Jack LaLanne has died of pneumonia at age 96. I was as impressed with him as everyone else was. At age 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed, with his legs shackled, and towing a 1,000-pound boat. I'm 60 now. Could I do that? Well, I might be able to handle the swim, but that cold 58 degree water? Forget about it. I could not tolerate the cold.

As you know, 96 is a very long life. It's about 20 years beyond the lifespan of the average American man. However, increasingly, we are hearing of people who reach that age- and beyond. Centenarians are becoming ever more common. And when we hear about centenarians, they are often just regular people- not lifelong fitness fanatics and health food nuts, like Jack LaLanne and Yours Truly. So what does it mean? Should we take a cynical attitude? If little old ladies in nursing homes can sometimes reach 103 without doing anything special, should we take any of this health stuff seriously?

I think we should. You can't just look at the raw numbers. You have to look at the quality of the life behind the number. Yes, Jack LaLanne, died at an age that increasingly more people are reaching. However, he reached that age in much better condition- physically and mentally- than most people reach it (if they reach it at all). And that's an important distinction because life is more about quality than quantity, in my opinion.

And we should not overlook the role that luck plays. Jack LaLanne did not die of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, which are the three biggest killers of people in modern life. He died of complications from pneumonia. However, there was a certain amount of bad luck in his getting pneumonia because it is something that depends, among other things, on exposure. What if he had decided to spend the winter in Bermuda? Maybe he would not have gotten pneumonia. Or maybe he would have gotten it, but a milder case of it, from which he could have, and would have, recovered. And if he had recovered, maybe it would have been smooth sailing for him all the way to 100 and beyond. We hear a lot about centenarians and usually at times that they are doing well, but we don't always hear about the close calls they may have had that could have taken them out years before. They were lucky. I don't care who you are: if you make it to 100, there's got to be some luck involved. Think of all the ways and times you could have been killed in an accident over the course of 100 years.

So, Jack LaLanne has nothing to explain for cashing in his chips at 96. I wish he could have lived longer- for his sake, and for the sake of additional others he would have inspired and helped. However, the superb condition in which he lived the final years of his life was proof-positive that his system works.

The January issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a protective effect from higher dietary zinc intake from dying of prostate cancer.

It involved 525 Swedish men, all under the age of 80, who had been already diagnosed with prostate cancer. They were followed for an average of 6.4 years.  Responses to dietary questionnaires administered upon enrollment were analyzed for the intake of calories, and iron and zinc from food sources. The subjects were followed through February 2009, during which time the causes of any deaths were determined.

“Over the 6.4 year average follow-up period there were 475 deaths, of which 218 were attributed to prostate cancer. Men whose intake of zinc was among the highest 25 percent of participants at greater than 15.6 milligrams per day had a 36 percent lower adjusted risk of dying from prostate cancer compared with those whose intake was among the lowest fourth. For those whose tumors were localized, there was a 76 percent lower risk of death among those whose intake was the highest compared to men whose intake was the lowest. Iron intake was not significantly associated with prostate cancer survival, and zinc was not associated with death from other causes."

The authors of the report note that the results of previous research concerning a protective effect for zinc in the prevention of prostate cancer have been inconsistent, and suggest that zinc could play a greater role in determining outcome of the disease rather than in its development. They remark that zinc is involved in a number of cellular functions, including maintenance of the immune system and DNA repair.

"These results suggest that high dietary intake of zinc is associated with lower prostate cancer–specific mortality after diagnosis, particularly in men with localized disease," Mara M. Epstein and her colleagues write. "These findings should encourage future studies of zinc and prostate cancer to include survival endpoints in an attempt to confirm our conclusions."

Being a man and having a prostate gland, I am impressed with these results. It has been suspected for a long time that zinc has a protective effect against prostate cancer, and now it looks like it really does. Zinc is considered a marginal nutrient, especially within plant-based diets, such as I eat and recommend. The fiber, oxalates, and phytates in plants all inhibit zinc availability and absorption. Is it a significant problem? It’s hard to know. I suppose it depends on the exact composition of the diet, and surely, there are individual variables involved, just as there is with iron.

Iron, too, is said to be difficult to absorb from plants. For instance, I have a friend in his 70s who has been a healthseeker for over 50 years, and he has been very serious about it. He not only eats all-organic food, but most of what he eats he raises himself on his organic homestead in Virginia, close to the Chesapeake Bay. He is raising many kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries. And in many ways, his health had been extraordinary and exceptional, especially for his age. However, recently, he has come down with iron-deficiency anemia. It’s not severe, and he’s not feeling terrible, but it is unmistakably that. Surely, there is plenty of iron in the food he is eating. So, why isn’t he absorbing it? I really can't say. Any answer I were to give would only be speculation.  I eat similarly to him and my iron level is fine. So obviously, there are individual factors involved.

And it may be similar with zinc. Determining a person’s zinc status isn’t that easy. A serum zinc test is not considered to be reliable, and it fluctuates a lot. There is a taste sensitivity test that some are using as a proxy for zinc status, but I don’t know how valid it is, although it is true that zinc is involved in taste acuity. 

Note that those who eat ultra-low-fat diets, such as the Pritikin diet or the McDougall diet may be sabotaging their zinc status. Dietary fats increase zinc absorption. The USDA did extensive testing showing that the lower the fat content of the diet, the greater the amount of zinc that passed through the body unabsorbed and wound up in the toilet.  At least I know I am not making that mistake. I know that when I eat healthy fats, such as nuts or avocados, I am enhancing my mineral absorption. And remember that the plant food that is highest in zinc is the mighty pecan- and it has healthy, monounsaturated fat and relatively low fiber content to enhance mineral absorption. I eat pecans almost daily.

Nevertheless, I don’t mind a bit that my Extend Core multi from VRP provides 15 mgs of highly absorbable zinc. It’s a very safe dosage, and zinc is too important- to immunity, to sexuality, to cancer prevention, to eye health, to memory- and even to digestive and glandular function- to leave it to chance.     

The British Medical Journal has released a scathing attack on Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor and researcher who since 1998 has championed the link between childhood vaccines and autism.

We have seen this kind of persecution before, for instance, towards Dr. Peter Duesberg, the molecular biologist who was attacked for his controversial views on HIV and AIDS. The truth is that Big Pharma will tolerate no criticism of its massive vaccination program for children. Never before have so many vaccines been given to children so early in life- approximately 35 vaccines before the age of 5. It is a massive chemical bombardment that is being administered indiscriminately and universally and with no serious effort to even look for untoward effects.

But remember, you have to follow the money. The recent article attacking Dr. Wakefield was written by Brian Deer, who is a reporter for the London Times, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul with close ties to Big Pharma.

Wakefield's interest in vaccinations arose from spontaneous reports from parents about illnesses and abnormalities they saw in their children shortly after they were vaccinated. There have been many such cases. but Big Pharma has always refused to look at them. At the beginning, Dr. Wakefield was a practicing gastroenterologist in England, and he was asked to evaluate a child who had severe bowel problems and who had also sunk into autism, and all of it starting immediately after getting the MMR vaccine. Dr. Wakefield, who prior to that had no alternativist bent whatsoever, was intrigued with the case. Then, similar cases started coming in, over 200 in total. When he wrote his famous paper, published in the Lancet in 1998, he never claimed that vaccines cause autism; he only said there was a "possible association" between the two. And for that, they pilloried him and continue to pillory him.

But, I think Dr. Wakefield is much too timid about the link. Among unvaccinated Amish children, autism is virtually non-existent. Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, the head of the HomeFirst Health Services, has tracked 35,000 Amish children in Illinois, and as regards autism, he said, "I don't have a single case." Then there is Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, a Florida pediatrician who is associated with a large group of religious families who are home-schooling their children and refraining to vaccinate them, and he says that in regard to autism in this group, "It's largely non-existent." For many years, I was associated with the American Natural Hygiene Society which consisted of about 10,000 families from all over the country who were trying to live healthfully and who were not vaccinating their children. It was a close-knit group, and I never heard of a single case of autism among any of the children involved, and I do believe I would have heard.  

These are just a few examples, but there are many more. Vaccination is a vast subject, and it is not possible for me to address all aspects of it, and I won't try. And although I am not an immunologist, I am still entitled to my opinion. And like everyone, I am entitled to make decisions about it pertaining to my own life, and I won't be pushed around. I had just one child, a son, and his mother and I refused to permit him to be vaccinated at all. He grew up just fine and suffered no bad consequences whatsoever. He never caught any of the diseases for which others were being vaccinated. Today, he is a healhy 37 year old man. If I had to do it over, I would again refuse to have him vaccinated. I, myself, was vaccinated as a child, but fortunately, there were only a few back then. It wasn't like today. As an adult, I have never been vaccinated for anything, and there are no conditons or circumstances in which I would ever consider being vaccinated again, for anything, period.

Do you think vaccination is scientific? If it were scientific, they would test it. They would do double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of it. They never do. Not for any of them.

Once, l had the privilege of meeting Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, the author of Confessions of a Medical Heretic. And I remember his telling me that of all areas of Medicine,  vaccination was the most flimsy, tenuous, and unfounded.  He said that vaccination was more doctrine and dogma than science, and belief in it is really more of a religion. I probably have about as much technical knowledge of vaccination as most physicians do, which is to say, not much. However, I am not going around injecting children or adults with rank poisons under the delusion that I am protecting them from disease. We'll leave the last words to Dr. Mendelsohn: 

"The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffective methods used to prevent them through mass innoculations. There is no convincing scientific evidence that mass innoculations can be credited with eliminating any childhood disease."

The FDA is restricting the amount of acetaminophen in Vicodin, Percocet and other prescription painkillers. It is because acetaminophen has been linked to thousands of cases of liver damage each year. They’re capping it at 325 milligrams per capsule, which is less than half the previous limit. Previously, doses of up to 700 milligrams were allowed by prescription.

Acetaminophen is the very popular pain reliever that most people know as Tylenol.  But, it’s also found in Nyquil, Theraflu, Sudafed, and thousands of other medicines used to treat headaches, fever and more. And, it’s offered by prescription in combination with narcotic drugs like hydrocodone (as in Vicodin) and oxycodone  (as in Percocet).

The concern is that because acetaminophen is so ubiquitous, people may be getting toxic overdoses when they take multiple acetaminophen-containing products. Also, labeling is an issue because some products use abbreviations for acetaminophen, such as “APAP,” which most people don’t recognize.

"One of the real challenges we have is that patients taking these products don't know they're taking acetaminophen at all," said FDA deputy director Dr. Sandra Kweder. "They don't realize that they are overdosing."

The FDA said it is working with pharmacies and other medical groups to develop standard labeling for acetaminophen, but that is still in the offing.

The restrictions announced Thursday will not affect over-the-counter products like Tylenol and Theraflu. The FDA said it is still considering limits on those products, but for now, over-the-counter products will actually be permitted to contain higher doses of acetaminophen — up to 500 milligrams per capsule- than prescription forms.

The FDA said it would add a boxed warning, the strongest type, to all prescription drugs containing acetaminophen.

Amazingly, in 2009, a panel of 37 medical experts urged the FDA to ban Vicodin completely. But, the FDA decided against taking that action simply because Vicodin is so widely prescribed: 200 million times in 2010! The same panel recommended lowering the amount of acetaminophen in over-the-counter products, but the FDA has rejected that advice as well.

Here is the bottom line for healthseekers. First, get the idea out of your head that acetaminophen is a safe painkiller. Unfortunately, there are no safe painkillers. Second, realize that although acetaminophen is well-tolerated in the stomach (which is its major selling point), it is extremely bad for the liver. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. It sends 56,000 people to the E.R. annually. Several hundred die each year, but a larger number are saved only by getting liver transplants. And, although acetaminophen is not considered to be as bad for the kidneys as NSAIDs such as naproxen and ibuprofen, it is still damaging to the kidneys. The latter drugs have been known to cause acute kidney failure. But on a larger scale, they have been known to cause a more slowly evolving form of kidney damage known as analgesic nephropathy.  Acetaminophen, too, has been linked to analgesic nephropathy. The damage we are discussing is irreversible. If you wait until your kidneys are shot to change course, it will be too late.

As to which of these painkillers is the best choice, I hate to commit myself. Aspirin, at doses sufficient to relieve pain, is quite dangerous. The risk from bleeding alone makes it dangerous. NSAIDs like naproxen and ibuprofen, besides damaging the kidneys, wreck the stomach.

I don’t take painkillers. I haven’t in years. It’s not that I’ve never been in any pain. It’s just that I stubbornly resist taking drugs. However, I do keep some Tylenol around-just in case. But, I also keep some NAC around. NAC stands for N-acetyl cysteine. It is an amino acid, and it is considered an antidote for acetaminophen poisoning. Every E.R. at every hospital in the world keeps NAC around to treat acetaminophen poisoning. NAC halts the rampant free radical reactions in the liver that take place from taking acetaminophen. NAC also restores glutathione, which gets knocked out by acetaminophen. So, I would take 600 mg of NAC twice a day if I were taking acetaminophen.

But again, I avoid painkillers like the Plague. The last batch of Tylenol I bought wound up being thrown out because it expired. And I hope the same thing happens to the batch I have now.

When you are in pain, try to obtain relief through non-drug methods. Heat and massage often work. Cold can also be useful. For instance, if you have a headache, you can place an icepack on your aching head, while soaking your body in a hot tub. That combination often does the trick.

Please: respect and fear painkilling drugs. Use them only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. And if you take Tylenol, also take NAC.   OH, one last thing that is very important: if you are taking Tylenol, don't drink alcohol. The liver-damaging effects of acetaminophen and alcohol are additive. Tylenol + alcohol = liver failure.

 

Once again, they really surprised me on the upside. They announced their list of 10 foods to build muscle, boost immunity, burn fat, and strengthen the heart, and I thought for sure I'd find the likes of salmon, whey, and other animal foods on the list. But no, all 10 were plants! Let's go through them, one by one, but I'll omit numbers because it's not supposed to be a rating scale. They are all equally good.

Cabbage: They emphasize the sulforaphane, which is in all cruciferous vegetables. Actually, headed cabbage is a little like headed lettuce, and just as leaf lettuce is superior because it's greener, the same is true when comparing leafy cabbage (such as collards and kale) to headed cabbage. So, you're better off with the former. But that doesn't mean you can't eat headed cabbage sometimes. For instance, if you're bent on having cole slaw, you wouldn't want to use raw collards or kale because it just wouldn't taste good. So, I am all for making use of cabbage. But personally, I always buy the red headed cabbage rather than the green. I like the way it looks; I like the way it tastes; and I like what it delivers.

Beets: That rich red color is visual proof of the high antioxidant content. And remember that the beet greens are good to eat too, like spinach. My favorite way to eat beets are cooked, skinned, chilled, and diced in a salad. And they keep quite well too- at least for a week. So, you can cook up a bunch and use them up over the course of several days or longer. They definitely add a lot of pizzazz to salads.

Guava: They point out that guava is higher in Vitamin C than oranges and higher in Lycopene than tomatoes or watermelon. I'm all for guava, but it is a bit pricey, and it's not so widely available.

Swiss chard: This leafy green is much more practical and efficient to grow than it's cousin, spinach. It grows bigger and faster, so you get more. It grows more upright, so it doesn't get so soil-ridden. And the flavor of it is milder and goes with everything. And nutritionally, it is just as good as spinach. Hey, I grow swiss chard all winter. I have it growing right now, and I eat it often. When it freezes hard, I throw some hay over it. That's all it takes to keep it alive, even down into the teens.

Cinnamon: They emphasize how it helps to control blood sugar. But, I like cinnamon just for the taste of it, and I use it often. I love it on oatmeal. I even put it on whole grain oat cereal.

Purslane: This is a salad green that I have little experience with. I'm sure I have tried it  at least once years ago. Although it's not widely available, I am going to keep my eyes open for it and buy it. They point out two interesting things: One, purslane is the highest green in alpha-linolenic acid- the plant form of Omega 3. Two, it is the vegetable that is highest in melatonin, the hormone. Is it high enough to put you to sleep? I doubt it, but I'll let you know after I try it.

Pomegranite juice: They emphasize the benefits to blood pressure, blood flow, and heart health. Lately, I have been using a pomegranite juice concentrate. Two tablespoons comprise one serving. Pomegranite is still my favorite "super-fruit" and I plan to make use of it yearround.

Goji berries: This is the only food on the list that I have never eaten. They say that it is the highest in antixoidants of any food. They're supposed to be available both fresh and dried, but I've never seen them in the markets near me. Have you?

Prunes: Prune growers are trying to switch the name of their fruit to "dried plums" because they are tired of being associated with nursing homes and bathroom activities. I have nothing against prunes, but frankly, I don't eat them. The reason is that I use raisins and dried figs regularly in various ways, and that's enough dried fruit for me. I don't want to get carried away with it. But if someone else prefers prunes to the others, that's fine with me.

Pumpkin Seeds: Everyone knows that they're high in zinc, but did you know that they are also loaded with magnesium? Pumpkins seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acid. However, pumpkin seeds are definitely an acquired taste. And, be careful about freshness. The oil in pumpkin seeds goes rancid very easily. I am not inclined to use them much, despite their rich nutritional bounty. But if you like them, go for it.

Thank you, Men's Health, for highlighting the vast nutrition of plant foods. The truth is that there are any number of other plant foods that would have been just as deserving of praise. However, the important thing is that the magazine is moving in the right direction. Plants rule!