Eye and Vision Benefits

Lutein and Zeaxanthin:

Good nutrition is important to keep your eyes healthy and functioning their best throughout your lifetime. Two very important eye nutrients that may reduce your risk for macular degeneration andcataracts have names you may not be familiar with: lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin).

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids (kuh-RAH-teh-noids), which are yellow to red pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants. Though lutein is considered a yellow pigment, in high concentrations it appears orange-red.

In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light.

Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

In addition to being found in many green leafy plants and colorful fruits and vegetables, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye, giving the macula its yellowish color. In fact, the macula also is called the “macula lutea” (from the Latin macula, meaning “spot,” andlutea, meaning “yellow”).

Recent research has discovered a third carotenoid in the macula. Called meso-zeaxanthin, this pigment is not found in food sources and appears to be created in the retina from ingested lutein.

Lutein and zeaxanthin appear to have important antioxidant functions in the body. Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin E, these important pigments guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.

In addition to important eye and vision benefits, lutein may help protect against atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits in arteries), the disease that leads to most heart attacks.

Eye Benefits of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

It is believed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD)March 2014 — Nutritional supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin, lipoic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids are effective in preventing the development of retinopathy among diabetic rats, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit investigated the effect of carotenoid-containing supplements on retinal oxidative stress and inflammation and the development of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes was induced and confirmed in all rats in the study, and then some rats were given a diet that included the nutritional supplements while others were given the same food but without the supplements. After 11 months, the retinas of the rats were evaluated for changes in blood vessels, cellular damage and other retinal changes characteristic of diabetic retinopathy.

In rats that had not received the nutritional supplements, diabetes-induced damage to retinal blood vessels was three to four times greater than among rats who had received the added nutrients.

The study authors concluded that the nutritional supplements used in this study prevented diabetic retinopathy and preserved normal retinal functioning. They also said that, though human testing is required to confirm, these supplements “could represent an achievable and inexpensive adjunct therapy” to inhibit diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes.

A full report of the study was published online in January by Nutrition & Metabolism.

A number of studies have found that lutein and zeaxanthin either help prevent AMD or may slow progression of the disease:

  • Research published in Nutrition & Metabolismfound that a nutritional supplement containing meso-zeaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin effectively increased the optical density of the macular pigment in eyes of the majority of human subjects. The macular pigment is believed to offer protection against the development of macular degeneration.
  • Studies published in American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology found higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of AMD.
  • Two studies published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found that eyes with greater levels of macular pigments were less likely to have or develop macular degeneration.
  • In research published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, the study authors conclude that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin filter short-wavelength light and prevent or reduce the generation of free radicals in the retinal pigment epithelium and choroid. They also suggest that a mixture of these carotenoids is more effective than any one of the individual carotenoids at the same total concentration.
  • In a study published in the journal Optometry, participants with early AMD who consumed 8 mg per day of dietary zeaxanthin for one year improved their night driving and their visual acuity improved an average of 1.5 lines on an eye chart.

In May 2013, the much-anticipated results of the second large-scale Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2) sponsored by the National Eye Institute were published.

AREDS2 was a follow-up to the original 5-year AREDS study published in 2001, which found use of a daily antioxidant supplement containing beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and copper reduced the risk of progressive AMD by 25 percent among participants with early and intermediate macular degeneration.

The goal of AREDS2 was to evaluate the effect of other nutrients — including lutein and zeaxanthin — on the prevention of AMD and other age-related eye diseases. AREDS2 also investigated the effect of removing beta-carotene from the AREDS supplement, since supplementation of this vitamin A precursor has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers among smokers and previous smokers.

The AREDS2 results revealed study participants with early signs of macular degeneration who took a modification of the original AREDS nutritional supplement that contained 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin (and no beta-carotene) every day for the 5-year study period had a 10 to 25 percent reduced risk of AMD progression. Study participants whose diets contained the lowest amounts of foods containing natural lutein and zeaxanthin experienced the greatest AMD risk reduction from taking the daily nutritional supplement.

While AREDS2 and other studies provide evidence that lutein and zeaxanthin may play a role in preventing macular degeneration (or at least reducing the risk of progression of AMD), it’s less clear if these carotenoids help prevent cataracts.

Research published in Archives of Ophthalmology suggests women whose diets include high amounts of healthful foods containing lutein, zeaxanthin and other carotenoids have a lower risk of cataracts than women whose diets contain lower amounts of these nutrients.

In AREDS2, however, supplemental lutein and zeaxanthin had no effect on cataract risk or progression.

Foods Containing Lutein and Zeaxanthin

The best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables. Among these, cooked kale and cooked spinach top the list, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Non-vegetarian sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include egg yolks. But if you have high cholesterol, you’re much better off getting most of these yellow nutrients from fruits and vegetables.

LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN FOODS
Food Serving mg
Kale (cooked) 1 cup 23.7
Spinach (cooked) 1 cup 20.4
Collards (cooked) 1 cup 14.6
Turnip greens (cooked) 1 cup 12.2
Spinach (raw) 1 cup 3.7
Green Peas (canned) 1 cup 2.2
Corn (canned) 1 cup 2.2
Broccoli (cooked) 1 cup 1.7
Romaine lettuce (raw) 1 cup 1.3
Carrots (cooked) 1 cup 1.1
Green beans (cooked) 1 cup 0.8
Eggs 2 (large) 0.3
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009)

Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplements

Because of the apparent eye and cardiovascular benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin, many nutritional companies have added these carotenoids to their multiple vitamin formulas. Others have introduced special eye vitamins that are predominantly lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.

There currently is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for lutein or zeaxanthin, but some experts say you should ingest at least 6 milligrams (mg) of lutein per day for beneficial effects.

It remains unclear how much lutein and zeaxanthin is needed daily for adequate eye and vision protection. Also, it is unknown at this time whether supplements have the same effect as lutein and zeaxanthin obtained through food sources.

There are no known toxic side effects of taking too much lutein or zeaxanthin. In some cases, people who eat large amounts of carrots or yellow and green citrus fruits can develop a harmless yellowing of the skin called carotenemia. Though the appearance of the condition can be somewhat alarming and may be confused with jaundice, the yellow discoloration disappears by cutting back on consumption of these carotenoid-rich foods. (Carotenemia also can be associated with over-consumption of carotenoid-rich nutritional supplements.)

EYE NUTRIENT AWARENESS

Do You Know Which Nutrients Are Good for Your Eyes?

In a 2011 survey of Americans aged 45-65, more than half the respondents said they take nutritional supplements to protect joints, bones or heart health. But fewer than a fifth said they take eye health supplements.

In addition, 66 percent were unaware of the key role that lutein plays in eye health.

For more results of the Bausch + Lomb-sponsored survey, click here for a brief slide show.

Popular lutein and zeaxanthin supplements include:

  • EyePromise Zeaxanthin (Zeavision)
  • ICaps Eye Vitamin Lutein & Zeaxanthin Formula (Alcon)
  • Macula Complete (Biosyntrx)
  • MacularProtect Complete (ScienceBased Health)
  • MaxiVision Ocular Formula (MedOp)
  • OcuGuard Plus (TwinLab)
  • PreserVision (Bausch + Lomb)

The source of lutein in many lutein supplements is marigold flowers, while for zeaxanthin it is often red peppers. If you choose a lutein and zeaxanthin supplement, make sure it’s a high quality product from a reputable dietary supplement company.

Remember that taking dietary supplements does not replace a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables usually is the best way to get the important eye nutrients you need.

Also, remember that individuals sometimes react differently to certain supplements, which can have unintended effects such as adverse reactions with medications. Consult with your physician or eye doctor before trying any vision supplements.

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Lymph System

Lymph

Lymph is a fluid derived from blood plasma. It is pushed out through the capillary wall by pressure exerted by the heart or by osmotic pressure at the cellular level. Lymph contains nutrients, oxygen, and hormones, as well as toxins and cellular waste products generated by the cells. As the interstitial fluid accumulates, it is picked up and removed by lymphatic vessels that pass through lymph nodes, which return the fluid to the venous system. As the lymph passes through the lymph nodes, lymphocytes and monocytes enter it.

At the level of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, lymph has a milky consistency that is attributable to fatty acids, glycerol, and rich fat content. Lacteals are lymph vessels that transport intestinal fat and are localized to the GI tract.[1, 5, 3]

Lymphatic vessels

Lymphatic capillaries are blind-ended tubes with thin endothelial walls (only a single cell in thickness). They are arranged in an overlapping pattern, so that pressure from the surrounding capillary forces at these cells allows fluid to enter the capillary (see the image below). The lymphatic capillaries coalesce to form larger meshlike networks of tubes that are located deeper in the body; these are known as lymphatic vessels.

Lymph capillaries in spaces. Blind-ended lymphaticLymph capillaries in spaces. Blind-ended lymphatic capillaries arise within interstitial spaces of cells near arterioles and venules.

The lymphatic vessels grow progressively larger and form 2 lymphatic ducts: the right lymphatic duct, which drains the upper right quadrant, and the thoracic duct, which drains the remaining lymphatic tributaries. Like veins, lymphatic vessels have 1-way valves to prevent any backflow (see the image below). The pressure gradients that move lymph through the vessels come from skeletal muscle action, smooth muscle contraction within the smooth muscle wall, and respiratory movement.[1, 6, 2, 5, 4, 7]

Lymphatic 1-way valves. Lymphatic 1-way valves.

Lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are bean-shaped structures that are widely distributed throughout the lymphatic pathway, providing a filtration mechanism for the lymph before it rejoins the blood stream. The average human body contains approximately 600-700 of them, predominantly concentrated in the neck, axillae, groin, thoracic mediastinum, and mesenteries of the GI tract. Lymph nodes constitute a main line of defense by hosting 2 types of immunoprotective cell lines, T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes.

Lymph nodes have 2 distinct regions, the cortex and the medulla. The cortex contains follicles, which are collections of lymphocytes. At the center of the follicles is an area called germinal centers that predominantly host B-lymphocytes while the remaining cells of the cortex are T-lymphocytes. Vessels entering the lymph nodes are called afferent lymphatic vessels and, likewise, those exiting are called efferent lymphatic vessels (see the image below).

Lymph node structure. Lymph node structure.

Extending from the collagenous capsule inward throughout the lymph node are connective tissue trabeculae that incompletely divide the space into compartments. Deep in the node, in the medullary portion, the trabeculae divide repeatedly and blend into the connective tissue of the hilum of the node. Thus the capsule, the trabeculae, and the hilum make up the framework of the node. Within this framework, a delicate arrangement of connective tissue forms the lymph sinuses, within which lymph and free lymphoid elements circulate.

A subcapsular or marginal sinus exists between the capsule and the cortex of the lymph node. Lymph passes from the subcapsular sinus into the cortical sinus toward the medulla of the lymph node. Medullary sinuses represent a broad network of lymph channels that drain toward the hilum of the node; from there, lymph is collected into several efferent vessels that run to other lymph nodes and eventually drain into their respective lymphatic ducts (see the image below).[1, 6]

Lymph drainage flow; lymphatic duct anatomy. Lymph drainage flow; lymphatic duct anatomy.

Thymus

The thymus is a bilobed lymphoid organ located in the superior mediastinum of the thorax, posterior to the sternum. After puberty, it begins to decrease in size; it is small and fatty in adults after degeneration.

The primary function of the thymus is the processing and maturation of T lymphocytes. While in the thymus, T lymphocytes do not respond to pathogens and foreign organisms. After maturation, they enter the blood and go to other lymphatic organs, where they help provide defense. Structurally, the thymus is similar to the spleen and lymph nodes, with numerous lobules and cortical and medullary elements. It also produces thymosin, a hormone that helps stimulate maturation of T lymphocytes in other lymphatic organs.[2, 5, 3, 4]

Spleen

The spleen, the largest lymphatic organ, is a convex lymphoid structure located below the diaphragm and behind the stomach. It is surrounded by a connective tissue capsule that extends inward to divide the organ into lobules consisting of cells, small blood vessels, and 2 types of tissue known as red and white pulp. Red pulp consists of venous sinuses filled with blood and cords of lymphocytes and macrophages; white pulp is lymphatic tissue consisting of lymphocytes around the arteries. Lymphocytes are densely packed within the cortex of the spleen.

The spleen filters blood in much the same way that lymph nodes filter lymph. Lymphocytes in the spleen react to pathogens in the blood and attempt to destroy them. Macrophages then engulf and phagocytose damaged cells and cellular debris. The spleen, along with the liver, eradicates damaged and old erythrocytes from the blood circulation. Like other lymphatic tissue, it produces lymphocytes in an immunologic response to offending pathogens.[5, 3, 4]

Therefore, the spleen conducts several important functions, as follows:

  • It serves as a reservoir of lymphocytes for the body
  • It filters blood
  • It plays an important role in red blood cell and iron metabolism through macrophage phagocytosis of old and damaged red blood cells
  • It recycles iron by sending it to the liver
  • It serves as a storage reservoir for blood
  • It contains T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes for immunologic response

Tonsils

Tonsils are aggregates of lymph node tissue located under the epithelial lining of the oral and pharyngeal areas. The main areas are the palatine tonsils (on the sides of the oropharynx), the pharyngeal tonsils (on the roof of the nasopharynx; also known as adenoids), and the lingual tonsils (on the base of the posterior surface of the tongue).

Because these tonsils are so closely related to the oral and pharyngeal airways, they may interfere with breathing when they become enlarged. The predominance of lymphocytes and macrophages in these tonsillar tissues offers protection against harmful pathogens and substances that may enter through the oral cavity or airway.

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1899053-overview#aw2aab6b3

Meat and Soda Industry are not Happy

Meat and soda industries
Lobbyists for the US meat and soda industries are rallying the troops after a government committee on healthy eating has recommended that Americans consume less red meat and sugary drinks, and more fruit and vegetables. The 571-page report published by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was dismissed as “flawed” and “nonsensical” by representatives of the meat industry. Soda makers joined in the criticism, saying the panel of experts had gone “beyond its scope” and that high intensity sweeteners criticized by the panel “can be an effective tool in weight loss.”

Although the report has no legal powers, it’s very likely that the government will implement its advice. This will inform new public health campaigns and set federal policy for things like school lunches, which is a program worth $16 billion annually. The report also recommends for the first time ever that Americans consider the sustainability of their food. As with the advice for healthy eating, this means simply eating less meat and more vegetables and plants.

THE ADVICE IS STRAIGHTFORWARD AND FAMILIAR

Even those of us that love a burger and Coke will recognize the DGAC’s advice is hardly radical. “A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts,” says the report, “[It’s] moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.” Surprisingly, however, the report did repeal decades-old advice that individuals limit their intake of cholesterol, noting that there was no clear link between foods high in the nutrient (e.g. eggs and seafood) and health problems.

COFFEE, THANKFULLY, GETS A THUMBS-UP

Thankfully, for the caffeine-addicted among us, the report gives the thumbs-up to moderate coffee consumption, noting that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day “is not associated with increased long-term health risks.” However, the panel added that Americans tended to underestimate their coffee consumption and that three to five cups a day was equal to only two or three servings from Starbucks.

They also highlighted the dangers of energy drinks with high caffeine content, saying that children and adolescents should drink them sparingly, or better still, not at all. Adults should also avoid consuming energy drinks and alcohol together — whether “mixed together or consumed at the same sitting.” This means popular drinks like Red Bull and vodka should be off the cards for those trying to stay healthy. The panel also mooted the idea of a tax on sugary drinks and foods.

As well as recommending that Americans consider the sustainability of their diet, the report highlights the meat industry as a particular environmental concern. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use,” said the report. “This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower.”

BEEF USES 28 TIMES MORE LAND THAN PORK OR POULTRY

The meat industry described the panel’s “foray into the murky waters of sustainability” as “well beyond its scope and expertise,” and pointed out that although the carbon footprint of meat was higher than plants, the two do not deliver an equal amount of nutrients. This is true, of course, but the ratio of environmental impact to nutritional output is not something that can be easily measured. Even among livestock there is much variation. Beef, for example, needs 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork and poultry.

Although the government is free to ignore the DGAC’s advice, the chances are it won’t, said former member Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. Nestle describes the 2015 report as a “dramatic departure” for the panel, which has previously recommended eating meat as a way to reduce saturated fat intake. “The one thing the Dietary Guidelines have never been allowed to do is say clearly and explicitly to eat less of anything,” Nestle told Politico. “This committee is not burying anything, or obfuscating …They’re just telling it like it is.”

The Dairy and Meat Industry again and again.

RON KRAUSS
Tofu.  It was just a mixed diet all together.  In that setting, with carbohydrate intake kept moderately low, saturated  fat did not raise Apo-B.  It didn’t raise the number of LDL particles.  It didn’t increase inflammatory markers either.  It didn’t raise any of the really meaningful basis of heart disease risk.

So that was an interesting study which showed that eating more saturated fat does not increase heart disease risk.  But then, there’s that newer study you’ve done that involves saturated fat and red meat.  And it’s a fascinating study because of some clues it gives about how health may be affected by both saturated fat and red meat.  Right now there’s a great deal of concern that eating red meat may be dangerous for people’s health.  But the question is why.  In your recent study,  you hint at a reason why. 

RON KRAUSS
We published a paper this past fall in the Journal of Nutrition, in which we reported the results of the study that we carried out as a followup to the one we just discussed.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that the first study was funded the National Dairy Council, and we used dairy fat and dairy products liberally in that study, since they’re high in saturated fats.  The second, more recent study was funded by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association because they felt, and frankly we felt at the time, based on the evidence we had, that feeding a high saturated fat and low carbohydrate intake would have the same benefit on a high beef diet as as on a mixed protein diet, and bottom line is that when we did the study, we found out that was not the case.

So using what you learned from your 2006 study of a mixed-protein diet and high saturated fats, in this new study, you kept carbohydrates somewhat low, and fats somewhat higher, just as you did in 2006.  Really, the main difference was that this time, you didn’t feed a variety of protein sources.  Your test subjects just ate lots and lots of beef.  And this time, you found that “healthy” blood work depended not only on what kind of protein people ate, but what kind of fat the people WITH the protein.  So if you get out your Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe, what were the clues and what did they mean?

The Secret’s Out: The Reason Red Meat is So Bad for Our Health

We’ve known red meat isn’t the healthiest choice for a long time now. It’s a leading cause in heart disease, inflammation, cancer, and even digestive problems. While its highly touted by meat-lovers as being a good source of iron, (though we know there are better sources), the truth is, red meat is not a healthy food. But what is it about red meat that’s so bad?

Scientists at the University of California Found The Secret

Researchers at the University of California found that meat triggers a toxic reaction within the body that weakens the immune system due to a natural sugar it contains our bodies can’t digest. Yes, you heard that right – meat actually has a natural sugar, as small as it may be. Known as Neu5Gc, this sugar is a foreign agent to our body that is seen as an invader.

The body launches an immune response as it tries to get rid of it and in the mean time, a host of health problems occur, such as cancer (which is largely a disease of a weak immune system). The unique findings are that other carnivores can eat red meat fine because their bodies actually contain the natural sugar that digests the meat. Our bodies don’t – clearly a sign that we’re not meant to eat it.

Meat and Tumor Production

The sugar, Neu5Gc, is already in the body of other carnivores that consume meat for food. Mice (who don’t contain the sugar as we don’t) were fed meat and actually developed tumors quickly.

“This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California. ”The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by.”

We don’t think we need more proof to go meat-free, do you? Meat has led to a host of negativeenvironmental and health factors for years. Harvard University found that a diet high in red meat raised the risk of breast cancer for women by 22 percent, and found those who regularly ate 5.6oz (160g) of red meat a day had one third higher risk of bowel cancer.

These studies provide more proof that meat really isn’t a healthy choice. If our bodies don’t see meat as a welcomed food, it’s time to stop eating it once and for all.

For tips to go meatless, check out: 13 Meatless Monday Meals for the Beginner Cook.

Lead Image Source: Rpavich/Flickr

More Milk, More Problems

milk-fracture

Science Contradicts Milk Marketing

This week, another study has illustrated that milk actually has a negative effect on bone health. Researchers in Sweden published findings in the British Medical Journal showing that women who drink milk have a higher incidence of bone fractures—and an increased risk of mortality from heart disease and cancer.

According to the study, women who consume three or more glasses of milk per day have a 60 percent increased risk of developing a hip fracture and a 93 percent increased risk of death. And each glass of milk increases mortality risk by 15 percent.

However, this news should not come as a shock to anyone outside of the dairy industry’s advertising department. A 2005 review in Pediatrics showed that milk has no effect on preventing stress fractures in girls. In fact, the research linked higher milk consumption with higher fracture risk.

For strong, healthy bones, it’s important to have enough calcium and vitamin D. However, animal products tend to leech calcium from bones, yet plant foods do not have this effect. One cup of collards has 268 mg of calcium. Spinach has 245 mg in a single cup, while a cup of soybeans has 261 mg. When you take fortified orange juice and fortified tofu into account, it’s easy to obtain more than the daily calcium recommendation of 1,000 mg.

Regardless of what milk marketers would have you believe, vitamin D is not naturally occurring in dairy milk. Last week, we examined a recent Canadian study suggesting that children who consumed dairy milk had higher levels of vitamin D. After reviewing the research, we learned that the dairy milk was fortified—while the plant milks were not. Any fortified non-dairy beverage can provide the necessary nutrients, without the cholesterol and saturated fat found in milk.

The science is there: milk does a body bad. Let’s wipe off the milk mustaches and remove milk from the school lunch line. To learn how you can help get milk out of schools, visitwww.HealthySchoolLunches.org.

Last updated by at October 30, 2014.

12 Frightening Facts About Milk

 

A large observational cohort study[1] in Sweden found that women consuming more than 3 glasses of milk a day had almost twice the mortality over 20 years compared to those women consuming less than one glass a day. In addition, the high milk-drinkers did not have improved bone health. In fact, they had more fractures, particularly hip fractures.

Interestingly, the study also found that fermented milk products (cheese and yogurt) significantly decreased mortality and fractures among these women. For each serving of these fermented dairy products, the rate of mortality and hip fractures was reduced by 10-15%. The researchers pin the negative effects of liquid milk on D-galactose, a breakdown product of lactose that has been shown to be pro-inflammatory. Milk has much more D-galactose than does cheese or yogurt.

I am surprised that this study garnered so much mass media attention upon its release, as it highlights the deleterious side of milk, but I also think it is important to keep the findings in context. And when it comes to the health effects of dairy, the context is not so pretty:

  1. In observational studies both across countries and within single populations, higher dairy intake has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer (cited in [2]).
  2. Observational cohort studies have shown higher diary intake is linked to higher ovarian cancer risk (cited in [2]).
  3. Cow’s milk protein may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes through a process called molecular mimicry[3].
  4. Across countries, populations that consume more dairy have higher rates of multiple sclerosis[4].
  5. In interventional animal experiments and human studies, dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels. Increased levels of IGF-1 has now been implicated in several cancers[5].
  6. In interventional animal experiments[6] and human experiments[7], dairy protein has been shown to promote increased cholesterol levels (in the human studies and animal studies) and atherosclerosis (in the animal studies).
  7. The primary milk protein (casein) promotes cancer initiated by a carcinogen in experimental animal studies[8].
  8. D-galactose has been found to be pro-inflammatory and actually is given to create animal models of aging[1].
  9. Higher milk intake is linked to acne[9].
  10. Milk intake has been implicated in constipation[10] and ear infections (cited in [2]).
  11. Milk is perhaps the most common self-reported food allergen in the world[11].
  12. Much of the world’s population cannot adequately digest milk due to lactose intolerance.

So despite being very pleased that the public is glimpsing some of the evidence against milk in this recent study (though they also could be hearing about the benefits of cheese and yogurt from this same study), I think there is a far more powerful story; a story that takes into account the largely hidden context of diet and dairy research. There is a wealth of indirect evidence of very serious possible harms of consuming dairy foods, and, on the flip side, the evidence that milk prevents fractures is scant.

As we look beyond the headlines, it is hard to think that we should continue to consume the lactation fluid that exists in nature to nourish and rapidly grow calves.

References

  1. Michaelsson K, Wolk A, Langenskiold S, et al. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. Bmj 2014;349:g6015.
  2. Lanou AJ. Should dairy be recommended as part of a healthy vegetarian diet? Counterpoint. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2009;89:1638S-42S.
  3. Dahl-Jorgensen K, Joner G, Hanssen KF. Relationship between cows’ milk consumption and incidence of IDDM in childhood. Diabetes Care 1991;14:1081-3.
  4. Malosse D, Perron H, Sasco A, Seigneurin JM. Correlation between milk and dairy product consumption and multiple sclerosis prevalence: a worldwide study. Neuroepidemiology 1992;11:304-12.
  5. Key TJ. Diet, insulin-like growth factor-1 and cancer risk. Proc Nutr Soc 2011:1-4.
  6. Kritchevsky D. Dietary protein, cholesterol and atherosclerosis: a review of the early history. The Journal of nutrition 1995;125:589S-93S.
  7. Gardner CD, Messina M, Kiazand A, Morris JL, Franke AA. Effect of two types of soy milk and dairy milk on plasma lipids in hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2007;26:669-77.
  8. Youngman LD, Campbell TC. Inhibition of aflatoxin B1-induced gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase positive (GGT+) hepatic preneoplastic foci and tumors by low protein diets: evidence that altered GGT+ foci indicate neoplastic potential. Carcinogenesis 1992;13:1607-13.
  9. Spencer EH, Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. Int J Dermatol 2009;48:339-47.
  10. Caffarelli C, Baldi F, Bendandi B, Calzone L, Marani M, Pasquinelli P. Cow’s milk protein allergy in children: a practical guide. Italian journal of pediatrics 2010;36:5.
  11. Rona RJ, Keil T, Summers C, et al. The prevalence of food allergy: a meta-analysis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:638-46.
Thomas M. Campbell, MD is executive director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and a practicing, board-certified family physician at the University of Rochester. He is co-author of The China Study and author of the upcoming book, The Campbell Plan: The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reverse Illness, Using The China Study’s Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet.

Parasites on the brain

News
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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Liver Disease

Dr. McDougall's Health and Medical Center

Liver Disease, Hepatitis, and Liver Failure

Standard Practice:

The function of the liver is to detoxify and excrete a variety of substances consumed in the diet and waste products of our body’s metabolism. The liver also produces proteins necessary for the clotting of the blood and a protein called albumin that serves to keep fluid in the blood vessels. A failing liver results in the accumulation of breakdown products of metabolism, edema, and finally coma and death.

There are many causes of liver disease; the most common are infections with viruses and alcohol. Continuous injury with either of these agents results in permanent loss of liver tissue. One of the changes in the liver that occurs during injury is the accumulation of fat within the liver cells. This condition known as fatty infiltration commonly occurs in alcoholism, diabetes and obesity, and is in part due to a high-fat diet. With severe liver damage, liver cells are replaced by extensive scar tissue–the condition is known as cirrhosis of the liver.

Current Treatment:

Liver damage is first treated, whenever possible, by stopping drinking alcohol, especially when alcohol is the primary cause. The recommended diet for anyone suffering from liver disease is high in carbohydrate, low in protein, low in fat diet, and low in sodium.

Drugs are used to help control some of the complications of the ailing liver. Diuretics are often given to help relieve the edema and partially compensate for the patient’s poor compliance to a low-salt diet. Drugs, such as lactulose, decrease the absorption of protein from the intestine, and thereby further reduce the protein load to be handled by the liver. Steroids are sometimes used to decrease inflammation.

Drawbacks:

Medications deal primarily with symptoms and fail to prolong the patient’s life in most cases. Survival is not improved with the use of steroids and other antiinflammatory drugs. Unfortunately, strict adherence to a healthy diet is rarely encouraged by the physician until liver disease is far advanced. By this time there is too little liver left to make much of a difference.

The McDougall Program:

The McDougall Program: (Dietary and Lifestyle Implications):

The treatment of liver disease is primarily with a low-fat, low-protein, high-complex carbohydrate starch-based diet started early–long before liver failure is advanced. A healthier diet will relieve much of the burden on the diseased liver, since a large part of the liver’s function is to metabolize excess proteins, cholesterol, fats and additives from the diet. The low-fat quality of the McDougall diet helps relieve the fatty infiltration stage of the liver disease; there is a gradual disappearance of fat from the liver in four to eight weeks along with the improvement in diabetes and weight loss following the introduction of the diet. Progress can often be measured by reduction in the liver enzymes, SGOT and SGPT, seen by blood tests.

Current Therapy:

A person with liver failure must be as kind to his or her body as possible primarily by avoiding toxic substances and making food choices that are not excessive in fats and proteins. Low-sodium may be important in advanced liver failure to reduce fluid accumulation. Because all foods are naturally plentiful in protein it is often necessary to make-up as much as half the diet from “empty calories” foods in the form of simple sugars such as white sugar or corn syrup in order to dilute the protein content of the starches, vegetables and fruits to a tolerable level.

Fed Up With “Fed Up”

By T. Colin Campbell, PhD June 3rd, 2014 News45 Comments

In case you missed it, a new diet and health documentary movie called “Fed Up” was released in theaters on May 9. I’ve never written a movie review before—in fact, I am not much of a moviegoer. But my wife, Karen, and I decided to see this one, partly because this topic has been my career and partly because it seems that an unusually strong public relations effort was mounted to get people to see it.

But mostly, what specifically drew my attention was an op-ed piece by NY Times health science writer Mark Bittman who recommended it, so I took him at his word.

First, for the film’s credits. It mainly speaks of a problem that almost everyone agrees on—the sickening sweetness of too much sugar, especially for children. Who can disagree? But this message seems to me to be the beginning, the middle and the end of the film and it took almost two hours to hammer home what appears to be an obvious truth. A second message blames authorities (especially a few academics) for shoving so much sugar down our throats, a thought shared by many discontented citizens these days.

So, now, let’s look at some stories that failed to make it into the film. First, there is the title. It provides gravitas suggesting that the film is going to tell us what is the real cause of the big health problem that we suffer. They say it’s our excessive consumption of sugar that causes obesity that causes, in turn, other diseases, although they mostly left it to our imagination what these might be. Our really big health problem is obesity, so the film says, and if we could only eliminate this heavy-weight problem, our sickness would disappear. And, we can do this, of course, by eliminating sugar from our diets. So simple…..!

This is a very reductionist idea that seriously short-changes the far more comprehensive diet and health connection. Obesity should not be considered an independent disease outcome or a stepping-stone to other disease outcomes. Obesity was first granted its own independent disease status, with its own medical code number, about twenty years ago to make it easier for physicians to charge a fee for their obesity-treatment services and to bring more public attention to the problem—or so it was said at that time. I was not supportive of this decision then and still do not do so today. Any disease with independent disease status suggested to me that treatments targeted specifically for obesity might be developed, like weight loss pills, bariatric surgery or counting calories. And so it has come to pass, with little or no gain in long-term health.

Obesity is only one member of a broad spectrum of symptoms and illnesses, which are now known to share the same dietary lifestyle. And further, sugar is only one nutrient-like chemical member of a vast array of nutrient-like substances in food. It is unscientific and irresponsible for this film to target a specific cause of one outcome while ignoring countless other outcomes that share the same (collective) cause.

I know of no evidence that were we to eliminate all sugar from our diets, presumably leaving the rest of the diet the same, we could rid ourselves of disease and restore our health.

In a debate of sorts, four scientists, each having reputable research experience, compared their interpretations of the evidence for and against sugar, in its various forms of consumption (high fructose corn syrup, sugar-sweetened beverages, sucrose and/or fructose solutions) as a cause of obesity, diabetes and a few clinical indicators of these diseases. Their evaluations were just published in the April issue of Diabetes Care, the official journal of the American Diabetes Association.[1][2]

It may come as a surprise but the evidence showing sugar to be a major factor in obesity is relatively weak. There certainly is some evidence but closer examination shows that much of this evidence may be attributed to its contribution to calories or other factors not measured, an interpretation shared by both research groups. However you may choose which side of this debate you prefer, I am inclined to favor the argument that sugar is problematic[1] even though the effect is less scientifically qualified than we all tend to believe.

To make the film more authentic, the producers interviewed a large number of people they call experts on the topic of diet and health. In most scientific research disciplines, there usually are guidelines as to who qualifies as an expert. Based on the criteria used in my discipline, I have serious trouble agreeing that journalists (even those who are widely known) are ‘experts’. For that matter, I am equally concerned with some professionals (physicians and even nutrition and food science researchers) who allow themselves to be considered as experts simply because they may have a professional degree but have no relevant clinical or research experience. When these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ are less than candid about their professional qualifications and experiences, they tend to say almost anything they want. Thus, they are more inclined to rely on their personal and institutional prejudices, feeling free to cherry pick which cause and which effect to paint grand pictures. It would help if there were more transparency, which applies both to supporters and deniers of the connection between whole plant-based foods and their remarkable health benefits. The consequence of not being clear about qualifications and biases is that the public mostly cannot know who speaks sense and who speaks nonsense, who speaks truthfully and who tells lies. In such a maelstrom, important ideas can easily be destroyed.

The film hammers the food industry who contributes to this ‘sugar-dependent’ obesity problem—an understandable observation—but reserves its most critical comments for government advisory panels who make food and health policy. They begin with the 1976-1977 McGovern Committee of the U.S. Senate who initially advocated a “low fat” diet, a position affirmed by a few more advisory committees on diet and health during the 1980s and 1990s. According to the film, consumers entered this epic journey adopting low fat diets and actually got fatter! This happened, so they say, because we replaced the missing fat by increasing the consumption of more and more sugar-dense products.

False! During this period (from about 1975 to about 2000), I know of no evidence that we actually ate less fat. If anything we consumed more fat (reviewed in The China Study, page 95[3]). Moreover, the film refers to ‘low fat’ diets as those containing about 30% of diet calories that was recommended by policy makers. This is not low fat, at least when compared to the whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet, at about 10-15% fat. The WFPB diet, of course, also is rich in nutrients and related substances now known to prevent and/or reverse a wide spectrum of health problems—including obesity.

The missing message in this film is that concerning the effects of a multiplicity of dietary factors/nutrients, which prevent a wide range of seemingly diverse diseases and which does so remarkably quickly—days to a few weeks. To explain the significance of this concept, I find it useful to group foods into three classes, animal-based, plant-based and processed or convenience foods.

The benefits of these foods are best assessed by their nutrient contents, most of which were not mentioned in the film. It is very clear that for optimum health, we must consume a wide variety of antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (this includes dietary fiber) that are only produced by plants and that must be consumed as whole foods, thus giving the whole food plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle. Based on fundamental evidence from many years ago, this diet easily provides all the protein and fat needed for good health, as well as appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is the balance of these nutrients and their integrated functions that explains the exceptional disease prevention and reversal effects of this diet now being observed. In modern day parlance, this diet is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing, and capable of controlling hormone dependent aberrant cell growth (as occurs, for example, in cancer growth). These, and others, are very complex systems that account for the remarkable biological effects of the foods comprising the WFPB dietary lifestyle. Animal-based and processed foods have no capability for producing the same benefits.

The ‘authorities’ in this film are mostly the same people who have been chanting the same mantra against the WFPB diet at other venues and in other media. They are making headway with the public, partly because they use reductionist argument and experimentation and partly because they have ready access to resources and supporters who want to maintain the present systems of food production and health care.

This “Fed Up” film, aptly named from more than one perspective in my view, is an abysmal failure that lures unassuming consumers to ignore the big picture while mostly maintaining the present status quo. The film’s assertions have little or no credence or potential to resolve the health crisis (poor health, high health care costs) in the U.S.

References

a b Bray, G. A. & Popkin, B. M. Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes? Health be damned! Pour on the sugar. Diabetes Care 37, 950-956 (2014)
Kahn, R. F. & Sievenpiper, J. L. Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes? We have, but the pox on sugar is overwrought and overworked. Diabetes Care 37, 950-956 (2014)
Campbell, T. C. & Campbell, T. M., II. The China Study, Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. (BenBella Books, Inc., 2005)

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