Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reasonably Raw In Viet Nam

If you are going to be away from home in a foreign land and want to eat raw, then Viet Nam is the place to be. After a five mile run and the beach and a quick swim I make a fruit smoothie with the travel blender that I've brought with me. I thought my smoothies back home were good. Pineapple, freshly squeezed orange juice, and the water and meat of a young coconut. Out of this world!

Later in the morning I've have bananas, a mango, and maybe watermelon. Yesterday I had my second durian. This one was much better than the first. I can't say it was delicious, but I might get to like it. It is filling and heavy, kind of like a custard or pudding. I don't know how to describe how it tastes, a little bit of vanilla, some sweetness, I give up.

Then it's off to the market for more fruit and lettuce. In the afternoon it's a big salad. With my blender I am able to make my favorite dressing with garlic, tahini, oil, vinegar, lemon juice.

Okay, dinner is not raw, but it's not bad either. Mostly rice and vegetables, or rice noodles and vegetables. It could be worse. It sure is better than the burgers and fries I often end up eating in other places.

Last night Hoa, my Vietnamese friend, treated me to a couple of fruits I had never eaten or seen before, they were excellent. I'll buy more of those today and find out what they are called.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Raw In Asia

Greetings from Viet Nam. I came prepared this time. Loaded my knapsack with lots of raw food goodies for my 30 hours in airplanes and airports for my trip to Nha Trang. I brought fresh bananas and apples. But the best thing I did was bring lots of dehydrated stuff made at home before I left. Best of all was the banana-mango-cinnamon fruit roll-up. It was yummy. The goji berry-cacao-sesame seed wasn't bad either.

I made it through 8 hours of layovers in Chicago and Hong Kong without buying any airport food. I passed on nearly all the airplane food. Now I'm here in Nha Trang and I'm feasting on fresh squeezed orange juice and the best mangoes I've ever tasted. (Tried durian, didn't like it.)

I'm not saying that I'm all raw, but I'm not eating any junk. No fries, no soda, no animals. It is a lot easier to eat better here because the Vietnamese food tastes great without adding meat. There are a lot of choices without having to resort to burgers and fries. And there aren't burger joints everywhere.

I brought my travel blender and small food processor. Now if only I can find the ingredients for all the recipes I brought along with me. I may have a problem finding nuts. Went to the big outdoor market today and they had every kind of rice you could ask for, but no nuts. I think I bought sesame seeds, but I'm not sure. Anyhow, I'm feeling quite healthy considering all the obstacles. I think the key has been being prepared.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The China Study

I've been writing about the findings in the China Study, another chapter in the next book. The New York times calls it:

“…the Grand Prix of all epidemiological studies…the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”

I think you will find this very interesting.

He began his career as a researcher at MIT promoting better health through eating more meat, eggs, and milk. Growing up on a farm, he believed that high-quality animal protein was necessary for good health. But later on, while researching why so many Filipino children were getting liver cancer, Dr. T. Colin Campbell discovered that the children who ate the most protein were the ones contracting the cancer.

Campbell became involved in a twenty-year research project, a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, and the results became known as the China Study. The study researched the connection between diseases and life style factors in rural China and Taiwan. As the New York Times article states, it is “the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.”

The findings were startling, more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between diet and disease. The people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most disease. The people who ate the most plant-based foods got the least. The most important finding out of Dr. Campbell’s research is that the greatest threat to good health is animal protein. It’s not fat, it’s not carbohydrates, it’s animal protein. That includes chicken and fish.

The China Project

The China Project studied the death rates from twelve different kinds of cancer in more than 2,400 counties, 880 million citizens, nearly 96 percent of the population of those counties. 650,000 people worked on the project, the largest ever of its kind. The results showed massive variations in the cancer rates among the different counties. What makes this study so significant is that those being studied came from similar genetic backgrounds. This suggests that cancer is caused by lifestyle and environmental factors and not genetics. In some cases cancers were found to be 100 times greater in one county compared to another.

What makes this study so interesting is that within China there are wide ranges of diets. It is also interesting because diet as studied in the West usually involves the contrast between those rich in animal-based foods and those very rich. In China the diets include mostly plant-based foods. This led to comparing incidence of disease in China to the West.

People in the study were chosen from rural and semi-rural parts of China in order to be assured that they lived in the same area for most of their lives.

Blood Cholesterol

A comparison of the prevalence of cancers, heart disease, and diabetes in each county studied in China with lifestyle and diet indicated that blood cholesterol is linked to these diseases with more than a 99 percent certainty. Lower blood cholesterol levels indicate lower rates of cancer and heart disease.

What was very interesting was that low cholesterol in China is not what we think of in America. In America we are told to keep it below 200. The average level in China was below 130. In some areas women had cholesterol levels of below 90.

Other studies show that the consumption of animal protein increases blood cholesterol. We have been told that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raise cholesterol levels, which is true, but animal protein is even more effective at doing the job. You think you are eating healthy by eating lean chicken, think again. It’s the protein that is responsible for cholesterol more than the fat.


Protein, yes, we all need lots of protein to build strong bodies. That’s what we’ve been told. It is interesting that when the human body is at its fastest stage of growth, the first several years, feeding naturally on breast milk, the protein percentage of breast milk is about 7 percent. Only 7 percent of a baby’s diet consists of protein, not the 15 to 20 percent or more of the typical American diet.

If a baby doesn’t need all that protein, why do adults? The answer probably does not have anything to do with good health but profits for the meat, dairy, and supplements industries.

Back to Dr. Campbell’s work, while trying to find out why the more wealthy children in the Philippines were getting cancer and the poorer were not, he came across an Indian research paper that pointed to protein as being the answer. Rats, predisposed to get liver cancer by being given aflatoxin, when fed a diet of 20 percent protein all developed cancer. Those rats fed a diet of 5 percent protein developed not one case. This led Dr. Campbell to examine more closely the diets of the Filipino children. It turns out that the more “well-fed” children consumed considerably more protein than their poorer counterparts.

Cancer and Protein

To get a better understanding for this, let’s look at how cancer develops. Cancer grows like a lawn. First the seeds get planted, then they sprout and mature, and then they spread and go wild. When we ingest carcinogens we plant the seeds of cancer. Carcinogens mutate healthy cells into cancer-prone cells. The seeds are there in our bodies ready to germinate. That in itself does no damage to the body.

The germination stage can last a long time. In fact, without the right conditions, the cancer will not ever sprout. Just as grass seeds need water and warmth to grow, cancer also needs the right ingredients. It is also known that, like in the growth of a lawn, if the right conditions are removed, the growth can be stopped. This is critical to our understanding of cancer and its spread.

If the favorable conditions persist we have cancer cell growth spreading out of control, creating tumors and moving to other tissues in the body. What does all this have to do with protein? Plenty. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Cancer Society, and the American Institute for Cancer Research, Campbell and others have spent the last twenty years studying cancer and nutrition. This is what they found:

Protein creates the conditions for the germination of the cancer seeds by increasing enzyme activity that allows carcinogens to bind to and mutate DNA. Campbell and his associates found that low protein diets protected again cancer growth by allowing fewer carcinogens into cells. Low protein diets actually reduced tumors.

Cell clusters that are precursors to tumor development, called foci, are entirely dependent upon protein to grow. Even the consumption of carcinogens did not result in tumors unless there was sufficient protein. In their tests with rats, foci did not develop until protein levels reached 10 percent. Above that level tumor development took off. Below that number not one rat developed cancer.

Further studies showed that not all proteins had the same effect on the cancerous cells. Plant protein, even at high levels, did not promote growth. Protein from cow’s milk, however, was the worst.

Fats and Cancer

In America we consume more than 35 percent of our calories as fat. Scientists have been saying that that is too much. But they haven’t pushed to go much below the 30 percent figure. Studies show a close correlation between fat intake and breast cancer. The China Study disclosed that fat consumption varied between 6 and 24 percent of calories from fat. And even at that level there was a significant reduction in risk at the lower levels. In other words, to be protected from risks of cancer dietary fat needs to be down around 10 percent. This sounds like what Dr. Doug Grahman teaches in his books that a healthy diet consists of 80 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent protein, and 10 percent fats. We will be discussing this in a later chapter.


So where does all of this leave us? Quite simply: the food we eat, our nutrition, plays are very big role in the triggering of disease. Plant-based foods lower blood cholesterol. Lower blood cholesterol is related to lower rates of disease. Animal-based foods increase blood cholesterol. Higher blood cholesterol is related to higher rates of disease.

What the China Study points out is that it is not enough to simply eat more fruits and vegetables…and keep eating our burgers, and chicken, and steaks, and salmon. A salad before a meal and bowl of fruit for desert does not begin scratch the surface. In order to enjoy the protection of good nutrition there needs to be a radical change. Even a little animal protein can trigger cancer in humans. Blood cholesterol has to be drastically lowered to prevent heart disease. Protein has to be reduced to prevent cancer.

Fat and cholesterol are factors in all kinds of illness, but what we miss in all of this is that it is the animal protein that we bring into our bodies that cause fat and cholesterol to be there in the first place. The meat and dairy industries want us to think we can lower our fat and cholesterol and eat their products at the same time. That just is not possible. All the lean hamburger, lean chicken, lean fish, in the world is not going to protect you. The problem isn’t in the fat; it’s in the protein. To eliminate protein we have to stop eating animals.

By the way, plant protein and plant fat, are good for you. In fact, they lower your risks of heart disease and cancer. It is also interesting that the Chinese in the study, consuming a plant-based diet, were ingesting more calories per pound of body weight than us Americans—and they are slimmer. Why? Because a plant-based diet allows the body to burn calories as body heat instead of storing them as body fat as do the calories from an animal-based diet. In addition, carbohydrates from plants provide more energy fuel than a more heavy and fatty food from animals. Are you starting to get the picture? It is no wonder when you read about people turning to a more live food way of eating proclaiming that they have so much more energy, need less sleep, have fewer aches and pains, the human body likes the lightness of a plant-based diet.

Principles of Good Health

In summary, Dr. Campbell promotes eight principles for good health as a result of his years of scientific research:

  1. The nutrients in food are packaged together, they work in concert; it is too simplistic to think that one specific nutrient by itself will provide a benefit.
  2. That is why supplements will not save you. Isolating nutrients will not provide the benefits that whole foods provide.
  3. Plants provide all nutrients in a more absorbable and useful way than animals.
  4. Research shows that genes do not determine disease alone. In most cases it takes poor environment and diet to express and trigger them.
  5. Nutrition trumps toxic chemicals. Cancer causing chemicals are all around us. But research shows that nutrition determines if the chemicals cause disease.
  6. Nutrition can halt or reverse disease in its later stages.
  7. Good nutrition supports health across the board.
  8. Good health is a holistic undertaking, it requires exercise, the caring for emotional and mental needs, and concern for the places where we live.

For a more complete understanding read:

The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health, by Campbell, T. Colin, Ph.D. and Campbell, Thomas M. II. (2004) Benbella Books.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Long-Living People

One chapter of the book I am writing on raw foods includes the long-living people. If there are people living long and healthy lives, could we not learn from them? Here is that chapter:

The Long-Living People

Considering the natural diets of our closest relatives in the wild, the primates, is one way to think about what we would eat if we were not influenced by culture or people selling a product for profit. It seems to me that a natural diet would be best. Another approach would be to find people and societies that live the longest and have the healthiest lives.

In the next two chapters we will do exactly that. First we look at four cultures where people live to be extremely old and healthy at the same time. Then we will examine on of the largest studies concerning the relation of diet to health ever conducted—the China Study.

The Abkhasians

In the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia live the Abkhasians. In the 1960’s the Soviets made claims that the people there were living to be well into their 100’s. One Abkhasian got his picture on a postage stamp for being 168 years old. The Dannon yogurt company went out there and made a popular commercial featuring a 110-year-old mother telling her 89-year-old son to eat his yogurt.

It turns out that these people were not as old as they claimed. They were probably “only” in the 90’s and early 100’s. More important than their years was their physical fitness and mental alertness. Researchers found them to be enjoying extremely good health. Only the very oldest had wrinkles. Few needed glasses and most still had their own teeth.

What was their secret? How did they keep healthy into old age? (You are probably wondering what this has to do with raw food.)

The Abkhasians did get a lot of exercise living in the mountains. There is no question that physical activity is essential. They maintained their physical fitness into old age by not retiring and working in the orchards and gardens.

The other factor contributing to their health is diet. Breakfast consists of fresh salad, cornmeal porridge, and a fermented drink made from goat’s milk. Between meals they eat a great deal of fruit. Nuts are also an important part of their diet. They eat almost no meat. They do not eat fatty foods, sugar, salt, or butter. Overeating is considered socially inappropriate.

The Abkhasians do not eat yogurt despite the Dannon commercials. The average cholesterol level of those over 100 is below 100. There is one more thing that may contribute to their long productive lives—the elders are respected and revered simply by being old.

The Vilcabambans

Three hundred miles to the south of Quito, Ecuador, high in the Andes mountains, is the village of Vilcabamba, it is also called the Valley of Longevity. Here the inhabitants frequently live into their 100’s with youthful vigor and vitality. Degenerative diseases do not exist there. No cancer, no diabetes, no osteoporosis, no Alzheimer’s. No heart disease or high blood pressure.

International scientists have studied the Vilcabambanas for half a century and the conclusion has been that their health is the result of their diet and high levels of physical activity. There are no supermarkets in Vilcabamba, no processed foods. Vegetables and fruits are picked fresh daily and eaten on the spot. Occasionally they have milk or eggs, but their diet is essentially fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and whole grains.

It is interesting to note that their protein comes from vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Their fat comes from avocados, seeds, and nuts. They do not consume a large amount of calories compared to American standards. Overweight people cannot be found in Vilcabamba. Because of where they live fresh fruit and vegetables are available year round.

The Hunza

Twenty thousand feet up in the Himalayan Mountains in northwestern Pakistan is Hunza. Probably the most famous of all for being a place where the people live well past 100 and where they have perfect eyesight, no cancer, no heart disease, and no crime. (Also, no money, no banks, no taxes, and no stores.)

It isn’t that these people just are not sickly, they are strong and active their whole lives. They swim in ice-covered streams, the build retaining walls for their gardens; they play wild games of volleyball and polo. What makes them so healthy?

Again, a look at their diet shows that it is quite different from what we have been told is necessary for health by the food industry. They eat less than half the protein and a third of the fat that we do. And it all comes from fruits, vegetables, and grains. They do not eat animals. No food is processed and it is all fresh. The closest they come to processing is drying their fruits. They have a law against spraying their gardens with pesticide.

The Hunzas eat a lot of apricots, and a lot of sprouts. Served at every meal is their bread called “chappti.” They call it a bread, but it is not really baked. After grinding fresh wheat, barley, or millet, they knead it with only water, no yeast, and then place it on a grill for a moment, just long enough to warm it.

The Hunzas and the other long-living people didn’t eat a mostly raw vegetarian diet because they wanted to—they didn’t really have a choice. High up in the mountains there isn’t a lot of wood for cooking and food to keep animals. So, they mostly eat plants and eat them raw.

It isn’t just that these people live to be old, it’s that they are disease free that is most impressive. The old do not suffer from fatigue, poor eyesight, high blood pressure, or obesity. Very much like the people of Abkhasia and Vilcabamba.

Besides extraordinary good health their diets are quite similar. Approximately 70% of their calories come from carbohydrates (in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), 20% from fat (from nuts and seeds), and 10% from protein. The Abkhasia include about 10% animal products, but the Vilcabamba and Hunza only 1%. Almost no salt is used and no sugar or processed food.

The Okinawans

Birth records have been meticulously kept in Okinawa since 1879. So the ages of those long-lived people on this southernmost Japanese island chain are not disputable. Every city and town has a family register dating back well over a hundred years. And since 1975 the Japan government has been studying the health and longevity of these people.

There are 800 centenarians out of a population of 1.3 million. The Okinawans do not retire. Is this what keeps them healthy or do they not retire because they are so healthy? According to researchers there are four reasons for their extraordinary well being. Social support, psycho-spiritual attitudes, diet, and exercise.

Until relatively recently Okinawa was a separate country from Japan and evolved with a different culture, diet, and religious beliefs. And their incidence of disease is also different from Japan (and the West). Like the Abkhasians, Vilcabambans, and the Hunza, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases are rare.

The Okinawan diet consists of a lot of sweet potato, green leafy vegetables, and protein from soy foods such as tofu and miso. They do eat a significant amount of fish, also. But diet alone is not the secret to their success. They get good nights sleep. That may be related to what they eat because it is hard to sleep well when your stomach is busy digesting a heavy meal. The Okinawans also have a strong sense of responsibility and hold themselves accountable for their lives.

Probably more than anything, and similar to the other long-lived people in this chapter is that the Okinawans do not consume a lot of calories compared to the standard American diet. By consuming mostly fruits, vegetables, and grains, they get the nutrition they need without the calories.

Living Long

Maybe we could learn something from people who seem to live long, active, disease-free lives. It only makes sense to pay attention to others who are succeeding at something. In this case it is something near and dear to all of us—our health.

It seems to me that exercise and working outdoors is primary. Eating a plant-based diet is also primary. Having some kind of spiritual practice is primary. And staying connected to other people is primary. None of these alone is sufficient. All of the long-lived peoples of the world incorporate all of these components into their lives. A life-style based on these principles, and not on what advertisers and promoters of products, would surely be an improvement for all of us.