We've previously run an expose on the Weston Price Foundation which shows how its founder actually recommended a vegetarian diet as the healthiest, and not the meat-heavy diet the Foundation recommends today. To read that article, click here. Following are a series from Dr. Fuhrman's newsletter.
Deadly Dietary Myths
Premature death is too high a price to pay for bad advice!
Deadly Dietary Myths
by Joel Fuhrman MD
This series of articles is devoted entirely to debunking some of today's most popular - and potentially most dangerous - diet and nutrition myths. In previous newsletters, and in my book Eat to Live, I have warned readers about adopting fad diets such as The Atkins Diet, The Zone Diet, and Eat For your Blood Type because the scientific data is so clear about the fact that eating more that a few small portions of animal products each week is associated with a host of serious diseases.
Conclusive scientific warnings notwithstanding, people continue to flock to diets like these because a) they reinforce existing bad habits, and b)numerous organizations encourage this behavior. One of the more influential organizations is the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF).
The Weston A. Price Foundation is named in honor of a Cleveland dentist, author of the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In the 1930s, upon observing that a large number of his patients had poor dental health, Dr. Price traveled to remote regions of the world and found that people in those areas who were still eating diets consisting of unprocessed foods had healthier teeth than his patients, who were eating large amounts of processed foods. He concluded that poor dental health was the result of nutritional deficiencies.
WAPF is a relatively small non-profit with a modest budget, but its leaders and members have been very effective in advocating a meat-centered diet, with lots of butter and whole, raw milk. Unfortunately, although some of its recommendations are laudable (such as the admonition to avoid highly processed foods, and the warning that most popular vegetarian and vegan diets are not ideal), many others are entirely out of step with modern nutritional science.
They promote a range of irresponsible and potentially dangerous ideas, including:
- Butter and butter oil are our "super foods" which contain the "X factor", discovered by Weston Price.
- Glandular Organ Extracts - to promote health and healing of the corresponding organ.
- Poached brains of animals should be added to other ground meats for better nutrition
- Raw cows milk and meat broth should be fed to newborns who don't breast feed, rather than infant formula.
- Regular ingestion of clay (Azolimite Mineral Powder) because the clay particles remove pathogens from the body.
- There are benefits of feeding sea salt to infants and babies
- Fruits and vegetables should be limited in children's diets.
There are plenty of organizations offering woefully out-of-date and inaccurate dietary advice, so I do not want to give the impression that WAPF Is alone in this regard. But there is limited space in a single newsletter, and a review of some of the WAPF recommendations offers an opportunity to point out examples of nutritional misinformation readily available in books and on the Internet.
How to feed your baby
WAPF advocates a severely deficient and dangerous diet for infants and children that has the potential to cause a lifetime of medical problems, reduced brain function, and an early death from cancer.
Infants have their best chance of developing normally when they consume breast milk from well-fed mothers. But contrary to a plethora of scientific studies indicating that breast milk should be the only food for the first six months, Sally Fellon, founder and president of WAPF and coauthor (with Mary Enig) of the book Nourishing Traditions says that pureed meat (including organ meats) is an excellent early food for babies.
What does WAPF recommend?
One WAPF baby formula mixes cow's milk with heavy cream and other oils, while another is made from cow's liver, beef broth, whey powder, and various oils.
It is well established in the scientific literature that a diet high in saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables in early childhood is the leading cause of adult cancers. Infants fed cow's milk instead of breast milk or formula do not get sufficient iron, vitamin C, linoleic acid, or vitamin E, and take in excessive amounts of sodium, potassium, and protein, which can lead to dehydration and kidney damage. For many years, the American Academy of Pediatricians has warned against the use of any whole cow's milk during the first year of life after it was found that infants given cow's milk developed iron deficiency and occult (silent) bleeding of the digestive tract.1 The resultant iron deficiency seen in children raised on cow's milk in early childhood leads to long-term changes in behavior and loss of intelligence that can not be reversed even with correction of the iron deficiency later on in life.2 In other words, permanent brain damage can occur from the feeding of whole cow's milk to babies.
Good intentions gone awry
How can an organization offer nutritional advice so out of step with the world's scientific literature? Part of the blame can be placed at the feet of those who remain loyal to some of the original observations pf Weston Price rather than his original intent.
When Dr. Price traveled to remote areas, his intent was to find healthful solutions for his dental patients. When we look back with 70 years of scientific hindsight, we can see that his examinations and conclusions were flawed. When he touted the health of primitive peoples, he was not aware of their short life expectancy and high rates of infant mortality, endemic diseases, and infection.
It can be argued that few scientific researchers in the 1930s would have understood the complexity of multi factorial causation of health, disease, and longevity, and Price should not be held to today's higher standards. But the same cannot be said for his followers today. To advocate eating a diet high in saturated fat is to ignore all of the nutritional research-especially of the past 40 years-that links this diet to shorter life spans and higher rates of heart disease and cancer is unconscionable.
1. Kazal LA. Prevention of iron defiency in infants and toddlers. Am Fam Physician 2002, 66(7):1217-24.
2. Beard JL, Conner JR. Iron status and neural functioning. Annu Rev Nutr 2003; 23:41-58
Nutritional Facts and Fiction
Fanciful folklore is no match for modern science!
The Weston A. Price website states that "people with high cholesterol
live the longest," and that it is a myth that "for good health, serum cholesterol should be less than 180 mg/dl," adding, "There is no greater risk for heart disease, even at levels as high as 1,000 mg/dl." This doesn't jibe with every respected scientific authority in the world and is utterly ridiculous in light of thousands of respectable studies.
WAPF correctly points out that processed foods, sugar, corn syrup, and white flour are harmful, but nutritional deficiencies caused by "junk foods" are not remedied by a diet high in meat and butter, animal products that are devoid of plant-derived photonutrients, which promote health and slow the "aging" process. By contrast, the saturated fat in meat and butter raises cholesterol and is one of the significant causes of heart disease.Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fellon and Mary Enig, is a smorgasbord of woefully outdated and potentially dangerous advice. For example, "If you cannot get your family to eat organ meats when served as such, there are plenty of ways to add them to their food without their knowledge... Poached brains can be chopped up and added to any ground meat dish, as can grated raw liver." Even if it were not so clearly known that animal products in general need to be strictly limited in the diet, common sense should tell us not to eat the brains of animals in light of what is known about Mad Cow disease and its human equivalent, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.
Nourishing Traditions is full of bad science and illogical reasoning, and its appeal is dependent on people's ignorance about nutrition. Fallon and Enig perpetuate long-held nutritional myths by referencing the same people who started the myths in the first place.
Nutrition is a complicated subject, and it takes familiarity with a comprehensive body of scientific studies and articles to devise recommendations to prevent disease and promote longevity. Science is not perfect, but evidence builds on prior studies, and ongoing research attempts to test each hypothesis and check validity in an unbiased manner. Today, we have a comprehensive body of knowledge with over 15,000 articles written since the 1950s documenting the link between a diet high in saturated fat and low in fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and beans and the increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
While Nourishing Traditions has over 200 references, many are antiquated, with poor observations. For the most part, the authors reference their own articles and those of other Weston A. Price Foundation authors. Only fourteen of the references are from peer-reviewed journals published in the last ten years, and for most of those fourteen, the authors misrepresented what was stated in the articles. By contract, my book Eat to Live contains over 1,000 medical references to peer-reviewed medical journals. (For the abstracts of some of the most respected references of modern nutritional science go to Dr. Fuhrman's website, drfuhrman.com for his article "Saturated Fat, Heart Disease, and Cancer" in Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times, July 2006)
Do-It-Yourself Metabolics for Meat Eaters
Why use good science to help design your diet when a handy $59 Internet questionnaire is available!
Honorary Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) board member and Internet health guru Joe Mercola, D.O, became the most public member of the WAPF contingency after the previous guru Stephen Byrnes died of a stroke at the age of 45.
Dr. Mercola claims that consuming pasteurized milk (instead of raw milk) causes autism, and that coconut oil kills viruses and is the secret to weight loss, detoxification, and the reversal of heart disease. (And he has been reprimanded by the FDA to cease making these fraudulent health claims about this coconut oil and another "health" product-chlorella.
Mercola's website advocates that people fill out a detailed questionnaire (which costs $59) to help him determine which of these "types" they fall into. Instead of using blood type, eye color, shoe size, date of birth of your first born, or other silliness that alternative health entrepreneurs use to decide how much meat is right for your health, Mercola simply asks questions such as: How do you feel when you eat meat? And Do you like dark meat of white meat? (This is like asking a smoker if he feels better after he smokes to determine how much smoking is good for his health.)
He divides people into three categories: protein type (meat lovers), carbo types (veggie and grain lovers), and mixed type (everyone else). Mercola claims that to feel great and avoid disease and obesity, you must know your unique type. Mercola does not think avoiding meat is a good idea for most people because their metabolic type indicates that red meat is needed and good for them. He explains that while the Atkins diet is good because of its recognition of the glycemic index of food, it is not as good as his diet, which takes into account your metabolic (self) typing.
Confusion of ideas
Mercola's views on diet and health fail Nutrition 101: too much science contradicts him. But not everything he says is incorrect. He correctly points out that most vegetarians may not have excellent health because of their overdependence on grains. The literature is abundant with evidence that demonstrates that the foods with the best correlation with longer life and resistance against later-life diseases are vegetables, beans, raw seeds, fruit, and raw nuts.
Notice that grains are not included on the list. Eliminating animal products and continuing the consumption of processed grain foods is not a recipe for health or longevity. The bottom line is most vegetarians are unhealthy: they eat too much processed food. Whole grains are not nutrient-rich foods. They can form a minor part of your diet, but when they are baked, fried, toasted, shot out of cannons or otherwise processed or adulterated, they become low-nutrient junk foods that are powerfully disease-promoting.
There is good science to back up Mercola's contention that some people are not going to get all of their nutritional needs met on a vegan diet and will need to add supplements to make their diet complete or even eat small amounts of animal products.
There are two very critical areas where Mercola departs from universally accepted science. First, if you add the large amounts of animal products he recommends (including red meat and butter)-and especially the large amounts he recommends for his "protein-type"-you will have a diet that powerfully promotes heart disease and cancer. There is no genetic "type" that has immunity from such a high-saturated fat, disease-causing diet.
All Americans, not just some, develop atherosclerosis when they eat a diet so high in animal products. Over 90% of Americans eventually develop atherosclerosis and hypertension from the low intake of unprocessed vegetable, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, and high intake of animals products. Diets like the ones Mercola recommends-especially if they include processed foods-also lead to premature death from heart attacks or stroke.
The second critical departure is that his metabolic typing questionnaire is not an accurate way to determine a person's nutritional needs. When he advises his "protein type" to eat a diet in which most calories are supplied by animal products, he is appealing to that person's food preferences and addictions. The more you crave something and the worse you feel when you stop consuming it, the more likely that you are addicted to it and that it is harming you, not helping. Encouraging people who are addicted to meat or other animal products to eat more of them will lead to even shorter life spans.
No need to be vegan
Keep in mind, I am not arguing that a person who eats no animal products (a vegan) will be healthier or will lead a longer life than one who eats small amounts of animal products (such as a small amount of fish or eggs). What I am pointing out s that as animal products increase in the diet (and natural plant foods are forced off the plate), the modern diseases that kill over 80 per cent of Americans (heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes) will occur in greater and greater likelihood in every genetic type.
My review of over 60,000 articles in the scientific literature supports the conclusion that if animal products are consumed they should constitute no more that 10% of total caloric intake. Remember, animal products are high in calories and very low in nutrients-per-calorie compared with vegetables. The higher animal product consumption compared to a vegetable-based diet, the lower the nutrient intake. The typical American gets 40% of total calories from animal products (those on the Zone and South Beach diets get 60%, and Adkins adherents get 80%). Mercola's high protein type diet is in the 60-80% range. Diets like these are extremely high in dangerous fats and extremely low in nutrients and phytonutrients.
Unscientific double talk
Mercola and other adherents of the "saturated fat is good for you" myth produce articles with supposedly scientific references. But the writers either quote the same bunch of people (each other) and ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or they distort what is said in legitimate studies in order to hold on to the myth that saturated fat is okay and not related to heart-disease.
These fiction writers all use the same distorted logic when they contend that the consumption of trans fats is responsible for heart attacks, not saturated fats. Trans fats have been processed to saturate their carbon bonds so they mimic saturated fats, but just because trans fats are bad or worse does not make saturated fats good.
Mercola tries to make his bad advice sound scientific. He states:
Some of you might be watching your weight and be rather hesitant to add butter into your diet. Have no fear. About 15% of fatty acids in butter are of the short and medium chain variety, which are NOT stored as fat in the body but are used by the vital organs for energy.
Of course, you have to buy the special butter that Mercola recommends, the "good quality" butter. In much the same way, he contends that you can eat meat and not increase your chances of disease by eating "grass fed" beef. These arguments remind me of a patient who told me that he wouldn't get lung cancer because he used "high quality" tobacco, grown without pesticides.
These laughable "good quality" exceptions can't withstand scientific scrutiny. To make these arguments you have to overlook all the data that show that it is not merely the barbecued meat or processed or commercial meats that are linked to heart attack and cancer, it is other important features that are present in grass-fed beef as well.
Colon cancer connections
Let's review just a few of the scientific studies on colon cancer. A study examining meat consumption over many years prior to the diagnosis of cancer illustrated that prolonged high consumption of red and processed meat increases (more than doubles) the risk of colon cancer. In this study, even two to three ounces of red meat per day increased risks significantly.1
Two other studies identify the mechanism by which red meat promotes colon cancer. Since red meat contains no fiber, it remains in the gut much longer than fiber-filled foods. The studies describe the biochemical effects of this slower transit time, including heightened exposure to red meat's nitrogenous metabolites. In other words, red meat's slower transit time in the bowel promotes prolonged exposure to these carcinogenic compounds (naturally occurring N-nitroso compounds) when a larger percentage of the diet is made of animal products rather than plant materials. Another important mechanism reported was the high haem content of red meat, because dietary haem increased cytolytic (cell-killing) activity and colonic epithelial proliferation, this explaining why red meat is more colon cancer promoting compared to fish or chicken.
Understanding the ingredients of a nutrient-sufficient diet is critical for the health seeker. Longevity and disease protection are the ultimate goals of dietary advice; but when you settle for second class advice, you doom yourself not only to a shorter life, but to a lower quality life-especially in your later years, as you suffer with medical problems that could have been avoided.
1. Chao A. Thun JT. Connell CJ. Et al. Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer JAMA. 2005;293:172-182.
2. Sesink AL, Termont DS, Kleibeuker JH, Van der Meer R. Red meat and colon cancer: dietary haem-induced colonic cytotoxicity and epithelial hyperproliferation are inhibited by calcium. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(10):1653-9. Hughes R; Cross AJ, Pollock JR, Bingham S. Dose-dependent effect of dietary meat on endogenous colonic N-nitrosation. Carcinogenesis 2001; 22(1):199-202
Do primitive peoples really live longer?
No. For example, Innuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer that the overall Canadian population. 1 Similar statistics are available for the high meat-consuming Maasai in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world. Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years for men. African researchers report that historically Maasai rarely lived beyond age 60. Adult mortality figures on the Kenyan Maasai show that they have a 50% chance of dying before the age of 59.2
We now know that greatly increasing the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and raw nuts and seeds (and greatly decreasing the consumption of animal products) offers profound increased longevity potential, due in large part to the broad symphony of life-extending phytochemical nutrients that a vegetable-based diet contains. By taking advantage of the year-round availability of high-quality plant foods, we have a unique opportunity to live both healthier and longer than ever before in human history.
1. Iburg KM, Brennum-Hansen H, Bjerregaard P. Health expectancy in Greenland. Scan J Public Health 2001;29(1):5-12
2. http://www.kenya.za.net/maasai-cycles-of-life.html, http://www.who.int/countries/ken/en/
Legitimate Concerns for Vegans
There are some plausible reasons why a person might think that people should include some animal products in their diets. Even if they did not kill and eat animals, small insect metter and bacteria were always present on wild food. Modern washed and sanitized food even makes a natural, whole-foods vegan diet incomplete. There are three weaknesses of a vegan diet:
- Plant foods contain no vitamin B12 (which all vegan should take).
- Some vegans have a need for more taurine (or other amino acids) and may not get optimal amounts with a vegan diet. A blood test can be checked to assure adequacy.
- Some vegans may not produce ideal levels of DHA fat from the conversion of short-chain omega-3 fats found in such foods as flax and walnuts. I advocate that people who do not eat fish should supplement with DHA or get a blood test to assure adequacy.These are three areas of potential deficiency on a vegan diet are easily remedied by taking supplements. Obviously, there are loads of advantages of a vegetarian diet that also should be considered, but that is not the topic for this article. A poorly designed vegetarian diet or one that is not supplemented properly with vitamin B12 and vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) can be dangerous. However, these considerations cannot be used as an argument to justify dietary recommendations
that include lots of high-saturated fat animal products.
I advocate a diet rich in micronutrients, especially antioxidants and phytochemicals, and the largest percentage of everyone's diet must be from unrefined plant foods-no matter what your genetic "type."
In order to do this, you must understand the nutrient density of all foods and eat more foods higher on the nutrient density scale. (Animal products are very low in nutrient density.) This nutrient per calorie density principle is what my book Eat to Live is about.
Joel Fuhrman MD is a board-certified family physician who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. Author of Eat To Live. The above article comes from Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times Newsletter, which is available at www.drfuhrman.com.