due to diet & lifestyle.

Of course, the question is whether it was the eggs that increased the risk of heart disease or was it something else in the diet. This study attempted to answer that question by systematically subtracting out other variables that affect heart disease risk to see whether that correction eliminated the association between egg consumption and heart disease risk. When this was done:

  • The association between egg consumption and heart disease risk disappeared after correcting for dietary cholesterol intake.
  • The association between egg consumption and heart disease risk remained significant after correcting for other components of the diet, such as fats, animal protein, fiber, sodium, or overall “diet quality”. There were 3 main measures of diet quality.
  • The Med diet score measures how closely the diet resembles the Mediterranean diet.
  • The DASH diet score measures how closely the diet resembles the DASH diet.
  • The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures how closely the diet aligns with the USDA Dietary Guidelines For Americans. Basically, the HEI recommends a whole food diet containing foods from all 5 food groups with a heavy emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It also recommends limiting saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

In simple terms these data suggest that the effect of eggs on heart disease risk was primarily due to their cholesterol content and was not influenced by other components of the overall diet.

What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Study?

are eggs bad for you strength weakness studyThe strengths are obvious. This was a very large study (29,615 participants) and the people enrolled in the study were followed for a long time (an average of 17.5 years). The primary variables in the study (cholesterol consumption, egg consumption, heart disease, and all-cause mortality) were accurately measured in each of the clinical trials included in the study.

However, there were some significant weaknesses as well:

  • Cholesterol and egg consumption were only measured by a single dietary survey when people entered the study. This study assumes they did not change over the course of the study. That is very unlikely. Both cholesterol intake and egg consumption in the US population have waxed and waned over the years, in part due to variations in dietary guidelines.
  • The measurements of diet quality used were based on US and European food preferences. That is significant because the only studies showing that egg consumption lowers heart disease risk were performed in China and Japan, where the diet is closer to semi-vegetarian than to US or European diets.

 

Are Eggs Bad For You?

thumbs downAre eggs bad for you?

This is very large, well designed study that combines the data from 6 clinical trials spanning the years 1974 to 2013.

The strongest conclusions from the study are:

  • In the context of a Western diet (the US diet) egg consumption slightly increases your risk developing heart disease. The increased risk is ~6% for 3-4 eggs/week, ~13% for 1 egg per day, and ~27% for two eggs per day.
  • The increased risk of heart disease appears to be almost entirely due to the cholesterol content of eggs.

The significance of this study needs to be weighed in the context of:

  • Recent studies in the US and Europe showing eggs do not increase heart disease risk.
  • Studies in China and Japan (where the diets can best be described as semi-vegetarian) showing that eggs decrease heart disease risk.

The significance of this study also needs to be weighed in the context of:

  • Studies showing that obesity, saturated fat, and physical inactivity have bigger effects on serum cholesterol levels and heart disease risk than dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs.

What Did This Study Miss?

are eggs bad for you breakfastIf, as this study suggests, the effect of eggs on heart disease risk is due to their cholesterol content, this study (and most previous studies) missed a very important point. The effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels is not strongly affected by the overall composition of the diet. It is affected by the composition of the diet at the time foods containing dietary cholesterol are eaten.

  • The kind of fiber found in certain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes bind to dietary cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed as it passes through the intestine.
  • Certain phytonutrients in plant foods affect how dietary cholesterol is utilized by the body.
  • Our gut bacteria depend on the fiber we eat. They utilize the fiber for energy and release metabolites that affect how dietary cholesterol is utilized by the body.
  • However, to blunt the effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels, the fiber and phytonutrient-containing foods must be consumed at the same meal.

Simply put, if your breakfast consists of eggs, sausage, biscuits, and hash browns, the cholesterol in the eggs will likely increase your blood cholesterol level, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. This will occur even if you eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes with your other meals.

If, on the other hand, your breakfast consists of eggs and fiber-rich plant foods like oatmeal and beans, the cholesterol in the eggs will likely have a much smaller effect on your blood cholesterol levels and your heart disease risk.

The fact that previous studies have not looked at what foods were consumed along with the eggs may explain some of the variation in their conclusions about the effect of egg consumption on heart disease risk.

 

The Professor’s Story

professor owlLet me share my story with you. About 25 years ago, my doctor told me that my cholesterol levels were getting high and wanted to put me on statins. I didn’t stop eating eggs for breakfast. I changed breakfast.

Now I soft boil my eggs or fry them in olive oil. I eat them along with oatmeal, which contains a fiber that binds cholesterol, and walnuts, which contain omega-3s and phytonutrients that lower blood cholesterol. I also include whatever fruit is in season. Finally, I take a supplement providing 2 grams of plant stanols and sterols, which block cholesterol absorption from the intestine.

My blood cholesterol levels have been low ever since. I have not had to take statins, and I get to enjoy the taste and health benefits of an egg every day. Of course, what worked for me may not work for you. The effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels is also affected by genetics, weight, and fitness, just to name the top three.

 

Are Eggs Bad For You or Good For You?

thumbs upOnce you get past the cholesterol problem, eggs are a very healthy food.

  • Studies have shown that egg protein results in better blood sugar control, better satiety (feeling of fullness), and reduced subsequent food intake in healthy and overweight individuals. In layman’s terms that means egg protein can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Egg yolks are a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. We think of lutein and zeaxanthin as good for eye health. They also play an important role in protecting against oxidation, inflammation, and atherosclerosis.
  • Egg yolks also contain choline. We think of choline as good for brain and nerves. But, choline and other phospholipids in the yolk also raise HDL levels and enhance HDL function.
  • Eggs are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, selenium and iron.
  • Eggs contain almost twice as much monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as saturated fats.

What Does This Mean For You?

  • what does this mean for youThe latest study suggests that eggs may increase your risk of heart disease, and this is due to their cholesterol content.
  • This study needs to be considered in the context of recent studies in the US showing that egg consumption did not increase heart disease risk and studies in China and Japan showing that egg consumption lowered heart disease risk.
  • It is also important to consider that egg consumption in China and Japan is in the context of a semi-vegetarian diet. This suggests that diet plays a role in determining the effect of egg consumption on heart disease risk.
  • However, if you take this study at face value, there are two things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease:
  • Reduce dietary cholesterol by avoiding eggs or using egg whites.
  • Eat eggs in moderation along with fiber- and phytonutrient-rich plant foods that negate the effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels. I recommend oatmeal or beans, nuts or seeds, and fiber rich fruits and vegetables. These should be consumed at the same meal to minimize the effect of the cholesterol in the eggs on blood cholesterol levels.
  • Eggs are a very healthy food, so I recommend the second option if possible. Get your blood cholesterol levels measured to determine which approach works best for you.
  • Finally, we need to recognize that egg consumption plays a relatively minor role in determining heart disease risk. Other factors play a much larger role in influencing heart disease risk. For example:
  • Smoking, obesity, inactivity, saturated and trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Omega-3s, antioxidants, and a primarily plant-based diet like the Mediterranean diet significantly decrease your risk of heart disease.

If we wish to reduce our risk of heart disease, this is where we should focus most of our attention. We can minimize the effect of egg consumption on heart disease risk by changing the foods we eat with the eggs. For more information on how to reduce your risk of heart disease, read my books, “Slaying The Food Myths” and “Slaying The Supplement Myths.”

 

The Bottom Line

  • The latest study suggests that eggs increase your risk of heart disease because of their cholesterol content.
  • This was a very large study. It combined the data from 6 clinical trials spanning the years 1974 to 2013. It followed 29,615 people for an average of 17.5 years. However, it has two significant weaknesses:
  • It only determined cholesterol intake and egg consumption at the time people entered the clinical trials. Both cholesterol intake and egg consumption have waxed and waned considerably over the years covered by these clinical trials.
  • It did not measure what foods were consumed along with the eggs. Foods consumed along with eggs have a strong influence on how much the cholesterol in the eggs influences blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, influences the effect eggs have on heart disease risk.
  • This study also needs to be considered in the context of recent studies in the US showing that egg consumption did not increase heart disease risk and studies in China and Japan showing that egg consumption lowered heart disease risk.
  • However, if you take this study at face value, there are two things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease:
  • Reduce dietary cholesterol by avoiding eggs or using egg whites.
  • Eat eggs in moderation along with fiber- and phytonutrient-rich plant foods that negate the effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels. I recommend oatmeal or beans, nuts or seeds, and fiber rich fruits and vegetables. These should be consumed at the same meal to minimize the effect of the cholesterol in the eggs on blood cholesterol levels.
  • Eggs are a very healthy food, so I recommend the second option if possible. Get your blood cholesterol levels measured to determine which approach works best for you.
  • Finally, we need to recognize that egg consumption plays a relatively minor role in determining heart disease risk. Other factors play a much larger role in influencing heart disease risk. For example:
  • Smoking, obesity, inactivity, saturated and trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Omega-3s, antioxidants, and a primarily plant-based diet like the Mediterranean diet significantly decrease your risk of heart disease.

If we wish to reduce our risk of heart disease, these are the areas where we should focus most of our attention. We can minimize the effect of egg consumption on heart disease risk by changing the foods we eat with the eggs. For more information on how to reduce your risk of heart disease, read my books, “Slaying The Food Myths” and “Slaying The Supplement Myths.”

For more details and to learn how the professor does about egg consumption, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Groin Pain Relief

What Is The Pectineus Muscle And Why Is It Important?

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Spring Is In The Air

spring floridaI remember as a child we sang “Though April showers may come your way…they bring the flowers that bloom in May…”

Of course, here in Florida we are blessed with flowers all year, but there’s still a lovely feeling that happens in Spring.  It’s still cool enough most days to go out running, and the humidity is still low.  Traffic will soon be easing up as our friends from the north start their trek back home, and daylight savings time is giving us more time to get to the beach for sunset.  Lovely!

Fun Facts About Spring….

  • The earliest known use of the term “spring cleaning” was in 1857
  • The word “spring” has been used for the season since the 16th century
  • The first day of spring is called the vernal equinox
  • On the first day of spring, the sunrise and sunset are about 12 hours apart everywhere on earth
  • Spring fever isn’t just a saying. Experts say the body changes due to the temperature and can cause an upset in your health.
  • The actual start of spring varies from March 19th to the 21st, but it is commonly celebrated on the 21st.

Do you like to garden?  Now is the perfect time to get your gardens planted so you’ll have home grown veggies for the entire summer.  For me, it’s also a great time to do some spring cleaning and get the house in order before the summer closes all the windows and the air conditioning becomes our indoor relief.

But these activities can also cause a strain on muscles, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you put too much strain on muscles you haven’t used all winter, you can develop problems and need groin pain relief.

 

A Tiny Muscle Can Cause Groin Pain

groin pain relief pectineusLately I’ve had several clients come in because of groin pain that has their medical practitioners stumped.  Their symptoms are varied, but most complain that it feels like they hit their pubic bone with a rubber mallet.  Ouch!

One client loves to ride her horse, but the pain had prevented that for several weeks. Another was considering selling the motorcycle that she and her husband love because she just can’t sit on it anymore.

Several years ago, I had a male client tell me that he had this same pain and he was told it could be his prostrate causing the issue.  Fortunately, that wasn’t he problem at all.

The muscle that caused all these problems, and a lot more, is the Pectineus.

The Pectineus muscle originates on your pubic bone and inserts into the very top of your inner thigh bone (femur).

You can see the Pectineus and surrounding muscles more clearly by going to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pectineus_muscle

Most muscles have more than one function, and this is true for the Pectineus.  The function we’ll look at today is called adduction.  It brings your leg in toward midline.  If you think of a soccer player kicking the ball with the inside of his ankle, it was the Pectineus that helped draw his leg in so he could do the shot.

Each of my clients had pain while trying to bring their leg out so they could sit on their horse, or on their motorcycle.  The tight muscle was pulling on their pubic bone and causing a severe strain.

This muscle is easier to have someone else treat it for you because of its location but give it a try and see if you can locate & treat it yourself.

 

Groin Pain Relief

groin pain relief treatmentThe picture to the left is showing an athlete self-treating her adductors.  These muscles, and the Pectineus muscle, all originate at the same point on the pubic bone.  The picture is showing her massaging the middle of the adductors.

To reach the Pectineus, move the ball all the way up to the crease in your leg.  You can do the treatment with a ball, but because of the size of the muscle and its location, it’s easier to do it with your fingertips.

Sit as this athlete is sitting, and even bring your opposite leg up so your foot is flat on the floor.  For example, in this picture, the athlete would bring her right leg up so her right foot is on the floor, and then lean a bit further onto her left hip.  That opens up the area so she can reach a bit easier into the muscle while using her fingertips.

Press into the muscle, being careful to feel for a pulse, and moving if you feel one.  If the Pectineus is in spasm, you’ll know it immediately when you press on it.  If it’s not in spasm, you won’t be able to find it at all.

Remember to stay within your pain tolerance level, this isn’t a “no pain, no gain” situation.  Never go deeper than what feels tender, but not so much that you want to faint. Hold the pressure for 15 seconds. Then let up on the pressure, but keep your fingers in the same place.

Repeat this movement several times. Each time it will hurt less, and eventually it won’t hurt at all.  That’s when the muscle has completely released, and you will have relief from the pain.

It’s as simple as that!

Why stay in pain when it’s so easy to find the muscular source of the problem and eliminate it?

calf cramps remedy bookTreat Yourself to Pain-Free Living (https://julstromethod.com/product/treat-yourself-to-pain-free-living-hardcopy/). It is filled with over 100 pictures and descriptions proven to show you how to find and self-treat muscle spasms from head to foot!

Join the 1000’s of people worldwide who have discovered that tight muscles were the true source of pains they thought were from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other serious conditions.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by releasing tight muscles.

Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living is your step-by-step guide to pain relief!

 

Wishing you well,

 

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

julie donnellyAbout The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

Colon Cancer Prevention

Why Is Colon Cancer Increasing In Young Adults?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

colon cancer intestinesA recent study on colorectal cancer reminds me of that famous Dickens quote: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

The good news (best of times) is that colorectal cancer rates in the United States have been declining for several decades for adults over 50. The decline is attributed to a healthier lifestyle and better screening.

The bad news (worst of times) is that colorectal cancer rates are increasing at an alarming rate for young adults. We have also learned recently that heart attacks are increasing for young women.

These studies are a wake-up call. We need to be asking:

  • Why are young people in our country dying from diseases that we traditionally associate with older adults?
  • What can we do about it?

How Was The Study Done?

colon cancer studyThis study (RL Siegel et al, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 109 (8): djw322, 2017 ) was an analysis of data collected between 1974 and 2013 from a registry of cancer diagnoses called the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. The data were collected from nine regions of the United States (Atlanta, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Seattle-Puget Sound, San Francisco-Oakland, and Utah).

In this study 490,305 patients 20 years and older developed colorectal cancer between 1974 and 2013. This study divided those colorectal cancer cases into 11 age groups (20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, and 84+). The study then compared colorectal cancer rates for each age group in 8 five-year time periods (1974-1978, 1979-1983, 1984-1988, 1989-1993, 1994-1998, 1999-2003, 2004-2008, and 2009-2013).

What Did The Study Show?

colon cancer increaseWhen the investigators looked at the change in colon cancer incidence over time in different age groups, the results were quite alarming.

  • For adults age 20-29 colon cancer rates increased by 2.4% per year between the mid-1980s and 2013. While that doesn’t sound like much, 2.4% per year adds up. Colon cancer rates almost doubled between 1985 and 2013 for that age group.
  • For adults age 30-39 colon cancer rates increased by 1% per year over that same time period. That’s a 25% increase between 1985 and 2013.
  • By the mid-1990s colon cancer rates started increasing by 1.3% per year for the 40-49 age group and 0.5% per year for the 50-54 age group.
  • The only good news was that colon cancer rates continued to decrease for adults aged 55 and above.

When the investigators looked at the change in rectal cancer incidence over time in different age groups the results were even more alarming.

  • For adults age 20-29 rectal cancer rates increased by 3.2% per year between 1974 and 2013. That’s an almost 4-fold increase in rectal cancer for that age group.
  • For adults age 30-39 rectal cancer rates increased by 3.2% per year between the mid-1980s and 2013. That’s about a 3-fold increase.
  • By the 1990s rectal cancer rates started increasing by 2.3% per year for the 40-49 age group and the 50-54 age group.
  • Once again, the only good news was that rectal cancer rates continued to decrease for adults aged 55 and above.

 

Why Is Colon Cancer Increasing In Young Adults?

 

whyThis study is a clear wake-up call. If colorectal cancer rates are increasing so dramatically in young adults, it does not bode well for them once they reach their 60s, 70s and beyond. This is an impending health crisis. We need to ask:

  • Why this is happening?
  • What can we do about it?

The simple answer to the first question is that no one knows for sure why colorectal cancer incidence is increasing in young adults. However, here is what experts think might be happening:

  • Obesity is a prime suspect. The increase in colorectal cancer incidence in young adults closely parallels the obesity epidemic, and obesity is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Many of today’s most popular diets may just make matters worse. Fad diets promise rapid weight loss, but they may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Fad diets often restrict fruits, grains, and/or legumes. Plant based diets containing lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are associated with a significantly lower risk of colorectal cancer. We have no evidence that we can leave out any component of a plant-based diet and still reduce colorectal cancer risk to the same extent.
  • Fad diets often emphasize red meat as a protein source. The World Health Organization considers red meat as a probable carcinogen. The association between red meat consumption and cancer incidence is stronger for colon cancer than for any other cancer.
  • Fad diets are often high in saturated fats, and saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Finally, fad diets are often low in fiber. Low fiber diets alter our microbiome (gut bacteria), and recent research suggests our microbiome may play an important role in preventing colon cancer.
  • The typical American diet is no better. It is high in red meat and saturated fats. It is low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fiber. Plus, it is high in sugar, sweets, and refined grains. With respect to colorectal cancer risk, it is the worst of all possible worlds.
  • We don’t get enough folic acid, calcium and omega-3s in our diet. Those nutrients are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • We don’t move enough. A sedentary lifestyle is also associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Cigarettes and alcohol are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, smoking and alcohol consumption have been declining in recent years, so they do not explain the increase in colorectal cancer we are seeing in young adults.

In summary, the authors of this study concluded: “These results highlight the need for…research to elucidate causes for the…increase in disease risk in young [adults], as well as creative new strategies to curb the obesity epidemic and shift Americans towards healthier eating and more active lifestyles.”

Colon Cancer Prevention

 

colon cancer fruits and vegetablesIf you are a young adult, you are probably wondering what you can do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. The good news is that we have a good idea of how to reduce the risk of colon cancer, and it works at any age.

Let’s start with the American Cancer Society recommendations  for decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer. They are (with direct quotes from The American Cancer Society in quotation marks):

  • Get screened for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that screening start at age 45. However, you may want to consult with your doctor about earlier screening if you have a family history of early-onset colon cancer, have blood in your stool, or develop bowel changes that last more than a few weeks.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. According to the American Cancer Society: “Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with decreased risk of colon or rectal cancers.”
  • Eat less red meat and processed meats. They “have been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.”
  • Get regular exercise. “If you are not physically active, you may have a greater chance of developing colon or rectal cancers.”
  • Watch your weight. “Being overweight increases your risk of getting and dying from colon or rectal cancer.”
  • Don’t smoke. “Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colon or rectal cancer.”
  • Limit alcohol. “Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.”

 

Other experts recommend:

  • Limit saturated fats. Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Get plenty of fiber. That should be no problem if you are consuming a primarily plant-based diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
  • Make sure you are getting enough folic acid, calcium, and omega-3s. I recommend supplementation because even healthy diets often fall short of these nutrients.

I would add one final recommendation:

  • Avoid fad diets that take you away from a healthy eating pattern (described above), one that is known to reduce colorectal cancer risk.

 

The Bottom Line

 

A recent study has reported an alarming increase in colorectal cancer incidence in young adults.

  • For adults in the 20-29 age range, colon cancer incidence has increased 2-fold and rectal cancer incidence has increased 4-fold over the last few decades.
  • Colon and rectal cancer incidence have also increased significantly for adults in the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups.
  • The only good news from this study is that colon and rectal cancer incidence is continuing to decline for older adults.

This is a clear wake-up call. If this trend is not reversed, it does not bode well for these adults when they reach their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.

For more details on what experts think is causing this alarming increase in colorectal cancer among young adults and what young adults can do to protect themselves from colorectal cancer, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Are Heart Attacks Increasing in Young Women?

Why Are Heart Attacks Increasing In Young Women?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

are heart attacks increasing in young women age 32-54Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, but things seemed to be getting better. More people are following heart-healthy diets and the treatment of heart disease has improved. One recent study found that the overall rate of heart disease has decreased by 38% in the U.S. since 1990. Heart attack rates have also been inching down in recent years.

Are heart attacks increasing in young women?

That’s why the latest study was both surprising and concerning. If it is to be believed, heart attack rates are increasing in young Americans, especially young women. That is particularly shocking because young women are thought to be protected from heart disease by their estrogen. Until recently, heart attack rates have been lower for young women than for young men. It hasn’t been until after menopause that women caught up to men in terms of their risk for a heart attack.

Obviously, this study raises several questions:

  • Is it true?
  • Why are heart attacks increasing in young women?
  • What should young women be doing to prevent heart disease?

 

How Was The Study Done?

heart attacksThis study (S Arora et al, Circulation, 139: 1046-1056, 2019 was an offshoot of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Surveillance Study. The ARIC study collected data on hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (or in layman terms, heart attacks) for patients aged 35-74 in four geographical areas in the U.S. (Forsyth County in North Carolina, Washington County, Maryland, Jackson, Mississippi, and the Northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota).

During the time period of 1995 to 2014 28,732 people ages 35-74 were admitted to one of the participating hospitals for a heart attack. The results of the original study have been published previously (WD Rosamond et al, Circulation, 125: 1848-1857, 2012 ). For the population as a whole:

  • The annual rate of hospital admissions for a heart attack decreased by around 3.5% during this time period, and…
  • The annual rate of death following a heart attack decreased by around 3%.

However, the current study focuses on the younger people in the study (ages 35-54) and came to a surprisingly different conclusion. Contrary to the results obtained with the general population, the rate of heart attacks increased in younger people.

 

What Did The Study Show?

are heart attacks increasing in young women studyAlthough the article uses the terms “young adults” and “young women,” I realize that some of you may consider that misleading. My only comment is whether you consider the 35-54 age range to be “young” or not probably depends on which side of 35 you are on.

Having said that, when the authors compared younger people in the study (the 35-54 age group) with everyone in the 35-74 age group they found:

  • The overall proportion of hospitalizations for heart attack among young people increased from 27% in 1995 to 32% in 2014.
  • The increase in heart attack rate was most dramatic for young women.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack increased from 30% to 33% for young men. This increase was non-significant.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack increased from 21% to 31% for young women. This increase was highly significant.
  • This is a wake-up call. We now appear to be entering an era in which heart attack rates for young women (ages 35-54) equal those of young men. The protective effects of estrogen have disappeared.

 

Why Are Heart Attacks Increasing In Young Women?

 

are heart attacks increasing in young women obesityAs I said at the beginning, there are several questions we need to answer:

  • Is this study true? There are some limitations to this study, but it is a fairly robust study. A similar study in Canada came to the same conclusion, and several other studies have suggested a similar trend. More research is needed, but this is a very disturbing finding.
  • Why are heart attacks increasing in young women? The short answer to this question is that we don’t know. However, the study offers several hints.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack were highly correlated with a history of high blood pressure and diabetes. Obesity was not measured in this study, but it increases the risk of both high blood pressure and diabetes. Experts have been warning for years that the obesity epidemic may undo all the progress we have made at reducing heart disease deaths. This study may be the first indication that the prediction is coming true.
  • Young women were less likely than young men to be receiving lipid-lowering medications and other medications to reduce heart disease risk at the time of admission for their first heart attack. This may reflect a perception among both patients and physicians that young women are less likely to develop heart disease than young men.
  • Young women may be less likely to seek medical advice about how to control obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and medical professionals may not treat these conditions as aggressively as they do for young men.
  • The current study suggests the perception that obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are less likely to cause heart attacks in young women than in young men is no longer true, if it ever was.
  • The early symptoms of a heart attack are different for women than for men. For men heart attacks are associated with chest pain. For women early symptoms of an impending heart attack may be back pain, nausea, or dizziness. Both women and their doctors may not recognize these symptoms early enough to fend off a full-blown heart attack.
  • What should young women be doing to prevent heart disease? This is the topic of the next section.

What Should Every Woman Know About Heart Disease?

 

what every woman should know about heart diseaseThere are several simple lessons every woman should take from this and similar studies.

  • Heart disease is not a male disease. If that were ever true, it is definitely no longer true.
  • Don’t assume your risk is low until you reach menopause. This study suggests today’s young woman is just as likely to have a heart attack as a young man.
  • Obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are killers. The good news is that if you start while you are young, you can reverse these killers with diet and lifestyle changes.
  • A heart healthy diet and lifestyle is important at every age. Don’t fall for the diet fads. Despite what Dr. Strangelove’s health blog would have you believe, saturated fats increase your risk of heart disease. A whole-food, primarily plant-based diet is the only proven dietary approach for reducing heart disease risk long term. For more information on how you can protect your heart, read my books. “Slaying The Food Myths” and “Slaying The Supplement Myths”.
  • Get regular checkups. If you develop risk factors for heart disease, don’t ignore them. Treat them aggressively. This requires a partnership between you and your doctor. Your part of the partnership is to make the necessary lifestyle changes to reverse these risk factors. Your doctor’s role is to provide appropriate medications to control these risk factors if you are unable to control them with lifestyle changes alone.

 

The Bottom Line

 

While heart disease has been declining in the general population, a recent study has shown that heart attacks are on the increase for young adults.  In particularly, heart attacks are increasing in young women.

  • The overall proportion of hospitalizations for heart attack among young people increased from 27% in 1995 to 32% in 2014.
  • The increase in heart attack rate was most dramatic for young women.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack increased from 30% to 33% for young men. This increase was non-significant.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack increased from 21% to 31% young women. This increase was highly significant.
  • This is a significant and disturbing finding. We now appear to be entering an era in which heart attack rates for young women equal those of young men. The protective effects of estrogen have disappeared.
  • Note: The authors defined 35-54 years old as young. Whether you consider that young or not probably depends on which side of 35 you are on.
  • Hospitalizations for heart attack were highly correlated with a history of high blood pressure and diabetes. Obesity was not measured in this study, but it increases the risk of both high blood pressure and diabetes. Experts have been warning for years that the obesity epidemic may undo all the progress we have made at reducing heart disease deaths. This study may be the first indication that the prediction is coming true.

For more details and my recommendations for what every woman should know about heart disease read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

What is the Flexitarian Diet?

Is The Flexitarian Diet Good For You And Good For The Planet?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

flexitarian diet breaking newsIf you follow U.S News & World Reports, you may have noticed that the Flexitarian Diet was ranked #3, just slightly behind the Mediterranean and DASH diets. You may be scratching your head and wondering: “What is the Flexitarian Diet?” There are so many popular diets these days that it is hard to keep track. It is confusing. To paraphrase the old baseball quote: “You can’t tell the diets without a scorecard.”

Let me provide you with that scorecard. I will describe the Flexitarian Diet and answer two important questions:

  • Is the Flexitarian Diet good for you?
  • Is the Flexitarian Diet good for the planet?

 

What Is The Flexitarian Diet?

flexitarian diet to lose weightThe term “flexitarian” was coined 10 years ago by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in her book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way To Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years To Your Life.” Flexitarian is simply a contraction of the phrase “flexible vegetarian.”

Blatner’s premise was two-fold:

  • A vegan diet is very healthy. It is also very restrictive and hard for most people to follow.
  • Allowing small amounts of meat and other animal products in a primarily vegetarian diet would preserve most of the health benefits of a vegan diet. It would also be more flexible and easier to follow.

The Flexitarian Diet has no strict rules or calorie limits. It has no prohibited foods or food groups. It is neither low-carb nor low-fat. It focuses more on what to eat than on what not to eat. It is just based on a few general principles:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. In other words, it is a primarily plant-based diet.
  • Focus on protein from plants rather than from animals.
  • Be flexible and incorporate small amounts of meat and animal products in your diet. Flexibility reigns here. The diet recognizes that some people do better with more meat and animal products than others.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.
  • Limit added sugars and sweets.

If you have read my book, “Slaying The Food Myths,” you know that this is essentially a semi-vegetarian diet. It is also very similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

 

Is the Flexitarian Diet Good For You?

 

flexitarian diet good for youAs you may have guessed from the title of her book, Dawn Jackson Blatner claimed her diet would help you lose weight, get healthier, reduce your risk of diseases, and add years to your life. You might ask: “Is there any basis for her claims?”

The answer is “Yes,” but the evidence does not come from studies of the Flexitarian Diet. The evidence is based on similarities between the Flexitarian Diet and the semi-vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet.

I have covered the health benefits of these diets in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.” In summary, compared to people following the typical American diet or meat-based low-carb diets, people following these 3 diets:

  • Tend to weigh less.
  • Have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  • Have a lower risk of some forms of cancer.
  • Have lower blood pressure.
  • Have less inflammation.

In addition, a paper has recently been published entitled, “Flexitarian Diets and Health: A review of the Evidence-Based Literature” (EJ Derbyshire, Frontiers In Nutrition, 3: 1-7, 2017). The title is a bit misleading in that the review did not include any studies on Flexitarian Diets (There have been none). Instead, the study reviewed 25 studies of semi-vegetarian diets published between 2000 and 2016 and relied on the fact that the Flexitarian Diet and semi-vegetarian diets are virtually identical.

The study concluded that semi-vegetarian (Flexitarian) diets:

  • Resulted in weight loss.
  • Improved metabolic markers (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar levels).
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Reduced the risk of type-2 diabetes.
  • May play a role in the management of Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease.

In short, there is no direct evidence that the Flexitarian Diet is healthy. However, its similarity to semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, and DASH diets makes it highly likely that the Flexitarian Diet is very good for you.

 

Is The Flexitarian Diet Good For The Planet?

 

flexitarian diet good for planetThe short answer is “Yes.” More importantly, it is critical for the health of our planet that we adopt a more plant-based diet. Our current diet is not environmentally sustainable.

That assessment is based on four factors; Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Population Growth. Here are some fast facts to ponder:

  • Food production currently is responsible for:
    • 40% of global land, and land conversion for food products is the single most important driver of biodiversity loss.
    • Up to 30% of global greenhouse emissions.
    • 70% of freshwater use.
  • The population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion people between now and 2050. That raises two important issues:
    • How are we going to feed those people?
    • How are we going to do it in a sustainable manner?
  • Ruminant animals (cattle and sheep, for example) are the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because they not only breathe out CO2, but they also release methane into the atmosphere from fermentation of the food they eat in their rumens. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and it persists in the atmosphere 25 times longer than CO2. The single most important thing we can do as individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less beef and lamb.

Two major studies have published recently that have evaluated the effect of food production on our planet.

The first study (L Aleksandrowicz et al, PLOS One, 11(11): e0165797, 2016) reviewed 63 studies that looked at the effect of dietary patterns on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water use. It concluded that moving from our current diet to a more plant-based diet would:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land use for food production by 70-80%.
  • Reduce water use for food production by 50%.

The degree to which all these parameters could be reduced was generally proportional to the extent to which animal foods were replaced with plant foods (vegan > semi-vegetarian > Mediterranean).

The second study (W. Willet et al, The Lancet, 393, issue 10170, 447-492, 2019) was the report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems. This Commission convened 30 of the top experts from across the globe to prepare a science-based evaluation of the effect of diet on both health and sustainable food production through the year 2050. The Commission reviewed 356 published studies in preparing their report.

Based on an exhaustive evaluation of the literature on healthy diets and sustainable food production, the Commission recommended something they called the “Planetary Health Diet.” This science-based diet ended up being very close to the Flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) diet.

  • It starts with a vegetarian diet. Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, soy foods, and whole grains are the foundation of the diet.
  • It allows the option of adding one serving of dairy a day (It turns out that cows produce much less greenhouse emissions per serving of dairy than per serving of beef. That’s because cows take several years to mature before they can be converted to meat, and they are emitting greenhouse gases the entire time).
  • It allows the option of adding one 3 oz serving of fish or poultry or one egg per day.
  • It allows the option of swapping seafood, poultry, or egg for a 3 oz serving of red meat no more than once a week. If you want a 12 oz steak, that would be no more than once a month.

In other words, it is a less flexible version of the Flexitarian diet. You could also consider it a restrictive version of the Mediterranean or DASH diets.

The Commission concluded:

  • “A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet.”
  • “Shifting from unhealthy diets to the ‘planetary health diet’ can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition toward a sustainable global food system by 2050 that ensures healthy food for all within planetary boundaries.”

 

The Bottom Line

 

The Flexitarian Diet has been in the news lately. You might be asking 3 questions:

  • What is the Flexitarian Diet?
  • Is it good for me?
  • Is it good for the planet?

Here are the answers:

#1: The Flexitarian Diet is a contraction of the phrase “flexible vegetarian.” It is a vegetarian diet that allows small amounts of meat, dairy, and/or eggs. It is virtually identical to what has been called a semi-vegetarian diet for years and is very similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

#2: There is no direct evidence that the Flexitarian diet is healthy. However, its close similarity to the semi-vegetarian, Mediterranean, and DASH diets makes it highly probable that the Flexitarian Diet is a healthy diet. It is likely to be good for you.

#3: When greenhouse gas emissions, land & water use, and population growth are all taken into account, experts have concluded that the only sustainable diet is a semi-vegetarian diet in which meat, dairy, and eggs are severely restricted (details in the article above). You can think of it as a less flexible version of the Flexitarian diet or a very restrictive form of the Mediterranean or DASH diets.

According to these experts, controlling carbon emissions from fossil fuels is not enough. We also must change what we eat if we wish to avoid catastrophic global warming.

For more details read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Biceps Pain Caused by a Tiny Muscle

An Unexpected Cause Of Biceps Pain

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

It’s Spring In Florida

spring flowersMarch is a beautiful time of year here in Florida, and it’s the beginning of Spring for our friends and relatives in the northern states.  I lived most of my life in New York, and I loved when the purple crocuses started peeping up through the snow.  Spring was on its way!

Of course, on March 17th there is also that fun holiday – St. Patrick’s Day.  The parade in New York City is the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, followed by Dublin. In fact, the first parade in New York was in 1762, a full 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  It’s a huge party, a parade that lasts for hours officially, and then the party continues for many more hours unofficially.

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!  So, whether you are born Irish, or you’re just Irish for the day, I wish you this popular Irish blessing…

“May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

And may the sun shine be warm upon your face.”

 

A Tiny Muscle Can Cause Shoulder And Arm Pain

biceps pain subclavius muscleA tiny muscle that can cause biceps pain.

There is a pencil thin muscle that runs from the cartilage of your 1st rib to the end of your clavicle (collar bone). The name of the muscle is Subclavius.

The subclavius muscle lifts your first rib when you inhale so your lungs can expand, and it also stabilizes the joint between your clavicle and your sternum.  It’s a small muscle and most people aren’t aware of it, or how it helps us.

Normally this muscle is not repetitively strained, however during a time of rapid breathing it can go into spasm.  Perhaps you have a cough and you are doing sudden, rapid breaths. Or, maybe you are a runner and you’re breathing rapidly. Anything that makes you take deep breaths quickly can cause muscle spasms to form in your subclavius muscle.

As shown by the green shading on the chart, the referred pain for the subclavius goes across the entire length of the front of your shoulder, and then continues down biceps muscle on the front of your arm.  The darker shading demonstrates where the greatest pain is felt. While the pain is most frequently felt in the shoulder, biceps pain can also occur.

 

An Unexpected Cause Of Biceps Pain

biceps pain treatmentIf you have pain in your biceps muscle, you may not consider that a muscle spasm in the top/front of your chest is the source of the problem. If rubbing and stretching your biceps isn’t giving relief, you are stuck for a solution.  Yet, just putting direct pressure on the spasm, located at your sternum, just under your collarbone, will solve the problem.

Press your finger directly onto the spot.  If you don’t find a tender point, move ½” toward the outside and continue pressing until you find a tender point.  This is the spasm that is causing the pain pattern.

It’s as simple as that!

 

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

Check It Out!

If you would like easy to follow instructions on how to relieve joint pain and muscle tightness from head to toe click here  to check out Julie Donnelly’s Pain Relief System today. Whenever, I have pain and stiffness I use her techniques. They work!