Part I: Michael Greger, MD, Nutrition Facts 2013
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on a number of important public health issues. All proceeds from his speaking engagements and the sale of his books and DVDs are donated to his 501(c)3 nonprofit NutritionFacts.org, the first science-based, non-commercial website to provide free daily videos and articles on the latest discoveries in nutrition.
Hello Everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here’s to a wonderful 2014 and I’m on a very chilly spot on the universe in the universe right now 10 degrees in New York City its fun when its cold. When you’re in or out and I wanted to mention a few things before we get into the main part of the program. Robert Goodland, does that name ring a bell? He died on December 28 and I wanted to mention him because I’ve had him on this program and he was a wonderful environmentalist, researcher, and writer. Perhaps you remember when the Food and Agriculture organization put out this groundbreaking report in 2006 and they said that 18% of human induced greenhouse gases were caused by animal agriculture and then World Watch Institute and their magazine put out an article by Jeff Anhang and Robert Goodland later on reevaluating that study and they said 51% of human induced greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture. And since that time there has been a lot of back and forth about how that’s right how that’s wrong etc era. I’m not going to get into it there but Robert Goodland has written many wonderful works and I just invite you to visit my website http://responsibleeatingandliving.com go to the front page and click on remembering Robert Goodland “The Conscious of the World Bank” you can listen to my interview with him you can check the links and see some of his writings lets just keep his work alive. It’s so important and it’s so good.
All right and now back to the living. I want to invite my next guest on Dr. Michael Greger. He’s a physician, author and internationally recognized speaker on a number of important public health issues. He has a 50123 non-profit http://nutritionfacts.org the first science based non-commercial website to provide free daily videos and articles on the latest discoveries in nutrition. There’s so much more about Dr. Michael Greger he’s also the director of public health and animal agriculture at the Humane Society and so much more. Dr. Greger welcome to Its All About Food!
Dr. Michael Greger: Thank you so much for having me on Caryn. Its great to be back.
Caryn Hartglass: I miss you! I haven’t seen you in so long.
Dr. Michael Greger: Well, you know I’m going to be in New York this weekend actually.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s actually why I mentioned it. I heard you were coming up here. There’s a big event happening with a lot of cool people talking about food.
Dr. Michael Greger: Indeed and I am but one of many.
Caryn Hartglass: And you are but its all good so Where is that? When is it that? How can we know more about it?
Dr. Michael Greger: Ahh.. you know I should have suspected you’d ask something like that. So it’s at the Hudson Theatre, Millennium Broadway Hotel 145 W 44th street. One can get more details at http://therealtruthabouthealth.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Right or your website http://www.drgreger.org which can lead you to http://nutritionfacts.org which can link to your event. People can find you all over the place including New York in just a few days.
Dr. Michael Greger: If I don’t freeze on my way.
Caryn Hartglass: Please don’t. Well, it’s probably cold in Washington too isn’t it?
Dr. Michael Greger: It’s pretty chilly but I’m all warm and toasty inside and looking at all the poor suckers outside.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so let’s jump into some nutrition facts. My first question for you is, in your opinion, based on fact is there an ideal human diet?
Dr. Michael Greger: All one can really do in terms of making decisions in life is based on the best available balance of evidence at any one time that may change as we learn more and more but I think currently the best available balance of scientific evidence suggest that the healthiest diet, the diet most associated with longevity and the lowest rates of chronic diseases that are laying waste our society like heart disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes is a diet focused around whole plant foods.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. That’s what I always say. Excellent, so what about all those Paleo people out there?
Dr. Michael Greger: Well you know so the Paleo people make this argument that human beings have been around for two million years and just the last ten thousand just a blink of the eye in terms of geologic history. We’ve been eating the way we have with the advent of agriculture about ten twelve thousand years ago but you know I think it’s important that’s an important perspective from an evolutionary biology perspective but what they miss is that actually we as human beings have been evolving for the last two hundred million years from the Miocene era when primates first started and so for 99% of are evolution from 200 million years ago to 2 million years we were eating a diet centered around fruit and vegetables. Centered around plants you know dark green leafy vegetables meaning leaves and fruits and so for 99% of are evolution are biology is in tune to eating plant foods all day every day all day long. And really the blink in history is really just this last two million where we also incorporated some animal foods but are biology I think is really in tune to that of are fellow primates which is best shown by the chronic diseases that effect people that eat kind of a meat heavy diet and so I think one can make a better argument for a Miocenic diet than a Paleothic diet but regardless they do have an important good point that these processed foods whether it be Coca-Cola or these sugary food are really don’t have a place in the human diet and its associated with all of these health outcomes and so they are certainly right about getting rid of junk food even Dr. Atkins, the Atkins diet he said look get rid of don’t drink milk don’t eat Twinkies basically anyone who says don’t eat doughnuts is going to improve the health of Americans but that’s not far enough…
Caryn Hartglass: Even vegan doughnuts..
Dr. Michael Greger: …Towards a more whole plant foods..
Caryn Hartglass: Even vegan doughnuts..
Dr. Michael Greger: See vegans use to be really healthy people because what could they eat? They were stuck in the produce aisle but now practically those in Brooklyn can gorge on amazing vegan junk food and can be just as unhealthy as everybody else almost just as unhealthy same thing with the gluten free people. People with Celiac disease my patients with Celiac disease a couple decades ago they were forced to be healthy they couldn’t eat doughnuts they couldn’t eat cake they couldn’t eat all this junk that the American diet is centered around but now there is gluten free junk food, you can get gluten free doughnuts so now they can be as sick as everybody else.
Caryn Hartglass: Amen to that now moving on I think it’s linked to processed foods. I want to talk about bugs so bacteria has been getting lots of press as we learn more about having them around and some of them are good and some of them are bad and some are kind of bi where they go good or they go bad. Can we talk a little bit about them? Are you a probiotic, prebiotic, antibiotic?
Dr. Michael Greger: I recently had a number of videos about prebiotics and probiotics in fact today I had a blog about the effects of probiotics on mental health which is a new field on neuroendocrinology that has to do with the effect of our gut on our whole nervous system as well enteric neuroscience. In general probably prebiotics are more important, so probiotics play a role for people in terms of treating antibiotic induced diarrhea, preventing and treating antibiotic induced diarrhea and so for those people I would put them on a acidophilus regimen and we can talk about that, but for people that are not suffering from G.I systems don’t have diarrhea, don’t have chronic bloating, some of these other problems well they don’t need probiotics their bacteria is fine what they need is prebiotics they need to eat things like fiber and resistant starch found in beans found in whole grains that feed that don’t get broken down in our small intestine end up in our large intestine and feed our good bacteria so they can do what they were meant to do and they produce all sorts of wonderful compounds, propionate and butyrate, which have anti cancer compounds to circulate thorough tout our entire body and have all sorts of psychological effects. We have a symbiosis were kind of an organism made up of multiple different types of organisms and we feed them they feed us but when we change our diet we can dramatically effect the ecosystem down in our gut for good or for ill. In fact this recent study got a lot of press, there was a letter publish in the New England Journal that found that people that switch from a plant based diet to eating animal foods get a boost in the populations of these bacteria that are associated with inflammation this goes along with that whole methylamine story where carnitine, this compound in muscle foods and choline, this compound in eggs in particularly but also in poultry can be turned by bad bacteria in the guts of meat eaters into this something called trimethylamine-N-oxide which can cause inflammation, increase your risk of heart disease all sorts of bad things but if you can take vegans and feed them a steak which they actually had in this study they took a longtime vegan and they were willing, in the name of science, to eat a steak and they didn’t create any of this toxic substance from the carnitine in that meal because they didn’t have the bugs they had not been fostering these bad bugs all the time and so they didn’t have the bad bugs in their system now had they kept eating steak then eventually they would slowly but surely foster the growth of steak eating bacteria but when you foster the growth of fiber eating bacteria then you get these wonderful bacteria that can have all sorts of beneficial effects not only for our physical health but our mental health as well in our finding.
Caryn Hartglass: And prebiotics when we get them from food are cheaper than probiotics in little capsules.
Dr. Michael Greger: Oh sure and actually by eating plant foods we are getting both these lactic acid producing bacteria that’s what makes sauerkraut How do you make sauerkraut? You basically put cabbage and salted water. Don’t you have to put a culture in? Don’t you have to put bacteria in? No the bacteria is found naturally on the leaves of cabbage. And the only reason you add the salt is to prevent the growth of other bacteria, bad bacteria, so it doesn’t spoil. And so there are those probiotics these lactic acid producing bacteria these acidophilus like bacteria found on produce found on fruits and vegetables so by eating fruits and vegetables we get the best of both worlds we get the probiotics and the prebiotics and your right its cheaper and its safer as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I’m going to ask you what some of your favorite discoveries were in 2013, but I just want to mention one that I found out about that got me very excited was resistant starch.
Dr. Michael Greger: Oh, neat! You haven’t seen nothing yet I got I must have 5 or 6 videos coming up in 2014 on resistant starch I just touched really on resistant starch..
Caryn Hartglass: But isn’t it the greatest thing since, I don’t know, I don’t want to say sliced bread, but the greatest thing since kale!
Dr. Michael Greger: Yeah, no it’s really amazing so basically this is talking about the benefits of legumes. The benefits of beans, peas, lentils and soy foods we really need to eat beans everyday. In fact in the latest edition of Becoming Vegan by Davis and Melina they even suggest eating beans at every meal. Be like the Britain’s and eat beans for breakfast because they’re just so incredibly healthy. One of the things that’s found particularly in beans and less so in other foods is this wonderful resistant starch and they call it resistant because it resists digestion in our upper digestive tract so it makes it down and its able to feed our good bacteria and has all sorts of wonderful health promoting effects and its really hard to get enough of it unless one is eating lots of beans.
Caryn Hartglass: And we don’t even get the full caloric effect that we thought we were getting from them.
Dr. Michael Greger: Oh it has all sorts of neat..there’s actually kind of starch digestive blocking enzymes these amylase blockers within beans that actually kind of protect the starch from digestion and so yeah it has this kind of effect some of these kind of starch blocker over the counter drugs that are sold but without the bad side effects. In fact many of those supplements are actually made from white beans there kind of extracted from beans but its better to just eat the beans and get the benefits that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay lets hear it for the beans. Woo! What else was good in 2013?
Dr. Michael Greger: You know I’m glad you asked. Last year I did a kind of a year review blog talking about the most popular and most interesting videos of the year. I should do that again.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes!
Dr. Michael Greger: I will make that note for myself, 2013 videos. Oh my god there was such wonderful stuff. Such cool stuff remember that esophageal cancer strawberry one? That was just insane. So Dr. Ornish and colleagues, the first to really publish about reversing heart disease by opening up arteries without drugs without surgery just a healthy plant based diet and other lifestyle changes. That was really a revolution in the field we can reverse not just stop but reverse the number one killer so after checking off the number one killer off the list. Ornish went on to try and reverse cancer and successfully was able to treat men with prostate cancer with a vegan diet for a year, actually saw a reversal in the cancer biomarker PSA level and so that’s really the kind of hot field right now. Is reversal of cancer and precancerous lesions and so what this group did they looked at esophageal cancer one of our deadliest cancers, unfortunately its found really late and typically people just have a few months to live when they find out they have it and so that’s why this is the cancer you want to prevent in the first place. Basically what they did they gave the people a pound or two if strawberries every day for a couple weeks and so these are people with proven precancerous lesions these dysplastic lesions in their esophagus that turn into cancer and they were able to show that you actually reverse the progression. They were hoping well they could stop the progression so it didn’t turn into cancer but instead they went and half the patients the lesions completely disappeared.
Caryn Hartglass: With strawberries!
Dr. Michael Greger: With strawberries! Complete cases of complete clinical regression with what was this magic miracle drug, well it wasn’t a drug at all it was strawberries and the reason this isn’t headlines news everywhere is because there is no profit, no one makes money off the strawberries. If it were a drug it would be making some drug company billions of dollars we would hear about it everywhere there’d be ads on TV, but when that quote on quote drug is just strawberries, which cant really be patented or branded no one is going to.. Even a strawberry company wouldn’t pay for a promotion because odds are when you went to buy strawberries you wouldn’t buy their strawberries you’d benefit another strawberry producer so it doesn’t make financial sense to promote produce that why we’ve never seen an ad on TV for broccoli so we don’t hear about this stuff and that’s why I created http://nutritionfacts.org/. Because there’s some tremendous science out there this amazing mountain of evidence that just no one ever heard of it, its not that the science isn’t there its just that no one know about the science because there’s no profit motive to get it out to the public get on the evening news and so that’s why I created the site two years and its been growing ever since.
Caryn Hartglass: Yay Dr. Greger! Now another thing with that is that most of us mere mortals do not have access on the Internet like some amazing medical doctors do to some of the journals that are putting out this information that you have to have subscriptions to..
Dr. Michael Greger: It use to be worst there was this real tremendous professional monopoly around this information where doctors were the complete mediators of this kind of medical information and that there is no hope for the public to make any kind of independent decisions about what the best available evidence was now things are better there’s a lot of so called open access journals where you can actually read some of these scientific articles and studies that are coming out now often times they are written in kind of techno speak so again it makes it difficult for people to for the public to understand but your right still there’s payment firewalls or pay walls blocking access to many of the scientific publications out there that’s why you have to live biking distance from the National Library of Medicine here in Washington D.C. The reason I live where I live is because I’m right next to the biggest medical library in the world which essentially has access to everything and so I to don’t have access to even. I only have access because of where I live I am able to give that access to everybody and translate all the kind of medical speak and bring it out the world than I’m happy to do it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Now I was reading in the New York Times this weekend about what we are dying of these days and how long were living and they were saying that were dying less of heart disease and more often of cancer and there kind of catching up with each other.
Dr. Michael Greger: In Canada actually cancer is actually number one and heart disease is number two. I know this because I give this talk on preventing, treating and reversing the top fifteen killers and everywhere I go I have to give a slightly different version. When I went up to Canada I was surprised I start off the talk talking about cancer and heart disease drops down to number two. There’s no reason heart disease should be anywhere on the list because it’s a disease that can essentially be completely prevented in the first place so no ever has to get it and never need progress if you do have it and can get on a good diet it can actually be reversed in the majority of the cases and so the fact that it’s a leading killer at all it shouldn’t be there and so as people learn more about good nutrition hopefully it will fall off the radar and we will be telling are great grand kids about how there was this terrible scourge, people used to die of heart attacks your heart actually stopped beating and then are great grand kids go no! And you go yes!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I look forward to that time. Okay now on the big proponent of dark leafy green vegetables and I get them every way I possibly can and I think I’ve been quoting you for a long time saying “There’s nothing that kale cant do” did you say that?
Dr. Michael Greger: If I didn’t I should have.
Caryn Hartglass: I think you did say it and I think I’ve been quoting you. Anyway were stealing it from you but is there anytime when you can get too much kale? Or to many greens?
Dr. Michael Greger: Yes, to many raw greens, yes. Cruciferous vegetables have these natural goitrogenic compounds, which can infer in thyroid function with people with marginal iodine intake so what these compounds do is they block the thyroid to take up iodine but the answer is not to avoid these super healthy foods but just get enough iodine in our diet. So that’s why sea vegetables are wonderful foods and we should all develop a taste there’s similar goitrogenic compounds in flaxseeds and soy foods and so but again we don’t avoid those foods we just make sure we get enough iodine.
Caryn Hartglass: And how do we do that?
Dr. Michael Greger: These compounds are also destroyed by cooking and so it’s not something you have to worry about if you cook it. There was a case in New England Journal Of Medicine the title of the case Comma Induced by Raw Bok Choy this woman ate about three pounds everyday, about fifteen cups a day for months and she wasn’t getting enough iodine and so she actually ran into real serious problems. Ended up in the ICU she had consumed about a thousands cups of raw bok choy, so that’s you know.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, I love bok choy but that’s a lot of bok choy.
Dr. Michael Greger: You really shouldn’t eat more than about twenty-five cups of coleslaw a day in terms of how much is in cabbage. You know in trying to think of raw cauliflower doesn’t have a lot so fifty cups you shouldn’t exceed fifty cups of cauliflower everyday probably the highest is mustard greens so about three cups of raw mustard greens is probably about the daily max on a regular basis and its possible maybe people juice mustard greens sounds like a nasty juice but you could probably get more than three cups in and so that’s something you wouldn’t want to do everyday but we should not kid ourselves that food that have pharmaceutical effects like real effects on our physiology eating kale actually improves our immune function. We should not kid ourselves that something that powerful couldn’t have a potential downside if one overdid it. You can drink to much water kind of wash out the electrolytes in your body and run into problems. So these are powerful foods and we should include them in our diet but lets not go totally crazy.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay lets not go totally crazy but is there a blood test or something to check how much iodine we have?
Dr. Michael Greger: No but you can check thyroid function something called TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone level you can make sure its not being pushed down or is not getting elevated which means you have a hypoactive thyroid gland but its not something I would worry about unless one is symptomatic, systems of hypo thyroidism the tradition ones are dry skin, dry hair, unexplained weight gain, fatigue those are kind of low thyroid symptoms and if that’s the case and you are juicing huge amounts of kale everyday and not eating sea vegetables or if you are using salt which I don’t encourage people to do. If you do, use iodized salt it’s just an easy way to get your iodine in but you know otherwise it’s not something I’d worry about.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I think it’s not really a good idea to worry about anything.
Dr. Michael Greger: I would worry about not eating dark green leafies, you actually do need to eat dark green leafy vegetables everyday.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay Dr. Greger what are you eating these days?
Dr. Michael Greger: Oh yummy! Lets see so this morning I take a pomegranate, which its pomegranate season, in some parts of the world now. You take a pomegranate and you cut it hemi spherically you open it up and then you whack it with a wooden spoon get out all our aggression and spit out the seeds into a little bowl then I added some unsweetened kind of Greek-style almond yogurt with some unsweetened cocoa powder to make kind of a chocolate pudding with the pomegranate added some pumpkin seeds so I had this chocolate pudding pumpkin and the little seeds are like little explosions of juice it was absolutely delicious. One of my favorite breakfasts during pomegranate season and this afternoon I just had leftovers from last night, which was a kind of huge amounts of vegetables in a kind of a marinara sauce on whole wheat pasta.
Caryn Hartglass: Excellent. Very good okay well I’m going to let you go and thank you very much for everything that you do and for who you are and check out http://nutritionfacts.org right? And that where its all happening.
Dr. Michael Greger: You do wonderful work yourself
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Be well; hope to see you sometime soon. Stay warm and thank you. Now I think we’ll take a break and while were taking that break you might go over to http://responsibleeatingandliving.com and check out that post remembering Robert Goodland and then were going to be back with the Center for Food Safety, Elizabeth Kucinich.
Transcribed by Sabrina Benitez, 2/22/2014