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ATLANTA (Reuters) -- Chinese researchers have presented more evidence that the standard Western diet can cause heart disease.

They said people who ate a traditional Chinese diet, based on rice, vegetables and green tea, were much less likely to suffer the physical symptoms of heart disease -- even though they have high rates of smoking.

But when Chinese people moved to Western cities such as San Francisco or Sydney, their arteries started to make the changes that herald heart disease, Dr. Kam Woo of the University of Hong Kong told a meeting of the American Heart Association.

"Both Chinese and non-Chinese should recognize the potential effects of the traditional Chinese diet," Woo told a news conference.

More green tea

"They should think about drinking more green tea, eating more vegetables and eating less meat and dairy products."

Woo started with villagers in Pan Yu, a town in Guangdong province about 100 miles from Hong Kong in southern China, who have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

He used ultrasound, which uses sound waves, to measure the thickness of the inner walls of the carotid arteries that feed blood to the brains of some of the villagers, and asked them about their dietary habits.

Woo then compared these measurements to westernized Chinese living in Hong Kong, Sydney, and San Francisco. In all, he studied 116 people aged 20 to 60.

The combined thickness of the lining and middle muscle layers of the carotid artery are considered a good indicator of heart disease.

The average carotid inner wall thickness was about one-fifth thinner among the Pan Yu villagers than in the Westernized Chinese, Woo reported.

Half the meat

The Pan Yu villagers ate just under half as much meat and just a tiny fraction of the amount of dairy food as the Western-living Chinese. They ate more vegetables, tofu and drank much more green tea.

For breakfast the villagers would eat congee, or rice porridge, steamed buns containing a small amount of meat and plenty of tea.

"Hardly any ham, bacon, sausage or scrambled egg is eaten in the typical Pan Yu breakfast meal," Woo said.

Other meals included stir-fried or steamed vegetables, a little meat and fish or tofu.

"That is in contrast to fried chicken or fish fillet" in the West, he said.

He said Westerners should not only eat more vegetables and less fatty meat, but should cook Chinese-style more often, steaming or stir-frying foods.



ATLANTA, Nov 08 (Reuters Health) -- A healthy lifestyle -- including a low-fat, high-fiber diet, exercise, and moderate alcohol intake -- can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, report Massachusetts researchers. A large study conducted in nurses suggests that a healthy lifestyle can cut heart risk by as much as 80%.

Dr. Frank B. Hu of Harvard University in Boston presented the latest findings from the Nurses' Health Study Monday at the 72nd Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association. The ongoing study involves more than 84,000 women. Hu and colleagues surveyed the study participants about eating habits and lifestyle during a 14-year period. The investigators then categorized the women, aged 34 to 59 and free of heart disease at the beginning of the study, according to their risk of heart disease.

Hu reported that 1,129 cases of heart disease occurred in this group of women during the 14-year study period. There were 296 fatal and 833 nonfatal heart attacks. About half of these occurred in current smokers.

Women with the healthiest lifestyles and who had the lowest risk of heart disease were those who did not smoke, were not overweight, had about one drink of alcohol a day, exercised vigorously for 30 minutes or more a day, and had a relatively high intake of cereal fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseed. In addition, healthy diets featured low levels of saturated fat and limited amounts of sugar.

After the researchers adjusted for other heart risks, including age, family history, high blood pressure and menopausal status, a healthy lifestyle reduced risk of heart disease by 82% -- approaching half the risk of women with poorer eating and exercise habits. Hu described the impact of the lifestyle on heart disease as ``profound,'' and he speculated that the effects of diet and exercise on heart disease could be even greater. He pointed out that the nurses in the lowest risk category followed guidelines for moderate risk reduction. With stricter guidelines, including an even lower fat intake and eating more fruits and vegetables, risk could drop even lower, the researcher predicted.



NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters Health) -- Genetic mutations in the enzyme that processes folic acid may protect against a particular type of leukemia, researchers report.

The findings also suggest that a deficiency in folic acid may play a role in the development of this type of leukemia, namely acute lymphocytic leukemia. For the estimated two-thirds of the population that does not have one of the mutations, however, the study results highlight the need to consume foods rich in folate, such as leafy green vegetables, fruits and orange juice, one of the study's authors told Reuters Health in an interview.

Adequate consumption of folate is known to prevent some birth defects affecting the backbone and spinal cord, but research has also suggested that people with certain genetic mutations that affect the processing of folic acid may be less likely to develop colon cancer, according to Martyn T. Smith, of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues. This type of mutation slows down the breakdown of folic acid so that more of the nutrient remains available in the body.

To see if the mutations also offered protection against leukemia, the researchers studied 308 adults with leukemia and 491 people of the same age and sex who did not have cancer. The investigators analyzed blood samples from all participants to see whether they had mutations in the gene for the enzyme that processes folic acid.

Having one or more of the mutations did not appear to offer any protection against the most common type of leukemia in adults, acute myeloid leukemia, according to the report in the October 26th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But the mutations did protect against another type of leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, which accounts for 10% to 15% of leukemia cases in adults, Smith noted in an interview with Reuters Health. Having one or more of the mutations lowered the odds of having this type of cancer by 3 to 14 times, the researchers note.

These genetic mutations ``will protect you against acute (lymphocytic) leukemia but not against myeloid leukemia,'' Smith said in the interview.

Since most people do not have one of the protective mutations, the findings highlight the importance of ``making sure people drink orange juice and eat their leafy vegetables,'' Smith said.

The next step is to see whether the mutations offer protection against leukemia in children, he said. Unlike adults, acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common form of the illness in children.

The results of the study suggest that people who do not get enough folic acid may be putting themselves at risk for one type of leukemia, Dr. Bruce N. Ames, also of the University of California, Berkeley, writes in an editorial that accompanies the study.

In his editorial, Ames highlights the importance of studying the effect of other nutrients on the development of cancer. He notes that the rate of most types of cancer is nearly twice as high among the quarter of the population that eats the least fruits and vegetables.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1999;96:12216-12218, 12810-12815.


Oct. 15 - Research continues to support the importance of a balanced, plant-based diet, even though science is not yet able to identify with certainty how each specific component of such a diet works.

THAT'S THE bottom-line conclusion of the latest research conference sponsored by the American Institute for Cancer Research. This year's conference focused on phytochemicals, a wide variety of substances that occur naturally in plant foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans) and grains. Several presentations focused on phytochemicals in onions and garlic. In test tube studies, some of the compounds were able to block the formation of a major cancer-causing substance, and helped maintain normal cell growth and structure that are important to prevent the cells from developing into cancer.

But many conference speakers expressed concern that selectively boosting intake of individual phytochemicals based on laboratory research like this is inappropriate until we know how they work in people.

Research presented at the conference also suggests that onion and garlic may help people lower their risk of cancer if consumed daily or perhaps weekly. But other findings presented on phytochemicals in these and other vegetables and fruits demonstrated that the effect of these substances cannot be simply related to the amount consumed. Rather, it is influenced by how they are processed and by interactions with the rest of what we eat. For example, several researchers reported on lycopene, found in dark red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, red grapefruit and watermelon. Lycopene may help in prevention of prostate and other cancers. Contrary to some popular assertions that vegetables are always most valuable when eaten raw, lycopene from tomatoes is most usable by the body when it comes in processed products like tomato juice, soup and sauce. Other reports at the conference related to antioxidants, compounds that prevent or repair damage to cells caused by highly reactive substances produced in our bodies by pollution, sunlight, and normal body processes. While some consumers are familiar with the antioxidant capabilities of nutrients such as vitamins C and E, research has identified many phytochemicals that are potent antioxidants, including those found in large amounts in raisins, plums, most berries and whole grains.

Additional research needed

Throughout the two-day conference, scientists repeatedly emphasized the need for additional research to accurately identify which phytochemicals (and in which forms) can actually help prevent cancer or slow its growth. In the meantime, researchers underscored the distinction between the need for further study before isolated phytochemical supplements are used and the strong support that already exists for the cancer preventive potential of a predominantly plant-based diet. Researchers continued to support the conclusions of the American Institute for Cancer Research's report on diet and cancer prevention - that a balanced, plant-based diet could bring about a major drop in cancer rates. The key, they say, is to make a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains the major part of what we eat each day.



SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The increased use of antibiotics in food animals is boosting the risk that dangerous "superbugs" resistant to drug treatment could be passed along to humans, scientists said Monday.

"It's not just a single pig or a single cow. It's a whole food commodity issue," Michael Osterholm, CEO of the Infection Control Advisory Network, told a news conference at a scientific meeting here. "Red meat, white meat, produce -- any commodity stream can play a role."

Scientists both in Europe and the United States have raised questions over the treatment of food animals with antibiotics, which farmers use widely both to fight animal illness and as part of animal feed to promote growth.

The European Union banned four antibiotics used in animal feed last December, hitting multinational drug companies Rhone Poulec, Pfizer, Eli Lilly's Elanco Animal Health and Alpharma and potentially costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.

In the United States, authorities have moved more slowly, with the Food and Drug Administration monitoring the veterinary use of antimicrobial drugs with an eye toward regulating those drugs seen most likely to create resistant bacteria which could lead to human illness.

Key bacteria found in U.S.

Bacteria which shrugs off one of the most powerful known antibiotics -- vancomycin -- has been found in some U.S. chicken feed, and research on pigs, cows and chickens has revealed signs that drug-resistant strains of salmonella, campylobacter and other bacteria are also spreading through animal populations.

In a series of reports at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), scientists presented new findings indicating that the problem is growing more complex as governments try to assess how much of a threat dinner may really pose to public health.

In a study at the University of Antwerp, researchers found that samples of chickens, pigs and turkeys turned up "alarmingly high" anti-microbial resistance rates among strains of campylobacter bacteria, which are a major cause of human gastroenteritis and diarrhea.

"There is growing scientific evidence that the use of antibiotics in food animals leads to the development of resistant pathogenic bacteria that can reach humans through the food chain," the study's authors concluded.

Another study at the University de la Rioja in Spain found a relatively high rate of antibiotic resistance in E.coli bacteria strains obtained from broiler chickens compared with those found in humans or their pets -- a difference the researchers said could be associated with the more widespread use of antibiotics in farm chickens.

This year, U.S. researchers in Minnesota reported a rise in human gastrointestinal illness caused by antibiotic-resistant campylobacter bacteria which they tied directly to the increase in quinolone-type antibiotics given to chickens.

Probe seeks risks

Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency is working with the Centers for Disease Control to determine the actual risks posed by antimicrobial use in farm animals and hoped to establish regulations aimed at limiting the use of drugs which might eventually lose effectiveness in treating human illness.



WASHINGTON (AP) -- A secret of youth may be as close as a nearby farm or the supermarket shelves: blueberries.

Elderly rats fed the human equivalent of at least half a cup of blueberries a day improved in balance, coordination and short-term memory, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience said. A cup of blueberries is a normal serving.

Like other fruits and vegetables, blueberries contain chemicals that act as antioxidants. Scientists believe antioxidants protect the body against "oxidative stress," one of several biological processes that cause aging.

People "are told that once you're old, there's nothing you can do. That might not be true," said Barbara Shukitt-Hale, who co-authored the study at the Agriculture Department's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Improving balance and coordination

Blueberries, strawberries and spinach all test high in their ability to subdue molecules called oxygen free radicals, which are created when cells convert oxygen into energy. In normal amounts, free radicals help rid the body of toxins, but they can also harm cell membranes and DNA, which results in cell deaths.

The Tufts study said strawberry and spinach extract produced some improvement in memory, but only blueberry extract had a significant impact on balance and coordination.

Other studies have suggested that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could prevent cancer and heart disease. Previous research by the Tufts scientists indicated that antioxidants slowed down the aging process in rats that started taking the dietary supplement at 6 months of age. Their latest study was the first to show antioxidants can actually reverse age-related declines, they said.

The blueberry advantage

They don't know why blueberries were more effective than strawberries and spinach or exactly how the chemicals work in the laboratory animals.

"Fruits and vegetables in general are very good for you. That's without question ... It's another thing to know why," said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, who directs the neuroscience and neuropsychology program at the National Institute of Aging.

Clinical trials need to be done to see whether humans could benefit, she said. The institute, which helped finance the Tufts research, already is sponsoring studies to test the effect of vitamin E, another antioxidant, aspirin and B vitamins on the mental processes of older women.

The rats used in the Tufts study were 19 months old, the equivalent of 65 to 70 years in humans.

Mice and mazes

They begin losing motor skills at 12 months. By 19 months, the time it takes a rat to walk a narrow rod before losing its balance drops from 13 seconds to 5 seconds. After eating daily doses of blueberry extract for eight weeks, the rats could stay on the rod for an average of 11 seconds.

They also performed better in negotiating mazes, as did those fed strawberry and spinach extracts, which signals improved short-term memory. But the subjects on the strawberry and spinach diet were no better at staying on the rod than rats who got no fruit extract.

The scientists believe the antioxidants improve cell membranes so that important nutrients and chemicals can flow through more easily.

James Joseph, one of the Tufts scientists, starts his day by mixing a handful of berries in a protein drink. "Motor behavior is one of the first things to go as you age," he said.



NEW YORK, Sep 14 (Reuters Health) -- A strict vegetarian 'vegan' diet can help improve blood sugar control in patients with type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, according to researchers.

Bold sugar levels declined on the vegan diet, ``despite decreased medication use,'' conclude researchers led by Dr. Andrew S. Nicholson, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC. The results were published in the August issue of Preventive Medicine.

Nearly 95% of all diabetics have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body gradually becomes less sensitive to insulin, leading to potentially dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Medications and healthy changes in lifestyle -- such as low-fat diets and exercise -- can help patients maintain safe glycemic (blood sugar) control.

In their study, the authors tracked the glycemic control of seven patients with type 2 diabetes who followed a strict, plant-based, low-fat 'vegan' diet for 12 weeks. The investigators compared the results with those of four diabetic patients assigned to a more conventional low-fat regimen.

According to the researchers, fasting blood glucose levels dropped an average of 28% in patients on the low-fat vegan diet and 12% in those randomized to the conventional low-fat diet. Average weight loss was 7.2 kg (almost 16 pounds) in the vegan group and 3.8 kg (slightly over 8 pounds) in the conventional group, according to the report.

Furthermore, one of six patients in the vegan group completely discontinued use of hypoglycemia medication during the study period, while three patients were able to reduce their dosage of these agents. By comparison, ``no patients in the control group reduced medication use,'' the investigators point out.

Although the findings appear promising, the study group was small, and the authors warn that the results require confirmation through further research.

Source: Preventive Medicine 1999;29:87-91.

BREAST CANCER: Researchers have found that 50-something women who are overweight are at heightened risk for breast cancer. Breast cancer risk was twice as high for the heaviest women than for the lightest women; twice as high for women who gained more than 10 pounds in the preceding decade than for those with no weight change; and 30 percent lower for women who lost at least 10 pounds over the preceding decade than for those whose weight didn't change.

Source: Journal National Cancer Institute 1996;88:650 as cited in Nutrition Action Healthletter, Oct 1996, p3.

BREAST CANCER and MEAT CONSUMPTION: A study in Uruguay (where breast cancer is the most common cancer among women) found that high intakes of total meat and red meat were associated with significant increases in risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer among women eating the most red meat was 4.2 times greater than for those eating the least. Fried meat had an especially high association with breast cancer risk, likely due to the carcinogens formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures.

Source: International Journal of Cancer 1996;65:328-31.

BREAST CANCER and VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION: In a 1996 study of premenopausal women 40 years of age or older, researchers found that the intake of vegetables decreased the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 54 percent.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1996;88:340-8.

CANCER TREATMENT and VEGETARIAN DIETS: A recent article in Issues in Vegetarian Dietetics (a publication of the American Dietetic Association's Vegetarian Practice Group) announced, "A vegetarian diet can be both safe and beneficial for people undergoing cancer treatment, provided they know how to make appropriate food choices. In fact, vegetarian foods may even help people get through difficult times during cancer treatment when their regular diets may falter."

Source: Donna Paglia, MS, RD, "Vegetarian Diets During Cancer Treatment," Issues in Vegetarian Dietetics, Vol VI, No 2, Winter 1997.

CHILDREN and FRUIT/VEGETABLE INTAKE: Across the board, children in the US are not eating enough fruits and vegetables (F&V). In the most comprehensive study done to date, researchers found: (1) only one in five children consumed five or more servings of F&V per day; (2) 50 percent of all children consumed less than one serving of fruit per day; (3) French-fried potatoes constitute 23 percent of all vegetables children consumed; (4) only one in 14 children ate at least 3 vegetables and 2 or more servings of fruit per day; (5) intake of specially emphasized F&V (including citrus and dark green/deep yellow vegetables) was especially low.

Source: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 1996;150:81-86.

CHRONIC DISEASES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: The following is excerpted from Chapter Four of the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 1997.

<CROHN'S DISEASE: Crohn's Disease is a chronic illness involving the intestines. Though the cause of Crohn's Disease is uncertain, recent findings suggest that diet may play a role in its prevention. Researchers in Japan (where Crohn's Disease is growing in prevalence) found that animal protein is the nutrient most closely linked with the disease. Vegetable protein was associated with a reduced incidence of the disease.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr 1996;63:741-745 as cited in Vegetarian Journal, Sep/Oct 1996, p14.

EXERCISE: The 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health found that fewer than 60 percent of US citizens are meeting the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity--about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Hundreds of studies confirm that regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature death, heart disease, colon cancer, heart attack, high blood pressure and much more.

Source: Julie Walsh, RD, "No More Excuses; Uncle Sam Wants YOU to Get Moving," Environmental Nutrition, Oct 1996, p2.


FISH and CONTAMINANTS: A recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) warns consumers, "Shellfish feed by filtering two to three gallons of water an hour. That means they take in whatever's floating by--not only plankton and other foods, but viruses, bacteria, mercury, and who-knows-what-else."

Fish with fins aren't always squeaky clean either, CSPI adds, noting the risk of chemical contaminants. "Harmful metals, industrial chemicals, and pesticides like mercury, PCBs, dioxin, and chlordane often wash into rivers, lakes and oceans. In fact, 47 states currently have fish consumption advisories that warn about eating certain species. They cover 1,740 rivers and lakes (including all the Great Lakes) and large chunks of coastal areas."

Source: David Schardt and Stephen Schmidt, "Fishing for Safe Seafood," Nutrition Action Healthletter, Vol 23, #9, Nov 1996, p1-5.

FISH and PCBs: A Sept. 12, 1996 article in the New England Journal of Medicine reports lower IQs in Michigan children exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a persistent industrial compound once widely used in the manufacture of electronic equipment and in paper recycling. The average IQ was 6.2 points lower in children with the highest prenatal exposure compared with children with the smallest exposures. The children with the highest levels of PCBs were traced to mothers who had eaten large quantities of Great Lakes fish, infamous for PCB contamination. PCBs now taint most soils and waters. The study's authors note,"women who eat no fish may accumulate [PCBs] from other food sources, including dairy products, such as cheese and butter, and fatty meats, particularly beef and pork."

Source: Science News, Sep 14, 1996; 150:165. Also, New York Times, Sep 14, 1996, pA-14.


FOOD CHOICES and CHILDREN: A recent study finds that 10-year-olds are eating--and parents and schools are serving--less red meat but more chicken and seafood. Total meat consumption has stayed about the same. This trend more-or-less mirrors changes in adults.

Source: Rod Smith, "Kids, schools switching from meat to poultry," Feedstuffs, Oct 28, 1996.

FOOD CHOICES and CHILDREN and THE NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM: The percentage of public schools offering brand-name fast foods (like items from Pizza Hut, Domino's, Taco Bell and Subway) increased dramatically from about 2 percent in the 1990-91 school year to 13 percent in the 1995-96 school year.

Source: General Accounting Office, "School Lunch Program: Role and Impacts of Private Food Service Companies," August 1996.


FOOD SAFETY and ANIMAL DRUGS: In June 1996, a federal jury found a Wisconsin company guilty of importing illegal drugs including clenbuterol, and adding them to animal feeds. Evidence showed that Vitek Corporation sold more than 1.7 million pounds of products containing these unapproved drugs between 1988 and 1994. The US attorney involved in the case stated, "The evidence established that veal feed suppliers and veal producers throughout the country paid Vitek extra for veal [feed] containing these illegal and harmful animal drugs." The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are expected soon.

Source: "Guilty verdict returned in veal feed case," Feedstuffs, Sep 23, 1996, p19.

FOOD SAFETY and DAIRY: A recent report sheds new light on one of the largest salmonella outbreaks in US history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that 224,000 people were sickened by salmonella-contaminated Schwan's ice cream in 1994. Only 300 cases of salmonella poisoning were reported to federal agencies from all causes that year, pointing out just how hidden and widespread food contamination (much of it associated with animal foods) is. One review of published studies estimates as many as 81 million cases of foodborne illness occur in the US each year, with only thousands ever officially reported.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, May 16, 1996, cited in Science News; 150: Sep 14, 1996, p173.

FOOD SAFETY and E. COLI and GREAT BRITAIN: An outbreak of E. coli in Scotland had killed nine elderly people by early December, 1996, with at least 204 cases confirmed overall. The outbreak was linked to meat eaten at a retiree's luncheon. The British government said that there had been more than 1,300 cases of E. coli poisoning in Scotland since 1990.

Source: "Ninth person dies in British E. coli outbreak," Dec 8, 1996, found on WWW home page of Federal Meat Inspectors Union.

FOOD SAFETY and E. COLI and JAPAN and US BEEF EXPORTS: In the second-half of 1996, an outbreak of E. coli poisoning killed 11 Japanese and sickened more than 9,500 others. The outbreak has led to a sharp decline in Japan for US beef. Sales were down 30-50 percent.

Source: "E. coli outbreak in Japan takes toll on US exports," Meat Marketing and Technology, Oct 1996.

FOOD SAFETY and MEAT: In Sept. 1996, the editor of a meat industry trade journal called The National Provisioner warned readers, "brown may be the color of a cooked [hamburger] patty, but it may not be the color signaling that it is well done and thus safe to eat." This cautionary note was the focus of an editorial entitled, "Burgers cooked to the right color may still contain poison."

Source: Barbara Young-Huguenin, The National Provisioner, Sep 1996, p8.

HEALTH GENERAL: Half of all adults--100 million Americans--suffer from one or more chronic diseases such as heart, liver and kidney diseases, cancer, stroke, arthritis, diabetes and senility, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Two of three adults between 45 and 64, and nine of ten elderly have one or more of these health problems. These chronic health problems consume three quarters of all health care dollars. By the year 2030, according to government estimates, one of five Americans will be 65 or older, and 150 million of them will suffer from chronic diseases.

Source: JAMA, Nov 13, 1996;276:1473.

HEART DISEASE: Heard that we are winning the war against heart disease? Don't celebrate yet. According to the Feb. 1997 issue of Environmental Nutrition, "It seems that, contrary to previous reports, deaths from heart disease haven't dropped, they have merely been delayed. In other words, efforts to fend off heart disease may gain the average person a couple of years, but may not keep the disease at bay forever." EN continues, "last fall the health community was rocked by news that deaths from heart disease may actually be rising. According to government figures, instead of about 150 of every 100,000 people dying yearly from the disease, the toll might be as high as 260 to 270." The good news of the past, it seems, was based mostly on the decline in heart disease among 40-to-60 year olds. But four out of five heart disease deaths occur among people over 65. When baby boomers begin to reach 65, experts anticipate a surge in the incidence of heart disease.

Source: Marsh Hudnall, RD, "Heart Disease Handbook--Part 1," Environmental Nutrition, Feb 1997, p1-4.

HEART DISEASE and CHILDREN: Coronary heart disease risk factors are prevalent at an early age according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Researchers found that of the 14- and 15-year olds studied, 41 percent of boys and 48 percent of girls were obese; 14 percent of boys and 8 percent of girls were severely obese; dietary fat and saturated fat intake was higher than recommended; and cardiovascular fitness scores were below average. The results suggest the need to reduce intake of fat while increasing exercise.

Source: JADA 1996;96:238-242, cited in Nutrition Close-Up, Vol 13, #2, 1996.

HEART DISEASE and CHOLESTEROL and SOY: Numerous studies have demonstrated how soy foods can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. But a recent exciting finding is that soy also increases HDL ("good") cholesterol, in some cases by as much as 50 percent. To date, relatively few dietary approaches have been shown to raise HDL cholesterol. According to nutrition authority Mark Messina, PhD, "The combined effect of a decreased LDL and an increased HDL strongly support the use of soy for reducing heart disease risk."

Source: Mark Messina, PhD, "Researchers From Around World Present On Wide Range of Chronic Diseases," The Soy Connection, Vol 5, #1, Winter 1997.

HEART DISEASE and CHOLESTEROL and STROKE: HDL's (the "good" cholesterol) have long been known to protect against heart disease. Researchers in Israel have recently found that raising HDLs may also protect against stroke, which is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain. Smoking, older age, high blood pressure and diabetes are other stroke risk factors.

Source: Stroke, Jan 1997, as cited in Environmental Nutrition, Feb 1997, p1.

HEART DISEASE and ESTROGEN REPLACEMENT THERAPY: One of the strongest arguments for taking Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) has been the belief that it reduces women's risk of heart disease. But new research suggests that this may be overrated. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine say that the link between the two doesn't take into account the possibility that ERT users were simply healthier before menopause anyway.

Source: Amy O'Connor, "Heart to ERT," Vegetarian Times, Feb 1997, p22.

HEART DISEASE and FIBER: A recent Harvard University study concluded that a high-fiber diet alone--independent of fat intake--can prevent heart disease. Men who ate the most fiber--29 grams per day on average--were 36 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who ate the least, about 12 grams per day, which is roughly the US average fiber intake.

Source: "Fat and Fiber Square Off in the Fight Against Heart Disease," Environmental Nutrition, Oct 1996, p2.

Simply replacing four slices of refined bread with whole wheat bread can increase dietary fiber intake by as much as 8 grams per day and would be a significant step toward helping consumers reach the 20-35 grams that experts recommend.

Source: Mark Messina, PhD, "Small Changes Can Lead to Big Improvements," The Soy Connection, Fall 1996, p1.

In a study of 44,000 men, researchers found that those who ate the most fiber were at a 41 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those eating the least amount of fiber. Researchers concluded that fiber appears to be an important component in preventing heart disease.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association 1996;275:447-51.

HEART DISEASE and FISH: Despite high hopes in the early 1980s that fish consumption protected humans from heart disease, the consensus among researchers now seems to be that a little fish may still do some good, but more fish is not necessarily better. Since the early 80s, studies have shown conflicting results about the purported benefits to the heart from eating fish. Several studies have shown no link. A study of 45,000 male dentists in 1986 found that men who ate six or more servings of fish a week had no lower risk of heart disease than the men who ate only one serving a month.

Source: Bonnie Liebman, "Is Seafood a Heart Saver?, Nutrition Action Healthletter, vol 23, #9, Nov 1996, p6-7.

HEART DISEASE and FOLIC ACID: Researchers have known for some time that the B vitamin folic acid (also called folate) can prevent birth defects. Now cardiac experts believe that it can avert up to 10 percent of all cases of heart disease and stroke as well. Folate benefits cardiac patients by lowering elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid found at elevated levels primarily in people who eat meat. High levels of homocysteine have also been linked to senility. Good sources of folate include dark green leafy vegetables, fruits (especially citrus), other vegetables, whole grains and enriched breakfast cereals.

Source: Frances Sigurdsson, "Folate For All," Vegetarian Times, Feb 1997, p22.

A study of 5,100 Canadian men and women found that those with the lowest levels of folate in their blood were at 70 percent higher risk for heart disease than those with the highest levels. Vegetables and legumes are rich in folate. Folate is required to convert homocysteine (an amino acid closely associated with the consumption of meat) into methionine. Homocysteine is linked with both stroke and heart disease.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association 1996;275:1893-96.

HEART DISEASE and FRUIT CONSUMPTION: Eating fresh fruits daily appears to significantly lower the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke and other causes, according to British researchers. A study of more than 11,000 adults aged 45 and older found that people who ate fresh fruit daily had 24 percent fewer heart attacks, 32 percent fewer strokes and 21 percent fewer deaths overall compared with those who did not.

Source: "The Healthy in a Study Eat Fresh Fruit Daily," Washington Post, Oct 8, 1996.

HEART DISEASE and MEDICAL COSTS and DEAN ORNISH, MD: A total of 507 heart disease patients who followed Dr. Dean Ornish's low-fat diet and lifestyle regimen may have lowered medical costs by up to $7 million over the past three years according to a study by the insurance company Mutual of Omaha. The insurer and Ornish said most of the patients who initially needed bypass surgery or angioplasty were able to avoid the procedures after participating in the Ornish program. Mutual of Omaha arrived at the $7 million savings figure by comparing the medical costs of 14 of its policyholders who took part in Ornish's program with a control group of 14 other policyholders who had similar histories of heart disease but were not in the program. Medical costs were $3,826 for Ornish participants and $13,927 for those not in the program, a savings of more than $10,000 per patient. According to the study, chest pain disappeared after a year in 65 percent of the patients who had it, and progression of artery blockages was stopped or reversed in 66 percent.

Source: Shannon Querry, "Sparse Diet OK'd For Heart Disease," Associated Press, Feb. 12, 1997.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and PLANT-RICH DIETS: Currently some 50 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Patients taking part in a recent study at five medical centers across the country significantly reduced their high blood pressure within two weeks of consuming a diet rich in high-fiber fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. These results suggest that dietary improvements--along with lifestyle changes--can replace pharmaceutical drugs for some patients. Blood pressure drugs often have unwanted side effects.

Source: Stuart Auerback, "Diet Lowers Blood Pressure," Washington Post, Nov 19, 1996.

HOSPITAL FOOD: A recent survey of 57 teaching hospitals in the US found that hospital food is not only notoriously bad tasting, it's nutritionally substandard as well. The survey found that 39 percent of the hospital menus exceeded the recommended levels for fat, 47 percent for saturated fat, a whopping 81 percent for cholesterol and 54 percent for sodium. The researchers concluded, "Hospitals should assume a greater role in promoting healthful diets. We cannot think of a more appropriate place to encourage the nutritional health of Americans.

Source: Don Colburn, "Hospital menus fare poorly in nutrition," Washington Post, Jan 2, 1997.

IRON: New findings by US Department of Agriculture researchers indicate that women eating a vegetarian diet do not have significantly different levels of iron in their blood than women eating meat every day. The study's results suggest that the body may absorb the iron it needs from plant sources as well as it does from animal sources. Previous studies have found that people eating a vegetarian diet consume more iron-rich foods than do omnivores.

Source: Amy O'Connor, "The Iron-clad Truth," Vegetarian Times, Feb 1997, p22.

MAD COW DISEASE: In October 1996, British researchers reported in the journal Nature of having direct evidence that Mad Cow Disease was indeed transmitted from cattle to people.

Source: Science News, Vol 150, Nov 2, 1996, p282.

What worries many is that the US continues to recycle animal scraps, turning them into cattle feed. On January 2, 1997, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on feeding cows back to other cows.

Source: FDA Press Release, January 2, 1997.

Author Robert Rhodes, who wrote The Making of the Atomic Bomb, has written a book called Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague on the subject of Mad Cow Disease. A review of Deadly Feasts in the New York Times notes, "Infectious material drawn from victims of spongiform diseases [of which Mad Cow is one] can be bombarded with radiation, soaked in formaldehyde, baked at 700 degrees--and it remains infectious." Rhodes calls the practice of feeding protein supplements made from dead livestock to other livestock (a practice responsible for Great Britain's outbreak of Mad Cow Disease) "industrial cannibalism." Because this practice is widely used in the US, Rhodes believes that American beef may already be infected with the agent that causes Mad Cow Disease.

Source: George Johnson, "The Brain Eater," New York Times, March 16, 1997.

MAD COW DISEASE and FDA BAN: In what is being billed as a purely preventive measure to keep Mad Cow Disease from reaching America's livestock herd, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing a ban on mixing dead cows, sheep and other ruminants into livestock food that is fed back to cows, the means by which Mad Cow Disease was spread among British cattle. But ranchers and meat processors are protesting, claiming the ban will cut into profits. An FDA study determined that the ban will cost the rendering industry $20 to $50 million. The renderers claim that $160 million is more accurate.

Feed expenses make up the majority of the costs of raising livestock, so higher costs could translate into more expensive beef and pork, some say. Beef producers fear that this will accelerate consumers departure from beef for chicken and fish.

The ban could also present another problem for ranchers: the disposal of animal carcasses and byproducts which no longer have commercial use. Cattlemen would have to resort to burying carcasses and byproducts or turning them into fertilizer, both of which are expensive and inconvenient, say ranchers.

Source: Michelle Crouch, "Proposed Mad Cow Disease ban will hurt ranchers, processors," AP Business Extra, March 12, 1997.

MAD COW DISEASE and FEED EXPORT: An article in the journal Nature on June 12, 1996 alleges that agricultural firms in England exported feed containing meat byproducts suspected of causing Mad Cow Disease for two years after those feeds were banned in Britain. Tens of thousands of tons of the contaminated feed may have been exported, apparently with the full knowledge of British authorities. Exports of the feed doubled after they were banned in Britain in 1988. Much of the exported feed was sold to France, but also to other European countries, the Middle East and Asia.

Source: Ian Elliot, "Exports of bad British feed alleged," Feedstuffs, June 24, 1996.

MAD COW DISEASE and NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: In its December 2, 1996 issue, The New Yorker devoted eleven pages to a story on Mad Cow Disease entitled "A New Kind of Contagion." "Is British beef safe?," the author asks. "If the infectivity is restricted to the parts of the cow's body which are being removed and discarded [that's the brain, the spinal cord, and so forth], and if we can trust the abattoirs to remove the offal, then the beef is probably safe... Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean that British beef has always been safe. From 1985 until the offal ban in November 1989, infected matter was routinely passing into the human food supply." After the ban, offal was still often passing into the food supply because the ban was rarely enforced... A single gram--less than a twentieth of an ounce--of infective BSE material given to a cow is enough to kill it.

Source: John Lanchester, "A New Kind of Contagion", The New Yorker , Dec 2, 1996, p70-81.

MAD COW DISEASE and RENDERING: The emergence of Mad Cow Disease is attracting press coverage to America's secretive rendering industry. The New York Times recently revealed that rendering is "the ancient but seldom-discussed practice of boiling down and making feed meal and other products out of slaughterhouse remains and restaurant scraps, dead farm animals, road kill and--distasteful as it may seem--cats and dogs euthanized in some animal shelters."

"This quasi-cannibalism lies behind the [Mad Cow Disease] outbreak in Britain and regulators want to be sure it will not cause problems in the United States," said the Times.

"Rendering, which dates to the early Egyptians, operates in the shadows of polite society, persisting because it provides an essential service: disposing of millions of pounds of dead animals every day."

"Renderers in the United States pick up 100 million pounds of waste material every day--a witch's brew of feet, heads, stomachs, intestines, hooves, spinal cords, tails, grease, feathers and bones. Half of every butchered cow and a third of every pig is not consumed by humans. An estimated six million to seven million dogs and cats are killed in animal shelters every year."

The materials are cooked and then separated into fatty acids "for lubricants, lipstick, cement, polish, inks and waxes. Other fractions, including the gelatinous layers, tallow and grease, go into thousands of products including soaps, candles, pharmaceuticals, homeopathic medicines and gummy candies." The heavier protein materials become "the major ingredient in pet and animal feed. It is a cannibalistic practice that has proved highly profitable."

"Since 1989, British renderers have tried to keep infected meat out of their products...In 1989, the American rendering industry initiated a voluntary program under which, for example, no sheep heads were to be accepted at rendering plants. An Agriculture Department (USDA) survey three years later found that [only] 6 of 11 plants inspected did so."

The Times reports that USDA has proposed a new rule to ban the feeding of protein derived from cows, sheep, goats, deer and elk back to cows. But according to Dr. Richard Marsh, a veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin, the cow epidemic may have nothing to do with the processing techniques used by renderers in making animal feeds. Says Marsh, there are reasons to believe that Mad Cow Disease has already spontaneously risen in American cattle. In a stunning revelation, the Times continues: "Spontaneous cases of Mad Cow Disease may well occur in one cow out of every million cows each year, said Dr. Joseph Gibbs, a leading expert on Mad Cow Disease at the National Institute of neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md. There are 150 million cows in this country, which means that each year 150 of them might develop Mad Cow Disease--all on their own, without any exposure to tainted feed." (emphasis added)

"Renderers pick up carcasses of 100,000 downer cows [those that die for no readily apparent reason] every year and mix them in with other animals, Dr. Marsh said. Although [USDA] tries to test downer cows for signs of Mad Cow Disease, it can only sample a small percentage. Moreover, animals can be quite sick and not show signs of it before they are sent to slaughter, Dr. Marsh said. Thus, try as they might to avoid the problem, renderers could unknowingly introduce infected animals into animal feed and start an epidemic."(emphasis added)

"Deer and elk also have a spontaneous mad-cow-like disease, Dr. Gibbs said. If they die in the woods, the disease would not be transmitted. But if they are killed on the road, they are sent to zoos or greyhound tracks or, more often, go straight to the rendering plant to end up as cattle feed or pet food."

Source: Sandra Blakeslee, "Fear of Disease Prompts New Look at Rendering," New York Times, March 11, 1997.

MAD COW DISEASE and TIME MAGAZINE: In January 1997, Time magazine ran a 2-page story on Mad Cow Disease. Time cited a recently published paper suggesting that 1996's outbreak of human illness resulting from Mad Cow "might be only the tip of an epidemiological iceberg, and that thousands of Europeans are unknowingly infected and could die from the disease."

"The only thing that stands between us and an epidemic is unmitigated luck," Robert Rohwer told Time. Rohwer is director of molecular virology at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore. Rohwer added, "I hope we're not on the same course as the British, but we could be."

The Time article concludes, "There are 44 million head of cattle in the US, and 7 million are killed for food each year. If just one of those slaughtered cows turns out to be a mad cow, the illness that's now an ocean away could establish its first beachhead on American shores."

Source: Jeffrey Kluger, "Could Mad-Cow Disease Strike Here?," Time, Jan 27, 1997.

OBESITY and MEAT CONSUMPTION: A study in the British Medical Journal found that the average weight of male and female meat eaters was 13 pounds and 10.3 pounds greater than the respective average weight of their counterparts who eat a vegan diet.

Source: British Medical Journal 1996;313:816-17.

OSTEOPOROSIS and BONE HEALTH and PROTEIN CONSUMPTION: Dietary protein increases urinary calcium losses and has been associated with higher rates of hip fracture in cross-cultural studies. (Such bone fracture rates are considered a barometer of overall bone strength and health). Now a study of 85,900 women has found that protein was associated with a 22 percent increased risk of forearm fractures for women who consumed more than 95 grams per day compared with those who consumed less than 68 grams per day. (The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for women is 50 grams per day.) This increased risk was observed for animal protein only, not for women eating larger-than-recommended quantities of vegetable protein.

Researchers also calculated that women who consumed at least 5 servings of red meat per week had a 23 percent increased risk of forearm fracture compared with women who ate red meat less than once per week.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology 1996;143:472-9.

PLANT-BASED DIETS: The Center for Science in the Public Interest ran an excellent article in the October 1996 issue of their publication Nutrition Action Healthletter on the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets. "There's no question that largely vegetarian diets are as healthy as you can get," says Marion Nestle, chair of the nutrition department at New York University. "The evidence is so strong and overwhelming and produced over such a long period of time that it's no longer debatable." Nestle adds, "My number-one reason for eating a plant-rich diet is that it tastes good. I feel deprived if my meal doesn't have lots of vegetables in it."

Source: Bonnie Liebman, "Plants for Supper: 10 Reasons to Eat More Like a Vegetarian," Nutrition Action Healthletter, Oct 1996, p10-12.

SENIOR'S HEALTH and SENILITY and FOOD CHOICES: Symptoms such as dementia, mental disorientation and memory loss, commonly associated with senility, may actually be due to nutritional deficiencies, according to several recent studies in prominent medical journals. In March 1996, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that homocysteine, an amino acid found at high levels in the blood of people who eat meat, is linked with a type of mental disorientation frequently seen in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The study found that eating foods rich in folic acid lowers blood levels of homocysteine and improves mental functioning.

Source: Carol M. Coughlin, RD, "Nutritional Rx for Aging," Vegetarian Times, Feb 1997, p30.

STOMACH CANCER and ONIONS: Studies in Iowa and China have shown that the consumption of vegetables in the onion family (onions, leeks, garlic and shallots) may reduce considerably the risk of stomach cancer.

Source: Gastroenterology 1996;110:10-20.


VEGETARIAN DIETS and HEALTH: In a study in northern Mexico, researchers found that people following a vegetarian diet for an average of five years had lower sodium, higher potassium and lower blood pressure than the non-vegetarian control group. In addition, 11.1 percent of the non-vegetarians were overweight and suffered from high blood pressure, compared to only 2.7 percent of those following a vegetarian diet.

Source: Nutrition Research 1995;15(6):819-30.

VEGETARIAN DIETS and LONGEVITY: A study of 11,000 vegetarian and health-conscious people followed for an average of 17 years found that they had an overall mortality level 44 percent below that of the general population.

Source: British Medical Journal 1996;313:775-79.

WIC and DIETARY CHANGES: The USDA is considering changes to the Women With Infant Children (WIC) feeding program to include more vegetarian options, reports Suzanne Havala, RD. WIC is considering the addition of soy-based milk and possibly other soy foods. The proposed changes are believed to be "on a fast track." Changes to the WIC program follow the same formal rule-making process that changes made to the National School Lunch program follow.

Source: Suzanne Havala, MS, RD, FADA, "WIC Program May Undergo Changes to Include More Vegetarian Options," Issues in Vegetarian Dietetics, Vol VI, No 2, Winter 1997.


WOMEN'S HEALTH and MENOPAUSE and SOY: Researchers at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in North Carolina found that women given soy supplements reported significantly less-severe hot flashes and night sweats than those taking placebos. The soy also had other beneficial effects for those in the 18-week study: total cholesterol dropped an average of 10 percent, LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels dropped 12 percent and diastolic blood pressure dropped six points. Soy may prove to be a potential alternative to traditional estrogen replacement therapy. A much larger study using more soy protein is currently underway.

Source: "Research News," Environmental Nutrition, Feb 1997, p8.

WOMEN'S HEALTH and OSTEOPOROSIS and SOY: "Four [recent] animal studies and two human studies...strongly suggest a role for soy in inhibiting bone resorption [i.e. bone loss], stimulating bone formation or both, although all of this work should be considered preliminary."

Source: Mark Messina, PhD, "Researchers From Around World Present On Wide Range of Chronic Diseases," The Soy Connection, Vol 5, #1, Winter 1997