This is a guest blog from Physicians Committee director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both individuals and businesses don pink ribbons in the fight against breast cancer. But while pink has become synonymous with breast cancer, orange is the color that can actually help prevent this disease. Women who consume the most orange vegetables, which are rich in carotenoids, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent.
One type of carotenoid is beta-carotene, which many people associate with carrots. The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume a daily serving of 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene to reduce the risk of disease. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene, but there are so many other foods that are packed with this immunity-boosting nutrient. One cup of butternut squash has up to three times the suggested minimum amount!
As we head into autumn, many carotenoid-rich vegetables are in season. Fill your grocery cart with orange foods and stop by the farmers market for some pumpkin, squash, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Spread the word by sharing the graphic—and make sure that even if you’re wearing pink, you’re still eating orange! Click here to take the Orange Pledge! For more information: www.OrangeIsTheNewPink.org
Last week, CVS Caremark changed its name to CVS Health and pulled all tobacco products from its shelves. Way to go, CVS. That’s a great move. And if CVS really wants to lead the charge toward better health care, there is an even more important step: It needs to tackle the grocery aisle next. In my local CVS—just steps away from the pharmacy—the shelves and refrigerators are stocked with milk, butter, beef jerky, ice cream, frozen pepperoni pizza, and other unhealthful foods.
Cheese and pizza are the top two source of saturated fat in the American diet—with other meat and dairy products rounding out the top 10. These high-fat foods not only contribute to our obesity rates, but also our country’s leading cause of death: heart disease. According to the CDC, heart disease alone kills more Americans annually than all forms of cancer combined. With 7,000 locations across the country, there is a huge opportunity for CVS to improve national health standards. Instead of selling artery-clogging meat and dairy products, it should offer heart-healthy grab-and-go snacks, like clementines, bananas, and hummus. Leading by example and ceasing the sale of dairy and meat products can turn CVS into CardioVascularSaviors.
Want to see nutrition resources at CVS Health? Tweet a link to our Nutrition Rainbow to @CVS! You can also find your local CVS on Yelp and leave a review, letting the store know that you admire the progress, but as long as it’s offering health care along with unhealthful foods, there’s incongruity in its message.
“Warning! May contain feces.” It’s been more than a year since the Physicians Committee petitioned the USDA to require this label on chicken products. But last week, Physicians Committee director of legal affairs Mark Kennedy, Esq., finally sat down with more than a dozen USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials. Fecal contamination in chicken is an ever-growing issue. Physicians Committee studies have found that a vast amount of chicken is contaminated with fecal matter. And it gets worse—according to a Consumer Reports study, 97 percent of raw chicken in U.S. supermarkets is contaminated with bacteria that could make customers sick.
Following the meeting, FSIS officials are now reviewing the Physicians Committee petition to the USDA requesting that feces be labeled and regulated as an “adulterant.” However, officials stated that they rarely grant petitions unless there is significant pressure to do so. Help us get the word out about the prevalence of fecal contamination in chicken! Share this blog with your family and friends—and you can even tweet to the @USDA with a link to our petition: http://goo.gl/2L8KXA.
In my work as a diabetes researcher, I’ve learned two important lessons about type 2 diabetes: First, it does not have to be a one-way street—it can get better and sometimes even disappear. Second, to successfully turn around the disease, it pays to have support—from family, friends, or a class. For the past few months, the Physicians Committee has been hosting free five-week-long series of Food for Life diabetes workshops for Washington, D.C.-area residents hoping to manage type 2 diabetes by adopting a healthful, plant-based diet. Since starting in February, the program has put more than 200 people on the path toward improved health.
I start each series by talking with participants about the root causes of diabetes and why our country’s growing obsession with meat, cheese, and other fatty foods has contributed to the escalating epidemic. I also share research and success stories that show that plant-based diets have the power to reduce the risk for diabetes and benefit those who have already been diagnosed. I ask participants to wade into this new way of eating by testing out healthful possibilities to see what they like. Together, we brainstorm ideas for plant-based meals that are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index. After testing them out, most people are surprised to find how easy and delicious this transition can be.
For the next four weeks, the class puts this information into practice in a supportive group environment. Every Tuesday night, the class meets to discuss the week’s challenges and successes, and participants learn new techniques to help them easily transition to their new diets. With the support of the group, everyone feels prepared with all the tools they need. Our weekly meetings keep people feeling motivated to stick to the plan. Food for Life instructor Kara Blank-Gonzalez taught a recent class to prepare a flavorful leafy green salad with baked sweet potatoes and oil-free dressing, fiber-packed brown rice with black bean chili, and Chocolate Cherry Nirvana Smoothies. Throughout the food demonstrations, class participants asked questions and shared tips with one another about best practices, local grocery store finds, and food substitution ideas, creating a positive, friendly environment.
Recent projections show that if we don’t act now, 17.9 million new diabetes cases are expected in 2015, with 51.7 million new cases expected in 2030. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn this trend around by working together as a community to focus on the foods that best promote health. Our most recent class series started Aug. 26! Check it out on the Physicians Committee Meetup Page. And a five-class Kickstart Your Health series begins Oct. 9. For more information or to reserve a spot in an upcoming class, please contact Tara Kemp at TKemp@PCRM.org or 202-527-7314. The Physicians Committee also has free Spanish-speaking classes starting tonight, Aug. 27. For more information or to reserve a spot in a Spanish-speaking class, please contact Mallory Huff at MHuff@PCRM.org or 202-527-7347. Remember: It’s important to continue to work with your doctor or health care provider to track your progress and monitor your medications.
The “ice bucket challenge” has gone viral. Participants either dump ice water on their heads or donate to charity—or both. How it started is not exactly clear, but this year, the main beneficiary has been ALS research.
Unfortunately, donors may not be aware that a great deal of ALS research funding is being spent on attempts to create animals with genetic mutations that produce symptoms that mimic ALS. Animal experiments like these are not just bad for animals. They have not resulted in effective treatments. Part of the reason may be that many of the mutations targeted by researchers only account for 5-10 percent of all ALS cases. The failure of translation of results from animal experiments to human patients has been a huge source of frustration. The result is a waste of time, resources, and money.
And it’s the patients who pay the toll: Ninety percent of drugs that appear useful in animals do not work—or prove unsafe—when tested in people. And half the drugs that are approved are later withdrawn or relabeled for adverse effects not detected by animal tests.
But there is a better way. There are exciting advances in human-relevant medical research that are giving scientists insight into the etiology, prevention and treatment of disease. In ALS research, for example, scientists are now studying motor neuron cells derived from the skin cells of patients with the disease. This technique has led to the discovery of how certain genetic mutations interfere with the ability of motor neurons to function normally—an effect never observed in mouse models of ALS.
Focusing research dollars on new technologies like these—that are directly relevant to human patients—will pave the way to gaining a better understanding of how ALS and other diseases occur, and will hopefully lead to effective treatments.
So if you would like to participate in an ice bucket challenge, please direct your donations to a charity that focuses on relevant and progressive nonanimal research methods.
Compassionate Care is one organization that provides a variety of resources for those affected by ALS and their families—and Compassionate Care does not fund research on animals.
Let’s put animal experiments on ice and support only ethical, effective research.
Sign up for Dr. Barnard's Blog
CDC Should Prescribe Plant-Based Diet for Middle-Aged Hearts - September 10, 2018
Q-and-A: Actress Mallika Sherawat Says Go Vegan to Fight Diabetes - August 3, 2018
Andrew Freeman, M.D.: A Cardiologist’s Plant-Based Prescription - June 20, 2018
Congress: Be Cool with a Dairy-Free Ice Cream Social - June 7, 2018