Health Tips From The Professor What Is The Pegan Diet?

Posted July 24, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Is The Pegan Diet Healthy?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

pegan diet newsJust when you thought you had heard about every possible diet, along comes a new one called the Pegan diet. What is the Pegan Diet and is it healthy?

The Pegan diet was introduced by Dr. Mark Hyman in his new book, “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?”. I don’t agree with Dr. Hyman on everything (which will become apparent when I review his diet), but I hold him in high regard. He is much more credible than most of the doctors who are writing popular blogs and diet books.

Basically, the Pegan diet is a combination of the Paleo and Vegan diets (hence the name). It
was meant to combine the best features of each while eliminating their drawbacks.

 

What Are The Pros & Cons Of The Vegan And Paleo Diets?

 

pegan diet fruits and vegetablesPros And Cons Of The Vegan Diet:

Dr. Hyman listed the following pros:

  • The diet ideally incorporates mostly whole, plant-based foods.
  • It provides lots of vitamins (especially antioxidants and most of the B vitamins), fiber, and healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).
  • It avoids what he calls the “baggage that comes from feedlot meat”. He is, of course, referring to the inhumane way that most of the animals that end up on our plates are treated. It also avoids the saturated and trans fats associated with the meats most Americans prefer.

I would add that Vegan diets are very healthy. As I discuss in my book, “Slaying the Food
Myths” (https://slayingthefoodmyths.com). we know that people who consume whole food
Vegan diets over a period of many years weigh less and have lower incidence of heart
disease, diabetes, and cancer than the general population.

Dr. Hyman listed the following cons:

  • Vegan diets are likely to be deficient in vitamin B12, iron, zinc, copper, and vitamin D.
    Of these deficiencies, B12 is the most serious because B12 only comes from animal
    foods.
  • Vegan diets will not provide enough of the heart healthy omega-3s, EPA and DHA.
    Again, that’s because these omega-3 fatty acids come primarily from animal sources.
  • Vegan diets may not provide enough protein, especially for seniors because they have
    increased protein requirements. It is possible to get enough protein from Vegan foods,
    but some diligence is required.
  • The food industry provides plenty of highly processed, junk food versions of “Vegan”
    foods. So, it is possible to be Vegan and eat an unhealthy diet.

I would concur and add that calcium is another likely deficiency for Vegans

Pros & Cons Of the Paleo Diet:

pegan diet meatDr. Hyman listed the following pros:

  • The Paleo diet eliminates most sugars and grains. That eliminates sodas, junk foods, and most processed foods, which is a very good thing.
  • It is a low-glycemic diet, which is helpful for people with diabetes. He went on to say that it could reverse type 2 diabetes.

I would concur and add that it has a healthier profile of fats than most low-carb diets.

However, I would also note that a low-carb version of the Mediterranean diet is also helpful for people with diabetes, and a whole food, very low-fat version of the Vegan diet has also been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Hyman listed the following cons:

  • The Paleo diet is essentially a myth. There were many types of diets in prehistoric times.
  • Many people following the Paleo diet consume too much meat and too little plant-based foods.
  • Our prehistoric ancestors may have consumed as much as 100-150 grams of fiber a day. The average American consumes 8 -15 grams a day, and people on a Paleo diet may consume even less. (Note: The estimate of 100-150 grams of fiber per day is based on the same type of faulty evidence that lead to the Paleo diet in the first place. Our prehistoric ancestor’s fiber intake probably varied tremendously depending on their local food supply. However, it is safe to assume they ate much more fiber than we do.)

I would concur and add:

  • Studies have shown that women consuming the Paleo diet have low intakes of calcium, magnesium, iodine, thiamin, riboflavin, and folate.
  • The Paleo diet relies heavily on red meat, which an agency of the World Health Organization has classified as a probable carcinogen. Reliance on grass-fed beef in the Paleo diet does not reduce this concern.
  • There is no evidence that the Paleo diet is healthy long term. In fact, there is no evidence that any meat-based, low-carb diet is healthy long term.

For more about the pros and cons of the Vegan and Paleo diets – plus which diets I consider healthy – see my book “Slaying The Food Myths.”

What Is The Pegan Diet?

In the words of Dr. Hyman: “…the best versions of both diets [Paleo and Vegan] are built on the same foundation: Eat real, whole food. Vegan and Paleo diets focus on foods that don’t raise our blood sugar, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy protein and [healthy] fats, and no crap [junk foods].” Dr. Hyman started with that foundation for the Paleo diet.

Here are Dr. Hyman’s 12 characteristics of his Pegan diet with my comments:

 

#1. Stay away from sugar. My comment: He gets an A+ for this one because, unlike many of today’s diet gurus, he is not telling you to avoid all sugars. He is focusing on the sugars and refined carbohydrates that cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. As I point out in my book, there is the same amount of sugar in an 8-oz soda and a medium apple. It’s the sodas, refined carbs, and sugary foods you want to avoid, not apples.

pegan diet plant-based#2: Eat mostly plants. My comment: Again, he gets an A+ for this one. He recommends covering half your plate with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

#3. Easy on the fruits. My comment: This one is an A-. He is correct in pointing out that some fruits like grapes and melons are higher in sugar and/or lower in fiber than other fruits. He is missing the point that blood sugar response to foods is a very individual characteristic. Some people do well on most fruits. Other people need to be more careful about which fruits they eat.

#4: Stay away from pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMO foods. My comment: Another A+, especially because he included artificial additives, preservatives, dyes, and sweeteners.

#5: Eat foods containing healthy fats. My comment: I give him a B- for this one. He is right on the mark when he talks about polyunsaturated omega-3 fats and the monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados as being healthy. He is a bit off-base when he starts talking about “healthy” saturated fats in grass-fed beef and butter. He also advocates coconut oil despite the fact there is no good long-term evidence coconut oil is healthy.

#6: Stay away from most vegetable, nut, and seed oils. My comment: He gets a C- for this one. These oils are a good source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which are essential for the human body. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about them. However, I do agree with him that we consume way too much of these oils in relation to monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated oils. If he had said “reduce consumption of” rather than “stay away from” those oils, I would have upgraded him to an A-.

pegan diet dairy#7: Avoid or limit dairy. My comment: He gets a B for this one. The statement that dairy “doesn’t work for most people” is a myth. Avoiding or limiting dairy is excellent advice for anyone who is dairy-sensitive. I would also agree that we should not necessarily be aiming for 2 to 3 servings of dairy per day for everyone. However, dairy is a major source of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in the American diet. If dairy is to be eliminated or limited, consideration should be given to where people will get those important nutrients.

#8: Think of meat and animal products as condiments – not the main course. My comment: He gets an A+ for this one. As I say in my book, fruits and vegetables can neutralize many of the toxic effects of meats. One or two ounces of meat in a green salad or a stir fry is much healthier than a 6-ounce steak with fries.

#9: Eat sustainably raised or harvested low-mercury fish. My comment: He gets an A- for this one. I downgraded him because he ignored contamination of fish with PCBs and other industrial chemicals. Once you take that into account, most farm-raised and some sustainably harvested fish are eliminated from consideration.

#10. Avoid gluten. My comment: He gets a C- for this one. It is good advice if you are gluten sensitive. If you are not, gluten-containing foods are not generally a problem. The real focus should be on the blood sugar response to the food, not on whether the food contains wheat or another gluten-containing grain.

#11: Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly. My comment: This one rates a D. Whole grains are a good source of some nutrients like vitamin E. They are also an excellent source of fiber. It is important to realize that there are many types of fiber and each plays a different role in intestinal health. The fibers found in whole grains are different than those found in fruits and vegetables. They are an important part of a healthy diet. Dr. Hyman states that whole grains also raise blood sugar. That is an overstatement. Their effect on blood sugar may not be zero, but it is less than that of refined grains. Moreover, when eaten as part of a healthy meal, their effect on blood sugar is minimal.

#12: Eat beans only once in a while. My comment: He gets a D- for this one. He has already limited meat to a condiment. If you are also only eating beans every once in a while, you will have trouble meeting your protein requirements, especially as you get older.

You will find more details about the science behind many of the comments I made above in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.”

 

Is The Pegan Diet Healthy?

The simple answer is that no long-term studies have been done, so we have no evidence that the Pegan diet is either healthy or unhealthy. However, the Pegan diet incorporates many of the best features of the Vegan diet, and we know the Vegan diet is very healthy long term. We also know that a semi-vegetarian diet is almost as healthy as the Vegan diet, so incorporating small amounts of meat into the Pegan diet is unlikely to make it unhealthy. On the basis of those considerations, the Pegan diet would appear to be healthy.

However, we have 5 food groups for a reason. Any time you eliminate food groups you introduce potential nutritional deficiencies that can affect your health. That is why I have concerns about statements like “Stay away from most vegetable, nut, and seed oils”, “Avoid dairy”, “Eat…whole grains sparingly”, and “Eat beans only once in a while”. If you removed those limitations, the Pegan diet would likely be very healthy. However, as it is currently described, the Pegan diet has too many questionable restrictions to be considered as healthy.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Dr. Mark Hyman has combined the best features of the Paleo and Vegan diets to create a new diet, which he calls the Pegan diet.

I have analyzed the Pegan diet in great detail in the article above:

  • It has many characteristics of a healthy diet.
  • However, it also has several unwarranted dietary restrictions that are likely to create nutritional deficiencies which may have adverse health consequences.
  • There are no long-term studies to tell us whether the Pegan diet is healthy or unhealthy.

In summary, the diet has some good features and some bad features. Because it has both good and bad features, one cannot predict whether the diet will be healthy or unhealthy long term. Until there is long-term experimental evidence that it is healthy, I cannot recommend it.

For more details, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Health Tips From The Professor Best Diet To Prevent Prostate Cancer

Reducing Your Risk Of Developing Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

best diet to prevent prostate cancerIs there a best diet to prevent prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is like a tale of two entirely different cancers. For most men, prostate cancer is both inevitable and relatively benign. For example, in one study scientists performed a histological examination of the prostate in men who had died of other causes. They reported detecting prostate cancer in 28% of men who died at age 30-39 and 75% of men who died at age 85. That has lead to the oft-quoted saying: “Most men die with prostate cancer rather than from prostate cancer.”

However, in a small percentage of cases, the prostate cancer turns aggressive and becomes a killer. And, there is some evidence that the incidence of aggressive prostate cancer is increasing. It is this aggressive form of prostate cancer that we want to avoid.

The prevention of aggressive prostate cancer has been controversial. The clinical studies have been conflicting. In part, that is because many of the previous studies did not distinguish between benign and aggressive prostate cancer.

More recent studies have focused specifically on the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer. These studies have provided greater clarity. I will summarize the American Cancer Society’s recommendations of foods to eat and foods to avoid below.

However, while the American Cancer Society’s recommendations are helpful, it is more useful to focus on the overall diet rather than individual foods. The current study (A. Castello et al, The Journal Of Urology, 199: 430-437, 2018) does just that. It compares the effect of the Western Diet, a Prudent Diet, and the Mediterranean diet on the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

What is the best diet to prevent prostate cancer?

How Was The Study Done?

best diet to prevent prostate cancer studyThis study was part of the Multicase-Controlled Study On Common Tumors in Spain (MCC-Spain) program. MCC-Spain was conducted in 7 Spanish provinces between September 2008 and December 2013. From this larger population base the authors selected 754 subjects with histologically confirmed prostate cancer and 1,277 matched controls. The ages of men included in this study ranged from 38 to 85 years old.

All the participants in this study participated in an extensive computerized questionnaire to gather information on sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, personal and family medical history, height and weight. The questionnaire included a detailed food frequency questionnaire to assess their diet over the previous year. These questionnaires were administered by trained personnel in face-to-face interviews to assure accuracy.

The authors used a program they had developed previously to analyze the food frequency information and calculate the subject’s adherence to 3 different diets. These diets were:

  • The Western Diet: This diet is characterized by a high intake of high-fat dairy products, refined grains, processed and red meats, caloric drinks, sweets, convenience foods and sauces, and by a low intake of low-fat dairy products, whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
  • The Prudent Diet: This diet is characterized by low-fat dairy products, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and juices. This is essentially a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers.
  • The Mediterranean Diet: This diet is characterized by a high intake of fish, boiled potatoes, vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, vegetable oil and olives.

The study compared the adherence to each of these diets to the risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Two independent assays were used to identify aggressive tumors.

Best Diet To Prevent Prostate Cancer

 

best diet to prevent prostate cancer foodsThe results of the study were as follows:

  • High adherence to the Western diet tended to increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, the results were not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of participants with high adherence to a Western diet in this population.
  • High adherence to the Prudent diet had no effect on aggressive prostate cancer risk, although it does decrease the risk of some cancers.
  • High adherence to the Mediterranean diet decreased the risk of aggressive prostate cancer between 32% and 51% depending on the assay used to identify aggressive tumors.

While the authors preferred to focus on whole diets rather than individual foods, they pointed out that the biggest differences between the Mediterranean diet and the Prudent diet were increased consumption of fish and olives and decreased consumption of dairy. They considered the difference in fish consumption to be the most significant difference.

The authors cited previous studies showing that while fish consumption had no effect on prostate cancer incidence, it did significantly decrease prostate cancer mortality. This suggests that fish and fish oil may reduce the progression of benign prostate tumors into more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

The authors concluded: “If other researchers confirm these results, the promotion of the Mediterranean dietary pattern might be an efficient way of reducing the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Dietary recommendations should consider whole patterns instead of focusing on individual foods.”

Of the 3 diets above, the Mediterranean Diet certainly seems to be the best diet to prevent prostate cancer.

What Does The American Cancer Society Say About Diet And Prostate Cancer?

 

best diet to prevent prostate cancer american cancer societyBased on the best available data, the American Cancer Society has made some very specific recommendations for reducing the risk of prostate cancer. They are:

#1: Control Weight.

#2: Be More Active.

#3: Eat Healthy. By that they mean:

Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories. Be aware that “low-fat” or “non-fat” does not necessarily mean “low-calorie.”
  • Eat smaller portions when eating high-calorie foods.
  • Choose vegetables, whole fruit, legumes such as peas and beans, and other low-calorie foods instead of calorie-dense foods such as French fries, potato chips and other chips, ice cream, donuts, and other sweets.
  • Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks.
  • When you eat away from home, be especially mindful to choose food low in calories, fat, and added sugar, and avoid eating large portion sizes.

Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.

  • Minimize your intake of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs.
  • Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat (beef, pork, and lamb).

Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.

  • Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and snack.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables; choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices.
  • Limit your use of creamy sauces, dressings, and dips with fruits and vegetables.

Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

  • Choose whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals (such as barley and oats) instead of breads, cereals, and pasta made from refined grains, and brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrate foods, including pastries, candy, sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, and other high-sugar foods.

While these recommendations focus on foods rather than diets, they sound a lot like the Mediterranean diet. The only thing that is missing from the American Cancer Society recommendations is olives and olive oil.

Final Thoughts

The American Cancer Society and this study agree that red and processed meats should be minimized in our diet. There is evidence from previous studies that both increase the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society replaces red and processed meat with fish and poultry. The Mediterranean diet replaces them with fish and legumes. I would be leery of any diet that places a heavy emphasis on red meat consumption.

Don’t think these dietary recommendations are just important for men. In a previous study the same authors reported that adherence to a Western diet increased the risk of developing breast cancer and adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced risk. In addition, previous studies suggest that red meat consumption also increases the risk of breast cancer.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

A recent study looked at the effect of adherence to a Western Diet, a Prudent Diet, and a Mediterranean diet on the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. The study found:

  • High adherence to the Western diet tended to increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
  • High adherence to the Prudent diet had no effect on aggressive prostate cancer risk.
  • High adherence to the Mediterranean diet decrease the risk of aggressive prostate cancer between 32% and 51% depending on the assay used to identify aggressive tumors.
  • Based on their study and previous studies, the authors suggested that fish and fish oil may reduce the progression of benign prostate tumors into more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

The authors concluded: “If other researchers confirm these results, the promotion of the Mediterranean dietary pattern might be an efficient way of reducing the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Dietary recommendations should consider whole patterns instead of focusing on individual foods.”

The authors have also reported similar results for the effects of these 3 diets on the risk of developing breast cancer in women.

For the American Cancer Society recommendations on reducing prostate cancer risk and other details, read the article above:

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.