Dietary fats are essential to human growth and development. Fat and oil (which is fat in a liquid form) supply deep, internal heat and warmth, insulate the body, and contribute to the metabolism of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Traditional diets contain about 10 to 15 percent fat, while the modern way of eating averages 35 to 45 percent. The quality of fat also differs. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, and other plant-quality foods are high in polyunsaturated fats, while meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are high in saturated fat, which is converted into cholesterol in the body and associated with obesity, gallbladder and liver disorders, and higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. Monounsaturated fat, found in certain seeds and oils, falls in between polyunsaturated and saturated in its digestibility and effects.
Omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, are found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, flaxseed, fish, and several other foods. DHA is found in human breast milk. These fats lower lipid levels, reduce clotting, reduce blood pressure, and help protect against heart disease, certain cancers, arthritis, mental illness, and other disorders.
Polyunsaturated oils contain “essential” fatty acids, which promote healthy skin and hair, contribute to proper blood and its circulation, promote proper thyroid and adrenal activity, and help circulate and breakdown cholesterol. These include linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid. (Linoleic and arachidonic acids are omega-6 fatty acids that encourage blood clot formation, unlike alpha-linoleic acid which is an omega-3 fatty acid which reduces clot formation.) Unrefined vegetable quality oils are excellent sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, while nori, peanuts, and animal products are high in omega-6 fatty acids. An imbalance in the ratio of omega3 to omega-6 oils can lead to skin disorders such as eczema and dry, flaky skin; hair loss; nail problems, varicose veins, low body weight, infertility, retarded growth, and impaired immune function.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils, also known as trans-fatty acids, such as margarine and soy margarine, can elevate cholesterol levels and have effects as harmful as the animal foods they replace. Polyunsaturated oils are susceptible to rancidity and should be properly stored and kept away from the light. See Alzheimer’s Disease, Attention-Deficit Disorder, Breast Cancer, Cholesterol, Colitis, Colon Cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, Fish, Hemorrhoids, Hiatus Hernia, Impotence, Infertility, Lupus, Mental Illness, Multiple Sclerosis, Olestra, Paleolithic Diet, Premenstrual Syndrome, Skin Disorders, Smoking, Tofu, Triglycerides.
Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Fiber in grains, beans, and vegetables protects against diverticulitis, polyps, and colon cancer, as well as lowers LDL cholesterol. See Acne, Complex Carbohydrates, Heart Disease, Obesity, Water, Whole Grains.
• Fiber Protects Against Breast Cancer
A diet high in fiber can significantly lower the reproductive hormone estradiol in women with breast cancer, according to researchers at the University of California at San Diego. Estradiol is a steroid hormone associated with increased risk of the disease. In the study, 291 women with breast cancer were evaluated after one year of dietary intervention. Those who increased their consumption of fiber, vegetables, and fruits, and who reduced fat, had less available estradiol. The scientists concluded that the high-fiber diet could help prevent cancer recurrence and prolong survival.
Source: C. L. Rock et al., “Effects of a High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Intervention on Serum Concentrations of Reproductive Steroid Hormones in Women with a History of Breast Cancer,” J Clin Oncol 22:2379-87, 2004.
• Fiber Protects Against Heart Attacks
In a study of nearly 44,000 men, Harvard researchers reported that men who ate at least 25 grams of fiber a day had 36 percent fewer heart attacks over a six-year period. "This suggests there truly is an association with high fiber intake and lowered heart disease. But it also suggests it is not just due to cholesterol lowering," said Eric B. Rimm of the Harvard School of Public Health. The scientists reported that meals high in fiber are more filling since fibers soaks up water in the intestinal tract and reduces total caloric consumption. Fiber reduces blood clotting factors that can clog or obstruct coronary arteries, and high-fiber foods slow the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream and thus reduce the release of insulin. Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels are a coronary risk factor.
Source: Eric B. Rimm, “Vegetable, Fruit, and Cereal Fiber Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Among Men,” Journal of the American Medical Association 275(6):447-51, 1996.
Fibromyalgia, a potentially crippling disease involving aches, pains, and stiffness in muscles, tendons, and soft tissues, affects primarily adolescent girls and younger women.
Fish & Seafood
A small volume of fish or seafood is a part of many traditional cultures and cuisines. The most healthful is white-meat fish (such as cod, haddock, flounder, trout). It contains less fat and oil than red-meat and blue-skinned varieties. Women and girls generally eat less fish than men and boys. Clams, shrimp, oysters, and other seafood are generally high in cholesterol or saturated fat.
Most healthful cooking methods are poached, steamed, or boiled. Ocean fish are usually less polluted than inland fish, which can easily accumulate harmful PCBS, pesticides, heavy metals, toxic blooms, and estrogens.
Fish and fish oil are high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) —such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—which are being extensively studied by the medical profession for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and auto-immune disorders. See Alzheimer’s Disease, Cerebral Palsey, Environment, Menstrual Disorders, Water.
• Toxins in Fish Pose Heart Risk
Mercury, a dangerous toxin that accumulates in fish and seafood, can increase the risk of heart disease, as well as negate the cardiovascular benefits of fish. In a study of 1871 men, Finnish researchers found that those with the highest mercury content were 60 percent more likely to suffer an acute coronary event and 68 percent more likely to contract heart disease. Mercury levels were directly associated with fish consumption.
Source: J. K. Virtanen et al., “Mercury, Fish Oils, and Risk of Acute Coronary Events and Cardiovascular Disease, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in Men in Eastern Finland,” Arterioslcer Throb Vasc Biol 25:228-33, 2005.
• Fish Intake Linked to Prostate Cancer Risk
In a study of 18,115 Japanese men, researchers found that those who ate fish products four or more times each week had a 54 percent higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who consumed fish or seafood twice a week or less.
Source: N. E. Allen et al., “A Prospective Study of Diet and Prostate Cancer in Japanese Men,” Cancer Causes Control 15:911-20, 2004.
• Fish Consumption Helps Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
In a case-control study at the University of Washington, researchers reported that women who consumed broiled or baked fish once or twice a week had up to 58 percent less risk of rheumatoid arthritis than women who didn’t eat fish.
Source: J. A. Shapiro et al., “Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis in Women,” Epidemiology 7(3):3256-63, 1996.
• Fish May Protect against Multiple Sclerosis
In a review of the effects of fish and fish oils on human health and sickness, British researchers reported that diets high in these substances “may be of use as a therapy for acute and chronic inflammation and for disorders which involve an inappropriately activated immune response” such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Source: P. C. Calder, “N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cytokine Production in Health and Disease,” Annuals of Nutritional Metabolism 41(4):203-34, 1997.
• Fish Protects Against Cardiac Arrest
People who ate three ounces of fish a week were only half as likely to suffer cardiac arrest as those who ate no fish, according to University of Washington researchers. The salmon and other seafood tested in the study, including herring, mackerel, and anchovies and other fish and shellfish, were high in omega-3 oils which are believed to regulate electrolytes, chemical compounds containing calcium, potassium, sodium, and others, in cells. Approximately half the people who die of heart disease annually suffer cardiac arrest, during which the electrical impulses that regulate the heart's rhythm fail to function properly.
Source: David S. Siscovick, “Dietary Intake and Cell Membrane Levels of Long-Chain n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Risk of Primary Cardiac Arrest,” Journal of the American Medical Association 274(17)1363-67, 1995.
• Fish Oil Cuts Risk of Mental Illness
Eating fish may protect against manic-depression and schizophrenia. Dr. Joseph R. Hibbein, chief of the outpatient clinic at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that major depression is 60 times more prevalent in some countries than others. Consumption of fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to be an “important protective factor.” Higher levels of two omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are correlated with higher levels of serotonin, a brain chemical whose deficiency is associated with depression, suicide, and violent behavior. In one study of 18 suicidal patients, higher levels of EPA in the blood were linked to increased risk of self-destructive behavior.
In a case-control study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, 25 patients with bipolar disorder, which affects 2 million Americans, who were given 10 grams a day of omega-3 (equivalent to several servings of fish) showed relapse rates dramatically lower than a control group taking olive oil. In England, Dr. Malcolm Peet, head of psychiatry at the University of Sheffield, reported that lower levels of fatty acids were found in people with schizophrenia and that ingestion of the omega-3 oils lessened the severity of their symptoms.
Source: Judy Foreman, “Fish Oil Seen Cutting Risk of Mental Illness,” Boston Globe, September 4, 1998.
In traditional Far Eastern philosophy and medicine, the universal process of change, symbolized by the complementary opposites yin and yang, can be refined further into five stages of transformation. The electromagnetic energy or vibration (ki) generated between poles of outward and upward moving centrifugal (yin) force and inward and downward moving centripetal (yang) force can be classified into five basic types:
• Upward Energy: light, upward movement arises and starts to become active (Tree phase)
• Active Energy: expansion reaches a peak, diffusing actively in all directions (Fire phase)
• Downward Energy: at its extreme, yin turns to yang and the contractive half of the cycle begins. Solidification or condensation begins with a downward or sinking energy (Soil phase)
• Gathering Energy: the contractive tendency reaches its most compact, crystallized state, producing gathering energy (Metal phase)
• Floating Energy: Under continuing pressure, yang turns back to yin. Solidification begins to dissolve and expansion, arises
In the Far East, the five phases corresponded with all natural cycles and rhythms, including the seasons, times of day, phases of the moon, tastes, senses, and personal and social cycles.
• Five Phases and Nursing Care
Mainstream medical providers are beginning to incorporate holistic and alternative approaches. In a review of traditional Far Eastern medicine, a researcher reported in a major nursing journal that modern health professionals are often unaware of the complex Chinese culture that influences their patients’ responses to care. “In order to provide culturally sensitive care for this population, the complex Chinese traditional philosophies, such as the theory of yin and yang and the five phases, as well as the philosophies related to the concept of personhood including Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism“ should be examined. These theories and philosophies not only “influence Chinese patients’ values and beliefs, but also determine their perceptions of health, illness, and nursing care.” Understanding this model has broad implications for surgical cardiovascular nursing practice, the researcher concluded.
Source: F. J. Shih, “Concepts Related to Chinese Patients’ Perceptions of Health, Illness, and Person: Issues of Conceptual Clarity,” Accidental and Emergency Nursing 4(4):208-15, 1996.
• Americans Highly Satisfied with Oriental Medicine
In the first in-depth, large-scale survey of acupuncture users in the U.S., a researcher reported that users tended to be middle aged, well-educated, employed, and making mid incomes. Users sought care for a variety of conditions, especially musculoskeletal problems, mood fluctuations, and wellness care. A large majority reported “disappearance” or “improvement” of symptoms, improved quality of life, and reduced use of selected measures including prescription drugs and surgery. Overall, they expressed extremely high satisfaction with Chinese medical care based on a health model utilizing yin and yang and the five phases.
Source: C. M. Cassidy, “Chinese Medicine Users in the United States,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 4(1):17-27, 1998.
A family of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants and protect against blood clotting, atherosclerosis, and cancer development. Foods high in flavonoids include most vegetables and fruits as well as red wine and tea. Bioflavonids refer to the biologically active or available compounds in this class of substances. See Antioxidants, Phytochemicals, Wine.
Flaxseed, derived from the seed of the plant from which linen and linseed oil are made, is high in dietary fiber, lignans, linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), and phytochemicals that inhibit inflammation of the joints, lower cholesterol, and prevent tumor formation. It is generally taken as a supplement and not used in cooking.
Fluoride, a compound that protects against tooth decay, was added to many municipal water systems beginning in 1945. At present, an estimated two-thirds of the American people live in communities with fluoridated water. While fluoridation has reduced cavities, rates of other disorders may have increased, including damage to the bones, thyroid gland, and immune function. As a result, several European countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany, and Belgium, have discontinued treating water with fluoride. France and Norway never started it. In the U.S., Kansas, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Hawaii have recently rejected proposals for fluoridation, and voters in Santa Cruz refused to allocate money for fluoridation following a mandatory law passed by the California legislature.
Fluorite, a compound of calcium and fluoride that occurs naturally, is used in Oriental medicine as a tranquilizer. Prozac, the modern antidepressant drug, utilizes fluoride as an active ingredient. In food, fluorine naturally occurs in rice, rye, parsley, cabbage, sea vegetables, and bancha twig tea. See Water.
• Dental Association Says No to Fluoride for Infants
Reversing a longstanding policy, the American Dental Association warned in 2006 that fluoridated water should not be mixed into formula or foods intended for babies one year or younger. “Infants could receive a greater than optimal amount of fluoride through liquid concentrate or powdered baby formula that has been mixed with water containing fluoride during a time that their developing teeth may be susceptible to enamel fluorisis,” the association stated. It recommended using fluoride-free water instead. The ADA’s action came following similar findings by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Research Council.
Source: “No Fluoride for Infants, Say Dentists,” PRNewswire, November 13, 2006.
• Fluoridation Damages Bones
In a review of recent scientific literature, Australian scientists reported “a consistent pattern of evidence” showing that fluoridation damages bones, leading to hip fractures, skeletal fluorosis, osteosarcomas, and other disorders. Moreover, they argue there is accumulating evidence that fluoridation is of negligible benefit for teeth. They conclude by calling for an open and frank consideration of unfavorable scientific evidence by the public health community.
Source: M. Diesendorf et al, “New Evidence on Fluoridation,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 21(2):187-90, 1997.
• Fluoride Linked to Lower IQ
A Chinese study linked consumption of fluoridated water with IQ deficiencies. Children’s intelligence measured lower in all age groups in the high fluoride regions compared to the low fluoride regions for all age groups. The study also found that fluoride could lead to neurological damage of the embryo in the womb.
Source: Richard G. Foulkes, M.D., “The Fluoride Connection,” Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, April 1998.
• Fluoride Produces Alzheimer-Like Symptoms
In laboratory studies, rats exposed to low levels of fluoride (similar to municipal tap water) produced neurological changes equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Source: J. A. Verner et al., “Chronic Administration of Aluminum-Fluoride or Sodium Fluoride to Rats in the Drinking Water,” Journal of Brain Research 784(1-2):284-98, 1998.
• Fluoridation’s Origin as an Industrial Waste and Byproduct of the A-Bomb
According to health researcher Gary Null, fluoridation began in the 1940s when the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industries convinced Grand Rapids, Mich., to become the first community to dump fluoride, an abundant hazardous waste product, into its drinking water. Waging a “public disinformation campaign” on the basis of a questionable 1930s study showing that water with traces of the compound reduced tooth decay, the chemical industries turned a potential pollution problem into a windfall profit.
Meanwhile, according to medical writers Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson, large amounts of fluoride were used during the Manhattan Project, the secret development of the atomic bomb. Following an accident in 1944 near a DuPont manufacturing site in New Jersey that caused livestock death and human illness, the government blocked a lawsuit by farmers. To allay public fear of fluoride after the war, the chief fluoride toxicologist for the Manhattan Project promoted the compound’s beneficial effects on “tooth health.” “Much of the original proof that fluoride is safe for humans in low doses was generated by A-bomb program scientists who had been secretly ordered to provide ‘evidence useful in litigation’ against defense contractors for fluoride injury to citizens.”
Sources: Gary Null, Ph.D., “The Fluoridation Fiasco,” manuscript; Joel Griffiths and Chris Bryson, “Toxic Secrets: Fluoride & The A-Bomb Program,” Nexus, April-May, 1998.
Folate is a B vitamin found in grains and green leafy vegetables such as brussels sprouts and fruits such as apples and oranges can help prevent birth defects. Studies indicate that pregnant women who take adequate amounts of folic acid can cut the rate of birth defects in half. In 1998, the U.S. Government required that folate be added to all refined grains. The term folate includes all nutritional forms of this vitamin including folic acid and folacin. See Alzheimer’s Disease, Microwave, Prenatal Nutrition, Vitamin B-6.
• Foods High in Folic Acid Protect Against Heart Attacks and Strokes
Tufts University researchers report that folic acid might also help reduce heart attacks and strokes by up to 40 percent. Homocysteine levels in the body are associated with increased risk of heart attacks and strokes and folic acid appears to lower homocysteine.
Source: "Vitamin Deficiency Is Said to Cause heart Attacks, Strokes," Boston Globe, July 25, 1995.
Item for item, natural and organic foods cost more than conventional foods. However, overall, the typical natural foods household saves an estimated $1000 a year or more per person in food costs compared to the modern diet high in meat, poultry, dairy foods, and highly processed foods. In terms of increased energy, less illness, and longer life, as well as a calmer, more peaceful mind and a healthier environment, natural foods repay themselves many times over. Ultimately, they are the single best investment an individual or family can make in the course of their life. See Environment.
• Medical Savings
In a study of health care costs, the Philadelphia Dietetic Association presented brief case histories of 12 patients who saved up to $80,000 each in medical costs through nutrition therapy.
Source: Philadelphia Dietetic Association, “Medical Nutrition Therapy Improves Health and Reduces Cost,” 1997.
Food Guide Pyramid
In 1992, the U.S. government adopted the Food Guide Pyramid, calling for Americans to consume substantially more whole grains and vegetables and cut down on meat, dairy products, fats, oils, and sweets. The Pyramid replaced the Basic Four Food Groups (including high amounts of meat and dairy) and was distributed to millions of schools, hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. See Exercise.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1992.
• 1% of Children Meet Pyramid Guidelines
Only 1 percent of children two to 19 in America meet Government recommendations for a healthy diet (summarized in the Food Guide Pyramid). A national study found that children receive on average 40 percent of their calories from fat and sugar instead of a balanced diet. Sixteen percent of the 3307 young people surveyed did not meet any of the guidelines. Only 30 percent met the recommendations for grain, fruit, and animal products, while 36 percent ate the suggested amount of vegetables.
Source: "Few Young People Eat Wisely, Study Shows," Boston Globe, September 3, 1997.
About 9,000 people die every year in the United States from food poisoning or gastroenteritis. E coli O157:H7 bacteria, which come from the intestines of cattle, are transmitted by eating undercooked beef or contaminated milk. This highly toxic strain causes bloody diarrhea and cramps and can lead to kidney damage or death. Other common causes are staphylococcal food poisoning, and eating poisoned mushrooms, seafood, plants, and shrubs. Salmonella is a food-borne disease that causes 800,000 to 4 million illnesses a year in the U.S. and from 960 to 1920 deaths. It is associated with infected meat, poultry, raw milk, eggs, and egg products. One type of Salmonella causes typhoid fever. See Chemicals, Microwave, Natto, Nori, Sea Vegetables.
• Contamination Found in Pasteurized Milk and Other Foods
Potentially harmful bacteria were found in high numbers in commercial samples of retail fish, minced meat, and pasteurized milk and cream in a Swedish study. Some of the fish and meat also tested positive for toxic E. coli bacteria.
Source: A. M. Lindberg et al., “Enterobacteriaceae Found in High Numbers in Fish, Minced Meat, and Pasteurised Milk or Cream and the Presence of Toxin Encoding Genes,” International Journal of Food Microbiology 39(1-2):11-17, 1998.
Freedom of Health
Freedom of choice in health care has become a major social and political issue. Over the last decade, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) has introduced legislation in most states to monopolize nutritional and dietary counseling. The macrobiotic and holistic health communities have vigorously opposed these laws on constitutional, religious, and medical grounds, arguing that freedom of choice is protected by the 14th Amendment, freedom of religion, and that the ADA is acting as a front for the meat and dairy interests. (ADA practitioners commonly prepare hospital and school nutritional guidelines and are reportedly subsidized by the meat, dairy, sugar, and fast food industries.) Community-based coalitions have defeated monopoly legislation in many states (with the support of some progressive ADA members), but restrictive bills (including criminal penalties for offenders) have passed in many others. The campaign continues. See BGH.
Food Disparagement Laws: More recently, agribusiness companies and food industries, such as the beef, sugar, and dairy industries, have lobbied for passage of food disparagement laws that ban public criticism of a food or food product based on “junk science” claims. Anyone who speaks out against the health dangers of such foods would face million-dollar law suits.
Twelve states, including Texas, New Jersey, Florida, and California, have already passed legislation limiting public criticism. Monsanto Chemical Co., which makes Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), the first genetically approved product, is reportedly suing the State of Vermont, natural foods stores, and supermarkets that refuse to carry milk from cows fed BGH because the FDA has approved this product and the company claims consumer boycotts are scientifically groundless and disparage their industry.
In 1997, Oprah Winfrey won a landmark lawsuit in Texas where she was sued by cattlemen for stating that she would never again eat hamburger because of the danger of mad cow disease.
Free radicals, highly unstable molecules produced when the body metabolizes oxygen, can damage cells and tissues, contribute to the build up of cholesterol, and promote tumors. Though naturally found in the body, excessive free radicals are associated with foods high in unsaturated fat; low in grains, vegetables, and fruit; smoking; air pollution; and a sedentary lifestyle. Foods high in antioxidants reduce free radicals and protect against disease. See Antioxidants, Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E.
As part of a balanced diet, fruit, high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants, is protective against many chronic diseases. In excess, however, it may lead to lowered vitality and weakness. See Antioxidants, Apple, Cancer, Fiber, Folic Acid, Heart Disease, Paleolithic Diet, Sexual Vitality, Skin Disorders, Stroke, Ulcer, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C.
• Fruit Associated with Less Heart Disease and Stroke
In a study of 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people in Britain, researchers reported that overall the cohort had a mortality about half that of the general UK population. The men and women in the study were recruited through health food shops, vegetarian societies, and magazines. Forty-three percent were vegetarian, 62 percent ate wholemeal bread daily, 27 percent ate bran cereals daily, 38 percent ate nuts or dried fruit daily, 77 percent ate fresh fruit daily, and 38 percent ate fresh salad daily. Daily consumption of fresh fruit was associated with reduced mortality from heart disease, stroke, and all causes combined.
Source: T. J. Key, “Dietary Habits and Mortality in 11,000 Vegetarians and Health Conscious People,” British Medical Journal 313(7060):775-79, 1996.