How to Cure Vitamin D Deficiency

Accord­ing to my cal­en­dar, win­ter began just a few days ago. But as far as my abil­i­ty to make vit­a­min D is con­cerned, win­ter actu­al­ly began in Octo­ber and will last until the mid­dle of March. If I run short of vit­a­min D before March, I have three options for get­ting more vit­a­min D: take a trop­i­cal vaca­tion, go to a tan­ning salon, or take vit­a­min D pills.

Vit­a­min D isn’t real­ly a vit­a­min. It’s a hor­mone that is made when the ultra­vi­o­let light from sun­light hits your skin. Some of the sun’s ultra­vi­o­let light gets fil­tered out by the atmos­phere, espe­cial­ly by the ozone lay­er. Where I live, the sun­light is at such a low angle from Octo­ber through March that prac­ti­cal­ly all of the ultra­vi­o­let light gets fil­tered out. Thus, we have a tan­ning index of zero even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.

A light-skinned per­son in Boston can get enough vit­a­min D from get­ting only a few min­utes’ worth of sun expo­sure on his or her face, arms, and hands at mid­day two to three times a week dur­ing the spring, sum­mer, and fall. A per­son of African ances­try might need ten times as much sun expo­sure to make the same amount of vit­a­min D.

Nat­ur­al sum­mer sun­shine is the best way to get vit­a­min D. Sun­shine may have oth­er impor­tant effects on the body besides pro­duc­ing vit­a­min D. Of course, too much sun expo­sure can cause skin dam­age and increase the risk of skin can­cer.

Sun­lamps or a tan­ning bed can also help restore nor­mal vit­a­min D lev­els in the win­ter­time, espe­cial­ly in peo­ple who have an intesti­nal dis­ease that makes it hard for them to absorb fat-sol­u­ble vit­a­mins from their food. Tan­ning beds should be used cau­tious­ly because the ultra­vi­o­let light they pro­duce is so intense.

You can also buy vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments, but one nutri­tion expert warns that vit­a­min pills should be used as a last resort. Although low vit­a­min D lev­els have been asso­ci­at­ed with var­i­ous dis­eases, such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, treat­ment with vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments has not nec­es­sar­i­ly been shown to be use­ful in treat­ing those con­di­tions. 

Peace on Earth, Even Though War Sometimes Cures Diabetes

Dur­ing the Siege of Paris in 1870, a French phar­ma­cist named Bauchar­dat noticed that the health of dia­bet­ics was improv­ing while every­one else was suf­fer­ing as a result of food short­ages. That’s because the most com­mon form of dia­betes is type 2 dia­betes, which the French call dia­bète gras, or fat dia­betes. Type 2 dia­betes rep­re­sents the body’s attempts to resist gain­ing too much weight on a fat­ten­ing diet. If the weight gain is solved by eat­ing few­er calo­ries, then the type 2 dia­betes improves.

World War I pro­vid­ed insight into anoth­er way to deal with type 2 dia­betes. Even though Den­mark was neu­tral dur­ing the war, its grain sup­ply had been cut in half by the Atlantic Block­ade. To pre­vent the grain short­ages from caus­ing wide­spread star­va­tion in Den­mark, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment devel­oped a rationing plan. Instead of peo­ple feed­ing the avail­able grain to ani­mals and then eat­ing the ani­mals, the gov­ern­ment decreed that most of the food ani­mals should be slaugh­tered imme­di­ate­ly and the grain be fed direct­ly to the peo­ple. It also decreed that grain should not be used to make alco­hol. The Danes could eat as much bread and pota­toes and cab­bage as they want­ed; but their intake of meats, fats, and alco­hol was severe­ly restrict­ed. Not only did this rationing plan pre­vent star­va­tion, it improved the over­all health of the Dan­ish pop­u­la­tion so much that Den­mark enjoyed the low­est record­ed death rate in its his­to­ry.

I don’t know how much of the low­er mor­tal­i­ty in Den­mark dur­ing the war was due to a decrease in the rate of dia­betes specif­i­cal­ly and how much to a low­er risk of heart attack or stroke among non­di­a­bet­ics. All of those dis­eases result from the same cause, which is a rich, fat­ty diet. For­tu­nate­ly, I do have data on how wartime rationing affect­ed the risk of death from dia­betes in Eng­land and Wales dur­ing the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.


Notice that the risk of dia­betes went up dur­ing times of peace and pros­per­i­ty and dropped like a stone dur­ing wartime rationing. It stayed low dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, when many peo­ple sim­ply couldn’t afford to overeat. The effect of dietary changes was so pow­er­ful that it com­plete­ly obscured the impact of the intro­duc­tion of insulin ther­a­py in the ear­ly 1920s. That’s because the most com­mon form of dia­betes is type 2 dia­betes, which results from eat­ing a fat­ten­ing diet. Less than 10% of dia­betes cas­es result from fail­ure of the pan­creas to pro­duce insulin.

Low-carb gurus keep telling me that a diet based on grains caus­es obe­si­ty and dia­betes. It’s true that the low-carb diets seem to pro­vide some short-term ben­e­fit for dia­bet­ics. Depriv­ing a per­son of car­bo­hy­drates does make high blood sug­ar go down imme­di­ate­ly, even if makes the dia­betes worse in the long run. If the low-carb diet sup­press­es the person’s appetite enough to cause weight loss, the dia­betes could improve. How­ev­er, this improve­ment would be due to weight loss, not to eat­ing fat and pro­tein instead of car­bo­hy­drates. At the same time, the low-carb diets pro­vide an over­load of fat and pro­tein, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly bad for peo­ple with dia­betes because they are so prone to heart and kid­ney prob­lems. The heavy load of ani­mal pro­tein in low-carb diets would also pro­mote osteo­poro­sis and can­cer, but those prob­lems might not show up imme­di­ate­ly.

The low-carb gurus ignore an obvi­ous fact: dia­betes and many oth­er chron­ic dis­eases are rare in pop­u­la­tions that eat a diet that’s heav­i­ly based on grains or oth­er starchy sta­ples, such as pota­toes. Dia­betes is com­mon only in soci­eties that base their diet heav­i­ly on ani­mal prod­ucts. When a pop­u­la­tion shifts from an ani­mal-based diet to a diet based on grains and oth­er starchy sta­ples, such as pota­toes, the rates of obe­si­ty and dia­betes come tum­bling down. For­tu­nate­ly, there doesn’t have to be a war for peo­ple to make this change in diet. It only takes aware­ness and a new set of recipes.

The good news is that we don’t need to starve our­selves or suf­fer the hor­rors of war to cure type 2 dia­betes. All we need to do is go ape, go wild, and eat plants. Peace on earth!

Pho­to by Kylie_Jaxxon

Note: In my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2, I explain why a high-car­bo­hy­drate diet is good for peo­ple with any kind of dia­betes.

Behind Barbed Wire_Print


Scientists Rediscover That Starvation Cures Type 2 Diabetes

Yes, you can reverse type 2 dia­betes if you starve your­self. In fact, a med­ical­ly super­vised water-only fast can be a use­ful way to man­age many dif­fer­ent kinds of diet-relat­ed dis­eases. For­tu­nate­ly, you do not have to starve your­self to reverse your type 2 dia­betes. Instead, you could sim­ply eat a low-fat, plant-based diet—like the pop­u­la­tions that don’t get type 2 dia­betes to begin with.

In June of 2011, some researchers from Britain pub­lished the results of a tri­al in which peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes who went on a star­va­tion diet (600 calo­ries per day) end­ed up with nor­mal fast­ing blood sug­ar lev­els. To me, that is not news. By 1841, a French phar­ma­cist named Apol­li­naire Bauchar­dat was rec­om­mend­ing that patients with what we now call type 2 dia­betes should eat as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and that they should fast occa­sion­al­ly to bring down their blood sug­ar. Since then, how­ev­er, dia­betes researchers have learned that it’s pos­si­ble to reverse type 2 dia­betes with­out such severe calo­rie restric­tion. In fact, I think that it’s bet­ter to teach peo­ple the diet that will enable them to cure their type 2 dia­betes with­in a cou­ple of weeks with­out lim­it­ing their food intake than to set them on a course of yo-yo diet­ing and pos­si­ble eat­ing dis­or­ders.

Bouchar­dat was one of the first clin­i­cians to put patients in charge of mon­i­tor­ing their own dia­betes. At first, his patients did this by keep­ing track of what they ate and tast­ing their urine to see how sweet it became. Lat­er, Bauchar­dat worked out a chem­i­cal test to detect sug­ar in urine. From mon­i­tor­ing the sug­ar con­tent of the urine, Bauchar­dat showed that when peo­ple with dia­betes ate sug­ars or starch­es, large amounts of sug­ar passed into their urine. The sug­ar in the urine reflect­ed high blood glu­cose lev­els. How­ev­er, the prob­lem in type 2 dia­betes is not that the per­son is eat­ing car­bo­hy­drates, it’s that the body has become resis­tant to the hor­mone insulin.

Start­ing in the 1930s, sci­en­tists start­ed to real­ize that fat­ty diets made the body less sen­si­tive to insulin, and that this insulin insen­si­tiv­i­ty was the under­ly­ing cause of the high blood sug­ar lev­els in peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes. Peo­ple who went on a low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet rapid­ly became more respon­sive to insulin.

Start­ing in the 1940s, Dr. Wal­ter Kemp­n­er at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty report­ed aston­ish­ing suc­cess in revers­ing type 2 dia­betes and dia­bet­ic com­pli­ca­tions with a diet based entire­ly on rice and fruit. Patients who found that they were los­ing too much weight on that low-fat diet were encour­aged to add pure white sug­ar to get more calo­ries. In Kempner’s report of 100 patients with dia­betes who were fed his high-car­bo­hy­drate, low-fat, low-pro­tein diet, most of the patients decreased their insulin dos­es and many dis­con­tin­ued tak­ing insulin. (It’s like­ly that some of the patients had type 1 dia­betes and there­fore would need to keep tak­ing insulin for the rest of their lives.)

The Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion cur­rent­ly rec­om­mends that peo­ple with type 2 dia­betes eat lim­it­ed por­tions of foods from all of the four food groups. In 2006, how­ev­er, a clin­i­cal tri­al showed that the peo­ple who were ran­dom­ly assigned to eat as much as they liked of low-fat, unre­fined plant foods (75% car­bo­hy­drate by calo­rie) found it eas­i­er to stick to their diet, lost more weight, and made faster progress in revers­ing their dia­betes than did the peo­ple who were ran­dom­ly assigned to fol­low the ADA’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

Behind Barbed Wire_PrintNote: In my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2, I explain the rela­tion­ship between body weight and blood sug­ar. French doc­tors have always used the term fat dia­betes (dia­bètes mai­gre) to refer to the rel­a­tive mild form of dia­betes that occurs in peo­ple who are at least a lit­tle bit over­weight and that goes away if they lose weight. Fat dia­betes is the body’s way to avoid stor­ing too much of the fat from a fat­ty diet. If you have fat dia­betes, it means that you are a nat­u­ral­ly thin per­son. It means that your body is will­ing to sac­ri­fice everything—your feet, your eye­sight, your kid­neys, and even your life—to keep you from gain­ing any more weight. The solu­tion to this prob­lem is to switch to a low-fat, high-car­bo­hy­drate, high-fiber diet. This diet revers­es type 2 dia­betes and is also good for peo­ple with thin dia­betes (type 1 dia­betes).

Scientists Know that Fatty Diets Cause Blood Sugar Problems

There’s a huge dis­con­nect between what sci­en­tists know about diet and what ordi­nary peo­ple are being taught about diet. Most peo­ple seem to think that peo­ple get dia­betes from eat­ing too much sug­ar or starch. How­ev­er, the sci­en­tists who wrote this arti­cle seem to think that it’s com­mon knowl­edge, at least among sci­en­tists, that peo­ple get type 2 dia­betes from eat­ing too much fat.

Behind Barbed Wire_PrintNote: To learn how fat­ty diets cause blood sug­ar prob­lems, read my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2.

Wild Animals Don’t Count Calories or Sign Up for Step Aerobics

Have you ever seen an obese wild ani­mal? Look at these wilde­beests in Krüger Nation­al Park in South Africa. There’s no cel­lulite on their thighs! Wilde­beest weigh only 40 pounds at birth, but then they gain weight rapid­ly. By the time they’re a year old, they weigh about 200 pounds. The females reach a peak weight of about 350 pounds at 4 years of age. The males peak at 500 pounds at 5 years of age. Yet after that, their weight stays remark­ably sta­ble. Why do they stop gain­ing weight? Since they don’t start count­ing calo­ries or tak­ing step aer­o­bics class­es in adult­hood, they must have some built-in mech­a­nisms that reg­u­late their weight nat­u­ral­ly. Do humans also have in-born weight-con­trol mech­a­nisms? If so, why have so many peo­ple been get­ting so fat late­ly?

To keep our body weight at a nor­mal lev­el, we are told to engage in unnat­ur­al behav­iors. We’re told to eat less and move more. Yet wild ani­mals nev­er lim­it their food por­tions, and they do only the amount of activ­i­ty they feel like doing. I think that their secret for stay­ing slim is that they eat the kind of food that is appro­pri­ate for their species. If you trapped some wilde­beest in a pen and fed them a diet that was much rich­er in calo­ries than what they ate in the wild, they’d prob­a­bly get fat. That’s what has hap­pened to human beings in indus­tri­al­ized soci­eties. To cure our weight prob­lems, we need to escape from our cubi­cles and start eat­ing a more nat­ur­al diet. Go play out­side, and eat low-fat unre­fined plant foods instead of eat­ing ani­mals and processed foods.


When you look at pop­u­la­tions all over the world, you’ll notice that the peo­ple who eat a diet based on unre­fined plant foods stay nat­u­ral­ly slim and remark­ably free of heart dis­ease and dia­betes and oth­er chron­ic dis­eases. For many gen­er­a­tions, most of the world’s pop­u­la­tion ate like that. Only the rich could afford to eat large serv­ings of rich foods, such as meats and but­ter and hon­ey, on a reg­u­lar basis. As a result, only rich peo­ple suf­fered from obe­si­ty, gout, and ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis. Because of agri­cul­tur­al poli­cies, those foods have now become cheap while fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles are still rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive. As a result, the “dis­eases of afflu­ence” are now a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem for poor peo­ple in the Unit­ed States.

Pho­to by h.koppdelaney

Behind Barbed Wire_PrintNote: In my book Thin Dia­betes, Fat Dia­betes: Pre­vent Type 1, Cure Type 2, you can learn more about how a low-fat, high-fiber, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet helps peo­ple lose weight and revers­es their type 2 dia­betes.

Can Hot Chili Peppers Help Prevent Cancer?

Cap­saicin, which is the chem­i­cal that puts the heat in hot chili pep­pers, may encour­age some kinds of can­cer cells to com­mit sui­cide; but cap­saicin doesn’t seem to have the same effect on healthy cells. This is just one of many ways in which chem­i­cals that are found nat­u­ral­ly in plants (phy­to­chem­i­cals) could have an anti­cancer effect.

Can­cer isn’t just one dis­ease. It’s a group of unre­lat­ed dis­eases that all result from the same sort of prob­lem: cells behav­ing bad­ly. Can­cer cells don’t become the kind of cell that they’re sup­posed to become, and they keep divid­ing to make new cells long after they were sup­posed to stop. Some­times, they trav­el through the body and set­tle down in places where they’re not sup­posed to be. All of these prob­lems result from some­thing going wrong in the cell’s genet­ic mate­r­i­al. Either some genes have been dam­aged or the switch­es that are sup­posed to turn the genes on and off have been stuck in the wrong posi­tion. This prob­lem can get start­ed if a cell’s genes are dam­aged by expo­sure to radi­a­tion or to can­cer-caus­ing (car­cino­genic) chem­i­cals, such as those in tobac­co smoke. The first line of defense against can­cer is to reduce the body’s expo­sure to radi­a­tion and oth­er car­cino­gens.

Even after a cell has gone rogue, the body has sev­er­al lev­els of defens­es that could stamp out the can­cer before it is ever noticed. The first is a self-destruct mech­a­nism that is built into the cell’s genet­ic instruc­tions. This self-destruc­tion, which is called apop­to­sis or pro­grammed cell death, caus­es the cell to break apart into tidy frag­ments that are quick­ly and eas­i­ly devoured by white blood cells. In con­trast, when cells die as a result of trau­ma, they make a mess by spilling their con­tents into the sur­round­ing flu­id.

Pro­grammed cell death plays an impor­tant role in sculpt­ing the embryo dur­ing ear­ly devel­op­ment. If cells are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they get a sig­nal to com­mit sui­cide. That’s why most peo­ple aren’t born with webbed fin­gers and toes. Even in a healthy adult, tens of bil­lions of cells under­go pro­grammed cell death every day. Pro­grammed cell death is a nat­ur­al body process that is sup­posed to stay in a healthy bal­ance. If too many cells die, the result is tis­sue shrink­age (atro­phy). If too many cells fail to com­mit sui­cide, then abnor­mal cells such as can­cer cells can get out of con­trol.

Pro­grammed cell death is a com­pli­cat­ed process that can involve sev­er­al dif­fer­ent path­ways and that can be stim­u­lat­ed or sup­pressed by many dif­fer­ent sig­nals. How­ev­er, the end result is always the same: enzymes called cas­pas­es are acti­vat­ed, and they break down the pro­tein struc­tures inside the cell. Some kinds of can­cer cells fail to under­go pro­grammed cell death because they have a defi­cien­cy of or defect in one of their cas­pas­es. These cells may need a lit­tle extra encour­age­ment to under­go pro­grammed cell death.

Researchers have report­ed that cap­saicin inhibits the growth of colon tumors. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, cap­saicin could have anti­tu­mor effects in oth­er parts of the body because it is eas­i­ly absorbed from the intes­tine and car­ried through­out the body by the blood­stream. One study showed that cap­saicin pro­motes pro­grammed cell death in a par­tic­u­lar type of liv­er can­cer cells. Anoth­er study showed a sim­i­lar effect in breast can­cer cells.

The first line of defense against can­cer is to avoid radi­a­tion, car­cino­genic chem­i­cals, and the viral infec­tions that are known to cause cells to become malig­nant. The sec­ond line of defense is to eat a low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet, which acts in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ways to pre­vent cells from becom­ing malig­nant and to sup­press the growth of tumors. The pro­mo­tion of pro­grammed cell death by hot pep­pers is just one of the ways in which a plant-based diet could help to sup­press can­cer.

Institute of Medicine Questions Scientific Need for Chimpanzee Research

Pho­to: Chim­panzee being used for space research by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s.

The Insti­tute of Med­i­cine con­vened an ad hoc com­mit­tee to answer two impor­tant ques­tions:

  • Is bio­med­ical research with chim­panzees “nec­es­sary for research dis­cov­er­ies and to deter­mine the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy of new pre­ven­tion or treat­ment strate­gies?”
  • Is behav­ioral research using chim­panzees “nec­es­sary for progress in under­stand­ing social, neu­ro­log­i­cal and behav­ioral fac­tors that influ­ence the devel­op­ment, pre­ven­tion, or treat­ment of dis­ease?”

The com­mit­tee was asked to con­sid­er only sci­en­tif­ic ques­tions, not ques­tions relat­ed to ethics or costs. The committee’s report con­clud­ed that most cur­rent use of chim­panzees for bio­med­ical research is unnec­es­sary and that the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health should put strict lim­its on the use of chim­panzees as research sub­jects. The NIH has already announced a freeze on new grants for chim­panzee exper­i­men­ta­tion.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress want to out­law all exper­i­men­ta­tion on great apes, includ­ing chim­panzees (H.R. 1513: The Great Ape Pro­tec­tion and Cost Sav­ings Act).

Update: H.R. 1513 was not enact­ed.

Does Tofurkey Subliminally “Glorify” Meat-Eating?

David Siro­ta wrote an arti­cle that sug­gests that the veg­e­tar­i­an prod­ucts that mim­ic meat prod­ucts under­mine veg­e­tar­i­an­ism by glo­ri­fy­ing the con­sump­tion of meat. I had to laugh because I hon­est­ly couldn’t imag­ine Tofurkey glo­ri­fy­ing any­thing. Nor do I think that rice milk glo­ri­fies cow’s milk or that a tofu scram­ble glo­ri­fies eggs. Yet the use of these foods does raise two impor­tant nutri­tion-relat­ed ques­tions: What kind of diet is tru­ly healthy for a human being, and how can we help peo­ple find sat­is­fac­tion and delight from a tru­ly healthy diet?

Many veg­e­tar­i­ans depend heav­i­ly on the soy fake meats and “cheezes” because they are wor­ried about get­ting enough pro­tein in their diet. In real­i­ty, you don’t need to eat fake meat or cheeze to get enough pro­tein. It’s prac­ti­cal­ly impos­si­ble to find real cas­es of pro­tein defi­cien­cy in peo­ple who were get­ting enough calo­ries from any rea­son­able plant-based diet. To find cas­es of pure pro­tein defi­cien­cy, you have to look at peo­ple who have been fed noth­ing but glu­cose intra­venous­ly, or peo­ple who have a diges­tive or meta­bol­ic dis­ease, or babies who were fed some bizarre sub­sti­tute for breast milk.

Plants pro­vide all of the nutri­ents that are essen­tial for human nutri­tion, except for vit­a­min D and vit­a­min B12. Your body makes its own sup­ply of vit­a­min D if you go out in the sun­shine, and vit­a­min B12 comes from bac­te­ria. So there’s no nutri­tion­al need to include ani­mal-based food in the diet. On the con­trary, the less ani­mal-based food a pop­u­la­tion eats, the low­er its rates of death from heart dis­ease, can­cer, dia­betes, and oth­er chron­ic dis­eases tend to be.

So what about the refined plant-based foods that resem­ble ani­mal foods? Do they pose the same health threats as real ani­mal-based foods? The answer is a bit com­pli­cat­ed. The health threats that they could pose depend on how close­ly they resem­ble the ani­mal-based foods they replace.

Ani­mal-based foods con­tain fat and cho­les­terol but no fiber. No veg­an prod­ucts con­tain any cho­les­terol, but some of them do con­tain a lot of fat and lit­tle or no fiber. Thus, they could pro­mote weight gain and high cho­les­terol lev­els. Pota­to chips are veg­an; but because of all that fat and salt, they’re almost as bad for you as pork rinds.

Ani­mal-based foods con­tain far more pro­tein than you need. This excess pro­tein puts a strain on the liv­er and kid­neys. The “high-qual­i­ty” pro­tein in dairy prod­ucts, in par­tic­u­lar, also caus­es the liv­er to release a pow­er­ful growth hor­mone (IGF-1) that pro­motes the growth of can­cers. Huge serv­ings of soy pro­tein also pro­mote the secre­tion of IGF-1, but to a less­er extent than dairy prod­ucts do.

The pro­teins in ani­mal-based foods are sim­i­lar to but not exact­ly like the pro­teins in the human body. If they find their way into the blood­stream before they are com­plete­ly bro­ken down, they may cause the immune sys­tem to pro­duce anti­bod­ies that go on to attack the body’s own tis­sues. A switch to a plant-based diet can dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduce this risk. How­ev­er, some of the fake ani­mal prod­ucts are based on wheat gluten, which can cause autoim­mune prob­lems in a small per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion. For this rea­son, peo­ple with celi­ac dis­ease or oth­er wheat sen­si­tiv­i­ty can­not eat sei­tan.

Real meats and cheeses are high in fat but devoid of starch. The fake stuff also tends to be high in fat and low in starch. All fats are fat­ten­ing, and some of the fats from plant sources are par­tic­u­lar­ly pow­er­ful pro­mot­ers of can­cer. The plant-based diets that are tru­ly good for human health are high in fiber and starch and low in fat.

Ani­mals have hor­mones that are very much like our own. When peo­ple eat ani­mal foods, they get a dose of these hor­mones, even if the ani­mals were raised organ­i­cal­ly. Plants have dif­fer­ent hor­mones. Some plants con­tain phy­toe­stro­gens, which are sub­stances that have some sort of effect on estro­gen recep­tors. How­ev­er, some of the phy­toe­stro­gens are estro­gen block­ers or weak estro­gens that com­pete with the body’s nat­ur­al estro­gens, thus decreas­ing the effects that our native estro­gen has on our tis­sues.

Ani­mals absorb tox­ins from their envi­ron­ment and store them in their fat­ty tis­sue. That’s why it’s good to eat “low on the food chain.” The processed fake meats and cheezes are low on the food chain, but you may have to con­sid­er what kinds of addi­tives are in them.

Many peo­ple advo­cate the use of the fake meats and cheezes sort of as train­ing wheels to help peo­ple adjust to a plant-based diet. My con­cern with that approach is that these foods can be unsat­is­fy­ing because they don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly taste like the real thing. Rather than serv­ing a food that is a dim echo of some­thing else, why not serve some­thing that can stand on its own? Why eat an unsat­is­fy­ing soy pat­ty when you could eat a gen­uine bean bur­ri­to?

I use a lit­tle bit of tofu or soy milk now and then. The “fake meat” that I use exten­sive­ly is mush­rooms and nutri­tion­al yeast. I make a gar­licky low-fat mush­room gravy and serve it over huge mounds of mashed pota­toes. I add either mush­rooms or nutri­tion­al yeast to hearty stews, and nobody cares that I didn’t use a ham­bone.Pho­to by Andrea_Nguyen

How LDL Cholesterol Becomes Atherosclerotic Plaque

Here’s an inter­est­ing arti­cle about how high lev­els of LDL cho­les­terol end up caus­ing ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis.

The body uses cho­les­terol for var­i­ous pur­pos­es, and it has a sys­tem for trans­port­ing cho­les­terol in the blood­stream. Like fat, cho­les­terol doesn’t dis­solve in water. To trans­port fat and cho­les­terol via the blood­stream, the body puts them in pack­ages called lipopro­teins. As the name sug­gests, a lipopro­tein con­tains fat­ty sub­stances (lipids) as well as some pro­tein.

Not only do fat­ty sub­stances like cho­les­terol fail to dis­solve in water, they float on top of it. That’s because they are less dense than water. They are also less dense than pro­tein. The lipopro­tein par­ti­cles that are largest and con­tain the most fat also have the low­est den­si­ty. The “bad” cho­les­terol that peo­ple talk about is low-den­si­ty lipopro­tein (LDL). These are lipopro­tein par­ti­cles that car­ry fat and cho­les­terol from the liv­er to the rest of the body. LDL is like a wheel­bar­row full of fat and cho­les­terol trav­el­ing from the liv­er to the rest of the body. In con­trast, high-den­si­ty lipopro­tein (HDL) picks up the cho­les­terol from the tis­sues and car­ries it back to the liv­er. HDL is like a most­ly emp­ty wheel­bar­row pick­ing up fat and cho­les­terol and tak­ing it back to the liv­er.

The arti­cle explains that cho­les­terol is always enter­ing and leav­ing the inti­mal lay­er of the arte­r­i­al wall. The cho­les­terol is brought in by LDL and is tak­en away by HDL. If the cho­les­terol is brought in faster than it leaves, it builds up to form a deposit called an athero­ma. The more LDL there is in the blood­stream, the faster the LDL par­ti­cles enter the wall of the arter­ies. The cho­les­terol is like­ly to build up into an athero­ma if there isn’t enough HDL to car­ry the cho­les­terol back out fast enough or if the LDL under­goes some chem­i­cal change with­in the wall of the artery before it can be removed. Here’s an arti­cle that explains the kinds of chem­i­cal changes that can occur to the LDL while its inside the arte­r­i­al wall.

Why does cho­les­terol build up in the inti­ma of the arte­r­i­al wall but not in oth­er kinds of tis­sue? It’s because the con­cen­tra­tion of LDL is far high­er in the arte­r­i­al inti­ma than in any oth­er tis­sue. The prob­a­ble rea­son for this high LDL con­cen­tra­tion is the fact that the arte­r­i­al inti­ma is not drained by lymph ves­sels. LDL par­ti­cles are small enough to leak through the gaps between the endothe­lial cells that pave the inner sur­face of the artery. Then, they can dif­fuse through­out the loose struc­ture of the arte­r­i­al inti­ma. How­ev­er, they are too big to leak through the pores in the car­bo­hy­drate-and-pro­tein mesh­work of the medi­al lay­er. Thus, they can­not make their way through to the lym­phat­ic sys­tem, which is high­ly effi­cient at car­ry­ing lipopro­teins back to the blood­stream.
Pho­to by Ore­gon State Uni­ver­si­ty

To Protect Your Feet, Cure Your Type 2 Diabetes

Dia­betes is the num­ber 1 cause of non­trau­mat­ic ampu­ta­tions in the Unit­ed States. What’s tru­ly out­ra­geous is that most of these ampu­ta­tions are hap­pen­ing to peo­ple with the form of dia­betes that can eas­i­ly be cured, some­times with­in as lit­tle as a week, by a sim­ple change in diet. Just eat unre­fined plant foods instead of ani­mal-based foods and processed foods and cut your fat intake to 10% or less of calo­ries.

Type 2 dia­betes mel­li­tus is cured by remov­ing the cause, which is the fat­ty, low-fiber, stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. Peo­ple who switch to a high-fiber, low-fat (~10% of calo­ries), high-car­bo­hy­drate (75% of calo­ries), pure­ly plant-based (veg­an) diet become undi­a­bet­ic with­in a sur­pris­ing­ly short time. (They can get even quick­er results if they also start exer­cis­ing.) A prop­er diet can even relieve the ago­niz­ing pain and dan­ger­ous numb­ness from dia­bet­ic neu­ropa­thy in the feet with­in a mat­ter of days to weeks.