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*December 2003 issue of Dr. Greger's Newsletter*

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  • Michael Greger, M.D.
    ************************************** December 2003 issue of Dr. Michael Greger s Monthly Newsletter
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2003

      December 2003 issue of Dr. Michael Greger's Monthly Newsletter



      I. Latest Updates in Human Nutrition
      A. Fish Consumption and Breast Cancer
      B. Enlarged Prostate and Tomato Sauce
      C. Sore throat? Try Gargling with Green Tea
      D. Prostate Cancer and Cranberries

      II. Top Mad Cow Disease Story of the Month

      III. Gift Idea -- My DVD!

      IV. FTAA Meeting -- Another Victory for the Animals

      V. Personal Update

      VI. MAILBAG: " 'Milk Negates Chocolate's Health Benefits.' What benefits? "



      A. Fish Consumption and Breast Cancer

      In general, grisly experiments on nonhuman animals has shown a
      protective effect of fish consumption on breast cancer risk, which is
      one of the reasons some authorities recommend that women eat fish.
      Yet there have never been any large forward-looking HUMAN studies.
      Never, that is, until now.

      The results of the Diet Cancer and Health Study were finally
      published last month in the Journal of Nutrition. Over 20,000 women
      were grilled about their fish consumption with a detailed
      questionnaire and then followed for 5 years. And those eating the
      most fish had a 50% greater risk of developing breast cancer. The
      researchers estimate that women may raise their breast cancer risk
      13% for every 25 grams of fish they eat every day (which is but a
      quarter of a serving). And the increased breast cancer risk from
      fish consumption held strong even after controlling for other risk
      factors such as alcohol and obesity and hormone use, etc.

      It didn't matter whether it was fatty fish or lean fish. It didn't
      matter if the fish was fried, boiled or pickled or smoked or
      whatever, the more fish these women ate in any form, the more at risk
      they were for getting breast cancer. Researchers guess it may be the
      organochlorine pesticides like DDT contaminating the worlds oceans
      that make fish flesh so carcinogenic.[1]


      B. Enlarged Prostate and Tomato Sauce

      Last year, a Harvard study of 47,000 men found that those who ate ten
      servings a week of tomato products cut their risk of developing
      aggressive prostate cancer in half. Researchers suspect this may be
      due to the pigment that makes tomatoes red, lycopene. We now know
      that lycopene is the most powerful carotene discovered so far, with
      fully ten times more antioxidant power than beta carotene.

      We've known that in the lab even just purified lycopene slows the
      growth of human prostate cancer cells, but what researchers didn't
      know is whether lycopene had any effect on noncancerous prostate
      cells. In an article published last month, California researchers
      set out to answer just that question, and indeed lycopene inhibited
      the growth of normal human prostate cells as much as 82%.[2]

      This is good news for those trying to prevent or treat an enlargement
      of the prostate (also called BPH, or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy), a
      condition that affects the majority of elderly men in this country.
      This research shows for the first time that not only may tomato sauce
      prevent prostate cells from turning cancerous, it may prevent
      prostate gland enlargement as well.

      Lycopene is one of those phytonutrients which is actually absorbed
      better from cooked foods, so you get more from tomato sauce than raw
      tomatoes. And eating tomato products with a bit of oil may also
      increase the absorption of this fat soluble molecule. Why not just go
      out and buy lycopene pills? That's actually the latest marketing
      scam from Centrum. Their latest multivitamin formulation boasts "Now
      with lycopene!" If you look on the label, though, indeed you'll see
      if has 300 mcg of lycopene. Yeah, but a single tomato has more like
      5000! Pass the vegan pizza :)


      C. Sore throat? Try Gargling with Green Tea

      During my monthly treasure hunt for articles, I ran across a title I
      couldn't resist: "Antibacterial Activity of Vegetables..." And the
      experiment it described is indeed as cool as it sounded.

      California researchers were evidently sitting around some day and
      thought, "Hmm, I wonder if rutabagas have any antibiotic quality?"
      So theygot funding to take a few dozen organic fruits and veggies,
      put them each through a juicer and dripped some juice into bacterial
      broths and saw if the veggies kicked any bacterial tush.[4]

      None of the green veggies affected the bacteria, but interestingly
      the red fruits and veggies--beets, red onion, red cabbage, cherries,
      cranberries, and raspberries had a mild inhibitory effect on
      pathogenic bacteria, with pomegranates coming out on top. That is,
      until they tested green tea and garlic, which had some serious
      bacterial butt kicking abilities.

      To test just how powerful our plant-based champs were, they put
      garlic and green tea up against three of the scariest bacteria known
      to humankind, the bacterial strains resistant to almost every known
      antibiotic (thanks in part to modern agribusiness saturating animal
      feed with antibiotics). And our little plant-based defenders
      prevailed, killing the unkillable bugs. The researchers proposed that
      maybe hospital staff ought to start washing their hands in green tea
      or dripping some into antibiotic resistant infections.

      So, gargling with warm green tea may help those with infected sore
      throats. (But, if your sore throat is accompanied by swollen glands
      and fever, you should get tested for strep throat. This study didn't
      test efficacy against the strep bug, and untreated strep can lead to
      long-term heart complications.) We don't yet know if green tea or
      garlic will help with internal infections, but many of the garlic
      compounds are exhaled through the lungs after ingestion and could
      conceivably help fight off respiratory tract infections.

      Note that they also tried commercial garlic tablets, which were found
      to be useless. And cooked garlic didn't work either, so to help fight
      off infections you'd have to eat the garlic raw (like maybe in
      hummous, salsa, guacamole, etc). And all that raw garlic may even
      prevent disease transmission as no one will want to come kiss you :)


      D. Prostate Cancer and Cranberries

      I hope everyone had some cranberry sauce on their tofu turkey! :)
      Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men
      in North America. The current hormonal treatments we have for this
      disease have a number of toxic side-effects and only seem to be able
      to control cancer growth for a few years before the cancer mutates
      and becomes resistant to the treatment. Researchers desperately
      needed to come up with a treatment that was effective against even
      advanced disease, but whose side effects were tolerable. Researchers
      at the University of Western Ontario came up with cranberries.[3]

      Cranberry extracts have been found to have antitumor effects against
      a number of other hormonally regulated human tumors like breast
      cancer, so they tried dripping a few millionths of a gram of ground
      up cranberries on a number of human prostate cancer cell lines in
      petri dishes. They found that the growth of even the chemotherapy
      resistant cancer cells was successfully inhibited.

      Of course you can't patent cranberries and make monstrous profits off
      them, so researchers tried to identify the compound that was
      responsible for the anti-tumor effects. They ran through all the
      well known phytonutrient compounds in cranberries and came up dry.
      They concluded that the anti-cancer compound in cranberries remains a
      mystery. While they continue to try to isolate "the" active compound
      so they can put it in a pill and bankrupt some poor seniors who don't
      have prescription coverage, how about we just eat some darn

      But how to eat them, though, without all the corn syrup and sugar in
      processed cranberry products? I'm sure there are lots of good
      suggestions out there, but what I do is just put a spoonful of
      cranberries in my morning flax smoothie. :)



      In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last
      month, researchers discovered that prions infect the muscles of
      people who die from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.[5] This is the first
      time these infectious prions have been found outside of nerve tissue.
      This raises concerns about the cross contamination of surgical
      instruments (since standard sterilization methods cannot guarantee
      the inactivation of prions) and of course continues to challenge the
      National Cattlemen's Beef Association's continued insistence that
      prions are only found in the central nervous system.

      Across the Atlantic, Great Britain is launching a national tonsil
      archive this month to estimate how many Britons have already been
      infected with mad cow disease and are currently incubating the fatal
      disease. By collecting and testing tonsil samples from people
      undergoing tonsillectomies, the UK government is hoping to estimate
      how many beef-eaters might die in the coming years from the human
      form of mad cow disease. The infectious prions seem to build up first
      in lymphoid tissues such as tonsils and appendixes years before the
      person starts showing symptoms and spirals towards death.

      For more on the mad cow disease crisis, please see my paper
      "<http://organicconsumers.org/madcow/GregerBSE.cfm>U.S. Violates WHO
      Guidelines for Mad Cow Disease" on the Organic Consumer Association's
      <http://organicconsumers.org/madcow.htm>mad cow disease website.


      III. GIFT IDEA -- My DVD!

      Funnyman Vance Lehmkuhl. author of the cartoon collection,
      <http://www.citypaper.net/hth/soyjoy.html>The Joy of Soy, was sweet
      enough to review my DVD in the latest issue of America's Favorite
      Vegetarian Newsmagazine, <http://vegnews.com/>Veg News.

      My DVD evidently "delivers the nutritional case for veganism with
      memorable charm... So you may want to
      <http://www.veganmd.org/dvd.html>get a copy for yourself, plus a fun
      gift for someone who may be leaning toward plant-based nutrition (all
      proceeds from the DVD sales go to animal charities)."

      I couldn't have said it better myself :)


      IV.FTAA MEETING -- Another Victory for the Animals

      Armed checkpoints, embedded reporters in flak jackets, brutal
      suppression of peaceful demonstrators. Baghdad? No, Miami. See Naomi
      piece in The Guardian about the protests of the FTAA meetings in
      Miami last month.

      While yours truly was being shot at by rubber bullets, plastic
      bullets, tasers, pepper spray rounds and tear gas canisters, the FTAA
      talks inside the Intercontinental Hotel collapsed. Like the World
      Trade Organization negotiations two months before, the proposed Free
      Trade Area of the Americas, which could cripple animal, environmental
      and human rights legislation throughout the hemisphere, seems on the
      rocks as more enlightened populations than ours in South America have
      forced their leaders to proceed with caution. The grassroots
      resistance movement against corporate power continues, but this
      certainly seems a victory for global justice.

      To learn more about this important issue, listen on-line to my talk
      "<http://www.veganmd.org/talks/>Corporate Globalization: Trading Away
      Our Right to Protect Animals" on my <http://www.veganmd.org/>website
      (I can also send you a <http://www.veganmd.org/talks/#global>CD of it
      if that's easier) or visit Compassion in World Farming's spectacular
      website, http://www.WorldTradeCruelty.com



      I got a car! Yeah! I want to sincerely thank everyone who helped me
      out with this. It was a noble effort and now I'm back in business!
      Now that I'm ready to venture out on the road again, though, the book
      project I'm currently working on (an update to Dr. Klaper's Vegan
      Nutrition: Pure and Simple) is taking longer than expected, despite
      me trying to clock almost 100 hours a week on it. I'm just blown away
      by the amount of new research that's come out over the last few years
      and am still wading through the research phase. But hopefully I'll be
      done in a few months and able to resume my speaking tour this Spring.

      One thing people can do to help is ask around to see if anyone they
      know has a scanner they'd be willing to donate or lend to me. Every
      month I need to jump on a bus to Boston to make my
      time-to-make-the-newsletter pilgrimage to Harvard's medical library.
      The libraries in new York City where I'm living now are good, but
      just cam't compare. Other medical libraries, for example, have a
      section devoted to journals they received that year, but Harvard's
      library has a whole wall dedicated to the journals they received that
      DAY! The problem is that I'm like a kid in a (vegan) candy store up
      there and typically xerox about 1400 pages of articles every month,
      which is getting pricey.

      Veg movement computer guru Eric Zamost came up with a brilliant
      suggestion: Why don't I just scan articles into my computer? Then,
      not only will I save the expense of copying and the back strain from
      lugging around boxes of articles, I can make all the articles
      available to everyone. Then, if there's ever an article anyone is
      interested in reading themselves, I can just email it to them. I'd
      love to be able to provide this service to the movement, but... I'd
      need a scanner.

      Anyone have one they're not using? I checked a few models out and it
      turns out most of the really affordable ones are too slow for my
      purposes--it would take me days to input that many articles every
      month. According to Consumer Reports, though, the two fastest models
      are the Epson Perfection 2400 photo and the HQ Scanjet 4570c. I
      tried them both, and the Epson wins--I can get a readable page in
      less than 25 seconds! Epson is selling refurbished models with free
      shipping for $99, but if anyone out there just happens to have one
      like it lying around, I'd definitely put it to good use.

      Though I don't miss the traveling, I definitely miss seeing all of
      you. Happy Holidays everyone!


      VI. MAILBAG: " 'Milk Negates Chocolate's Health Benefits.' What benefits? "

      This has been a good year for chocolate lovers. Three months ago,
      research letters published in the Journal of the American Medical
      Association showed that people with hypertension fed a daily bar of
      dark chocolate significantly improved their high blood pressure
      within 10 days. The controls who ate bars of white chocolate, which
      lacks the cocoa bean solids, experienced no benefit.[6]

      Another letter in the same issue showed that cocoa might actually
      help arteries become more flexible, improving blood flow.[7] Other
      human studies show that chocolate also reduces the clumping of blood,
      which might lower heart attack risk as well.[8] Cacao beans are,
      after all, a plant food and contain a healthy dose of certain
      minerals and antioxidant phytonutrients called flavonoids similar to
      those found in green tea and red wine.

      But it does have to be dark chocolate. A study two months ago
      published in one of the most prestigious journals in the world showed
      that the milk in milk chocolate actually cancels out the antioxidant
      power of chocolate.[9] So, chocolate lovers, come over to the dark
      side :)

      Within an hour of eating a bar of dark chocolate,the antioxidant
      levels in your blood shoot up almost 20%. But if you eat a bar of
      milk chocolate, nothing happens. We always used to think that this
      was because there were just less flavonoids in milk chocolate--which
      is true, but why were people getting literally zero benefit from milk

      Researchers wondered if it was something about the cows' milk itself
      that interfered with the absorption of the antioxidants in chocolate.
      So they gave people a bar of dark chocolate and then had them wash it
      down with a glass of cows' milk. Lo and behold they were right--the
      milk somehow blocked the expected rise in antioxidant levels. Because
      researchers suspect the cows' milk proteins are the culprit, we would
      not expect nondairy milks to have a detrimental effect.

      The primary ingredient in chocolate though, is not the antioxidant
      anti-aging, anti-tumor, heart healthy flavonoids; it's cocoa butter,
      one of the few plant fats that's highly saturated. The primary
      concern with saturated fats is that they tend to raise your
      cholesterol, but strangely, even in studies in which volunteers had
      to eat a half a pound of chocolate a day (sign me up! :), it didn't
      seem to affect cholesterol levels, at least in the short-term.[10]
      Unfortunately saturated fats may have other deleterious effects such
      as increasing one's risk of blood clots, perhaps making non-alkali
      processed cocoa powder (which is very low in fat) a better chocolate
      choice. Unfortunately, there have been no population studies looking
      at chocolate consumption and cardiac risk, so we don't have all the

      Bottom line? Dark chocolate is probably actually healthy for you,
      BUT there are indeed healthiER choices--fruit and vegetable sources
      of similar antioxidants that contain more nutrients, more fiber and
      less calories. But even anti-fat man himself, Dr. Dean Ornish,
      indulges in a little bit of dark chocolate every day. So, don't be
      afraid of the dark :)



      [1] Journal of Nutrition 133(2003):3664.
      [2] Journal of Nutrition 133(2003):3356.
      [3] Journal of Nutrition 133(2003):3846S.
      [4] Nutrition 19(2003):994.
      [5] New England Journal of Medicine 349(2003):1812.
      [6] Journal of the American Medical Association 290(2003):1029.
      [7] Journal of the American Medical Association 290(2003):1030.
      [8] Journal of the American Dietetics Association 103(2003):215.
      [9] Nature 424(2003):1013.
      [10] Harvard Heart Letter. November 2003:8.

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