Tag Archives: nutrition

The China Study (Book Review Pedcast)

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The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health

 

Feeding your children the healthiest diet possible is the goal of every parent but exactly what is a healthy diet? Answering that question is the reason that we at the DocSmo.com blog thought a book review of a major new book on nutrition might be helpful to parents.  The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD, is a cumulative work based on the findings from  careers in nutritional research and medicine.  A myriad of research is discussed in the book but the core conclusions are derived from a longitudinal (20 year) study called “The China Study” in which researchers from Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine collected data from 65 counties in 24 provinces in China, comparing diet, lifestyle, and disease characteristics in this huge population.  (The New York Times called this data “The Grand Prix” of epidemiological studies when the results were first published in the early 1990s.) The father and son team of Drs. Campbell digest the China study data and a wealth of other scientific observations. Their main conclusion is that populations consuming the most animal-based foods are afflicted with the most chronic Western diseases. The China Study therefore advocates for a diet that consists exclusively of whole plant-based foods as well as discussing the science behind this conclusion, barriers to its introduction in the American diet, and lifestyle tips for readers ready to transition to this nutritional mindset and lifestyle.

Similar to many books on nutrition, the authors start with an overview of the problems related to childhood and adult obesity and chronic disease in the United States. This highlights the general confusion that many feel with an overwhelming amount of  health and nutrition information. This book may provide a useful guide for providing better nutrition for their children. Their goal is to clarify confusion by referencing sound scientific data, instead of providing the latest sensation in rapid weight-loss. They seek to demonstrate a strong connection between eating animal protein and the high incidence of chronic disease plaguing Western societies; cancer, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.  The authors continue with manageable chapters about the nutrition science and mechanisms of disease.  The authors believe that the consumption of animal protein trigger breast and prostate cancers, cause obesity that is at the root of adult onset diabetes, and contributes to diseases of the heart and blood vessels.  The book  highlights the correlation between nutrition and disease, citing a wealth of scientific evidence.

In our opinion, the useful sections in the book are right in the middle, where the authors list eight principles of how to rethink nutrition and provide an eating guide for parents and children. Aside from eliminating all animal products and minimizing added vegetable oils such as peanut or olive oil, he encourages plants and whole grains. The authors are especially harsh on added supplements, believing that a sound diet should provide individuals with everything they need, except for a nod to vitamin D for children and adults who spend the majority of their time indoors and vitamin B12. The last third of the book discusses with the barriers to adopting this way of eating, exposing some startling realities of powerful lobbying groups and their influence on formulating government dietary recommendations.

Overall, this book highlights the important relationship between nutrition and chronic disease. If the authors are right, our health and the future health of our children depend on us adopting a plant-based diet, now.  It promotes a whole-grain, plant-based diet in order to avoid chronic disease, and reverse them once they have developed.  This book presents sound scientific data based on decades of biochemical research and explains the science behind the studies in a clear and manageable way. As the authors say, they take us where the data leads.  To be clear, this book is not a weight-loss solution or another fad diet.  It is a scholarly look at decades of research illuminating the connection between poor nutrition and incidence of chronic diseases. Despite its length and complexity, we would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in diet as it relates to your children’s long-term health. The authors believe that not only can diseases like cancer, heart disease, and adult onset diabetes be prevented in our children with a plant-based “vegan” diet, but that these diseases can be REVERSED with food after they have developed.  The Dr. Campbell father/son team challenge traditional nutrition teaching which advocates a diet rich in animal based protein and dairy foods, vitamin and mineral supplements, and often diets with an imbalanced nutrient profile such as the “Atkins” diet.  The authors claim that a completely plant based diet is the key to prevention of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Time will tell us if they are right.  Pass the broccoli, please. We give this book 4 out of 5 DocSmo stars.  Until next time.

Written collaboratively by Angela Solis and Paul Smolen M.D.

Nutrition Improves in the US (Article)

Nutrition experts believe that breast milk is the best food for babies, plain and simple. Human milk contains vital nutrients and other substances that allow babies to thrive. Mothers need all the help we can give to be successful in this important task of motherhood. We should all want mothers to not only choose to start breast feeding, but to continue the practice as necessary.  Recent studies have found that more mothers are choosing to start and continue feeding from the breast. The National Immunization Survey (NIS) collects vaccination and other health data from households with children.  In 2003, the NIS found over 70% started breastfeeding, 34.5% breastfed for 6 months, and exactly 16% breastfed for 12 months.  Their latest data, from 2008, showed improvement in these percentages with 74%, 44.4%, and 23.4%, respectively. Interestingly when racial/ethnic data were included in the 2001 data, the survey found over 47% of African Americans, 71% of Caucasians, and 77% of Hispanics initiated breastfeeding.

 

Are we in the midst of a food “Renaissance”?  Mothers in the US are increasingly choosing more natural foods as their primary source of nutrition for their infants and children.  I think we should all be thrilled by this news. Breastfeeding an infant for six to twelve months, or longer, is great for babies as well as mothers. The twentieth century ushered in the revolution of fast, convenient, processed, inexpensive foods. Infants and children shared in this “revolution” by increasingly being served such things as infant formula, sodas of all variety, processed meats, juices, and of course, fast food.  Maybe the 21st century will undo much of this “progress”.

 

Artificial food has lost much of its luster in recent days, with parents increasingly seeking and demanding whole foods for their children.  What could be more “whole” than breast milk? In the midst of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, I think that parents sense how important good food is to the well-being of their children. I see parents, whenever possible, pushing back the clock to a time when food was food and natural was natural.  What better place to start than the day a baby is born by starting with what almost everyone agrees is the best food for newborns, your mother’s milk!

 

I welcome your comments at my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.

 

Written by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.

 

Smo Notes:

 

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6205a1.htm?s_cid=mm6205a1_w

 

Feeding Baby Green, by Dr. Alan Greene (Book Review Pedcast)

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Feeding Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond


Feeding Baby Green (Book Review Pedcast)

By Dr. Alan Greene

Jossey-Bass Publishing

2009

Welcome to a special edition of the pediatric blog I call docsmo.com. This is where parents can get their free pediatrics degree without ever unplugging their mp3 player. We discuss topics that span from diapers to the diploma, from the bassinet to the boardroom, and from the womb to the wedding. Pretty amazing isn’t it. Obviously we will NEVER run out of topics. In today’s discussion, I am gong to add another book review pedcast to the menu, based on the book Feeding Baby Green: the Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition by Dr. Alan Greene. My first encounter with Dr. Greene was while cutting the grass and listening to the National Public Radio show The People’s Pharmacy. (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/) I heard Dr. Greene talk about a variety of pediatric topics in this particular episode, and I was simply blown away. Articulate, informative, and cutting edge ideas. I had to hear more, so I bought his first of 2 books entitled “Feeding Baby Green.”  Here is my review of his book.

Dr. Greene is a Princeton graduate and Stanford pediatrician who has made it his mission to change much of what we do with children, especially the way we feed them. His goals are both to improve the nutritional quality and variety of foods that babies and children eat and to do it in an environmentally sensitive manner (hence the term Green in the title). He outlines all this in his 8 steps to gaining “Nutritional Intelligence.” He introduced me to some new concepts by including a lot of research that I frankly had never heard. For example, Dr. Greene contends that babies start developing an affinity for flavors and tastes starting before they are born and continuing through the first year of life. He argues that the reason that toddlers almost always become picky eaters is biologically based, a reflex that is called “neophobia” that keeps them from eating strange vegetation that may be poisonous.  He argues that if a child’s palate isn’t familiar with a taste by the time they become a toddler, their diet is likely to be very limited: hence the modern dilemma many parents find themselves in with a toddler who will only eat a few low quality processed foods. Why shouldn’t they, he says; they were fed processed, bland food as their first foods all during their first year. We programed them to eat that way, so to speak. He wants all the rules to change. No baby food, no processed bland food, rather a variety of whole foods that come at your infant like a freight train hitting top speed. No one new food at a time, no 3 days between new foods, no tasteless processed food simply mashed up, but instead flavorful, organically grown, fresh, locally grown foods fed to your baby starting at 4-9 months. Dr. Greene argues that repetition during an infant’s flavor-exploring months coupled with the process of watching a parent eat the same food is what makes the babies palate learn to accept new flavors.

Dr. Greene also makes strong arguments why parents should avoid all processed and fast foods, exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first year of their lives, buy locally grown, organic produce that includes a great variety of nutritional sources, not to mention safe fish, organically raised meat, eggs, and diary. He is a big fan of the Mediteranean diet and multivitamins. He is not a fan of artificial colors and preservatives. Almost every page of this book is an indictment of the modern food and agricultural industries.  The book is organized into chapters mirroring baby development, from before pregnancy to toddler age and beyond. The chapters include anecdotes from real parents subscribing to the Greene way as well as tested recipes for both families and babies. The premise behind the book is not to indoctrinate babies to adopt certain food habits, but to learn from the environment around them. Parents and other members of the family should try to incorporate these habits as the growing babies observe everything and learn to eat from their parents. Additionally, Dr. Greene gives helpful suggestions to add flavor to foods using herbs, how to select fruits and vegetables, and even how to use certain spices and foods as remedies.

Now for the negatives that I see in this book. I think many readers of this book will be overwhelmed by its content and the scope of change that is advocated. People would be healthier if we rode a bike everywhere, grew our own crops, spent most of our time outdoors doing physical work, etc… but this isn’t going to happen. This is simply impossible and impractical. Additionally, I felt Dr. Greene was being a little arrogant a few times in the book when he made some rather large leaps from the science we know today. He may end up being right, but I think the jury is still out on the safety of modern plastics, genetically modified foods, and the cause of the allergy epidemic we are witnessing in children. Advocating for avoidance of certain modern things is fine, but presenting correlation studies as if they are conclusive science in my opinion is arrogant and just wrong. I also feel that his recommendation for a multivitamin for all children is difficult to justify from science and may be harmful…has he seen how much sticky, dental-disease-promoting sugar is in many of the best selling vitamins?

With those reservations stated, I think the obviously bright, impassioned, and extremely well informed Dr. Greene has written a accessible nutritional handbook to help parents and pediatricians find the ideal method of feeding babies, toddlers, and children. I think this book will influence us for a long time to come. I give it 4.5 out of 5 Doc Smo stars.

I’m starting my third year as a blogger and I want to thank everyone for their support.  I truly hope that I am providing relevant, useful information to all those that are interested in the wellbeing of children.  Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com and reviews are always great on iTunes.  This is Doc Smo, saying thanks.  Until next time.

Written by Angela Solis and Paul Smolen, MD

Fast Food: More bad news (Article)

It is common knowledge that fast food is not good for our children’s health. Recent research confirms what we already knew: an extensive new study correlates consumption of fast food with a child’s increased chance of developing asthma and allergies. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood surveyed nearly half a million six- and seven-year-olds and thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds across 31 and 51 countries, respectively. The study found that teenagers who consume fast food more than three times a week are 40% more likely to develop asthma, while children aged six or seven who also eat fast food more than three times a week are 27% more likely to suffer from asthma. Additionally, both the six- and seven-year-olds and teenagers who frequently dined on fast food suffered from increased frequency of food allergies, eczema, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).

Clearly, the researchers have provided us with valuable information, but much more work needs to be done to confirm the study’s results. Many factors are undoubtedly at play beneath the surface. While overconsumption of fast food seems to be associated with an increase in many allergic diseases in children, excessive eating of processed fast food may not totally explain why children are, on average, more allergic than their older relatives. Other factors undoubtedly contribute to the problem.

Nonetheless, this new information provides us with things we can do TODAY to lessen a child’s chance of allergy: providing a more traditional diet rich in fruits and vegetables may be part of the solution. By simply visiting the produce aisle instead of swinging by the nearest drive-through, a child’s health and quality of life can be changed for the better. Replacing processed sugars, carbohydrates, and preservatives with natural foods is the first step towards a healthier lifestyle and possibly less allergy disease for both you and your children.

Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com. Let me hear what your think. For more timely medical updates about children, subscribe to DocSmo.com on iTunes or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.  Until next time.

Smo notes:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/14/fast-food-child-asthma-allergies

Authored by Keri Register, Davidson College intern and Paul Smolen MD