Dr. McDougall – Osteoporosis and the Broken Bone Business

John McDougall

One of the things I love about living near San Francisco is all of the opportunities to do things. This evening my wife and I went to a vegan dinner sponsored by the Wellness Center and the San Francisco Vegetarian Society.

After a wonderful dinner prepared by certified Nutrition Consultant  Patricia Allen Koot, we watched this presentation by Dr. John McDougall about osteoporosis and bone health. He explained how the medical and pharmaceutical establishments game the system to make lots of money from women who have fears about this disease – promoted by front groups they fund – like the National Osteoporosis Foundation. This foundation’s corporate “advisors” include Amgen, Bayer Healthcare, Eli Lilly, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer.

McDougall’s advice is to avoid drug therapies for osteoporosis and let a whole food, plant-based diet and exercise keep your bones strong and healthy. Eating dairy and meat products add acid to your system and the body neutralizes this acid by removing calcium from your bones. This starts the process that leads to osteoporosis.

Here is the entire presentation. You can find it on YouTube along with other videos by Dr. McDougall.

This video was recorded at one of Dr. McDougall’s Advanced Study Weekends. There is one coming up in February, featuring Caldwell Esselstyn and Colin Campbell and other speakers on nutrition and health. The weekends also include all meals prepared following Dr. McDougall’s eating plan.

Letters to Jackie

John and Jackie KennedyLooking back, 50 after his assassination, I see a young president loved by all Americans for his vision, courage and eloquence. A leader who inspired a new generation of Americans to hope for a better world.

The reality was different.

Like today’s president, John Kennedy faced a divided Congress that held up his legislative initiatives and a country divided over issues of race.

A new movie, Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy, highlights these conflicts using letters sent to the former first lady after JFK’s assassination and archival footage. The movie, which premieres Sunday, November 17 on TLC, includes 20 of the almost 2 million letters sent to Jackie Kennedy in the months following President Kennedy’s death. On the Monday after his death, 45,000 letters were delivered to the White House.

The movie highlights the accomplishments and challenges of Kennedy’s presidency.

Among the accomplishments were the establishment of the Peace Corps, the space program, curbing nuclear proliferation and his enthusiastic reception when visiting countries like France, Venezuela and Germany.

There were many challenges also like the threat of nuclear war over missiles in Cuba,  but the hardest were connected to civil rights – Governor Wallace proclaiming “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and standing in the doorway to keep the first black students out of the University of Alabama; the death of 4 young girls in a church bombing in Birmingham; the March on Washington and black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. pushing for new legislation.

Writer and Director Bill Couturié uses the highlighted letters to tell the story. They are from people of all walks of life and ages; white, black and hispanic; Democrats and Republicans. They all were heartfelt expressions of their grief and sense of loss.

A woman from Dallas writes about the excitement of seeing Jackie and the president as they passed by her moments before the shooting.

There were poignant letters from the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the wife of an officer who died when the submarine Thresher sank. She sent to Jackie some of the consoling words JFK had sent her after her husband died at sea.

There were also messages of hope. A letter from a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia, several college students whose lives were changed by JFK’s vision of a New Frontier, and a 13 year old with polio reminding Jackie to sing “You Gotta Have Heart” from the musical Damn Yankees to stay happy.

There were several writers who thought that the one positive thing that could come out of this tragedy would be the passage of the Civil Rights bill. One writer put it this way:

“One hundred years ago, Lincoln died that all men might be free
One hundred years later, J.F.K. died that all men might be equal.”

One letter was from an officer stationed in Berlin. He had seen JFK gave his famous speech  declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Now, less than five months later, he watched a somber crowd fill the square and mourn the loss of their fallen hero. As the letter is read, we see images of the crowd in Berlin and the burial of JFK in Arlington Cemetery.

The final letter, from another young man who was inspired by JFK’s admonition to “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The letter ends with the Bible passage, used in the song “Turn, Turn, Turn”

To Everything
There is a season
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

This film took me back to that weekend almost fifty years ago. I remember watching all of it – Jackie in her bloodstained clothes returning to Washington, the huge silent crowds at the Capitol to pay their respects, Oswald being shot, the funeral and burial.

As a nine year old, I remember seeing the adults who were devastated by what had happened. It was the moment when I understood that there was a whole world outside my little neighborhood that could impact me and those around me in profound ways.

If you have a chance to see this movie, I would highly recommend it, whether to relive those days when you were younger or to get a new, fresh perspective on that moment in history.

(NOTE: I received a message from the editor of the film who reminded me that the letter from the person in Berlin and the last letter were two different people, I had them as one. The post has been edited to reflect this.)


Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger M.D.

I discovered a great website this evening – someone at our vegan Meet-Up told me about it. NutritionFacts.org it is the website of Dr. Michael Greger in partnership with the Jesse & Julie Rasch Foundation.

Dr. Greger reviews nutrition-related research, as published in scientific journals, and creates short, easy to understand video segments highlighting the research.  The site also provides links to the original journal articles whenever possible.

There is also a blog with additional information. The newest article is titled Industry Influence on Our Dietary Guidelines and highlights the U.S. government’s first try at setting dietary guidelines back in 1977. The Senate had created a Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs headed by George McGovern. His committee’s guidelines recommended limiting salt, sugar, dairy, eggs and meat.

The food industry’s reaction was swift. They successfully got the Senate leadership to quash these guidelines and have this new committee disbanded and ownership of these guidelines turned over to the Agriculture Committee, which they could better control.

If only these recommendations had been allowed to become the U.S. dietary guidelines, the incidence of chronic diseases might have been slowed and our healthcare costs wouldn’t be out of control.

Please visit Dr. Greger’s site and learn more about this and other nutrition health topics.


Just Another Statistic

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Leading Causes of Death statistics from CDC Website

Five years ago my uncle, my dad’s only sibling, died from complications after heart surgery. He had a minimally invasive procedure done with a da Vinci device. The surgeon performed his task flawlessly, but the assistant punctured one of his lungs when removing the device. Other missteps by the hospital staff further complicated his already weakened system and he never regained consciousness.

A recent article in Forbes, Stunning News On Preventable Deaths In Hospitals, describes the magnitude of this issue:

In 1999, Americans learned that 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in hospitals. That came from a widely touted analysis by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called To Err Is Human. This was the “Silent Spring” of the health care world, grabbing headlines for revealing a serious and deadly problem that required policy and action.

As it turns out, those were the good old days.

According to a new study just out from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety, four times as many people die from preventable medical errors than we thought, as many as 440,000 a year.

Continue reading

Summer Bounty, Too

Summer Bounty Soup

Here is the soup we had tonight, made with ingredients from the Farmers’ Market. The recipe is Summer Vegetable Soup, from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook. The ingredients are:

  • Onion and garlic
  • Early Girl Tomatoes
  • 5 types of summer squash
  • Fresh corn off the cob
  • Fresh basil
  • Cooked rice
  • Vegetable stock

All the ingredients except the stock were from the market, including the rice (grown here in Marin County).

I served it with fresh kale and chard from the market and Northern California grown applesauce.

What a treasure we have here in Northern California.

Happy Whole Food cooking to all of you.

Are You Feeding Your Brain for Health?

Power Foods for the BrainDo you believe that we are all doomed to get dementia or Alzheimer’s as we age? The current numbers are frightening.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures Report, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease and 1 in 3 dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Dr. Neal Barnard‘s latest book – Power Foods for the Brain – looks at how changes to diet and lifestyle can improve brain health and prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Using information from the latest studies, Barnard lays out a three-step plan for brain health: healthy foods, mental and physical exercise, and sleep. Barnard advocates a whole food, plant-based diet and avoiding meat, dairy, eggs and added oils.

He also shares the latest research on foods that can protect your brain from toxic metals and vitamins that can assist in improving brain health.

Neal Barnard, MDIn the book he talks about his North Dakota upbringing, eating a diet based on red meat, dairy and eggs – with few vegetables. As his parents got older, they began to get dementia. Based on his research, he got them to change their diet and it slowed and stopped the progress of their dementia. At one point, his parents moved into an assisted living facility and started eating the standard American diet again. The dementia started progressing again until Dr. Barnard was able to get them home again and change their diet back.

This book was very easy to read and Barnard lays out many great suggestions for making changes to diet, exercise and lifestyle to improve brain (and body) health.

I found an interesting website, called Silk, where you can share collections of anything – coffee places, vacation spots or nutrition books. I created one to highlight the books I have read – you can find it here. Currently, this book is the only one in the collection, but more will be there soon.

Dr. Barnard’s 3-step plan for brain health gives all of us the tools we need to slow the progress of these deadly diseases. Read this book and share it with your friends and loved ones who may be at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“Game Changing” Way to Increase Revenue for Supplement Makers

Supplements are Big BusinessThe Headline: ‘Game changing’ economic report: Supplements could save billions of dollars in health care costs

The Reality: A website – Nutraingredients-usa.com with Breaking News on Supplements & Nutrition – is letting you know about the fantastic study done by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Foundation on the wonderful impact of supplements on chronic diseases and healthcare costs. What is the CRN Foundation?

A charitable 501(c)(3) foundation of the dietary supplement industry that provides consumers with information about responsible use of dietary supplements, and provides researchers and healthcare practitioners with education on the proper role of supplements in a healthy lifestyle.

The CRN promotes itself as “The Science Behind the Supplements.”

The ‘game changer’ here is to get consumers to spend their dollars on supplements on the chance that doing so will save billions of dollars on healthcare costs.

The sad fact is that the majority of our healthcare costs – 75% according to this study – go to treating chronic diseases, while very little – 3% – is spent on prevention.

However, shifting some of that 75% to paying for supplements is not the answer – or a game changer. The answer is found by changing people’s lifestyles. Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet; exercising and reducing stress.

These have been shown to reduce chronic illnesses like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and more.

Read Dr. Colin Campbell’s book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition to get another perspective. He argues that the reductionist mindset in nutrition and science keeps us from looking at the whole body and the way our food interacts with it. Trying to reduce whole foods to supplements to target one certain aspect of nutrition or disease is not a ‘game changer,’ it is a dead end.

Faith Makes the Difference

…be of good comfort, your faith has made you whole.
New Testament / Matthew 9:22

Over a dozen years ago, while attending a Unity church in Atlanta, my wife and I took a class on meditation from Roy Eugene Davis. He is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda and Director of the Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, GA. During that class he gave us a copy of a little book of spiritual practice with themes for daily meditation.

The reading for today is titled “Faith Makes the Difference.” Here is an excerpt:

It is easy to believe when we see the evidence of a circumstance before us. Faith, however, is believing in the reality of desired outcomes before any objective evidence is discernible. Faith is the very substance of the end result of our envisioning, for it manifests itself according to our assumption and belief.*

I had been thinking about faith after watching two movies last weekend, the new documentary Inequality for All featuring former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Both, in the final analysis, are about faith – and hope.

Salmon Fishing in the YemenThe Salmon Fishing movie is about a Yemeni sheik who, because of his love of fishing and desire to give his people a better life, builds dams and other improvements to make it possible for him to enjoy salmon fishing in his country.

The UK government – looking for a good news story from the Middle East – forces a reluctant fishing expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (played by Ewan McGregor), to assist. He is more than skeptical.

He and the Sheik get into a discussion about faith. Jones says he doesn’t believe in faith, he’s a numbers and data person. The Sheik disagrees. He says that Jones loves to fish and to fish is to have faith that the time spent fishing will produce results, even if it takes many hours of no results to make a catch.

Ultimately, the Sheik’s vision, and faith in the outcome, make a believer out of Jones and they achieve the Sheik’s goal.  Jones’ moment of faith comes late in the movie when he believes that farm-bred salmon will migrate upstream, even though they were born and raised in holding ponds. He had no reason to believe this, except his faith that the salmon would know what to do.

Inequality for All - Robert ReichInequality for All is a documentary highlighting the growing income disparity in our country. Professor Reich documents how the difference in income  wasn’t always so skewed toward the rich. The peaks of inequality happened in 1928 and 2007, just before major market crashes. During the period in between, especially during the 50s and 60s, the lower and middle classes thrived and income inequality narrowed. Since the late 70s, changes in the rules, favoring the top 1% of wage earners, made income inequality grow until the crash in 2008. However, unlike after the Great Depression, this time, after a short pause, income inequality started rising again to record levels by 2011.

Reich has been fighting for 30 years to reverse this inequality. His ideas were behind Bill Clinton’s “Put People First” theme for his first presidential election. As Clinton’s Labor Secretary, Reich tried to help the lower and middle classes, especially unions, regain some of what they had lost. He tried to steer the budgets towards investing in education, child care and other needs for working people. By his own account, he was a pain in the rear to Clinton and the rest of his advisers. While they were focused on reducing the nation’s debt, Reich was pushing for investing in people and the country’s future.

So where does faith and hope fit in this equation? Reich teaches at UC Berkeley. He teaches a class on Wealth & Poverty to over 700 students – with the goal of getting his students to understand and think about these issues. Reich’s hope is that some of them will do things to change the system – the rules and other roadblocks to change.

He has a vision of what our country could look like if we valued people over profits. He knows that it existed before, and he has faith that it can happen again. That is why he writes books, speaks to audiences, teaches students and helped make this film – because he has faith in the outcome. He has faith in the American people to see his vision and make it theirs.

Unwavering faith produces results in exact proportion to its clarity and constancy. Real faith is not a vague idea of hoped-for possibilities accompanied by thoughts and feelings of doubt or inadequacy. Result-producing faith is definite, calm, steadfast, and grounded in soul awareness. *

Faith does make a difference.

* excerpts from With God – A Handbook of Spiritual Practice with Themes for Daily Meditation. Published by the Center for Spiritual Awareness. 1995 Edition

What’s In Season In Your Area? There’s a Map for That


I found this great resource – thanks to a tweet from @TopIngredients retweeted by @veggiebeet – on the Epicurious site. It shows what produce are at their peak in your state during the 12 months of the year – at least in those areas where there is a yearly growing season.

There are links from the list of what’s fresh to recipes, cooking tips and more.

What a great resource. Now that I’m living in California – where we have year-round farmers’ markets – I’m looking forward to fresh, local produce all year.