Think A Healthy Diet Will Protect You Against Disease?
by Kimberly Pryor
Eighty percent of American children and adolescents, and 68% of adults, do not eat the recommended five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. (1) But are the remaining 32% of the population really receiving adequate nutrients from diet alone? Research indicates the answer to this question is a resounding no, that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, while necessary for good health, may offer a false sense of security. Furthermore, in some cases, the food we consume and the water we drink are more a cause for concern than a source of nutrition, endangering rather than benefiting our health. These facts suggest we need to look beyond our diet to obtain sufficient supplies of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Due to farming practices and environmental factors, the nutrient content of soils varies considerably. Selenium, washed out from the upper layers of the soil during the ice ages, is deficient in most soils worldwide. (2) Zinc, too, may be depleted in many soils. Dwarfism in males is frequent around the Mediterranean, where wheat, grown for 4,000 years on the same soil, has exhausted the zinc content. Young male Egyptian dwarfs grew in height and became sexually mature after supplementing their regular diet with zinc. (3)
Many epidemiological studies have focused on the role mineral-deficient soil plays in disease. The incidence of death from ischemic heart disease and acute cardiac arrhythmias is increased in many regions where magnesium and/or selenium levels are reduced in soil and water. (4,5) In Serbia's Zlatibor district, a region with higher selenium soil content, residents have lower mortality rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases and higher serum selenium and magnesium values compared with other Serbian regions. (6) In Poland, the number of deaths from digestive tract and respiratory system malignancies was nearly threefold higher (27.67%) in one community with low magnesium soil content compared to a community with high magnesium soil content, where only 9.87% of deaths resulted from malignancies. (7)
In the United States, Texas has one of the highest selenium concentrations, Florida one of the lowest. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Connecticut and Maryland also have low selenium soil content, while California is in the mid-range. Levels of selenium in test subjects from 11 states corresponded with levels in the soil. (8)
Researchers have determined that the cancer mortality rate rises in US counties with low levels of forage selenium. The lower the level of selenium in a county, the higher the rates of death from cancers of the lung, rectum, bladder, esophagus, cervix and breast. According to the researchers, "This remarkable degree of consistency…strengthens the likelihood of a causal relationship between low selenium status and an increased risk of cancer mortality." (9)
Dietary bioavailability of nutrients also varies. For instance, because the body must metabolize folates into folic acid for proper utilization, folate bioavailability in food is inconsistent. It is surprisingly low for some foods that contain important amounts of folate, such as legumes, orange juice, and tomatoes. Extracts of these foods significantly inhibit activity of the intestinal enzyme that converts dietary folates into the bioavailable form prior to absorption. Folic acid in dietary supplements, on the other hand, requires no digestion prior to absorption and demonstrates excellent bioavailability. (10)
The bioavailability of the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein also vary substantially among vegetables. When subjects of one study consumed spinach, it did not affect plasma levels of beta-carotene, although the beta-carotene content of spinach was 10-fold that of broccoli and green peas. Furthermore, the subjects' plasma folate concentration significantly increased only after consumption of spinach, but not broccoli or green peas. (11)
Another factor to consider is whether the diet truly provides adequate amounts of each form of a particular vitamin. For instance, all of the different forms of vitamin E (tocopherols, tocotrienols) play important roles in the body, but are not found in every food that contains vitamin E. Depending on variety, the gamma-tocopherol content of pumpkin seeds is about 5-10 times as much as that of alpha-tocopherol. (12)
Often, in order to obtain an effective dose of a certain nutrient, the required quantity is far more than even the healthiest eater probably wants to consume. A good example is indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and its metabolite diindolylmethane (DIM). I3C is a phytonutrient derived from cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts). I3C and DIM have been shown to inhibit breast, cervical-vaginal, and skin cancer. In order to eat enough cruciferous vegetables to achieve beneficial effects, a pound or more of cabbage or cauliflower daily would have to be consumed. Furthermore, the concentration of I3C varies greatly depending on the seed strain, climate and soil. Cabbage grown in Israel, for instance, has been found to contain virtually no I3C. (13)
Nutrient Losses from Cooking and Over Processing
Cooking, freezing and processing both canned and fresh foods alters nutritional value (14) and dramatically increases vitamin losses. Canned meats and vegetables experience a 50 to 100% loss in vitamin A during sterilization. In one study, after one-and-a-half-year's storage, no trace of vitamin A remained. After three and five years of storage, the vitamin E content was 20 to 60% lower than immediately after canning. Sterilization and storage also caused a 25% drop in thiamin and niacin content and a 50% decline in pantothenic acid. Interestingly, the folic acid content in all the products was 50% higher after sterilization. (15)
Even if folic acid survives the canning process, heating will likely destroy it, as subjecting many fresh, frozen and canned foods to high temperatures decreases the level of this important B vitamin. (16) In one study of vegetable soup, cauliflower, beefsteak, and fish, none of the dishes retained any folic acid after cooking. (17)
Other vitamins are equally vulnerable. Blanching brussels sprouts leads to a 15 to 27% decrease of vitamin C content compared to immediately after harvesting. Six months of frozen storage reduced the vitamin C in brussels sprouts by 14 to 32%, while boiling the frozen sprouts decreased it by another 30-39%. The final product contained 33% to 48% the amount of vitamin C found in the raw vegetable. (18) In another study, the thiamin content of cooked meals was 50-60% of the calculated value, a loss especially large in rice and green vegetables. (19)
Cooking initiates a destructive process called the Maillard reaction, which alters the chemical profile of a food, especially milk products. At the beginning stages, as milk and milk-based products are heated, levels of the essential amino acid lysine fall dramatically. Later in the Maillard reaction, methionine and tryptophan are reduced along with vitamins B1, B6 and B12 and zinc. Researchers have suggested that consuming products subjected to the Maillard reaction plays an important role in aging. (20-22)
Cooking initiates other destructive processes. Food processing converts some of the all-trans carotenes to cis-isomers, which have lower provitamin A activity. Consequently, the vitamin A value of a cooked green vegetable could be decreased by roughly 15 to 20%, that of cooked yellow vegetables as much as 30 to 35%. (23)
Storage also impacts the nutritional content of foods. In human breast milk put aside for later use by breast-fed babies, a 73-79% loss of glutathione occurs when the milk is either kept at room temperature or refrigerated for two hours. Glutathione is an important antioxidant necessary for the functioning of carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes. "Feeding infants on stored human milk," the study authors suggested, "could weaken the antioxidant and toxin refractory capacity of those in early childhood." (24)
Vitamin, mineral and amino acid losses become even more pronounced when food moves through the food service cycle in restaurants or school cafeterias. By the time the food is served, fresh vegetables may have lost 36% to 45% of ascorbic acid. (25)
Next Month, Part II: Dangers in the Diet
Why We Need Supplements Part II:
Hidden Dangers in the Food Supply
by Kimberly Pryor
Part I of Why We Need Supplements examined farming and environmental factors that contribute to mineral deficient soils, and the role these play in diseases such as cancer. Part I also examined the variables of nutrient bioavailability, including sources, forms, and amounts of nutrients required for health, as well as at nutrient losses due to cooking, freezing and canning of fresh foods.
Food irradiation subjects foods to gamma rays from nuclear materials, electrons from electron guns, and x-rays. By 1988, irradiated foods were already being sold in more than twenty countries. Red meat, chicken, and vegetables have since appeared on the shelves of some U.S. supermarkets.(26)
Spices are among the first foods to be irradiated, and have been widely available for years. In addition, pharmaceutical companies are now regularly sterilizing drugs with ionizing radiation.(27) Because irradiated foods served in restaurants and in schools are not labeled on the menu, no one knows for certain how much has entered the market.
In theory, food irradiation can preserve foods, kill parasites and some bacteria, inhibit sprouting, and delay ripening. There are, however, as many studies indicating the dangers of irradiated food as there are studies proclaiming its safety. Irradiation of food decreases the content of antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, C, and K, probably due to the free radicals generated.(28-29) Individuals who consume raw fruits and vegetables to derive the highest vitamin content possible will essentially be consuming the nutritional equivalent of a blanched or canned vegetable.
Animal studies supporting food irradiation have been methodologically flawed, conducted using animals fed both irradiated food and vitamins shown to be depleted after irradiation. One group of researchers purposely fed mice vitamins and irradiated food separately, since irradiation destroys fat soluble vitamins even when additional amounts of those vitamins are added to foods prior to undergoing irradiation.(28,30-32) Furthermore, animals consuming irradiated food have experienced chromosomal abnormalities and detrimental changes in the kidney and blood vessels.(33-35)
In humans, a 1970's study looked at the effects of feeding irradiated and unirradiated foods to malnourished children in India. Five children were fed unirradiated wheat, five freshly irradiated wheat, and five ate irradiated wheat stored for 12 weeks. Children who had eaten freshly irradiated wheat had unusually high rates of chromosomal and cellular abnormalities in their blood after six weeks: 1.8 percent and 3.8 percent respectively. These changes were non-existent in the control group. At six weeks, the group fed stored irradiated wheat experienced 0.6 percent chromosomal abnormalities and 0.8 percent cellular abnormalities. The researchers fail to point out that the small 0.8 percent incidence of abnormalities is identical to the percentage experienced during the fourth week in the subjects fed freshly irradiated wheat. This could indicate that longer feeding of stored irradiated wheat, such as exposure over years or a lifetime, could generate additional mutations.(36)
A larger study of 70 healthy subjects was conducted in China. Subjects receiving irradiated foods stored for an extended period, as well as the control group (who ate unirradiated wheat), showed increases in chromosomal abnormalities, which were increased slightly in the irradiated food group.(37)
The gradually increased availability of irradiated food--much of it poorly labeled or disguised in meals offered in restaurants, airplanes, and schools--suggests that supplements may become even more necessary to replace nutrients depleted in the food supply or to guard against potential health risks.
Genetically Modified Food
In 1998, 30 million acres of the corn, cotton, and potatoes planted in the United States were genetically engineered to produce a naturally-occurring pesticide toxic only to target insects. These crops now have entered the food supply.(38)
Despite the assertion that genetically modified foods are safe, very little research exists on their risks and benefits. One researcher pointed out in the June 2000 issue of Science that the majority of citations on Internet databases, such as Medline, were opinions and comments about genetically modified food. These citations, he said, 'were not based on experimental data.'(39)
One concern revolves around an investigation by Dr. Pusztai, a respected researcher at the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland. Pusztai focused on the safety of potatoes engineered to express a naturally-occurring insecticide, lectin, normally found in the snowdrop plant. Rats fed the genetically modified potatoes experienced significant reductions in the weights of the intestine, pancreas, kidneys, liver, lungs, and brain. Immunity was reduced in the animals treated with the genetically engineered potatoes, intestinal infections increased.(40)
Proponents of genetically engineered food maintain that the foreign DNA injected into the transgenic plants is harmless. Yet, studies indicate that foreign DNA is incorporated into animals through oral ingestion and absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers found that fragments of foreign DNA fed to mice passed through the intestinal wall and took up residence in the peripheral white blood cells, in B cells, T cells, and macrophages from the spleen, and in liver cells. Even more shocking was the finding that food-ingested foreign DNA can become linked to mouse DNA. Furthermore, when foreign DNA is fed to pregnant mice it can be detected in some cells in various organs of the fetuses and of newborn animals.(41-43)
Research does not exist to conclusively determine the human health risk of long-term consumption of genetically modified food. No one can predict for certain the health impacts of these man-made foods. Consequently, if their presence increases in the diet, antimutagenic supplements such as Calcium glucarate (found in VRP's CelMend) may offer nutritional support. Calcium glucarate helps enzymes bind to and eliminate potentially mutagenic compounds before those compounds can damage DNA and cells.
Surprising studies have emerged that suggest mad cow disease, technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy may be far more prevalent than previously thought. In fact, researchers have discovered that the human equivalent of mad cow disease, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) may already exist in nearly everyone's bodies.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a subacute spongiform encephalopathy (SSE) characterized by a variety of neurologic signs, including dementia and muscle twitching. Many researchers believe an abnormal protein called a prion is responsible for this ultimately fatal condition. Once an abnormal prion comes in contact with a normal protein in a nerve cell, it forces the healthy protein to mutate. This destructive process eventually turns the brain into a spongy mass.
While prions cannot be killed by heat, radiation, or disinfectants, researchers have reduced infectivity of the disease by 99.5 percent with guanidine hydrochloride and guanidine thiocyanate.(44-45) Researchers have yet to investigate whether the guanidine found in the herb goat's rue (in VRP's GluControl) can accomplish the same inhibition, but the possibility is an intriguing one.
The diet is, in all likelihood, the major pathway CJD uses to jump from host to host. In one study of 26 CJD patients, researchers noted an increased consumption of roast pork, ham, hot dogs, roast lamb, pork chops, smoked pork, scrapple, rare meat, raw oysters and clams, and liver.(46) Recently, chronic wasting disease, a condition identical to mad cow disease, has been found in deer in Colorado and Wyoming and on game ranches in Montana and Oklahoma. A little girl who consumed venison and two young hunters who prepared and handled a deer carcass all contracted CJD. According to researchers, CJD also has been transmitted by contaminated EEG electrodes and neurosurgical instruments.(47)
The theory that CJD is transmitted via the food chain was further confirmed in 1996, when a new variant of CJD (nvCJD) was reported in adolescents and young adults in Great Britain, an age group not normally affected with the original form of CJD. Researchers have demonstrated that the transmissible agent responsible for new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is identical to that in bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease.(48)
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta maintains that the old form of the disease, known as sporadic or chronic CJD, occurs in only one out of one million people annually. Scientific evidence suggests, however, that many physicians are misdiagnosing CJD as Alzheimer's. One University of Pittsburgh study of 54 deceased subjects diagnosed with dementia revealed that three of the subjects actually had CJD. In a 1989 study at Yale University, researchers performed postmortem examinations of 46 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Six of the patients actually had CJD.(49-51) These studies suggest that 6-to-12 Alzheimer's patients out of every 100 may actually have CJD. With 4 million Alzheimer's patients in the United States, 250,000 to 500,000 Alzheimer's patients may in reality have mad cow disease.
In one region of Slovakia, the CJD incidence is more than 1,000 fold that of the so-called 'typical' incidence and some of the afflicted individuals are as young as 30 years old.45 In St. Paul, Minnesota, neurologists performed autopsies on four deceased patients diagnosed during life with a slowly progressive dementia. The autopsies revealed the patients actually had CJD.(52) In 1998, researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland published a case study of a 53-year-old man who died of sporadic CJD. Four and one half years later, this then 55-year-old widow died from CJD. Neither patient had a family history of neurologic disease.(53) Similar evidence from Japan and Australia indicates CJD may emerge as a hidden epidemic.
Other researchers made an even more startling discovery when studying healthy volunteers ages 20--30, 40--50, and 61--71 with no family history of dementia. Amazingly, a CJD-like agent appeared in most of the blood samples from all the age groups. When the samples containing this CJD-like agent were injected into hamsters, the animals developed CJD neuropathology. Surprisingly, the healthy individuals without any family history of dementia yielded more positive takes than those from subjects whose relatives had Alzheimer's.
The researchers hypothesized that this CJD-like agent might actually be a less virulent form that can protect against the disease. Alternatively, the researchers suggested, 'If a CJD-like variant can cause some cases of Alzheimer's, it could function by a hit and run mechanism…or it could continuously and subliminally damage neurons by a persistent low-level infection.' Since the sporadic form of the disease usually manifests itself in the elderly, the researchers suggested CJD may occur when immunity is reduced during aging or because of genetic susceptibility.(54-55)
The human body remains in a state of immunological balance. Supplements shown to enhance the body's immune defenses may therefore become a key factor in warding off both hidden epidemics such as CJD and more widely recognized conditions. The depletion of nutrients in the soil and the loss of vitamins, minerals and amino acids during cooking, food processing, and freezing, suggests that supplements can not only help us meet dietary nutritional needs, but also offer the doses shown in clinical studies to offer the most benefit to our health.
This information provided by Dr. David Dyer to help people understand the need for supplementation of their diet. Dr. Dyer provides nutritional counseling and can be reached at 407-467-2063.