processed meat: it’s on my “never” list

If you’ve read my books, you know there are two foods I never eat and I don’t let my kids eat either. We are virtually 100% about good nutrition at home, but at a party or in a restaurant, we make good choices but aren’t perfect.

The two “over my dead body” foods, though:

One, processed meat. (Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, deli/luncheon meat.) Two, soft drinks.

Here’s a meta-study (my favorite kind–a review of lots of different research studies, in this case almost 1,600 pieces of research) showing how damaging processed meat is to our health:

http://health.yahoo.com/news/reuters/us_heart_meat.html

Nearly 20 years ago, I read a study examining childhood cancers. Kids who developed cancer had no risk factors in common except a prevalance of high (11 or more monthly) hot dog consumption. I have no idea why I remember that–11 hot dogs a month–but I do. Then my best friend worked for Bain & Co., out of college, and one of her clients was a meat-packing plant. After working inside that business, she said to me, “Promise me that you and any offspring you have will never eat a hot dog. You would not believe how disgusting all the ingredients of that product are.”

Everything I’ve read since then confirms those original seeds planted in my brain that hot dogs are . . . well, nauseating. Get the vegan kind at the health food store if your family likes hot dogs.

That’s why you’ve heard them called “cancer sticks”–they are not just full of salt, but also nitrates and nitrites, which are well documented to be highly carcinogenic.

I’ve had ONE bite of a hot dog in the past 20 years. That was when I was on national television with two cameras and 20 teenagers chanting, “EAT. IT! EAT. IT!”

You know I’m here to nurture you towards better nutrition without being radical. But some “foods” really don’t qualify as such and I ask you to consider a full-on ban in your home of processed meats.

Breast Cancer and ObamaCare . . . part 1 of 3

The headline in my paper, Mar. 26, is “Up to a Third of Breast Cancer Cases Could be Avoided.” Western countries could avoid 25 to 30 percent of breast cancer cases if they ate less and exercised more.

(That’s lowest-common-denominator stuff. What if they not only got thinner and exercised, but they ate POWERFULLY HEALING RAW PLANT FOODS EN MASSE EVERY DAY? Then how much breast cancer would be avoided? Two thirds? Almost all? I don’t know–but it’s exciting to think about.)

Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at University of Milan, said that what can be achieved with screening has been achieved, and now it’s time to move on to other ideas. Like prevention with nutrition.

The research discussed by researchers at a conference in Spain (sponsored by an agency of The World Health Organization) revolved around what is known about breast cancer AND what a sensitive subject it is.

Who wants to “blame” breast cancer patients for their disease? Certainly not their oncologists. Not me either! If you’re reading this and have breast cancer, I just want you to get well!

On the other hand, would any breast cancer victim deny those 7 out of 8 women who haven’t contracted the disease the opportunity to avoid it? To have the information necessary?

Your chance of contracting this disease is 60% higher if you’re overweight. In 2008, 40,000 women died in the U.S. and 90,000 in Europe. The more fat tissue you have, the more estrogen you produce–fueling excesses that put you at risk for this ugly disease dreaded by women everywhere.

We can’t avoid teaching people how to avoid breast and other cancers (and our #1 killer, heart disease) because we don’t want to hurt their feelings telling them it could have been avoided.

For the sake of everyone else, and for the survivors who have the chance to make lifestyle changes, let’s talk about prevention rather than just mammograms and chemo and radiation.

If we are going to continue to put up with outrageous rates of women cutting off , burning, and poisoning their breasts, well, we have to look at completely insane solutions like ObamaCare.

But if we’re willing to abandon the insanity and become calm, logical, and practical about our health, we must begin the journey back to our roots.

Back to the days when breast cancer was very rare.

The days when we ate greens, vegetables, fruits, from our gardens. When we also ate legumes, whole grains, clean animal protein in the winter, cultured milk and vegetables assisting our digestion and immunity. We didn’t have as much variety and choices. But we made our food in our homes, with simple, whole ingredients.

depressing foods

Researchers at University College London published findings that eating processed, fatty food increases the risk of depression.

One group in the study of 3,486 people ate whole foods (mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, and fish) and the other ate fried food, processed meat, dairy, and desserts. Researchers controlled for factors like exercise and smoking, and even so, they found those with a processed diet had a 58 percent higher rate of depression.

Findings were published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Why? The study doesn’t know, so this is me making educated guesses. A clogged digestive tract (eating a low-fiber diet) leads to lower energy, which leads to an inability to complete tasks and discouragement.

Sugar and other processed food taxes and burns out the adrenals needed for stable mood.

Lack of micronutrients starves cells all the way to organs (brain, blood, bone, and more).

As blood pressure, constipation, energy depletion, enzyme depletion, weight creep, and hundreds of other issues compound, depression seems an almost inevitable result.

obesity conference

This is an email I got from a GSG reader. Dr. Larsen is a dentist who studies nutrition to help his patients and practices what he preaches. His observations at the obesity conference he recently attended parallel my own, as documented sometimes on this blog. What do you think?

Robyn,

I attended a seminar in Salt Lake a couple of weeks ago titled, “Obesity: A Scientific Update.” It was presented by Beverly White, PhD, RD and it was very interesting, thought you might be interested in what was said.

I will attach my notes, some of which may not make any sense, but the following are my overall impressions after the seminar.

First of all, the room was mostly full of nurses and dieticians, and I would say at least half of the group were either over weight or obese. These are the dieticians who are teaching Americans how to eat and be healthy.

The success rates for Americans who attempt fad diets is about 5-10% after 1 year. The success rates of the prescription medications is less, and ALL of them have serious side effects, and some physicians are leaving patients on them indefinitely because they know if they take them off, the weight will return, although none of the drugs have been approved for long term use. Bariatric surgeries are super expensive, and have complications and side effects as well, and not a great success rate. Dieticians working with clients may have a slightly higher success rate than the 5-10%, but when they stop seeing the nutritionist, the bad habits return and the weight comes back on. I got a very weird feeling about the whole obesity epidemic, kind of like there is nothing we can really do about it, even though we are the ones trained to help people eat healthy. Beverly cautioned the dieticians to not try to make too radical of a change to anyone’s diet, or they will rebel and not follow through.

I asked Beverly one-on-one between one of the breaks if she had read Colin Campbell, Joel Furhman, Mike Anderson, or had studied anything about plant-based diets in her PhD program. She was not familiar with any of the people I mentioned, had never heard of the China Study, for example, and they did not study plant-based diets.

At one point in the program, she asked how many eat 3-5 servings of fruits or vegetables/day (could be from a can, frozen, etc.) and about 30% of the group raised their hand. She asked if anyone eats 6-9 servings/day and I raised my hand along with I think one other person. After the class, one of the RD’s came running up to me and asked me how in the world I eat that many servings a day. I said it’s easy. I told her about green smoothies, she had never heard of them. I told her about plant-based diets, she had never heard of them.

They have done research that shows that children who are taught good nutrition at a young age can follow that for many years to come, and may be more likely to eat healthy than adults. Too bad what we’re teaching children isn’t always the best information, when it comes from government food pyramid.

Anyways, thought this might be interesting to you. It was kind of an eye-opener to me. I really feel like the MD’s and the RD’s and the nurses who are in our health care system don’t really believe in nutrition themselves.

Sincerely,

Garon Larsen

Weston Price Foundation versus The China Study

A yahoo group I belong to, “Natural LDS Women,” is having a debate about the “science” of the Weston Price Foundation, versus The China Study.” A recent poster said that with scientific “facts” so conflicting, you really just have to pray about it and go with your gut. “LDS” means Mormon (my religion), and in this post I refer to the famous before-its-time scripture known as the Word of Wisdom, as I have in other places in my writings, about nutrition:

I rarely have time to respond to yahoo groups even though I follow some threads, but this morning I responded with this posting, about the two research titans, about research in general, and about navigating the “science” versus “gut” decision making tension:

The first people to tell you there are no scientific “facts” are scientists themselves. We have evidence, but not proof. Good science is hard to come by. In the modern world, the vast majority of our “science” (not even qualifying as “facts”) is bought and paid for. That is, the science looks objective but is funded by someone with a profit motive.

Industries paying for lots of research such as pharmaceuticals, dairy, meat, or processed foods (four huge industries that are very powerful) may have sifted through a lot of data and cherry picked whatever makes them look good, for promotion and publication.

Studies begin to become compelling when they are valid and reliable, the two highest standards in research. Briefly, VALID means the study truly measures what it purports to measure. (If a study saying wine consumption reduces heart disease is valid, it will have controlled for the fact that wine drinkers are more affluent than beer drinkers–so they also eat more fruits and vegetables. That’s hard to do!) RELIABLE means the research study was repeatable with consistent results.

The China Study is one of the most reliable studies I have ever encountered. Colin Campbell (PhD, Cornell) conducted the original animal studies, but other researchers all over the world copied them with the same results, over and over. Then he found similar findings in humans–in a huge study of 6,500 people spanning now 30 years (so the study is also longitudinal–that’s expensive and very rare in research, but one of the ways to achieve validity).

When you see a study saying oatmeal prevents heart disease, you don’t run out and buy all the oatmeal you can and knock every other good thing out of your diet. You watch and wait until you see lots of OTHER studies showing the same thing. You have a healthy skepticism about what you read–open minded, keen eye looking for more data. You are waiting for further light and knowledge. And you use your common sense. (For instance, in this case, “Well, I know that UNREFINED oats have bran and germ–vitamins, minerals, and fiber–so it’s good. But other grains have the same thing, so I’ll keep using them, too.”)

Vitamin D is one of those issues. The first time I read a study that those getting more sun get vastly less cancer, I was intrigued but skeptical. Now, more and more research is coming out with consistent conclusions, and I am beginning to believe strongly that getting more Vitamin D is critical to the strength of our immune systems, to our ability to minimize disease risk, to our ability to build and maintain bone mass. And it’s hard to get enough D in places with long winters, or for people who aren’t outside much–without supplementation. It has given me pause, since I have not been much of a fan of taking vitamin supplements in the past. Now that it’s cold here in Utah, I can’t get sun. I took a Quest Diagnostics baseline test during my peak of sun exposure in July, and now I’m supplementing with Vitamin D tablets and will test again in Feb. or Mar. I want to know if my synthetic Vita D consumption actually is utilized in my own body.

Double blinded, placebo-controlled studies are the best. Peer reviewed articles in journals are the best. Even they are not foolproof, though. Plenty of flawed research has been published in the most prestigious journals of the world. Studies that have had to be pulled back when their flaws are revealed. Good research is extremely hard to achieve. It’s meticulous, it’s difficult to isolate one factor, and above all, it’s time consuming and expensive.

This is not the place to go into why I vastly prefer the more recent, more thorough work in The China Study to the much older, much more flawed, much more biased work the Weston Price Foundation has done.

But let me say this, briefly: the findings of China Study match the LDS Word of Wisdom that we discuss in this yahoo group and are a fan of. Campbell’s studies weren’t meat eaters versus vegetarians. They were meat eaters (20%, matching the Standard American Diet in that respect at least) versus eating meat sparingly, in times of winter, cold, and famine. (Language culled from D&C 89, The Word of Wisdom.) Following the Word of Wisdom wins–with more than 200 statistically significant findings. (That means that the margin of error is NOT the reason for the finding.)

Yes, pray and receive revelation to guide your journey through what is admittedly a CONFUSING path in nutrition and health. But also be smart, savvy, educated consumers of information. Some research–though NONE of it qualifies as “fact”–is better than others.

That’s my $0.02. With that and a quarter, you can buy a phone call.

Robyn
GreenSmoothieGirl.com

Always use an antibiotic for strep and ear infections, right?

With winter coming up, I know many of you have kids who get strep or ear infections or any number of other illnesses we have come to think of as “normal.” When my family quit eating processed foods many years ago, we eliminated any need for asthma drugs and antibiotics.

In Europe, antibiotics are used to treat ear infections only when patients experience recurrent drainage or pain, because infections resolve themselves over 85 percent of the time. One study shows that 75 percent of childhood ear infections are caused by viruses. One study followed 168 children with ear infections where antibiotics were prescribed only if the child had a history of meningitis or subsequent serious infection, or if the illness involved a high fever or profound weakness. Antibiotics were recommended for only 6 percent of the children. No serious complications were observed in the others, who recovered fully. Another very large international study showed that antibiotics did not improve rate of recovery in ear infections in nine countries.

Mothers who breastfeed have the highest chance of avoiding the ear-infection cycle that many are in today–the best preventative measure you can take, according to multiple studies.

More than 75 percent of patients seeking help with sore throats are given antibiotics by their doctors, when only 10 percent are caused by bacteria (or 30 percent in children). Even half of those who test positive for strep are positive because they chronically carry the bacteria even though it doesn’t make them ill. (I am one of them. When I had my last baby, they tested for Strep A and came rushing into the room demanding I be put on a “preventive” antibiotic because I was positive–fortunately, the baby came out before they could try to inject me.)

Doctors provide antibiotic prescriptions often even though they know they are unnecessary, because patients want a prescription. You are more educated than that. The scare tactics of “you must take this antibiotic or your child may get scarlet fever” are highly overrated (these complications are very rare and even most bacterial infections resolve themselves thanks to the human immune system).

My mother put me on antibiotics every time I got strep as a child; consequently, I got strep every few months. I spent 15 years trying to recover my immune system from so many courses of antibiotics. The last time I got strep, 15 years ago, I refused to take antibiotics and used goldenseal instead (an herb that kills bad bacteria without killing good bacteria, and it can also be effective against viruses). The strep went away and I never got it again. (In combination with the herb, I was changing my diet at that time and becoming much less susceptible to infections and have never had one since.) None of my children has ever had strep. One of my children had chronic ear infections as a baby, but I never gave her antibiotics and used natural remedies instead, and I did have tubes put in her ears.

On the other hand, risks of antibiotic use are significant and should be considered as well. Joel Fuhrman in Disease-Proof Your Child quotes a large study published in JAMA showing that women who used antibiotics fairly frequently had twice the breast cancer risk compared to women who took no antibiotics (over a 17-year period). Other medical studies show that children getting multiple rounds of antibiotics early in life are more prone to asthma, hay fever, and eczema. Killing the beneficial bacteria in your gut as antibiotics do (they can’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria) also means you have little defense against the next virus or infection to come around.

I use colloidal silver, oregano oil, and lots of alkaline water. I’ve never had to go to antibiotics. I much prefer methods of fighting infection that work WITH the immune system rather than against it.