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

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  • Michael Greger, M.D.
    ************************************** February 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger s Monthly Newsletter
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
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      February 2004 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's Monthly Newsletter



      I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
      A. Arsenic in Chicken
      B. PCBs in Fish
      C. Flax Seeds and the Stress Response
      D. Greens May Prevent Colon Cancer

      II. Worldwide Premiere of Peaceable Kingdom

      III. Update on Mad Cow Disease

      IV. Personal Update - Back on the road

      V. MAILBAG: "Why did the Ukraine ban our meat?"



      A. Arsenic in Chicken

      After reviewing 5000 chicken samples, researchers from the National
      Institutes of Health and the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service
      recently reported alarmingly high levels of arsenic contamination in
      the flesh of broiler chickens[1] These government researchers found
      that the amount of arsenic in chicken greatly exceeded the
      Environmental Protection Agency's new upper safety limit of arsenic
      allowed in drinking water. In fact, the amount of arsenic found in
      chicken was 6 to 9 times that allowed by the EPA. A "bucket" of
      Kentucky Fried Chicken would be expected to have up to almost fifty
      times the amount of arsenic allowed in a glass of water.[2]

      How did the arsenic get into the chickens? The poultry industry fed
      it to them. Most broiler chickens (which constitute 99% of the
      chicken meat that people eat) are fed arsenic in the United
      States[3,4] Although fish and shellfish also present significant
      dietary sources of arsenic,[6] according to the Food and Drug
      Administration arsenic compounds are extensively added to the feed of
      animals--particularly chickens and pigs--to make them grow faster.[5]
      The animals Americans eat are so heavily infested with internal
      parasites that adding arsenic to the feed can result in a "stunning"
      increase in growth rates.[7]

      Dr. Ellen Silbergeld, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins School of
      Public Health, said the poultry industry's practice of using arsenic
      compounds in its feed is something that has not been studied. "It's
      an issue everybody is trying to pretend doesn't exist," she said.[8]
      "Arsenic acted as a growth stimulant in chickens -- develops the meat
      faster -- and since then, the poultry industry has gone wild using
      this ingredient," says Donald Herman, a Mississippi agricultural
      consultant and former Environmental Protection Agency researcher who
      has studied this use of arsenic for a decade. "And they've tried
      everything to refrain it from becoming public knowledge,".[9]

      The poultry industry argues that the organic form of arsenic given to
      chickens isn't toxic.[10] "This study appears to be much ado about
      nothing," says Richard Lobb, the public relations Director of the
      National Chicken Council. He says the less toxic form of arsenic is
      "used responsibly and safely by poultry producers."[11] The
      researchers, however, found not only elevated levels of organic
      arsenic in chicken meat, they found elevated levels of the highly
      toxic inorganic form typically used only in insecticides and weed
      killers.[12] And cooking the muscles of these animals may create
      additional toxic arsenic by-products.[13]

      Inorganic arsenic is considered one of the prominent environmental
      causes of cancer mortality in the world.[14] Arsenic is a human
      carcinogen linked to liver, lung, skin, kidney, bladder and prostate
      cancers. It can also cause neurological, cardiovascular,
      gastrointestinal and immune system abnormalities. Diabetes has also
      been linked to arsenic exposure.[15]

      The feeding of arsenic to chickens in the U.S. releases hundreds of
      tons of arsenic into the environment every year in the form of
      poultry manure which is spread on fields as fertilizer.[16] In fact
      there's currently a coalition of families suffering serious health
      conditions suing chicken producers like Tyson after research showed
      cancer rates as much as 50 times above the national average in
      communities neighboring factory farmed poultry operations.

      The February 2004 Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA concludes "Chicken
      consumption may contribute significant amounts of arsenic to total
      arsenic exposure of the U.S. population..." Levels of arsenic in
      chicken are so high that other sources may have to be monitored
      carefully to prevent undue toxic exposure among the population.[17]


      B. PCBs in Fish

      Those understandably scared away by the pesticides in shrimp and the
      mercury in tuna sought refuge in farmed salmon. Of course every study
      ever done on the flesh of farmed salmon found it to be swimming with
      carcinogens,[1] but the salmon industry dismissed these prior studies
      as too small to be meaningful. Finally, though, after 2 years and
      almost 2 million dollars,[2]] a study was just released which
      contained an exhaustive analysis of over 2 tons of salmon from around
      the world.[3] The study was performed by some of the world's leading
      experts on industrial pollution at Cornell and elsewhere and
      published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the
      world.[4] The results sent shockwaves around the world.

      The study found that the levels of PCBs, dioxins and banned
      insecticides such as toxaphene were so high that based on
      Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, no one should be eating
      farmed salmon from anywhere in the world more than once a month.[5]
      Fillets bought in supermarkets in Boston and San Francisco were so
      heavily contaminated that even a half a serving a month might be too
      much.[3] And these recommendations just take into account the
      increased cancer risk. The researchers warn that women and girls
      should be eating even less, since pregnant women can pass on these
      contaminants to their fetuses, impairing mental development and
      immune-system function.[6]

      We've known about the industrial toxins that accumulate in the flesh
      of marine animals caught out in the polluted oceans, but how did
      these salmon on fish farms get contaminated? Although farmed fish are
      fed products like cattle blood[7] (which could theoretically infect
      the fish with a form of mad cow disease),[8] most farmed salmon are
      fed fish pellets made from wild fish hauled up and slaughtered by
      giant industrial trawlers from the polluted sea floor. It takes 3 to
      4 pounds of wild caught fish to produce just one pound of farm raised
      fish, so people who think they are not contributing to the global
      disaster of overfishing by eating farmed fish are deluding
      themselves.[9] The fish stagnating in these aquatic feedlots are also
      fed dyes to artificially color their flesh pink and massive infusions
      of antibiotics to stave off bacterial diseases and sea lice.

      The Association of Salmon and Trout Producers calls the new study
      "dangerous, alarmist and a shot in the dark."[10] George Lucier,
      former director of the US Department of Health's national
      toxicological program and author of more than 200 studies on toxic
      chemicals, disagrees. Backed by other independent US experts, he
      calls the results "undeniable."[11]

      One state health department suggested that instead of telling people
      to limit their consumption of fish, they'd just tell consumers to eat
      a variety of fish, cook them so the fat drips off, and avoid eating
      the skin. David Carpenter, one of the scientists involved in the
      study, calls the health department's position "total nonsense."
      "That's just totally irresponsible--totally irresponsible," he said.
      "It's the responsibility of state health departments - and I worked
      for the one here in New York - to prevent disease or at least provide
      people with information so they can make judgments about whether they
      want to take an elevated risk of disease."[12] Carpenter recommends
      no one eat farmed salmon more than once a month due to the
      unacceptable cancer risk alone.[13]

      The fish industry argues that although the levels of carcinogens in
      fish exceed EPA safety standards, they don't exceed FDA standards
      which allow 40 times more toxins in food. The authors of the study
      argue that the FDA standards are hopelessly out of date and
      inconsistent with the stricter standards used in Europe, Japan and
      Canada.[14] Critics argue that the FDA has a conflict of interest,
      playing a role in protecting the commercial food industry's profit
      margin as well as the health of consumers.[15]

      Fish industry trade groups claim that giving up salmon "would do more
      harm than good" because of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
      found in fish fat.[16] Yes, one industry consultant admits, salmon
      could cause thousands of cancer deaths, but it might save even more
      lives by preventing heart attacks.[17] Is that the choice Americans
      get? Do Americans have to slowly poison themselves in hopes that the
      fish fat may prevent a future heart attack? This sounds like the
      tired old dairy industry line about the importance of calcium every
      time another study comes out questioning the healthfulness of cow
      milk. Just like there are healthier plant-based sources of calcium,
      there are healthier plant based sources of omega 3 fatty acids. We
      don't have to choose between cancer and heart disease.

      Our bodies convert the short chain omega 3's found in flax seeds, for
      example, into the long chain omega 3's found in fish fat, so one can
      choose to get omega 3's packaged with soluble fiber and antioxidants
      in flax, rather than getting them packaged with heavy metals and
      carcinogens in fish. For those who want to take supplemental long
      chain omega 3's directly, but don't want to be exposed to the high
      concentrations of PCBs and pesticides in fish oil capsules,[18] there
      are two vegan algae-based contamination-free supplements currently on
      the market.[19]

      Vegetarians have as little as 1 to 2 percent the level of many
      pesticides and industrial chemicals in their bodies compared to
      meateaters. Through food alone, nonvegan Americans are getting 22
      times the maximum dioxin exposure set by the EPA. Nursing infants
      with nonvegan moms get up to 65 times the maximum tolerable dose of
      this toxic waste. Although the fat in the beef, pork, poultry and
      milk also contain these carcinogens, this new study shows that the
      most contaminated flesh food is fish.

      Most salmon served in the U.S. is farmed and dangerous.


      C. Flax Seeds and the Stress Response

      A study was just published in the Journal of the American College of
      Nutrition on the effects of flax seed consumption on cardiovascular
      responses to mental and psychological stress.[JACN 22(6):494] How
      your body reacts to stress--like how much your blood pressure goes up
      when you're anxious--is an important predictor of heart disease risk.
      So Canadian researchers had people sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ground
      flax seed onto whatever they were eating every day for a few months.
      Then the researchers exposed the research subjects to a variety of
      stressors and measured their stress response. And those eating flax
      had significantly healthier physiological reactions to stressful
      conditions. Their blood pressure, for example, stayed much more

      The researchers attribute the heart healthy attributes of flax not
      only to their omega 3 content, but their unique concentration of
      these anti-tumor antioxidant phytoestrogens called lignans. So, if
      anyone's stressed that they've been feeding their family toxic fish,
      switching over to flax might help in more ways than one.


      D. Greens May Prevent Colon Cancer

      Japanese researchers recently investigated the relation between the
      consumption of vegetables and gastrointestinal cancers in a
      multicenter, hospital-based case control study.[Nutrition and Cancer
      46(2):138] They found that cruciferous vegetables, and broccoli in
      particular, to be associated with significantly reduced risk of
      cancers of the digestive tract, especially colon cancer. People
      eating broccoli three or more times a week seemed to cut their risk
      of certain cancers almost 95%! Stated another way, this means that
      compared to people who regularly ate broccoli, those that rarely ate
      it seemed to be ten times more likely to develop certain types of

      Scientists suspect that the powerful anticancer properties of the
      cruciferous vegetable family (which also contains brussel sprouts,
      kale, collards, mustard and beet greens) may lie in a unique class
      of compounds called glucosinolates that greatly enhance your own
      body's ability to detoxify carcinogens. Because we've so polluted our
      environment, even vegans can't escape exposure to a wide array of
      carcinogens. By eating greens every day we can boost our liver's
      ability to neutralize these toxins and reduce our risk of developing

      In this election season, vote for the greens party :)



      Having been blessed to see an earlier prerelease version, I can say
      that Tribe of Heart's new documentary Peaceable Kingdom is quite
      simply the best tool our entire movement has ever come up with to
      open people's hearts to the universe of suffering on factory farms.

      Come to the World Premiere at Lincoln Center in Manhattan February
      28th, or attend the West Coast premiere in March, or the Midwest
      screening in April. Or even better, go to
      http://www.tribeofheart.org/pk.htm and order copies of this
      life-changing documentary on DVD or video for literally everyone you
      know and a few extra copies for people you don't.

      I've been waiting all my life for this day--the day that we would
      have a tool powerful enough to melt through all the defenses of those
      who couldn't otherwise bring themselves to face the reality. Our
      movement is forever indebted to Jenny and James and the Tribe of
      Heart staff and volunteers and supporters for the realization of this
      masterpiece of education, advocacy and outreach. The least we can
      all do is make it a personal activist priority over the next year to
      getting this film seen by as many people as possible. Please go to
      http://www.tribeofheart.org/pk.htm to find out how you can help.

      And maybe I'll see you in Manhattan!



      My latest and most comprehensive report to date on the evolving Mad
      Cow disease crisis in the U.S. is now available for download at

      Alas, though, the best piece of writing ever done of the subject is
      the book Mad Cow U.S.A. by Rampton and Stauber, which just came out
      this week in paperback. Their entire book is online free at
      http://www.prwatch.org, but for those who'd rather snuggle up in bed
      with a good book than a computer, you can order a copy of the new
      paperback at http://organicconsumers.org/madcow/paperback12904.cfm

      For daily updates on the 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
      new Mad Cow email list.


      IV. PERSONAL UPDATE - Back on the road

      Thanks to the tireless efforts of Alissa who volunteered to schedule
      my national Mad Cow USA: Stop the Madness speaking tour, I am back on
      the road full-time this month, starting in the Northeast. I'm hoping
      to hit the West Coast in March and finish up in April. If anyone
      would like me to come speak in your home town, please email Alissa at
      tour-schedule@... My current speaking schedule is up at
      http://www.veganMD.org/dates.html For any of the cities I miss, I
      had my new Mad Cow talk videotaped last week and should have it
      available as a DVD in a month or two.

      Thomas Manion, a good friend of mine with a huge heart (and a huge
      harddrive :), volunteered to fill article requests. So if anyone
      wants to read the full text of any of the articles I cite here or
      elsewhere, you can email him at article-request@... Thanks
      to everyone who wrote me to offer their help in this regard.
      Everyone's support and kind words are what keep me warm on those long
      lonely drives between talks in the middle of the night


      V. MAILBAG: "Why did the Ukraine ban our meat?"

      I just got an email from someone who read the hilarious column in
      Friday's San Francisco Chronicle (online at http://tinyurl.com/2b2qr)
      . Her questions was "I've heard about bovine growth hormone in the
      milk supply, but I didn't know that we used hormones in meat."

      For more than fifty years, U.S. farmers have used both natural and
      artificial hormones to increase the growth rates of livestock. Just
      like bodybuilders can bulk up on steroids, these steroid hormones
      make cattle grow bigger and faster. Of course the USDA doesn't like
      to call them growth hormones, they call them "meat quality
      enhancers," which they note is a "more consumer friendly term."

      According to the USDA, these hormones can eliminate as many as 21
      days of feeding time-same weight, 21 days earlier-which saves lots of
      money. But Europe in the eighties had just gotten over this thing
      where little babies started growing breasts and menstruating after
      eating baby food made from veal calves pumped with the hormone DES
      and then there were all these cancers and genital deformities and so
      January 1st, 1989 Europe banned the production and consumption of
      hormone laden meat.

      Major beef exporters such as Argentina. Australia, New Zealand,
      Brazil all agreed to ship hormone free meat to Europe, but the U.S.
      was not going to be stopped. Not only would the profits of the beef
      industry suffer (and we know how much the beef industry doesn't like
      to see things suffer ;), but the profits of the hormone
      manufacturers-Monsanto, Eli Lilly, Upjohn-would take a hit. And as
      powerful as the beef lobby is, you do not mess with the
      pharmaceutical industry.

      The US took the European Union before the World Trade Organization
      demanding that Europe drop its ban on American beef. And of course,
      the World Health Organization struck down Europe's public health law,
      and demanded Europe drop the ban or face stiff penalties. And Europe
      decided to maintain the ban and stomach the financial consequences,
      which it has for years now. They are willing to pay $50 million
      dollars a year to protect their citizens from American beef.

      Growth promoting hormones, with names like "Steer-oid" are fed,
      implanted or injected into more than 95% of U.S. cattle. They implant
      estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and a number of synthetic
      steroids. The FDA insists that, when properly used, these sex
      steroids pose no risk to humans. This is the same agency, though,
      that, under pressure from the poultry industry, took 20 years to ban
      DES, the hormone that caused all the vaginal cancers in the daughters
      of mothers exposed to it.

      The European Union commissioned their own panel of scientists review
      the available research on the hormones in American meat and concluded
      that they "may cause a variety of health problems including cancer,
      developmental problems, harm to immune systems, and brain disease.
      Even exposure to small levels of [hormone] residues in meat and meat
      products carries risks."

      The European Commission identified one hormone in particular as a
      "complete carcinogen," acting as both a tumor initiator and a tumor
      promoter. They explained, "In plain language, this means that even
      small additional doses of residues of this hormone in meat, arising
      from its use as a growth promoter in cattle, has an inherent risk of
      causing cancer." The French Agriculture Minister simply declared that
      the United States had the, "worst food in the world." Even research
      done here by National Cancer Institute has found that some of the
      synthetic estrogen-like hormones U.S. ranchers continue to implant
      can indeed stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells.

      The U.S. government was not happy with Europe's report. The U.S.
      Agriculture Secretary held a press conference and said 'The European
      Commission has issued yet another misleading report."

      In response the European Union replied, "The commission is deeply
      concerned about the US attempt to belittle the risk which scientists
      have identified. [We] cannot understand why the US has not reacted in
      a more responsible way to the conclusive findings of the scientific
      committee. It is all the more incomprehensible as pre-pube[scent]
      children are the population group most at risk from the hormones."

      Indeed, because children they have such low baseline levels, an 8
      year boy, for example, eating two burgers increases his level of sex
      hormones by almost 10%. And lifelong exposures like that might
      increase the risk of developing cancer.

      The incidence of reproductive cancers has skyrocketed since U.S.
      farmers started using these sex steroids in meat. Compared to 1950,
      we have 55% more breast cancer, 120% more testicular cancer, and 190%
      more prostate cancer here in the United States. Now that's not to say
      that the hormones in meat are the cause, but as one prominent cancer
      researcher noted, "The question we ought to be asking, is not why
      Europe won't buy our hormone-treated meat, but why we allow beef from
      hormone-treated cattle to be sold [here in America]..."


      REFERENCES (Arsenic in Chicken):
      (Full text of specific articles available by emailing
      1 Environmental Health Perspectives 112(2004):18.
      2 One KFC bucket contains 3 legs, 3 breasts, 3 wings and 3 thighs
      [http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/letter_to_ftc.pdf] weighing a total of
      1176 grams [http://www.yum.com/nutrition/documents/kfc_nutrition.pdf]
      containing up to 108.5 mcg of inorganic arsenic [Environmental Health
      Perspectives 112(2004):18] exceeding to EPA limit on an 8oz. glass of
      water by a factor of 48.4 [EPA 815- Z- 01- 001].
      3 Momplaisir, G. M; C. G. Rosal; E. M. Heithmar "Arsenic Speciation
      Methods for Studying the Environmental Fate of Organoarsenic Animal-
      Feed Additives," U. S. EPA, NERL- Las Vegas, 2001; (TIM No. 01- 11)
      4 Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA February 1, 2004
      5 Momplaisir, G. M; C. G. Rosal; E. M. Heithmar "Arsenic Speciation
      Methods for Studying the Environmental Fate of Organoarsenic Animal-
      Feed Additives," U. S. EPA, NERL- Las Vegas, 2001; (TIM No. 01- 11)
      6 Ibid.
      7 Texas Lawyer, January 23, 1995
      8 Daily Times (Salisbury, MD) January 4, 2004
      9 Texas Lawyer, January 23, 1995
      10 Daily Times (Maryland) 11 January 2004.
      11 Health Day News 19 January 2004.
      12 Environmental Health Perspectives 112(2004):18.
      13 Hanaoka, K., Goessler, W., Ohno, H., Irgolic, K. J., and Kaise,
      T., (2001). Formation of toxic arsenical in roasted muscles of marine
      animals, Appl. Organometal. Chem., 15: 61- 66.
      14 Smith, A.H., C. Hopenhayn-Rich, M.L. Bates, H.M. Goeden, I.
      HertzPicciotto, H.M. Duggan, R. Wood, M.J. Kosnett, and M.T. Smith.
      1992. Cancer risks from arsenic in drinking water. Environmental
      Health Perspectives 97, 259-267.
      15 Momplaisir, G. M; C. G. Rosal; E. M. Heithmar "Arsenic Speciation
      Methods for Studying the Environmental Fate of Organoarsenic Animal-
      Feed Additives," U. S. EPA, NERL- Las Vegas, 2001; (TIM No. 01- 11)
      16 Ibid.
      17 Medical Letter on the CDC & FDA February 1, 2004


      REFERENCES (PBCs in Fish):
      (Full text of specific articles available by emailing
      1 Los Angeles Times January 9, 2004 Friday
      2 Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) January 22, 2004
      3 Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.
      Science, 2004;303(5655):226-9
      4 The Observer, January 11, 2004
      5 National Public Radio (NPR) January 8, 2004
      6 Los Angeles Times January 9, 2004 Friday
      7 http://functionalproteins.com/products/biofend/images/pib-biofend.pdf
      8 Molecular Psychiatry March 1997 Volume 2, Number 2 page 146-147
      9 Mail on Sunday (London), January 18, 2004
      10 Inter Press Service, January 23, 2004
      11 The Sunday Herald, January 18, 2004 z
      12 THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER January 15, 2004,
      13 National Public Radio (NPR) January 8, 2004
      14 Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) January 21, 2004
      15 Los Angeles Times January 24, 2004
      16 U.S. News & World Report January 19, 2004
      17 Los Angeles Times January 9, 2004 Friday
      18 Times Newspapers Limited, January 11, 2004
      19 http://veganessentials.com/ and http://drfurhman.com/


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      Until next month,

      (206) 312-8640

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