A new study published in the British Medical Journal1 found that people who consumed the highest amounts of calcium did not have a reduction in bone fractures or osteoporosis. In fact, those who consumed the most calcium (more than 1137 milligrams per day) had higher rates of hip fractures and similar rates of osteoporosis, compared with those who consumed less. Researchers looked at 61,433 Swedish women over 19 years and concluded no significant benefit to consuming more than 700 milligrams of calcium per day for bone health.
Previous studies have shown similar results. The Nurses’ Health Study,2 which followed more than 75,000 women for 18 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. Similarly, a 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared with those with the lowest consumption.3
People may want to consider the risks to over consuming calcium. An elevated risk of prostate cancer incidence and mortality has been associated with dairy consumption,4,5 and the same may be true for ovarian cancer.6
1. Warensjo E, Byberg L, Melhus H, et al. Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 2011;342:d1473.
2. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: A prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.
3. Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ. Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 1994;139:493-503.
4. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Gann PH, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;74:549-554.
5. Chan JM, Gann PH, Giovannucci EL. Role of diet in prostate cancer development and progression.J Clin Oncol. 2005;23:8152-8160.
6. Cramer DW, Harlow BL, Willet WC. Galactose consumption and metabolism in relation to the risk of ovarian cancer. Lancet. 1989;2:66-71.
Ethical Cancer Research and Education
More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States alone, and I wanted to let you know about a charity that is tackling this issue in an effective and ethical way. The Skin Cancer Foundation, spotlighted this month on the Humane Charity Seal of Approval website, has been working tirelessly since 1979 to reduce the incidence of skin cancer through humane research, public education, and outreach campaigns.
The Skin Cancer Foundation is just one of hundreds of health charities that have received the Humane Charity Seal of Approval, a unique certification that allows potential donors to quickly identify health charities that fund only humane, human-based research or patient services.
An estimated 115 to 127 million animals are currently used in experimental research worldwide. But a growing number of scientists believe that animal experimentation is both cruel and misguided. And more than 65 percent of adults surveyed said they would be more likely to donate to a health charity that had a policy of never funding animal experiments. Rest assured that charities with the Humane Seal never waste a dime on animal experiments.
Make sure to protect your health and the lives of animals by supporting Humane Seal-approved charities.
Processed meat is so strongly linked with colorectal cancer that no one should ever eat it, according to a new report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
The report—the most comprehensive ever conducted on colorectal cancer risk—found that this type of cancer is extremely preventable. How do you slash your risk? Say goodbye to processed meats—this includes bacon and hot dogs but also deli meats—and hello to fruits and vegetables.
The findings reaffirm the results of a landmark 2007 report by the same organizations showing “convincing” evidence that red and processed meat increased colorectal cancer risk. Findings from 10 new cohort studies were added to the 14 studies included in the 2007 report. The new report also upgrades fiber’s protective effects from “probable” to “convincing.”
The evidence provided in the 2007 report was already strong enough that we should have immediately removed all processed meats from federal nutrition programs. But the government balked at PCRM’s appeal to make this happen. With this new evidence, there is no excuse for continuing to feed children processed meats.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. Forty-five percent of all colorectal cancer cases could be prevented if we ate more plant foods and less meat, drank less alcohol, exercised more, and maintained a healthy weight, according to the report’s authors. That’s more than 64,000 cases each year just in the United States.
If we have conclusive, convincing evidence that certain foods significantly increase the risk of developing this deadly disease, we must do all we can to make the public aware of the connection. And it should go without saying that children should never again find a hot dog or a pepperoni pizza in the school lunch line.
World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Interim Report Summary. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. 2011.
I have a healthy recommendation for you, and you’ll find it at your local movie theater. No, I’m not talking about the cancer-inducing hot dogs, buttered popcorn, or soda. Many theaters across the country are now serving up the new film Forks Over Knives, which dissects the many intriguing links between food and health.
The film traces the personal journeys of pioneering researchers T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., both long-time members of PCRM’s Advisory Board and coaches for PCRM’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.
You can find show times for Forks Over Knives at www.ForksOverKnives.com. Check it out this weekend!
Thanks to PCRM’s recently launched national effort, pediatrics training is quickly moving away from the use of animals, making training more ethical and more effective. Our latest victory is at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. After PCRM wrote to Nationwide about its cruel use of cats for intubation training in its pediatrics residency program, the hospital replaced the use of cats with simulators.
Nationwide and the other programs that have removed animals from pediatrics training made the right choice for animals—and babies. Residents that participate in these programs are now better prepared to perform this lifesaving procedure having learned on a human-based simulator designed to replicate the anatomy of a newborn child.
Take a look at this video of Premie HAL from Gaumard, a simulator used to teach intubation in pediatrics residency programs:
Simulators are not only more ethical; they are educationally superior to the crude methodology of using live animals, because they are based on actual human anatomy, not the anatomy of a cat or ferret. But a handful of programs, including the University of Washington, continue to use animals to teach intubation. In these programs residents repeatedly force breathing tubes down animals’ throats causing tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and risking death. The animals are used over and over, suffering through multiple intubations.
We applaud Nationwide and other programs for making the switch to simulation. And we are letting programs, such as the University of Washington, know that medical simulators can better replicate the airway of a premature newborn, putting an end to the cruel and unnecessary practice of using animals.
Sharing a Sense of Self with Animals
As I type this blog and see the cursor moving, I know I’m controlling its movement with my keystrokes. But when I see the minutes ticking away on my computer’s clock, I know I’m doing nothing to control its progression.
According to a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, this ability to distinguish the cause and effect of my actions versus events that occur outside of my control is a fundamental aspect of human cognition. And new findings published in the journal indicate that chimpanzees share this ability.
But this study only underscores what PCRM scientists have understood for years: Nonhuman animals are as self-aware as humans. This is true, not only of primates, but of countless other animal species, too, including those commonly used in scientific experiments.
In his book Second Nature, Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., an animal behavior expert affiliated with PCRM, makes the case that animals, once viewed only as mindless automatons, have rich sensory experiences and emotional complexity.
Cats and dogs get their feelings hurt. Chickens find certain human faces attractive in the same way people do. Chimpanzees have a keen sense of right and wrong. Rats and mice—small as they may be—have complex psychological and social lives. And all of them are acutely sensitive to pain.
Dr. Balcombe explains that when animals in a laboratory or on a factory farm are deprived of their basic needs and denied the ability to act on their natural instincts, we have deprived them of what is most critical to their well-being.
That deprivation is devastating: Chimpanzees previously used in experimental research commonly display behaviors overlapping with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other trauma-related disorders.
In his books, Dr. Balcombe challenges traditional views of animals and spells out why our understanding of animals needs a complete overhaul. Federal legislation that PCRM is focusing on, such as the recently introduced Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, is one way to help overhaul this relationship.
You can learn more about animals’ sense of self in Second Nature and from Dr. Balcombe on Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m., at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas.
Put Agricultural Subsidies on a Diet
Last week, just days after the marriage of his son, Prince Charles was in Washington, D.C., delivering an important warning against destructive agricultural policies. The Prince’s speech echoed that PCRM and others have voiced for years. A recent article in the New York Times showed that Capitol Hill is finally ready to heed this warning: It’s time to overhaul our country’s federal policies that lead to tens of billions of dollars in handouts to an agricultural system that favors the unhealthiest food products.
Last month, PCRM released a report revealing the stark contrast between the foods our government recommends we eat, and the food products it supports through subsidies.
The vast majority of subsidies directly or indirectly support the production of the least healthful foods—those that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, such as meat, dairy products, and sweeteners. On the other hand, the types of food that have been identified to help protect our health—fruits and vegetables—receive a fraction of the support.
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines not only point out the health problems associated with fatty foods like meat and cheese, they highlight the benefits of a plant-based diet, stating: "Vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure."
About 60 percent of all deaths in the United States are caused by diseases linked to unhealthy diets, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Poor diets are also linked to epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Not only are taxpayers forced to finance large agribusinesses, we must also pay hefty medical bills—both directly and indirectly through federally funded health care—that are fueled by diet-related diseases.
My message to Congress is that it is time to put unhealthy agricultural subsidies on a diet. We can rein in federal spending and give our nation a health boost in the process.
Massachusetts General Hospital has ended its use of animals in trauma training, after a long effort by PCRM and its member physicians. The move reflects a continued trend away from the use of animals in Advanced Trauma Life Support courses. Of the U.S. and Canadian programs surveyed by PCRM, 95 percent now use nonanimal methods.
Needless to say, taking animals out of the equation is not only the ethical thing to do; it is also much better for the trainees, because they can train in the clinical setting or on simulators that are based on human anatomy.
Harvard Medical School made the switch long ago. Harvard medical students asked PCRM to meet with Harvard faculty and students, who readily adopted a new program that replaced the animal laboratory with a practicum in the operating room. But the residents and physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital found themselves stuck with an animal laboratory. Even though trauma courses at Yale, Duke, the University of Michigan, and elsewhere adopted nonanimal methods, Mass General was still using sheep.
In October 2009, PCRM physicians and hospital employees called for an end to the animal laboratories in a demonstration outside the hospital. In December 2010, the University of Massachusetts Medical School ended its use of animals in trauma training, after a push from PCRM, putting more pressure on Mass General to do the same. The last straw came in March 2011, when PCRM filed a complaint with the local district attorney, pointing out that Mass General was violating state law by intentionally and cruelly mutilating animals.
Mass General has now adopted the TraumaMan System, a realistic and anatomically correct human simulator for trauma training. We are delighted with the hospital’s decision, and are encouraging all remaining institutions to do the same.