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Diet & Nutrition

Date: 07-18-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Dr. Neal Barnard

President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D., shared some of the latest medical research on diet and nutrition.

Barnard unabashedly advocates a vegan lifestyle. He said an entirely plant-based diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and many common forms of cancer, as well as dramatically improve diabetes and increase longevity. On average vegans live about a decade longer than meat-eaters, though diet may account for only two of those ten years, he noted. It is also the most effective way to control weight, Barnard said, pointing out that when people start eating a vegan diet they burn calories at an accelerated rate for about three hours after meals.

Barnard revealed how certain foods trigger the release of natural opiates in the brain, causing a physical addiction that can be difficult to break. For instance, casein, a protein found in milk, breaks down into smaller molecules called casomorphins during digestion. These morphine-like compounds attach to the same receptors that heroin attaches to in the brain, he said. Barnard believes this may explain why so many people are seemingly addicted to diary products, especially cheese. In addition, Barnard lists sugar, chocolate and meat among the most addictive foods.

Barnard also commented on the study that shows a reduced-calorie diet may slow aging and contribute to longevity, as well as talked about the controversy surrounding the safety of soy protein, and the ethical issues involved in animal testing. "We ought to be studying human diseases in human patients," Barnard said.

News Segment

Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer appeared briefly at the start of the program to comment on the recent story about a giant blob of goo floating off of the Alaskan coast. Ebbesmeyer identified the goo as stringy brown-black algae.

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