Vol. 3, No. 12
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My Favorite Five Articles Found in Recent Medical Journals
Avoid Supplements – Breast Cancer Increases with Folic Acid
Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer by Deborah Charles in the December 11, 2004 issue of the British Medical Journal found supplementation with folic acid increased risk of death by 21% to 42% and doubled a woman’s risk of breast cancer. This was a study of 3487 women from a trial of folic acid (folate) supplementation. Higher risks of death and cancer were found with higher intakes of folic acid (0.2mg vs. 5 mg daily).
Comment: Folic acid is a water-soluble B-vitamin and has been found to be very important in metabolism related to cancer development However, originally this is a natural vitamin synthesized and stored in plants (foliage = plants). As a vitamin pill supplement it is inexpensive and virtually free of obvious and immediate side effects. Taking folic acid before conception, and then for the first three months of pregnancy, reduces the risk of occurrence of birth defects, such as spina bifida, and possibly heart defects and cleft palate. Because of this, women of reproductive age have been told to take vitamins with folic acid. Folic acid supplements can also reduce homocysteine levels (a risk factor for heart disease) in people, and thus has been proposed as a means to prevent heart attacks (however, the benefits are still highly controversial).
The popular belief in the universal benefits of folic acid supplementation has reached the level where our foods (like breads, cereals and pastas) are now commonly fortified with this vitamin. However, the long-term effects of exposure to high concentrations of this supplement are unknown. This article brings out the possibility that women who try to protect their offspring from birth defects may be trading for a higher risk of breast cancer.
Food Means Benefits without Risks
In general, I do not recommend taking supplements and you can read much more about this in my August 2003 newsletter article: Plants, not Pills, for Vitamins and Minerals.
Most of the confusion concerning the importance of vitamins comes from the fact that worldwide there is a correlation with consumption of foods high in vitamins and other nutrients, like folic acid, and a reduced risk of many diseases. Note: this comparison is with the foods people eat – not the pills they take or synthetic vitamins added to foods. Delivering vitamins which have been deprived of their natural packages (fruits and vegetables) into people’s bodies creates over-concentrations and imbalances, which cause the body’s systems to malfunction, and disease can result.
Charles D, Ness AR, Campbell D, Davey Smith G, Hall MH. Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ. 2004 Dec 11;329(7479):1375-6.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Meat
Dietary factors for the development of inflammatory polyarthritis by Dorothy Pattison in the December 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism found people with a high consumption of meat and meat products have more than twice the risk of inflammatory arthritis than do people who consume less. High intake of dairy products also meant almost twice the risk, and high total protein intake was associated with three times the risk of inflammatory arthritis. Not surprisingly, less fruit intake also means more arthritis. This was a study of 23,630 people from Norfolk, England.
Comment: This study adds to the convincing body of evidence that educates people on how to keep their joints healthy and how to cure serious forms of arthritis by changing their diet. Rheumatoid, psoriatic, Lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and non-specific arthritis are found commonly in populations that eat the rich Western diet. Most importantly, multiple studies have demonstrated that these kinds of inflammatory arthritis can be cured with a change to a low-fat, vegan diet. (Read "Diet: Only Hope for Arthritis" and "Star McDougallers" - Jean Brown, Vanessa, Sabrina, Mayra, Rolling Back Dermatitis...and Phyllis Heaphy. These are found on my web site at www.drmcdougall.com.)
The patient suffering with painful, swollen joints is anxious for the doctor to make a diagnosis – hoping this will lead to a cause for the arthritis and an effective treatment. The truth is, what you call the problem (the diagnosis) fails to help the patient in any real way. Regardless of whether the doctor calls your troubles rheumatoid arthritis, polyarthritis, non-specific arthritis, Lupus or psoriatic arthritis, the facts remain the same: your trusted health professional has no idea of the cause or cure and the same drugs are offered to you regardless of what you call your aching joints: aspirin, NSAIDs, steroids, Plaquenil, cancer chemotherapy, or other “disease modifying drugs.”
Pattison DJ, Symmons DP, Lunt M, Welch A, Luben R, Bingham SA, Khaw KT, Day NE, Silman AJ. Dietary risk factors for the development of inflammatory polyarthritis: Evidence for a role of high level of red meat consumption. Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Dec;50(12):3804-12.
Blood Pressure Pills (Calcium Channel Blockers*) Kill
Association between cardiovascular outcomes and antihypertensive drug treatment in older women by Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller in the December 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that taking a certain type of blood pressure medications – calcium channel blockers* – commonly prescribed by doctors, doubles your risk of dying of cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, congestive heart failure and other major cardiovascular events).1 However, inexpensive diuretics were found to be the safest and most effective means to control elevated blood pressure.
In this study, diuretics were found to be more effective than ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers, yet sales of diuretics are on the decline and the dangerous, expensive, drugs are the most commonly prescribed.
Comment: Your health and quality of health-care are determined by money. The news media, over the past few months, have shown you the cold-hearted nature of the pharmaceutical companies, with their promotion of anti-depressants (SSRI) that increase suicide in children and arthritis-pain medication that can more than double your risk of heart attacks (Cox-2 inhibitors – Vioxx, Celebrex, and Betrax). Last month (November 2004) in the lead newsletter article: Sick People Take Medications – Healthy People Are Drug-Free, I gave you the reasons to avoid five classes of medications:
Sulfonylureas for Type-2 Diabetics
Calcium Channel Blockers* for Hypertension
Medroxyprogesterone for Menopause
Cox-2 Inhibitors for Arthritis Pain
Angiotensin Receptor Blockers for Hypertension or Heart Disease.
Your goal must be to be healthy and not a customer of the doctor (medical) and pharmaceutical industries. You can do this with cost-free procedures, like diet, exercise, and clean habits. Interestingly, I cannot find ICD-9-CM Procedure Codes (codes used by the government and insurance companies to reimburse doctors for treatments) for any of these therapies.
Most of the time (95% +) a change in diet, some exercise, along with associated weight loss, will lower blood pressure to normal and people who follow our program are able to get off all medications. However, on those rare occasions when a patient’s elevated blood pressure persists (remains over 160/100 mm Hg for months) then I prescribe simple diuretics (they cost pennies). There is also an argument that says the safest diuretic is chlorthalidone2 – this is the one I recommend.
* Commonly Prescribed Calcium Channel Blockers: Adalat, Cardene, Cardizem, Covera-HS, DynaCirc, Isoptin, Nimotop, Norvasc, Plendil, Procardia, Sular, Tiazac, Verelan.
1) Wassertheil-Smoller S, Psaty B, Greenland P, Oberman A, Kotchen T, Mouton C, Black H, Aragaki A, Trevisan M. Association between cardiovascular outcomes and antihypertensive drug treatment in older women. JAMA. 2004 Dec 15;292(23):2849-59.
2) Chlorthalidone vs other low-dose diuretics. Choi KL, Chua D, Elliott WJ. JAMA. 2004 Oct 20;292(15):1816-7.
Shark Cartilage and Cancer – Nonsense and Not Good for Sharks
Shark cartilage, cancer and the growing threat of pseudoscience by Gary Ostrander in the December 1, 2004 issue of the journal Cancer Research concluded that after reviewing the scientific literature, that “Scientific evidence to date supports neither the efficacy of crude cartilage extracts nor the ability of effective components to reach and eradicate cancer cells.” However, this popular notion has led to serious depletion of shark populations (along with harvesting them for shark fin soup).
The justification for using shark cartilage for cancer treatment is largely based upon the claim that “sharks do not get cancer.” The authors of this paper investigated the presence of cancer in sharks and found that many forms of cancer do occur in sharks. No one really knows how common cancer is in sharks. Most importantly, even though this claim has been around for more than 15 years (ever since William Lane’s book “Sharks Don’t Get Cancer,” 1992), not a single controlled study has documented benefits for cancer patients.
Comment: People’s fear of sharks and misunderstanding of their importance, along with false beliefs about their benefits for cancer and sexual virility, have resulted in elimination of most of these animals from our oceans. I worry that I may not be able to show my grandchildren many of nature’s most wondrous creatures because people ate them into extinction. Benefits of a vegetarian diet and the truth about medical treatments have implications far beyond your own body – correct information has a huge impact upon our environment and preservation of the species. For many people, issues of “animal rights” and the environment, rather than self-preservation, are the ones that have led them to a healthy diet. Regardless, for everyone’s sake, it is essential that the truth about proper human nutrition spreads fast.
Ostrander GK, Cheng KC, Wolf JC, Wolfe MJ. Shark cartilage, cancer and the growing threat of pseudoscience. Cancer Res. 2004 Dec 1;64(23):8485-91.
Over-fat Means Brain Loss
A 24-year follow-up of body mass index and cerebral atrophy by D. Gustafson in the November 2004 issue of the journal Neurology found that being overweight and/or obese throughout adult life may contribute to the loss of brain tissue (development of temporal atrophy) in women. Being overweight is known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In this study the sizes of various parts of the brain were measured by sophisticated x-rays, CT scans, over two decades of life. As they aged, women who were more overweight lost more brain tissue.
Comment: There are numerous reasons that loss of brain tissue may be associated with being overweight, and all of these have a common denominator of poor health, largely resulting from poor dietary choices. For example, people who are overweight because of a poor diet and lack of exercise have more risk of artery disease. A poor supply of blood to the brain tissues from diseased arteries can mean mini-strokes and other forms of subtle brain damage. You can learn much more about the association of Alzheimer’s Disease and a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet by reading my June 2004 newsletter article: “Alzheimer’s Disease Can Be Safely Prevented and Treated Now.”
Gustafson D, Lissner L, Bengtsson C, Bjorkelund C, Skoog I. A 24-year follow-up of body mass index and cerebral atrophy. Neurology. 2004 Nov 23;63(10):1876-81.