Parasites on the brain

Chronic Headaches and Pork Parasites
August 26, 2014 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 1 Comment

Neurocysticercosis is the sciencey name for an infection of the human central nervous system by pork tapeworm larvae. The invasion of baby pork tapeworms in the brain “has become an increasingly important emerging infection in the United States,” and is the #1 cause of epilepsy in the world. It is the most common parasitic disease of the human brain and used to be found throughout only the developing world (with the exception of Muslim countries, since less pork is consumed there). That all changed about 30 years ago, and now it’s increasingly found throughout North America.

Besides seizures, the pork parasites may actually trigger brain tumors or cause an aneurism or psychiatric manifestation like depression. It can also result in dementia, but with deworming drugs this is often reversible. Only rarely do surgeons have to surgically remove the larvae.

I’ve talked about pork tapeworms before (see my videos Pork Tapeworms on the Brain, Avoiding Epilepsy Through Diet, and Not So Delusional Parasitosis). What’s new is that we now know that they may present as chronic headaches—either migraines or so-called “tension-headaches”—even when the worms in our head are dead. What researchers think is happening is that as our body tries to chip away at the worms’ calcified bodies, bits of them may be released into the rest of our brain causing inflammation that could be contributing to headaches.

This condition is rare even in endemic areas, but we can avoid getting infested with an adult tapeworm in the first place by cooking pork thoroughly. It’s found in some parts of pig carcasses more than others (see the meat chart here), and the worms can be frozen to death no matter how infested the muscles are by storing pork (cut up into small pieces) for a month at subzero temperatures. Then to ensure the larvae are dead the meat is recommended to be cooked for more than two hours. That’s one well-done pork chop!

The New England Journal of Medicine recently featured a case of some guy who must have had thousands of pork tapeworm larvae wriggling through his muscles. In my video, Chronic Headaches and Pork Tapeworms, you can see an x-ray, showing the thousands of little white streaks in this man’s body. Each white streak is a baby tapeworm. That’s why you can get infected by pork, it gets in the muscles. So cannibals might want to cook for two hours too.

Not all parasites are associated with meat, though. An anxious but healthy 32-year-old male physician presented to the family medicine clinic with a sample of suspected parasites from his stools, which had been retrieved from the toilet that same day. They looked to be about an inch long. He had previously traveled to India, had Chinese food the night before—who knows what he had. Maybe it was hookworms? The sample was sent to the microbiology laboratory for analysis. Later that day, the microbiology physician called to report positive identification of Vigna radiata (previously known as Phaseolus aureus) in the stool sample. Or in common parlance, a bean sprout. They were bean sprouts!

“The patient was called and gently but firmly informed of the diagnosis. Given the nature of the identified specimen, the information was presented in a non-judgmental, respectful manner so as not to offend the sensibilities or sensitivities of the patient.”

Their parting advice to fellow physicians in cases of this nature was as follows: “as comical as the findings might seem–try not to laugh!”

Other parasites in meat include toxoplasma (Brain Parasites in Meat), sarcosystis (USDA Parasite Game), and Anisakis (Allergenic Fish Worms). There can even be critters in some dairy products (Cheese Mites and Maggots). Eating Outside Our Kingdom describes a brain malady caused not by meat parasites, but by meat proteins themselves.

One of the nice things about eating plant-based is that plant parasites, like aphids, don’t affect people. When is the last time you heard of someone coming down with a bad case of Dutch elm disease?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: ML Cohen / Flickr

Tagged aneurism, brain disease, brain health, brain parasites, brain surgery, brain tumors, cooking methods, dementia, depression, epilepsy, eye disease, eye health, eye parasites, food poisoning, foodborne illness, headaches, inflammation, meat, migraine, muscle disease, muscle health, neurocysticercosis, parasites, polyphenols, pork seizures, sprouts, surgery, tapeworms

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

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Are low-sodium diets unhealthy?



Find out from salt expert Jay Kenney, PhD, FACN, RD, Educator and Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida. Dr. Kenney also writes continuing education courses for registered dietitians nationwide on salt intake and disease.

Are low sodium diets healthy or unhealthy?

Are low-sodium diets healthy? You’d think not if you paid attention to the recent media frenzy on two new studies. Probe deeper. Get Dr. Kenney’s analysis.

Did you read last week’s Wall Street Journal article “Low-Salt Diets May Pose Health Risks, Study Finds” or the WebMD Health News article “Studies Question Need to Watch Salt” or other media reports on two new studies in the August 14th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine?

If so, you were likely led to believe that these studies seriously undermine current World Health Organization and U.S. recommendations to reduce sodium, the main component of salt.

Faulty science

But don’t believe the media hype. And don’t believe that all studies are created equal. Some have serious shortcomings, and that’s the case for these two new studies.

Unfortunately, too, sometimes physicians themselves do not realize the poor quality of the research they are reviewing. For example, in an accompanying editorial in NEJM, Dr. Suzanne Oparil of the University of Alabama enforced the studies’ conclusions about low-salt diets possibly causing harm.

But right off the bat, what’s really strange about these studies is that while they assert a link between low-sodium eating and disease, they also acknowledge that high-sodium eating leads to high blood pressure, or hypertension.

WebMD‘s Barbara Goodman quotes Dr. Martin O’Donnell, one of the study’s lead authors, as saying: “We’re not challenging the blood pressure contention here. We’re seeing it, too. We’re seeing a clear association between sodium intake and blood pressure.” But he asserts that at less than 6,000 milligrams a day, sodium intake does not seem to prevent heart attacks, congestive heart failure, strokes, or deaths.

Say, what?

Okay, let’s stop right here. The authors agree that higher salt intake (and anything over 3,000 milligrams is certainly higher salt intake) raises blood pressure, but mysteriously, this increased blood pressure does not translate into more deaths, heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke?

Does this not seem odd? Oddness like this happens when the science is poor.

PURE nonsense

The two studies Dr. O’Donnell and colleagues were involved in used data from the ongoing Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Crunching the numbers on more than 100,000 people ages 35 to 70 years in 17 countries, they concluded that 3.1% of those who consumed between 3,000 and 6,000 milligrams of sodium daily either died or suffered congestive heart failure, heart attacks, or strokes. Among those eating less than 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily, 4.3% suffered the same.

At intake higher than 6,000 milligrams, the percentage of disease and deaths was 3.2%; above 7,000 millgrams, it was 3.3%.

A single urine test

But here’s problem #1 with their results. The authors estimated sodium intake based on a singlemorning urine collection. I believe my fellow Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board colleague Tom Rifai, MD, FACP, had the best response: “Really?! One single urine sample at the start of a short-term study, and we want to fight tons of direct clinical trial evidence proving that the more sodium we consume, the greater our risk of high blood pressure and a multitude of diseases?”

Very short study duration

As Dr. Rifai points out, another key problem with these studies was their very short length. The authors reached their conclusions based on an average of only 3.7 years, and what they found was strictly an association, not cause and effect. “In a short-term study like this,” explains Dr. Rifai, “low-sodium intake could have been a marker of disease and poor appetite.” In other words, it wasn’t the lower-sodium diet causing the diseases; the lower-sodium intake (and lower food intake overall) could simply have been a by-product of the diseases themselves.

“And likely,” notes Dr. Rifai, “some of those diseases, like heart failure, were brought on over the course of many decades by high sodium intake.”

Congestive heart failure

It is well known that many people who are sicker, and particularly those with failing hearts, are likely to be eating less food. Many will also be cutting back on salty foods because excessive dietary salt can cause fluid retention, which can make breathing difficult by causing lung congestion. Most people with congestive heart failure are expected to die over the next five years, and largely from cardiovascular disease. Were these authors not aware of such clinical observations?

Potassium-rich foods

One of the studies1 also observed that those with urine showing a low potassium content were significantly more likely to die. Foods rich in potassium, such as fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and beans, are indeed vital because they help blunt some of the toxic effects of sodium in the body.

Of course, the most obvious explanation for both a lower intake of potassium and a lower intake of sodium is that sicker people are simply eating less food. To this reviewer, this seems highly likely, but unfortunately, such an obvious explanation for their data seems to have largely escaped Dr. O’Donnell and the rest of the PURE research team.

Are low-sodium diets healthy?  Yes.

High sodium + low potassium = higher blood pressure

The other study2 also found that people who consumed less potassium and more sodium had higher blood pressure on average, and this was particularly true in those who were older and had elevated blood pressure to begin with.

So these two new studies, despite their limitations of using a single morning urinary sample to estimate how much sodium and potassium their subjects were consuming, still observed that more salt (and less potassium) intake was significantly associated with higher blood pressure.

Higher blood pressure over the long term, study after study over the past several decades has affirmed, is the single greatest cardiovascular risk factor and predictor of earlier mortality.

How long does it take to lower blood pressure?

Many people can reduce their high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, in as little as 3 days to 3 weeks. Lower Your Blood Pressure

“If you believe hypertension kills, and you should, it’s really tough to deny the results of superbly designed research like the DASH studies3 showing that healthy eating plus low sodium intake – optimally no more than 1,500 milligrams daily – markedly improves blood pressure, which should markedly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death,” sums up Dr. Rifai, who leads clinics in weight, diabetes, and hypertension control at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Oakland, Michigan.

“As a practicing physician, I’ve seen the ravages of high sodium in the clinic thousands of times, and no observational study is going to outweigh direct clinical trials. Believe me, serious nephrologists and cardiologists are both laughing and crying over these new studies, crying because these studies confuse their patients, potentially causing terrible increases in terrible diseases like strokes. Hypertension is the #1 cause of strokes.”

Hypertension accounts for more than 9 million deaths annually

Let’s return to Dr. Oparil’s NEJM editorial. It starts off fine. She states that more than 1 billion adults worldwide have hypertension, and that “hypertension accounts for more than 9 million deaths annually.” However, she then goes on to say that the new research does provide evidence that low levels of sodium excretion may be associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular-disease outcomes.

Reverse causation

Is Dr. Oparil not aware of reverse causation? In her statement above, she is inferring that eating less sodium may cause increased risk of death and disease. But as we discussed earlier, isn’t the reverse far more likely? Eating less sodium is not causing illness but is very likely the result of serious illness.

Dr. Oparil says that without a long-term clinical trial to show the safety and efficacy of salt reduction, “the results argue against reduction of dietary sodium as an isolated public health recommendation.” In his WSJ article, author Ron Winslow quotes Dr. Oparil as saying this study “adds a pretty big weight on the side that low-salt intake is associated with harm” and that the current low-sodium targets are “questionable health policy.”

But how could low-sodium targets be questionable health policy when these two new studies showed unequivocally that higher sodium intake was significantly associated with higher blood pressure, which is the very same disease that Dr. Oparil declared accounts for more than 9 million deaths annually?

1.65 million deaths attributed to sodium intake above 2,000 mg a day

There was a third study4 in the same issue of NEJM. Its data, derived from complex calculations of results from 107 randomized studies, found that 1.65 million deaths worldwide from cardiovascular causes in 2010 were attributed to sodium consumption above 2,000 milligrams a day.

Unfortunately, though, this third study received far less attention from the media. Why? One likely reason is that it is telling us what we already know: higher salt consumption leads to higher rates of disease. This is not a headline that sizzles and sells newspapers.

But it is a headline that rings true. It is a headline based on solid science. “High sodium intake is known to increase blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke,” summed up lead author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Low-Sodium Diet

Try this healthy low-sodium diet for 5 days. Meal Plan for High Blood Pressure

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A stay with us will change your life. Weekend Health Retreat

For his study, Dr. Mozaffarian and colleagues collected and analyzed existing data from 205 surveys of sodium intake in many countries representing nearly three-quarters of the world’s adult population. The data were combined with other global data on food intake to estimate sodium intakes worldwide by country, and by men and women of various ages in those countries. The effects of sodium consumption on blood pressure and of blood pressure on cardiovascular disease were then determined separately in new pooled meta-analyses that included differences by both age and race. These findings were then combined with current rates of cardiovascular disease around the world to estimate the numbers of cardiovascular-related deaths likely attributable to sodium intake in excess of 2,000 milligrams per day.

Reducing sodium intake lowered blood pressure in all adults

Sodium Intake on a healthy low-sodium diet.

The researchers found that the average intake of sodium intake worldwide in 2010 was 3,950 mg per day, or nearly double the 2,000 mg per day recommended by the World Health Organization, and nearly triple the 1,500 mg of sodium now recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the 1,200 to 1,500 mg long recommended by the Pritikin Longevity Center. This data showed that every region of the world was well above these currently recommended sodium intake levels. Regional average sodium intake ranged from a low 2,180 mg per day in sub-Saharan Africa to 5, 510 mg per day in Central Asia. In their meta-analysis of controlled intervention studies, the researchers also found that reducing dietary sodium intake lowered blood pressure in all adults, with the largest effects seen in older individuals, blacks, and those with pre-existing hypertension.

“These 1.65 million deaths represent nearly one in 10 of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide. No world region and few countries were spared,” added Dr. Mozaffarian, who chairs the Global Burden of Diseases, Nutrition, and Chronic Disease Expert Group, an international team of more than 100 scientists studying the effects of nutrition on health.

Average daily U.S. sodium intake – 3,600 mg

These new findings provide yet more compelling evidence for greater efforts to reduce dietary sodium in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, average daily sodium intake was 3,600 mg. Sodium intake and corresponding health burdens were even higher in many developing countries. Governmental policies and public health efforts to encourage reduced use of salt in foods could provide a cost-effective means for reducing so much of the premature morbidity and mortality from heart disease, renal disease, and strokes around the world.

Dr. Mozaffarian acknowledged that his results estimated sodium consumption based on urine samples, which are known to modestly underestimate true sodium intakes. Additionally, he noted some countries lacked data on sodium consumption, which had to be estimated based on other nutritional information. And he and co-authors pointed out that because their study focused on cardiovascular disease deaths, they may have underestimated the full health impact of excessive sodium intake, which is also linked to a much higher risk of nonfatal cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and stomach cancer (the second most deadly cancer worldwide).

Benefits of sodium reduction

The same “no news” fate that happened with Dr. Mozaffarian’s study has also been the fate of other well-designed, recently published studies that described the benefits of sodium reduction. In onestudy5, for example, a meta-analysis of 34 trials totaling 3,230 participants, the researchers found that “a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks causes significant and, from a population viewpoint, important falls in blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive individuals,” and larger reductions led to larger falls in blood pressure.

Salt reduction in England

And a recent study6 looking at salt reduction in England from 2003 to 2011 found that reducing sodium in foods alone with little or no other change in cardiovascular risk factors accounted for most of the 40% reduction in stroke and ischemic heart disease among the British population. Clearly, the benefits of reducing dietary salt by about 15% in England likely had a major impact in reducing cardiovascular disease mortality.

The PURE researchers are suggesting that there is little or no benefit in reducing salt below 4,000mg sodium/day and it may even be harmful to some, while the real world experience in England seriously undermines their thesis.

Pritikin Health Resort

Results at Pritikin Longevity Center

Reducing sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams, combined with an overall diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, plus dailyexercise, has been part of Pritikin Program, taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami since 1975.  This program has also been documented in published research to dramatically reduce both diastolic and systolic pressure, and allow the vast majority of men and women return home no longer needing their hypertension medications, or with their dosages greatly reduced.7

Summing Up:

Are low-sodium diets healthy?  Yes.  Current guidelines from U.S. government agencies, theWorld Health Organization, the American Heart Association, and other leading public health groups set daily dietary sodium targets between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower. And for good reason.  These guidelines are supported by solid data from the DASH Trials and numerous other studies conducted over the past several decades.

The questionable claims by the authors of the two PURE articles intimating that a low-salt intake may somehow be dangerous undermine public health efforts to reduce salt intake to treat and prevent hypertension. This is troubling, deeply troubling, because the preponderance of credible scientific data continues to show that elevated blood pressure is the single greatest cardiovascular risk factor in most populations, and data from controlled clinical trials show that dietary sodium in excess of 1,500 mg day is the #1 dietary cause of elevated blood pressure.

In addition, the impact of excessive salt intake over many years likely is far greater than that observed in short-term clinical trials in which salt/sodium intake is only moderately reduced. Indeed, in all human populations studied by medical anthropologists, it is known that less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day results in very little or no increase in blood pressure, even into old age. By contrast, blood pressure rises significantly over many years in all human populations in which salt is added to food in significant quantities, resulting in most people in all these salt-added societies sooner or later ending up with hypertension.

In closing, we need to stop paying attention to silly, shoddy science, and get back to saving lives.


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Documented in 100-plus medical journals. What Pritikin can do for you »

Author, Dr. Jay Kenney


1 O’Donnell MJ, Mente A, Ranjarajan S, et al. Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events. N Engl J Med 2014;371:612-33.
2 Mente A, O’Donnell MJ, Rangarajan S, et al. Association of Urinary Sodium and Potassium Excretion with Blood Pressure. N Engl J Med 2014;371:601-11.
3 Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, et al. Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. N Engl J Med 2001; 344: 3-10.
4 Mozaffarian D, Fahimi S, Singh GM, et al. Global Sodium Consumption and Death from Cardiovascular Causes. N Engl J Med 2014;371:624-34.
5 He FJ, Li J, MacGregor GA. Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ, 2013; 346: f1325.
6 He FJ, Pombo-Rodrigues S, MacGregor GA. Salt reduction in England from 2003 to 2011: its relationship to blood pressure, stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality. BMJ, 2014; 4:e004549.
7 Roberts CK, Barnard RJ. Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease. J Appl Physiol, 2005; 98:3-30.

Dr. Jay Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN

Nutritional Research Director and Educator

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Kenney has helped guests at Pritikin cut through the confusion and quack “truths” surrounding nutrition and weight loss. Personally, he loves living the Pritikin Program because “I’m in better health today, in my late 60s, than I was at age 35. And I weigh 40 pounds less than I did in college.”

One Food That Can Eat Away At Your Brain

Sugar and carbohydrates can harm brain structure and function

sugarThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Scientists at Charité University Medical Centre in Berlin have found eating large amounts of sugar or carbohydrates is linked to a smaller hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory. This could explain why they also discovered that high levels of blood glucose are associated with impaired memory and could potentially lead to dementia. Thus, sugar can harm both brain structure and function.

Diabetes, a condition characterized by chronically elevated blood sugar, is linked to a higher risk of dementia and reduced hippocampus size. In view of these facts, the study sought to determine the effects of sugar on people who don’t have the illness. Researchers monitored the long- and short-term glucose levels of 141 non-diabetic adults as well as imaged their brain with an MRI scan and tested their memory. They found higher levels of glucose were linked to shrinkage of the hippocampus and impaired memory. The results suggest sugar can alter brain structure and harm memory even in people who don’t have diabetes.

Earlier Research Shows Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Refined Carbs Hinder Brain Function

The new research builds upon a study conducted two years ago at UCLA that showed the effects on the brain of high-fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener present in many foods. Researchers first allowed rats to spend a few days learning how to get through a maze. The next phase of the study involved feeding them a fructose solution for six weeks and then putting them back in the maze to see how well they could remember how to navigate it. The findings showed their memory of how to perform this activity was significantly impaired, and their brains showed a reduction in synaptic activity, which is the means the cells use to communicate with each other.

A great deal of solid scientific research shows cognitive decline can, indeed, take place as a result of consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates — even in small amounts, David Platt, Ph.D., CEO of Boston Therapeutics, tells Live in the Now. “In these studies, the consumption of sugar and carbs has been established as a definite risk factor in damaging both memory and thinking skills.”

“Just this year, for example, Mayo Clinic researchers found that people aged 70 and older who consume food high in carbs increase their likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment fourfold, and the danger is also present with a diet heavy in sugar. Moreover, in 2009, a team at Wake Forest University established that cognitive functioning abilities decrease as average blood sugar levels increase in people with type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, many people are not fully aware of these conclusions, but they are as important to know as the dangers of cigarette smoking.”

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Why the Egg-Cancer Link?


Why the Egg-Cancer Link?

August 21, 2014 by Michael Greger M.D. in News with 0 Comments

Why the Egg Cancer-link?

Two million men in the U.S. are living with prostate cancer — but that’s better than dying from prostate cancer. Catch it when it’s localized and the five-year survival is practically guaranteed, but once it really starts spreading, chances drop to one in three. “Thus, identification of modifiable factors that affect the progression of prostate cancer is something that deserves study,” noted Dr. Erin Richard and colleagues at Harvard. So, they took more than a thousand men with early stage prostate cancer and followed them for a couple years to see if there was anything in their diet associated with a resurgence of the cancer, such as spreading to the bone.

Compared to men who hardly ate any eggs, men who ate even less than a single egg a day had a significant 2-fold increased risk of prostate cancer progression. The only thing worse was poultry consumption, with up to four times the risk of progression among high-risk men. They think it might be the cooked meat carcinogens that for some reason build up more in chicken and turkey muscle than in other meats. For more on these so-called heterocyclic amines, see my videos: Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?, Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens, and PhIP: The Three Strikes Breast Carcinogen.

But what about the eggs? Why would less than once-a-day egg consumption double the risk of cancer progression? “A plausible mechanism that may explain the association between eggs and prostate cancer progression is high dietary choline,” the researchers suggested.  Egg consumption is a determinant of how much choline you have in your blood, and higher blood choline has been associated with a greater risk of getting prostate cancer in the first place. So the choline in eggs may both increase one’s risk of getting it and having it spread.

Studies have associated choline consumption not just with getting cancer and spreading cancer, but also with significantly increased risk of dying from it. Those who ate the most had a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer. Another recent study found that men who consumed two and a half or more eggs per week — that’s just like one egg every three days — had an 81 percent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.

Maybe that’s why meat, milk, and eggs have all been associated with advanced prostate cancer—because of the choline. Choline is so concentrated in cancer cells that doctors can follow choline uptake to track the spread of cancer throughout the body. But why may dietary choline increase the risk of lethal prostate cancer? Dietary choline is converted in the gut to trimethylamine (see my video Carnitine, Choline, Cancer and Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection), so the Harvard researchers speculated that the TMAO from the high dietary choline intake may increase inflammation, which may promote progression of prostate cancer to a lethal disease.

In one of my videos, Eggs and Choline: Something Fishy, I talked about what trimethylamine might do to one’s body odor.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, the same Cleveland Clinic research team that did the famous study on carnitine repeated the study, but instead of feeding people a steak, they fed people some hard-boiled eggs. Just as they suspected, a similar spike in that toxic TMAO. So it’s not just red meat. And the link between TMAO levels in the blood and strokes, heart attacks, and death was seen even in low-risk groups like those with low-risk cholesterol levels. Thus, because of the choline, eating eggs may increase our risk regardless of what our cholesterol is.

It’s ironic that the choline content of eggs is something the egg industry actually boasts about. And the industry is aware of the cancer data. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get my hands on an email (which you can view in my video, Eggs, Choline, and Cancer) from the executive director of the industry’s Egg Nutrition Center to an American Egg Board executive talking about how choline may be a culprit in promoting cancer progression. “Certainly worth keeping in mind,” he said, “as we continue to promote choline as another good reason to consume eggs.”


With regard to the prevention of prostate cancer progression, chicken and eggs may be the worst foods to eat, but what might be the best? See my video Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio.

To prevent prostate cancer in the first place, see videos such as:

What about reversing cancer progression? See Dr. Ornish’s work Cancer Reversal Through Diet?, followed up by the Pritikin Foundation: Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay. Flax may help as well (Flaxseed vs. Prostate Cancer).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

Curcumin in Parkinson’s Disease

Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(1):91-9.

Curcumin: a potential neuroprotective agent in Parkinson’s disease.

Author information


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is an age-associated neurodegenerative disease clinically characterized as a movement disorder. The motor symptoms in PD arise due to selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the ventral midbrain thereby depleting the dopamine levels in the striatum. Most of the current pharmacotherapeutic approaches in PD are aimed at replenishing the striatal dopamine. Although these drugs provide symptomatic relief during early PD, many patients develop motor complications with long-term treatment. Further, PD medications do not effectively tackle tremor, postural instability and cognitive deficits. Most importantly, most of these drugs do not exhibit neuroprotective effects in patients. Consequently, novel therapies involving natural antioxidants and plant products/molecules with neuroprotective properties are being exploited for adjunctive therapy. Curcumin is a polyphenol and an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), a dietary spice used in Indian cuisine and medicine. Curcumin exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, crosses the blood-brain barrier and is neuroprotective in neurological disorders. Several studies in different experimental models of PD strongly support the clinical application of curcumin in PD. The current review explores the therapeutic potential of curcumin in PD.

Please Pass the Turmeric

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is often found in curries and other spicy dishes from India, Asia, and the Middle East. The spice contains a compound called curcumin that has been used by Ayurveda practitioners for centuries to treat a variety of ailments.

SampliSuper Food: Let's Talk Tumericng of Studies

In 2012, a study published in AYU, An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, reported on three Alzheimer’s patients exhibiting irritability, anxiety, and agitation among other symptoms. Findings indicated that behavioral issues had improved significantly after being treated with less than a gram of turmeric daily for a period of three months. The study concluded turmeric, when combined with routine therapy, increased quality of life and improved performance of activities of daily living in patients studied.

Several years ago, ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., published a comprehensive summary of over 700 turmeric studies that support the Ayurveda research. This herbal antidote was found to counteract symptoms of Alzheimer’s by blocking formation of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance believed to have a hand in cell and tissue loss indicative of an Alzheimer’s brain. In addition, turmeric reduced inflammation of neural tissue associated with the disease.

The Journal of Neuroscience had also previously published a study that supports the AYU findings, calling the alternative treatment promising. Tests conducted on mice suggested that the herb did indeed reduce plaques in the brain.

Please Pass the Turmeric

So the logical question is, how do we get turmeric into our diet? The most obvious way, of course, is to enjoy curry dishes as often as possible. Also consider adding a bit to your smoothie or whipping up some turmeric tea. We found the following recipe on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. He suggests experimenting with ingredients until you find a pleasing balance of flavors:

Dr. Weil’s Turmeric Tea:

  1. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup. Add honey, ginger, and/or lemon to taste.

Ground turmeric is commonly used, but Weil suggests experimenting with freshly grated turmeric for a little added zing. Supplements are also available in tablet and soft gel form and can typically be found wherever vitamins are purchased.

The Debate on Alternative Treatments

Efficacy of natural treatments is a hot topic, and no matter which side you’re on, this discussion often results in intense debate. As with coconut oil, for everything you read that touts its effectiveness, you’ll likely find something that disputes that claim.

One statistic that bodes well for this herbal treatment is that India has one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s. Could that be directly correlated to the country’s high consumption of turmeric? No one knows, but there are ongoing trials studying this very subject, and it’s likely we’ll be hearing more. Until then, always discuss any potential treatments with your physician. Even natural, alternative treatments can cause negative interactions with prescribed medications.

Problems with going vegan.

My husband and I have been quasi-vegetarians for the past four years. We don’t eat chicken or red meat (including pork) but we do consume eggs, dairy and fish. We’ve had many conversations about the possibility of going full vegan but there was always something prohibiting us from taking the 100-percent animal-free plunge. Then my husband Andy (a marathon runner) read a book about a vegan ultra-marathoner and his mind was set. For Andy, it was now vegan — or bust.

His inspiration and gradual transformation to the sole plant world has inspired me to do some serious soul searching on the reasons why many of my chicken — and beef-free patients have not been able to achieve their vegan dreams. What holds each and every one of us back differs but throughout my years as a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, I do see some common themes (and excuses) on why going vegan is, according to my patients, “simply not worth the effort,” “crazy,” “impossible” or “something I don’t have the willpower to do.”

Fact is, people do it every day, and guess what, the ones that do, they may live longer and have less disease than the ones who don’t. New evidence shows that a vegan diet may even help in decreasing neuropathy pain in diabetics.

If you do vegan the right way there may be no good reason not to do it. Here are five things that may be holding you back — and practical tips to overcome them.

1. Cheese:

Perhaps the number one reason why my patients don’t go vegan is because they don’t think they can give up cheese. Cheese does taste great after all, and it’s included in some serious favorite foods (pizza, sandwiches, burritos, nachos), but giving up cheese is actually easier than you think — it all boils down to what I call “taste bud training.”

Our brains work against us when it comes to food and addictions, making us crave certain foods (often high in sugar and fat) over others (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts). In order to get around this, you need to start weaning off the foods that make you stray from any resemblance of veganism. My most successful patients have started by avoidance of cheese purchases at the grocery store on the theory that if it’s not in the house, it won’t be a temptation.

After several weeks of simply avoiding cheese in the home, they found it easier to avoid it outside of the home as well (such as on a sandwich or a pizza). After a few months, many of my patients didn’t even think about it anymore. They had, in fact, trained their taste buds to simply not prefer it. Everyone has one food that they swear they could never give up but the truth is, you can change any habit.

The key is to take it slow, to replace one habit for another (when you crave cheese, have a spoonful of natural almond butter instead for example) , and be repetitive in your behavior (such as, don’t eat cheese at home, and then stop eating cheese at restaurants as well). Each day will be easier than the last until one day, you have made no effort at all, it just happens — you don’t want it. There is also research that shows that actually making a plan (in this case, to be vegan) and subsequently carrying out that plan can lead to success as well. Be courageous enough to train your taste buds and know that you are not the only person in the world to eliminate something you once loved.

2. Society:

Let’s face it — the meat houses of the world far outnumber the vegan restaurants. Even restaurants that do make an effort to provide vegan entrees differ in their variety. Restaurants can range from having full vegan menus to having a “veggie” plate option (that’s literally what they are — a plate of vegetables, with nothing on them). Here’s how to get around this. First, seek out restaurants most likely to offer vegetarian dishes. Indian restaurants will offer the most variety while Japanese, Chinese and Thai will offer great solutions as well. Then it’s just a matter of substitutions.

For example, you can substitute any meat dish for tofu, tempeh or beans, or you can eliminate the main protein source all together and choose dishes that focus on whole grains and vegetables. Worried that your sauce may not be animal-free friendly? Make your own and bring it with you or ask for simple sauces that are void of dairy cream. Many of the chefs who I have worked in the Midwest with tell me they love the challenge of a vegan request from a customer. That means, don’t be afraid to at least ask if you don’t see.

Finally, you can find fabulous resource lists that provide vegan-friendly restaurants and even fast-food eatery options as well. If you’re concerned about a dinner party or planned event where you have less control over food options, you can always bring your own dish (think hummus and brown rice crackers, a beautiful platter of vegetables or a bean salad) as a gift for the host (that really is a meal for you of course).

3. Your friends and family:

Perhaps the biggest social hurdle to becoming vegan is the reaction you may elicit from your friends and family. A vegan lifestyle may seem downright “weird” to those around you who would never consider it in their own diet, making you “weird” as well. Don’t let this stand in your way. If your mom reminds you every chance she gets that “animals were put on this earth for us to eat them” or your friend tells you that “you’re missing out on key nutrients” remember that these comments probably have more to do with their misunderstanding of the diet that a genuine care for your health. Choosing to go vegan can sometimes go well beyond the nutritional benefits.

Many of my patients have gone vegan to reduce environmental impact or simply because they love animals. Determine your motivation for going vegan and, if you’re comfortable, shares these personal goals with your family. You may be surprised how much you actually impact their diet over time. Finally, get comfortable with the fact that people will joke about your diet, talk about your diet in excess, criticize your diet and ask you questions about your diet. Remember that what you choose to eat is your business, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

4.Your love of cookies, ice cream and chocolate:

Let’s start with a fact — cookies, ice cream and chocolate (with less than 70-percent cocoa content) are generally not good for you, vegan or non-vegan, due to their massive amount of sugar. That means no matter what your diet looks like, these things should be consumed infrequently. If you do plan to dabble in dessert though, there are several vegan options for individuals to choose from. Several new ice cream varieties made from either coconut or almonds dominate the vegan frozen aisle treats, and they’re good!

For chocolate substitutions, look for products made with carob, a plant (specifically a legume) that comes from a tree and lacks the dairy component that is added to cocoa during processing. It tastes similar to chocolate and works well in most recipes calling for chocolate. You can also try chocolate chips made with non-dairy cocoa butter and chocolate liquor as another chocolate alternative. If you really want to improve your health, remember the best desserts have never had an ounce of animal product in them — they’re called fruit and they come in a variety of different flavors.

5. Your fear of soy:

The final reason most of my patients avoid going full vegan is because they have a dire fear of soy and assume that if you’re vegan, you must eat lots and lots of soy. There are two myths to dispel here: first, that soy is “bad” for you and second, that going vegan will turn you into an edamame pod. Let’s start with the first.

Soy, as it’s consumed in the Japanese culture in its whole form is actually very good for you. Soy consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure, and protection from recurrence of certain cancers.

Second, vegan diets don’t have to be chock full of soy. In fact, vegans can get protein from a variety of other plant-based foods including nuts, nut butters and seeds, beans and lentils, and whole grains such as quinoa, in addition to soy sources such as tofu, tempeh or edamame. Even endurance athletes have thrived on vegan diets.

If you’ve made the choice (or goal) of going completely meat-free, don’t allow your surroundings and your own fears to stop you. Hopefully, these tips can be one step towards helping you achieve the changes in your diet that are important to you.

Oversaturation of Fat in the Media

By Guest Author August 14th, 2014 Nutrition in the Media0 Comments

We have known for decades that fatty foods are anything but good for you, but recent media reports glorifying saturated have caused confusion. Do not be fooled. There is nothing healthful about butter, bacon, cheese, or steak. Saturated fat poses numerous severe health risks of which everyone should be aware.

This recent confusion over saturated fat may be a result of people trying to blame carbs for the nation’s weight problems—even though the country’s grain intake is actually far lower than what it once was.

What hasn’t gone down is the nation’s meat and cheese intake. In fact, it has done just the opposite. In 1909, Americans ate 123.9 pounds of meat per person per year. Since then, meat intake has soared to more than 200 pounds per person per year, and cheese intake has risen from less than 4 pounds to nearly 34 pounds per year.

It’s not the carbs that are making Americans sick—it’s the saturated fat in meat and cheese. Fifty percent of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030. Fetishizing fat will only exacerbate our national health crisis. And the risks associated with high-fat products do not stop at expanding waistlines.

Here are four facts you should know about saturated fat:

Saturated fat can DOUBLE the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Increased saturated fat intake is associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.[1] In the Chicago Health and Aging Project, people who ate the most saturated fat had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease after four years, compared with those who ate the least saturated fat.[3] The Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project in New York and the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia study in Finland also link Alzheimer’s disease risk with saturated fat intake.[3][4]

A number of studies on cognitive decline have found that high saturated fat intake increases the rate of decline in cognitive abilities as we age.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

Saturated fat increases cholesterol levels AND heart disease risk.
Research finds that increased saturated fat intake increases the risk of developing heart disease.[11] Consumers are often pushed to eat fatty foods with the false claim that one unhealthful meal can’t hurt you. But research shows that eating just one high-fat meal can raise the risk of having a heart attack the same day.

According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat causes the liver to produce more cholesterol and raises cholesterol levels in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

High saturated fat intake means high type 2 diabetes risk
Diets high in saturated fat are associated with type 2 diabetes.[12][13] Harvard researchers found that total fat intake and saturated fat intake were associated with a greater risk of diabetes. In the same study, they found that eating bacon, hot dogs, or other processed meats—all high in saturated fat—five or more times per week increases a man’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 50 percent.[14] Diets high in saturated fat also increase insulin resistance.[15]

Saturated fat is associated with MULTIPLE cancers.
Breast Cancer
Findings from Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study II suggest that increased consumption of saturated fat increases the risk for developing breast cancer.[16] A recent study published by the National Cancer Institute also found that women who eat diets high in saturated fat increase their risk of developing breast cancer.[17]

Prostate Cancer
Among men who have prostate cancer removal, those who consume the least saturated fat are more likely to remain disease-free, compared with those who consume the most saturated fat.[18]

Gastrointestinal Cancer
People who consume diets high in saturated fat and sugar are four times more likely to develop and 53 percent more likely to die from gastrointestinal cancers, compared with those who consume plant-based diets.[19]


Barnard ND, Bunner AE, Agarwal U. Saturated and trans fats and dementia: a systematic review. Neurobiol Aging. 2014;35:S65-S73.
Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neurol. 2003;60:194-200.
Laitinen MH, Ngandu T, Rovio S, et al. Fat intake at midlife and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: a population-based study. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2006;22: 99-107.
Luchsinger JA, Tang MX, Shea S, Mayeux R. Caloric intake and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neurol. 2002;59:1258-1263.
Beydoun MA, Kaufman JS, Satia JA, Rosamond W, Folsom AR. Plasma n-3 fatty acids and the risk of cognitive decline in older adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:1103-1111.
Devore EE, Goldstein F, van Rooij FJ, et al. Dietary antioxidants and long-term risk of dementia. Arch Neurol. 2010;67:819-825.
Eskelinen MH, Ngandu T, Helkala EL, et al. Fat intake at midlife and cognitive impairment later in life: a population-based CAIDE study. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008;23:741-747.
Heude B, Ducimetière P, Berr C. Cognitive decline and fatty acid composition of erythrocyte membranes—the EVA Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:803-808.
Morris MC, Evans DA, Tangney CC, et al. Dietary copper and high saturated and trans fat intakes associated with cognitive decline. Arch Neurol. 2006;63:1085-1088.
Okereke OI, Rosner BA, Kim DH, et al. Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women. Ann Neurol. 2012;72:124-134.
Mann JI. Diet and risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Lancet. 2002;360: 783-789.
Mahendran Y, Cederberg H, Vangipurapu J, et al. Glycerol and fatty acids in serum predict the development of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes in Finnish men. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:3732-3738.
Mann JI. Diet and risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Lancet. 2002; 360: 783-789.
Van Dam RM, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Dietary fat and meat intake in relation to risk of Type 2 diabetes in men. Diabetes Care. 2002;25:417-424.
Oranta O, Pahkala K, Ruottinen S, et al. Infancy-onset dietary counseling of low-saturated-fat diet improves insulin sensitivity in healthy adolescents 15-20 years of age: the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) study. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:2952-2959.
Farvid MS, Cho E, Chen WY, Eliassen AH, Willett WC. Premenopausal dietary fat in relation to pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2014;145:255-265.
Sieri S, Chiodini P, Agnoli C, et al. Dietary fat intake and development of specific breast cancer subtypes. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online April 9, 2014.
Strom SS, Yamamura Y, Forman MR, Pettaway CA, Barrera SL, DiGiovanni J. Saturated fat intake predicts biochemical failure after prostatectomy. Int J Cancer. 2008;122:2581-2585.
Tabung FK, Steck SE, Zhang J. Dietary inflammatory index and risk of mortality: findings from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Poster presented at: American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Annual Research Conference; November 7, 2013: Bethesda, MD.

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., is Director of Nutrition Education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting preventive medicine, especially better nutrition, and higher standards in research.
Related Posts:
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Get Off Medications

America is the most medicated nation on Earth. Department of Health and Human Services data shows that at least half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, with one in six taking three or more medications. Prescription drug use is rising among people of all ages, and use increases with age. Five out of six persons 65 and older are taking at least one medication. Prescriptions for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, blood glucose/sugar regulators and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, in particular increased notably between 1996 and 2002. Prescription drugs are the fastest growing health expenditure; costs have risen at least 15 % every year since 1998. (1)

The safest and surest way to good health is to follow the recommendations in my book, Eat to Live. The key to a tragedy free, long life is nutritional excellence, satisfying relationships and exercise, not medication. Don’t gamble your health on risky medications. The Eat to Live diet has enabled people to reduce or eliminate dependence on a variety of medications including insulin, blood pressure, antidepressants and cholesterol lowering medications. The false sense of security provided by these medications enables patients to continue the same disease causing diet and lifestyle that led to the problem.

My mantra is “don’t treat or control your medical problem, get rid of it.” My goal on this website is to give you information so you can take back control of your health future and recognize that the answer to a long disease free life will not come from a pharmacy company or from your typical doctor. It will come from an understanding that when you supply the body with the prerequisites of optimal health (superior nutrition, avoidance of excesses, elimination of deficiencies, exercise, satisfying relationships and adequate light), and remove the stressors that cause disease, the miraculous self-healing properties of the body will be given free reign and you will be able to sustain excellent health into your later years.

1. Health, United States 2004. 28th report on the health status of the nation submitted by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the President and Congress. Compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Protein Content of Green Vegetables Compared to Meat?


Some have inquired about further data and sources, in the listing of the protein content of green vegetables compared to red meat in Eat To Live, so more complete data is posted here.

In the chart below, an equal caloric amount (100 calories) of porterhouse steak is compared to broccoli, romaine lettuce and kale. Broccoli provides the greatest amount of protein per calorie.

Green vegetables are all rich in protein, and relatively low in calories. They provide generous amounts of most micronutrients with no cholesterol and virtually no fat. Meat on the other hand, is relatively low in micronutrients. Remember whole grains, beans and seeds are also high in protein and should be utilized to achieve adequate protein on a diet with no or minimal animal products. But the point in this example was to illustrate how weight-loss favorable green vegetables are and that no matter how many green vegetables you eat, you still cannot take in too many calories. If you fill up on greens, they will reduce your desire and ability to overeat.

Broccoli, frozen,
chopped boiled
Beef Short Loin,
Porterhouse Steak,
separable lean & fat,
1/8 “ fat, broiled
Beef short Loin,
Porterhouse Steak,
separable lean & fat,
1/4” fat, broiled
Calories 100 100 100 100 100
Weight (g) 357 (12.6oz) 588 (20.7oz) 358 (12.6oz) 34 (1.2oz) 30 (1.0oz)
Protein (g) 11.1 7.2 6.8 8.0 6.5
Fat (g) 0.4 1.8 1.4 7.4 7.7
Carbohydrate (g) 19.2 19.4 20.2 0 0
Fiber 10.8 12.4 7.2 0 0
Cholesterol 0 0 0 24.1 21.6
Calcium (mg) 118 194 258 2.7 2.4
Iron (mg) 2.2 5.7 3.2 0.9 0.8
Magnesium (mg) 46 82 64.4 7.8 6.0
Potassium (mg) 507 1453 816.2 109 76.5
Vitamin C (mg) 143 23.5 146.8 0 0
Thiamin (mg) 0.2 0.4 0.2 0 0
Riboflavin (mg) 0.3 0.4 0.3 0 0
Niacin (mg) 1.6 1.8 1.8 1.4 1.2
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.5 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.1
Folate (mcg) 200 800 46.5 2.4 2.1
Vitamin A (IU) 3609 51253 48763 0 0
Vitamin K (mcg) 315 603 2924 0 0

Source: Data was obtained from Nutritionist Pro Nutritional Analysis Software, Version 4.7, Axxya Systems , Stafford TX, 2012.

Please note that 100 calories of steak is only about one ounce, which is not much meat to fill you up. More typically, 4 – 8 ounces is eaten, supplying too many calories and too much animal protein without the lifespan enhancing micronutrients. Bottom line—eat more greens and less meat to get more micronutrient bang per caloric buck and to suppress your calorie intake.