From Wisdom to Alzheimer’s: Are we poisoning ourselves with affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style?Posted: December 14, 2013
Wise elders, grand parents or statesmen have been the traditional roles for aging adults. Older people were revered as the repository and sources of wisdom in many traditional cultures. Presently the development of aging into wisdom is being overshadowed by the specter of Alzheimer’s disease. Wisdom transforming into Alzheimer’s disease does not compute. How come that in slightly more than a century after it was first described by the neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, the fear of contracting and possible having Alzheimer’s disease with the concurrent loss of cognitive and body functions is becoming a possibility? How could this have occurred?
Today more people are living to older ages; however, in traditional cultures some people also lived to very old age (the major increase in present day longevity is due to the elimination of infant and maternal mortality and medical treatment to survive trauma).
Is it possible that the prevention of Alzheimer’s will not be found in pharmaceutical treatment but in promoting organic food diet and movement? The research data is starting to find that our life style patterns are risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Changing lifestyle factors is a more promising treatment approach than drugs. A significant risk factor may be the confluence of a sedentary lifestyle and affluent malnutrition. Researchers are even reporting that the built up of the beta amyloid plaques in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease is not the result of aging but the body’s attempt to cope with the influx of environmental and dietary poisons or decreases in essential foods or body activities.
Risk: Sedentary lifestyle-Too little exercise
Over the last hundred years–and rapidly accelerated in the last 30 years–we have transformed work into sitting. By sitting in front of a computer screen, we have created a new disease: Immobilization Syndrome. Lack of exercise is recognize as a major factor in numerous illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Movement in many different forms reduces the risk of illness. Older people who exercise have a significant reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (Larson, 2006; Radak et al, 2010).
Regular movement lowers the risk. Even though there is overwhelming scientific evidence that movement and exercise are required for health, there is a disconnect with the medical and educational practices. Insurances will pay for medical treatment; however, they usually will not pay for prevention or exercise. At the same time physical education in schools is reduced or eliminated to reduce the risk of litigation (an injured child on the playground could sue the school). Children now spend most of their time in front of a screen while exercising their thumb and index fingers instead of playing and moving outdoors.
Risk: Affluent malnutrition-too much sugar and simple carbohydrates
Affluent malnutrition appears to be another risk factor. Recent findings suggests that the beta amyloids plagues, as the marker for Alzheimer’s in the brain, may be a protective response to the modulating insulin levels triggered by affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style. This disease has been labeled as type 3 diabetes by Associate Professor Suzanne de la Monte at Brown University (Steen et al, 2005). Namely, the disease occurs as the brain tissue becomes resistant to insulin.
Rats that are fed high-fructose corn syrup laced water experienced learning and memory problems in less than 6 weeks and became less responsive to insulin. At the same time if the animals were given omega 3 fatty acids, they appear to escape the cognitive decline. In other research rats developed Alzheimer like brain changes and became demented when Suzanne de la Monte interfered with how the rats brains respond to insulin (Trivedi, 2012).
Alois Alzheimer first described these abnormal protein structure in the brains a little more than a hundred years ago. At that time the European diet had increased sugar intake as shown in figure 1. While more recently there has been a significant increase in high fructose corn syrup as shown in figure 2.
Figure 1. Radical increase in sugar consumption in the last 200 years. From: http://blog.zestos.co.nz/2010/09/sugar-consumption-been-high-before.html
Figure 2. Increase in the type of sugar consumption in the last thirty years. From: http://blog.zestos.co.nz/2010/09/sugar-consumption-been-high-before.html
We are now becoming concerned with the Alzheimer’s disease as an upcoming epidemic. It cannot be just sugar; since, its consumption has been high since the beginning of the 20th century. A possible contributor could be the high-fructose corn syrup; however, it is most likely the interaction between reduced exercise and sugar.
Sugar set the stage for pathogenesis to occur in the brain and the absence of movement/exercise promotes and supports the pathogenesis. People continue to decrease movement: from walking or riding horses to sitting cars or standing on escalators and elevators; from doing physical housework to automated washing machines, driers and dishwashers; from preparing foods from raw materials to prepackaged foods; from filing and typing to computer work; from playing family games to watching TV and searching the net; from face to face communication to texting; etc.
We have separated from our biological evolutionary heritage. I am not surprised that Alzheimer’s disease and immobility and sugar are linked. Adopt the precautionary principle and assume that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with reduced movement (immobilization syndrome) is harmful.
As a reader, you will probably have to wait another 20 years before these findings have been scientifically proven against the overt and covert lobbying efforts of agribusiness and pharmaceutical industry. Remember it took 30 years to demonstrate that smoking was harmful. Begin to move and eat in concert with your evolutionary background (See Part III Self-care in Gorter and Peper, 2011).
Eat food not sugars! Eat the foods great grandparents would recognize as food as Michael Pollan (2009) describe in his superb book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Eat foods that have not been processed or adulterated by additives. Take charge by eating brain supporting foods such as organic vegetables, roots, fruits, nuts, fish, some organ meat, and eliminate all those sugary, fatty processed highly advertised fast foods.
Move and exercise! Get up and move every hour. Walk up the stairs instead of the escalator. Meet new people and move by going hiking, dancing, Tai Chi or yoga classes or volunteer by helping others.
Gorter, R. & Peper, E. (2011). Fighting Cancer-A Non Toxic Approach to Treatment. Berkeley: North Atlantic.
Larson, E.G., Wang, L., Bowen, J.D., McCormick, W. C., Teri, L., Crane, P., & Kukull, W. (2006). Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Ann Intern Med, 144(2), 73-81.
Pollan, M. (2009). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.
Radak, Z., Hart. N., Sarga, L., Koltai, E., Atalay, M., Ohno, H., & Boldogh, I. (2010). Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(3), 777-83.
Steen, E., Terry, B.M. Rivera, E.J., Cannon, J.L., Neely, T.R., Tavares, R., Xu, X. J., Wands, J.R., & de al Monte, S. M. (2005). Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease-is this type 3 diabetes? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 7(1), 53-80.
Trivedi, B. (2012). Eat your way to dementia. New Scientist, 215(2880), 32-37.
Health food advocates have long claimed that organic foods are better for your health because they have more nutrients and fewer pesticides than non organic or genetically modified grown foods. On the other hand, the USDA and agribusiness tend to claim that organically grown foods have no additional benefits. Until now, much of the published research appeared inconclusive and meta-analysis appeared to indicate that there are no health benefits from organic as compared to non organic foods although organic foods did reduce eczema in infants (Dangour et al, 2010).
Food studies that have demonstrated no benefits of organic farmed foods as compared to non-organic or genetically modified crops should be viewed with skepticism since many of these studies have been funded directly or indirectly by agribusiness. On the other hand, independently funded research studies have tended to demonstrate that organic foods are more beneficial than non-organic foods. Sadly, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and agribusiness are highly interdependent as the USDA both regulates and promotes agricultural products. On the one hand the USDA’s mission is “To expand economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production” and on the other hand “Enhance food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of food borne hazards from farm to table, improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion. (For more discussion on the conflict of interest between agribusiness and the USDA, see Michael Pollan’s superb books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifest).
Historically, most nutritional studies have investigated the nutritional difference or pesticide residue between organic and non-organically farmed. Many studies have shown that organic grown foods have significantly lower pesticide residues than non organic foods (Baker et al, 2002; Luc, 2006). Even though agribusiness and the USDA tend to state that the pesticide residues left in or on the food are safe and non-toxic and have no health consequences, I have my doubts. Human beings accumulate pesticides just like tuna fish accumulates mercury—frequent ingesting of very low levels of pesticides residue may result in long term harmful effects. One way to measure if there is an effect of organic, non organic or genetically modified grown foods or residual pesticides is to do a long term follow up and measure the impact over the lifespan of the organism. This is difficult with human beings; since, it would take 50 or more years to observe the long term effects. Nevertheless, the effects of organically grown foods versus non-organically grown foods upon lifespan, fertility and stress resistance has now been demonstrated with fruit flies.
The elegant research by Chhabra R, Kolli S, Bauer JH (2013) showed that when fruit flies were fed either organic bananas, potatoes, soy or raisins, they demonstrated a significant increase in longevity, fertility and stress resistance as compared to eating non-organic bananas, potatoes, soy and raisins. In this controlled study, the outcome data is stunning. Below are some of their results reproduced from their article, “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster.”
Figure 1. Longevity of D. melanogaster fed organic diets. Survivorship curves of female fruit flies fed diets made from extracts of potatoes, raisins, bananas or soybeans (grey: conventional food; black: organic food; statistically significant changes (p,0.005) are indicated by asterisks).Median survival times of flies on conventional and organics food sources, respectively, are: potatoes: 16 and 22 days (,38% longevity increase,p,0.0001); soybeans: 8 and 14 days (,75% longevity increase, p,0.0001).doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052988.g001. Reproduced from Chhabra R, Kolli S, Bauer JH (2013).
Figure 2. Daily egg-laying of flies exposed to organic diets. Egg production of flies fed the indicated food was determined daily. Shown are the averages of biological replicates; error bars represent the standard deviation (grey: conventional food; black: organic food; statistically significant changes (p,0.005) are indicated by asterisks; p,0.0001 for all food types). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052988.g002. Reproduced from Chhabra R, Kolli S, Bauer JH (2013).
Figure 3. Starvation tolerance of flies raised on organic diets. Survivorship curves of female flies raised for 10 days on the indicated food sources. Flies were then transferred to starvation media and dead flies were counted twice daily (grey: conventional food; black: organic food; statistically significant changes (p,0.005) are indicated by asterisks). Median survival times of flies on conventional and organics food sources, respectively, are: potatoes: 6 and 24 hours (p,0.0001); bananas: 24 and 48 hours (p,0.0001). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052988.g003. Reproduced from Chhabra R, Kolli S, Bauer JH (2013)
This elegant study demonstrated the cumulative impact of organic versus non-organic food source upon survival fitness. It demonstrated that non-organic foods decreased the overall health of the organism which may be due to the lower levels of essential nutrients, presence of pesticides or genetic modified factors.
The take home message of their research is: If you are concerned about your health, want to live healthier and longer, improve fertility and resist stress, eat organically grown fruits and vegetable. Although this research was done with fruit flies and human beings are not fruit flies since we eat omnivorously, it may still be very relevant especially for children. As children grow the ingestion of non-organic foods may cause a very low level nutrient malnutrition coupled with an increased exposure to pesticides. The same concept can be extended to meats and fish. Eat only meat from free ranging animals that have been fed organic grown foods and not been given antibiotics or hormones to promote growth.
Baker, B.P., Benbrook, C.M., & Groth III, E., & Lutz, K. (2002). Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(5) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02652030110113799
Chhabra R, Kolli S, Bauer JH (2013) Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052988 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0052988
Dangour, A.D., Lock, K., Hayter, A., Aikenhead, A., Allen, E., Uauy, R. (2010). Nutrition related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 92,203–210. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/1/203.short
Luc, C., Toepel, K., Irish, R., Fenske, R.A., Barr, D.B., & Bravo, R. (2006). Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides. Environ Health Perspect, 114(2), 260–263. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1367841/
Pollan, M. (2009). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN: 978-0143114963
Pollan, M. (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN: 1594200823
Nothing is so hard as watching a child having a seizure.
–Elizabeth A. Thiele, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School
Until recently, when people asked me, “What would I suggest as a non-toxic/non-invasive biofeedback approach for the treatment of epilepsy?” I automatically replied, “A combination of neurofeedback, behavioral analysis treatment, respiration training, a low glycemic diet, and stress management and if these did not work, medications.” I have now changed my mind!
Epilepsy is diagnosed if the person has two or more seizures. About one to two percent of the population is diagnosed with epilepsy and it is the most common neurological illness in children. Medication is usually the initial treatment intervention; however, in about one third of the people, the seizures will still occur despite the medications. In some cases, people -often without the support of their neurologist/healthcare provider–will explore other treatment strategies such as diet, respiration training, neurofeedback, behavioral control, diet, or traditional Chinese medicine.
It is ironic that one of the tools to diagnose epilepsy is recording the electroencephalography (EEG)– brain waves–of the person after fasting while breathing quickly (hyperventilating). For some, the combination of low blood sugar and hyperventilation will evoke epileptic wave forms in their EEG and can trigger seizures (hyperventilation when paired with low sugar levels tends to increase slow wave EEG which would promote seizure activity).
If hyperventilation and fluctuating blood sugar levels are contributing factors in triggering seizures, why not teach breathing control and diet control as the first non-toxic clinical intervention before medications are prescribed. This breathing approach has shown very promising clinical success. (For more details see the book, Fried, R. (1987). The Hyperventilation syndrome-Research and Clinical Treatment. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press).
Self-management should be the first clinical intervention and not the last. Similarly, neurofeedback– brain wave biofeedback–is another proven approach to reduce seizures. This approach was developed by Professor Maurice B. Sterman at UCLA and was based upon animal studies. He demonstrated that cats who were trained to increase sensory motor rhythm (SMR) in their EEG could postpone seizure onset when exposed to a neurotoxin that induced seizures. He then demonstrated that human beings with epilepsy could equally learn to control their EEG patterns and inhibit seizures. This approach, just as the breathing approach, is non-toxic and reduces seizures.
Underlying both these approaches is the concept of behavioral analysis to identify and interrupt the chained behavior that leads to a seizure. Namely, a stimulus (internal or external) triggers a cascading chain of neurological processes that eventually results in a seizure. Thus, if the person learns to identify and interrupt/divert this cascading chain, the seizure does not occur. From this perspective, respiration training and neurofeedback could be interpreted to interrupt this cascading process. Behavioral analyses includes all behaviors (movement, facial expressions, emotions, etc) which can be identified and then interrupted. As professors Joanne Dahl and Tobias Lundgren from Uppsala University in Sweden state, The behavior technology of seizure control provides low-cost, drug free treatment alternative for individual already suffering from seizures and the stigmatization of epilepsy.
Until recently, I would automatically suggest that people explore these self-control strategies as the first intervention in treatment of epilepsy and only medication for the last resort. Now, I have changed my mind. I suggest the ketogenic diet as the first step for the treatment of epilepsy in conjunction with the self-regulation strategies—medication should only be used if the previous strategies were unsuccessful.
A ketogenic diet has a 90% clinical success rates in children–even in patients with refractory seizures. This diet stabilizes blood sugar levels and is very low on simple carbohydrates, high in fat, some protein, and lots of vegetables (a ratio of 4 grams of fat to 1 gram of carbohydrates and protein). In adults, the success rates drops to about 50%. The lower success rate may be the result of the challenges in implementing these self-regulatory diet approaches. As Elizabeth A. Thiele, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School points out, dietary therapy is the most effective known treatment strategy for epilepsy. Even though, ketogenic diet is the most effective therapy, it is less likely to be prescribed than medications—there are no financial incentives; there are, however, many financial incentives for prescribing pharmaceuticals.
These lifestyle changes are very challenging to implement. They need to be taught and socially supported. Just telling people what to do does not often work. It is similar to learning to play a musical instrument. The person needs step by step coaching and social support which is an intensive educational approach. To learn more about the research underlying the ketogenic diet as the first level of intervention for epilepsy, watch Professor Thiele’s presentation from the 2012 Ancentral Health Symposium, Dietary Therapy: Role in Epilepsy and Beyond.
Putting it simply: Too much sugar in our diet is harmful and when we return to our paleolithic diet, health tends to improve.
Sugar intake in all different forms is the single most important ingredient that contributes to diabetes. In the last one hundred years our sugar intake has radically increased as is shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. Sugar intake per capita in the United Kingdom from 1700 to 1978 and in the United states from 1975-2000. The line on the right with black dots is the obesity rates in the United States in non-Hispanic white men aged 60-69 y. Values for 1880-1910 are based on studies conducted in male Civil War veterans aged 50-59y. From: Johnson RJ et al, AJCN 2007; 86:899-906; Initial source: http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/Fructose/Fructose.html
Even though research and clinical findings over the last one hundred years have shown that increased sugar and processed simple carbohydrate intake are contributing factors to many illnesses ranging from diabetes, obesity, cancer and even epilepsy, the data is now undisputable. As Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times on February 27th, “Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.”
When researchers accounted for poverty, aging, exercise, total food intake, and other factors, increased sugar intake increased diabetes and decreased sugar decreased diabetes. As the authors state, “for every 150 kcal/person/day increase in sugar availability (about one can of soda/day) there was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% (p <0.001).” (Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013) The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873)
Presently, the level of proof linking sugar to diabetes is equal to if not better than the level of proof that linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer and other illnesses. Despite the overwhelming scientific data, it will be an uphill battle to change our diet and diet recommendations from the highly processed high glycemic index diet that promotes inflammation and diabetes to a low glycemic index Paleolithic diet that supports health. The major agricultural and food processing businesses have significant influence with the USA Government (for Senate and House members lobbying pays for the election), the FDA and USDA priorities are also highly affected through direct and indirect lobbying efforts or by the financial reward to be offered a job in the agribusiness after working for the FDA or USDA. In the USA lobbying and being rewarded with a highly paid job in industry is the expression of the democratic process–for the rest of the world it is called bribery. Thus, it is likely that agricultural and food processing industries will continue to delay and obstruct any recommendations to reduce sugars and highly processed carbohydrates in our food supply. A preview of this battle has already occurred when Major Michael Bloomberg of New York City intended to restrict sales of sugary soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces a cup in city restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. A barrage of negative comments filled the media spaces. For example, Bloomberg News, reported the comments by Kirsten Witt Webb, a Coca-Cola (KO) spokeswoman, who said in an e-mail. “They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate.”
Soft drinks and soft drinks contain often eight or more table spoons of sugar per drink as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Amount of sugar cubes in soft drinks. Source: http://www.sugarstacks.com/beverages.htm
The sugar/highly processed foods battle will be similar to the battle the smoking lobby fought for the last 30 years. Just like tobacco subsidies, farmers receive subsidies to grow corn to make more low cost high fructose corn syrup. As recent as 2005 tobacco farmers were still receiving a billion and a half dollars in subsidy while farmers growing corn received more than seven billion dollars in subsidies as shown in Figure 3.
At the same time pharmaceutical companies continue to reap a financial bonanza from the sugar diet induced illnesses. They will create more and more drugs to attempt to reduce the illnesses and symptoms.
We cannot expect the US government to promote our health as the lobbying power by agribusiness is overwhelming. We cannot expect published information, whether on the web or in print, to be accurate as advertising dollars significantly affect editorial decisions.
We can start eating differently ourselves and with our families and friends. Begin now. Do an experiment by eating a predominantly Paleolithic diet. For the next two weeks, eat only foods that are real foods which your great grandparents recognized as food. Thus nothing out of box or can. Nothing that has been processed or prepared! Buy only foods in their natural form. Shop at farmers’ markets or only at the periphery of the supermarket: vegetables and fruits, the meat and fish counters. After eating this diet for two weeks, check how you feel. Many people report having more energy, feeling less tired and irritability, and some experience a reduction in arthritic pains, inflammation, headaches and even anxiety. For dietary suggestions see the common sense recommendations in Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.
A multivitamin a day keeps the doctor away to prevent nutritional deficiency and indirectly reduce cancer risks. Although most previous research studies have not demonstrated whether vitamin supplements are useful in the prevention or the treatment of cancer, the recently published randomized control trial of 14,641 male physicians in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that a multivitamin a day significantly reduced the incidence of cancer. The participants started taking the vitamin or placebo at about age 50 and continued for eleven years. This study, Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men- The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial, is different from most previous studies. It is one of the first randomized controlled trial in which the participants did not know whether they took a multivitamin or placebo daily. Even though the effect is small, the study finds that taking a multivitamin daily reduces cancer risk.
To promote health, take a multivitamin a day; however, the benefits gained by taking a multivitamin imply that:
- We are affluently malnutritioned as our daily western industrialized processed diet is deficient in nutrients that support our immune system and health. It would be better to eat an organic food diet with lots of vegetables and fruits. Even The President’s Cancer Panel Report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, published by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends to consume to the “extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.” Eating an organic hunter and gatherer diet would include many other essential vitamins and minerals –some which we do not yet know—that are not included in a single multivitamin.
- Start eating a healthy diet from birth since it will have more impact to prevent cancer than adding a multivitamin a day at age 50. Most epidemiological studies have shown that a predominantly vegetable and fruit diet is associated with lower cancer rates.
- Implement a health promoting life style to support the immune system. Begin now by practicing stress management, incorporating exercise, performing self-healing strategies, and eating organic vegetable, fruits (no processed foods). For more suggestions see our book, Fighting Cancer-A Nontoxic Approach to Treatment.
How can you imply that I have malnutrition! I eat a full, balanced diet including meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, etc. I take a multiple vitamin every day and even shop for organic foods at my local farmer’s market. In fact, I shifted my diet to follow the American Heart Disease Association and USDA Food Plate and Pyramid guidelines!
Evolution optimized human genetics for a hunter-gatherer diet but in the last few centuries our diet has radically changed and is totally different from the ideal diet of our ancestors. We now mainly eat foods that were not part of our diet five to ten thousand years ago such as corn, wheat, milk and all packaged and processed foods. We eat on the average 160 lbs of sugar instead of less than two pounds of honey a year, and steaks instead of the organ meats such as liver which would have provided essential vitamin A, D, etc.
A healthy diet is much more than nutritionally poor a high caloric foods (e.g., cereals, hamburgers, white rice or flour) with some vitamins and minerals added; instead, it is congruent with our evolutionary past —a hunter gatherer diet–which supports the growth and maintenance of our body and brain. This diet would predominantly consist of natural, non industrialized produced foods such as vegetables, leaves, fruits, berries, nuts, roots, tubers, wild fish and meats from free ranging animals. When eating this type of diet, it significantly exceeds the FDA’s Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) guidelines which is the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals in the United States.
These minimum RDI for vitamins and minerals are often too low and do not include the myriad of micro and macro nutrients necessary to achieve and maintain optimum health. Nutrients do not act in alone but in concert with each other as Michael Pollan pointed out in his superb book, In Defense of Food.
Dietary guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) My Plate and Food Pyramid and organizations such as the American Heart Association are more the result of successful lobbying by large agribusiness than from research findings. By following USDA and FDA guidelines, we may set the stage for long term subclinical malnutrition which reduces our resilience to fight disease.
If the recommended modern Western diet was sufficient then there would be no need to take additional vitamin or mineral supplements to prevent illnesses. This is not the case! Controlled research studies have shown that numerous illnesses can be reduced or prevented by taking specific supplements.
- The risk of having a baby with Spina bivida (neural tube defect) can be reduced by71% when women before becoming pregnant take 400 µg of folic acid (vitamin B9) per day. Taking the folic acid supplement may not have been necessary if the woman had eating foods naturally high in folic acid such as leafy vegetable (spinach, asparagus, turnip greens), egg yolks, sun flower seeds and liver.
- Pregnant women can reduce the risk of their babies having eczema by 42 percent and egg allergies by 40 percent when they take fish oil capsules (1000 mg of Omega 3s) daily during pregnancy as compared to the women whoonly took vegetable capsule. Taking Omega 3s may not have been necessary if the woman had eating foods naturally high in Omega 3s such as cold water oily fish, flax seed, eggs produced by free ranging hens who are not fed corn or soy, and brains from mammals.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be significantly reduced when children eat unprocessed foods and lots of green, vegetables, roots.
- Teenage girls who took vitamin D supplements had significantly lower bone fractures than girls who did not take vitamin D supplements. Is it possible that chronic low levels of vitamin D (chronic malnutrition caused by our industrialized agribusiness diet) and use of sunscreen are significant co-factor in the increasing epidemic of osteoporosis in older women? Taking vitamin D may not have been necessary if the girls had eating foods naturally high in vitamin D such as alfalfa shoots, fatty fish, beef liver and whole eggs produced by free ranging hens and enough sun exposure.
Eating the industrialized produced western diet may also increase the risk developing neurological degenerative diseases. Adults with low omega-3 blood levels had significantly lower total cerebral brain volume than adults who had the highest levels of omega-3s. More importantly, adults with low levels of omega-3 levels did significantly worse on abstract memory, visual memory and executive function than the adults who had high omega-3 levels.
These research findings are worrisome; since, shrinking brains are a feature associated with neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Is it possible that our diet contributes to the expanding epidemics of Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD?
If some illness can be prevented by taking supplements, would it not be wiser to eat a diet which provides sufficiently nutrients for the brain and body?
Watch the inspirational presentation by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, Minding Your Mitochondria, who cured her multiple sclerosis which was untreatable by western medicine. She reversed her illness by eating a hunter and gathers diet which provided the optimum nutrition for her brain. Over a period of three to a year, she got out of herwheel chair, started to ride a bicycle, and eventually rode horseback as shown in her Youtube video.
Experience the benefits of eating a hunter gatherer diet. For one month eat as a hunter and gatherer. Eat nine cups of organic vegetables, leaves, berries, roots, fruit as well as tubers, some fish, and some organ meat from free ranging animals. Do not eat corn products, sugar and processed foods. In four weeks, you may notice a difference: more energy, less inflammation and improved cognition. For dietary guidelines see chapter 9 in the book, Fighting Cancer-A Nontoxic Approach to Treatment.
Cancer expression and growth depends upon the interaction between immune competence, the presence of a carcinogenic factor, the body’s ability to process the toxin and the food ingested. For example, when rats are given a low dose of aflatoxin, which is a very potent carcinogen, cancer expression depends on how much protein the rat consumes. If the rat consumption of its normal amount of protein is reduced from 20% to 5%, the cancer which should have been induced by the aflatoxin does not occur. This relationship between animal protein intake and cancer expression is not new. It has been well documented for human beings by Campbell and Campbell in their book, The China Study. The overall finding is that lower animal protein intake is associated with lower cancer rates.
Thus to reduce cancer risk, reduce animal protein intake and increase intake of plants.
This dietary perspective is superbly shown in the recent leased movie, Forks over knives (2011), which claims that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.
For general guidelines and an evolutionary perspective of diet and health you may want to look at Part III, Self-Care, in our book, Fighting Cancer-A Nontoxic Approach to Treatment.