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*March 2004 issue of Dr. Greger's Newsletter*

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  • Michael Greger, M.D.
    ************************************** March 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger s Monthly Newsletter *******************************************************
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2004

      March 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's Monthly Newsletter



      I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
      A. Bowel Movement Frequency
      B. Raw Vegetables More Protective than Cooked?
      C. Eggs and Colorectal Cancer Mortality
      D. Green Tea May Protect from Prostate Cancer
      E. Girls, Fruits & Veggies and Skeletal Development
      F. Eat the Peel? Antioxidant Power of Peels and Seeds

      II. Bird Flu: Meateaters Put the Entire World at Risk

      III. What's Wrong with Atkins: The 2004 Veg Speaking Tour

      IV. Update on Mad Cow Disease

      V. Personal Update - Aah, my laptop is dying! :(

      VI. MAILBAG: "You said last month to eat greens and flax seeds--yeah but how?"



      A. Bowel Movement Frequency

      With a title like "Nutrition and Lifestyle in Relation to Bowel
      Movement Frequency," I knew it just had to be good.[1] In the biggest
      study of it's kind ever, British researchers compared the reported
      bowel habits of about 15,000 meateaters to 5000 vegetarians and about
      1000 vegans.

      The study was peppered with memorable quotes like "That non
      meat-eaters have a higher frequency of defecation is well documented"
      and "Our finding of a very clear trend towards an increasing number
      of bowel movements with a more rigorous degree of vegetarianism could
      be a field for further investigation."

      Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the
      United States, leading to millions of doctor visits every year.
      Constipation can increase one's risk for a hiatal hernia, varicose
      veins, hemorrhoids, and painful conditions with names like "anal

      The researchers conclude "Being vegetarian and especially vegan is
      strongly associated with a
      higher frequency of bowel movements." Vegans, for example, were three
      times more likely to have daily BMs.

      It's like we've always said: vegans are just regular people :)


      B. Raw Vegetables More Protective than Cooked?

      Eating lots of vegetables every day is one of the most powerful
      things anyone can do to prevent a wide variety of diseases, including
      cancer. Researchers have been puzzled, though, why the protective
      effect for breast cancer has not been as strong or consistent as for
      some of the other cancers. Researchers in Germany may have just found
      a clue to the mystery.[2]

      The researchers looked at the past diets of hundreds of breast cancer
      victims and healthy controls, and like many studies before them, they
      found a modest trend towards decreased risk of breast cancer
      development in people with the highest daily vegetable consumption.
      But when they broke up intake categories into raw vegetables versus
      cooked vegetables, they were surprised to find that women who ate
      just a single small salad a day seemed to cut their risk of
      developing breast cancer in half (compared to those who like only ate
      a salad every couple days) while the women eating the most cooked
      veggies didn't seem to have any protection from developing breast
      cancer at all.

      Cooking reduces the availability of some of the carotenoids in
      vegetables like lutein, zeaxanthin, and B-cryptoxanthin, but cooking
      also actually increases the bioavailability of other carotenoids like
      lycopene, alpha carotene and beta carotene. So I encourage people to
      eat a variety of cooked and raw foods. Although this study did show
      that raw vegetables seemed to have a distinct advantage, for example,
      it also showed that women who ate cooked whole grain products like
      whole wheat bread and brown rice also seemed significantly protected
      from developing breast cancer.

      The mechanism by which vegetables decrease cancer risk is unknown,
      but evidence suggests that it's immune related. Our immune system has
      special cells called natural killer cells, whose mission in life is
      to just go around killing cancer cells. Their job is to rove around
      the body on seek and destroy missions trying to remove any budding
      tumors anywhere in our body. Our mission (if we choose to accept it)
      is to boost their cancer-fighting abilities. That's where vegetables
      come in. A recent study, for example, found that those drinking
      vegetable juice (carrot or tomato) every day significantly increased
      the cancer fighting ability of their immune system.[3]

      It's time for all of us to get back to our salad days of youth.


      C. Eggs and Colorectal Cancer Mortality

      In the largest study of it's kind ever, researchers compared egg
      consumption across 34 countries over a three decade time span to
      colon and rectal cancer death rates. They found egg consumption on a
      population level was significantly associated with mortality in men
      and women in countries across the world. Yes, but perhaps that's
      because egg eaters were also more likely to eat meat, or to smoke, or
      less likely to eat vegetables. Even after controlling for almost all
      established and potential risk factors for these two cancers, the
      relationship remained. On a population level, the more eggs that were
      eaten, the more deaths there was from rectal and colon cancer.

      Just because something is related on a population level, however,
      does not necessarily mean cause and effect. For example, just because
      the total egg sales in one country is higher than in another country,
      that doesn't necessarily mean that people are actually eating more
      eggs in the first country. Maybe one country feeds more of their eggs
      to farmed or companion animals. Maybe one country cooks or stores
      eggs differently such that more is wasted or thrown away or spoils in
      one country than another. What population comparison studies can do,
      however, is to stimulate more research. As the researchers concluded,
      if more studies do continue to show this relationship between egg
      consumption and cancer mortality, urging people to eat less eggs "may
      provide an easy and practical intervention measure to reduce the
      tremendous public health burden of colon and rectal cancers."[4]


      D. Green Tea May Protect from Prostate Cancer

      Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of male cancer death in
      Western countries, but countries like China have 60 times lower
      prostate cancer rates than the United States. This month,[5]
      Australian researchers published evidence that some of that
      protection may be because of green tea consumption (without milk).
      They found that the men drinking the most green tea seemed to have up
      to 90% less risk of developing prostate cancer.

      As always, vegetarians should try to limit their green or black tea
      consumption during meals, as tea can interfere with the absorption of
      iron from plant foods. It doesn't interfere with the absorption of
      iron from blood, so those who eat blood--meateaters--can drink tea


      E. Girls, Fruits & Veggies and Skeletal Development

      We've known that adults can protect their bones eating fruits and
      vegetables, but it's never been studied in children... until now.
      University of Tennessee researchers just published a study which
      found that girls (aged 8-13) who ate more fruits and veggies seemed
      to have significantly increased bone mass compared to girls who ate
      less even after controlling for many other factors. The size of their
      skeletons was significantly increased.

      Although this study was relatively small (limited to 56 subjects) and
      only looked at affluent white girls, hopefully this will be the first
      of many studies on maximizing peak bone mass in adolescent women. The
      researchers suspect that the reason fruits and vegetables were so
      protective is because most plant foods tend to decrease the calcium
      loss in the urine that is triggered in part by the consumption of


      F. Eat the peel? Antioxidant Power of Peels and Seeds

      More and more diseases--Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease--are being
      linked to what's called "oxidant stress" in the body, which is the
      tissue damage wreaked by free radicals in our diet and environment.
      To prevent these diseases we rely on the superheroes and heroines of
      the body, the antioxidants found predominantly in whole plant foods
      like fruits. Most studies measuring the antioxidant power in fruits,
      though, has only studied the pulp of the fruit. In the most
      comprehensive study of it's kind ever published, a recent study out
      of China measured the antioxidant power of the pulp, peel and seed
      fractions of 28 different fruits,.[7]

      Researchers found that with a few exceptions, the peel and seeds of
      fruit has more antioxidants than the pulp. So for example, the peel
      of kiwi fruits, for example, has about three times the antioxidants
      than the inside of the fruit and the peel of fruits like pomegranates
      have almost 30 times the antioxidant punch. Grape seeds have a
      hundred times more antioxidant power than the pulp! So grapes with
      seeds are healthier than seedless, but only of course if one actually
      chews the seeds up.

      If you do choose to not to peel nutrition off your fruit, it's
      particularly important to wash them under running water and to buy


      II. BIRD FLU: Meateaters Put the Entire World at Risk

      The deadliest plague in human history was the influenza pandemic of
      1918, which killed up to 50 million people around the world. Modern
      flu strains tend to spare young healthy adults, but every few decades
      a strain arises that can kill people in the prime of life. In 1918,
      more than a quarter of all Americans fell ill.[1] What started for
      millions across the globe as a runny nose and a sore throat ended
      days later with people bleeding from their ears and nostrils and into
      their lungs. The victims drowned in their own blood. Their
      corpses--tinged blue from suffocation--were "stacked like cordwood"
      outside the morgues as cities ran out of coffins.[2]

      Where did this disease come from? Brilliant medical detective work,
      which included digging up corpses discovered frozen in the Alaskan
      permafrost for tissue samples, recently pieced together the genetic
      makeup of the virus. The disease came from bird flu.

      The 1918 virus probably jumped species in crowded World War I army
      camps in Europe where they raised chickens for slaughter. That flu
      would go on to bury more people than the World War.[3] The army camp
      outbreaks started in 1917. It took a year before the virus had enough
      human victims to mutate inside of before it could explode upon the
      world. "That's what could happen in Asia," noted one flu expert this
      week, "It could be another year before it really gets moving."[4]

      We now know that bird flu is the original cause of all of these human
      influenza "type A" viruses. Although the viruses can affect a wide
      range of animals including pigs, horses and wild birds, the initial
      source seems to be domesticated fowl such as chickens and turkeys.[5]

      Over the last few decades meat and egg consumption has exploded in
      the developing world, leading to industrial-scale commercial chicken
      farming and mass animal transport, favoring the emergence and spread
      of influenza superstrains.[6] The World Animal Health Organization
      blames changes in the global poultry industry, such as shorter
      production cycles and greater animal densities, for the increased
      risk of spawning epidemics.[7] Even backyard farms in Asia have
      turned almost industrial, filling every square inch with chickens.
      "As soon as you have that many animals in one spot you are likely to
      get into trouble with disease," said Dr. Samuel Jutzi, Director of
      Animal Production and Health at the U.N. Food and Agriculture

      The World Health Organization also blames the present bird flu
      outbreak on "intensive poultry production."[9] As one infectious
      disease expert noted, "There are a whole lot of practices in animal
      husbandry that means we have got large numbers of animals all close
      together with practices to give often a very short-term gain that may
      not be sustainable in the long term, but may well have long-term
      consequences that are not known, or not thought through at the
      time."[10] The stress of intensive confinement alone on the birds'
      immune systems increases the risk that factory farms will become the
      breeding ground for the next global pandemic.[11]

      According to a recent editorial in The Lancet, one of the most
      prestigious medical journals in the world, "All human diseases to
      emerge in the past 20 years have had an animal source..."[12] For
      example, hepatitis B, a disease which now kills a million people
      every year, probably appeared upon the world stage thanks to people
      eating chimpanzee meat. Ebola, the virus that causes one's organs to
      dissolve and kills up to 90% of people infected within a week, is
      thought to have originally come from people eating gorilla meat. Of
      course the disease doesn't limit itself to killing just those that
      ate the flesh of their fellow primates. Once it's jumped species it
      can spread throughout the human population.

      The AIDS virus has now infected 50 million people. Where did it come
      from? The leading theory is that human beings originally got it
      through "direct exposure to animal blood and secretions as a result
      of hunting, butchering, or other activities (such as consumption of
      uncooked contaminated meat)..." (a competing theory is that the AIDS
      virus was originally spread through vaccines manufactured using
      chimpanzee kidneys).[13]

      Historically, tuberculosis and measles emerged when humans started
      herding cattle in large numbers. The SARS virus spread into the human
      population because people were raising civet cats for their flesh.
      Mad Cow disease is another direct result of industrial practices, and
      now threatens the safety of the world's blood supply.[14] Animal
      agriculture has become a public health hazard for more than those
      that consume the meat.

      The World Health Organization has described the speed at which this
      new outbreak of bird flu in Asia has spread as "historically
      unprecedented."[15] And the human lethality of the strain is
      ferocious--killing 70% of people it infects.[16] The 1918 strain only
      killed 2.5% of it's victims.[17]

      Although fifty million chickens are dead, only a few people have
      become infected. The fear is that the bird flu will spread to a pig
      or person already infected with a human strain of influenza. Once
      this happens, a deadly gene swap can take place in which the human
      transmissibility of the human flu virus combines with the lethality
      of the bird flu virus. The World Health Organization in a conference
      today reiterated that conditions are "ripe" for the emergence of just
      such a virus that could trigger the next global pandemic.[18]

      No war, no plague, no famine has ever killed so many in so short a
      time as the 1918 influenza pandemic.[19] One scientist observed in
      1918 that "civilization could have disappeared within a few more
      weeks." At that time, though, there were less than 2 billion people
      in the world and no mass international commercial air travel.
      Scientists today fear a global influenza pandemic could be many times
      worse even with modern medical advances.

      According to the Lancet editorial, vaccination would not be a viable
      option due to the lethality of the strain, antiviral drugs are not
      effective enough, and, since influenza is more contagious than
      diseases like SARS, quarantine measures are unlikely to control a
      human outbreak. The editorial concludes, "In view of the mortality of
      human influenza associated with this strain, the prospect of a
      worldwide pandemic is massively frightening."[20]

      Humanity's lust for flesh not only kills billions of animals every
      year directly, but threatens the health of our planet and may
      threaten our health in more ways than we know.


      III. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ATKIN'S: The 2004 Veg Speaking Tour

      The American Dietetic Association called the Atkins diet a "nightmare
      of a diet." Pulling in $100 million a year, the Atkins empire is
      putting people at risk for permanent physical damage to their health.
      Thankfully, we have George Eisman.

      George Eisman, R.D., is one of my heroes. He is one of the world's
      foremost experts on plant-based nutrition--in fact I learn more
      listening to him than from almost any other speaker on vegetarian and
      vegan nutrition. And he's going on a national speaking tour!

      As part of Farm Sanctuary's Veg-for-Life campaign, he's now booking
      dates across country to give talks AT NO COST on the dangers of the
      Atkins diet. To reserve a spot on his 2004 Veg Speaking Tour, go to



      The top Mad Cow story last month was the discovery of a new form of
      Mad Cow disease that looks just like the sporadic form of CJD killing
      hundreds of older Americans every year.

      Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
      Italian researchers named the new strain of Mad Cow disease BASE,
      bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy. Based on the CJD-like
      pattern of brain damage and molecular "fingerprint" of the strain,
      researchers are concerned that this second form may be causing the
      form of CJD so often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease in the
      United States. This builds on earlier evidence (documented in my
      latest report available for download at
      http://organicconsumers.org/madcow/Greger.pdf) that infected meat may
      also be to blame for this so-called "sporadic" form of
      Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

      For weekly updates on the evolving Mad Cow disease crisis, visit my
      website http://organicconsumers.org/madcow.htm Or for just my latest
      writings and commentary, send a blank email to
      DrGregersMadCowUpdates-subscribe@... to subscribe to my
      Mad Cow email list.


      V. PERSONAL UPDATE - Aah, My Laptop is Dying! :(

      Everyone who knows me knows that ever since Vegan Outreach donated
      their laptop to me it hasn't left my side. I even seatbelt it in next
      to me on the road. Whenever something bad would happen to me on tour,
      my mantra was always "At Least My Laptop is OK." Unfortunately I can
      no longer say that.

      My screen just started flickering. I took it in and was told that
      the "inverter" is shot, and that a repair would be so expensive that
      it's not worth fixing. Right now it's OK most of the time, but then
      all the sudden goes into this like seizure inducing flicker and
      blacks out from time to time. The repair guy said that it will just
      get worse and worse until it blacks out permanently. Help!

      My laptop is how I'm able to get all the work I do done. It turns
      hours of bus, train and plane rides into productive time. It's how I
      stay in touch with everyone, it's how I update the Mad Cow site,
      write my books, this newsletter, etc. It's basically become my life.
      If anyone has a used laptop that they are considering getting rid of
      please consider donating it to me. If everyone could just ask around
      to people and organizations they know, I'm hoping one will pop up.

      Not that beggars can be choosers, but I've only ever worked on Apple
      computers, and so my familiarity and files are all in Mac format, but
      at this point I'm getting desperate. Used or refurbished Apple
      laptops are running under $800 these days, and so if anyone wants to
      make a tax-deductible donation to help me purchase one if my search
      is unsuccessful I would be eternally grateful.

      The advantage of not having a salary is that I can devote my life
      full-time to activism. The way I can do that is that I have almost no
      expenses--I don't pay rent (people put me up and feed me), have no
      health insurance (or even car insurance now), etc. The downside is
      that unexpected expenses like this come up. Please everyone keep
      your fingers crossed for me.

      On an unrelated topic, a few quick things: First of all, I'm so sorry
      for accidentally sending the February newsletter out twice. Hopefully
      that will never happen again. Also, I am currently all out of the VHS
      video copies of my nutrition DVD, but there are VHS copies still
      available from the online Earthsave store at
      http://shopping.earthsave.org/catalog/ Finally, every month I get
      requests to reprint portions of my writings. There is no need to ask
      permission. Please always feel free to reprint anything I write for
      any (nonprofit) purpose. The same goes for my CDs--always feel free
      to burn them and distribute copies far and wide.


      VI. MAILBAG: "You said last month to eat greens and flax seeds--yeah but how?"

      However you want! But obviously the yummier it is the more you'll
      stuff them in your face, so I decided to consult the one and only
      Brook Katz, who's been cooking up vegan fare for 18 years (you can
      check out his latest cookbook at http://brookkatz.com/books.html). I
      called him up and said two words--greens and flax--and this is the
      recipe he was so sweet to design for us. Please try it and get back
      to me. If everyone likes it maybe I can entice Brook to give us a
      monthly recipe featuring some of the plant foods I highlight!

      1/2 cup flax seed --ground to a meal (or 2/3 cup preground flax)
      1 1/2 cups of water (more if needed to make a thinner sauce)
      2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
      1 Tbsp. your favorite mustard
      1 Tbsp. tamari
      1 tsp. garlic powder
      1 jalapeno pepper – remove the seeds if you don't want it that hot!
      Enough broccoli or brussel sprouts or dark leafy greens for 8 people

      In a blender, combine the flax meal and water, and blend till it's
      thick and creamy. (It will almost appear to be gelatinous) Add the
      other sauce ingredients and blend well again. Steam the broccoli or
      brussel sprouts till they are tender, but not too soft. Remove them
      from the heat and pour the sauce directly over the hot vegetables.
      Serving suggestion: as a side dish with your favorite Mexican food,


      (Full text of specific articles available by emailing
      1 Public Health Nutrition: 7(2004):77.
      2 Nutrition and Cancer 46(2):131.
      3 Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 47(2003):255.
      4 Nutrition and Cancer 46(2):158.
      5 International Journal of Cancer 108(2004):130.
      6 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79(2004):311.
      7 Nutrition Research 23(2003):1719.


      REFERENCES (Bird Flu):
      (Full text of specific articles available by emailing
      1 Kolata, G. Flu. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Gairoux, 1999.
      2 Crosby, A.W. American's Forgotten Pandemic. New York: Cambridge
      University Press, 1989.
      3 Ibid.
      4 Biotech Week February 25, 2004
      5 American Journal of Nursing. 103(7):22.
      6 Biotech Week February 25, 2004
      7 Australian Financial Review January 31, 2004 Saturday
      8 Biotech Week February 25, 2004
      9 Australian Financial Review January 31, 2004 Saturday
      10 Ibid.
      11 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 894:20-7, 1999
      12 Lancet 363(9405):257.
      13 Science. 287(5453):607-14
      14 New York Times. January 28, 2004.
      15 The Mercury (Australia) January 31, 2004 Saturday
      16 22 out of the 32 infected human victims have died.
      17 Kolata, G. Flu. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Gairoux, 1999.
      18 Financial Times. February 26 2004
      19 Crosby, A.W. American's Forgotten Pandemic. New York: Cambridge
      University Press, 1989.
      20 Lancet 363(9405):257.


      If anyone missed previous months, check out my newsletter
      <http://www.veganmd.org/newsletters.html>archive at

      Until next month,

      (206) 312-8640

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