September 2005

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Vol. 4, No. 9


My Favorite Five Articles Found in Recent Medical Journals 

Stress Reduces Your Risk of Breast Cancer 

Self reported stress and risk of breast cancer: prospective cohort study by Naja Rod Nielson in the September 10, 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal found women with high levels of stress suffered 40% less risk of developing breast cancer over a period of 18 years compared to women reporting a low level of stress.  The authors explained, “High endogenous concentrations of oestrogen are a known risk factor for breast cancer, and impairment of oestrogen synthesis induced by chronic stress may explain a lower incidence of breast cancer in women with high stress.”  This study involved 6689 women who were asked to rank their perceived level of stress during a data collection period of 1981 to 1983.  The finding of high stress and low risk of breast cancer was particularly strong for women on HRT (hormones).  Examples of stress reactions were sensations of tension, nervousness, anxiety, and experiences of sleeplessness.  In this study, 10% of women reported a high level of stress.

Comment:  Stress is the most common scapegoat used by people when trying to solve the mystery behind their poor health or a tragic disease.  “Stress” is a rationalization that often serves victims well.  By playing the “stress card” they have relieved themselves of responsibility for their troubles, because stress is unstoppable and elusive, and a normal, acceptable part of life.  People think, “If the cause is stress then there is no need for me to change my diet, clean up bad habits and/or exercise.” 

This stress-cause is easy to believe because most people feel as if their lives are stress-filled—however, isn’t life supposed to be difficult?—sometimes?  I’m not saying there is no such thing as stress and that we should ignore our uncomfortable feelings.  Temporary unpleasant situations should be resolved, like a “bad” marriage or employment conditions. 

I believe stress is a normal and necessary part of life—these pressing feelings cause us to get jobs done and problems resolved.  There is no easy way to relieve chronic stress from our lives. So, even if stress were the cause of major illnesses, what would you do about it?

I believe it is important for people to stop blaming stress for their health problems, and instead focus on the true culprits—those found in their environment, and especially their diet.  Diet, as opposed to stress, is 100% tangible—with your very next bite of food you can change a strategy—from one CAUSING breast cancer to one PREVENTING breast cancer.

One of the ways stress indirectly puts us at risk is by causing us to indulge in self-destructive behaviors.  Stress triggers us to smoke more cigarettes, drink more alcohol, eat more rich foods and skip our morning exercise.  Therefore, as shown by this study of women and breast cancer, living a life perceived as nerve-racking, does not equal poor health, as long as you maintain your good habits.

Nielsen NR, Zhang ZF, Kristensen TS, Netterstrom B, Schnohr P, Gronbaek M. Self reported stress and risk of breast cancer: prospective cohort study.  BMJ. 2005 Sep 10;331(7516):548. Epub 2005 Aug 15.

Feed Your Children Right—Fries Today May Mean Breast Cancer Tomorrow

Preschool diet and adult risk of breast cancer by Karin Michels, published in the August on-line issue of the International Journal of Cancer found that, “An increased risk of breast cancer was observed among woman who had frequently consumed French fries at preschool age.” “…an energy-rich diet during puberty and adolescence affects the growth of the mammary glands and enhances the occurrence of precancerous lesions.”  One additional serving of French fries per week meant a 27% increased risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Comment: Children seem almost indestructible and therefore most parents fail to correctly perceive the consequences of their guidance.  Not only is the rich Western diet (right now) causing obesity in our children, but the effects linger throughout life.  The same overnutrition that causes the normal body cells to grow also causes abnormal cancer cells to grow. One of the well-known results of consuming excess fat and calories is an accelerated rate of growth of children—resulting in greater height and body weight.  Body size (tallness and girth) are (both) associated with more breast cancer later in life. 

Habits learned as children continue into adulthood.  Therefore, if you teach your children proper nutrition you will be giving them a lifelong legacy of good health.  Possibly someday, feeding children meat, cheese, and fried foods as a steady diet will be recognized as child abuse—and offenders will be dealt the same punishments now given to adults who contribute to a child’s detriment by providing them alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.

Michels KB, Rosner BA, Chumlea WC, Colditz GA, Willett WC.  Preschool diet and adult risk of breast cancer.  Int J Cancer. 2005 Aug 10; [Epub ahead of print]

Removal of Ovaries Unjustified along with Hysterectomy

Ovarian conservation at the time of hysterectomy for benign disease by William Parker in the August 2005 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found, “Ovarian conservation until at least age 65 benefits long-term survival for women at average risk of ovarian cancer when undergoing hysterectomy for benign disease.”1  The possibility of surviving until age 80 years after a hysterectomy is about 9% better if a woman’s ovaries are not removed during a hysterectomy. 

In practical terms for 10,000 women, this could mean that of those who keep their ovaries compared to those who have their ovaries removed:

838 fewer will die of heart disease
158 fewer will die related to hip fractures
47 more will die of ovarian cancer 

Comment:  The standard practice of medicine, based on logic, opinion, and clinical experience, instead of valid scientific research, is that the ovaries should be routinely removed at the time of hysterectomy in women over the age of 55, and removal should be considered for women over age 40 to reduce the risk of developing cancer of the ovaries in the future. 

Doctors falsely assume that once menopause passes, the ovaries no longer serve any useful purposes.  Egg production does cease with menopause; however, the ovaries continue to produce valuable hormones.  For example, the “male hormones” testosterone and androstenedione are made by the ovaries for years after menopause and some of these hormones are converted by a woman’s own body fat into useful estrogens. 

Protective factors produced by the ovaries and uterus reduce a woman’s risk of heart attacks, bone fractures, and psychological disturbances (hot flashes, depression, sexual dysfunction, etc.).  Drug replacement with HRT (estrogen therapy) does not reduce the risk for heart attacks and offers only partial relief from other ailments caused by loss of the ovaries.

In the USA, 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually and only 10% of these are for cancer.  This means most hysterectomies are performed unnecessarily.  Employment of current knowledge about the proper indications for surgical treatment would reduce the number of operations considerably.  However, if what we know right now about diet were fully used by doctors and public health officials then this operation would be a rarity.  Uterine fibroids, abnormal uterine bleeding and endometrial carcinoma—the primary reasons for this operation—are due to the high-fat Western diet.  Even after fibroids and excessive bleeding start, changing to a healthy low-fat diet corrects hormone excesses and imbalances, and encourages an earlier menopause (which reduces hormones)—leading to benefits that can eliminate the rush to surgery.

Annually, approximately half (300,000) of the 600,000 women in the USA have their ovaries removed at the time of hysterectomy. The rate of ovary removal is age-dependent:  38% between 18 and 44 years, and 78% between ages 45 and 64.  The reason given is usually “prevention of ovarian cancer.”  This cancer is a deadly disease and almost impossible to cure once it occurs.  Therefore, all our efforts need to be directed towards prevention. Not surprisingly a rich diet is believed to be at the root of cancer of the ovaries, as it is for most female cancers.

Much recent research has focused on the cancer-causing role of dairy products.2  People have been drinking cows' milk for around 2000 years—without apparent harm (we hear), but farmed milk of today is very different from that consumed 100 years ago when “Elsie” lived in the pasture. Modern dairy cows are almost constantly pregnant and continue to be “milked” during their entire pregnancy.  Pregnant cows make loads of estrogen.  This added dietary estrogen is believed to increase a woman’s risk of cancer of the breast, uterus, and ovaries.3

1)  Parker WH, Broder MS, Liu Z, Shoupe D, Farquhar C, Berek JS.  Ovarian conservation at the time of hysterectomy for benign disease.  Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Aug;106(2):219-26.

2)  Larsson SC, Bergkvist L, Wolk A.  Milk and lactose intakes and ovarian cancer risk in the Swedish Mammography Cohort.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1353-7.

3)  Ganmaa D, Sato A.  The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian and corpus uteri cancers.
Med Hypotheses. 2005 Aug 23; [Epub ahead of print]

Stop Aspirin Suddenly—Die of a Stroke

Effect of discontinuing aspirin therapy on the risk of brain ischemic stroke by Alexandre Maulaz in the August 2005 issue of the Archives of Neurology found, “…an increased ischemic stroke risk in the 4 weeks after aspirin discontinuation…”  Over three times the expected risk of stroke occurred in patients with a previous history of heart disease when they suddenly stopped taking aspirin.  This appears to be a rebound effect from reversing the “blood thinning effects” of aspirin.  A similar increase in risk of heart attack has been previously reported when aspirin was stopped.

Comment: Aspirin is a valuable tool for the prevention of future strokes and heart attacks in people with a past history of severe artery disease—specifically those with a history of previous heart attacks, angioplasty, bypass surgery, TIA, or strokes.  But these people need to be warned against stopping this “blood-clot-preventing” medication—even when surgery is planned. 

Many people at low risk—without any of the above indications—are taking a baby aspirin (and more) daily “just in case”—to prevent a heart attack or stroke. The bottom line is they are much more likely to be harmed from bleeding and aspirin allergy, than to be helped by any possible benefit of reducing their risk of a heart attack or stroke.  This rebound effect from suddenly stopping aspirin provides another important reason to only use aspirin therapy for those patients likely to gain more benefits than harm.

No one has determined a safe regime for discontinuing this therapy.  Since as little as 30 mg (1/3 of a baby aspirin) will deactivate all of the body’s platelets—slow withdrawal must begin below this level.  From what I now know, I would suggest that people needing to stop long-term use of aspirin should do so very slowly (maybe by cutting their dose in half every 5 days)—and for greatest safety, only reducing their dosage after they have improved their diet. 

The best way to “thin” the blood and prevent blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes is to avoid the most powerful blood-clotting substance people contact daily—animal fat.  By avoiding meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products you naturally and safely thin your blood and prevent tragedies with no side effects, no costs, and no rebound effects. Plus this no-cholesterol, plant-food based diet is the same one that heals the underlying artery disease—atherosclerosis.

Maulaz AB, Bezerra DC, Michel P, Bogousslavsky J.  Effect of discontinuing aspirin therapy on the risk of brain ischemic stroke.  Arch Neurol. 2005 Aug;62(8):1217-20.

Acupuncture Safely Helps Knees with Arthritis

Acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomised trial by Claudia Witt published in the July 9, 2005 issue of the Lancet found, “After 8 weeks of treatment, pain and joint function are improved more with acupuncture than with minimal acupuncture or no acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.”1  Patients with chronic osteoarthritis of the knee were given acupuncture, or a sham procedure of superficial needling at non-acupuncture points for 12 sessions over 8 weeks.  The benefits from real acupuncture lasted a little less than a year.  The side effects of the treatment were minimal (bleeding and needle pain).

Comment:  Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, occurs in almost all adults living in Western societies, as they age.  The knee is a common and troublesome site for this debilitating disease.  Because the knee supports the body weight, obesity will aggravate this condition.   The first obvious step to help the knees is to lose excess body weight—something all doctors recommend.  The structural integrity of the joints—independent of body weight—is also diet-dependent.  A low-fat plant-based diet is the best choice for weight loss and stronger joints.  A recent study of 316 older, overweight or obese, sedentary men and women with x-ray evidence of knee osteoarthritis found that those who lost weight with a healthier diet showed a decrease in inflammation of the joints.2 Exercise did not seem to help.

After a healthy diet change with expected weight loss, the next choice for helping arthritic knees is a medication made from seashells, called glucosamine. (There is also a vegetarian source of this product.)  Research shows this inexpensive remedy works by providing raw materials for rebuilding the joints.3  When taken daily (about 1200 mg), glucosamine will reduce pain and help heal damaged knee joints. I do not recommend products combined with chondroitin because this cow-cartilage material may be infected with microbes as nasty as “mad cow” prions.

Your third step for relief should be treatment with acupuncture as described above, because this relatively inexpensive method is safe and effective.

Your two last resorts are commonly prescribed by medical doctors.  Antiinflammatory and pain medications recommended for osteoarthritis provide temporarily relief, but have serious side effects.  Use these medications as infrequently as possible.

 

Common Arthritis Medications and Some of Their Side-effects

Aspirin:

GI irritation

Bleeding

Allergy

NSAIDs (e.g.: Motrin, Advil, etc.—not COX-2 inhibitors)

GI bleeding

Accelerated joint loss*

Damage to GI barrier 

Tylenol:

Kidney failure

Liver damage 

* NSAIDs work by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins.  Unfortunately, in addition to inhibiting prostaglandins that mediate pain and inflammation, they also inhibit prostaglandins that repair cartilage.4

Surgical knee replacement is costly and risky, but can provide excellent results.5 However, this choice is obviously saved for the very last effort—delayed until life becomes intolerable with pain and disability.

More information on osteoarthritis can be found in my April 2004 newsletter article:  How to Prevent and Treat Degenerative (Osteo) Arthritis.

1)  Witt C, Brinkhaus B, Jena S, Linde K, Streng A, Wagenpfeil S, Hummelsberger J, Walther HU, Melchart D, Willich SN  Acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomised trial. Lancet. 2005 Jul 12;366(9480):136-43.

2)  Nicklas BJ.  Diet-induced weight loss, exercise, and chronic inflammation in older, obese adults: a randomized controlled clinical trial.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):544-51.

3)  Bruyere O, Pavelka K, Rovati LC, Deroisy R, Olejarova M, Gatterova J, Giacovelli G, Reginster JY.  Glucosamine sulfate reduces osteoarthritis progression in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis: evidence from two 3-year studies. Menopause. 2004 Mar-Apr;11(2):138-43.

4)  Ding C.  Do NSAIDs affect the progression of osteoarthritis?  Inflammation. 2002 Jun;26(3):139-42. Review

5)  Kane RL, Saleh KJ, Wilt TJ, Bershadsky B.  The functional outcomes of total knee arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2005 Aug;87(8):1719-24.

 

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