By Dr. Mercola
More than 70 percent of survey respondents from a National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) survey revealed that the loss of their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day activities.1
Despite their prevalence and significant impact on quality of life, few are taking the necessary steps to prevent eye diseases and protect vision health at all life stages… namely, by eating a healthy diet.
Newly released data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 87 percent of Americans are not meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 76 percent are not eating the recommended amount of fruits.3
If you want to protect your vision health, however, the time to act is now – by eating more of the healthy vision foods that follow.
The 7 Best Foods for Eye Health
1. Dark Leafy Greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods. Other healthy options include Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,4 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.
More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.
Both have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. Julie Mares, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Nutrition Action:5
“They’re the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and the retina, and specifically in the cone-rich area of the macula… That’s the part of the retina that’s used to see fine detail, like reading a pill bottle or newspaper…
By age 75, half of us will either have a visually significant cataract or have already had one extracted… It’s the number-one cause of poor vision among people aged 65 to 74.
There’s strong, compelling evidence for a potential protective effect of these carotenoids… They’re nutritional powerhouses… They’ve got gobs of antioxidants.”
2. Orange Pepper
According to one 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested.6 Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you must get it from your diet.
3. Organic Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than in many vegetables, they’re in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form.
According to recent research,7 adding a couple of eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as nine-fold.
Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks (or spinach) the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw.
4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration.
In fact, those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.8
A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period.9
A second study published in 2009 found those with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of macular degeneration.10 In addition to wild-caught Alaskan salmons, sardines, and anchovies are other good sources of animal-based omega-3s.
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results. Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation.
Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. It's a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:
Cataracts Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) Cystoid macular edema Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis) Retinal arterial occlusion Venous occlusion
Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection right to your eyes.
Dr. Mark Tso,11 now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and who was my boss when I worked at the University of Illinois Eyebank in the1970s, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.
Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 milligrams (mg) per day. Krill oil also contains high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you’ll get from an astaxanthin supplement.
6. Black Currants
Black currants contain some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature — approximately 190-270 milligrams per 100 grams — which is far more than that found in even bilberries. They're also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and the health benefits of these antioxidants are extensive. As discussed in one 2004 scientific paper:12
"Anthocyanin isolates and anthocyanin-rich mixtures of bioflavonoids may provide protection from DNA cleavage, estrogenic activity (altering development of hormone-dependent disease symptoms), enzyme inhibition, boosting production of cytokines (thus regulating immune responses), anti-inflammatory activity, lipid peroxidation, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility, and membrane strengthening."
For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, which is available in capsule form. But eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they're in season.
Bilberry, a close relative of the blueberry, is another nutritional powerhouse for your eyes. Its nearly black berries also contain high amounts of anthocyanins, just like the black currant (but contrary to black currant, bilberries tend to be difficult to grow and cultivate). Anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract has a protective effect on visual function during retinal inflammation.13
Further, a study in the journal Advances in Gerontology found that rats with early senile cataract and macular degeneration who received 20 mg of bilberry extract per kilo of body weight suffered no impairment of their lens and retina, while 70 percent of the control group suffered degeneration over the three month-long study.14 According to the authors:
"The results suggest that... long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract."
Avoiding Eating This for Healthy Eyes…
Healthy vision is just as much a result of what you don’t eat as what you do. For starters, high insulin levels from excess carbohydrates can disturb the delicate choreography that normally coordinates eyeball lengthening and lens growth. And if the eyeball grows too long, the lens can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on the retina. This theory is also consistent with observations that you’re more likely to develop myopia if you are overweight or have adult-onset diabetes, both of which involve elevated insulin levels. You’ll want to avoid sugars, especially fructose, as much as possible.
Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, Chief of the Division of Kidney Disease and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, shows that consuming 74 grams or more per day of fructose (equal to 2.5 sugary drinks) increases your risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg by 77 percent.
High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow. A diet high in trans fat also appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers.
Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce, or eliminate, excess sugar and grain intake, as well as trans fats, from your diet while helping you optimize your insulin levels. As it stands, about half of Americans are eating vegetables less than 1.7 times per day and fruit less than once per day.15 Changing this dietary habit around so that you’re eating plenty of vegetables with every meal could make a major difference in your future vision health.
Outdoor Light Benefits Your Eye Health Too
Spending time outdoors offers exposure to multiple types of light, including ultraviolet B rays (UVB, which leads to the production of vitamin D) and visible bright light – two additional “nutrients” to feed your vision health. Research shows that people with nearsightedness have lower blood levels of vitamin D,16 which supports the function of muscle tissue around the lens in your eye. When exposed to outdoor light, for instance, cells in your retina trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down growth of the eye and perhaps stops the elongation of the eye during development. Nature reported:17
“Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. ‘If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,’ says [researcher Regan] Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. ‘The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.’”
A study by researcher Ian Morgan of the Australian National University suggests three hours per day with light levels of at least 10,000 lux may protect children from nearsightedness.18 This is the amount of light you would be exposed to on a bright summer day. An indoor classroom or office, by comparison, would only provide about 500 lux. Like many facets of health, maintaining healthy eyes takes a comprehensive approach, one that involves eating right and paying attention to other healthy lifestyle factors like spending time outside in natural light.
In addition, if you already suffer from poor eyesight, The Bates Method, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax thereby allowing you to see more clearly, may help you to improve your vision without glasses.
Vitamin D3 Found to Rejuvenate Aging Eyes
Eyelashes Grow to Just The Right Length to Shield Your Eyes
By Dr. Mercola
There is simply no expert that would disagree with the observation that most people do not eat enough vegetables, let alone high-quality organic ones.
So it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier.
Most Americans also eat far too much low-quality protein and non-vegetable carbohydrates (i.e. grains), which likely accounts for most of the difference seen when comparing vegetarian to non-vegetarian diets.
But that does not justify excluding all animal products for the sake of health.
By eliminating all animal foods you also run the very real risk of a number of other nutrient deficiencies, as some simply cannot be obtained from plant foods.
The featured article by Authority Nutrition2 lists seven such nutrients you need to make sure you’re taking in supplement form should you decide to adopt a strict plant-based diet.
In addition to those seven, I also address the issue of sulfur deficiency, which is one of the lesser-recognized hazards of a diet devoid of animal foods.
In terms of health risks from eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, most people think of vitamin B12 deficiency, as vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is present in natural form only in animal sources of food, such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Vitamin B12 is known as the energy vitamin, and your body requires it for a number of vital functions. Among them: energy production, blood formation, DNA synthesis, and reproductive health.
Studies3 suggest one in four American adults is deficient in this vitally important nutrient, and nearly two-fifths or more of the population has suboptimal blood levels. Also, the older you get the more likely you are to have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The two ways you become deficient are through a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, or through your inability to absorb it from the food you eat. As noted in the featured article,4 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Impaired brain function
- Megaloblastic anemia
Health risks associated with this deficiency include neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk of heart disease.
If you’re a strict vegan, you have a couple of options. Nori seaweed naturally contains small amounts of bioactive B12, as does tempeh, which is fermented soy. If you don’t eat these foods on a regular basis, you need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
As noted in the featured article (which includes scientific references):
“Nori seaweed is considered the most suitable source of biologically available vitamin B12 for vegans. Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried nori may be better than conventionally dried. It seems that some of the vitamin B12 is destroyed in the drying process.
Another plant food often claimed to contain vitamin B12 is spirulina. However, spirulina contains so-called pseudovitamin B12, which is not biologically available. For this reason, it is not suitable as a source of vitamin B12.”
Oral B12 is notoriously ineffective due to the fact it requires intrinsic factor in order to be absorbed. Intrinsic factor is a glycoprotein that mediates gastrointestinal absorption of vitamin B12 in your small intestine. It selectively absorbs only active vitamin B12 from naturally occurring vitamin B12 compounds.
As a result, the effectiveness of eating nori seaweed or taking an oral B12 supplement has been questioned. When it comes to supplementation, you want to look for a sublingual version rather than pill form. But just how bioavailable is nori seaweed?
Animal research published in the British Journal of Nutrition5 sought to clarify the bioavailability of vitamin B12 in nori, and found that it contains five different types of biologically active vitamin B12 compounds (cyano-, hydroxo-, sulfito-, adenosyl-, and methylcobalamin).
Vitamin B12 coenzymes (adenosyl- and methylcobalamin) comprise about 60 percent of the total vitamin B12 content. Results of the experiment showed that the B12 in nori seaweed was in fact bioavailable — at least in rats.
Research6 published last year also concluded that nori seaweed appears to be the most suitable vitamin B12 source available to vegetarians.While a number of processed foods are enriched with B12, I don’t recommend adding more of these to your diet. Enriched breakfast cereal and bread, for example, have the potential to drive your health in the wrong direction by promoting insulin resistance, even though you might get some B12 from it.
Creatine is an amino acid found in animal foods that is important for muscle energy, proper function of your central nervous system, and brain health.
A trio consisting of creatine, animal-based omega-3 fats, and Coenzyme Q10 are also essential for proper mitochondrial function, and insufficiencies of these may play a role in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other nerve degenerative disorders.
As noted in the featured article:
“Creatine is not essential in the diet, since it can be produced by the liver. However, vegetarians have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles. Placing people on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 26 days causes a significant decrease in muscle creatine.
Because creatine is not found in any plant foods, vegetarians and vegans can only get it from supplements.”
Carnosine is a dipeptide composed of two amino acids: beta-alanine and histidine. It’s a potent antioxidant, the highest concentrations of which are found in your muscles and brain.
If you’re a vegetarian, you will have lower levels of carnosine in your muscles. This is one reason why many strict vegans who do not properly compensate for this and other nutritional deficiencies tend to have trouble building muscle.
Carnosine itself is not very useful as a supplement as it is rapidly broken down into its constituent amino acids by certain enzymes. Your body then reformulates those amino acids back to carnosine in your muscles.
A more efficient alternative is to supplement with its primary precursor, beta-alanine, which appears to be the rate limiting amino acid in the formation of carnosine.
Foods containing beta-alanine, such as meat and fish, are also known to efficiently raise carnosine levels in your muscle, and studies7,8 looking at increasing athletic performance with carnosine have found beta-alanine to be far more effective of the two.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that you get primarily from sun exposure and certain foods. Vitamin D is involved in the biochemical cellular machinery of all cells and tissues in your body. It also influences your genetic expression, and in recent years, the importance of vitamin D sufficiency for optimal health and chronic disease prevention has become increasingly well recognized.
As revealed in a recent interview with vitamin D researcher Dr. Robert Heaney, while sun exposure is the primary and likely ideal way to get your vitamin D, researchers are also finding that a number of foods contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in biologically meaningful quantities.
An educated guess is that the average adult living in the central part of the US gets about 1,500-2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 from food — primarily meats, fatty fish, and egg yolks. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in plants, but the D3 found in animal foods is more potent, and more efficiently raises blood levels of bioactive vitamin D.
However, even if you ate animal foods you would most likely be similar to about 90 percent of the population and also be deficient in vitamin D. It is the rare individual who can achieve optimal vitamin D3 levels without supplementation, especially during the winter. Supplementation in this instance could also include tanning with an appropriate bed.
Since most of your vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight, shunning animal foods does not equate to a direct threat of vitamin D deficiency. However, if you’re also shunning the sun then it would definitely be wise to consider a vitamin D3 supplement, as deficiency is virtually guaranteed. When supplementing, keep the following considerations in mind:
- Use supplemental vitamin D3, not D2. They are not interchangeable, and vitamin D2 may do more harm than good when taken as a supplement
- Increase your vitamin K2 concomitant with D3. They work in tandem to slow arterial calcification, and vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries
- It’s important to maintain balance between vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium, and magnesium. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Animal-Based Omega-3 DHA
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fat found in marine animals such as fish and krill. It’s important for normal brain function and heart health, and pregnant women who are deficient in DHA also place their children at increased risk for developmental problems.
As noted in the featured article: “In the body, DHA can also be made from the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is found in high amounts in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. However, the conversion of ALA to DHA is inefficient. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are often lower in DHA than meat eaters.”
Most of the health benefits linked to omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based EPA and DHA, not the plant-based ALA.
That said, plant-based omega-3 fats are NOT inherently harmful and should by no means be avoided. Ideally, you’d get a combination of both. For example, you could combine flax and hemp in your diet with an animal-based omega-3 in the form of krill oil, which has an antioxidant potency that is 48 times greater than fish oil. From an environmental perspective, krill harvesting is also a far more sustainable and eco-friendly choice compared to fish oil.
Iron is found in both plant and animal foods, but the type of iron differs. Heme-iron is found only in meat, primarily red meat. Non-heme iron is found in plants, but this type of iron is more poorly absorbed by your body. Moreover, heme-iron helps with the absorption of non-heme iron from plants, so vegans and strict vegetarians have an elevated risk of anemia, even though they’re getting plant-based iron.
Iron serves many functions in your body, but one of the most important is to bind to the hemoglobin molecule and serve as a carrier of oxygen to your tissues. Without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying. So anemia is not to be taken lightly. If you have iron deficiency anemia, the best source of iron is high-quality red meat, preferably grass-fed and organic. The fact that a vegetarian diet is low in iron may be a phenomenal and good thing if you are an adult male or postmenopausal woman, as both of these groups need far less iron and a significant percentage actually have too much iron. So unless you are a premenopausal woman or child or have iron deficiency from a recent or chronic blood loss, then you likely don’t need to be at all concerned about iron supplementation.
If you do need supplementation, then a strong word of caution is in order. Ferrous sulfate, a form of iron found in many multivitamins, is a relatively toxic inorganic metal that can lead to significant problems. A safe form of supplement is carbonyl iron. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reported overdoses from carbonyl iron. (However you should still keep any and all iron supplements away from children.)
Taurine is another dietary component that appears to play an important role in brain and heart health. It’s also important for muscle function, bile salt formation, and antioxidant defenses. Together with magnesium, it has a calming effect on your body and mind. Taurine is a byproduct of the sulphurous amino acids cysteine and methionine (technically a sulfonic acid), and is only found in animal foods.
Examples include seafood, red meat, poultry, and dairy products. It’s also available in supplement form. According to the featured article:
“It is not essential in the diet since small amounts are produced by the body. However, dietary taurine may play a major role in the maintenance of taurine levels in the body. Levels of taurine are significantly lower in vegans than in meat eaters.”
Which brings us to sulfur.. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed and pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered "complete" as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein. When you abstain from animal protein you significantly increase your risk of sulfur deficiency and related health problems.
Also keep in mind that if you’re a vegetarian who relies on grain-heavy processed foods in lieu of animal protein, you’re likely not getting the sulfur you need because sulfur is lost during the processing.
Sulfur plays a vital role in the structure and biological activity of both proteins and enzymes. If you don't have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, this deficiency can cascade into a number of health problems, as it can affect bones, joints, connective tissues, metabolic processes, and more. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT, areas where sulfur plays an important role include:
- Your body's electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
- Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
- Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
- Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
One 2012 study9 concluded that the low intake of sulfur amino acids by vegetarians and vegans explains the origin of hyperhomocysteinemia (high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries -- i.e. heart attack and stroke) and the increased vulnerability of vegetarians to cardiovascular diseases. If you don’t eat meat you can get sulfur from coconut oil and olive oil.
Other plant-based sources that contain small amounts of sulfur — provided the food was grown in soil that contains adequate amounts of sulfur — include wheat germ, legumes, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and kale. As for supplements, methylsulfonylmethane, commonly known by its acronym MSM, is an option. MSM is an organic form of sulfur and a potent antioxidant, naturally found in many plants.
Your Body Needs Animal-Based Foods
I know that a large number of individuals disagree with this statement but that is my belief after 30 years of practicing nutritional medicine. Interestingly, the average vegetarian is far healthier than the average American, most likely due to them eating far more vegetables and avoiding many processed foods. However, this is not a justification to avoid all animal foods. While I certainly would never argue with anyone for avoiding animal foods for ethical reasons, I would for health reasons. It is possible to avoid some of the deficiency syndromes that result from choosing to avoid animal foods by following the recommendations above.
Remember, “animal-based foods" are not restricted to just meats. While I do believe that grass-fed and finished organic meats can be quite healthy when they're cooked properly (avoiding charring is important), I don’t believe that everyone needs to eat meat to stay healthy. You also do not need large amounts of meat. In fact most Americans eat far more than they need for optimal health, which has its own set of health risks.
If you don’t want to eat meat, there are plenty of other animal-based foods you can include in your diet, such as mercury-free fish or seafood, free-range eggs, raw dairy products, and omega-3 fats from krill. Such products, when obtained from humane sources such as organic farms where the animals are free to roam and eat their natural diet, do not need to be avoided for animal-rights or other moral reasons, as the animals are not harmed by providing milk and eggs. Meanwhile, they provide many important nutrients also found in meat.
If you’re convinced a vegan diet is right for you, then at bare minimum consider a program of supplementation to get the nutrients you can’t get from your diet. Bear in mind that the ones included in this article are just some of the ones we’re aware of. Calcium and iodine deficiencies are also common among strict vegans, for example, and there may be other nutrients in animal foods that we’re still ignorant of that you’ll miss out on if you avoid all animal-based foods.
Angelina Jolie - The Mistake that Almost Killed Her
26 out of 54 People Who Avoided These Foods Got a Brain-Destroying Vitamin B12 Deficiency
By Dr. Mercola
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is widely known to lower your risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease while cutting your risk of dying prematurely nearly in half.1
People who eat seven or more servings of vegetables daily, for instance, enjoy a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer. And each additional daily portion of fresh veggies lowered participants’ risk of death by 16 percent (compared to 4 percent for fresh fruit).
It’s not any one compound in veggies that makes them so healthy; rather, it’s the synergistic effect of all of their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and likely, yet-to-be-discovered elements that add up to make vegetables superfoods.
However, researchers recently teased out one such benefit from the crowd, revealing that a primary reason why people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and early death is because of their high vitamin C levels.
Higher Vitamin C Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death
A Danish study that followed more than 100,000 people found those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent lower risk of early death compared with those with the lowest intakes.2
The study also revealed that those with the highest plasma vitamin C levels had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and all-cause mortality. The researchers explained:3
“… [W]e can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables… our data cannot exclude that a favorable effect of high intake of fruit and vegetables could in part be driven by high vitamin C concentrations.”
Past research has also revealed vitamin C’s role in heart health. For instance, a study published in the American Heart Journal revealed that each 20 micromole/liter (µmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a nine percent reduction in heart failure mortality.4
According to Dr. Andrew Saul, editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, if everyone were to take 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day — the dose required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L — an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.
How Does Vitamin C Protect Your Heart?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known to block some of the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions. It’s through this antioxidant effect that it’s thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health.
For instance, people who eat a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin C may have a lower risk of high blood pressure. Vitamin C is also known to slow down the progression of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
It may help keep your arteries flexible and prevents damage to LDL cholesterol. People with low levels of vitamin C are at increased risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke, all of which can stem from atherosclerosis.5
A preliminary French study is among those that showed people with vitamin C deficiency are at an increased risk for a lethal hemorrhagic stroke (when an artery that feeds your brain with blood actually ruptures). According to Daily News:6
“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,' study researcher Dr. Stéphane Vannier, M.D., of Pontchaillou University Hospital in France, said in a statement.
'More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.'... [P]ast studies have also linked vitamin C with reduced stroke risk.
A 2008 University of Cambridge study found people with high blood levels of vitamin C reduced their stroke risk by 42 percent, and a similar 1995 study in the British Medical Journal indicated elderly people with low levels of the vitamin had a greater risk of stroke."
3 More Reasons Why Your Heart Needs Vitamin C
According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, vitamin C is a superstar for your heart health, improving it in the following ways:7
1. Enhance Glutathione
Vitamin C enhances your body’s level of glutathione. Known as your body's most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body.
It is called "master antioxidant" because it is intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins E, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat every day.
Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization, and preventing the diseases we associate with aging.
Glutathione also eliminates toxins from your cells and gives protection from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. Your body's ability to produce glutathione decreases with aging, which is one reason why vitamin C may be even more important as you get older.
2. Strengthen Your Blood Vessel Walls
Vitamin C is essential for the biosynthesis of collagen, which in turn is beneficial for your arterial walls. According to Dr. Sinatra:8
“Weakened collagen can permit noxious oxidized LDL, homocysteine, Lp(a), cigarette smoke, and heavy metals to cause inflammatory reactions in the vascular lining — which starts the atherosclerotic plaque formation process.”
3. Improve Vasodilation
Your blood vessels' ability to expand is known as vasodilation. If vasodilation is poor, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Vitamin C increases the availability of nitric oxide (NO), which promotes vasodilation.
What Else Is Vitamin C Good For?
Total Video Length: 56:38
Download Interview Transcript
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it doesn’t get stored in your body and you must consume what you need from the foods you eat each day. Vitamin C is utilized throughout your body to heal wounds, repair and maintain bones and teeth, and produce collagen, a protein found in your skin, cartilage, blood vessels, and more.
In addition to heart disease, vitamin C is considered an anti-aging vitamin and actually reversed age-related abnormalities in mice with a premature aging disorder, restoring healthy aging.9 It has also been found to play a role in preventing the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and more. Vitamin C may also be useful for:10
Boosting immune system function Improving vision in people with uveitis (inflammation of the middle part of the eye) Allergy-related conditions, such as eczema and hay fever Treating sunburn Alleviating dry mouth Healing burns and wounds Decreasing blood sugar in diabetics Fighting viral illnesses, such as mononucleosis Maintaining healthy gums
In the video above, you can also hear from Dr. Ronald Hunninghake, an internationally recognized expert on vitamin C who has personally supervised more than 60,000 intravenous (IV) vitamin C administrations. Dr. Hunninghake explained:
“The way to really understand vitamin C is to go back to the writings of Irwin Stone who wrote The Healing Factor, which was a fantastic book written in the ‘70s about vitamin C. He points out that every creature, when they are sick, greatly increase their liver's or their kidney's production of vitamin C. But humans, primates, and guinea pigs have lost that ability.
We still have the gene that makes the L-gulonolactone oxidase enzyme that converts glucose to vitamin C but it's non-functional. We have to get our vitamin C from the outside: from food. When we give vitamin C intravenously, what we're doing is recreating your liver's ability to synthesize tremendous amounts of vitamin C… So I always look upon high dose vitamin C as nature's way of dealing with crisis in terms of your health.”
IV vitamin C is used for a variety of illnesses, notably as an adjunct to cancer treatment and for chronic infections, such as cold or flu or even chronic fatigue.
Eating Plenty of Vegetables Is the Best Way to Get Vitamin C
The ideal way to optimize your vitamin C stores is by eating a wide variety of fresh whole foods. A number of people, primarily with the naturopathic perspective, believe that in order to be truly effective, synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) alone is not enough. They believe the combination of the ascorbic acid with its associated micronutrients, such as bioflavonoids and other components. Eating a colorful diet (i.e. plenty of vegetables) helps ensure you're naturally getting the phytonutrient synergism needed. Hunninghake agrees.
"There is no question that would be a better way to go. Any time you can [get vitamin C from] food, you're going to be better off… [F]ood is still the essential thing your body needs in order to get optimal cellular functioning. But when you're sick, you can use trace nutrients in orthomolecular doses to achieve effects that you can't get from just food alone. But in general, for people who are healthy and want to stay healthy, I would recommend using vitamin C that has bioflavonoids and other co-factors associated with it."
One of the easiest ways to ensure you're getting enough vegetables in your diet is by juicing them. For more information, please see my juicing page. You can also squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into some water for a vitamin C rich beverage. You can also increase your vegetable and fruit intake. While many contain vitamin C, particularly rich sources include:
Sweet peppers Chili peppers Brussels sprouts Broccoli Artichoke Sweet potato Tomato Cauliflower Kale Papaya Strawberries Oranges Kiwi Grapefruit Cantaloupe
When taking an oral vitamin C, you also want to be mindful of your dosing frequency. Dr. Steve Hickey, who wrote the book Ascorbate, has shown that if you take vitamin C frequently throughout the day, you can achieve much higher plasma levels. So even though your kidneys will tend to rapidly excrete the vitamin C, by taking it every hour or two, you can maintain a much higher plasma level than if you just dose it once a day (unless you're taking an extended release form of vitamin C). As mentioned, the elderly may have higher requirements for vitamin C, as aging may inhibit absorption. Smokers may also require more vitamin C due to the increased oxidative stress from cigarette smoke.
When You Get Your Vitamin C from Vegetables, the Benefits Are Endless
Vitamin C is an example of a vitamin that’s ideal to get by eating plenty of fresh produce. Vegetables have an impressive way of offering widespread benefits to your health. When you eat them, you're getting dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of super-nutrients that support optimal, body-wide health. Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else.
Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
Lower risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease Lower risks of certain types of cancer, eye diseases, and digestive problems Reduced risk of kidney stones and bone loss Higher scores on cognitive tests Higher antioxidant levels Lower biomarkers for oxidative stress
And as far as your heart health goes, vegetables are one of the best forms of dietary fiber. An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.11 When you combine this with the vitamin C, it’s no wonder vegetables are such a superstar for heart health. Keeping veggies on hand is the first step to eating more of them.
Fresh, non-genetically-modified and organic is best, but even frozen will work in a pinch. Make it a point to include vegetables with every meal – a salad, a side dish, a pre-meal snack, a glass of fresh vegetable juice – or make veggies the main focus of your meals. You’ll easily work your way up to seven or more servings a day. For something different, try making fermented vegetables at home. The vitamin C in sauerkraut(fermented cabbage) is about six times higher than in the same helping of unfermented cabbage approximately one week after fermentation begins, so it’s an excellent way to boost your vitamin C intake.
Lower Your Blood Pressure With Vitamin C
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A signature Italian antipasto, or appetizer, bruschetta is traditionally made using grilled slices of bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt. There are countless variations of bruschetta involving different combinations of tomatoes, cured meats, vegetables, cheeses, and herbs and spices.
If you’re on the lookout for a new bruschetta recipe that’s both healthy and easy to prepare, I suggest you try my Summertime Avocado Bruschetta. I guarantee that it’ll not only satisfy your bruschetta cravings but deliver a bunch of beneficial nutrients in every bite as well:
2 avocados, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons hot sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the baguette:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
36 slices of gluten-free baguette
Note: If you’re on a no-grain diet, serve as a filling in a romaine lettuce leaf.
- Gently toss to combine all ingredients, except cilantro, in a bowl. Cover and chill for two hours.
- Preheat oven at 375°Farenheit. Combine three tablespoons of coconut oil, garlic, and salt.
- Spread bread slices in a single layer on a baking pan, and brush evenly with the coconut oil and garlic mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted. Let it cool.
- Top each toast evenly with avocado mixture. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving and drizzle tops with olive oil.
This recipe makes six servings.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)
Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Preparation Tips
Maximize this avocado bruschetta recipe’s flavor and nutritional potential with these helpful tips:
Why Is Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Good for You?
Aside from its stress- and hassle-free preparation, what I like best about this avocado bruschetta recipe is that it doesn’t fall short when it comes to taste and nutritional value.
First, it has avocado, one of my favorites and one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, as a main ingredient. It’s an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which your body can easily burn for energy and which will helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods. Avocado also contains close to 20 essential health-promoting nutrients, including:
This avocado bruschetta recipe also has tomatoes, which other than being loaded with the flavonoid lycopene, a natural antioxidant that’s known to reduce the risk of oxidative stress and osteoporosis, also provide generous amounts of:
- Vitamins A, C, E, B, and K
It also uses coconut oil, which can give you a truly impressive array of positive health effects when you incorporate it in your everyday diet. Some of its most sought-after benefits include:
Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils.
By Dr. Mercola
One in four Americans over the age of 40 is currently taking a statin drug under the illusion that it will decrease their risk for heart disease.
Dr. David Diamond is a neuroscientist with a PhD in biology. He's also a Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of South Florida and a Research Career Scientist at the Tampa VA Hospital.
He ended up investigating both diet and statins as a result of having to address issues with his own health, and his conclusions are very different from the current status quo in medicine.
Why Low-Fat Diets Are Ill Advised for Those at High Risk for Heart Disease
Fifteen years ago, when applying for life insurance, Dr. Diamond discovered he was at high risk for heart disease. It surprised him, as he'd been in good health, even though he'd gained about 20 pounds over the course of 15 years, and he had no family history of heart disease.
"When I looked at the blood test results, I saw why [I was placed in the high risk category],' he says. 'Triglycerides are recommended to be below 150 and even preferably below 100. My triglycerides were stratospheric at 750.
My high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is called the 'good cholesterol' and which you'd like to be above 40 or 50, was about 20 to 25.
That combination of extremely high triglycerides and very low HDL put me at about a 15 times greater risk for heart attack compared to someone with optimal lipids.
I really believed this was an anomalous blood test. I figured I would exercise more – and I've exercised all my life – and follow the recommended American Heart Association (AHA) diet, so I cut back on my fat.
In six months, I figured, everything would be back to normal. But after six months, the numbers were the same."
He admits being completely ignorant of nutrition. The only thing he "knew" was that saturated fat is bad for you, that it causes heart diseases, and that cholesterol clogs your arteries — both of which he now knows are wrong...
After exercising and following the recommended low-fat diet for five years, his triglycerides were still in the 700-800 range and his HDL remained at about 20-25. Making matters worse, he'd gained another five pounds.
"Perhaps the worst moment for me was when my doctor sat me down and said, 'Okay the time has come. You've done your best, but diet and exercise just haven't worked for you. It's time for you to go on medication.' He recommended fish oil, niacin, and a statin."
What Causes Elevated Triglycerides?
Before acquiescing to medication, Dr. Diamond decided to do some research on triglycerides. His doctor had diagnosed him with familial hypertriglyceridemia, a genetic disorder, but Dr. Diamond still wanted to read through some of the medical literature just to be sure he'd done everything he could before taking a drug.
"Well, the very first paper I looked at indicated that triglycerides are primarily produced from excess carbohydrates, particularly glucose and fructose,' he says. 'And as far as HDL levels, you see an association of low HDL levels in people who have high blood sugar.
There was an obvious connection of carbohydrates in the diet to triglycerides and HDL. I was astounded by this. This was the first of many epiphanies I've had while studying cholesterol, diet, and heart disease.
I figured that what I needed to do is not to avoid the fat; I should avoid the carbohydrates! I actually talked to my doctor about this.
And of course he said to me, 'Well, you're going to take a bad situation and make it worse, because by going on an Atkins-type diet, you're increasing the likelihood that you'll have heart disease.'
Nevertheless, from a few studies that I read at first – and it has now become a few thousand studies – I've learned of the linkage between carbohydrate consumption, elevated blood sugar, and triglycerides."
Reducing Carbohydrates Is KEY for Reducing Triglycerides
Counter to his doctor's advice, Dr. Diamond dramatically reduced non-vegetable carbohydrates and ate as much saturated fat as he wanted. And what happened?
After stubbornly remaining at nearly 800 for five years, his triglycerides plunged to 150 — without any drugs whatsoever — and his HDL increased dramatically, from 30 to 50.
Indeed, I've treated many patients with high triglycerides, including people with levels upwards of 1,500-2,000, and I've seen patients' triglyceride levels plunge in as little as five days when cutting out carbs and increasing healthy fat.
So the really good news about high triglycerides is that you can achieve rapid reversal by changing your diet.
"This had a profound effect on me,' Dr. Diamond says. 'I was indignant, really, and this sense of indignation grew on me. I really felt I had been deceived; that it's the carbohydrates that we need to worry about, not the fat in particular.
The demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol — I realized it actually led me astray... To clarify, the good fats are the natural fats. When you're talking about natural saturated fats, you're looking at high-quality fats.
Partially hydrogenated fats – especially the unnatural oils like corn oil and soybean oil, which becomes heavily oxidized [when heated] — are very unhealthy.
It's not that I eat fat with reckless abandon. I avoid those artificial vegetable fats and stay with the fats that are really high quality, such as avocado and olive oil. I cook with coconut oil.'"
This experience prompted him to develop a course at the University of South Florida called "Medical Ethics," which teaches students how to evaluate flawed methodology in the science on nutrition and heart disease. In 2011, Dr. Diamond also gave a lecture on his experience and on the flawed advice we've been given on diet, cholesterol and statins titled: "How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic", which has gone viral with about 150,000 views. I've included it here for your convenience.
Deciphering the Truth About Dietary Cholesterol
Before his self-chosen re-education, Dr. Diamond firmly believed that dietary cholesterol clogs arteries and causes heart attacks. It was part of his medical education, but that too, he discovered, was all wrong. Your liver, to a great extent, actually controls the level of cholesterol in your blood. And while people with heart disease have cholesterol clogging their arteries, it's not the consumption of cholesterol that causes it to accumulate there.
Clogged arteries are caused by inflammation in the arterial wall, and your body attempts to protect itself by packing cholesterol there. The question is, what causes the inflammation in the arterial wall? Key dietary factors promoting chronic inflammation are: sugar, trans fats, and oxidized cholesterol, which again is what you get when you heat partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a healthy saturated fat that is excellent for cooking, as it oxidizes much less than other oils when exposed to high heat. It tends to not promote inflammation; on the contrary, coconut oil has potent anti-inflammatory activity.
On a side note, a novel point about coconut oil that many are unaware of is that for those of us, including myself, who suffer from a genetic condition called beta thalassemia — or chronic low cholesterol, which can be quite harmful — coconut oil can be used instead of drugs to raise your cholesterol. Conventional medicine insists that high cholesterol is bad for your heart, but excessively low cholesterol can have very serious consequences, including an elevated risk of dementia, depression, and aggression. Low cholesterol can also cut your life short.
"For elderly people, someone over 60 years of age, high cholesterol is associated with better health and greater longevity. This completely surprises people. But people 65 years of age with a total cholesterol of about 300 will live longer than someone whose cholesterol is below 200," Dr. Diamond says.
Interestingly, research has shown that vegetable oil consumption actually lowers cholesterol levels. Hence if you give corn oil to people who have heart disease, you would expect them to have a greater longevity and better health. Alas, that's not what happens. A trial1 published in 1965 tested that hypothesis by giving men diagnosed with heart disease a couple of tablespoons of corn oil each day. Their health outcomes were then compared to men with heart disease who did not receive corn oil.
"After about three years, the results were absolutely crystal clear. The men who consumed the corn oil had lower cholesterol and twice as many heart attacks and deaths from heart disease compared to the group that basically ate what they wanted.
To me, this should have stopped any kind of belief that lowering cholesterol is good for you, and the paper explicitly stated that people with heart disease should not consume corn oil; it is unhealthy. And yet, the American Heart Association still recommends corn oil to people. Why? Two reasons: 1) it lowers your cholesterol and 2) the corn oil industry is a sponsor to the American Heart Association."
Doctors Are Misinformed About Nutrition for a Reason
When Dr. Diamond lectures about cholesterol to physicians, they're often astounded by what they learn. Unfortunately, their "educated ignorance" is not by accident. If studied carefully, you'll find that the medical profession's ignorance about cholesterol was crafted by careful design, starting over a century ago with the Flexner Report, funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, who wanted nutritional science to be excised from the medical school curriculum.
They were successful in this endeavor, and for the past hundred years, most physicians have been, and still are, nutritionally ignorant. The reason for this, if you haven't yet deduced it, is because if you know how to heal with food, why would you prescribe drugs? What doctors are taught about nutrition in medical school is wrong. And it's wrong by design to generate disease that increases profits for the drug companies, which are outgrowths of the chemical industry that the Carnegie and the Rockefeller foundations supported in the 1900s.
The Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk in Medical Research
Dr. Diamond recently published a paper2,3 together with Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. In it, they highlight the deceptive use of absolute risk versus relative risk in medical research. There's a massive difference between the two, and it's easy to confuse people with relative risks. Specifically, Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov emphasize that the way statin researchers have been presenting their data has been deceptive.
"This absolute risk versus relative risk goes back to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1984. Before the statin era, the drug cholestyramine, which is a bile [acid] sequestrant, can lower your cholesterol dramatically. The men with the highest cholesterol levels averaging about 290 were put on cholestyramine versus placebo.
After seven years and over $100 million spent, you had almost no incidence of heart disease and 95 percent of the men had absolutely no adverse effects. The first issue was: is high cholesterol unhealthy? The answer from this study is it's not... But something funny goes on now when you have drug companies supporting this [cholesterol view] or people who have a goal that is not purely scientific."
A typical heart disease study might last two or three years, and in that time, perhaps two percent of the people in the placebo group will have a heart attack. The actual incidence of heart attack is then two percent. In the group receiving the actual drug being studied, perhaps one percent of the people have a heart attack. The difference between the placebo and the treatment group is one percent — this is the absolute risk reduction. An absolute risk reduction of one percent means you need to treat 100 people to prevent the incidence of heart attack in just one person.
"Where people start playing games is in what's called relative risk. When people publish these studies and they talk to the media, they don't want to say that they have a one percent reduction of heart attacks. That doesn't sell drugs very well... The difference, they say, is going from two heart attacks [in the placebo group] to one heart attack [in the treatment group], and that difference is 50 percent.
By reducing one heart attack in one person out of 100, using relative risk reduction you now can say that you have reduced heart attacks by 50 percent. That was the primary point of our paper: that this is deceptive and this is misleading people because when you talk to the doctors and you talk to the public, they have no idea that this has been a manipulation of the data to basically amplify the very small effects of statins,' Dr. Diamond says.
It's a statistical aberration. The reason it's misleading is because people don't know that you're talking about the incidence of an adverse event across two groups expressed as a ratio. People assume that 50 percent means half of the whole population that's treated.
People have told me that when they take a statin and when they see numbers like 30, 40, or 50 percent reduction, they almost feel immune from getting a heart attack. When I explain to them that basically, 'you feel lucky that you're going to be that one out of 100 that'll have one less heart attack,' then they don't feel so emboldened. When I started talking about the adverse effects of statins, I've had many people stop taking their statins."
Other Ways Studies Are Skewed and Biased
At the end of the day, what really matters is what your risk of death is: the absolute risk. According to Dr. Diamond, it's quite common to see NO effect on actual all-cause mortality from the lowering of cholesterol. Now, some may say that even if statins only save one person out of 100, it's still worth taking the drug. But this must also be balanced with the side effects, which include muscle pain, muscle damage (including damage to your heart muscle), and inhibition of the production of the coenzyme Q10.
This is massively important, as it not only raises your risk of heart problems, but also dementia. Statins also raise your risk for diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease and all cause of death. It's also worth noting that "known" side effects can be minimized by the way you design the study.
This too is covered in Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov's paper. One way side effects are hidden is by allowing participants to drop out of the study. Obviously, if people have side effects, they want to quit and remove themselves from the trial. But by excluding those who withdraw due to side effects, and looking only at the subjects that remain in the study to the end, you effectively only look at people who fared reasonably well on the drug.
"The other thing I find amazing is now that we're looking at the next generation of the proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors, suddenly these statin researchers are talking about people who are statin-intolerant. They say as many as 20 percent of people who take statins are intolerant because of all the side effects. They're coming out of the woodwork talking about side effects, because now, there's another drug that potentially exceeds the statins."
Another aspect of side effects that Dr. Diamond addresses in his paper is that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for cancer. People with a cholesterol level of 180 or below have a much higher risk for cancer than people whose level is 280. Statin trials typically do not run past four years, which is generally not long enough to detect increases in cancer.
Yet despite the short duration of the statin trials, you still find studies showing significant increases in cancer. For example, one recently published decade-long study showed that women who had been on statins had more than twice the rate of breast cancer compared to women who were not on statins. "I think there's little doubt that low cholesterol in general and particularly statin-reduced cholesterol increases the likelihood of developing cancer," Dr. Diamond says.
Beware of the Next-Gen Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
The next-generation drugs designed to lower cholesterol are the PCSK9 inhibitors, and according to Dr. Diamond, these drugs are virtually guaranteed to cause harm. At present, they're not yet available on the market, but FDA approval is being sought. These drugs do not work in the same way statins do. An enzyme called PCSK9 causes a degradation of the LDL receptor that rebinds to low density lipids (LDL).
If you don't have that receptor, the cholesterol stays in your blood. By blocking this enzyme, you end up with more LDL receptors on the surface of the cell. The LDL can unbind to the cholesterol and bring it inside the cell. As it brings more cholesterol inside the cell, you're extracting the cholesterol from the blood, hence it's very effective at lowering the serum cholesterol. Since the mechanism of action is completely different from statins, they won't have the same side effects, but that doesn't mean it'll be ultimately beneficial for your health.
"Basically, you got a drug that's relatively a 'cure' at this stage as far as mechanism is concerned. But what you're going to end up with are these cells that are going to be chockfull of cholesterol, and that's really unnatural,' Dr. Diamond says. 'The PCSK9 is this beautiful system in which you have balance. You bring the LDL into the cell, the LDL receptor disintegrates, and everything is in balance. This drug is going to take it out of balance.
You're going to interfere with the functioning of the cells, because they are loaded with cholesterol that shouldn't be there. Ultimately, it's very likely that this will contribute to all kinds of dysfunctions... Brain cells are not supposed to be filled with cholesterol. They need the cholesterol, but they need it to be able to build new brain cells and build new connections, not to have those cells chockfull of cholesterol.'"
It's Never Too Late to Take Control of Your Health
Twenty-five percent — or one in four — of Americans over the age of 40 are currently taking a statin. If you are watching this and you're not taking a statin, congratulations. But it's almost guaranteed that someone you know is on this drug. My slogan is "take control of your health," and Dr. Diamond's story demonstrates just how important this concept is. Even PhDs need to do their own research when it comes to their health. No one is immune to well-meaning but misguided advice from their doctors.
"I don't give people any medical advice; I'm not a physician,' Dr. Diamond notes. 'I give people information. I make it very clear that people need to take their own health into their own hands... The problem we have is that if your doctor says you need to take a statin, it's almost as if that's been etched in stone. People are very resistant to changing their minds.
Now, when they actually hear me lecture — and I give full-day lectures; I cover about the brain, nutrition, and heart disease — once they've heard my lecture then they stopped taking their statin, because I go over all the data. I give the historical perspective as well as the mechanistic perspective.
But I'm very reluctant to talk to people, because it causes such conflict. Because after they talk to me, they go back to their doctor and the doctor says, 'Well, what medical school did he go to?' It's the typical response. 'Who are you going to trust? I'm your doctor.' It's a serious problem for people to know who to trust."
Indeed, many people face real dilemmas when it comes to their health, because they're unsure of who's actually giving them the correct information. I would encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself, "is what I'm doing working?" If like Dr. Diamond you've been on a low-fat diet and exercising for ages and see no improvement, chances are you got it all wrong. The question then becomes, are you willing to try a different route?
From my perspective, there's simply no doubt that conventional dietary recommendations are largely responsible for many of our current health epidemics, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In essence, the recommendations are converse to the truth. Most doctors recommend a low-fat, high-carb diet and artificially sweetened "diet" foods and beverages to lose weight and protect your heart.
In reality, this is a sure-fire recipe for insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. Many would lose weight and improve their health by turning the traditional food pyramid upside down as shown in my Food Pyramid for Optimized Health below, getting the majority of your calories from healthy fats, along with a moderate amount of high quality protein, and very little non-vegetable carbohydrates. Vegetables can be consumed without limits.
New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth
The Cholesterol Myth That Is Harming Your Health