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Macrobiotics

Macrobiotics (“from macrobios, “long life”) was originally coined by Hippocrates and was used by classical thinkers and early biblical commentators to refer to individuals and communities of people who were healthy and long lived. In the East, parallel traditions developed, particularly in China, associated with the I Ching and the Yellow Emperor's Classic, the principal authority on healing.

     Early in the 20th century, a naturalistic philosophy was reintroduced under this name by George Ohsawa, a Japanese teacher who had healed himself of tuberculosis using a dietary method. In the latter half of the 20th century, the leader of the international macrobiotic community has been educator Michio Kushi, who defines macrobiotics as “the way of health, happiness, and peace through biological and spiritual evolution and the universal means to practice and harmonize with the Order of the Universe in daily life, including the selection, preparation, and manner of cooking and eating, as well as the orientation of consciousness toward infinite spiritual realization.”

     From his home in Boston and the Kushi Institute, Michio Kushi has guided thousands of individuals and families to better health, inspired medical and scientific research, spearheaded the modern organic foods movement, and generally guided society to greater health and freedom.

     See Blood, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Children’s Health, Cholesterol, Diabetes,  Environmental Illness, Geriatrics, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Menopause, Mental Illness, Nuclear Radiation, Obesity, Pancreatic Cancer, Pet Care, Premenstrual Syndrome, Sea Vegetables, Surgeon-General’s Report.

 

• Macrobiotics Benefits Advanced Cancers

In a study of patients with advanced malignancies who followed a macrobiotic way of eating, Vivien Newbold, M.D., a Philadelphia physician documented six cases of remission. The patients had pancreatic cancer with metastases to the liver; malignant melanoma; malignant astro-cytoma; endometrial stromal sarcoma; adenocarcinoma of the colon; and inoperable intra-abdominal leimyosarcoma.

     Review of CT scans and other medical tests revealed no evidence of tumors after adherence to the macrobiotic diet. All of the patients (except for one whose cancer came back after she discontinued macrobiotics) were reported working full time, leading very active lives, and feeling in excellent health. The cases were all reviewed independently and the diagnoses confirmed by the pathology and radiology departments of Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pa.

     In a review of her study, Congressional investigators recommended further research on the macrobiotic approach to cancer: “If cases such as Newbold’s were presented in the medical literature, it might help stimulate interest among clinical investigators in conducting controlled, prospective trials of macrobiotic regimens, which could provide valid data on effectiveness.”

Source:  Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Unconventional Cancer Treatments (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990).

 

• American Cancer Society Notes Benefits of Macrobiotics

In a statement on alternative therapies,  the American Cancer Society noted, "Today's most popular anticancer diet is probably macrobiotics."  While no diet has not yet been shown to be able to reverse existing tumors, the ACS  further observed: "Like other fat-reducing diets, macrobiotics may help prevent some cancers. It may reduce the risk of developing cancers that appear related to higher fat intake, such as colon cancer and possibly some breast cancers. The macrobiotic diet, like other fat-free diets, can lower blood pressure and perhaps reduce the chance of heart disease.

     “Taking part in a macrobiotics program may provide some sense of balance with nature and harmony with the total universe and as such promote a sense of calmness and reduced stress. “

Source: “Complementary and Alternative Therapies, American Cancer Society Internet Site, 1997; “Alternative and Complementary Therapies,” Cancer 77(6), 1996.

 

• Latin Air Academy Adopts Macrobiotic Diet

The Air Force Academy in Pirasununga, Brazil, 200 kilometers from San Paulo, introduced macrobiotic food in the late 1980s. Almost 600 cadets and officers, including the Academy’s deputy commander, joined the “unknown squadron” that volunteered to be served the new food products.

Source: Return to Paradise, Winter 1988-89, p. 3.

 

• Macrobiotic Children Develop Normally 

In a study of 119 vegetarian and macrobiotic children with a mean age of about two years, Boston nutritionists reported they were generally smaller, leaner, and lighter than nonvegetarian children. Despite varying degrees of avoidance of meat and other animal foods, consumption of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in the diets of those children age one year or older who were no longer being breastfed fell within normal levels.

Source: J. T. Dwyer et al., “Preschoolers on Alternate Life-Style Diets,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 72:264-70, 1978.

 

• Macrobiotic Blood Values Ideal

Dutch heart researchers reported that macrobiotic men and boys had the most ideal cholesterol and other blood values in studies of groups of nonvegetarian, semi-lactovegetarian, lactovegetarian, and macrobiotic men aged 30 to 39 years and boys aged six to 11 years old. The report was funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation.

Source: J. T. Knuiman and C. E. West, “The Concentration of Cholesterol in Serum and in Various Serum Lipoproteins in Macrobiotic, Vegetarian, and Non-vegetarian Men and Boys,” Atherosclerosis 43:71-82, 1983.

 

• Macrobiotics in an Irish Hospital

Macrobiotic food has been introduced at the National Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Cecilia Armelin, pediatric dietitian, drew up a sample meal plan including for breakfast: whole oat porridge; for lunch: miso soup with dulse and parsley, brown rice with haricot or azuki beans, Brussels sprouts, dried apricots and raisins; and for dinner: lentil/barley soup seasoned with miso and parsley and whole grain millet with pears and chopped walnuts. She especially recommended these foods for children with multiple allergies or food intolerance.

Source: Cecilia Armelin, “Wholefood Diet,” National Children’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, 1989.

 

• Macrobiotic Nutrition Upheld

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island studied 76 macrobiotic people and reported they generally met currently acceptable medical and nutritional guidelines, including mean values for hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, and transferrin saturation, serum ascorbic acid, vitamin A, beta-caro-tene, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and folate.         

Source: J. G. Bergan and P. T. Brown, “Nutritional Status of ‘New’ Vegetarians,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 76:151-55, 1980.         

 

• British Study of Macrobiotic Diet

In experiments at the University of London, some of the foods commonly consumed by people on a macrobiotic diet were analyzed and the values used to create a data base. The dietary intakes of 10 people practicing macrobiotics were assessed by means of a seven-day weighed food record. When the mean daily nutrient intakes were calculated using a computer program and compared to the United Kingdom Recommended Daily A-mounts, they were found to be adequate in all of the major nutrients. All of the other nutrients either met the RDA’s or, in the case of vitamins A and C, thiamine, calcium, and iron, “far exceeded the recommendations.”

     “The macrobiotic diet as eaten by the participants of this study was found to conform with many of the recommendations put forward by recent [medical and scientific] reports on eating for health,” according to the chief researcher.

Source: Alison Hinds, BSc., “A Short Study of the Macrobiotic Diet” (London: Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, 1985).

 

• Scientific Conference Features Macrobiotic Banquet

A macrobiotic banquet highlighted an international scientific and nutritional conference at JFK Library in Boston. Over 250 nutritionists, epidemiologists, and other researchers enjoyed the macrobiotic menu featured at the Second International Conference on Dietary Assessment Methods sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with the United Nations World Health Organization.

     The menu, designed by Michio Kushi and prepared by local cooks for the January 23, 1995 dinner, included sushi, miso soup with land and sea vegetables, corn muffins and sourdough bread, white-meat fish served with sweet miso and ginger sauce, fried brown rice with organic vegetables and mushrooms, boiled vegetables seasoned with shoyu, baked tofu, apple and pumpkin pie, and bancha tea, cereal grain coffee, and apple juice.

     "Nutritional science has changed 180 degrees," Mr. Kushi, who attended the conference as the guest of honor, reported. "We received many wonderful comments. People told me, 'You have been so patient for the last 30 years. We know now that macrobiotics is the answer for people and society. But we can't announce it yet. We need scientific proof and must proceed step by step. But evidence is growing, not only for heart disease and cancer, but for cataracts and other disorders. We are happy to have you in America. Macrobiotics is the solution. It may take five to seven more years. We should have this diet every day.’"

Source: "Dietary Revolution Spreads," One Peaceful World Journal 22:1, Spring 1995.

 

• Ritz-Carlton Offers Macrobiotic Dining

The Ritz-Carlton Hotels began to offer gourmet macrobiotic cuisine at its 31 hotels and resorts around the world in 1995. Developed to meet their customers' growing demand for healthy, natural food, their Macrobiotic Culinary Program offers wholesome menu items from recipes developed by the Ritz-Carlton Executive Chefs under the guidance of Kushi Institute teachers. The Ritz-Carlton recipes, from appetizers to desserts, appeared on their regular menus with the notation that they "meet the guidelines of the Kushi Institute for gourmet macrobiotic cuisine." The Ritz will also offer full wedding, party, and conference services with gourmet macrobiotic selections.

     "Both road warriors and leisure travelers are always looking for ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle when away from home," said Henri Boubee, director of the food and beverage operations for the company. "While our Fitness Centers offer our guests a chance to exercise, our macrobiotic menus will encourage very healthy eating."

     "When I walked in here, they told me no butter, no sugar, no cream, no eggs," Norman Love, the Corporate Pastry Chef of the hotel chain, noted. However, in the course of training, he experimented with natural sweeteners, whole grain flours, and fresh fruits and berries to make delicious pastries and desserts. "It's been a real eye-opener, a great learning experience."

Source: "Dietary Revolution Spreads," One Peaceful World Journal 22:1, Spring 1995.

 

• MBAs Eat Macrobiotic Food

Downsizing excess is going beyond the boardroom to the corporate dining hall, as savvy executives are "merging" with brown rice, pasta salads, and tofu-based entrées. Up to 40 percent of executives at the nation's top-rated business school, J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., select the macrobiotic entrées.

     Chefs at the Kushi Institute helped Dinah Jacobs, a bank executive, yoga teacher, and wife of the school's dean, Donald Jacobs, to set up the program at the Allen Center, where top-level executives and managers are provided quality accommodations and meals while they attend business seminars. Each day the school cooks prepare 15 to 20 macrobiotic dishes, including grains, soups, beans, vegetables, sea vegetables, salads, pickles, condiments, desserts, and beverages.

Source: Jane Quincannon, "Macrobiotics Goes to Grad School," One Peaceful World Journal 23:6, Summer 1995.

 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the retina of the eye that is a main cause of blindness in older people. Rare in people under 50, nearly a quarter of people over 65 have some manifestations of this disease, characterized by blurriness, blank spots, and other visual symptoms.

 

• Fruits Protect Against Vision Loss

People who eat three or more servings of fruit every day have a lower risk of macular degeneration, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In a study of 77,000 men and 40,000 women over the course of 18 and 12 years respectively, the scientists found that those who ate the most fruits had the lowest risk of this disorder.

Source: E. Cho et al, “Prospective Study of Intake of Fruits, Vegetables, Vitamins, and Carotenoids and Risk of Age-Related Maculopathy,” Arch Opthalmol 122:883-92, 2004.

 

• Vegetables Protect Against Macular Degeneration

Green leafy vegetables such as collards, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens may protect against macular degeneration. In a study of 356 patients with macular degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness in the U.S., and 520 controls, researchers at Harvard Medical School reported that people who had the highest intake of carotenoids, especially from dark green leafy vegetables, had a 43 percent lower risk of developing his eye disorder. The carotenoids in these vegetables were identified as lutein (known to also decrease the risk of lung cancer) and zeaxantin.

Source: W. S. Christen, “Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Macular Degeneration,” Journal of the American Medical Association 273(23):1835, 1995.

 

Mad Cow Disease

Scientists believe that mad cow disease broke out in British herds in 1986 as a result of feeding cattle feed containing carcasses of sheep that died of scrapie, a brain disease believed to be spread by prions, infectious proteins that are impervious to boiling, pasteurization, or radiation. By 1996, when the U.K. government admitted that infected beef could cause a lethal disease an estimated 700,000 cattle—one in every fifty in Britain—had been infected. In 1997, the European Union banned exports of British beef after it was linked to new variant CJD (Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease), the human form of mad cow disease. Small numbers of cases of MCD have also been reported in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, France, Germany Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Oman, Falkland Islands, and Canada.

     Known as rendering, the practice of feeding cows animal-quality food (including the carcasses and inedible parts of other cows, roadkill, and euthenized dogs and cats) is relatively new, growing from 1 percent to 13 percent of the total feed supply. Also for the first time, ground up cattle parts were fed to cows, a practice dubbed “industrial cannibalism.” The effects of  CJD are similar to kuru, a brain-destroying disease in a primitive tribe in New Guinea that until recently practiced ritual cannibalism on deceased relatives. In the U.S., meat and bone meal from ruminants was routinely fed to cattle and dairy cows prior to 1997 (in 1989 there were 12 billion pounds of rendered products!). In October, 1997, rendering was limited by the U.S. government to cow’s blood, pigs, horses, tallow, and gelatin.

     By 1999, 30 deaths from CJD had been confirmed in Britain. Meanwhile, similar diseases characterized by loss of coordination, nervous dysfunction, and spongy holes in the brain have emerged in several species of animals in the wild, including mule, deer, and elk. Whether in humans or animals, such diseases are officially referred to as TSEs or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies.

 

• Scope of the Epidemic

Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel Prize winner and the world’s authority on TSEs, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases, believes that not only cattle but that nearly all the farm animals in England are also infected, but because they are killed and go to market before symptoms manifest, the disease hasn’t been detected. “Probably all the pigs in England are infected,” he says. “And that means not only pork. It means your pigskin wallet. It means catgut surgical suture, because that’s made of pig tissue. All the chickens fed on meat-and-bone meal; they’re probably infected. You put that stuff in a chicken and it goes right through. A vegetarian could get it from [the chicken or cow manure] that they put on the vegetables.”

     Dr. Richard Lacey, the British physician who tried to warn the government of the cattle-human link years before it was recognized, thinks the source of the infection is still entering the human food supply. “If it seems that the incubation-period average for CJD in humans begins to be about 25 years, maybe thirty years, then the peak human epidemic will come around the year 2015.” He estimates that there could be 200,000 human deaths annually in Britain by that time.

     According to U.S. health officials, BSE has not appeared in America, but TSEs have appeared in minks fed on “downer” cows—cattle which have mysteriously died and been rendered into animal feed. Richard F. Marsh, chairman of the department of animal health and biomedical science at the University of Wisconsin, disagrees with official government optimism. “There must be an unrecognized scrapie-like disease of cattle in the United States,” he asserts. “Will BSE come to America?” science writer Richard Rhodes asks in his investigative study of the epidemic. “The answer seems to be: it’s already here, in native form, a low-level infection that industrial cannibalism could amplify to epidemic scale. We still feed meat-and-bone meal to cattle. And an estimated 77 million Americans eat beef every day.” Hamburger includes cow brains.

     Rhodes speculates that mad cow disease could encircle the globe in the next several years. “No population anywhere in the world that eats meat is entirely free of risk,” he concludes. Even that may not be enough. He notes that the infectious agent associated with CJD can be obtained not only from eating animal products, but also by coming into contact with bonemeal, the fertilizer made from ground up cattle which is commonly used on used on lawns and gardens as well as on organic crops. In 1997, the U.S. government banned the use of nearly all slaughtered-animal parts in American livestock feed because of the possible link to mad cow disease.

Source: Richard Rhodes, Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

 

• Unrecognized Epidemic in the U.S.

In a study on mad cow disease, Virgil Hulse, M.D., a dairy scientist, cancer epidemiologist, and family physician, reported that rendering and other agricultural practices are setting the stage for a massive, BSE epidemic in the U.S. “The case of the mad cow has not been exaggerated in the press. In fact, in many cases, the situation is much worse than has been told. Cows are being fed diseased sheep, chickens, and other cows. These cows are then slaughtered, wrapped in plastic, priced, and put out in your local grocery store, posing as harmless products for human consumption,” Dr. Hulse, a former milk inspector for the State of California, explained.

     “Of these cows, 80 percent have the bovine leukemia virus and 50 percent have the bovine immunodeficiency virus—the animal equivalent of AIDS. We are drinking milk and eating cheese containing lymphocytes that are loaded with the proviral DNA of these viruses. It is only common sense to recognize that when we consume a fluid that has been emitted from an animal, or the actual flesh itself, we are at risk for whatever ailed the animal. The implications of this suggestion are so enormous, that the dairy and meat industries have clung to the idea that it has not been proven that the species barrier could be crossed. As a doctor who has practiced for 30 years, this front impresses me about as much as a plastic dam sent to hold back all the fury of the ocean.”

     Dr. Hulse speculates that many of the hundreds of thousands of “downer” cows that keel over dead every year in the U.S. may have a TSE. Between 1986 and 1996, the U.S. inspected only 2791 bovine brains for signs of BSE, and none proved positive. However, Dr. Hulse points out, “This population represented only a tiny fraction of the total population of 103 million cattle, so this test is totally inadequate to prove that BSE is not a threat. BSE, which has an incubation period of up to eight years, may not be detectable in American beef cattle, many of which are slaughtered between the ages of two and five.”

     In a petition to the FDA on behalf of the Foundation on Economic Trends, a public interest group led by Jeremy Rifkin, Dr. Hulse proposed a permanent halt to all feeding of ruminant animal protein to ruminants, especially cows and sheep; an epidemiological investigation to determine the incidence of TSEs in cattle; a separate study to determine the incidence of TSEs in downer cattle; establishment of a bovine brain bank for the ongoing study of TSEs; an investigation of TSE incidence in the human population; and an ongoing national monitoring and registry program utilizing autopsy to determine changes in the incidence of CJD-like diseases in the U.S.

Source: Virgil Hulse, M.D., Mad Cows and Milk Gate (Phoenix, OR: Marble Mountain Publishing, 1997).

 

• Macrobiotic Approach

CJD appears to be caused by the heavy use of chemicalized food and meat or dairy  eating, according to two macrobiotic educators. From a yin/yang view, DNA is very contracted or yang, so lack of DNA would be classified as very yin. “The mechanism behind this is very interesting. When yang takes yang, it changes into yin. Mad cow disease appeared in cattle (which as animals are yang) when farmers began to feed them ground up sheep and cattle parts (also yang). Traditionally, cattle are vegetarian, eating mainly grass. When cows are made to eat strong animal food in order to produce more milk and meat, they begin to degenerate and turn yin. Cells begin to lose their DNA—their nucleus, their center, their yang energy. Extreme yin appears in the form of prions, and yin energy rises, going first to the brain. This is very similar to the effects of strong drugs or microwave cooking.”

     In traditional Oriental medicine, the brain, meanwhile, correlates with the intestines, so they would be next affected. Third, the pancreas would become weak. And then the reproductive organs would lose vitality. “This is why the modern diet is leading to infertility,” they conclude. “Chemicals, sugar, drugs, and excessive animal foods are ultimately destroying the DNA is sperm and eggs and affecting the ability to pass on life to new generations.”

Source: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, Humanity at the Crossroads (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1997).

 

• Pesticides as Possible Cause of Mad Cow Disease

An alternative theory is that MCD is caused by organophosphorus pesticides which the British government required farmers to pour liberally over the backs of their cattle in a failed attempt to wipe out warble fly, a parasite affecting a tiny percentage of British cattle. Mark Purdey, an organic farmer in western England, has proposed that the BSE (Brain Spongiform Encephelophy, the official name of the disorder) epidemic in the UK is largely attributable to the phosphate poisoning suffered by unborn calves exposed at a critical stage of development. The phosphate, known as phosmet, contains phthalamide, a member of the family of chemicals that includes thalidomide, the drug that resulted in many deformed babies. Dr. Stephen Whatley, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, performed research that showed that the pesticide could affect prion proteins in humans and animals. The British Ministry of Agriculture decided to fund research into Purdy's theory after years of dismissing his views.           

Source: "Ministry to Aid Research into Farmer's BSE Theory," Electronic Telegraph, April 3, 1998.

 

• Vegetarian Death from MCD

Among the confirmed casualties of mad cow disease have been several vegetarians. Clare Tomkins, 24, died in 1998. A strict vegetarian, Miss Tomkins had not eaten meat for 12 years. However, she did eat cheese and drink milk. She worked in the pet department of a garden center near her home in Tonbridge, Kent, and may have been exposed to recovered meat, offal, and bonemeal, commonly used in gardening. She showed first signs of abnormal behavior in 1996.

Source: "Vegetarian Woman Dies from 'Mad Cow' Disease," PA News April 22, 1998.

 

• Human Growth Hormone

CJV in humans is associated with human growth hormone "harvested" from the pituitary glands of human bodies after post-mortem examinations. In Britain more than 1900 patients were treated between 1959 and 1985 of which 25 developed CJD.  The program stopped after several children who had received similar treatment in the U.S. died of CJD.

Source: Associated Press, May 22, 1998.

 

• Blood Product Contaminated

Amerscan Pulmonate II, a blood product made with plasma from a British donor who later died of CJD, was injected into 350 patients in the Netherlands. The product is injected into patients requiring a lung scan and en-ables physicians using special equipment to get an image of the lungs. Earlier, the Hong Kong government reported that more than 100 patients in the city were given Amerscan Pulmonate II that may have been contaminated with CJD.

Source: Associated Press, May 16, 1998.

 

• Tallow as a Risk Factor

Exposure to tallow, made from cooked animal remains including bones, hides, and muscles, may increase the risk of mad cow disease. The animal remains are cooked and the result is used in thousands of products, including foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Tallow and its derivatives are found in contact lenses, lipstick, lotion, soap, cooking oil, capsules, and tablets. Dr. Philip Merrell of Mallinckrodt Chemical said virtually every solid drug used contains magnesium stearate, a tallow derivative.

Source: Otesa Middleton, "Tallow Tales," Dow Jones News Service, April 16, 1998.

 

• Squirrel Brains and TSEs

A TSE broke out in Kentucky in 1997 among people eating squirrel brains, a regional delicacy. Elk, deer, mink, rats, and other wild animals are reported to have developed strains of the disease. Of 11 people stricken, six have died.

Source: Associated Press, September 8, 1997.

 

• TSEs Among Deer

Deer in Colorado and Wyoming are developing chronic wasting disease (CWD) that is similar to mad cow disease. Wildlife biologist Mark Zornes reported that the disease has been found in about 6 percent of deer in northeastern Colorado and about 1 percent in Wyoming. Hunters are required to turn in the heads of deer or elk killed in the region and if the brains test positive are advised to dump the meat. Officials are seeking to determine if the disease can be transmitted to cattle.

Source: North Dakota Department of Agriculture Press Release, January 23, 1998; Casper Star Tribune and AP, February 7, 1998.

 

• Farm-Fed Fish May Spread BSE

Following the outbreak of BSE, there has been concern that the disease is spread not only by cattle but also be pigs, poultry, and fish bred for human consumption and fed with infected bovine meat and bone meals. In a study of two species of fish largely used in human food consumption—rainbow trout and turbot—administration of a mouse adapted prion found that it could bind to the intestine of the fish and in principle enter the human digestive system.

Source: L. Ingrosso et al. “Scrapic Infectivity Is Quickly Cleared in Tissues of Orally-Infected Farmed Fish,” BMC Vet Res 15:2:21, 2006.

 

Malaria

An estimated 1 to 3 million people around the world die of malaria every year, as new drug-resistant strains are appearing. The World Health Organization declared the "supermosquito" associated with malaria as "public health enemy No 1." See Infectious Disease.

 

• Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads

"As a single disease, malaria has a bigger impact on the world than anything you can think of," Dr. Kazem Behbehani, a WHO official in Geneva, said. The disease affects mostly children and pregnant women. In the last ten years, it has killed ten times as many children as all the wars combined in the last decade. The drug-resistant strains are particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia where chemical insecticides and sprays are widely used. Africa and Latin America have also been decimated by the disease. Scientists warn that as a result of global warming, malaria will spread to the southern United States and southern Europe and could cause up to 80 million cases in the next century.

Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, "Malaria Makes a Comback, and Is More Deadly Than Ever," New York Times, January 8, 1997.

 

Mammogram

Mammography utilizes low-level X-rays to test for cancer or other irregularities in the breast. Its use, even in the medical profession, is controversial. Regular mammograms for women under 50 have not shown any benefit in reducing mortality from the disease. Mammograms result in a high degree of “false positive” tests” and fail to diagnose about 15 percent of cases. Moreover, the effect of radiation may potentially be harmful.

 

• Mammograms 50% False

For 32 million American women aged 40 to 79 who take mammograms every year, 16 million false results can be expected over the course of a decade. Mammograms result in a lot of unnecessary anxiety, according to a Boston medical study. Researchers said that although mammograms save lives, a woman who receives a chest X-ray every year for a decade runs a 50 percent chance of being recalled for further tests that show she does not have breast cancer.  The rate of false alarms was found to be highest among women under 50. Women over 40 have a 19 percent chance of an unnecessary biopsy.

Source: “Risk of False Alarm from Mammogram Is 50% Over Decade,” Associated Press, April 15, 1998.

 

Meat

High in protein, vitamin B-12, and other nutrients, meat gives strong energy, enhances the senses, and provides warmth. It has traditionally been eaten in small, condimental amounts, primarily for medicinal or ceremonial purposes. However, in cold, northern climates, desert regions, or other extreme environments it has constituted a principal part of the traditional diet.

     In comparison, the quality of modern meat is very poor. It contains much more saturated fat and dietary cholesterol  and is usually produced with antibiotics and growth hormones. Moreover, its effects on a largely sedentary population are largely harmful. Regular meat consumption is associated with increased urea, uric acid, and other protein wastes associated with kidney stones and disorders; excess mucus; atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease; and various cancers.

     Following widespread public education concerning the risks of a high-fat diet, red meat consumption in the U.S. dropped from an average of 127 pounds per capita in 1980 to an estimated 63.3 pounds in 1997. Argentina, the world capital for steak and beef, is also eating less red meat and more pasta, salad, and vegetables. Between 1990 and 1994, beef consumption fell 12.3 percent, from 157 to 140 pounds per person.

     See Antibiotics, Animal Waste, Appendicitis, Brain Tumor, British Diet, Cerebral Palsey, Cancer, Children’s Health, Coffee, Colon Cancer, Environment, Global Warming, Heart Disease, Hiatus Hernia, High Blood Pressure, Irradiation, Leukemia Lympho-ma, Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoporosis, Paleolithic Diet, Pancreatic Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Protein, Sexual Vitality, Stomach Cancer, World Hunger.

Medical Error

 

• Medical Error: #1 Cause of Death in Modern Society

 

Leading Causes of Death in the United States, 2001*

 

1. Medical Error                                       783,936

2. Heart disease                                       699,697

3. Cancer                                                  553.251

4. Stroke                                                   163,601

5. Chronic lower respiratory diseases    123,974

6. Diabetes                                                 71,252

7. Influenza/pneumonia                            62,123

8. Alzheimer’s disease                               53,679

9. Motor vehicle accidents                       42,900

10. Nephritis                                              39.661

15. Homicide                                             19,727

... AIDS                                                       14,175

... Workplace fatalities                                5,300

… Terrorism                                                 3,000

             

Sources: Nutrition Institute of America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Safety Council, U.S. National Center for Health  Statistics, Journal of the American Medical Association

 

• Deaths from Medical Errors Equal a Daily 9/11

Billions of dollars are spent year each in the wars against terrorism, crime, drugs, and disease, but the leading cause of death and crippling injuries in modern society is none of the above. It is medical error: wrongfully prescribed medication, unnecessary surgeries, hospital-caused infections, and other largely preventable medical errors that kill nearly 800,000 Americans annually—the equivalent of a deadly attack on the World Trade Center every other day! As Jay S. Cohen, M.D. notes in his book, Overdose: The Case Against the Drug Companies, “Deaths from all major airline crashes in the United States average less than 300 annually, but one airplane crash gets more media attention and governmental scrutiny than the 300 medication-related deaths that occurred not only the same day as the airline crash, but also every day before and after for decades.”

Source: Jay S. Cohen, M.D., Overdose: The Case Against the Drug Companies, Tarcher/Putnam, 2001, 3.

 

• IOM Says Up to 30% of Patients Receive Inappropriate Care

To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, a report released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1999, was the first major report documenting the rising number of medical mistakes and the potential hazard that medicalization posed to society. The National Academy of Sciences’ division on health care cited research indicating that from 20 to 30 percent of patients receive inappropriate care and that from 44,000 to 98,000 die each year from preventable medical mistakes.  As the report concluded, “More people die in a given year as a result of medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or AIDS (16,516).”

Source: To Err Is Human, Institute of Medicine, 1999.

 

• Philadelphia Investigation

Under the cloak of patient confidentiality, hospitals and clinics as a rule refuse to make their medical records available for public scrutiny.  In a rare look at medical errors, the Philadelphia Inquirer published the records of medical errors in a hospital that had filed for bankruptcy. The journalistic investigation found that between 1989 and 1998, 598 serious mistakes had been made, including two epileptic patients who experienced a brain hemorrhage while undergoing surgery performed by inexperienced and unsupervised interns. One patient died and the other was partially paralyzed. Surgeons left instruments, sponges, or cotton inside eight other patients, requiring further operations to take them out. A victim of a car accident received the wrong type of blood in a transfusion. Four patients died from receiving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.

 Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, 1989-1998.

           

• Reporter Dies from Overdose of Chemo

The knowledgeable health reporter for the Boston Globe, Betsy Lehman, died from an overdose during chemotherapy. Willie King had the wrong leg amputated. Ben Kolb was eight years old when he died during “minor” surgery due to a drug mix-up.

     These horrific cases that make the headlines are just the tip of the iceberg. Two large studies, lone conducted in Colorado and Utah and the other in New York, found that adverse events occurred in 2.9 and 3.7 percent of hospitalizations, respectively. In Colorado and Utah hospitals, 6.6 percent of adverse events led to death, as compared with 13.5 percent in New York hospitals. In both of these studies, over half of these adverse events resulted from medical errors and could have been prevented.

     In terms of lives lost, patient safety is as important an issue as worker safety. Every year, over 6,000 Americans die from workplace injuries. Medication errors alone, occurring either in or out of the hospital, are estimated to account for over 7,000 deaths annually.

     “These stunningly high rates of medical errors—resulting in deaths, permanent disability, and unnecessary suffering—are simply unacceptable in a medical system that first promises to ‘do no harm,’” William Richardson, chairman of the committee that prepared the IOM report, concluded.

Source: L. Kohn et al., To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999. All subsequent quotes from this report are from this edition. Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh, Wall of Silence, Washington, D.C.: Lifeline Press, 2003, 9.

 

• Economic Pressures Contribute to Medical Error

The disclosures in To Err Is Human shocked the nation, inspired further investigations into the decline of the American medical system, and provoked Congress to vote $50 million in new spending to prevent medical errors. After the publication of To Err Is Human, Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) admitted that he had ignored the subject for years because he was afraid of losing his job.

Source: Robert M. Wachter, M.D. and Kaveh G. Shojania, M.D., Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America’s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes, New York, Rugged Land, 2004, 57.

 

• AMA Says Medical Error Third Leading Cause of Death 

“225,000 deaths per year [from preventable medical errors] constitutes the third leading cause of death in the United States, after deaths from heart disease and cancer,” according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.    

     The AMA reported that nearly 250,000,000 Americans die every year from medical errors and adverse effects of medication. This includes 12,000 deaths from unnecessary surgery, 7000 deaths from medication errors in hospitals, 20,000 deaths from other errors in hospitals, 80,000 deaths from infections contracted in a clinical situation, and 106,000 deaths from adverse effects of medication. The JAMA article was researched and written by Barbara Starfield, M.D., M.P.H., Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Dr. Starfield’s survey noted the actual figures are probably much higher because they were limited to date derived from studies in hospitalized patients. They also dealt only with deadly errors and not disability or other complications. Based on slightly higher estimates than the IOM study, her projection of the final toll from all medical errors came to 230,000 to 284,000 annually.

Source: Barbara Starfield, M.D., “Is U.S. Health Really the Best in the World?” Journal of the American Medical Association 284(4) (July 26,2000)283-285.

 

• Japanese Medical Care Superior to American 

Another intriguing factor is the role of technology. America ranks second highest to Japan in the availability of MRI units and CT scanners per million population. Yet Japan’s health is overall number one, while America’s is among the lowest. “It is possible that the high use of technology in Japan is limited to diagnostic technology not matched by high rates of treatment, whereas in the United States, high use of diagnostic technology may be linked to the ‘cascade effect’ and to more treatment,” the JAMA article observed. In Japan, the number of employees per hospital bed is very low, while in the U.S. it is among the highest. In Japan family members provide many more of the amenities of hospital care than in this country. But the clear implication was that there is an epidemic of over-treatment or unnecessary treatment. “Recognition of the harmful effects of health care interventions, and the likely possibility that they account for a substantial proportion of the excess deaths in the United States compared with other comparably industrialized nations, sheds new light on imperatives for reach and health policy.”

Source: Source: Barbara Starfield, M.D., “Is U.S. Health Really the Best in the World?” Journal of the American Medical Association 284(4) (July 26,2000)283-285.

 

• Death by Medicine

In a comprehensive review of medical peer-reviewed journals and government studies, the Nutrition Institute of America (NIA) reported in 2003 that modern medicine was actually the leading cause of death in the United States. In a report entitled Death by Medicine, Gary Null, Ph.D., a noted author, nutritionist, and radio talk show host, and a team of physicians and researchers focused on unreported and underreported medical errors that the earlier Institute of Medicine report and the JAMA survey on medical casualties both mentioned, but did not attempt to quantify.  

     “There are no Grand Rounds on medical errors, no sharing of failures among doctors and no one to support them emotionally when their error harms a patient,” Death by Medicine observes. As a result, errors are denied, ignored, or covered up. 

     Unnecessary operations and surgical procedures constitute one of the largest categories of medical error. Death by Medicine estimates that in 2001, 7.5 million unnecessary surgical procedures were performed, resulting in 37,136 deaths, and costing $122 billion. 

     Unless the nation’s health care and medical system dramatically changes, Death by Medicine concluded, 7.8 million Americans will die from preventable medical errors over the next decade, including 1.06 million from adverse drug reactions, 1.15 million from treatable bedsore, 880,000 from hospital-caused infections, 1.09 million form malnutrition or dehydration, 1.99 million from outpatient complications, 371,360 from unnecessary procedures, 320,000 from surgery-related mistakes, and 980,000 from other medical errors. During the next ten years, 89 million Americans will undergo unnecessary hospitalizations and experience 17 million adverse medical events, while 75 million will have unnecessary medical procedures, involving 15 million preventable mistakes. Overall, a total of 164 million people, representing 56 percent of the U.S. population, will be treated unnecessarily by the medical industry. “When the number one killer in a society is the healthcare system, then that system has no excuse except to address its own urgent shortcomings,” the report concluded. “It’s a failed system in need of immediate attention . . . beginning at its very foundation.”

Source: Gary Null, Ph.D., Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., Martin Feldman, M.D., Debora Rasio, M.D., and Dorothy Smith, Ph.D., Death by Medicine, Nutrition Institute of America, October 2003.

 

• Medical Error Equivalent to Jumbo Jet Crash Every Few Days

The Harvard Medical Practice Study found that in New York State 4 percent of patients suffered hospital or physician-caused injuries and 14 percent of them died. Dr. Lucian L. Leape,  co-author of this study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared preventable deaths by doctors and hospitals to the equivalent of three jumbo-jet crashes every two days. This reference to airplane crashes may be the origin of an analogy that is now frequently used in the medical literature.

     In determining the error rate in hospitals and medical centers, Dr. Leape found that a typical patient in intensive care had 178 procedural or medical interactions daily with doctors, nurses, or orderlies. Overall, the error rate was less than 1 percent—1.7 mistakes daily. However, 29 percent of these errors were serious or potentially life-threatening. Unlike a catastrophic plane crash that gets national publicity and the focus of the entire nation, Leape explained, medical errors are spread out across the country and are virtually invisible. In his view, medical training and education have created a culture of denial where mistakes are unacceptable. Making a surgical mistake or other error is viewed as a failure of character, not a response to individual pressures or the inevitable consequence of a flawed social system or institutional environment. As a result, physicians are not trained how to handle or report mishaps.

Source: T. A. Brennan and L. L. Leape, et al., “Incidence of Adverse Events and Negligence in Hospitalized Patients,” New England Journal of Medicine 1991;324:370-76. L. L. Leape, “Error in Medicine,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994 Dec. 21;272(23):1851-7.

 

• Unnecessary Operations and Procedures

Dr. Leape estimated that about 1 in 3 common procedures were unnecessary, including Cesarean section, tonsillectomy, appendectomy, hysterectomy, gastrectomy for obesity, breast implants, and elective breast implants.     

     The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations estimated that 2.4 million unnecessary surgeries were performed each year, resulting in 11,900 deaths and costing $3.9 billion.

In 1995, the Department of Veteran Affairs heard testimony that 44,000 back surgeries costing $11,000 apiece were unnecessary.

In 1987, a study in JAMA found unnecessary or inappropriate surgery in 17 percent of patients operated on for coronary angiography, 32 percent for carotid endartectomy, and 17 percent for upper GI endoscopy. These totaled another 300,000 unnecessary operations.

Beyond the high rate of unnecessary procedures and mistakes, the success rate of many forms of surgery was questioned by a 1995 study by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The Congressional oversight agency observed that few medical procedures in the country had ever been subject to clinical trials and shown to be effective.

Compared with many other modern societies, the OTA noted, the U.S. ranked high in infant mortality and low in overall life expectancy.  In the most recent study of surgically-related death, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the new government office mandated to oversee medical error, reported that in 2000 there were 32,000 surgery-related deaths costing $9 billion and resulting in 2.4 million extra days in the hospital.15  In a press released accompanying publication of the article in JAMA, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., the AHRQ director, observed: “This study gives us the first direct evidence that medical injuries pose a real threat to the American public and increase the costs of health care.”

Sources: U.S. Congressional House Subcommittee Oversight Investigation. Cost and Quality of Health Care: Unnecessary Surgery. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1976.  L. L. Leape. “Unnecessary Surgery,” Health Serv Res. 1989 Aug;24(3):351-407.  Testimony to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Chiropractic Advisory Committee. George B. McClelland, D.C., Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research. March 25, 2003. M. R. Chassin et al., “Does Inappropriate Use Explain Geographic Variations in the Use of Health Care Services? A Study of Three Procedures,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1987 Nov 13;258(18):2533-7. S. R. Tunis and H. Gelband. “Health Care Technology and Its Assessment in Eight Countries. Health Care Technology in the United States,” Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), 1995. C. Zhan and M. Miller, “Excess Length of Stay, Charges, and Mortality Attributable to Medical Injuries During Hospitalization,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003;290:1868-74. “Injuries in Hospitals Pose a Significant Threat to Patients and a Substantial Increase in Health Care Costs.” Press Release, October 7, 2003. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

 

• No Treatment Often Better Than Medicalization

In BMJ Best Treatments, a new guide for patients on the 60 most common medical conditions, the British Medical Journal says that it often cannot recommend any medical treatment.  Surgery for prostate cancer, for example, may cause more harm than good. Men who observe “watchful waiting” live just as long. Similarly, it does not recommend tranquillizers for anxiety except for short-term use. Mastectomy for breast cancer doesn’t not extend women’s lives more than a lumpectomy. Except for infection, the removal of impacted wisdom teeth is unnecessary. “The big myth about medicine is that people know what works,” said Luisa Dillner, editor of the new guide. “In fact, they do things for which there is no evidence. There is a tendency for doctors to exaggerate the befits of what they do because they want to help. I think conveying uncertainty is important. We need to say when we just don’t know.”

Source: Jeremy Laurance, “New Guide for Patients Admits That Best Treatment Is Often No Treatment at All,” BMJ, 2004.

 

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is high in whole grains and grain products, beans, vegetables and fruits, and olive oil and other monounsaturated oils and very low in meat and dairy products. Alcohol is usually taken in moderation.

 

• Longevity and the Mediterranean Diet

In a study of 200 rural Greek villagers 70 or older, scientists found that those who ate the most balanced diets had only half the death rate of those with less balanced diets.            

     "We don't say that any food, or moderate wine consumption, or olive oil, is the magic bullet," explained Dimitrios Trichopoulos, lead researcher and professor of cancer prevention and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It's the switch of the center of gravity away from animal foods to plants."

     In previous studies, olive oil has been shown to lower serum cholesterol. However, its role in longevity, Trichopoulos speculated, is to make vegetables more appetizing and tasty. Many Greeks consume a pound of vegetables a day, many sautéed in oil.

Source: Judy Foreman, "Study Suggests Mediterranean Diet May Be Key to Longevity," Boston Globe, December 1, 1995.

           

• Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

The Traditional Healthy Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was developed by the World Health Organization, WHO/FAO Collaborating Center in Nutritional Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, and the Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust in 1994.

Source: W. C. Willett et al., “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: A Cultural Model for Healthy Eating,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(6 Suppl):1402S, 1995.

 

• Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

In a review of the Mediterranean diet, scientists at the University of Minnesota and Harvard University examined mechanisms that help protect against chronic disease. In contrast to a meat-centered modern diet which raises the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by up to 60 percent, the Mediterranean diet is low in meat and high in olive oil, a monunsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol, protective factors against heart disease. “The traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern, with infrequent intake of red meat in small portions, provides a model for the proportions red meat should assume in a healthful diet, if it is to be consumed at all,” the researchers concluded. Low in dairy products, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, and high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, the Mediterranean diet is also protective against various cancers, stroke, obesity, cataracts, and several birth defects. Meanwhile, “epidemiologic studies have not provided evidence that high dairy product consumption by adults prevents fractures; in fact, the results of several studies suggest positive associations. Thus, the abundant fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and the low to moderate intake of dairy products in traditional Mediterranean diets are likely to have contributed to the low rates of numerous chronic diseases observed in these populations.”

Source: L. H. Kushi et al., “Health Implications of Mediterranean Diets in Light of Contemporary Knowledge,” Parts 1 and II, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61(6 Suppl):1407S-27S, 1995.

 

• Mediterranean Diet Prevents Overweight

In a three-year study on diet and adult weight change, Spanish investigators reported that detailed dietary history data taken from nearly 28,000 normal weight men and women from 1992-1996 found that those who adhered highly to the Mediterranean Diet had substantially less obesity than others. “MD adherence was not associated with incidence of overweight in initially normal-weight subjects,” the researchers concluded. “Promoting eating habits consistent with MD patterns may be a useful part of efforts to combat obesity.”

Source: M. A. Mendez et al., “Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Is Associated with Reduced 3-Year Incidence of Obesity,” J Nutrition 136(11):2934-8, 2006.

 

Melanoma

Melanoma spreads from existing moles through the lymph or blood to the lungs, brain, liver, eye, intestines, reproductive organs, or other sites. Standard medical treatment is surgery, often supplemented with chemotherapy. See Cancer Case Histories.

 

• Gerson Diet Benefits Melanoma Patients

In a review of the Gerson anticancer diet, researchers reported that melanoma patients who followed the lactovegetarian regimen, including hourly raw vegetable/fruit juices, had 5-year survival rates that were on average two to three times greater than normal.

Source: G. L. Hildenbrand, “Five-Year Survival Rates of Melanoma Patients Treated by Diet Therapy After the Manner of Gerson,” Alternative Therapy Health Medicine 1(4):29-37, 1995.

 

Menopause

For many women in modern society, menopause is a time of pain, suffering, and identity crisis. To treat menopause, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is commonly recommended by physicians. Premarin, a synthetic estrogen (made from the urine of pregnant mares) is the most prescribed drug in America, but it raises the risk of breast cancer and has other side effects, so that many women are seeking safer, holistic alternatives. See Phytoestrogens, Women’s Health.

 

• Menopause and Diet 

A macrobiotic educator analyzes the relation between diet and female hormones, reviews symptoms during menopause,  and recommends a whole foods diet high in natural phystoestrogens found in such foods as tofu, miso, and other plant-quality foods. Special dishes and home remedies are also included.

Source: Edward Esko, “Menopause and Diet,” in Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, Editors, Women’s Health Guide, One Peaceful World Press, 1997.

 

• Phytoestrogens Reduce Menopause Symptoms

Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and other symptoms of menopause are rare in the Far East. Dietary habits in Asia may account for this dramatic low incidence. In particular, phytoestrogens from soy products, are believed to regulate hormone metabolism. Foods high in isoflavones, the type of phytoestrogen associated with normal menopause, include lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans, but they are highest in soybeans. A North Carolina study found that women beginning menopause who ate 8 ounces of a soy drink a day reduced the number and severity of night sweats and hot flushes.

Source: Jane E. Brody, "Diet May Be One Reason Complains About Menopause Are Rare in Asia," New York Times, August 27, 1997.

 

• Risks of Hormone Replacement Treatment

Prolonged hormone treatment for menopause increases the risk of breast cancer and other diseases, according to Susan Love, M.D., a surgeon and authority on breast cancer. Taking issue with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology which recommends that every postmenopausal women take replacement hormones for the rest of her life, Love stated, "This sweeping recommendation is based on inadequate scientific evidence. Menopause is not a disease; it is a normal part of life. A woman's ovaries don't shut down at menopause. They continue to produce low levels of hormones well into a woman's 80's. Synthetic hormones don't replace something that is missing when women reach menopause. They add something that is not naturally there."

     She cited evidence from the Nurse's Health Study showing that women who took hormones for at least 5 years increased their risk of getting breast cancer by 71 percent and dying of the disease by 45 percent. Synthetic hormones also increase the risk of developing blood clots, gall bladder disease, and uterine cancer. Love said that the hysteria surrounding hormone therapy for menopause and calcium supplementation for osteoporosis were being promoted by the pharmaceutical industry and had no medical foundation. Rather, she suggested, diet and lifestyle changes offered a safe, natural approach.            

Source: Susan Love, "Sometimes Mother Nature Knows Best," New York Times, March 20, 1997.

 

• Soy Diet Reduces Hot Flashes

Soybeans consumption reduced the incidence of menopausal flashes. In an Italian study of 104 women of childbearing age, the group that took a soy-enhanced diet had 26 percent less hot flashes by the third week; 33 percent less by the fourth week; and 45 percent after  12 weeks.

Source: Paola Albertazzi et al., “The Effects of Dietary Soy Supplementation on Hot Flushes,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 91(1):6-11, 1998.

 

Menestrual  Disorders

Menstrual disorders, ranging from irregular menstruation to menstrual cramps, affect millions of women in modern society. Diet appears to play a major role in regulating this cycle. See Premenstrual Syndrome, Sesame, Women’s Health.

 

• Irregular Menstruation and Disease

Early menses have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, as well as late menopause, childlessness, and first pregnancy at a later age. Abnormal length of the menstrual cycles also raises the risk, according to researchers in the ongoing Menstruation and Preproductive History Study (MRHS). Compared to women with menstrual cycles lasting 26 to 29 days (normal), women with shorter cycles on average are at twice the risk of breast cancer, while those with longer cycles also had nearly twice the risk.

Source: "Menstrual Cycles May Affect Cancer Risk," Science News, January 7, 1995.

 

• Diet Varies During Menstrual Cycle

In a study of how food selection and intake varies during the menstrual cycle, German researchers reported that during the luteal phase the intake of total energy tended to be higher in 27 healthy regularly menstruating women than during the follicular phase, Carbohydrate intake, fat intake, and total energy intake reached a minimum 2 days after ovulation. “The results suggest that food intake and selection is influenced by neurochemical, hormonal, and physiological and psychological factors,” the scientists concluded.

Source: H. Danker-Hopfe et al., “Regulation of Food Intake During the Menstrual Cycle,” Anthropol Anz 53(3):231-38, 1995.

 

• Contaminated Fish Linked to Shorter Menstrual Cycles

Eating contaminated fish can reduce the length of menstrual cycles. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo reported that women who consumed fish from Lake Ontario contaminated with PCBs and other toxins had shorter cycles than normal.

Source: P. Mendola et al., “Consumption of PCB-Contaminated Freshwater Fish and Shoretened Menstrual Cycle Length,” American Journal of Epidemiology 146(11):955-60, 1997.

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