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Women have the power to live their lives in excellent health. The conditions that most often rob women of precious life years and quality of life — heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis — are prevalent in our society, and women are concerned. However, women must be made aware that these conditions are largely preventable with healthy lifestyle measures.

The Bad News

  • Each year, almost 40,000 women die from breast cancer and mammograms are not helping much.1
  • Obesity rates are climbing and most women have given up on the hope of ever reaching their ideal weight.
  • One-third of all women die of heart disease and strokes and we have an epidemic of diabetes in women never experienced in human history.
  • More women suffer with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and autoimmune conditions than ever before.
  • One in three women over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture in her lifetime.2


The Good News

1. Diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds and low in animal products have been demonstrated to dramatically lower cancer risk.

Each year, over 230,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed, and these incidence rates are not decreasing. Almost 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year.1 Women need to know that they can protect themselves. Observational studies have consistently shown that diets higher in whole plant foods are associated with lower breast cancer rates,3-5 and that animal products and processed foods are associated with increased risk.6-12 Furthermore, nutritional science is now revealing the powerful protective effects of natural foods against breast cancer, such as mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, flax and chia seeds, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits overall.13-19 Women can earn a profound degree of protection from breast cancer by incorporating these foods daily, getting regular exercise, minimizing animal foods and avoiding processed foods, alcohol and smoking. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that 40% of breast cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle measures, and I propose that we can prevent much more than 40%. Learn more about fighting breast cancer with super foods (G-BOMBS) in my book Super Immunity.

 

2. Women do not need to die of heart disease and strokes. We have scientific knowledge that has revealed the nutritional causes of these diseases.

Many people are not aware that heart disease can be more deadly for women than men. 39% of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared to 31% of men. During the first four years after a heart attack, the rate for a second heart attack is 20% for women and 15% for men. Heart disease actually kills more women than men.20 Clearly, physicians are not doing enough to intervene in this disease process and are not giving heart patients the information needed to protect themselves. Once significant heart disease exists, we know that the likelihood of those patients having future cardiac problems is great.

With the recent surge in sudden cardiac death in young women as a result of more high-protein dieting and with the high-protein diet craze flooding the internet, the media and the stores, it is more important than ever for women to be informed that popularity and media excitement is not a criteria for value. Sudden cardiac death, secondary to an irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia), has been skyrocketing in recent years as women are eating less high-nutrient produce and more foods of animal origin.

Between 1989 and 1998, it is estimated that there was a 21% increase in sudden cardiac death among U.S. women ages 35 to 44 years.21 With high-protein, meat-centered weight loss diets remaining popular, this problem will likely continue to escalate.

High-protein diets can generate ketosis, which predisposes one to electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrhythmias. Women must be warned. We already have medical studies carefully discussing the mechanism via which the popular high-protein diets can lead to sudden death. One such report was written and the physiology described in the medical literature after a 16 year old girl died after following the Atkins diet for two weeks.22

The deaths from heart attacks continue unabated, in spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence and in spite of a clear message from all respected health authorities to eat more fruits, vegetables and beans and less saturated fat, especially cheese, butter and red meat. The message in my book Eat for Health is similar, but stronger and more effective; it gives people the specifics of what they need to reduce the heart disease risk to almost zero and to effectively reverse atherosclerosis. We now know that it is not merely the saturated fats in animal products that are risky, but that there are additional issues too. New research has associated carnitine and choline with cardiovascular disease via gut bacteria.23-25 We know that animal products promote weight gain and are nutrient-poor compared to whole plant foods.26 We now know that egg consumption, although not raising blood cholesterol levels much, may be dangerous for those at risk of cardiovascular events, such as those with diabetes, and is associated with greater atherosclerotic plaque area in healthy individuals.27,28 Animal protein also elevates IGF-1, which is not only associated with cancer, but cardiovascular disease as well.29,30 High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.31,32 Choosing meats that are somewhat lower in saturated fat is simply not enough. A vegetable-based, Nutritarian diet-style is the answer for a meaningful level of protection against heart disease.

I have reviewed over 20,000 scientific studies in the medical literature, and the evidence is overwhelming. Heart disease is totally avoidable. There is no controversy in the science on this subject. A vegetable-based diet, not a meat-based diet, is more effective for weight reduction, and it can preclude the possibility of heart attacks from occurring — ever. When you normalize risk factors (cholesterol, body weight, blood pressure and nutrient deficiencies) with nutritional intervention, rather than drugs, you accomplish significantly greater risk reduction. There are other favorable bio-chemical changes that take place, as well, with a high-nutrient diet style. As the weight drops, the blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure and cholesterol all drop dramatically. The body is flooded with protective nutrients that protect the blood vessels from disease and rupture. Luckily, even those people who have advanced heart disease can avoid future heart attacks and reverse and remove atherosclerosis. It is never too late to make the delicious and lifesaving change to a Nutritarian eating style. Make a choice to protect yourself right now. You must choose. Either live at risk of a premature death or simply remove the risk.

 

3. My experience with women who have applied my Nutritarian diet style has demonstrated that most women can reach their ideal weight even if they have more than 100 pounds to lose.

Unlike most weight-loss diets, a Nutritarian eating style does not use portion control or calorie counting. Women can forget about counting calories or measuring portions, and instead consider only the nutrient density of the foods they eat. In fact, people usually eat more food than they did before. When you eat high-nutrient, low-calorie foods, you can eat a larger amount of food while taking in a smaller amount of calories, which helps you to feel satisfied by your meals. Whole plant foods, because of their high micronutrient and fiber content, help to blunt your appetite and suppress food cravings. You never feel deprived, and it becomes almost impossible to overeat.

High-calorie, low-nutrient foods (the predominant foods in typical modern diets, like processed foods, sugars, and animal products) activate pleasure pathways in the brain, similar to addictive drugs and produce toxic withdrawal symptoms often misinterpreted as hunger, leading to an addictive drive to eat more. I call these withdrawal symptoms, which are the result of the body attempting to detoxify, “toxic hunger.” Most people eat according to their addictive drives and toxic hunger; they are completely out of touch with their bodies’ true hunger signals.

Portion-controlled diets do not work because they consist of trying to eat smaller portions of the same low nutrient, addictive foods. A body deprived of vital micronutrients will continue to seek food, as will a body driven by addictive cravings.

In my experience guiding thousands of patients as they transition to a high-nutrient diet, I have observed that my patients’ perceptions of hunger change as their diet improves. Uncomfortable toxic hunger symptoms become less frequent, and hunger symptoms shift — mainly felt in the mouth and throat (“true hunger”) and upper chest area, rather than the head and stomach.  I have now documented and published these results (titled “Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet”) in Nutrition Journal. From the data we collected, we substantiated my findings over the last 20 years, and used a cohort of over 760 participants to conclude that enhancing the micronutrient quality of the diet leads to changes in the experience of hunger and a reduction in the uncomfortable toxic hunger symptoms despite a lower caloric intake.33 Healthful foods do not produce withdrawal symptoms; when the body is given vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, addictive drives are not activated, and there is nothing to detoxify. One is then led by true hunger, a signal that directs the body to the precise amount of calories needed to maintain a healthy weight.

Learn more about my comprehensive approach to health in my books Eat for Health or Eat to Live. In addition to reading the books, many find it beneficial to add the extra supportive tools available in the DrFuhrman.com Member Center.

 

4. Women can recover from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and autoimmune conditions.

Chronic disability, fatigue and painful bodily symptoms affect over 5 million American women. Tender spots most commonly occur in the neck, spine, shoulders and hips. Headaches, widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue are epidemic. These complaints have a combination of causes, but they are primarily caused by decreased oxygenation of tissue, excess deposits of waste products in the tissues with resultant inflammation and nutritional deficiencies. My Nutritarian program as described in my book Eat for Health is an effective remedy for these common complaints. I have treated hundreds of patients with chronic migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and have seen rewarding and predictable results. It is the rare exception that a complete recovery cannot be achieved.

Autoimmune diseases affect 23.5 million Americans, primarily women. Autoimmune diseases are one of the top ten leading causes of death for women under the age of 64.34 In autoimmune diseases, the body undergoes an inappropriate immune response that causes excessive inflammation that becomes destructive to the body. Conventional treatments for autoimmune diseases suppress the immune system to halt the body’s immune attack on itself. However, this makes the body more susceptible to infections and even cancers — one study found that autoimmune patients with the greatest exposure to immunosuppressive drugs had an almost 5-fold increase in cancer risk.35 In contrast, nutrition is a powerful and safe tool for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases.36-41 I have been recommending a high-nutrient (Nutritarian) diet combined with selected supplements and when needed, episodic fasting to help the body to calm inflammation and remove cellular toxins. (Learn more in Newsletter #16, Nutritional Care of Autoimmune Diseases, and in my books Super Immunity and Eat for Health. Further guidance for individual conditions is available from Dr. Fuhrman and his medical staff via the Member Center.)

Health is the product of healthful living. You do not have to be sick and suffer with pain, weakness, fatigue, disability and disease the rest of your life. The miraculous self-healing body that we have can restore you to normalcy. If the optimal environment for healing is established, then the body does the fixing. It may take some time. You may feel ill adjusting to high-nutrient eating, but in time spectacular recoveries are the norm.

 

5. Women can maintain strong, healthy bones even after menopause.

Bone fractures are a serious threat to quality of life, contributing to pain and disability. After menopause, hormonal changes cause an imbalance in bone growth and bone breakdown, leading to accelerated bone loss, high rates of osteoporosis, and increased risk of bone fractures among postmenopausal women.42 However, women can take advantage of the bone-building properties of excellent nutrition, exercise and intelligent supplementation to prevent this imbalance and keep their bones strong. The most effective way to strengthen bone and protect against osteoporosis-related fractures is by increasing muscle strength. Weight-bearing exercises are ideal for improving balance and building bone strength.43 Natural plant foods contain the minerals and other phytochemicals needed to maintain bone strength. Many studies have shown that those with the highest consumption of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds have the strongest bones.44-47 In contrast, there is convincing evidence that too much animal protein, salt, caffeine and soft drinks compromise bone health and increase the risk of fractures.48-52 Learn more about preventing osteoporosis in my video Osteoporosis Protection for Life.

 

References

1. American Cancer Society: What are the key statistics about breast cancer? [http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-key-statistics]
2. International Osteoporosis Foundation: Facts and Statistics [http://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics]
3. Gandini S, Merzenich H, Robertson C, et al: Meta-analysis of studies on breast cancer risk and diet: the role of fruit and vegetable consumption and the intake of associated micronutrients. Eur J Cancer 2000;36:636-646.
4. Zhang CX, Ho SC, Chen YM, et al: Greater vegetable and fruit intake is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer among Chinese women. Int J Cancer 2009;125:181-188.
5. Dong JY, He K, Wang P, et al: Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2011.
6. Fu Z, Deming SL, Fair AM, et al: Well-done meat intake and meat-derived mutagen exposures in relation to breast cancer risk: the Nashville Breast Health Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011.
7. Lauber SN, Gooderham NJ: The cooked meat-derived mammary carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine promotes invasive behaviour of breast cancer cells. Toxicology 2011;279:139-145.
8. Thomson B: Heterocyclic amine levels in cooked meat and the implication for New Zealanders. Eur J Cancer Prev 1999;8:201-206.
9. Renehan AG, Zwahlen M, Minder C, et al: Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF binding protein-3, and cancer risk: systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Lancet 2004;363:1346-1353.
10. Shi R, Yu H, McLarty J, et al: IGF-I and breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Cancer 2004;111:418-423.
11. Stripp C, Overvad K, Christensen J, et al: Fish intake is positively associated with breast cancer incidence rate. J Nutr 2003;133:3664-3669.
12. Dong JY, Qin LQ: Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of breast cancer: meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011;126:287-294.
13. Zhang M, Huang J, Xie X, et al: Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer 2009;124:1404-1408.
14. Shin A, Kim J, Lim SY, et al: Dietary mushroom intake and the risk of breast cancer based on hormone receptor status. Nutr Cancer 2010;62:476-483.
15. Higdon J, Delage B, Williams D, et al: Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res 2007;55:224-236.
16. Bosetti C, Filomeno M, Riso P, et al: Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies. Ann Oncol 2012.
17. Sturgeon SR, Heersink JL, Volpe SL, et al: Effect of dietary flaxseed on serum levels of estrogens and androgens in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer 2008;60:612-618.
18. Ferrari P, Rinaldi S, Jenab M, et al: Dietary fiber intake and risk of hormonal receptor-defined breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study1,2. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:344-353.
19. Zhang CX, Ho SC, Cheng SZ, et al: Effect of dietary fiber intake on breast cancer risk according to estrogen and progesterone receptor status. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011;65:929-936.
20. Go Red for Women: Causes and Prevention of Heart Disease [http://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/facts_about_heart_disease_in_women-sub-category/causes-prevention/]
21. Zheng ZJ, Croft JB, Giles WH, et al: Sudden cardiac death in the United States, 1989 to 1998. Circulation 2001;104:2158-2163.
22. Stevens A, Robinson DP, Turpin J, et al: Sudden cardiac death of an adolescent during dieting. South Med J 2002;95:1047-1049.
23. Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al: Intestinal microbiota metabolism of l-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med 2013.
24. Wang Z, Klipfell E, Bennett BJ, et al: Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature 2011;472:57-63.
25. Tang WH, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al: Intestinal microbial metabolism of phosphatidylcholine and cardiovascular risk. N Engl J Med 2013;368:1575-1584.
26. Vergnaud AC, Norat T, Romaguera D, et al: Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:398-407.
27. Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J: Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Can J Cardiol 2010;26:e336-339.
28. Spence JD, Jenkins DJ, Davignon J: Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atherosclerosis 2012;224:469-473.
29. Kaaks R: Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Novartis Found Symp 2004;262:247-260; discussion 260-268.
30. van Bunderen CC, van Nieuwpoort IC, van Schoor NM, et al: The Association of Serum Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I with Mortality, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer in the Elderly: A Population-Based Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010.
31. Lagiou P, Sandin S, Lof M, et al: Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. BMJ 2012;344:e4026.
32. Lagiou P, Sandin S, Weiderpass E, et al: Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and mortality in a cohort of Swedish women. J Intern Med 2007;261:366-374.
33. Fuhrman J, Sarter B, Glaser D, et al: Changing perceptions of hunger on a high nutrient density diet. Nutr J 2010;9:51.
34. American Autoimmune Related Disease Association: Autoimmune Statistics [http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune_statistics.php]
35. Asten P, Barrett J, Symmons D: Risk of developing certain malignancies is related to duration of immunosuppressive drug exposure in patients with rheumatic diseases. J Rheumatol 1999;26:1705-1714.
36. Palmblad J, Hafstrom I, Ringertz B: Antirheumatic effects of fasting. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 1991;17:351-362.
37. Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Hvatum M, Haugen M, et al: Antibodies against dietary antigens in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with fasting and a one-year vegetarian diet. Clin Exp Rheumatol 1995;13:167-172.
38. Hanninen, Kaartinen K, Rauma AL, et al: Antioxidants in vegan diet and rheumatic disorders. Toxicology 2000;155:45-53.
39. Muller H, de Toledo FW, Resch KL: Fasting followed by vegetarian diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Scand J Rheumatol 2001;30:1-10.
40. McDougall J, Bruce B, Spiller G, et al: Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:71-75.
41. Darlington LG, Ramsey NW, Mansfield JR: Placebo-controlled, blind study of dietary manipulation therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet 1986;1:236-238.
42. Group ECW: Bone fractures after menopause. Hum Reprod Update 2010;16:761-773.
43. Rubin C, Turner AS, Muller R, et al: Quantity and quality of trabecular bone in the femur are enhanced by a strongly anabolic, noninvasive mechanical intervention. J Bone Miner Res 2002;17:349-357.
44. Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, et al: Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:727-736.
45. New SA, Robins SP, Campbell MK, et al: Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:142-151.
46. Weaver CM, Plawecki KL: Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1238S-1241S.
47. Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE: Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr 2009;28:131-141.
48. Sellmeyer DE, Stone KL, Sebastian A, et al: A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:118-122.
49. Massey LK: Dietary animal and plant protein and human bone health: a whole foods approach. J Nutr 2003;133:862S-865S.
50. Teucher B, Dainty JR, Spinks CA, et al: Sodium and bone health: impact of moderately high and low salt intakes on calcium metabolism in postmenopausal women. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2008;23:1477-1485.
51. Hallstrom H, Wolk A, Glynn A, et al: Coffee, tea and caffeine consumption in relation to osteoporotic fracture risk in a cohort of Swedish women. Osteoporos Int 2006;17:1055-1064.
52. Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, et al: Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:936-942.

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