Volume 4, Issue 20
May 19, 2011

Is eating raw vegetables dangerous?

The article in the New York Times read, “Eat Your Vegetables, But Not Too Many.” It went on to describe how eating raw vegetables can be dangerous.

The report came from a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The letter described the case of an 88-year-old woman who had developed severe hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). Her doctors (who wrote the letter to the journal) were sure that the real culprit in this case was Bok Choy, a vegetable in the cabbage family. One of the doctors, Dr. Michael Chu, said, “I don’t want to say people shouldn’t be eating raw vegetables, but everything in moderation — even things that are good for us.” He went on to say, “This probably wouldn’t have happened if the vegetables were cooked.”

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But is eating raw vegetables really dangerous? Honestly, this tale reeks of a case of mistaken identity to me.

The woman arrived at the hospital in a nearly comatose state. She was unable to walk or swallow and was barely able to breathe. The doctors correctly diagnosed her as having myxedema coma, a life-threatening condition caused by extreme hypothyroidism. According to the doctors, the cause of her hypothyroid state was the fact that she had been eating two to three pounds of raw Bok Choy every day for several months. Raw Bok Choy, like all vegetables in the cabbage family, contains glucosinolates. These are molecules that can inhibit thyroid function. However, cooking destroys them. So, yes, cooking the cabbage may have helped. But I doubt that this was the real cause of her condition.

The real cause was the fact that she had low thyroid function that had gone undiagnosed by her physicians even before she started her Bok Choy debauchery. How do I know? Because for the last 15 years I have carefully checked the metabolic rate of every one of my patients using a testing process called Bio-Energy Testing. In all that time, I have never tested anyone over the age of 70 with a normal metabolic rate.

The thyroid gland controls your metabolic rate. So a low metabolic rate is indicative of low thyroid function. So what I’m telling you is that I have never seen a case of normal thyroid function in anyone over the age of 70 years – no one! This fact is what accounts for much of the fatigue, aching, and immune system dysfunction that people experience as they get older.

So when this 88-year-old woman started to eat the Bok Choy, she already had decreased thyroid function. The Bok Choy just pushed her over the edge.

Her doctors had no idea that she was hypothyroid. Medical schools still teach that you can easily diagnose low thyroid conditions with blood tests. This is absolutely not true. In fact, using metabolic testing, my experience has been that blood testing fails to diagnose low thyroid states up to 90% of the time.

So the actual perpetrator in this case was not the Bok Choy. Bok Choy was only aiding and abetting the real culprit — low thyroid function. If her doctors had properly diagnosed and treated her condition, the odds are good that the glucosinolates in the Bok Choy wouldn’t have caused the coma.

In order to properly diagnose low thyroid conditions, doctors must do three things. One, test metabolic rate. Two, ask the patient if he/she has any of the symptoms of low thyroid function. Then examine the patient for the physical signs of deficiency. And three, if the metabolic rate is low, and if the patient has symptoms suggesting low thyroid function, give her a trial of thyroid hormone replacement and see if they feel better. If the doctors who wrote this letter had done these three things, then this woman could have eaten all the Bok Choy she wanted.

Don’t let anyone tell you eating too many raw vegetables is bad for you. I do suggest you eat more than one type of vegetable — not three pounds of one particular type every day. Make sure you’re also getting enough protein. And have your doctor check your metabolism. Otherwise, enjoy raw vegetables as much as you want.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Vital Signs; Regimens: Eat Your Vegetables, but Not Too Many. By Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times. Published: May 25, 2010


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