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Besides cherries and blueberries, many other foods and food extracts and food supplements are currently thought by researchers to offer significant health benefits. Some of us have received a mailing from the Harvard Health Letter, published by the Harvard Medical School. The mailing says that a free copy of a booklet with 26 health tips has been reserved for the recipient. The tips are all taken from peer-reviewed scientific studies vetted by Harvard. Just under a third of the tips concern food or supplements. Topics include: vit B-3, coffee, effects of foods on blood pressure, Vit D for bones, cancer, ms, and heart disease ( they could have added flu), red wine, and chocolate. Before we leave vit D, it is worth mentioning that a controlled, double blind study of 1180 older women showed a 60% lower risk of all types of cancer from taking 1,000 IU of Vit D a day rather than the usual 400 IU ( Am J Clinical Nutrition, 2007 Jun;85(6): 1586-91). Many other studies have produced similar results.

A mailing from the University of Virginia Medical School (summer 08 issue) focuses more on the health benefits of specific fresh foods: berries, kiwi, cantaloupe, red and green peppers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, kale, parsley, collards, broccoli, papaya, spinach, wheat germ oil, leafy green vegetables, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, avocados, beans, pumpkins seeds, ginger root, pecans, split peas, Brazil nuts, walnuts, garlic, carrots, and almonds. (On second thought, better restudy almonds now that the FDA has required high heat or radiation of the nut before sale). The previous spring 08 issue extolled fish, fish oil, eggs (yes eggs), and flaxseed for heart, beta glucans ( a kind of yeast, usually in supplement form) for Alzheimer’s and cancer prevention, vit B-3 also for Alzheimer’s and cancer prevention, green tea to reduce brain and neurodegenerative problems, and pomegranate juice for prevention of Alzheimer’s and possibly aggression ( could have added heart trouble).

A study from Nature Reviews Neuroscience was featured in the July 19 edition of the Economist on P. 87. The study is a meta-analysis of 160 studies relating to the effect of food on the brain by Dr Gomez-Pinilla, professor of neurosurgery and physiological science at the U. of Ca. (LA). “Some foods, he concludes, are like pharmaceutical compounds: their effect is so profound that the mental health of entire countries may be linked to them.”
Is all of this a fad? It doesn’t seem likely. Look at Science News, the leading summary of recent scientific studies for the layman. Studies on the profound health effects of foods and food supplements appear at least once or twice per issue on average.

A few critics will accept that there is a revolution taking place linking nutrition directly to health. But they think that we should just focus on food, not on food extracts and supplements. There are at least two problems with this. First, studies show that the nutritional content of food has been declining for as long as the last 50 years (see especially the work of Dr David Thomas). The USDA has recently confirmed this analysis for more recent years. The problem seems to lie in depleted soil.

Second, nutrients sometimes have to be concentrated to have full therapeutic benefit. No one can get enough Vit D from food. We also get it from exposure to sunlight on our skin, but use of sun lotion prevents it. Food supplements often make sense either for routine day to day use in lower potencies or as higher potency therapies devised and supervised by doctors.

The FDA’s own mission statement says that the Agency “is responsible for…helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.” Given this mission, it is perverse to allow pharmaceutical companies to spend so many billions on consumer advertising but not to allow food producers to tell the public about legitimate and revolutionary food research. This is all the more true given our heritage of free speech and free science, the opportunity to save or prolong million of American lives, and the need to use every resource at our command to rein in surging and economically destructive healthcare costs.

ANH-USA’s proposed solution is the Free Speech About Act. The Bill will allow anyone, including food and supplement producers, to talk about legitimate, peer reviewed science that does not have a national security classification, and thus help consumers make wise choices. It will enable all of us to better educate ourselves and take better care of the health of our families.

By Hunter Lewis, President, ANH-USA

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