Favorite Five for
My favorite articles found in
recent medical journals
Low-fat, Plant-food Diet
Slows Breast Cancer
Dietary fat, fiber,
vegetable, and micronutrients are associated with overall
survival in postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast
cancer by Archana Jaiswal McEligot in the second issue
of the journal Nutrition and Cancer concluded, “These
results suggest that in postmenopausal women diagnosed with
breast cancer, reduced dietary fat and increased fiber,
vegetable, fruit, and other nutrient intakes associated with
a plant-based, high-fiber diet improves overall survival
after breast cancer diagnosis.”1 Women with
breast cancer consuming the highest fat diet had three times
the risk of dying compared to those with the lowest fat
intake. All kinds of fat including saturated fat,
monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated (vegetable) fats
were found to reduce survival. Monounsaturated fat—from
margarine, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, biscuits, muffins,
cheeses, and cheese spreads—was associated with three to
four times the risk of dying. Markers of higher fruit
and vegetable intake like vitamin C, folic acid, carotenoids,
and lutein were associated with better survival. Note:
Nutrients from food, rather than from supplements (pills)
meant better survival. There was no association with
alcohol intake and overall survival in women with a
diagnosis of breast cancer.
Comments: In 1984 the
first study showing the benefits of a low-fat, plant-food
based diet for women who already had breast cancer was
published in a medical journal.2 I was the author
of that study. Since my report there have been 17 more
studies published on the effect of diet on breast cancer
survival. Common sense dictates, “You should not pour
gasoline on a fire.” Since most scientists and doctors
believe the Western diet has a major causative role in this
disease, then a fundamental therapy recommended to all women
must be a healthy diet. Yet, in real life few women are
ever told of this connection and to improve their diet.
The course of breast cancer is
highly variable with some women dying quickly and some
living 35 and more years with their disease. The outcome is
determined by the aggressiveness of the cancer pitted
against the resistance of the person. The patient’s ability
to fend off the cancer is determined largely by her diet.
Without any doubt, better nutrition will improve the quality
of a woman’s life and the evidence says her years will also
be extended. Could five years expected survival time be
lengthened to ten or fifteen by improving the vitality of
her immune system and the powers of her other
cancer-fighting defenses? I believe so—and this is one more
study that supports my beliefs.
Recommending that women with
breast cancer eat healthier should be easy for doctors.
After all, this therapy does not cause nausea, vomiting, or
any loss of hair. This is not like chemotherapy costing
thousands of dollars. Plus, a healthy diet will also reduce
the risk of most diseases from heart attacks to gallbladder
Weight loss follows the
adoption of a low-fat diet, offering another survival edge.
Trim women with breast cancer are known to live much longer
than overweight women. Another cost-free, side-effect-free
habit, exercise, has been shown to reduce the absolute risk
of death for women with breast cancer by 6% over 10 years.3
Thus, the survival benefits achieved from a healthy diet and
an exercise program exceed those of all other commonly
prescribed therapies: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
But, how many patients know that?
Jaiswal McEligot A, Largent J, Ziogas A, Peel D,
Anton-Culver H. Dietary fat, fiber, vegetable,
and micronutrients are associated with overall survival in
postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer. Nutr
McDougall J. Preliminary study of diet as an adjunct therapy
for breast cancer. Breast 10:18, 1984.
Holmes M, Chen W, Feskanich D, Kroenke C, Colditz G.
Physical Activity and Survival After Breast Cancer
Diagnosis. JAMA. 2005;293:2479-2486.
Mammograms Fail Women from Age 40 Years
Effect of mammographic
screening from age 40 years on breast cancer mortality at 10
years' follow-up: a randomised controlled trial by Sue
M. Moss in the December 9, 2006 issue of the Lancet
found that, “Although the reduction in breast-cancer
mortality observed in this trial is not significant, it is
consistent with results of other trials of mammography alone
in this age-group. Future decisions on screening policy
should be informed by further follow-up from this trial and
should take account of possible costs and harms as well as
benefits.”1 In real numbers, this study found
that after an average of 10.7 years of screening there would
possibly be one less death for every 2512 women undergoing
Comments from an accompanying editorial by Benjamin
Djulbegovic brought up these important concerns about
“False-negative screens might lead to inappropriate
reassurance and delays in diagnosis, whereas false positives
might result in unnecessary biopsies and additional imaging
studies. However, the main harms associated with screening
mammography relate to potential death from
radiation-induced breast cancer.
Although the overall reduction in death from breast cancer
during the 10–15 years' follow-up in trials of screening
mammography is clear, the anticipated peak for
radiation-induced breast cancer occurs some 10–20 years
after exposure, and risk might remain increased throughout a
woman's life. A model estimated that starting screening
mammography at age 40 years is justified if associated with
decreased relative risk of death from breast cancer by 20%
or more—assuming that this theoretical model is correct and
accurate.” (This study showed a nonsignificant relative
risk reduction of 17%—therefore, mammography is not
“Although the best estimates of harms from screening
mammography seem to be less than the benefits, they remain
too uncertain to conclude with a high level of confidence
that screening mammography in this age-group is associated
with a net benefit. Every woman, with her physician's
guidance, should decide whether regret will be greater if
she develops breast cancer that could have been detected
earlier by screening mammography, or if she develops breast
cancer later in life as a result of screening mammography
Comments: The burden of proof resides with those
recommending the tests and treatments. This study clearly
states the proof of benefits is lacking. The reason
mammography fails women is because this measurement is crude
and on average detects cancers only after they have been
growing 8 to 14 years—by this time if the lump detected is
truly cancer—often referred to as invasive cancer—then
the disease has spread to the rest of the body and is
unreachable by surgery or radiation.
Mammography harms a woman by finding “disease” that would
have never threatened her life. In many cases mammography
detects a condition called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
This is not cancer, but when detected it is still treated
aggressively with surgery and radiation. DCIS rarely turns
into a life threatening cancer. Thus, for women for whom a
cure is possible (those with DCIS) early detection and
treatment are not necessary, while for women for whom cure
is necessary (those with invasive cancer), this goal is
rarely possible because the disease has already spread
beyond the boundaries reached by local treatment (radiation
10 disappointing trials, what I keep hearing from my
colleagues and many women is, “Mammography remains the best
opportunity doctors have to offer women.” But that’s not
true; there is something better for preventing breast
cancer, which is an enthusiastic recommendation to change
SM, Cuckle H, Evans A, Johns L, Waller M, Bobrow L; Trial
Management Group. Effect of mammographic
screening from age 40 years on breast cancer mortality at 10
years' follow-up: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet.
2006 Dec 9;368(9552):2053-60.
Djulbegovic B, Lyman GH Screening mammography at
40-49 years: regret or no regret? Lancet. 2006 Dec
Raw Food Vegetarian Diet
Protects Us from Cancer
low-calorie diet and endurance exercise modulate metabolic
factors associated with cancer risk by Luigi Fontana
published in the December 2006 issue of the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a low-protein,
low-calorie diet and exercise lower hormones and growth
factors that increase a person’s risk of developing and
dying from cancer.1 This research compared three
groups, each consisting of 21 people. The first group
selected from members of the St. Louis Vegetarian Society
ate uncooked and unprocessed plant foods; the second group
selected from local running clubs ate the Western diet but
ran an average of 48 miles a week; the third group was made
up of sedentary people who ate the Western diet. The lowest
levels of the very powerful cancer-promoting growth hormone,
Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) were found in
the raw food group. These same healthy eaters had low
levels of C-reactive protein, insulin and cancer-promoting
sex hormone activity.
Comments: This study
demonstrates the health benefits of a plant food based diet
and some people will argue the importance of the diet
consisting of all raw foods. Their foods choices were raw
vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and cereals, and
olive oil; and they strictly avoided processed and refined
foods, and foods of animal origin. As this and other
studies have demonstrated, a diet of uncooked plant foods is
far healthier than the American diet, and can reverse and
prevent many diseases.
From the title of the article
you should notice that the raw food group ate a
“low-protein, low-calorie diet,” but fat is not mentioned.
This is because this raw food diet was very high in
fat—actually 43 percent of the calories were from
fat—compared to 34 percent from fat for those on the Western
I do recommend people eat some
uncooked foods, but I do not recommend an all raw food diet,
because this kind of eating almost obligates a person to eat
a high-fat, high-sugar diet. Most of the people following
the McDougall Diet want to lose weight, which is one
important reason to minimize foods naturally high in fat—the
liberal use of nuts, seeds and avocados makes weight gain
almost effortless. The liberal use of simple sugars from
fruits and juices also makes weight loss harder.
Similar benefits in IGF-1,
C-reactive protein, and sex hormone activity are seen with a
diet centered around cooked starches, such as I recommend.2-4
A starch-based diet is low in fat and calories—both
qualities of food associated with cancer promotion. Lack of
compliance is the biggest stumbling block to dietary
change. My experience has been an all raw food diet is
harder to follow than a diet with cooked foods. This is one
reason no large population of people in recordable history
has ever followed a raw food diet. My experience has been
that a diet of cooked potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and/or
beans, with fruits and vegetables is easily followed. That
is one important reason why all populations living on plant
food based diets throughout history have consumed most of
their calories from cooked starches.
Fontana L, Klein S, Holloszy JO. Long-term
low-protein, low-calorie diet and endurance exercise
modulate metabolic factors associated with cancer risk.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Dec;84(6):1456-62.
McCarty MF. A low-fat, whole-food vegan diet, as
well as other strategies that down-regulate IGF-I activity,
may slow the human aging process. Med Hypotheses.
Roberts CK, Chen AK, Barnard RJ.
Effect of a short-term diet and exercise intervention in
youth on atherosclerotic risk factors. Atherosclerosis.
2006 Oct 18; [Epub ahead of print]
Tymchuk CN, Tessler SB, Barnard RJ. Changes in
sex hormone-binding globulin, insulin, and serum lipids in
postmenopausal women on a low-fat, high-fiber diet combined
with exercise. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):158-62.
Diets Reduce Survival
Low-carbohydrate-high-protein diet and long-term survival in
a general population cohort by Antonia Trichopoulou of
the University of Athens Medical School published in the
on-line version of the European Journal of Clinical
Nutrition found that “…higher intake of carbohydrates
was associated with significant reduction of total
mortality, whereas higher intake of protein was associated
with nonsignificant increase of total mortality… with
respect to both cardiovascular and cancer mortality.”1
This study involved 22,944
healthy adults, under observation from 1993 to 2003, whose
diets were assessed through questionnaire. The authors make
a point of saying proteins of plant origin are not the
problem and “…are generally considered innocuous, if not
beneficial, to health.”
observing the diets of people for a decade this report finds
eating more protein and less carbohydrate will shorten your
life. In more practical terms, animal products shorten
life—plant foods will help you live longer. A daily
increase of 15 grams of protein and a decrease of 50 grams
of carbohydrate was associated with a 22% increase in
overall mortality. In practical terms this could translate
into 1 1/2 ounces more of chicken and a decrease of one
potato could shorten your life by years. This report is one
more lesson that demonstrates that people who have made the
mistake of following diets like Atkins, South Beach, and the
Zone can expect to live significantly shorter lives.
Trichopoulou A, Psaltopoulou T, Orfanos P, Hsieh CC,
Trichopoulos D. Low-carbohydrate-high-protein
diet and long-term survival in a general population cohort.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov 29; [Epub ahead of print]
Herbal Valerian for Sleep
Valerian for sleep: a
systematic review and meta-analysis by Stephen Bent
published in the December 2006 issue of the American
Journal of Medicine found that, “The available evidence
suggests that valerian might improve sleep quality without
producing side effects.” This publication presented a
systematic review of randomized, placebo-controlled trials
of valerian for improving sleep quality. Sixteen eligible
studies examining a total of 1093 patients were identified.
Dosages ranged from 225 mg to 1215 mg per day.
Approximately one-third of the Western population reports
difficulty sleeping and many of these people have either
suffered with sleeplessness and/or have become dependent
upon alcohol or sleeping pills. Valerian (Valeriana
officinalis), made from an extract of the root and stems of
this flowering plant, is sold as a dietary supplement in the
US. There is no agreement on the mechanism of action, but
chemicals in the brain may be changed by active ingredients
in valerian. This sleeping aid can be used as a tea and is
commonly sold as liquid tinctures and as extracts put into
capsules. In addition to treating insomnia, it has been
used for nervousness, trembling, headaches, heart
palpitations, and gastrointestinal spasms. Dosages of
standardized extracts commonly used are 450 to 900
milligrams. Side effects are extremely rare; there is no
potential for addiction and no hangover. Therefore, anyone
with problems sleeping should give valerian a try.
S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W.
Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Am J Med. 2006 Dec;119(12):1005-12.