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What's New! - A Healthy Living Newsletter

June, 2002

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.

If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to a friend!

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating
By Walter C. Willett, M.D.

"A healthy diet teamed up with regular exercise and no smoking can eliminate 80% of heart disease and 70% of some cancers." Do we have your attention yet?

That means that even if you have heart disease or colon cancer or breast cancer in your family, you can avoid it. Or if you currently have arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to buildup of plague from cholesterol, etc.) or have already had a bout with cancer, you can avoid a heart attack or a reoccurrence of the cancer. How does this book differ from all the others that make such similar lofty claims that came and went over the years? It's better researched, came out of Harvard, and has a lot of common sense. Oh yes, it also agrees, for the most part, with what naturopathic physicians and conventional doctors like Andrew Weil have been saying for decades.

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy challenges many nutritional standards starting with 1992 revised USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Food Pyramid. In case you don't remember it, it's the triangle with fats, oils and sweets at the top and the 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta at the bottom. Willett's major complaints with this revised pyramid is not all fats are bad and there are significant differences between whole grains and refined grains. For example, a slice of white bread has a different effect on both blood sugar and nutritional content compared with a slice of whole grain seeded bread. One depletes your body, the other provides nutrition to strengthen your body. He also pulls potatoes out of the vegetable category and into the carbohydrate category along with pastas and bread - where they belong. In fact, Willett made so many changes, he decided to make a whole new food pyramid. He put red meat, butter, white rice, white bread, potatoes, pasta and sweets in the eat-sparingly top section, and whole grain foods and plant oils (olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut and other vegetable oils) in the eat-plenty-of-section at the bottom.

After taking on the USDA, Willett goes after the ADA (American Dairy Association). I was impressed. He all but states the "calcium crisis" in the US is contrived by the ADA. We don't need all the dairy and calcium-fortified foods and supports this claim with research. In addition he reports that too much dairy may increase the risks of ovarian and prostate cancer as well as contribute to obesity. This is in addition to the sinus headaches, childhood ear infections, and lactose intolerance I commonly see as a result of excess dairy in the diet. What's excessive? Three glasses of milk a day. Instead, Willett urges us to eat other sources of calcium like vegetables, beans and nuts and to decrease excessive protein (more than 8 grams of protein for every 20 lbs of weight in a non-obese person) which depletes calcium.

A quick summary of other important points in the book include: beans and nuts have advantages over meat as a protein source; trans fatty acids (vegetable shortenings, stick margarines, commercial baked goods, crackers, etc) increase triglyceride levels and the formation of blood clots; alcohol in moderation is fine for some people, and Olestra, the fat-blocking substance flooding the chip market is a "disaster waiting to happen".

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy is a great book - but not a perfect book. For starters, based on their location on his food pyramid, Willett suggests that we eat abundant amounts of plant oils. There is a significant quality difference among the various oils and their manufacturers. Canola may be a healthier choice than lard, but it's not a healthier choice than the natural oil in an avocado or a small handful of almonds, for example. Also, most oils heated to high temperatures will contain free radicals - a detrimental condition for your body

My second complaint is that Willett recommends a daily multi-vitamin and mineral - for about $.10 a day. The book was written in 2001. Based on this dollar amount, a year's supply would equal $36.50. Granted he's a researcher, but he should realize that in a fairly unregulated industry, $36.50 a year isn't going to get you much. As I written many times in this newsletter, the cheaper vitamins very frequently don't contain what they claim on the label. Also, the cheaper vitamins use more binders and fillers and are often poorly absorbed. A decent multi-vitamin and mineral should cost between $20.00 and $40.00 a month. If you eat the way this book recommends, you can cut that figure in half or thirds as you won't need the full recommended amount.

Other minor complaints are his neutral stance on aspartame (artificial sweetener) and that any form of calcium in supplements is fine. Once again, he may know food, but he doesn't know the supplement industry. The least expensive and most commonly recommended calcium form, calcium carbonate, not only can lead to kidney stones, but is much less easily absorbed than calcium citrate or calcium hydroxyapetite.

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy may not be "the latest thinking about diet and health", but it is an intelligent presentation of good sound eating habits - and well worth the time to read.

Food and Our Bones

The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis
By Annemarie Colbin

It's simple. If you're a female and want to avoid osteoporosis, take 1000-1500 mg of calcium, exercise regularly and when you are nearing menopause, take some form of HRT (hormonal replacement therapy).

If it's so simple, author Annemarie Colbin asks - then why isn't it working? In the past 40-50 years, hip fractures, a common indicator and consequence of osteoporosis, are on the rise - especially in the United States and Northern Europe. Among the populations researched, it's lower in the Mediterranean and Asian countries and lowest in the least developed areas of South Africa. What do the people in least developed areas of South Africa know about protecting their bones that we, in the US and Northern Europe, don't? Answering that question is what this book is all about.

Osteoporosis, a degenerative and physically limiting condition consisting of easily fractured bones and painful collapsed vertebrae in the spine, has many causes: 1) decreased estrogen in postmenopausal women, 2) advanced age, 3) sedentary lifestyle, 4) endocrine glands dysfunction, 5) malnutrition, 6) disease, and 7) pharmaceutical drugs. The first is well-known and needs no additional explanation. The second usually comes as a surprise to men. Yes, men can expect to develop osteoporosis about 10 years later than women. The third is fairly obvious - if you don't exercise and strengthen your bones, they will weaken faster. Endocrine gland dysfunction refers to diseases of the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands (Addison's disease) as well as the pancreas (diabetes). Other non-endocrine related illnesses that may contribute to osteoporosis are diseases of the liver, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and various cancers. The final category of known causes contributing to osteoporosis include pharmaceutical drugs such as corticosteroids, anticoagulants (blood thinners), anti-epileptic drugs, certain diuretics (for high blood pressure and weight loss), lithium, antitumor agents (cancer therapy) and thyroid hormones. Now that you've heard the bad news, what can you do? Colbin suggests looking to your diet and lifestyle.

Osteoporosis only appears in countries where diet includes the habitual use of refined foods (e.g. white bread, jam, white sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and canned vegetables). Summarizing about five chapters of text and 70 pages of recipes - fresh vegetables, whole grains, and beans feed the bones, refined carbohydrates, high amounts of animal protein, alcohol and caffeine weaken the bones.

Two of my favorite parts of the book are when Colbin targets the misuse of antacids and dairy in the prevention of osteoporosis. "Calcium-based antacids have become extremely popular as a calcium supplement to ward off osteoporosis. There are a number of scientific papers describing the unexpected problems that a large unbalanced influx of calcium has on the human body. One of the bigger problems is severe kidney failure …The condition caused by excess calcium carbonate is called hypercalcemia, which can be life-threatening if not caught in time. The symptoms include reduction in physical fitness, fatigue, headache, nausea without vomiting, abnormal bone scan…" "A 1997 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the use … of a popular brand of calcium antacids brought a 70% increased risk of forearm fractures." Makes you think twice before downing another antacid.

Similarly, Colbin cites an article in the 1997 issue of the American Journal of Public Health based on a study of seventy-eight thousand nurses over 12 years. Women who drank 2 or more glasses of milk a day were more likely to fracture a hip or forearm than those who drank milk only once a week or less.

Osteoporosis will eventually happen to us all. However, Food and Our Bones gives the reader another perspective to the disease and some ways to delay its onset. Though the average reader may find the initial explanation of osteoporosis tedious, the book is well-written enough to keep your attention. Equally as important, there is enough research to support her contentions about a refined foods diet and poor lifestyle choices contributing to osteoporosis. The pain of osteoporosis is significant. A patient of mine who experienced both osteoporosis and cancer, summed it up this way. "Cancer pain was bad, but I'd take it any day over the pain of osteoporosis." Any help avoiding the pain and physical limitation of osteoporosis is a step in the right direction.

Health tip:

If you are supplementing your diet with calcium to reduce your risk of bone loss, falling and fracture, remember to make sure that there is Vitamin D in the calcium supplement. One recent study of 122 elderly women showed that after 3 months of treatment, there were 55 falls among the women who only took calcium and 25 falls in the group who took Vitamin D along with the calcium.

Herb Tip:

If you suffer from heartburn, are out dining and don't have your heartburn medicine handy, get a cup of licorice tea or any tea with licorice in it. Licorice is very soothing and while it won't stop heartburn the way changes in your diet or other more specific treatments will, it will help decrease the immediate discomfort. A small caution - don't do this on a regular basis if you have high blood pressure as excessive licorice can contribute to high blood pressure.

To all the local readers, our office is now located at 11825 SW Greenburg Rd., Ste A2, Tigard, Or. 97223. Our phone number will remain the same.

Copyright 2009


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Snail Mail: Dr. Juniper Martin
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, Oregon 97223