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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Bill Harris, M.D. | Q&A

Liver Function and Eggs?
Q&A with Bill Harris, M.D.

Q. I have been eating vegetarian for a year now and feel great. A new book "Fat Flush" suggests detoxing the liver with unsweetened cranberry juice and suggests eating whole eggs! The author suggests that the sulfur in the eggs (yolks I assume) is needed for liver detox and health. This makes no sense to me. I have avoided egg yolks and have only used the whites (as per Ornish diet) for breakfast.

 



A. Dear Dr. Feltus,

I went to: http://www.ivillage.com/diet/features/fatflush/articles/0,5050,222480_13884 ,00.html

It makes no sense to me either. In 52 years as a vegetarian and 40 years as a physician I have seen hundreds of "miracle diets" come and go. Someday I'd like to count 'em all up and see who came up with the most ridiculous nonsense; the medical profession or the people outside the medical profession. It would be a close race.

In the quest for health there are only 3 items that have ever worked for me; a whole food vegan diet and regular exercise are the first two.

The third is periodic fasting. It's probably the best way to "detox" and it doesn't require egg yolks, coffee enemas, liver extract, or any of the other dubious nostrums that appear on the web and in the bookstores in regular intervals that probably reflect publishing finances.

There is a healing system called Natural Hygiene that makes extensive therapeutic use of simple fasting and a balanced, mostly raw, vegan diet. While a few of its advocates are on the fringe there are also some very responsible practitioners with extensive experience in the field. If you are trying to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, fix your joints, etc., I would recommend that you learn about fasting. It's a physiological function that's built into all of us (although most people have never done it) because in our evolutionary history food was not always available. So those of our ancestors that made the Darwinian cut had developed the capacity to go without food for extended periods. Fasting gives many organ systems a much needed rest and a chance to break down and excrete various waste metabolites that the Hygienists not very accurately refer to as "toxins."

Here are three Hygienic practitioners who in my opinion have their act together:

Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
http://www.drfuhrman.com/

Alec Burton N.D.
http://iahp.cisnet.com/
aburton@ozemail.com.au

Alan Goldhamer, D.C.
http://www.healthpromoting.com/Home/home.htm and: http://www.healthpromoting.com/Fasting/fasting.htm

Do you have any information about the impact of egg yolks on liver health? I wouldn't want to go back to eating yolks (They are distasteful now!) and my cholesterol has been measured recently at 210! and my HDL is low. Even with the vegetarian food, it's high!

Egg yolk is #4 for cholesterol content in the USDA nutrient database. Cholesterol cannot be broken down enzymatically by any animal (including humans) although several species of free living bacteria can reduce it to carbon dioxide and water. Therefore, a major function of the liver is to conjugate cholesterol into bile acids and get rid of it via the intestines. Hence, whatever virtues eggs are alleged to have (usually protein is mentioned) it seems unlikely that they will offset the burden of increasing the liver's cholesterol disposal load.

Raw egg whites, by the way, contain avidin which binds tightly to biotin and prevents its absorption.

I hope this will be of some help.

Sincerely,

-William Harris, M.D.


William Harris MD received a degree in physics from the University of California Berkeley, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. He received his degree in medicine from the University of California at San Francisco, and received his postgraduate training at San Diego County Hospital. He holds a Medical License in the State of Hawaii. He has been an Emergency Department physican since 1963, and the Director of the Kaiser Permanente Vegan Lifestyle Clinic on Oahu until his retirement in 1998. Dr. Harris is the author of The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism.

In addition, he was the 1950 Big Ten Trampoline Champion, is an accomplished hangglider and commercial pilot, and at age 70 became a skydiver with 108 jumps to date. Dr. Harris has been vegetarian since 1950, and vegan since 1963.

 
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