North Americans almost never suffer from vitamin deficiencies, except for vitamin D, yet more than 50 percent of the population spends more than 30 billion dollars each year for vitamin pills and other nutritional supplements that they do not need. Forty-five percent of those who take vitamin pills believe that they will improve their health, but we have no good evidence that they do.
Osteoporosis or low bone mass affects 55 percent of people over age 50 in the United States, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. A study of 1,064 women followed for 15 years shows that not getting enough calcium is associated with smaller spinal bones and weaker spines. You need an adequate amount of calcium to keep your bones strong, but many people take calcium pills when they should be getting their calcium from foods. Calcium pills have not been shown to strengthen bones and they can have many serious side effects.
Our food industry works to bring you more and more ultra-processed foods that have little or no fiber, but there is no debate in the scientific community: you should eat lots of plants that have not had their fiber removed. A review commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials, covering 4600 adults, shows that for every 8-gram/day increase in dietary fiber, there was up to a 31 percent decrease in deaths from all causes, a 30 percent decrease in deaths from heart attacks, 22 percent reduced risk of stroke, and a 16 percent reduced risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Dietary sugar is supposed to be absorbed in the upper intestinal tract, but new research from Yale suggests that taking in excessive amounts of sugar can cause some of the sugar to pass through the intestines unabsorbed. This sugar arrives in your colon where it can harm you by keeping healthful bacteria from growing in your colon and encouraging the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
A recent study from a group of highly-respected scientists shows that the fats in milk are unlikely to cause heart attacks and that fermented milk products such as cheese and yogurt may actually help to prevent heart attacks. Most previous studies on milk have depended on self-reporting, which is known to give inaccurate and often biased results. Instead, this study measured dairy fats in the subjects' bloodstreams to prove exactly how much dairy they had consumed.
North Americans spent more than $936 million on vitamin D pills in 2017, doctors ordered more than 10 million laboratory tests for vitamin D for Medicare patients at a cost of $365 million in 2016, and 25 percent of older adults take vitamin D supplements. A Kaiser Health News investigation recently reported that the man most responsible for the obsession with vitamin D pills, Boston endocrinologist Michael Holick, has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by supplement and drug manufacturers, the indoor-tanning industry and commercial laboratories that run blood tests for vitamin D.
A recent study showed that processed soluble fiber added to low-fiber foods led to liver cancers in mice, probably by preventing the liver from clearing bile from the body .
A study from Brazil found that having rats fast for 24 hours on alternate days increased their belly fat and interfered with the ability of insulin to control blood sugar levels. One of the most effective ways to lose weight is "intermittent fasting", but this study suggests that doctors need to be careful about the type of "fasting" they recommend to their patients.
Several recent papers show that diets that restrict all carbohydrate-containing foods can cause diseases and shorten your life. People who eat the most vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains, which are full of carbohydrates, have the lowest rates of heart attacks and heart disease.
A study in mice shows that a ketogenic diet, where you get most of your calories from fat, may cause diabetes. A keto diet may increase risk for developing diabetes by preventing your body from responding to insulin, presumably by causing fat to be deposited in the liver.
The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemio.logy) Study, reported at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich on August 28, 2018, concludes that increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, dairy and non-processed red meat is linked to reduced death rate and reduced incidence of heart attacks in three data sets. However, I hope that you do not use these results as a reason to increase your intake of meat.
This year, researchers have identified the CMAH gene in meat, dairy, and even caviar from some fish that produces a sugar-protein called Neu5Gc, which may explain the association between eating red meat and increased risk for certain cancers. We do not have an explanation for the association between eating meat from mammals and various diseases in humans, but a leading theory was offered by Ajit Varki in 1982 when he discovered a sugar-protein on the surface of all cell membranes in mammals except humans. He called this sugar-protein Neu5Gc.
A recent news headline proclaimed, "An Egg a Day May Keep Heart Disease Away" (Time, May 21, 2018), based on a study of 512,891 adults in urban and rural areas of China. Those who ate one egg a day were reported to have an 18 percent reduced incidence of heart attacks and an incredible 26 percent reduction in bleeding strokes.
Researchers followed 38,981 adults for 16 years (1999-2014) and found that those who ate the most vegetables and the widest variety of vegetables, particularly dark green vegetables, had the lowest rate of heart attacks and heart disease. Studies show that many of the impressive health benefits from eating vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruits come from the short chain fatty acids produced when bacteria in your colon ferment soluble fiber from plants.
A review of 79 randomized and controlled studies of more than 110,000 men and women, with or without heart disease, shows that omega-3 fats in fish oil or in cod liver oil pills, taken for one to six years, do not prevent heart attacks, strokes or deaths in general. Fish oil pills did lower triglycerides which may be healthful, but they also lowered blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol, which may be harmful.
Nobody can correct a faulty diet just by taking pills. A review of 18 studies, following more than two million men and women for an average of 12 years, shows that vitamin and mineral pills do not reduce risk for dying from heart disease or strokes, or even getting a stroke, regardless of age.
The hottest area of medical research today may well be on the bacteria that live in your gut to affect how much you weigh, how long you live, and your susceptibility to many diseases. In the largest and most complete study of its kind ever, researchers analyzed genes of colon bacteria from 1,046 healthy Israelis and found that the bacterial composition of your colon is determined primarily by your lifestyle and what you eat, and has less than a two percent association with your genes.
Fasting can help people lose weight and slow the diseases being overweight causes (Obesity, Feb 2018;26(2):254-268). For several years I have been recommending the various types of intermittent fasting, but perhaps the easiest way to use fasting for weight loss and weight control is just to eat during the daytime and avoid eating at night.
The National Institutes of Health cancelled and withdrew funds for a prospective study on how drinking alcohol affects heart attack risk because it was to be largely funded by the alcohol industry itself, and for "concerns about the study design that cast doubt on its ultimate credibility."
Ketogenic diets are controversial popular diets that can temporarily help you to lose weight by restricting carbohydrates. A keto diet usually restricts carbohydrates that are absorbed only as sugars, and lets you eat lots of fat and moderate amounts of protein.
Much controversy still exists over whether dairy products are healthful or harmful. However, the recent literature shows that milk is a high-sugar drink, and accumulating evidence over the last few years shows that fermented dairy products such as cheese and plain yogurt, which humans have made for more than 8000 years, may be far more healthful than milk.
At the European Society of Endocrinology meeting in Barcelona (May 20, 2018), a study was presented that found that three months of alternating 24-hours of fasting on one day and eating unrestricted food on the next day caused rats to eat less total food and lose total body fat, but the rats developed signs of becoming diabetic.
The gigantic food industry in North America and its lobbyists are happy with the concept that most people are fat just because they eat too many calories. This message relieves them of their responsibility for harm from the typical western diet that consists largely of low-cost, highly-refined "junk" foods that are full of added sugars and have most of the fiber removed.
Intermittent fasting works because it causes repeated "flipping of the metabolic switch." After you have fasted for about 12 hours, you start to lose body fat because your body is forced to change temporarily from its main energy source, glucose (sugar) to fat from the fat stored in your body, and using these fatty acids that are converted to energy to produce ketones that are also used for energy.
Several recent articles show that eating tree nuts or peanuts with a high-fat or high-sugar meal prevents the expected high rise in blood factors that increase risk for the inflammation that can lead to diabetes, heart attacks or strokes.
A review of 83 scientific studies covering almost 600,000 current alcohol drinkers in 19 higher-income countries shows that men and women who take in as few as six drinks a week (100 grams of alcohol) are at increased risk for death from strokes, heart failure, heart disease and aortic aneurysms, but not heart attacks.
Many scientific studies show that eating whole fruit is healthful, even for people who are diabetic. However, this month I learned that some people, especially those who are overweight, prediabetic or diabetic, may be harmed by eating very large amounts of fruit.
Virtually all scientists agree that North Americans need to reduce their intake of sugar, but their views on artificial sweeteners are not as clear. Increasing evidence is showing that artificial sweeteners are not benign substitutes for sugar. In a new study, people who took sucralose (an artificial sweetener) for just one week developed signs of insulin resistance and diabetes.
The latest fad diet tells you to try to avoid lectin-rich foods and to buy their products that are supposed to block lectins in the foods that you eat. However, scientific studies show that eating the common foods with high-lectin content is associated with living a long life and avoiding diseases such as heart attacks, certain cancers, and diabetes.