7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat

Forks

People go plant-based for lots of reasons. These include losing weight, feeling more energetic, reducing the risk of heart disease, decreasing the number of pills they take … there are dozens of great reasons! For even more inspiration, check out these other benefits you can expect when you go plant-based.

1. You’ll reduce inflammation in your body.

If you are eating meat, cheese, and highly processed foods, chances are you haveelevated levels of inflammation in your body. While short-term inflammation (such as after an injury) is normal and necessary, inflammation that lasts for months or years is not. Chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other conditions.

In contrast, plant-based diets are naturally anti-inflammatory, because they are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, and much lower in inflammatory triggers like saturated fat and endotoxins (toxins released from bacteria commonly found in animal foods). Studies have shown that people who adopt plant-based diets candramatically lower their level of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in the body.

2. Your blood cholesterol levels will plummet.

Elevated blood cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease and strokes, two of the leading killers in the United States. Saturated fat—primarily found in meat, poultry, cheese, and other animal products—is a major driver of our blood cholesterol levels.Cholesterol in our food also plays a role.

Studies consistently show that when people go plant based, their blood cholesterol levels drop by up to 35% . In many cases, the decrease is equal to that seen with drug therapy—with many positive side effects! People who require cholesterol-lowering drugs can further slash their cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk by adopting a plant-based diet.

Whole-food, plant-based diets reduce blood cholesterol because they tend to be very low in saturated fat and they contain zero cholesterol. Moreover, plant-based diets are high in fiber, which further reduces blood cholesterol levels. Soy has also been shown to play a role in lowering cholesterol, for those who choose to include it.

3. You’ll give your microbiome a makeover.

The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are collectively called the microbiome. Increasingly, these microorganisms are recognized as crucial to our overall health: not only do they help us digest our food, but they produce critical nutrients, train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, and help protect us from cancer. Studies have also shown they play a role in obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

Plant foods help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome. The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, fiber-poor diets (such as those that are high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria. Landmark studies have shown that when omnivores eat choline or carnitine (found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy), gut bacteria make a substance that is converted by our liver to a toxic product called TMAO. TMAO leads to worsening cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels and escalates the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Interestingly, people eating plant-based diets make little or no TMAO after a meat-containing meal, because they have a totally different gut microbiome. It takes only a few days for our gut bacterial patterns to change – the benefits of a plant-based diet start quickly!

4. You’ll change how your genes work.

Scientists have made the remarkable discovery that environmental and lifestyle factors can turn genes on and off. For example, the antioxidants and other nutrients we eat in whole plant foods can change gene expression to optimize how our cells repair damaged DNA. Research has also shown that lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet, can decrease the expression of cancer genes in men with low-risk prostate cancer. We’ve even seen that a plant-based diet, along with other lifestyle changes, can lengthen our telomeres—the caps at the end of our chromosomes that help keep our DNA stable. This might mean that our cells and tissues age more slowly, since shortened telomeres are associated with aging and earlier death.

5. You’ll dramatically reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

An estimated 38% of Americans have prediabetes—a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Animal protein, especially red and processed meat, has been shown in study afterstudy to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Adventist population, omnivores have double the rate of diabetes compared with vegans, even accounting for differences in body weight. In fact, in this population, eating meat once a week or more over a 17-year period increased the risk of diabetes by 74%! Similarly, in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and Nurses Health Study, increasing red meat intake by more than just half a serving per day was associated with a 48% increased risk in diabetes over 4 years.

Why would meat cause type 2 diabetes? Several reasons: animal fat, animal-based (heme) iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.

You will dramatically lessen your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by leaving animal products off of your plate and eating a diet based in whole plant foods. This is especially true if you eat whole grains, which are highly protective against type 2 diabetes. You read that right: carbs actually protect you from diabetes! Also, a plant-based diet can improve or even reverse your diabetes if you’ve already been diagnosed.

6. You’ll get the right amount—and the right type—of protein.

The average omnivore in the US gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources.

Contrary to popular perception, this excess protein does not make us stronger or leaner. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer.

On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases. There is no need to track protein intake or use protein supplements with plant-based diets; if you are meeting your daily calorie needs, you will get plenty of protein. The longest-lived people on Earth, those living in the “Blue Zones,” get about 10% of their calories from protein, compared with the US average of 15-20%.

7. You’ll make a huge impact on the health of our planet and its inhabitants.

Animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet. It is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef in the U.S. Our oceans are rapidly becoming depleted of fish; by some estimates, oceans may be fishless by 2048. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.

Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer, whether raised in industrial factory farms or in farms labeled “humane.” Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it.

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This article by Dr. Michelle McMacken went viral when we first published it in January!Note that you can meet Dr. McMacken and hear her speak at our exciting weekend event in Pasadena, CA. Click here for more info.

Ready to get started? Learn more about the life-savingplant-based diet, access hundreds of delicious free recipes, download our convenient recipe app, register for our online cooking course, and have fresh meals delivered to your door!

How to improve health, reverse disease and manage weight

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I am writing this after spending a few minutes today planted broccoli, pea and bamboo sprouted seeds in a sprouting tray hoping to harvest some of the greatest sources of nutrition anywhere. Did you know that broccoli sprouts may have 40 times the healing nutrition of even the powerhouse regular broccoli? It is easy to plant sprouted seeds in a tray and have a indoor health garden. Try it!

Spring time may also be the time to make a major move in your health by learning to eat plant based. I am helping a friend do a 30 day plant based diet challenge. He was the most well known bacon fanatic in Detroit and he is doing great half way through the month. We have taken several grocery store tours together to find tasty new treats that are healthy and these are on my personal Facebook page.  

If you have decided to avoid animal products and jump into plant-based eating, how do you start?  Are you wondering what your three meals a day and snacks are going to look like. How will you order at restaurants? What do you need to stock up on at home?

As a cardiologist, I’ve discussed this process with thousands of patients because no-added-oil vegan diets (such as the Ornish and Esselstyn diets) have been shown to reverse heart artery disease and prevent heart attacks. I routinely use one or all of the following resources to guide my patients through this transition.

1. Check out these free starter guides.

Here are some organizations with some great free resources to help you get started on a plant-based diet:

  • Kaiser Permanente The largest managed care organization in the USA provides strong medical support for a whole foods plant-based diet, as well as pages of practical tips in their downloadable resource.
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) This organization, led by Dr. Neal Barnard, maintains high standards and does original research. For example, PCRM has found evidence that diabetes mellitus in adults can be treated and reversed with plant-based diets. Their Vegetarian Starter Kit is excellent.
  • People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) This group does great work exposing animal cruelty and their Vegan Starter Kit to eating is an important resource, offering a two-week meal plan, tips to make the transition, and a list of foods to eat.
  • Vegan Outreach This non-profit organization does wonderful work on college campuses reaching almost a million students a year. Their guide to cruelty-free eating is excellent; it features dozens of recipes, plus information about vegan philosophy and nutrition.

click here2. Watch helpful (and inspirational!) videos.

  • Forks Over Knives I ask all of my patients to watch this documentary with their family. It makes a bigger impact on deciding to eat a healthier diet than any other resource I’ve found. The film’s website has a guide to eating that is another great resource.
  • Animals Deserve Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT) This is a website created by animal liberation activist Gary Yourofsky and features his viral 70-minute speech making the case for a vegan diet. The site has great resources for changing to plant-based nutrition.
  • The Ultimate Guide To Plant Based Nutrition MindBodyGreen offers a video course that is a home run with Rich Roll and Julie Piatt. It’s not free, but the 3.5 hours of practical information and kitchen skills are second-to-none in value.

3. Find full nutrition plans.

  • PCRM offers a 21-day complete vegan program called the Vegan Kickstart. It’s free and includes celebrity tips, meal plans, webcasts, restaurant guides, daily messages, and a community forum. It is run beginning the first of every month, is free, and is even available in several languages. I highly recommend signing up.
  • PETA offers a complete two-week nutrition plan for free including what to eat, what to make, and where to eat. I have found this to be a helpful resource.

4. Consider home delivery of plant based meals

There are several great resources to have meals delivered to your door at reasonable prices and high quality. I have tried www.22daysnutrition.com, www.forksoverknives.com, www.medimeals.com and www.plantpurenation.com.  They make it too easy and tasty to not give your body a much needed break from meat protein, saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics, sources of TMAO and persistent organic pollutants. 

While diet is a personal matter, increasing scientific evidence drawn from longitudinal studies such as the Adventist Health Studythe EPIC-Oxford Study and other large databases indicate that the lowest rates of chronic diseases occur in people who don’t eat meat, eggs and dairy and instead consume mostly plant-based foods.

The resources above can be of use to anyone hoping to improve health, reverse disease, or manage weight. Eating a plant-based diet reduces damage to the planet and animals while making you healthier. It’s a win-win-win we can all embrace.

I talk more about heart based reversal and nutrition in my books you can view by clicking here and in my online course you can preview and purchase here.  You will be hearing more about a PBS show I will be filming soon on this topic. 

Dr Joel

Cancer-killing dandelion tea gets $157K research grant

CBC News Posted: Apr 20, 2012 2:14 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 20, 2012 2:40 PM ET

Researchers at the University of Windsor will study dandelion root extract's cancer-fighting properties.

Researchers at the University of Windsor will study dandelion root extract’s cancer-fighting properties. (CBC New

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Researchers in Windsor, Ont., have received an additional $157,000 grant for a total of $217,000 to study how effective dandelion root extract is in fighting cancer.

Siyaram Pandey, a biochemist at the University of Windsor, has been studying the anti-cancer potential of dandelion root extract for almost two years.

His team’s first phase of research showed that dandelion root extract forced a very aggressive and drug-resistant type of blood cancer cell, known as chronic monocytic myeloid leukemia, to essentially commit suicide.

Researchers then discovered that repeated treatment with low dose dandelion root extract was effective in killing most of the cancerous cells.

Those initial findings landed the research team a $60,000 grant from Seeds4Hope, which provides money for local cancer research.

Pandey then applied for continued funding from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation. That $157,000 came through earlier this week bringing the total to $217,000.

Researcher was skeptical at first

Pandey admits he was skeptical when he was first approached by local oncologist, Dr. Caroline Hamm, who was curious about cancer patients who had been drinking dandelion tea and seemed to be getting better.

“To be honest I was very pessimistic,” Pandey said in a statement. “She said it could be coincidental but it couldn’t hurt to see if there is anything.”

Hamm was convinced that the weed contains an active ingredient, but warned earlier this year that “it can harm as well as benefit.”

She told CBC News in February that taking dandelion extract tea could interfere with regular chemotherapy, and she urged patients not to mix the natural remedy with other cancer drugs without speaking to a doctor first.

Pandey conducted a literature review and could only find one journal article suggesting dandelions may have cancer-killing properties. But he and his team of graduate students collected a bunch of the weeds anyway, ground them up with a mixture of water in a food processor and developed a simple formula they could experiment with.

They tested the formula on several lines of commercially available leukemia cells and much to their surprise, found that the formula caused those cells to kill themselves, a process called apoptosis.

“It was startling, but it was not that startling until we saw that it was non-toxic to the normal cells,” he said.

wdr-220-john-dicarlo-dandelion-tea

John DiCarlo, 72, says dandelion tea saved his life, after other medical treatments for his leukemia failed. (CBC News)

John DiCarlo, 72, was admitted to hospital three years ago with leukemia. Even after aggressive treatment, he was sent home to put his affairs in order with his wife and four children.

The cancer clinic suggested he try the tea. Four months later, he returned to the clinic in remission. He has been cancer free for three years.

He said his doctor credits the dandelions.

“He said, ‘You are doing pretty good, you aren’t a sick man anymore’,” DiCarlo told CBC News in February.

The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630849

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2004 Dec;16(8):549-60.

Abstract

AIMS:

The debate on the funding and availability of cytotoxic drugs raises questions about the contribution of curative or adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to survival in adult cancer patients.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

We undertook a literature search for randomised clinical trials reporting a 5-year survival benefit attributable solely to cytotoxic chemotherapy in adult malignancies. The total number of newly diagnosed cancer patients for 22 major adult malignancies was determined from cancer registry data in Australia and from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results data in the USA for 1998. For each malignancy, the absolute number to benefit was the product of (a) the total number of persons with that malignancy; (b) the proportion or subgroup(s) of that malignancy showing a benefit; and (c) the percentage increase in 5-year survival due solely to cytotoxic chemotherapy. The overall contribution was the sum total of the absolute numbers showing a 5-year survival benefit expressed as a percentage of the total number for the 22 malignancies.

RESULTS:

The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.

CONCLUSION:

As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.

Study links high cholesterol to increased risk of breast cancer

A new study recently presented at the Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biology meeting in Barcelona, Spain, suggests that women who have high cholesterol may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

woman checking breast
Using a statistical model, the researchers estimated that women with high cholesterol were 1.64 times more likely to develop breast cancerthan women with normal cholesterollevels.

The research team, led by Dr. Rahul Potluri of the Algorithm for Comorbidities, Associations, Length of Stay and Mortality (ACALM) Study Unit at Aston University School of Medicine in the UK, says their findings indicate that statins – drugs used to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, in the blood – could be used to prevent breast cancer.

Past research has indicated a link between obesity – which can cause high cholesterol – and increased risk of breast cancer. A 2013 study reported by Medical News Today found that the obesity status of a woman may influence the rate of breast cancer cell growth and tumor size.

The researchers note that a more recent study suggested that cholesterol levels are what feeds this association. But the team wanted to investigate the link further.

Women with high cholesterol ‘1.64 times more likely to develop breast cancer’

To reach their findings, the investigators analyzed information from the ACALM clinical database between 2000 and 2013, which included more than 1 million patients.

Of the 664,159 women in the database, 22,938 had hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, and 9,312 had breast cancer. The team found that 530 of the women who had high cholesterol developed breast cancer.

Using a statistical model, the researchers estimated that women with high cholesterol were 1.64 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with normal cholesterol levels.

The researchers say although their findings are purely observational at this point, they could have important long-term implications for women with high cholesterol.

Dr. Potluri says:

“We found a significant association between having high cholesterol and developing breast cancer that needs to be explored in more depth.

Caution is needed when interpreting our results because while we had a large study population, our analysis was retrospective and observational with inherent limitations. That said, the findings are exciting and further research in this field may have a big impact on patients several years down the line.”

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the US. This year alone, approximately 232,670 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

The researchers point out that if their findings are validated through further research, they would like to see whether reducing cholesterol with statins could also lower the risk of breast cancer.

“Statins are cheap, widely available and relatively safe,” says Dr. Potluri. “We are potentially heading towards a clinical trial in 10-15 years to test the effect of statins on the incidence of breast cancer. If such a trial is successful, statins may have a role in the prevention of breast cancer especially in high risk groups, such as women with high cholesterol.”

Medical News Today recently reported on a study by researchers from University College London in the UK, which revealed thedevelopment of a simple blood test that could predict how likely a woman is to develop breast cancer.

Cholesterol feeds prostate cancer

Cholesterol feeds prostate cancer  BBC News
Prostate images

Prostate cancer can be a killer

High cholesterol levels accelerate the growth of prostate tumours, research has found.A team from Boston’s Children Hospital also found that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may inhibit prostate cancer growth.

The findings may help explain why prostate cancer is more common in the West, where diets tend to be high in cholesterol.

Details are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Our data support the notion that cholesterol-lowering drugs might be effective in prevention of prostate cancer
Dr Michael Freeman

Rates of prostate cancer in rural parts of China and Japan, where low fat diets are the norm, are up to 90% less than in the West.Yet when Eastern men migrate to the West their chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer increase.

This has led doctors to suspect that environmental factors – such as diet – may play a significant role in the development of the disease.

Mice experiments

The Boston team injected human prostate cancer cells into mice and watched them grow.

When the animals were fed high cholesterol diets, cholesterol was found to accumulate in the outer membranes of tumour cells.

This appeared to alter chemical signalling patterns within the cells.

As a result, they resisted signals telling them to commit suicide and instead continued to proliferate in the uncontrolled fashion seen in cancer.

The increased cholesterol levels did not trigger new cancers in the mice.

But six weeks after the tumour cells were injected, mice on the high-cholesterol diets had twice as many tumours as animals on ordinary diets.

Their tumours were also much larger in size.

When the cells were exposed to the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin, cell death increased and tumours stopped proliferating.

But replenishing cell membranes with cholesterol caused the cancer to run out of control again.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Freeman said: “Our study opens up a new paradigm in thinking about how cancer might be controlled pharmacologically by manipulating cholesterol.

“Our data support the notion that cholesterol-lowering drugs – which are widely used and fairly safe – might be effective in prevention of prostate cancer, or as an adjunctive therapy.”

Chris Hiley, of the UK Prostate Cancer Charity, said: “This research is clearly at an early stage, as it was accomplished in mouse cells, not men, but it’s heartening to see a plausible connection made between processes inside cells and the Westernised high fat diet that seem to increase the risk of prostate cancer occurring.

“The results do open up thinking about new drug therapies.

“But there is also a low tech option any man could attempt today.

“Adopt a healthy low cholesterol diet and active lifestyle.

“Cut down on saturated fats, reduce the total amount of fat eaten but eat oily fish, and eat a high fibre diet – with porridge oats, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Every year 27,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 10,000 men die from it.

Brain tumours feed off cholesterol

Scientists say their finding that most glioblastoma tumours are reliant on cholesterol to survive, opens the door to drugs that could be developed to stop them.

American researchers found that up to 90 per cent of glioblastomas – themselves the most common form of brain cancer – have what they called a “hyperactive signalling pathway” for cholesterol.

This means that their cells become programmed to suck up LDL cholesterol, which further feeds their growth.

Dr Deliang Guo, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and lead author of the study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, said: “Our research shows that the tumor cells depend on large amounts of cholesterol for growth and survival, and that pharmacologically depriving tumor cells of cholesterol may offer a novel therapeutic strategy to treat glioblastoma.”

Dr. Paul Mischel, professor of pathology at the Jonsson Cancer Centre at the University of California Los Angeles, added: “It potentially offers a strategy for blocking that mechanism and causing specific tumor-cell death without significant toxicity.

“Overall, our findings suggest that the development of drugs to target this pathway may lead to significantly more effective treatments for patients with this lethal form of brain cancer.”

The results came from a laboratory study of cells from human brain tumours, as well as animal experiments.

About 5,000 people are diagnosed with brain cancer every year in Britain, while they cause about 3,600 deaths annually.

Glioblastoma multiforma (GBM) tumours are the most common in adults. They are also the most aggressive and are frequently difficult to treat. Average survival time from diagnosis is 15 months.

Controlling ‘bad cholesterol’ production could prevent growth of tumors, study finds

Several studies have recognized a link between obesity and cancer. Richard Lehner, professor of Pediatrics and investigator at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has taken his research further to understand how tumour cells grow through scavenging very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), commonly known as the “bad cholesterol”, and what mechanisms can be used to reduce the malignant cells’ growth.

The innovative study, an effort of over 2 years by Lehner’s group in collaboration with Gerald Hoefler and his team (Medical University of Graz, Austria), was published in scientific journal Cell Reports. The data gathered from their experiments suggest a feed-forward loop, in which tumours not only use lipids as “building blocks” to grow, but they can regulate their host’s lipid metabolism to increase production of these lipids.

The “bad cholesterol” binds to LDL receptors in the liver, the organ in charge of degrading it and excreting it from the organism as bile. “Cancer cells need lipids to grow. They can make their own lipids or get more from the host because these cells grow so fast,” explains Lehner. “The tumour signals to the liver: ‘I need more cholesterol for growth’ and the liver is reprogrammed to secrete those lipids.”

One of the key factors for this process are proteins we all have that, in larger quantities, may cause a decrease in the amount of LDL receptors to excrete the cholesterol. The tumour affects these proteins to reduce clearance of cholesterol from the blood, leaving the LDL for cancer to feed off of it.

These findings led Lehner and Hoefler to an interesting hypothesis: minimizing the liver’s production of LDL would deprive a tumour from its constant supply and therefore reduce its possibility of growth. Their experiments in pre-clinical models proved to be successful, confirming lower tumour development with the regulation of the proteins that affect production of VLDL (precursors of LDL) and uptake of LDL by receptors from the liver.

This research received the support of grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and its DK Programme. It was also possible through the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s Lipid Analysis Core Facility, the Women and Children Health Research Institute (WCHRI) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

The next step for Lehner and his team will be to test existing medications that would help in limiting the production of cholesterol on patients undergoing cancer treatment — adding them to their current therapies.

“There are medications approved that we can test”, says Lehner. “They were not developed for cancer, they were manufactured for people with hypercholesterolemia [chronic condition where patients have very high level of cholesterol in their blood], but it will be interesting for us to test them with cancer patients and see if there is improvement.”

Lehner intends to expand the support received and develop these tests locally, including technology and facilities from the institutes and clinics related to the University of Alberta. “The collaboration with Austria was to set the concept of the investigation,” he explains. “We have a great group here, great cancer researchers. We are in good hands to continue.”

Should these potential clinical trials prove to be effective, we could be facing an improved way to help cancer patients: eliminating the tumour, while preventing it from growing at the same time.

Media Contact

Ross Neitz
rneitz@ualberta.ca
780-492-5986
@ualberta_fomd

http://www.med.ualberta.ca

Does Your Doctor Always Know Best?

90+ How I Got There!

Faced with a medical decision, patients normally allow their doctor to decide on treatment, assuming he or she “always knows best”. But “Consumer Report on Health” claims that this approach rarely works anymore. Doctors simply are unable to keep up with the flood of new information on medical therapy. Consequently, some medical decisions must be based on the patient’s priorities, not just the doctor’s. This process might even decrease the cost of medical care.

Often the problem is communication. For instance, a study of 1,057 doctor/ patient visits, including 3,552 clinical decisions, found that only 9 percent provided the patient with enough information to make an informed choice!

So how do you figure out what is best for you? Potential traps are the now common operations of cataract surgery, and knee or hip replacement. Remember, these elective procedures should only be done when the physical condition affects your quality of life by inability to function. Not when the surgeon says, “I can fit you in.”

It’s also been reported that about one in seven women who have a hysterectomy don’t need the operation. So, ask if there are other procedures such as endometrial ablation that either remove fibroids or remove the lining of the uterus to decrease excessive bleeding.

Be cautious about long-term therapy such as the treatment of hypertension. Rather than submit yourself to a lifetime of prescription drugs, ask how lifestyle changes such as losing weight and exercise can be helpful. Taking a magnesium pill or a powder such as MagSense can relax arteries, decreasing blood pressure. So does the natural remedy Neo40 which, by increasing the production of nitric oxide, also relaxes arteries, thus decreasing hypertension. In addition, studies show that high doses of vitamin C and lysine will slowly remove atherosclerosis from arteries, a main cause of high blood pressure. Your Health Food Store will inform you of the various choices available.

Screening tests also cost our health care system billions of dollars annually. Some are of questionable benefit and may cause unintended complications. One study showed that 40 percent of checkups involved tests which were unproven. For instance, if you don’t have a family history of heart disease or coronary symptoms there’s no need for a stress test. Some authorities also believe the PSA test to diagnose prostate cancer should never to be done as it causes more complications than it saves lives. And women in their forties should discuss the pros and cons of mammography before agreeing to one.

Every year a large numbers of MRI’s are performed for low back pain. But they are not needed unless the procedure is required for a treatment decision. It’s well known that an MRI may show a disk problem, but it may not be the cause of the pain. Many patients have this abnormality without back pain. Besides, most back pain subsides without any treatment.

90 percent of hernias occur in men but how many require surgery? For years it’s been standard practice to operate to avoid bowel obstruction. But a study which followed several thousand men for several years discovered that, contrary to medical opinion, only one percent per year suffered from this complication.

Of course you must always ask your doctor, “What happens if I decide against treatment?” For instance, an 80 year old man with early prostate cancer may live another 15 years without treatment. In the interim he may die of something else. He may also decide that he does not want to take the risk of surgery and end up in diapers.

For women with early breast cancer a “lumpectomy” may be an option rather than complete removal of the breast. Some however, feel more assured if the entire breast is removed. The main point is to be an informed patient so there are no surprises.

Michael Barry, Professor of Medicine at The Harvard Medical School studied 2,600 adults age 40 and older who faced decisions about surgery, medicine and screening tests. He reports that their level of knowledge was low. Many did not even know why they were undergoing a specific procedure.