“When, once in a while, a handkerchief comes out to wipe away a tear from laughter, that is my reward. The rest goes to the government.” (Victor Borge) The DOCTOR YOURSELF NEWSLETTER (Vol. 6, No. 1, December, 2005)
"Free of charge, free of advertising, and free of the A.M.A."
Copyright 2005 by Andrew W. Saul of http://www.doctoryourself.com , which now welcomes nearly two million visitors annually. Commercial use of the website or the contents of this Newsletter is strictly prohibited.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) FIRE YOUR DOCTOR!
2) VITAMINS ARE NOT FOOD?
3) HOW TO SUPPORT HR 4282
5) FREE VITAMIN D NEWSLETTER
6) HEMOCHROMATOSIS AND VITAMIN C
7) DR. HOFFER’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
8) RACKETEERING IN MEDICINE
9) Feature article: RAISING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH BETTER NUTRITION
10) DID YOU KNOW?
CONTROVERSIAL? YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?
“FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy,” my latest book, has just been published by Basic Health Publications, Inc. FIRE YOUR DOCTOR!, which has more attitude than a junior high lunchroom, is both fun to read and practical to use. Even more tightly referenced than my previous book Doctor Yourself, FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! also has much more text in slightly fewer pages, thanks to a new double-column, save-a-tree format.
Over 80 health conditions are discussed, with lots of how-to information that you and your family can use today.
For more information, a listing of the book’s contents, and a sample excerpt, please look at http://www.doctoryourself.com/fyd.html .
If you would like your copy signed by the author, please go to http://www.doctoryourself.com/order.html .
VITAMINS ARE NOT FOOD?
by Robert K. McClain
Vitamins, according to Ohio’s elected officials, are not food. In the state of Ohio, legislators changed the tax code in July of 2004 in order to clarify what constitutes “food.” Here in the first paragraph of the legislation, we find the definition of food:
“On and after July 1, 2004, “food” means substances, whether in liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated form, that are sold for ingestion or chewing by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value. Food does not include alcoholic beverages, dietary supplements, soft drinks or tobacco.”
Vitamins, since Ohio classifies them as ‘dietary supplements,’are not food. Taxpayers may consume vitamins in accordance with Ohio’s criteria of “ingestion or chewing by humans…for their nutritional value,” but according to thought process of an Ohio legislator, vitamins are not food.
Where it really gets interesting is when we look at the chart provided by the State of Ohio’s Department of Taxation guide to what IS a food:
Sno-Cones, Popsicles, chewing gum, breath mints, candy, non-alcoholic beer, pudding, gelatin, and ice…yes, ice. Perhaps Ohio’s elected officials would like to try and survive on a steady diet of those nine ‘foods”?
Interestingly, prescription drugs are not taxed in Ohio. How about that.
(See the entire article online at: http://www.cwru.edu/finadmin/matsupp/pcard/ohiotaxupdates.pdf)
FINALLY A GOOD ONE:
BRAND-NEW CONGRESSIONAL BILL YOU WANT TO SUPPORT
The Health Freedom Protection Act (HR 4282) was just introduced on Nov. 9 into the US House of Representatives “to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act concerning foods and dietary supplements, to amend the Federal Trade Commission Act concerning the burden of proof in false advertising cases, and for other purposes.”
The bill already has at least eight co-sponsors. However, a Congressional bill needs dozens if not hundreds of co-sponsors if it is to be successfully enacted into law.
You can personally help this bill pass.
IS YOUR US REPRESENTATIVE A CO-SPONSOR of HR 4282? Find out instantly with a look at http://thomas.loc.gov/ .
In the search box type in “HR 4282" (the bill number alone is not enough; you must include HR before it.) Then click the “search by bill number” to see the full text of the proposed legislation, which is not particularly long.
Now click BILL SUMMARY AND STATUS. Note the Congressperson’s names listed as co-sponsors. If your representative is not there, it is high time to write to him or her. A regular-mail, handwritten postal letter is the most effective way to do this. Easy hints are posted at http://www.doctoryourself.com/write_now.html
To obtain the mailing address of your US Representative, please look at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt?command=congdir (If that link does not work directly, go to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/ or www.congress.org ) Under OFFICIALS GUIDE, click “US CONGRESS.”
Among other reasons, you might want to support this bill because the following health claims would specifically be authorized for use in the labeling of dietary supplements:
(i) Saw Palmetto may improve urine flow, reduce nocturia and reduce voiding urgency associated with mild benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate).
(ii) Omega-3 Fatty Acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
(iii) Omega-3 Fatty Acids may reduce the risk of sudden death heart attack.
(iv) Glucosamine may reduce joint stiffness and pain associated with osteoarthritis.
(v) Chondroitin Sulfate may reduce joint stiffness and pain associated with osteoarthritis.
(vi) Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate may reduce joint stiffness and pain associated with osteoarthritis.
(vii) Calcium may reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Furthermore, if passed, the bill will also provide genuinely good health education for consumers in that:
“A truthful and nonmisleading scientific publication reprinted in its entirety and used in connection with the sale of a food or dietary supplement to consumers shall not be defined as labeling and shall not be deemed evidence of an intent to sell a drug.”
These are reasonable measures and good for Americans’ healthcare. PLEASE WRITE TODAY.
BACKACHE: A DO-IT-YOURSELF APPROACH
You can now read the full text of an article I had published in the Mother Earth News way back in 1984 on “Spontaneous Release by Positioning,” a gentle, osteopathic spinal adjustment technique suitable for intelligent home use.
By the way, those full color action photos are not of me.
FREE HEALTH NEWSLETTER
The Vitamin D Newsletter focuses on the safety and effectiveness of high doses of vitamin D. It is noncommercial and written by a physician, John Cannell, MD. Read all issues, and subscribe to this outstanding publication free of charge at http://www.cholecalciferol-council.com/releases.shtml
HEMOCHROMATOSIS AND VITAMIN C MEGA-DOSIS
Gert Schuitemaker, PhD writes:
“Hemochromatosis (HC) is underdiagnosed and should get more attention. We should also take into consideration its relationship to high dosages of vitamin C. I looked at your website (as I often do when I need some clinical practical data), but you do not pay much attention to it. Dr. Thomas Levy in his book (http://www.doctoryourself.com/levy.html ) uses the term 'unlikely', but cannot be 'ruled out'. No studies are available on the subject and - until then - high C users should probably include at least an annual check on ferritin and iron. Do you consider HC a non-issue?”
Good topic and a good question. A known hemochromatosis (HC) patient should not take megadoses of C. As for the rest of the population, I recommend a low heme-iron diet, which is a low-meat or meatless diet. Vegetarian diet provides non-heme iron, and even with mega-C, there seems to be a normal iron absorption shut-off. (1) I think excess dietary heme iron may be the real problem, not vitamin C. The body can relatively easily absorb more heme (meat) iron than it needs. When and if vitamin C has a negative effect in HC patients, it is probably due to release of stored iron, not new absorption. (2)
In my opinion, one should beware the questionable work of outspokenly anti-ascorbate hematologist Victor Herbert, the voice behind claims that vitamin C is a public problem due to looming dangers of iron overload. Herbert's papers grossly overstate a statistically slight danger. There are no deaths per year from vitamin C; by Herbert's logic, many thousands of C users should be dropping dead from HC. Herbert was the author of the vitamin C destroys B-12 myth, which has been proven to be unfounded.
I append a comment by Dr Steve Hickey, a vitamin C expert at U Manchester, and author of Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C (http://www.doctoryourself.com/news/v5n2.txt):
“There is a theoretical danger but the actual reports are sparse and unclear. I expect that if vitamin C really did have such a side-effect, its detractors would have had a field day. Having read much of the available evidence, I consider the benefits of high dose vitamin C to exceed greatly any (largely theoretical) side-effects.”
1) Bendich A, Cohen M. Toxicol Lett. 1990 Apr;51(2):189-201. Ascorbic acid safety: analysis of factors affecting iron absorption. “Three parameters associated with iron absorption were identified: (1) a relatively shallow slope for the dose-response curve relating ascorbic acid dosage (1-1000 mg) and percent iron absorption; (2) no significant effect of ascorbic acid on the absorption of high (60 mg) iron doses; and (3) an inverse relationship between iron absorption and plasma transferrin saturation. Ascorbic acid did not increase the incidence of 'high' iron absorbers (greater than 2 SD from population mean) above control levels; limited data for ascorbic acid doses greater than 100 mg/d indicated no change in the distribution of iron absorption values.”PMID: 2184546 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
2) Rowbotham B, Roeser HP. Aust N Z J Med. 1984 Oct;14(5):667-9. Iron overload associated with congenital pyruvate kinase deficiency and high dose ascorbic acid ingestion. PMID: 6597712 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
NEW: DR. HOFFER’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Adventures in Psychiatry: The Scientific Memoirs of Dr. Abram Hoffer by Abram Hoffer. www.KOSPublishing.com Toronto, 2005.
An abridgement of a review by Robert Sealey, BSc, CA. Reprinted with the author’s permission. Abram Hoffer, PhD, MD, FRCP(C), became a pioneering psychiatrist over 50 years ago. In the 1950’s, he applied the life science of biochemistry to the art of psychiatry. Not content with helping many patients recover from schizophrenia, he cooperated with colleagues to research and to develop biological treatments, linking diagnosis to medical care based on nutritional status and biochemical individuality. As his clinical work progressed, Dr. Hoffer discovered a new dimension of restorative care. Over the span of his long and distinguished career, Dr. Hoffer inspired a paradigm shift: leading by example, he resolved patients’ episodes, even psychoses, and restored their mental health. His innovative and important work correcting brain chemistry was welcomed by grateful patients but frowned upon by skeptical psychiatrists. After years of sharing his research and reporting positive progress in medical journals, Dr. Hoffer realized that most doctors either ignored or dismissed his ideas -- without trying them. Believing that millions of mental patients deserved better quality care, Dr. Hoffer embarked on a campaign to educate the public using books, articles, meetings and conferences.
What made Dr. Hoffer study schizophrenia so carefully? What did he think when his patients heard voices? What motivated him to research, develop and foster the concept of orthomolecular medicine? What intrigues him so much that, at age 88, he still practices psychiatry and medicine, he still researches and he still writes? Hoffer’s scientific memoirs share the fascinating story of his life’s work and his medical adventures.
Advances in medicine don’t appear overnight. Years of clinical observations and outcome analyses can lead to flashes of insight that reveal possible solutions to age-old health problems. A pioneering doctor trusts his instincts, investigates the probabilities and perseveres until he finds better ways to practice medicine. This takes well-above-average intelligence, inspiration, dedication and determination. Paradigm shifts require even more exceptional capabilities, not to mention serendipity, opportunity and a network of colleagues. As it turned out, Abram Hoffer had the essentials: the necessary smarts, a kind heart, a quick wit, stick-to-itiveness, a supportive family and a knack for making friends, even with patients. Abram Hoffer attended one-room schools in Saskatchewan, obtained his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and studied for his MD medical degree at the University of Toronto. Rather than take quick and easy short cuts as a keen young research psychiatrist in the 1950s, Abram Hoffer wondered what could cause the human brain to hallucinate and what could stabilize brain chemistry. No one told Dr. Hoffer that most doctors believed: “There is no cure for schizophrenia ” The practice guidelines of psychiatry encourage physicians to differentiate the root cause(s) of each patient’s symptoms before recommending effective treatment(s). True to the guidelines, Dr. Hoffer and his co-workers researched how to diagnose psychosis and restore brain chemistry by prescribing nutritional supplements – in therapeutic doses – and by improving patients’ diets. A surprising number of patients recovered and kept well, as long as they continued their treatment regimens.
What prompted Dr. Hoffer to prescribe supplements? How could nutrients restore mental health? Hoffer’s memoirs explain that, according to the Hoffer-Osmond adrenochrome hypothesis, the dysfunctional metabolism of adrenalin can cause psychosis. Vulnerable patients metabolize adrenalin (a healthy brain chemical) to adrenochrome, and then adrenolutin: indole hallucinogens. Dr. Hoffer and Dr. Osmond believed that unbalanced brain chemistry could be restored. By means of the first double-blind clinical trials ever done in psychiatry, they tested two vital amines: divided doses of either niacin or niacinamide (vitamin B3 – a methyl acceptor) with ascorbic acid (vitamin C – an antioxidant). For decades, their double-barreled treatment has worked better than antipsychotic medications alone, tranquilizers, insulin comas and metrazole therapies.
If nutrient-based therapies sound unscientific, remember that Dr. Hoffer earned a PhD degree in biochemistry before he became a physician. Practicing with medical integrity, Hoffer and his team respected each patient’s biochemical individuality by customizing regimens of medical nutrients: vitamins (or vital amines), trace minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, methyl acceptors and sources, energy and enzyme cofactors, essential fatty acids and precursors. Thousands of patients got well enough to resume their educations, continue their careers and realize their dreams.
Conventional doctors scoffed at the idea that mere vitamins could resolve episodes of schizophrenia, a serious mental illness. However, after world-renowned, Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, PhD, read Hoffer and Osmond’s 1966 book, How to Live With Schizophrenia, Pauling wrote that “orthomolecular therapy,” using vitamins and other essential nutrilites as treatments, could help many patients by “the provision of the optimum molecular concentrations of substances normally present in the human body”. Pauling’s word “orthomolecular” explains the ortho-care concept of medicine: restore patients to good health by prescribing healthy molecules. Linus Pauling came out of retirement to research vitamin biochemistry and champion orthomolecular medicine.
Linus Pauling’s “orthomolecular” concept and Dr. Hoffer’s success treating schizophrenia with orthomolecular regimens encouraged open-minded health professionals to verify his findings, then cooperate to develop restorative treatments for a range of mental and physical illnesses. However, the majority of psychiatrists, while following their tradition of nihilism, dismissed Dr. Hoffer’s work and kept their minds closed to the reality that their medications and talk therapies, however well-intentioned and useful, do not restore sick brains to normal. Just as thousands of sailors suffered for centuries before the British admiralty provisioned vessels with citrus fruits to prevent scurvy, legions of trusting mental patients have suffered while most psychiatrists refuse to review Dr. Hoffer’s orthomolecular research or test his complimentary clinical regimens. Unwilling to let skeptics discredit his life’s work, Dr. Hoffer continued his research and reported his progress by publishing the case reports of recovered patients in medical books and journals, for over 50 years. His memoirs tell the whole story.
Dr. Hoffer had many clinical adventures as he determined the optimum doses of smart nutrients for his patients and encouraged colleagues to apply his methods, worldwide. In order to share research results and educate caregivers, Dr. Hoffer started and edited the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine (http://www.doctoryourself.com/hoffer_JOM.html ). He wrote many articles, editorials and books. (http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_hoffer.html ). In addition, Dr. Hoffer helped to establish, direct and maintain ISOM (the International Society of Orthomolecular Medicine) and ISF (the International Schizophrenia Foundation). Since 1971, 34 annual conferences, called Nutritional Medicine Today, have shared orthomolecular information, medical research, progress reports and success stories with patients, families, caregivers and health professionals from around the world. The Orthomolecular Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding achievements by medical professionals. ( http://www.orthomed.org )
Thousands of grateful patients owe their recoveries and their restored destinies to Dr. Abram Hoffer. Thanks to his original work, vision, integrity and leadership in researching and developing restorative orthomolecular medicine, patients no longer need to suffer for decades with symptoms of schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder or autism. If you or someone you love has a mental illness, you will enjoy reading The Scientific Memoirs of Dr. Abram Hoffer and getting inspired by his wonderful Adventures in Psychiatry.
(Guest reviewer Robert Sealey is the author of “Finding Care for Depression, Mental Episodes & Brain Disorders,” “Depression Survivor's Kit - A Layman's Guide,” and the “90-Day Plan for Finding Quality Care” http://www.searpubl.ca )
RACKETEERING IN MEDICINE: The Suppression of Alternatives, by James P. Carter, MD.
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN: 187890132X
Reviewed by Deborah Harrity, Doctor Yourself Volunteer
I’ve been an alternative health researcher for a number of years, and I am always on the lookout for a book with a clear, balanced and intelligent overview of alternative health and health care practices in today’s world. I’ve collected a great deal of information myself, and I have grave concerns about what is going on in allopathic medicine, but I am not a doctor and I’m not a scientist. When people say things like “alternative medicine often lacks clinical trials to substantiate its claims – the evidence is often anecdotal” I would like to offer a comprehensive resource by a recognized doctor – a book to help them evaluate “traditional” vs “alternative” choices in medicine, and see where the old paradigms are failing. Is this such a book?
Beginning with the title, Carter is clearly taking an aggressive position, defining racketeering: obtaining money illegally, as by fraud or extortion. This makes the book immediately controversial. A quick look at the reviews on Amazon confirms that readers loved it or hated it, with little middle ground. And a quick look at the Table of Contents shows the broad reach of the case Carter is making: that politics controls the practice of medicine in this country, and that money controls the entire process. Part 1 of the book concerns organized medicine, described by Carter as “the most powerful American monopoly.” Here he begins his damning case for suppression, persecution and harassment of alternative medicine practitioners by those seeking to control profits in the obscenely expensive and extremely lucrative medical and pharmaceutical industries. In Part 2 Carter details use of the legal system to shut down innovative medical practice, and the roles of insurance companies, the IRS, the AMA and the FDA in such pursuits, again in the apparent drive to control profits. Part 3 gives a fascinating review of health care in various countries of Europe, as well as the health care policies of the U.N., and concludes with recommendations on actions for the future. Carters recommendations: national and universal health insurance, tax incentives and reform legislation, and an end to the profiteering and racketeering he has reported on.
One of the most valuable elements of Carter’s book is that throughout, in the examples he uses to demonstrate suppression of important therapies, he is giving the reader information of a broad range of little-known disease treatments. Those who have studied alternative cancer therapies will recognize names like Hoxsey, Gerson and Rife. Carter makes much of chelation therapy for vascular disease as this is his personal expertise (an alternative to bypass surgery that is effective and affordable, but that has been discredited by biased research and the threat it poses to the surgical and pharmaceutical profit). And dozens of other treatments and practitioners are mentioned, giving the reader enticing ideas for further study.
This book was written in the early 90s, so it is not entirely up to date, and there are several things I wish Carter had done differently. He has no footnotes, for example, which might help the reader with further research, and the lack of footnotes is an easy point of criticism for those with opposing arguments. An index would also have been useful, as the text jumps around a bit. But the book is valuable for those seeking more understanding and more control in their health options, and it has the continuing potential to foster change in the business of medicine. Carter has gone to great lengths to present names, dates, facts and connections; he gives example after example of effective but suppressed therapies; and he is relentless in exposing how the bottom line controls the behavior of medical associations, pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, the AMA and the FDA.
Carter did a splendid job of exposing the flaws in the way medical treatments are developed, funded, tested and approved. He explains the use and mis-use of “clinical trials” as a standard for evaluating medical treatment, and he provides evidence far beyond the anecdotal that should empower any reader to become more involved in his own healthcare.
So, is this the book for my skeptical friends? I may have trouble getting them to read past the title, but I would certainly recommend it.
RAISING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH BETTER NUTRITION
by Helen F. Saul, MS Ed.
(Editor’s note: Ms. Saul is a tenured English teacher in upstate New York, and, incidentally, is also my daughter.)
It seems only natural that by now, people would be well aware of the importance of eating healthy foods. However, if you were to take a fieldtrip through your average school cafeteria, you might notice that the foods on the students’ trays don’t reflect that thinking. In the school’s defense, are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains offered? Yes. Are they fresh, appetizing, unprocessed, and low in salt and sugar? Not exactly. In the popular documentary Super Size Me the field representative of Sodexho, a company which services over 400 over our K-12 schools nationwide, stated “[w]e are hoping through nutrition education the students will learn to make the right food choices without restricting what they can purchase” (2004). However, it is rare that I see a student taking a large helping of the gray-green canned peas, rubbery canned fruit, or a large helping of lettuce and tomatoes on their meat taco. (I like vegetables, and even I don’t eat those.) Between a slice of pizza or a tiny sorry-looking salad, what would the average kid choose? By not offering appetizing healthy foods, are we setting the kids up to make bad choices? (Super Size Me, 2004). In a school district like mine where over forty percent of the students are on free and reduced lunch programs, they are far less likely to come in with a (more expensive) healthy bagged lunch. As for the bagged lunches, they seem to come in an array of colors, few if any of which belong to fruit or vegetables.
Adopting a better nutrition program in schools will not only affect positive changes in behavior, attendance, and overall health, it will improve students’ ability to learn and thus raise their levels of achievement. Reduce problem behaviors and referrals, increase student learning, raise test scores, and lower dropout rates? It is an administrator’s dream. The dream however can become a reality, and schools have done just that by providing healthier food choices for students.
In June of 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act. “The federally assisted meal program was established as ‘a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities’” (School Nutrition Association [SNA], 2005). Additionally, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Child Nutrition Act and remarked, “good nutrition is essential to good learning” (SNA, 2005). Yet, to this day we are struggling in our schools to get kids to attend, behave, and achieve. “The one place where the impact of our fast food world has become more and more evident is in our nation’s schools” (Super Size Me, 2004). The Nutritional Resource Foundation, created by nutritionist Barbara Stitt, Ph.D. and her husband Paul Stitt who holds a MS in biochemistry, is dedicated to helping students and adults alike eat more healthy diets. They point out the humbling statistic that “[l]ess than one in three children and adolescents meet dietary recommendations for limiting intake of saturated fat, less than one in five eats enough fruits and vegetables…” (Nutritional Resource Foundation [NRF], 2004). Additionally, “…meals served at school are often more deficient in produce than those at home. Fast foods have overtaken school cafeteria food and soft-drink machines have displaced real fruit juices as well as milk. When vegetables are offered, they are typically the steam table variety, overcooked and unappetizing” (NRF, 2004). While originally schools began providing students with food to help improve their health, especially those from families that could not feed them adequately, now schools are the ones creating health problems for children (NRF, 2004).
DEFINING THE PROBLEM
Test scores are low, and programs such as No Child Left Behind have shown “little improvement” (NRF, 2005). “Most troubling for educators are the sluggish reading skills among middle-school students, which have remained virtually unchanged for 15 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress” (NRF, 2005). Administrators cringe at decreases in test scores, and remaining stagnant is not much of an accomplishment.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is recognized as the authority on school nutrition and has been “advancing the availability, quality and acceptance of school nutrition programs as an integral part of education since 1946” (2005). They state that there is “strong evidence on potential adverse effects of poor nutrition and physical activity among American children. These findings address test scores, concentration, absenteeism, and attitude” (SNA, 2004).
Schools have adopted breakfast programs because they know “that well-nourished students that skip breakfast perform worse on tests and have poor concentration” (SNA, 2004). The Nutritional Resource Foundation (2004) further emphasized this point:
“Nutrients play a major role in learning abilities. If children’s bodies are left deficient day after day, as are most in America, their brains will not function properly and they will be under performing. Research suggests that skipping breakfast can affect children’s intellectual performance, and even moderate under-nutrition can have lasting effects on cognitive development. Children who are hungry are more likely to have behavioral, emotional, and academic problems at school.”
So, now many schools give students breakfast. But what kind of breakfast are they eating? While we might maintain that we have come a long way and we have nutrition guidelines in our schools that must be followed, we still have children who are undernourished and underachieving, and our test scores are not where we want them. According to Abram Hoffer, a medical doctor who also holds a Ph.D. in nutrition, “[o]ver 75 percent of our current diet consists of processed food. This diet is deficient in fiber, too rich in processed fats, too rich in simple sugars, and deficient in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids… It is also too rich in additives…Food additives decrease the nutritional quality of foods” (Hoffer, 1999). Jane Hersey, National Director of the Feingold Association of the United States, a group dedicated to helping children and adults apply scientifically proven dietary techniques for better behavior, learning, and health for over 30 years, further emphasizes that “[t]ypically, the reaction [to food additives] will be one of these: a change in behavior, a change in the ability to focus and learn.”
Why would we want to detract from the very skills and behaviors students need in order to be successful?
For some kids, the meal at school may be the only one they get that day. But we should be reminded that “[c]hildren at all socioeconomic levels are at risk for poor nutrition” (NRF, 2004). As the number of parents in the workforce increases, children are left to fend for themselves when preparing meals at home (NRF, 2004). Therefore, it is our responsibility to make the meals they eat at school of the highest quality. This benefits not only the child, but also the entire climate, culture, and success of the building. A parent should be tuned into whether or not their child is getting the proper nutrition. Lendon Smith, M.D., known nationally as “The Children’s Doctor,” asks parents to tune into statements like these during a school conference: “I know he knows the work, but he won’t put it on paper”; “He won’t work up to his ability”; “Some days he has it; the next day it’s gone” (1979). “These words suggest that nutritional factors are a part of the explanation. The off-and-on phenomenon is the clue to fluctuating blood sugar…nutrition is the key factor in helping this particular child” (1979).
Reading through the recent report released by the School Nutrition Association, 2005 School Nutrition Market Trends: Environmental Scan Update, I found that pizza was named the top entrée during the 2003-2004 school year. In the same report it was indicated that “[p]oor nutrition and physical inactivity are shown to cost schools academic achievement and significant amount of funding” (2005). Perhaps they have considered that the two may be related?
HOW DO WE FIX IT
If good food is available, children will eat it (NRF, 2004). Dr. Lendon Smith insists that “[w]hat is needed is for somebody to do something about the avalanche of junk food, which increasingly displaces nutritious food in the diets of these kids and disposes them to rampage” (1979). If we want to increase the success of a nutrition program, we need to remove the junk, and then add the nutrients. “There is rapidly accumulating evidence that a child’s ability to learn can be improved by …the improvement in general nutritional status through removing junk foods from his daily diet,” says Dr. Abram Hoffer (1999). This starts with setting standards: What foods will we serve in our schools?
In an alternative charter school in Appleton, Wisconsin, they have adopted a nutrition program that goes above and beyond the requirements. This is their goal:
Get everyone eating five servings of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and whole grains every day.
Promote and serve more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eliminate food with artificial coloring, artificial flavoring and sweeteners.
Encourage parents and kids to pack healthy lunches.
Teach basic nutrition concepts.
Reduce children’s intake of hydrogenated fat, saturated fat, sugar, and caffeine.
The above will, among other benefits, increase attendance in school and work, and improve the behavior and learning ability of students (NRF, 2004).
Not only do you feed them right, you tell them why they are being fed this way and how to make their own healthy food choices. “Several studies have shown that when schoolchildren are introduced to a new food in school, become familiar with it and learn about its origins and food value, they are more likely to eat it in the lunchroom and encourage their parents to serve it” (NRF, 2004). Ultimately, we want children to learn how to make good food choices on their own, as they won’t always have the school to rely on.
Is this goal being met? In this day and age even “computers are now helping school foodservice workers ensure that the meals offered in schools comply with nutrition standards,” and yet “it is another challenge altogether to ensure that students consume the nutritious foods provided” (SNA, 2005). However, if there are no unhealthy choices available, it will be difficult for a student to eat a meal that is not nutritionally beneficial to them.
Here is a sample of the foods now available for students in the breakfast and lunch program in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The Appleton Central Alternative Charter School’s Lunch Menu:
1) Bottled water, 100%juice, milk, and blended energy drinks.
2) Whole grain foods free of additives, dyes, artificial preservatives and saturated fats.
3) A salad bar filled with dark green lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, olives, peanuts, sunflower seeds, broccoli and cauliflower, boiled eggs, whole-grain croutons, home-made applesauce, cabbage, peach and pear slices, pineapple and fruity salad.
4) Meats including lean pork, chicken, turkey, and fish.
5) A variety of spices, soymilk products and tofu are used as natural flavor enhancers.
6) Meals are cooked on site. No frying in a grease product.
The Appleton Central Alternative Charter School’s Breakfast Program:
1) Bottled water, 100%juice, milk, and blended energy drinks
2) Whole grain foods free of additives, dyes, artificial preservatives and saturated fats.
3) Granola, peanut butter, almond butter, natural fruit preserves, fresh fruits.
(Nutritional Resource Foundation, 2004)
According to the Nutritional Resource Foundation, outcomes of this Wellness and Nutrition Program included “increased ability to concentrate in the school setting, more on task-behavior, increased cognitive development, ability to think more clearly, objectively, and rationally, and dropouts and expulsions may be dramatically reduced” (2004). Teachers and principals have observed that “[g]rades are up, truancy is no longer a problem, arguments are rare, and teachers are able to spend their time teaching” (The Feingold Association, 2003). Their superintendent, Dr. Thomas Scullen, noted that the kids are coming to school, expulsions are rare, the drop-out rate is almost nil, and although he expected a healthy diet would improve behavior, he was surprised that it had such an impact on academic performance (The Feingold Association, 2003). A teacher commented, “We noticed a change from the get-go. All teachers reported that students were able to concentrate for longer periods in class” (NRF, 2004). They have seen a “tremendous change” in their students’ behavior for the better.
The Whitefish Central School in Montana has also adopted this program. Over the past three years, “[t]eachers report that they have gained between 10 and 15% additional teaching time since the children have calmed down and are more alert and able to focus. This is reflected in the fact that the school now ranks academically in the 76th percentile in the state” (Anderson, 2004). They also found that “[t]here has been another change in the cafeteria: the amount of food wasted has been cut in half, from 85 to 100 pounds per day, to about 45 pounds” (Anderson, 2004).
Other schools with similar desired outcomes are also showing success. “…[A] recently released study by WestEd, a nonprofit research, development and service agency, found that California schools with students who routinely engaged in healthy eating and physical activity had larger subsequent gains in test scores than other schools. ‘These studies show what we have known – that healthy school meals play a critical and positive role in students’ development and learning process,’ said Donna Wittrock, president of the American School Food Service Association” (SDA, 2003).
In the Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas, the Eat, Exercise, Excel program left a principal commenting, “Discipline will no longer be an issue in this building” (2004). We know that if our students aren’t well behaved, that won’t learn much. If they are removed from the room because of discipline problems, they learn even less.
WHAT DOES IT COST
Adopting a program like the one in the Appleton School District “costs about the same as any other school lunch program” (Super Size Me, 2004). Perhaps the question we should be asking though is not what does it cost, but what will it cost if we do not adopt a strong nutrition and wellness program in our schools.
Action for Health Kids (AFHK) recently released a report titled The Learning Connection that summarizes evidence demonstrating the negative impact poor nutrition, inactivity and weight problems can have on student achievement. According to former US Surgeon General and founding chair of AFHK, Dr. David Satcher, “The Learning Connection examines the impact of the root causes of childhood overweight and reveals a strong link between children’s health and academic success. This report provides insight on possible costs to schools as the result of poor nutrition, inactivity and weight problems, and makes the case for additional research to find more definitive data.” Although more research is needed to fully understand the link between poor nutrition, physical inactivity and academic achievement, the consequences The Learning Connection presents for the learning process as well as to school budgets are striking. …The report also quantifies dollars that schools lose when children are absent from school -- small amounts for individual students but this can add up. Particularly, the report demonstrates that, “Even an average school with a high absence rate based on poor nutrition and physical inactivity would lose from $95,000 to $160,000 per year in state aid” (SDA, 2004).
Our students are not the only ones that cost the district money when they are not healthy, sick teachers cost money too. “The Appleton, Wisconsin Alternative High School serves fresh, homemade foods that the students and faculty enjoy. The full cost for this transformation was only about $20,000 per year- a fraction of what schools now spend to address the learning and behavior problems that are being caused, in part, by junk foods” (NRF, 2004). The principal LuAnn Coenen said, “I can’t buy the argument that it is too costly for schools to provide good nutrition for their students. I found that one cost will reduce another. I don’t have the vandalism. I don’t have the litter. I don’t have the need for high security” (The Feingold Association, 2003). One teacher noted that, “We’re concerned about new band uniforms. We’re concerned about the football team. We’re concerned about textbooks. Why not be concerned about nutrition? Nutrition should be part of the general operating budget” (The Feingold Association, 2003). A member of the Board of Education in the L.A. Unified School district observed, “It’s not about money, it’s not about economics, it’s about health” (Super Size Me, 2004).
In order for any change to be accepted, people need to be shown the advantages of doing it. If your district is not ready for a full-blown nutrition program, there are ways to gradually introduce healthy eating habits. Here are some steps to consider:
Use soy yogurt for dressings and tartar sauce, use reduced fat mayonnaise, use whole grain flour, have fresh fruit available, try lower fat cheeses, reduce amount of butter used in cooking, offer vegetarian toppings on pizzas, use lean meat, eliminate the deep fryer, limit the choice of hot dogs or foods high in salt, bad fat and coloring to no more than once monthly, remove salt shakers, offer low-in-sugar breakfast items, and clearly define the limits of fat and sodium that you expect in the foods served (Evers, 1995). As with any change, “[i]t starts with leadership. You have to believe that what you’re going to do is going to work, and then you have to have the teachers on board. Once you are able to convince them, it is pretty simple to get the kids to follow” (Eat, Exercise, Excel, 2004). Schools around the country are trying to get kids more interested in school lunches. In National City, Calif., the School Board passed a resolution proclaiming the week National School Lunch Week. Legislators, board members and parent groups have been invited to “do” lunch with the district’s students. Materials include posters, bookmarks and a parent newsletter. In Adams County, Col., every day has a themed menu with items such as Rift Valley Baked Chicken and Call of the Wild Carrot Sticks. The district also will have special giveaways for parents and children and Take Your Family to Lunch Day. In Polk County, Fla., the Discovery Academy will become wild: tiki huts will cover each terminal at the end of the lunch line, vines and animals of every description will adorn the walls, a homemade full sized Jeep will be on hand and special surprises will be given away to students. Child nutrition staff will be sporting animal aprons and headdresses. A skit on the importance of good nutrition will be presented, and students will walk under a life-sized giraffe to receive their lunch. (SDA, 2003) Now we just have to make sure that all the foods that are offered to kids in school are extremely nutritious. If we are going to get them excited about food, we had better make sure it is the right kind of food.
The Nutritional Resource Foundation has developed a comprehensive plan for approaching a nutrition program in schools. They offer research to back it up, examples of written policy their project districts adopted, and templates for administrators to send home and to the media. This makes implementation just that much easier.
The information is out there. There is research to back it up. As leaders in the business of helping kids, we must do what our students need and give them the competitive edge. Higher test scores, better attendance, and reduction of behavioral problems; it’s not just an administrator’s dream, it can be an administrative reality.
Anderson, K. (2004, Sept). Montana school cleans up the playground, then the food. Pure Facts, 2.
Eat, Exercise, Excel [VHS] (2004). Wichita, KS: The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning.
Evers, C. (1995). How to Teach Nutrition to Kids. Oregon: Carrot Press.
Hersey, J. (Undated). Healthier Food for Busy People: 20 little rules to help you navigate the supermarket. Alexandria, VA: Pear Tree Press, Inc.
Hoffer, A. (1999). Dr. Hoffer’s ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children. Ontario, Canada: Quarry Press, Inc.
Impact of Fresh, Healthy Foods on Learning and Behavior [DVD]. (2004). Manitowoc, WI: Natural Ovens, in connection of the Nutritional Resource Foundation.
Nutritional Resource Foundation. (2004). Roadmap to Healthy Foods in Schools [Guide]. Manitowoc, WI: Author.
Nutritional Resource Foundation. (2005, Oct.). Test Scores Move Little in Math, Reading:Improvement Appears Slight Since No Child Left Behind. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.nutritionalresourcefoundation.org/index.php#four
School Nutrition Association. (2004, Nov.). AFHK Reports Show Link Between Nutrition & Academic Achievement. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Index.aspx?id=883 School Nutrition Association. (2005, Oct.).
Helping School Kids Reach Nutritional Excellence. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.asfsa.org/Article.aspx?SMDOCID=bhsgml_2005_10_28_27766_917861681-0045-KEYWORD.Missing&SMContentSet=0
School Nutrition Association. (2005). Program History & Data. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Index.aspx?id=71 School Nutrition Association. (2003, Oct.). School Lunch: Something to Get Wild About. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Index.aspx?id=944 School Nutrition Association. (2005, Jan.).
SNA Releases New Report on School Nutrition Market Trends. Retrieved November 1, 2005, from http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Index.aspx?id=931
Smith, L. (1979). Feed Your Kids Right: Dr. Smith’s Program for Your Child’s Total Health. New York: Mc-Graw Hill. Super Size Me [DVD]. (2004). New York, NY: Kathbur Pictures, Inc.
The Feingold Association of the United States. (2003). Behavior, Learning & Health: The Dietary Connection [Brochure]. Atlanta, GA: Author.
DID YOU KNOW:
The most popular items sold in grocery stores are:
Number One: Carbonated beverages
#3: Breakfast cereals
(Cereal: History in a bowl. A&E Productions, 2005)
DID YOU KNOW:
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