Category Archives: Disease Prevention

How to Avoid Blood Cancers by Greg Feinsinger M.D.

There are basically 3 types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

  • Leukemia involves propagation of mutant white blood cells in the bone marrow. Normal white blood cells fight infection but leukemia cells lose this function. Furthermore, they crowd out normal red and other types of white blood cells in the bone marrow. Around 52 thousand cases of leukemia occur in the U.S. annually, and 24 thousand people die from it.
  • Lymphoma involves mutation and propagation of another type of white blood cell—lymphocytes. The most common type is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, of which there are 70 thousand cases diagnosed in the U.S. every year, with about 19 thousand deaths.
  • Myeloma involves plasma cells—white blood cells that produce antibodies. Some 24 thousand Americans are diagnosed with myeloma every year, resulting in 11 thousand deaths.

Treatment of blood cancers has variable results, with the greatest success being childhood leukemia, which now has a 90 percent ten-year survival rate. As with other diseases, prevention is best. In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger reviews foods associated with decreased blood cancer risk. As discussed in the last several columns, what we eat don’t eat can lower the risk of many types of cancer. Dr. Greger says that studies have shown that “the greatest protection appeared to be against blood cancers.”

  • Sulforaphane* is a strong cancer-fighting micronutrient present in cruciferous vegetables—arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnip greens, and watercress. Sulforaphane kills human leukemia cells in the lab, and studies have shown that high daily dietary cruciferous intake decreases the risk of lymphoma.
  • In a Mayo Clinic study, people who ate 5 or more servings of green, leafy vegetables a week had a 50 percent lower incidence of lymphoma compared with those eating less than 1 serving a week.
  • There is preliminary evidence that turmeric can slow or stop pre-myeloma changes in humans.
  • Acai berries have been shown in the lab to be effective against leukemia cells, although studies proving that they prevent leukemia in living humans have not been done yet. Of course, Big Food jumped on the favorable lab evidence—beware of “superfood” supplements and shakes, which have not been proven to have any benefit.

Dr. Greger also cites certain foods that increase the risk of blood cancers:

  • People who grow up on poultry farms and workers in the poultry industry are at higher risk for blood cancers. Eating poultry regularly also increases risk. The cause is thought to be certain viruses that cause cancer in poultry and probably in humans (we don’t know for sure yet).
  • Exposure to cattle and pigs has been associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and eating them may prove to increase risk of lymphoma although again, we don’t know for sure yet.

*In order for sulforaphane to be released from cruciferous vegetables, an enzyme called mycrosinase is necessary, and this enzyme is inactivated by cooking. One strategy you can use is to eat some raw cruciferous veggies, such as cauliflower or broccoli, before you eat cooked cruciferous veggies—that way microsinase is available to release the sulforaphanes in the cooked veggies. A second strategy is to chop or blend cruciferous veggies at least 40 minutes before you cook them, which allows mycrosinase to do its job. A third strategy is to add mustard or horseradish to cooked cruciferous veggies (mustard greens and seeds, and horseradish, come from cruciferous vegetables and contain mycronase). Frozen cruciferous vegetables are flash-heated prior to freezing, to prolong shelf life—so frozen cruciferous vegetables need to be considered “cooked.”

Celebrate! The AMA – American Medical Association Wants Healthy Food in Hospitals

At its annual meeting on June 14, 2017, the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates, which represents more than 200,000 physician members, issued a policy statement that called for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats, and an increase in the availability of healthful, plant-based foods in hospitals.

Click here to Read the article 

Certainly this is not enough, but a great start!

Protect Your Brain From ALZHEIMER’S with Plants, Not Pills

This is the last article in a series about preventing Alzheimer’s, based on Dr. Neal Barnard’s evidence-based book “Power Foods for the Brain.” Other physicians have websites and have written books on this subject, but many of these books are not based on good science, and many of the authors are biased because they sell supplements. The last article discussed how metals such as copper, zinc, iron and possibly aluminum can adversely affect the brain, especially in combination with animal products.

Dr. Barnard is founding president of the respected PCRM (Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine). His book has a chapter about “foods that build your vitamin shield.” Vitamin E and three B vitamins—B6, B12 and folic acid– protect against cognitive impairment when ingested in a plant-based diet. However, studies using these vitamins in supplement form indicate they are not beneficial, and can even cause harm:

  • Vitamin E pills in doses over 400 units a day increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Vitamin A pills in smokers increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Folate is found in many vegetables. Folic acid, present in many vitamin pills and in fortified food is made artificially and is not exactly the same as natural folate. There is evidence that folic acid increases cancer risk.

We evolved to get vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients through the food we eat. Sudden, huge doses of vitamins in pill or liquid form are not natural, and can cause harm such as oxidation and inflammation, that contribute to several maladies including heart disease, cancer and dementia.

According to Dr. Barnard, here’s how you can get brain-healthy vitamins through what you eat:

  • Traces of vitamin E are present in broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, mangoes and avocados. Larger amounts are found in nuts and seeds– particularly almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flaxseed. Dr. Barnard mentions a study that showed that “every 5 mg. of vitamin E in a person’s diet reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 26 percent.”
  • Best sources of B6 are whole grains, green vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes, bananas and nuts.
  • Sources of folate are broccoli, green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, citrus fruits, and cantaloupe.
  • The caveat is that there is one supplement we should take, particularly if we are vegan– vitamin B12, which is made by bacteria in dirt. B12 is found in meat, fortified cereals, fortified soy milk and nutritional yeast. With treated water and pre-washed produce, most of us don’t eat much dirt these days. Vegans should take a 1000 mg. B12 supplement daily, and Dr. Barnard argues that even meat-eaters should take a daily 2.5 mg. supplement, particularly if over age 50 (older people don’t absorb B12 from their diet as well).

Previous articles have discussed how Alzheimer’s may prove to be a vascular disease. While that hasn’t been proven yet, we do know that Alzheimer’s patients have clogged arteries in their brains, and that the risk factors for heart disease (such as hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes) are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Therefore, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Avoid or at least cut back on meat; dairy; eggs; processed food; added oil, salt and sugar. Eat mostly, or ideally exclusively,  vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

In a recent video on his website nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Michael Greger talked about the marked increase in Alzheimer’s in Japan over the past few decades, as meat, dairy and egg consumption increased by 500 percent. We know what we need to do to ensure healthy brains as we age. Why is it so difficult, then, for so many Americans to modify their lifestyle? Next week’s column will be about food cravings.

Water, Walnuts and Gold

As noted in recent news lately, walnuts are water guzzlers. While California’s water crisis soars, agricultural acreage devoted to walnuts has grown 30 percent in the state over the past 10 years.

What California farmers may eventually lose to conservation may trickle down to a global walnut drought, depriving us an abundance of one the healthiest foods on the planet.

The nutritional benefits in walnuts are amazing in their reach, ranging from heart health and cognitive function, to prevention of cancer and diabetes  One of the mighty nutrients inside the walnut are Omega-3 fatty acids.

According to Dr. Frank Sacks Professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the two major types of omega-3 fatty acids vital to our health. A handful of five or six walnuts is enough to meet our daily requirements for ALA. They also serve up key antioxidants that protect our health and help block our consumption of bad cholesterol.

Walnuts are a nutrition packed, guilt free snack. And with higher prices looming, just may be worth their weight in gold.