Food & Nutrition

Will Dietary Supplements Harm You?


Will Dietary Supplements Harm You?

The Takeaway First

You may have heard a report showing that 23,000 emergency room visits every year are due to children and young adults taking dietary supplements. Scary, right? Not exactly. In this post, I’ll talk about why we need to be careful about hype and misinformation, and what you need to do to take supplements safely.

The Details

It has been estimated that 23,000 emergency room visits every year involve children and young adults who have taken dietary supplements (Geller et al., 2015). Every year, 2,100 people are hospitalized due to adverse side effects of supplements. With the exception of sexual enhancement and body building supplements, women are more affected than men.

  • Weight loss and energy products caused over 71% of adverse events with symptoms of faster heart rate, palpitations and chest pain.
  • Close to 60% of the study participants were between 20 to 34 years olds.
  • Reports were collected from 2004 to 2013.
  • Among those 65 years and older, choking on pills, mostly calcium pills, was most prominent side effect.
  • The number of ER visits and hospitalization was only 5% of those from pharmaceutical medications.
  • No deaths were reported from the consumption of dietary supplements.

(Geller et al. 2015)

My Take On This

Comparing dietary supplements to pharmaceutical drugs, a common occurrence, is inadequate. They work much differently and the intelligent use of both can be extremely helpful in improving health. Of course, I tend to begin with natural therapies first and work from there.

But it is worth noting that Geller and his research team did report that the 23,000 hospitalizations caused by supplements was tiny compared to the hospitalizations caused by pharmaceutical meds, but most reports keep ignoring that fact.

It is important to keep in mind that over 700,000 people get hospitalized from using pharmaceutical medicine annually (Budnitz et al. 2005). That’s about 2.5 people for every thousand. Additionally, medical drugs have caused 2,100 reported deaths over the past eight years. (Shepherd et al. 2012)

There are problems in the supplement industry, no doubt. There are tainted herbal sexual enhancement formulas, like what Lamar Odom was taking a few weeks ago. And young kids are notorious for consuming too many supplements designed to make them gain muscle and lose fat.

Also, weight loss supplements can have side effects if consumed at very high amounts because many contain stimulants such as caffeine or bitter orange (sineprhine). Stimulants decrease appetite and burn fat, but when taken at high amounts they can cause heart palpitations and chest pain.

What Should You Do?

Numbers are all relative. In 2013, there were over 4,000 pedestrian deaths compared to 188 by flight. But mortality from airplanes is far more impactful. When huge numbers are thrown at you by the media, they do not mean anything unless there is a reference point.

As always, don’t believe the hype.

A bigger problem than the hype and misinformation is tendency of people to take dietary supplements haphazardly, without expert guidance. Occasionally there will be an unwanted side effect (though this is uncommon) but the most common problem is inefficacy – either from using the wrong combination of nutrients or from too small a dose.

Who should you talk to? Experts in the use of dietary supplements are naturopathic doctors, functional medicine practitioners or certified nutrition specialists (CNS). Experts on the therapeutic use herbs include, but not limited to, professional members of the American Herbalist Guild.

With few exceptions, health store clerks don’t know more than you do about supplements. They just work there.

The Bottom Line

If you have seen that a group of supplements work for you, continue them. The chances of getting an adverse reaction are minimal. Always seek the guidance of an expert. Don’t believe the hype. Be smart. Be well.


Geller AI, Shehab N, Weidle NJ, Lovegrove MC, Wolpert BJ, Timbo BB, Mozersky RP, Budnitz DS. Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Events Related to Dietary Supplements. N Engl J Med. 2015 Oct 15;373(16):1531-40.

Budnitz DS1, Pollock DA, Weidenbach KN, Mendelsohn AB, Schroeder TJ, Annest JL. National surveillance of emergency department visits for outpatient adverse drug events. JAMA. 2006 Oct 18;296(15):1858-66.

Shepherd G1, Mohorn P, Yacoub K, May DW. Adverse drug reaction deaths reported in United States vital statistics, 1999-2006. Ann Pharmacother. 2012 Feb;46(2):169-75.

On Lamar Odom’s Tragedy and on ‘Herbal Viagra’

Lamar Odom

On Lamar Odom’s Tragedy and on ‘Herbal Viagra’

Basketball is my favorite sport. I like all levels of basketball: college, professional, Olympic, even high school. Here in New York City, high school basketball is big, and as a result, we praise any high school kid who is really good at the sport and follow their career.

One such player is Lamar Odom, who was a high school phenomenon at Christ the King high school in Queens, New York during the late 90s. He went on to have respectable a 10-year career on the NBA, although he may be better known to the masses as Khloe Kardashian’s ex-husband. Three days ago, he was found unconscious with white material oozing out of his mouth at a brothel near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Today, October 16, 2015 he is on life support at a hospital in Nevada.

Lamar Odom’s story is perplexing, tragic and simply sad. He has had a long history of addiction and substance abuse. What happened on October 13, 2015 that sent him to (what might possibly be) his death bed?

What we know:

Odom was snorting cocaine before a near fatal fall. He also took 10 tablets of “natural” sexual energy pills called Reload.

What’s scary about Reload is that the FDA issued a warning that this unnatural supplement contains sildenafil (Viagra) hidden in the ingredients list on the label.

Cocaine is a stimulant, causes the heart to beat faster and increases blood pressure. That level of stress to cardiovascular system can lead to a heart attack. Combining Viagra with cocaine can tear the body’s main artery, the aorta, which reduces blood to the brain. The overall outcome is often a stroke.

How big of a problem is the sexual supplement industry?

A very big problem. Virtually 25% or about 300 supplement formulas of sexual enhancement supplements are tainted with either Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

This is a very big problem for two main reasons:

1. Taking ED pharmaceuticals unknowingly can be deadly as they cause widening of the arteries. This can be harmless and even beneficial in moderation, but too much can lead to low blood pressure. Excessively low blood pressure stresses the heart.

2. The bad publicity also stains the good players in the supplement industry, those who make legitimate and safe sexual health supplements.

Effective (truly natural) dietary supplements are not event driven; instead, their benefits accrue over time. Clinically, I notice that it takes about a week or so of daily use before experiencing satisfactory blood flow to sexual organs. A responsible sexual health formula gradually builds stamina, nourishes blood vessels, and improves your production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow.

How to spot drugtainted sexual performance supplements:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
  • Avoid supplements that claim to make your penis bigger. No dietary supplement does that.
  • Avoid anything sold in small packets of 2 to 10 pills.
  • Avoid anything with an FDA warning similar to those found on ED drugs. For example, “do not use with nitrates or do not use if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.”
  • Avoid supplements that promise fast results. No natural agent or combination of agents work that fast.

What should you do?

Buy supplements from trustworthy manufacturers, and do not expect immediate “home runs” when consuming them. Be suspicious of “magic in a bottle” claims. Understand that there is no short cut for improving your sexual health and vitality.  

Only by eating nourishing foods, exercising vigorously, making smart lifestyle choices, and consuming highquality dietary supplements will you earn your results, defy your age, and reclaim the sexual vigor that you once enjoyed. 

Here is an FDA list of sexual supplements shown to contain ED drugs.

Lamar Odom’s grim condition will require a miracle to overcome, I suspect. I wish our hometown basketball star, his two teenage kids and the rest of his family strength during this difficult period.

Happy #NationalCoffeeday ! Is Coffee Good or Bad for you?

IMG_1151Is coffee good or bad?

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, coffee is good for you.

Details of the study:

  • Over 400,000 men and women were analyzed were followed from baseline (1995–1996) until the date of death or December 31, 2008, whichever came first,
  • Among participants who completed the 24-hour dietary-recall questionnaire, 79% drank ground coffee, 19% drank instant coffee, 1% drank espresso coffee, and 1% did not specify the type of coffee they consumed.
  • With questionnaire’s assessing diet and lifestyle, a total of 33,731 men and 18,784 women died.
  • Participants resided in six states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and two metropolitan areas (Atlanta and Detroit)
  • As compared with men who did not drink coffee, men who drank 6 or more cups of coffee per day had a 10% lower risk of death, whereas women in this category of consumption had a 15% lower risk. Similar associations were observed whether participants drank predominantly caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.
  • Inverse associations were observed for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but NOT for deaths due to cancer.
  • Note: Coffee drinking men had a slightly, non- statistically significant increase risk of cancer (Freedman et al, 2012)

My take on this:

Freedman’s study suggest’ that a dose-dependent amount of coffee of 6 cups a day, decaf or regular can protect against a variety of disease associated death’s except cancer. It is unclear why coffee drinking men had a slight increase in mortality. Does this mean men should stop drinking coffee? Or should men “gulp the java” for its decrease in mortality from other non-cancer related conditions?

Interestingly, another large prospective study in 2011 showed that men who drank three or more cups of coffee a day, decaf or regular, had a decrease chance of developing high risk, lethal prostate cancer (Wilson et al. 2011).

I think the take home message is the following:

Coffee seems to have protective qualities and one should not give up coffee for unproven health reasons. The typical mugs of coffee often used is the equivalent of 2 cups. 2 mugs a day or 4 cups a day should be more than enough.

The non-coffee drinker does not need to start drinking coffee if he or she choose’s not to. All studies cited are epidemiological and as valuable as they are, especially when studying a large population, they are not conclusive.

Mix green tea into the picture. Variety is key for disease protection with food as it is with beverages. Green tea has shown to have protective qualities in numerous studies including is one large prospective Japanese study that looked at over 49,000 men (Kurahashi et al. 2008).

It does not matter if it’s decaf or regular – so unless caffeinated coffee bothers you, drink the “high octane” kind. Caffeine may not be harmful, even possibly protective and it may keep you alert and your metabolism high.

Those who should probably abstain:

  • Men suffering from prostatitis or prostate enlargment – caffeinated beverages aggravates urinary symptoms. Decaf may be OK.
  • Women (and men) suffering from interstitial cystitis. A recent study suggest’ that caffeine consumption may aggravate symptoms (Friedlander et al. 2012). This includes caffeinated tea as well. Again, decaf may be OK.
  • Those with high blood pressure should probably abstain as well. While coffee drinkers with normal blood pressure will probably not become hypertensive from drinking caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, hypertensive men and women should skip.

Finally, none of the studies cited mention whether or not adding milk or sugar makes a difference. I would guess it does. It would be only a guess. However, a drop of milk and a dab of sugar is likely harmless. Straight black is probably best.


Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 2012 May 17;366(20):1891-904.

Wilson KM, Kasperzyk JL, Rider JR, Kenfield S, van Dam RM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Mucci LA. Coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk and progression in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Jun 8;103(11):876-84.

Shafique K, McLoone P, Qureshi K, Leung H, Hart C, Morrison D. Coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk: further evidence for inverse relationship. Nutr J. 2012 Jun 13;11(1):42.

Friedlander JI, Shorter B, Moldwin RM.Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJU Int. 2012 Jun;109(11):1584-91.

Kurahashi N, Sasazuki S, Iwasaki M, Inoue M, Tsugane S. Green tea consumption and prostate cancer risk in Japanese men: a prospective study. Am J Epidemiol 2008; 167: 717

Should I go gluten-free?


The takeaway first

The last five years or so the gluten-free diet has been the most popular way of eating. Even the recent Wimbledon winner Djokavic and the New York Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira have adopted this new way of eating, which excludes wheat, rye and barley. While there is a real, clinical disease called celiac disease, where eating gluten products cause severe gastric problems, the type I’m talking about today is non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Most importantly, I want to know whether the whole thing is…BS.

By the way, Mark Teixieria hit a game winning homerun (update 8/10/15: 30 HR’s) this weekend. Not bad for a 35 year-old baseball player coming out of a year of injuries. He is having one of his best years at an age where most baseball players steadily decline. (I’m a NY Yankees fan)

Just saying…

What is celiac disease?

This disease is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your intestines—but only when there is gluten in your diet. The fancy medical term for the process is small intestinal immune-mediated enteropathy (just in case you want to sound smart at your next cocktail party). Celiac disease occurs in 1% of the population, and the main symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain , chronic diarrhea , pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool and rapid weight loss . Other common symptoms like chronic fatigue and irritability occur as a result of poor absorption of nutrients.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein made out of glutenin and gliadin. The elasticity created when the pizza man kneads dough before throwing it in the air is made from glutenin and gliadin combination. That’s the same molecule that gives bread its chewy texture. Gluten also traps carbon dioxide, which, as it ferments, adds volume to the loaf.

Why would non-celiac people want be on a gluten-free diet?

About 20% of Americans want gluten-free foods (I too choose gluten-free often). The reason why non-celiacs want to eat gluten-free is because they just simply feel great when they’re not eating glutinous grains. Symptoms like gastric bloating, irregular bowel movements and even headaches and joint aches have been relieved just by excluding gluten from the diet. These people suffer from what’s called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The very first case of non-celiac gluten sensitivity was reported in the mid-1970s where a few young women reported gastric distention

and irregular bowel movements (Cooper et al., 1976) and experienced great relief when they cut gluten out of their diets. Only when gluten was re-introduced did the symptoms return (Ellis et al. 1978).

The science behind a gluten-free diet

Many would say there isn’t any science behind it at all

They just haven’t looked.

In one study, 920 adults without celiac disease and with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who self-reported gluten-based sensitivity were asked to maintain a gluten-free diet for 4 weeks. After about two weeks, one group was introduced again to wheat where 30% of them (the wheat group) developed IBS symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating and altered stool consistency (Carroccio et al., 2012).

Another study looked at 34 patients with IBS who self-reported gluten sensitivity and whose non-celiac status was confirmed by expert investigators. They received 16g of gluten per day or placebo for up to 6 weeks. Within the gluten group, 68% reported irritable bowel symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and stool inconsistencies, compared with 40% in the placebo group.

When comparing baseline parameters, patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are generally more likely to have nutritional deficiencies, another autoimmune disease, a lower mean BMI, and weaker bones than the general population; however, non-celiac gluten-sensitive people usually don’t have these extra problems.

In a case series of 1,000 patients with progressive ataxia (loss of control of body movements), 18% of patients were found to be sensitive to gluten consumption (Hadjivassiliou et al., 2013). This doesn’t mean that gluten gives you ataxia, though.

Small studies have even associated gluten consumption to depression (Peters et al. 2014) and psychotic, schizophrenic events (Kalaydjian et al. 2006). While these studies to not prove cause and effect, the association is pretty compelling.

For non-celiac endurance athletes, a short-term gluten-free diet had no overall effect on performance. It didn’t help gastrointestinal symptoms, wellbeing, or indicators of intestinal injury or inflammatory markers (Lis et al., 2015). Of course, this study was performed for about one week and to truly see benefit from a gluten-free diet it take about 90 days of complete abstinence from glutinous consumption.

Criticism of gluten-free diets

One Consumer Reports video makes several claims against the gluten-free label. I have problems with this video.

For example, the video claims, “Fat and sugar are sometimes used to replace the oomph in foods that gluten usually fulfills.” Yes, this may be true, but this claim has just as much oomph as saying that we shouldn’t be vegan because some donuts are vegan.

Sure, some foods marketed as gluten-free are crap, but that’s the worst way to be gluten-free.

The Consumer Reports video also claims that gluten-free foods are “not fortified with the same nutrients that foods with gluten [are fortified with].” Folic acid and iron are two examples given. My response? You can get folic acid, iron, and every other nutrient from foods that naturally contain them. Countless foods that are gluten-free are not marketed as such. Green leafy vegetables, for example, have all the folate and iron you could ever dream of, but nobody is calling them gluten-free.

There are two other big criticisms of gluten-free diets. Some say that gluten-free foods are expensive, but I reply that only the gluten-free label is expensive. All fresh produce is gluten-free, but it lacks the label. Why? Because produce has enough nutritional value on its own that it doesn’t need help from the gluten-free marketing campaign.

My take on gluten-free diets, and what you should do

I prescribe a gluten-free diet to all of my patients because it seems to relieve pain and inflammation. This is my experience, and I do whatever solves my patients’ problems.

Therefore, if you have pain or inflammation, I would suggest you try a gluten-free diet for 90 days. This doesn’t mean you have to buy gluten-free products or offer up your wallet as a ritual sacrifice to the gluten-free gods. All it means is that you cut out bread and pasta.

Same goes for my prostate cancer patients – they go mostly gluten-free as gluten wrecks the gut of most people and promote inflammation. In order to beat cancer you must have a strong gastro-intestinal system

If going gluten-free, follow these simple tips:

All fruits are naturally gluten-free. Eat those that have a low-glycemic index

All vegetables are naturally gluten-free. Eat plenty.

All meat, unless it’s processed, is naturally gluten-free. Go for the best fish (my

favorite is vital choice). Also go for grass-fed, organic meats.

Eggs are naturally gluten-free too, and very good for you. Get those from farms or farmers markets where the chickens roam freely and eat naturally (including worms.)

Many grains like quinoa and buckwheat are gluten-free. Eat them too.

As always, don’t eat processed foods or crappy gluten-free foods. But if you want a treat and will do a 90 day test, then eat a gluten-free treat.

Go easy on the alcohol, even if it’s “gluten-free.” By the way, tequila is gluten-free (wink, wink)

I suspect Djokovic’s and Teixeria’s gluten-free dietary benefits is mainly quicker recovery from the stress induced from playing their respective sport.

I know when I am 100% gluten-free, I can play long games of basketball or train for hours without feeling much pain afterwards.

If you have not done so, try going gluten-free. If anything, you will enjoy the challenge. OK maybe “enjoy” is an overstatement.


Carroccio, A. et al. Non-celiac wheat sensitivity diagnosed by double-blind placebo-controlled challenge: exploring a new clinical entity. Am. J. Gastroenterol. 107, 18981906 (2012).

Cooper, B. T., Holmes, G. K., Ferguson, R., Thompson, R. & Cooke, W. T. Proceedings: Chronic diarrhoea and gluten sensitivity. Gut 17, 398 (1976).

Ellis, A. & Linaker, B. D. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity? Lancet 1, 13581359 (1978).

Kalaydjian, A. E., Eaton, W., Cascella, N. & Fasano, A. The gluten connection: the association between schizophrenia and celiac disease. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 113, 8290 (2006).

Hadjivassiliou, M. et al. Transglutaminase 6 antibodies in the diagnosis of gluten ataxia. Neurology 80, 17401745 (2013).

Lis D, Stellingwerff T, Kitic CM, Ahuja KD, Fell J. No Effects of a Short-Term Gluten-free Diet on Performance in Nonceliac Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 May 12.

Lis DM, Stellingwerff T, Shing CM, Ahuja KD, Fell JW. Exploring the popularity,

experiences, and beliefs surrounding gluten-free diets in nonceliac athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Feb;25(1):37-45.

Peters, S. L., Biesiekierski, J. R., Yelland, G. W., Muir, J. G. & Gibson, P. R. Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity—an exploratory clinical study. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 39, 11041112 (2014).


Don’t Get Stoned this Summer


Takeaway First

Kidney stones are on an upswing as the days get warmer. Quite a few of our patients are passing stones at our clinic in New York. There are many things you can do to prevent kidney stones, but above all: drink tons of water.

Kidney stone facts:

Kidney stones are most common in Caucasian men and least common among African-American females.

Calcium kidney stones are made of 80% calcium oxalate (CaOx).

It has been suggested that kidney stone risk increases in hot climates.

Frequent or intense exercise can cause an increase in kidney stone formation.

While only about 10% of men will develop kidney stones in their lifetime, that percentage goes up to 30% if there is a family history.

What exactly are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are exactly what they sound like. They are stones (little rocks, but sometimes not so little—ouch!) that form when minerals accumulate in your kidneys. Most of the time these stones pass through the system without causing much pain or discomfort. Other times, if the stone become bigger than 3 mm, they pass with excruciating pain.

I mean, EXCRUCTIATING PAIN. If you have ever passed a stone, you know what I’m talking about.

Women patients who have passed stones and delivered babies have said delivering babies is like a walk in a park compared to passing a kidney stone.

The pain often starts at the lower back (flank), and it radiates down to the groin. This pain is caused by pressure in a part of your body between your kidneys and bladder called the ureter, which itself is only 3-4 mm wide.

What increase your likelihood to make stones?

Other than genetic causes (where your body simply likes to make stones), there are two main causes: being overweight and dehydration.

So, yes, losing weight and drinking tons of water can really help.

What else can you do to stop making kidney stones?

Drink a ton of water. You should urinate 2 liters of urine every day.

Take 500 to 1000mg of magnesium citrate every day.

Take Vitamin B6—25 mg daily. A B6 deficiency increases urinary oxalate, which may lead to kidney stones.

When magnesium is used in conjunction with vitamin B6, it has an even greater effect.

Drink lemon juiceabout one-half cup of pure lemon juice (enough to make eight glasses of lemonade) every day. Lemon juice raises citrate levels in the urine which protects against calcium stones.

Drinks to avoid: orange and grape juice and soda. You do not need to avoid coffee and alcohol, but DO NOT need to be avoided, but remember that these cause dehydrationso drink, drink, drink (water, that is).

What to do if you are a kidney stone former (that you thought you shouldn’t do)

Forget about eating a low-oxalate diet. My patients who eat a lowoxalate diet become fat and increase their risk of heart disease and cancer. This approach is disastrous for overall health because many protective foods high in oxalates are vegetables, fruits and nuts – all things I highly recommend. In fact, recent research has demonstrated that a diet high in fruits and vegetables DECREASES the risk of kidney stones (Turney et al. 2014).

It has been suggested that people who form kidney stones should avoid vitamin C supplements, because vitamin C can convert into oxalate and increase urinary oxalate. Initially, these concerns were questioned because the vitamin C was converted to oxalate after urine had left the body. However, newer trials have shown that as little as 1 gram of vitamin C per day can increase urinary oxalate levels in some people, even those without a history of kidney stones.

In one case report, a young man who ingested 8 grams per day of vitamin C had a dramatic increase in urinary oxalate excretion, resulting in calcium-oxalate crystal formation and blood in the urine. On the other hand, in preliminary studies performed on large populations, high intake of vitamin C was associated with no change in the risk of forming a kidney stone in women, and with a reduced risk in men. This research suggests that routine restriction of vitamin C to prevent stone formation is unwarranted.

Bottom line on preventing kidney stones?

Drink 4 to 8 cups of lemonade made with a least a half a cup of freshsqueezed lemon.

Drink enough water, about 10 glasses a day, and aim to produce about two liters of urine.

Take magnesium citrate, potassium citrate and vitamin B6 supplements.

Avoid drinking grapefruit juice.

Eat plenty of ALL fruits and vegetables. If you get kidney stones frequently, then avoid only spinach and almonds which are very high in oxalates. But eat plenty of the others.


Gershoff S, Prien E. Effect of daily MgO and vitamin B6 administration to patients with recurring calcium oxalate kidney stones. Am J Clin Nutr 1967;20:393-399.

Will E, Bijvoet O. Primary oxalosis: clinical and biochemical response to high-dose pyridoxine therapy. Metabolism 1979;28:542-548.

Turney BW1, Appleby PN, Reynard JM, Noble JG, Key TJ, Allen NE.Diet and risk of kidney stones in the Oxford cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Eur J Epidemiol. 2014 May;29(5):363-9.


What science still hasn’t told us about red meat

red meat

The Takeaway First

Despite the huge conversation that health professionals and consumers alike are having about the effects of consuming red meat on human health, scientific research hasn’t quite settled the score. A new paper (Klurfeld, 2015) published this past May highlights the many limitations of the studies we have done. So what do we have left…?

Study Details

  • David Klurfeld highlights some flaws in the current literature surrounding red meat. In order to know for sure whether red meat causes diseases long-term, for example, we would need a longitudinal study (where subjects are tracked for several decades) with an extremely large sample size. Not only have we not done this, but we can’t; it’s too expensive.
  • Besides, says Klurfeld, supposing we had the money, scientists can’t feed red meat to humans on the premise that it might cause them to become diseased. It’s unethical.
  • The nature of observational studies and the immense amount of data that researchers collect enables such studies to find (potentially) thousands of statistically significant correlations, many of which may simply be false positives.
  • Some influential studies that have found significant associations between meat consumption and colorectal cancer are clouded by confounding variables such as daily caloric intake and smoking.
  • While known toxins such as tobacco and alcohol increase risks of lung cancer and liver cirrhosis ten- to thirty-fold, eating meat does not increase the risk of any disease by more than 50 percent.

My Take on Meat

It seems from this paper that we should be cautious when we say that eating or not eating red meat poses a danger to our health. Not only are the data limited and easy to skew, but the data on the increased risk of disease forces us to ask, “How much of a difference does this really make?”

In my opinion, we should not be worried about meat so much as wheat and simple carbs like pasta, bread, cookies, and flour. Meat should only worry us when it’s in excess or excessively cooked, as one study has shown that charred meats contain carcinogens (Zheng et al. 2009).

Of course, I have long believed, and still believe, that individual differences can make or break a diet for anyone. This is why I design an individualized anti-cancer lifestyle plan for each of my patients. For patients whose baseline risk for disease is elevated due to heredity or past behavior, I adjust their plans accordingly.

What You Should Do

When our modern methods fail to provide satisfying answers to these questions, we can be sure of one thing: uncertainty about how much does not equal a license to let ourselves go. In other words, it would be detrimental to your health if you used uncertainty as an excuse for irresolution and made a habit of saying, “Well, since we don’t really know, I guess I’ll just stick to my usual breakfast of three fried eggs and half a pig.”

While we may have reasons to be skeptical about the “statistically significant correlations” that bring smiles to every researcher’s face, we cannot afford to be wishy-washy about our commitment to a balanced diet of whole foods. Balance, unlike meat, has well-known effects. Moderation in all things—that’s the key.


Klurfeld, D. M. Research gaps in evaluating the relationship of meat and health. Meat Science(0). doi:

Zheng, W., & Lee, S.-A. (2009). Well-done Meat Intake, Heterocyclic Amine Exposure, and Cancer Risk. Nutrition and Cancer61(4), 437–446. doi:10.1080/01635580802710741

On Juicing…


On Juicing


A common question I get asked daily is on the value of juicing.  I tell you, if you want to get a nice, constant and non-stimulant burst of energy, there is nothing like a nice squeezed fresh veggie juice. Try it and you will see what I am talking about.

The Downside of Juicing:

  1. It’s an acquired taste ( so is diet soda’s and lots of people drink diet soda – which is sooo nasty.) It’s worth getting used to.
  2. Can be a pain in the behind to clean the machine when made at home
  3. Can be expensive (anywhere between $7 to $9 of a 16-ounces juice)

The upside? Read on….

Why juice?

Juicing is a cornerstone treatment in many natural cancer therapies. Juicing provides cells with live enzymes and oxygen rich fresh food. It provides concentrated enzymes and nutrients that help detoxify the body and allow it to heal sufficiently to get rid of stored toxins.

  1. Rapid absorption. Juicing helps you absorb a large amount of nutrients and plant chemicals nearly instantaneously since the fiber is left behind in the pulp. Wait a minute, isn’t fiber important? Yes it is, however, the purpose of juicing is to get rapid aborptions of nutrients and therapeutic plant chemicals to flood your cells. You can ( should and will) get plenty of fiber from the consumption of whole fruits, vegetables and grains.
  2. Efficient consumption of vegetables. With one glass of vegetable juice you probably consume more vegetables than most people do in one week.
  3. It may help fight and prevent cancer. There seems to be hundreds of protective phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in all plants. Proanthocyanidins and caritnoids are just some of them. For example; broccoli contains indole -3 – carbinol that seems to have protective properties against prostate cancer. That is just one out of over one hundred protective chemical discovered and studied. Why wait for all phytochemicals to be discovered? Juice up and protect yourself.
  4. Gives you energy. Juicing is better than coffee or over the counter energy products for long-term sustained energy. Plus it helps you with the first 3 points of this list unlike energy products, which have detrimental effects.

Juicing is not all you need

Juicing has very no essential fat, no protein and no fiber. Unless you are doing a juice fast, you still need to eat wholesome meals. You can drink a fresh squeezed juice either before or after a meal.

Start slow

If what your juicing is too concentrated (like wheat grass , for example) it can be nauseating. You should feel good and experience more energy within a short-time.

Use Organic whenever possible. Farmer’s market produce is also good. Make sure to wash well. If organic and farmer’s market produce is not available use produce that are LEAST contaminated with pesticides.

If you cannot buy all your juicing vegetables and fruits organically – these are a must to buy organically: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blue blueberries, potatoes ( not for juicing either way) – In other words, AVOID for juicing unless they are organic or not from famer’s market.

NOTE: produce from farmer’s market is typically organically cultivated but they do not announce it because there’s a hefty price for the organic stamp from the USDA. They simply often do not want to pay the extra cost.

Juicing for starters

To enjoy juicing start with vegetables that are more pleasant tasting: Celery, cucumbers, carrots (not more that one or two sticks at time), apples ( not more than one apple) – all organic.

After you get used to juicing add: Red leaf lettuce, Green Leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, Endive, Escarole, Spinach, parsley, bok choy, cilantro.

Bitter vegetables to juice: Kale , Collard Greens , Dandelion Greens ,  Mustard Greens (probably the most bitter). Just two or three sticks should be enough

To make it appetizing: add lemon, lime half an apple and a small piece of fresh ginger (gives it a kick).

Do not store your juice for more than 24 hours. Instructions on storing fresh squeezed juices:

  • Put your juice in a glass jar with an airtight lid and fill it to the very top. Mason jars work just great. There should be a minimum amount of air in the jar as the oxygen will “oxidize” and damage the juice.
  • Immediately store it in the refrigerator and consume it through out the day. It is best to drink it as soon as possible or within 24 hours of juicing.

Making the juice vs. buying by the juice made

Either way is fine. Finding a reliable health food store that makes fresh, organic juices can be challenging in some places. If doing it yourself there are three main concerns: Buying a reliable juicer that is durable and juices well. 2. Finding one that is easy to clean. 3. One this is affordable. Good juicers run between $200 to $1000. I find the best ones to be around $300 or so.

If a juicer is a pain in the (beeeep) to clean – you’re likely not doing it.

I have two favorite juicers:  Omega J8005 Nutrition Center Single-Gear Commercial Masticating Juicer or the Breville 800JEXL Juice Fountain Elite 1000-Watt Juice Extractor ( like this one slightly more)

I like these juicer’s for a few reason’s:

  1. It makes juice at low temperature which helps retains enzymes and nutrients

  2. It’s relatively easy to clean

  3. It’s relatively inexpensive for the quality



Your Parents Were Right All Along: Why You Really Should Eat Your Broccoli


Your Parents Were Right All Along: Why You Really Should Eat Your Broccoli

The Takeaway First

In 2010 researchers discovered that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, reduces the risk of prostate cancer. The latest research adds that this broccoli-derived compound actively kills cancer stem cells. This and other research shows us that the powers of leafy, green vegetables extend further than we think.

The Details

According to a leafy greens review (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015) published a few months ago in the journal Current Pharmacology Reports, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have incredible powers as preventive medicine. Diets high in these vegetables significantly decrease the risk of death from cancer and the risk of developing cancer at all.

This same article explains that eating broccoli is one easy way to create cancer-fighting chemicals in the body. Broccoli turns into glucosinolates, which turn into the sulforaphane. Sulforaphane attacks cancer stem cells and stunts them before they can even begin to metastasize.

On top of all this, eating leafy greens in the same family as broccoli has been found to reduce inflammation (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015).

The authors of another recent article on sulforaphane (Labsch et al., 2014) recommend a high-sulforaphane diet for cancer-prevention and cancer-suppression.

Related to all this, a brand-new Korean study (Hwang & Lim, 2015) found that broccoli stems and leaves actually have a lot more sulforaphane than the florets (the tiny green buds that bloom from the stalk).

My Take On This

Remember when you were a kid, and the only thing left on your plate after dinner was a dark-green pile of stalky vegetables? If you still avoid these greens, now is the time to stop. Broccoli is one of those powerful, natural preventive medicines that I have come to love in my years of practice. I think of it alongside turmeric, pomegranate, and green tea as a major component to maintaining a cancer-unfriendly body.

And that is why I recommend eating broccoli and all cruciferous vegetables.

These are not exactly groundbreaking studies, but they do confirm the findings of a growing body of research that is uncovering the huge benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables—especially for men like you. In my last post on this topic, I mentioned a study where eating cruciferous vegetables decreased men’s risk of prostate cancer by 32% (Steinbrecher et al. 2009). Even after diagnosis, cruciferous vegetables knocked down another group of men’s risk of prostate cancer progression by 59% (Richman et al., 2011). These are not small numbers!

What You Should Do

OK, so chances are your parents did not know that broccoli had such an ability to decrease your risk of cancer, let alone prostate cancer, and I’m 99.9% sure they didn’t know that broccoli directly targets cancer stem cells by flooding your body with sulforaphane—but you have to admit: they were right.

I know you know what to do, but I’ll say it anyway: eat broccoli. Don’t just eat the thinner stalks and the florets; eat the big, chunky stems and the leaves, too. My juicer friends sometimes tell me they add kale and broccoli leaves to their morning smoothies. Make sure to steam them well, however. Raw broccoli contains chemicals called goitrogens which can cause thyroid problems down the road. Also, broccoli is tough to digest when raw. Skip the raw broccoli from the veggie platter at the next party. The carrots are fine to eat raw—and easy on the creamy dip! (I digress.) Personally, I prefer colorful fruits in my smoothies (pomegranate is powerful and delicious) mixed with leafy greens. I do not like broccoli in my smoothie, but you might. Supplements made out of broccoli extract also seem to help – I recommend them often. For your health and your gustatory pleasure (trust me, it’s a word): try one of my favorite recipes:

Creamy Cruciferous Soup by Marti Wolfson – Culinary Nutrition Educator
  • This luscious emerald soup is surprisingly rich sans the cream which many pureed soups contain. I especially love to make this soup transitioning from winter to spring. The liver reaps great benefit from the broccoli, cabbage and as well as aliums such as onions and garlic. You can swap your favorite greens like spinach, kale or dandelion greens or herbs like parsley, thyme, and rosemary.

    Serves 8


    • 1 T. olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 celery stalks, chopped
    • 3 cups chopped broccoli, florets and stems
    • 1 head, fennel, chopped
    • 2 cups chopped savoy or napa cabbage
    • 6 cups water or stock
    • 1 tsp. sea salt
    • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper



    Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Next, add the ginger, garlic, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage and a generous pinch of sea salt and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add the water or stock, remaining sea salt and pepper.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Place the soup in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for salt.



Hwang, J.-H., & Lim, S.-B. (2015). Antioxidant and Anticancer Activities of Broccoli By-Products from Different Cultivars and Maturity Stages at Harvest. Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 20(1), 8–14. doi:10.3746/pnf.2015.20.1.8

Labsch, S., Liu, L. I., Bauer, N., Zhang, Y., Aleksandrowicz, E. W. A., Gladkich, J., . . . Herr, I. (2014). Sulforaphane and TRAIL induce a synergistic elimination of advanced prostate cancer stem-like cells. International Journal of Oncology, 44(5), 1470-1480. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2335

Richman EL, Carroll PR, Chan JM.Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2011 Aug 5.

Royston, K. J., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2015). The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 1(1), 46-51. doi: 10.1007/s40495-014-0003-9

Steinbrecher A, Nimptsch K, Husing A, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary glucosinolate intake and risk of prostate cancer in the EPIC-Heidelberg cohort study. Int J Cancer 2009; 125: 2179–86.

Pomegranate: the Superfruit!


Pomegranate: the Superfruit!

The Takeaway First

Remember years ago when I was raving about pomegranates? I’m still raving, and it’s because scientists are finding out more and more about the power of pomegranate juice and extract to boost male health. The latest findings, which I list below, confirm that pomegranate extract induces cancer cell death, blocks free radicals, and counters inflammation. For these and other reasons, pomegranate is a genuine superfruitso put it on your shopping list!

The Details of Studies

The latest study (Lucci et al., 2015) on pomegranate and prostate cancer, published this past January in the journal Food Chemistry, found that pomegranate extract had a strong ability to block the growth of new cancer cells—also known as an antiproliferative property. This study also confirmed that pomegranate contained powerful antioxidants and healthy fats.

Another study (Ammar et al., 2015) published around the same time in the journal Prostate looked at how pomegranate extract affected prostate enlargement in rats. Compared to controls, the prostates of rats that received pomegranate extract shrunk by a whopping 30 percent. OK, we are talking about rats here, but still.

My Take on Pomegranates

It’s very interesting living in the 21st century because of the way traditional medicine and modern science are colliding. Pomegranates have been used in Indian Ayurveda traditional medicine for thousands of years, and now scientists are taking these traditions into the lab to examine their specific effects, and the specific mechanisms by which they do what they do.

The body is a complicated machine, so I don’t mean to claim that pomegranate juice or extract, by itself, is going to cure you of any disease without incorporating other key nutrients and lifestyle practices. Foods are just about as complicated as we are, and frankly, we only know a tiny bit about the numerous chemicals that give pomegranates their effect. However, the latest findings provide a pretty good reason to give pomegranates a place in our dietary lifestyle. Besides their antiproliferative and antioxidant properties, pomegranates can be an aid in weight management and can also help to manage diabetes. They contain good fiber and plenty of nutrients, too. Because of pomegranates’ high anti-oxidant content, scholars have suggested that it could aid in circulation and cardiovascular health (Zhang et al., 2011). Oh and yes, pomegranate can improve blood flow down below and possibly improve erectile function. (I’m waiting eagerly for more research on this!)

What You Should Do

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the benefits of pomegranates. My personal recommendation is to eat pomegranate seeds whole ( in a salad or something) or blend them together in a refreshing smoothie. After all, whole foods work synergistically; this means that you’ll get a lot more from eating the fruit as it appears on the tree than, say, from ingesting a few ingredients isolated in a lab. If it’s hard to get the whole fruit where you live, then by all means take a dietary supplement. I do. We can see from the latest research that even pomegranate “extract” has powerful effects.


Ammar, A. E., Esmat, A., Hassona, M. D., Tadros, M. G., Abdel-Naim, A. B., & Guns, E. S. (2015). The effect of pomegranate fruit extract on testosterone-induced BPH in rats. Prostate, 75(7), 679-692. doi: 10.1002/pros.22951

Lucci, P., Pacetti, D., Loizzo, M. R., & Frega, N. G. (2015). Punica granatum cv. Dente di Cavallo seed ethanolic extract: antioxidant and antiproliferative activities. Food Chem, 167, 475-483. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.06.123

Zhang, Q., Radisavljevic, Z. M., Siroky, M. B., & Azadzoi, K. M. (2011). Dietary antioxidants improve arteriogenic erectile dysfunction. International Journal of Andrology, 34(3), 225-235. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2010.01083.x

More Than a Pick-Me-Up: the Dramatic Health Benefits of your Daily Coffee


More Than a Pick-Me-Up: the Dramatic Health Benefits of your Daily Coffee

The Takeaway First

About 50% of Americans drink coffee every day, but far fewer Americans know that regular coffee drinking has substantial health benefits. According to several studies published over the past two years, coffee has an effect on your heart, your brain, your bones, and your risks of diseases over the lifetime. Despite the benefits, the potential drawbacks from coffee’s caffeine content are worth considering. Know thyself, as they say, and drink carefully.


A German study (Bakuradze et al., 2014) found that four weeks of regular coffee consumption increased feelings of satiety after eating. This and the subjects’ loss of body fat suggests that coffee might help with weight loss or chronic overeating.

The same study found that drinking coffee tended to protect DNA from harmful mutations that could lead to cancer (Bakuradze et al, 2014). And an updated study supports the notion of coffee protecting DNA integrity. (Bakuradze et al, 2015).

A broad review article found that regular coffee consumption reduced the risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, and depression (O’Keefe et al., 2013). The same article reports that coffee either has no effect or a positive effect on cardiovascular health.

O’Keefe et al. (2013) also found that coffee reduced the risk of neurodegenerative disease.

A Brazilian study found that drinking coffee in very low doses reduced hepatic fibrosis in adults with Hepatitis C (Machado et al., 2013).

In one meta-analysis (analysis of many studies already published), regular coffee consumption decreased the risk of fractures by almost 25% in men (Lee et al., 2014).

A study of Spanish adults found that regular coffee consumption had no significant adverse effects on health-related quality of life (Lopez-Garcia et al., 2013).

An older study found that regular coffee consumption had no effect on long term risk of coronary heart disease specifically (Wu et al., 2009).

My Take on Coffee and Health

Coffee, like most naturally occurring mixtures, is not just water, caffeine, and coffee molecules. Well, in some sense it is, but “coffee molecules” consist of countless and diverse chemicals, from methylxanthines to diterpine alcohols to chlorogenic acids to antioxidants, all of which combine to give coffee its complex effect. The effect we all know is the mental effect of increased alertness and decreased feelings of sleepiness.

Besides this effect are numerous side-effects, though. Side-effects are not necessarily bad, as we can 

see from the scientific findings that I noted above. Living longer with less disease is nothing to complain about. However, I want to remind you that every food, coffee included, has complex and far-reaching consequences for the body and for the rest of the lifestyle. Drinking coffee, for instance, might wake you up in the morning, but it can also keep you from sleeping at night. A poor sleep schedule leads to more fatigue, and more fatigue makes that second (or third, or fourth) cup of coffee smell awfully delicious, and pretty soon you’re a wreck every morning unless you drink five cups of coffee. This is not only excessive but expensive, depending on your source.

People who drink coffee daily need to know their limits. Too often in New York I see people more high-strung and stressed out than I ever thought possible, and then I see a quivering cup of coffee in their hand and think, “Hm.” Coffee affects your entire body, but most importantly it affects your brain. And by this point in your life you have come to terms with the fact that you’re not invincible. All this is to say, be aware of the benefits of coffee, but also remember that adding caffeine to your diet changes your wake-sleep patterns, your feelings of tiredness, and your appetite. You can live a happy, healthy life with or without coffee.

What You Should Do

I value your independent thinking, so I won’t give you a prescription for Starbucks. But I will say this: consider the place of coffee in your lifestyle. Nutritional science tells us that adding any substance to your diet has numerous effects on your body chemistry. Coffee contains caffeine, which tends to create a chemical dependency, so drink carefully. Know your own mind; avoid coffee if you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Limit caffeine after noon to avoid insomnia. Also, counterbalance coffee consumption with a good amount of water. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will make you eliminate fluids more frequently. With so many benefits, it’s worth a shot.


Bakuradze, T., Parra, G. A. M., Riedel, A., Somoza, V., Lang, R., Dieminger, N., . . . Richling, E. (2014). Four-week coffee consumption affects energy intake, satiety regulation, body fat, and protects DNA integrity. Food Research International, 63, Part C(0), 420-427. doi:

Lee, D. R., Lee, J., Rota, M., Lee, J., Ahn, H. S., Park, S. M., & Shin, D. (2014). Coffee consumption and risk of fractures: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Bone, 63(0), 20-28. doi:

Lopez-Garcia, E., Guallar-Castillon, P., Leon-Muñoz, L., Graciani, A., & Rodriguez-Artalejo, F. (2014). Coffee consumption and health-related quality of life. Clinical Nutrition, 33(1), 143-149. doi:

Machado, S. R., Parise, E. R., & de Carvalho, L. (2014). Coffee has hepatoprotective benefits in Brazilian patients with chronic hepatitis C even in lower daily consumption than in American and European populations. The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 18(2), 170-176. doi:

O’Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of Habitual Coffee Consumption on Cardiometabolic Disease, Cardiovascular Health, and All-Cause Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(12), 1043-1051. doi:

Wu, J.-n., Ho, S. C., Zhou, C., Ling, W.-h., Chen, W.-q., Wang, C.-l., & Chen, Y.-m. (2009). Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 137(3), 216-225. doi: