Archives for May 2015

May
30
2015

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Here is a recent research finding from the Mayo Clinic that caught the media’s attention: be creative, and this will prevent dementia. The study found that when people engage in creative things they could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dementia can be caused by a number of various causes. But the end result is that there is an inflammatory condition within the brain that leads to a loss of nerve cells and nerve cell connections. When brain cells and nerve cell connections are lost, memory fades, particularly in the frontal brain and in the hippocampus area.

The study

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale , AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was measured using psychological tests. At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. The finding was that the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele was associated with a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease. If there were current depressed symptoms present at the time of being enrolled into the study the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular diseases was associated with 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities were associated with a lower risk to develop MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development was reduced by 73%, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life was associated with a 53% reduction in MCI development. These are very significant observations.

What we can learn from the study

When you get older it is important that you prepare yourself for an active retirement. You may want to enroll in dance classes, as this combines physical activity with brain activity where you have to remember learnt responses (from old moves you know) and also learn new dance moves (therefore creating new nerve cell connections). You could start a hobby where you create something (arts and crafts, painting etc.). Grandma Moses did this, and she not only became famous with her artwork, but she aged gracefully; she turned 101 years old).

The brain is an organ that needs to be treated with respect. We need to give it proper nutrition and avoid cardiovascular disease as it is known that whatever is good for the heart is good for the brain.

Eat a Mediterranean diet and avoid junk foods including processed foods. If at all possible eat organic foods. Take your fish oil supplements (omega-3 and DHA), as the DHA will provide the material necessary to build up new brain cells. The omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy heart and healthy blood vessels.

Regular exercise will improve your brain circulation, even in old age. If you take the steps mentioned you will at the same time prevent arthritis from developing and by cutting out sugar and starchy foods your brain will stay sharper for longer. Nurses in care homes for Alzheimer’s patients have known for a long time that Alzheimer’s patients crave sugar and sweets. This leads to hyperinsulinism and Alzheimer’s disease. So let’s take the consequences and cut out sugar and sweets to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Apart from these physical factors that have been published in many medical journals we have now an additional tool in getting the aging persons involved in crafts: social activities like journal clubs, discussion groups, walking groups, bridge groups or religious gatherings that will stimulate the brain to form new circuits and buildup new memories. Artistic activities and learning the use of the computer are additional things that will reduce the risk of developing MCI and later dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Conclusion

As the baby boomers age and enter into the old age category these observations are very important. We should think about doing some of these things now, so we do not have to overcome inertness later. The worst you can do is to become a couch potato and watch TV all of the time. Watching other people doing sports activities does nothing for you unless you walk on a treadmill while you watch TV. I do not intend to be hard on you; I am just passing on these new research findings and practicing them myself. The final choice is up to you.

 

Reference:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/health/creativity-socializing-delay-dementia/index.html

 

May
23
2015

Treating Menopausal Symptoms

There has been a lot of confusion since the Women’s Health Initiative that was prematurely abandoned because the women in the group that were treated with PremPro developed heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. The clinical trial was supposed to confirm that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with synthetic hormone supplementation would be heart protective, but it did the opposite.

I have addressed the problem of menopause and andropause in another blog.

Here I will review what can be done for a woman who enters menopause, has symptoms of hot flashes, lack of energy, sleep disturbances etc., but wonders whether not something could be done without introducing any risks as mentioned above. The answer is yes. I will review first what bioidentical hormones do and then discuss a bioidentical hormone replacement plan.

Hormones

The normal hormone action in a woman gets regulated through a complex interactive cycle between the stimulatory releasing factors of the hypothalamus that release pituitary hormones, which in turn stimulate the ovaries to produce estradiol and progesterone in a cyclical fashion. When salivary hormone levels are measured, there is a hormone ratio of 200:1 of progesterone to estrogen. According to Dr. Lee who researched this in detail in his books estradiol is potentially cancer producing in the breast and in the lining of the uterus. However, when the ratio of 200:1 (progesterone to estradiol) or more is found in a woman’s saliva the carcinogenic estrogen effect is neutralized by progesterone (Ref. 1 and 2). When a woman approaches menopause, less progesterone is being produced by the ovaries, as there can be anovulatory cycles. This means that a corpus luteum is not developing and progesterone is missing (Ref. 3 and 4). The change of cyclical hormone changes causes the pre- and postmenopausal symptoms.

There are a lot of effects that estrogens are having: estradiol is involved in neutralizing free radicals that age your cells; it maintains libido, supports bone health, prevents Alzheimer’s, prevents cataracts and skin wrinkling, prevents hot flashes and much more. Progesterone on the other hand keeps your hair from falling out, protects from blood clots, has an antidepressant effect, protects myelin sheaths (prevents multiple sclerosis), reduces cholesterol, prevents diabetes and much more. A table with all of the properties of these two hormones can be found here (scroll down).

Testosterone is also necessary in women for normal libido. However, the dose is much smaller than in the male. These traces of testosterone are produced in the adrenal glands and in the ovaries. These can be tested in either blood or saliva.

Safety of hormone replacement

Immediately when hormone replacement is discussed, the question of safety comes up. I have discussed this in detail here. Briefly, there is a 25 year collective experience in the US with bioidentical hormone replacement with no case of breast cancer, uterine cancer or other complications. In Europe bioidentical hormones have been used since the 1960’s, on a larger scale since the 1970’s. So the European experience of safety of bioidentical hormones is presently about 40 to 50 years. Again no breast cancer, uterine cancer, blood clots, heart attacks or strokes have occurred.

In contrast the synthetic hormones promoted by Big Pharma and approved by the FDA have caused the problems of the Women’s Health Initiative.

There has been a review of the Women’s Health Initiative in Postgraduate Medicine 2009 that clearly described that only bioidentical hormones are safe.

Bioidentical hormone replacement

Basically, what is missing should be replaced with the same hormones that were in your body all along. The reason for this is that each cell of your body has specific hormone receptors. There is a key/lock fit with regard to the hormone and the fitting hormone receptor in the cell that will stimulate necessary biochemical reactions to sustain cell function in every corner of your body. Why would you use a false key (synthetic hormone) that does not fit? Just because a regulatory body, Big Pharma and a physician who was influenced by Big Pharma say so? This does not make sense. Your body requires the bio-identical hormone that your body used to make when you were younger. With the gentle replacement of bioidentical hormones that youthfulness will come back. Based on hormone tests, the first hormone that usually needs to be replaced is progesterone, which can be applied as a skin cream or can be taken as Prometrium, a tablet that can be taken by mouth. After two to three months the hormone levels can be repeated and the ratio of progesterone to estradiol can be calculated (as stated above should be greater than 200:1). If testosterone levels are missing and this is clinically verified by symptoms, a small amount of testosterone cream can be applied as well. DHEA levels, cortisol and thyroid levels are also determined and what is missing is replaced. Fasting insulin is often also measured, particularly in a person who may be overweight or obese. A naturopathic physician or an anti-aging physician (A4M) can help you with the management of bioidentical hormone replacement.

New consensus rules

In 2012 a new HRT consensus statement was published allowing postmenopausal symptoms to be treated for 5 years. It was endorsed by 15 agencies. But when you read this with an open mind, it has NOT changed the synthetic hormones, but argues that up to 5 years of treatment would be relatively safe. There is no clear distinction made between natural progesterone and the synthetic progestins, which produce clots, heart attacks and strokes. Bioidentical hormones have been with women all their lives; when menopause sets in, there is a lack of progesterone, and estrogen dominance causes cancer problems. In Europe postmenopausal women can use bioidentical hormones as long as they feel they need it, in North America there is a consensus statement that postmenopausal women should not use  HRT with synthetic hormones from Big Pharma for longer than 5 years. This does not make sense! Why still synthetic hormones? I smell influence peddling worn out on the shoulders of postmenopausal women.

Treating Menopausal Symptoms

Treating Menopausal Symptoms

Conclusion

A lot of women have been unnecessarily scared by hormone replacement because of the Women’s Health Initiative, which was just a confirmation that synthetic hormones are noxious substances for the body. The recommendations from the consensus statement did nothing to clarify the situation.  All their lives women have been under the influence of their own bioidentical hormones produced by their hormone glands. So replacement with bioidentical hormones (structurally identical to the natural hormones in women) is safe and will bring back the vitality of the past, remove all postmenopausal symptoms and help women live a longer life without Alzheimer’s, heart disease or cancer (Ref.5). I agree with the European studies, the studies presented at many of the A4M conferences I have attended and the Postgraduate Medicine article mentioned above that stated that bioidentical hormone replacement is safe.

 

References:

Ref.1: Dr. John R. Lee, David Zava and Virginia Hopkins: “What your doctor may not tell you about breast cancer – How hormone balance can help save your life”, Wellness Central, Hachette Book Group USA, 2005. On page 256 and 257 Dr. Lee describes how progesterone can be used as a cream to treat PMS.

Ref. 2: Dr. John R. Lee: “Natural Progesterone- The remarkable roles of a remarkable hormone”, Jon Carpenter Publishing, 2nd edition, 1999, Bristol, England.

Ref. 3: Dr. John R. Lee and Virginia Hopkins: “Hormone Balance Made Simple – The Essential How-to Guide to Symptoms, Dosage, Timing, and More”. Wellness Central, NY, 2006

Ref.4: Dr. John R. Lee, David Zava and Virginia Hopkins: “What your doctor may not tell you about breast cancer – How hormone balance can help save your life”, Wellness Central, Hachette Book Group USA, 2005. Page 29 – 38 (Chapter 2): Risk factors for breast cancer. Page 360 to 374 explains about xenohormones and how they cause estrogen dominance. Pages 221 to 234 (chapter 12) explains why Tamoxifen is not recommended and bio-identical progesterone is more powerful in preventing breast and uterine cancer

Ref.5: Dr. John R. Lee: “What your doctor may not tell you about menopause: the breakthrough book on natural hormone balance”. Sept. 2004.

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May
16
2015

Facebook Use And Depression

There has been a recent study that showed that too much time spent on Facebook could have negative effects on your mood. In the most extreme case it could cause depression.

A person who is lonely and spends a lot of time on Facebook will learn about how much fun others have who report about what they have done or achieved. They may also brag about parties they have gone to. But they rarely talk about the times when they are down. When people read about others on Facebook, those who are sensitive or are in a dull mood could get discouraged. As they compare their own lives with those who portray themselves as upbeat people it leaves some with feelings of low self worth, of depression, of isolation and worsening loneliness and isolation. On the other hand, some people do share negative experiences on Facebook. There is the chance that friends can offer encouragement and support, but this is far removed from the personal, close interaction. Even a phone call is more tangible!

We all are subject to feeling blue at times, but a normal blues can turn into depression, which is part of a mental disease.

What is depression?

Depression belongs into the mood disorders. Psychiatrists have found out in the 1970’s and 1980’s that a lack of serotonin, an important brain hormone is associated with depression.

It is a mental condition where the person sees everything negative feels hollowed out and may have a lack of energy. A depressed person sees no way out of their bleak situation; they ruminate about any problems in their lives, but do not have the strength to reason things out and solve their problems. They start having problems falling asleep and sleeping through; their sex live fades due to a lack of sex drive. They are tearful and anxious. There may be a tendency of committing suicide, which is one of the things the psychiatrist will monitor for. In severe cases of depression the suicide potential may be the main reason to commit a person to a psychiatric ward for intensive treatments, either involving antidepressants or using electro convulsive therapy (ECT).

Facebook/depression research

In the Houston University study mentioned at the beginning of this blog it was found that the more hours people spent on Facebook the more depressed they were, at least for men, not so much for women. A second study showed that the more time they spent on Facebook, the more depressive symptoms they had in both sexes. This study found that the depressive symptoms were initiated because of social comparisons between what the Facebook friends did in their lives and how the lives of the subjects of the study were perceived to be. But Mai-Ly Steers, the author, said that “most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad”. The author went on to say: “the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions“. In plain English: the chronic braggers on Facebook sites are not really doing anything constructive for their friends; they are just on an annoying ego-trip!

If blues turns into depression, it is important to know more about the how depression is treated.

Treatment of depression

Here are the most common treatment modalities.

1. Drug therapy

In mild to moderate depression the caregiver may want to use an anti-depressant drug. It is important to study the side effect of drugs before treatment is even begun. The reason this is important is that the severity of side effects will decide how compliant the patient will be in continuing to take the antidepressant for a period of time. The anti-depressants amitriptyline (Elavil) and imipramine (Tofranil) tend to produce a dry mouth as a side effect. Some people can put up with this, others find it simply too much and they will discontinue treatment, which often can lead to suicide, because the negative thoughts come back when the treatment is stopped. There are newer anti-depressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), but there is a disclaimer that it could bring on suicide in teenagers who are put on this. Discuss the side effects with your physician before you are put on anything. One of the safest mild to moderate anti-depressants is St. John’s wort. This is an ancient herb and a lot is known about it. Side effects are minimal and for this reason it is well tolerated.

2. Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy

These two forms of psychological intervention strategies have been found to be very useful to help depressed patients to normalize their thinking.

It is in the area of “self-talk” that patients learn how to reprogram their internal thoughts. They learn to use their cognitive thoughts to intervene when they get caught in negative, stereotype thought patterns or negative generalizations (“I always do everything wrong” etc.). You learn how to use rational questioning to expose generalizations: “are you really always wrong? Tell me the last time you were successful in something!” This way the generalization of “always” being wrong is put into the right context.

3. Electroconvulsive therapy

For more severe depression admission to a psychiatric ward in a hospital equipped for psychiatric patients may be required. The psychiatrist who is involved in these cases needs to observe the patient closely and determine the suicide risk. Some patients are put on special psychiatric monitoring involving psychiatric nurses that frequently talk to the patient and monitor the suicide risk. Some patients will respond fairly well to anti-depressant therapy combined with cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy or both. If the patient does not respond adequately to this treatment approach, the psychiatrist may recommend a brief course of unilateral ECT treatments.

They are more gentle than the bilateral ECT treatments. Memory loss that was a big issue with bilateral ECT treatments is not so much an issue any more with unilateral ECT treatments. One of the advantages with ECT treatments is that after 6 to 9 such treatments there is often an impressive response of depression where the suicidal risk gets overcome. Other treatment modalities like anti-depressant therapy and cognitive/behavioral therapy will then guide the patient to a full recovery from depression.

Bipolar disorder, a special form of depression

In the past bipolar disorder was termed “manic/depressive illness”. This can be inherited, and certain triggering factors can suddenly bring on a manic phase where the person is hyperactive, has racing thoughts and behaves in weird ways. But on other occasions the same person may present with strong depressive symptoms including suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These patients need to be brought to the attention of a psychiatrist right away, because untreated they may do harm to themselves (suicide) or they may do harm to others. Sadly it is often not recognized by police or firefighters if a person presents with psychiatric symptoms. Some of these cases make news headlines when police responds by firing shots, but the underlying mental disease is often not detected and treated. As fast as patients with bipolar disorder can flare up with their symptoms, they can also calm down and regain their normal controlled condition very rapidly as well. Often a person in a manic state is sleep deprived and when relaxed with a major tranquilizer drug, they fall into a deep prolonged sleep from which they wake up with much of their manic symptoms having resolved. If the psychiatrist now decides to put them on a simple mineral, called lithium carbonate, as a maintenance therapy, the mood fluctuations may never come back. The person stays equal tempered and you would not think that they could ever have needed psychiatric intervention.

Facebook and mental disease

I like to come back to the topic of this blog, namely what influence the social media and in particular Facebook has on mental illness.

We all have certain needs that we may or may not be aware of and that need to be met. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist has taught about this many years ago. I like to simplify these needs and point out four of these basic needs as follows: we have a need for self worth, a need for autonomy, a need to belong and a need for love. If any of those needs is not met, we will feel hurt inside and our thinking may get disbalanced. Once we are on a negative internal spin and there are no friends that help us see things in perspective, this could grow into depression as found in the study discussed in the beginning of this blog. When a semi-depressed person reads some of the upbeat communications on Facebook, comparing oneself to others, it can lead to a feeling that they do not belong to this upbeat group, but they are left out. They may feel that they are not loved and the need of self worth is undermined. It is easy to see how one’s self-talk could get into a negative spin and the mood would be spiraling downwards toward depression. It depends on how emotionally stable the person is who reads these Facebook entries. An emotionally robust person will be able to reason within oneself that people tend to show the rosy part of them on Facebook. They may also limit Facebook time and contact some of their friends and meet them in person rather than only by computer or texting. The electronic world can be a lonely experience. There is no substitute for personal touch, talking, listening and interacting with real people, and this is still one of the valuable tools of preventing mental illness. But if depression or other mental illness sets in, contact your family doctor to get a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Facebook Use And Depression

Facebook Use And Depression

Conclusion

Mental illness still has a stigma from the past. However, now we know that the symptoms of mental disease are just due to a disbalance of brain hormones that can be rebalanced through the treatment protocols mentioned above. Facebook can have a negative influence on the development of mental illness, because the basic needs mentioned above are unmet or even are being undermined, which in turn tends to make mental symptoms worse. The solution to this is to limit Facebook time, to meet real people and share all of the feelings with them and listen to their feelings as well. This human interaction tends to stabilize our mental well-being. It is also important to realize when professional help is needed and to seek it.

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May
09
2015

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

I have blogged about the fallout from the Fukushima disaster in Japan before. At that time it appeared that the levels of radiation expected to be found on the West coast of North America around 2015 would likely be high. It did take all that time for the water with the radioactive contamination to arrive on the Western shores of North America.

The predictions were based on the known water currents in the Pacific Ocean and the amount of radioactive pollutants released. With that data it was extrapolated what would happen in the future. The future is here; we just heard about reports that the polluted water has arrived.

Direct measurements of the radioactivity of the nuclear isotope composition in the water showed that the concentration is much lower than previously assumed. So, you can swim in the ocean of the West Coast of the US and Canada and walk on the beach. The scientists who did the present calculations pointed out that an exposure to the radioactively contaminated water by swimming in the ocean for 6 hours for 7 days per week continuously for a period of one year would give you a radiation exposure 1000 times less than that of a dental X-ray. Here is a video that puts things into perspective (look at the video located on top of the page).

I highly recommend watching this. It sums up how the Fukushima disaster has affected marine life, but that the West coast of the US and Canada does not seem to be in danger of highly toxic levels of nuclear isotopes.

Why should we trust these measurements?

You may ask yourself: why should I trust these measurements? As pointed out in my previous blog, there were a number of radioactive elements released into the atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean. Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 are both part of the Fukushima incident. They have now been measured to be present in higher than previous concentrations at the coast of British Columbia. Cesium-134 has a much shorter half-life and can therefore only come from Fukushima. But Cesium-137 that has a half-life of 30 years was also increased to a higher than previous level because of the Fukushima disaster. Underwater nuclear weapons tests in the 1940’s to early 1990 before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was enacted caused the previous baseline of Cesium-137 levels in the ocean. Fortunately only about 25% to 30% of the original accumulated load of radioactivity was left before Fukushima added more Cesium-137. The other nucleotides Iodine-131, Plutonium-238 and 239, Strontium-89 and 90 and Uranium-234 and 238 are also helping scientists to sort out the contribution of radioactive pollution from Fukushima when compared to the baseline before.

Why it matters what you eat

You may think that you are completely safe now that we have such good news about radiation associated with the Fukushima disaster. Not quite so. Any source of radiation, which includes traveling by plane, getting mammograms in women, getting CT scans, lung X-rays, dental X-rays etc. has an effect on your system. It causes an inflammatory response, which is made worse by sugar and starchy foods. Sugar and starchy foods have been known for some time to oxidize LDL cholesterol, which in turn causes inflammation in your arteries and travels through your whole body including your brain. Even Alzheimer’s disease is an inflammatory brain disease, partially caused by overconsumption of sugar and starchy foods. Now add to this radioactivity exposure, which causes a strong inflammatory process in your body from free radicals that circulate in your blood. As a result the problem with the background radiation being a bit higher than what it was before is also the oxidative stress from sugar and starchy foods causing more inflammation within the body. We need to remember that the victims of Nagasaki, Japan were the ones that did not follow the dietary advise of Dr. Akizuki. He had ordered a strict vegetarian diet, which consisted of uncontaminated brown rice, fermented foods, sea algae and vegetables. Dr. Akizuki did not allow sweets of any kind. Salt was allowed as the main condiment. Everybody was fed at least one helping of a soup with fermented soy and seaweed in it (wakame miso soup).

It was this regimen that helped tone down inflammation in the body. It countered the negative effects of the radiation of the atom bomb.

Other causes of radiation

We are exposed to the leftover of 25% of the nuclear experiments from the nuclear bomb testing (the Leftover radioactive Cesium-137 mentioned above). In addition background radiation from sunbursts and cosmic radiation have to be absorbed by our system. As the radiation fuels inflammation, we cannot afford to continue to indulge in sugar and starchy foods that lead to hyperinsulinism, inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol. If we cast all caution to the wind, we will get degenerative diseases like arthritis, inflammation of the lining of the arteries leading to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Obesity and diabetes will also undermine our health. All of this leads to disabilities and premature deaths.

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

Radiation From Fukushima Less Than Expected

Conclusion

I am glad that the Fukushima news are a lot better than anticipated for the West Coast of the US and Canada. However, we should not forget that, like the burden of radiation, certain foods (sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starch) also cause inflammation in our system. We need to remember how effective Dr. Akizuki’s diet was back in 1945 protecting those who were in immediate proximity to the atom bomb in Japan.

Today we should consume a Mediterranean diet, which is also full of antioxidants and is thought of to be anti-inflammatory.

We can also take antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C, glutathione, fish oil and others that will protect us from anything that oxidizes LDL cholesterol or produces free radicals. Common sense needs to prevail. Radiation is a burden that fuels inflammation in our bodies, but dietary measures can greatly contribute to keeping us out of trouble. Vitamin supplements in general help with their anti-oxidant effects to protect your vital organs (heart, kidneys, brain, lungs, liver, bone marrow). I have discussed this in detail under this link. Note that I am recommending Io-Plex SR, which is an iodine supplement to be taken twice per day to protect you from fluoride, bromide and chlorine pollution. It will also protect the iodine receptors in your body from traces of radioactive salts in fish, sea water and the environment.

May
02
2015

Healthy Olive Oil

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

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.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra 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 plaques. A 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 plaques from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Endothelial function

The endothelium is the lining of the arteries. Normal endothelial functioning involves widening of the arteries and maintaining its flexibility. The body achieves this through production of a signal molecule, called nitric oxide; the endothelial cells that line our arteries from inside produce it. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide as well (Ref.1).

In a group of patients with poor endothelial function 2 tablespoons of olive oil (polyphenol rich) per day given over 4 months (the time of the study) showed a significant improvement of endothelial function.

The authors suggested that an enzyme in the endothelial cells, called nitric oxide synthase is being stimulated by components of polyphenol-rich olive oil. This leads to protracted release of nitric oxide, which in turn keeps blood vessels flexible and wide open. Other investigators found that olive oil can influence even a hereditary gene variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase found in people with a history of premature heart attacks. This high-risk group of people should take extra virgin olive oil regularly to prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the arteries no longer can deliver adequate amounts of blood to vital organs like the heart or the brain. Endothelial dysfunction is also present in patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Introducing extra virgin olive oil in the diet of these patients will help restore their endothelial function.

Lowering blood pressure

In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil that had no such effect before.

Based on what was said about endothelial function above, it is easy to understand that the polyphenols of olive oil released nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure. This is an important finding as high blood pressure is a known risk factor for the development of hardening of the coronary arteries leading to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, but also stroke. Regular intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often will reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function.

Preventing heart attacks and strokes

In April of 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published a Spanish diet study that showed that a participants on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts had 30% less heart attacks over 5 years than people on a low fat control diet. Other studies have also shown that olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. We also know that regular exercise reduces the risk further; so does keeping your body mass index below 25.0. Extra virgin olive oil is part of the protection from heart attacks and strokes, but it did not show protection against cancer.

Healthy Olive Oil

Healthy Olive Oil

Conclusion

It is a simple fact that incorporating 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil in your daily food intake will definitely have all of the beneficial effects described above. It is readily available, is inexpensive and very effective. It is also not difficult to work into your eating routine: add olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice to your salads, and cook with olive oil. If you have not totaled 30 grams (2 tablespoons), then make up the difference by eating an extra teaspoon full of olive oil. This is not all! You need to cut down on processed foods as they are made with the wrong oils, such as safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and others. These are usually omega-6 containing oils that cause heart attacks and strokes. They are cheap oils use by food processors, and they are not doing anything for your health!

I would suggest that you read more about the powerful role of prevention that extra virgin olive oil has in our diet. Buy it and stick to it as a new healthy lifestyle habit. Two tablespoons a day is the weapon against disease!

Reference:

Ref.1. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2015, chapter 10 Heart Disease. By Thomas M. Bashore, MD; Christopher B. Granger, MD; Kevin Jackson, MD; Manesh R. Patel, MD: Heart Disease. Lange, 2015.