Don’t Miss T. Colin Campbell, PhD in Pittsburgh Tomorrow!!!

T. Colin Campbell, PhD is one of the most respected thought leaders in the country in the field of plant-based nutrition and its impact on our health.  He will be debuting his documentary, PlantPure Nation, this Friday, April 24 at 7 pm at the SouthSide Works Cinema on the South Side.  Tickets can be purchased in advance as the event may sell out beforehand.  Tickets and the trailer for the documentary can be found at:  Dr. Campbell will be on hand after the documentary to answer questions.
​For more than 40 years, Dr. Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research.  His legacy, the China Study, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted.  Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.  He has received more than 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and has authored more than 300 research papers.
​This is a fantastic opportunity to meet Dr. Campbell and hear his message.  If you or a loved one are struggling with a chronic, degenerative disease (heart disease, type II diabetes, overweight/obesity, autoimmune disorder, gastrointestinal disease, cancer, osteoporosis), you won’t want to miss this!
Pittsburgh - MemeCampbells Tomorrow

Are You in Debt…Oxidative Debt?

Plants use carbon dioxide and water to create carbohydrates (get it? carbo-hydrate).  Then we consume carbohydrates and oxygen to create the energy that we need to power ourselves, especially our muscles and our brain.  However, this biological process is messy and results in the creation of free radicals.  In fact, numerous aspects of everyday living produce free radicals.  Why?  Because a variety of vitally important functions within our bodies require oxygen, and oxygen is a very unstable molecule.  During the course of normal, biological, chemical reactions, the oxygen involved can become damaged and turn into free radicals.  Free radicals can damage our DNA, our cell membranes, and can cause us to age.  In fact, if free radicals attack a cell’s chromosomes, the cell can lose its ability to control its most basic functions, including reproduction.  It could start to multiply out of control, which is the beginning of cancer.  So why would we have evolved such critical internal processes that result in such destructive by-products?

The answer may lie once again in the food we eat, or should I say, the food we are supposed to eat.  When we consume plant foods in their natural form, they come prepackaged with antioxidants and other phytonutrients which naturally help not only to prevent the build-up of free radicals that could potentially damage our DNA and cell membranes, but also modulate our gene expression which can enable damaged cells to recover instead of being irreparably lost.  We have likely only begun to identify the antioxidants that exist only in plants and all of the protective functions which they provide for us when we eat them.  As their name implies, antioxidants are plant compounds that protect us from rogue oxygen molecules. Antioxidants provide reinforcement in a number of different ways.  Some antioxidants protect our cells’ outer membrane from free radical attacks, much like a bullet might hit the outer surface of an armored car, but not harm the occupants inside.  Others patrol the liquid within our body, such as our bloodstream and the watery substances inside our cells.  It is important to note, however, that the credible scientific studies that have found the protective effect of antioxidants in food have not found that same effect with antioxidant supplements, and in some cases, have found those supplements to be harmful.

Without sufficient plants on our plates, our bodies can become tipped out of balance toward a pro-oxidative state which makes us vulnerable to oxidative stress diseases.  Oxidative stress is implicated in virtually every known human disease as well as in the aging process.  In fact, aging has been referred to as the slow oxidation, or rusting, of our bodies.  The typical American doesn’t even get half the minimal level of antioxidants required to breakeven with the oxidation that results from simply digesting our food.

Other factors that can contribute to oxidative debt that can be eliminated or minimized include meat consumption, disease, stress, sleep deprivation, smoking, drugs, and excessive sun.  Antioxidant levels can plummet in as little as two hours after a stressful event and can take up to three days to fully recover.  We are a country in oxidative debt warns Michael Greger, MD, and as such, we should be soaking our blood in antioxidants at every meal.  We need to eat a variety of antioxidant-rich plant foods throughout the day as the antioxidant level in our blood will fall, everything else held constant, as the antioxidants are used up fighting free radicals in our bodies.

Help tip the scales back in your favor and eat a varied, plant strong diet.



The Cancer Survivor’s Guide: Foods That Help You Fight Back! by Neal D. Barnard, MD and Jennifer K. Reilly, RD

Preloading With Watercress Before Exercise,, 5/13/14

How to Reach the Antioxidant RDA,, 12/13/13

Minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of Antioxidants,, 12/11/13

Preventing Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress with Watercress,, 8/14/13

Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus,, 3/6/13

Eating for Health, Not Weight, The New York Times Sunday Review The Opinion Pages, 9/22/12, by Dean Ornish, MD

Plant-Based Diets and Cellular Stress Defenses,, 7/19/12

Best Berries,, 1/9/12

The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging,, 5/31/11

Is Switching from Beef to Chicken Really Improving Our Health?

In our culture, chicken is considered to be a health food, but is switching from beef to chicken really improving what we put on our plates?  Let’s take a look at what sound, scientific studies demonstrate:

  •  All mammals have relatively the same amount of cholesterol in their bodies, and one of the places we find cholesterol is in the walls of all of our cells. So replacing beef or other meat with chicken will not likely improve our cholesterol profile, and since it is not concentrated in one place, like animal fat is under the animal’s skin, it is not something we can shave off before cooking.
  • Chicken is the largest source of heterocyclic amines in the U.S. diet. Heterocyclic amines are carcinogenic substances that form in the muscle when it is heated.  The longer and hotter the meat gets, the more heterocyclic amines are created.  There is no getting around this unless we stop cooking our meat, but then we have to worry about fecal bacteria contamination like campylobacter, salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and MRSA.  In fact, campylobacter is most commonly found in chicken breasts.  Extra intestinal E. coli infections have the potential to invade the bloodstream and cause fatal sepsis, or blood poisoning, and urinary tract infections in women.  They most often come from chicken, and infection risk in the chicken is directly linked to the overcrowding on factory farms.  Chicken ranks the highest in terms of having the greatest food borne disease burden in the U.S., primarily due to the prevalence of campylobacter and salmonella in poultry.
  • A heterocyclic amine abbreviated PhIP, formed when meat is cooked, stimulates breast cancer cells almost as much as pure estrogen, promotes breast cancer cell invasion more than straight estrogen, and can infiltrate the ducts where most breast cancers arise.
  • Place chicken on the grill and the fat dripping off of the meat and into the fire creates another carcinogenic substance, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, that find their way onto the surface of the grilled meat.
  • Chicken does not contain any fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, which exist only in the plant kingdom, and the meat on our plates crowds out other healthful options that could be providing us with these essential components.
  • Chicken does contain saturated fat and cholesterol which can contribute to a host of chronic, degenerative diseases including our number one killer, heart disease.
  • Chickens are bled of only about half of their blood, and the remaining residual can be a powerful promoter of fat oxidation. The buildup of oxidized fat is considered the hallmark of fatty streak formation, the earliest manifestation of atherosclerotic plaques.
  • All meat, milk, and eggs, but particularly chicken and fish, contain high concentrations of methionine, an essential but highly acidic sulfur-containing amino acid. Our bodies need to maintain a slightly alkaline pH in our blood and body tissues and we create a very acidic environment when we consume meat, dairy products, and eggs.  Our body neutralizes this acid by buffering it with material from our bones.  This repeated buffering not only robs our bones of precious structural components, but once it has brought our pH back into balance, this bone material must be excreted through our kidneys and into our urine.  This extraordinary flow of material through the kidneys can provide the building blocks for kidney stones.  This also places a strain on our kidneys.  Per John McDougall, MD, in healthy people with no apparent diseases, it is estimated that they lose about 1/3 of their kidney function by the time they reach the age of 70 because of the high protein nature of the rich, American diet.  It is much safer to obtain this essential amino acid from seeds, nuts, and grains, and as long as you are meeting your energy (calorie) needs with a variety of plant foods, meeting your methionine needs should not be an issue.
  • Many human cancers, including leukemia and some tumors of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and skin, have what’s called absolute methionine dependency. These tumors generate gaseous sulphur-containing compounds with it.  You may have heard about dogs that are trained to detect these gases.  In the NIH-AARP Cohort, a large prospective cohort study, both smoking and total meat intake were associated with an increased risk of AML, a rare but deadly blood cancer.  The study found that eating 2 boneless chicken breasts increases risk as much as smoking 10 cigarettes.  Another study found that for every ¼ of a chicken breast consumed, the risk for lymphoma increases up to 3 times.
  • Our exposure to drugs given to turkeys and chickens may be one reason why poultry consumption has been associated with significantly higher lymphoma and leukemia risk. The largest forward looking study ever on diet and cancer (following 500,000 people for over 10 years), the EPIC study, found that poultry had the most significant association with developing lymphoma.
  • The opportunity for fecal bacteria cross contamination is greater than most of us think. One study wanted to measure how well the average cook was at preventing the inadvertent spread of the bacteria and how well they eliminated any contamination once the kitchen was cleaned up.  The researchers didn’t need to contaminate the chicken specimens to be used in the study.  They knew that there would be more than adequate fecal bacteria present on any chicken that they purchased from the grocery store, and they were right.  More than 90% of turkey and chicken and almost 75% of ground beef is contaminated with the fecal pathogen E. coli.  Skinless chicken breast was particularly likely to have fecal traces and both organically and conventionally produced meat was found to be frequently contaminated.  At the end of the study, researchers found more fecal bacteria in the kitchen than is commonly found on toilets, even after everything in the kitchen had been bleached twice.  It is perfectly legal to sell chicken products tainted with bacteria.  The latest comprehensive analysis of sources for food borne illness outbreaks found that chickens were the premiere cause overall.
  • Just handling, not even eating, chicken can lead to the colonization of our colon with antibiotic resistant E. coli from cross contamination that may result in bladder infections in women. Within days of handling the chicken, multi-drug resistant E. coli becomes a major part of the fecal flora in our gut.  Fortunately, once colonized, we are not colonized for life.  In the study, the fecal flora appeared to thrive for about 10 days.  Unfortunately, people eat chicken so regularly that their colons remain colonized.  This rectal bacteria can creep into the vaginal area and infect the urethra and subsequently the urinary tract.  Therefore, urinary tract infections can be zoonotic, meaning they are communicable from animals to humans.  The strains are often multi-drug resistant due to the imprudent use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.  In fact, up to 70% of antibiotic use is for agricultural animals that aren’t sick and is increasingly blamed for the growing resistance to antibiotics among disease-causing bacteria.  These drugs are routinely used to enhance growth, to improve feed efficiency, and to prevent disease in animals subject to the squalid conditions on factory farms.
  • Salmonella was ranked the food poisoning bacteria with the greatest public health burden in our country, the leading cause of food poisoning hospitalization, and the number one cause of food-related death by the Emerging Pathogens Institute in 2012.  According to the FDA, 142,000 Americans are sickened every year by eggs contaminated with salmonella. That’s an egg-borne epidemic every year.  In terms of getting salmonella poisoning from various U.S. foods, eating chicken may be 8 times riskier than eating eggs.
  • People infected with the fecal pathogen salmonella can trigger Reiter’s Syndrome, which results in chronic, debilitating arthritis for the rest of their lives.
  • Campylobacter is now the suspected cause of up to 25% of cases of irritable bowel syndrome and is currently the number one bacterial cause of food poisoning, sickening millions of Americans every year. The bacteria in a single drop of chicken “juice” is enough to make one sick and can persist on a cutting board for hours.
  • One of the most feared, long-term complications of food poisoning is Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological condition definitively caused by an infectious agent in poultry. Infection with campylobacter, a bacteria contaminating up to 98% of retail chicken meat in the US, can lead to being paralyzed for months on a ventilator.  It is a brutally rapid, life threatening, autoimmune attack on the nervous system.  It is like multiple sclerosis in fast forward.  If the person can get to a ventilator in time, they have a chance.  After about two weeks, the immune system backs off, however, if the person survives this, he/she may be left with severe, lifelong disability.  With the virtual elimination of polio, poultry products are now the most common cause of acute flaccid paralysis in the developed world.
  • Every year, the FDA releases a report on pathogens in meat products and how many are resistant to antibiotics. In 2013, the FDA found that 74% of bacterially tainted chicken products harbored germs that were resistant to 1 or more types of antibiotics and more than 25% of the salmonella-contaminated retail chicken breasts were found to be resistant to 5+ classes of antibiotic treatment drugs. The report noted that 30.3 million pounds of antibiotics were sold and used in livestock feed, a 2.1% increase from 2010.  Over 90% of these most resistant bacteria were isolated from chicken carcasses or retail chicken meat.  In a recent study, 100% of conventionally-raised chicken products and 84% of organic chicken products were found to have multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Organic chicken contamination could occur because day old chicks coming from the hatcheries may already be contaminated or cross-contamination could occur because both groups of chicken are killed in the same slaughterhouses.  Factory farms are also dumping antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria-laden chicken manure out into our environment.  Antibiotic-resistant genes have been found in the soil around factory farms.
  • A chicken virus spread by feces, adenovirus, appears to pack on abdominal fat while consuming the same number of calories. It led to the term infectobesity.  It may be a contributing factor in the multi-factorial model of obesity (overindulgence, lack of exercise, lifestyle, food habits, environment, stress, heredity, and genetic factors) and may explain why poultry consumption is most closely tied to obesity.
  • Chicken feces can harbor round worms, hair worms, tape worms, bilirubin, and other digestive products, chemicals and drugs excreted by the liver, and leftover food, as well as the remains of insects and larvae ingested by the chicken. While thorough cooking kills bacteria, it does not eliminate feces – it simply cooks it.  Intestinal contents can spread from bird to bird as intestines are torn out of the carcasses.  When the carcasses go through a water bath, the feces tend to mix together in what is referred to in the industry as “fecal soup”.  Chicken producers do not want to stop using the water bath system because chickens are very absorbent animals.  When put into the water bath to chill them, they gain a little weight which is beneficial to the producers that sell them by the pound.
  • 2 million pounds of arsenic-containing chemicals are fed to chickens annually in the United States to kill their internal parasites, increase their growth rates, and give their carcass a pinkish tinge, which consumers apparently prefer. As we recently saw in the news, contamination from chicken factory farms is one explanation for arsenic in rice and other plant foods.  These arsenic-containing drugs intentionally added to poultry feed are apparently converted by cooking into carcinogenic inorganic arsenic compounds.  Nearly 2 million pounds of arsenic per year has been poured into the environment by the US poultry industry alone.  It is contaminating rice and brown rice syrup.  Arsenic has been deliberately fed to chickens for 70 years.  Based on the USDA estimates of arsenic levels in the U.S. chicken supply, the prestigious Medical Letter on the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration concluded, “Chicken consumption may contribute significant amounts of arsenic to total arsenic exposure of the U.S. population….Levels of arsenic in chicken are so high that other sources may have to be monitored carefully to prevent undue toxic exposure among the population.”
  • Chicken is one of the top sources of arachidonic acid in the diet, an omega 6 fatty acid involved in our body’s inflammatory response. We do need some arachidonic acid but our bodies make all that we need.  The purported role arachidonic acid plays in brain inflammation could explain why eliminating chicken may improve symptoms of mood disturbance, depression, anxiety and stress within two weeks.  Oxidized cholesterol, like that from fried chicken, is one of the most potent inflammatory insults.
  • Men who ate the most meat in a recent study had 21 times the odds of essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes rhythmic shaking.
  • The early onset of puberty in girls associated with animal protein consumption may be due to endocrine disrupting chemical pollutants such as flame retardant chemicals in the meat supply and the stimulatory effect that animal protein has on the secretion of the growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Flame retardant chemicals have also been found in poultry.
  • When the vagina becomes more acidic than it should, pathogenic bacteria being to flourish and bacterial vaginosis can result. Consuming more fruits and vegetables has been found to prevent it and a high fat intake, particularly saturated fat, has been found to encourage it by raising the vaginal pH.
  • Our environment is so polluted that endocrine disrupting xenoestrogens, from manmade chemicals, come down in the rain and then accumulate up the food chain. In our diet, they are found predominantly in chicken.
  • Fish allergies might not actually be allergies to fish but to living or dead worms within the fish, like anisakis. This is a widespread problem and those with this allergy may even have a reaction from the parasitic fish worm eating chicken that have been fed fishmeal.  Anisakis worms are found particularly in cod, anchovies, and squid and can cause chronic hives and intractable chronic itching.

So how does the animal agriculture industry respond to some of these discoveries?

  •  Bacteria-eating viruses called bacteriophages have been approved as meat additives to reduce the food safety risks associated with processed meat and poultry products. There is a concern, however, that viruses fed to chickens could spread toxin genes between bacteria. Viruses are also being fed directly to the animals by being placed in their feed for the same effect.
  • Another innovation the industry is considering in order to minimize fecal contamination is gluing shut the rectal cavities of turkeys and chicken broilers in the slaughter plants before they hit the scalding tanks. There are concerns, though, about glue residues contaminating the final product. Other ideas for sealing up the birds’ rectums include some type of mechanical plug or stapling technology.

So instead of switching from beef to chicken, why not consider crowding out the meat on your plate with plenty of whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables, and fruit.  All of the nutrients essential to our health abound in the plant kingdom and can be used to create simply irresistible, easy-to-prepare meals.



Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, Stomaching Emerging Disease,, Michael Greger, MD

Cancer Survivor’s Guide by Neal Barnard, MD

Marketing Milk and Disease audio presentation by John McDougall, MD

Meat in the Human Diet audio presentation by John McDougall, MD

Essential Tremor and Diet,, 7/11/14

Tick Bites, Meat Allergies, and Chronic Urticaria,, 5/19/14

How Many Cancers Have Been Caused by Arsenic-Laced Chicken?,, 4/11/14

Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors,, 3/7/14

Food Antioxidants, Stroke, and Heart Disease,, 2/24/14

Which Spices Fight Inflammation?,, 1/10/14

Superbugs in Conventional vs. Organic Chicken,, 1/8/14

Why Is Selling Salmonella-Tainted Chicken Legal?,, 10/1/13

Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction,, 9/18/13

Avoiding Chicken to Avoid Bladder Infections,, 6/10/13

Bacterial Vaginosis and Diet,, 6/7/13

PCRM 4/1/13 Breaking Medical News

How to Reduce Dietary Antibiotic Intake,, 3/28/13

Protein, Puberty, and Pollutants,, 2/25/13

Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens,, 1/16/13

Yersinia in Pork,, 11/28/12

How Much Arsenic in Rice Came From Chickens?,, 9/21/12

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death,, 7/26/12

PCRM’s Good Medicine magazine, Summer 2012

Viral Meat Spray,, 6/14/12

Food Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination,, 4/16/12

Poultry and Paralysis,, 4/13/12

EPIC Findings on Lymphoma,, 4/6/12

MRSA in US Retail Meat,, 11/23/11

Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation,, 10/3/11

Improving Mood Through Diet,, 9/29/11

Spring-Summer 2011 GOOD MEDICINE

Obesity-Causing Chicken Virus,, 4/26/11

Chicken Out of UTIs,, 4/7/11

Fecal Bacteria Survey,, 4/6/11

Meat & Multiple Myeloma,, 4/1/11

Fecal Contamination of Sushi,, 8/25/10

March 2005 McDougall Newsletter

Lifestyle WoRx Now Accepts Insurance!

Cynthia West, MD and I are very excited to announce that our program, Lifestyle WoRx, now accepts insurance.  We have scheduled our next series of workshops.  Seating is limited so reserve your spot today and be sure to forward this information to loved ones who would benefit from our program.  Thank you!

 Lifestyle WoRx program series

Navigating Through the Noise

I’ve said this many times before, and I apologize if you’re getting tired of hearing me say this, but with so much nutritional misinformation, biased reporting, and sometimes, downright deceptive interpretations of science, it is extremely rare to find an objective, learned source for evidenced-based nutrition recommendations.

Fortunately, over the years I’ve found a small but growing number of trusted sources, but if I was only able to recommend one person, it would be Michael Greger, MD.  Dr. Greger scours the scholarly literature for statistically and clinically significant, well-built, peer-reviewed scientific studies on nutrition.  He analyzes them, condenses them, and translates them into enjoyable videos that medical and lay people alike can comprehend.  His web site is  I highly recommend that you subscribe on his web site to his daily videos/blogs.

Each of the past three years, Dr. Greger has consolidated his findings into an annual recap which summarizes the critical information for the year.  Each video is about one hour and incorporates Dr. Greger’s dry sense of humor.  It is well worth the investment of your time so that you can make decisions about food that are in the best interest of yourself and your family.

Here are the links to these videos:

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death (2012-2013)

More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases (2013-2014)

From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food (2014-2015)

I hope you find them as helpful as I have.  For assistance implementing Dr. Greger’s suggested changes, don’t hesitate to contact me at or 724.469.0693.  More information can be found at my web site: and please sign-up to receive my monthly e-newsletter.

Get Your Vitamin D the Way Nature Intended

Whenever possible, we should get our nutrients from natural sources, perfectly packaged by Mother Nature with the right proportion of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  Obtaining our nutrients from whole natural foods is also safer.  We don’t have to worry about overdosing or creating nutrient imbalances.  So where do we get our vitamin D if it’s not coming from a pill?  We get vitamin D naturally from the sun.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is made when natural sunlight interacts with the cholesterol in our skin.  It helps our body to absorb calcium from our digestive tract and is very protective against cancer.  Vitamin D made in the skin lasts at least 2-3 times longer in our circulation compared to vitamin D taken as a supplement.

Edible forms of the vitamin are in an inactive precursor form.  In order to function as full-fledged vitamin D, it must first pass through the liver and then the kidneys for slight changes to its molecular structure.  Matthew Lederman, MD, of Exsalus Health & Wellness Center, has done extensive research into the derivation of the recommended daily allowances for specific nutrients and what peer reviewed scientific studies demonstrate regarding the safety and efficacy of artificial supplements.  Dr. Lederman cautions that “supplements are not benign and should be treated like medication (taken as a last resort by people who are truly deficient and/or unable to obtain, absorb, or metabolize the original source).”  The only exception that Dr. Lederman notes is supplementation with vitamin B12, which is made by bacteria.

So how much sunlight is adequate, but not excessive?  Dr. Lederman created the matrix below to provide a general guide that should be referenced along with other individual factors including our history of skin damage.  Dr. Lederman explains that the key is not to experience burning of the skin as that will cause damage and be very harmful.  10-15 minutes, 3-4 times per week is adequate for most people.  To reference the general guide below, determine which line most accurately describes your skin type.  Take a quick glance at the current UV index (UVI) in your area on and you can decide how long to spend in the sun without sunscreen.  Making time in the spring, summer, and fall for adequate but not excessive sun exposure should store enough vitamin D in our body fat to carry us through the winter.  Vitamin D is fat soluble, so excess body fat will pull vitamin D out of circulation, thus contributing to deficiency.  So we have yet another good reason to attain and maintain a healthy BMI.

Skin Type UVI: 0-2 UVI: 3-5 UVI:6-7 UVI: 8-10 & Tanning UVI: 11+
Always Burn & Never Tan None 10-15 min. 5-10 min. 2-8 min. 1-5 min.
Easily Burn & Rarely Tan None 15-20 min. 10-15 min. 5-8 min. 2-8 min.
Occas. Burn & Slowly Tan None 20-30 min. 15-20 min. 10-15 min. 5-10 min.
Rarely Burn & Rapidly Tan None 30-40 min. 20-30 min. 15-20 min. 10-15 min.
Never Burn & Always Dark None 40-60 min. 30-40 min. 20-30 min. 15-20 min.

This chart is shared with permission from Matthew Lederman, MD ( and the Center for Nutrition Studies online certificate program (

Neal Barnard, MD and John McDougall, MD recommend similar guidelines for vitamin D.

The rest of the time, make sure to use sunscreen prudently so that you don’t overexpose your skin.  The Environmental Working Group provides an annual guide for purchasing sunscreens with the safest ingredients.  Here is the link to their current guide:

Researchers have discovered that since plants are immobile, they’ve had to evolve a way to escape threats to their well being.  Plants can sense and respond dynamically to all sorts of stimuli: chemical concentrations in the soil, air, and water; touch; motion; vibration; pathogens; predators; and light.  Plants respond biochemically.  Plants and animals share similar biochemical pathways and signaling systems, which may explain why so many phytonutrients from plants are beneficial to our physiology.  Plants that have been stressed are more nutritious because of their antioxidant defenses.  Plants have DNA that can be damaged by free radicals created by the sun just like we can, and have had to create antioxidants to defend against them, which can also benefit us if we eat them.

The sun is the source of all life on this planet.  Don’t miss out on the health benefits it can provide by avoiding it completely.



Cancer Survivor’s Guide by Neal Barnard, MD

Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole by Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD

The Starch Solution Certification Course by John McDougall, MD

Appropriating Plant Defenses by Michael Greger, MD,, 5/21/14

March 2011 McDougall Newsletter, Vitamin D: Values for Normal are Exaggerated

September 2007 McDougall Newsletter, Low Vitamin D: One Sign of Sunlight Deficiency

McDougall Message: Sunshine and Vitamin D video presentation by John McDougall, MD

Your Secret Weapon Against Breast Cancer…Platefuls of Plants

Whether you have cancer, had cancer, have a strong family history of cancer, or are trying to make changes in your life to prevent cancer, I have a very empowering message for you.  There are lifestyle changes that you can make that can have a significant impact on this dreaded disease.

Well-built scientific studies published in the peer-reviewed literature continue to demonstrate how this disease can be influenced with some simple but very potent lifestyle changes.  Altering what you decide to eat is one of the most important steps that you can take.  Per Michael Greger, MD, “Diet (food and alcohol) are the number one cause of cancer.”

Some people with strong family histories may feel that their genetic predisposition may be too strong to affect with food, but we are finding that this not necessarily the case.  Our genes have different penetrations, or strengths over ultimate outcomes.  Those genes with 100% penetration act like dictators, like our eye color and our hair color.  Few genetic abnormalities, with the exception of the genes for cystic fibrosis and Huntingdon’s disease, approach 100%.  The genes that may predispose us to chronic, degenerative diseases do not have 100% penetrance, and so act more like committees making recommendations.  Even the most powerful breast-cancer associated genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have estimated penetrance of anywhere from 30-70%, and that is the chance of developing the disease by age 70, not dying from it, and these estimates tend to come from women who have both genes and a strong family history which means the actual gene penetrance is even lower for women without family histories.  The expression of these genes is influenced by our environment, including what we eat, what we drink, and toxic chemicals with which we come into contact.  Matthew Lederman, MD describes, “Our genes may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.”  T. Colin Campbell, PhD refers to cancer cells as grass seed.  If they fall on fertile ground, they will grow given the right conditions.  If grass seeds fall on barren, dry dirt, they will fail to thrive and will die.  He urges us to make our bodies inhospitable to cancer.

So how do we make our bodies less hospitable to cancer?  We adopt a low-fat, minimally processed, plant-based lifestyle.  We remove the disease-promoting animal products and added oils, and replace them with protective plants.  We are just beginning to discover the many benefits of the phytonutrients found only in the plant kingdom.

Here are just a couple of the amazing examples of recent research:

  • Hormones not only help regular cells to grow, but also help cancer cells to grow.  Estrogen levels are lower in post-menopausal women than in women of child bearing age and most breast tumors are estrogen receptor positive.  Researchers recently discovered that 70% of breast cancer tumors in post-menopausal women were able to use aromatase, an enzyme within our body, to make its own estrogen.  The researchers also discovered that consuming just 5 white button mushrooms a day effectively blocks this process.  Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, green onions, and spinach also inhibit aromatase activity, but not nearly as effectively as the mushrooms.
  • The sulforaphane created when we bite into broccoli appears to inhibit breast cancer stem cells and to suppress the metastatic potential of cancer.  Investigators at Johns Hopkins were able to demonstrate this by adding sulforaphane to breast cancer cells in test tubes.  They found that both estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative tumors responded.  But in real life, how do we know if the sulforaphane that we eat gets into our breasts where we need it?  The investigators approached women planning to undergo breast reduction surgery.  One hour prior to surgery, they had these women consume a predetermined amount of broccoli, then analyzed the breast tissue that was removed.  They found effective concentrations of sulforaphane in the tissue and were able to calculate that by consuming between ¼ and 1 ¼ cups of broccoli sprouts per day women could sufficiently bathe their breast tissue with an effective concentration of this critical phytonutrient.

When we pack our plates with a variety of vibrantly-colored plants, which include minimally processed whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit with nuts and seeds:

  • We eat rich sources of hundreds of different kinds of fiber.  Our liver filters our blood and sends excess hormones, carcinogenic substances, and anything it feels we are better off without to our intestines for removal.  Adequate fiber not only binds with these substances in our colon and renders them inactive, but also ensures that they are efficiently removed from our bodies in our fecal matter.  When the liver sends these toxic substances to our colon for removal, if adequate fiber does not exist, the matter sits longer than necessary and can eventually be reabsorbed and recirculated needlessly throughout the body.  This is called enterohepatic circulation and it is something we want to avoid.  With the help of beneficial intestinal bacteria, which flourish by feeding on the plant matter in our diets, fiber is fermented into substances like butyric acid which inhibits the growth of cancer cells.  When we follow a low-fat, minimally processed, plant-based lifestyle, we should have no problem meeting/exceeding the daily ½ pound fecal elimination target that is important for cancer prevention/battling.
  • We eat broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates which boost our liver’s ability to fight carcinogens.
  • We eat foods that are naturally low in fat.  Those plants that are higher in fat are truly healthy fat.  Dietary fat and fat stores on our body act like hormone factories within our bodies.  Minimizing artificially extracted added oils helps to minimize excess hormone production and keeps our immune system running strong.  In fact, vegetable oils are the strongest promoter of cancer with which we commonly come into contact.  Both men and women that have more body fat tend to have less sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in their blood.  SHBG’s job is to bind with excess hormones and render them inactive and unable to promote cancer.  Your percentage of calories from fat should not exceed 15%.
  • We eat plants that contain chlorophyll which may protect our DNA against mutation by intercepting carcinogens.  They prevent their absorption into our blood and bind with them so that they don’t fit into our DNA where they can cause mutations.
  • We eat vegetables that can suppress vascular endothelial growth factor, which causes new blood vessels to sprout into a tumor and provide it with a good blood supply, which enables the tumor to grow and thrive.
  • We eat ground flax seeds which appear to have the potential to reduce breast tumor growth.
  • We eat foods that help to prevent cancer not only by blocking DNA damage but by increasing our DNA repair enzymes’ ability to repair any damage that gets by our first line of antioxidant defense.

It is just as important to remove the foods that are harmful as it is to replace them with foods that are protective.  It’s difficult to imagine that the food that permeates almost every aspect of our culture could be so dangerous.

Animal products and added oils are best left off your plate altogether.  Here are just some of the reasons:

  •  When meat is cooked, carcinogenic substances are created within the flesh called heterocyclic amines.  Heterocyclic amines may also make breast cancer more aggressive.  When meat is grilled, the fat dripping onto the grill and the resulting smoke that rises upward toward the meat create carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the meat’s surface.  If you cook your meat, there is no getting around heterocyclic amines.  The longer and hotter the meat gets, the more these substances form.  Chicken is the largest source of heterocyclic amines in the American diet.  If you don’t cook your meat, then you have to worry about fecal bacterial, viral, and prion contamination.
  • Many human cancers, including leukemia and some tumors of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and skin, have absolute methionine dependency.  They need methionine to survive.  Chicken and fish are particularly rich sources of methionine, although it is also found in high concentrations in all animal products.  Methionine restriction is best achieved with a plant-based lifestyle.
  • Consuming dairy raises blood levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).  IGF-1 not only encourages the growth of normal cells, it encourages the growth of abnormal cells.
  • 87% of the protein in dairy comes from casein.  According to traditional regulatory criteria, casein has been found to be the most significant carcinogen ever discovered.
  • Meat and dairy contain no fiber or protective phytonutrients and crowd out the protective plant foods on our plates.  They are also high in saturated fat.  Dietary fat and fat stores on our body act like hormone factories within our bodies.  Elevated hormone levels not only encourage the growth of regular cells, they encourage the growth of cancer cells.  Fat also suppresses the immune system.  Chemicals exposures are stored in the fat of animals and bioaccumulate up the food chain.  Those that eat animal products are at the top of that food chain.  Removing the fat from dairy products results in a higher concentration of dairy protein (casein) in the fat-free product.
  • Cancer may use a molecule found in animal products, Neu5Gc, to trick our immune system into feeding it with inflammation.  Our bodies still recognize cancer tumors as “self”.  The tumor incorporates Neu5Gc into itself, our bodies do not recognize the Neu5Gc as “self”, and incite a low-grade inflammation that ultimately feeds the cancer tumor.

Per Neal Barnard, MD, research indicates that if a dietary change is to alter the course of this disease, the changes need to be significant.  A low-fat, minimally processed, plant-based lifestyle can be a thoroughly enjoyable way to eat.  It’s not difficult to eat this way, it’s just different.  For more information or help adopting a plant-based lifestyle, please contact me.



The Cancer Survivor’s Guide: Foods That Help You Fight Back, by Neal Barnard, MD and Jennifer K. Reilly, RD

The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell, II

Dr. McDougall’s Digestive Tune-Up by John A. McDougall, MD

Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole, by Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD

Over-Diagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health by Drs. H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa Schwartz, and Steve Woloshin

The Starch Solution Certification Course by John McDougall, MD

The McDougall Advanced Study Series, Stopping Cancer Before it Starts by Michael Greger, MD

Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction,, 9/18/13

Broccoli Boost Liver Detox Enzymes,, 7/18/13

Anti-Angiogenesis: Cutting Off Tumor Supply Lines,, 7/12/13

Mushrooms for Breast Cancer Prevention,, 6/6/13

Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence,, 4/10/13

Breast Cancer vs. Mushrooms,, 12/26/12

How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies,, 12/14/12

Eating Green to Prevent Cancer,, 10/16/12

Kiwifruit and DNA Repair, NutritionFacts.og, 7/18/12

Lung Cancer Metastases and Broccoli,, 3/21/12

Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast,, 3/13/12

Breast Cancer Prevention: Which Mushroom is Best?,, 9/21/11

Vegetables Versus Breast Cancer,, 9/20/11

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Spring-Summer 2011 GOOD MEDICINE

Hot Dogs and Leukemia,, 11/22/10

What is a Plant-Based Lifestyle and Why Should I Consider It?

A low-fat, plant-based lifestyle is comprised of an incredible variety of minimally processed whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables, and fruits with minimal added oils.  These foods provide for an almost endless assortment of tasty recipes and meals.  It is a very satisfying way of eating.

The most comprehensive and well structured scientific studies completed to-date clearly indicate that this way of eating not only promotes vibrant health at any age, but also significantly improves a person’s ability to prevent, arrest, more effectively battle, or depending upon the disease, even reverse, chronic, degenerative conditions including heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, and autoimmune conditions.

Meat and dairy products are so heavily ingrained in our culture that asking you to consider removing them from your plate may sound like heresy, but I hope that the following reasons will be compelling enough for you to “test drive” this lifestyle for just three weeks.  Medical doctors and PhDs in the forefront of nutrition research and lifestyle medicine repeatedly demonstrate the leverageable effect that the right food can have on health.

“All human populations of trim, healthy people have gotten the bulk of their calories from starch.”  John McDougall, MD

What we eat and drink on a regular basis is the single most important environmental factor in our health.  It plays a more influential role than genetics in most cases with regard to chronic, degenerative diseases.

It is widely accepted that increasing our vegetable and fruit intake is a healthy change we can all make.  Plants contain no cholesterol, are low in fat and rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.  The fiber helps to fill us up, encourages a healthy gastrointestinal system, and facilitates the efficient removal of carcinogens and other waste products, thereby preventing them from recirculating in our body.  Researchers continue to discover additional benefits of the antioxidants and other phytochemicals that abound only in plants.  Plants help to promote alkalinity within the body which encourages a decrease in inflammation.

What most people do not know is that it is equally important if not more important to remove the meat and dairy products from our meals.

  •  Meat is not a necessary source of protein.  All of the essential amino acids are found in abundance in plants.  Most of the chronic, degenerative diseases that plague our society are due to excessive protein intake.  The overconsumption of protein in affluent cultures adds stress to the kidneys, which must process and excrete the excess.  “In healthy people with no apparent diseases, it is estimated that they lose about 1/3 of their kidney function by the time they reach the age of 70 because of the high protein nature of the rich, American diet.” John McDougall, MD
  • Meat contains saturated fat which can lead to heart and other vascular diseases.  Excess fat in our diet and stored on our bodies can cause us to produce excess hormones, which can increase our cancer risk.  It can also lead to excess intramyocellular lipids, or fat within our cells, which can paralyze insulin and lead to type II diabetes.
  • Meat contains cholesterol.  There is no dietary requirement for cholesterol.  Our bodies make all that they need.  Cholesterol cannot be removed from meat as it resides within the cell walls and the cholesterol in all mammals is about the same, so switching from beef to chicken or turkey will not reduce your cholesterol.  Elevated cholesterol levels can also lead to heart and other vascular diseases.  At a cholesterol of 150 mg/dl and below, heart disease does not occur.  This can be attained without medication simply by following this lifestyle.
  • Meat contains high levels of the sulfur-containing amino acid methionine, which causes our blood and body tissues to become very acidic and can promote osteoporosis as our body utilizes bone material to neutralize this acid.  Osteoporosis is not a condition of inadequate calcium intake.  It is a condition of overly rapid calcium loss.  The material excreted from our bones to neutralize the acidic environment created by the consumption of meat and dairy products is eventually filtered through the kidneys where it provides the building material for 95% of kidney stones.  Those countries with the highest consumption of dairy products also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis.  No level of calcium supplementation will keep a person in positive calcium balance (that is, keeping more calcium than they are losing) if the person is consuming a diet containing meat and dairy products.
  • When meat is cooked, carcinogenic substances form within the flesh known as heterocyclic amines and benzopyrenes.  The longer and hotter the meat is cooked, the more carcinogens form.  Additional carcinogenic substances form on the surfaces of grilled meat, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.  There is no getting around heterocyclic amines and benzopyrenes, unless you stop cooking your food, in which case you need to be concerned with viral and bacterial contaminants such as e coli, salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),Yersinia enterocolitica, and the prions that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease.
  • All mammals store chemical exposures within their body fat.  As larger animals eat smaller animals, the chemical residues further concentrate within the animals’ fat as they move up the food chain.  This is a process known as biomagnification.  Being at the top of the food chain, not only are we exposing ourselves to all of the chemicals to which animals on the food chain below us were exposed, but a mother’s fat reserves are used to produce milk for her nursing baby and all of the chemical exposures from all of the animals eaten on the food chain below can end up in her milk.

Humans are the only mammals that drink milk after weaning and the only mammals to drink the milk of another species.  Drinking non-human milk causes a number of worrisome biological reactions.

  •  Dairy products are not an essential source of calcium.  A study funded by the dairy industry determined that postmenopausal women consuming dairy products were in negative calcium balance (losing more calcium than they were retaining) and lost twice as much bone as postmenopausal women who avoid dairy products.  Instead, obtain your calcium from green, leafy vegetables and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
  • According to traditional regulatory criteria, the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted, The China Study, determined that casein, which comprises 87% of dairy protein, is the most significant carcinogen ever discovered.
  • Consuming dairy products raises the level of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in our bloodstream.  IGF-1 is a powerful stimulus for cancer cell growth.  When IGF-1 is mixed with breast cancer cells in a test tube, the cancer cells begin to grow rapidly.
  • Dairy products also inhibit the activation of vitamin D, which is very protective against cancer.
  • In 1993, the dairy industry established an internal guideline that there could be no more than 750,000 white blood cells (also known as pus cells) in 1 ml of milk.  1 ml is about 1/30 of an ounce.

Eliminate meat and dairy products and do our part to end world hunger.  It takes 12 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef.  More people could be fed if the grain were eaten directly.

Eliminate meat and dairy and do our part to minimize global warming.  Animal agriculture has the single largest impact on global warming, even more than all of the transportation sectors combined.  In addition, rain forests are being destroyed to provide land for agricultural animals.

If and how much you choose to incorporate this way of eating into your lifestyle is up to you.  I hope that you will test drive it for just three weeks and see how positively wonderful and full of energy you can feel.  Please keep in mind that to reduce your risk or to significantly alter the course of a serious condition such as cancer, heart disease, or an autoimmune condition, dietary changes have to be significant.

Fish…Is it Good for Us?

This is one of the most frequent questions that I am asked.  To help you make an educated decision that is in the best interest of you and your family, I’ve compiled what the current research has to say.  I apologize up front for the length of the article and the length of the words.  Neither could be shortened without compromising the accuracy of the article.

We’ve all heard it.  Fish contains mercury.  We’ve heard it so much that I think we are inclined to ignore it.  If the mercury was that bad, no one would be eating fish.  People would be dying from it.  It would be headline news.  Unfortunately, fish isn’t just contaminated with mercury, but let’s start with the effects of methyl mercury first.

All fish contain small amounts of methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury.  Fish consumption is the main source of it in our diets.  In a recent study, 55% of all tuna examined was above the EPA safety level for human consumption and it appears to be getting worse over time.  Current data suggests that EPA safety levels should be cut in half.  Already, current regulations in the U.S. allow up to ten times as much mercury in fish as the EPA limit allows, so our fish is currently allowed to have twenty times more mercury than may be considered safe.

  • Studies on children of the neurobehavioral toxicity of mercury suggest that no level of mercury exposure can truly be considered safe for anyone, not just unsafe for pregnant women and children.
  • It is thought that attention span is particularly vulnerable to developmental methyl mercury exposure, probably due to damage to the frontal lobes of the brain.
  • Methyl mercury is a known neurotoxin.  Severe exposure can cause overt structural brain abnormalities like microcephaly, which is a shrunken brain disorder.
  • For most of 33 fish species tested, the detrimental effect on IQ scores of the mercury exposure exceeded the brain development boost, also measured in IQ scores, of the DHA.
  • The methyl mercury in fish is a cardiac toxin, creates free radicals, and causes inflammation, blood clots, and muscle dysfunction of the blood vessel walls.
  • In fact, methyl mercury toxicity was found to contribute an additional $5 billion in lost economic productivity every year.

Many other contaminants are found in fish.

  • Flame retardant chemicals are endocrine disrupting pollutants associated with the early onset of puberty in girls.  The largest and most toxic source in the American diet is fish.
  • Endocrine disrupting xenoestrogens, from manmade chemicals and radioactive polonium, both found in fish, may interfere with male fertility.
  • Tuna and sardines were found to have the highest levels of the carcinogenic compound putrescine.
  • The highest levels of DDT and PCBs were found in those who consume fish.  PCB-contaminated fish has raised concerns about increased cancer risk.  Organochlorine pesticides and hexochlorobenzene exposure were also found to be from fish.
  • Toxicologically significant PCNs are chlorinated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons of human origin that can bestow a dioxin-like mode of toxic action.  They are found in highest toxicity in fish.
  • Perfluorochemical exposure, recently linked to thyroid disease, was found overwhelmingly to be coming from meat and fish consumption.
  • Most of human exposure to radioactive polonium comes from fish and shellfish.  The majority of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear power plant tragedy was absorbed by the Pacific Ocean.  There is unequivocal evidence that Pacific blue fin tuna transported Fukushima-derived radionuclides across the entire North Pacific Ocean.  Fukushima aside, fish already contain radioactivity due to thermonuclear weapons tests, sunken nuclear subs, and radioactive elements found naturally in the earth’s crust.  They bioaccumulate up the food chain in the fat of the fish.
  • Meat and fish are contaminated with arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, preservatives, and antibiotic residue.  The greatest risk of exposure to cadmium and lead resides in the consumption of certain types of fish.
  • Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found levels of arsenic in chicken feather meal up to 100 times that found in apple juiceby Dr. Oz last year and 10 times that found recently in rice.  Feather meal is made from the billion pounds of feathers plucked from chicken carcasses annually, sometimes with heads, guts, manure, and feet thrown in to increase protein and mineral content.  It is fed to agricultural animals including farmed fish.  Farmed fish are also fed by-products from cows and can therefore transmit mad cow disease.  Fish farmers often feed cheap fish meal which contains palm, linseed, and canola oil, which can inflame the arteries and result in more heart attacks and strokes.
  • Many of the drugs we take can end up in our urine, which can end up polluting our waterways.  Personal care products, nicotine, caffeine, and hormones were also found.  There is a concern that they can bioaccumulate in the flesh of fish.
  • Industrial chemical pollutants that can disrupt our metabolism and predispose us to obesity are referred to as obesogens.  The focus has been on organotin compounds.  Basically, they turn preadipocytes, pre-fat cells, into fat cells.  The number one dietary source is fish.
  • We’ve so polluted our planet that it is now just coming down in the rain and then progressing up the food chain.  The best we can do to avoid these chemicals is to eat as low on the food chain as possible, preferably organic.

In addition to the pollutants found in fish, there are significant health reasons one should abstain from eating fish:

  • Fish has significantly more cholesterol than beef and chicken.
  • Gut bacteria and our liver can turn the choline in shellfish and fish into the toxic substance trimethylamine oxide, which may increase the risk of a build-up of cholesterol in the inflammatory cells in the atherosclerotic plaques in our arteries.
  • Fish contain high levels of methionine, which encourages cancer cell growth in animals and is toxic to the bowel.  Many human cancers, including leukemia and some tumors of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and skin, have what is called absolute methionine dependency.  They generate gaseous sulphur-containing compounds with it.  Methionine is found particularly in chicken and fish.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil pills may increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer and make them more likely to develop a high-grade form of the disease.
  • A higher rate of cancer deaths among those that handle and process meat is attributed to infection with zoonotic viruses and antigenic stimulation through chronic exposure to animal proteins.  In fact, cancer-causing virus exposure could help explain why those who eat meat have higher cancer rates.  There’s even a retrovirus associated with cancerous fish tumors which was speculated as a cause for increased cancer rates in American seafood workers.
  • An isolated chemical from tarragon that is used as a flavoring agent in items like alcoholic beverages, canned fish, fats, and oils may act as a carcinogen and damage DNA.
  • The purported role arachidonic acid plays in brain inflammation could explain why eliminating chicken, fish, and eggs may improve symptoms of mood disturbance, depression, anxiety, and stress within two weeks.
  • Per the Framingham Heart Study, the consumption of dark fish, such as salmon, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, and sardines, may increase one’s risk of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat rhythm associated with stroke, dementia, heart failure, and a shortened lifespan.
  • Meat, cheese, fish, and animal protein intake in general have been associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease.  In the meantime, a plant-based lifestyle may not only help to prevent such conditions, but treat them as well, resulting in the longest recorded remission rates for Crohn’s disease.
  • Fish and shellfish are highly acidic foods that create an acidic environment in our blood and body tissues when we consume them.  Our body is constantly striving to maintain a slightly alkaline environment and must leach calcium from our bones to buffer this acid.  This can leave us in a negative calcium balance that could ultimately result in osteoporosis.
  • Shellfish and fish are two of the six leading causes of food allergies.
  • Each of us has 46 chromosomes.  At the end of each chromosome are caps called telomeres which keep our chromosomes from unraveling and fraying and protect our DNA.  Every time our cells divide, a bit of that cap is lost.  When the cap is completely gone, our cells either stop dividing or die.  If we can slow down this shortening, we should be able to slow down aging and live longer.  Smoking eats away at our protective telomeres more than anything, followed by processed meats, which ages DNA by 14 years, and non-fried fish, which ages DNA by 6 years.
  • There are also natural toxins that can bioaccumulate up the aquatic food chain.  For example, there’s a rare toxin called domoic acid that can turn up in tuna and other seafood and cause anterograde amnesia, the loss of the ability to form short-term memories due to damage done to the hippocampus.

People consume fish and fish oil for a variety of health reasons.  Unfortunately, the best research available does not support many of the purported benefits.

  • Many people eat fish to obtain their essential fatty acids, fats that are essential to our health and must be included in our diet.  What they don’t realize is that on average only 30% of the fat in fish is essential Omega 3 fat.  The other 70% of fish fat is saturated fat.  There are healthy ways to consume essential fats without having to consume their unhealthy “baggage”.

Women following vegan diets have plenty of omega-3 essential fatty acids in their blood, compared with fish-eaters, meat-eaters, and ovo-lacto vegetarians.  Levels in vegan men were not quite as high as in vegan women.  Despite zero intake of long-chain omega-3s eicosapentaenoic  acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and substantially lower intake of their plant-derived precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), vegan study participants converted robust amounts of shorter-chain fatty acids into these long-chain fatty acids.

Fish convert the ALA they ingest from algae into DHA & EPA.  Those that say we must consume pre-formed DHA (aka fish) are misinformed.  The body takes alpha linolenic acid from plants and converts it to EPA and DHA.  Now it only converts a small percentage, but that is all we need.  Any more just adds to our fat consumption.

  • Fish oil has no effect on heart-related death, heart attack, or stroke, according to a review of 20 studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012.  Advice to eat oily fish or take fish oil to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or mortality is no longer supported by the balance of available evidence.
  • The speculative benefits from the blood-thinning effects of fish oils fail to compensate for the harmful effects of the meat- and dairy-based Western diet.  Eating fish oil has serious downsides.  The blood-thinning properties increase the risk of generalized bleeding; these consequences could mean death from a car accident.  Fish oil suppresses the immune system.  The result might be a reduction of arthritic pains, but this same suppression will accelerate cancer growth.  Fish oil is 100% fat, and the fat you eat is the fat you wear.  Thus, it can cause weight gain.
  • Fish oil does not decrease inflammation, it increases inflammation.  It is thought that the long-chain Omega 3s like DHA are anti-inflammatory, but the industrial pollutants like PCBs and insecticides are more than offsetting its effect.  Even distilled fish oil contains PCBs and insecticides.  Algae-based DHA is recommended instead.  In a recent study, the equivalent of eating a single walnut half per day appeared to cut the risk of dying from inflammatory disease in about half, whereas fish did not appear to play a protective role.
  • Fish and fish oil do not prevent and do not decrease the risk of depression.

It is very important to those that are considering getting pregnant to know that it’s not just what you don’t eat while you are pregnant, but also what you don’t eat before you get pregnant.

  • Avoid polluted fish consumption for one year prior to getting pregnant and during pregnancy.  The half-life of mercury in the body is estimated to be about two months.  It takes one year to clear nearly 99% of the mercury in one’s body.  However, it can take much longer for the other industrial pollutants in fish to detox out of our body.  For example, certain dioxins, PCBs, and DDT metabolites found in fish have half-lives of ten years.  To get that same 99% drop can take 120 years.  These contaminants can increase one’s risk of diabetes by 38 times.  That’s as strong a relationship as smoking and lung cancer.  Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are stored in our fat and the fatter we are, the higher the retention and toxicity may be for these diabetes-related chemicals.  This suggests that obesity may be a vehicle for such chemicals or simply a marker of animal product consumption since over 90% of POPs come from animal products unless you work in a chemical factory or are exposed to toxic waste.  Every serving of fish per week increases diabetes risk by 5%, which makes it 80% worse than the diabetes risk associated with red meat consumption.
  • Exposure to mercury during pregnancy appears to influence fetal brain development as detected by the decreased size of a newborn’s brain.  It takes an extremely small amount of fish to result in what is considered to be high mercury exposure.
  • Researchers also found mercury-related damage to the visual centers in the brain and an increased risk of epilepsy in children being born of mothers who consumed fish during pregnancy.
  • Decades after DDT was banned, 95% of 318 samples of umbilical cord blood were found to have detectible DDT residues.  Since organo-chlorine pesticides are attracted to fat, they accumulate in foods of animal origin.  The mother’s consumption of meat, fish, and dairy were most closely associated with the presence of DDT in umbilical cord serum.
  • Many parents are concerned about mercury-containing (thimerosal-containing) vaccines.  However, if the mother only ate a single serving of fish per week or less during pregnancy, the latest data shows that infants end up with substantially more mercury in their bodies than being injected with up to 6 mercury-containing vaccines.
  • Consuming fish can prolong pregnancy by changing prostaglandin hormones.

Women who plan to get pregnant may want to be tested for mercury exposure by having their hair analyzed.  Dietary modifications can decrease the body’s mercury burden to help ensure fetal safety.

Those that are careful not to consume genetically modified organisms may be surprised that they could be sneaking onto their plates despite all of their efforts.  Very few fresh fruits or vegetables are genetically engineered, although Hawaiian papayas and a variety of yellow squash are notable exceptions.  No meat, poultry, or fish products, approved for direct human consumption, are bioengineered at this point, although surprisingly, most of the feed for livestock and farmed fish is derived from genetically engineered alfalfa, corn, other grains, and soybeans.  Also commonly genetically modified are canola oil, sugar beets, and zucchini.

And finally, a former EPA toxicologist stated that the EPA really considers the fish industry to be their clients more so than the general public.

So despite my effort to keep the reasons to avoid fish brief, nearly five pages and a plethora of multi-syllabic words later, I hope that you will think twice when considering adding any kind of fish to your plate.




The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book by Roy Laver Swank and Barbara Brewer Dugan

The Starch Solution Certification Course by John McDougall, MD

The McDougall Advanced Study Series, Stopping Cancer Before it Starts by Michael Greger, MD

The Starch Solution video presentation by John McDougall, MD

Five Dietary Myths audio presentation by John McDougall, MD

Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?,, 2/3/14

How Long to Detox From Fish Before Pregnancy?,, 12/25/13

Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development,, 11/25/13

Fish Intake Associated With Brain Shrinkage,, 11/22/13

Tarragon Toxicity?,, 11/5/13

Starving Cancer with Methionine Restriction,, 9/18/13

Eating Outside Our Kingdom,, 9/16/13

August 2013 McDougall Newsletter

PCRM 7/19/13 Breaking Medical News

Male Fertility and Diet,, 6/30/13

Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood,, 6/17/13

Carnitine, Choline, Cancer and Cholesterol: The TMAO Connection,, 4/26/13

PCRM news release, 2/26/13, Plant-Based Diets Offer Greater Heart Protection than Mediterranean Diets—without Toxic, Fatty Fish

Protein, Puberty, and Pollutants,, 2/25/13

Food Sources of Perfluorochemicals,, 11/1/12

DDT in Umbilical Cord Blood,, 10/30/12

Food Sources of Flame Retardant Chemicals,, 10/29/12

Paleolithic Lessons,, 10/9/12

How Much Arsenic in Rice Came From Chickens?,, 9/21/12

Mercury Testing Recommended Before Pregnancy,, 7/27/12

Achieving Remission of Crohn’s Disease,, 7/3/12

McDougall Newsletter, July 2012

PCRM’s Good Medicine magazine, Summer 2012

Improving Mood Through Diet,, 9/29/11

7/7/11 lecture given by Neal Barnard, MD in Homewood

Spring-Summer 2011 GOOD MEDICINE

Obesity-Causing Pollutants in Food,, 5/12/11

Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin-Free?,, 5/11/11

March 2011 McDougall Newsletter, Vitamin D: Values for Normal are Exaggerated

Research Into Reversing Aging,, 2/22/11

The December 2002 McDougall Newsletter

Tired of Yo-Yo Dieting? A Lifestyle Makeover May Be in Order

Are you ready for the spring/summer shedding of our winter layers?  Are you not where you want to be but are tired of dieting?  A multifaceted lifestyle makeover may be just what you need.

Let’s face it.  There are many dimensions to our lives that can help or hinder our attempt to get fit and feel better.  If we get a lousy night of sleep, we’re cranky the next day and more likely to give in to food cravings to help us get by.  If we move more, we’ll burn more calories and the more we move, the more we feel like moving.  And lastly, the better able we are to cope with stress, the less likely we are to stress eat for comfort.  It’s all interrelated.  So here are some quick tips that can easily be factored into your daily routine.

Adopt a Plant-Based Plate

Not only is a low-fat, minimally processed, plant-based plate a mouthful to say, it is a mouthful to eat.  With an almost endless variety of menu ideas, it is a very satisfying way to dine.  It is naturally more nutrient dense and calorie dilute than the standard American diet and encourages a gradual but more permanent shift toward a healthy weight.

Keep these suggestions in mind to make your transition as easy as possible:

  • Enjoy a colorful variety of whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables, and fruit.  Also enjoy some raw nuts and seeds.  Eat as close to the plant’s natural package as possible.  In other words, limit/omit processed food.
  • Minimize or omit added oil.
  • Make starches the centerpiece of your meal (brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, corn, potatoes, squash, barley, pasta, whole grain bread).  Starches are our primary source of energy and satiety.
  • Start each meal with a piece of fruit, soup, salad, or vegetable to get your stomach’s stretch receptors stretching.
  • Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, but not stuffed.
  • Include a B12 supplement every day.
  • Stay hydrated with 64 ounces of filtered water each day.

Move More

Sneak simple ways of increasing your activity level into your everyday routine.  When you’re out running your errands, progressively park farther and farther away from your destination until you’re competing against another health conscious person for the last spot in the lot!  Take the steps instead of the elevator whenever possible, even if you start out stopping just one or two floors before your regular stop.  Get off earlier and earlier as your stamina increases.  Brisk walks outside are great this time of year.  You get a great cardio workout, and a healthy dose of vitamin D between 10 and 2 as well.

If you are over 40, significantly overweight, or have health issues, get your doctor’s blessing before beginning to exercise.  Cardio, resistance, and stretching all offer specific benefits so try to incorporate all three.

Sleep Like a Cat

Recuperative sleep is a critical component of feeling well, eating well, and fully functioning throughout your day without the crutch of caffeine and sugary snacks.

The average adult thrives on 7 hours each night.  Getting too much sleep can be depressogenic.  To encourage a restful night sleep:

  • Avoid high protein foods in the evening.
  • Watch the timing of your caffeine intake.  Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours, the time it takes for half of the caffeine to be metabolized.
  • Limit fluids in the evening if it causes a midnight bathroom run.
  • Keep yourself on a regular sleep schedule, even on your days off from work.

Make Time to Breathe (with help from the work of Joan Borysenko, PhD)

Whether you call it meditation, conscious breathing, or quiet time, it can be a valuable tool in managing and reducing the stress that permeates all of our lives.  At first it might seem awkward and forced, but with repeated practice, it can become a natural, nonperceptible response to our daily worries.  Changing our breathing can increase or reduce our sympathetic nervous system reaction, either triggering our fight-or-flight response or our relaxation response.  This sets the tone for the rest of the autonomic nervous system.

Picture a baby breathing.  They have perfected the technique.  When they inhale, their abdomen expands like a balloon and when they exhale it flattens out like a pancake.  When we fall asleep at night, we breathe exactly the same way.  In fact, we breathe like this whenever we are truly relaxed.

When stress begins to affect us physically, one of our responses is tense, shallow breathing or chest breathing.  It can also occur when we hold our stomachs in to try to look slimmer or force ourselves into clothing that is too tight for us.  We end up only breathing with the upper portion of our chest.  We could move 8-10 times more air if we fully engage our lungs.

To practice abdominal breathing, follow these simple instructions from Dr. Borysenko:

  • Take a deep breath, then blow it out completely through your mouth with an audible sigh to fully evacuate your lungs.  Notice how your belly flattens as you expel every last bit of air.  This will remove the stale air in the bottom of your lungs and the vacuum that results will automatically cause you to have a deep, diaphragmatic (abdominal) breath.
  • Inhale through your nose, making sure that your abdomen not your chest is expanding as the air completely fills your lungs.
  • Practice abdominal breathing for a short period every day and once it begins to feel like second nature, try it out in stressful situations.  Notice how well your body responds.  Done regularly, this will become your body’s natural response to anxiety.

There’s no time like the present to clean out old habits and replace them with new, health promoting ones.  So make a plan and enjoy implementing it!