Food Sanity: INTRODUCTION
Escape from the Land of Confusion
“You are what you eat,” my mother said with a finger wave, as she watched me sink my teeth into the center of a warm, squishy Pop-Tart. I ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I hadn’t yet turned into a strawberry toaster pastry, but decided to really put her statement to the test. Since I was vertically challenged (aka short for my age), I asked Mom to buy Jolly Green Giant vegetables, hoping they would make me taller. Unfortunately, I never did become a giant. But I did learn from an early age that our food choices really do determine what we eventually become. I would eventually share this message to millions of people as a syndicated radio host and weekly health expert on Lifetime Television. For over fifteen years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of world-renowned health advocates, scientists, doctors and New York Times bestselling authors. My goal has always been to share cutting edge topics and advice to help my audience reach their optimal health. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Instead, every guest I interviewed would end up leaving them (and me) more and more confused. Each expert would share conflicting opinions, research and health advice that was as different as night and day compared to the previous guest.
I interviewed Robb Wolf, New York Times bestselling author of The Paleo Solution. He told everyone, if you want to live a long and healthy life, you need to eat meat like our caveman ancestors did. Not so fast says bestselling author and vegan, Dr. Neil Barnard, who told my listeners, if you want to be healthy, “Don’t eat anything with a face.” He said if everyone ate a wholefood, plant based diet, they would be healthy. Okay, that’s easy to grasp. Then I interviewed cardiologist, Dr. William Davis (Wheat Belly Diet,) who shared with my listeners that eating grain was not a good idea. In fact, he said that avoiding wheat is the best thing you can do to prevent and reverse diseases like allergies, cataracts, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, etc. For decades we’ve been told that whole grains are good for us! The compelling information presented in Dr. Davis’ book shows avoiding wheat is the most crucial thing we should do to combat disease and achieve optimal health. Well, not according to New York Times bestselling author JJ Virgin (Sugar Impact Diet.) She believes that sugar is the root of all evil. In fact, she shared profound information on how sugar leads to inflammation within the body and this is the catalyst for all disease. Okay, let’s recap: Eat meat, don’t eat meat, avoid sugar and eat a plant based diet including grain. On second thought, better stay away from grain. But wait! There’s another item to add to the ‘Do Not Eat’ list- Salt!
We’ve all heard about the dangers of too much salt in the diet. In fact, if you have high blood pressure, the first thing your doctor will prescribe is a low-sodium diet. Salt is also linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease. According to Morton Satin, Vice President of Science and Research for the Salt Institute, this is not true. He shocked my radio audience when he told them, we need more salt in our diet to prevent heart disease! He backed this up with some credible science. According to research conducted at Albert Einstein School of Medicine, heart patients that were put on a low-salt diet had a higher incidence of heart disease. In another study, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published findings that showed people with the lowest salt intake had the highest rate of death from heart disease. That’s right—eating less salt increases the risk for cardiovascular disease! That’s not all. Research also shows sodium reduction increases the risk of death! This goes totally against what doctors have been telling their patients for decades!
But, when it comes to food, the one thing that seems to confuse us the most is butter. In the late 1970s, consumers were told to stop using butter and switch to margarine because scientific studies showed it was a healthier alternative. A decade later, researchers found that margarine contained dangerous partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) that were far more harmful than the saturated fat in butter. So we went back to eating butter. In 1990, butter was once again getting bad press as being the most dangerous type of fat, raising cholesterol levels more than vegetable oils. We went back to eating margarine, which was considered a healthier option than olive and canola oils. Fast forward to 2010, a new study showed butter was healthy and there was no evidence linking the saturated fat found in butter to heart disease. But wait! A year later, flaws with this study were discovered and scientists warned us that there still may be a connection between butter and heart disease after all. Then in 2014, new research revealed that butter is healthy for us. I had Dave Asprey on my show, author of the New York Times bestseller, Bulletproof. He shared with my listeners how putting butter in coffee every day can help you achieve optimal health and lose weight!
All of this type of flip-flopping brings me back to chauffeuring my backseat-driving grandmother, “Go left at the light. Yes, I’m sure. Wait a minute. No, take a right. Yes, a right. This time I’m positive.” If we listened to the advice of all these experts, there would be absolutely nothing left for us to eat!
In spite of everyones differences of opinion, one thing every expert does seem to agree on is, the food we consume will either make us healthy or sick! Sadly, even for us health-minded people, the best food options aren’t always easy to find. Hiding within our food supply are unnatural binders, fillers, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, artificial coloring, and chemicals. So, if we are what we eat, then we are fake! Even the soil in which our organic vegetables grow has been stripped of their vital minerals. It’s no wonder the “land of opportunity” has turned into the land of the sick, overweight, and dying.
During my twelve years of college and on-going continuing education courses, I learned from some of the very best teachers and paid their knowledge forward in my practice. Unfortunately, I would later discover, much of what I learned from these so-called experts was wrong. The way I see it, in addition to all the conflicting opinions, there are two other culprits to blame for misinformation: books and biased research.
It’s awkward to write that books could be part of the problem, considering they are our primary source of attaining knowledge. However, it is important to note that on the day a college textbook is published, 20 percent of the material is already considered obsolete. Doesn’t sound like much? Imagine that the last seventy-seven pages of The Hunger Games went missing.
In 2003, physics professor John Hubisz checked the accuracy of information presented in dozens of middle school science textbooks.[i] Hubisz and his team uncovered an alarming amount of information that was inconsistent or incorrect—even the answers in the teacher’s editions were full of errors. His work received widespread media attention, because it showed our children are being taught misinformation. Not much has changed since then. College textbooks are also filled with inaccuracies. State boards of education have no processes for receiving complaints of inaccuracies, conducting public open reviews of complaints, nor do they require textbook publishers to correct misinformation for the millions of textbooks in circulation. Textbook writers and academic reviewers are not contracted to review for accuracy and are not penalized for producing erroneous textbooks. Many textbook publishers are no longer American-owned, which makes the information they contain even tougher to mandate.
We have a tendency to put clinicians, scientists, authors, and teachers on an expert pedestal, yet most of them gained their education from books containing outdated information. Gray’s Anatomy, the most respected textbook studied by doctors, is now in its 41st edition. That means doctors who learned from the first 40 editions were taught some information that is antiquated by today’s standards. In our ever-changing world, a lot of what we consider the facts of today becomes tomorrow’s fiction.
New discoveries come to us by way of scientists conducting research that often contradicts the standard and accepted information taught in textbooks, making it newsworthy. But is it reliable? Much scientific research turns out to be anything but objective. In fact, many scientists are supported, i.e., funded, by Lobbyists, Big Pharma and Big Agri. Not surprisingly, their work is often biased in favor of the companies who pay for it. So, if a scientific study funded by the American Dairy Association proved that milk was healthy, should you trust the findings? Probably not. But since these financial incentives are concealed from the general public, why wouldn’t you think their conclusions are anything but solid? Sadly, some of today’s leading university researchers, doctors, and other scientists have a little-known conflict of interest . . . money!
Scientists are paid big dollars by organizations to ensure favorable results. These vested interest groups have the power of, what I like to call, moneypulation! It’s not a bad thing that universities require funds to conduct their research—after all, nobody works for free. But, it’s who is behind the money trail that can be troublesome. This funding often comes from sources such as the National Institutes of Health, Big Pharma, Big Agra and political parties. Too often, scientists are hired by these organizations to create figures that either prove or disprove, depending on whether it’s the funder’s product or one from the competition.
PLOS Medicinal Journal did an interesting study on the correlation between the funding source and the researcher’s conclusion. They analyzed 206 scientific studies regarding nutrition-related articles and looked at the relationship between the actual organizations that were funding the research compared to independent parties. The findings were staggering! Studies with positive results were four to eight times more favorable to the financial interests of the studies’ sponsors than research conducted by third parties. [ii] As the saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” One of my goals in writing this book is to help you decipher through all the information you are being bombarded with and help you make your own educated choices.
With all the confusion about what we should and shouldn’t eat, at least we can turn to dietary supplements to fill the void. In college, I had to learn the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for all vitamins and minerals published by The Institute of Medicine. I lived by these recommendations. From 1973 to 1980 the RDA for calcium was 1,000 mg per day for people age four through adulthood, so that’s exactly how much I consumed. Then, in the 1980s, the RDA for calcium was increased to 1,200 mg, so I added more calcium. In 1994, research showed that 1,200 mg was not enough to achieve optimal bone mass. The National Institutes of Health increased that recommendation to 1,500 mg per day.[iii] Still, I added more calcium to my daily regimen. Then, in 2008, The Journal of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found that men with high levels of calcium in their blood are more likely to die of prostate cancer.[iv] Wait a minute! I was taking high levels of calcium! Two years later, The British Medical Journal published a comprehensive study that showed calcium supplements increase the risk of heart attacks by 30 percent.[v] This sure wasn’t what I learned in the textbooks I studied in college! The supplement I was taking to strengthen my bones was increasing my risk of having a heart attack and dying of prostate cancer. No thanks. I no longer take calcium supplements!
But, I was doing something right. I was taking vitamin E. Medical research shows daily vitamin E supplementation, between 400 and 800 IU, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, which was awesome news considering I was taking 800 IU every day. (That’s probably what saved me from having a heart attack from all the calcium I had been taking.) Now comes the flip-flop! In 2005, startling research by Johns Hopkins University published by The Annals of Internal Medicine, showed evidence that vitamin E supplementation increases a person’s risk of dying from all causes![vi] Huh?! I was taught that vitamin E would keep my heart healthy and increase my lifespan, and now it was killing me?! The research showed that the dangers of vitamin E begin with 400 IU, the dosage of most vitamin supplements on the market.
Next up, vitamin D. Research has shown a lack of this vitamin can lead to rickets, cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and many other maladies. The Vitamin D Council, a scientist-led group promoting awareness of vitamin D deficiency, suggests vitamin D is also helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis.[vii] The Institute of Medicine recommends for adults to take 800 IU of vitamin D daily. So that’s what I took. But of course, there’s one big D-lemma! Researchers began reporting that too much vitamin D increases the risk of cancer. In 2006, Cancer Research published findings of scientists at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, that indicated high blood concentrations of vitamin D are associated with a 300 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer.[viii] Let’s see. On the one hand, vitamin D protects us from getting cancer, and, on the other hand, it causes cancer. During the same year, The New England Journal of Medicine published findings that postmenopausal women who take supplements containing vitamin D with calcium to improve bone health increase their risk of getting kidney stones.[ix]
Then there’s vitamin C, the number one selling nutritional supplement in the world. It’s considered by nutritionists, medical doctors, and scientists to be vital for a healthy and strong immune system. I listened to these experts, read their research, and personally took 3,000 mg of vitamin C every day. Hey, who doesn’t want a strong immune system and a longer life?
The top proponent for Vitamin C supplementation is Dr. Linus Pauling. He is the chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator, who received numerous awards and honors during his career, and is the only person to win two unshared Nobel prizes, one for chemistry and one for peace. Pauling is considered one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the twentieth century. He reportedly took 12,000 mg of vitamin C daily and published research and documented studies showing that mega-doses of vitamin C are effective in preventing and curing cancer. In 1994, Dr. Linus Pauling died from cancer.
Now comes the de-C-eptive flip-flop! Research from New York City’s Mt. Sinai School of Medicine revealed that taking only 500 mg per day of vitamin C could cause genetic damage to your genes and offspring.[x] Great! So here I am, taking 3,000 mg a day of vitamin C for my immune system, and it’s destroying my DNA—the genetic blueprint of every cell in my body. Doctors following the research of Pauling have preached for decades that the secret to outsmarting a cold is to double the dosage of vitamin C at the first sign of one. Perfect timing! Damage your cells when they’re at their weakest and most vulnerable.
Are you confused? Frustrated? Welcome to my world.
Food Sanity will finally give you a common sense meets common science approach on how to eat right in a Paleo, Mediterranean, Vegan, GMO, Gluten, Sugar addicted, Salt fearing nation.
Facts, Fads and Fallacies
Shortly after cell phones came out in the mid 80’s, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed strict rules that cell phones must be turned completely off before take off and until the plane landed. It was believed that the cell phone’s radio frequency could interfere with cockpit communications and wreak havoc on the plane’s navigation equipment. Even laptops, Kindle e-readers and iPads were prohibited until the plane reached 10,000 feet. During my years of traveling, I have seen many confrontations between crew and passengers that didn’t turn off their portable electronics. On one flight, a frustrated flight attendant told a little boy, “You need to turn off your game now or we can’t take off.” The little boy responded, “Why can’t the plane fly while I play Super Mario Brothers?” She told him, “Because it will cause the plane to crash and we could all die!” A few years ago, I was sitting next to a person that was kicked off an airplane because he refused to shut off his cell phone after being told twice.
In October 2013, the rules were changed and the FAA announced that passengers would now be allowed to operate their smartphones and portable electronic devices “at any time” during the flight. Wait a minute! For three decades we were told cell phone use would cause the plane to crash and now it’s perfectly safe?! The rules changed after Delta Airlines conducted analysis on hundreds of thousands of electronic interactions and concluded there were no detrimental effects from the frequency emitted by handheld devices.
In the food, diet and nutrition arena, I have seen decades of similar myths and fallacies. Things people wholeheartedly believe today as the truth, are in reality, complete fabrications or unproven theories. Food Sanity will not only breakthrough this misinformation, but will also teach you the process of doing the same.
Fewer subjects raise more controversy and heated opinions than food politics. The Omnivore, Herbivore, Carnivore Diet debate is as diverse as republicans, democrats and libertarians. While vegetarians believe a diet void of meat is the secret to reaching optimal health and longevity, proponents of the very popular Paleo Diet say we need to eat meat like our caveman ancestors did. In chapter one, you will see how this belief is based on a serious distortion of human history. Cavemen are portrayed as big and strong savage hunters able to stab and kill mammoth-sized animals and carry their dead carcasses over their shoulders. That may be how the cartoons and movies portray them, but it is far from the truth. Cavemen were actually short and stocky. In fact, they were not much taller than 5 feet and weighed 171 pounds. The size of their body was an evolutionary adaptation for cold weather, since this extra fat consolidated heat. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is considered clinically obese. A short obese man certainly would not have the speed and endurance it would take to run fast enough to hunt and kill a mammoth, lion, or bear. Cavemen were not the predator hunters they have been portrayed to be. In fact, we’ll explore evidence showing that they were the hunted. The super hero, big strong, beef eating carnivorous caveman image was the brilliant marketing creation of the beef and cattle industry, designed to sell more red meat! This book will answer the three million year old question, “What did our ancestors really eat?”
One of the biggest food fallacies, spanning over 50 years, is the perceived need for cow’s milk to keep our bones strong and supply us with the calcium our body needs. Despite decades of government and industry propaganda about the health benefits of milk and dairy products, the truth is, milk does a body bad! Contrary to all those milk mustache ads, milk doesn’t build strong bones. In fact, unbiased research shows milk is a major cause of brittle bones (osteoporosis.) We are brainwashed as children into believing, if we want to grow up big and strong we need to drink milk. The fact is, children that drink milk get more chronic ear infections, have more allergies, are more likely to be overweight, and are at greater risk of diabetes. Humans don’t have the enzymes to break down casein, the protein found in milk. Why then does the federal government mandate milk in the school lunch program? In chapter two, I share new evidence why a product full of pus (yes, pus!,) antibiotics and hormones, is not good for us and I offer some healthy alternatives.
I find it rather interesting how beef and milk from a cow have become part of the governments’ dietary guidelines, while fish seem to be the red-headed step child of food (we’ll explore the reason for this favoritism.) We’ve been told that eating fish can cause dangerous mercury toxicity to the body, especially tuna, mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, and swordfish. There’s definitely something fishy going on here! We hear all the time how polluted our waters are and eating fish has turned into a game of Russian roulette when it comes to our health. First of all, the earth is 70% water and our oceans go seven miles deep (326 million trillion gallons)! When we consider basic chemistry and the law of dilution, there simply is not enough pollution taking place on the earth’s 30% surface to ruin our oceans. Also, the oceans contain self-sufficient micro-organisms that work like pac men, eating toxic debris and pollutants; which is why it’s now safe to eat fish and shrimp that are caught in the area of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
If polluted water is your reason for not eating fish, why do you eat food from polluted land? Pollution takes place on land, where humans live. Emissions from industries and crop dusting, fumigating homes, household cleaning products, painting supplies, insect/pest killers, factories, trucks, trains, cars and other environmental pollutants- all put harmful chemicals into the air and ground. We breathe this land pollution. It ends up in the soil, on plants, fruits, and vegetables, and ingested by the cows, pigs, and chickens we eat. Why does the topic of fish always come up when discussing polluted food?
As for the mercury issue in fish, while there are some very isolated incidences of hazardous mercury spills, the oceans are not the mercury-laden cesspools we’ve been lead to believe. In the fish chapter, I debunk this popular mercury fish myth by exploring cultures around the world that eat fish daily, sometimes three times a day. Their blood tests show no mercury toxicity and they are the epitome of good health. Pregnant females have been told to avoid certain types of fish because they supposedly contain mercury which can “harm their unborn fetus.” There is simply no credible research to support this. In fact, evidence shows quite the opposite. Cultures where pregnant females eat a diet primarily of fish (mostly tuna) have healthier children with higher IQ scores than mothers avoiding fish. Eating fish gives us vital Omega-3 fatty acids which fight inflammation, the underlying cause of chronic illness such as arthritis and heart disease. The only type of fish you need to stay clear of is the farm-raised variety. In this book you will learn how to purchase the healthiest, wild caught, sustainably harvested fish.
With all the confusion and conflicting opinions regarding what we should and shouldn’t eat, most health experts do agree on one thing; everyone should eat fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. However, they still have differences of opinions on whether we should eat them GMO free, organic, refrigerated, room temperature, raw, cooked, steamed or juiced? In Chapter 7, I share these answers and more. And finally, no book on food would be complete without exploring the skinny on diets. There are hundreds of options available from the cabbage soup diet, eating bacon on the Atkins diet, to adding up points on the Weight Watchers diet. The word “diet” is derived from the Greek word diatia, which means “way of life.” Sadly, most people think the definition of diet means counting calories, drinking meal-replacement shakes and taking a handful of the latest weight loss pills they saw advertised on TV. These only bring temporary results because they have not addressed the real meaning of the word diet. Two-thirds of the American population is overweight. Today, we have more access to information and diet programs than ever, yet we continue to get fatter and fatter. I will expose some of the health risks of many of today’s fad diets and share my three easy to use, safe, effective ways to lose weight and keep it off!
DIG for the Truth
Between all the conflicting opinions, outdated books and biased research, I just knew I couldn’t be alone in my land of confusion. I wanted to find a way to decide on my own terms what was valuable and what could be harmful, what was misinformation, and what was an outright lie; so I developed a three-tier system to uncover the truth. I call it DIG: Discovery, Instinct, and God.
You don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the world of health to make the DIG system work for you. Think of it as somewhat like the Socratic method. By asking yourself questions based on three simple categories—science (discovery), common sense (instinct), and blueprints of our creation (“God”)—you will learn to assess warning labels, ingredient lists, newsworthy “findings,” packaging practices, and so on. You will be able to make personal choices about what you eat, drink, and how to supplement your diet without relying on the ideas of anyone else—expert or no expert.
Let’s take the first category of the acronym, DIG. The D stands for discovery. Discovery is synonymous to the science behind what you are reading or hearing from the experts. Their conclusions or opinions change frequently (sometimes weekly) but, if the science is based on unbiased research, it does give us a foundation and the most current objective viewpoints. In this book, I share published research from respected, peer-reviewed journals. However, I don’t ever rely solely on the accuracy of research to make my points, unless the findings also make common sense. That brings us to the “I” in DIG, which stands for instinct.
Instinct helps you get in touch with, and give credence to, what your gut is telling you so it can be your guide. For example, if you read a study that says people in Florida purchase more ice scrapers than anywhere else in the country, would your instinct allow you to believe it?
Finally, the G in DIG represents God, which is a way of saying we need to make sure the facts as we interpret them follow the blueprints of our creation. God could represent anything you choose to believe in—a higher power, Mother Nature, angels, infinite spirit, universal life force, and on and on. In this book, I will use the word God when talking about how our bodies and minds are comprised, and the nature, or entity, that formed them. Whatever anyone’s beliefs I think we all agree on one thing: We are brilliantly designed to thrive and be healthy. The human body is a spectacular living machine with a powerful innate ability to adapt, reproduce, grow, and heal. Every cell of your entire body relies on absorbing the nutrition of the foods you feed it, so it can operate on all cylinders.
Ultimately, DIG is a formula that cannot be compartmentalized. All three must work together in order for a conclusion to be made: Take your Discoveries, then add your Instincts and see if they correlate with the unique and complex design of the body created by God. There’s no 2 out of 3 here. It’s all or nothing.
The DIG method in this book will be applied in each chapter and by the book’s end you will have a blueprint for determining the validity of what you learn and help you understand the facts when it comes to diet, disease, and the deceptions that have kept you from achieving optimal health, wellness, and longevity.
A healthy person is an informed person. And you are about to become both. Can you DIG it? Then, let’s get started.
[ii] Lesser, Lenard I., and Cara B. Ebbeling, et al. “Relationship Between Funding Source and Conclusion Among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles.” PLoS Med 4(1): e5 (January 2007). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040005. journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040005
[iii] Consensus.NIH.gov. “Optimal Calcium Intake.” NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement June 6–8, 1994 12 (4) (June 1994): 1–31. Accessed May 2, 2016. consensus.nih.gov/1994/1994optimalcalcium097html.htm
[iv] Skinner, Halcyon G., and Gary G. Schwartz. “Serum Calcium and Incident and Fatal Prostate Cancer in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 17, no. 9 (September 2008): 2302–5. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0365. cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/17/9/2302.full
[v] Bolland, Mark J. “Effect of Calcium Supplements on Risk of Myocardial Infarction and Cardiovascular Events.” BMJ (July 2010): 341:c3691. www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c3691
[vi] Miller, Edgar R. III, and Roberto Pastor-Barriuso, et al. “Meta-Analysis: High-Dosage Vitamin E Supplementation May Increase All-Cause Mortality.” Annals of Internal Medicine 142, no. 1 (January 2005): 37–46. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-1-200501040-00110. annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=718049
[vii] Vitamin D Council. “Vitamin D Council.” Accessed May 2, 2016. www.vitamindcouncil.org
[viii] Michaud, Dominique S. “Vitamin D and Pancreatic Cancer Risk in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Cohort.” Cancer Research 66, no. 20 (October 2006): 9802–3. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-3193. cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/20/9802.full
[ix] Ross, A. Catharine, and Christine L. Taylor, et al., eds. “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D.” Washington, DC; National Academies Press, 2011, pp. 403–56. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56058/
[x] Brody, Jane E. “Taking Too Much Vitamin C Can Be Dangerous, Study Finds.” New York Times. April 9, 1998. Accessed May 2, 2015. www.nytimes.com/1998/04/09/us/taking-too-much-vitamin-c-can-be-dangerous-study-finds.html