Calcium and sesame seeds

Making sure there is enough calcium in your child’s diet can be a daunting task, especially when they are on a casein-free diet. The option of calcium supplementation is always available, but the body’s ability to absorb these nutrients from supplements is not nearly as good as when the calcium is contained in the food you eat.

So in my quest to add natural food sources of calcium, I turned to a very wise doctor we all know. He informed me that the sesame seed is an excellent source of calcium. So off I went to Whole Foods Market in search of sesame seeds, and it is there that I discovered a very important piece of information about sesame seeds. All of the bottled tahini (sesame seed paste), the sesame seeds in the spice aisle, and even the shiny white ones in the bulk bins, contained very little calcium.

I was a bit confused, had I been led astray? Surely not, so after further inspection I discovered another bulk bin that contained tan or mottled brown sesame seeds. Certainly not the sesame seeds you would choose to eat, let alone take home to your kids. But I felt fairly confident that Whole Foods was not peddling rancid sesame seeds, so I checked the label.

The difference was that this bin contained unhulled sesame seeds, and the majority of calcium is contained in the hull. In fact, just 1/2 cup of these seeds contains 350 mg, 35% of the recommended daily allowance for calcium. By comparison, 1/2 cup of whole milk provides about 75 mg.

The key to unlocking the nutrients for use in the body is grinding them before consumption; otherwise they will just take the quick tour through the body. You should store them in the freezer and grind only the amount you need to prevent rancidity.

Not only are these seeds full of calcium, they are also powerhouses of other nutrients. They are packed with B vitamins in the form of riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, folic acid and vitamin b6. They also contain the minerals iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. To top it all off, the sesame seed makeup is 25% protein.

So pick up a bag of not-so-shiny sesame seeds the next time you are at a health food store, and grind them up to use in cookie and bread recipes, as a crispy coating on your chicken or fish, as a spread for crackers, or as a boost to your smoothie.

Fermented wheat bread tolerated by celiac patients

Wheat-derived products have become a staple of the average American’s diet, especially for children; but increasing numbers of children and adults are finding that they feel better, have sharper focus, and a clearer mind when they leave the wheat out.

Celiac disease, however, deserves a separate discussion. It is a serious immune system disorder that can affect children and adults alike with varying degrees of severity. Although generally associated with chronic diarrhea, at its worst it can lead to failure to thrive, mental retardation, and even early death in untreated children.

Celiac disease has been with us throughout history. The very term celiac is derived from the ancient Greek “Koiliakos” meaning “suffering in the bowels” and the oldest known written record of it goes back to the ancient Roman physician Galen.

What many do not realize is that for most of history, in fact until the 1950’s, celiac disease was a medical mystery and children who had the severe form of it were hospitalized with no hope of a cure.

World War II eventually led us to the solution. When the Germans confiscated all the wheat and other grains in Holland to feed their armies, hospitalized children suffering from celiac disease suddenly and mysteriously recovered, only to relapse again when the war ended. However, it was not until 1950 that the pieces of the puzzle were put together in the doctoral thesis of a Dutch pediatrician by the name of Dicke.

Today it is a well-established fact that a majority of people with celiac disease can enjoy full remission of symptoms through complete avoidance of wheat and other grains that contain a protein called gluten. But could we be on the verge of another breakthrough in our understanding of celiac disease, and possibly other forms of wheat and gluten intolerance?

A recent study found that bread made from wheat flour that is fully fermented using various strains of lactobacillus bacteria is tolerated by individuals with celiac disease (Appl Environ Microbiol 2004 Feb; 70 (2): 1088-1096, PMID 14766592).

Bacterial fermentation is the authentic way sourdough bread is made (unfortunately not the kind sold today in most bakeries and stores). This method represents a primitive bread-making technique and it may not have been until other forms of bread-making were introduced, including yeast fermentation, that celiac disease first appeared.

The lactic acid-producing bacteria used in the study are capable of predigesting gluten and other allergy-inducing proteins, making them tolerable and possibly even beneficial. Children with severe intolerance to milk and other dairy products can actually thrive on yogurt that is fully fermented using the same types of bacteria. Unfortunately this yogurt is not available at stores, but can be ordered from specialized farms throughout the country, including in Texas, or can be made at home using starter from . I am still researching sources for the right types of bread.

Dairy fat, sugar and heart disease

It used to be that the world was simple. Everyone knew that cholesterol caused heart disease and dairy fat contained cholesterol, so it had to be avoided. Then some people started to ask too many questions and it all became complicated.

One thing we came to learn is that most cholesterol is made in the liver, and the liver keeps on making it whether we eat cholesterol or not. So the question became, why on earth does the liver make all this cholesterol, endangering our health? A few interesting new studies could point us in a new direction.

In the first study (Br J Nutr 2004, Apr; 91 (4): 635-42) researchers started out with a statement of fact (from when the world was simple): “milk fat is high in saturated fatty acids (SFA) and high intakes of SFA are associated with cardiovascular diseases.”

Oddly enough, though, when they looked at the occurrence of first-ever heart attacks in a north Sweden population, they couldn’t find any link between these two. In fact, when they analyzed some recognized risk factors for heart disease, including insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic condition) they actually found an inverse correlation between them. This means that some important risk factors for cardiovascular disease decreased as people ate more milk fat.

In another study (BMJ 2003; 327: 777-782, 4 October) researchers analyzed intakes of saturated fat in more than 40,000 US healthcare workers. They then looked at rates of stroke within this group over a period of 14 years and concluded that “intakes of red meats, high-fat dairy products, nuts, and eggs were not appreciably related to risk of stroke.”

So if milk fat does not cause first heart attacks or strokes, what does? The answer to this question is probably complex and multi-factorial, but a third study (Obes Res 2003 Sep; 11 (9): 1069-103) does at least give us a hint. The study found that when carbohydrate consumption goes up, the body rapidly starts to produce fat. Not only that, but the excess carbohydrates apparently activate genetic factors that are programmed to keep on making more fats (including cholesterol). Could sugar be the real culprit? Remember, too, that when people cut fat from their diets they inevitably end up eating more carbohydrates because of the unavoidable law of nature that says you’ve got to eat something.

What are we feeding our infants and toddlers?

An article published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (J Am Diet Assoc 2004 Jan; 104 (1 Pt 2): 22-30) reports the findings of a survey on food intake of American infants and toddlers.

The conclusions are truly shocking and confirm what many newspaper articles have been reporting in recent times: that an increasing number of parents are letting the packaged food industry decide what their children eat.

Some parents would say that there’s nothing they can do about it, because their children love sugary foods and refuse green vegetable. However, when we talk about infants and toddlers, the reality is that they will eat what they’re exposed to. Sugar is a non-food that is highly addictive and should be carefully avoided at this age if we want to raise healthy children.

The survey found that fruits and vegetables were rarely consumed in this age group and that, when a vegetable was consumed, it was most often French fries. Even more disturbing is the finding that by the age of seven months nearly half consume some type of sweetened dessert and by 19 to 24 months nearly two-thirds consume baked desserts.

Fighting back against the food industry

The food industry bombards our children with wonderful bright colors, exciting characters, and products that are actually quite addictive. Everywhere you look these days you see horrible excuses for food, marketed directly to our children. There are shocking pink and electric blue drinks (can you imagine how much dye shocking pink takes?). There is oatmeal in easy-to-use individual packets containing treasures or dinosaurs that actually pop up when you add water and heat it. (Be very wary of the nutrition labeling on these products. One says 6 grams of sugar per serving, but the serving size is only 1/3 of an individual bag. That is a whopping 18 grams of sugar per packet, not to mention the added flavors, colors, and other chemical additives).

The garbage contained in boxes of cereal for kids is astonishing. We wonder why seemingly typical children have behavioral issues. Look at the way we start their day: breakfasts that include toaster pastries, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate chip waffles, just to name a few. Even many of the natural organic cereals (which at least don’t have partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings and colorings) are loaded with evaporated organic cane juice (a fancy name for SUGAR). And in all reality we, as parents struggling to make a healthy diet, are at a disadvantage. So, I guess it is time to fight back.

Let’s be honest, the packaging of most health foods leaves a lot to be desired in the minds of young children. Especially when in the other aisles there is a cool cheetah wearing shades on a brightly colored bag of snack chips. And let’s be real: does the oatmeal that you sweetened yourself with just a little honey and cinnamon stand a chance against bright-colored dinosaur magic?

Quite simply, the answer is “yes.” As a responsible parent you are the expert on your child, not the advertising departments of these food companies. Be your own marketer. Promote the healthy food you make for your family. Take that box of plain oatmeal and some small baggies. Hit the Dollar Store and invest in stickers of your child’s favorite characters. Also pick up some tiny toys, maybe a pack of assorted dinosaur figures. Decorate the bags differently so there is plenty of variety to choose from. Then measure out one serving of oats, cinnamon, raisins (or any other dried fruit they like – remember, you are the expert!) and maybe a sweetener like Xylitol (a naturally sweet substance that can be used exactly like sugar, but is not digestible and actually has the added benefit of being a natural antibacterial) into each bag. Throw in a toy dinosaur – you know, the prize-in-the-cereal-box way of thinking – to make it even more exciting.

The great thing about having all-in-one individual bags is that your child can select the bag they want, pour it in their own bowl, retrieve their prize, measure the water with a measuring cup, and then let you microwave it for them. If your child is on a gluten-free diet, try this idea with Cream of Buckwheat cereal. In order to balance out this fun bowl of carbohydrates, make sure to include protein. Add a side of all-natural nitrate-free bacon or sausage, or an egg.

Use your imagination and creativity to fight back. They are your children. When health problems arise later, the Big Food industry won’t be there to help, and it will all be up to you.

Atkins diet found to control intractable epilepsy

There are many different types of seizures, and many diagnoses that go with them. Different seizure disorders can have different causes, ranging from high fevers to trauma, infection, and chemical intoxication. In some cases the precise cause may be elusive, but most seizure disorders have one thing in common: they can be managed entirely by diet.

If you think this is just another one of my controversial statements, think again! The diet in question, known as the ketogenic diet, was developed in the early decades of the 20th century under the aus pices of the American Medical Association. It has continued to be researched to the present day in such meccas of mainstream medicine as Johns Hopkins Hospital. A history and a detailed description of the diet can be found in the book “The Ketogenic Diet: a Treatment for Epilepsy” by John Freeman, MD.

A parent’s report in the foreword to this book is quite revealing: “After thousands of epileptic seizures, an incredible of array of drugs, dozens of blood draws, eight hospitalizations, a mountain of EEGs, MRIs, CAT scans, PET scans, and one fruitless brain surgery, Charlie’s seizures were unchecked, his development delayed, and he had a prognosis of continued seizures and progressive retardation. Since we started the diet Charlie has been virtually seizure-free, completely drug-free, and a terrific little boy ever since.” So what is the ketogenic diet, and how can it be so effective? The major feature of this diet is that it severely restricts sugar and all other carbohydrates until the body’s metabolism switches from burning sugar for energy to burning fat. When this happens, benign compounds known as ketone bodies are produced. They circulate in blood and can be measured in urine with so-called ketone sticks. Positive readings on ketone sticks indicate that the diet is being implemented correctly, and so the diet itself has come to be known as ketogenic or ketone-inducing.

Our brains require relatively enormous amounts of energy. In fact, the adult human brain represents only 2% of total body mass but accounts for 15% of total energy needs of the body (Guyton, 8th edition, p. 684). The brain will always burn sugar for energy, as long as it’s available; but when it runs out, the brain adjusts easily and very efficiently to burning ketones.

Although there would seem to be a benefit to the brain from burning ketones, this benefit is not nderstood and we don’t know exactly how this diet works to control seizures. Another and perhaps overlooked aspect of this diet is that it completely eliminates sugar and severely restricts all carbohydrates. I have observed consistent behavioral and attention-related improvements with only moderate reductions in sugar and carbohydrate intake. Could it be that the complete elimination of these items has even greater brain-healing benefits for these severe cases?

Not only is this diet effective, it is completely safe. Studies have found consistently that children, even infants, on this diet develop normally. A recent study looked at the safety of the diet in infants as young as 3 months old without finding evidence of any detriment in terms of general health or growth and development (Pediatrics, 2002; 109 (5): 780). While it is known that protein and fat are essential to human life, we apparently do just fine without carbohydrates.

So why haven’t you heard about this diet from your neurologist? The answer to this question may lie primarily with a medical bias towards drugs and surgery. According to medical standards of care, the diet should only be considered in severe cases when drug therapy fails. Although I disagree with this policy, it does provide further evidence of the diet’s effectiveness.

From what I hear, in everyday practice the diet is rarely mentioned, even when drugs don’t work. In one case, when the mother of one of my patients asked her child’s neurologist about the diet, she was told with a smile that “yes, the diet could work in theory but it’s just too difficult to follow.” The neurologist’s recommendation in that case was experimental brain surgery.

In reality, the medical textbook description of the ketogenic diet makes it unnecessarily complicated and difficult to implement. A simpler version of this diet is the Atkins diet. The Atkins diet is also ketone-inducing, plus it has the added benefit that most people have a basic familiarity with it and there are books in every bookstore telling us how to follow it. Could it be just as effective?

This is exactly what a recent study performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital found. Researchers concluded that the Atkins diet is a “well-tolerated alternative to the ketogenic diet for treating medically-resistant epilepsy” (Epilepsia 44 Suppl. 9: 282 (Abst. 2. 310), 2003).

Now, you may be thinking that the Atkins diet is for weight loss and your child would wither away on it. However, it has been shown that carbohydrate-restricted diets have a “weight-optimizing” effect and it is just as likely for underweight people to gain weight on these diets as it is for overweight individuals to lose weight. For a more comprehensive discussion of the weight-optimizing effects of low-carbohydrate diets, see “Life without Bread” by Wolfgang Lutz, MD.

When implementing the Atkins diet, it is important to make healthy choices, avoiding man-made fats like margarine and the low-carb “fake” foods that are now becoming prevalent in restaurants and on grocery store shelves.

Vegetables in a Pill?

This may sound like a dream come true! If you hate vegetables, or if your child stubbornly refuses to eat any, just take a pill or a flavored powder and get the same benefits. I hate to always be the one to give out the bad news, but I don’t think this is a good idea.

First of all, one of the main benefits of vegetables is what they are not. Vegetables are not junk food, so if you eat a vegetable you are not, at least at that moment in time, eating junk food. But if you take a pill.

Vegetables are also not starches. If you’ve been a reader of this newsletter for a while, you know that I am no friend of excessive starches or carbs. One way to moderate starch intake is to increase the amount of vegetables in a meal.

Let’s take broccoli and rice to illustrate this point. A cup of cooked broccoli contains 45 calories, 4 grams of protein, no fat and 8 grams of carbohydrate (raw broccoli contains less). In contrast, the same amount of cooked rice has 185 calories, 4 grams of protein, also no fat, and 42 grams of carbohydrate. In other words it would take five and a quarter cups of broccoli to match the carbs in a single cup or rice.

And what about the good things actually contained in vegetables that you would not get from a pill? The first of these is water, and to go back to our example broccoli is 90% water. This means that vegetables also help hydrate the body, something no pill will do.

The water in vegetables also forms a complex matrix with minerals and other nutrients, thus enhancing their absorption. This matrix is broken when vegetables are dehydrated and processed to make them into pills. Also, it is unclear to me if and to what extent nutrients are preserved during the process.

The next important component of vegetables missing from a pill is fiber. Our cup of broccoli contains a respectable 4 grams of fiber, not as much as found in prunes, for example, but well in excess of the 0.7 grams in a cup of white rice. Brown rice is a good source of fiber but still comes in at only 3 grams per cup. Fiber is completely eliminated or at least drastically reduced when vegetables are concentrated to make them into pills.

Finally, consider that vegetables sometimes contain bad things as well, like pesticide residues. If the manufacturer of a vegetable extract does not guarantee an organic source, it is likely that these chemicals are concentrated in the final product after the water and fiber are removed.

Some vegetables also contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients. For example, spinach is rich in calcium, but also contains oxalic acid that prevents us from absorbing that calcium. Cooking inactivates oxalic acid and thereby makes th e calcium available to us. Of course other nutrients, like vitamin C, are lost in cooking, which is why I recommend eating a mix of raw and cooked vegetables.

My point is that these vegetable pills or powders are always promoted as preserving the goodness of raw vegetables but no reference is ever made to the downside, like the lack or fiber and the presence of anti-nutrients found in raw vegetables but not in cooked ones.

Now that you know that vegetable powders or pills are not a solution, what do you do about your child who still refuses to eat any vegetable? Unfortunately this is a complex question that I cannot answer in general terms, but one that I have been working on, many times successfully, with individual families. Realizing that there are no quick and easy solutions is a good place to begin when developing a successful strategy.

Low-carb Madness

It’s hard to miss the fact that Americans are diving into low-carb diets by the millions. Even large restaurant chains are now advertising “Atkins-approved menus” (whatever that means).

Considering that I have promoted carbohydrate restriction for years, when everybody else thought that low-fat was the answer to all human ailments, I should be pleased to see this trend; but the way it’s being implemented is loaded with pitfalls.

Recently a mother brought a box of pasta to my office and asked if it would be OK for her child, who is on a restricted-carb diet. The label did read “low-carb,” and it took me a while to understand what seemed at first to be a contradiction in terms: how can pasta be low-carb?

The two major ingredients in this pasta turned out to be wheat gluten and soy concentrate. It cannot be denied that gluten is actually a protein, not a carb, that is found in small amounts in wheat and other grains. In this case the manufacturer separated the gluten from the starch in the wheat and concentrated it to make high-protein pasta.

The only problem is that gluten is the single most problematic food component in our diet. It is very difficult for our digestive systems to break it down completely, and partially digested gluten has been implicated as a trigger for hyperactivity, auto-immune disease, intestinal disorders, autism, schizophrenia and more.

In addition, many of us have a relative intolerance to gluten. This means that we can stand small amounts of it, but we develop symptoms when we exceed our individual thresholds. So concentrating gluten to make “Atkins-approved” pasta is one of the worst ideas I have seen in a long time and one that is likely backfire on Americans’ health in a significant way.

The second ingredient in this “low-carb” pasta was soy, which is loaded with problems of its own. Soy is also very challenging for humans to break down, especially if it is not fermented (as it is usually found in traditional diets in Japan). In addition, soy has been found to inhibit enzymes in the brain that produce neurotransmitters. Soy also contains high levels of naturally occurring estrogens that can disrupt hormone development in children and can be a factor in hormone-related disorders in adults. These estrogens also inhibit the thyroid, and may be implicated in the current epidemic of hypothyroidism. To read more about soy and its dangers go to

My idea of a low-carb diet has always been one based on natural protein and fresh vegetables, with grains and fruit consumed in small amounts. It would seem that the food industry has quite a different view of things. One thing is very clear: when food industry giants get involved, there’s likely to be trouble ahead.

Sugar, Addiction and Neurotransmitters

I know there are people out there, even among readers of this newsletter, who believe that sugar is not much of a problem for their health. Parents keep asking me: can’t I just let my child have a normal childhood (with “normal” defined, it seems, as eating a lot of sugar-laden foods)?

Those who fall into this category may want to look up Nancy Appleton’s website Her front page is a bit busy, but if you click on “read how sugar can ruin your health,” you will find 124 detrimental effects of sugar listed with each one backed by published medical research.

As usual, it’s not that the information is not available, it’s just being ignored. While we all know that sugar causes cavities, there are many other harmful effects of sugar that few people ever hear of. A review article recently published in a well-respected medical journal discusses some of these effects. They include acne, early menarche, certain skin cancers, increases in stature, short-sightedness, skin tags, polycystic ovary syndrome, and male vertex balding (Comp Biochem Physiol 2003 Sep; 136 (1): 95-112, PMID 14527633).

For many, the problem is that they’re addicted to sugar, not that they don’t believe it’s bad for them. People have told me that just the thought of cutting out sugar is enough to trigger an uncontrollable binge. I’ve heard from some women that they can do very well for three weeks in a row but one week before their menses they simply lose control. The fact is that sugar is one of the most addictive substances we know.

Actually we have studies dating back to the 1970’s and even earlier showing that the entire cycle of sugar and carbohydrate addiction is induced by a deficiency of serotonin. Serotonin is known to be the “happy” neurotransmitter and it can only be made in the brain from protein. Because sugar does nothing to replenish depleted serotonin, it’s hard to break the addiction cycle.

The natural food supplements L-tryptophan and 5HTP provide the brain with more of the raw material it needs to make serotonin. The same studies mentioned above also showed that when people take these supplements in appropriate doses their cravings abate and their consumption of carbohydrates and overall calories decrease. (J Pharm Pharmacol 1975 Jan; 27 (1): 31-7; Brain Res Bull 1986 Nov; 17 (5): 681-9; Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1986 Oct; 25 (4): 711-6; J Neurol Transm 1989; 76 (2): 109-17).

Armed with this knowledge, physician Marty Hinz, MD, has built a large and successful practice focused entirely on treating weight problems with these types of supplements. Dr. Hinz has also stated repeatedly that in his experience – spanning more than a decade and thousands of patients – these amino acid (protein) supplements work better for appetite control than any medication, including the ill-fated phen-fen combination. For more on Dr. Hinz and his work visit

Julia Ross is a psychotherapist who realized more than fifteen years ago that she could save herself a lot of talk therapy failures if she also gave her patients the natural protein supplements their brains were screaming for. She has since built a very successful practice near San Francisco treating everything from depression to obesity and eating disorders. She has also written two very good books entitled The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure. See for more information.

Question: You often recommend the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). Could you please comment on the list of allowed and forbidden supplements for this diet I have seen on the Internet?

Answer: As I have frequently said, the SCD is a useful diet that should be considered for children and adults who have digestive and other health issues. Like any diet, it is not perfect and should be customized based on each individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is described in a book written by Elaine Gottschall entitled “Breaking the Vicious Cycle.” Ms. Gottschall did not invent the diet – she just wrote about it and made it easier to follow by developing many excellent recipes.

Ms. Gottschall was always very clear in stating that she is not an expert on dietary supplements, and that only doctors and nutritionists are qualified to make decisions or give advice in this area.

However, in recent years various SCD websites have made thousands more people aware of this diet and able to benefit from it. Many of these people simply didn’t have a doctor or nutritionist who would work with them and asked Ms. Gottschall for advice on supplements. I believe her intention when she put together her supplement recommendations was simply to give people who are working alone some basic guidance.
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High Performance Weight Loss: A Solution for America’s Weight Problems (Part 1)

The weight crisis in this country has reached unprecedented levels in both adults and children. To understand the extent of the problem, consider that 80% of Americans over age 25 and 33% of children are overweight or obese according to official U.S. government figures. This translates to 145 million adults and 18 million children! Overall, 60% of Americans of all ages tip the scales well above their ideal weight.

Although insurance carriers do not consider excess weight to be a disease, there is substantial evidence that overweight people have an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma and mortality from all causes. Life expectancy has been increasing for more than a century. However, this trend will come to a halt – or even reverse itself – if obesity rates continue to rise.

Body mass index (BMI) is a calculated number that can give you an idea of where you fit in. It is based on population averages and may not be accurate in all cases, but it is a good place to start. To calculate your BMI follow these steps (example refers to an individual 5’10 inches tall weighing 225 pounds):

1. Multiply your weight by 703 (225 x 703 = 158,175)
2. Square your height in inches (70 x 70 = 4,900)
3. Divide the Step 1 total by the Step 2 total (158,175 divided by 4,900 = 32.28)

If your BMI is above 25 (22 for children) you are considered overweight, and if it is greater than 30 (25 for children) you are considered obese.

The bottom line is that there is something wrong with how we eat, how much we eat, and how we feed our children. Foods that many Americans consider appropriate for children actually contribute to this crisis.

Type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes used to be called “adult onset” because it occurred mostly in aging, overweight adults. It is now being diagnosed in children and teens at a rate of 123,000 new diagnoses per year, a six-fold (600%) increase over the past ten years. Overall, 10% of Americans age 20 and up have this deadly disease, up 50% from ten years ago. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, dental disease, and many others.

Since 1992 the U.S. government has recommended that Americans use a food pyramid originally designed by the Department of Agriculture as a guide to a healthy diet. Yet, over the last ten years, the country’s weight crisis exploded. Reasonable people might assume that, before recommending this diet for all Americans, the government carried out studies on its effects. In reality, not a single study was conducted. The diet was endorsed due to lobbying from the food industry and vague notions that it would encourage low-fat and heart-healthy eating.

This food pyramid recommends that Americans consume 6 to 11 servings of breads, pasta and cereal every day. These are the very foods that are now known to have high glycemic loads, causing significant imbalances in blood sugar and ultimately triggering uncontrolled cravings. The pyramid also recommends that only 2 to 3 servings of protein be consumed every day and that all fats and oils be used sparingly.

Using the food pyramid as a guide for healthy eating is a recipe for disaster because satiety, the feeling that one has eaten enough, is triggered by a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK is produced only when enough protein and fat are eaten. Carbohydrates do not trigger this hormone, so when people eat mostly carbohydrates, they have trouble knowing when they’ve had enough to eat. This explains why it is so hard for many people to put down an open bag of chips, but it is rare that anyone would binge on a food like hard-boiled eggs.

Part 2 of High Performance Weight Loss will appear in a future issue.

The roots of human diet (Part I)

To help us navigate through a maze of modern diets and figure out which foods can be truly healing, it makes sense to take a look at our history on Earth.

After all, we have been around for a while. Remains from our earliest ancestors have been dated as far back as 4.4 million years and there has been little change in our genetic makeup for the past 300,000 years.

Today we know conclusively that early human ancestors developed primarily as hunters and scavengers of meat, although a variety of nuts, berries and roots also played a role in diet. Tools shaped from rock and used for hunting have been dated back 2.5 million years and we have evidence that 350,000 years ago our human ancestors were using fire for making weapons, cooking food and as a source of warmth and light.

From 1 million to 10,000 years ago the earth was covered by widespread glacial ice. Humans not only survived, they were able to thrive and colonize the entire Old World during this period largely thanks to fire, clothing and their ability to exploit vast quantities of game.

About 10,000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age, humans began to congregate in larger numbers, eventually creating cities. A need was felt for a steady supply of food for an ever-growing population, and agriculture took hold. However, its introduction was very gradual and took thousands years to spread to the entire human population.

With agriculture and farming came the introduction of entire new food groups previously unknown to the human race, especially cereal grains and dairy products. This is a significant change, because the large quantity of starch contained in grains had never been a part of human diet. For millions of years, humans had either never eaten starch or eaten it only sporadically and in small amounts. Since starch is digested down to sugar it presented a new challenge for human metabolism.

Early on, humans cultivated a variety of grains with broad genetic variability and relatively low starch content. Some of these primitive grains contained gluten, while others contained many different proteins. Consumption of such a variety of grains reduced the risk of intolerance. Early breads such as those described in the Bible were made from a variety of sprouted grains that were both higher in protein and, by today’s standards, very low in starch content.

As bread making evolved and yeast came into use, people started to seek out and develop grains that contained only gluten. This was not for health reasons, but simply because yeast causes gluten to rise and produces a very appealing (and addictive) type of bread.

Dietary change continued to accelerate through the centuries with the development of selective agriculture and the discovery and large-scale production of new foods including sugar, which was first produced industrially two hundred years ago.

Although the societal evolution that accompanied this diet change took us to unprecedented cultural and technological achievements, the cost that we are paying is poor health for many.

(The anthropological data in this section is summarized mainly from the book “Life Without Bread” by C. Allan, PhD and Wolfgang Lutz, MD. Part II of this series on diet will appear in my October newsletter.)

Fish safety, mercury and PCBs

In recent months we have all heard a lot about fish safety concerns. The issue is confusing, because while there are studies that show hazards, other studies continue to identify health benefits associated with eating fish. What should we do?

In one study, 48 cans of tuna bought at large chain stores, including Whole Foods, were analyzed for mercury content. 16 were found to contain twice or more the amount of mercury considered “safe” by the FDA. (Nutrition Week, June 30, 2003;31(13):6, see also

You may wonder how significant this really is to your health. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mercury is the most toxic substance in the United States, and is the third most frequently found after lead and arsenic (see

Another report from the July 30, 2003 edition of The New York Times indicates that farm-raised salmon – which includes all the Atlantic salmon in stores – is high in PCBs, highly toxic chemical wastes. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer at very low concentrations and also have detrimental effects on the nervous system, affecting memory, focus, and ability to learn. For more information on the effects of PCBs on health, visit

Some nutrition experts have concluded that, to ensure our safety, we should eliminate all fish from our diet. I disagree, because this position implies that other foods are pristine and that just replacing fish with something else will benefit our health. Unfortunately this is far from true. We need to become well-informed shoppers because fish, when carefully chosen, can be health-enhancing.

Other studies continue to show benefits, including lower cancer rates in people who regularly consume fish. This seems very confusing, but it makes sense when you realize that fish is a rich source of protein (amino acids) that help strengthen the immune system and provide tools our bodies need to cope with environmental toxins – ironic, but true. An example of this is the dietary supplement Seacure, which is made from predigested fish protein. Independent studies have shown that Seacure can help people with irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions. The Pacific whitefish supply used to make Seacure is tested regularly and found to be free of contaminants. You can read about Seacure at

The solution to this dilemma is to select the fish we eat very carefully. There are types of fish that are relatively uncontaminated, enabling us to draw the benefits from this valuable food source while avoiding unnecessary and potentially dangerous exposure to toxins. Possibly the best choice is true wild Alaskan salmon. To be sure you get the cleanest, order it from, a group that closely monitors the quality of their products, or other reliable sources. In general, I recommend avoiding large predator fish, including swordfish and tuna, bottom feeders (including flounder) and all farm-raised fish. The cleanest fish might well be those from the Pacific Northwest.

The Calcium Story, Part I

More and more of us are finding that eliminating dairy from our diet can help solve chronic health problems. Children stop having ear infections, digestive problems or constipation suddenly improve, and asthma, headaches and even depression may finally come to an end with just this simple step.

I am not suggesting that milk is always bad, or that everyone should avoid it, but those who are sensitive to it are better off without it. This is not an indictment of milk itself, but of the
modern production techniques that have altered an otherwise perfectly healthy food.

The next question on many people’s minds is: how can I get enough calcium without milk? The calcium story is a bit more complicated than just counting the number of milligrams consumed per day, but the good news is that there are many excellent sources of calcium aside from milk.

The first point to keep in mind is that the body cannot use calcium by itself. Without enough Vitamin D, for example, we cannot adequately absorb and utilize calcium. Bones also need other important minerals, and taking too much calcium alone can be actually damage our health by causing acidity in blood and contributing to plaque buildup in arteries.

To promote ideal calcium absorption, a majority of our calcium should come from natural food sources, whether we consume dairy products or not. Calcium-rich foods don’t just contain calcium; they also contain many associated nutrients including minerals and proteins that promote optimal calcium utilization. This complex food synergy cannot be easily achieved by just taking supplements. Supplements are man-made and can never quite match the optimal balance of nutrients found in nature.

Most foods contain at least some calcium as this mineral is found everywhere in nature. Certain grains, seeds and green vegetables are very rich in calcium, with sesame seeds containing four times more calcium than milk. The seeds can be digested properly only if finely ground – it’s easy to grind them in an inexpensive coffee grinder at home and sprinkle them over salads or other foods, add them to drinks like smoothies, use in baking, etc. If you are concerned about your ability to fully digest these foods and absorb the calcium and other nutrients they contain, having them with a digestive enzyme might help.

One strategy to obtain enough calcium is to select several combinations of high-calcium foods you can include in your or your child’s diet on a rotating basis. Calculate the calcium content of each combination using the table at the end of this section. You may also take a well-balanc ed, high-quality calcium supplement every day to fulfill any residual need.

For example, on Day One you can have one cup of amaranth flour and a quarter of a cup of ground sesame seeds in your meals for a total of 750 mg of calcium. Add 250 mg of calcium from a supplement if you need to reach 1,000 mg.

On Day Two, have half a cup each of almonds, tofu and ground flaxseeds and reach roughly the same 750 mg of calcium. You will not be able to match exactly every day’s calcium intake, so just average it and remember: variety is the key to obtain not only calcium but also a wide range of synergistic nutrients!

The next question is how much calcium do we really need on a daily basis? Unfortunately there is no general consensus on this point. Although the US recommended daily allowances (RDA) are often very low and have been nicknamed “recommended deficiency allowances,” they are unusually high when it comes to calcium.

The U.S. RDA for calcium in children aged 1 to 10 is 800 mg per day, whereas in the United Kingdom the recommended intake is 350-550mg. In addition, other dietary factors affect

calcium balance. Sugar and caffeine cause excretion of calcium and other minerals from the body, so if the diet is high in these products you will need extra calcium to make up for the loss.

In my opinion, an intake in the range of 500 mg in children under the age of 11, roughly double that for children over 11 and 700 mg in adults is adequate as long as the diet is “clean”
and low in sugar, stimulants and other junk foods. Higher intakes of calcium should be considered in special cases, including osteoporosis. I have included both the U.S. and U.K.

RDAs for calcium to give you more information about target intakes.

Food/Calcium content (mg) per cup unless otherwise indicated.

Milk, whole/291
Milk, 2%/297
Milk, nonfat/302
Cottage cheese/150
Yogurt, plain/274

Currants, zante, dried/124
Figs, dried/269 per 10 figs

Amaranth grain, boiled/276
Amaranth flour/407
Carob flour/359
Cassava flour/193
Cottonseed flour (low fat)/1,080
Garbanzo flour/324
Quinoa flour/324
Rice bran/128
Soybean flour (low fat)/165
Sweet potato flour/115
Teff, grain or flour/407 (note: contains gluten)

Hummus spread/124
Black-eyed peas, boiled/212
Navy beans, boiled/128
White beans, boiled/161
Wax beans, cut, canned/174
Beet greens, boiled/165
Chard, Swiss, boiled/102
Dandelion greens, boiled/146
Kale, boiled/180
Mustard greens, frozen, boiled/150
Okra, boiled/100
Parsley, dried/912
Taro, Tahitian, cooked/202

Soybean products:
Firm tofu/516

Nuts, seeds and nut butters:
Almond butter/688
Brazil nuts/400
Cashew butter/96
Cottonseed flour, low-fat/1,080
Filberts (hazelnuts)/424
Macadamia nuts/160
Pistachios, shelled/304
Pumpkin seeds, dried/96
Safflower seeds, dried/176
Sesame seeds, whole/1,408
Soybean nuts, dry roasted/464
Sunflower seeds/272

Sea Vegetables:
Agar agar, dried/1,438
Arame, dried/2691
Carragheen, dried/2,036
Dulse, dried/681
Hijiki, dried/3,220
Kelp, raw/386
Kelp, dried/1,840
Wakame, dried/2,990

Fish and shellfish:
Salmon (canned)/167 per 3oz serving (includes bones)
Sardines (canned)/371 per 3oz serving (includes bones)
Oysters (raw)/226

Sources: mostly from “Calcium without the Cow” by Sally Rockwell, PhD, CCN. Other books by Dr. Rockwell include “Allergy-Free Baking Tips for Special Flours,” “Allergy Recipes” and “The Rotation Game,” all available from

Recommended daily allowances for Calcium

Category/Age (years)/US RDA (mg)/UK nutrient intakes (mg)
Infants/7-12 mo/400/535

Are genetically engineered foods safe? A hint from horses

Even if we don’t actually see the difference, the composition of many foods we eat on a daily basis has been altered in recent years through genetic engineering.

I don’t think anyone knows for sure that genetically modified foods are always safe for human consumption, although our government’s position is that they are safe unless proven otherwise and routine safety studies are not required.

A hint regarding possible heath risks associated with genetically engineered foods comes from a grass story I received from a subscriber.

Until I read this story I thought that all grass was the same and cattle raised on grass was the best. Not so, as apparently industry has been developing grasses with higher sugar contents to fatten up beef faster.

Industry may care much more about the weight of beef cattle than their health, but when horses that are expected to live longer also graze on these high-sugar grasses, they develop various types of metabolic disorders – like diabetes – that were previously rare. Now doesn’t this sound a bit like what’s been happening to people?

To read more about the horse story, visit

Your child still refuses all vegetables? Try this muffin recipe.

©1994 Elaine Gottschall

3 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups nut flour
1/3 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup liquid honey (use less, if desired)

Mix nut flour (try finely ground almonds), melted butter, honey, and zucchini. Add beaten eggs, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Bake in muffin tins, lined with papers, at 350 degrees F (180 C) for about 20 minutes or until done.

From “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall

Longevity, Life Expectancy and the 120-Year Diet

In the ongoing debate on modern medicine one argument always wins out: we now live longer so today’s medical approach must have it right! However, the facts surrounding long life and how we got to this point are not always clear in everyone’s mind. First we must distinguish between life expectancy and longevity.

Life expectancy is calculated by averaging the age of death of all the people in a society. It will fall if more people die at a young age from accidents, disease or war, but doesn’t really tell us much about how long the oldest people in society live, or their longevity.

After a long period of stability, life expectancy started to increase with the industrial revolution and has more than doubled over the past few centuries. Historically, many people died prematurely from a variety of conditions. Because of poor food distribution and widespread poverty, malnutrition was endemic. Children died from complications of childhood diseases or simple infections. Those who survived into adulthood faced many more challenges. For example, not too long ago childbirth was a common cause of death for young women, and TB prematurely ended many lives.

Factors that have been credited for increasing life expectancy include improved sanitation, hygiene, increased wealth, refrigeration, improved waste removal, better water quality and so on. For example, until the late 19th century, physicians did not understand the importance of something as basic as handwashing and thus contributed to the spread of disease.

Medicine certainly played a role in this evolution, but its role has generally been overestimated. Vaccines are thought of major lifesaver, but it is a well-documented fact that most childhood diseases were no longer significant killers by the time vaccines were introduced. For a detailed and referenced discussion of this important point, see and click on “vaccines.”

Although antibiotics saved many lives, the incidence of major killers like TB were already in steep decline when penicillin was first introduced, probably as a result of better hygiene and improved nutrition.

Even when life expectancy was at its lowest, a few individuals who were fortunate enough to survive into and past middle age lived out long and full lives, well into their eighties and beyond. This has been documented throughout history, and in fact longevity, or how long people can live, is a genetically predetermined limit that has never been shown to change.

Extending human life past these programmed limits is an old dream that some extremist groups are now claiming they can achieve by creating a breed of “genetically engineered” humans. In fact no drug, vitamin, or hormone has ever been shown to increase longevity. This genetic limit can simply not be exceeded through these means. However, a diet was shown to do just this: extend life past its genetic limits!

This diet is described in a book entitled “The 120-Year Diet” by Roy Walford, MD. Unfortunately this book is now out of print, probably because of lack of reader interest, but can be obtained from websites specializing in out-of-print books like

The diet described by Dr. Walford is backed by a large body of animal research that is, in all likelihood, applicable to humans. If this animal data is extrapolated to humans, then we could expect to live to be 120 if we cut back drastically on caloric intake (basically, eat much less) but without sacrificing our intake of essential nutrients to avoid malnutrition.

If you are like me, this diet may look good on paper, but it’s not too likely you’ll actually follow it for very long. However, a new study (Science, January 24, 2003; 299: 572-574) performed on genetically engineered mice suggests that it is insulin control, not calorie restriction, that is responsible for prolonging life. To control your insulin forget the dessert, bread and pasta, but enjoy your steak (organic and grass-fed, of course) and lots of fresh vegetables.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Elaine Gottschall has a remarkable story to tell. At the age of only five, her daughter was diagnosed with an incurable form of ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the immune system in which the body attacks the lining of the colon and, ultimately, destroys it. There was not much to rejoice about regarding the treatment plan: control the disease using steroids and sulfa drugs, both of which have serious side effects, followed by surgery to remove the colon, one piece at a time.

Mrs. Gottschall was a mother, not a medical expert, but when she was told that her daughter’s illness was in no way related to diet or digestion, she had trouble accepting this as fact. Although there were no support groups to turn to at the time, Mrs. Gottschall did not stop searching for a different answer. Two years after the diagnosis, physicians recommended surgery to remove part of her daughter’s colon. By that time Mrs. Gottschall had found a better answer from Dr. Merril P. Haas, a physician who had been treating a variety of digestive disorders using a diet he called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

This diet was different from any other in that it was highly selective as to the types of sugars and starches allowed. Her daughter’s condition improved quickly after starting the diet, and within two years she had completely recovered. A few years later she was even able to start eating normally without adverse consequences.

After this experience, Mrs. Gottshall wrote a book, now in its second edition and ninth printing, called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” (available from if not in your local bookstore). While explaining the diet in a mother’s terms, the book also contains more than 80 pages of delicious recipes, including an excellent one for homemade yogurt. More recipes can be downloaded from the thirteen websites listed in the book that are mostly supported by individuals whose lives were transformed by this diet.

It soon became apparent that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet could do much more than cure many cases of supposedly incurable digestive disorders. It also helped individuals with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, headaches, arthritis and other chronic disorders. In children, it helped hyperactivity as well as hypoactivity, autism, chronic constipation or diarrhea and even schizophrenia. In my opinion, for many autistic children it is a far superior option to the generally recommended gluten-free/casein-free diet even though it is not strictly casein-free.

Our Toxic World: Who Is Looking After Our Children?

This is the title of a book written by Harold E. Buttram, MD and Richard Piccola, MHA, and available from (telephone 1-800-517-9545). Parts of the book can be
downloaded from

In Chapter 3, the authors review several human studies on the role of food additives in nutrition. In one study, the cafeterias of 803 New York schools lowered sugar and eliminated artificial colors and flavors and the preservatives BHA and BHT. Candy was replaced with fruit, popcorn and peanuts. During this study there was a 15.7% increase in academic rankings of students in these schools above the rest of the nation’s schools which used the same standardized test.

When these same changes were introduced in correctional institutions there was a 47% reduction in violence and other forms of antisocial behavior.

Chapter 4 looks at the impact that monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavoring agent, and the sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) have had on hyperactivity in children.

MSG has become one of the most widely used food additives since its development in Japan in the 1940’s. It is now also used in many baby foods and can be difficult to detect on labels as it may be simply listed as “natural food additive” or “textured protein” (this mislabeling should now stop following the introduction of a new law). Aspartame is used in most sugar-free drinks and foods.

In animal experiments MSG was shown to cause damage to the retinal cells of the eye as well as to the hypothalamus and other areas of the brain. According to Russell Blaylock, MD, a neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins, the taste that kills,” MSG and aspartame may result in a continual state of hyperexcitability as well as brain injury.

Other additives implicated in childhood hyperactivity include artificial food colorings and flavorings. Additives not implicated in hyperactivity, but of concern, include nitrites, sulfites and the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT. Nitrites are found in bacon and other cured meats, whereas sulfites are often added to cut fruits and vegetables to maintain their fresh appearance (since 1985 the use of sulfites has been partially banned by the FDA).

Could You or Your Child Be Gluten-Sensitive?

Gluten is a protein found in commonly eaten grains, including wheat, rye, barley and oats (however, the gluten in oats is different and can be tolerated by some gluten-sensitive individuals).

Gluten sensitivity has been found to cause celiac disease, a severe developmental disorder. The association between gluten and celiac disease was discovered by pure coincidence during World War II when some children with the disorder “miraculously” recovered when deprived of wheat, only to relapse when wheat was reintroduced in their diet.
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