Multivitamins are NOT a “waste of money”! Beware of flawed studies and biased conclusions!!!

Multivitamins are in the news again with the publication of 3 studies in the 12/17/13 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine purporting to show that multivitamins do not prevent cognitive decline in men, do not reduce risk of heart disease in those who already have it and do not prevent heart disease and cancer, along with an accompanying editorial. These articles were reported on with headlines like “New Study: Daily Multivitamins, Supplements ‘A Waste Of Money.’” A sharply-worded editorial in the same issue titled
“Enough is enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral
Supplements,” stated “We believe that the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”

However, as many researchers have stated, the case is FAR FROM CLOSED, in fact there is very good reason to believe, based on the preponderance of evidence, that it is wise for nearly every adult to take a good-quality multivitamin. This essay explains why.

Before doing so I would like to give some context.
I am a Family Practitioner certified by the American Board of Holistic Medicine who has been practicing for over 25 years in Soquel, CA. I have a special interest in nutrition and preventive medicine. In my spare time I volunteer on HealthTap, a website where people can ask questions of doctors. HealthTap gave me an award as the Top Family Physician in California in 2011 and Awarded me as the “Top Holistic Medical Practitioner” in the entire US in both the Winter and Summer of 2013. My fellow physicians on HealthTap have voted me to be the leading expert (among the 53,000+ physicians on HealthTap) in the U.S on Lyme Disease, Supplements, Herbal Supplements, Vitamin Deficiency, Vegetarian Diet and Vitamin C, as well as the 2nd leading expert on Vitamin D and Homeopathy. I invite readers here to visit me on HealthTap, where you can see my answers to hundreds of questions, at

https://www.healthtap.com/#experts/10003096/feed

While I enjoy participating on HealthTap, I was recently contacted by a fellow physician there who is quite upset that I still counsel people to take multivitamins despite the recent studies. I am thus writing this in response to him and the many others who have been fooled by the recent studies.

Before discussing the studies in the 12/17/13 Annals I want to discuss why it makes sense to take multivitamins. But one thing that I want to make very clear is, however beneficial vitamins may be, taking vitamins is never a good substitute for a healthy diet. It is always best to get our nutrients from food whenever possible. Given a choice between someone eating a healthy diet and taking no supplements and someone who eats an unhealthy diet (rich in junk food/fast food/GMO’s/sugar etc.) who takes hundreds of dollars of supplements I would say the person with no supplements but a healthy diet will likely experience far better health. But judicious use of supplements in addition to a healthy diet is the best choice for everyone.

One of the greatest reasons it is wise to take supplements is that most people do not have a particularly healthy diet. For example, there is a large body of evidence that eating Genetically Modified Food is unhealthy, but most of us eat it every day. The only way to be sure to avoid these hazardous “foods” is to eat only organic foods and only eat at restaurants that use only organic ingredients. I would estimate that less than 1% of the population does this (and, health-conscious as I am, I am not among that group). For a more detailed discussion of the hazards of eating GMO food see my essay “Why Eat Organic Food?’ at

https://drrandybaker.com/2013/04/22/organic-food-diet/

Those who say that vitamins are a waste of money seem to have the delusion that most people get adequate vitamins from their diets, so let’s examine the average American diet. The Standard American Diet (appropriately abbreviated SAD) is one of the main causes of our epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and other chronic degenerative diseases. Some frightening facts about the Standard American Diet: Only 7% of calories consumed by Americans are from fruits and vegetables. Half of the vegetables are potatoes and half of those are chips and fries. 23% of the calories consumed by Americans are from white sugar and about 20% from white flour. (see
http://alaskaveg.org/SpookyFacts/SpookyFacts.pdf ).

Authorities have enumerated the DRI or Dietary Reference Intake levels for vitamins and minerals. This is similar to the RDA or Recommended Dietary Allowance. While many authorities feel that getting the DRI’s of nutrients is adequate for good health, it can be argued that they are far from perfect. The DRI’s are generally the level that will prevent an otherwise healthy person from having gross deficiency symptoms but do not apply to people who are ill, do not take into account the wide range of genetic variation of the population and do not reflect the amount of a nutrient that supplies optimal health. There are many cases where doses of vitamins and minerals far above the DRI’s have been shown to have therapeutic benefits. For a further discussion of DRI’s see

http://www.diet.com/g/dietary-reference-intakes

So, given that the DRI’s represent the minimum most people need for health, let’s look at how many Americans get the DRI’s of various nutrients from their diets.The source of this information is at

http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=11043

According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, only 24.9% of Americans get the DRI of Folate (which appears to lower risk of heart disease and cancer), only 14.1% get the DRI of Vit. E, 27.1% get the DRI of Calcium, 32% for Magnesium, 45.3 % for Vit A, 51.7% for Vit C, 58% for Zinc, 64.7% for B6, 65.7% for Iron, 69.3% for Copper, 70.1% for B12, 71.7 % for Vit B1. You can see the whole list at

http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=11043

In summary, over 2/3 of Americans are deficient in Folate, Vitamin E, Calcium & Magnesium and over 1/3 are deficient in Vitamins A, C and B6 as well as Zinc and Iron. Thus, these deficiencies are widespread and can have serious long-term consequences. Vitamin D deficiency, not measured by the USDA, is also extremely widespread, probably affecting most Americans who do not take at least 1000 iu/day in fall and winter months.

In 2002 the American Medical Association released a groundbreaking position paper published in the JAMA titled “Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults”
(http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=195039)
Quoting from this review  “In the absence of specific predisposing conditions, a usual North American diet is sufficient to prevent overt vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy, pellagra, and beriberi. However, insufficient vitamin intake is apparently a cause of chronic diseases. Recent evidence has shown that suboptimal levels of vitamins, even well above those causing deficiency syndromes, are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. A large proportion of the general population is apparently at increased risk for this reason…

We recommend that all adults take one multivitamin daily. This practice is justified mainly by the known and suspected benefits of supplemental folate and vitamins B12, B6, and D in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis and because multivitamins at that dose are safe and inexpensive.”

Now let’s examine the recent studies that lead some to conclude that multivitamins are “a waste of money.” Many of these conclusions are based on the Physician’s Health Study. This same study was in the news in Nov. of 2012 when it was claimed that this study showed multivitamins don’t prevent cardiovascular disease in men. The current conclusion from the same study is that multivitamins don’t prevent cognitive decline in men as they age.
I analyzed this same study in 11/12- see

https://drrandybaker.com/2012/11/11/vitamins-really-do-prevent-heart-disease-beware-of-bad-studies/

The criticisms I had then are the same I have now. The first thing to realize is that not all multivitamins are created equal. I will mostly quote much of my previous essay with a few minor changes.

It took quite a bit of searching to discover what the multivitamin used in this study was, as it is buried in the fine print. The multivitamin used was Centrum Silver. This is considered a perfectly adequate multivitamin by those with only cursory knowledge of nutrition, those who believe that the RDA is perfectly adequate, but for doctors who are knowledgeable about nutritional medicine it leaves a great deal to be desired.

Below is a list of the nutrients in the multivitamin used in this study:

Vitamin or Mineral Amount
Vitamin A (IU) 5000*
Vitamin C (mg) 60
Vitamin D (IU) 400
Vitamin E (IU) 45
Vitamin K (mcg) 10
Thiamin (mg) 1.5
Riboflavin (mg) 1.7
Niacin (mg) 20
Vitamin B6 (mg) 3
Folic Acid (mcg) 400
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 25
Biotin (mcg) 30
Pantothenic Acid (mg) 10
Calcium (mg) 200
Iron (mg) 4
Phosphorus (mg) 48
Iodine (mcg) 150
Magnesium (mg) 100
Zinc (mg) 15
Selenium (mcg) 20
Copper (mg) 2
Manganese (mg) 3.5
Chromium (mcg) 130
Molybdenum (mcg) 160
Chloride (mg) 72.6
Potassium (mg) 80
Boron (mcg) 150
Nickel (mcg) 5
Vanadium (mcg) 10

More detail as to the form of the vitamins/minerals and excipients is here: calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, dibasic calcium phosphate, magnesium oxide, ascorbic acid, microcrystalline cellulose, dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, pregelatinized cornstarch and modified food starch.

Centrum Silver contains less than 2 percent of the following ingredients: acacia, ascorbyl palmitate, beta-carotene, bht, biotin, boric acid, calcium pantothenate, calcium stearate, cholecalciferol, chromium picolinate, citric acid, cornstarch, crospovidone, cupric sulfate and cyanocobalamin. More ingredients include FD&C blue no. 2 aluminum lake, FD&C red no. 40 aluminum lake and FD&C yellow no. 6 aluminum lake.

Further, Centrum Silver contains folic acid, gelatin, hydrogenated palm oil, hypromellose, lutein, lycopene, manganese sulfate, medium-chain triglycerides, niacinamide, nickelous sulfate, phytonadione, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, potassium iodide and pyridoxine hydrochloride. It also contains riboflavin, silicon dioxide, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, sodium borate, sodium citrate, sodium metavanadate, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, sorbic acid, sucrose, talc, thiamine mononitrate, titanium dioxide, tocopherols, tribasic calcium phosphate, vitamin A acetate and zinc oxide.

The amount of Vitamin C used in the study was 60 mg a day. I believe everyone should take a minimum of 500 mg twice a day to get the benefits of Vitamin C, and many people may need to take 5-10,000 mg a day in divided doses for optimal health. Taking a form of vitamin C known as  lypsospheric C is likely to be much more effective due to enhanced absorption, in which case 1,000 mg/day may be adequate for most. See http://www.livonlabs.com/
For more on the benefits of Vit C see

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/ &

http://www.drpasswater.com/levy.htm

The 60 mg of Vitamin C used in this study likely has virtually no benefit in preventing heart disease (and no benefit in preventing cognitive decline).

Another key nutrient in preventing cardiovascular disease is Vitamin E. Everyone knows that cholesterol plays a role in heart disease. However, the role is a bit more complex than commonly thought. Cholesterol only causes problems if the wall of the arteries are damaged (via inflammation/oxidative stress in situations where Vitamin C levels are suboptimal) and if LDL cholesterol is oxidized, in which case the LDL will bind to or enter the arterial wall. Vitamin E prevents LDL cholesterol from being oxidized and also protects the arterial wall from oxidative stress.

This study used 45 IU of Vitamin E in the form of dl-alpha tocopherol, a synthetic form of Vit E that has been shown to be toxic in several previous research studies. Unlike synthetic E, which contains the synthetic chemical l-alpha tocopherol, natural E has only d-alpha
tocopherol as well as delta, beta and gamma tocopherols. Doses of 400-1200 units of natural E with mixed tocopherols have been proven to be highly effective in preventing heart disease. 45 units of synthetic E may do more harm than good! Taking only d-alpha tocopherol can lower our levels of gamma tocopherol which can have adverse health consequences, so even supplements with “natural E” that do not have mixed tocopherols may be harmful.

See http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=557 for more on the research proving that Vit. E prevents heart disease.

Another key factor in the cause of heart disease (and preventing cognitive decline) is homocysteine, a toxic metabolite of the amino acid methionine. Vitamins B6, B12 and Folate have been shown to significantly lower homocysteine, reducing risk of both heart attack and stroke. The amount of B6 used in this study was a woefully inadequate 3 mg. A much more reasonable dose to reduce homocysteine is 25-50 mg. Many people may benefit even more from pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the activated form of B6. The form of B12 used in this study was 25 mcg of the cyanocobalamin form of B12. B12 is poorly absorbed by many, and cyanocobalamin is the least beneficial of the 3 common forms of B12. At least 1000 mcg of the methycobalamin form is advisable. While the 400 mcg dose of folic acid used is relatively reasonable, about one-half of the population has genetic difficulties converting folic acid to the active form, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF). There is also evidence that folic acid, a synthetic chemical, may increase risk of certain cancers including breast, prostate and colon. I thus advise taking at least 800 mcg of L-5-MTHF to prevent heart disease and stroke.

For more on homocysteine and heart health see

http://www.lef.org/protocols/heart_circulatory/homocysteine_reduction_01.htm

Vitamin D has also been shown to dramatically lower heart disease risk. A recent study done in Denmark involving more than 10,000 people found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D experienced a 64 percent higher risk of heart attack, 57 percent higher risk of early death, 40 percent higher risk of ischemic heart disease and at least an 81 percent higher risk of death from heart disease. See

http://www.naturalnews.com/037372_vitamin_D_deficiency_cardiovascular_disease_risk.html

This study used the RDA of 400 IU of Vitamin D. However, to achieve optimal levels of  45-80 nanomoles per liter most adults need to take 5000-8000 IU/day of Vitamin D3.
It is also wise to take Vitamin K along with Vit. D for synergistic benefits.

Minerals can also be very helpful. Magnesium deficiency is extremely common and taking Magnesium has many proven benefits but Centrum Silver has only 100 mg of magnesium oxide, which is very poorly absorbed (approximately 4% absorbed). At least 200 mg of a well-absorbed form like taurate, citrate or glycinate would undoubtedly help more.

Selenium is also a useful antioxidant but the 20 mcg of sodium selenate is not nearly as beneficial as 100 mcg of selenium monomethionine might. 15 mg of zinc is reasonable but the zinc oxide form is, once again, relatively poorly absorbed compared to other forms of zinc.

Centrum silver also contains 4 mg of iron. This is, fortunately, a tiny amount, as iron is a pro-oxidant that is best avoided by all men and post-menopausal women as the evidence suggests that iron actually increases cardiovascular risk!

Added to the inadequacies of the quantities and forms of the nutrients in Centrum Silver, it also contains FD&C blue no. 2 aluminum lake, FD&C red no. 40 aluminum lake and FD&C yellow no. 6 aluminum lake, hydrogenated palm oil, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium benzoate, pregelatinized cornstarch (undoubtedly of GMO origin), sucrose, talc and titanium dioxide, ingredients that I strongly recommend avoiding. Hydrogenated oils are among the greatest known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Aluminum in particular has been linked by many studies to Alzheimer’s disease. Giving a pill with 3 different aluminum-containing chemicals in an attempt to prevent cognitive decline is questionable at best!

As for the study “Oral High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After
Myocardial Infarction: A Randomized Trial” I have not yet learned the exact doses and vitamins used in this study but know that they gave only 100 iu of Vit D when, as discussed above, 5000 iu would be a much more reasonable dose. They also only gave 100 mcg of Vit B12, an inadequate dose for many due to its poor absorption. They also only gave the alpha tocopherol form of Vit E (I don’t know if it was natural or synthetic) and that is known to reduce levels of gamma tocopherol, which is probably more important in reducing cardiovascular disease. A study using mixed tocopherols would be more likely to show benefits.

Other flaws in this study include the fact that an astounding 46% of subjects discontinued the multivitamins during the study, making any conclusions questionable. Also, the group taking multivitamins had a higher rate of diabetes (which dramatically increases heart disease risk) than the control group, tending to bias the study against the treatment group.

In this study all subjects had already suffered a heart attack. They were only given vitamins for an average of 31 months (2 1/2 years). It is much easier to prevent than reverse heart disease and one might expect it would take a longer time to see clear benefits. Despite all of the above limitations, the group receiving vitamins had an 11% reduction in their primary endpoint (composite of time to death from any cause, heart attack, stroke, coronary revascularization or hospitalization for angina). This was not considered statistically significant but that may be a product of the size of the study and does not mean that multivitamins may not have been beneficial!

The third study in the 12/17 Annals was a review study titled “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: An Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force” which is available here:

http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1767855

It concluded “Limited evidence supports any benefit from vitamin and mineral supplementation for the prevention of cancer or CVD. Two trials found a small, borderline-significant benefit from multivitamin supplements on cancer in men only and no effect on CVD.”
One of those 2 trials that found significant benefit for multivitamins preventing cancer is the same Physician’s Health Study using Centrum Silver that found little benefit in preventing cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. That study showed an 8% reduction in cancer incidence and 12% reduction in cancer death after 11.2 years of follow-up. If there can be such good results using such a poor quality multivitamin I would expect much more impressive results with a good-quality multivitamin.

Another fine doctor who is also a friend and mentor, Alan Gaby, recently wrote an editorial in the Huffington Post commenting on the Annals editorial. His article is much more succinct than this one and he makes several good points that I have not because I want everyone reading this to read his fine article at

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-r-gaby-md/vitamins-study_b_4481739.html

(PS in the few hours since I’ve posted this article WordPress tells me 75 people have read this post so far and only 1 of them has clicked on the link to Dr. Gaby’s article. It is REALLY worth taking a gander at it!)

Quoting Dr. Gaby “Multivitamin-mineral preparations have been shown in published research to have a wide range of benefits, including increasing energy and stress tolerance, improving pregnancy outcomes, decreasing infection rates, slowing bone loss, and improving cognitive function in schoolchildren. Some studies have also demonstrated protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer, although the evidence is conflicting. Furthermore, various individual nutrients or combinations of nutrients have been used successfully for the prevention and treatment of many other health conditions, including migraines, congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney stones, diabetes, and depression.”

For another extensive critique of the Annals studies and editorial see
http://www.lifeextension.com/Featured-Articles/2013/12/Flawed-Research-Used-to-Attack-Multivitamin-Supplements/Page-01
That article also discusses many studies that do show benefits of vitamin therapy.

A meta-analysis published in the Feb.-March 2013 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, titled “Effects of Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation on Stress, Mild Psychiatric Symptoms, and Mood in Nonclinical Samples: A Meta-Analysis” analyzed eight double-blind,placebo-controlled studies on the effects of multivitamins on aspects of mood in 1,292 men and women. Quoting http://bit.ly/1lu4AOU “When the research duo looked at trials that examined stress, supplemented subjects had a 65 percent lower risk of perceived stress compared to those that received a placebo. The analysis uncovered a 70 percent lower risk of mild psychiatric symptoms, a 68 percent lower risk of anxiety, a 73 percent reduction in experiencing fatigue and a 77.25 percent lower risk of confusion among supplemented participants. Happiness and decreased hostility levels were also likelier among supplement users in analyses of studies that analyzed these factors. Supplements that contained high doses of B vitamins tended to elicit greater benefits than those that had lower amounts.

“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the diets of the samples in the studies evaluated did not provide optimal nutrition,” the authors write. “The fact that there was a greater response to the supplements that offered doses higher than those suggested by RDAs calls into question whether RDAs or dietary reference values (DRVs) provide intakes that adequately meet the needs of the brain. The present findings also call into question the existing wisdom that, in industrialized societies, the consumption of diets containing sufficient energy and protein will naturally provide sufficient levels of micronutrients.”

“Multivitamin/mineral supplementation has a beneficial effect on many aspects of mood and mild psychiatric symptoms in healthy populations,” they conclude.

I find this study particularly significant because as a holistic practitioner it is clear that stress and anxiety are among the greatest and most common contributors to physical health problems, so any treatment that reduces stress and anxiety is certain to benefit our physical as well as our emotional health.

I could go on and on about the well-conducted studies that do show significant benefits of multivitamins but will limit myself to one more. This study,”Reduction in the Frequency of Arrhythmic Episodes in Patients with Paroxysmal Atrial Arrhythmia with a Vitamin/Essential Nutrient Supplementation Program,” was authored by Matthias Rath, M.D., Tatiana Kalinovsky, MSRN, and Aleksandra Niedzwiecki, Ph.D. and published in the Nov. 2005 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association. This double-blind placebo-controlled study showed very impressive reductions in cardiac arrhythmias in patients who took a multivitamin vs. a placebo. For a detailed report on this study see http://www4.dr-rath-foundation.org/pdf-files/arrhythmia_brochure.pdf

So is it reasonable to conclude that “the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”?

I believe it is reasonable to conclude that incredibly inadequate/subtherapeutic doses of vitamins in poorly absorbed forms mixed with a variety of toxic excipients are mostly ineffective. I could have told you that before this study. It is also reasonable to conclude that the authors of the quoted editorial are either extremely misinformed and/or incredibly biased against supplements.
But, unfortunately, the message the general public is receiving is that “Vitamins are a waste of money” This is, as demonstrated, TOTALLY WRONG and I am concerned that the blind acceptance/uncritical reporting of studies like this will lead many people who are taking one of the many high quality multivitamins that do have reasonable doses and forms of these nutrients to stop taking them out of the mistaken belief that they have been shown to be ineffective. This would be tragic.

Addendum 1:
In Jan. 2018 a study found that a high dose multivitamin significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in men not taking statins.
See Effect of high-dose oral multivitamins and minerals in participants not treated with statins in the randomized Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT)

Addendum 2: If you have concluded that it is wise to take a multivitamin, you may wonder which one to take, as clearly some are MUCH better than others. There are many good choices and no single one is best for everyone. I advise looking for one that contains the L-5-MTHF form of folate as at least 40% of the population has difficulty converting folic acid to folate. I also advise choosing one that has the methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin forms of Vitamin B12 rather than the cyanocobalamin form. Ideally it should have relatively well-abosrbed forms of minerals. For example, if it has magnesium oxide I consider that a sign of a poor-quality vitamin, whereas if it has magnesium glycinate, taurate, malate, citrate or aspartate it is better quality. The best have natural Vitamin E with mixed tocopherols. I also like vitamins that have auxiliary nutrients such as Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Lutein etc. I personally prefer capsules, are GMO-free and like those with minimal fillers, binders and excipients.
Some of my favorite multivitamins are UltraNutrient by Pure Encapsulations, Basic Nutrients (and other multivitamins) from Thorne Research and DFH Complete from Designs For Health. My favorite that is designed to take just one a day of is O.N.E. Multivitamin from Pure Encapsulations, though to make room for all the other important nutrients in it, it does not have calcium nor magnesium.
Some protein powders such as UltraClear by Thorne also contain all the ingredients of a multivitamin combined with protein and other nutrients.

WHY EAT ORGANIC FOOD?

This essay is part of my ongoing series of essays on Diet and Health but I thought I would also give it its own section here so it does not get lost in the shuffle!

ORGANIC FOOD DIET

A common concern regarding diet is the importance of choosing organic food. While I am a strong supporter of organic food, it is significantly more expensive than conventional food. Also, if one eats at restaurants many of them do not have organic food (or only some of their food is organic). So a common question is “Is organic food really worth the extra expense? What is the risk of eating non-organic foods?” And, like everything related to the complex realm of diet and health, the answers are not black and white.

Many people question whether there are even any benefits to eating organic foods. Indeed, in Sept. of 2012 the media was awash with reports of a major study at Stanford University that claimed that organic food was not substantially different than factory-farm foods in terms of its nutritional content. These results are actually highly questionable (see below) but even if true, totally ignores the main reason most people originally have chosen organic foods, which is to minimize exposure to pesticides. These days, however, I feel there is a much more important reason to eat mostly organic foods, which is to avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods.

While natural substances like sulphur were used as pesticides since about 2500 BC, pretty much all food grown would have met modern organic standards until after World War II, when DDT use became widespread. In the 1960’s DDT was found to cause environmental havoc as it spread through the food chain and its use in the US was curtailed, but by then many other pesticides had come into widespread use.

Over 600 registered pesticides are in use in the US currently. In 2007 877 million pounds of pesticides were used in the US. Also, 150 million pounds of the toxic herbicide Round-Up are used annually in the US. Significant amounts of pesticide and herbicide residues are found in many non-organic foods.

Those who choose organic generally believe that organic foods contain no pesticides, except, perhaps, trace amounts that might have drifted from adjacent fields being sprayed. However, as my favorite nutrition blogger Denise Minger writes in her post The Lowdown on Organic Food,
unknown to most, organic farmers can and do often use pesticides- it is just that the pesticides they use are natural “organic” pesticides like pyrethrum and rotenone. Just because something is natural does not mean it is non-toxic- consider mercury, cyanide and death-cap mushrooms as natural substances that are harmful. Some of the natural pesticides used in growing organic foods can be more hazardous than many of the synthetic pesticides used, some of which break down rapidly and are gone by the time you eat the food!

See http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/04/30/the-lowdown-on-organic-foo/#more-175

Despite the findings of the “Stanford Study” ( “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review”, Crystal Smith-Spangler et. al. Annals of Internal Medicine, 9/4/2012, http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685 ) that purported to find no significant difference in the nutritional content of organic vs. conventional foods, a similar large-scale review of the literature, “Agroecosystem management and nutritional quality of plant foods: The case of organic fruits and vegetables” by Kirsten Brandt et. al. published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 4/29/11 ( http://www.ncl.ac.uk/afrd/research/publication/168871) found a significantly higher level of beneficial nutrients such as flavanols. Quoting from Lynne Peeples’s article “Stanford Organics Study: Have Faulty Methods, Political Motivations Threatened Kids’ Health?” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/stanford-organics-study-public-health_n_1880441.html) “Brandt wondered how the Stanford team, led by faculty from the School of Medicine and Center for Health Policy, could have found no difference in total flavanols between organic and conventional foods when her own results showed organics carried far more of the heart-healthy nutrient. Upon further inspection, she noticed that the team had actually calculated the difference in total flavonols, a different nutrient, and reported the result with the swap of an “o” for an “a”.

Many of the other nutrients Brandt analyzed and found to be greater in organics were also missing altogether from the new review, she noted. “The choices they made don’t seem to make sense — they seemed to include ones where the difference was smallest to begin with,” said Brandt. “I’d like to know why they chose these and not others that were just as well-described in the same papers they included.””
Quoting Ms. Peeples more, “Further obscured in the review…are organics’ more important selling points. Organic farming methods encourage soil and water conservation and reduce contamination of air, water, food and human bodies by avoiding antibiotics, hormones, synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Genetic engineering, under increased scrutiny by health experts, is also prohibited for organics.
While the researchers didn’t address many of these health concerns, they did note lower levels of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in organic compared to conventional foods. But critics suggest that these points were glossed over or manipulated.
For example, the authors reported that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination compared to conventional fruits and vegetables. Not included in the publicly-available abstract or press release was the fact that pesticide residues were found in 7 percent of organics and 38 percent of conventional foods. In relative terms, that’s a more impressive 81 percent difference.
“Come on, that’s simple math” ”
For more critiques of the Stanford Study see http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/that-flawed-stanford-study/ and http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/five-ways-stanford-study-underestimates-organic-food
Another fascinating though completely unrelated study, done as a 10th Grade Science project, gives strong evidence that an organic diet increases longevity: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/is-organic-better-ask-a-fruit-fly/

Another recent meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies by researchers at Newcastle University University in England published in Sept. of 2014 concluded “the concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods, with those of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins being an estimated 19%, 69%,28%,26%,50% and 51% higher, respectively. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including CVD and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers…Additionally, the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal Cd (cadmium).”
See http://earthweareone.com/scientists-reviewed-343-studies-to-see-if-organic-food-is-better-for-you-heres-what-they-found-out-2/

The bottom line is that Organic Foods are more nutritious and have an 81% lower chance of having measurable pesticide residues and even when such residues are present are likely to have much fewer pesticides. Organic meats are less likely to harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Organic farming is also, of course, much better for our environment and for the health of farmworkers.
Not all foods are equally prone to pesticide contamination. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods with the highest level of pesticide contamination, as well as the “Clean Fifteen” that tend to have few if any residues. The worst of the Dirty Dozen are Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches & Spinach. The best are Onions, Pineapple, Avocado and Cabbage. For those who can not afford to eat exclusively organic (or for when one is eating at restaurants) this list can be a helpful guide. See http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

An excellent recent article on the science of how even tiny amounts of pesticide residues well below the levels considered “safe” by the EPA may still cause very serious health problems is “Stealth Attack” in the 10/12 issue of Psychology Today and also here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201208/stealth-attack

THE HAZARDS OF GENETICALLY-MODIFIED FOODS (GMO’S)

While I believe it is optimal to eat organically to avoid pesticide exposures both personally and for our planet, these days a far more compelling reason to choose organic produce is to avoid Genetically-Modified Foods, also known as GMO’s. GMO foods have permeated the American food supply. Over 80% of processed foods contain GMO’s. The most common GMO foods are corn, soy, sugar beets, canola & papaya- see http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
Most processed foods contain GMO corn, soy or canola oil- the corn and soy is often present as vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, dextrose, soy sauce, lecithin etc.- even “natural flavoring.” Of great concern to me is that most animal-derived foods- meats, dairy and eggs, comes from animals fed GMO corn and soy. I don’t want to eat cheese from cows fed GMO corn or eggs from chickens fed GMO soy. I don’t care if a chicken is “All-Natural Free-Range Hormone & Antibiotic Free.” If it is not certified organic it has almost certainly been raised on a diet of GMO corn and/or soy! There is an old saying, “You are what you eat.” In the case of dairy, eggs and meats, you are also the food that what you eat eats! I don’t believe that an animal fed GMO corn and soy can possibly be healthy and I certainly don’t want to eat it (or its products like eggs and dairy).

Unfortunately, most restaurant food is cooked with GMO oils.
Thus, the only way to avoid GMO’s is to choose whole foods that are not yet genetically modified, choose foods such as corn, soy and papayas that are certified organic and choose processed foods that are organic or labelled as GMO-free and, besides wild fish, to only have meats, dairy & eggs that are certified organic.
So, given how much an effort it takes to avoid GMO’s, why should we make the effort? Let’s examine the most commonly eaten GMO food, corn. In his superb book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan discusses evidence that most of the carbon in our bodies ultimately comes from corn, either from eating corn directly, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, or from eating dairy, eggs & meats fed on corn. The way corn is genetically modified is by inserting a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a chemical called Bt-toxin. Bt-toxin is a pesticide; when certain insects eat Bt-toxin it breaks open their stomachs and kills them.
Think about this- normally pesticides are sprayed onto plants. If we are lucky only traces of it remain and perhaps some of the residues can be washed off, but not in this case. Each ear of corn has been turned into a pesticide factory. Pesticides permeate the entire plant; there is no removing them. Thus, it would be nice if there was evidence that Bt toxin was safe for human consumption. Such evidence does not exist. Monsanto claimed that the Bt toxin would be completely destroyed by the human digestive system. However, research in 2011 found that Bt toxin can be found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women and in the umbilical cord blood of 80% of their babies.
Incredibly, there have not been any safety studies done on this powerful toxin that now permeates our food supply, but animal studies show it can trigger allergies and autoimmune disease. See http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/06/dangerous-toxins-from-gmo-foods.aspx for a more thorough discussion. A  recent study found that Bt toxin may cause anemia and be a cause of leukemia. See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/new-study-links-gmo-food-leukemia

For more on the animal studies demonstrating the hazards of ingesting GMO’s see this position paper by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine see http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

and this recent assessment by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility: http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/no-scientific-consensus-on-gmo-safety/

Here is an article from 9/24/14 by Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada. Part of his job was to address public groups to assure them that GMO foods were safe. Quoting his essay, “I have in the last 10 years changed my position. I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs and published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.

I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.”

http://earthweareone.com/former-pro-gmo-scientist-speaks-out-on-the-real-dangers-of-genetically-engineered-food/

Here is a link to the second edition of GMO Myths and Truths, co-authored by genetic engineers Dr John Fagan and Dr Michael Antoniou and researcher Claire Robinson, released on 19 May 2014 as a free online download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source:

http://earthopensource.org/earth-open-source-reports/gmo-myths-and-truths-2nd-edition/

THE HAZARDS of ROUNDUP

The other main food source of GMO’s is soy, which  has been modified to be “Roundup Ready.” Other crops that have been genetically modified to be “Roundup Ready” include corn, sugarbeets and canola. Roundup is a powerful herbicide manufactured by Monsanto. GMO soy is modified so that huge amounts of Roundup, which would otherwise kill the plant, won’t affect it. However, the resultant crop contains large residues of Roundup. The “active ingredient” in Roundup, Glyphosate, has been shown to cause DNA damage, endocrine disruption and cell death at levels that are legal in our food (see http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Roundup-Weed-Killer-Toxicity.aspx#axzz2REHtZpu6 ). There is also evidence that the glyphosate in Roundup kills much of our friendly gut flora which can create many adverse consequences- see http://www.naturalhealth365.com/dangerous_chemicals/roundup.html
Glyphosate is also dramatically reduces the mineral content of plants sprayed with it- see http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/10/dr-don-huber-interview-part-1.aspx
According to this review “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases” published 5/13 in the journal Entropy, Glyphosate disrupts Cytochrome P450 and the “Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders,obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.” (see http://www.scribd.com/doc/136964468/New-GMO-Review-Links-Roundup-Glyphosate-to-Diabetes-Autism-Infertility-and-Cancer ). However, science is not black and white but often controversial, so I will also link this article that is highly critical of the aforementioned review: http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/05/04/roundup-and-gut-bacteria/

Recent research shows that one of the “inactive ingredients,” POE-15, may be much more toxic than Glyphosate. See http://www.sott.net/article/260165-New-Study-Roundup-more-toxic-than-officially-declared

It has been reported that the majority of conventionally-grown wheat (that is, virtually all wheat that is not certified organic) is drenched with Roundup to kill the wheat plants prior to harvesting. Thus, the huge number of people who have discovered that they feel worse when they eat wheat and attribute their problems to gluten sensitivity may actually be feeling worse due to the Roundup residues in conventional wheat! See

http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/real-reason-for-toxic-wheat-its-not-gluten/

However, there are two (or more) sides to every story and shortly after the above story went viral online, a rebuttal appeared claiming that most wheat in the US is not treated with Roundup prior to harvest (though it admits a portion of it is).
While this column minimizes the toxicity of Roundup by ignoring the case against it, it does seem to make valid points about treatment with Roundup being less common than claimed by some. Still, I advise choosing organic wheat when possible to minimize the possibility of contamination by Roundup.
See

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-dewey-rohrich/the-truth-about-toxic-wheat_b_6180498.html

for more on this important concern.

SUMMING UP

There are NO research studies demonstrating that GMO foods are safe for humans to eat. ZERO. NONE AT ALL.

However, there are many quality studies on the effects of GMO foods on the health of animals that consume them. Quoting http://www.globalresearch.ca/potential-health-hazards-of-genetically-engineered-foods/8148, “independent studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshaped cell structures in the liver, pancreas and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed organs, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates and higher offspring mortality as well.”
Here is another well-written article on the hazards of GMO foods: “Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers” : http://earthopensource.org/index.php/news/60-why-genetically-engineered-food-is-dangerous-new-report-by-genetic-engineers

61 countries including the European Union, Russia, China, Brazil and Australia require the labeling of GM foods (see http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/976/ge-food-labeling/international-labeling-laws)

In a March  2013 survey, 82% of the American public think GMO foods should be labeled while only 9% say they should not (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/gmo-poll_n_2807595.html ). It would seem that in a democracy this wish would be honored, but Monsanto has an undue influence on government agencies through lobbying and having many of their former executives now put in charge of regulating Monsanto! See http://openyoureyessheeple.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/monsantos-government-ties/
Given how unlikely it is that our leaders will respond to the   public’s desire for GMO labeling, the best hope is the action of individual states. However, in the November 2012 election, California State Proposition 37 to label GMO foods was narrowly defeated after Monsanto and companies that produce GMO-containing foods outspent proponents five to one with a very deceptive advertising campaign. Prior to the campaign 91% of Californians said they supported GMO labeling!  A similar proposition was narrowly defeated in Washington State in Nov. 2013 after another massive and deceptive advertising campaign by opponents. And another proposition was defeated 50.5% to 49.5% in Oregon in Nov. 2014. However, in April of 2014 the Vermont legislature passed the first law requiring GMO labeling, slated to take effect in 2016, though 4 national organizations have filed a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional!

Unfortunately due to the current lack of labeling, the only way to avoid GMO exposure is to eat mostly organic!!!

Diet and Health

WHAT IS THE BEST DIET???

We are early into the new year. Among the most common New Year resolutions are those to lose weight and/or follow a healthier diet.
Indeed, it is my belief that the two most important factors that influence
our health are stress and diet. Hippocrates, the father of modern
medicine, famously said “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your
food.”
It is of great interest and concern that even though Americans are among the most affluent societies and we spend more on health care than any other nation, the health of the American people is rather poor compared to other developed countries. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council titled “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” concluded “Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people: even highly advantaged
Americans are in worse health than their counterparts in other, “peer” countries.”
(see
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/health/americans-under-50-fare-poorly-on-health-measures-new-report-says.html?_r=3
and
http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/CPOP/DBASSE_080393#deaths-from-all-causes )

This report examines many of the factors that contribute to this imbalance and concludes that high caloric intake and “high intake of saturated fats and inadequate intake of fresh produce and other healthy foods could explain a variety of diet-related non-communicable diseases that are more prevalent in the United States than in comparable countries.”
(http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13497&page=146)

There is a great deal of debate about which diet is the healthiest, but there should be no debate that the Standard American Diet (appropriately abbreviated SAD) is one of the main causes of our epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and other chronic degenerative diseases. Some frightening facts about the Standard American Diet: Only 7% of calories consumed by Americans are from fruits and vegetables. Half of the vegetables are potatoes and half of those are chips and fries. 23% of the calories consumed by Americans are from white sugar and about 20% from white flour. (see http://alaskaveg.org/SpookyFacts/SpookyFacts.pdf ).

So one of the most important questions we can ask is “What is the best diet?”

I don’t think there is one single answer to this extremely important question. There is great variety in the human genome and the old saying “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” is quite true. But there are general principles that are reasonable for almost everyone to follow, which I will arrive at as this essay progresses.

PRINCIPLE #1:
There is no single “best diet” for everyone! Treat any claim that everyone should follow a specific diet with skepticism.

Obviously I am not the only person who has asked this question. There are
a huge number of diets out there and experts who advocate them. One of the biggest divides in recent decades has been the split between Low-Fat diet advocates (including Nathanial Pritikin, Dean Ornish and John McDougall) and the Low-Carb diet advocates (like Robert Atkins and more recently Gary Taubes). Other popular diets in recent times are the Paleo Diet, Vegetarian and Vegan Diets, Raw Food Diets, the Fat Flush Diet, the Body Ecology Diet, Alkalinizing Diets etc.
There are many people who have thrived on each of these diets. So how does someone looking to improve his or her health determine which diet is best for them? I will now examine the pros and cons of some of the main divides in the world of dietary debate:

LOW FAT VS. LOW CARB

In his book Good Calories, Bad Calories
(http://www.amazon.com/Good-Calories-Bad-Controversial-Science/dp/1400033462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357207041&sr=1-1&keywords=good+calories+bad+calories),
science writer Gary Taubes reviews the research on low-carb vs. low-fat
diets and makes an excellent case for the low carb school. His main point
is that carbohydrates induce the production of insulin and excess insulin
alters metabolism to cause obesity. A column by Mr. Taubes titled “What
Really Makes Us Fat” from the 7/1/12 New York Times is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/what-really-makes-us-fat.html?_r=0
It is hard to dispute the evidence he cites that simple carbohydrates are
a primary cause of the epidemic of obesity. The average American gets
about 23% of calories from white flour and 20% of calories from refined
sugars and drinks over 600 12 oz. servings of soda each year! Undoubtedly this is a recipe for disaster, one that is evidenced by the epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
Another Low Carb crusader is Dr. Robert Lustig, author of the recent book
“Fat Chance”- see
http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Dr-Robert-Lustig-crusades-against-sugar-4160268.php.
Dr. Lustig’s lecture on the hazards of sugar on youtube has been (at least
partially) viewed over 3 million times- it can be found at

But does this mean that the Low Fat diets (which tend to be relatively
high in carbs) are dangerous? A recent meta-analysis of 33 studies found
that low-fat diets help people to lose modest amounts of weight and lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/low-fat-lose-weight-foods-diet-cholesterol_n_2253725.html
Dr. Dean Ornish found that an extremely low-fat diet, combined with
exercise and stress reduction, can dramatically reverse cardiovascular
disease. Here is Dr. John McDougall’s youtube presentation titled The Diet
Wars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srkd-irmrC0

talking about this clash between low-fat & low-carb diet advocates. Here is an interesting and passionate article in which Dr. McDougall criticizes the “low-carb”
school, particularly the Paleo Diet (more about that later):
http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2012nl/jun/paleo2.htm
A very important consideration in this debate is that not all fats and
carbs are created equal. It is now widely understood that there are not
only bad fats (trans fatty acids, large chain saturated fats) but “good
fats” (essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids). Likewise, there are good
carbs (complex carbohydrates, glyconutrients) and bad carbs (simple
sugars). The carbs found in white flour are very different than the carbs
found in dark leafy greens.
Another useful concept in this debate is that of the glycemic index- how
much a given food raises one’s blood sugar:
http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm. Thus, avoiding high glycemic foods is especially wise. However, if you eat a food with a glycemic index of 80
but at the same time have an equal amount of a food with a glycemic index of 10, the average for the meal is 45; it is advised to eat foods with a
glycemic index below 50. Thus, if one eats some simple starches with a
high glycemic index but at the same time has a high protein food with low
glycemic index it will be balanced and our body will not be affected
nearly as badly.
A new concept that looks to be even more valuable than the glycemic index is Carbohydrate Density. A concise discussion of this by Dr. Andrew Weil is at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/carbohydrates-weight-loss_b_1937312.html
and
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03415/Using-The-Carbohydrate-Density-Index.html
Bottom line: There is good evidence for health benefits of both a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet. What does not work is the high-carb/high-fat diet that is currently all-too-common. If someone is significantly overweight and/or diabetic a low-carb diet may be wise for weight loss, but one can also lose weight on a plant-based low-fat diet. If one has heart disease a low-fat diet may be the best choice. While a low-carb diet may be useful for weight loss, it may not be best for our overall health due to lack of phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables. Trying to sum this up:

PRINCIPLE #2:
Minimize simple sugars and starches, especially those with high
carbohydrate density/glycemic index.
When you do have these, have them in moderation with or after a balanced meal, never by themselves.
When eating fats emphasize “healthy fats.” Avoid hydrogenated oils/fried
foods and long-chain saturated fats.

WHAT ABOUT THE BLOOD TYPE DIET OR METABOLIC TYPING?
It is likely that some people will do better on low carb while others will
do better on low fat, based on their genetics. One popular subset of
dietary advice involves metabolic typing to help one determine which diet
is best. This concept was introduced by William Kelley DDS, a dentist who
pioneered proteolytic enzyme therapy for cancer. William Wolcott and
Harold Kristal DDS developed these concepts further, dividing people into
metabolic types based on whether their Autonomic Nervous System is
Sympathetic Type, Parasympathetic Type or Balanced and whether they are a Fast Oxidixer, Slow Oxidizer or Mixed Oxidizer, leading to 9 different
metabolic types (see https://www.metabolictypingonline.com/WhatItIs.aspx).
The concept is that each of these types needs an individualized diet and
supplement program. Popular health guru Joseph Mercola DO promotes a
simplified version of metabolic typing
( http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/02/26/metabolic-typing-part-three.aspx )
Another concept that has been popular in recent years is the Blood Type
Diet advocated by Peter D’Adamo ND in his book Eat Right For Your Type
(see http://www.dadamo.com/program_welcome2.htm )
Dr. D’Adamo feels that your blood type determines what diet is best for
you. Many practitioners recommend these diets and many people who have tried them feel they help. But what does the science say?
I have always been skeptical of the Blood Type diet- our bodies have
thousands of genes that can affect our metabolism and determine which diet is best for us; to base our entire diet on just one gene (the one that
determines our blood type) seems far too simplistic. Dr. D’Adamo claims
that 71-78% of those who followed his diet for a month or more and
responded to a questionnaire reported benefits. This is impressive, but
many of these people avoided specific foods like gluten and dairy that are
common allergens. Their improvement may have more to do with them avoiding common allergens that have nothing to do with their blood type. There is surprisingly little science to support the Blood Type diet. The best of several critiques I have read was written by a doctor I have tremendous
respect for, Michael Klaper MD:
http://www.earthsave.org/health/bloodtyp.htm
After reading his critique it is hard to put much stock in the Blood Type
diet.
Likewise, there is little science to support the validity of Dr. Wolcott’s
and Mercola’s Metabolic Typing. For a critique by Joel Fuhrman MD see
http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/diet-myths-the-fallacy-of-the-metabolic-type-questionnaire.html
(and the interesting and passionate discussion that follows below his
article). Another critique is at
http://davekaiser.ca/the-metabolic-typing-diet-book-review/
The metabolic typing advocated by Wolcott does make more sense to me than the blood type diet but I am not aware of any research that validates it, which make it hard to advocate for.
Bottom line: There are significant genetic differences that mean that one
single type of diet is not appropriate for everyone, but we don’t yet have
proven methods to readily determine which diet is best for you.

PRINCIPLE #3: While no single diet is best for everyone, be wary of
schemes that claim to tell you which diet is best for you. Diet needs to
be individualized and is based somewhat on trial and error.

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN DIETS VS. OMNIVOROUS

This is one of the largest divides in the diet debate and the one people
are most passionate about- at least the Vegans and Vegetarians who feel it
is cruel to eat animals and/or animal products. While there are sound
moral, spiritual, environmental and sociopolitical arguments in favor of
vegetarianism, I will focus here on the health aspects of this diet.
A large body of research shows that there are many impressive health
benefits of a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians live longer. Seventh-Day
Adventist men who were vegetarian live 7.28 years longer than average and women live 4.42 years longer. Vegetarians have a 24% lower mortality from heart disease. Vegetarian diets also prevent hypertension, lower blood pressure and decrease risk of stroke. Vegetarians have up to a 40% lower risk of cancer. Vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat-eaters, who have an average Body Mass Index 8.3% higher than vegetarians. Vegetarians also have a lower risk of diabetes.
A nice summary of arguments for and against a Vegetarian diet is at
http://vegetarian.procon.org/
However, there are many who argue that an entirely vegetarian diet is unnatural. Later in this essay I will discuss the invaluable research of Weston Price, who found that the aboriginal diets of the 14 healthiest populations on Earth he investigated all included animal foods.

It is not clear to what degree the proven benefits of a vegetarian diet are due to the inclusion of large amounts of vegetables and fruits versus the absence of meats. The (likely conservative) recommendations of the USDA are that Americans have 5-13 servings of fruit and vegetables a day depending on age/gender/activity level, but the average American eats about 3 servings per day.  Only 7% of the calories consumed by the average American come from fruits and vegetables. Half of all vegetables consumed are potatoes and half of all potatoes consumed are deep-fried as French fries or chips!

Bottom line: there is room for debate as to whether it is wise to include meat/animal-based foods in one’s diet, but whether one is vegetarian or not there is overwhelming evidence that it is beneficial to include large quantities of fruit and vegetables in our diets.

PRINCIPLE #4
A vegetarian diet has many impressive proven health benefits including
lower weight, increased longevity and lower incidence of heart disease,
cancer and diabetes. Even if one is not a vegetarian, it is wise to include a large percentage of plant-based food in one’s diet.

VEGAN VS. VEGETARIAN
While omnivores tend to class vegans and vegetarians together (like I just
did in the previous segment), many vegans feel it is unhealthy to eat
dairy and eggs. One of the biggest proponents of this view is T. Colin
Campbell PhD., a biochemist who wrote the best-selling books The China
Study and Forks Over Knives. The China Study book discusses The
China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a 20 year study that Campbell helped to
direct, though only a small portion of the book directly discusses the
study. An often-repeated quote from the book is “People who ate the most
animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small
intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People
who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.” Much of the book is devoted to discussing the hazards of milk, especially the milk protein casein.
The China Study is a very popular book among vegetarians and especially
vegans. Many who have read it, including Bill Clinton, have changed their
diet after reading it. However, it has received a great deal of criticism.
The most detailed and impressive critique I have found is by a writer
named Denise Minger at http://rawfoodsos.com/the-china-study/

Another thorough critique is by Chris Masterjohn, who is pursuing a PhD in
Nutritional Science, at
http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/China-Study.html
In a nutshell, the critics state that Dr. Campbell’s analysis of the data
of the China Study is incorrect and the data does not actually support a
link between consumption of animal foods and increased risk of heart
disease, cancer, diabetes etc. While some of the research cited by
Campbell may support a link between casein and cancer (but also may not), he ignores the evidence that whey protein from dairy may be highly protective against cancer and unjustifiably generalizes that since casein is hazardous, therefore all animal protein is hazardous. While focusing on the role cow’s milk may play in triggering autoimmune disease and heart disease, he ignores compelling evidence that wheat protein/gluten triggers autoimmune disease and is associated with heart disease even more strongly than dairy. This is one of many examples of Campbell “cherry-picking” data, emphasizing the data that supports his conclusions while ignoring data that negates it. Dr. Campbell did write a response to his critics, but the response largely criticizes the credentials and motives of his critics and does very little to actually address the criticism.  One can literally spend hours reading the information on this, but for a quick taste I
recommend scrolling down towards the end of “The China Study: Fact or
Fallacy?” by Denise Minger at
http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/ and
reading the section titled “In summary and conclusion…”
Having read much of the point-counterpoint on this (particularly the
shrewd and extremely thorough analysis by Denise Minger) I do not put much stock in “The China Study.”

Dr. Campbell’s fame has spread through being featured it the documentary “Forks Over Knives” along with another hero of proponents of Vegan Diets, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. MD, a retired surgeon and author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Dr. Esselstyn advises a radical diet in that it is not only Vegan but fat-free- he believes one should only eat non-fat plant foods- not only no dairy or eggs but no nuts, avocados or oils of any kind, including oils most nutritionists consider healthy, such as olive oil and flax oil. The only grains he allows are 100% whole grains. Dr. Esselstyn has had some very impressive results in reversing heart disease in the few patients who adhered to this diet. However, this does not mean that they would not have had similarly good results if their diets had included nuts, avocados, olive oil or even some fish, eggs or dairy! Again, the most thorough rebuttal to Dr. Esselstyn’s work is my favorite nutrition blogger Denise Minger’s painstakingly detailed critique of “Forks Over Knives” as found here: http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/09/22/forks-over-knives-is-the-science-legit-a-review-and-critique/#more-1487
This is a lengthy yet very well-documented and reasoned critique, made quite readable by the author’s sense of humor. In this debate I tend to side with Ms. Minger; there is too much data that clearly contradicts the conclusions of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn to endorse their views. This does not mean that a largely plant-based diet is not healthy; but it does mean that I do not believe that all fats and animal-derived foods are toxic.
Bottom Line(s):
While there is some evidence that a low-fat vegan diet can help to reverse cardiovascular disease, sound science has not yet objectively demonstrated advantages of a vegan diet over a vegetarian diet.
Many people thrive on a vegan diet, yet many do not. As we will see later
in this essay when I explore the ideas of Weston Price, there is good evidence of the health benefits of including at least some animal-derived food in our diets.

GLUTEN-FREE DIET
This has become its own category. 10 years ago very few people avoided
gluten but in recent years this has become positively trendy. Gluten is a
protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. Oats don’t contain gluten but are often contaminated with gluten so should be avoided unless labeled gluten-free. Gluten-free grains are millet, quiona, amarinth and buckwheat.
Doctors have long known about celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune
condition that causes allergy to gluten. Celiac disease affects about 0.8%
of Americans, primarily those of Celtic descent. Common symptoms include chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, difficulty gaining weight, fatigue, anemia, skin rashes, headaches, infertility and
depression. While celiac disease is more common than it used to be
(research indicates only 0.2% of Americans had it in the 1950’s), it is
still relatively rare. But besides celiac disease, many people suffer from
Gluten Sensitivity that is unrelated to celiac disease, often called
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. While about 3 million Americans have celiac
disease, it is estimated that about 18 million Americans have Non-Celiac
Gluten Sensitivity, making it far more common. But even those without such sensitivities might have far better health by minimizing wheat consumption.
Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity are similar to those of celiac disease, but celiac tends to cause more gastrointestinal symptoms (though gluten sensitivity can cause GI symptoms). Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity often primarily causes symptoms outside the GI tract such as headache, brain fog, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and numbness (though celiac can cause these too).
Whereas there are blood tests that reliably diagnose celiac disease, there
are no blood tests that reliably diagnose gluten sensitivity. The best way
to determine if one is gluten sensitive is a trial of strictly avoiding
gluten for 2-4 weeks to see how you feel, and then reintroducing it to see if it causes symptoms.
One main difference between Celiac and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is
that if one has Celiac they will never be able to tolerate Gluten.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is a reversible condition that is caused by inflammation of the intestinal lining. With avoidance of gluten and measures to heal the intestines it will disappear over time.
Why has celiac disease and gluten sensitivity become much more common in recent years? The answer is almost certainly related to changes in the wheat plant. While Monsanto is attempting to introduce GMO wheat, the modern wheat we all eat is not officially a GMO product, yet it has been genetically modified by crossing wheat with non-wheat grasses to introduce new genes and by using techniques like exposing wheat seeds and embryos to chemicals and radiation to induce mutations. Modern wheat has a much higher gluten content than the wheat of our grandparent’s time. There have also been significant changes in the chemical makeup and structure of the gluten and gliaden proteins in modern wheat, as well as a chemical called wheat germ agglutinin that may create a variety of health problems. According to William Davis MD, author of the fascinating book Wheat Belly, modern wheat is a powerful appetite stimulant. He feels that modern wheat is highly addicting, with polypeptides from gluten binding to opiate receptors in the brain, and feels that over-consumption of wheat is the main cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the United States. An excellent summary of Wheat Belly can be found at http://thehealingproject.us/2012/09/22/book-summary-wheat-belly-by-william-davis-md/
However, if you’ve read this far you realize there are (at least) 2 sides to every story, so I feel it is only fair to link to this detailed critique of Wheat Belly written by Julie Jones, who is a paid consultant for the wheat industry: http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/plexus/cfw/pastissues/2012/OpenDocuments/CFW-57-4-0177.pdf
I don’t agree with all her critiques but she does make some good points. I would love to see Dr. Davis’s response, but have not found a response by him yet.
A more balanced critique of Wheat Belly is at http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/10/wheat-belly-toll-of-hubris-on-human.html
Both of the above critiques are rather lengthy. One that is briefer but points out some significant flaws is http://noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com/2012/03/wheat-belly-busted.html

Many people who try a gluten-free diet do feel noticeably better and thus conclude that they are sensitive to gluten. However, they may only be sensitive to the structurally-altered form of gluten found in the modern wheat plant. Many of these people may tolerate gluten in oats, rye and ancient grains like spelt, teff and kamut. Just as many people once thought that all fat was bad and then learned there are good fats and bad fats, just as many people thought all carbs are bad and have now learned there are good carbs and bad carbs, I think we will learn that, except for the small percentage of people with true celiac disease, that there are good glutens and bad gluten!

While gluten sensitivity has gotten a lot of publicity, other food
sensitivities are also extremely common. Other common foods that create
multiple symptoms include dairy, eggs, corn, soy and almonds. While there are blood tests that will often show evidence of food sensitivities, these tests have significant false positives and false negatives. The ultimate way to check for food sensitivities is to eliminate commonly allergenic foods for a week or more and then reintroduce individually.

PRINCIPLE #5
Sensitivity to gluten and other common foods is surprisingly common.  Modern wheat is a very different plant than the wheat of our ancestors and may be unhealthy even for those without gluten sensitivity. Many people feel much better when avoiding offending foods.

WHY EAT ORGANIC FOOD?

This is one of the most important parts of this series of essays, so I have given it its own section. See https://drrandybaker.com/2013/04/22/organic-food-diet/

Summarizing some of the main principles, while there is no single best diet for everyone, I advise that people eat whole unprocessed foods as much as possible, with an emphasis on organic vegetables as well as organic less-sweet fruits. Include raw foods in your diet. Animal foods that have been raised organically or are wild are reasonable in moderation but not everyone needs meat. Minimize fried foods, sugars and simple starches. Eat slowly, chew your food well and enjoy what you eat. Avoid overeating. If you do have sweets enjoy them in moderation after a well-balanced meal. Pay attention to how you feel after various foods to determine how they agree with you.

I have more controversies and concepts to explore. What about Raw Food Diets? Alkalinizing Diets? The Specific Carbohydrate/GAPS Diet? This and more will be discussed here in the future so stay tuned!

But I do have a couple of great articles about general dietary advice that I endorse as generally wise diets for most people. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Diet is an excellent diet. I do disagree with certain aspects- for example, Dr. Fuhrman advises against coconut oil, whereas I believe it is extremely healthy. Also, I think that it is acceptable to have more beef and cheese than he recommends, as long as the source is grass-fed cow and the cheese is raw. But it is one of the better diets I have seen:
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/what-is-a-nutritarian-diet.aspx

But maybe my favorite article on a healthy diet is Mark Hyman’s Pegan or Paleo-Vegan Diet. His article includes a good discussion of the pros and cons of a wide variety of foods. See
http://drhyman.com/blog/2014/11/07/pegan-paleo-vegan/

In the meantime, this is a genuinely hilarious essay on the dilemmas faced by those striving to eat healthily while treading lightly on our planet:

http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/tragedy-healthy-eater.html

And if you enjoy this please check out my posts on Vitamins/Supplements for the Prevention of Heart Disease. the Vaccination Debate and how Hemp can Help Save our Environment…

Vitamins REALLY DO Prevent Heart Disease- beware of MISLEADING STUDIES!!!

Perhaps somewhat lost (thank goodness) in the big news of the election and Superstorm Sandy this week was a study published in the November 7, 2012 issue of JAMA titled

Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men

The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial

(see http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1389615)

Quoting from the abstract, the study concluded “Among this population of US male physicians, taking a daily multivitamin did not reduce major cardiovascular events, MI, stroke, and CVD mortality after more than a decade of treatment and follow-up.”

Newspapers around the country had headlines like “Multivitamins Don’t Prevent Heart Disease.” In searching this study I found hundreds of articles that all reported this without one single article yet (as of the morning of 11/11/12) questioning these findings. But, as a medical doctor who specializes in Nutritional and Preventive Medicine I know, based on hundreds of other studies, that it has been shown time and time again that a wide variety of vitamins can and do prevent heart disease. Something doesn’t add up, so I decided to take a look at this study. It took quite a bit of searching to discover what the multivitamin used in this study was, as it is buried in the fine print. The multivitamin used was Centrum Silver. This is considered a perfectly adequate multivitamin by those with only cursory knowledge of nutrition, those who believe that the RDA is perfectly adequate, but for doctors who are knowledgeable about nutritional medicine it leaves a great deal to be desired.

Below is a list of the nutrients in the multivitamin used in this study:
Vitamin or Mineral Amount
Vitamin A (IU) 5000*
Vitamin C (mg) 60
Vitamin D (IU) 400
Vitamin E (IU) 45
Vitamin K (μg) 10
Thiamin (mg) 1.5
Riboflavin (mg) 1.7
Niacin (mg) 20
Vitamin B6 (mg) 3
Folic Acid (μg) 400
Vitamin B12 (μg) 25
Biotin (μg) 30
Pantothenic Acid (mg) 10
Calcium (mg) 200
Iron (mg) 4
Phosphorus (mg) 48
Iodine (μg) 150
Magnesium (mg) 100
Zinc (mg) 15
Selenium (μg) 20
Copper (mg) 2
Manganese (mg) 3.5
Chromium (μg) 130
Molybdenum (μg) 160
Chloride (mg) 72.6
Potassium (mg) 80
Boron (μg) 150
Nickel (μg) 5
Vanadium (μg) 10

More detail as to the form of the vitamins/minerals and excipients is here: calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, dibasic calcium phosphate, magnesium oxide, ascorbic acid, microcrystalline cellulose, dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, pregelatinized cornstarch and modified food starch.

Centrum Silver contains less than 2 percent of the following ingredients: acacia, ascorbyl palmitate, beta-carotene, bht, biotin, boric acid, calcium pantothenate, calcium stearate, cholecalciferol, chromium picolinate, citric acid, cornstarch, crospovidone, cupric sulfate and cyanocobalamin. More ingredients include FD&C blue no. 2 aluminum lake, FD&C red no. 40 aluminum lake and FD&C yellow no. 6 aluminum lake.

Further, Centrum Silver contains folic acid, gelatin, hydrogenated palm oil, hypromellose, lutein, lycopene, manganese sulfate, medium-chain triglycerides, niacinamide, nickelous sulfate, phytonadione, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, potassium iodide and pyridoxine hydrochloride. It also contains riboflavin, silicon dioxide, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, sodium borate, sodium citrate, sodium metavanadate, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, sorbic acid, sucrose, talc, thiamine mononitrate, titanium dioxide, tocopherols, tribasic calcium phosphate, vitamin A acetate and zinc oxide.
I will now comment on some of the Vitamins and Minerals proven to prevent heart disease and what was given in this study:

One of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease is Vitamin C. In his very well-written book Prevent America’s #1 Killer, cardiologist Dr. Thomas Levy (also a lawyer) presents an excellent case that Vitamin C may be the single best way to prevent heart disease. This is because adequate Vitamin C is essential for creating healthy glycoproteins, a substance which plays a key role in the structural integrity of the endothelium (inner lining of our blood vessels). Inflamed/damaged endothelium is the ultimate pathology underlying cardiovascular disease. See http://www.drpasswater.com/levy.htm for a fine interview with Dr. Levy summarizing his research.

The amount of Vitamin C used in the study was 60 mg a day. I believe everyone should take a minimum of 500 mg twice a day to get the benefits of Vitamin C, and many people may need to take 5-10,000 mg a day in divided doses for optimal health. Taking a form of vitamin C known as  lypsospheric C is likely to be much more effective due to enhanced absorption, in which case 1,000 mg/day may be adequate for most. See http://www.livonlabs.com/

The 60 mg of Vitamin C used in this study likely has virtually no benefit in preventing heart disease.

Another key nutrient in preventing cardiovascular disease is Vitamin E. Everyone knows that cholesterol plays a role in heart disease. However, the role is a bit more complex than commonly thought. Cholesterol only causes problems if the wall of the arteries are damaged (via inflammation/oxidative stress in situations where Vitamin C levels are suboptimal) and if LDL cholesterol is oxidized, in which case the LDL will bind to or enter the arterial wall. Vitamin E prevents LDL cholesterol from being oxidized and also protects the arterial wall from oxidative stress.

The study used 45 IU of Vitamin E in the form of dl-alpha tocopherol, a synthetic form of Vit E that has been shown to be toxic in several previous research studies. Unlike synthetic E, which contains the synthetic chemical l-alpha tocopherol, natural E has only d-alpha tocopherol as well as delta, beta and gamma tocopherols. Doses of 400-1200 units of natural E have been proven to be highly effective in preventing heart disease. 45 units of synthetic E may do more harm than good! See http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=557 for more on the research proving that Vit. E prevents heart disease.
Another key factor in the cause of heart disease is homocysteine, a toxic metabolite of the amino acid methionine. Vitamins B6, B12 and Folate have been shown to significantly lower homocysteine, reducing risk of both heart attack and stroke. The amount of B6 used in this study was a woefully inadequate 3 mg. A much more reasonable dose to reduce homocysteine is 25-50 mg. Many people may benefit even more from pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the activated form of B6. The form of B12 used in this study was 25 mcg of the cyanocobalamin form of B12. B12 is poorly absorbed by many, and cyanocobalamin is the least beneficial of the 3 common forms of B12. At least 1000 mcg of the methycobalamin form is advisable. While the 400 mcg dose of folic acid used is relatively reasonable, about one-third of the population has genetic difficulties converting folic acid to the active form, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). There is also evidence that folic acid, a synthetic chemical, may increase risk of certain cancers including breast, prostate and colon. I thus advise taking at least 800 mcg of 5-MTHF to prevent heart disease and stroke.

For more on homocysteine and heart health see http://www.lef.org/protocols/heart_circulatory/homocysteine_reduction_01.htm

Vitamin D has also been shown to dramatically lower heart disease risk. A recent study done in Denmark involving more than 10,000 people found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D experienced a 64 percent higher risk of heart attack, 57 percent higher risk of early death, 40 percent higher risk of ischemic heart disease and at least an 81 percent higher risk of death from heart disease. See
http://www.naturalnews.com/037372_vitamin_D_deficiency_cardiovascular_disease_risk.html

The study used the RDA of 400 IU of Vitamin D. However, to achieve optimal levels of  50-100 nanomoles per liter most adults need to take at least 4000-5000 IU/day.

Another key nutrient that helps to prevent heart disease is Vitamin K. Whereas Vitamin D is necessary for us to absorb calcium, vitamin K makes sure that the calcium we absorb winds up in our bones and not in our arteries. Research has shown that Vitamin K both prevents and reverses atherosclerosis. Doses used in these studies are around 1 mg which is 1000 mcg. Doctors in this study were given 10 mcg.

Minerals can also be helpful. Magnesium has many benefits but Centrum Silver has only 100 mg of magnesium oxide, which is poorly absorbed. At least 200 mg of a well-absorbed form like taurate, citrate or glycinate would undoubtedly help more.

Selenium is also a useful antioxidant but the 20 mcg of sodium selenate is not nearly as beneficial as 100 mcg of selenium monomethionine might. 15 mg of zinc is reasonable but the zinc oxide form is, once again, relatively poorly absorbed compared to other forms of zinc.

Centrum silver also contains 4 mg of iron. This is, fortunately, a tiny amount, as iron is a pro-oxidant that is best avoided by all men and post-menopausal women as the evidence suggests that iron actually increases cardiovascular risk!

Added to the inadequacies of the quantities and forms of the nutrients in Centrum Silver, it also contains FD&C blue no. 2 aluminum lake, FD&C red no. 40 aluminum lake and FD&C yellow no. 6 aluminum lake, hydrogenated palm oil, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium benzoate, pregelatinized cornstarch (undoubtedly of GMO origin), sucrose, talc and titanium dioxide, ingredients that I strongly recommend avoiding.

So, with the above in mind, is it fair to conclude that “multivitamins do not prevent heart disease?”  The only thing that can be concluded is that incredibly inadequate/subtherapeutic doses of vitamins in poorly absorbed forms mixed with a variety of toxic excipients do not prevent heart disease. I could have told you that before this study.
But, unfortunately, the message the general public is receiving is that “Vitamins Don’t Prevent Heart Disease!” This is, as demonstrated, TOTALLY WRONG and I am concerned that the blind acceptance/uncritical reporting of studies like this will lead many people who are taking one of the many high quality multivitamins that do have reasonable doses and forms of these nutrients to stop taking them out of the mistaken belief that they have been shown to be ineffective. This would be tragic.

Postscript:

Of interest, another finding of this same study, published separately in the JAMA on 11/14/12 under the title Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men (see http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1380451 ) showed an 8% reduction in cancer risk. The same critiques I have mentioned above apply. This means that a better quality multivitamin, ideally enhanced with about 5000 units of Vitamin D a day, would almost certainly show a MUCH greater degree of cancer prevention. A nice summation of this study is at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/health/daily-multivitamin-may-reduce-cancer-risk-clinical-trial-finds.html?_r=0

While this post has focused on the research proving that vitamins and minerals can prevent heart disease, there are many other nutrients that also help prevent cardiovascular disease. These include amino acids like Lysine, Proline and Taurine, antioxidant flavonoids like Anthocyanins and Proanthocyanins, healthy sugars like D-Ribose, enzymes like CoQ10 and Omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids. Herbs like Hawthorne and Turmeric and supplements like Resveratrol are also useful.

As important a role as the right vitamins and minerals can play in reducing heart disease, these will work much better in the context of a comprehensive holistic approach. Chronic infections, especially periodontal disease and chronically infected root canals, contribute to heart disease, as do heavy metals like lead and mercury, so treating those conditions can be quite important. It is obviously crucial to minimize our exposure to tobacco smoke and other avoidable toxins. Minimizing dietary sugars and starches and trans-fatty acids (found in most fried foods) is also important, as is avoiding foods from animals fed GMO’s and loaded with hormones and antibiotics, including dairy and eggs. Grass-fed beef, low-mercury wild seafood, organically-raised poultry, eggs and dairy are fine in moderation, but one should emphasize organic vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Obviously exercise and stress-reduction also play important roles in preventing heart disease. And perhaps the best medicine of all for preventing heart disease is LOVE.
However, even though love may be the most powerful force in our universe, it would take a whole lotta love to counteract the effects of toxic foods and vitamin deficiencies!

If you like this post please check out my other blog posts and the many posts on my Randy Baker MD facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Baker-MD/118815558232253 . Also, an extensive collection of articles I have written in recent years can be found at http://www.drrandy.org

Wishing you optimal health!

Randy Baker MD

THE VACCINATION DEBATE

THE VACCINATION DEBATE

by Randy Baker MD

Please note that I first published the following essay on 5/4/12. See the bottom of this essay for a new update regarding the current controversy regarding Measles, but please read the original essay first! Here it is:

Few subjects in medicine are as controversial as vaccination. Both sides of the debate are passionate. Most vaccination advocates sincerely believe that vaccinations are safe and effective and save lives; they believe that those who do not vaccinate their children are foolishly endangering them, not only risking their lives but endangering others in the community as well. Vaccination opponents sincerely believe that vaccines are neither safe nor effective and have a significant potential of causing serious irreversible harm. Neither side is easily persuaded by the opposing side’s arguments. One would hope that science would provide the information necessary to settle this disagreement, but, unfortunately, the type of research that could best answer this question (long-term prospective studies evaluating the health of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children) has not been done. Each vaccine has its own set of risks and benefits, so the rational approach is to evaluate each individual vaccine with regards to risks and benefits. However, the full extent of the risks and benefits are not fully known. Those favoring a vaccine will tend to emphasize the benefits and minimize the risks, while opponents tend to minimize the benefits while emphasizing the risks. Intelligent people may disagree. Because this issue is far from black and white, I advise my patients to read both sides of the debate and make their own decisions. However, there is one vaccine that I strongly recommend against, which is the Hepatitis B vaccine for newborns. Newborns have virtually no risk of getting Hepatitis B and this vaccine has many serious adverse reactions. In a 1993 survey 87% of pediatricians and family practitioners felt this vaccine was unnecessary in newborns. I also have strong concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccine and about immunizing children for influenza. The polio vaccine no longer seems necessary, the chickenpox vaccine seems like a bad idea and there are significant questions about the safety of the MMR vaccine.


I will briefly summarize the main arguments pro and con vaccines: Vaccine advocates believe vaccinations are largely responsible for the tremendous decline of serious childhood infectious diseases such as smallpox and polio. Critics note that nearly 90% of the decline in childhood mortality from infectious disease occurred before 1940, before most current vaccines were available or widely used. This decline was primarily due to improved sanitation, hygiene and other public health measures.
Vaccine advocates feel vaccines are effective in preventing disease. Critics point out that an overwhelming majority of those who have been infected with measles, mumps and pertussis in recent years were vaccinated. Mortality from influenza is just as high in years when the influenza vaccine is a perfect fit for the circulating strains as in the years when influenza vaccine does not at all match the circulating strains and is thus worthless, suggesting that influenza vaccine does not save lives.
Vaccine advocates claim that vaccines are largely safe, with most adverse effects being mild and serious adverse effects rare. Critics point out that vaccines have been linked with anaphylaxis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, polyneuropathy, thrombocytopenia, encephalopathy and death. These are acute reactions known to occur within hours or days of vaccination. There is concern that vaccines may commonly cause more insidious long-term reactions that do not manifest immediately, like allergies, asthma, autism, arthritis, colitis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases and may also cause cancer many years later. A study published in 2000 involving 14,000 children found those who had received the DPT or tetanus vaccine were twice as likely to develop asthma and 63% more likely to have other allergy symptoms than unvaccinated children.

Concerns about vaccine safety can be summarized as follows:
1) the toxicity of additives, preservatives and adjuvants including mercury (as thimerosal), aluminum and formaldehyde
2) the effects of vaccines on immune function. Natural immunity after infection is much more complex than the type of immunity conferred by vaccines. This is why many people will get infections they have been vaccinated against.
Many vaccines have been shown to at least temporarily suppress immune function and some have been shown to trigger autoimmune disease. Giving vaccines by injection is an unnatural process that the immune system has not evolved to handle.
3) the unknown effects of giving multiple vaccines, often at the same time, and starting as early as the first day of life, when the immune system is still largely undeveloped. Even many vaccine advocates believe it is wiser to start vaccines when the child is older and to not give so many at once. Current CDC recommendations call for children to receive 33 vaccinations for 14 diseases in the first 18 months of life.

4) the hazards of waning immunity. Chickenpox is fatal in 1 out of 100,000 children, but 31 of 100,000 adults. A child who gets chickenpox is immune for life, whereas those who are vaccinated have imperfect short-lasting immunity (18-34% still get chickenpox 5-10 years after vaccination) and will be more prone to becoming infected later in life. This is one of many such examples, with other illnesses such as mumps also much more serious in older people.

5) the hazards of live virus vaccines. Vaccines such as measles, mumps and rubella use weakened live viruses that may create chronic low-grade infections and have been associated with increased risk of autoimmune diseases. According to a 1995 study, those who received measles vaccine were 2.5 times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis and 3 times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than unvaccinated controls (though some have criticized this study): http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2895%2990816-1/abstract
6) the contamination of vaccines with live viruses, prions and oncogenes. Vaccines are manufactured by culturing bacteria and viruses in live tissues, such as chicken eggs, cow serum and monkey kidneys. Many vaccines have been shown to be contaminated with live viruses including retroviruses and fragments of DNA from host cells and viruses.
Polio vaccine was contaminated with the SV40 virus between 1955-1963, when 100 million Americans were vaccinated. This virus is known to cause cancer in animals and has integrated into the genetic code of those vaccinated. This virus is often detected in a wide variety of human cancer cells, including brain cancer, bone cancer and lymphoma.

7) another fascinating though rather esoteric (yet potentially profound) objection to vaccination is advanced by proponents of Anthroposophical Medicine, a sophisticated system and philosophy of healing based on the work of German philosopher Rudolph Steiner (who also founded the Waldorf schools). Anthroposophic physicians believe that humans have co-evolved with viruses such as measles and that contracting these illnesses plays a key role in the psycho-spirtual and physiological evolution of a child’s development. They believe that childhood illnesses allow the physical body to transform to match changes in their etheric beings. Therefore, vaccination interferes with this natural and important process that enables personal evolution and development. This is, of course, rather difficult to either prove or disprove via our current scientific methods but adds another interesting dimension to this debate. A reference to a more detailed discussion of this is included below.

One of the principle precepts of medical ethics is “primum non nocere,” first do no harm. No one denies that vaccines can and do cause serious harm to at least some of the recipients; what is in debate is whether this is a tiny fraction or very significant percentage.  Vaccine proponents feel that this risk is counterbalanced by the benefits, but while many of the risks are well proven, the benefits are surprisingly unproven and questionable.

There are many good articles online exploring vaccine safety. Some worth looking at include:

Vaccination: An Updated Analysis of the Health Risks by Gary Null PhDand Martin Feldman MD
http://www.townsendletter.com/Oct2007/vaccinate_null1007.htm

Vaccines’ Dark Inferno: What Is Not on Insert Labels?by Richard Gale and Dr. Gary Null
http://www.townsendletter.com/Dec2009/vaccines1209.html

As mentioned in the article above, besides the toxic chemicals deliberately added to vaccines they contain many dangerous contaminants. This article from the mainstream International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination published on 1/23/17 says “”It is important to remember that particles (crystals and not molecules) are bodies foreign to the organism and they behave as such. More in particular, their toxicity is in some respects different from that of the chemical elements composing them, adding to that toxicity which, in any case, is still there, that typical of foreign bodies. For that reason, they induce an inflammatory reaction.
After being injected, those microparticles, nanoparticles and
aggregates can stay around the injection site forming swellings and granulomas [17]. But they can also be carried by the blood circulation, escaping any attempt to guess what will be their final destination. We believe that in many cases they get distributed throughout the body without causing any visible reaction, but it is also likely that, in some circumstances, they reach some organ, none excluded and including the microbiota, in a fair quantity. As happens with all foreign bodies, particularly that small, they induce an inflammatory reaction that is chronic because most of those particles cannot be degraded. Furthermore, the protein- corona effect (due to a nano-bio-interaction [18]) can produce organic/inorganic composite particles capable of stimulating the immune system in an undesirable way [19-22]. It is impossible not to add that particles the size often observed in vaccines can enter cell nuclei and interact with the DNA [23].

http://medcraveonline.com/IJVV/IJVV-04-00072.pdf

 

Summary of study on link between DPT and asthma/allergies:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10714532

Impressive interview with neuroscientist Dr Andrew Moulden MD, PhD. Here is a quote from it: “I have discovered that vaccinations are causing impaired blood flow (ischemia) to brain and body from clinically silent to death. These are strokes – across the board for all of us. I have reason to believe that all are being affected and all vaccinations ARE causing the overwhelming rise in autism, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, sudden infant death, gulf war syndrome, dementia, seizure disorders, some cancers it would appear, and much much more.”

http://vactruth.com/2009/07/21/dr-andrew-moulden-interview-what-you-were-never-told-about-vaccines/

A recent rare placebo-controlled study showing that Influenza Vaccine actually dramatically INCREASES one’s risk of getting other respiratory infections:

http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/study-flu-vaccine-causes-5-5-times-more-respiratory-infections-a-true-vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated-study/

And a recent study showing that Influenza can increase risk of getting Influenza!

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/03/flu-shot-increase-flu.aspx

Great article on the lack of effectiveness of Whooping Cough vaccine, how it may actually increase risk of Whooping Cough and the differences between naturally-acquired immunity and vaccine-induced “immunity”:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/30/whooping-cough-vaccine.aspx

A collection of graphs showing the decline in mortality rates in a variety of infectious diseases and the relationship (or lack thereof) to vaccination that impressed me a great deal at first. However, I have leaned that this information is misleading. This is an interesting case study regarding the need to be careful about believing what you see on the internet. First the graphs:
http://genesgreenbook.com/resources/Natural_Infectious_Disease_Declines_Immunization_Effectiveness.pdf 

And now a critique of these graphs:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/vaccines-didnt-save-us-intellectual-dishonesty-at-its-most-naked/

A more detailed look at the decline in the rate of various diseases before and after the introduction of vaccines:

http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2013/11/12/vaccines-a-peek-beneath-the-hood-by-roman-bystrianyk-and-suzanne-humphries-md/

A fascinating detailed analysis of the research on the safety/toxicity of mercury (as Thimerosal) in vaccines and how research studies can be manipulated to demonstrate a particular conclusion even when the actual data supports a different conclusion:
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/study-finds-evidence-cdc-cover-link-between-autism-and-mercury-vaccines

Many supporters of vaccination seem to think the only evidence linking autism and vaccines was the research conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that has been discredited. They seem to believe that because that one study was discredited that means all critiques of vaccines have been discredited. However, even that study was not ever proven to be invalid and the controversy around it is more political than medical. See

https://elliottfreed.weebly.com/truth/that-one-study

The best information linking vaccines to autism can be found in this excellent and detailed summary titled Did British scientists just solve the autism puzzle by JB Handley on medium.com:

 

View story at Medium.com

Here is a link to 99 other papers in the peer-reviewed literature suggesting a link between vaccines and autism:

http://experimentalvaccines.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/86-Research-Papers-Supporting-the-Vaccine-Autism-Link.pdf
However, I am trying to present both sides of the debate so this is a well-written essay which points out that many of those studies have little information directly linking vaccies to autism and which gives reasonable criticism to many of these studies:
https://angryautie.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-definitive-reference-debunking-vaccine-autism-myth/

More on this topic:

The Autism-Vaccine Debate: Why It Won’t Go Away by David Kirby
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/autism-vaccine-_b_817879.html

Vaccine Court: Autism Debate Continues by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and David Kirby
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr-and-david-kirby/vaccine-court-autism-deba_b_169673.html

CDC to Study Vaccines and Autism (recent news)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/cdc-to-study-vaccines-and_b_837360.html

“The true story of SV40, the cancer-causing virus hidden in polio vaccines”
http://www.naturalnews.com/032854_SV40_polio_vaccines.html

Comprehensive article on SV40  contamination of the polio vaccine. An estimated 98 million Americans have this virus in their bodies:

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2000/02/002bookchin.htm

Report on recent German study on differences in chronic disease rates in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children:

http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/new-study-vaccinated-children-have-2-to-5-times-more-diseases-and-disorders-than-unvaccinated-children/

Vaccine advocates often point to polio vaccine as a great example of how effective vaccines can be, but the story, again, is far from black and white.
This is a lengthy and fascinating article about polio and how much of what was called polio before the introduction of the vaccine was actually caused by DDT toxicity and other factors, and how what might be polio (usually caused by the oral polio vaccine) now is labelled as something else:

http://jeffreydachmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Suzanne_humphries_dissolving_illusions_disappearance_polio.pdf

Because the above article is so lengthy here is a very brief summary:
http://whale.to/a/smoke_mirrors.html

The most thorough discussion of tetanus and the hazards and benefits of tetanus vaccination that I have seen:

http://preventdisease.com/news/13/050713_Why-You-Never-Need-A-Tetanus-Vaccine-Regardless-of-Your-Age-or-Location.shtml

Proponents of vaccination, especially those who wish to limit the freedom of individuals to decline vaccination, base much of their arguments on the concept of “herd immunity.”
Here is a good article on this questionable and unproven concept:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/herd-immunity-myth-or-reality

An article summarizing a variety of epidemiological studies demonstrating the association between various vaccinations (esp. multiple vaccinations given at once) and increased infant mortality:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/multiple-infant-vaccines-linked-dramatically-increased-mortality

An essay on the Anthroposophical perspective on vaccination by Vance Dietz MD

http://www.anthromed.org/Article.aspx?artpk=764

Websites with multiple articles and links include:
National Vaccine Information Center http://www.nvic.org/

Curezone
http://curezone.com/topic/vaccination/

Vaccination Debate
http://www.vaclib.org/sites/debate/

General review of a large body of research and historical data questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccination by Patrick Quanten MD:

http://freespace.virgin.net/ahcare.qua/literature/medical/vaccination.html

Well-written essay by Suzanne Humphries MD:

Vaccination

The HPV Vaccine (Gardasil) appears to cause more serious reactions than most with over 150 deaths reported and over 20% reporting adverse reactions including autoimmune disease. While purported to reduce risk of cervical cancer this has not been proven and it may actually increase risk in those previously exposed to HPV. Most HPV infections are mild and self-limited and may stimulated immune function. For article on the concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the HPV Vaccine (Gardasil):

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/hpv-vaccines-unnecessary-and-lethal

http://truthaboutgardasil.org/breaking-news-diane-harpers-latest-interview/side-effects/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/24/hpv-vaccine-victim-sues-merck.aspx

http://drwilliammount.blogspot.com/2014/01/guadisil-guards-against-nothing-says.html

http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/sane-vax-inc-discovers-potential-bio-hazard-contaminant-in-merck%E2%80%99s-gardasil%E2%84%A2-hpv-4-vaccine/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/20/does-gardasil-actually-increase-your-risk-of-cervical-cancer.aspx

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/hpv-vaccine-maker-s-study-shows-natural-hpv-infection-beneficial-not-deadly?utm_source=www.GreenMedInfo.com&utm_campaign=0d890fec9c-Greenmedinfo&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_193c8492fb-0d890fec9c-86796697

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/study-reveals-unavoidable-danger-hpv-vaccines

Useful books include:

Vaccine Safety Manual for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners,Guide to Immunization Risks and Protection by Neil Z. Miller, Russell Blaylock MD (the most comprehensive resource for the documented downsides of vaccines)

The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child By Robert W. Sears MD
(a largely pro-vaccine book that does acknowledge some of the risks)

A useful DVD on this subject is Vaccines: The RIsks, The Benefits, The Choices by Sherri Tenpenny DO, an excellent presentation by one of the leading experts on vaccine safety.

Here is a video on youtube by Dr. Tenpenny, Vaccination: What CDC documents and Science reveal…

2/8/15 UPDATE

Here is the first draft of a work-in-progress, my essay on the current measles hysteria:

We live in a polarized nation with major schisms of Democrat vs.
Republican, religious vs. secular, pro-life vs. pro-choice, believers in mainstream
medicine vs. adherents of alternative medicine, those who trust our government and
authority vs. those who question our government and authority, etc. The current
widespread debate about vaccination is a near-perfect storm that brings many of
these into collision, igniting strong feelings, anger and fear in many quarters.
People have passionate views on this subject. Many of those who are
“pro-vaccination” seem to believe the “anti-vaxxers” are paranoid conspiracy
theorists who are unaware that Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s research has been debunked (as if that is the entire body of science that questions vaccine safety) and base their
beliefs on the writings of Jenny McCarthy. Some believe this issue is so black and
white that any doctor who questions vaccine safety and efficacy should have their
medical license taken away. In reality, those who question the safety and efficacy
of vaccines as a group have a higher level of education and income than those who
do champion it and include many thousands of well-credentialed doctors and
researchers.

Vaccine skeptics tend to see the pro-vax community as mindless people who do not
question authority and have been gullible enough to believe the narrative of
government officials and the fear-mongering mainstream media which is unduly
influenced by Big Pharma, which stands to profit handsomely from more widespread
vaccination. Of course those who are pro-vaccine are genuinely concerned for the
health and well-being of themselves and their loved ones and see people who do not
vaccinate as directly threatening their safety. Thus, many in the pro-camp are
calling for mandatory vaccinations, which has the anti-vax camp extremely afraid of
the prospect of being forced to have something toxic and hazardous administered
against their will. No wonder people are so upset!

In the often-inflammatory online discussions I have seen, I have seen many in the
pro-vax camp rail against the “smug arrogance” of the “anti-vaxxers” but I see those
people as every bit as smug and arrogant about the validity of their own beliefs. In
the midst of all of this polarizing conflict I would like to take this opportunity
to look at the actual facts and examine both what is known and not known about this
issue. I am going to focus on what we know for sure, and one thing I know for sure
is that not all vaccines are created equal. While many in both camps may see all
vaccines as good or bad, the reality is that each vaccine has its own unique sets of
risks and benefits, so I going to focus on the MMR vaccine and on Measles, as this
is the current focus of people’s concerns.

Before delving into this topic I want to briefly review my background and
qualifications. I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology at Stanford University.
I studied Biology because I am fascinated by biochemistry, physiology and
understanding how our bodies work.
I then attended medical school at the University of Michigan where I also completed
my residency in Family Medicine. While mainstream Western medicine is often
miraculous, it has very few cures to offer for most chronic disease, instead
treating superficially and symptomatically with expensive and often-hazardous
pharmaceuticals. I thus studied nutrition, herbal medicine, mind-body medicine,
homeopathy and other complementary therapies which I integrate with conventional
therapies as appropriate. I was a founding diplomate of the American Board of
Integrative Holistic Medicine in 2000. I have had a solo family practice in Soquel,
CA since 1988. I do not consider my self pro or anti-vaccination but, as mentioned,
I look at the potential risks and benefits of each vaccine as well as the health of
the potential recipient. Because these issues are so charged and controversial I
encourage my patients to study the research and be involved making in these
decisions.

Now let’s look a the facts. I want to examine Measles including how it is spread and
just how dangerous it is, the Measles vaccine and how effective it is and how
hazardous it is. I will also examine whether there may actually be benefits to
getting Measles…

That is it thus far. As stated, a work in progress. Here are some of the articles I will be discussing and linking to as this essay continues:
Info on Measles and how much of a threat it really is:
http://tinyurl.com/kvgbw5j

A good review of the research on how effective (and ineffective) the MMR vaccine is:
http://tinyurl.com/n9rtnj4

Evidence that getting measles can prevent lifelong allergies (there is also evidence mumps significantly reduces risk of ovarian cancer and many other vaccines may directly or indirectly increase cancer risk):

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19255001

Evidence that getting measles significantly reduces risk of a wide variety of cancers!

http://thinktwice.com/Measles_and_Cancer.pdf

Some commentary on the politics of this debate and how this could even lead down the slippery slope of a totalitarian state; at first that may sound extreme but is a country where people are forced to have toxic chemicals and biological agents injected into them against their will a free country?

http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/so-should-we-just-round-up-the-anti-vaccine-parents-and-ship-them-to-guantanamo/

http://vaccineimpact.com/2015/dr-lee-hieb-m-d-vaccine-hysteria-could-spark-totalitarian-nightmare/

That’s all for now but check back for the full version, hopefully coming soon…

Earth Day 2018: Can Hemp Help Save Earth’s Environment?

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This week many celebrated marijuana on 4/20, while we also honor Earth Day on 4/22. Earth Day is not so much a celebration as a call for us to become aware of the incredibly widespread destruction and havoc humans have wreaked upon our environment and a plea for us to dramatically change this before we destroy our habitat. The closeness of 4/20 and 4/22 is apropos, as the banned and controversial cannabis plant offers arguably the single best way to ameliorate many of the problems our society and ecosystem currently face.

Cannabis (also known as hemp and marijuana) is one of the oldest cultivated plants. I know of no plant with such a wide range of beneficial uses. It is claimed that the hemp plant has 50,000 uses. Cannabis is among the very best sources of food, cloth, oil, paper, and building materials. It grows quickly (like a weed), thrives in a variety of climates, is naturally resistant to most plant diseases, requires little weeding and enriches the soil it is grown in.

Hemp is a superb source of fiber, historically being used for rope, cloth and paper. The sails and ropes on Columbus’s ships (and most ships in that era) were made from hemp, the first American flag was made from hemp and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. From 75%-90% of all paper in the US was made from hemp until the late 1800’s. George Washington famously wrote “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere” and grew it at Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison also grew hemp. They grew it for its industrial uses and it is unlikely that they used it medicinally. Ben Franklin started the first hemp paper mill in the US.

An acre of hemp will produce 4.1 times as much pulp for paper per acre as an acre of trees. It will produce 2-3 times as much fiber for cloth per acre as cotton. Cotton production requires very intensive use of water, pesticides and nitrogen-based fertilizers which increase nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and which also contaminate groundwater. Cloth made from hemp is softer, stronger, warmer and more durable than cotton. The first Levi jeans were made from hemp cloth.

Hemp-based materials can replace wood and other building materials used in foundations, walls, shingles, paneling, pipes and paints. Concrete made from hemp, such as Hempcrete, is lightweight, waterproof, fireproof, self-insulating and pest-resistant and can be used to build roads and bridges.

The oil from hemp plants can be used as a fuel. Henry Ford expected that ethanol distilled from hemp and other biomass plants would be the preferred fuel for cars and built a car made from plastic-like material derived from hemp fiber that ran on fuel distilled from hemp. This plastic was 10 times stronger than steel and weighed far less.

Hemp is the most efficient producer of biomass per acre on Earth. Hemp can be distilled into charcoal, methanol, pyrolytic oil and gasoline at a 95.5% fuel to feed ratio. It burns much cleaner than fossil fuels, producing virtually no sulphur or ash. While burning it does produce carbon dioxide, that same amount of carbon dioxide is converted back to oxygen by growing hemp plants, creating a completely balanced cycle that adds no net carbon dioxide to our atmosphere!

Hemp is a also a valuable source of food. Hemp seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing one of the highest protein contents of any food including all 20 amino acids and all 9 essential amino acids. It is nature’s highest source of essential fatty acids with an optimal 3:1 ratio of omega 6 linoleic acid to omega 3 linolenic acid. It is a rich source of minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron and has many vitamins, especially Vitamin E, and is an excellent source of dietary fiber. It is highly digestible and undoubtedly one of nature’s most perfect foods. Hemp seed oil is perhaps the healthiest oil (and makes a fine salad dressing) and hemp milk is a nutritious milk substitute.

While industrial hemp is the same plant as medicinal cannabis, the strains grown for industrial use have minimal levels of THC and other psychoactive compounds, while the strains used medicinally have been bred to have very high levels of psychoactive compounds.

The cannabis plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, being mentioned as a popular medicine in ancient China in 2900 BC and was widely used in Asia, India and the Arab world. According to Medical Marijuana Law by Boire and Feeney, “By 1850, marijuana had made its way into the United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines], which listed marijuana as treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others. Patented marijuana tinctures were sold and widely used as a medicine in the US until 1937, when it was outlawed (despite opposition by the AMA!).

While there is a surprising amount of modern research on the medicinal uses, such research has been limited due to its legal status. The conditions marijuana are most widely used for include nausea and vomiting (particularly associated with chemotherapy), seizure disorders, migraine headaches, glaucoma, muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, Alzheimer’s disease, poor appetite associated with wasting diseases like AIDS and with chemotherapy, asthma, insomnia, anxiety, depression and chronic pain, especially neuropathic pain, a difficult-to-treat type of pain associated with cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. Medical marijuana is also increasingly being used to treat cancer based on recent research showing it can kill at least some types of cancer cells. There are many individuals with conditions for which medical marijuana appears to work far better than any known pharmaceutical medicine.

Twenty-nine states and Washington DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana and nine of these have legalized it for recreational use. This is leading to refinement of its medical uses. There are 2 main strains, sativa, which is more stimulating, and indica, which is more sedating, but there are hundreds of substrains that contain various mixtures of the 400+ chemicals found in cannabis. The main chemical in cannabis that causes the “high” is THC ( Tetrahydrocannabinol), which also appears to have anti-cancer properties. The other main medically-active substance is CBD (Cannabidiol). This does not make people feel “stoned” but is anti-inflammatory and reduces pain, anxiety and muscle spasm and also appears to have anti-cancer properties. Thus, some strains are better for insomnia or muscle spasms, some better for nausea or appetite, etc. Besides smoking the plant, it can be used orally and topically. Vaporizers allow one to inhale the vapors without smoke. Many users do not want the “high” associated with marijuana. Using it topically relieves pain without altering consciousness, as does ingesting the juice of fresh leaves, or choosing strains high in CBD.

It is well-known that the US is facing a serious epidemic of opiate use and overdoses. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine on 4/2/18 found that “In states with medical cannabis dispensaries, the researchers observed a 14.4 percent reduction in use of prescription opioids.”

Until about 10 years ago my main concern about the use of marijuana as a medicine was that while it is very safe and effective, it was primarily used to treat symptoms, and I am more interested in healing people than treating their symptoms. However, the recent research demonstrating that cannabis has powerful anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties suggests that it is a very useful medicine in supporting true healing.
Of course, the most common use of marijuana is “recreational” but even this use may have significant medical benefits. As a recreational substance marijuana has a calming effect that eases anxiety and helps many to cope with the stresses of modern day living. It increases sensitivity to lights, sounds, taste, smell and touch. It often opens one’s mind to new ideas and can enhance creativity. Many users ascribe spiritual benefits to its use, and it does have a long history of use by yogis in India as an aid to meditation and spiritual practice. Its use as a relaxant is a viable alternative to alcohol and drugs like Valium, as it is much less toxic and addictive than those substances. Anything that helps people better cope with stress and can help them to connect with their spiritual self is likely to significantly benefit their health.
Of course, like all medicines, marijuana has potential side effects including poor short-term memory, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and fatigue. While marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Like many medicinal substances, marijuana can be abused by some. Often when people first start using marijuana recreationally in adolescence they use it daily for a period and it may be used to avoid dealing with emotional issues and as a means of escape and withdrawal. However, most recreational users evolve out of this phase and use it only occasionally. It may be wise to avoid or minimize use in adolescence. One widely publicized study found that regular use before 18 may result in long-term lowering of IQ, though a more recent study found no evidence of marijuana lowering IQ in adolescents.

No medicine is equally suited for everyone. Marijuana certainly does not agree with everybody, creating anxiety and paranoia in a significant proportion of users, and, like all medicines, should be used with caution. However, those who have negative experiences with it tend to learn this quickly and avoid it. Also, those who react poorly to strains rich in THC may still have medicinal benefits from strains rich in CBD.

 

As mentioned, cannabis was in widespread use as a patent medicine in the US in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. In the 1930’s Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, ran a smear campaign against marijuana, generating propaganda including news stories and ads depicting marijuana as often leading to insanity and murderous violence, often with strong racial undertones. Marijuana prohibition began with the Anslinger-written “Marihuana Tax Act” in 1937. Many in congress did not even realize that marijuana came from the hemp plant. Today some authorities contend that the real reason marijuana was prohibited was because, with the invention of the decorticator, a device that made it easier to process hemp for industrial uses, hemp became a threat to the timber and nylon industries. The primary reason given by those who do not want to legalize industrial hemp is that this would make it difficult to maintain prohibition of marijuana. However, it is widely acknowledged that marijuana use is far less hazardous than alcohol and tobacco and it is illogical and a tremendous waste of resources that in 2007 an estimated 872,720 persons were arrested for marijuana offenses in the US and tens of thousands remain imprisoned. Because of marijuana prohibition, many who grow it illegally do so in national forests and on other public land, causing significant environmental disruption. An Oct. 2017 Pew Research poll found a majority of Americans now favor legalization of marijuana (61% vs. 37%). An overwhelming 72% of those surveyed (vs. 23%) in 2015 said the federal government’s efforts against marijuana “cost more than they are worth.” Many illustrious drug policy experts, economists and politicians both liberal and conservative advocate the decriminalization of cannabis. According to a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, the federal government could save as much as 13.7 billion dollars annually by legalizing marijuana, with 7.7 billion coming from the cost of enforcing current laws and 6 billion from tax revenues. However, this figure only looks at the medical uses of marijuana and does not take into account the potential savings from using hemp for fuel, paper, cloth and building materials. The Department of Defense Budget for 2014 was over 620 billion dollars. A large amount of that budget is used to defend our access to foreign oil. By not having to ensure this our military budget might be reduced at least 20%, resulting in 124 billion dollars or more in additional savings.
Thus, the use of industrial hemp can revolutionize our economy and tremendously reduce the stress we are placing on the fragile ecosystem of planet Earth. It is estimated that 6% of the US landmass cultivated for hemp would meet ALL of our current needs for oil and gas. Imagine a world without the environmental havoc of oil drilling, oil spills, pipelines, coal mining, and fracking let alone the need for a huge military presence and wars fought to ensure our supplies of foreign oil. Imagine no need for nuclear power and the attendant hazards of world-wide radiation contamination. Imagine a world with no need to cut down forests for paper and building materials. Imagine reducing the amount of pesticides released into the environment by 16-25% and dramatically reducing the use of environment-degrading nitrogen-based fertilizers by replacing cotton farms with hemp farms.
 Fortunately attitudes are starting to change among the powers that be. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has truly Neanderthal attitudes about marijuana, expressing the intent for the Federal Government to do its best to crack down on the efforts of most states to legalize, at least for medical use, President Trump on 4/11/18 assured Senators that he would support states’ rights to set their own marijuana policies without interference from the Federal Government. And on 4/20/18 Senator Chuck Schumer introduced legislation decriminalizing marijuana on a Federal level, removing marijuana from the list of substances classified under the Controlled Substance Act and allowing states to regulate its sales.
Now is the time to end the senseless prohibition of hemp. I believe that future generations will look back at our current prohibition of hemp with the same sense of bewilderment that we have when we look back upon such misguided policies as tolerance of slavery and denying women the right to vote. Rather than prohibiting the hemp plant, this incredibly useful and valuable plant should be the very foundation of our economy.
There is a large amount of readily available information on cannabis.
Among the more useful links I have found:
Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America
This is a chapter from an academic agriculture book. It is extremely  thorough and very well-documented.
The Emperor Wears no Clothes
Full text of the 11th edition of the seminal “book that started the hemp revolution,” first published in 1985, which has sold over 600,000 copies
Environmental Benefits of Hemp
http://eap.mcgill.ca/CPH_3.htm
A succinct summary of the environmental benefits of hemp from McGill University

 

History and Benefits of Hemp
http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0199/et0199s11.html
Well-written summary

Recent Research on Medical Marijuana
http://norml.org/library/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana
Excellent review by NORML of the surprising amount of scientific research conducted 2000-2013

The Science of Cannabidiol

http://projectcbd.org/

Excellent website providing extensive documentation of the science on the medical uses of CBD (Cannabidiol)

This section has links to literally hundreds of studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature on CBD and related compounds:

https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/conditions

 

Marijuana and Cancer

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/08/23/20-medical-studies-that-prove-cannabis-can-cure-cancer/

A summary of research on the use of marijuana to treat cancer

Historical Timeline
History of Marijuana as Medicine – 2900 BC to Present

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000143
An interesting, enjoyable and documented chart

Fascinating Discussion of the Benefits of Juicing Raw Cannabis

Cannabis juice

Recent Research on Marijuana and IQ


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/22/no-marijuana-use-doesnt-lower-your-iq/

 

4/18 Study on Reduced Opioid Use due to Marijuana

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180402202236.htm

If you enjoy this post please check out some of the other articles on this blog, discussion nutrition, vaccines, Lyme disease and other important topics.
Thanks!