8+ Striking Nutrition Studies Every Medical Student Should Read

In the United States, dietary factors are the most important risk factors for disease, yet medical schools fail to provide adequate nutrition education. As a consequence, medical students graduate without... Read more

The post 8+ Striking Nutrition Studies Every Medical Student Should Read appeared first on Forks Over Knives.

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A Physician’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets

I am thrilled to announce that my article, A Physician’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets, was just published in Kaiser Permanente’s summer issue of their medical journal, The Permanente Journal.

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Kaiser is leading the way in preventive medicine, increasingly incorporating plant-based nutrition on the front lines with their patients and employees. This guide was designed as a way to provide healthcare practitioners with the information about the benefits of eating plant-based diets, the details of the nutrition, and methods of implementing these ideas into their patient care plan. Please feel free to print this out as material to offer your own healthcare providers, friends, family, and colleagues if they have questions about your diet. Or use it as a reference for yourself. My goal is to make plant-based nutrition as accessible and easy as possible for everyone, which is why I am excited to offer this necessary new tool.

Here is the link to the online version: http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/…/2016/s…/6192-diet.html Print versions are also available for purchase here.

 

The post A Physician’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets appeared first on Plant Based Dietitian.

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Dealing With Air Travel Radiation Exposure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With Air Travel Radiation Exposure

Doctors appear to be causing tens of thousands of cancers with CT scans and dentists may be causing a few brain tumors with dental X-rays (see my two videos Cancer Risk from CT Scan Radiation and Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors?), but what about these new-fangled airport full-body scanners that use so-called backscatter technology to reduce X-ray exposure? A thousand times less radiation exposure than a chest X-ray, though they’re still being phased out. In fact, flight passengers may get 100 times more radiation during the flight every hour, because they’re so high up in the atmosphere and exposed to more cosmic rays. Does that mean a round-trip cross-country flight is almost like getting a chest X-ray? Yes. Anyone who’s seen my speaking schedule knows I’m totally screwed. But what can you do? As is the answer to so many health questions, you can eat healthily.

High dietary antioxidant intakes are associated with decreased DNA damage in airline pilots. Note the word “dietary.” Antioxidant supplements didn’t work. No benefit was found for those taking multivitamins, vitamin C pills, or vitamin E pills. But those getting the most vitamin C from food, B carotene from food, cryptoxanthin from food, and lutein/zeaxanthin from food, saw a significant decrease in DNA damage.

The USDA keeps a nice list of phytonutrient resources. Cryptoxanthin sources listed here (Healthy Pumpkin Pie anyone?). Lutein and zeaxanthin can help us Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther and may present a Dietary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Are these eyesight-saving phytonutrients also found in eggs? You might be surprised. See Egg Industry Blind Spot.

For more on why produce is generally preferable to pills, check out:

These are all phytonutrients, of course, so when they say food, they really mean plants.  And because antioxidants can have synergistic effects, the greatest protection was found when they were eating a combination of phytonutrients, so the greatest protection was found in those eating the citrus and broccoli and nuts and seeds and pumpkins and peppers and dark green leafy vegetables. Though if one had to pick, greens may be the best. All this time I’ve been packing kale chips on planes as a snack just because they’re so lightweight, but now I know their dual purpose.

The researchers conclude that a diet consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables provides a natural source of these antioxidants as well as other potential protective factors, which may offer the best protection against cumulative DNA damage associated with ionizing radiation exposure. The results are especially relevant to flight crews, astronauts, and frequent flyers.

The same thing was found following Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors for decades. Models based on the available data suggest that the cancer risk in exposed persons may have been knocked down by daily green and yellow vegetable consumption from about 50% increased cancer risk to only about 30% increased risk. Similar results were found for fruit consumption. So fruit and vegetable consumption can diminish, but not eliminate the risks of radiation.

Same thing was found following children after Chernobyl. I profile a study in my video Mediating Radiation Exposure From Airline Travel in which consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits was found to afford protection to the immune systems of exposed children, whereas egg and fish consumption was associated with significantly increased risk of chromosome damage within their bodies. Researchers were unsure whether the damage attributed to fish and eggs was because the eggs and fish carried radioactivity, or whether it was just from the animal fat intake alone.

Why might eggs be harmful even if not radioactive? See Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe? or my other 58 videos on eggs. I cover natural and artificial radioactivity in fish in Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood and explore concerns about other pollutants in my 89 fish videos.

For interventional studies where plant foods are actually put to the test, see Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger And Lemon Balm.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: Sergé / Flickr

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Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Every year, doctors cause an estimated 29,000 cancers a year dosing patients with X-rays during CAT scans. What about dentists? 100 million Americans are exposed to dental X-rays every year, but don’t the lead apron and thyroid shield protect our vital organs? All our vital organs, except one—our brain!

A study entitled “Dental X-Rays and Risk of Meningioma,” was recently published. The objective was to explore the association between dental X-rays—the most common artificial source of ionizing radiation—and the risk of intracranial meningioma, the most common type of brain tumor (see my 3-min video Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors? for details).

The researchers found that those who report ever having a bitewing X-ray had twice the odds of a brain tumor, and those that got a panoramic series—the full mouth X-rays—before age 10 had nearly 5 times the odds.

While more research is needed, the bottom line is the benefits and risks of radiation exposure must always be carefully weighed. Dentists should consider the justification for every exposure. Furthermore, dentists should not prescribe routine dental X-rays at preset intervals for all patients (such as every 6 months or year, etc.). Says who? Says the official recommendations of the American Dental Association. There is little evidence to support irradiating people looking at all the teeth in search of hidden problems in asymptomatic patients. Accordingly, dentists should select patients wisely—only take X-rays when there is patient-specific reason to believe there is a reasonable expectation the X-rays will offer unique information influencing diagnosis or treatment.

I was actually just at the dentist for my check-up and was again offered a set of full mouth X-rays (because I was “due”). Normally when I refuse routine dental X-rays I’ve just explained that I try to minimize my radiation exposure, but this time I was able to refuse “as per the official recommendation of the American Dental Association!” I just got a blank stare.

More on avoiding brain tumors in:

This is the third in a five part series on preventing and mediating the adverse effects of radiation exposure. The first, Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood, described the natural and artificial sources of radioactive isotopes in our diet. The previous video, Cancer Risk from CT Scan Radiation, detailed the estimated 29,000 cancers that doctors cause with CAT scans every year. I also have videos on Mediating Radiation Exposure from Air Travel, in which I talk about those full-body scanners in airports. And I close out with ways to mediate all these risks with Reducing Radiation Damage With Ginger And Lemon Balm.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: bolandrotor / Flickr

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Half of Doctors Give Placebos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Half of Doctors Give Placebos

About half of doctors admit to intentionally deceiving patients by prescribing placebos, but might the ends justify the means?

A controversial paper was published in the American Journal of Bioethics arguing that it’s not only OK for doctors to lie to patients, but that we have a “duty to deceive.” Unlike what you see on television, roughly half the time a patient walks into a doctor’s office, a firm diagnosis cannot be made. Half the time the doctor doesn’t know what’s going on. So why not give the patient a sugar pill, such as a homeopathic remedy—which is often just that, an actual sugar pill—or something like a Bach flower remedy? Just because they don’t work better than placebo, doesn’t mean they don’t work (see my video Is Homeopathy Just Placebo?).

Placebos are certainly safer than prescribing an actual drug. As I document in my Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death video, prescription drugs kill an estimated 106,000 Americans a year, effectively making doctors the 6th leading cause of death.

Even just offering a made-up diagnosis and false reassurance seems to work. In one landmark study, two hundred patients for whom no definite diagnosis could be made were randomized into two groups. The honesty group was told “I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” and the dishonesty group was given some fake but firm diagnosis and told confidently they’d get better in a few days—and guess what, they did! They were 90 percent more likely to be cured. A "Deception Flowchart" has even been devised to help us doctors decide, for example, if we should consider a “lying” versus a “non-lying deception” to meet objectives.

Those on the pro-truth side of the fence argue that first of all, placebos aren’t necessarily always safe. The sugar in the sugar pills is typically lactose (milk sugar), for which most of humanity is intolerant after infancy. There was a famous cancer drug trial in which the chemotherapy caused a surprising reduction in nausea and vomiting compared to placebo, but that may have been because it was compared to a placebo made out of lactose. See my video Infant Nearly Killed by Homeopathy for an extreme example of this.

Pro-truth advocates accuse doctors of disease-mongering. By defining vague symptoms as an entity requiring a treatment, healthy people are converted into patients. “They need explanation and reassurance that promote autonomy,” reads one editorial, “not to be given faith in a non-existent disease and crackpot medicine.” If all one cares about is beneficial medical consequences, “might not doctors also have a duty to prescribe things like chanting, crystals, and séances?”

Deception advocates reply: “Doctors have a duty to do the best they can to relieve a patient’s symptoms. If that means they prescribe a placebo, or even conduct a séance…then there is a duty to do these things. If a doctor can really convince a patient that a chant will cure his headache, then it very likely will, and she should ululate it at the top of her lungs.” In fact, “It is a type of deception that patients ought to be thankful for, just as we are thankful when we receive a mendacious compliment from a friend.” Of course you don’t look fat in that dress!

So how many doctors lie to their patients? About half of surveyed internal medicine doctors and rheumatologists in the United States report prescribing placebo treatments on a regular basis. Similar numbers have been found in Canada, Europe, Israel, and New Zealand. See my video The Lie That Heals: Should Doctors Give Placebos? to see the studies themselves.

Surveys show that prescribing placebo treatments seems to be common and is viewed as ethically permissible by physicians. I personally find it ironic that physicians often condemn alternative medicine quacks for giving useless remedies when they themselves do the same thing. As one physician commented, “The vow we take is the Hippocratic oath—not the hypocritic one.”

What does everyone think about this practice? Would you want to be lied to by your doctor if it would help make you better?

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

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