Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fatty Acid?

Late­ly, many peo­ple have been claim­ing that fish is health food. The Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion urge peo­ple to eat fish. Yet if peo­ple fol­low that advice, they’ll still be at risk for heart dis­ease and dia­betes and they might increase their risk for can­cer. The omega 3 fat­ty acids in fish oil can end up in the fat­ty deposits that clog people’s arter­ies. Like oth­er fats, they pro­mote insulin resis­tance. Also, eat­ing too much omega 3 fat­ty acid could pro­mote can­cer by sup­press­ing the immune sys­tem.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Can You Get Too Much Omega 3 Fat­ty Acid?”

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.

The Plate’s Not Much Better Than the Pyramid

The Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture has ditched its creepy Food Pyra­mid, which for many peo­ple con­jured up gris­ly images of Aztec human sac­ri­fice.


Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the USDA’s new “plate and cup” graph­ic still pro­vides dead­ly nutri­tion­al advice. It still urges peo­ple to eat far more fat, cho­les­terol, cal­ci­um, and ani­mal pro­tein than is good for them. Thus, it will con­tribute to our major caus­es of death and dis­abil­i­ty in the Unit­ed States, with­out doing much to solve any of our real pub­lic health prob­lems.

myplateThe new “plate and cup” graph­ic is sim­ply a way to com­mu­ni­cate the lessons from the most recent edi­tion of Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans. Fed­er­al law requires these guide­lines to be reviewed, and updat­ed if nec­es­sary, every five years. The guide­lines are cre­at­ed by a joint com­mit­tee of the USDA and the US Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, with input from oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies and the pub­lic. The 2010 edi­tion was issued in Jan­u­ary 2011.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the guide­lines are designed to address two nonex­is­tent prob­lems, while fail­ing to help peo­ple avoid or recov­er from our biggest caus­es of death and dis­abil­i­ty. The guide­lines are designed to ensure that Amer­i­cans con­sume “enough” pro­tein and cal­ci­um, even though it’s prac­ti­cal­ly impos­si­ble to find any real human beings who have a true defi­cien­cy of either one. Mean­while, the guide­lines actu­al­ly encour­age peo­ple to eat foods that increase the risk of heart dis­ease, can­cer, type 2 dia­betes, low back pain, osteo­poro­sis, and autoim­mune dis­eases such as arthri­tis and type 1 dia­betes.

Nutri­tion sci­en­tists have known for more than 100 years that human pro­tein needs are eas­i­ly met by any prac­ti­cal plant-based diet, as long as peo­ple are eat­ing enough food to get enough calo­ries. For more than 50 years, they’ve known that all of our com­mon sta­ple plant foods pro­vide enough of all of the essen­tial amino acids. Peo­ple would get plen­ty of pro­tein even if they ate noth­ing but pota­toes; thus, there’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for urg­ing peo­ple to eat ani­mal-based “pro­tein foods.”

The “pro­tein foods” that come from ani­mals pose seri­ous health risks. They are devoid of fiber and digestible car­bo­hy­drates. Instead, their calo­ries come in the form of fat and pro­tein. Any over­load of pro­tein stress­es the liv­er and kid­neys. Worse yet, ani­mal pro­teins also tend to pro­mote can­cer, osteo­poro­sis, and autoim­mune dis­ease. The heavy dose of cal­ci­um from dairy foods actu­al­ly seems to increase, rather than decrease, the risk of osteo­poro­sis.

The cur­rent guide­lines also encour­age peo­ple to eat far more fat than is good for them. The cur­rent guide­lines do encour­age peo­ple to eat less sat­u­rat­ed fat, but to replace it with polyun­sat­u­rat­ed fats. The result would be only a slight­ly low­er risk of heart dis­ease, off­set by a high­er risk of can­cer. Most peo­ple should keep their fat intake to 10% or less of calo­ries.

The Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans do encour­age peo­ple to eat more fruits and veg­eta­bles and to replace refined grain prod­ucts with whole-grain prod­ucts. How­ev­er, they fall far short of telling peo­ple how they can achieve opti­mal health. That’s a scan­dalous fail­ure, con­sid­er­ing how many Amer­i­cans lack health insur­ance and thus have lim­it­ed access to pro­fes­sion­al guid­ance, includ­ing advice from a reg­is­tered dietit­ian.

Like our government’s fail­ure to pro­vide an effi­cient, pub­licly-financed uni­ver­sal health­care sys­tem, the short­com­ings of the Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans rep­re­sent our government’s fail­ure to “pro­mote the gen­er­al wel­fare.” Instead, our food and health­care poli­cies pro­mote the wel­fare of the pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions that finance our elec­tions and whose lob­by­ists stalk the halls of Con­gress.

These prob­lems have per­sist­ed for decades. They are not going to solve them­selves. These prob­lems will be solved only if health activists work to elect Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Sen­a­tors and a Pres­i­dent who care far more about human beings than about cor­po­ra­tions and if health activists pro­vide such pres­sure dur­ing the “pub­lic com­ment” phase for the next edi­tion of the guide­lines that USDA will have no choice but to serve the Amer­i­can peo­ple instead of the food indus­try.

Asparagus isn’t magic

A friend of mine just for­ward­ed me an e-mail that makes all sorts of amaz­ing claims about aspara­gus. It starts out with this heart-warm­ing tale:

My Mom had been tak­ing the full-stalk canned style aspara­gus that she pureed and she took 4 table­spoons in the morn­ing and 4 table­spoons lat­er in the day. She did this for over a month. She is on chemo pills for Stage 3 lung can­cer in the pleur­al area and her can­cer count went from 386 down to 125 as of this past week. Her oncol­o­gist said that she does not need to see him for 3 months.

In oth­er words, they want me to believe that sim­ply adding a few table­spoon­fuls of pureed, canned aspara­gus would pro­vide mirac­u­lous ben­e­fits for a hor­ri­ble, lethal ill­ness. I’m not buy­ing it. First, what’s a “can­cer count” for lung can­cer? White blood cell counts are impor­tant in can­cers that involve over­pro­duc­tion of white blood cells, but I don’t know of any “can­cer count” for lung can­cer.

Sec­ond, what that e-mail is describ­ing is a drug effect, not the effect of a rad­i­cal change to a healthy diet. We know that aspara­gus can make your urine stink, but if it had the kind of pow­er described in that e-mail, it would also have sub­stan­tial side effects. A lot of peo­ple like the idea of “nat­ur­al” and “herbal” drugs because they have the mis­tak­en idea that such prod­ucts can have ben­e­fits with­out side effects. How­ev­er, the rea­son why so many “nat­ur­al” and “herbal” prod­ucts have so few side effects is that they don’t have much of a ben­e­fi­cial effect either. It’s almost a law of nature. Any sub­stance that has the pow­er to exert an effect on the body will pro­duce a mix­ture of effects: some wel­come, oth­ers unwel­come. The idea that a few table­spoon­fuls of pureed aspara­gus could have such a pow­er­ful effect on the body with­out caus­ing more prob­lems than stinky urine is sim­ply hard to believe.

Third, the e-mail went on to bab­ble about the “his­tones” in aspara­gus, claim­ing that they have the abil­i­ty to “nor­mal­ize” cell growth. His­tones are a pro­tein that is found in all of the chro­mo­somes of every­thing that keeps its chro­mo­somes in a nucle­us. That includes all green plants, from the sim­plest algae to the giant red­wood, as well as all ani­mals and fun­gi. Fur­ther­more, the his­tones them­selves have changed aston­ish­ing­ly lit­tle over the course of evo­lu­tion. That’s usu­al­ly a clue that they do some­thing vital, but it also means that there’s noth­ing mag­i­cal about aspara­gus. The fact that his­tones are a pro­tein is anoth­er impor­tant clue that this e-mail is non­sense. If you take a pro­tein by mouth, your diges­tive sys­tem nor­mal­ly breaks it back down into indi­vid­ual amino acids. Some big­ger bits of pro­tein might occa­sion­al­ly make it through to your blood­stream if there’s some­thing wrong with the lin­ing of your intes­tine, which is why eat­ing ani­mal pro­teins can pro­voke autoim­mune dis­or­ders. How­ev­er, the effi­cien­cy of human diges­tion means that you nor­mal­ly don’t get any ben­e­fit from pro­tein drugs if you take them by mouth. That’s why insulin has to be inject­ed.

A switch from the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet to a low-fat, plant-based diet that strong­ly empha­sizes fruits and veg­eta­bles can pro­vide health ben­e­fits that might seem mag­i­cal to the aver­age Amer­i­can. How­ev­er, it achieves these ben­e­fits part­ly by remov­ing the cause of most of our major caus­es of death and dis­abil­i­ty: the over­load of fat and ani­mal pro­teins. You can’t get the same effects by adding an herbal sup­ple­ment or a few table­spoon­fuls of pureed, canned veg­etable to a crap­py diet.

What People Can Achieve by Eating a Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet

If you have any chron­ic health prob­lem, I don’t care what it is, con­sid­er mak­ing a change in your diet. Often, a sim­ple exclu­sion diet pro­to­col can help you cure dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases like type 2 dia­betes or rheuma­toid arthri­tis. It can also make you heart-attack-proof and reduce your risk of can­cer. A change to a low-fat, plant-based diet is sim­ple and cheap and has no side effects. If you have any seri­ous health prob­lem, talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian (look for the “RD” after their name) as well as your doc­tor before mak­ing a change in diet.

Lose Weight

The secret to effort­less weight loss is to go ape and eat plants. Switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet based on unre­fined starch­es and lots of veg­eta­bles. Eat as much of these foods as you can hold, and you’ll be less tempt­ed to snack on high-calo­rie junk food.

Stop Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Roy Swank showed that you can stop the pro­gres­sion of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis just by tak­ing the ani­mal prod­ucts and fat out of the diet. Dr. John McDougall is car­ry­ing on this research.

Become Heart-Attack-Proof

Dr. Cald­well Essel­styn took a bunch of patients with advanced coro­nary artery dis­ease and made them “heart-attack-proof” just by teach­ing them to eat the right kinds of food.

Cure Type 2 Diabetes

Dr. Neal Barnard proved that a low-fat, plant-based diet is bet­ter than the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Association’s stan­dard dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for con­trol­ling type 2 dia­betes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s patients with type 2 dia­betes become “undi­a­bet­ic” with­in a mat­ter of weeks if they eat that way.

Dramatically Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

T. Col­in Camp­bell, PhD, a world-famous nutri­tion­al bio­chemist and nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gist, has shown that the more ani­mal-based foods peo­ple eat, the high­er their risk of can­cer. In ani­mal mod­els, sci­en­tists could turn the devel­op­ment of tumors on and off just by increas­ing or decreas­ing the amount of ani­mal pro­tein in the diet.

Fight Arthritis

Arthri­tis is not an inevitable con­se­quence of age. It is com­par­a­tive­ly rare in soci­eties where peo­ple eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. About 70% of peo­ple with the most com­mon form of inflam­ma­to­ry arthri­tis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis, can expect dra­mat­ic ben­e­fits, and often a cure, in less than 4 weeks of diet change. The diet must be fol­lowed strictly—medications are reduced and stopped as improve­ments occur.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteo­poro­sis is reversible, if you eat a plant-based diet, get rea­son­able expo­sure to sun­shine, and get some exer­cise. Believe it or not, dairy prod­ucts actu­al­ly make osteo­poro­sis worse.

Relieve Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­eases occur almost exclu­sive­ly in parts of the world where the diet is high in meat and dairy foods, and are rare in coun­tries where peo­ple still con­sume starch-based, almost entire­ly veg­e­tar­i­an meals.

Avoid Surgery for Gallstones

Gall­stones are usu­al­ly made of cho­les­terol, and they result when peo­ple over­load their sys­tem with fat­ty, high-cho­les­terol foods.

Prevent Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, Hiatal Hernia, Uterine Prolapse

All of those dis­or­ders result from con­sti­pa­tion. When peo­ple strain to move their bow­els, the abnor­mal­ly high pres­sure in the bel­ly can dam­age the valves in the veins and push var­i­ous organs out of their nor­mal posi­tions.

Appendicitis and Diverticulosis

The high-pro­tein, low-fiber West­ern diet is the cause of appen­dici­tis and diver­tic­u­lo­sis.

The List Goes On and On

Many oth­er dis­eases have been shown to be the result of the rich, fat­ty, low-fiber stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. I should also have list­ed acne, bad breath, body odor, and erec­tile dys­func­tion, along with kid­ney and liv­er dis­ease. The sad thing is that many peo­ple unwit­ting­ly sub­ject them­selves to these dis­eases in their attempt to avoid “pro­tein defi­cien­cy,” even though pro­tein defi­cien­cy isn’t a real prob­lem in human beings. After all, where do goril­las get their pro­tein?