09 February 2015

Your food as medicine

Keen to live to a ripe old (healthy) age? While you are at it, want a nice trim figure, less stress and to save your memory?

Well it seems pretty obvious that what we eat has a lot to do with all this, but it also seems there is a fair bit of confusion around concerning what is best. So lets examine the latest research findings that point to the foods that make the biggest differences to our bodies and our minds.

Also, advance notice that I have accepted a short notice invitation to speak in South Sydney at a Public Lecture on the evening of Tuesday March 3rd on the topic Feed you body, Feed your mind (full details next week), but first

          Thought for the day

Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

                        Viktor Frankl 

You are what you eat. Modern research is confirming it. Here is a hot selection of recent dietary related research findings.

Fruit and Veggies Reduce Death Risk
Fruit and vegetables reduced the risk of dying over observation periods ranging from 4.6 to 26 years, according to a new meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal. Researchers analyzed 16 separate studies, including one with 833,234 participants, and found that each serving of fruit and vegetables decreased the risk of dying by 6 and 5 percent, respectively.
Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014;349:g4490.

Want to lose weight easily? Try a vegetarian diet…
Adopting a vegetarian diet leads to weight loss, without calorie counting or exercise, according to a new meta-analysis published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers analyzed data from 15 studies which included a total of 755 participants, 197 of whom were prescribed vegetarian diets and 558 a vegan diet for at least four weeks, and found an average weight loss range of 7.5 to 10 pounds. People who were heavier to start with lost more weight.

Barnard ND, Levin SM, Yokoyama Y. A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. Published online on January 21, 2015.

Eat more good carbohydrates, live longer - Low-Carb Diets take another blow
People who consume more whole grains live longer, according to a new study from Harvard. Researchers analyzed the diets and mortality of more than 118,000 men and women from both the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and found that, after an average of 25 years follow-up, more whole-grain intake was associated with lower death rates.

Every whole-grain serving was associated with a 5 percent lower risk for death in general and a 9 percent lower risk for death from heart disease.

Whole-grains, for this study, were defined as the whole grain (whole wheat, oats, brown rice, etc.) as well as its pulverized flour form (whole-wheat flour, oat flour, brown rice flour, etc.), which may be found in products such as breads and cereals. The benefits were independent of other lifestyle factors, including exercise and other dietary choices.

These findings support other studies that show that consuming more unhealthy processed carbohydrates and more animal products increases the risk for dying.

Wu H, Flint AJ, Qi Q, et al. Association between dietary whole grain intake and risk of mortality: two large prospective studies in us men and women. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 5, 2015.

Vegans Have Less Stress and Anxiety
A vegan diet may lower your stress and anxiety levels, according to a new study. Researchers surveyed 620 vegans, vegetarians and omnivores about mood. Increased fruit and vegetable intake resulted in lower anxiety scores for male vegan participants, compared with nonvegans. Female vegan participants experienced reduced stress levels as a result of their animal-free diets as well as their lower intakes of sweets.

Beezhold B, Radnitz C, Rinnie A, DiMatteo J. Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores. Nutr Neuroscir. Published online on November 21, 2014

Less bad fats - more memory    
As young adults increase their intake of trans-fat, memory worsens, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Researchers from the University of California analysed the diets and memory of 694 20- to 45-year-old men and found that as trans-fat intake increased, word recall decreased. Findings were later replicated in women.

Golomb BA, Bui AK. Trans fat consumption is adversely linked to memory in working-age adults. Research presented at: American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014; November 18, 2014: Chicago, Ill.

Eating more animal protein while pregnant associated with overweight adults
Researchers followed the offspring of 684 pregnant participants for an average of 20 years and found that the females were more than three times as likely to be overweight and the males more than twice as likely to be overweight when the mothers ate the most animal protein during pregnancy.

Maslova E, Rytter D, Bech BH, et al. Maternal protein intake during pregnancy and offspring overweight 20 y later. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100:1139-1148.

A plant-based diet reduces migraine pain
Forty-two adult affected by migraine were either assigned to consume a low-fat plant-based diet or take a placebo supplement for 16 weeks. Participants then switched groups for a second 16-week period. During the diet period, participants consumed a plant-based diet and then an elimination diet to remove foods that are common migraine pain triggers.

The severity of the worst headache pain improved significantly during the plant-based diet period, compared to the supplement period. The decline in migraine pain may have been due to the elimination of dietary pain triggers such as meat and dairy products or by weight loss or hormonal changes brought on by the diet change.

Bunner A, Agarwal U, Gonzales JF, Valente F, Barnard ND. Nutrition intervention for migraine: a randomized crossover trial. J of Headache and Pain. 2014;15:69. doi:10.1186/1129-2377-15-69.

Jump in bowel cancer rates in younger people linked to diet
Although there has been a steady drop in incidence of colon and rectal cancers (CRC) between 1975 and 2010 among persons aged 50 years and older, the opposite is true for those in younger age groups, according to researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On the basis of these trends, the authors estimate that by 2020 and 2030, the incidence rate of colon cancer will increase by 37.8% and 90%, respectively, for patients aged 20 to 34 years.

This figure represents a 131.1% incidence rate change of colon cancer by 2030 in younger patients, as compared with patients older than 50 years.

For those aged 35 to 49 years, the incidence rates are also projected to increase, but at a slower pace: 27.7% for colon cancer and 46% for rectal cancer by 2030.

Behavioral factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity may play a role the investigators note in their study. The prevalence of obesity has risen in the United States, and that is a known contributor to CRC, along with physical inactivity. The typical Western diet is high in red meat, fast food, and processed meats and is low in vegetables; it too has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

One of the researchers, Dr Chang said. "we can all adopt healthier habits, such as exercising and improving our diets. Policy makers should encourage healthier behaviors."

JAMA Surg. Published online November 5, 2014.

Eating animal products creates metabolic waste products in the gut that lead to heart failure

The body produces trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) when it digests certain foods, including organ meats, red meat, and eggs.  A new study links higher levels of TMAO with death from heart failure. For five years, researchers followed 720 patients who had previously been treated for heart failure.

Those with the highest levels of TMAO in their blood had a 3.4 fold increase risk of dying, compared with those with the lowest levels. The presence of TMAO in the blood may also indicate other conditions such as stroke.

Tang WH, Wang Z, Fan Y, et al. Prognostic value of elevated levels of intestinal microbe-generated metabolite trimethylamine-n-oxide in patients with heart failure: refining the gut hypothesis. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64:1908-1914.

Note There is a similar link that I have been referring to for many years between the metabolic waste products from meat and increased cancer rates.

Low-Carb Diets Increase Risk of Death for Heart Patients
Researchers analyzed the diets of 4,098 women and men who had previously had heart attacks and found they were 33 percent more likely to die from any cause and 51 percent more likely to die from heart disease if following a low-carbohydrate diet high in animal sources of protein and fat, compared with those whose dietary patterns consisted of fewer low-carb, animal-based products.

 Previous analysis of this same population showed that a diet lowest in red and processed meat products and sugar and highest in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables lowered the risk of death from heart disease by 40 percent, compared with no dietary changes.

Li S, Flint A, Pai JK, et al. Low carbohydrate diet from plant or animal sources and mortality among myocardial infarction survivors. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014;3:e001169.

Pre Type 2 Diabetes Increases Cancer Risk
Researchers analyzed 16 studies that included 891,426 participants worldwide and found Prediabetes increased the risk of developing cancer by 15 percent, particularly for liver, endometrial, and stomach or colorectal cancers.

The study notes that lifestyle changes can treat or even prevent this condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 86 million American adults—more than one-third of the adult population—have prediabetes, the same proportion as in Australia.

Huang Y, Cai X, Qiu M, et al. Prediabetes and the risk of cancer: a meta-analysis. Diabetologia. Published online September 8, 2014.

If all of this does not scare the public health people and the health insurers and bring about major policy changes, nothing will! 

Consider this – the mind decides what we eat and drink and how much of it. How can we have an effective public policy for eliminating the chronic degenerative diseases like Pre Type 2 (Adult onset) diabetes, cancer, MS, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, unless we integrate a program to train the mind?

Simple answer… No way!

Full details are on the website, click here

Meditation in the Forest        March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this meditation retreat, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..


CANCER and BEYOND  May 2015   Monday 4th at 11am to Friday 8th at 2pm

Five Day Residential Follow-up Program at the Gawler Foundation in the Yarra Valley

This program is specifically designed for those with cancer along with their support people who have attended a previous Gawler Foundation program or equivalent such as with Sabina Rabold, CSWA, Cancer Care SA, CanLive NZ, or with the Gawlers

A unique opportunity to meet with like-minded people once again, to consolidate what you already know, to learn more from the combined knowledge, experience and wisdom of Ian and Ruth, to reaffirm your good intentions, and to go home refreshed and revitalised.

FULL DETAILS Click here 

You Can Conquer Cancer released in the UK 
Harper UK/Thorsens was due to release a specific UK edition of You Can Conquer Cancer at the end of January. Here is the link for anyone interested: Click here

A Polish edition is about to be published and I shall post details as soon as I have them.


GOOD NEWS for people affected by cancer in Melbourne. Much respected colleague Liz Stillwell has recommenced the Cancer Support Group and is meeting each Tuesday at the Augustine Centre.

The group will meet in term-times and all are welcome, including caregivers of course.

Many of you will know the Library at the Augustine Centre/Habitat Uniting Church, a large & wonderful book lined place of comfort, well seasoned with history for this group (I was running groups there in the early eighties and for those who have seen the historical documentary Mind the Healer, Mind the Slayer that was made in those heady days, this building featured quite prominently).

Liz has an excellent volunteer in Katrina Jenner and is well resourced. She is very experienced having trained extensively including with me, we have worked together for many years and still do and she has just completed her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

PS : Sleep workshop:  Please note Liz is also facilitating a 3 session Sleep Improvement workshop at Sentient Being Wellness at Eltham on Friday 20th, Sat 21st & Friday 27th Feb.

A melting pot of sleep information and experiential Hypnotherapy. 

For details contact Liz on 041 5665 822 or  www.stilwellinhealth.com


  1. Love your article as usual. A good reminder ... which we need occasionally said my experience. We need to revisit our food intake. By the way, have you ever written about vitamin intakes? Is there a need when you eat well and what are the best vitamins. Thank you.

    1. There have been several blogs on vitamins. Best way to access them is to simply put "vitamins" in the blog search engine at the top right and it will direct you to them.

  2. Ian
    I regularly read your blogs and often follow up on personalities you refer to in your articles. Recently, I listened to Sogyal Rinpoche on a number of you-tube videos and was impressed by what he had to say and how he related his message. I then came across a you-tube video about him that alledges he had been invoolved in a sex scandal. Can you give any further information in regard to these allegations? Kind Regards Tony Audley

    1. I have known Sogyal Rinpoche quite closely for over 30 years and have no doubt that he is a great teacher unaffected by scandal allegations.

    2. http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.ca/2011/07/sogyal-rinpoche-in-sex-abuse-scandal.html

  3. Healthy food always makes our life peaceful and enjoy. Nice info you shared here.

  4. Dear Dr. Ian Gawler,

    I am currently reading "You Can Conquer Cancer" UK edition after mum was diagnosed 3 weeks ago- I really want mum to began practicing meditation as soon as possible but I feel in order to maximise her benefit, she would require a Chinese text based version. Please kindly advise if such a version exists and where I can locate a copy- I have tried unsuccessfully to locate a copy thus far.

    If there are any other formats you have completed that are available please kindly advise, as I have been very impressed with your book thus far.

    Warm wishes


    1. Dear Kiy
      Unfortunately there is no Chinese version but the book is currently being translated and is expected to be released in China in the middle of this year. As soon a s it is I will announce it via the blog. There are about a dozen other translations already and they are listed on my webstore which you can link to via the website. Hope this helps your mother, please wish her well for me.