Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dr. Michael Greger Gives An Update On Latest Nutritional Research In Santa Rosa

World Renowned Nutritional Expert or Stand-up Comic?
On Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture in Santa Rosa by Dr. Michael Greger. He was the guest speaker at a gathering of the Farm Animal Protection Project, a volunteer organization that works to prevent animal suffering. Besides being informative, this guy had me laughing from the minute he started until his last slide. He reminds me of Jon Cryer who plays Alan, Charlie Sheen's brother in two and a half men. He uses this "quiz show" format to present his material and I certainly did not expect a lecture in clinical nutrition to be this entertaining. If you ever get a chance to listen to him speak, take it. You can also buy his DVD's on the "Latest in Clinical Nutrition" on his website.

Michael Greger, M.D.
Among his long list of credentials, you may have heard of him as the expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.
Dr. Greger is the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. He is an author, a physician, an internationally recognized professional speaker and lecturer. Every year he reads thousands of technical publications on nutrition and then travels the country presenting some of the key highlights. The entire summaries can be seen on his DVD's. As a strict vegan, much of his research is focused on the benefits of a plant based diet and the detriment of a diet based on the consumption of animals and animal products like dairy and eggs. So if you are not a strict vegan you may wrinkle your nose at some of the literature he tends to concentrate on. Even so, you will find it captivating and will learn a great deal.

Dr. Greger's 2010 Optimum Nutrition Recommendations
According to Dr. Greger, the healthiest diet is one made up of whole plant foods such as grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit (especially berries) and lots of vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables). He also recommends the consumption of green or white tea.
He points out that particular attention should also be paid to these micronutrients:
* Vitamin B12 - All vegans MUST supplement with this vitamin. He recommends at least 2000 mcg each week from daily or weekly supplementation or B12-fortified foods.
* DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids- He recommends 250 mg of algae-derived DHA daily.
* Vitamin D - If you live in a sunny place, spend 15-30 minutes a day in the sun to get your vitamin D (15 minutes for people with lighter skin and 30 minutes for people with darker skin). Those of you who either don't have time for this or don't live in the right geography should supplement with 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. (Note, this is ten times the RDA so it's hard to get without supplementing). This is especially important in the winter months.
Calcium - Get 600 mg from calcium-rich plant foods, preferably dark leafy greens. But he warns that spinach, chard and beet greens are high in oxalic acid which binds with calcium. So enjoy spinach, chard and beet greens for other healthful reasons but they should not be considered a viable source of calcium.
Iodine - Dr. Greger recommends 150 mcg of iodine daily from either iodized salt, seaweed or a supplement. He warns us NOT to each hijiki as it is known to have high levels of arsenic. He also tells us to avoid kelp since it may have too much iodine.
Iron - Menstruating women can increase their absorption of iron by combining foods rich in iron with vitamin C and should get checked for anemia every few years. Men should NOT attempt to increase iron intake without being checked for iron overload disease. (See my post on Best Raw Vegan, Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Sources of Iron).
Selenium - Dr. Greger recommends that Northern Europeans may need to take a selenium supplement or eat about 20 Brazil nuts per month.

Updates on Clinical Nutrition Research
A few of the many updates contained in his annually published DVD's were discussed today. Among them were:
The healthiest apple
The crabapple was found to be the healthiest apple. The healthiest apple that you would actually eat is the IdaRed. Living in Sebastopol, home of the Gravenstein apple, this was very disappointing. Don't despair, all apples are good for you!
Statins cause muscle toxicity
Besides damaging the liver, a study showed clear evidence of muscle damage of people taking statins. Even when there was NO sign of muscle damage in the blood, muscle biopsies showed damage. This causes significant decrease in muscle strength and performance and leads to frequent falling. He points out that a vegan diet would prevent the need for statins.
The healthiest lentil
Red lentils were found to be healthier than other lentils. But of course, all lentils are very healthful.
MRSA, the infamous superbug that was appearing in hospitals, is now found in farm workers, in supermarkets and in 5% of meat that was sampled.
C-diff, a new superbug, was found in calves, cows, chickens and other poultry. In samples taken in Arizona, C-diff was found in 42% of the meat sampled! Usually your "good" bacteria that colonizes your gut keeps C-diff at bay but after a course of antibiotics, C-diff can take over. Hand sanitizers will not kill it. It can survive 2 hours of conventional cooking temperatures. A C-diff infection can be fatal.
Bottom line: If handling meat, wear gloves. Better yet, according to Dr. Greger, avoid meat.
Soymilk and tea
It has been shown in the past that dairy milk blocks the benefits of the phytonutrients in tea, but does soymilk? Yes it does. So it's best to drink your tea without milk of any kind.
Best Tea?
Green and white tea is the most healthful tea to drink and Match tea, being a powdered green tea containing the complete leaf, has even more benefits.
Mad fish disease?
The FDA has banned feeding cow brains to all farm animals but did they go far enough? It legally can be fed to farmed fish. A study showed that feeding cow brains to farmed fish is a means of transmission of infectious prions from cows with mad cow disease to humans.
I don't know if anyone is feeding cow brains to farmed fish yet but if you eat fish, this would be a reason to purchase wild, not farmed, fish.
The best herbal tea
The most healthful herbal tea is dandelion tea.
What's in a fast food burger?
Five billion fast food burgers are sold each year (and you wonder why cardiovascular disease and obesity is so prevalent). Analysis shows only 2.1% to 14.8% of these burgers are actual muscle meat! The rest was bone, cartilage, parasites, fillers, water and ammonia.
Are fish allergies really from fish?
Two thirds of retail fish sampled tested positive for anisakis, a parasitic worm. These worms, alive or dead from cooking, can trigger allergic reactions. So many people who think they have fish allergies may actually just be allergic to this commonly found parasite.

I bought several of Dr. Greger's DVD's on Saturday and my husband and I are watching them a few hours at a time (he covers a lot of intensely interesting and relevant topics). If you have any interest in nutrition and how diet can affect your health, you should check out his DVD's. In addition, Dr. Greger donates the proceeds from his book and DVD sales to the Humane Society of the United States.


Anonymous said...

If the vegan diet is so naturally healthy, why do vegans have to supplement their diet with all kinds of manufactured vitamins?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

That's a good question. Let me try to answer it.
People who eat vegan diets rich in fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals have less cardiovascular disease, cancer and other degenerative disorders but ONLY if, as you mention, they supplement the diet with a few vitamins. The most important of these vitamins is B12 which you cannot get from plants. Instead of taking manufactured vitamins, vegans can get this from eating things like Red Star vegetarian nutritional yeast (which tastes a bit like cheese - I love to put it on pasta and hot popcorn). Cereals, soy milk and other fortified foods also supply this very important vitamin. Vitamin D can also be low in vegans but guess what? It's low in meat eaters too! So I recommend just about everyone supplement their diet with some vitamin D. Your body will also make vitamin D when you go in the sun but we don't always get enough sun and some of us don't make enough vitamin D even when we do. Lastly, some vegans don't have enough DHA omega 3 fatty acid which comes from fish and algae. Some of us can convert DHA from ALA omega 3 which you get from nuts and seeds like flax seeds or English walnuts. But some of us cannot so some vegans should supplement with DHA from algae sources. So it's not really a big deal to get what you need and it doesn't have to be from manufactured vitamins. A small price to pay for eating a healthful diet that is kind to animals and the environment.
Thanks for the question!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it true that B12 was commonly found in soil and left on plants. Today produce is cleaned to the point that there isn't enough B12?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Yes, that is true!

Thordur Hognason said...

Vegans dont have to suppl their diets with all kinds of manfufactured vitamins.If you grow your own vegetables and eat your greens straight from your garden you will get your b12 from the soil and D from the sun at same time.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

You will not get adequate B12 from your garden greens and you will get irreversibly sick if you do that. With respect to vitamin D, you would have to spend a good amount of time in the sun each day to get your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels between 59 and 80. Depending on where you live, your age, and the color of your skin, your body may not produce enough vitamin D.
If you go on the path of avoiding supplements, you should be tested for vitamin B12 and D. But that's not fool proof either because high levels of folate (which you probably have from eating all those greens) can mask vitamin b12 deficiency.