Thursday, March 04, 2010

Grains & Fungus

By: David Holland

Who'd of thought that the most advanced civilization
would be experiencing the greatest rate of chronic and
debilitating disease in the history of the World?
Well, we've done it. Over half of our nation is now
overweight. Obesity is truly an epidemic. Its
long-term effects cost more than the harmful effects
of smoking (Wall Street Journal, March 2003). . It is
associated with higher risks of cancer, birth defects
(, 2003. Obesity and diabetes increases
risk of birth defects- citing Epidemiology, Nov
2000;11:689-694), heart disease, arthritis
( 2003. Finally, Proof for my assertion
that sugar is more dangerous than cigarettes- citing
an article in Public Health, June 2001;115:229-235) -
the list sadly grows every day. Being obese is as bad,
in terms of costs to lifespan, as simply cutting 20
years from your life. Obesity has spilled over into
the childhood and adolescent age groups at an alarming
rate. If it cuts life span so drastically, these
children are already starting out life facing the huge
medical, physical, and psychological challenges
associated with carrying around extra weight. In our
latest book, What makes bread rise?, we offer readers
a chance to finally learn what's at the root of most
weight problems. In this first issue of Know the
Cause!. , I've taken some of the information that we
present in this book and talk about it here. Because
obesity is such a widespread problem that I feel the
need to let you all in on a little secret right now.

There are two huge problems that lay at the root of
our nation's 60% obesity rate that we must first
discuss in order to better understand the root cause
of this epidemic. One is that carbohydrates-grains and
sugars-have inadvertently been rated as the "safe"
food choice. The other has to do with the fungal
contamination of our grain food supply. Let's talk
about carbs, first.

Until the late 1970's to the early 1980's, the United
States Department of Agriculture's dietary
recommendations did not include any cautions against
fat. Things changes after around this time, when the
USDA changed their mind about fat. Later, in the early
1990's the USDA's Food Pyramid was introduced to the
public. All of a sudden, fats were shoved up to the
tiny and claustrophobic top of the pyramid in the
category that equated to "bad foods that should be
consumed in small quantities." People-medical
personnel included-assumed that this recommendation
applied to all fats. Margarine quickly took the place
of butter. Whole grain bread and cereal became
breakfast of champs-move over bacon and eggs! Pasta
now reigned over meat. Nobody seemed to notice that it
was not a panel of esteemed scientists who devised
this new, Food Pyramid. In truth, the "esteemed panel"
was a group of attorneys working, at the time, under
Senator George McGovern (Taubes, G. What if it's all
been a big, fat lie? New York Times, July 17, 2002).
Yet, since this information was so heavily marketed
and taught to the dieticians who, in turn teach
doctors how to tell us to eat, we bought the
information hook, line, and sinker. Even to this day,
when we've learned that margarine is actually more
dangerous than butter, and that eggs and nuts are not
so bad after all-that consuming them may actually
lower risks of heart disease-we still have a fat
phobia. Doctors are terrified of giving thumbs up to
the three-letter "f" word to any of their patients
with heart disease or high cholesterol despite the
fact that repeated, small studies over the past 30
years have shown that eating a high protein, low carb
diet is just as effective, and often more so, at
reducing bad cholesterol as a low fat diet, whether or
not an exercise program is involved. We have
clinically observed lipids such as cholesterol and
triglycerides increase dramatically as a result of
following a low-fat diet. Just as Doug said when he
quoted the physiology text book: our bodies easily
convert carbohydrates into fat.

It's neither here nor there, though. Low fat and low
carb proponents will likely continue their battles for
years to come. But some interesting data has come to
surface as of late. A study by Penelope Greed of the
Harvard School of public health looked at the effects
of following either a high carb, low fat diet vs. a
high fat, low carb diet. Both groups of people lost
equal amounts of weight. There you go, you say-
there's no difference in the two diets. Not so fast.
The participants who followed a low-carb regimen ate,
on average, 300 more calories per day than the low-fat
folks. Over the 12 week span of the study, this should
have translated into an extra 7 pound weight gain. Did
the calories just vanish into thin air? Dieticians
were befuddled. From day one of their schooling they'd
been taught that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.
The extra calories consumed MUST turn into extra
weight, they were taught. Yet the low-carb
participants managed to loose this weight with ease.
Was there a trick involved? Was there a missing factor
that we're not accounting for in the high carb group?
This, my friends, is where we must introduce to you
our fungal foes.

History was made in January of 2002 when a simple
article entitled "Mycotoxins," by Ruth Etzel, PhD, MD
was published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association. Born out of the 9-11 incident and the
subsequent need to learn more about bioterrorism
agents, such as the fungal-derived T2 toxin (a.k.a.
"Yellow Rain), this article did more than educate the
medical readers about chemical warfare. It took the
topic of fungal toxins-mycotoxins-a step further,
saying that these harmful chemicals are not just found
on the front lines of battle grounds. They are just as
easily found on playgrounds. Specifically, they're in
foods that we eat every day (Etzel, R. Mycotoxins.
JAMA, Vol 287, No. 4. Jan 23/30, 2002). The article
was beautifully filled with pearls of information. It
stated that "the primary concern in developed
countries (that's us, folks) is the long-term effects
of ingesting food contaminated with low levels of
mycotoxins," and that carcinogenic toxins, such as
aflatoxin, a by-product of the Aspergillus molds, is a
"common contaminant of peanuts, soybeans, grains and
cassava. It went on to inform us that the Fusarium
mold group of toxins known as the fumonisins "seem to
be universally present in corn and corn-based
products" and that these fumonisins might be linked to
human birth defects such as spina bifida. Another
toxin, called vomitoxin, of the trichothecene group of
mold toxins, causes nausea, headaches, and abdominal
cramps. It's a "frequent contaminant of wheat and
corn." The trichothecenes (try-ko-thee-seens) are
documented to suppress our immune system when they are
consumed in our foods or inhaled in moldy buildings.
Without a properly-functioning immune system, we're at
risk of succumbing to various, infectious and chronic
diseases. Incidentally, fungi preferably invade our
grain food supply because grains-a source of
carbohydrates-are their favorite food.

What's a mold or toxin got to do with my waistline,
you might ask. Let's go a step further. As you see in
the examples above, and as you've read in Doug's
section, antibiotics are simply another group of
mycotoxins. Most antibiotics are, in fact, mold
byproducts. Think of the penicillin that comes from
the Penicillium mold, and cephalexin (Keflex®), which
is derived from Cephalosporium molds. Antibiotics kill
bacteria in low levels, and in overdose situations,
they can kill us. Thousands of mycotoxins have been
studied in hopes of developing new, effective and safe
antibiotics. The antibiotics that make it to market
just so happen to be the ones that will effectively
and safely kill bacteria without causing much harm to
our body. How toxic can mycotoxins be? The lethal dose
of aflatoxin, mentioned above, is a mere 10mg. Think
also of the ravages of chemotherapy. Many chemotherapy
drugs are themselves fungal byproducts that have a
wide range of toxicity, including heart failure,
cancer (ironically) and death.

Let's return to the fungal-derived antibiotics, then.
It's no secret that the agricultural industry has been
using antibiotics in animals for years. Back in 1949,
it was observed that when animals were fed byproducts
of the fungus Streptomyces aureofaciens they had a
tendency to easily gain weight (Lawrence, TLJ; Fowler,
VR. Growth of farm animals, 2nd ed. CAB International.
Pp320-330- Chapter 15). It was later discovered that
antibiotics were the byproducts that were responsible
for causing the weight gain. With this newfound
knowledge, the feedlot industry was born. To this day,
animals are fed millions of pounds of antibiotics each
year. This is a potential source of human exposure to
growth-promoting antibiotics. And what's not consumed
in our diet is taken care of at the doctor's office,
when we run to the doctor for every sniffle and ear
ache to demand yet another antibiotic. It stands to
reason that the very antibiotics causing weight gain
in animals can cause weight gain in humans. What's
more, it's not enough that we're just over-consuming
these fungal-derived drugs. We're also suffering from
the result of popping these pills, and that is the
secondary fungal and yeast overgrowth that occurs in
our body as a result of knocking out our good,
protective intestinal bacteria with these antibiotics.
These secondary growths of fungi and yeast are now
free to manufacture their own, various batches of
mycotoxins, right in our body (Shah, D, et al. In situ
mycotoxin production by Candida albicans in women with
vaginitis. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 1995;39(1):67-9).
How convenient!

Fungal-derived hormone growth promoters have also been
popular since the 1930's. One, present-day product is
Zeranol®, a commercial form of the Fusarium mold
toxin, zearalenone. Zearalenone-Zeranol-stimulates the
pituitary gland in the brain to produce more growth
hormone, which, in turn, causes rapid weight gain. It
is not a mycotoxin that we screen our grain food
supply for, despite the fact that the highest levels
of zearalenone have frequently been found in North
American cereal grains. Zearalenone wouldn't be so bad
if all it did was stimulate growth. As it turns out,
it also mimics the effects of estrogen. Some other
results of ingesting it can include feminization of
male animals, infertility, precocious (early) puberty
in females, and miscarriages (Council for Agricultural
Science and Technology. Mycotoxins: Risks in Plant,
Animal and Human Systems. Task Force Report No. 139.
Jan 2003).

We could go on. Literally hundreds of mycotoxins,
along with their toxic effects in animals, have been
studied. The fungal contamination of food is a costly
and never-ending battle, and it remains a battle
because of the seriousness of the end result of fungal
contamination of food: the eventual exposure of
animals and humans to harmful mycotoxins. Sick,
cancer-ridden and infertile animals don't yield good
profit for farmers. Sick, cancer-ridden, overweight,
and infertile humans don't yield good profits for
employers and insurance companies, either. Yet,
despite these known, harmful effects of these
chemicals, we still only screen for one, single
toxin-aflatoxin-in our grain foods. And based on
"allowable" levels (20 parts per billion) of aflatoxin
in the grains that have been cleared for human
consumption, it is estimated that we consume, on a
daily basis, between 0.15mg and 0.5mg of aflatoxin per
day. Remember what we said about zearalenone (highest
levels are found in North American cereal grains) and
the effects of the fumonisin and trichothecenes. By
law, we don't have to screen our foods for these other
mycotoxins in America. Remember that. We don't screen
for the vast majority of harmful mycotoxins in our
grain food supply.

And therein lies the secret to why low-carb diets
work. Growth-promoting mycotoxins in the form of
antibiotics and various, hormone-related substances in
grain-based foods- the supposedly healthy foundation
of the USDA Food Pyramid- are the missing factor that
allows participants in all of these, various, low-carb
studies, including the one above, to magically consume
more calories than the low-fat dieters and yet still
loose as much weight as the low-fat consumers. No need
to fret, dieticians and food experts. A calorie is
still a calorie. It's just that some calories-namely
the grains-have been tainted with growth-promoting
contaminants. It has little, if anything to do with
Glycemic index, or ketosis (a physiologic state
achieved when following an Atkins diet, or when
starving), the amount of calories consumed, or insulin
resistance. What causes insulin resistance and
diabetes is a whole, other topic covered in our book,
Infectious Diabetes. Incidentally, look again also at
the effects of some of these grain contaminants, and
you'll also understand why obese persons suffer from
higher rates of cancer and infections and chronic,
degenerative diseases.

So the secret's out. To fully understand nutrition,
you must understand that grains are commonly
contaminated with fungi and their toxins. And thus,
these are some of the steps that we feel that one
should follow in order to achieve quality health and

* Minimize your intake of these toxins by avoiding
the more notoriously contaminated grains, such as corn
and peanuts
* Treat obvious, existing fungal infections on the
body (toenail fungus, yeast infections, ringworm)
* Reverse the previous damage done by taking
antibiotics in the past by supplementing with
* Include in your diet some of the nutrients and
supplements that minimize or block the effects of the
fungal toxins that happen to make their way into our
body, despite your best intentions. In our book, What
Makes Bread Rise?, we outline what this program looks
like in greater detail.

Dave Holland, MD