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Misinterpreting Research to Reassure the Public – an Object Lesson

By Matt Brignall
October 7, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized

A new study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences looked at the concentrations of a toxin called bisphenol A (BPA) in the blood and urine after a single-day moderate dietary exposure. The authors found that people eating three meals per day from cans lined with BPA had large spikes in their urinary output of the chemical, but that very little BPA was found in the blood stream.

An industry group quickly released a statement suggesting that this article was definitive evidence of the safety of BPA exposure from cans. It is in fact no such thing.

First of all, the study provides definitive proof that BPA from cans leads to spikes in urinary output, a finding that would be impossible if it were not absorbed. Second, this study included no measures of safety, only measuring some of the ways BPA travels through the body (a study called pharmacokinetics).

…read more of Misinterpreting Research to Reassure the Public – an Object Lesson here

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Is There a Downside to the Organic and Local Food Movements?

By Matt Brignall
September 24, 2011
File under: Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food

A provocative new article in the magazine Foreign Policy suggests that the local foods and organic movements are hurting the world’s poorest populations through their misplaced fetishes (his word, not mine).

The argument behind the controversial thesis is multifaceted, and lumps together discussions that probably have no business in the same conversation - transportation costs, GMOs, and seasonal eating are all important discussions, and deserve a longer discussion than a paragraph each before being cursorily swept aside. So, I guess as a nutrition educator, I’m not a huge fan of the article. But there were a couple of things about it that really caught my eye.

First, I think this is another sign of a growing backlash against the natural foods movement. I’ve seen this coming for a while, but it’s really gathered steam over the past year or two. At first, this felt like a sort of natural response to the evangelical excesses of portions of the health food community. …read more of Is There a Downside to the Organic and Local Food Movements? here

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America’s Potassium Problem

By Matt Brignall
September 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition

America’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is truly a masterpiece of nutritional science.

Once a decade, NHANES publishes a comprehensive guide to what Americans eat, broken down by age, gender, race, and geographical location. This data helps guide public policy and research agendas over the upcoming decade.

The newest NHANES data, gathered from 2003 to 2006, are just starting to seep out into the research world, and if you are an advocate for food-as-medicine, the results aren’t pretty. …read more of America’s Potassium Problem here

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Protect your Prostate and Prevent Balding with Soyfoods?

By Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT
August 23, 2011
File under: Diet, Nutrition

The latest research findings related to soy — specifically, to a compound derived from soybeans called equol –suggest that soybeans may be a plant panacea for men.  Equol, which our intestinal bacteria can make from a phytonutrient abundant in soybeans called daidzen, protects against benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), prostate cancer & male pattern baldness.

Certain health-promoting intestinal bacteria can convert daidzein into equol, which is not only a seriously powerful antioxidant, but specifically binds to and shuts down men’s most aggressive, hyped-up form of testosterone:  5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (5α-DHT).  Equol prevents 5α-DHT from attaching to androgen receptors (the cell receptors for male hormones), not only in the prostate, but also in and around the hair follicle, thus preventing initiation of the whole cascade of cellular events that leads to an enlarged prostate and male pattern baldness.

In addition binding to 5α-DHT, equol also latches on to an estrogen receptor abundant in the prostate called estrogen-receptor beta. ER-β regulates cell proliferation in the prostate, promoting the differentiation of normal cells and the apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancerous cells. Thus, equol greatly lessens a man’s risk of BPH and prostate cancer through at least two mechanisms.

You may have heard that to so-called “phytoestrogens” in soy foods are not good for “real men,” but the research shows no changes in men’s testosterone or other hormone levels – just a dampening down of potentially harmful 5α-DHT.

Over the last several decades, soy protein has been shown to promote cardiovascular, bone and menopausal health, and also to be protective against breast cancer. Researchers are now suggesting that most of soy’s beneficial effects in both sexes are related to an individual’s ability to transform daidzein into equol. Not all healthy adults are equally able to make this conversion.  Those whose intestinal bacteria enable them to be good “equol-producers” are those who benefit most from eating soyfoods.

How can you increase your likelihood of being a good equol-producer, so you can prevent your prostate from enlarging and your hairline from receding? Until equol is available as a supplement, you can make fermented soy foods (miso, natto, tofu, tempeh, tamari) a regular feature in your diet; fermented soy foods provide daidzein in a form that intestinal bacteria can more easily convert to equol. And if you don’t already, learn to love coleslaw. Equol, which is very stable, has recently been discovered ready-made in white cabbage.



Bland J. Functional Medicine Update, July 2011, Interview with Edwin Lephart, PhD. Available at Synthesis by Jeffery Bland

Lund TD, Blake C, Bu L, Hamaker AN, Lephart ED. Equol an isoflavonoid: potential for improved prostate health, in vitro and in vivo evidence. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2011 Jan 13;9:4. PMID: 21232127

Setchell KD, Clerici C, Lephart ED, Cole SJ, et al. S-equol, a potent ligand for estrogen receptor beta, is the exclusive enantiomeric form of the soy isoflavone metabolite produced by human intestinal bacterial flora. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1072-9. PMID: 15883431

Lund TD, Munson DJ, Haldy ME, Setchell KD, Lephart ED, et al. Equol is a novel anti-androgen that inhibits prostate growth and hormone feedback. Biol Reprod. 2004 Apr;70(4):1188-95. Epub 2003 Dec 17. PMID:14681200

Setchell KD, Brown NM, Lydeking-Olsen E. The clinical importance of the metabolite equol-a clue to the effectiveness of soy and its isoflavones. J Nutr. 2002 Dec;132(12):3577-84. PMID: 12468591

by Lara Pizzorno, MDiv, MA, LMT

Author of the new book Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis & Have Strong Bones for Life – Naturally

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Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk?

By Matt Brignall
August 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Nutrition

Do you think you are making a healthy choice by preparing your child’s lunch ahead of time, and sending it with them to school? Think again, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

It turns out that over 90% of the lunches tested reached temperatures that would potentially foster the growth of bacteria responsible for food-borne illness. And since the temperatures were measured an hour and a half before lunch, foods were potentially sitting at these temperatures for a long time.

Do you think that cold pack you included in the lunch will prevent this issue? Wrong again. …read more of Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk? here

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Saltwater Chicken?

By Matt Brignall
August 1, 2011
File under: Diet, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food


Did you know that store-bought chicken breasts are likely to have been injected with salt-water solution to increase their weight? If not, the food industry has done their job of keeping this practice under the radar. Fortunately, that is about to change.

…read more of Saltwater Chicken? here

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A New Life For an Old Idea

By Matt Brignall
July 5, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Alternatives, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized


In the same way that a broken watch is right twice a day, every once in a while the nutrition beliefs of the natural health community and the academic community line up in unexpected ways. This is the case with the reanimated recommendation of Meatless Monday.

The concept of a Meatless Monday as a means of conserving scarce resources is nearly 100 years old. It was developed in response to food shortages during World War I, and was revived during World War II. But once peacetime rolled around, the programs were placed in the same mothballs as the Send Over Smokes program and the Liberty Bond.

In 2003, as part of the Healthy Monday series of campaigns, the guy responsible for the advertising catch-phrase “don’t squeeze the Charmin” revived the Meatless Monday program. …read more of A New Life For an Old Idea here

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Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

By Matt Brignall
June 28, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Natural Health, Nutrition


People with type 2 diabetes can not only normalize their blood sugar, but can undo some of the tissue damage that leads to the disease, according to a provocative new study published this month in Diabetologia.

Previous research trials have demonstrated that you can go into remission from type 2 diabetes, but conventional wisdom has been that the hormonal changes leading to diabetes are progressive, and only go in a single direction – getting worse.

In this study, a group of 11 recently diagnosed (< 4 years ago) type 2 diabetics under the age of 65 ate a 600 calorie diet for 8 weeks. This diet was largely made up from a liquid nutrition product called Optifast, but also included 3 servings of vegetables per day. …read more of Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes? here

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USDA Rearranges the American Plate

By Matt Brignall
June 13, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Nutrition


Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture replaced the long-standing food pyramid icon with a new visual image based around a standard meal plate. This new graphic is the centerpiece of a dramatically reworked set of dietary recommendations that began to emerge this past February.

To understand why this is such an upgrade, let’s start with a bit of history. The original Food Pyramid was released in 1992.While it was an easily understood image, it was hardly a document geared toward controlling a trend toward obesity. It heavily emphasized grains, and provided little help with choosing grain-based foods wisely. It also emphasized meat and dairy in a way that seems in retrospect to be overly food industry-friendly and calorie-dense.

In part due to these criticisms, the USDA released the …read more of USDA Rearranges the American Plate here

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Dietary Sodium – A New Controversy About an Old Intervention

By Matt Brignall
June 3, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition


Salt restricted diets have been a mainstay of treatment for high blood pressure therapy for over 100 years. A study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association challenges this view, purporting to link higher salt intakes with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

In this new study, the authors collected the urine of about 3600 European adults over a single day period, and analyzed the content of sodium. This group was then followed over a period of about six years, and statistics were kept on cardiovascular events (like heart attack and stroke) and blood pressure.

There were a number of controversial findings in this study, …read more of Dietary Sodium – A New Controversy About an Old Intervention here

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