• New FDA Food Guidelines

    New FDA Food Guidelines

    A recent news release describes 2016 new FDA food guidelines. In it double the amount of seafood (fish and shellfish) is recommended as well as a cut in saturated fat and in sugar. Coffee, which was labeled a culprit in the past is now recommended to a total of 400 mg of caffeine per day as it is … [Read More...]

  • Avoid BPA

    Avoid BPA

    After a lot of bad press as a hormone disruptor we know we should avoid BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic compound that has been used since 1957 in plastic bottles and as lining inside cans, so they don’t rust. Study showing why we should avoid BPA Recently BPA has again hit the media as a new … [Read More...]

  • Pain Treatment

    Pain Treatment

    General practitioners see a lot of patients with various pain symptoms for which they seek pain treatment. The underlying conditions might be from an arthritic problem that suddenly becomes symptomatic, or an acute back injury may send pain from the lower back into one of the legs. Others may … [Read More...]

  • LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

    LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

    The American Medical Association (AMA) has just released a new policy recommendation and statement that LED streetlights can be harmful. After meticulous reviews of the research on the effect of white LED streetlights and their effect on health the AMA decided that it needed to publish its … [Read More...]

  • Anxiety Is Common

    Anxiety Is Common

    Recently a review article was published that showed that anxiety is common. This research was conducted in England (Cambridge and London). 48 reviews about anxiety around the globe were examined. The results showed that anxiety in the world population fluctuates between 3.8–25%. Women (frequencies … [Read More...]

Aug
20
2016

New FDA Food Guidelines

A recent news release describes 2016 new FDA food guidelines. In it double the amount of seafood (fish and shellfish) is recommended as well as a cut in saturated fat and in sugar. Coffee, which was labeled a culprit in the past is now recommended to a total of 400 mg of caffeine per day as it is heart protective. Cholesterol is no longer considered an enemy, but sugar, saturated fats and trans fats are.

Here is a breakdown of what each of these recommendations means.

New FDA food guidelines regarding increasing fish and shellfish

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids have finally entered the recommended diet plan of the FDA. This reflects the nutritional research over the last few decades that noticed a longer life expectancy for people who eat more seafood and less red meat.

The only problem with seafood can be its mercury contamination. The higher predator fish are in the food chain, the more contaminated fish meat is. This is the reason that tuna fish is not recommended as a food source, as it is very high in mercury. An exception is canned tuna as it has been washed and some of the mercury got lost in the food processing. Wild salmon, sardines and oysters are low in mercury and good sources of omega-3 oils.

New FDA food guidelines regarding reduction of saturated fat

It is now recommended that saturated fat should be reduced to 10% of the total daily caloric intake. This is not undisputed as some studies show that saturated fat may not be involved in the production of hardening of the arteries. Other studies have shown that breast cancer is more common when more saturated fat is consumed.

When the news came out in the 1980’s that saturated fats would be bad for arteries, there was a switch to polyunsaturated acids: safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and soybean oil or grapeseed oil.

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

In contrast olive oil is a much more stable oil and has been associated with longer lives in the Mediterranean. Similarly, coconut oil is also more stable and is recommended for cooking as well.

New FDA food guidelines regarding protective effect of coffee

In the past few years many studies have shown the coffee consumption prolongs life. The FDA has now officially recognized these studies and recommends that consumption of up to 400 mg caffeine will help promote health. On the other hand the FDA also recommends that those who do not drink coffee, should not change their lifestyle just because of these recommendations.

New FDA food guidelines regarding sugar reduction

An entirely new recommendation of the FDA is that sugar should be reduced in anybody’s diet. The FDA explains that sugar is contained in too many processed foods, is added in drinks like coffee, fruit juices, food items like muffins and cakes.

In the past decades it has become clear that sugar much more so than fat is the culprit, when it comes to hardening of arteries. Sugar gets metabolized in the liver, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol are increased and this gets deposited into arteries and fatty tissue. In this context it makes sense that the FDA now recommends a reduction of sugar intake.

 New FDA food guidelines regarding cholesterol

In the past it was thought that cholesterol in meat would be the cause of high cholesterol in the blood. This was an oversimplification. We now know that only a small portion of the blood cholesterol comes from food sources, so that cholesterol from food sources is now no longer thought to be of importance with regard to risks for heart attacks and strokes. Instead it is sugar and too many starchy foods (Bread, pasta, pizza, muffins, cakes cookies) that get broken down into sugar, which accounts for high cholesterol by being metabolized in the liver into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

New FDA Food Guidelines

New FDA Food Guidelines

Conclusion

The new food guide by the FDA has fundamentally changed the previous recommendations based on newer nutritional studies. Now fish and shellfish should be doubled compared to previous recommendations. Coffee is no longer the enemy, but your friend. Sugar and starch over consumption is to be avoided, as this can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eat more vegetables and fruit. These recommendations closely resemble a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to prolong life in several studies. Abandon the American Standard diet with hamburgers, processed foods and sugary drinks. Pay attention to the FDA food recommendations!

Aug
13
2016

Avoid BPA

After a lot of bad press as a hormone disruptor we know we should avoid BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic compound that has been used since 1957 in plastic bottles and as lining inside cans, so they don’t rust.

Study showing why we should avoid BPA

Recently BPA has again hit the media as a new study has shown that there are things we can do to avoid high concentrations of BPA by changing our lifestyle.

This media report is based on a scientific study that Jennifer Hartl and coworkers have done. They followed patients who had consumed various items known to be contaminated with BPA and measured their urine BPA concentration 24 hours later. 9% of their study participants had consumed one can of food or more, while 2% had consumed 2 cans of food or more on the previous day. When one can of food consumed was compared to none, 24% of higher BPA concentration in the urine was found. With two cans of food consumed versus none 54% of higher BPA concentration was found in the urine tests.

When one or more specific types of canned foods were compared to none consumed, some interesting differences emerged. Canned vegetables and fruit showed 41% higher BPA in the urine test. Canned pasta measured 70%, but canned soup 229%. The researchers also tested canned beverages. None of them were associated with elevated BPA in urine tests.

What BPA does

93% of Americans 6 years and older have BPA in their urine indicating that it is in our bodies, and the body is attempting to get rid of it. It is known as an endocrine disruptor, but how effective BPA is as an endocrine disruptor remains to be seen. This link described that BPA is 800-times weaker as an estrogen blocking substance compared to soy products.

According to a different source there are two mechanisms of action where BPA interferes with normal body function.

  1. BPA functions as a weak estrogen and binds to the nuclear estrogen receptor. This partially blocks the action of the body’s own estrogen function.
  2. There is also a membrane based estrogen receptor on body cells that is involved in cell signaling and gene expression. BPA can add methyl groups to DNA, which silences gene expression. This latter mechanism is much more sensitive to BPA (probably by a factor of 1000-times) than the traditional effect on the nuclear estrogen receptor.

It is these newer findings that are of concern with regard to fertility in males as this study on rats showed: It is important that babies are not fed using regular plastic bottles, but rather that BPA-free bottles or glass bottles are used to avoid BPA exposure. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the hormone blocking effects of BPA as well as the interference of brain development and maturation by BPA.

Manufacturing of BPA free plastic

In an attempt to avoid BPA in manufacturing of plastic bottles and food containers industry has used other chemicals, among other materials something called BPS. This stands for “Bisphenol S”. A research paper found that BPS is an endocrine disruptor as much as BPA is and causes fat cells to grow rapidly. According to the author of this publication it may be partially responsible for the obesity wave. The author of this study recommends using glass containers as much as possible to avoid transfer of either BPA or BPS to food that comes in contact with plastic materials.

Avoid BPA from receipts

Have you ever thought that you may be able to absorb BPA through your skin from receipts when you buy items at a store? Yes, the receipt that is printed on heat sensitive paper has BPA on it that gets absorbed through the skin. If you scratch the printed part of the paper and it leaves a dark mark, it is thermal paper.

In this study workers were handling thermal receipts for four hours and their urine was monitored for BPA the following day. Another group was handling thermal receipts for 8 hours. In the first group that was exposed for 4 hours the BPA concentration in the urine rose to three times higher than the base rate. The second group exposed for 8 hours had BPA levels that were five times higher than the base rate. For comparison another group was measured that was wearing surgical gloves and their BPA concentration in the urine showed no change from the baseline.

I have changed my way of shopping. I think about whether I would ever want to exchange the item I just bought. If not, I tell the clerk that I do not want a receipt and the receipt is thrown out.

How you can avoid BPA exposure

  1. Do not use plastic containers to heat food in a microwave, use glass containers instead.
  2. Avoid all plastic food containers that have a “7” printed in a triangle on the bottom. Among these is a significant number that will release BPA over time.
  3. Avoid canned soups, such as tomato soup or canned mushroom soup. The paper reviewed at the beginning of this review showed these led to the highest BPA readings in urine tests the following day.
  4. Keep in mind that 2 out of 3 cans in supermarkets are positive for BPA. Eat as much fresh or frozen food as you can, but avoid canned food.
  5. Many canned beverages (such as beer, soda, juice) are acidic; this means that their thermal processing requirement is much different requiring lower temperature where BPA does not leach from the bottle into the stored fluid. These drinks when tested were BPA free.
  6. Among drinking water containers the following have been tested: Aquafina, Dasani, Arrowhead, Fiji and Kirkland Signature bottled water from Costco. They were all BPA free. Most water companies have now switched to BPA free containers, but avoid the containers with the “7” in a triangle as already stated, as some of them may leach BPA into the bottle content.
  7. Use fresh, unpackaged foods as much as possible. For instance, fruit and vegetables can often be had unpackaged. If it is packaged, check the type of plastic it is packaged in and do not buy, if you are unsure.
  8. Whenever possible, avoid handling thermal receipts; if possible, get an email receipt instead to avoid BPA exposure through the skin.
Avoid BPA

Avoid BPA

Conclusion

There has been a silent revolution where more and more plastic and resins have entered our lives. With it came the exposure to BPA, which is an endocrine disruptor. This may have consequences regarding male fertility, change of fat metabolism in both sexes with weight gain as the end result. It also interferes with brain development in the fetus and in young children. BPA has to be considered as a poison.

In this blog I have shown ways to reduce exposure to BPA. We need to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit that are not sold in plastic, or if plastic is used for packaging, the containers must be BPA and BPS free. The labeling of containers needs to be made mandatory by the FDA and/or EPA. Whenever possible we need to return to glass containers that are guaranteed BPA free. Also bear in mind that heating plastics can release toxins. If you are heating food in a microwave, do not use plastic containers. Instead any use glass or ceramics, which are known to be safe!

Additional reference (Questions about BPA answered):

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_a_e/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf

Aug
06
2016

Pain Treatment

General practitioners see a lot of patients with various pain symptoms for which they seek pain treatment. The underlying conditions might be from an arthritic problem that suddenly becomes symptomatic, or an acute back injury may send pain from the lower back into one of the legs. Others may experience excruciating headaches like migraines or tension type headaches. Often these painful conditions require some immediate pain relievers to treat the pain, but this can turn into a nightmare of drug dependency and may even lead to the development of chronic pain. Here I like to review an article that I found in the June edition of ConsumersReports.org.  In my review I included most of the content, but added a few newer pain treatment modalities.

Acute pain

Here I’m discussing back pain as an example. When a disc bursts in the lower back because the person was lifting an object too heavy to lift, acute pain develops in the lower back. This is often located at the lower lumbar spine level (L5/S1) causing radiating pain into one of the legs.

In a case like this it will often take several weeks before the body can heal this condition.

Chronic pain

It can happen in many cases that the pain will still be there 3 to 6 months down the road. If a disc fragment pushes on the nerve root in the nearby canal through which the nerve root travels, this will cause the muscles supplied by the nerve root to melt away in the leg of the affected side. If nothing is done about this, the acute pain turns into chronic pain, which is much more difficult to resolve. The initial physician may refer the patient to a neurosurgeon who will review the case together with the help of an MRI scan that shows the underlying pathology. The neurosurgeon may determine that a mini discectomy will reduce the pressure onto the nerve root. This surgery may be able to prevent chronic pain from setting in. Once the pressure is relieved, the nerve can start the healing process. It is critical to not miss the point where acute pain crosses over into chronic pain. This happens at around 2 to 3 months into the pain condition. Chronic pain is much more difficult to treat as some of the neurological pain pathways that form after such injuries can persist within the spinal cord or even within the central nervous system, even after successful disc surgery that is done too late. With respect to the example given above, if the patient is operated on too late (1 to 2 years after the injury), the procedure may not be effective in relieving the pain. A chronic pain syndrome has started.

How pain treatment is done

  1. Avoid bed rest

In the past (up to the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s bed rest was the accepted initial mode of treatment. Even though patients often felt some relief of pain initially, this led to muscle atrophy (literally a melting away of muscles) in the muscles that are supporting the spine. These structural changes destabilized the spine and often made the pain more chronic until physiotherapy treatments and active exercises rebuilt the supporting muscles again.

  1. See a physiotherapist

Physiotherapists can use different treatment modalities like traction, a TENS machine, active exercises that all can help to alleviate back pain due to muscle spasm. If there is only a strain, this will often help to resolve your back pain within 4 weeks. But if there is an underlying disc herniation as previously explained, you need to be assessed by a physician in an urgent care center, primary care setting or by an emergency physician in the emergency department of a hospital. When the examination confirms an abnormal reflex from a nerve root compression, a referral to a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon is usually made as previously explained.

  1. Chiropractic treatment

Some people have their backs treated periodically to prevent back troubles. When they get an acute back pain they likely will see the chiropractor again. In cases of a back strain, where one or more muscles are pulled, this approach will be helpful together with some home exercises and swimming to build up muscle strength along the spine. However, in the case of a herniated disc chiropractic adjustments should not be done (physicians say they are “contra-indicated”). Instead the patient should be referred to either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon.

  1. Medication for pain

Often physicians prescribe Tylenol with codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) or morphine for pain relief. All narcotic medication have side-effects; they can cause constipation, can cause vomiting, make you feel dizzy and can lead to falls, particularly in elderly patients. These falls can cause hip fractures and other fractures that complicate the recovery from the original pain. Never exceed the dosage of pain medicine prescribed on the label, and if it does not relieve the pain, see your physician again for a reassessment to rule out any complications. Often people with back pain also have depression. To address this issue your physician may prescribe an antidepressant like duloxetine (Cymbalta), which has been approved by the FDA for treatment of lower back pain. But there are two rare, but important side effects to know about. Cymbalta can cause lowering of blood pressure, which leads to dizziness. This can cause serious falls with the danger of fractures. The other complication is the risk of liver failure.

Side effects of pain treatment

  1. While there seems to be an urgency to treat a patient who is in pain with pain medication, the treating physician must not forget that pain medication is potentially addicting and patients often use higher doses than advisable. However, pain medication has a narrow therapeutic window meaning that the toxic levels are not much higher than the drug levels necessary to relieve pain.
  2. There are medications that are only marginally effective, if at all. Glucosamine and chondroitin are used for relief of arthritic pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. They are eliminated by a liver enzyme system that also eliminates blood thinners. If a patient is on blood thinners, the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin can lead to dangerous bleeding. Instead of using glucosamine and chondroitin when you experience pain and inflammation in joints, reduce your activities, but stay as active as you can to avoid your symptoms from getting worse.
  3. When a patient has a severe migraine headache it is tempting to want to rule out a brain tumor. But a CT scan exposes the patient to dangerously high radiation doses that over time could cause brain cancer or leukemia. There are physical examination methods to rule out a brain tumor. If the findings are positive, an MRI scan can be used to get much more detail of the brain than a CT study would reveal. MRI scans do not have undesirable side effects.
  4. Before you rush into using anti-inflammatory drugs, use gentle movement to remobilize the painful joint, back or limb. Activities like swimming, walking or yoga can reduce pain and allow you to recover from a painful condition according to a Cochrane Library analysis of 61 studies.
  5. For more pain relief NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for a brief period will also help. The problem with long-term use of NSAIDs is that it can cause kidney damage. With longer use of NSAIDs there is also a danger of stomach bleeding, heart attacks and strokes.
  6. The pain drug acetaminophen (Tylenol) has a narrow therapeutic window and is less effective in pain relief than the NSAIDs. The FDA has recommended as the highest daily dose 4000 mg of acetaminophen. But if you are a heavy drinker or you have liver disease, your daily dose of acetaminophen should not exceed 3250 mg to avoid liver toxicity. Long-term use of acetaminophen can also damage your kidneys, therefore the recommendation to use acetaminophen only for a short period of time (a few days).
  7. Migraine headache drugs: The newer migraine drugs, called triptans temporarily narrow widened blood vessels. This relieves severe migraines within about 2 hours. However, these medications are not recommended for those with high blood pressure, chest pain, heart disease or circulation problems in the legs, as blood vessel constriction could bring on heart attacks or worsen circulation problems.

Common sense approach to pain treatment

The key for any pain condition is to treat the pain right away to minimize the impact that pain has on you and to prevent developing chronic pain, which is more difficult to treat.

Here are some examples.

  1. Migraine headaches

    If you have a migraine headache, use an over-the-counter pain reliever like naproxen or ibuprofen to treat the migraine pain very early. A combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine (like Excedrin Migraine or a generic copy) will also do. This will stop the release of prostaglandins, which would send pain signals to the brain. Heat packs or cold packs on your head can also help in the treatment of a headache. A 2013 study from Germany has shown that migraine sufferers can get rid of their migraine headaches in 60% by having sex. It sounds like a nice idea, but what they have not considered may be the fact that somebody who has a splitting headache is not feeling like sex at all! If your home remedies did not help, see your physician for one of the triptan pills. Sumatriptan or a similar drug constricts blood vessels to the brain. The doctor will also look for common triggering factors that can bring on a migraine. Weak neck and shoulder muscles may respond to physiotherapy strengthening. In women a condition called estrogen dominance is associated with migraines and can be treated with bioidentical progesterone to balance estrogen and progesterone in the body by elevating progesterone concentration.

  2. Acute lower back pain 

    Acute lower back pain usually follows an event where the person lifted something too heavy or injured the back from a fall. The important part is to rule out a fracture. Most of the time there is no underlying fracture, just a muscle strain. A muscle strain usually sorts itself out in time. Stay active as much as possible. But if the back pain does not resolve within a few days, see your physician for more tests. An X-ray may be required to rule out structural changes like a fracture. As explained earlier, an MRI scan may be required to rule out a disc herniation. Instead of neurosurgery, further options nowadays are prolotherapy, stem cell therapy or a combination prolotherapy/stem cell therapy. This type of therapy will also work for knee injuries (meniscal or ligamentous tears).

  3. Hip or knee pain

    Conventional medicine usually treats osteoarthritis with NSAIDs, but may not warn you about the possibility of gastric erosions that can lead to massive stomach bleeding, heart attacks or strokes when using NSAIDs. It also can lead to kidney damage that can cause sudden kidney failure. The key is to use anti-inflammatory medication only for a few weeks. If arthritis persists, it is wiser to seek the advice of a naturopathic physician for prolotherapy treatment. Pain relief is usually achieved with one or two treatments of prolotherapy. If prolotherapy does not succeed, it is best to move on to mixed stem cell therapy with bone marrow and mesenchymal stem cells (from fat cells) as well as PRP (platelet rich plasma). This usually leads to complete healing of osteoarthritis and eliminates the need of total knee or total hip replacement.

  4. Neck and shoulder pain

    This often develops because of poor posture, shoulder tendinitis or neck muscle spasm. Physiotherapy is often successful treating this. If not, intramuscular stimulation (IMS) with acupuncture needles can be used. This may be more successful in interrupting the abnormal neuropathic pain pathways. Alternatively electro acupuncture with a TENS-like device can also be successful. The newest treatment modality is the Weber medical system using a low-dose laser applicator. Prolotherapy can also be used for shoulder and neck problems, if the ligaments are lax. It requires a lot of experience on behalf of the health professional to choose the right treatment protocol for the condition.

  5. Tension headaches

    Anxiety, stress and fatigue can all lead to tension headaches. Initially you may want to drink liquids, as dehydration is related to tension headaches. If your headache is still present after one hour, use naproxen or acetaminophen. Take a warm or cold shower and lie down with a cool cloth on your forehead. If you still have a headache, check with your doctor whether it is indeed a tension headache or a migraine. You may have jaw clenching or teeth grinding during your sleep. If your bite seems off, see a dentist. For stress control use relaxation techniques. Some suggestions sound mundane enough, but they can be effective: Get enough sleep, get enough exercise, and work on improving your posture. A physician trained in trigger point injections with local anesthetics (often anesthetists or general practitioners) can freeze your suboccipital and supraorbital nerves with lidocaine, which I have seen to work in 60% to 70% of cases in my former practice.

Pain Treatment

Pain Treatment

Conclusion

Pain treatment can be confusing as pain itself can be very multifaceted. The key is to search for the cause of the pain and then treat pain very quickly before it has time within 2 to 3 months to turn into a chronic pain condition. Chronic pain is much more difficult to treat. Every effort should be made to treat acute pain successfully. Conventional medicine has to yet learn from naturopathic medicine and alternative medicine practitioners that prolotherapy, stem cell therapy, IMS, trigger point injections with local anesthetics and low-dose laser therapy (Weber medical system) are valuable alternative methods that can successfully treat pain conditions and get incorporated into general medical practice.

Jul
30
2016

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

The American Medical Association (AMA) has just released a new policy recommendation and statement that LED streetlights can be harmful. After meticulous reviews of the research on the effect of white LED streetlights and their effect on health the AMA decided that it needed to publish its recommendations so that city fathers have some guidelines for illuminating their cities.

Cost and energy savings from white streetlights

Many cities in the US have already switched from the yellowish traditional streetlights to the high-intensity LED lighting. This was done unilaterally without consulting of health professionals or the public. The cities wanted to save money by using white LED lights. But as we will discover below there are serious health consequences to this.

Historic lighting solutions

We did not always have streetlights. The intensity of light is measured by the Kelvin units (K). The color composition is called the “color temperature” (CT). Before electricity was invented we burnt candles and wood at night. This produced a light of 1800 K, which was yellow and red with hardly any blue. Next came incandescent light bulbs. They have a color temperature of 2400 K, which contains less blue and more yellow and red. The new light source is the LED light, which contains a lot more blue color and appears to us as white light. The color temperature is around 4000 K to 5000 K.

LED streetlights can be harmful to your health

Who would have thought that switching streetlights could have anything to do with your health? The newest LED street lights are emitting large amounts of blue light. Our eyes perceive this as white light, but it also creates night-time glare, much more so than conventional lighting. Eye discomfort from blue-rich LED lighting can interfere with visual acuity and cause road hazards. However, this is not all. The blue-rich LED streetlights happen to operate at the wavelength that suppresses melatonin during the night. It has been estimated that the white LED lamps cause interference with the important circadian sleep rhythm. This effect is much stronger with the white LED lights compared to the conventional streetlights. The interference with the sleep rhythm means that there is less sleep time. Sleep quality is perceived to be unsatisfactory. There is daytime sleepiness and impaired daytime functioning. White light LED lights can even cause obesity.

Animals can also be affected by white LED light. The bright outdoor LED lights disturb many species that need a dark environment. Poorly designed LED lighting disorients some birds. Insects, turtles and certain fish species have also been found to be disturbed in their habitat by white LED lights. US national parks have adopted lighting designs that reduce the effects of light pollution on wildlife. So far nobody has shown any concern, what light pollution does to humans!

AMA guidelines to reduce impact of white LED lights

The AMA has come out with new guidelines to help reduce the impact of white LED light. Instead of high-intensity white streetlights the AMA recommends to communities to use the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The AMA has recommended a color temperature of no more than 3000 K. This type of light has more of a mix of blue, green, yellow and red in it and very little white. In contrast the CT of bright LED streetlights have 4000 K to 5000 K. This contains a lot of blue light, which appears as white to the eye. Seattle and New York belong to the cities that recently had their streetlights retrofitted to the white LED streetlights. According to the AMA guidelines these lights should now be refitted again. The AMA also recommends that the lights should be shielded to minimize glare and the detrimental effect on humans and the environment. There should also be a possibility of dimming the lights in off-peak periods.

Evidence from medical literature that LED streetlights can be harmful

Here I am reviewing what has been found in the medical literature about white LED lighting that is now preferably used in street lighting.

  1. A Chinese lab tested epithelial cell lines derived from human lenses under a variety of light sources. The lab had previously established that oxidative stress on epithelial cells from human lenses was the most important factor for developing cataracts in humans. Human epithelial cells were cultured in the presence of different LED light frequencies. A high color temperature of 7378 K caused damage to the epithelium while controls of lower color temperatures of 2954 K and 5624 K LED lights did not. The authors concluded that white LED light with a high color temperature could cause significant photobiological damage to human lens epithelial cells. This in turn can cause cataracts and legal blindness.
  1. Another research group studied human epithelial pigment retinal cells in tissue culture. They exposed the tissue cultures to various light frequencies, namely white, blue, green or red LED light. Reactive oxygen and DNA damage were assessed. The white light showed the highest amount of damage to the human retinal cell in culture.
  1. In a trial on senior long-term care home residents researchers found that intermittent exposure to bright light (versus red light) showed positive cognitive effects on the seniors. It is not clear why with respect to cognitive function there is a positive finding using white LED lights, while the other tests mentioned above showed negative effects on the lens and the retina of the eyes.
  1. In another investigation blue light filters were employed in night shift workers and the investigators detected beneficial health effects. In animal experiments the same results were found.

Normally in shift workers cancer, heart disease, metabolic disturbances, depression, anxiety disorders and reproductive problems are found.

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

Conclusion

Despite the evidence in the medical literature showing that yellow lights are better than the newer white LED lights, cities have been converting the yellow streetlights to white LED streetlights. It makes economic sense, but harms people. The American Medical Association is attempting to convince authorities to use common sense. The AMA wrote guidelines and hopes that city fathers will reconsider their decisions. If you are concerned, voice your opinion by talking to your political representative.

Jul
22
2016

Anxiety Is Common

Recently a review article was published that showed that anxiety is common. This research was conducted in England (Cambridge and London). 48 reviews about anxiety around the globe were examined. The results showed that anxiety in the world population fluctuates between 3.8–25%. Women (frequencies of 5.2–8.7%) and young adults (frequency 2.5–9.1%) are suffering from anxiety more. Among people with chronic diseases there is considerable variation in the frequency of associated anxiety (from 1.4% to 70%). The frequency of anxiety in various ethnic populations varies considerably around the world. For instance European and North American cultures have a relatively high anxiety rate in the population (3.8–10.4%) when compared to Indian and Asian cultures with only 2.8%. In Africa the rate is 4.4%, in Central and Eastern European countries the rate is 3.2%. In North Africa and the Middle East the anxiety rate is 4.9% while in Spanish/Latin cultures the rate is 6.2%.

Anxiety is common; subtypes

There are many subtypes of anxiety that have been researched. 

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population. Women get this condition twice as often than men. The risk for developing it is greatest between childhood and midlife. People with a mild case of GAD can cope and work. Severe cases can be disabling and may be difficult to treat.
  2. Social anxiety disorder: about 15 million US citizens suffer from this. This equally affects women and men. Typically it starts at the age of 13, but 36% of people will not ask for medical help for 10 years or more. Symptoms of anxiety surrounding social situations are so intense that it interferes severely with making friends and having romantic relationships. They end up being alone, powerless against their anxiety.
  3. Panic disorder: 6 million US citizens or 2.7% of the population suffer from this. Women commonly are twice as often affected by it than men. Panic attacks develop in early adulthood. They often suffer in silence; distance themselves from friends, family and caregivers who could offer them help. Panic disorders often occur simultaneously with depression and medical conditions like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and substance abuse.
  4. Specific phobias: 19 million or 8.7% of the US population suffer from this. It often starts in childhood and the median onset is at age 7. People affected by specific phobias may be afraid of high bridges, of animals like spiders or mice, of thunder, of flying and a myriad of other things. It disrupts daily routines, causes limitations of work efficiency and reduces self-esteem. It also places a strain on relationships because people afflicted by this problem will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable or terrifying feelings of phobic anxiety.
  5. Obsessive-compulsive disorder: 2 million or 1% of the population in the US suffer from this form of anxiety. Onset is in the teenage years, although 1/3 of adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder experienced symptoms already in childhood.
  6. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 7 million people or 3.5% of the US population are suffering from PTSD. Women are much more affected by PTSD than men. But a lot of soldiers who were involved in direct combat situations will suffer from PTSD. Rape can be a source of PTSD. Most people who experience traumatic events and develop PTSD will be affected by it for months or even years, but eventually recover from them; a minority will not recover. Often therapy is helpful for these individuals.
  7. Major depressive disorder: 8 million American adults or about 6.7% of the U.S population will suffer from depression between the ages 15 and 44 years. It is more common among women. A certain percentage of depressed people commit suicide. Anxiety is often mixed in with depression.
  8. Persistent depressive disorder is a form of depression that persists for at least 2 years. 1.5% of the US population or 3.3 million adults suffer from this condition. The median onset is at age 31. Like with depression, so also with persistent depressive disorder, anxiety is very common.

Anxiety is common; related illnesses

There are many medical diagnoses where anxiety is often part of the symptom complex. The medical profession often talks about psychosomatic diseases. This means that these diseases have an anxiety overlay, which is part of the condition.

  • For instance, bipolar disorder is a condition where extreme mood swings are common, often between elation and mania, but then switching to deep depression with suicidal thoughts. Mixed into this condition is often a certain degree of anxiety, which can be very overwhelming.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a psychosomatic disease of the gut with bowel cramps and frequent bowel movements, in others there are periods of constipation. But irritable bowel syndrome often has anxiety attached to it. They are often inseparable.
  • Eating disorders: here the person has an intense fear of turning fat. Persons with eating disorder often restrict their calories severely, even when they are underweight. They may exercise for hours with the hope to lose weight. Perhaps the most striking condition among eating disorders is anorexia nervosa, which often affects teenage females, but adult women are affected as well. Sadly many of these women die from starvation or starvation related diseases.
  • Sleep disorders: more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleeping disorder. Another 20 million suffer from occasional sleep disorder. Often there is stress and anxiety that interferes with the normal sleep cycle.
  • Chronic pain: Pain is a common symptom; if it is associated with a surgical procedure or with an injury it is short lived and eventually goes away. With chronic pain, the pain is there all the time. People with arthritis or nerve injuries that did not heal often have this type of pain. Fibromyalgia sufferers also have this type of pain. When a person has an underlying anxiety disorder and gets chronic pain on top of this, the pain is amplified and becomes even more chronic. On the other hand anybody with chronic pain will suffer from a certain amount of anxiety just because of the chronicity of the pain.
  • Fibromyalgia: this chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder is a special form of chronic pain. About 20% of fibromyalgia sufferers have either chronic depression or chronic anxiety, which complicates the condition.
  • Substance abuse: about 20% of people with chronic anxiety disorders have an alcohol or substance abuse disorder; and 20% of people abusing alcohol or having a substance abuse disorder have a chronic anxiety disorder.
  • Stress: too much stress can turn into distress. Distress is an overdose of stress where the stressed person loses control of the situation. This can cause depression and anxiety. It can also cause physical illness.
  • Headaches: migraines, anxiety and depression seem to affect the same population group. Stress and anxiety can cause muscles around the neck to get into spasms and cause tension type headaches. But any headache can be brought on by anxiety.

Anxiety is common; biochemical brain abnormalities

Dr. Kharrazian has summarized in his book that Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a by-product of the brain cell metabolism is responsible for calming the brain (Ref.1). This mechanism is not working properly in people with anxiety. In many people with anxiety GABA is simply not produced enough to calm the brain or it gets inactivated too fast resulting in a lack of GABA with anxiety. The end result is the same: when there is a relative lack of GABA in the brain the person develops the symptoms of anxiety.

Disbalances in other neurotransmitters can also contribute to anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is essential to have for a stable mood and to prevent depression. It is produced in the mid brain. The pineal gland stores serotonin and makes melatonin out of it, which is essential for a normal sleep pattern. When serotonin is low, a number of things can happen. Anger and increased aggressiveness are associated with a lack of serotonin. But depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder are also frequently observed. Many of these illnesses have been noted above to be associated with anxiety. Ref.1 also describes that stress inhibits the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, which explains sleep problems in persons who are exposed to chronic stress.

Anxiety is common; treatment options

What are the treatment options for a person with anxiety?

  1. Treatment with anxiolytics: It is tempting to just treat the symptoms in an anxious person. But just prescribing anxiolytics like benzodiazepines (like Xanax) will not cure anxiety, just relieve the symptoms for a while. Eventually the body gets used to benzodiazepine and requires higher doses to suppress the anxiety. This can be the beginning of drug dependency, which is not what the health professional or the patient wants. As mentioned above alcohol and substance abuse is already a problem for 1 in 5 people with anxiety.
  2. Treat sleep deprivation: An alternative is to concentrate on treating sleep deprivation helping the person to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin at a dose of 3 mg at bedtime is a reasonable dose to help a person to fall asleep. If during the night the anxious person wakes up again, another dose of 3 mg of melatonin can be given. In addition, if an anxious person lies in bed and ruminates about various things that have happened during the day, a dose of valerian root (500 mg or even 1000 mg) can be useful. Dr. Datis Kharrazian describes in Ref.1 that valerian root increases GABA at the GABA receptor site. Research has also shown that valerian root slows down the breakdown of GABA. Although GABA is available in health food stores, GABA does not get absorbed through the blood/brain barrier easily. Only patients with autoimmune problems have a leaky blood/brain barrier and GABA can get through, but this is not a good approach to take for treating GABA deficiency. When you take GABA as a supplement, it wears off after a few days and loses its effect. It is wiser to stay away from GABA.
  3. Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy has been proven to help the person with anxiety. Often psychologists specialize in these treatment methods. Meditation and counseling therapy will also help.
  1. Antidepressant therapy: In anxiety cases where depression is part of the psychological make-up antidepressants may have a place for a period of time. The FDA issued a warning in October 2004 about antidepressant medications, including SSRIs. These may lead to suicide and suicidal behavior in a small number of children and adolescents. But there is no way of predicting who will be affected this way. The antidepressant medications are still available and are still prescribed by many physicians.
  2. A balanced diet like a Mediterranean diet will ensure that the nutrients that are required to make GABA will be provided. Added sugar should be avoided as it may contribute to anxiety from blood sugar fluctuations.
  3. Yoga and biofeedback: Yoga with an emphasis on breathing techniques can also be useful. Biofeedback methods are useful as well.
Anxiety Is Common

Anxiety Is Common

Conclusion

Anxiety is common, but also very complex, as explained above. 74.8 million Americans suffer from the various forms of anxiety mentioned. Psychosomatic disease often involves anxiety as well and it can be difficult to sort out the symptoms of patients afflicted with physical illness and anxiety. Repeat visits to the treating doctor will eventually help sort these problems out. The physician will rule out any physical problems first by doing lab tests and imaging studies.

Treating anxiety should focus on reestablishing a healthy sleeping pattern. Self-hypnosis tapes or discs are useful. Melatonin and valerian root have their place. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help the patient to reestablish clear thoughts and minimize the anxiety symptoms. With this approach the patient will often be able to overcome anxiety. There are no instant solutions, but with time and persistence the patient will be able to take back control of his or her life.

References:

Ref. 1: Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

Jul
16
2016

Mediterranean With Healthy Fat

If you want to lose weight, have you considered eating Mediterranean with healthy fat? A lot has changed in recent years regarding recommendations for healthy food intake. In the eighties and nineties the low fat diet was recommended, which unfortunately was high in carbs and led to obesity. What we have learnt from this is that carbohydrates that get broken down in the gut into sugar are converted into fatty acids and stored as fat.

Studies regarding diets with unhealthy and healthy fats

  1. Here is a prospective study that followed 120,877 U.S. women and men over a longer time. Every 4 years it was noted that for potato chips 1.69 lbs. were gained, for potatoes 1.28 lbs., for sugar-sweetened beverages 1.00 lb., for unprocessed red meats 0.95 lb. and for processed meats 0.93 lb. On the other hand from vegetables there was a weight loss of −0.22 lb., for whole grains −0.37 lb., for fruits −0.49 lb., for nuts −0.57 lb. and for yogurt −0.82 lb. Cheese was also investigated and was found to be mostly neutral in terms of weight gain, while butter did cause weight gain.
  2. In a study from Spain that was published in the Lancet in June 2016. 7447 asymptomatic men (aged 55–80 years) and women (aged 60–80 years) were followed for about 5 years. They all had type 2 diabetes and three or more cardiovascular risk factors. They were randomly assigned to three Mediterranean diet types: a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with nuts and a control group on a low fat Mediterranean diet. The interesting finding after 5 years was that both the patients on the Mediterranean diet with nuts and with olive oil lost some waist circumference. Their weight loss was 0.95 lbs. for the olive oil group and 2.82 oz. in the Mediterranean diet group with nuts. The Mediterranean diet group with olive oil had lost 0.22 inches in the waistline, the other group on nuts lost 0.38 inches. These are hardly impressive losses! The researchers concluded that fat restriction is not necessary on the Mediterranean diet, as there was no weight gain with unrestricted healthy fats after 5 years.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy wrote an editorial regarding this Spanish study: ”A handful of nuts may be 160 calories, which is more calories than a can of Coke, but that doesn’t mean the can of Coke is a better choice”. He added: “Salt, sugar, starch, processed food and trans fats should be off the menu, not fat. Healthy foods are healthy foods, and bad foods are bad. It doesn’t matter, if the food is low fat or high fat. This is a separate issue.”

Mediterranean With Healthy Fat

Mediterranean With Healthy Fat

Conclusion

When wanting to lose weight, the key is to pay attention to your carb intake. Make sure it consists of unrefined carbs. You will do this if you eat vegetables and fruit. Cut out sugar and starchy foods as much as you can. Have lean, clean meats, but avoid red meat except perhaps for every two weeks some grass fed beef. Eat fish (important for its content of omega-3 fatty acids), also enjoy yogurt, nuts, olive oil and avocados. It is an extra benefit if you add regular exercise to this as well. You will notice that you gradually shed the unnecessary pounds. This is not a program for just a month or two. To stay well, make it a new lifestyle!

Jul
09
2016

Avoid That Heart Attack

Recently Dr. Mark Hyman mentioned a 7-point program to avoid that heart attack. If you follow the recommendations below, chances are that you do not only avoid heart attacks, but also strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The Potsdam (or EPIC) study has shown that adhering to 4 simple things can reduce

Diabetes by 93%

Heart attacks by 81%

Strokes by 50%

All cancers by 36%.

What were those 4 points?

  1. Not smoking
  2. Exercising 3.5 hours a week
  3. Eating a healthy diet
  4. And maintaining a healthy weight

So with a few more points added it is no wonder that the figures can be even more impressive.

Other studies have also shown the importance of lifestyle changes to improve health outcomes; the INTERHEART study was based on 30,000 people in 52 countries that were followed along. Researchers found that 90 percent of all heart disease could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes.  I have added another point, regular exercise that has been proven to be very effective in preventing many diseases.

So, what are the 8 points that can assure that our health improves?

  1. Avoid that heart attack with a colorful, plant-based diet

Your dietary intake is important, because it provides all of the building blocks for your body. You want whole foods that are rich in phytonutrients. Often rainbow colors are mentioned, because the more varied your vegetables look, the more balanced the micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the food items. Below we will learn that we want to avoid processed foods and hydrogenated fats, but we want to increase fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by stabilizing your blood sugar

Never eat refined carbs alone, as this goes chases up your blood sugar levels and causes unhealthy insulin reactions. Too much insulin production causes inflammation in the body, which can cause inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, clogged arteries with heart attacks and strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. You want to balance complex carbs from vegetables with healthy fats and clean protein in every meal. Avoid sugars- no matter whether it is “natural brown” or white sugar and refined carbohydrates. Your pancreas does not differentiate between honey and other sugars, and it will react the same way!

  1. Avoid that heart attack by increasing fiber intake

The more fiber you can tolerate, the better. 50 grams would be ideal, but not everybody can tolerate this due to bloating or a queasy stomach. But even if you can add 5 or 10 grams of fiber per day, this is progress. Fiber decreases LDL cholesterol by intervening with the enterohepatic pathway. Fiber is found in nuts, beans, vegetables, seeds and berries that have lower sugar in them. You can also take a fiber supplement directly like psyllium husk.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by cutting out processed foods

Processed foods and junk foods are popular as they fill you up fast when you are hungry. But they need to be avoided at all costs. Sodas, juices and diet drinks affect your sugar and fat metabolism. The extra calories that come from sugary drinks are the biggest contributors to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Even 100% fruit juice is not healthy, because all of the fiber is removed and you are drinking sugar water to which your pancreas reacts by producing extra insulin. As already discussed the extra insulin just causes inflammation. May I suggest a homemade lemon juice that you make by squeezing ½ lemon into a glass; add a tiny bit of Stevia for sweetening and sparkling mineral water. This is a healthy drink without sugar. You can drink this as often as you want. Another component of processed food are omega-6 fatty acids. They are in processed foods, because they increase the shelf life in stores. But they cause inflammation in the body unless balanced by omega-3 fatty acids (see below).

  1. Avoid that heart attack by increasing omega-3 fatty acids

Fish and seafood provide you with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately not all fish are healthy. Tuna is a predator fish that accumulates a lot of mercury from the polluted oceans. As a result of this it is not on my fish list. I prefer wild salmon. I also take molecularly distilled fish oil, which has omega-3 fatty acids in it. Many processed foods contain only omega-6 fatty acids, because this is the cheapest way to produce them (they are based on vegetable oils). Also avoid soybean oil, which is the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up 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. Instead you want to eat healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids contained in nuts and fish. You can also add molecularly distilled, high potency omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement to help restore the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in your food intake.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by eliminating all hydrogenated fat

Hydrogenated fat like margarine has been shown to cause accelerated hardening of the arteries, which causes heart attacks and strokes. Read labels and eliminate any food that contains hydrogenated fats. If the label indicates that you are dealing with a product containing ”partially hydrogenated oil”, stay away from it as well! Butter from grass fed cows is a healthy fat. Olive oil and coconut oil are both good cooking oils. Olive oil is also good in salad dressings.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by keeping alcohol to a minimum

The problem with alcohol is that it is a cell poison. On the other hand small amounts have been show to reduce heart attacks and strokes (one glass for women, two glasses for men per day). However, due to the cell poison effect even low amounts of alcohol contribute to cancer causation, and as a result of that alcohol remains a problem. If you must consume alcohol limiting the intake to minimal amounts is prudent. In women ovarian cancer can be caused by alcohol and men prostate cancer. In both sexes pancreatic cancer can be caused by alcohol. Higher amounts of alcohol raise inflammation with elevation of blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. One recommendation: either consume no alcohol or use alcohol in moderation. One glass does not kill you, but several ones may do it over time!

  1. Avoid that heart attack by exercising regularly

Regular exercise is yet another factor that can help you to reduce heart attacks, strokes and cancer even further. I added it as point 8, because it is fundamentally such an important preventative factor. Some studies have shown as much as a 50% drop in many diseases simply by introducing regular exercise.

Avoid That Heart Attack

Avoid That Heart Attack

Conclusion

It is all about lifestyle factors. Pay attention to your diet. Add fiber, subtract sugar. Avoid processed foods, omega-6 fatty acids and hydrogenated fat. Have enough omega-3 fatty acids as fish and supplements. Keep alcohol to a minimum. Your benefits from changing these lifestyle factors, result in huge benefits. You are avoiding 90% of diabetes, 80% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 35% of cancers.

Jul
02
2016

Zika Virus

Recently the question was asked on the news whether it was safe to go to the Olympics in Brazil; so here is some background information about the Zika virus. Zika virus was first isolated from mosquitoes in a forest named Zika forest in Uganda, which was in 1947.

Zika virus belongs into the virus family of Flaviviridae. Other members in that family are dengue fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. Since the 1950’s Zika virus has occupied a narrow equatorial belt around the globe (Africa and Asia). But between 2007 and 2016 it spread further to the Americas and to the Pacific. Specifically French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Easter Island and New Caledonia were included. Since May 2015 Brazil has joined the countries where mosquitoes are infected with Zika virus. This is an important point to know for the coming up Olympics in Rio on August 5 to 21, 2016.

Symptoms of Zika virus

For most people, particularly the young and middle aged Zika may not be that symptomatic. The most common symptoms are a fever, a skin rash, joint aches and red eyes (conjunctivitis). However, when a pregnant woman gets Zika virus, this will likely affect the fetus and will lead to a baby born with a small head (microcephalus), a severe complication from Zika virus. When a woman contracts Zika virus, the virus disappears after about one week. But in men the virus seems to stay longer, particularly in semen. This is why the CDC recommends for men using a condom or refraining from sex when returning from a holiday in a Zika endemic area. It may take up to 8 weeks for the semen to no longer be infective. The CDC recommends that a man who has come down with Zika to use a condom for 6 months.

Treatment of Zika virus

Make sure you get lots of rest. Take acetaminophen for fever or pain. Don’t take aspirin (ASA) or anti-inflammatory medication. Be aware that for between 1 and 3 weeks your blood likely is infectious. You want to avoid being bitten by a mosquito and it will be sensible to use insect repellant. The same insect could have bitten another person and spread the virus this way. A person who gets the Zika virus depends on the immune system to overcome the infection as there is no cure for this viral infection.

At this point no vaccine against Zika exists. There is research in an attempt to develop a Zika vaccine, which may become available in 2 to 3 years.

Zika virus risk with travel

If you travel to endemic areas, but visit mountainous areas above an elevation of 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) you are safe from Zika transmitting mosquitoes as they do not survive in these heights.

With regard to the Olympic Summer Games in Rio 2016 the CDC recommends to take a few precautions. Use insect repellents. Be aware as a woman that men infected with Zika virus can transmit the virus through sex. If you want to protect yourself from the risk of giving birth to a child with microcephaly, you may decide to use the birth control pill and ask your partner to use a condom. When you return back home, do not plan for a pregnancy for 6 months to avoid the risk.

The only recommendation for the Olympics by the CDC is that pregnant women should categorically not go to the games for fear of getting Zika infection resulting in a bad outcome of the pregnancy with microcephaly.

Microcephaly and other brain abnormalities from Zika virus

The CDC has stated that it is now established that Zika virus can cause microcephaly, but that it likely does not do so in all cases of Zika virus infection.

We know from German measles (rubella) that it can cause serious health risks for the fetus including death.

Zika is similarly neurotropic, meaning that it likes to multiply in nervous tissue including the brain. With rubella there is a vaccine available, which has made it much safer for pregnant women. But with Zika no vaccine is available. The only prevention is to stay away from endemic Zika areas and otherwise use reliable birth control methods.

Zika Virus

Zika Virus

Conclusion

I have briefly reviewed Zika virus in this blog. Unfortunately there are still many gaps in the knowledge of this disease. We need an effective Zika virus vaccine. It would also help to have antiviral antibiotics. All this needs to be researched. For now we need to use prevention and avoid endemic Zika regions by reading updates by the CDC.

Jun
25
2016

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

We know that stress can age you prematurely, but what do we need to do to prevent unhealthy aging? This is exactly what this review by cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn has done. It points out that the right lifestyle makes the difference.

Studies showing how to prevent unhealthy aging

Several studies have shown how to avoid getting heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

  1. Kahn reported that in 2001 the Harvard School of Public Health published a study where 84,941 healthy female nurses had been followed who were free of heart disease, cancer and diabetes at baseline. But only 3.4% of the 84,941 women managed to stay healthy after 16 years of the study. The secret? Their body mass index (BMI) was less than 25.0, their diet was high in polyunsaturated fat and fiber, low in trans fat and low in glycemic load, they engaged in regular moderate exercise with a minimum of 30 minutes per day; they did not smoke and they drank ½ an alcoholic drink per day. Their risk to get diabetes was 91% lower than the rest of the study. This shows you how powerful lifestyle choices are.
  2. In 2004 an international study (the INTERHEART study) reported in the Lancet the lifestyle of 15,152 cases that developed heart attacks in 52 countries with 14,820 controls who did not have heart attacks. The researchers found 9 risk factors that accounted for 90 to 95% of the heart attacks. They were smoking, elevated cholesterol risk ratio, diabetes, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, stress, low intake of fruit and vegetables, high alcohol intake and lack of physical exercise. Obesity was considered a high risk when the waist circumference measured more than 35 inches in a woman or more than 40 inches in a man. All these 9 risks can be eliminated by lifestyle changes.
  3. The 2006 Health Professional Study spanned over 16 years in a group of 40 to 75 year old doctors without a heart attack at baseline. It noted that male doctors who were lacking the 5 heart attack risk factors had 87% less heart attacks than controls without health lifestyles. What were the lifestyle factors? A body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, being a nonsmoker, being physically active for more than 30 minutes a day, having not more than moderate amounts of alcohol intake and having a diet that was more than 40% plant based.
  4. In 2007 a Swedish study reported on 24,000 women after menopause that had no heart attacks initially. After 6 years of follow-up 308 women developed heart attacks. An analysis showed what the risk factors were for those who developed heart attacks. Those who did not have these risk factors reduced their risk of getting a heart attack by 92%. What lifestyle factors were protective? Four factors were identified: a low-risk diet (consisting of high vegetable and high fruit intake, whole grains, legumes, fish and moderate alcohol intake), not smoking, walking or biking 40 minutes daily and a low waist circumference.
  5. In 2008 the Harvard University released a study that was a further follow-up of the Health Professional study with more than 43,000 men and also the Nurses’ Health Study with more than 71,000 women. The question here was what would prevent the development of strokes? The investigators found that in both groups stroke risk could be reduced by 50% when the following 5 lifestyle factors were adhered to: no smoking, keep the BMI below 25, exercise at least 30 minutes daily with moderate activity, don’t exceed a modest alcohol intake, have a diet intake in the top 40% of fruit and vegetables and whole grains.
  6. A 14 yearlong study from the Netherlands was published in 2014, where almost 18,000 men and women without heart disease at the beginning of the study were followed. More than 600 heart attacks occurred throughout the study. People who stuck to 4 lifestyle habits reduced their heart attack rates by 67%; if they adhered to 5 lifestyle factors they reduced the heart attack rate by 83%. The 4 initial lifestyle factors were: doing an average of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, eating a Mediterranean style diet rich in fruit and vegetables and whole grains, not smoking and having more than one alcoholic drink per month. This gave you a reduced risk of your heart attack rate by 67%. Add one more good habit: sleep 7 or more hours per night on average. This reduces the risk of you getting a heart attack by 83%!
  7. A Swedish heart study with initially more than 20,000 men was going on for 11 years. There were 5 lifestyle habits the investigators identified as essential to reduce heart attack rates. Unfortunately only 1% of the study group adopted all 5 lifestyle factors, but they dropped their chance of getting a heart attack or dying of a heart attack by 86%. The lifestyle factors were: a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and low fat; not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, thin waistline and more than 40 minutes of physical activity.

Preserving health and vitality to prevent unhealthy aging

There is a clear pattern in all of these large studies. A healthy lifestyle preserves your health by keeping your joints and muscles in good working order. Your heart and lungs are staying well conditioned, because you engage in cardiovascular training every day. This keeps your nitric oxide going, which is an important signaling molecule that in turn reduces your blood pressure.

When we remove disabling diseases like strokes and heart attacks and prevent diabetes from developing, life expectancy is increasing. When people remain physically active even in old age, this translates into fewer disabilities and less frailty. Even Alzheimer’s disease is observed to occur less when good lifestyle habits are adhered to.

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

Conclusion

The studies cited here show how lifestyle factors can make a significant difference in preventing heart attacks and strokes. In the past even doctors ignored the risk of smoking. A few years back conventional medicine negated that lifestyle factors could make a difference. Now we have more studies than we need to prove that this is so. It is more important that we adhere to as many of the lifestyle factors identified in these studies to make a real difference in our lives. We also need to set an example to the next generation and to our peers. Adopting healthy lifestyle factors has to become a cultural habit for society at large. This will help reduce healthcare costs, but most importantly this will help you and me to live longer, healthier lives.

Jun
18
2016

High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

In the last few years we learnt a lot about vitamin D3, but the newest thing is that high vitamin D3 prevents cancer.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reported that with respect to several cancer types higher doses of vitamin D3 led to less cancer over a period of time.

The cancers investigated were colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung and bladder cancer. As people do absorb vitamin D3 differently, the researchers found that the best way to measure vitamin D3 concentration in the body is to use serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). In the past not much attention was paid to this matter. However, several studies including the present study showed that in patients who had a lower level of 20 ng/ml cancer rates were higher.

The researchers used data from two prior studies, a randomized clinical trial of 1,169 women and a prospective cohort study of 1,135 women. The researchers found that the age-adjusted cancer incidence was 1,020 cases per 100,000 person-years in the randomized clinical trial, called “Lappe cohort”. The other prospective cohort study was called the “GrassrootsHealth cohort” with an age-adjusted cancer incidence of 722 per 100,000 person-years. The interesting fact was that the Lappe cohort median blood serum level of 25(OH)D was 30 nanograms per milliliter, while the GrassrootsHealth cohort had a higher level of 25(OH)D of 48 ng/ml. This likely explains the lower cancer rate in the GrassrootsHealth cohort. In order to increase the statistical significance the two trials were combined. The striking finding was that above 40 ng/ml the overall cancer risk was more than 71% lower than for the group of people whose level of 25(OH)D was 20 ng/ml or lower. The above ScienceDaily article was based on this scientific study.

Other studies showing high vitamin D3 prevents cancer

  1. In a 2015 study Afro American men were found to have 71% less prostate cancer, if their serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level was at least 30 ng/ml or higher.
  2. This 2006 study reported a 14-year prospective follow-up in men where all cancers were counted and blood serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were correlated to cancer incidence. An increase of 25 nmol/L (=10 ng/ml) in predicted serum 25(OH)D level was associated with a 17% reduction in total cancer incidence, with a 29% reduction in total cancer mortality and a 45% reduction in digestive-system cancer mortality. These investigators stated that it takes about 1500 IU of vitamin D3 increase per day to achieve an increment of serum 25(OH)D increment of 25 nmol/L (=10 ng/ml).
  3. A publication from the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Jan. 2016 is more critical of the evidence regarding vitamin D3 and the claim that it lowers cancer rates. They reviewed the cancer literature and found that for colorectal cancer there is a clear inverse relationship between serum 25(OH)D levels on the one hand and rates and mortality of colorectal cancer on the other hand. However, with breast cancer the literature was more divided. Only higher vitamin D levels were related to a lower risk for progression of breast cancer and a lower mortality rate. Randomized, double-blind clinical trials with regard to breast cancer failed to show effectiveness on cancer prevention or reduction of mortality. For prostate cancer conditions were similar with the exception of a study using 4000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, which inhibited progression of prostate cancer.
  4. In a mouse model using a carcinogen to induce ovarian cancer there was an inverse dose-relationship between vitamin D3 and ovarian tumor development both in tissue culture and in the animal.

How high vitamin D3 prevents cancer

  1. Several studies have attempted to speculate how vitamin D3 may prevent cancer. Chirumbolo summarized the literature and noted that vitamin D3 has been shown to function as an immune cytokine stimulating the immune system non-specifically.  Vitamin D3 is also anti-inflammatory and counters insulin resistance and inflammatory kinins in obesity. Flavonoids with their antioxidant activity are also cancer preventing. As we know that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher cancer frequency it is important to use vitamin D3 as supplements in our diet.
  2. This Chinese study examined the effects of vitamin D3 on cancer prevention. It found that vitamin D3 combines three specific actions in one. Vitamin D3 is anti-proliferative meaning that it stops uncontrolled cell division. Secondly, it has an apoptotic (cell death) effect, which means it supports the removal of cells that are dying. If they are dying, but not removed, cancer can occur from these cell remnants. The third effect of vitamin D3 is that it has differentiating effects in several malignant cell types. When cancer cells are non-differentiated (=more immature cells) cancer can multiply quickly. When cancer cells are becoming more specific cells uncontrolled multiplication is much more difficult. This is an effect that controls the speed by which cancer cells divide and how quickly cancer metastasizes.
High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

Conclusion

There still is some confusion about the effects of vitamin D3 regarding cancer prevention. In colorectal cancer the statistics are clear: vitamin D3 can significantly prevent colorectal cancer to a large extent. There are also preventative effects in breast cancer and prostate cancer, but individuals may have to take at least 4000 IU of vitamin D3 or more. This is particularly true in higher latitudes where sunlight exposure is lower in the wintertime. Also, people absorb vitamin D3 differently. For this reason it is important to at least check your serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels on a few occasions. This will tell you whether your vitamin D3 supplementation is sufficient. Aim for levels in the 50-80 ng/ml, which is health promoting.

Apart from cancer prevention vitamin D3 is also important for prevention of cardiovascular disease (particularly in diabetics), osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.