"Nutrional Immunology" by Jau-Fei Chen

Nutritional Immunology by Jau-Fei ChenThis may seem a little off topic but I figure us bookworms have to take care of our health if we ever want to finish our reading lists.

This book has a slight conflict of interest in that Dr. Chen, a Ph.D. in immunology, is also president of E. Excel International which makes nutritional supplements based on some of the information presented in the book. However, apart from the author biography at the front, there is no mention of E. Excel or its products—no address, no website, nothing—so the book isn’t explicitly trying to push a product. Indeed, Dr. Chen states over and over again that it is much better to eat whole foods than to take supplements.

Nutritional immunology is the science of how diet (including herbs) affects our immunity. The book looks at how diet can significantly impair or improve our immune system. The information on harmful eating habits is as you might expect, but the information on the positive things certain foods can do for our health blew me away. Eating your veggies is not just nutritious, it is highly medicinal. It seems that a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs can help our immune system by enhancing the function of its various cells and elements. Furthermore, some plant foods have components which can actually remove cholesterol from our arteries, remove toxins from the body, and fight cancers.

Like everyone else I hear the occasional new story about some chemical they found in some food that is good for something—but they never give you the numbers. This book gives you the numbers—the percentage reduction in tumours, the reduction in LDL cholesterol, the reduction in mortality rates—and it is pretty amazing. It makes me wonder why the Canadian Cancer Society doesn’t shout from the rooftops, “Eat some broccoli, dammit!!!” The US army did radiation experiments in the 50’s and found that guinea pigs that were fed broccoli and then irradiated had a 65% survival rate. Those who didn’t eat broccoli had a 0% survival rate (yup, that’s a zero). Something to remember next time you get an x-ray.

The book focuses on the industrialized world’s two main killers, heart disease and cancer, but with new diseases like West Nile Virus and Avian Influenza (not to mention Malaria, as global warming proceeds), an immune enhancing diet may have short-term as well as long-term consequences. So what foods are we talking about? The list is quite long. There are about 70 plant foods described in the appendix, and they each have different benefits. The dietary superstars are undoubtedly broccoli (as well as its conspecifics, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflower) and soy, but other common foods are also very beneficial, like onions and tomatoes. Fruits like peaches, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries are also listed, along with more exotic ingredients like prickly pear cactus (also an effective treatment for Type II Diabetes) and lotus root.

There’s no need to remember a long list of these foods, though. The dietary advice in this book is not complicated—simply eat a variety of whole, unprocessed grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits—and not much else—and you will benefit from their medicinal as well as their nutritional properties. I should add that Dr. Chen is quite leery of vitamins and supplements, citing studies that have found some of them ineffective or even harmful in the long run. She makes a strong case for throwing out the “just in case” multivitamin and doing what it takes to get the proper nutrients in their original form as food. As an environmental scientist I’ve seen over and over again that humans are poor chemists compared to Mother Nature, and whenever we try to take over her job, there are usually unforseen negative consequences. I don’t need to tell you that supplements are big business, and even Dr. Chen makes her living off of them (albeit in a more natural form than most), but the data she presents shows that it is much better to skip the vitamin aisle (not to mention the bakery, meat, dairy, and junk food aisles) and stock up on whole, organic grains, beans, veggies, and fruits. What will you do with all your leftover money? Buy books, of course!

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11 comments on “"Nutrional Immunology" by Jau-Fei Chen

  1. Stefanie says:

    Very interesting book. I'll have to see if my library has it. I must say though that since I became a vegan 11 years ago I spend more money on food than I did when I ate meat. That's because I buy organic as much as possible. Perhaps if I lived someplace a bit more temperate than Minnesota it wouldn't be so bad. Still, I'll never go back to eating like I used to. I can't remember the last time I had a cold. Gotta live a long time to get through the TBR pile! 🙂

  2. Sylvia says:

    I'm vegan too (15 years!) and my grocery bill is pretty steep, but more than half of that is prepared foods. Some of that is necessary (oils, tofu), but those six-dollar jars of organic baby dill pickles are more for entertainment than nutrition! If I just ate whole foods I'd save a bundle but have to spend more time cooking. I suppose one has to balance reading time saved by buying prepared foods versus the reduction to the book budget. Might make an interesting study–“Cost benefit analysis of the whole food vegan-bibliophile lifestyle.”

  3. Stefanie says:

    Yes, I suppose you are right, I don't really need four different kinds of organic mustard or a box of already spiced couscous. It's a hard choice, fast minimum prep meals and more time to read, or longer to prep meals and a bigger book budget. Hmmm.

  4. Michelle says:

    Ah, and that is what I see as a big part of the problem. People are working far too much to cook. And organic ingredients are too expensive for the poor. A problem that I think, at least here in the US, will take a complete overhaul of society to remedy.
    “Cost benefit analysis of the whole food vegan-bibliofile lifestyle” he he – makes me think of that old Erasamus quote — “first I buy books, then I eat.” Lord knows that's been my motto on more than a few occassions.
    At any rate, this book sounds fascinating. As my immune system sucks most of the time, I'm always interested in ways to boost it. Chinese medicine, where food is medicinal, has always been of particular interest because it's something I can do (well, when I'm not stuck in bed) while I can't, say, give myself acupuncture. Sounds like she comes to the same conclusions most people come to. Like, eat some broccoli damnit. 🙂

  5. Angel Yeo says:

    I like Dr Chen very much! read her books, CDs and VCDs. Ya, Dr Chen tell u wat kind of food good for our immune system n she research on nutrition that benefit to us like phytochemical, polysacharide n antioxidant. The product just give a simplest way to get those nutrition.

  6. KOK says:

    If we want prevention, this is the book tells us all what we need.
    dont trust “cure”, Dr. wont responsible for any mis-dianogsis, medical errors and so forth..
    so, dont get sick then we think about prevention..pls do “prevention” before we sick!!

  7. Linda Wolfer says:

    I attended a 2 hour presentation on immunology that Dr. Chen gave here in Vancouver. I went in thinking it would be dull and dry but it was the opposite. She really spoke in layman's terms and threw a lot of humor and candor in her speech. My mother actually takes her products and can't say enough about them. I will definitely look into her books and give them a read!

  8. Sylvia says:

    Sounds like a good talk. I haven't tried taking any of her supplements–I'm too convinced by her view that we should get what we need from whole foods!

  9. Judy Tung says:

    I have been taking E.Excel products seven years ago when I had post menopausal symptoms. Today I am still on the products because I had not found a way to take the level of nutrients that is sufficient for my body. My friends take the products as long as I have and we can't thank Dr. Chen enough for those products. Today, not only have I enjoy good health but had the energy level I did not have when I was much younger. Thank you Dr. Chen and E. Excel.

  10. Efraim says:

    It may just be like some other critic-minded, the first time I read Dr. JF Chen’s credentials I was at a mix thought of ‘BIG WOW and Skepticism’ for it was sort of elaborated ‘superfacialism.’ Not until I begun to dig deeper about her, triggered by such great admiration to her academic stunts, but never expect that I gonna love her more the deeper I knew of her passion for the entire humanity. Her teachings are very pleasant to the ears and soothing to the heart due to her extra ordinary sincerity to bring her message accross – to teach us the ways to live a healthy life. Before the book came out of the shelf, we Filipinos are considered to be among the lucky citizens to have been feed by her teachings which no logically-minded individual would dare to refute her words and her authority over the subject Nutritonal Immunology per se…

  11. Genevic Habagat says:

    Just to clear things up, the products of E. Excel Int’l are not nutritional supplements. They are food. Dr. Chen clarified it herself. To quote:

    “Bear in mind that our products are for convenience and are not a cure. If you do not have the time to buy and prepare vegetables at home, you can use our products as a substitute,” Dr Chen says adding that she is not interested in hawking a bottle of miracle pills that will cure diseases. “I’m more concerned about what mothers would buy in the supermarket because that’s where true change begins – from the choices we make in the supermarket that will end up on the dining table.” (You could read more of that here: http://www.top10asia.org/main/index.php/2015/12/30/making-a-difference-a-scientists-success/)

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