Dr. Barnard's Blog

The Physicians Committee

VIDEO: Fecal Matter in Grocery Store Chicken, Too

August 27, 2015   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

Evidence of fecal matter was found in all 458 pounds of ground beef recently tested by Consumer Reports. It’s not surprising. A USDA training video obtained by the Physicians Committee reveals that the chicken carcasses soak in “fecal soup” for up to one hour before being packaged for consumers.

 

In 2012, the Physicians Committee also tested chicken products sold by 15 grocery store chains in 10 U.S. cities for the presence of fecal bacteria. Nearly half of the samples tested positive for fecal bacteria. Our Five Worst Contaminants in Chicken Products report also revealed toxic chemicals and superbugs.

It’s time for the government to finally act on the Physicians Committee’s March 2013 legal petition to the USDA requesting that feces be declared an adulterant and that packaging be labeled appropriately.

The safest choice for consumers is to avoid purchasing, ingesting, or handling chicken products, ground beef, or any animal products for that matter.

 

Get Omega-3s from Plants—Not Fish Oil

August 26, 2015   Dr. Neal Barnard   , Omega 3, fish oil, Plant-based Omega 3 Sources

Omega-3 supplements don’t keep your brain healthy, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers followed 4,000 patients over a five-year period and found that the supplements don’t slow cognitive decline.
 
It’s not the first time the supposed benefits of omega-3 supplements—typically derived from fish oil—have been debunked. Recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Archives of Internal Medicine all found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids does not improve heart health. Omega-3 supplements may also increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
 
Omega-3 fatty acids are important in the normal functioning of all tissues of the body, but they are best obtained through a plant-based diet, not fish oil supplements. Download our omega-3 infographic to learn more about the most healthful sources.  

 

 

Cleveland Clinic Says Bye-Bye to Big Macs

August 20, 2015   Dr. Neal Barnard   ,

Big-Mac-Bye-Bye

The nation’s top hospital for heart health is about to get healthier. Earlier this week, the Cleveland Clinic announced the termination of its decades-old contract with McDonald’s.

Come September, the hospital’s only fast-food restaurant will close its doors as part of an ongoing effort to promote health and wellness among patients and employees. No longer will we see doctors dining on Big Macs and patients chowing down on chicken nuggets within the hospital’s walls.

It’s another step in the right direction in a battle the Physicians Committee has been waging for years. All but 16 U.S. hospitals have given McDonald’s the boot, no longer willing to promote the foods that cause many of the diseases that land patients in hospital beds in the first place. Since the Physicians Committee released its 2015 Hospital Food Report, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles 
and Driscoll Children’s Hospital have also ended partnerships with the fast-food chain.

It’s a shift in thinking that’s long overdue. Chronic diseases of lifestyle now account for seven out of every 10 U.S. deaths and about 75 percent of our $3 trillion health care budget. More than 70 percent of Americans struggle with overweight or obesity, which have been linked to both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are two of the country’s leading causes of hospitalization.

Some hospitals have not only begun to move away from burgers and milkshakes, but they’ve taken it a step further to embrace food as medicine. In Connecticut, New Milford Hospital is serving up bright leafy green salads filled with vegetables grown in an aeroponic tower on the hospital’s rooftop garden. And at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center in Houston, Garth Davis, M.D., writes out prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables at the “Farmacy” stand in the hospital’s lobby.

By closing fast-food restaurants and prioritizing healthful foods, hospitals will reinforce their mission to heal, rather than harm.

 

These 12 Studies Show Saturated Fat Is Not Just a Heart Hazard

August 13, 2015   Dr. Neal Barnard   , saturated fat risks, cardiovascular disease, Heart Health

Research clearly shows that avoiding saturated fat is the best way to keep your heart healthy, despite confusing findings in a new BMJ study.

Setting aside saturated fat—found primarily in meat and dairy products—can also decrease your risk for obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and early death, among other health issues. Following are just a dozen of the many studies showing why avoiding saturated fat is a smart choice for maintaining good health. Sign up for our Breaking Medical News to get the latest research on these and other nutrition and health topics.

sat-fat-heart-risks

  1. Dairy Increases Risk for Death from Prostate Cancer: The saturated fat in dairy products may increase your risk of death from prostate cancer, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer.
  2. High-Fat Diet Slows Metabolism: A high-fat diet may change how your body processes nutrients, according to a study published in Obesity.
  3. Fat Linked to Breast Cancer Risk: A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet increases the risk for breast cancer, according to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
  4. A High-Fat Diet Increases Risk of Breast Cancer: Women who eat diets high in fat and saturated fat increase their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study published by the National Cancer Institute.
  5. Better Brain Health with Less Saturated Fat: Reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to a review published in Neurobiology of Aging.
  6. Fatty Diets Linked to Cancer and Early Death: Diets high in saturated fats and sugar may increase your risk of death from gastrointestinal cancers, including stomach and esophageal, according to a presentation at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference.
  7. Low-Saturated-Fat Diet Improves Insulin Function: Eating a low-saturated-fat, high-fiber diet helps with insulin sensitivity, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.
  8. High-Fat Diet Boosts Brain Proteins Linked to Alzheimer's Disease: A high-fat, high-glycemic-index diet increases the concentration of proteins in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published by the American Medical Association.
  9. Fat Matters for Type 1 Diabetes: Fatty foods tend to increase blood sugars for people with type 1 diabetes, according to a study published by the American Diabetes Association.
  10. High-Fat Dairy Intake Linked to Mortality: Women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products were more likely to die during a 12-year follow-up, compared with those who consumed the least, according to a study published by the National Cancer Institute.
  11. Yes, Cutting Fatty Foods Really Does Help You Lose Weight: Diets lower in total fat led to lower total body weights, compared with diets higher in fat, according to a new review published in the British Medical Journal.
  12. Cognitive Decline Associated with Fat Intake: Fatty foods eaten during midlife may hasten cognitive decline in later life, according to research from the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study.

 

New BMJ Study May Fuel Confusion over “Bad” Fats

August 11, 2015   Dr. Neal Barnard   , Saturated Fat, Heart Disease

A new study by Canadian researchers may add to confusion over the role of saturated fat—the “bad” fat found in dairy products, meats, and other foods—in risk of heart disease and early death.1

The new study, published in BMJ, was a meta-analysis of 41 previous reports. The statistical analysis was done in two ways, because certain statistical adjustments can influence results. For example, saturated fat increases cholesterol levels which, in turn, can increase cardiovascular risk. If the data are adjusted for cholesterol levels, the link between saturated fat and cardiovascular risk can be made to disappear.

Using unadjusted data, the study found that people whose diets were heaviest in saturated fat had a 12 percent higher risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent higher risk of dying of it, compared with those whose diets were lowest in saturated fat. Saturated fat was also associated with risk of ischemic stroke. These risks were statistically significant—that is, they were unlikely to be due to chance. The study also showed an increased risk of diabetes, although the findings were not statistically significant (P=0.07). Trans fats—found in many snack foods—were also linked to heart disease.

Using the most adjusted data, however, the risks of saturated fat were largely gone. The study headline and discussion highlighted the most heavily adjusted statistics, and this will likely be the focus of press reports. However, the less-adjusted statistics are more clinically relevant.

The study shows that meta-analyses err on the side of statistical conservatism. Because they rely on the quality of data from the studies they include, real effects often do not appear in meta-analyses.
Although some media reports have recently promoted an “anything goes” attitude when it comes to meats, dairy products, and “bad” fats in general, it is important to remember that these products are as risky as they ever were. In countries, such as China or Japan, whose intake of animal fats has increased, coronary heart disease rates have skyrocketed.

coronary-heart-disease-mortality

1. De Souza RJ, Mente A, Maroleanu A, et al. Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ 2015;351:h3978 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h3978

 

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