2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Knowledge Base

Welcome to our extensive library of articles on health concerns and ailments, alternative therapies, nutritional supplements, and much more. Please mouse over the letters to get started. We hope you enjoy browsing.

Foods That May Harm Your Brain

Posted 02/03/2014

This intriguing idea is the lead article in this week’s Medscape Internal Medicine, a newsletter directed to internists like myself. It’s genuinely refreshing to read research that doesn’t extol some new pharmaceutical, but rather encourages simple changes in how we eat to prevent and even treat common emotional problems.

Before I get to the meat (or rather the whole grain) of the article, which contains a lot of info you Health Tip readers already know, the comments section at the end, which unfortunately you can’t access, shows more than 70 physicians expressing appreciation for the information. Some had minor quibbles, others opposed sweeping generalizations, but all things considered I see the positive reception of this article as a good sign.

The article first interviews Drew Ramsey, MD, a psychiatrist from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and author of The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, published by Rodale Press, home of Prevention Magazine. Movie star-handsome Dr. Ramsey certainly looks like someone who spends the hours away from his analyst couch at a health club or eating scrupulously healthful food. In fact, his second book, Fifty Shades of Kale, is exactly that: 50 recipes for the only food I know that makes me gag. Although I personally feel more at ease when my psychiatrist looks like Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, or Wallace Shawn, The Happiness Diet contains a lot of useful information.

Rather than resort to “in my experience” sort of writing (which immediately alienates physicians, who prefer hard clinical data over anecdotes), Dr. Ramsey in the Medscape piece examines previously published and seriously overlooked large-scale clinical studies linking junk food–chips, soda, fast food, sweets–and mental health. One such study tracked more than 2,500 Australian adolescents over two years and found as eating habits deteriorated, rates of anxiety and depression increased. He quotes a second study that followed 23,000 Norwegian women who ate junk food throughout pregnancy and birthed lots of children with aggressive tendencies, attention deficit disorders, and severe tantrum and other behavioral issues. In other research, the eating habits of 5,731 adults were tracked for several years, with lower rates of both anxiety and depression found in those whose self-reported eating habits were tagged as “very healthy.”

A second psychiatrist interviewed in this Medscape article, Felice Jacka, PhD, is president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, which I never knew existed. She agrees completely that the deleterious effects of junk food on the brain are too often overlooked when starting psychiatric treatment.

According to this informative Medscape slideshow, “a so-called whole diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality meats and fish results in a 30% risk reduction for depression and anxiety disorders, compared with consumption of a Western diet high in processed foods and saturated fats, according to a 2010 study. Even unprocessed red meat seems to be protective against depressive and anxiety disorders,in contrast to many studies in which red meat often falls into the category of unhealthy food. In speaking with Medscape News, principal investigator Dr. Felice Jacka specifically addressed the importance of farming practices: Despite the growing locavore movement, much of the livestock in the United States is still raised on industrial feedlots, which ‘…increases saturated fat and decreases very important good fatty acids…pasture-raised animals have a much healthier fatty acid profile.’ A whole dietary pattern may also reduce depression risk, as assessed at 5-year follow-up.”

“A diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins that we know are extremely important in depression ― neurotrophins, which protect the brain against oxidative stress and promote the growth of new brain cells,” Dr. Jacka told Medscape Medical News. “There also seems to be an impact of saturated fat on the stress response system, which is also important in both depression and anxiety.”

In addition, very little research is available on the damaging effects of chemical food additives and preservatives. Most of these are classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe), but those who classify them often have financial links to the food industry, so no one really knows what we’re dosing ourselves with when we eat them. One very large study from Spain followed 9,000 adults and their nutritional habits and found a direct correlation between fast food intake, development of depression and anxiety, and slow but relentless cognitive decline.

Other studies from around the world are equally chilling. Tracking more than 12,000 university students over a period of 11 years, researchers from Spain found a correlation between the amount of trans fats in the diet and depression, anxiety, and early cardiovascular disease. A recent Women’s Health Study on more than 6,000 people again found correlation between trans fats and early cognitive decline, memory, and verbal IQ. Other studies have identified comparable correlations with sugar intake and depression, anxiety, and mental decline.

Grain and the brain
David Perlmutter, MD, a Florida neurologist I’ve known personally for years, lays much blame on our veritable grain “addiction.” His recent best-selling book Grain Brain proposes a low-carb, low-sugar and good-for-your-brain fats eating program, placing much emphasis on gluten-free, low-glycemic eating (high glycemic foods convert quickly to glucose/sugar in the body).

It must be said that Dr. Perlmutter’s work is not completely accepted by the majority of nutritionally oriented psychiatrists and neurologists, who believe that severe carb restrictions and going practically grain-free have not been shown to be worth the effort.

“The book has gotten a lot of buzz, but the argument seems to me to be an unfortunate oversimplification,” Dr. Ramsey told Medscape Medical News. “It’s good that we want people to focus on the health of their brain and how their dietary choices affect the risk of mental illness, but eliminating whole grains just isn’t supported in the evidence for most people, and I doubt that it will be.” He called the argument on glycemic index “misleading.”

Although following a very low-glycemic diet, which eliminates even whole grains, is helpful for weight loss, there’s little clinical evidence that doing so will dramatically affect rates of mental illness or susceptibility to cognitive decline. Both Dr. Perlmutter and Joseph Mercola, MD, who wrote The No-Grain Diet several years ago, endlessly refer to our collective carbohydrate “addiction.”

Extreme language like this may sell books, but I don’t think inducing anxiety in people when they eat the occasional cookie or slice of pizza serves any useful purpose. Anyway, addicts rob gas stations. When have you ever read of a gas station being robbed for its Krispy Kremes?

Here’s what research has been showing…

What not to eat

  • Foods with a high sugar content. You’ll want to eat mostly foods that don’t have labels, but when they do read labels carefully. Look for grams of sugar per serving. I recently purchased a jar of chili that boasted it was all-natural (a meaningless phrase, by the way), organic, and GMO-free, but on careful reading I discovered it also contained 14 grams of sugar per serving, roughly equivalent to a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal.
  • Foods with trans fats. The other name for trans fats is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It’s a product created by the food industry that doesn’t exist in nature and isn’t good for you. To make a trans fat, you take a liquid vegetable oil (like corn or peanut oil), and turn it into a solid by bubbling hydrogen through it. Most fried foods are fried in trans fat and virtually all store-bought baked goods use copious amounts. That neon-yellow glob melted down and poured on your movie popcorn when you ask for extra butter definitely does not come from a cow. Don’t eat trans fats.
  • Foods with a high saturated fat content. These are the solid fats and usually come from animals (that marbleized steak, the white flecks in ground beef). Certain oils, like palm and coconut, and cocoa butter are also saturated fats.

You can remember what not to eat by considering the donut. Refined white flour + sugar + deep fried in trans fats. The only healthful part of a doughnut is the hole. A close second is the deep-fried chicken wing. You probably ate one or the other this past Super Bowl Sunday. How else could you explain the anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline you felt Monday morning (what, you also had six mojitos?)?

What to eat

  • Mediterranean diet. All the nutritionally oriented psychiatrists interviewed were enthusiastic about the Mediterranean diet, high in seafood/omega 3s, plant-based foods, nuts, and whole grains. For desserts and snacks, fresh fruit.

Here’s where we likely worry unnecessarily

  • Gluten. Although many people are sensitive to gluten grains, unless you know you can’t tolerate them there’s no evidence of harm. The best way to find out if your body doesn’t like gluten is to eliminate it completely for a couple of weeks. If you feel better, including improved mental clarity, that’s a sign. Then, establish a single day on which you reintroduce gluten. If within 24 hours you feel poorly (digestive symptoms, fatigue, nasal congestion, brain fog) then you’re likely gluten sensitive. But certainly everyone need not eliminate all gluten grains without good evidence that doing so will make a difference.
  • Organic versus non-organic. Although we might feel emotionally more comfortable knowing our food was raised in an organic setting and we might also recognize it’s better for the soil, there’s actually very little data showing specific health benefits or improved nutritional value. On the other hand, because we don’t know much about the long-term effects of all the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow our produce–or the hundreds of additives mixed into prepared food–if you can afford to go organic, it’s probably a good idea. If your budget can’t handle the likes of Whole Foods, then thoroughly clean conventionally grown fruit and veggies and avoid buying processed foods, especially those containing chemical names you can’t pronounce. Here’s a Mayo Clinic article comparing organic and non organic food.
  • GMOs. Yes, the source of much controversy with all sorts of scary scenarios as Frankenfoods give us offspring of goat-babies. Keep in mind, however, that we’ve been tinkering with plant genetics since the dawn of agriculture. They’re called hybrids. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, and the European Union all agree that GMO foods are just as safe as non-GMO foods.

Just from talking with patients, I find people worrying themselves into states of anxiety thinking about GMOs, but, really, there’s no evidence that they’re harmful. (I’m sure to get some angry comments about this.)

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD



Leave a Comment

  1. Mary says:

    I do see a difference in eating GMO and conventional foods, my child’s behavior is so opposite when he eats organic foods. So I’ll stick with the Organic stuff even if it breaks the bank.

  2. Alan Johnson says:

    Read the latest article on GMOs at Mercola.com. GMO food production poisons the land and attacks your health.

  3. Alan Johnson says:

    Coconut oil is actually good for you in many ways.

  4. Pete says:

    I find this article to be deeply flawed. To begin with, not all saturated fats are the same and healthy saturated fats have actually been linked to brain HEALTH. Coconut oil is probably the most healthy and stable oils you can consume and/or cook with (it does not oxidize when heated).

    High lauric acid content can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It doesn’t increase LDL and helps keep arteries flexible and prevent atherosclerosis
    Studies show that coconut oil may help increase thyroid health because of its unique combination of nourishing properties and the fact that it travels directly to the liver without the need for hormones or enzymes in digestion
    Coconut oil can help boost metabolism. Since it travels directly to the liver, it is used for energy and not stored as fat. It also helps a feeling of satiety and can assist in weight loss.
    Can increase bone strength by allowing better absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals
    It’s antifungal properties have been shown to help reduce candida and yeast in the body and fight yeast infections
    Can help fight infection and flu due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties.

  5. Pete says:

    The problem with “whole grains” is that they are often not whole grains at all. Modern cereal grain crops like wheat are nothing like what humans evolved on. The way they are grown, harvested, and processed in the era of modern industrial agriculture leaves them a mostly dead food… Please read…””Roller milling involves rolling the outer bran layer off the kernel, scalping the germ (where all of the flavor and most of the nutritional oils reside), and then milling the starchy endosperm that remains into flour. The process punishes grains to such a degree that thin-branned kernels of traditional landrace wheats are destroyed by roller mills; only wheat varieties with extraordinarily thick bran layers—many of which are the product of scientific development—can survive the operation. Roller milling creates ultraprocessed, refined flour, drop-dead consistent for baking and totally stable for distribution and storage. In fact, roller-milled flour has itself dropped dead in a way, as it contains no nutrition except carbohydrates and must be fortified with synthetic vitamins to be classified as food….With short stalks and roots, modern wheat throws maximum energy into producing big kernels that can be easily harvested by machine and accommodates a higher density of plants within limited acreage, a density in which plant and soil disease flourish. Modern short-stalk wheat needs extreme amounts of water—so much, in fact, that their acreage depletes non-replenishing aquifers. When water is pumped onto the soil year after year, residual minerals in the irrigation water concentrate and salinate, with the resultant outcome that some of our best American lands have become threshold toxic to wheat horticulture. Modern wheat requires chemical fertilizers—and lots of them—because natural systems cannot concentrate nutrients in the soil to the meet the plants’ demands in order to flourish. The various petro-chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides required in modern wheat horticulture are staggering to contemplate. This is the real Green Revolution: subsidized chemical farming in an irrigated environment to grow short, thick-branned wheat for industrial roller mills that must fortify their products with synthetic vitamins to make them nutritious.” http://ansonmills.com/grain_no

  6. Pete says:

    The doctor also said… “Keep in mind, however, that we’ve been tinkering with plant genetics since the dawn of agriculture. They’re called hybrids.”

    This is usually one of the biggest misunderstandings about GMOs people make. Hybrids and cross pollination are not the same as gene splicing and staking via lab coat intervention.

    In conventional breeding, only individuals from the same species or related species can be mated to produce offspring. The offspring will have genes from both parents, but the genes are just different variants of the same ones coding for the same functions. A GMO, however, contains completely new genes with new functions, as well as new combinations of genes, which will interact with the organism’s own genes in unpredictable ways.
    Conventional breeding involves crossing many individuals belonging to different varieties within a species or belonging to closely related species. The result is a population that preserves much of the initial genetic diversity.
    A transgenic line, in contrast, results from gene insertion events in a single original cell, out of which the entire line is produced. It is genetically very impoverished. In plants, the cells transformed are often kept in tissue culture, a procedure known to generate uncontrollable (somaclonal) variations that frequently change the plant genome. This is one major source of unpredictability.
    The ‘technology ‘ is uncontrollable and error-prone

    Another big hurdle is the transgenic ‘technology’ for making GMOs. ‘Technology’ is a misnomer, for the process is uncontrollable unreliable and unpredictable, and has hardly improved since the first GMOs were made.
    To begin with, the transgenic construct – the artificial combination of genetic material from different sources that is to be introduced into the organism – tends to be unstable. It often rearranges, duplicates or loses parts on being inserted. Furthermore, insertion into the genome is random and error-prone, and depending on where the insert lands, it will have entirely different and unpredictable effects on the host genes and genome. It can inactivate genes or cause them to over-express, scramble the host genome and destabilise it. The instability of the transgenic construct is such that even after insertion into the genome, it can still become rearranged or lost. The genes inserted can also become inactive (silenced). Instability can arise in later generations of propagation of GM plants. There have not been as many studies in GM animals, but researchers find evidence of instability whenever studies have been carried out.
    Transgenic instability is something the industry does not want to discuss. There are, up to now, no molecular data supporting the genetic stability of any transgenic line of plants and animals that has been produced for commercial use.
    The failure of GM crops is now widely acknowledged, except by the proponents of biotechnology. GM crops are plagued by lower yields, poor and inconsistent performance in the field, increased use of pesticides and reduced profit for farmers. Transgenic instability certainly contributes to poor agronomic performance and continues to hamper development of GM crops.
    One of the hardest problems to solve is to target genes to precise positions in the genome, thereby minimising untoward effects as well as instability. There has been no report of success in targeted gene insertion in any GM plant or animals.

  7. Pete says:

    The last statement regarding the “safety” of GMOs is patently false. To begin with there has not been ONE long term independent study of GMO safety. The biotech industry cites purposely shortened (90 day) studies and uses front groups and corporate media outlets to say the “peer-reviewed” “science” has ended the discussion. In addition, their strong-arm tactics apply immense pressure to real scientists who actually want to investigate the matter. Careers are easily destroyed.

    1. There is no consensus on GM food safety
    2. There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GM food consumption on human health
    3. Claims that scientific and governmental bodies endorse GMO safety are exaggerated or inaccurate
    4. EU research project does not provide reliable evidence of GM food safety
    5. List of several hundred studies does not show GM food safety
    6. There is no consensus on the environmental risks of GM crops
    7. International agreements show widespread recognition of risks posed by GM foods and crops


    In the scope of this document, we can only highlight a few examples to illustrate that the totality of scientific research outcomes in the field of GM crop safety is nuanced, complex, often contradictory or inconclusive, confounded by researchers’ choices, assumptions, and funding sources, and in general, has raised more questions than it has currently answered.

    Whether to continue and expand the introduction of GM crops and foods into the human food and animal feed supply, and whether the identified risks are acceptable or not, are decisions that involve socioeconomic considerations beyond the scope of a narrow scientific debate and the currently unresolved biosafety research agendas. These decisions must therefore involve the broader society. They should, however, be supported by strong scientific evidence on the long-term safety of GM crops and foods for human and animal health and the environment, obtained in a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias.

    Decisions on the future of our food and agriculture should not be based on misleading and misrepresentative claims that a “scientific consensus” exists on GMO safety.

  8. Pete says:

    Apologies but one more fantastic read to inform your readers.

    “We can group the goals of the suppression into defensive and offensive aspects.

    1. Defensively, the retraction is meant to “disappear” the only long-term safety study which has yet been done upon a GMO (or upon Roundup). This means it’s the only fully legitimate safety study which has ever been done. The goal is to slander this particular study and give the corporate media a pretext to do so as well (which it has seized with glee). The goal is also to put a chill into researchers and potential funders for such studies, to put them on notice that the “scientific” establishment will not tolerate actual scientific studies on GMOs, only rigged ones.

    We now have proof, an implicit concession from the cartel and from regulators, that if more studies like that of the Seralini team were performed, GMOs would be proven beyond any doubt to be toxic and carcinogenic. They’d no longer be politically tenable.

    In the piece EU Parliament member and former French environmental minister Corinne Lepage stresses how the repression is meant to “close the door” on the scientific future. Seralini is cited giving his opinion that GMOs would not be financially viable if corporations had to submit their products to scientifically legitimate testing.

    The piece adds a legalistic reason for disappearing the study. With the study retracted, it “can no longer be taken as a reference for risk assessment when considering applications for authorization of GMOs for food and especially for cultivation in the EU.”

    I’m not sure how relevant this specific study would have been anyway. Standard regulatory dogma, first proposed by the (private) Monsanto front group the International Life Sciences Institute but taken up and parroted by the WHO and UN FAO as their recommendation to government regulators, is that each GMO application should be taken hermetically in itself. Regulators should never conceive classes, infer patterns, make deductions. (So much for science.) So EU regulators would’ve felt fine dismissing the Seralini study as at most applying to NK603 only.

    (Of course, this refusal to deduce goes only one way. By contrast, once the individual “events” which comprise a stacked GMO have been approved, the regulator is supposed to feel free to approve the stacked product without further ado, since its individual components have been cleared. This too is anti-scientific. In addition to the original approvals being little more than rubber stamps with no evidence, this see-no-bad procedure ignores the known scientific fact that compound drugs or chemicals often have interactive, compounded, intensified, and otherwise synergistic effects. A stacked GMO also stacks the danger.)”


  9. Mery Krause says:

    If there’s no evidence that GMO’s are harmful, does this mean you’ll be buying tons of Monsanto stock? Seriously, your article was very informative and useful for me in designing a life long diet for myself this year. I’m taking it in small steps, since too many dramatic changes usually result in failure for me. Thanks for the tips, Dr. E.

  10. marylou carroll says:

    Thanks for breaking it down, Dr. David. Very helpful article.

  11. marylou carroll says:

    After reading comments, I think the GMO discussion should be revisited.

  12. Dr Sue Zilberstein says:

    Another great newsletter. For those who oppose what you say about gmo ( who would have included me a while ago ) they may enjoy this link.


  13. Ronald Golland says:

    There is a clear difference between GMO and hybrid crops.
    Hybrids were developed for taste,plant vigor, keeping qualities. The bulk of the GMO crops were developed to make the crop immune to weed killers such as Roundup.
    The plant product itself may not be a problem but what about the residual herbicide? Weeds are mutating and stronger herbicides at higher doses are needed to keep them in check. The producers of herbicides are currently trying to increase the legally acceptable level of residue herbicide that is on crops for human consumption.
    I see this as the real problem with GMO crops. Where is the research on pesticide exposure? Who funded it? We should not endorse GMO crops until we have we answers to long term exposure to the pesticides that go hand in hand with GMO crops.

  14. Pete says:

    Hi Sue,

    With all due respect, you may want to dig a little deeper…. “Meanwhile we must be prepared to go further and recognize that the existing “scientific” establishment, including the institution of “peer review”, has been largely corporatized and no longer has any scientific or political legitimacy.

    But then, we should have learned by now that one of humanity’s tragic mistakes has been to put ”science” on such a political pedestal in the first place. Scientists and technicians always should have been viewed as rather dubious hired help, and never seen as policy gurus. Even such a bourgeois stalwart as Winston Churchill put it, “science should be on tap, not on top.” Or to paraphrase the famous saying, science is too important to be left to the scientists.

    ‘Second, I appeal to all consumer organizations and European citizens to mobilize to show their opposition to the takeover of their health and diet by lobbies.[Third] I call for an end to what in reality are no longer merely conflicts of interest – but are the occupation of posts of responsibility by persons from lobbies in defence of their interests… And I am thinking first and in particular of Ms. [EU chief “scientist” Anne] Glover and a number of people at EFSA.’

    Exactly. The term “conflict of interest” is usually fanciful. This hack cadre is typical in being 100% focused on the corporate interest, and she knows no conflict whatsoever.

    ‘Finally, I appeal to the Council to finally reach a position on the vote of the first reading, which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2011 and which would at least allow European states to not legally cultivate GMOs on their territory if they so wish, and to require comprehensive studies to be carried out. It is vital that this text appears before the free trade agreements are concluded (not that I want them to be). Thank you.’

    Yes. But if the “agreement” goes through and does not protect this right, then what will you be willing to do? ”

    Bt toxin expressed by a GMO is constantly being produced in every cell of the plant, at vastly more toxic concentrations than those of the spray. Bt-expressing GMOs may contain 3000-5000 times the poison concentration as the spray. The poison is fully bioactive from the onset of expression. This poison is endemic to every cell of the crop and cannot be washed off. And that’s just one of the many highly toxic and carcinogenic poisons with which industrial crops are indelibly suffused. Almost all GMOs are systemically full of herbicide residue from glyphosate, glufosinate, and others. They’re also systemically loaded with neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides.
    In every way, industrial false crops are veritably poison crops.

    The Scientism cult (not to be confused with actual science) Ironically, they themselves are:
    1. Evolution deniers. They long denied that herbicide and insecticide resistance would be the inevitable result of GMO deployment. Then they denied it was happening. Now that they have no choice but to admit it (and celebrate it, since it’s part of their propaganda on behalf of “second generation” HT varieties) they still deny that escalating the number of transgenes will do nothing but escalate the ever-more toxic bioweapons arms race which the weeds and bugs will certainly win once and for all. They also deny evolution in their support for subtherapeutic antibiotics use and the use of antibiotic resistance markers in genetic engineering, since no sane person who understands how microbes evolve resistance to antibiotics would want such practices to exist.
    2. Creationists. The only difference between their theology and that of other creationist sects is that they see themselves or their technocratic heroes as deities in the laboratory, Creating a “true” world to replace this Fallen one. They probably think the Big Bang took place in some vast physics lab, which is ensconced in another, and so on forever. They’re among the most insane and ignorant of cultists.

    GMOs promise to “feed the world” has been a total failure and was always a lie-despite what the Biotech technocrats try and tell us. In addition It is a totally unustainable agricultural model requiring ane ever-escalating amount of chemical application inputs and bioweaponry. Lastly, support for or indifference towards GMOs = support for Monsanto and the rest of the chemical poison industry. These institutions have patented 90% of the world’s seed heritage. Where will it stop, the air we breathe, the sunlight we absorb? Nobody ever asked for, nor was there ever any natural demand for GMOs crap product. They have been forced onto the world under totally false pretenses. The success of GMOs means the failure of small-scale, biodiverse agriculture which produces real, chemical-free, nutrient dense food. There can be no “coexistence”.

    I might recommend readers watch Jeffery Smith’s “Genetic Roulette” before taking Anne Glover’s word for it… http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

  15. Imran says:

    A lot of the claims of coconut oil are marketing from the respective producers. This link has a very good short video on the problems with the coconut oil craze:

    The video references published journal articles which are right under the video and accessible to read.

  16. Pete says:

    Imran, I have found Greger to be a bit disappointing. He is advocate of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ plant-based diet. This has proven to be quiet dangerous for many people that simply don’t do well on Vegan diets.

    “Since a few decades ago, coconut oil was demonized by the food processing industry`s quest to lower their cost, boost profit margins, and create longer shelf life by using hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Butter and palm oil were also included in the food industry`s fear campaigns to get consumer consent for using the more unhealthy trans fatty acid oils, including margarine.

    Until then, coconut and palm oils were used in all sorts of packaged foods and baked products. Butter was considered okay. That gradually changed until dangerous margarine and partially and fully hydrogenated cooking oils moved onto grocery shelves, packaged foods, and baked products – replacing the falsely demonized coconut and palm oils.

    Recent research has debunked the emphasis of cholesterol dangers as exaggerated or even false. Even if saturated fats, such as coconut oil are high in “bad” cholesterol, trans fats or hydrogenated oils have been proven to be worse for human health, even toxic.

    Now real science and human experience are proving the health benefits of coconut oil. Almost all health food stores have it. Large quantities can be ordered on line. The ideal coconut oil is organic virgin. But not so ideal has some virtues remaining as well.

    Coconut oil is considered a saturated fat because it is solid, though it begins melting above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 24 degrees Celsius. In addition to ingesting it, say with dark chocolate to make it yummy, coconut oil is one of the best oils for cooking because of its very high smoke temperature; this makes it less likely to turn toxic from excess heat than olive and other pure vegetable oils.

    Yes, saturated fats were falsely demonized and those lies were almost totally accepted by consumers and health professionals until recent years. But that was then, and this is now.

    Sources for more information:

    Coconut oil for Alzheimer`s An Actual Case http://www.anh-usa.org/coconut-oil-and-alzhe

    Coconut Oil.com A Compendium of Research Articles on Coconut Oil http://www.coconutoil.com/

    MCT Oil Explained http://backacrosstheline.blogspot.com/2007/0

    Ketones and Ketosis http://www.lowcarb.ca/tips/tips011.html

    Weston A. Price The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/5

    Wise Geek on Saturated Fat http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-saturated-fa

    Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/030373_coconut_oil_Alzheimers_disease.html#ixzz2sNMZGCrL

    “Along with ghee, coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with because it’s almost entirely saturated. In fact, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the so-called medical authorities, we know better. In addition to being a great fuel source for the body, coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in mother’s milk that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Coconut oil has 4g of SFA, 0.3g of MFA ” http://chriskresser.com/5-fats-you-should-be-cooking-with-but-may-not-be

    I’ll abbreviate the process of getting oil from seeds here as Dr. Enig recaps it:
    Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes

    “Fats or oils from some seeds, such as sunflower, are extracted fresh from the seed by grinding of the seeds, followed by expeller pressing with or without a solvent such as hexane. Some seeds require precooking of the seeds before the grinding and the pressing. Rapeseed is such a seed.

    Mechanical extraction is considered to be a safe method, but because the recovery of oil by this method is less than the industry desires, most oils are extracted using a solvent… In this case, the oils are pressed from the seeds without the use of solvents, and without increased yield. These oils are usually more costly in the marketplace.

    The steps in commercial processing from the seed to the oil include crushing, extracting (by mechanical means or by use of solvents), degumming, neutralization, dewaxing, bleaching, filtration, and deodorization. Oils are frequently referred to as RBD, which stands for “refined, bleached and deodorized.”

    Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats

    The process explained above does not apply to fruit oils such as olive, palm and coconut. Extracting oil from fruits doesn’t require as convoluted of a process and also does not involve the application of chemical solvents. Hence leaving us with a healthier oil. We could probably make these oils in our own kitchens if we had some simple tools and patience. We couldn’t, however, do the same from rapeseeds.

    …”Okay, so now that you understand the basics of how fats and oils are named and made, consider the one you’ve been using and refer back to my original three questions to decide whether or not you’ll continue to consume it. Well, you may still not be totally clear, so I’ve made a chart for you to use below. Click on the PDF icon to the right to download a printer-friendly version.”

  17. Imran says:

    The onus is on you to debunk the cited studies Gregor cites. They are peer-reviewed journals which for whatever issues there may be, there is far more vetting than there is of any diet guru book or diet website like WAPF. All this anti-carb/pro-fat talk is just a recycling of low-carbism. They come and go just like the “Atkins diet.” It’s all marketing yet another diet product. Now, its paleo. Someone once said, “you can sell a lot of books if you tell people their bad habits are good for them.” You hear this attitude from political conservatives like Rush Lim-baa. If you like unhealthy food just say you like it instead of making some convoluted argument such as “our paleo ancestors ate like this so of course its healthy.” Which is a spurious and highly speculative claim countered by most anthropologists. Loren Cordain has changed his views so many times on that supposed diet, you have to wonder when will he change his opinions next.

    There are many credibility issues for the low-carb authors. Paleo diet authors like GAry Taubes quote experts and they say that he completely misrepresented what they say. He’s a cherry-picker. The Weston Price Foundation has been thoroughly discredited long ago.

    “What does WAPF recommend?
    One WAPF baby formula mixes cow’s milk with heavy cream and other oils, while another is made from cow’s liver, beef broth, whey powder, and various oils.”

  18. Addie says:

    Is there really no objective study on genetically modified food? Many, if not most, of the studies advocating GM food safety were conducted by researchers with ties to the industry. But Pete’s references here are only to advocacy organizations, many of which have scientific credibility but the same lack of objectivity as the “pro” studies (and at least one of his blog reference pages no longer even exists). I understand suspicion of huge corporations and their money making schemes, and my own tendency is to be suspicious of GM foods, but where, oh where, is the real evidence?

  19. Pete says:


    I’m not going to get into a “paleo vs. vegan” false dichotomy argument with you. I’ve been in too many, and frankly, they exhaust me. I feel no burden to disprove Dr. Greger and read through all the anti-coconut oil “peer -reviewed” studies. I prefer knowledgeable nutritionists who can simply explain how fats work within our digestive system.

    I’ve come to realize that “peer-reviewed” means very little these days. Shall I run down the list of peer-reviewed/approved pharmaceuticals that have since been recalled? The medical establishment and FDA (one of your coconut is bad sources) sold us all on the Standard American Diet (low fat) and pushed anti-nutrient loaded “whole grains” and sugary/fake fat substitutes like hydrogenated oils and margarines and turned the entire country into a giant diabetes clinic. No thanks, doc. I think I’ll get a second opinion.

    As for “paleo”, it’s a bit of a misnomer. Nobody is trying to mimic caveman diets. It is merely an approach to eating a pre-industrial food system-based diet. A simple way to think about it is food before the corporations started messing with it. Real/whole, nutrient dense foods are emphasized while processed junk, factory farm meats, refined grains and sugars are to be avoided (for obvious reasons). Atkins is absolutely nothing like this. This isn’t a diet. It isn’t a fad. It’s mostly based on common sense nutrition.

    Everything I’ve put forth about coconut oil can be corroborated by any nutritionist worth a salt. Coconut oil isn’t a “new fad”, it was around before the transfat oil- soy and canola- began demonizing it (with “peer-reviewed” science). If you don’t believe the claims of these people to have any validity and that they are all conspiring to boost the coconut oil industry, then please, go ahead and avoid it. If you read what they (just a tiny sample of decent sources) have to say, it might make some sense to you.

    If you are going to use Vegan sources to ‘discredit’ WAP, you are barking up the wrong tree. I’ve been down this road way too many times and I’m not interested in religious discussions.

    From a personal anecdote perspective, coconut oil has been one part of a larger dietary change that has lead to a remarkable health turn around for me. It began with an ‘anti’candida’ diet which has since morphed into ‘paleo’ (I use the term reluctantly). I owe many thanks to WAP, Sally Fallon, Chris Kresser, David Getoff, Paul Check, Joel Salatin, Joe Mercola, Dianne Sanfilippo , Rob Wolfe, and many others for helping me understand how certain foods do (or do not) do well in the human body…. and that the source of the food is a most important consideration. I have no body fat, my skin is healthier, my hair, I lost my fatigue, my sugar and carb cravings, and lost my candida symptoms- AND I eat animal fats, coconut oil, avocados, pastured egg/yolks, and plenty of fresh and fermented veggies every day. In fact, I got so inspired I left Chicago to start a small family farm- so I grow my own.

    This is an anecdote so my testimony is not to make a one-size-fits-all recommendation for everyone- like Veganism does. Different things may work better for different people. I encourage people to do their own research as well as lots of experimenting . And definitely, most DEFINITELY, do not assume “peer-reviewed” means “true” and/or end of discussion. Vioxx was “peer-reviewed”. Beware of the technocrat.

    Now pardon me, it’s time to rub some soothing coconut oil on my skin. ~ Peace

  20. Pete says:

    Good read on “peer-review” process…. “Open source scientific publishing?
    These examples show that the threat to scientific publishing from industry influence is real. The avenues for researchers to publish critical views in science are already few. This is especially true for the high-impact journals that the media notices and that therefore influence public discourse. Equally problematic is that few scientific institutions will support researchers whose findings contradict industry viewpoints, as Chapela found out when UC Berkeley tried to deny him tenure following the controversial maize study. Even fewer funding sources will give to such researchers. Consequently almost all funding of biosafety research finds its way into the hands of researchers with industry ties.

    This directly affects the quality of the science produced. A recent literature review found that most studies concluding that GM foods are as safe as non-GM counterparts were performed by the developer companies or their associates (Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011). It is no coincidence that Norway, a country without an agricultural industry lobby, hosts the only publicly funded institute in the world with a mission to conduct research on the environmental, health and social consequences of genetic engineering.

    There are in principle ways within the existing system to mitigate or neutralize the influence of industry on the ability of scientists to publish independent and critical research. The first is transparency in publishing. Journal editors should adopt the COPE guidelines and publish all conflicts of interest among staff and editors.

    Also in line with COPE’s stipulation, peer reviewers should be selected to avoid conflicts of interest. If this proves impossible due to the spread of patents and industry research funding, then care must be taken to select a balanced panel representing a plurality of views. FCT is a member of COPE, but does not publish information on editors’ conflicts of interest, and its appointment of Goodman over Domingo shows that it does not seek to avoid them.

    There may in fact be a need to critically examine the entire concept of peer review. The limitations of all types of expert opinion – whether that of an individual expert or of an expert panel – are recognized in the field of evidence-based medicine. To address this problem, bodies such as the non-profit Cochrane Collaboration have developed systematic and transparent methodologies to review and evaluate data on the effectiveness of different medical interventions. The aim is to enable healthcare practitioners to make well-informed clinical decisions. The reviewing criteria are transparently set out in advance, so there is less scope for bias in evaluations of studies. When disagreements do occur, it is easy to pinpoint the reason and resolve the problem. Cochrane also implements rules to prevent conflicts of interest among its reviewers and editorial board.”

  21. Janis Wrich says:

    Thoughts on Acetyl-L-Carnitine? One doc (cardiac) says it will hurt arteries and NOT to take it. Another says absolutely take it especially if you have heart disease. Recent studies on this — flawed? Trust your judgment on this. Thanks!

  22. Pete says:

    Hi Addie,

    I missed your post before. Yes, finding quality information out in the science jungle is no easy task. The reason for the lack of independent long-term safety studies is because the GMO industry purposely eliminated the precautionary principle and purposely uses only 90 day (totally insufficient) studies to “demonstrate” the safety of GMOs (I’m sure any doctor can tell you here that chronic illness can take time to manifest- if you stuff yourself full of only cake for a week, you’ll probably gain weight but likely won’t develop diabetes or other serious ailments). The industry either conducts these studies themselves or uses front groups and corporate media outlets to shape the arena of ‘science’ to fit their agenda. The only long-term study was the Serralini study, which was being systematically attacked before it was even finished. The reason quality information is lacking and/or buried is because that’s the way the industry wants it. The reason they don’t want labels on their products, is because they don’t trust us poor idiots to make informed decisions. Is there any question that GMOs worthless product is being forced onto the world? Monsanto & friends strong-arm tactics are well documented- all the way up through the courts and high-levels of Govt. If there were ever a naturally occurring demand for GMOs, why would they need such a strategic assault?

    I hate to advise people to just follow their intuition alone, but in this case your intuition is right in exercising suspicion. I’m not sure how else anyone could be ‘independent’ in a ‘science’ world that has been systemically captured by industry interests without being an ‘advocacy’ group. I will list some helpful links below to help you navigate the info.

    Intuitively speaking, does it sound like a good idea to inject foreign toxins into a plant by splicing and stacking artificially inserted genes into the plant’s cells? The irony here is that the superbugs and super weeds that develop resistance to these crops always end up winning the ever-escalating bioweapons race. GMO’s promise to “feed the world” has failed as well is their attempts to dominate mother nature (who always wins in the end). Even if you thought the ‘food’ was safe, the agricultural model is a tower of babel and totally unsustainable. Each generation of GMO’s requires more an more chemical applications. It’s a wonderful profit scheme, but not much in the way of real agriculture.




















    Happy reading. Eat real food!

  23. Addie says:

    Thanks, Pete. I’ll look at your links. No, it doesn’t sound right all that messing around with genes. It’s analogous to how antibiotics function killing bacteria by changing their genetic structures and over time adversely affecting our immune systems. I’ve always disliked Monsanto but never quite knew why.

  24. Nikki says:

    Imran, regarding coconut oil, I looked at three of the studies cited in the video and found that none of them found that coconut oil raised the lipid profile, one found consumption of coconut led to weight loss, and another declared it unequivocally safe for human consumption. Granted I did not look through all the studies & just read the abstracts but I didn’t find support for the conclusion that virgin coconut oil is bad. All things in moderation, as Dr. E. wisely points out in many of his newsletters.

  25. Tracey Green says:

    You just lost all credibility.

  26. James Curley says:

    Great article, Dr. Edelberg! As a 37 year veteran of the natural/organic industry and a staunch advocate of non-GMO LABELING on foods, let me at least clarify that there are nuances in the debate. The two main concerns in the non-GMO business community are ‘trans-genic’ GMOs and the lack of testing regarding safety, specifically allergies (think of trans-genics as the infamous ‘fish gene transplanted to strawberries’ debate) and ‘chemical exclusive’ GMOs – aka breeding soybeans and corn to resist an otherwise toxic herbicide (Roundup) from both an environmental safety and economic exclusionary point of view, not to mention reduction of plant varieties in the biosphere. “Hybrids’, while ‘technically’ GMOs, are different. In this case, technology speeds the process of grafting etc but does not result in potentially dangerous outcomes. Our interest is in LABELING GMO foods so people can be informed and make informed choices. It worked for trans-fats – very few mainstream food processors will use them these days – and it will work for the GMO debate.

  27. Pete says:

    Tracey, who lost all credibility?

  28. Stefhan says:

    This author’s comment regarding GMO’s undermine this article. What he stated is the market speak promulgated by biotech companies, and as others have already pointed out is simply wrong for transgenics are not the same as selective breeding. Here’s a good video that goes into how haphazard these transgenic GMO processes are.


    Hopefully, this article’s author isn’t as brainwashed as he seems after talking to scientists that have received all their research money from the biotech and food industries.

  29. Margo Milde says:

    There certainly is a difference between GMO and Non GMO (both organic and conventionally grown) soy. In a study which just published in the Food Chemistry journal, GMO soy was shown to contain appreciable amounts of glycophosphate and AMPA agrochemicals (up to 15 mg/ kg total), whereas no levels of either was detected in both organic or conventionally grown soybeans (n=10 for each category). As far as nutritional value, Non GMO soybeans (both organic and conventional) contained much higher levels of natural sugars than did the GMO soy, indicating a significant nutritional difference. Source: “Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans”, full text available at this link:

    Just last July, and in the face of over 10,000 negative comments on this action, the US EPA significantly raised allowable levels of Roundup-type herbicides to unprecedented levels in our foods: as high as 40 ppm in soy, for example (had been 20 ppm previously, with that considered by many as too high.) Source: http://news.agropages.com/News/NewsDetail—10116.htm

    Since high levels of these compounds in soy products are almost exclusively found in GMO soy, it would certainly make much more sense for someone who is chemically sensitive to avoid such products. Given both the high herbicide levels, combined with proven nutritional differences, it is certainly questionable if GMO soy is appropriate at all in the diets of pregnant women, infants and young children (who are much more sensitive to adverse effects of chemicals), as well as the elderly and infirm.

    To say that GMO soy and non-GMO soy are equivalent in safety and food value is a grave mistake. I respectfully hope you investigate this issue further, and correct this error in a future column.

  30. Glyphosphates (Agent Orange, Roundup) kills all cells. Animal or Vegetable.
    GMO resistant crops allow more Roundup to be used to increase yield without killing the plant. In turn the grains and etc from the GMO crops carry a higher trace toxic residue. Go to http://www.nutritionexercise.us and listen to video of the Texas mother who discovered why her son had severe allergies. The use of glyphosphates on crops have skyrocketed in the last decade. More to come!
    I’ll be happy to introduce you to Vietnam veterans who were over exposed to Agent Orange and are still suffering to this day from the impact of the toxins on the organs of their body.

  31. Terri Reardon says:

    If I were a betting woman, I’d place a wager on the possibility that Dr. Edelberg did not enter this arena innocently, but rather with a nod to playing devil’s advocate. I always look forward to Dr. E’s weekly insightful posts. Further, I truly appreciate all of the dialogue this post has inspired. Thanks, especially, to Pete for your well-researched replies which clearly come from a place of passion on the subject. The video posted by Stefhan is well-worth a watch. Thank you all.

  32. Pete says:

    Thank you, Terri. For info regarding GMOs I have to give all the credit to the tireless research and analysis of one of my favorite blogs… http://attempter.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/gmo-news-summary-february-72014/#comment-12752

    He’s beginning a new series of GMO news summaries so people can follow along with what is going on. In addition, his writing style is most appetizing. Enjoy and stay diligent.

  33. Tuba says:

    That’s a mighty ignorant article for 2014. Anti-saturated fat is medical DOGMA not science. And Pro-GMO… sad…and anti-palm oil… now that I think about it, most of the article is Old Guard garbage. One can summarize the medical community’s grasp of nutrition and diet in two words: Righteous and wrong.

  34. Pam says:

    Thank you, thank you, Pete for flying in the face of those who feel GMOs are safe. Your tireless research is appreciated by this contributor, at least. The evidence seems to be so very obvious (that GMOs are NOT merely hybrids) that I really can’t even believe this has become such a controversy! Don’t we all wish good health for ourselves and our progeny? Personally, I’m more than terrified that this GMO issue will send us down a path from which we will never be able to turn back. Keep up the good work, Pete! (Also agree with Terri…I’d bet Dr. Edelberg is enjoying this discussion!) 🙂

  35. Victoria Fuller says:

    I Agree with Pete: Coconut oil should not be put in the category of “Bad for you.” Shame on you Dr. Edleberg. You should know better. As Pete said – “High lauric acid content can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It doesn’t increase LDL and helps keep arteries flexible and prevent atherosclerosis
    Studies show that coconut oil may help increase thyroid health because of its unique combination of nourishing properties and the fact that it travels directly to the liver without the need for hormones or enzymes in digestion
    Coconut oil can help boost metabolism. Since it travels directly to the liver, it is used for energy and not stored as fat. It also helps a feeling of satiety and can assist in weight loss.
    Can increase bone strength by allowing better absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals
    It’s antifungal properties have been shown to help reduce candida and yeast in the body and fight yeast infections
    Can help fight infection and flu due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties.” Coconut oil also helps brain function, so you obviously didn’t do your homework.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base


Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Upcoming Workshops

The Next Lyme Academy Begins
Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-7 pm
Here’s a special invitation for patients of Dr. Kelley who are currently being treated for Lyme disease. Dr. Kelley’s new, four-week Lyme Academy starts on October 4, continuing over the following three Tuesdays.


Awakened Body, Quiet Mind
An innovative workshop series for relieving mind/body stress and tapping into your true power and natural health.
4 Group Sessions with Meghan Roekle, PsyD
Four meetings using a unique combination of embodiment meditation and mental inquiry for deep healing.
Thursdays from 6:00-8:00pm; beginning October 20th

Recent Health Tips

  • Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    Tired All The Time? Useful Info and Two Supplements

    As you might expect, fatigue is a fairly common reason people visit doctors. Feeling tired is vague symptom and can be linked to dozens of possible diagnoses, plus there’s a need to differentiate between physical fatigue and mental fatigue (brain fog) or consider both. When …Read More »
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    I’d been reading Ally Hilfiger’s new autobiography Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me, preferring the Lyme parts to those devoted to fashion and her MTV “Rich Girl” series. Her symptoms were typical of chronic Lyme and …Read More »

October Sale: 20% Off Urban Moonshine Products


All Urban Moonshine products are 20% off for the entire month of October!

Urban Moonshine creates beautiful herbal formulas that focus on prevention, improving quality of life, and empowering people to create home herbal apothecaries.  More>>