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An Apple a Day to Keep Pancreatic Cancer Away

The following is an excerpt from an article written by David Kerr, a Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Oxford and past President of the European Society for Medical Oncology:

A study was published recently in Annals of Oncology [1] by an old friend of mine, Carlo La Vecchia, from the Mario Negri Institute in Milan. It is a very well-conducted case-control study of approximately 1000 individuals, 350 cases of pancreatic cancer and a corresponding 650 case-control patients.

They used a very well-validated food inventory so that they could understand the dietary basis of the individuals involved in the study. Because of the power of our understanding more about the composition of food, we have been able to do a very nice correlation between the risk of developing pancreatic cancer and the dietary composition of flavonoids and glycans, particularly a group of chemicals called proanthocyanidins, important because these are particularly common in apples, pears, and red grapes — hence the saying “an apple a day keeps the pancreatic cancer away.”

The flavonoids and glycans are an interesting class of compounds, and I urge you to look them up. We all use the word “apoptosis,” and this is a Greek expression meaning “leaves that fall from trees.” In autumn, leaves turn that terminal russet gold because they make chemicals — flavonoids and glycans — which are yellow in color, and these induce the leaves to apoptose, or to flutter down and to fall from trees. Flavonoids and glycans have a whole range of fascinating biochemical effects in terms of control of proliferation and control of cell cycle. There is an enormous volume of literature on their biochemistry. This is a very beautiful study from La Vecchia and colleagues suggesting that a diet rich in flavonoids and glycans can reduce the chances of developing pancreatic cancer by more than 25%.

This is a very well-designed study, very well delivered, and in keeping broadly with other evidence out there. The take-home message for us, for our families, and for the population of patients we care for is that an apple a day may indeed keep pancreatic cancer away.

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Eating for the Planet

As a physician specializing in nutrition, Dr. Kumara Sidhartha knows the health and environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

But rather than trying to convert patients to vegetarianism, he enourages them to simply take the lifestyle for a spin once a week.


Earth day

What: PLANEAT, film screening

followed by discussion

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Unity on Cape Cod Church, 147 Walton St., Hyannis

Cost: Free, but donations accepted

Is your life too plastic? That’s the question asked in the documentary, “Bag It,” presented by the Cape Cod Wildlife Collaborative. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into an investigation into plastics and their effect on waterways, oceans and people.

What: “Bag It” film screening, followed by panel discussion on marine debris

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Massachusetts Maritime Academy, 101 Academy Drive, Buzzards Bay

Cost: Free

“A lot of people are starting with meatless Mondays,” he says. “They’re just taking one day a week without meat.”

Sidhartha and one of his colleagues at Emerald Physicians, physician’s assistant Andrea Lyonnais, will answer questions Friday after a 7 p.m. screening of the movie PLANEAT at the Unity on Cape Cod Church, 147 Walton St. in Hyannis.

According to the website for the independent film, www.planeat.tv/, “PLANEAT is the story of three men’s life-long search for a diet, which is good for our health, good for the environment and good for the future of the planet. With an additional cast of pioneering chefs and some of the best cooking you have ever seen, the scientists and doctors in the film present a convincing case for the West to re-examine its love affair with meat and dairy.”

The film explores studies of three scientists; Dr. T Colin Campbell in China who is exploring the link between diet and disease, Dr.Caldwell Esselstyn’s use of nutrition to treat chronically ill heart disease patients, and professor Gidon Eshel’s investigations into how food choices contribute to global warming, wasteful land use and lifeless oceans. More recently, Campbell and Esselstyn

have become known for their role in turning former President Bill Clinton onto a vegan diet.

“With the help of some innovative farmers and chefs,

PLANEAT shows how the problems we face today can be solved, without simply resorting to a diet of lentils and lettuce leaves,” Unity on Cape Cod volunteer Martha Powers writes in an email.

The movie includes chefs demonstrating more adventurous ways to cook vegetables.

“I just would like to see a heightened awareness of people realizing what they’re putting in their bodies and the consequences. It’s so easy to be unconscious about eating,” says Powers, who leads the church’s EarthCare Ministry Team.

That volunteer team is observing Earth Day for the sixth year by hosting an April film festival and speaker program. Friday’s film seeks to increase awareness of how raising animals en masse for food requires more of the earth’s resources than growing plants to provide the same amount of nutrition.

In an appearance earlier this month on the cable access show “Homefront,” Sidhartha said vegan (no animal products at all) diets use one-third the fossil fuels as meat.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

Both Sidhartha and Powers point to the 2006 United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” an investigation by the Food and Agricultural Organization into resources used in livestock production. It included statistics such as how 70 percent of Amazon forest is used for grazing, 70 percent of antibiotic use is for livestock and animal farming is responsible for half of topsoil erosion.

After the report, senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Dr. Henning Steinfeld said the meat industry was a signficant contributor to environmental problems and required urgent action.

For Sidhartha, that action starts at the dinner table.

As a primary care physician now working on his Master of Public Health in Nutrition degree, Sidhartha has seen studies showing that a plant-based diet can help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. He is fascinated, Sidhartha says, by emerging evidence showing the effect of healthy vegan diets to reverse existing heart disease and diabetes in patients.

Sidhartha offers a sample menu and recipes he shares with patients.



Serves 1

1 cup of cooked rolled oats

Add the following to the cooked oatmeal, mix with spoon:

1/2 cup of almond or soy milk

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

Half banana or pear or apple (chopped) or 1/4 cup berries

2 teaspoons cocoa powder (pure cocoa with no dairy or sugar added)

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

Few raisins or two chopped dates

2 ounces of walnuts or pistachios


Crunchy-Chickpea Salad

Serves 2 to 4

One 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed

1 packet of matchstick carrots (about 8 ounces)

4 celery sticks, chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 tablespoons Nayonaisse or Veganaisse

2 tablespoons Dijon or brown mustard

1/2 teaspoon of curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

Salt and pepper

  • Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. Leave half of the chickpeas unmashed or partly mashed.
  • Add Nayonaisse or Veganaisse, mustard, curry powder and turmeric and mix. Add the remaining vegetables and mix again.
  • Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix. Serve it just like that or on a leaf of lettuce
  • From the blog, www.lapuremama.com


Neat Loaf

Serves 8 to 10

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 medium bell pepper, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, shredded or finely chopped

1 cup wheat germ

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon EACH thyme, marjoram, sage

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons stoneground or Dijon mustard

Barbeque Sauce or ketchup

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Combine all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce or ketchup. Mix for 2 minutes with a large spoon. This will help bind it together.
  • Pat into an oil-sprayed 5-by- 9-inch loaf pan and top with barbecue sauce or ketchup.
  • Bake for 60 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Recipe from “The Peaceful Palate: Fine Vegetarian Cuisine”

By Gwenn Friss

April 18, 2012


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Where’s the Sodium? There’s too much in many common foods.

For American Heart Month, the February edition of CDC Vital Signs focuses on the amount of sodium in Americans’ diets and what we can do to reduce it. Too much sodium increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure often leads to heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases.

Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. Sodium is already part of processed foods and cannot be removed. Learn what you can do to reduce sodium in your diet.

Highlights from the Report:

Different brands of the same foods may have different sodium levels, so be sure to read the labels.
  • About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
  • Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200 mg per day on average could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.
  • Types of foods matter—More than 40% of sodium comes from the following 10 types of foods: breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats such as deli or packaged ham or turkey, pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches such as cheeseburgers, cheese, pasta dishes*, meat mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce, and snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn.
  • Brands of foods matter too. Different brands of the same foods may have different sodium levels.For example, sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 milligrams (mg) per serving.
  • About 65% of sodium eaten comes from food bought at retail stores, so look for lower sodium choices. About 25% comes from restaurants, and it can be hard for a person to tell how much sodium is in restaurant foods.
  • Americans eat on average about 3,300 mg of sodium a day. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day, and about 6 out of 10 adults should further limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day.**

*The pasta dishes category does not include macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is its own category.

Eating Less Sodium is A Challenge.

It can be challenging to reduce sodium in the diet because it can be included in foods in surprising ways. In fact, foods that otherwise seem healthy may have high levels of sodium (e.g., cottage cheese and turkey breast luncheon meat). Some foods that you eat several times a day, such as bread, add up to a lot of sodium even though each serving is not high in sodium. There are steps that you can take, however, to reduce sodium in your diet.

What Can Be Done:

This issue of CDC Vital Signs includes ways that we can all help reduce sodium in our diets:

Places that produce, sell, or serve food can:

  • Consider joining voluntary initiatives to reduce sodium such as the National Salt Reduction Initiative (http://www.nyc.gov/health/saltExternal Web Site Icon)
  • Give choices to consumers to help them reduce sodium in their diet by:
    • Stocking lower sodium foods.
    • Asking food manufacturers to provide lower sodium foods.
  • Make phased reductions in the amount of sodium they add to foods they sell or serve.
  • Limit the amount of sodium in food products.
  • Provide information about sodium in foods.

Federal government is:

  • Using the national “Million Hearts™External Web Site Icon” initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years (http://millionhearts.hhs.govExternal Web Site Icon). Reducing sodium in the population is a major part of this initiative.
  • Encouraging its agencies and departments to adopt the HHS/GSA or similar procurement guidelines that define how much sodium there can be in products that are sold or served in their facilities (www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/guidelines/food-service-guidelines.htm).
  • Improving data collection on sodium, including the amount of sodium people consume, and their knowledge, behaviors and health outcomes.

State and local health departments can:

  • Develop and implement efforts that:
    • Increase public awareness about the amount of sodium added to processed and packaged foods.
    • Increase public awareness of the health outcomes of a high sodium diet.
    • Help reduce sodium in people’s diets.
  • Encourage reductions in the amount of sodium in foods purchased in cafeterias and vending machines.

Everyone can:

  • Choose to purchase healthy options and talk with your grocer or favorite restaurant about stocking lower sodium food choices.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts Label while shopping to find the lowest sodium options of your favorite foods.
  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce.
  • Limit processed foods high in sodium.
  • When eating out, request lower sodium options.
  • Support initiatives that reduce sodium in foods in cafeterias and vending machines.

**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Usual sodium intakes compared with current dietary guidelines—United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Oct 21; 60(41):1413-7

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