*November/December 2004 issue of Dr. Greger's Newsletter*
November/December 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's "Monthly" Newsletter
CONTENTS (online at http://www.DrGreger.org/newsletters.html)
I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
A. AGEd Meat
B. Vegans Need to Eat More Greens, Beans, and Nuts
C. Raw versus Cooked Vegetables for Cancer Prevention
D. Meat, Cheese, Eggs, and Lymphoma
E. Berries to Prevent Metastases?
F. Cancer-Fighting Cranberries
G. Eggs and Ovarian Cancer
II. Mad Cow and Cancer DVDs Now on Video
III. Personal Update--Spring 2005 Speaking Tour
I. LATEST UPDATES IN HUMAN NUTRITION
A. AGEd Meat
The acronym of Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (AGE's, also known
as glycotoxins) is an appropriate one. These AGE's accumulate in
joints and cause arthritis; they accumulate in the brain
contributing to Alzheimer's disease, and they accumulate in
arteries causing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. They
build up in the eye and cause cataracts, build up in the kidneys,
contributing to kidney failure, and build up in the penis causing
male erectile dysfunction. In fact there's a whole theory (the
Maillard Theory) that blames nearly all the complications of aging on
the buildup of these toxic compounds.
Where does this AGE stuff come from? Like free radicals, our body
naturally produces these toxic AGE's every day. But, also like free
radicals, there are a number of external sources we have control over
so as to minimize our exposure. Cigarette smoke, for example, is a
potent source of these glycotoxins, but we also get them through
Researchers at Mount Sinai recently measured the amount of AGE's in
over a hundred common food items. They found that the five foods most
tainted with Advanced Glycoxidation End-products (per serving) were
broiled hot dogs, oven-fried chicken, oven-fried fish, McDonald's
Chicken Nuggets, and broiled chicken breast. It turns out AGE's are
found predominantly in meat.
In fact, investigators with the famous Women's Health Study reported
this September that the AGE's in meat may be why women who eat meat
five or more times a week are at significantly higher risk for
Dry heat, protein and fat seem to conspire to produce these
glycotoxins. So while a broiled hot dog has over 10,000 units of
AGE's per serving, a boiled hot dog has just under 7,000 (an apple or
banana, in comparison, only has about 10 units). "Foods that contain
mostly carbohydrates," the researchers note, "starches, fruits,
vegetables.... contain the lowest AGE concentrations." At high enough
temperatures, though, high fat and protein plant foods like broiled
tofu and roasted nuts can also form significant AGE concentrations as
The Mount Sinai researchers offer three suggestions for decreasing
one's intake of AGEs: "Firstly, reduced intakes of AGEs can be
achieved by reducing high-AGE sources such as full-fat cheeses, meats
and highly processed foods..." Secondly, they recommended using
cooking techniques that minimize AGE formation. In general, boiling,
steaming, and microwaving were the cooking methods resulting in the
least amount of AGEs, whereas frying, roasting and broiling were the
worst. "Third," the investigators conclude, "the importance of
selecting unprocessed nutrients when possible cannot be
overemphasized." They noted, for example, that the AGE content in
infant formula was found to be a 100-fold higher than in human breast
milk, and expressed concern that this could lead to immune
abnormalities in the developing infant.
The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to find way to somehow
counteract AGE's within the body, but perhaps a smarter strategy
is for people to just not consume so many of them in the first place.
This means centering one's diet around whole plant foods which have
ideally not been exposed to temperatures above about 400 degrees
B. Vegans Need to Eat More Greens, Beans and Nuts
Low fat vegetarian and vegan diets have proven remarkably successful
in the treatment of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood
pressure. Many practitioners are hesitant, though, to put people
on such diets fearing their nutritional adequacy. This is ironic,
given that when people switch from an omnivorous diet their intake of
many nutrients greatly improves. They tend to eat less saturated fat
and cholesterol, of course, but also experience favorable increases
in antioxidants like B carotene and vitamin C, B vitamins like
thiamin and folate, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.
The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (a great
organization--visit http://www.pcrm.org) recently published a dietary
analysis of a few dozen women transitioned to a self-selected low fat
vegan diet. Although the intakes of most vitamins and minerals
improved or stayed the same, the consumption of some nutrients
dropped. They conclude: "To increase intakes of these nutrients,
people following a low-fat vegan diet should emphasize legumes
[beans, lentils] and whole grains for protein; supplemental sources
of vitamin D and B12, such as fortified cereals and soymilk to
increase vitamin D and B12 intakes; leafy greens, beans, and
fortified soymilks and juices to increase calcium intake; and whole,
unrefined grains, nuts and seeds to increase phosphorus, selenium and
zinc intakes." 
There are so many wonderful vegan convenience foods out there now,
but the healthiest (not to mention often cheapest and more
environmentally friendly) foods are still those that grow out of the
C. Raw versus Cooked Vegetables for Cancer Prevention
We know that vegetables in general prevent cancer, but a researcher
at the Columbia University School of Public Health recently attempted
to determine whether they are more protective raw or cooked.
Unfortunately, we have no studies directly comparing raw versus
cooked veggies, so researchers had to review the totality of
available research (published over the last decade) in an attempt to
tease out the difference.
Cooking destroys some cancer-fighting nutrients, yet enhances the
absorption of others. For example, by cooking your dark green leafy
vegetables, studies show you may be destroying half of the
antioxidant carotenoids. At the same time, cooking may double
carotenoid bioavailability, such that in the end your body might wind
up with the same amount.
Cooking vegetables increases the content of one type of fiber
(soluble), which may help prevent cancer by decreasing insulin
levels, but cooking decreases the content of another type
(insoluble), which may help prevent cancer in a different way (by
binding and excreting carcinogens).
Cooking may reduce cancer risk by destroying some of the pesticides
present in non-organic produce, but cooking also destroys enzymes
that may have beneficial effects. Wait, though, the American Dietetic
Association just reviewed raw foods diets (October 2004) and
concluded that one's stomach acid destroys the plant enzymes anyway
so it doesn't matter if cooking destroys them first. Yes, but
digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach.
Raw garlic (in homemade salsa, guacamole, pesto, etc.) may be
healthier than cooked because of an enzyme called alliinase, which
produces a DNA-protecting compound called allicin when chewed in your
mouth. One minute worth of microwaving, though, completely
inactivates this enzyme, such that when you then chew it you absorb
little or none of the protective allicin compound.
The same thing happens in broccoli. There's an enzyme (called
myrosinase) that produces special compounds whenever the plant's cell
walls are ruptured (i.e. when you chew) that rev up your own liver's
ability to detoxify carcinogens. But cooking inactivates the enzyme,
such that people chomping down on steamed broccoli only seem to get
about a third as much of these special cancer-fighting compounds.
At the same time, cooking one's broccoli seems to increase the
bioavailability of other cancer-fighters (called indoles) which help
your body control hormone levels. Bottom-line, we should eat a
combination of both cooked AND raw vegetables, which is exactly what
the Columbia researcher found:
"It is clear from this review that both raw and cooked vegetables are
inversely related to [in other words protective against] several...
cancers. Although more of the studies showed a statistically
significant inverse [protective] relationship between raw vegetables
and cancer than either cooked or total vegetables, the literature is
too varied to compare definitively... In the meanwhile the public
should be encouraged to increase their vegetable intake and to
consider eating some of them raw."
D. Meat, Cheese, Eggs, and Lymphoma
Since the 1970's, the incidence rate of lymphoma, a cancer of the
body's lymphatic system, has nearly doubled. Although the increase is
not completely understood, a number of risk factors have been
uncovered. The latest study, published by researchers at the
University of Toronto, looked at dietary factors for this often fatal
The most significant dietary indicators of risk found were meat,
cheese, and eggs. Those eating meat every day seemed to have a 30%
greater risk of developing lymphoma. Those that ate just 3 servings
of cheese a week had a 38% increased risk, and those that ate three
eggs a week had a whopping 49% greater risk.
Those that ate nine or more servings of dessert foods like cake,
cookies, and doughnuts every week were also at increased risk (24%).
Investigators speculate that this may be due to the trans fats
(partially hydrogenated oils) present in these foods. So to all the
junk-food college vegans out there living off Little Debbie cake
doughnuts this holiday season... please reconsider. :)
E. Blocking Metastasis with Berries?
The difference between a benign tumor and a malignant tumor is the
ability to spread. No matter how big most tumors get, as long as they
don't spread to other parts of the body, you're usually pretty safe.
Your body knows this, and so attempts to wall off any tumors by
wrapping them in scar tissue. A benign tumor turns malignant when it
learns how to break free by secreting enzymes (called
metalloproteinases) that can dissolve the scar tissue cage your body
encased it in. There are components of our diet, though, that can
inhibit this jailbreak enzyme and keep the tumor in its place.
We know there are special phytonutrients in blue-green algae, green
tea and in the spice turmeric that inhibit this tumor enzyme and thus
may help keep tumors at bay. For the first time, though, a new study
shows that berries also seem to contain substances that powerfully
inhibit these tumor enzymes. The researchers conclude: "The raspberry
extracts, blackberry extracts, and muscadine [grape] extracts, or the
fruits themselves could potentially play a role in cancer prevention
by blocking metastasis."
Cranberries are one of the cheapest (and healthiest) berries, but
tend to only be available this time of the year, so make sure to buy
extra and freeze them. Frozen in an airtight container they should
keep for nearly a year.
F. Cancer-Fighting Cranberries
Cranberries, one of only three commonly-eaten fruits native to North
America, have been shown to exert a wide variety of health benefits
including the prevention of urinary tract infections. In 2002,
researchers dripped a number of fruit extracts on human liver cancer
cells in a Petri dish to see if any of them would slow down tumor
growth. Out of the near dozen common fruits they tried, the most
potent inhibitor of cancer growth was cranberries. So in 2003,
researchers pitted cranberries against three other types of human
cancers--breast, cervical and prostate--and the cranberries won
again, significantly restraining cancer cell proliferation. Now
UCLA researchers are back, this time testing cranberries against a
whole panel of 9 different human cancer cell lines.
Sprinkling just a few millionths of a gram of powdered cranberries on
human oral, colon and prostate cancer cells brought their growth to a
screeching halt, inhibiting their proliferation as much as 99.6%. The
researchers concluded "The observed antiproliferative activities of
cranberry phytochemicals against tumor cells provide some basic
evidence for the potential anticancer effects of cranberry
polyphenols and suggest that studies of cranberry extracts should be
carried out... ultimately in human cancer prevention trials."
What do you do with cranberries though (other than sauce, that is)?
some healthy cranberry recipes. I'm sipping some blended into my flax
smoothie right now as I type.
G. Eggs and Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer has earned a reputation as a silent killer, because it
eludes early detection and has an alarming fatality rate that hasn't
really changed in over 50 years. Currently in the U.S. it's the fifth
leading cancer cause of death for women. In other areas of the world,
though, rates are as much as 5-fold lower. When women move from
low risk countries (like Japan) to the U.S. their risk jumps up,
suggesting environmental rather than genetic factors are culpable for
the wide variation in risk. Canadian researchers recently
published a study of dietary factors that may be to blame.
"In summary," the researchers conclude, "our population-based
case-control study found that women with higher consumption of
dietary cholesterol and eggs were at an increased risk of ovarian
cancer." On the other hand, the food that was the most powerful
protector against ovarian cancer in this study were the cruciferous
vegetables, like broccoli, kale, collards, etc.
Because estrogen is synthesized from cholesterol, researchers
speculate that women with cholesterol in their diet may have higher
levels of circulating hormones that may increase cancer risk. Other
researchers propose that it may not be the cholesterol itself, but
instead the organochlorine pesticides which concentrate in animal
Eggs are one of the most concentrated sources of cholesterol in the
food supply, but cholesterol is found in all animal foods.
Cholesterol is made by the liver, and since plants don't have little
livers, the only source of cholesterol in the human diet is food
derived from animals.
Women may be able to protect their eggs (and their lives) by not
eating the eggs of chickens.
II. MAD COW AND CANCER DVDS NOW ON VIDEO
If you ever wanted to stocking stuff either of my new DVDs but the
person whose feet the stockings belong to doesn't have a DVD player,
I'm thrilled to announce that I now have all three of my DVDs on VHS,
thanks to the contribution of wonderfully generous husband and wife
activist team in Washington State.
To order by check, you can send a check for $10 postage paid to
Michael Greger, M.D., 185 South St. #6, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
To order any of the videos by credit card, go to
As always, all the money I get from the sales of all my books, CD's,
DVD's and videos goes not only to charity, but specifically to
III. PERSONAL UPDATE--SPRING 2005 SPEAKING TOUR
Starting in January I'm going back on the road full-time until at
least May. I'm so excited--not only will I have my new Atkins book
out, but I've got two phenomenal new talks, an Atkins one and my
Stopping Cancer one, both of which incorporate a dynamic rapid-fire
slide show of images, humor, cartoons, etc. Believe me, it's like no
PowerPoint presentation you've ever seen! In fact the test audience
feedback (thank you Boston, Fort Myers, and Lexington) was so
positive I'm now going back and converting ALL of my old talks into
vibrant visual presentations.
As if all that wasn't fun enough, I'm going to blog. Yeah, I didn't
know what the word meant either, but it turns out there are all these
neat new ways to have a running online diary (so-called "blogging").
People have always encouraged me to write a book about my wild
adventures on the road. Well, now you'll be able to read a running
live account of my travels. I can post pictures, all my favorite hate
mail, feedback I get from talks, and share the inspiration I get from
all the grassroots groups across the country fighting for a healthier
and more compassionate world.
I plan on speaking in the following 40 states:
District of Columbia
If you don't see your state listed, let me know and maybe we can set
something up. If your state IS listed, then since I'm going to be in
the neighborhood anyway and would love to pack in as many talks as
possible (maybe I can even break my 40 talks a month record from last
year!), go to http://www.DrGreger.org and click on the "Speaking
Request" button to set up a talk for me in your hometown (I'll of
course come speak for free).
I want to make it as easy as possible to set up a talk, so I'm
planning on having a ready-made publicity kit you can download with
preprinted fliers, press releases and step-by-step instructions on
securing and publicizing a venue. In fact, if there is anyone out
there with graphic design skills you'd be willing to donate to help
me come up with fliers for all my talks, that would be very much
In other personal news, it has been wonderful to be back at Cornell
teaching. Tribe of Heart, makers of The Witness and the
groundbreaking Peaceable Kingdom (PERFECT for every nonvegetarian on
your gift list--you can order a box of 10 of their films for $100 at
generous enough to put me up for my time in Ithaca this semester. I
also, of course, want to thank Dr. Colin Campbell for sharing his
class with me. I've had the honor to read a preprint copy of his new
book The China Project, which is sure to shake up the nutrition world
when it hits stores in early 2005.
So whatever happened with the threatened lawsuit from the Atkins Diet
Corporation? They're still threatening. After I posted their legal
threat up on my http://www.AtkinsExposed.org website accompanied by
my point-by-point rebuttal, they replied with "Please be advised that
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. reserves the right to take further action
against Dr. Greger and his website at any time without further
Maybe one of the reasons they're being timid is that they themselves
are currently being dragged through the courts for almost (allegedly)
killing one of their customers. Read the story in the "In the Press"
section of http://www.AtkinsExposed.org (which I continually update).
There's also a new Search function on the website, and I've recently
added four more full-text medical articles exposing the high fat fad
in the "Expert Opinions" section.
The former Atkins dieter who managed to live through his massive (and
allegedly Atkins-induced) heart attack is not suing for money. He
just wants warning labels placed on Atkins books and products. The
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lawyer representing him
suggested this wording for the warning:
"Works for Some People; Kills Others."
(Full text of specific articles available by emailing
1 Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 15(2003):616.
2 Journal of Neural Transmission 105(1998)439.
3 Journal of Hypertension 20(2002):1483.
4 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 811(1997):115.
5 British Journal of Ophthalmology 85(2001):746.
6 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 11(2000):1744.
7 Urology 50(1997):1016.
8 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959(2002):360.
9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94(1997):13915.
10 Diabetes Care 27(2994):2108.
11 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104(2004):1287.
12 Current Pharmacological Design 10(2004):3361.
13 Journal of the National Cancer Institute 82(1990):282.
14 Journal of Nutrition 128(1998):913.
15 Plant Foods in Human Nutrition 55(2000):207.
16 Journal of AOAC International 79(1996)::1447.
17 Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104(2004):1623.
18 Journal of Nutrition 131(2001):1054.
19 Nutrition and Cancer 38(2000):168.
20 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1422.
21 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1665.
22 New England Journal of Medicine 339(1998):1085.
23 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50(2002):7449.
24 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 51(2003):3541.
25 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52(2004):2512.
26 Seminars in Surgical Oncology 10(1994):242.
27 Cancer Research 35(1975):3240.
28 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 13(2004):1521.
29 Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 11(2002):1112.
30 Journal of the American Medical Association 280(1998):2001.
31 Preventive Medicine 29(1999):87.
32 Journal of the American College of Nutrition 14(1995):491.
33. Nutrition 20(2004):738.
This issue is dedicated to the memory of my feline companion Samantha
who, after 18 years, died in my arms today, November 27, 2004.
Low Carb Lies Exposed:
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Four of my most popular talks are now online (free) at:
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HEART FAILURE: Diary of a Third Year Medical Student (full text now
The thinker that most changed my life: Noam Chomsky
The single article that most changed my life:
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