• A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

    A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

    “A new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s”; so reported a study dated August 11, 2017. Most of all, they found that a genetic marker, TOMM40 was stronger than the established genetic marker APOE4. It seems like the older studies overlooked the importance of the new TOMM40 genetic marker. This new marker … [Read More...]

  • How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

    How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

    A recent review of the literature asked: how much drinking during pregnancy is safe? To the surprise of the researchers there was no clear answer in the medical literature between 1950 and July 2016. The researchers wanted to know whether 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks in a week would show a negative … [Read More...]

  • Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

    Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

    Parkinson’s disease is common in the US; new research shows that the use of an old anti-depression medication can stopParkinson’s disease The use of nortriptyline, a 50-year old antidepressant has shown to normalize a nerve cell protein. In rats nortriptyline dissolved toxic alpha-synuclein clusters … [Read More...]

  • Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

    Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

      A 20-year study showed that close diabetes control prolongs life. A study divided 160 people with diabetes into two groups. The one group continued to get standard care. Yet the other group received a multi targeted, aggressive treatment protocol. As a result after 20 years the group with … [Read More...]

  • Healthy Oils For A Healthy Body

    Healthy Oils For A Healthy Body

    Healthy oils for a healthy body? Quite frequently the news are full of articles that want to inform you what fat or oil to eat. At the end the consumer often faces information overload and confusion. Here I am reviewing what we know about the various oils. 1. Coconut oil not as good as it was … [Read More...]

Oct
14
2017

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

“A new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s”; so reported a study dated August 11, 2017. Most of all, they found that a genetic marker, TOMM40 was stronger than the established genetic marker APOE4. It seems like the older studies overlooked the importance of the new TOMM40 genetic marker. This new marker may have been present at the same time as APOE4.

Details of study regarding a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s

The APOE4 is especially relevant for the formation of lipoproteins. APOE4 showed a strong association with the formation of amyloid plaque. This is located in the brain areas where Alzheimer’s disease developed. Therefore the thinking in the past was that APOE4 would be the culprit behind memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, the new study shows evidence that the TOMM40 genetic marker is the gene that actually orchestrates the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Thalida Em Arpawong is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California (USC) Dornsife College. She conducted research about the TOMM40 marker. Her supervisor was senior investigator Carol A. Prescott, who is a professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College. She co-published the paper.

More info about the study involving a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s

Professor Prescott used two verbal memory test results. They were the United States Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). In these tests immediate recall was compared to delayed recall 5 minutes later. Alzheimer’s patients have problems with short term memory recall.  In total the study examined 20,650 HRS participants and 11,391 ELSA participants. Their age was 50 years and above since this is the typical age for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Genetic data was part of the examination in 7,486 HRS participants and 6,898 ELSA participants. The scientists looked at 1.2 million genetic variations of the human genome to fit the memory loss. In conclusion, only one gene area, TOMM40 showed a strong association with decline in immediate and delayed memory recall.

Hence professor Carol A. Prescott summarized the findings: “The results from this study…raise the question of how many findings in other studies show an association with APOE4 that may in fact be due to TOMM40 or a combination of TOMM40 and APOE4.”

Possible future clues from a trial using TOMM40 marker

A review paper points out the start of a new trial, called TOMMOROW. The review paper points out that the location of APOE and TOMM40 are on chromosome 19 in very close proximity. Pioglitazone is a drug that controls diabetes. Patients tolerate it well. It is used in the TOMMORROW trial. As this review paper states the TOMM40 gene is responsible for the outer mitochondrion membrane. Consequently the paper states: the “outer mitochondrial membrane channel through which peptides and proteins travel into mitochondria to support mitochondrial function and biogenesis” is the key for understanding Alzheimer’s disease. Because pioglitazone is a drug that induces mitochondrial doubling the researchers hope that it will help Alzheimer’s patients.  It will probably be interesting to follow the phase 3 trial TOMMORROW, where research will observe the delay in onset of minimal cognitive impairment.

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Research has found a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s, TOMM40 that identifies a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Its location is close to the marker APOE on chromosome 19. It appears that TOMM40 may be more reliable in identifying patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease than the older APOE marker. As a result research has started a new phase 3 trial, called TOMMORROW. This will tell whether or not Pioglitazone, a diabetic drug maybe useful in delaying Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk patients.

Oct
07
2017

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

A recent review of the literature asked: how much drinking during pregnancy is safe? To the surprise of the researchers there was no clear answer in the medical literature between 1950 and July 2016. The researchers wanted to know whether 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks in a week would show a negative effect. Or would it affect the fetus and cause fetal alcohol syndrome?

What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

A mother who drinks several drinks of alcohol per day during her pregnancy will inflict serious damage to her baby. The end result is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There is growth deficiency, usually below the 10 percentile in terms of weight, height or both. There is a characteristic facial appearance like small eye openings and a thin upper lip. In addition severe central nervous system damage is another toxic effect of alcohol on the fetal brain. This leads to gait problems, speech and psychological problems.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

When a pregnant woman consumes less alcoholic beverages, there may be less damage to the fetus. This partial damage to the fetus is called “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder”, which resembles the term “autism spectrum disorder”. However, these two conditions are not related.

In a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder some features of fetal alcohol syndrome would be present, but not all. A child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder may be able to lead an independent life as an adult.

Present rules about drinking during pregnancy

The CDC and the FDA say that a pregnant woman should not consume any alcohol during pregnancy. It even includes the weeks before a pregnancy. In addition, it also applies to the male before he fathers a child. It is a fact that sperm and precursors of sperm are very sensitive to alcohol toxicity. A woman’s eggs are also sensitive to alcohol toxicity. There is no place for a romantic dinner with alcohol  and sex later in the evening, that leads to a pregnancy. Romance and a romantic dinner is quite possible without alcohol, if sex that leads to pregnancy is in the plans. If you plan on getting pregnant as a couple you must be responsible, male or female. In view of all of the knowledge it is just not a good idea to subject yourself to alcohol before pregnancy.

New questions about the minimum toxic amount of alcohol

A search of the literature between 1950 and July 2016 has not revealed any convincing data about what one glass of alcohol per day would do during pregnancy. Some researchers will likely want to approach this topic in the near future. There are many women in the US who drink that much during pregnancy, but do not tell their healthcare providers. Researchers would like to conduct a trial where they follow women who consume one glass of alcohol per day during pregnancy. They will want to compare that to a control group with no alcohol intake during the pregnancy. Next would be a thorough investigation of the offspring and about the presence or absence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. At the present time there is no such data. We know that some women expose themselves to these smaller amounts of alcohol. But we do not know whether or not there is a serious consequence for this.

New meta-analysis study from Bristol, England in 2016 regarding drinking during pregnancy

The closest study that may answer part of the above questions is a metaanalysis from England. It attempted to shed some light on exposure of smaller amounts of alcohol during pregnancy. They examined several studies where the exposure was up to 32 Grams of alcohol per week during pregnancy. This is called a meta-analysis.

Researchers examined several parameters like stillbirth, gestational length and preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks). They also examined other factors, like a small baby for gestational age, low birth weight (less than 2500 g), and features of FAS.

Findings of the Bristol study

Researchers pooled a total of 288, 512 participants from several studies. The low alcohol consumption group (less than 32 grams per week) had 10% preterm deliveries. 8% of the babies were small for their gestational age. The offspring of pregnant ladies who drank up to 32 grams of alcohol per week were compared to abstainers. The alcohol consuming group had babies that on average weighed 13.49 grams less. Low birth weights (less than 2500 grams) were the same in both groups. A large US study showed a 24% risk of placental abruption in the light-drinking group compared to abstainers. FAS symptoms, conduct disorder or hyperactivity syndrome were the same in any of the pooled studies. The outcome between abstainers and light-drinking mothers was the same. No apparent difference could be found between the children of either group.

Common sense about drinking during pregnancy

At this point it is the safest to go by the recommendation of the CDC and all the official medical societies that recommend to not drinking any alcohol 3 months before a planned pregnancy and during the pregnancy. I consider it common sense that you avoid a known nerve toxin like alcohol during pregnancy. The toxic effect of alcohol in a high enough dosage does horrendous damage, as it is obvious with fetal alcohol syndrome. It stunts the baby’s growth and damages the brain. We have also seen that a lower exposure to alcohol still produces fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It does not make sense to me to gamble, whether a lower concentration of alcohol may be “safe” to the fetus.

Limits of what research to do

Knowing that alcohol is a toxin to nervous tissue demands that no pregnant woman should drink alcoholic beverages at all. It simply is not safe. I suspect that some researcher who must do research at any cost will one day produce that hypothetical study of one drink of alcohol per day during pregnancy. I think it will show that a significant amount of cases have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The conclusion will be that it is safer not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

Conclusion

Sometimes science is going beyond where it should go. In the study analyzed above several studies were pooled as a metaanalysis. There are limitations in terms of reliability of such studies.

But when it comes to testing what smaller amounts of alcohol do to a pregnancy we need to ask a few questions. Are we as a society really willing to risk future humans just to satisfy our curiosity whether or not drinking during pregnancy would be “safe”? Common sense tells us that alcohol as a known neurotoxic substance will be detrimental to a developing brain in a fetus, even in smaller amounts. Also, it is not clear whether ethics committees throughout the US will allow such a claim or will shut it down in the planning stages before it can ever take off. I would guess that it is more likely that any such plans for a trial of that nature will come under the scrutiny of the medical authorities including the CDC, the FDA and the American Medical Association and be shut down fairly quickly, because of the potential damage that could be inflicted onto the fetus.

It is much safer to carry on with the existing laws and recommendations and avoid all alcohol exposure before and during pregnancy.

Sep
30
2017

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s disease is common in the US; new research shows that the use of an old anti-depression medication can stopParkinson’s disease The use of nortriptyline, a 50-year old antidepressant has shown to normalize a nerve cell protein. In rats nortriptyline dissolved toxic alpha-synuclein clusters in brain cells. These toxic protein clusters seem to be happening in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients also. It is the protein by the name of alpha-synuclein that research first found in rats to cause the toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem.

But nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.

Placebo controlled trial with nortriptyline

Now a research team from Michigan State University in Grand Rapids conducted a larger clinical placebo-controlled trial. The lead researcher Collier of the study group found that Parkinson’s patients who received treatment for depression with the tricyclic agent nortriptyline needed less dopamine, the main drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. This indicated to the researchers that nortriptyline was preserving brain cells that were still making their own dopamine. In rat experiments they could show that it was the dissolving of toxic alpha-synuclein proteins by nortriptyline that was the key to therapeutic success.

Lisa Lapidus, a co-worker on the Michigan State University research team summed up their research: “What we’ve essentially shown is that we are dealing with a drug that the FDA approved already 50 years ago. Patients tolerate the medication relatively well. This could be a much simpler approach to treating the disease itself, not just the symptoms.”

Parkinson’s disease may be stopped also by old diabetes drug

Thomas Foltynie found that the diabetes drug exenatide helps patients with Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Foltynie is a professor of neurology at the University College London and co-author of the study.

Exenatide is an injection drug. When preliminary studies showed that this drug was effective in helping Parkinson’s disease patients lose their problems with walking and balance, a formal study followed.

Professor Foltynie designed a study where 60 people with Parkinson’s disease either got injections of exenatide or placebo injections. Patient exams followed regarding their musculoskeletal system and balance at baseline and every 12 weeks. A score system of 132 points assessed their Parkinson’s disease. After 48 weeks those who had been taking exenatide had a gain of 1 point on that scale while the placebo group dropped 3 points. After 48 weeks the drug administration (exenatide) finished. But after another 12 weeks another scoring and assessment of the Parkinson’s disease symptoms took place. The experimental group on exenatide scored 3.5 points higher than the placebo group. This suggests that exenatide is helping to treat the cause of Parkinson’s disease, not just the symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease may also stop through the use of caffeine

Parkinson’s disease was in the news again because of another study that involved breaking up misfolded alpha-synuclein through caffeine.

Misfolded alpha synuclein forms clumps inside dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra of the brain stem. Misfolded alpha synuclein acts like a toxin to the dopamine producing cells and eventually these cells die off. This is the brain region that is responsible for making muscle movements smooth and stabilizes balance. The cells that have misfolded alpha synuclein clumps in them also go under the name of “Lewy bodies”.

Dr. Jeremy Lee from the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) has isolated two compounds from coffee. They are called C8-6-I and C8-6-N. They can bind to alpha-synuclein and prevent clumping, which stops the toxic effects on dopamine producing nerve cells. Like with nortriptyline the caffeine effect is a curative approach to Parkinson’s disease.

 

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Parkinson’s Disease May Be Stopped

Conclusion

There is a new therapeutic approach to Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have detected a protein called alpha-synuclein to cause toxic protein clusters in nerve cells of the substantia nigra, a part of the brain stem. When these cells die from the accumulation of these misfolded proteins, patients come down with Parkinson’s disease. But three different methods of treatment can improve Parkinson’s disease by dissolving the protein alpha-synuclein.

  1. Nortriptyline was able to normalize the concentration of the protein. In preliminary studies in humans the investigators found that there was a significant improvement of Parkinson’s disease with the use of nortriptyline.
  2. Exenatide, an injection drug for diabetes, has been described to help Parkinson’s patients get better.
  3. Caffeine can also dissolve misfolded alpha synuclein (two compounds from coffee called C8-6-I and C8-6-N). This helps patients with Parkinson’s disease to stabilize.

This is only the beginning of a new approach to Parkinson’s disease and an attempt to cure the disease by dissolving the underlying mechanism. So far the drugs that are in use for Parkinson’s disease are only attempting to stimulate dopamine producing nerve cells to produce more dopamine. But the underlying pathology of accumulating misfolded alpha-synuclein clumps is not yet in the treatment protocol. The new research is different, as it takes this into account in an attempt to prevent the condition.

Sep
23
2017

Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

 

A 20-year study showed that close diabetes control prolongs life. A study divided 160 people with diabetes into two groups. The one group continued to get standard care. Yet the other group received a multi targeted, aggressive treatment protocol. As a result after 20 years the group with the intensive treatment protocol lived 7.9 years longer than the group with the standard treatment.

Dr. Oluf Pederson was the senior investigator of the physician team that followed the diabetes group. He said that they concentrated on a number of known adverse factors and treated them aggressively. These factors were first of all high blood glucose values and clotting risks, also high blood pressure and high triglycerides and in addition cholesterol values. Behavior modification was the therapeutic method to get people with risk factors to exercise more, adopt a healthy diet and stop smoking. Medication in select cases also played a role.

More details about the study

The intervention of intensive treatment lasted 8 years. After that the patients were still in a follow-up study for 13 years. At the beginning of the study patients were on average 55 years old and were borderline obese.

The investigation team screened for complications of diabetes. This included screening for kidney disease, heart disease and blindness. Dr. Joel Zonszein, the director of the New York Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center said: ”These results are impressive and most patients do not receive the correct treatment, according to national surveys.”

Other studies about diabetes  

Foreign studies

Study from Croatia
  • Another study from Croatia involved 200 patients. It concentrated on patients who did not respond to metformin. Physicians used alternative treatment modalities, and they observed and measured blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C in the following 6 months. The study concluded that those patients who received aggressive treatment of their condition did better than those who did not receive the same vigorous approach.
Study from Japan
  • This Japanese study documented that female patients with type-2 diabetes developed kidney damage earlier than their male counterparts.  Consequently, the investigators pointed out how important it is to treat diabetes aggressively to avoid kidney damage.
Study from Singapore
  • This 2016 study from Singapore analyzed retroactively the impact of diabetes on the long-term survival after coronary bypass grafting (CABG).  5720 consecutive patients had their isolated first CABG surgery between 1982 and 1999. The mean follow-up was 13 years. 34.6% of the patients had diabetes, 51% had high blood pressure and 46.6% had elevated blood lipids. The initial mortality after the CABG surgery was 2.4% in the diabetic group and 1.8% in the non-diabetic group. 20-year survival rates following CABG surgery were 30.9% in diabetics and 49.2% in the non-diabetics, an 18.3% difference. The 20-year freedom from cardiac mortality rates was 56% in diabetics and 68.4% in non-diabetics. Other risk factors that led to cardiac mortality were the following: female gender (1.43-fold risk), diabetes (1.51-fold risk), previous heart attack (1.54-fold risk) and a low left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 35% (2.6-fold risk). The conclusion from this study was that long-term survival in diabetics following CABG surgery was much lower than that of non-diabetic controls. Hence the key to improving long-term survival for diabetics is to treat comorbidities like high blood pressure and elevated lipids aggressively as well as getting blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C values under control.

US studies

  • In this US study 558 youth (age less than 21) between February 2012 to July 2015 received follow-up. Between 40% and 50% of these diabetics needed insulin to improve their diabetes. Unfortunately their diabetes showed poor control, as their high hemoglobin A1C values indicated. Median HbA1C was 6.7%, 8.5%, 9.6%, and 9.7% in those with disease duration less than 1 year, 1-2 years, 2-3 years and less than 4  In other words, the longer the young patients had diabetes, the less seriously they took their treatment. Only 33% treated their high blood pressure and only 11% their elevated blood lipids. Microalbuminuria, an indicator of diabetic kidney disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were present in 5% to 6% of these young diabetic patients. The authors came to the conclusion that there were serious gaps in treating these young diabetics. Further follow-up data of the same group of patients in the coming years will provide further data. In conclusion, the new hemoglobin A1C ranges of 3.8% to 4.9% as the new normal range explains why these youths who do not treat their diabetes properly are at high risk to develop complications from their poorly controlled diabetes.
Heart attacks and erectile dysfunction
  • Heart attacks are more common among patients with uncontrolled diabetes. This US study classified diabetics according to the tightness of their diabetes control. Researchers found examining 606 men and 606 women with diabetes that they could reduce their risk of a heart attack, if they controlled smoking, glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C), systolic blood pressure, and total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. The control of all these risk factors could contribute to the prevention of heart attacks. 35% of men and 45% of women could prevent having a heart attack. A laxer control still would prevent 36% of heart attacks in men and 38% in women. A very aggressive diabetes control could prevent 51% of heart attacks in men and 61% in women. Most noteworthy: close diabetes control prolongs life.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a big problem among diabetic men. This study from Seattle shows the investigation of 136, 306 men with erectile dysfunction. 19, 236 of these men had diabetes prior to their ED problem. Over a two-year observation period diabetic men had much worse ED problems. As a result they needed to receive secondary line treatments  like penile suppositories or injectables. Others needed tertiary treatments like penile prostheses. In those whose diabetes control was good, oral agents as first-line therapies were usually sufficient.
More studies about risks and benefits of lifestyle
  • Middle-aged women with diabetes have a 4- to 5-fold higher risk for developing heart attacks while men do not show such a higher risk. It is probably particularly important for women to control diabetes when they are diagnosed with it to reduce the risk of coming down with a heart attack.
  • In 2011 Taylor from Newcastle University showed in a group of diabetes patients that he could cure diabetes permanently with an extremely low calorie diet. The trial was simple: he took overweight or obese patients with diabetes and put them on a starvation diet of 600-700 calories per day for 8 weeks. Consequently 43% of diabetic patients received a permanent cure of their diabetes. More info: http://nethealthbook.com/news/cure-diabetes-permanently/

 

Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

Conclusion

The new hemoglobin A1C ranges that are desirable are between 3.8% to 4.9%. When diabetics bring their hemoglobin A1C level into this range, they do not get complications from their previously poorly controlled diabetes. Close diabetes control prolongs life. But as can be seen from a brief review of the literature physicians tend to be lax, patients are lax, and diabetes is often not well controlled. This leads to erectile dysfunction in males, to heart attacks and kidney failure in both sexes. Blindness and painful diabetic neuropathy are also common complications of poorly controlled diabetes. Amputations from clogged arteries are also among the complications. “Close diabetes control prolongs life” is the new mantra that everybody with diabetes needs to follow.

Lifestyle changes control diabetes and prolong life

As stated above Dr. Taylor from Great Britain has shown that a brief 600 to 700 calorie diet can cure 43% of diabetic patients permanently. Quit smoking, bring the glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C) into the normal range, control your systolic blood pressure as well as your total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Do all these things, exercise regularly, and your diabetes will be well controlled. Remember: close diabetes control prolongs life!

Sep
16
2017

Healthy Oils For A Healthy Body

Healthy oils for a healthy body? Quite frequently the news are full of articles that want to inform you what fat or oil to eat. At the end the consumer often faces information overload and confusion.

Here I am reviewing what we know about the various oils.

1. Coconut oil not as good as it was thought

This review article pointed out that coconut oil does elevate the bad cholesterol, called LDL cholesterol. This is not a desirable effect, as it can lead to heart disease and possibly heart attacks. On the other hand coconut oil also elevates HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol that mobilizes LDL cholesterol. The article points out that coconut oil may be a better choice than butter. Butter does not elevate HDL cholesterol to offset the effects of LDL cholesterol. Researchers felt that the occasional use of coconut oil instead of butter would be justifiable. But they advised strongly against the daily use of coconut oil. Instead they recommended olive oil, canola or soybean oil, along with nuts and seeds, as your primary fats. I agree with olive oil, but have concerns about canola or soybean oil, as I explain it later in this article.

Dr. Andrew Weil reviewed coconut oil in Self Healing August 2014. He said that the effect on cardiovascular health remains largely unclear. He is not aware of any “study that has shown using coconut oil leads to significant weight loss”. It is basically a thumbs down assessment for coconut oil. You may want to use it occasionally for baking or a special Thai food meal.

Let’s remember that the long-lived populations such as in Okinawa and others never used coconut oil.

2. Polyunsaturated fatty acids used in processed food

news release in 2016 describes new FDA food guidelines. They recommend that saturated fat should not exceed 10% of the total daily caloric intake, but there are still different opinions: some studies show that saturated fat may not be responsible for hardening of the arteries. Other studies have shown that breast cancer is more common in persons who consume more saturated fat .

In the 1980’s the news came out that saturated fats would be bad for arteries. At that time there was a switch to polyunsaturated fatty acids. These consist of safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil.

However, the irony is that these vegetable oils were highly unstable and lead to oxidation causing heart disease and cancer.

In contrast olive oil is a much more stable oil. And long-lived populations in the Mediterranean seem to be the proof, that it is a healthy fat source for them and for us.

Personally I have cut out polyunsaturated fatty acids out of my food and I suggest you do the same. We know now that polyunsaturated fatty acids lead to inflammation via the arachidonic acid pathway. This can cause gout, arthritis, diabetes, and inflammation of the arteries with subsequent clots causing heart attacks and strokes. I don’t need all of these diseases, I am doing fine without polyunsaturated fatty acids.

3. Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio

The cell membrane consists of two lipid layers at a specific ratio of omega-6 essential fatty acids and omega-3 essential fatty acids. It also contains triglycerides, phospholipids and protein. Safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil are mostly omega-6 fatty acids and the type of polyunsaturated fatty acids that prevail in processed foods. With the consumption of too much processed food the body has a problem constructing cell membranes. As you can see by this link when you compare the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids with that of omega-3 fatty acids, there is a fundamental difference. The linoleic acid of omega-6 fatty acids metabolizes into arachidonic acid, which causes pro-inflammatory mediators, PGE2 and LTB4. On the other hand with omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is metabolized into EPA, DHA and the anti-inflammatory mediators PGE3 and LTB5.

Disbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio

It is easy to understand why a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods will disbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio should be 1:1 to 3:1, but many Americans’ omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 6:1 to 18:1. Omega-6-fatty acids cause arthritis, heart disease and strokes. Be particularly careful in avoiding soybean oil, which is the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio through processed foods. Read labels to avoid soybean oil and other omega-6 fatty acids.

When it comes to balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, be aware that nutritional balancing can help you restore the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 to 3:1. An easy way is to simply cut out processed foods as much as possible. Supplement with molecularly distilled fish oil capsules to add more omega-3 fatty acids into your food intake.

4. Fish oil

What we learned from this is the importance of fish oil as a supply of omega-3 fatty acids. But nuts also supply us with omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish three times per week is another way to get enough fish oil on board. There is a word of caution. Our oceans are so contaminated with mercury that you want to be careful and eat only fish low in mercury content. Avoid swordfish, tuna fish or grouper.

But wild salmon and mackerel are fish low in mercury and safe to eat. I would recommend that you eat seafood at least three times per week to have a good source of omega-3 fatty acid. In addition I would also recommend you take omega-3 supplements. I take it in the form of molecularly distilled high potency omega-3. I take 2 capsules twice a day. In addition I take 750 mg of krill oil once per day, another source of molecularly distilled marine omega-3 supplement.

5. Cold pressed virgin olive oil

Organic olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids that are neutral in terms of effects on the cardiovascular system. But it also contains a lot of polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protects you from hardening of the arteries. This likely is the main reason why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy, apart from its emphasis on vegetables, which further makes it desirable. In a 2012 study from Spain it was found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

Only two tablespoons of virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. At the same time the more polyphenol is contained in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the more HDL your body will produce, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil will increase the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles are called HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaque.

Effects of olive oil

Olive oil has been shown to lower blood pressure and prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles, which cleans out plaque from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil. You should use mainly olive oil for your regular cooking. Cold pressed, virgin olive oil is more expensive than the regular olive oil, but this is what has been proven to enhance health and to prolong life, if you consume it regularly.

Healthy Oils For A Healthy Body

Healthy Oils For A Healthy Body

Conclusion

Sometimes it is useful to think about what fats you are consuming. We tend to eat too many omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods. These are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil, soybean oil and grape seed oil. Food merchants use these polyunsaturated fatty acids to have a longer shelf life of their products. But the more omega-6 fatty acids we consume, the higher the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio gets. This leads to inflammation in the body and the arteries. It causes heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses. Years ago I cut polyunsaturated fatty acids out of my food intake. Instead I use organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. It is full of polyphenols (and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol). It lowers blood pressure and prevents heart attacks and strokes. I am not convinced that the hype around coconut oil can be verified. At this point I would suggest only occasional use of it.

You need to eat fish three times per week and other seafood as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. This is important to keep your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio well balanced. I also take fish oil supplements regularly like krill oil once daily and fish oil capsules twice a day. You can buy these molecularly distilled to ensure they are mercury contamination free.

Sep
09
2017

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Young heart stem cells can cure old hearts in rats. This is what research at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles found. You may not be that impressed, because this talks about rats and not humans. But this is a brand-new concept, so of course research of animal experiments is first.

The heart experiment

Dr. Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, is the research director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. His idea was to take cardiac stem cells (called cardiosphere-derived cells) from hearts of newborn rats. He injected them into 22 months old rats. The human equivalent for 22 months old rats are older people with older hearts. Within one months of the stem cells’ injections the older rats had normal functioning hearts. Their telomeres were also normal. Telomeres are the caps of the chromosomes of the heart cells. The researchers were astonished to find that the previously short telomeres had become longer. This happened within only one month of the stem cell injections. To Marbán’s surprise the older rats also grew hair faster and gained 20% of their previous exercise tolerance limit. In other words, the injection of heart stem cells had rejuvenated the old rats.

Dr. Marbán has previously shown that exosomes play an important role with stem cell regeneration of old heart cells. These particles from the stem cell donor contain RNA and other growth factors.

Overview of how stem cells can reverse heart failure

Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke and congestive heart failure. About 2600 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each day in the US. This is roughly one death every 34 seconds. With old age, if a heart attack does not kill you, congestive heart failure will. With heart failure your heart ceases to pump enough blood through your system. Nutrients and oxygen need to reach all of our cells or it means death for the patient. With the knowledge of this serious background, stem cells have come into the focus in an attempt to combat congestive heart failure.

Animal experiments with stem cells in mice, rats and pigs have shown some progress in restoring better heart function. Researchers used different sources of stem cells, like cardiac stem cells that reside in the heart muscle itself. They also used other stem cell sources. Among these were myoblasts (from muscle), mesenchymal stem cells (from fat tissue) and bone marrow stem cells. Several smaller human trials showed that improvement of heart function was possible following a heart attack. In the procedure the surgeon opened coronary arteries and injected stem cells into the affected damaged heart muscle. How can we assess the result of a successful stem cell treatment? By measuring the left ventricular ejection fraction. This means that the heart can deliver a larger volume of blood every minute. The heart pumps more blood from the left ventricle with each heartbeat than before the treatment.

Other experiments that rejuvenate tissues of older animals

Another line of experiments in this paper shows that certain growth factors are necessary to activate stem cells.

  1. One experiment from the 1950’s describes the stitching together of the skin on their flanks joined an old and a young rat. After this procedure the blood vessels grew and joined the two animals circulatory systems. The older animals knee cartilage damage was no longer there, as the cells from the young animals’ blood had healed the damage.
  2. Research had no knowledge of this fact at that time. But another research group in the 2000’s repeated the experiment and could prove that the stem cells of the young animals activated the growth factors in the old animals.
  3. In 2004 Dr. Rando noted that muscle cells of aging mice were aging because of a lack of stimulation of the local skeletal muscle stem cells. These are satellite cells. Experiments similar to the rat experiment showed that there were factors in the blood of young mice that could re-activate stem cells in the muscles of old mice. Agility and movement of the older mice improved. The improvement in the older mice with knee arthritis disappearing and liver cells rejuvenating was astounding.

More evidence that rejuvenation of heart cells is possible

  1. Amy J. Wagers, a former colleague of Dr. Rando carried on experiments with respect to rejuvenation of hearts in mice. She and her colleagues found what stimulated the hearts of old mice. It was a protein called GDF11 (from young mice).  This 2016 publication describes the action of GDF11.
  2. A 2014 paper describes that GDF11 was able to restore aging muscles to a youthful state. But the researchers were also able to rejuvenate stem cell function in general with GDF11.
  3. Another paper describes that blood from young mice stimulates the brain of older animals to achieve rejuvenation. It is the protein of the young stem cells (called GDF11) and possibly other growth factors to bring about this rejuvenation. It works not only on heart cells, but also on hippocampus tissue in dementia models. This may be important in humans for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We can turn back the clock instead of slowing the clock down.” Dr. Toren Finkel said. He is the director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. He went on to say: “That’s a nice thought, if it pans out.” But others who caution that overstimulation of stem cells could cause cancers say: “It is quite possible that it will dramatically increase the incidence of cancer,” Dr. Irina M. Conboy said, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “You have to be careful about overselling it.”

Degenerative changes in humans responding to stem cells

Many degenerative changes in humans respond to stem cell treatments. Are there stem cells present in degenerative tissue in humans similar to the animal experiments described above? Are the stem cells merely providing growth factors so the dormant stem cells jump into action and regenerate? Could it be that in future therapists could give a certain growth factor mix  intravenously to a patient, and the same effect as stem cell injections would be posssible? These are all unanswered questions, but research in the next decade should answer at least some of those questions.

Growth hormone improving heart function in heart failure patients

In 2008 a metaanalysis of human studies of congestive heart failure and treatment with human growth hormone (HGH) injections was a research topic. It showed an average increase of the ejection fraction by 4.3%. There were also increased cardiac output, decreased systemic vascular resistance and improved hemodynamic effects. The question is whether the effect is a direct effect on the heart muscle cells by HGH or whether HGH was recruiting dormant heart muscle stem cells. This is not clear at this point.

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Conclusion

We have entered an exciting period of medical research. Although there is only a record of many animal experiments, there is overwhelming evidence that the same principles are true in humans. Many stem cell protocols for humans have already seen use for various applications. But stem cell treatments for heart disease are still in their early stages. As it becomes obvious from my review of this topic, some patients who were part of clinical trials have already experienced positive results. Congestive heart failure or poor pump performance following a heart attack have improved following various stem cell procedures. In the next few years there likely will be a proliferation of treatment options for patients. Although some critics have pointed out a possibility of cancer developing as a side effect of stem cell treatment, no evidence is noticeable at this point.

Sep
02
2017

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Resveratrol has been labeled a powerful antioxidant; but is resveratrol effective in humans?

  1. Quack watch says: don’t buy into the hype that resveratrol is effective in humans.
  2. WebMD claims that there would not be enough medical evidence to say that the average person should supplement with resveratrol to receive benefits.

Despite these recommendations the following evidence supports that resveratrol is indeed effective in humans.

Resveratrol effective in humans: high blood pressure patients

A 2017 study of high blood pressure patients examined resveratrol supplementation with two groups, 46 stage 1 hypertension patients and 51 stage 2 hypertension patients. Stage I hypertension had a systolic blood pressure of 140–159 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of 90–99 mmHg. Stage 2 hypertension was defined as a systolic blood pressure of 160–179 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of 100–109 mmHg. Each subgroup was divided into two groups, one receiving regular antihypertensive medication, and the other group receiving regular antihypertensive medication plus Evelor. Evelor is a micronized formulation of resveratrol. The trial lasted two years. The purpose of the trial was to determine the effect of resveratrol, which was added to the regular antihypertensive medication (or not) to see whether it had blood pressure lowering effects. The interesting result showed that the resveratrol addition was sufficient to bring the blood pressure down to normal levels with only one antihypertensive drug. The control group without resveratrol needed two or three drugs to get the blood pressure under control. In addition, liver function tests showed that resveratrol normalized negative side effects of the antihypertensive drug on the liver. Both liver enzymes, glutamate-pyruvate transaminase (SGPT) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (Gamma-GT) were normal in the group where resveratrol had been added.

Resveratrol effective in humans: diabetes patients

Resveratrol helps diabetes patients. Resveratrol, the bioflavonoid from red  wine is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This antioxidant has several other effects, which make it challenging to measure each effect by itself. This group of investigators managed to simultaneously measure these effects. They found that resveratrol lowered the C-reactive protein by 26% and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by 19.8%. Resveratrol also decreased fasting blood sugar and insulin; in addition it reduced hemoglobin A1C and insulin resistance. The recommended daily dose of resveratrol was 1000 to 5000 mg.

Resveratrol effective in humans: improves bone density

Resveratrol improves bone density in men: 66 middle-aged obese men with an average age of 49.3 years and a mean body mass index of 33.7 were recruited for this randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. The purpose was to study whether there would be changes in bone turnover markers (LDH, an enzyme involved in bone turnover), but also whether bone mineral density (BMD) would increase. Resveratrol was given to a high group (1000 mg per day), a low group (150 mg) and a placebo (fake pills) were given to the third group. The end point was an elevation of the bone alkaline phosphatase (BAP). This was measured in the beginning of the study and at 4, 8 and 16 weeks. The high group of resveratrol had a 16% increase of the BAP throughout the study and a 2.6% in lumbar spine bone density (measured by a trabecular volumetric method). The low resveratrol group showed no bone restoring effect. MJ Ornstrup, MD, the lead investigator said that this was the first time that a clinical team has proven that resveratrol can potentially be used as an anti-osteoporosis drug in humans. She added that resveratrol appears to stimulate bone-forming cells within the body.

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-aging effects

The Nurses’ Health Study showed that both a Mediterranean diet and resveratrol can elongate telomeres.

The fact that you can have a longer life with a Mediterranean diet is known for some time. But now a study has shown that the reason for a longer life is the fact that telomeres get elongated from the Mediterranean diet. Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes, and they get shorter with each cell division. This is the normal aging process.

The finding of elongated telomeres comes from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study that started enrolling subjects in 1976. At that time 121 700 nurses from 11states enrolled in the study. In 1980 diet sheets were used to determine who was adhering to a Mediterranean diet. 4676 middle-aged participants were identified to qualify for this study. This diet consists of a combination of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, grains and olive oil. Fish and lean meats were also consumed. The control group followed a regular diet. Between 1989 and 1990 blood tests were obtained to measure telomere length in white blood cells. It is known that smoking, stress and inflammation shortens telomeres. The lead author Marta Crous-Bou stated that overall healthy eating was associated with longer telomeres compared to the control group. But the strongest association was found in women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet when compared to the controls. For the best diet adherence score there was a 4.5 year longer life expectancy due to slowed telomere shortening.

Longer telomeres have been found to be associated with the lowest risk to develop chronic diseases and the highest probability of an increased life span. I have reviewed the importance of lifestyle factors in this blog where I pointed out that Dr. Chang found a whole host of factors that can elongate telomeres by stimulating telomerase. It has been shown in humans that increased physical activity elongated telomeres. So did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. In addition higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen and progesterone replacement in aging women and testosterone in aging men, as well as relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are also elongating telomeres.

Aging is due to shortening of telomeres. Elongation of telomeres by resveratrol leads to prolonged life (or anti-aging).

Resveratrol effective in humans: resveratrol and cancer

As this overview shows, it seems that several mechanisms of action give resveratrol the power to be an anticancer agent. Resveratrol is anti-proliferative and has anti-angiogenesis mechanisms. In addition resveratrol stimulates apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. All these actions together help resveratrol to have anticancer properties. Resveratrol can also be used in combination with other cancer treatments, which improves survival figures. As the link above explains, more cancer clinical trials with a variety of cancers and larger patient numbers are required, but many smaller clinical trials have already been very successful showing efficacy of resveratrol as a chemotherapeutic agent.

In this 2015 publication about malignancies and resveratrol an overview is given about the use of resveratrol and cancer treatment. It summarizes that the development of cancer is a multifactorial process that involves the 3 stages of initiation, promotion and progression. One of the cancer promoting factors is chronic inflammation. Resveratrol has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. At this point it is not clear how the animal experiments will translate into the human situation. More clinical observations are necessary.

Resveratrol effective in humans: cardiovascular disease

Resveratrol has beneficial effects on preventing hardening of the arteries, diabetes, various cancers and inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and arthritis. As this link explains resveratrol also stimulates the antiaging gene SIRT1 by 13-fold. This confirms the anti-aging effect of resveratrol. This 2012 study has also confirmed that resveratrol from red wine is what is responsible for the “French paradox” (longer life expectancy despite high saturated fat intake).

Resveratrol effective in humans: polycystic ovarian syndrome 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome could be significantly healed with resveratrol in a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. It involved 30 subjects who completed the trial. 1500 mg of resveratrol or placebo were administered daily for 3 months. Serum total testosterone was decreased by 23.1% at the end of 3 months in the experimental group versus the placebo group. There was also a decrease of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate of 22.2%. Fasting insulin level was reduced by 31.8%. At the same time insulin sensitivity was increased by 66.3%. The authors concluded that resveratrol had significantly reduced ovarian and adrenal gland male hormones (androgens). This may be in part from the drop in insulin levels and the increase of insulin sensitivity.

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-arteriosclerotic effects in diabetics

A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was done on 50 diabetics. The cardio-ankle vascular index (CAVI) was used to determine arterial stiffness. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of resveratrol on the stiffness of arteries in a group of diabetics and compare this to a placebo. Diabetics are known to have premature hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerotic changes). After 12 weeks of taking 100 mg of resveratrol per day there was a significant reduction in arterial stiffness in the experimental group, but not in the placebo group. Blood pressure also decreased by 5 mm mercury (systolic) in the experimental group.

Resveratrol effective in humans: ulcerative colitis patients

56 patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis received 500 mg of resveratrol or placebo and were observed for 6 weeks. This was a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Bowel disease questionnaires were used to assess the bowel disease activity before and after the treatment. The resveratrol group decreased the disease activity significantly, but it also increased their quality of life. Blood tests showed that this improvement occurred as a result of reducing oxidative stress by resveratrol.

Resveratrol effective in humans: Alzheimer’s disease prevention

Here is a study where 52 Alzheimer’s patients were divided into two groups; one group was given 200 mg of resveratrol for a number of weeks, the other group placebo pills. There was a significant improvement in memory tests in the resveratrol group and functional MRI scans showed better functional connectivity in the hippocampi of the subjects. It is known that the hippocampus is the seat for short-term memory, which is lost in Alzheimer’s patients.

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Conclusion

Resveratrol has a long history of showing evidence of improving health. It does so by countering oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which lessens hardening of arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes. Resveratrol is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps patients with diabetes, with Crohn’s disease and arthritis. There is even a cancer preventing effect of resveratrol because of anti-proliferative and anti-angiogenesis effects as well as stimulating apoptosis. Because of these combined anticancer properties resveratrol is a chemotherapeutic agent that can be combined with conventional anticancer drugs.

There are enough randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trials in humans to show that resveratrol is effective in preventing and treating several disease conditions. The medical establishment claims that there would not be enough medical evidence to say that the average person should supplement with resveratrol to receive health benefits. After my review outlined above I come to the opposite conclusion. It is quite clear that resveratrol has several important healing properties. It can improve diabetes; prevent hardening of arteries, lower blood pressure, attack osteoporosis and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. I have been taking 500 mg of resveratrol daily for years. It has not harmed me.

Aug
26
2017

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

What do decreased sperm counts in men tell us about our world? A recent study has shown that over the past 40 years males in many centers that tested for sperm counts have lost 50% of the sperm count that was normal in the 1970’s. The question is, what could have caused this? Nobody has definite answers. But here are the factors that the Mayo Clinic lists for low sperm counts.

Medical causes of decreased sperm counts in men

  • A varicocele: A varicocele is dilatation of veins close to the testicles. It is presumed that this leads to a higher temperature inside the testicles and this causes a lowered sperm count and poor sperm quality.
  • Antisperm antibodies can cause infertility. Due to low sperm counts.
  • Infections in the testicles reduce sperm production. Gonorrhea and HIV infection are some of the common infections.
  • Some men develop retrograde ejaculation. With this the sperm enter the bladder on ejaculation instead of coming out from the tip of the penis. Alpha-blockers, a type of blood pressure medication can do this as a side effect. But there are also various health problems that can cause retrograde ejaculation like diabetes, surgery to the prostate, urethra and bladder. Spinal injuries can be also a cause of retrograde ejaculations. In many cases the sperm production in the testicles is still present and sperm could be sampled from there for artificial insemination.
  • Tumors of the pituitary gland can interfere with hormone production of testosterone and sperm counts will fall or stop. But other pituitary hormones, thyroid hormone and adrenal gland hormones are needed for fertility.
  • Chromosome defects like Klinefelter syndrome and others can be a cause of abnormal development of the male genitals with low or missing sperm production.
  • Celiac disease is a bowel disease that is due to gluten sensitivity. It causes low sperm counts and infertility, which responds to a gluten free diet. Sperm counts normalize with this diet.
  • There are medications that can decrease sperm production like chemotherapy, anabolic steroid use, antifungals and certain antibiotic medications and some ulcer medications.

Lifestyle causes leading to decreased sperm counts in men

Certain lifestyles and occupations can cause a man to have a decreased sperm count.

  • Drinking alcohol excessively can reduce testosterone production, which decreases sperm count.
  • Recreational drug use: steroids to increase muscle mass cause testicular atrophy and decreased sperm count. Cocaine and marihuana also decreases the sperm count.
  • Certain occupations like welding from exposure to heat and truck driving from prolonged sitting have been associated in some studies with infertility. But there are other studies that could not confirm this correlation.
  • Smoking: Men who smoke have lower sperm counts than men who don’t smoke.
  • Excessive weight: Obese men transform some of their testosterone into estrogen through the action of the enzyme aromatase, which is amply present in fat cells. This leads to low testosterone levels and low sperm counts.

Environmental causes of decreased sperm counts in men

The environment in terms of heat production around the scrotum or exposure to chemicals or ionizing radiation can lower sperm counts in men.

  • Heat around the testicles: studies do not all agree, but there is a tendency for low sperm counts when using saunas and hot tubs frequently. Sitting for longer times or using a laptop computer for longer periods can also increase the temperature of a man’s scrotum and lead to a low sperm count.
  • Exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury and others can be the cause of infertility.
  • Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. With high doses of radiation sperm production may cease entirely. With lower radiation exposures sperm counts may be down for several years before they recover to normal.
  • Industrial chemicals: exposure to fumes from certain chemicals can lead to low sperm counts; benzenes, herbicides, pesticides, xylene, toluene, painting materials and organic solvents are on this list.

Recent study about decreased sperm counts in men as an indicator

We have now reviewed the major causes of low sperm counts in men. I like to revisit the recent sperm study I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. It is unlikely that men in North America, Europe and Australia would spontaneously produce less than 50% of the sperm than men 40 years earlier had produced. The next puzzling fact is that the study found normal sperm production in men in Africa, South America and Asia.

This points to epidemiological differences that reduce the sperm count in men in North America, Europe and Australia. In view of the multitude of possible causes it will require a task force that does a comparative study worldwide looking at exposure history, diets, social habits and other factors.

Fertility clinics are thriving because couples want children. With low sperm counts of males there is more infertility than there was in the past. Density gradient centrifugation is a reliable method of enriching sperm counts.

In the past a couple had no problem getting a successful pregnancy when they wanted it. Now couples often have to be assessed in a fertility clinic because of problems with regard to decreased sperm counts in men, which can cause infertility.

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Conclusion

A new study has noticed that over the past 40 years many men have developed low sperm counts. This has caused significant problems with fertility among couples. Fertility clinics are busy trying to help these couples. Density gradient centrifugation has become a common technique to enrich sperm samples prior to artificial insemination. It is a puzzle why the recent study has found normal sperm counts in samples of men living in Africa, South America and Asia. In contrast men living in Europe, North America and Australia have 50% lower sperm counts. The reason may be multifactorial. It will require a team of experts to sort out this discrepancy and hopefully find an answer for men in Europe, North America and Australia to bring their sperm counts back to normal.

Aug
19
2017

No More Macaroni And Cheese

Two years ago Kraft’s was in the news and I said then “no more macaroni and cheese”.  At that time they promised to make macaroni and cheese more nutritious by removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. Now they are in the news because industrial chemical phthalates have been found in almost every sample of cheese powder that is used to make macaroni and cheese.

Phthalates are powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals that are toxic to children and pregnant women. Prenatal exposure to phthalates has been linked to abnormal brain development and abnormalities of the reproductive system. Potentially 725,000 American women of childbearing age are at risk. Should they get pregnant, their babies would be at the receiving end of toxic phthalates. In Europe new regulations about phthalates were introduced in 2011. In North America the FDA has been negligent in enforcing legislation to keep the US population free of phthalates in their food.

Background information about phthalates

Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are widely used in cleaning agents like soaps, plastics, rubbers, inks, adhesives and fragrances. Phthalates in plastic materials increases the durability and longevity, but also the flexibility and transparency of plastic.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes on its website how a large percentage of the population has phthalates in their urine. This proves that unsuspecting customers are ingesting phthalates, which potentially poses a tremendous challenge.

Should phthalates be more vigorously legislated as they have been in Europe?

Effects of phthalates on body

It seems that males are more sensitive to the toxic effects of phthalates than females. Males experience testicular atrophy and shrinking of the prostate gland. The sperm count goes down, which can lead to infertility. Pregnant women are at risk of having babies with genetic defects due to exposure to phthalates. Many cosmetic products contain phthalates and due to lax FDA supervision many cosmetics are not even labelled, when they contain phthalates (lipsticks, make-up).

Apart from infertility issues phthalates are also responsible for allergies, some cases of obesity, asthma and breast cancer.

There are other clinical conditions that have been linked to phthalate exposure. Behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorder, type 2 diabetes, low IQ and neurodevelopmental issues. A lot of these problems could be eliminated with more awareness of the public, stricter labeling rules of the regulatory agencies and more responsibility shown by manufacturers.

Why nutritionists don’t like macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese belongs into the group of junk foods. In the past it was artificial coloring and artificial flavors that were the concern. Now it came to light that phthalates have contaminated the fat-containing cheese from the packaging. The soft plastic cheese packages contain phthalates and they are easily transferred into fatty cheese, because phthalates are fat-soluble.

From a nutritional point of view macaronis are simply empty starch. This gets very quickly digested into sugar and causes a sugar peak in the blood. High blood sugar causes an insulin peak. Repeated insulin peaks have been associated with premature aging, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Cheese in macaroni and cheese is the cheapest processed cheese. Here is a table of contents of what macaroni and cheese contains. In this recipe the cheese portion is derived from processed cheddar cheese. But in many macaroni and cheese packages the cheese portion is made up of a mix of protein, fat and milk powder and this mix has nothing to do with cheese. It just tastes like cheese. But all of the cheese powder packages have in common that in 29 out of 30 of the packages tested phthalates were contained in the cheese powder.

The package was made with a plastic coating that contained the phthalates and this leeched into the cheese powder, because phthalates are fat-soluble.

No More Macaroni And Cheese: Toxic “food” is non-food

The problem with macaroni and cheese in today’s society is that it is processed food. The more food is processed, the higher the risk that valuable nutrients get lost. Unfortunately with food processing there is the need to use a food container where the food is stored. But up to now nobody thought that the ubiquitous phthalates that keep the plastic material of the food container flexible and longer lasting could pose any threat to our health by leaking into fatty foods.

However, we did have problems with PBA’s not long ago; they were leaking from baby bottles into baby food. The solution was to abandon BPA bottles.

We have to rethink the whole scenario. As this link shows there are many other chemicals in plastic that can also be toxic.

We can work on the food side and avoid as much processed food as possible. Buy fresh ingredients that you bring home and store in your fridge. Avoid plastic bags. Use glass containers as they have been found to be safe (not leaking chemicals into food).

What can you do, if you want no more macaroni and cheese?

Stop buying macaroni and cheese as processed food. Buy ingredients to make them yourself at home. Here is a recipe of how to make macaroni and cheese: You may in the past have thought that it is much easier to just buy macaroni and cheese in the store. But this is where the phthalates come in. It is our laziness that allows food processors to slip chemicals into our food that could damage us; and some of these potentially harmful chemicals are phthalates. Phthalates probably slipped into our food unintentionally because they are so extremely fat-soluble that they get into the cheese part of macaroni and cheese.

If you want to eat macaroni and cheese, make it yourself as per the recipe provided with the link above.

But I went one step further. I have abandoned macaroni and cheese altogether. I have decided that I don’t need the extra insulin response from the macaroni as I digest them; I also do not need the extra processed cheese, as the fats are not the healthiest. If I want some cheese, I can cut a few slices from an honest organic cheese that was made from organic milk of grass fed cows.

I like eating diversified food from many healthy sources.

No More Macaroni And Cheese

No More Macaroni And Cheese

Conclusion

Sometimes we need to rethink the food that we eat. Do we want to eat macaroni and cheese, because it reminds us of how we grew up? When you hear that toxic phthalates are contained in processed foods you may also say as I do: “No more macaroni and cheese!” As I mentioned, if you really want to eat it, cook it yourself from the basic, healthy ingredients. But I decided no more macaroni and cheese for me, because it is not that healthy. There are healthier foods that I’d rather eat instead.

If more of us would shun processed foods, then the food industry would have to adapt to the population’s healthier food habits and come up with healthier products. We also would not be exposed as much to phthalates that find their way into the food chain from food containers. Rethink your food habits and perhaps one day you can agree with me: “I don’t want non-nutritious processed food! No more macaroni and cheese!”

Aug
12
2017

Curcumin And Cancer

Many clinicians give their attention to curcumin and cancer. It may not be used as a primary treatment, but may be added as an adjunct to other cancer treatments. Curcumin is the effective ingredient of the old Indian spice, turmeric. The question is how effective curcumin is against cancer? Is it safe to use? What is the evidence?

Frequency of cancer

According to the American Cancer Society there will be 1,688,780 new cancer cases diagnosed in 2017 and 600,920 cancer deaths will occur in the US.

Causes of cancer

Cancer can be caused in many different ways. Hidden in the many causes may be the possible solution to new cures.

  1. A lack of exercise may contribute to the development of cancer because of a lack of tissue circulation. And exercise will help to support your normal cell metabolism (explained below). Wrong foods may or may not have a contributory role regarding cancer development (a high sugar and starch diet causing insulin response, which changes the metabolism). The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet and has been credited to prevent a lot of cancers.
  2. Cancer can be caused by chemicals, called carcinogens. But it can also be caused by oncoviruses. It can be genetically caused, that’s why it tends to run more often in certain cancer prone families. But Warburg has researched the metabolism of cancer almost 100 years ago, even got the Nobel price for it in 1931 and yet the elusive cancer cure has not materialized yet. Otto Heinrich Warburg
  3. Following Warburg’s research Watson/Crick detected DNA in our cells. Ever since geneticists were fascinated by it. They also found that a cancer suppressive gene, regulated by the p53 gene could develop mutations and then cancer would occur: Tumor Suppressor Genes For decades this was the “in” thing. But in the last 5 to 10 years there is a revitalization of the original Warburg idea that one should concentrate on the metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells. This is starting to show some timid results.
  4. Cancer cells are more acidic from lactic acid and burn glucose for energy without requiring oxygen (anaerobic pathway), while normal cells burn glucose in the aerobic pathway in the mitochondria. This difference is important. Cancer cells were found to be more vulnerable to be killed by certain manipulations.
  5. Take cryoablation therapy for prostate cancer. Cryosurgery for prostate cancer. The more vulnerable cancer cells are preferentially killed over the normal cells through a local deep freeze method. Another example is phototherapy treatment of cancer that has been used for lung cancer and esophageal cancer. https://www.sciencedaily.com/rel… This method may be a lot more universally applicable than believed so far. A photosensitized dye is injected and later when normal cells have eliminated the dye, but the defective cancer cells are still containing the dye a laser beam is used to kills the cancer cells preferentially, absorbing the specific laser wavelength that is specific for the dye.
  6. Nobody knows which way cancer research is going. But I think it will be consumer driven: consumers want better cures, and when new methods appear that have better cure rates, these will be pushed forward while less effective methods will become history. I think that Warburg will be revitalized and new therapies will continue to be developed from this as I indicated.

Curcumin and cancer: malignant conversion

There are three development stages for any cancer to develop.

This was originally researched with skin cancer, but also confirmed with cervical cancer. It is called the “malignant conversion” that needs to take place before a normal cell has become a cancer cell. There are three stages.

  • Initiation
  • Promotion
  • Progression

This is important to know in the context of curcumin. Basic research has shown that curcumin interferes with all of these stages of tumor development, both in terms of prevention as well as in terms of being curative. Here is a link that points out the complex multiple steps of cancer growth that curcumin interferes with.

As can be seen from it, curcumin interferes with the initiation of multiple cancers, reduces inflammation, and interferes with angiogenesis and this reduces the amount of metastases that can form. But curcumin further interferes with proliferation of cancer cells, reduces invasion, prevents resistance and improves survival. The underlying molecular and genetic reasons for curcumin’s actions are all contained in that link.

Curcumin and cancer: research in tissue culture and animal experiments

When it comes to cancer research, you usually hear about in vitro culture experiments and animal experiments. This type of research is used to establish that there is an anti-cancer effect, that it is reproducible and non-toxic. The September issue of the 2016 Life Extension Magazine reviewed this in detail. It was entitled “How Curcumin Targets Cancer”.

But as a former clinician I am more interested in seeing cancer patients cured. This has to be verified by clinical trials first. When I looked through PubMed.com for objective evidence of the effects of curcumin in cancer patients, this type of information was more difficult to find. But in the following there are a number of examples that I did find.

Curcumin and cancer: clinical trials

1. Reduction of tumor necrosis factor-alpha

A 2016 meta-analysis of eight randomized studies investigated the effect of curcumin in patients with various inflammatory diseases including cancer. They found that curcumin consistently reduced tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In cancer patients this inflammatory substance is responsible for further cancer growth and developments of metastases.

2. Poor bioavailability of curcumin

A study with increasing amounts of curcumin showed poor absorption of curcumin into the blood. In this study dosages between 500 mg up to 12,000 mg per day of curcumin were given. 500 mg to 8000 mg of curcumin did not result in any positive serum level of curcumin. Only the higher dosages, 10,000 and 12,000 mg of curcumin were associated with positive curcumin levels in the blood serum. In order to have effects of curcumin, higher amounts have to be taken. Higher amounts of curcumin have been tested for toxicity and were found to be safe and were fairly well tolerated.

3. Precancerous colonic polyps reduced in number and size

A smaller study consisted of 5 subjects with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). This is an autosomal-dominant disorder where hundreds of colorectal adenomas develop in the lining of the colon. From these colorectal cancer can arise. Five patients received 480 mg of curcumin and 20 mg quercetin orally three times per day. After 6 months the number of polyps and the size had reduced by 60.4%.

4. Premalignant colonic lesions suppressed by curcumin

44 eligible smoker subjects received a baseline colonoscopy where aberrant crypt foci (ACF) were determined. ACI are the very first focal areas in the colon from which colon cancer develops. Smokers are known to have more of these lesions, which was the reason that smoker subjects were used for this trial. The patients received either a supplement of 2000 mg of curcumin or 4000 mg of curcumin for 30 days. These are fairly high doses, but they were used to overcome the poor absorption of curcumin. Colonoscopies were done again after one month of curcumin supplementation. 41 subjects completed the study. In the 4000 mg curcumin group the ACF numbers were reduced significantly by 40% compared to the 2000 mg group, which showed no reduction. The 4000 mg group showed a 5-fold increase of curcumin blood levels compared to baseline. There was no change in blood levels in the 2000 mg group.

5. Reduction of radiation dermatitis with radiation therapy in breast cancer patients

30 breast cancer patients were divided into an experimental group and a placebo group. All of them had a mastectomy first, which was followed by radiation therapy. The experimental group received 6 grams (2 grams three times per day) of curcumin during the time of radiotherapy following mastectomy. The severity of radiation dermatitis following radiotherapy was significantly reduced in the experimental group when compared to the placebo group. Only 28.6% had significant radiation dermatitis in the curcumin group versus 87.5% in the placebo group.

6. Chronic multiple myeloma patients

An Australian study involving chronic multiple myeloma patients found that curcumin at 4 Grams per day and even more so at 8 Grams per day stabilized the disease and improved kidney function.

7. Descriptive studies

Descriptive studies investigating the effect of various doses of curcumin have been done regarding breast cancer,  and advanced pancreatic cancer. But these clinical trials were all rather small.

8. Chemoprevention of cancer

A phase II trial enrolled 21 patients with end-stage pancreatic cancer patients. The only FDA approved treatments for this are gemcitabine and erlotinib, but this would normally only lead to clinical responses in less than10% of patients. In this study the investigators used curcumin to enhance the anti-tumor response of either gemcitabine or erlotinib. The study summary stated: “Oral curcumin is well tolerated and, despite its limited absorption, has biological activity in some patients with pancreatic cancer.” 2 of the 21 patients had stable disease for more than 18 months; one of the 21 patients had a brief tumor regression of 78%, but then relapsed and died.

9. Chemoprevention of cancer

Chemoprevention of cancer is discussed in this publication: There was specific reference made to prevention of prostate cancer and the opinion of the researchers was: “At present, there is no convincing clinical proof or evidence that the cited phytochemicals might be used in an attempt to cure cancer of the prostate.”

Curcumin And Cancer

Curcumin And Cancer

Conclusion

For years there have been reports to indicate that curcumin was a promising natural supplement that can improve cancer survival. There are poorly founded reports of effects of curcumin on colorectal cancer, pancreas cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and others. But on closer look the hype seems to come mostly from in vitro studies (tissue culture experiments) or from animal studies. Clinicians, however, demand well-constructed randomized clinical trials with clear research objectives before they can accept a new agent like curcumin to be effective. These clinical trials are missing! Instead there are many in-between trials of questionable quality as listed above.

There have been problems of bioavailability due to poor absorption of curcumin. To a certain extent this could be overcome by pushing the dosage to 6000 to 8000 mg per day. But a significant percentage of people (around 30%) suffered from abdominal cramps and nausea and had to discontinue these high doses of curcumin. Newer curcumin compounds have been developed, but at this point it is not known what the bioequivalent dosage is of these newer curcumin agents in comparison to the original curcumin dosages.

It is quite possible that new trials will one day be performed that may bring better news on survival rates of various cancer patients involving curcumin therapy. But in my opinion right now it is not yet prime time for curcumin!