Dietary Success – Visibility & Proximity

A study nicknamed the Office Candy Dish looked at how our eating choices are affected by how visible and easily available particular foods are. Most of us have a candy dish lurking somewhere – where’s yours?

Dr Brian Wansink’s Study

Questions to answer:

  1. how does the visibility and proximity (closeness) of a food influence consumption volume?
  2. are proximate foods consumed more frequently because they are proximate, or are they consumed more frequently because people lose track of how much they eat?

Research methods and procedures:

  • 4-week study involving chocolate candy consumption of 40 adult secretaries
  • proximity – chocolates placed either on the participant’s desk or 2 m from the desk
  • visibility – chocolates placed in covered bowls that were either clear or opaque
  • chocolates replenished each evening
  • placement conditions rotated once a week
  • daily consumption noted and follow-up questionnaires distributed and analysed

So what results do you think were found?

– More visibility led to more or less candy consumption?

– Closer proximity led to more or less candy consumption?


more candies were eaten each day when they were more visible

more candies were eaten when they were on the desk rather than 2 m away

– there was a tendency to underestimate daily consumption of candies when on desk

– conversely, there was a tendency to overestimate daily consumption of candies when placed 2 m away

These limited results bring us no great surprises, but they do reinforce the intuitively obvious notions that proximity and visibility of a food can consistently increase a person’s consumption of it. In addition, these results suggest that people may be biased to overestimate the consumption of foods that are further away, and to underestimate those that are closer.

But so what?

Understanding the psychology in this small study can help to throw light on how best we can manage our WFPBD. It is clear as soon as you walk out of your front door that we exist in a nutritionally toxic environment, with a Pizza Hut, McDonald’s or kebab shop on every corner, and almost every supermarket aisle chocked full of sugary, fatty, largely animal-based processed junk – tempting as they may be to the taste sensors that evolution has given us.

Ensuring that we have a favourable nutritional environment in our own homes seems to make good sense.

The Motivational Triad & The Pleasure Trap

Doug Lisle PhD explains that the Motivational Triad consists of three basic humans motivations:

  1. avoid pain
  2. seek pleasure
  3. conserve energy 

It is, therefore, not difficult to understand that we are simply acting in accordance with our evolved nature when we find it difficult to ignore the tub of ice cream looking at us with its sad eyes every time we go into the freezer to take out the bag of frozen berries; or to avoid hearing the enticing song of the cookie jar that’s loitering on the kitchen shelf next to the organic steel-cut jumbo oats. Dr Lisle calls this dilemma The Pleasure Trap.

Our bodies know full well that they can get a bigger hit of calories much more quickly from ice cream and cookies than from a bowl of berries and oats.

What wrong with a bit of self-discipline?

Of course, we can use self-discipline and will-power; but relying on these has never and will never be the best strategy for a successful and enjoyable lifetime of optimal nutrition. Sitting there and struggling with willpower every day for the next 5, 10, 20 or 50 years is not a winning proposition.

What is likely to be more successful and certainly a more pleasurable strategy is to get into mindless habits of achieving and maintaining your nutritional goals. This will then mean that you are letting the motivational triad work for you rather than against you:

  • avoiding any painful sense of loss at not letting yourself indulge in foods you would rather not eat
  • enjoying the pleasure of just focusing on the foods you do want to eat
  • and conserving energy by making it easy on yourself to only do what is in line with your personal dietary goals

So here are a few (pretty obvious) tips

[su_frame] Cookie Convenience #1 – The bad choice should always take a lot more effort. If you need to have a candy jar in the house, store it far away and out of sight – better still, remove it from the house completely.

Fridge Convenience #2 – Keep at least five healthy food options at the front part of the shelf in the fridge, especially at children’s height if you have kids and want them to eat healthily. Make it easy for you and your family to make good choices.

Recipe Convenience #3 – Make sure you have loads of wonderful recipes available, masses of attractively-stored healthy ingredients – frozen, in jars, fresh – and keep readily available all those kitchen gadgets you require to produce really tasty meals as quickly and easily as possible.

Green is Normal – Make it a normal thing to always have green leafy vegetables as a part of every single dinner. So the only choice is which greens to have.

Fruity & Attractive – Don’t stick sad-looking fruit in a dusty Tupperware bowl. Place fresh and varied-coloured fruit in a beautiful and easily reachable glass bowl.

Dishy & Attractive – When you serve up your food, make sure the serving dishes, crockery and cutlery are a pleasure to look at and use, and that the food looks appetising and colourful. Make every meal a special mindful occasion.

Safe Snacking – Keep healthy snacks easily available – fresh or (unsugared) dried fruits, nuts and seeds instead of a biscuit barrel or a tray of candies.


More on Dr Lisle’s Pleasure Trap and the Motivational Triad:

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Wansink B, Painter JE, Lee YK. The office candy dish: Proximity’s influence on estimated and actual consumption. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 May; 30(5): 871-875.

Wansink B. Convenient, attractive, and normative: The CAN approach to making children slim by design. Child Obes. 2013 Aug; 9(4): 277-8.

Painter JE, Wansink B, Hieggelke JB. How visibility, convenience influence candy consumption. Appetite 2002; 38: 237–238.

Chandon P, Wansink B. Does stockpiling accelerate consumption. A convenience-salience framework of consumption stockpiling. J Marketing Res 2002; 39: 321–335.

Wansink B. Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Ann Rev Nutr 2004; 24: 455–479.

Wansink B, Sudman S. Consumer Panels, 2nd edn. American Marketing Association: Chicago, 2002.

Wansink B, Cheney MM. Super bowls: serving bowl size and food consumption. JAMA 2005; 293: 1727–1728.

Norcross JC, Mrykalo MS, Blagys MD. Auld lang syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002; 58: 397-405.


Thomas PR. Improving America’s Diet and Health: From Recommendations to Action. National Academy Press: Washington, DC, 1991.

Glanz K, Basil M, Maibach E, Goldberg J, Snyder D. Why Americans eat what they do: taste, nutrition, cost, convenience, and weight control concerns as influences on food consumption. J Am Diet Assoc 1998; 98: 1118–1126.

Sporny LA, Contento IR. Stages of change in dietary fat reduction social psychological correlates. J Nutr Educ 1995; 27: 191–199.

Gould SJ. An interpretive study of purposeful, mood self regulating consumption: the consumption and mood framework. Psychol Marketing 1997; 14: 395–426.

Patel KA, Schlundt DG. Impact of moods and social context on eating behavior. Appetite 2001; 36: 111–118.

Oliver G, Wardle J, Gibson L. Stress, food choice: a laboratory study. Psychosomatic Med 2000; 62: 853–865.

Berry SL, Beatty WW, Klesges RC. Sensory, social influences on ice cream consumption by males, females in a laboratory setting. Appetite 1985; 6: 41–45.

Birch LL, Fisher JO. Mother’s child-feeding practices influence daughters’ eating, weight. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71: 1054–1061.

Terry K, Beck S. Eating style, food storage habits in the home: Assessment of obese, non-obese families. Behav Modification 1985; 9: 242–261.


Bauer PJ, Wewerk SS. One- to two-year-old’s recall of events: the more expressed, the more impressed. J Exp Child Psychol 1995; 59: 475–496.

Hearn MD, Baranowski T, Baranowski J, Doyle C, Smith M, Lin LS, et al. Environmental influences on dietary behavior among children: availability and accessibility of fruits and vegetables. J Health Educ 1998; 29: 26–32.

Baron RM, Kenny DA. The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. J Personality Social Psychol 1986; 51: 1173–1182.

Collier G, Hirsch E, Hamlin PH. Ecological determinants of reinforcement in rats. Physiol Behav 1972; 9: 705–716.

Levitsky DA. Putting behavior back into feeding behavior: a tribute to George Collier. Appetite 2002; 38: 143–148.

Doug Lisle PhD. Article: Breaking Free of the Dietary Pleasure Trap (

Lee AY, Sternthal B. The effects of positive mood on memory. J Consumer Res 1999; 26: 115–127.

Greens: Chewing vs Juicing

study in Okinawa, Japan demonstrated that eating lots of leafy green vegetables is really effective at preventing damage to the endothelial cells which line our blood vessels. But is it better to chew or juice our vegetables?

Oxidative inflammation

The specific process we want to avoid is oxidative inflammation. To do this this, we want to eat loads of anti-oxidants.

Food or supplements?

But can’t we just get these from swallowing a jugful of anti-oxidant potions sold by the local health store? Apparently not. This supplement approach not only does not work, but it’s probably going to be harmful.

The anti-oxidants we want will only come from food that has a high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) – raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are excellent, but the absolute champions appear to be the green leafy vegetables, at least according to Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn.

Cardiovascular disease and greens

Dr Esselstyn has successfully reversed heart disease in his patients merely by making radical changes in their dietary intake. He says:

“If I’ve got somebody who is significant in cardiovascular disease, whether it’s their legs, their carotid, their heart, we really wanna hasten this along…I want them to have a green leafy vegetable, six times a day. And how do we do that? I want it to be the size of your fist after it has been boiled in boiling water for five and a half to six minutes, until it’s nice and tender. Then anoint it with some delightful balsamic vinegar, so you’ve got something that is tender and delicious. And I want this alongside your breakfast cereal, I want it mid-morning snack. I want it with your lunch and sandwich. Again, mid-afternoon. Obviously at dinnertime.”

The Most Powerful Anti-Oxidant

When we eat vegetables “…[w]hat you are doing is you are bathing that cauldron of oxidation inflammation all day long with nature’s most powerful anti-oxidant” – nitric oxide, produced by the endothelial cells within our blood vessels. And it is the green leafy vegetables that he considers to be our best source of nitric oxide-producing foods.

Which vegetables are best?

Cabbage, kale, brassicas, spring greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, coriander, parsley, spinach, rocket, asparagus. That’s just a few, but enough to get you started.

Nitric acid as we age

By the age of 50, nitric oxide production from the endothelial cells of the healthiest person will tend to drop to approximately 50% of what it was at age 25. Does that mean that your anti-oxidant protection will run dry no matter what you do? Apparently not. Another route for making nitric oxide is through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Nitrates to nitrites

When we consume green leafy vegetables, the nitrates contained within them get converted into nitrites when they get inside our GI tract. But not as much nitrate is absorbed as nitrites when the food passes through the body. However, there is an additional method that we can use to get the maximum “bang for our buck” from these nitrates.

Chewing or juicing – the answer

  • If we chew nitrates (i.e. our green leafy vegetables) rather than juicing them, then the nitrates are going to mix in the mouth with the facultative anaerobic bacteria that reside in the grooves and crevices of the tongue.
  • These bacteria will reduce the nitrates in the mouth to nitrites, so that when these additional nitrites are swallowed, they are further reduced by gastric acid into nitric oxide, and this will join with the body’s nitric oxide pool.
  • The nitrites in the stomach that are not converted into nitric acid will be reabsorbed into the circulation further downstream.
  • In turn, they will circulate back to the salivary glands where they will now be concentrated ten to twenty fold.

So chewing rather than juicing allows the saliva to release more nitrites and these, in turn, get further reduced by gastric acid into nitric oxide. This nitric oxide is then available to the endothelial cells to keep your blood vessels healthy and, hopefully, your body free of cardiovascular disease.

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Mano R, Ishida A, Ohya Y, Todoriki H, Takishita S. Dietary intervention with Okinawan vegetables increased circulating endothelial progenitor cells in healthy young women. Atherosclerosis. 2009; 204(2):544–548.

Heinonen OP, Huttunen JK, Albanes D, et al. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330(15):1029-1035.

Esselstyn CB Jr., Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 July; 63(7): 356-364.

Esselstyn C. Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition. Prevent Card. 2001; 4: 171–177.

Esselstyn C, Ellis S, Medendorp S, Crowe T. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract. 1995; 41(6):560–568.


Olive Oil Injures Endothelial Cells

I know it’s not popular amongst advocates of the so-called Mediterranean diet, but there is a fact about olive oil that has been established in peer-reviewed literature for some time now: Olive oil is NOT as good for you as you might have thought.

So why is it that those eating the Mediterranean diet have had such a reputation for longevity and good health? The answer lies in what other foods are eaten and, equally importantly, which other foods are not eaten (processed junk food).

The traditional Mediterranean diet is fading away as the Western diet – also known as the Standard American Diet (SAD) – spreads its influence across the continent.

But before the golden arches threatened to overshadow the Acropolis, the traditional Mediterranean diet was largely plant-based, consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, pasta, olive oil, wine, and very small amounts of fish, eggs, dairy, and meats. And while heart disease mortality was lower when compared to the UK and USA, for instance, the benefits seem to have been conferred primarily by a high percentage of plant content, the regular consumption of nuts and an avoidance of sugary/fatty desserts, with fruit being the common after-dinner treat.

And, while compared to the modern Western diet, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be better at cutting heart attack risk, it has not demonstrated the health-promoting power of a purely whole food plant-based diet – whether the latter is with or without SOS (added sugar, oil and salt). As you will know by now, the WFPB diet is the only known diet that has been clinically proven to reverse heart disease.

A major problem with the Mediterranean diet is that it includes three elements that are associated with inflammation and its many harmful consequences in the body:

  • refined grains (pasta and breads),
  • animal products, and
  • olive oil,

and it is the olive oil that concerns us here.

A  publication in the Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases journal pretty much sums up its findings in the title of the study:

“Olive, soybean and palm oils intake have a similar acute detrimental effect over the endothelial function in healthy young subjects.”


Their objective was to evaluate the acute effect of the ingestion of large amounts of olive, soybean and palm oils, fresh and at two different deep-fry levels, on the glucose and lipid profiles and endothelial function.


Subjects were randomly given a potato soup meal containing one of three different vegetable oils (olive, soybean and palm). Flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD) was performed and blood samples taken to establish the lipid profiles and plasma glucose levels.


All types of oil tested (including olive oil) resulted in a similar acute endothelial impairment.

Conclusions of the Study

“No difference was found in the acute adverse effect of the ingestion of different vegetable oils on the endothelial function. All the vegetable oils, fresh and deep-fried, produced an increase in the triglyceride plasma levels in healthy subjects.”

What are Endothelial Cells and Why are they so Important?

The endothelial cell layer is a one-cell thick layer within the inner surface of our blood vessels. These cells are of vital importance for vascular health and their damage is what leads to the development of CVD (cardiovascular disease).

When you eat the typical Western diet you develop intracellular adhesion molecules – causing blood to flow like Velcro. This results in the LDL particles in the bloodstream burrowing into the subendothelial compartment. The so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol gets oxidised by free radicals in our diet into small hard dense LDL molecules, so our body sends out messengers called chemokines that recruit white blood cells (monocytes) to sort them out.

These monocytes follow the LDL into the subendothelial compartment in order to scavenge for the LDL particles. Once inside the subendothelial compartment, these monocytes are referred to as macrophages as they try to mop up and clear away all the LDL particles.

The macrophages get bigger and bigger as they absorb the LDL particles and they then change their name again and become known as foam cells.

These foam cells are the really dangerous particles because they release some unpleasant enzymes called metalloproteinases which then gradually erode the plaque on the endothelial cell.

The cap over the plaque is very thin and once it ruptures, the plaque content then oozes out and causes a plaque clot.

The plaque clot then grows and spreads out over the inner diameter (lumen) of the blood vessel and this results in something you really don’t want to happen: the downstream heart muscle loses its blood supply.

The result is that the heart muscle dies. This whole nasty process is thought to account for around 90% of all heart attacks.



Is it Too Late for Sufferers of Heart Disease?

Fortunately, it is not too late, even if plaques have formed. The cap over the plaque can be strengthened and, if it is sufficiently strong, you become “heart attack proof” as Dr Esselstyn says, but only if you change to a whole food plant based diet.

How is Nitric Oxide Involved?

Initially it was called EDRF, but had its name changed because it was then discovered that EDRF was in fact a gas – nitric oxide (chemical symbol NO), discovered by Furchgott et al in 1998, for which they received the Nobel Prize.

The Functions of NO

  • It prevents intracellular contents from getting sticky – makes the blood flow like Teflon instead of Velcro.
  • NO is the strongest vasodilator in the body. When you run for a bus or climb the stairs, it’s the NO produced by your endothelial cells that dilates the blood vessels and allows you to increase activity level without passing out.
  • It prevents the vessel walls from getting stiff, thickened or inflamed – hence preventing hypertension.
  • Sufficient NO will prevent blockages or plaques building up on the surface of the endothelium.
  • NO will prevent the artery wall from “migrating” into the plaque.
  • NO can destroy the foam cells (referred to by Dr Esselstyn as “Darth Vaders”).

What is the Flow-Mediated Dilation Test?

If you take an ultrasound probe, place it over the brachial artery at the elbow, you can get a readout of the diameter of the artery.

You then put a blood pressure cuff on the upper arm, inflate it above systolic blood pressure and leave it there for 5 mins.

During this time, there is zero blood flow to the forearm and hand (a weird sensation to say the least).

You then release the cuff and once again measure the new diameter of the brachial artery.

In a normal artery it should immediately increase by 30%.

Enter Dr Robert Vogel…

Dr Vogel did a brilliant study by taking a number of healthy young people to McDonald’s and splitting them into two groups.

He gave one group cornflakes and measured their dilation response. It was normal.

He gave the other group hash browns and sausages. Their brachial arteries could not dilate normally – even after two hours. The endothelial cells’ ability to make nitric oxide was so damaged that they could not dilate the artery. They were tested on an off into the evening, by which time they started to recover full function as the evening progressed.

A One-Off or Chronic Problem?

It is not a good idea to repeat this test, but people do – millions of them, day in day out, week in week out, for years and decades. The next day it’s egg and bacon or cappuccino and brioche for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwich or chicken salad for lunch, take-away Chinese for dinner. What was an acute reaction becomes a regular, chronic health threat.

This is why, in the 21st century, by the time our children are leaving school, they already have the foundation for cardiovascular disease.

Best Advice

If you really want to protect yourself as much as possible against these cardiovascular events, do all you can to optimise the health of your endothelial cells.

To do this, start by always avoiding the following:

  • Oils – no matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, palm oil, oil in a crisp/chip, oil in a cracker, oil in bread, oil in a salad dressing.
  • Anything with a face or that had a mother – no matter whether it’s fish or fowl, beef or pork, turkey or chicken, cream or milk, cheese or butter, yogurt or ice cream.
  • Anything with added sugar – no matter whether it’s organic muscovado sugar, molasses, honey, juices* (orange, apple etc), maple syrup or agave syrup.

All of these injure endothelial cells to some extent; and you don’t need a history of cardiovascular disease to already have it developed within your body – in one study, 57% of men who experienced sudden cardiac death had zero history of coronary heart disease.

* Eating an apple or an orange is not the same thing as drinking fruit juices. The fructose is bound with the fibre. But when you make orange juice or apple juice, the sugar is free, goes into your gut and is immediately absorbed, injuring your liver, promoting protein glycation, and injuring those precious and delicate endothelial cells.

I know it is difficult to consider such dramatic changes, but remember that we live in a nutritionally toxic environment in the 21st century, where the all-pervasive “normal” diet is something that has never existed on Earth before. Nowadays, a person who insists on eating a truly healthy diet will feel and probably be treated like an alien from a distant galaxy.

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Rueda-Clausen CF, Silva FA, Lindarte MA, Villa-Roel C, Gomez E, Gutierrez R, Cure-Cure C, López-Jaramillo P. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007 Jan;17(1):50-7. Epub 2006 Mar 20. Olive, soybean and palm oils intake have a similar acute detrimental effect over the endothelial function in healthy young subjects.

Esselstyn C. Prevent Card. 2001; 4: 171–177. Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition. 

Esselstyn C, Ellis S, Medendorp S, Crowe T. J Fam Pract. 1995; 41(6):560–568. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. 

Go A, Mozaffarian D, Roger V, Benjamin E, et al. Circulation 2013; 127: 6–245. doi: 10.1161. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. 

van Dam RM, Willett WC. Nutr, Metab Cardiov Dis. 2007; 17(1): 50–57.  Unmet potential for cardiovascular disease prevention in the United States. 

Ryan A. Harris, Steven K. Nishiyama, D. Walter Wray, and Russell S. Richardson. Hypertension. 2010 May; 55(5): 1075–1085. Published online 2010 Mar 29. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.150821. Ultrasound Assessment of Flow-Mediated Dilation: A Tutorial.

Vogel RA, Corretti MC, Plotnick GD. Am J Cardiol. 1997 Feb 1;79(3):350-4. Effect of a single high-fat meal on endothelial function in healthy subjects.

Kannel WB, Doyle JT, McNamara PM, Quickenton P, Gordon T. Circulation. 1975;51:606–13. Precursors of sudden coronary death: Factors related to the incidence of sudden death. 

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The Lowdown on Low Fat vs Low Carb

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine just published results from a 12-month study which aimed to identify which diet was the best – Low-carb or Low-fat. And the winner is…

Well, first, let’s see what were the basic questions (hypotheses) that the leader researcher, Professor Christopher Gardner  and his team were aiming to answer whether either of the following factors would dictate your success at losing weight:
  1. Genotype (that which predicts other factors such as your eye colour), or
  2. Baseline insulin secretion level (how much insulin your body produces to process glucose).

And the winner was?


No evidence was found for the existence of a genotype or a baseline insulin level that would clearly favour your chances of losing weight.

Both diets resulted in an overall weight loss:

  • An average 13 pounds / 5.8 kg weight loss within the 609 study subjects
  • Wide variability – some gained as much as 20 pounds/9 kg while others lost as much as 60 pounds / 27 kg.

More detail about the methodology used can be found here.

Conclusions from the Research

Professor Gardner says “We have all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet – it worked great – and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn’t work at all. It is because we are all very different, and we are just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity. Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?”
His takeaway lesson from this study was that we should eat:
  • less sugar,
  • less refined flour,
  • more wholefoods (e.g. “wheatberry salad or grass-fed beef “), and
  • as many vegetables as possible.
Future projects are likely to focus on questions related to:
  • the microbiome (the billions of bacteria in our guts),
  • epigenetics (looking at gene expression rather than potential changes to the genetic code itself)

He goes on to say “I’m hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts…I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say ‘eat less.’ I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalisation to it.”

In his own words:

What Others Say

In the Telegraph article that discussed this research, they drew the conclusion that “the research showed the key to losing weight was simply eating less.”

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, a UK campaign group, said: “The best diet in town is not a fad but much less of what you actually fancy – and stick to it.”

Some Thoughts

The findings of the research do not surprise me at all. And I applaud some of the conclusions that Professor Gardner draws – cutting down on (refined) sugars/flours, eating more (plant) wholefoods and vegetables – but there are some issues that require clarification.

  1. When weight loss is the only factor considered, other issues related to the overall health-promoting aspects of nutrition are marginalised. There appears to be no stated justification for Professor Gardner’s jump from talking about the results of the research (genotype and insulin secretion levels) to then recommending specific nutritional elements (less sugar, more wholefoods etc). If he is going to make these statements (especially if he includes “grass-fed beef” in the list of healthy wholefoods), then it would be useful to see some justification for such statements – and, as we would suspect, any justification would not come from a study that simply focuses on weight-loss without also measuring other health factors (cholesterol, triglycerides, mineral/vitamin balance, etc).
  2. Professor Gardner’s statement “It is because we are all very different, and we are just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity. Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?” is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is no evidence from large population studies (such as the largest of them all, The China Study) that optimal health appears to depend on diet, to a large extent, irrespective of the individual genetic variations within the members of that population. Indeed, the Stanford University research itself dismisses the primacy of genetics or “insulin secretion levels” as markers for future weight gain, let alone the uncharted, and more vital area, of overall health gain.
  3. There appears to be a misunderstanding in the media about what conclusions can be drawn from the study. Professor Gardner says “I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say ‘eat less.’ The Telegraph, on the other hand, states that “the research showed the key to losing weight was simply eating less.” No wonder the public get confused. And to add more confusion, Tam Fry (National Obesity Forum) states “The best diet in town is not a fad but much less of what you actually fancy – and stick to it.” Again, the implicit assumption here is that all foods are equal, all diets that do not include “moderation in all things” are fad diets, and, again, the mistaken implication that the research is suggesting we should simply eat less calories.
  4. Professor Gardner’s comment “Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?” is, for me, a frankly shocking indication that he may not have looked at the wealth of research demonstrating that there is one diet that has been proven to be optimal for human health – a whole food plant-based diet, with minimal or no animal protein. I suspect that if his research subjects had been rural Chinese, Papua Highlanders, Central Africans or Tarahumara Indians from northern Mexico, then he would not have even bothered to do this research study since more or less everyone within those communities would already have been at their optimal body weight, largely regardless of genome or insulin secretion level.
  5. When such research projects are taken up by the media and then the public, they are thrown back, once again, on the mistaken belief that nutrition is simply a matter of the quantity and not quality of the calories being “eaten”. People do not eat calories. They eat food. And our bodies are made out of the food we eat.
  6. Yet again, this research focuses in a reductionist manner on genetic and individual biochemical responses in order to establish something so vitally important to our populations’ health and well-being. It still makes me recall Nero fiddling while Rome burned…

In my experience and that of my clients, even increasing the amount of calories consumed after making the transition to a WFPBD (whole food plant-based diet) from a standard diet (whether it be a meat-based, vegetarian or vegan diet), can cause excess fat to drop off the body. Just as a vitamin C supplement does not cause the same bodily responses as compared to the vitamin C derived from eating an apple, the calories “consumed” from eating animal foods (whether processed or unprocessed) have a very different effect on the body than those derived from eating plant foods (whether organic whole plants or even less-healthy processed plant-foods). And the added bonus from eating a wide variety of organic whole plants represents yet another step in the direction of optimal health from eating those less-healthy processed plant foods.

There is yet to be mainstream coverage and acceptance of the only diet proven to reverse heart disease and other chronic diseases. In the meantime, looking after your own diet can have a greater effect on your health, encourage other people’s appetite for dietary change, avoid further damage to other species, and help protect the environmental welfare of our land, sea and air.

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Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. AMA. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667-679. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0245. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial.


How to Get Flavour Without Adding Salt

We are so used to pouring on the salt that it can seem daunting when we are advised to cut it out either completely or almost completely. I also don’t advise using a commercial salt substitutes like Lo-Salt or any other potassium chloride alternatives. They are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy chemicals that your body doesn’t require for optimal health.

If in doubt about eliminating salt from your diet, speak to your doctor.

For my part, I suggest that you simply do not ever get into the habit of adding salt to any meals. This is of particular importance if you have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure. Some of the populations with the lowest blood pressures in old age are those who have hardly any added salt in their diet. Remember that whole plant foods contain a natural amount of salt ideal for each individual plant.

It is so much better to get used to life without added salt and this is what I recommend to all my clients.

But if you have always piled on the salt (often before you even bother to taste the food first), how do you make meals tasty? And can you ever get used to life without added salt?

Your expectation of taste will adapt within days or a couple of weeks at the most, so that you start to appreciate and enjoy the natural flavours of different foods – whether plump tomatoes, crisp cabbage or a juicy mango. And we are talking exclusively here about whole plant foods – not animal foods or processed foods. To get an idea of this, have you ever changed your tea and coffee to having it with/without sugar or milk? You get used to it really quickly and then, if you try having it how you used to before, it tastes awful! Same to a large extent with salt.

Without salt, we start to savour the subtle and natural flavours of individual foods. But we can still benefit from the gloriously wide variety of flavours that can be added to recipes via spices and herbs. What’s more, spices and herbs are some of the healthiest and most potent sources of phytonutrients that humans can consume.

So let’s take a look at how you can spice up your meals and, at the same time, add benefit from some of the healthy compounds that herbs and spices contain.


Capsaicin is the active hot ingredient.

Adding some heat (not too much, of course) can enhance many savoury meals.

Nutritional Yeast*

This is a really wonderful item to keep available. I buy it in bulk and use it a lot. You can buy it with or without B12 added fortification. If you are already taking a B12 supplement as recommended by your doctor or nutritionist, then go for the non-fortified version.

B12 fortification or B12 supplementation – see here.

Being rich in niacin, folic acid, zinc, selenium and thiamine, as well as containing a number of essential amino acids, nutritional yeast is a healthy option. It is also claimed by Dr Greger that it helps the body recover more quickly from strenuous exercise.

Nutritional yeast adds a deep “nutty” or “cheesy” flavour and it tends to find its way into most of the savoury meals I make. It is great in soups and stews, sprinkled on wholewheat pasta, baked potatoes, and the list goes on and on.

Best advice: get some and experiment.

*Avoid nutritional yeast if you have Crohn’s disease. If in doubt, speak to your doctor.

Non-Salt Spice Blends

Either commercially-available or home-made varieties are very useful and flavoursome.

Experiment with commercial brands, if you prefer to have them made for you but try to ensure they really are salt-free. In particular, if they have onion or garlic powder added, check that it’s the powder and not some form of onion or garlic salt.

But if, like me, you enjoy being independent, knowing exactly what goes into your blends and also enjoy the process of making things, then have a go at making your own.

The following are two suggestions.

Standard Non-Salt Spice Blend

INGREDIENTS (play around with quantities to suit your personal taste)

  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • lemon peel
  • onion powder
  • oregano
  • paprika (I prefer smoked paprika)
  • rubbed sage


Just mix them together and put in either a grinder or a food processor. Store in an easy-to-use sealed container and add to meals whenever needed.

Dr Greger’s Savoury Spice Blend

This is one of my personal favourites. I tend to have a jar full of it in the larder ready to add to meals.


  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (or yeast flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  •  tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds

Combine all the ingredients in a spice grinder or blender to mix well. Transfer to a shaker bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in a cool, dry place.

(Greger, Michael. The How Not To Die Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease. Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.)

I usually double the above quantities since I use it up so quickly. It is really moreish and, like everything Dr Greger suggests in his How Not To Die Cookbook, it contains 100% healthy ingredients – GREEN LIGHT FOODS.

Curry Blends

The usual garam masala spice blend is a good option:

  • Black and white peppercorns
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon or cassia bark
  • Mace (part of nutmeg)
  • Black and green cardamon
  • Bay leaf
  • Cumin
  • Coriander

For a rich curry flavour, it is not a bad idea to have a go yourself at making curry blends. This is one blend that works well, but experiment and find what suits you best:

  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or ground chillies


Ground or freshly minced/finely chopped can be added to give a flavourful kick to a recipe.

Coriander & other Herbs

I tend to use a lot of fresh coriander in meals in place of fresh parsley, although both work well. It’s down to personal preference of course. Basil is a lovely flavour in the right place – tomato sauce-based vegetables on wholewheat pasta benefit from fresh basil. You can even make your own non-oil pesto sauce using it.

Non-Oil Lemon Pesto Sauce

If you don’t want lemon, then don’t add it and just have a non-oil pesto sauce.


  • 3 cups (80 g) fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) lightly toasted pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp water (more or less just to thin mixture)


Place pine nuts into a pan on medium heat. Lightly toast them, they burn quickly so watch them carefully. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend. Use immediately or freeze in ice cube trays. (To do this, place tablespoons into a tray. Freeze, and then remove from trays. Store in a freezer bag for later use.)

You can use pesto on wholegrain pizzas/pastas, in stuffed peppers, on lightly sauteed vegetables, or anything that takes your fancy.

Non-Salt Liquids

Pretty much all commercially-made soy sauces contain either a lot or some added salt. Again, I don’t recommend this. However, in terms of liquids that can be added to meals, it is possible to make your own umami sauces. Dr Greger explains how he uses it and what “umami” means:

“Use this sauce in sautés or stir-fries to boost flavor without adding all the sodium of soy sauce. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, even though many people are only learning about it now. This word was created by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda from umai, which means ‘delicious’, and mi, which means ‘taste’. The perfect name, as it is a delicious taste!” (Greger, Michael. The How Not To Die Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease. Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.)

Here are two umami recipes:

Dr Greger’s Umami Sauce


  • 1 cup/ 250 ml vegetable broth (made from the water left over from boiling your favourite vegetables – just store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator for future use. See 1. below)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1½ teaspoons date syrup (see 2. below) or date sugar
  • ½ teaspoon tomato purée
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons white miso paste blended with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons blended peeled lemon (see 3. below)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Heat the broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the molasses, date syrup, tomato purée and black pepper and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the miso mixture, blended lemon and rice vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Allow the sauce to cool before transferring to a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid or pour the sauce into an ice cube tray.

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 1 carrot, cut into 1-inch/ 2.5 cm pieces 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 3 garlic cloves, crushed 2 dried mushrooms ⅓ cup/ 10 g coarsely chopped fresh parsley ½ teaspoon ground black pepper 2 tablespoons white miso paste Savoury Spice Blend (see above). In a large pan, heat 1 cup/ 250 ml of water over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, parsley and black pepper. Add 7 cups/ 1.6 litres of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Let cool slightly and then transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Return the blended broth back to the pan. Ladle about ⅓ cup/ 80 ml of the broth into a small bowl or cup. Add the miso paste and stir well before incorporating into the broth. Add the Savoury Spice Blend to taste. Let the broth cool to room temperature; then divide among containers with tight-sealing lids and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Properly stored, the broth will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. 


And do most ready-made vegetable broths, bouillon, stock cubes/pots have salt? Oh yes. Usually lots of it. For instance, Knorr vegetable stock cubes contain 42.% salt; Marigold Vegetable Bouillon contains 44.6% salt; and even Bisto Vegetable Gravy Granules contain 14.21% salt. Kallø Very Low Salt Organic Vegetable Stock Cubes are one of the better options if you have to buy commercially-prepared vegetable stock, as they only contain 0.1% salt. If you come across a zero-added salt commercially available vegetable stock, please let me know.

1 cup/ 175 g pitted dates 1 cup/ 250 ml boiling water 1 teaspoon blended peeled lemon (see 2. below). Combine the dates and hot water in a heatproof bowl and set aside for 1 hour to soften the dates. Transfer the dates and water to a high-speed blender. Add the lemon and blend until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar or other airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

Instead of cooking with lemon or lime juice, use the blended whole fruit to get more nutritional benefit. Peel and blend a whole lemon and then freeze it in 1-teaspoon portions – a small silicone ice cube tray is ideal for this. Then, grab a cube from the freezer whenever you need it!

(Greger, Michael. The How Not To Die Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease. Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.)

Simplified Umami Sauce


  • 1 cup/250 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon cooked rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • ½ teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy.  Will refrigerate for 1 month or freeze in cubes like Dr Greger suggests.

It’s The Food!

Advice from John & Mark McDougall

Eating foods that taste delicious is a key to a successful lifestyle change. Here are some tips from Mary to help you create flavorful meals.

Seasoning Foods

When deciding whether to use fresh herbs or dried ones in a recipe, consider how long the food is going to cook. If the cooking time is long, dried herbs are used. If the cooking time is short, use fresh herbs, if available. For equal flavor you need more fresh herbs than dried ones because the dried ones are more concentrated. However, in time dried herbs lose their potency.

Particular combinations of spices are identified with various kinds of ethnic cooking. You can take advantage of these spices to vary recipes and create new ones.

  • Mexican – salsa, chili powder, cumin, cilantro
  • Italian – parsley, basil, oregano, garlic
  • Asian – soy sauce, fresh ginger, dry mustard, garlic
  • Greek – lemon juice, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper
  • Indian – turmeric, curry powder, cilantro, cumin


Final Word

Of course, there are so many other ways of adding great salt-free flavour to your recipes.

And if you have any suggestions that you would like to share, please let me know.

In view of huge range of possibilities, we’ve only touched the tip of the spiceberg…


Suckling RJ, He FJ, Markandu ND, MacGregor GA. Dietary salt influences postprandial plasma sodium concentration and systolic blood pressure. Kidney Int. 2012;81( 4): 407– 11. 34.

He FJ, Li J, MacGregor GA. Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. 2013;346: f1325. 35.

Celermajer DS, Neal B. Excessive sodium intake and cardiovascular disease: a-salting our vessels. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;61( 3): 344– 5.

Oliver WJ, Cohen EL, Neel JV. Blood pressure, sodium intake, and sodium related hormones in the Yanomamo Indians, a “no-salt” culture. Circulation. 1975 Jul;52(1):146-51.

Mancilha-Carvalho J de J, de Souza e Silva NA. The Yanomami Indians in the INTERSALT Study. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2003;80( 3): 289– 300. 38.

Mancilha-Carvalho J de J, Crews DE. Lipid profiles of Yanomamo Indians of Brazil. Prev Med. 1990;19( 1): 66– 75.

Greger, Michael; Stone, Gene. How Not To Die: Discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. (Air Side Edt). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

It’s The Food! Advice from John & Mary McDougall


Blood Vessels on the Menu

Our bodies are creating thousands of microscopic cancer cells all the time. Whether these “cancers without disease” are fed by new blood vessels depends more on our diet than we realise.

When the body is working properly, cancer cells don’t get sufficient blood supply to grow. This is one of our most important defences against the exponential growth rate of cancers. When angiogenesis is “turned on”, and the cancer cells are fed by sufficient blood vessels, tumours can develop. Antiangiogenic therapy aims to starve the cancer of its blood supply, thus rendering the isolated cancer cells harmless.

If you took all the blood vessels in your body and laid them end to end, they would be around 60,000 miles in length and could encircle the Earth twice.

So what has this to do with diet?

Dr William W Li, an internationally acclaimed expert in angiogenesis and diet considers that food is a powerful, yet largely untapped resource that can prevent, halt and even reverse life-threatening chronic diseases. He believes that:

  • more than 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes cases are preventable by dietary changes
  • around 40 percent of all cancers are preventable by diet changes

The Angiogenesis Foundation has discovered and gathered evidence that fruits, vegetables, herbs, seafood, tea, coffee, and even chocolate contain natural substances — bioactives — that can prevent and intercept disease by influencing angiogenesis and other defence systems in the body.

“What we eat and drink is enormously impactful when it comes to preventing disease.” *

In addition to the food itself, Dr Li considers the specific cultivated variety, processing and cooking methods and even food combinations also play a significant role in how diet will affect disease progression.

“Using the same research systems and methodologies we use to test medicines, we test varieties and combinations of foods, beverages, and ingredients and how cooking, processing, and storage impact their potency against disease. We discover how to eat foods, drink beverages, and utilize ingredients with the most prevention activity to optimize their effects. Our vision is food will be the ultimate delivery vehicle for natural bioactive molecules that prevent diseases in their earliest stages.” *

Some foods being researched for their antiangiogenic properties

He has demonstrated that various foods can turn off the blood supply to tumours. And, because not all foods have the same bioactive properties, the aim is to identify which specific varieties of food are best.

This will then provide us with a choice – do we have a standard cup of builder’s tea in the morning, or do we have a type of tea that has been shown to have the highest levels of disease-inhibiting (i.e. in this context, antiangiogenic) properties?

Some teas (in combination) are more antiangiogenic than others.

And this information is not merely anecdotal opinion of the type we hear every day expressed in the media; this is scientifically validated data that people can use to make informed decisions about the foods they eat, and how those foods are likely to improve their defences against life-threatening chronic diseases.

This may be an area that you have not thought about a great deal. It is common knowledge these days that blood vessels can be damaged by eating certain foods (largely animal-based, processed foods high in fat, salt and sugar). The endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels can become hardened, narrowed, furred-up, blocked with jagged plaques and then catastrophically fail on us – resulting in life-threatening events. But the idea that blood vessels can be repaired, re-grow and that new blood vessels can form – these are not so much thought about. It is easy to see it happening when you, for instance, cut your hand. Blood vessels are damaged, clots form, new blood vessels repopulate the area of the clot and your skin is restored to is former state.

However, when clusters of cancer cells attract the creation of new blood vessels to provide them with the oxygen and nutrients required for growth, we have  a wonderful biological phenomenon which is, sadly, able to undermine our body’s health.

The research that Dr Li and his colleagues are undertaking derives from extensive experience in the field of pharmaceutical health interventions. This background allows him and his researchers to compare the effects of pharmaceuticals (some of which they are responsible for testing and developing) with the effects of food.

In the table shown here on the left, the blue and green bars are cancer and common drugs. Their effectiveness is indicated by how far they extend to the right (i.e. how antiangiogenic they are). The red bars are dietary factors (common foods, such as garlic and green tea).

You will notice that in most cases the dietary factors are as effective or even more effective than the drugs. If this doesn’t cause us to pause and reflect on the massive implications that this has for our societies, then what will?

Naturally, there is no profit for the Toxic Triad (Big Pharma, Big Farming and Big Food) from populations maintaining their health by eating and drinking well. And these powerful industries spend £billions on legal battles, government/institutional funding and blanket advertising. They do not want the public to know that food can be our best medicine.

A fine example of the research that can help us to appreciate the value of dietary intervention, is the study undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health which found that the risk of developing prostate cancer in men was significantly reduced by simply eating more tomatoes in their regular diet.

Perhaps we will know that something is starting to change for the better when we see insurance companies reducing their clients’ premiums if they can prove that they are eating a healthy diet. They already ask questions about smoking habits, involvement in risky sports or professions, and whether or not the potential client has had any illnesses that might be relevant to a life insurance claim.

There are obviously some moves in this direction starting to happen…

I would recommend that you watch Dr Li’s short TED talk (see below). If you want to know more about this fascinating area of research, please look here or contact me and I will expand further on the topic.



William W. Li is Chief Executive Officer, President, Medical Director, and Co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation. Trained in the lab of Dr. Judah Folkman, pioneer of the angiogenesis field, Dr. Li has been actively engaged in angiogenesis research and clinical development for 30 years. Under his leadership, the Foundation has developed a unique social enterprise model based on value creating collaborations with leading medical academic centres, biopharmaceutical and medical device companies, and government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As President, Dr. Li has testified and presented before congressional and other government panels on the impact of angiogenesis in healthcare, and lectures around the world on angiogenesis-related topics in front of clinical, government, and industrial audiences. He is actively engaged in global efforts to advance the applications of angiogenesis-based therapeutics across diverse medical fields, including oncology/haematology, cardiology, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, dermatology, wound care, and regenerative medicine. He has been published in Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Nature Reviews and other leading peer-reviewed medical journals.

Dr. Li received his A.B. with honours from Harvard College, and his M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He completed his internship, residency, and fellowship training in General Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He has held appointments on the clinical faculties of Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dartmouth Medical School. He serves as adviser and consultant to leading global public and private companies.


Judah Folkman & Raghu Kalluri.  Nature 427, 787 (26 February 2004) doi:10.1038/427787a. Cancer without disease.

Rebecca E Graff, Andreas Pettersson, Rosina T Lis, Thomas U Ahearn,  Sarah C Markt,  Kathryn M Wilson, Jennifer R Rider, Michelangelo Fiorentino, Stephen Finn, Stacey A Kenfield, Massimo Loda, Edward L Giovannucci, Bernard Rosner, and Lorelei A Mucci. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar; 103(3): 851–860. Published online 2016 Jan 27. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.118703. PMCID: PMC4763492. Dietary lycopene intake and risk of prostate cancer defined by ERG protein expression.

Li WW, Li VW, Hutnik M, Chiou AS. J Oncol. 2012; 2012: 1-23. Tumor angiogenesis as a target for dietary cancer prevention. 

Isn’t Plant Milk a Processed Food?

I was recently approached by a family friend who rather forcibly challenged me on how I could possibly criticise processed foods (he was specifically referring to olive oil) when the plant milks that “you vegans” drink are also processed. Firstly, I pointed out that I am not a vegan and, secondly, that the biggest issue here isn’t the word “processed” in relation to these two items (olive oil and plant milk) but the word “oil”.

There are good reasons not, and I repeat NOT, to consume oils, but that’s not the issue in question. His concern that the hemp milk he saw next to my breakfast berries and muesli was processed.

This got me to thinking that there are probably a lot of people out there who are unsure whether plant milks are ultra-processed, slightly processed or not really classed as processed foods at all. So here’s the inside line on plant milks:

Did you know you can get all these:

  • Hemp milk
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Hazelnut milk
  • Oat milk
  • Rice milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Flax milk
  • Macadamia Milk
  • Brazil nut milk
  • Quinoa Milk

You can, of course, get coconut milk and even almond-coconut milk, but I don’t suggest these because of the >20% saturated fat content and because their flavour is stronger than most people want in their cuppa or on their cereals.

The ideal plant milk is the one with minimal processing, minimal additives and as close as possible to its original whole food nature. And, of course, use organic wherever possible.

Simply put, this generally means home-made is best. But how? Very simple:

Hemp Milk

You can soak hulled hemp seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts) if you want, from 2 hours to overnight. However, this is not necessary. It’s also possible to use non-hulled hemp seeds if you don’t mind having the milk darker and a bit chewier – it would certainly be closer to the whole food in this case. Try it and see which you prefer.

In a blender, combine the 80-100 grams (0.5 cup) of your chosen type of hemp seed with around 450 ml (2 cups) of water. Blend for at least 2 minutes or until you are happy that it is well blended.

You either can get a specific “nut milk bag“, use an ordinary ;large sieve or, as I do, just drink it with some of the bit in it. If you do strain it, the remaining solids can be used in all sorts of recipes, depending on the type of seed or nut used.

Store in a sealed container of your choice. Serve.

You can keep it refrigerated for about 5 days. Shake well before using.

I think this is both the simplest and the most wholesome (that is, closest to the whole food) way of doing this. You will find that most of the recipes for all other plant milks are made in a pretty similar way.

There are lots of videos and recipes for this and other plant milks, but I thought you might like to see just how easy it is to make by someone who doesn’t use anything but the above two ingredients – that is, no salt, sugar, vanilla essence, etc.

Soy, Almond and Chocolate-Hazelnut Milks

Mic the Vegan is a fun guy and has pretty much the same philosophy as I do on all things nutrition. I am going to leave it to him to explain the soy, almond and chocolate-hazelnut milks to you. Of course, you can make hazelnut milk without the added cocoa powder and dates if you want it unsweetened and “unchocolatey”…

Here are his recipes:

Soy Milk


  • 1/2 cup dry soy beans
  • 4.5 cups water (4 for extra creamy)
  • If sweet – 3-4 dates (I tend to use medjool dates – soft and plump – and pitted, of course)
  • If sweet – 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Almond Milk


  • 1/2 cup of almonds
  • 2 cups water
  • If sweet – 3 dates
  • If sweet – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate-Hazelnut Milk:


  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 dates
  • 1 tablespoon (unsweetened) cocoa powder 

Oat Milk


  • 1 cup / 150 grams rolled oats (not instant)
  • 3 cups (770 ml) water
  • If sweet – 2-4 dates

I have found that if you don’t mind having bits in your milk, then you don’t need to bother pre-soaking oats (or any other nuts/seeds/grains used in plant milk recipes), since the solids that remain in the milk will swell and release their flavour during the time that the milk is stored. However, if you want a really “filtered” final milk, then it is worth soaking for several hours or overnight, as well as sieving the blended results.

When I make most plant milks (excluding soy, which needs soaking and rice, which needs pre-cooking), I don’t bother soaking. I even sometime leave all the blended mixture in the final milk, simply give it a good shake before using, and enjoy the fact that I am eating the whole food with just a bit of water added. It’s up to personal taste, as are most things in life.

Here is a nice video that shows just how easy oat milk is to make without the need for soaking (and he suggests you keep the solids for adding to a porridge:

Rice Milk

Again, really simple.

  • 1 cup / 150 grams cooked brown/red/wild rice
  • 3 cups (770 ml) water
  • If sweet – 2-4 dates
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Cashew milk

Some people soak and some don’t. Experiment and decide for yourself which you prefer.

Here’s one recipe (again, I do not recommend the salt):

  • 1 cup (150 grams) soaked cashews
  • 4 cups (approx. 1 litre) water
  • If sweet – 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • If sweet – 3-4 dates

And here’s a video that will give you a good idea of how easy it is (she makes a vanilla-cashew milk):

Flax milk


  • 1/2 (120 grams) cup flax seeds
  • 4 1/2 cups (approx. 1 litre) water


  • Blend flax seeds and water in a blender on high for 1 minute; allow to rest for 2 minutes
  • Blend again on high for 1 minute; allow to rest for 5 minutes
  • Blend again for 30 seconds
  • Pour milk through a nut bag or a strainer (possibly lined with cheesecloth or clean tea towel) into glass korken/kilner jar or any container of your choice. TIP: I wash out and reuse the 1 litre plant milk cartons that commercially-produce plant milks come in – use a funnel to get milks into the narrow top
  • Press solids with back of a spoon to extract liquid
  • Gather cheesecloth/tea towel around solids, twist and squeeze to extract all the liquid
  • Keep the solids to use in other recipes

Another slight variation of the recipe:

Macadamia Milk


  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts
  • 3-4 cups (750 ml – 1 litre) water
  • Pinch cinnamon (optional)
  • If sweet – 3-4 dates
  • If sweet – 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/essence


  • Blend all ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until smooth
  • Either use immediately or refrigerate for later

Brazil nut milk

Dr Greger warns about having any more than 4 Brazil nuts per month! At this level, they are thought to be effective at lowering LDL cholesterol, but at higher levels (say 8 nuts per month) they appear to have the reverse effect. Odd, eh? Also. the high selenium concentration of Brazil nuts is thought to increase the risk of liver and kidney toxicity. So, while they are lovely nuts, I would recommend that this milk is used sparingly, if at all. That’s why I am omitting any recipes or videos on it, since you would have to use more than 4 nuts to get sufficient quantity of usable milk.

Okay the last of the plant milks that I am going to cover in quinoa. Of course, there are more nuts/seeds/grains that can be made into milk, but I have to stop somewhere… If you try one that I have not covered, let me know how it goes.

Quinoa Milk


  • 1 cup (240 grams) cooked quinoa 
  • 3 cups (750 ml) water 
  • If sweet – 4 dates
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)


  • Cook quinoa according to package directions
  • Blend the quinoa with the water until well blended and almost smooth
  • Strain the blended quinoa mixture using a cheesecloth or a strainer
  • Pour the quinoa milk in a blender and blend with the dates and cinnamon
  • Refrigerate the quinoa milk in a sealed container for up to 5 days

Finally, I hope you get the idea by now that making your own plant milk is:

  • cost-effective
  • as healthy as it is possible to make it
  • can contain the whole nut/grain/seed if you wish to make it this way
  • contains no additives (for instance, these are the ingredients of Waitrose’s Hemp Milk – Water, Hemp Extract (3%), Grape Juice Extract Concentrate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Emulsifier (Sucrose Ester), Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Natural Flavouring (Vanilla), Sea Salt, Vitamin D2)

Happy milking!



E Colpo, C D de Avila Vilanova, L G B Reetz, M M M F Duarte, I L G Farias, E I Muller, A L H Muller, E M M Flores, R Wagner, J B T da Rocha. J Nutr Metab 2013 2013:653185. A single consumption of high amounts of the Brazil nuts improves lipid profile of healthy volunteers.


Casein in Dairy = Cancer in Humans?

The 1958 Delaney Amendment stated that “…no additive is deemed safe if it is found [in “appropriate” tests] to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal…” This US amendment required zero tolerance – that is, no amount of any substance found to be carcinogenic could be added to food. Of course, we know that this noble goal was never achieved and now we have carcinogenic food additives and carcinogenic food processing methods.

£billions are spent researching potential carcinogens found in the environment rather than those found in food. Why is this? Simply, it is easier to get funding for this type of reductionist research than it is to deal with the complexities of human nutrition on a population-wide basis. Also, the so-called Toxic Triad of Big Food, Big Farming and Big Pharma put political and commercial pressure (and lots of it) on research institutions to avoid pointing the finger at powerful food manufacturers, distributors and sellers who make huge profits and contribute huge sums to both government and academic institutions around the world.

The three phases of cancer

Also, there has been an overwhelming emphasis on the first phase of the three phases of cancer (Initiation, Promotion & Progression).

Genetic science appears to be somewhat hamstrung by a particular paradigm. Within this paradigm, consideration is almost solely given to the concept that the only approach we can take is to try and prevent cancers by avoiding the Initiation stage (which happens in a tiny fraction of a second) when DNA is first exposed to carcinogens at the point of cellular reproduction. Once the cancer has passed to the Promotion (years to decades) or Progression  (usually years) stages, the seemingly unchallenged consensus appears to be that there is no point in doing anything other than turn to one of the three ugly sisters – surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. As we will see later, there is strong evidence that cancer can be slowed, halted and even reversed completely throughout the Promotion stage and, to perhaps a lesser degree, in the Progression stage of cancer development.

Much of the focus of scientific research, government legislation and media coverage is on individual non-dietary carcinogens (such as radon or asbestos). And even when researchers do deal with diet-related carcinogens, the emphasis for most part is on those carcinogens that are unintentionally included in the food cycle (such as aflatoxin in corn and peanut mould or 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin which is produced during the manufacture of chlorinated hydrocarbons). This tendency can be seen, for instance, in this quote from a section entitled Types of Food Contaminants (my bold highlighted text) in a peer-reviewed paper entitled “Carcinogenic Food Contaminants”:

“There are four primary types of potentially carcinogenic compounds that have been examined to determine if they act as carcinogens in humans. The first are natural products that may be present in food and are unavoidable. For example, the process of creating salted fish produces carcinogens which can not be easily avoided. Second, are natural products that might be avoided such as the contamination of grain with the carcinogenic fungal metabolite aflatoxin, which can be reduced or eliminated using best practices for grain storage. Third, anthropogenic chemicals may be present in food. For instance, 2,3,7,8-tetracholordibenzo-p-dioxin has been inadvertently produced during the manufacture of chlorinated hydrocarbons, but it contaminates the environment, resists degradation, and accumulates in certain foodstuffs. A fourth category of concern is anthropogenic chemicals intentionally added to foods, such as saccharin or food coloring, but these are not addressed in this review because they are not contaminants because they are added intentionally.”

It may be an erroneous assumption, but could this stated avoidance of investigating those dietary carcinogens “intentionally” added to our food be motivated by hidden political/commercial pressures to do so? The paper continues (my bold highlighted text) to this conclusion:

“The accumulation of evidence sufficient to render judgement on food contaminants and human cancer risk is a daunting task…several food contaminants have been confirmed as carcinogenic to humans. Possibly the clearest example is the finding that aflatoxin is a major cause of liver cancer…”

Again, we see a tendency to seek the “clearest” (read “easiest to research”) examples of dietary carcinogens as well as a tendency to miss the elephant in the room – namely, the fact that ALL cancers and other diet-related chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, obesity) are rising around the world at a pace perfectly in parallel with the equal rise in adoption of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

There are reported to be between 80,000 and 100,000 environmental chemicals that would need to be thoroughly tested in order to establish whether or not they each represent a significant cancer risk for humans. Imagine how long that would take? As research teams trawl through these, the focus on the avoidable (i.e. both those intentionally avoided “intentionally added”) dietary carcinogens referred to above would continue to be unwittingly consumed by millions of people. And this is aside from those carcinogens that are not added to foods, but actually ARE the foods, such as our next and main topic casein in dairy.

The animal protein used by Professor T Colin Campbell and his team of researchers was casein, which represents around 85% of all the protein in cow’s milk. He demonstrated that you could turn cancer tumours on and off in rats and mice merely by alternating the amount of protein consumed from 5% to 20% and then from 20% back down to 5% of their total daily calorie intake. Since this research, which is now decades old, he was able to identify the precise mechanisms concerned and how they are involved in all three phases of cancer development.

He is also convinced that other animal proteins have the same detrimental effects – that is, if animal protein intake is increased then cancer risk also increases; but if animal protein intake is reduced then the cancer risk decreases. This can be witnessed in human populations. The following graph shows the example of breast cancer and its geographical spread by country and quantity of average national levels of animal protein (and in this case, also animal fat) consumption. The USA is highlighted in red, but the UK has even higher incidence of breast cancer per capita, reflecting the corresponding higher protein (and fat) intake.

The following chart from The China Study shows female colon cancer rising with meat consumption.

And just to hammer home the correlation between animal protein consumption and incidence of cancer, I have included these further charts from other research:

Assuming a causal rather than a merely correlational relationship between these factors, we can identify the particular protein’s amino acid composition as the specific reason for the adverse effects. Sufficient studies for more than 50 years have shown that the nutritional responses of different proteins are attributed to their differing amino acid compositions; and the differences in nutritional response between animal and plant proteins disappear when any limiting amino acids are restored. Limiting amino acids are those essential amino acids which are present in only small quantities within any given food. The only “food” completely lacking one essential amino acid is gelatin which completely lacks tryptophan. All other foods, as far as I am aware, contain all the essential amino acids, but – and this is the significant point – in varying amounts.

Throughout many experiments over a period of over 30 years, Professor Campbell’s research team found that casein in particular was a powerful promoter of cancer, with two of the major contributory factors being:

  • increased production of growth hormones, and
  • elevated body acid load (metabolic acidosis).

Unlike animal proteins such as casein, plant proteins (for instance, the protein in wheat) does not stimulate cancer development. However, as indicated above – when wheat’s limiting amino acid, lysine, is restored to the relevant level, wheat protein acts just the same as casein in terms of cancer promotion.

So, to recap:

  • animal and plant proteins are not the same
  • the variation is due to their different amino acid compositions
  • these different amino acid compositions produce different nutritional responses.

While animal proteins do vary between themselves, any difference is much less than the degree to which they differ from plant proteins as a whole, and there is virtually no overlap between the two groups of protein.

The conventional way in which the so-called “quality” or “completeness” of a protein is determined relates to protein’s efficiency ratio. Thus, plant proteins are described as having LBV (Low Biological Value) while animal proteins are HBV (High Biological Value) depending on how many grams of gain in body weight occur with a given intake of the protein:

  • Animal proteins cause a greater weight gain over a specified period of time
  • Plant proteins cause a lesser weight gain over a specified period of time.


  • Egg, meat, cow’s milk, and fish promote a faster rate of growth
  • Rice, beans and wheat flour promote a slower rate of gain.

So what’s wrong with that?

Nothing, if you want your farm animals to grow rapidly to return the maximum profit over the shortest time; but not if you are a human. Rapid growth in childhood is not a beneficial thing and rapid growth of cancer cells in childhood or adulthood is generally accepted as undesirable.

Cow’s Milk is Baby Calf Growth Fluid

And, as Dr Michael Klaper says: “The purpose of cow’s milk is to turn a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cow’s milk IS baby calf growth fluid. No matter what you do to it, that is what the stuff is.”

It appears at first sight to be a truly shocking that Professor Campbell should define casein in dairy as “The most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered.”

But it is possible to understand this when one considers the increasingly ubiquitous role that dairy plays in the majority of diets. Dairy products are in everything from pizzas to puddings, sherbets to soups. I needn’t tell you how much the dairy industry promotes its supposed (and largely discredited) health benefits – you just need to turn on the TV or flick through a magazine. And the public at large are so taken in by the claims that it is good for your bones (debatable) and or that it is a health food (debatable).

Dr Neil Barnard from the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) goes just as far as Professor Campbell and Dr Michael Klaper. He says “Thanks to these marketing campaigns, milk myths abound in our culture. But science doesn’t support them.” Calling them “white lies” he goes on to attack the myths that the milk industry continues to promote to the public. (Click picture below to read his article, “White Lies? Five Milk Myths Debunked”.)

It occurred to me that one of the reasons that the dairy industry peddles the unsubstantiated myth about milk’s bone-building features is that it is a useful distraction from the potentially catastrophic impact of casein. Maybe I’m just being cynical…In any case, here’s Dr Michael Greger’s view on milk and bone health:

Finally, if you are still in doubt about whether or not people are wise to pour a bit of the white (or red) stuff into their breakfast cereal, I will leave you with a couple of self-explanatory posters about a rather distasteful ingredient that you won’t hear the dairy industry mooing about…



T. Colin Campbell. J Nat Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Oct 18. Published in final edited form as: J Nat Sci. 2017 Oct; 3(10): e448. Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Wholistic Nutrition.

David O. Carpenter M.D.,  Sheila Bushkin-Bedient M.D. Journal of Adolescent Health. Volume 52, Issue 5, Supplement, May 2013, Pages S21-S29. Exposure to Chemicals and Radiation During Childhood and Risk for Cancer Later in Life.

Campbell TC. J Nat Sci. 2017 Oct;3(10). pii: e448. Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Wholistic Nutrition.

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2017 Aug-Sep;69(6):962-968. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1339094. Epub 2017 Jul 25. Nutrition and Cancer: An Historical Perspective.-The Past, Present, and Future of Nutrition and Cancer. Part 2. Misunderstanding and Ignoring Nutrition.

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2017 Jul;69(5):811-817. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1317823. Epub 2017 Jun 8. The Past, Present, and Future of Nutrition and Cancer: Part 1-Was A Nutritional Association Acknowledged a Century Ago?

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(6):1077-82. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.927687. Epub 2014 Jul 18. Untold nutrition.

Campbell TM, Campbell TC. Isr Med Assoc J. 2008 Oct;10(10):730-2. The benefits of integrating nutrition into clinical medicine.

Sarter B, Campbell TC, Fuhrman J. Altern Ther Health Med. 2008 May-Jun;14(3):48-53. Effect of a high nutrient density diet on long-term weight loss: a retrospective chart review.

Campbell TC. MedGenMed. 2007;9(3):57. Fail to test the impressive ability of diet to favorably affect long-term health and body weight loss.

Campbell TC. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1667. Dietary protein, growth factors, and cancer.

Wang Y, Crawford MA, Chen J, Li J, Ghebremeskel K, Campbell TC, Fan W, Parker R, Leyton J. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003 Sep;136(1):127-40. Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations.

Feskanich D, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Frazier AL, Willett WC. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jan;168(1):54-60. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3821. Milk consumption during teenage years and risk of hip fractures in older adults.

Sun Z, Zhang Z, Wang X, Cade R, Elmir Z, Fregly M. Peptides. 2003 Jun;24(6):937-43. Relation of beta-casomorphin to apnea in sudden infant death syndrome.

Fiedorowicz E, Jarmołowska B, Iwan M, Kostyra E, Obuchowicz R, Obuchowicz M. Peptides. 2011 Apr;32(4):707-12. The influence of μ-opioid receptor agonist and antagonist peptides on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

Kost NV, Sokolov OY, Kurasova OB, Dmitriev AD, Tarakanova JN, Gabaeva MV, Zolotarev YA, Dadayan AK, Grachev SA, Korneeva EV, Mikheeva IG, Zozulya AA. Peptides. 2009 Oct;30(10):1854-60. Beta-casomorphins-7 in infants on different type of feeding and different levels of psychomotor development.

A S Wiley. Biol. 2012 Mar-Apr;24(2):130-8. Cow milk consumption, insulin-like growth factor-I, and human biology: a life history approach. Am J Hum

B C Melnik, S M John, G Schmitz. Nutr J. 2013; 12: 103. Milk is not just food but most likely a genetic transfection system activating mTORC1 signaling for postnatal growth. 

C Melnik. J Obes. 2012;2012:197653. Excessive Leucine-mTORC1-Signalling of Cow Milk-Based Infant Formula: The Missing Link to Understand Early Childhood Obesity.

M S Kramer. J Pediatr. 1981 Jun;98(6):883-7. Do breast-feeding and delayed introduction of solid foods protect against subsequent obesity?

B C Melnik. World J Diabetes. 2012 Mar 15;3(3):38-53. Leucine signaling in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A S Wiley. PLoS One. 2011 Feb 14;6(2):e14685. Milk intake and total dairy consumption: associations with early menarche in NHANES 1999-2004.

D S Ludwig, W C Willett. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Sep;167(9):788-9. Three daily servings of reduced-fat milk: an evidence-based recommendation?

K Arnberg, C Molgaard, K F Michaelsen, S M Jensen, E Trolle, A Larnkjaer. J Nutr. 2012 Dec;142(12):2083-90. Skim milk, whey, and casein increase body weight and whey and casein increase the plasma C-peptide concentration in overweight adolescents.

P Wilde, E Morgan, J Roberts, A Schpok, T Wilson. Physiol Behav. 2012 Aug 20;107(1):172-5. Relationship between funding sources and outcomes of obesity-related research.

Youngman LD, Campbell TC. J Nutr. 1991 Sep;121(9):1454-61. High protein intake promotes the growth of hepatic preneoplastic foci in Fischer #344 rats: evidence that early remodeled foci retain the potential for future growth.














The Importance of Sleep

One of my clients emailed me to say that he was concerned about his blood pressure. On the WFPB programme for nearly four weeks, his blood pressure has been dropping consistently from around 160/100 when he started, to 113/78 two days ago. Then it looked like it was starting to rise again. I sensed some panic in his tone…

When I looked at his nutritional/lifestyle diary for the past days I could see the problem – sleep or rather the lack of it.

A recent study of US citizens found that 1 in 3 were chronically sleep deprived. It is likely figures for other Western countries are similar. Sleep – or, rather, the lack of it – is a BIG problem for many people.

Health conditions associated with lack of sleep

And what few fully appreciate is that blood pressure (BP) rises if you have insufficient sleep. And raised BP is not all. The following are also associated with sleep deficiency:

Suggestions for improving quality of sleep

So, how do we ensure that we stand the best chance of getting enough good quality sleep? The following are associated with improved sleep patterns according to both third-party studies and my own professional/personal experience:

A little more detail…

More on the benefits of plant-based diets

More advice on optimal amounts of sleep.

More on sleep and the immune system.

More on the relationship between cherries, kiwifruit and sleep.

A note about melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone secreted at night by the pineal gland in the center of our brain to help regulate our circadian rhythm. Supplements are used to prevent and reduce jet lag. MIT got the patent to use melatonin to help people sleep. But melatonin “is not only produced in the pineal gland—it is also naturally present in edible plants.

For more information on melatonin.

The above is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list of the chronic health conditions associated with sleep deficiency; nor have I provided a definitive list of suggestions for improving sleep quality. If it forms a basis for discussion or for you to undertake your own research (and send me the findings, please!) then that is a sufficient achievement.

What I will add is that the four cornerstones of health that I continue to mention (diet, sleep, exercise and stress-avoidance) are all a part of the wholistic approach that I consider optimal for human health and well-being.

Diet is perhaps the most important element in all of this, since it forms the basis for being able to sleep well, recover from and endure exercise, and enjoy a positive, stress-reduced mental attitude. Part of the reason why it is able to do this is because it is fundamental to maintaining the body in a state of homeostasis (balance), rather than having to constantly detoxify, protect and repair itself from the inferior “foods” we have so often forced our poor bodies to eat.

Wholistic = Diet+Exercise+Sleep+Stress Reduction…They work together. They compliment one another.

A few final words from Dr Neal Barnard about high-protein foods and sleep

“While many people believe that high-protein meals are key to getting a good night’s rest, the opposite is true. High-protein foods block the brain’s ability to produce serotonin. Because high-protein foods contain more amino acids, tryptophan—the amino acid that eventually turns into serotonin—is crowded out of the brain. As a result, high-protein foods will leave you feeling alert.

High-protein plant-based foods, like tofu, beans, and lentils, are very nutritious. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, try eating these foods earlier in the day. You’ll feel more alert during the day, while favoring carbohydrates later on can help you rest at night.”

Dr Neal Barnard in his own words:


Health conditions associated with lack of sleep (in addition to the above links)

Osamu Tochikubo, Akihiko Ikeda, Eiji Miyajima, Masao Ishii. Hypertension. 1996;27:1318-1324.
Originally published June 1, 1996. Effects of Insufficient Sleep on Blood Pressure Monitored by a New Multibiomedical Recorder.

Noguti J, Andersen ML, Cirelli C, Ribeiro DA. Sleep Breath. 2013 Sep;17(3):905-10. doi: 10.1007/s11325-012-0797-9. Epub 2013 Feb 1. Oxidative stress, cancer, and sleep deprivation: is there a logical link in this association?

Redeker NS, Pigeon WR, Boudreau EA. Support Care Cancer. 2015 Apr;23(4):1145-55. doi: 10.1007/s00520-014-2537-0. Epub 2014 Dec 16.
Incorporating measures of sleep quality into cancer studies.

Wang P, Ren FM, Lin Y, Su FX, Jia WH, Su XF, Tang LY, Ren ZF. Sleep Med. 2015 Apr;16(4):462-8. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2014.11.017. Epub 2015 Feb 3. Night-shift work, sleep duration, daytime napping, and breast cancer risk.

Olsson M, Ärlig J, Hedner J, Blennow K1, Zetterberg H. Sleep. 2018 Feb 7. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy025. Sleep Deprivation and CSF Biomarkers for Alzheimer Disease.

Ju YE, McLeland JS, Toedebusch CD, Xiong C, Fagan AM, Duntley SP, Morris JC, Holtzman DM. AMA Neurol. 2013 May;70(5):587-93. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.2334. Sleep quality and preclinical Alzheimer disease.

Malhotra RK. Sleep Med Clin. 2018 Mar;13(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Nov 10. Neurodegenerative Disorders and Sleep.

Holingue C, Wennberg A, Berger S, Polotsky VY, Spira AP. Metabolism. 2018 Jan 31. pii: S0026-0495(18)30029-5. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2018.01.021. Disturbed Sleep and Diabetes: A Potential Nexus of Dementia Risk.

Lao XQ, Liu X, Deng HB, Chan TC, Ho KF, Wang F, Vermeulen R, Tam T, Wong MCS, Tse LA, Chang LY, Yeoh EK. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018 Jan 15;14(1):109-117. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.6894. Sleep Quality, Sleep Duration, and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study With 60,586 Adults.

Solarz DE, Mullington JM, Meier-Ewert HK. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jun 1;4:2490-501. Sleep, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

Ancoli-Israel S, DuHamel ER, Stepnowsky C, Engler R, Cohen-Zion M, Marler M. Chest. 2003 Oct;124(4):1400-5. The relationship between congestive heart failure, sleep apnea, and mortality in older men.

Fletcher EC. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 1996 Feb;51(1):77-80. Obstructive sleep apnoea and cardiovascular morbidity.

Patyar S, Patyar RR.. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2015 May;24(5):905-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2014.12.038. Epub 2015 Mar 25. Correlation between Sleep Duration and Risk of Stroke.

Miller MA, Kruisbrink M, Wallace J, Ji C, Cappuccio FP. Sleep. 2018 Feb 1. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy018. Sleep Duration and Incidence of Obesity in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.

Bell JF, Zimmerman FJ. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Sep;164(9):840-5. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.143. Shortened nighttime sleep duration in early life and subsequent childhood obesity.

Hart CN, Jelalian E. Behav Sleep Med. 2008;6(4):251-67. doi: 10.1080/15402000802371379. Shortened sleep duration is associated with pediatric overweight.

Taveras EM, Gilliman MW, Pena MM, Redline S, Rifas Shiman SL. Jun;133(6):1013-22. Pediatrics. 2014. Chronic Sleep Curtailment and Adiposity.

Patel SR, Hu FB. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008; 16:643-53. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review.

PatelSR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Am J Epidemiol.2006; 164:947-54. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women.

Kim CW, Chang Y, Sung E, Ryu S.. Diabet Med. 2017 Nov;34(11):1591-1598. doi: 10.1111/dme.13432. Epub 2017 Aug 14. Sleep duration and progression to diabetes in people with prediabetes defined by HbA1c concentration.

Briançon-Marjollet A, Weiszenstein M, Henri M, Thomas A, Godin-Ribuot D, Polak J. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2015 Mar 24;7:25. doi: 10.1186/s13098-015-0018-3. eCollection 2015. The impact of sleep disorders on glucose metabolism: endocrine and molecular mechanisms.

Orzeł-Gryglewska J. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2010;23(1):95-114. doi: 10.2478/v10001-010-0004-9. Consequences of sleep deprivation. [Immunological changes]

Riemann D, Baglioni C, Spiegelhalder K. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2011 Dec;54(12):1296-302. doi: 10.1007/s00103-011-1378-y. [Lack of sleep and insomnia. Impact on somatic and mental health]. [Article in German]

Riemann D. Sleep Med. 2007 Dec;8 Suppl 4:S15-20. doi: 10.1016/S1389-9457(08)70004-2. Insomnia and comorbid psychiatric disorders.

Papadimitriou GN, Linkowski P. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;17(4):229-36. Sleep disturbance in anxiety disorders.

Roehrs T, Hyde M, Blaisdell B, Greenwald M, Roth T. Sleep. 2006 Feb;29(2):145-51. Sleep loss and REM sleep loss are hyperalgesic. [Increased cute/chronic pain sensitivity]

Alexandre C, Latremoliere A, Ferreira A, Miracca G, Yamamoto M, Scammell TE, Woolf CJ. Nat Med. 2017 Jun;23(6):768-774. doi: 10.1038/nm.4329. Epub 2017 May 8. Decreased alertness due to sleep loss increases pain sensitivity in mice.

Oyetakin-White P, Suggs A, Koo B, Matsui MS, Yarosh D, Cooper KD, Baron ED. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Jan;40(1):17-22. doi: 10.1111/ced.12455. Epub 2014 Sep 30. Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?

Pastuszak AW, Moon YM, Scovell J, Badal J, Lamb DJ, Link RE, Lipshultz LI. Urology. 2017 Apr;102:121-125. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2016.11.033. Epub 2016 Dec 14. Poor Sleep Quality Predicts Hypogonadal Symptoms and Sexual Dysfunction in Male Nonstandard Shift Workers.

Hirotsu C, Soterio-Pires JH, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Int J Impot Res. 2017 May;29(3):126. doi: 10.1038/ijir.2017.1. Epub 2017 Feb 16. Sleep disturbance and sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women.

Opstad PK.. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1992 May;74(5):1176-83. Androgenic hormones during prolonged physical stress, sleep, and energy deficiency. 9 [Adrenal & Testicular Androgens]

Sheldon Cohen, PhD, William J. Doyle, PhD, Cuneyt M. Alper, MD, Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD, and Ronald B. Turner, MD. Arch Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Jan 12. Published in final edited form as:Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12; 169(1): 62–67.
doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.505. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.

Liu TZ, Xu C, Rota M, Cai H, Zhang C, Shi MJ, Yuan RX, Weng H, Meng XY, Kwong JS, Sun X. Sleep Med Rev. 2017 Apr;32:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.02.005. Epub 2016 Mar 3. Sleep duration and risk of all-cause mortality: A flexible, non-linear, meta-regression of 40 prospective cohort studies.

Tso W, Rao N, Jiang F, Li AM, Lee SL, Ho FK, Li SL, Ip P. J Pediatr. 2016 Feb;169:266-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.10.064. Epub 2015 Nov 19. Sleep Duration and School Readiness of Chinese Preschool Children.

Street NW, McCormick MC, Austin SB, Slopen N4 Habre R, Molnar BE. Sleep Health. 2016 Jun;2(2):129-135. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Apr 18. Sleep duration and risk of physical aggression against peers in urban youth.

Luyster FS, Strollo PJ Jr, Zee PC, Walsh JK; Boards of Directors of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 2012 Jun 1;35(6):727-34. doi: 10.5665/sleep.1846. Sleep: a health imperative. [Increased risk of fatal accidents]

Philip P, Akerstedt T. Sleep Med Rev. 2006 Oct;10(5):347-56. Epub 2006 Aug 22. Transport and industrial safety, how are they affected by sleepiness and sleep restriction?

Akerstedt T, Kecklund G, Alfredsson L, Selen J. J Sleep Res. 2007 Dec;16(4):341-5. Predicting long-term sickness absence from sleep and fatigue.

Lim J, Dinges DF. Psychol Bull. 2010 May;136(3):375-89. doi: 10.1037/a0018883. A meta-analysis of the impact of short-term sleep deprivation on cognitive variables.

Esposito MJ, Occhionero M1, Cicogna P. Sleep. 2015 Nov 1;38(11):1823-6. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5172. Sleep Deprivation and Time-Based Prospective Memory.

Lima AM, de Bruin VM, Rios ER, de Bruin PF. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2014 May;387(5):399-406. doi: 10.1007/s00210-013-0955-z. Epub 2014 Jan 15. Differential effects of paradoxical sleep deprivation on memory and oxidative stress.

Eun Yeon Joo, Cindy W Yoon, Dae Lim Koo, Daeyoung Kim and Seung Bong Hong/ J Clin Neurol. 2012 Jun;8(2):146-150. English.
Published online June 29, 2012. Adverse Effects of 24 Hours of Sleep Deprivation on Cognition and Stress Hormones.


Suggestions for improving quality of sleep (in addition to the above links)

Nutr Res. 2012 May;32(5):309-19. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.03.009. Epub 2012 Apr 25. Peuhkuri K, Sihvola N, Korpela R. Diet promotes sleep duration and quality.

St-Onge MP, Roberts A, Shechter A, Choudhury AR. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016 Jan;12(1):19-24. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.5384. Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep.

G. Howatson, P. G. Bell, J. Tallent, B. Middleton, M. P. McHugh, J. Ellis. Eur J Nutr 2012 51(8):909 – 916. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.

H.-H. Lin, P.-S. Tsai, S.-C. Fang, J.-F. Liu. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011 20(2):169 – 174. Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems.

Brand S, Gerber M, Beck J, Hatzinger M, Pühse U, Holsboer-Trachsler E. J Adolesc Health. 2010 Feb;46(2):133-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.06.018. Epub 2009 Aug 18. High exercise levels are related to favorable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescents: a comparison of athletes and controls.

Thakkar MM, Sharma R, Sahota P. Alcohol. 2015 Jun;49(4):299-310. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2014.07.019. Epub 2014 Nov 11. Alcohol disrupts sleep homeostasis.

Ebrahim IO, Shapiro CM, Williams AJ, Fenwick PB. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013 Apr;37(4):539-49. doi: 10.1111/acer.12006. Epub 2013 Jan 24. Review. Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.

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The China Study

If you already know about The China Study then you will know how important a milestone it is for nutritional research. It’s such an important study that I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at its background, method and conclusions.


Protein Consumption in Rats

Professor T Colin Campbell observed a relationship between the amount of dietary protein consumed and the promotion of cancer in rats. The animal protein used was casein (the main protein in milk and cheese), along with a variety of plant proteins. Distinct differences between the effects of animal vs. plant-based protein were observed:

  • animal protein tended to promote disease conditions
  • plant protein tended to have the opposite effect

Early 1970’s in China

The Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was dying of cancer. He had organised a survey called the Cancer Atlas which gathered details on about 880 million people. The survey revealed cancer rates across China to be geographically localised, suggesting dietary/environmental factors—not genes—accounted for differences in disease rates.

1983-1984 Survey

Dr. Campbell with researchers from Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese government, conducted a major epidemiological study (i.e. a study of human populations to discover patterns of disease and the factors that influence them). This was called The China Project (from which the book The China Study derived some of its data). Researchers investigated the relationship between disease rates and dietary/lifestyle factors across the country.

Why China?

  • large population of almost one billion
  • very little migration within China
  • rural Chinese mostly lived where they were born
  • strict residential registration system existed
  • food production was very localised
  • the Cancer Atlas had revealed diseases were localised and so dietary and environmental factors (not genes) would be likely to account for disease rate variation by area (whether affluent and eating Western diet, or rural and eating traditional plant-based diet)


Research Questions

1. Is there an association between environmental factors, like diet and lifestyle, and risk for chronic disease?

2. Would the patterns observed in a human population be consistent with diet and disease associations observed in experimental animals?


Researchers hypothesised generally that an association between diet/lifestyle factors and disease rates would indeed exist. A specific hypothesis was that animal product consumption would be associated with an increase in cancer and chronic, degenerative disease.

Hypothesis Testing

6,500 adults in 65 different counties across China were surveyed in the 1983-4 project. These counties represented the range of disease rates countrywide for seven different cancers. The survey process with each participant included:

  • three-day direct observation
  • comprehensive diet and lifestyle questionnaires
  • blood and urine samples
  • food samples from local markets analysed for nutritional composition
  • survey of geographic factors

1989-1990 Survey

  • same counties and individuals resurveyed plus a survey of 20 additional new counties in mainland China and Taiwan.
  • 10,200 adults surveyed
  • socioeconomic information collected
  • data combined with new mortality data for 1986-88

Analysis of Data from both 1983-1984 & 1989-1990 Surveys

  • data was analysed at approximately two dozen laboratories around the world to reduce chances of error in data analysis
  • researchers could be confident that if results were consistent, then they would be correct


  • diseases more common in Western countries clustered together geographically in richer areas of China
  • diseases in richer areas of the world were thus likely to be attributed to similar “nutritional extravagance”
  • diseases in poorer areas of the world were likely to be attributed to nutritional inadequacy/poor sanitation
  • blood cholesterol (strongly associated with chronic, degenerative diseases) was higher in those consuming more animal foods
  • lower oestrogen levels in women (associated with fewer breast cancers) related to increased plant food consumption
  • higher intake of fibre (found only in plants) associated with lower incidence of colon and rectal cancer

The consistency of the results led the researchers to make the overall conclusion that the closer people came to an all plant-based diet, the lower their risk of chronic disease.

Published Data

  • The data on both the 1983-1984 survey and the 1989-1990 survey can be seen in more detail here.
  • More detail on the experimental study design of the China Project (covered in Appendix B) plus a full copy of The China Study in pdf format is available here.
  • Professor T Colin Campbell’s complete CV (including published papers analysing data from the China Project) is available here.

Plant Protein vs Animal Protein Webinar from Professor T Colin Campbell

If you have any comments or require further information on this topic, please let me know.


  1. Chen J, Campbell TC, Li J, Peto R. Diet, Life-Style and Mortality in China: A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 1990.
  2. Chen J, Peto R, Pan W-H, Liu B-Q, Campbell TC, Boreham J, Parpia B. Mortality, Biochemistry, Diet and Lifestyle in Rural China: Geographic Study of the Characteristics of 69 Counties in Mainland China and 16 Areas in Taiwan. Oxford, UK; Ithaca, NY; Beijing, PRC: Oxford University Press, Cornell University Press; People’s Medical Publishing House, 1990.