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Heart-brain connection: Fitness now protects your brain in your 70s and 80s

Stay fit today; avoid dementia tomorrow

It’s well-known exercise plays a vital role in your physical health, and now studies propose staying fit in midlife may protect your brain as well, avoiding mental deteriation in later years.

A new study, published in Neurology, that followed Swedish women for more than 40 years,  suggests one’s level of physical fitness predicts the amount of protection from dementia decades later.1

Swedish dementia/exercise study began 50 years ago

At the onset of the study in 1968, 191 Swedish women ranging in age from 38 to 60 took part in a vigorous stationary cycling test to measure their exercise work capacity. Based on work capacity, women were split into low, medium, and high fitness categories. The women were followed from 1968 to 2012, and dementia diagnoses were recorded.

The measurement of exercise capacity is an important aspect of the strength of this study –  it was based on the participants’ actual performance rather than relying on participants’ subjective reports of how much, how vigorously, and how often they exercised.

Strong association between fitness and likelihood of dementia decades later

Dementia incidence correlated with fitness level, the greater the fitness level, the less the dementia: 32 percent, 25 percent, and 5 percent of women developed dementia in the low, medium, and high fitness groups, respectively.1 This particular study is one of the longest, following participants for up to 44 years, but shorter studies have come to similar conclusions.2-4

Another very interesting finding: in the subset of women whose initial exercise tests had to be stopped because of issues such as excessively high blood pressure, chest pain, or an abnormal EKG change, almost half (nine out of twenty women) developed dementia. Fit women who did develop dementia did so much later in life. Among the five percent of fit women who eventually developed dementia, the average age of development of dementia was eleven years later compared to the medium fitness group – age 90 vs. 79 – an extra eleven years of dementia-free life.

Midlife fitness also linked to brain volume 19 years later

In another study, the effects of midlife physical fitness on the brain were visualized with MRI. Participants at an average age of 40 performed a treadmill test to determine their exercise capacity. Lower exercise capacity at midlife was associated with smaller total cerebral brain volume 19 years later, suggesting having a higher fitness level helps prevent brain shrinkage with age.5

Diet determines your propensity for fitness

Important to note, one’s fitness level is strongly linked to what you eat.  People who are overweight  as well as those who don’t eat healthfully, do  not have the will, energy or capacity for regular exercise.  When you eat right, you’re more likely to get fit; when you don’t eat right it is very difficult to get fit.

A nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet (Nutritarian) is the most critical determinant influencing whether one gets dementia or not.  When you eat right  you automatically crave exercise and it becomes pleasurable to do so.

This study also demonstrates the wide variety of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and several cancers when you get fit. Mixing together nutritional excellence and exercise is when the magic happens to protect yourself from the common diseases of aging.  Exercise offers additional benefits to cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity, as well as some direct effects in the brain, such as the release of protective compounds called neurotrophins.6,7

At any age, fitness is vital for your present and future brain health.

It is never too late to start exercising and you are never too old. Studies have documented cognitive benefits from exercise (strength training and aerobic training) in all age groups, from children to the elderly.6-9  Today is the day to make sure you do both; eat right and get fit.

Originally printed on DrFuhrman.com. Reprinted with permission.


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, six-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
 
For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

References

  1. Horder H, Johansson L, Guo X, et al. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia: A 44-year longitudinal population study in women. Neurology 2018.
  2. Defina LF, Willis BL, Radford NB, et al. The association between midlife cardiorespiratory fitness levels and later-life dementia: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med 2013, 158:162-168.
  3. Liu R, Sui X, Laditka JN, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of dementia mortality in men and women. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012, 44:253-259.
  4. Willis BL, Gao A, Leonard D, et al. Midlife fitness and the development of chronic conditions in later life. Arch Intern Med 2012, 172:1333-1340.
  5. Spartano NL, Himali JJ, Beiser AS, et al. Midlife exercise blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness relate to brain volume 2 decades later. Neurology 2016, 86:1313-1319.
  6. Kandola A, Hendrikse J, Lucassen PJ, Yucel M. Aerobic Exercise as a Tool to Improve Hippocampal Plasticity and Function in Humans: Practical Implications for Mental Health Treatment. Front Hum Neurosci 2016, 10:373.
  7. Kirk-Sanchez NJ, McGough EL. Physical exercise and cognitive performance in the elderly: current perspectives. Clin Interv Aging 2014, 9:51-62.
  8. Fiatarone Singh MA, Gates N, Saigal N, et al. The Study of Mental and Resistance Training (SMART) study-resistance training and/or cognitive training in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized, double-blind, double-sham controlled trial. J Am Med Dir Assoc 2014, 15:873-880.
  9. Mavros Y, Gates N, Wilson GC, et al. Mediation of Cognitive Function Improvements by Strength Gains After Resistance Training in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Outcomes of the Study of Mental and Resistance Training. J Am Geriatr Soc 2016.
antioxidant-3445989_640

Does juicing really “detox” the body?

Anything that promises detoxification sounds a little questionable – like products that claim to “pull toxins out of your system” or “cleanse the liver.”  The body does have detoxification mechanisms that are working all the time, and both healthful eating and intermittent fasting can accelerate those processes. Several-day juice “fasts” are one way to tap into the benefits of intermittent fasting and enhance removal of toxins from the body, because the body enhances the removal of toxins when not digesting food and burning more fat for its energy needs. Our fat supply stores toxins, and when we lose body fat we release more toxic waste simultaneously. The body also needs adequate phytochemical and antioxidants for the liver to most effectively process fat-soluble toxins so they can be excreted via the urine.

Get into the catabolic phase

We’re always either in a fed state or a fasting state; you’ve likely read about the anabolic and catabolic phases of digestion in my books or articles that discuss toxic hunger. When we are eating, digesting, and absorbing nutrients from food, we are in the anabolic phase; think of it like filling your car’s tank with gas. That is followed by the catabolic phase, between meals, in which our energy needs are met by burning energy that we stored during the anabolic phase.

The catabolic phase is when most healing and self-repair happens, and there is evidence that prolonged time in this fasting (catabolic) state has significant health benefits. Also, these benefits don’t necessarily require an extended, several-day water fast, which is difficult for most people to commit to.

I always say, the longer you live in the catabolic phase, the longer you live. Here’s why: Being in a fasting state shifts the body’s cells away from growth, and instead toward a mode of maintenance and repair.1,2 This repair mode is associated with a reduction in insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) production; two hormones that play a huge role in health and longevity.3,4 These hormonal changes lead to reduced inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity and stress resistance, slower cell growth, improved immune function, and reduced oxidative stress.5,6  Fasting also stimulates autophagy, an important self-repair process. Autophagy removes damaged components from cells and tissues.7

Eating right is already detox; calorie restriction enhances the benefits

On a cellular level, many dietary phytochemicals – such as isothiocyanates derived from cruciferous vegetables, sulfur compounds from garlic and onions, and carotenoids from a variety of colorful produce – drive the production of enzymes that enable the excretion of carcinogens and other potentially harmful compounds. This detoxification system counteracts oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA damage.8  Eating right, in itself, enables valuable detoxification mechanisms.

Caloric restriction adds to this, and has been the one intervention that extends life in a number of different species. Adding periodic calorie restriction to an already nutrient-rich diet could intensify the body’s ability to heal and repair by extending the amount of time in the fasting repair mode and reducing growth-related signals.4  It also can enhance the breakdown and excretion of fat-soluble toxins; lowering the body’s toxic load.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting or a juice detox could also be a warm-up to incorporating occasional water fasting. Back in 1995, in my book, Fasting and Eating For Health, I discussed my experience of how fasting improved health parameters in my patients. I also co-authored a series of case reports documenting remission of autoimmune diseases following supervised fasting.9  More recently, fasting has been shown to have dramatic regenerative effects on the immune system. Studies over the past few years in animals and humans have suggested that fasting signals the immune system to discard old and damaged cells and generate new cells by increasing hematopoietic stem cells. The reduction in IGF-1 signaling was a necessary factor in this immune boosting. 6,10

Intermittent fasting – usually by reducing calorie intake dramatically a few days per week – is a method for getting some of the benefits of longer-term fasting. Human studies on intermittent fasting suggest it improves insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss.2,11,12

I recommend incorporating a juice detox into your life, with vegetable juices plus one salad per day for several days, to act as a method of intermittent fasting, to slow aging and prolong lifespan as an easier alternative to water fasting.  Water fasting has a rapidly decreasing effect at removing toxins, as nutrients necessary for the removal also decrease as the fast progresses. Also, juice fasting enables the participants to continue to work and is safer, compared to water fasting, as it prevents dehydration, loss of electrolytes and fainting. It is also compatible for people who must remain on medications, so almost anyone can participate.

Tips for juicing wisely

  • Figure out a timeline you’re comfortable with. You may want to try juicing one day a week, or you may want to try a week-long juice cleanse.
  • Juice should be mostly vegetables, not fruit. Apple juice with a little kale added doesn’t bring much benefit. The maximum amount of fruit in a vegetable juice should be one serving of a low-sugar fruit, such as green apple or berries. The rest should be nutrient-rich vegetables, leafy greens in particular. Lemon and lime juice can be added to flavor your juice without counting toward the fruit serving. Include cucumber, lettuce and celery juice, along with carrots, beets, and some leafy cruciferous greens such as cabbage, kale or bok choy.
  • Follow it up with a health-promoting diet. A few days of juicing can be a great way to reset your taste buds and jumpstart a new, healthful, nutrient-rich diet. However, there is no health benefit of trying to use a juice cleanse as temporary detox, just a break from an everyday junk food diet. This only works if you stick with a Nutritarian diet for the rest of your life, incorporating some juicing and caloric restriction episodically.
  • If you have a serious medical condition or are on any medication, consult a physician before starting a juice detox.

Originally printed on DrFuhrman.com. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Fuhrman.


Dr. Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. He is President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and the author of 6 NY Times bestselling books, including The End of Heart Disease. Visit him at DrFuhrman.com.

References

  1. van Niekerk G, Hattingh SM, Engelbrecht AM. Enhanced Therapeutic Efficacy in Cancer Patients by Short-term Fasting: The Autophagy Connection. Front Oncol 2016, 6:242.
  2. Mattson MP, Longo VD, Harvie M. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Res Rev 2017, 39:46-58.
  3. Pan H, Finkel T. Key proteins and pathways that regulate lifespan. J Biol Chem 2017, 292:6452-6460.
  4. Solon-Biet SM, Mitchell SJ, de Cabo R, et al. Macronutrients and caloric intake in health and longevity. J Endocrinol 2015, 226:R17-28.
  5. Longo VD, Mattson MP. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell Metab 2014, 19:181-192.
  6. Cheng CW, Adams GB, Perin L, et al. Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression. Cell Stem Cell 2014, 14:810-823.
  7. Mattson MP, Allison DB, Fontana L, et al. Meal frequency and timing in health and disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014, 111:16647-16653.
  8. Stefanson AL, Bakovic M. Dietary regulation of Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway: focus on plant-derived compounds and trace minerals. Nutrients 2014, 6:3777-3801.
  9. Fuhrman J, Sarter B, Calabro DJ. Brief case reports of medically supervised, water-only fasting associated with remission of autoimmune disease. Altern Ther Health Med 2002, 8:112, 110-111.
  10. Wu S. Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system. In USC News2014 [http://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/]
  11. Antoni R, Johnston KL, Collins AL, Robertson MD. Effects of intermittent fasting on glucose and lipid metabolism. Proc Nutr Soc 2017, 76:361-368.
  12. Tinsley GM, La Bounty PM. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev 2015, 73:661-67
fries

Eating Junk Food Raises Cancer Risk, Even for Slim Women

Whether you are slim or obese, one thing is clear: calorie-dense processed foods increase cancer risk, regardless of body weight.

Researchers studied data from 92,000 postmenopausal women who took part in the Women’s Health Initiative, a 15-year study of health in postmenopausal women. They focused on the energy density of the women’s diets – “high energy” diets are synonymous with “high calorie” diets – and noted the number of calories per gram of the total diet.

The researchers made an unexpected finding: Women in the top fifth of energy density were 10 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer compared to the bottom fifth, and this relationship was found in women who were at a normal weight at baseline.2 These cancers include colorectal, pancreatic, endometrial, ovarian, liver, kidney, gallbladder, and postmenopausal breast cancers.1 This increase in risk was associated with the calorie density of the women’s diets.2

The results suggested: If you choose low-nutrient, energy-dense foods, it will affect your health even if it doesn’t affect your waistline. Just because you’re slim doesn’t mean junk food isn’t damaging your health.

Energy density vs. nutrient density

Dietary energy density in this study was defined as the number of calories per gram in a food of the entire diet. For the most part, typical high energy-dense foods, such as baked goods, French fries, burgers, pizza and desserts, are low in nutrient density (micronutrients per gram). High nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes, tend to be low in energy density.

Following a diet that is high in nutrient density and low in energy density is essential for good health. This is the origin of my health equation H = N/C (Health = Nutrients per Calorie). A high ratio of micronutrients to calories is the basis of a healthful diet.

How energy density might promote cancer

Obesity contributes to cancer in a variety of ways: for example, excess fat tissue causes a state of low-grade inflammation, promotes insulin resistance, and produces estrogen.1,3-5 6 However, calorie-rich junk food has effects – other than weight gain – that could contribute to cancer development:

  • Elevated insulin and IGF-1 levels: From high-glycemic processed foods and high animal protein foods, respectively. Excess of these pro-growth hormones is linked to an increased risk of several cancers.4
  • Oxidative stress and inflammation.7
  • Nutrient inadequacies:8 Many Americans do not meet recommended intakes of magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.9
  • Lack of protective phytochemicals from natural plant foods (such as glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables and lignans from flax and chia seeds).10,11
  • Excess folic acid from fortified refined foods:  Anyone in the U.S. who eats a typical diet (especially those who also take a conventional multivitamin) is exposed to excessive amounts of folic acid due to mandatory fortification of refined grain products. Although rates of neural tube defects have gone down, there are serious concerns about the potential cancer-promoting effects of exposing the whole population to synthetic folic acid daily in the food supply. 12-15  (Read more: Folate Position Paper)

When you eat a diet with more micronutrients and fewer calories, you age more slowly, and also improve immune system protection against cancer.  When you eat excess calories, especially excess calories that do not contain a significant micronutrient load, you accelerate aging and increase your risk of cancer.  You can exercise off those extra calories, but they will still negatively affect your health. It is not enough to be at a healthy weight – you must actually eat healthfully to age more slowly, prevent cancer, and live a long healthy life.

Originally printed on DrFuhrman.com. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Fuhrman.


Dr. Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. He is President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and the author of 6 NY Times bestselling books, including The End of Heart Disease.  Visit him at DrFuhrman.com

References:

  1. National Cancer Institute: Obesity and Cancer. In 2017 [https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet]
  2. Thomson CA, Crane TE, Garcia DO, et al. Association between Dietary Energy Density and Obesity-Associated Cancer: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative. J Acad Nutr Diet 2017.
  3. Coelho M, Oliveira T, Fernandes R. Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ. Arch Med Sci 2013, 9:191-200.
  4. Cohen DH, LeRoith D. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer: the insulin and IGF connection. Endocr Relat Cancer 2012, 19:F27-45.
  5. Kolb R, Sutterwala FS, Zhang W. Obesity and cancer: inflammation bridges the two. Curr Opin Pharmacol 2016, 29:77-89.
  6. Cleary MP, Grossmann ME. Minireview: Obesity and breast cancer: the estrogen connection. Endocrinology 2009, 150:2537-2542.
  7. Saha SK, Lee SB, Won J, et al. Correlation between Oxidative Stress, Nutrition, and Cancer Initiation. Int J Mol Sci 2017, 18.
  8. Ames BN. Prevention of mutation, cancer, and other age-associated diseases by optimizing micronutrient intake. J Nucleic Acids 2010, 2010.
  9. Fulgoni VL, 3rd, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011, 141:1847-1854.
  10. Stefanson AL, Bakovic M. Dietary regulation of Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway: focus on plant-derived compounds and trace minerals. Nutrients 2014, 6:3777-3801.
  11. Shukla S, Meeran SM, Katiyar SK. Epigenetic regulation by selected dietary phytochemicals in cancer chemoprevention. Cancer Lett 2014, 355:9-17.
  12. Smith AD, Kim YI, Refsum H. Is folic acid good for everyone? Am J Clin Nutr 2008, 87:517-533.
  13. Figueiredo JC, Grau MV, Haile RW, et al. Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 2009, 101:432-435.
  14. Kim YI. Will mandatory folic acid fortification prevent or promote cancer? Am J Clin Nutr 2004, 80:1123-1128.
  15. Mason JB. Folate, cancer risk, and the Greek god, Proteus: a tale of two chameleons. Nutr Rev 2009, 67:206-212.
heart-stethoscope

Body Fat Promotes Heart Disease

Risk factors for heart disease – elevated LDL cholesterol, hypertension, elevated triglycerides, inflammation, and blood glucose – are all exacerbated by excess body fat, and overweight/obesity itself is considered a risk factor.1-3

Is it beneficial to be a little overweight?

However, there has been controversy about a potential “obesity paradox” in heart disease: the idea that some amount of excess weight either does not pose any risk or is even protective. Unfortunately, the studies that suggest there may be a protective effect of body fat are often the ones that get more news coverage; but this does a disservice to an already overweight and nutritionally misguided public, allowing them to believe that excess body fat won’t harm their health.

Is there really an obesity paradox? Or is it just that BMI is not a good measure of body fat?

Many of these studies have used body mass index (BMI), however BMI, which only takes into account height and weight, is not an accurate indicator of body fatness. BMI does not distinguish between fat mass and lean mass, nor does it take into account fat distribution (visceral fat vs. subcutaneous fat). Many people whose weights are within the “normal” BMI range are still carrying excess fat.

There has been no evidence providing a convincing explanation of how excess fat could possibly provide a cardiovascular advantage.  Plus, there are numerous medical conditions may cause unintentional weight loss, including depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases, cancers, and digestive disorders. In the elderly especially, a low BMI may be an indicator of muscle loss and frailty rather than an indicator of a healthy low level of body fat. In short, people who are thinner are not necessarily healthier.

Relationship between body fat and heart disease: using better measures than BMI

A new study  is helping to clear this issue up,4 in a cohort of almost 300,000 people in the UK (age 40-69) who were followed for an average of 5 years. Their first analysis puts the optimal range of BMI for heart disease prevention at 22-23 kg/m2. It was a “J-shaped” association, meaning risk rose both above and below the 22-23 range. But the researchers went further. They used multiple measures of body fatness to get a more accurate picture: waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, and percent body fat.

Ultimately, what the researchers found was that using BMI produces different results than the other indicators. BMI was the only one that showed an increase in risk at the low end (<18.5 kg/m2). When they excluded smokers and participants with pre-existing diseases, the increase in risk associated with low BMI almost disappeared.  The more accurate measures of body fatness – body fat percentage, waist circumference, waist-to-hip-ratio, and waist-to-height ratio – showed a clear trend: more body fat, greater risk.4

More body fat, greater cardiovascular risk

The researchers concluded that the obesity paradox observation mainly occurs due to confounding effects of disease and other factors on BMI, and that the “public misconception of a potential ‘protective’ effect of fat on CVD risk should be challenged.”4

As discussed above, a low BMI is often an indicator of disease, rather than an indicator of a healthy weight resulting from healthful eating. The standard American diet (SAD) is fattening. If someone is eating the SAD and is not overweight, there is likely something wrong.

Lose weight permanently on a Nutritarian diet

The dramatic weight loss-promoting effect of the Nutritarian diet contributes to cardiovascular protection. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine analyzed and reported weight loss results provided by 75 obese patients who had switched to a Nutritiarian diet. The average weight loss was 55 pounds, and very importantly, they kept the weight off. None of these respondents had gained back the lost weight after three years.5

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Fuhrman.


Dr. Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. He is President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and the author of 6 NY Times bestselling books, including The End of Heart Disease.  Visit him at DrFuhrman.com

References

  1. Coelho M, Oliveira T, Fernandes R. Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ. Arch Med Sci 2013, 9:191-200.
  2. Tchernof A, Despres JP. Pathophysiology of human visceral obesity: an update. Physiol Rev 2013, 93:359-404.
  3. Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2017, 135:e146-e603.
  4. Iliodromiti S, Celis-Morales CA, Lyall DM, et al. The impact of confounding on the associations of different adiposity measures with the incidence of cardiovascular disease: a cohort study of 296 535 adults of white European descent. Eur Heart J 2018:ehy057-ehy057.
  5. Fuhrman J, Singer M. Improved Cardiovascular Parameter With a Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Rich Diet-Style: A Patient Survey With Illustrative Cases. Am J Lifestyle Med 2015.
fast food

Fast Food Genocide

In his latest book, Fast Food Genocide, Dr. Fuhrman details the shocking role diet has played in derailing the American dream for large segments of our population. He explains how these foods destroy not only our physical health, leading to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease — he also explores the previously overlooked association of diet’s influence on behavior, emotional health and intellect. The fast and processed food industries keep people hooked on their unhealthy, highly addictive products and that has led to a national health crisis. This tragic and far-reaching epidemic of inferior nutrition can be turned around, and Dr. Fuhrman offers hope, explaining the powerful way a Nutritarian Diet can solve what has become a national health crisis. It is an eye-opening book all of us need to read and share with our friends. Below, Dr. Fuhrman answers what motivated him to write this book and some of the questions surrounding it.

How Can Fast Food Be Genocide?

Genocide — the deliberate destruction of a population — is the most accurate way to describe fast food’s devastating effects on our society. Processed, nutrient-barren products are designed by the food industry to be highly addictive, cheap to produce, and highly profitable. These products do not contain the nutrients humans need to thrive, and in those using them as a primary food source, it has created an explosion of disease, much suffering and death. Fast food and processed foods also damage our genes, which we pass on to our children and grandchildren, and we are seeing dangerous increases in autism, learning disabilities, allergies, autoimmune disease and childhood cancer. This must be stopped.

Which Foods Are The Most Dangerous?

I define fast food in two ways: First, it is the food served at commercial chain restaurants, where processed meats, pizza, burgers, French fries, pretzels, soft drinks, and rich desserts are made in an assembly-line process, with commercial ingredients that are duplicated and dispersed all over the world. Second, it is any commercially-made convenience food that includes artificial ingredients, processed grains, sweeteners, salt, and oil, all with high-caloric concentration and minimal nutrient content. These foods have now become the majority of calories consumed in America.

Why Are These Foods So Damaging to Our Health?

A person who eats fast food, fried food and processed food has an increased risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, depression, and mental illness. Even moderate use of fast food is dangerous. For example, one serving of commercial French fries per week is linked to an over 25 percent increase in risk of developing breast cancer. The World Health Organization has declared that processed meats are a class 1 carcinogen in humans, which places them in the same category as asbestos and cigarette smoking. Fake food produces cancer-promoting signals, damages blood vessel and builds plaque. The food is most often high in calories and fattening. Weight gain has its own dangerous consequences. Body fat produces pro-inflammatory signals, raises blood pressure, drives insulin resistance and secretes growth signals that promote cancer.

How Does Fast Food Contribute to Depression and Mental Illness?

The scope of the effects of fast food on the brain is not yet known, but based on what we know so far, we greatly underestimate these effects, especially the effects on the brains of children. A single episode of elevated blood sugar has been shown to have negative effects on attention and memory. Eating commercial baked goods and fast food is primary causative factor in mental illness and major depression, and brain imaging studies have suggested that elevated blood sugar impairs the brain’s ability to process emotion. For young children, fast food, candy and soda consumption are linked to behavior and attention problems, and depression and suicide in teens. Mental illness now affects one in five in America, and our poor diet is at the foundation of this epidemic.

Why Isn’t This Information More Widely Known?

Some reasons why we are ignoring the devastating health crisis that is right before our eyes is that; we believe food industry propaganda and easily misled by conflicting information; we develop a desire for become addicted to these toxic foods; and we believe in the heavily promoted dogma that modern medical care can save us from nutritional-induced tragedies.

Food companies have discovered how to feed the most people in the most efficient and cost-effective manner to maximize profits. While the marketing spin promotes moderate consumption as safe, and encouraged by social norms. Scientific studies demonstrate otherwise.

REGISTER for Dr. Fuhrman’s upcoming webinar on this topic, Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food Are Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Watch live or recorded! Register now >


Joel Fuhrman, M.D.Dr. Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. He is President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and the author of 6 NY Times bestselling books, including The End of Heart Disease.  Visit him at DrFuhrman.com