Oct
07
2017

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

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

What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

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

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

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

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

Present rules about drinking during pregnancy

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

New questions about the minimum toxic amount of alcohol

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

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

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

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

Findings of the Bristol study

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

Common sense about drinking during pregnancy

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

Limits of what research to do

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

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

Conclusion

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

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

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

Aug
26
2017

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

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

Medical causes of decreased sperm counts in men

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

Lifestyle causes leading to decreased sperm counts in men

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

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

Environmental causes of decreased sperm counts in men

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

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

Recent study about decreased sperm counts in men as an indicator

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

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

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

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

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Decreased Sperm Counts In Men

Conclusion

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

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Jul
15
2017

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Scientific papers describe how unhealthy added sugar is, so getting rid of sugar in your diet is the answer.

An article was published in CNN that describes a one-month sugar detox program.

Brooke Alpert, the co-author of the book “The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight — Look and Feel Great” describes the details of a sugar detox program.

 The first three days of sugar detox

You need to go cold turkey for three days to eliminate any sugar to break the addiction cycle. During this time you may experience anxiety, sugar craving and moodiness.

You must not consume any added sugars during the first 3 days, but also keep away from fruit. Avoid starchy vegetables. This includes corn, sweet potatoes, peas and butternut squash. You also need to avoid dairy, because of the milk sugar in it. In addition avoid grains and alcohol. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats”, says Alpert. You would enjoy a breakfast with 3 eggs any style. Lunch contains 6 oz. of poultry, tofu or fish. Add a green salad. For dinner your helpings are bigger, but it would be similar to lunch, perhaps with added vegetables. Snacks can be 1 oz. of nuts or a few slices of bell peppers with hummus. Your beverages: unsweetened tea, black coffee or water.

Sweeteners are not allowed according to Alpert. Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco agrees. He said that artificial sweeteners cause you to store more fat. Dr. Lustig added: “You also end up overeating later on to compensate for the increased energy storage”.

Day four of sugar detox

On day 4 an apple is reintroduced. It will now taste a lot sweeter, because in the past the natural fruit sugar taste was suppressed by refined sugar. Full fat, unsweetened cheese and yogurt are also part of the diet. Alpert added: “Fat, fiber and protein slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster.” Higher sugar content vegetables like carrots and snow peas and high-fiber crackers are introduced in the second half of the first week. Three glasses of red wine can also be added for those who like it.

Second week of sugar detox 

Add a serving of berries that are full of antioxidants. Also add an extra serving of dairy. More starchy vegetables like winter squash and yams can be added.

Third week of sugar detox

Barley, quinoa and oatmeal can now be added back. Grapes and clementines are now also allowable. Another glass of red wine can be added for those who like wine. One ounce of dark chocolate per day can also be added. “Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.

Week four of sugar detox

You now can have two starches per day, like bread and rice. In addition you can enjoy high-fiber crackers. You can have 5 glasses of red wine per week. You may want to eat a sandwich. Once you have completed 31 days no fruit is off-limits. You can allow yourself the occasional indulgences like an ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party. “Because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one. The whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life,” Alpert said.

Weight loss with sugar detox

There can be a lot of weight loss with a sugar detox; depending on how much sugar the person was consuming before the detox started. Alpert recalled that of 80 subjects who tested the sugar detox people lost between 5 and 20 pounds within 31 days. Many people reported that their belly fat was going and the belts had to be tightened. There were other things participants noted: brighter eyes, fewer dark circles around the eyes, clearer skin, more energy and not as many mood swings.

Many people are not properly educated; they reduce fat intake, but add sugar and start gaining weight. By cutting out sugar and adding healthy fats in their diet, they now feel satisfied. The sugar craving has disappeared.

Side effects of sugar detox

You may feel grumpy and weak. This likely is due to low blood sugar and a piece of fruit will help you overcome this. In other cases it could be due to too little fluid intake and when you drink some water, this feeling will pass. Make sure you have supportive family and friends through the first three-day of sugar detox. “You need people around you to help you be successful,” Dr. Lustig said. “The whole family has to do it together.” Some irritability is expected due to sugar and caffeine withdrawal. This will pass and get better with every day. There are persons who should not go on this program: diabetics, people who take medicine to control blood sugar and extreme athletes. Pregnant women should also not follow a sugar detox program.

Why it is important to limit sugar intake

The American Heart Association (AHA) clearly spelled out what the limits are for added sugars:

For men: a daily dose of 9 teaspoons of sugar from all foods,

For women: a daily dose of 6 teaspoons of sugar from all foods.

When you start reading labels, which I started to do since 2001, you realize that it is very easy to exceed these daily limits. What does this do? It makes your pancreas produce more insulin than is good for you. You start switching your metabolism into the metabolic syndrome, you gain weight, and you get inflammation. This is what the AHA is concerned about. You start developing high blood pressure; get high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and atheromatous plaques in your coronary and brain arteries. Eventually you come down with a heart attack or a stroke.

In the last 100 years sugar consumption per person has skyrocketed.

This has led to a disbalance of our diet and it is because of this that we are facing the obesity wave now. All I am saying is replace sugar with stevia extract, which to my knowledge does not have the undesirable side effects that other sweeteners do and eat a Mediterranean type diet, which we know is balanced.

Watch the maximum recommended sugar intake per day set by the American Heart Association and balance your meals, and you will do a lot better than on the Standard American diet. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be anti-inflammatory.

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Conclusion

We learnt about how a sugar detox can get you off sugar addiction. I also summarized why it is important to keep sugar consumption within limits set by the American Heart Association. Too much sugar can derange our metabolism, which is called metabolic syndrome. This can lead to diabetes. Eating a Mediterranean diet and keeping sugar intake low is the pathway to good health. It also keeps inflammation at bay.

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May
27
2017

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

What your shopping cart reveals is what I studied on several of our trips to the US. As I am retired, my wife and I travel quite a bit in the US and find it interesting to watch what people place into their shopping carts.

Typical shopping cart I have observed

The typical shopping cart in a US grocery store seems to consist of white bread, pizza, bacon, hamburger meat, potato chips, cookies, cornflakes, grapes, celery, peppers, strawberries and apples. In addition many people buy prepared breaded chicken strips, milk and an assortment of fruit yogurts.

I like to comment on each of these items, what I am thinking and what precautions you need to be aware of.

White bread and pizza

The problem with white bread and pizza is the wheat, which nowadays is Clearfield wheat. A chemical company from Germany was able to chemically modify the genes of wheat in the 1960’s and 1970’s; in addition they used radiation of the seeds. The farmers liked that the new wheat (called Clearfield wheat) grew with stronger roots, shorter final stems and much larger grains so the yield per acre was higher. This type of wheat was patented under the name of Clearfield wheat and sold all around the world. What was not publicized at the time was that the gliadin content increased manifold from the composition of wheat strains used for thousands of years before. Gliadin gets rid of the glue like substance between the gut cells and causes leaky gut syndrome, something that I heard mentioned at many lectures at several of the Anti-Aging conferences of A4M in Las Vegas. This leads to exposure of immune cells to foreign proteins from the gut, which causes the immune system to hyper react with autoimmune antibodies. As a result, many persons react to wheat with indigestion and digestive problems. They may believe that they react to gluten. It is true that Clearfield wheat also has a higher gluten contents. But any tests for celiac disease will come up empty.

We don’t want to eat this as bread, burgers or pizza: but all of them are baked with the wheat that has been chemically force-hybridized into Clearfield wheat.

Bacon and hamburger meat

A prospective study of 72,113 women over 18 years found a definitive relationship between dietary patterns and cancer and heart attacks. A prudent diet with a high intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains had a very low cancer and heart attack rate. Conversely a Western diet consisting of high intake of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, French fries, and sweets/desserts led to a higher cardiovascular mortality risk of 22% and a higher cancer mortality risk of 16%.

There is another question you should ask: is it grain-beef or is the beef grass-fed?

Meat from grass-fed beef contains 5-times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to corn- or grain-fed beef. Another issue is corn, if that is fed to beef cattle. There is obviously a deliberate marketing drive claiming that corn-fed beef would have a superior taste.

This link shows that the producers only care about their profit and how much of corn-fed beef they can sell. They do not mention that corn is a GMO crop, so this feed is somehow incorporated into the meat. No one has done long-term experiments to ensure that this meat is safe to eat. Moreover, we do know from measurement that corn-fed meat contains much less omega-3 fatty acids and much more omega-6 fatty acids than grass-fed beef. Cows are meant to be grass-feeding animals. If you want to stay healthy, eat grass-fed beef, but do not consume too much or you put yourself at risk for gout from purine metabolites. Corn-fed and grain-fed beef cattle have a lot more infections including liver disease. To control this, the animals are receiving antibiotics. These antibiotics end up in the meat, which can produce superbugs. These superbgs can enter into humans through the food chain.

Bacon is another food that is not only full of saturated fat, but it contains additives, such as sodium nitrite. Give the matter some thought before you put hamburger meat and bacon into your shopping wagon!

What’s wrong about potato chips, cookies, and cornflakes?

1. Potato chips

Potatoes are rich in carbs, but they are empty carbs. Their glycemic index is in the 70 to 80 ranges. I avoid any carbs that exceed 55 (the upper limit of the low-glycemic index). Strangely enough by the time potatoes are processed into potato chips, the glycemic value is only 51, but this is deceiving. The potatoes have been processed in fat and with tons of salt. We now have a product that surely will be bad for your arteries and cause high blood pressure over the long haul. Another important fact is that potatoes belong to the 12 dirty dozens fruit and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with pesticides (see below).

2. Cookies

Cookies are a mix of various ingredients. Here is a recipe for cookies. This is even a better than average quality cookie recipe as they used unsalted butter as a fat source. In many recipes they use margarine, which is an inferior fat. It contains free radicals from the manufacturing process. It is derived from omega-6 fatty acid vegetable oils. But the worst ingredients of cookies are the nutritionally empty white flour and the sugar. Both together are digested, absorbed as sugar into your blood, and a huge insulin response occurs after you have eaten it. Even the cheap chocolate used for the chips is full of unhealthy table sugar causing your pancreas to overproduce insulin.

3. Cornflakes

As mentioned above corn is a GMO crop and we do not know the long-term effects of GMO food on humans. There are more and more reports about gut dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases as a result of the breakdown of the gut barrier. Pro-GMO advocates deny these possibilities. I play it safe and stick to organic fruit and vegetables. But cornflakes are also high on the glycemic index (between 77 and 93). Usually there is sugar mixed in, and the starchy component consists of empty calories. It is simply not a sensible food choice!

The dirty dozen: grapes, celery, peppers, strawberries and apples

It is known for some time that certain foods are more contaminated with pesticides than others. Some of these fruit and vegetables contain between 13 and 15 different pesticides from spraying, as this link describes. Potatoes are one of the top contaminated crops among the dirty dozen.

Why is it important to know which crop is contaminated with pesticides? Pesticides are immune disruptors. Vegetables that are supposed to be healthy for us contain residues from insecticides and herbicides that have estrogen-like activities called xenoestrogens.They are known to cause breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Breaded chicken strips, milk and fruit yogurt

1. Chicken strips

Chicken are fed arsenic type antibiotics for faster growth.

The only way how to protect yourself from this contamination is by buying organic chicken, which I have done since 2001. Also, don’t buy breaded “anything” This brings us back to the wheat story mentioned under “White bread and pizza” above.

2. Milk

Milk in the US often contains antibiotics and genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which can cause various cancers in humans as this link shows. Recombinant BGH is banned in Europe and in Canada.

3. Yogurt

Most people like fruit yogurt, which is full of sugar and fruit syrup. Plain yogurt, sweetened with a bit of stevia is healthy. But the moment it is adulterated with minimal amounts of fruit, and high amounts of sugar,this “fruit yogurt” leads to weight gain and hardening of arteries. The best yogurt product is organic 1% or 2% plain yogurt. Use fruit of your choice to make a real fruit yoghurt!

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

What Your Shopping Cart Reveals

Conclusion

Life is all about decisions. I like to make healthy food choices for myself. When I go grocery shopping, I notice that many people do not seem to give much thought to what they are purchasing. They likely also have never read the details about the type of facts I mentioned above. The ingredients that people buy at the grocery store are the ingredients of the Standard American Diet, a sad state of affairs indeed.

The key is to avoid wheat products because Clearfield wheat leads to leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. Next avoid processed foods and added sugar. What I have not mentioned above is the importance of cutting down on omega-6 fatty acids and to increase omega-3 fatty acids (fish, fish oil supplements). Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 fatty acids stimulate the arachidonic acid pathway leading to hardening of arteries and arthritis. This leads to stents of the coronary arteries and joint replacements of the hips and knees.

Avoid the dirty dozen of crops and buy them organic instead. Avoid milk products in the US; instead buy them organic to avoid exposure to recombinant bovine growth hormone.

It takes a bit of homework and re-education to eat healthy foods. Start reading labels! If a ten year-old cannot read the name of an additive, it should most likely be a signal for you not to buy this product! The more processed food is, the less nourishing it is likely to be. It is not a huge effort to educate yourself about products, but it does take time to steer away from old habits that are not the best for your health. Ultimately your efforts will pay dividends in terms of good health for years to come!

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Apr
22
2017

Only Moderate Alcohol Consumption Benefits Your Heart

A new study from England finds that only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart. The study was released on March 22, 2017 in Great Britain. 1.937 million people (51% women, 49% men) had participated in this investigation over 6 years. The lead author, Dr. Steven Bell is a genetic epidemiologist. He said that this study was done to clear up some of the confusion from previous studies. He wondered why the control group without alcohol exposure had more cardiac problems than the moderate group. It did make sense though, that the high alcohol group had worse cardiac problems.

But he and researchers from Cambridge University and University College London did this study to get more detail. They wanted to know why the current non-drinking group used as a control was not looked at more carefully. It consisted of a mix of lifelong abstainers; people who drank formerly, but then gave it up. And the other group was those who drink on an occasional basis.

With this in mind the researchers designed their study. They also used also larger numbers to increase the reliability of the study.

Details of English study

The data comes from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink providing anonymous patient records from general practices in England. The patients upon entry into the study had to be older than 30 years, but have no evidence of cardiovascular disease. A total of 1,937,360 patients qualified to be part of the study.

Based on patients’ records and patients recollections people, researchers looked at 5 classes of drinkers:

  • Non-drinkers (14.3%)
  • Former or ex-drinkers (stopped drinking at one point, 3.7%)
  • Occasional drinkers (drinking rarely, 11.9%)
  • Moderate drinkers (drinking within sensible limits, 61.7%)
  • Heavy drinkers (hazardous alcohol use, 8.4%)

The end point of the study researchers concentrated on the frequency of cardiovascular diseases like angina, heart attack, sudden cardiac death, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and others. I only listed 6 of the 12 cardiovascular diagnoses as otherwise it would get too technical.

More information: Most study participants were non-smokers, their BMI was within normal limits, and they also did not have diabetes.

Findings of the study

There were significant differences among subclasses of alcohol consumption and the development of cardiovascular diseases over 6 years.

  1. The findings were in line with a number of previous similar studies that showed a U-type dose response curve between developing cardiovascular diseases and alcohol consumption. The group of non-drinkers (where former and occasional drinkers were removed) often had a 20% to 56% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, while moderate drinkers had no added risk.
  2. On the other hand the heavy drinkers were at risk of developing cardiac arrest (50% increased risk) or heart failure (22% increased risk). A death from a sudden heart attack occurred in heavy drinkers with a risk of 21% increased risk. A former drinker had a 40% increased risk for this, but a non-drinker a risk of 56% increased risk!
  3. A non-drinker had a 32% increased risk of getting a regular heart attack, a former drinker had a 31% increased risk, an occasional drinker 14%, a moderate drinker no added risk, and a heavy drinker had a 12% reduced risk! This seemed to show that drinking alcohol keeps the coronary arteries open and clean. I have had pathology demonstrations with Professor Dr. Adalbert Bohle at Tübingen University during my medical training in 1969. At that time he pointed out how clear and wide open the coronary arteries were in chronic alcoholics. It was not heart disease that killed those patients; they had died from end stage liver cirrhosis, and we saw pathological slides of that.
  4. Heavy drinkers get more ischemic strokes (33% increased risk) and more intracerebral hemorrhages (37% increased risk).
  5. Obstruction of blood vessels in the lower legs (peripheral arterial disease) is common with heavy drinkers (35% increased risk) and even former drinkers (32% increased risk). Non-drinkers have a 22% increased risk while moderate drinkers have a 0% risk (no increased risk).
  6. There was no association between heavy drinking and aortic aneurysm. On the other hand, non-drinkers (32% increased risk) and former drinkers (23% increased risk) showed an increased risk of aortic aneurysm formation.

Other effects of alcohol consumption

The study above did not take into consideration that alcohol consumption has many other consequences beside cardiovascular effects. One for instance is the effect on the brain and the increase of serious car accidents. Another effect is the causation of cancer.

The American Cancer Society clearly states that alcohol consumption has been causatively associated with the following cancers.

  • Cancer of the mouth
  • Cancer of the pharynx (throat)
  • Cancer of the larynx (voice box)
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Cancer of the liver
  • Cancer of the breast
  • Cancer of the colon
  • Alcohol also plays a role with cancer of the pancreas

Many studies have shown a dose-response curve between alcohol consumed and the development of these cancers. In other words there is never a safe low dose, below which no cancer would be caused over time.

These authors conducted a metaanalysis of 16 prospective cohort studies including 6,300 patients. It showed that alcohol caused cancer of the colon and rectum. High intake of alcohol showed a 50% increased risk of causing colon cancer. With regard to rectal cancer the risk was 63% higher. In both cases the highest alcohol intake was compared to the lowest category of alcohol intake.

These authors concluded their discussion by pointing out that 6% of the worldwide cancer deaths are attributed to alcohol intake. They also stated that colorectal cancer risk increased by 50% in the heaviest alcohol users. Among the group of heavy drinkers the cancer death rate would likely be 9%. There would a reduction of mortality from cardiovascular disease by one third in middle and old age. The end result would be 6% mortality again; essentially there is no change.

No matter how you try to solve this equation, there is a risk of cancer deaths from exposure to alcohol. There is also a risk that heavy drinking can cause significant cardiovascular diseases mentioned.

Only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart

Only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart

Conclusion

Everything we do in life has consequences. With regard to drinking you know that accidents are more common in drinkers; with prolonged exposure to higher alcohol consumption you can get dementia. Moderate amounts appear to have significant protection from heart disease, but the risk for several cancers is not negligible. This point was not mentioned in the study I discussed in the beginning of my blog. In the latter part I included some data about cancer risks from alcohol consumption.

The paradox remains that non-consumption of alcohol is associated with a significant cardiovascular risk because of a U-shape dose response curve. Moderate alcohol use is associated with the lowest cardiovascular risk. The question is whether we can balance moderate drinking with staying in the low cancer risk area. The recommendation of 1 glass of wine for women and 2 glasses of wine for men has been confirmed by the above study. This is considered a healthy preventative dose with respect to cardiovascular risk. It is the official recommendation for cardiovascular disease prevention. The cancer literature clearly states that there is a small cancer risk from moderate alcohol intake. This is particularly true for the 8 cancers discussed.

Dr James Nicholls, the director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK had this to say. He pointed to the fact that there are other ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. For those who do not drink at present it would not make sense to take up drinking. You can strengthen your heart by starting a Mediterranean diet and starting to exercise regularly. The beneficial substance for your heart in red wine is known as resveratrol that can be taken as a supplement. Resveratrol has no side effects and does not have the cancer risk of an alcoholic drink. Dr. Nicholls added, “If you drink within the existing guidelines it is unlikely that alcohol will either lengthen or shorten your life.” It is really up to every individual to balance the wine glass with personal health!

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Sep
17
2016

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Forbes invited me to publish a blog I wrote for Quora, “Seven steps to live over 100 years”.

The topic of habits by people who live more than a hundred years has been reviewed many times in the media. It continues to be popular. Here are seven things you can do to stay healthy followed by an explanation why.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step1: Stay active

You want to stay active every day, even if you retire. You want to move and keep your mind busy. Part of that is to do a daily formal exercise routine to keep those muscles toned, which will prevent falls in the future.

Explanation: when you keep your muscles toned and you move about, your balance organ and coordination remains sharp, you are less likely to fall and break a hip. 50% of those who sustain a hip fracture die.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 2: Eat a healthy diet

Eat a Mediterranean type diet or follow the Okinawan diet. These diets contain less meat (or no meat as in the Seventh Day Adventist diet), but lots of vegetables and fiber. This keeps your cholesterol down, your arteries open and your metabolism controlled, preventing diabetes. If you are not obese and you have no diabetes, you are going to be OK with your cardiovascular system for decades to come.

Explanation: Heart attacks are still on top of the mortality list. Avoid them and you got it made, if you want to make it to 100 and beyond. But we need to stay away from the poor fats and the obsession about eating beef. Red meat, if eaten too often gives you a higher risk of getting cancer and heart disease. So eat it only once a week at the most, the rest would be chicken, turkey meat or fish. Nothing wrong with a vegetarian meal, let’s say kidney beans or lentils on a day in between. This still gives you protein for your muscles, but spares you a heart attack.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 3: Take care of your teeth

Brush your teeth and floss every day. This will control the bacteria in your mouth and prevent leakage into your blood affecting your heart valves. Studies have shown that this prevents heart attacks.

Explanation: When I heard this first about 20 years ago, I found it strange. But the literature is clear: chronic gingivitis is associated with bacteria that grow on the gums and spread into your blood. They can then colonize your heart valves and even the lining of the arteries, particularly where there is already hardening of the arteries (arterial plaque). This can lead to heart valve disease like mitral valve disease or heart attacks.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 4: prevention of disease

See your physician right away if there is a new skin lesion or anything that is different on your body. Removal of early cancer and treatment of any early medical condition is always easier to treat than waiting until it is out of control. Particularly with cancer treatment at an early stage, which usually involves only a small surgical procedure, this will reward you with a ripe old age.

Explanation: I learnt this point in general practice. Patients who waited until small problems become big problems were always much worse off than patients who saw me for small problems that we could remedy at an early stage. As mentioned above this is particularly important in cancer cases, as usually stage 1 and 2 of a cancer is curable with surgery. Once you get lymph node metastases and distant metastases, the cancer is much more difficult to treat, if at all. This is a principle that is pretty much true for any disease. The prevention factor is huge. Make use of it!

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 5: Lifestyle matters

Watch excesses like smoking (cut it out!), alcohol intake, and recreational drugs. Smoking causes heart attacks, strokes, and cancers, which shorten your life. Recreational drugs just interfere with your body chemistry and have side effects. Cut them out, if you cherish growing older than 100. Alcohol needs to be kept at a very low consumption, if you want to preserve your liver, which is your central metabolic organ. If you can’t handle moderation with alcohol consumption, cut it out. No one has died from not consuming alcohol.

Explanation: I have already explained why lifestyle choices matter. The alcohol question is one that will be discussed back and forth for centuries. There are cardiologists who tell you that men should drink 1 to 2 drinks per day and women 1 drink per day and we all live longer, because of prevention of heart disease. The wine industry makes sure that you will hear this cardiology rule. It is true that centenarians often drink one glass of red wine per day. But there are plenty of centenarians who never drank in their life. It is a matter of personal choice.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 6: Avoid obesity and diabetes

I did mention to avoid obesity under point 2 above, which is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Your ideal body mass index should be in the 21 to 22 range. You can achieve this by following the diets I mentioned above. You should cut out sugar and starchy foods.

Explanation: I have followed such a diet since 2001 and my body mass index is between 21 and 22. I grew up in Germany where an emphasis was put on sweets and starchy foods. Needless to say my modified Mediterranean diet deviates from the good old German diet significantly. I find healthy food very tasty.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 7: Sleep and hormones

Getting sleep regularly, having an optimistic outlook on life, and having good relationships help to keep the immune system strong and keep your hormones balanced. This in turn will keep you healthy emotionally and physically.

Explanation:

There are two comments I like to make. One is that when you have calm nerves, and your emotions are balanced, your stress hormones are controlled. We know that people who are laid back and easy going live longer. The type A personality is the one who gets a heart attack.

The other point is that hormones have running times. When they start missing, we get menopause or andropause. When we are in our 50’s it is time to have your hormones checked by a knowledgeable health practitioner (naturopath, anti-aging physician). At this point regular physicians are mostly uneducated about bioidentical hormone replacement. I mention this as in European studies it has been shown that replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones resulted in more youthful lives. Life expectancy can be prolonged by 15 years using bioidentical hormones according to Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist in Belgium. http://www.askdrray.com/life-extended-by-several-decades/

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Conclusion

People have always been fascinated about the factors that lead to a healthy age above 100 years. I am suggesting that you concentrate on enjoying your life and keeping toxins out. Engage in some form of exercise or stay active all the time. Adopt a healthy diet. This is where perhaps most people go wrong. They think they can go on pouring junk foods and alcohol down their throats and never get heart disease or cancer. The truth is not quite like that. We do need to adopt a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet. We also need to limit drinking to a healthy level. Replacing missing hormones with bioidentical ones will prolong your life as well. Given these recommendations, happy journey to 100 and beyond!

Sep
03
2016

Hidden Cause Of Depression

About 15.7 million Americans suffer from depression every year, but there remains a hidden cause of depression.

Not everybody responds well to antidepressant medicine. Only 30 to 50% of depressed people respond to antidepressants. There are two blood tests many physicians do not know and therefore fail to order: homocysteine blood levels and 5-methylfolate levels (5-MTHF).

Homocysteine as a hidden cause of depression

In 2004 a research group studied 924 middle-aged men. They noted that those men who fell into the highest third of homocysteine levels had a two-fold higher risk of being depressed than those who fell into the lower third of homocysteine levels. Other studies showed that SAMe, a nutrient that is required to build up mood enhancing neurotransmitters was sadly lacking in depressed people. In addition, folate levels were also found to be low in depressed people.

Having found this association between lack of nutrients and depression offered new opportunities to treat depression. Two studies examined the effect of taking 5-methylfolate on the effect of antidepressants. The result was astounding: in one study 7% of patients taking an antidepressant experienced improvement of their depression when assessed with a standard depression score. However, the same group improved their depression by 19% when 5-methylfolate was given in addition to the antidepressant.

Patients with the most severe depression on antidepressants had a 16% improvement of their depression. Adding 5-methylfolate to the antidepressant caused a 40% overall improvement in these severely depressed people, 24% more than without this simple vitamin supplement.

There is other evidence that patients with depression recover faster in the presence of 5-methylfolate. Moderately depressed patients recovered within 231 days on antidepressants alone, but in only 177 days when 5-methylfolate was present as well. The most severely depressed patients recovered within 150 days with antidepressants alone, but recovered within only 85 days on 5-methylfolate and the antidepressant.

Hidden cause of depression and Alzheimer’s disease

The story is getting more involved. Depression is related to proper balance of neurotransmitters that can be influenced by antidepressants and 5-methylfolate. But new research showed that Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) patients with cognitive decline have elevated homocysteine blood levels. A study in the New England Journal of medicine in 2002 found that after 8 years of observation more than 75% of them were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. When blood homocysteine levels exceeded 14 micromole per liter the risk of Alzheimer’s had doubled compared to those with normal homocysteine levels. The researchers concluded that homocysteine is an important risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s diseases and dementia, although it is not the only one.

Methylation pathway defects as a hidden cause of depression

40% of the population is defective in one or more genes that control the so-called methylation pathway in each of our cells (Ref. 1). This can slow down the metabolism of brain cells including the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters. At the same time it can cause the rising of homocysteine, which is then a useful marker for methylation defects. Another marker is the 5-methyl folate level, which, when low, indicates a deficiency in methyl donors including 5-methylfolate (5-MTHF).

Mental illness is an area where epigenetic factors play an important role. Depression that responds only partially or not at all to SSRI’s (antidepressants) often responds to L-methylfolate, a simple supplement from the health food store as a supplement. Similar epigenetic approaches can be used to treat psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other illnesses due to methylation defects

Dr. Rozakis mentioned that 92% of migraine sufferers have a defective methylation pathway involving histamine overproduction and they can be helped with a histamine-restricted diet (Ref.2).

Autism, ADHD (hyperactivity) and learning disabilities are other diseases where methylation pathway defects are present. Every patient with autism should be checked for methylation pathway defects, and appropriate supplements and diet restrictions can help in normalizing the child’s metabolic defects. DAN physicians (“defeat autism now”) are well versed in this and should be consulted.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) defects are another type of methylation defect, which is associated with certain liver, colon and gastric cancers.

Dr. Rozakis went on to say that methylation defects lead to disbalances between T and B cells of the immune system and are important in autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Methylation defects can also cause autoimmune thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes. They can also cause cardiac disease by raising homocysteine levels, which causes dysfunction of the lining of arteries and premature heart attacks.

Epigenetic factors through global methylation defects from vitamin B2, B6 and B12 deficiency can cause many different cancers. Hypomethylation is the most common DNA defect of cancer cells.

With skin diseases it has come to light that atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, scleroderma and vitiligo are related to methylation.

When we age, certain hormones are gradually missing, which leads to menopause and andropause. This leads to impaired cell function, elevated cholesterol, arthritis, constipation, depression, low sex drive, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and fatigue. Replace the missing hormones with bioidentical ones, and symptoms will normalize.

Tests and treatment for hidden cause of depression

It is important for a physician to test patients for homocysteine levels once per year. As we age, we tend to lose some of the methylation pathway enzymes, which can result in an increase of homocysteine in the blood. A normal homocysteine level is less than 7 to 8 micromoles per liter. This is lower than the commonly recommended 15 micromoles per liter.

If the homocysteine level is too high, the treatment consists of methionine containing foods like dairy products and meat. Methionine, an essential amino acid, functions as a donor of methyl groups, which will normalize the methylation pathway defect and allow the homocysteine level in the blood to decrease. Research studies have been using 1000 to 5000 micrograms of 5-methyl folate daily to reduce homocysteine. Other B vitamins are necessary to reduce homocysteine, like vitamin B2, B6 and B12 in addition to 5-MTHF.

Hidden Cause Of Depression

Hidden Cause Of Depression

Conclusion

Depression and several other illnesses that are related to methylation pathway defects can be caused by a lack of 5-MTHF resulting in high homocysteine blood levels. It is important for elderly patients to be checked for homocysteine blood levels once per year to prevent depression, Alzheimer’s disease, migraines and a number of other illnesses mentioned above.

Once a methylation pathway defect has been identified, it is relatively easy to treat the patient with a proper methionine rich diet and 5-MTHF supplements as well as other B vitamins as discussed. It can prevent a lot of disability and human suffering.

References

Ref.1: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Ref. 2: http://www.askdrray.com/life-expectancy-is-influenced-by-lifestyle/

Mar
19
2016

Book Review: “Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right”, By Ray Schilling, MD

This book entitled “Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right” (Amazon, March 18, 2016) is dealing with the practice of medicine then and now. Medical errors, false diagnoses and wrong treatments are nothing new in the history of medicine. It happened in the past, and it is happening now. My first book dealt with anti-aging and was entitled “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging” (Amazon 2014).

Book overview

Chapter 1 describes that famous people like President Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Churchill, Beethoven or more recently Michael Jackson have something in common: all of them suffered the consequences of blatant medical mistakes. In Beethoven’s time lead containing salves to plug the drainage holes from removing fluid from his abdomen caused lead poisoning. In this chapter I review also how the illnesses of the above-mentioned celebrities were treated, but then ask the question: “What could have been done better to prevent some of the disastrous treatment outcomes?”

Chapter 2 deals with how modern drugs seem to come and go. We learn that twenty-first century medications that are touted as the latest therapeutic agents are having their potentially deadly consequences too: COX-2 inhibitors, the second generation of “improved” arthritis drugs cause strokes and heart attacks! Your doctor may still prescribe some of these dangerous drugs for arthritis now.

Chapter 3 deals with the fact that medical treatments for people’s diseases may be inappropriate when the doctor treats only symptoms, but nothing is done about the causes of their illnesses. This is a scary thought.

Chapter 4 asks the question whether we could learn something from these poor health outcomes in the past, so that we will be able to prevent any disastrous outcomes pertaining to our own health care in the present and future. As we will see, the problem today is still the same as it was in the past, namely that many physicians still like to treat symptoms instead of the underlying cause of an illness. Even though Big Pharma has the seducing concept of a pill for every ill, it is not always in your best interest, when these medications have a slew of side effects. “Gastric reflux” means a mouthful of stomach acid. This is a fact the suffering patient knows already! Big Pharma simply offers the patient with the symptom of gastric reflux a multitude of medications to suppress this symptom. But it is more important to dig deeper to find the reason for the illness and treat the underlying cause.

Chapter 5 concentrates on the brain and how we can keep our brains functioning optimally until a ripe old age. This review spans from prevention of head concussions to avoiding type 3 diabetes (insulin sensitivity from overconsumption of sugar). It manifests itself in Alzheimer’s disease. It is a form of diabetes of the brain that leads to deposits of a gooey substance. Prevention of this condition is also reviewed .

Chapter 6 reviews what we now know about how to keep a healthy heart. Certain ingredients are necessary such as regular exercise, a healthy Mediterranean diet, supplements etc. The good part is that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. You are preventing two problems (brain and heart disease) at the same time.

Chapter 7 delves into the question why healthy food intake matters. Without the right ingredients of our body fuel, the body machinery will not work properly. The Mediterranean diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that is particularly useful.

Chapter 8 talks about healthy limbs, bones and joints. We are meant to stay active in our eighties and nineties and beyond. No osteoporosis, no joint replacements, no balance problems that result in falls! Learn about how to deal with problems like these in this chapter.

Chapter 9 deals with detoxification. What do we do as we are confronted with pollution, with radiation in the environment and poisons in our daily food? A combination of organic foods, intravenous chelation treatments and taking supplements can help us in that regard.

Chapter 10 deals with reducing the impact of cancer in our lives. A lot of facts have come out in the past 10 years telling us that reduction of sugar and starchy food intake reduces cancer. Curcumin, resveratrol and vitamin D3 supplements also reduce cancer rates as does exercise and stress management. All of this is reviewed here.

Chapter 11 checks out your hormone status. Women need to avoid estrogen dominance; both sexes need to replace the hormones that are missing. By paying attention to your hormonal status and replacing the missing natural hormones with bioidentical ones, most people can add 10 to 15 years of useful, active life!

Chapter 12 is refining some of the thoughts about anti-aging. You will learn about the importance to keep your mitochondrial DNA healthy. Apart from that there are ways how to keep your telomeres longer; certain supplements that are reviewed will help. Also your lifestyle does make a big difference in how old you can turn.

Chapter 13 investigates the limits of supplements. Many supplements are useful, but you do not want to overdo it and get into toxic levels. More is not necessarily better!

Chapter 14 reviews an alternative approach to treating ADHD. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder has been over diagnosed, has been neglected and has been over treated with dangerous drugs. An alternative treatment plan is discussed, which includes a combination of therapeutic steps.

Chapter 15 gives you a brief summary of the book.

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Reviews reviewed the book on March 17, 2016: “A retired physician details how various preventative measures can fend off disease and disability in this consumer health guide. Schilling (A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging, 2014) had a family medicine practice in Canada for many years before retiring. Although Schilling ventures into some controversial territory in his latest book, it’s generally an engaging, helpful synthesis of ideas that draws on reputable research from the Mayo Clinic and other sources. Overall, it serves as an intensely detailed wake-up call to the importance of preventative health. He largely brings an accessible and even-tempered tone to his narrative, warning readers, for example, that preventative health measures can only aid in “a delay of aging, not ‘eternal living.’ ” A thought-provoking, impassioned plea to be proactive about one’s health.”

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Conclusion

In this book it becomes evident that it is better to prevent an illness whenever possible rather than to wait for illness to set in and cause disabilities or death. You heard this before: “Prevention is better than a cure” or “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. I will give an explanation, based on scientific data that there is indeed evidence to support these notions on a cellular level. The mitochondria, the energy packages within our cells, are the driving force that keep people vibrantly healthy well into their nineties. All this can only happen when the mitochondria function properly. If the mitochondria are poisoned and as a result of toxins malfunction, we are not looking at a person with vibrant health. Instead sixty or seventy year-olds may be confined to a wheelchair. If you want a life without disabilities, a life without major illnesses and enjoy good health to a ripe old age, you are reading the right book.

The book is written in American English.

Available in the US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1523700904

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Healing-Gone-Wrong-Done-Right/dp/1523700904/  

In other countries the book is available through the local Amazon websites.

Jan
23
2016

Life Extended By Several Decades

Have you ever thought about the possibility to prolong your “Freshness Date”? At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about “How to extend the human lifespan by 40 years”. Dr. Hertoghe explained that it is possible to extend life by paying attention to the factors that prolong life and combining them as an anti-aging type lifestyle. He made a distinction between

  1. normal aging: up to age 82
  2. healthy aging: up to age 100
  3. anti-aging medicine: up to age 122
  4. reversing aging medicine: much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more.

Normal aging (up to age 82)

When you live without any interventions your life expectancy on average is about 82 years. From the age of 50 to 60 onwards you may encounter problems with increased cholesterol, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks and strokes. Coronary artery by-pass surgery may extend an individual’s life by 10 to 15 years. But hardening of the arteries in the general circulation will eventually cut down the blood supply to vital organs leading to premature death that could have been avoided.

Around the mid 60’s to mid 70’s 12.4% of African Americans or 2.9% Caucasians get Alzheimer’s disease. These figures worsen rapidly with further aging: in their mid 70’s to mid 80’s 32.5 % of African Americans and 9.8% of Caucasians suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 85+ years 54% of African Americans and 27% of Caucasians have Alzheimer’s disease. Particularly with normal aging Alzheimer’s has already increased, and this trend is likely going to continue.

Memory loss also leads to a shortened survival curve; people with memory loss live two years less on average than compared to a group with no memory loss.

Add to this loss of life because of depression, which is common in older age. Compared to a non-depressed group of older people the depressed group lived 30% shorter over a period of two years.

Musculoskeletal pain is reported in younger age (18-44) to be 38%; the next demographic group aged 45-64 reported 61% of musculoskeletal pains; seniors between 65 and 74 had 68% of musculoskeletal pain, and in the demographic group of 75 and up 71% of persons suffered of musculoskeletal pain. As we will learn later there may be hormone deficiencies behind these neck and back pains that, if left alone. lead to falls, fractured hips and premature loss of life. Those who survive accidents will often become wheel chair bound and get admitted to nursing homes.

One specific subgroup of patients with musculoskeletal pain are rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. After 10 years of having rheumatoid arthritis patients will have a survival of only about 50%; if more than 30 joints are involved (more severe form of the disease) only about 40% will survive. In other words, rheumatoid arthritis is an important factor for lowering people’s life expectancy.

At an age of 65 to 74 men have 23% of disabilities, while woman have 27.5% disabilities. This increases between the ages of 75 or older to 40% for men and 44.5% for women. At the age of 65 disabled men have a 3.5% higher death rate than the average population; disabled women’s death rate is 2.5% higher than the normal population. In other words, disability kills.

Urinary urgency and incontinence leads to a 3.13-fold higher mortality rate than a control group of men who do not have these symptoms.

65% of men and 85% of women above the age of 50 have abdominal obesity. This is not just a harmless condition. It is associated with increased triglyceride levels and increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

By the age of 65-74 heart disease has a frequency of 32% in men and 23% in women. At the age of 75 years and older this jumps to 44% in men and 32% in women. Once heart disease is established, it causes a lot of premature deaths: on average persons with heart disease live 10 years shorter than those who do not have heart disease!

Healthy aging (up to age 100)

If we look at normal aging, we realize that all these diseases and disabilities we discussed are eventually killing us. In order to live longer we have to take steps that are known to interfere with some of these factors. For instance, quitting smoking will prevent heart disease, several cancers and chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema). Positive thinking, social support and transcendental meditation will increase survival by preventing mental illness and depression, which in turn will prevent suicides. A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the Pegan diet will avoid cardiovascular disease and cut down cancer rates. One dietary change called the “polymeal” would contain fish, fruit, vegetables, garlic, almonds, a moderate amount of wine and dark chocolate. Compared to the Standard American diet this type of diet would add 9 years for men and 8.1 years for women regarding their life expectancy. For instance, prostate cancer showed a 7-fold increase in a group of men who ate a lot of pickled vegetables, fermented soy products, salted fish and preserved meats, when compared to a control group who did not include these foods. In a group of women who had their meat well done and ate three servings of beef per week, breast cancer risk was 4.62-fold higher that the risk of women who had their meat done rare or medium rare.

Overall cancer and cardiovascular mortality dropped by 35% in a study where 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables were eaten per day.

A regular exercise program will strengthen the heart and lungs, keep your weight stable, reduce heart attacks and strokes and reduce the probability to develop cancer. A group of men between 61 and 81 were observed over 12 years and divided into those who did not exercise versus those who walked more than 2 miles per day. The exercising men had 19% less mortality compared to the sessile men. Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables or from taking supplements reduces global mortality from all causes by 46% compared to controls that did not. Similarly taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) daily reduced all cause mortality by 20%.

Dr. Hertoghe calls this “healthy aging” and this would allow you to be able to reach an age of about 100 years.

Anti-aging medicine (up to age 122)

Dr. Hertoghe told the audience that further attention to anti-aging factors could reduce mortality even further. In particular, he found over the years that paying attention to correcting hormonal weaknesses would have profound effects on how old a person becomes. Thyroid hormone replacement has been one of the steps that have helped people to experience more energy and less musculoskeletal problems (less muscle pain, less falls, less fractures and complications). This translates into more energy and longer lives.

One slide showed that a low free T3 level (low thyroid) was associated with a 3.6-fold higher death rate. A low free T3 level predicts of cumulative death rate in cardiac patients most accurately.

T3 is also important for the maintenance of the immune system, which shows in patients with tuberculosis: the one-year mortality rate in thyroid deficient patients with low T3 levels was 75%, while patients with a normal thyroid had a mortality from tuberculosis of only 7%.

Secondly, replacing missing sex hormones can add more life because cardiovascular disease is postponed (less heart attacks, less strokes), there is less cancer and better cancer survival, if a person comes down with cancer. Many statistics were quoted.

One interesting slide showed the longitudinal survival follow-up of congenital dwarfs in comparison with their normal brothers or sisters. Untreated male dwarfs turned only 56 years on average, while their unaffected normal brothers turned 75 years on average (19 years longer). With female dwarfs the difference is even more striking: untreated females dwarfs turned 46 years on average, while their normal sisters turned 80 years on average (a difference of 34 years).

Another publication showed that the heart attack risk was 3.8-fold higher in a group of patients with hypopituitarism (under function of the pituitary gland), but the treatment group (treated with GH) had a normal rate of heart attacks.

11606 men aged 40 to 79 years were followed for between 6 and 10 years. The group who had the top 25% range of testosterone had a 19% lower mortality rated from heart attacks or cancer.

Older women, particularly aged 100 in Okinawa had 2.3-fold higher testosterone levels than women in the US at age 70. On the other hand 70-year old Okinawan women had 2.7-fold higher estrogen levels than US women.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) prior to developing breast cancer showed a 27% longer survival among 984 breast cancer patients in Sweden compared to those without prior hormone treatment.

In another group of breast cancer patients (2755 patients) aged 35 to 74 who were treated with bioidentical hormone replacement after their breast cancer diagnosis, 50% had a lower recurrence rate (compared to no-BHRT treatment) and there was a reduction of 66% of mortality from breast cancer compared to controls without BHRT treatment. Another study showed that breast cancer patients would have a mortality rate of 33.3% without hormone treatment, 12.5% mortality rate after non-estrogen hormone use and 6% after estrogen/progesterone use.

This shows the healing results of the various natural hormones.

A group of 280 men and women around the age of 50 were treated with anti-aging hormone replacement for 2 or more years. In the beginning there were 34% of women and 15% of men with coronary artery disease. There were also 36.4% of women and 34.1% of men with high blood pressure. After replacing all of the missing hormones with bioidentical hormones for more than 2 years, coronary artery disease had dropped to 1.6% of the women and 1.08% of the men; high blood pressure had dropped to 2% of the women and 3% of the men. No drugs, just hormones! Of course, initially there were drugs used to stabilize their condition, but they could gradually be dropped safely, because the underlying hormone deficiency, which was the cause of cardiovascular disease, had been treated (treating the cause rather than the symptoms).

Dr. Hertoghe presented data of 6.38-year follow-up of 286 consecutive patients using anti-aging medicine (replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones). These patients had an overall cancer rate of 2.1%, which compared very favorably to the 3.2% cancer rate among US women, 3.1% French women and 3.1% Belgium women on no hormones. This is the type of information that is needed following the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that scared women into the false belief that hormones would be “poisonous”. In the WHI synthetic hormones were used causing cancer and heart attacks; the reason for this was that synthetic hormones are not the identical shape as the natural hormones. But hormones and hormone receptors have to fit like a key into a lock; otherwise they are not effective or even block the natural life prolonging action of the natural hormone. This is why in the WHI study the outcomes were poor. Using bioidentical hormones heart attacks and strokes are prevented and they are also cancer-protective.

Reversing aging medicine (much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more)

General medicine has the goal to make patients as healthy as possible. With reversing aging medicine the goal is to make patients as young as possible so that they are at their healthiest and feel younger again.

With anti-aging medicine using a healthy diet, exercise and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy the patients can add 15 years of good life. Add to these organ transplants, if necessary, telomerase activators and stem cell therapy and you can add another 25 years of life expectancy to a total of 40 years.

Growth hormone deficiency is the one factor that has been underestimated. We have seen in the discussion of dwarfs in comparison to their healthy brothers and sisters that normal growth hormone production can add between 19 and 34 years (average 26.5 years) of life. Dr. Hertoghe has done blood tests (IGF-1) and lately also 24-hour urine metabolite tests of growth hormone on aging patients and found that many are deficient with regard to GH production. These were patients who already had their thyroid hormones replaced, if abnormal and had their sex hormones replaced when they were found to be low. But they lost hair, developed old looking faces with wrinkles, loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue giving the face a hollow appearance. They also had muscle and joint pains and thin skin, particularly over the back of their hands. He replaced their missing GH using daily GH self-injection with a tiny needle (similar to diabetes injections) and within 1.5 to 3 years the wrinkles disappeared, the faces started to look younger and patients did feel younger. Their muscle and joint pains had disappeared and their hair grew back. The dosage range is between 0.1mg and 0.3mg, a tiny amount of GH daily. This is not inexpensive, but some health care plans pay for this, as a lack of GH is a true hormone deficiency.

Often it is a single limiting organ that determines when we die, typically the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, small bowel, pancreas or bone marrow. Organ transplants can add years of life, but it can be cumbersome to find a suitable donor. Another limitation is, as one study showed, that only 40% to 60% of organ transplants are surviving 8 years after doing the transplant surgery.

Stem cell therapies are other ways to prolong life. More research is needed to perfect this, but essentially 220 different cell types could be derived from stem cells in the future to replace malfunctioning organs.

Life Extended By Several Decades

Life Extended By Several Decades

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer can be a reality today, if you are willing to discipline yourself to watch what you are eating (Mediterranean type diet), exercise regularly and have a positive psychological attitude. If the outdoor air is poor where you live, you may want to consider moving to a place with good air quality. Sleep well for 7 ½ hours every night and retire not later than 10 to 11PM. You need to be asleep between midnight and 3AM as the growth hormone peak occurs at that time. Take supplements that contain longevity micronutrients (magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Co-Q-10, selenium, zinc, iron in premenopausal women etc.). Replace all missing hormones with bioidentical ones, like thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), sex hormones, DHEA and GH. Stem cell therapy and telomerase activators for cell rejuvenation will also have more of a place in the future.

Even, if you do only part of this reversing aging program you will slow down aging.

Dec
19
2015

Beer Belly Bad News

You heard the expression “beer belly”. It is an unflattering term for increased abdominal girth, especially in males. It is quite often that this picture is found in middle-aged men who consume more beer than what is good for them, but they may also mill around the hot dog stands at the ball game instead of being physically active. Any leftover calories are stored as belly fat, which protrudes their stomach as if they were pregnant.

There is a big difference between belly fat and body fat. Belly fat is metabolically much more active. Body fat is more sessile. So, it is the belly fat we need to do something about as this has been shown to be associated with heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Originally it was thought that excessive weight would best be measured with the body mass index (BMI). But subsequently it was shown that athletes with well-developed muscles could have BMI’s that were in the overweight (between 25.0 and 30.0) or even obese category (more than 30.0). Also, some people with heavy bones can have excessive BMI values despite them being normal based on other measurements. The new measurement is the old fashioned abdominal girth to hip ratio.

You measure the abdominal girth, the hip girth and divide the abdominal girth by the hip girth. Normally this should be 80% (=0.8) or less for women and 90% (=0.9) or less for men. But a person with a beer belly will have ratios of 1.2 or 1.5. This is where it shows that there is a problem. If you take blood tests of that person you would also find elevated triglycerides, lowered HDL cholesterol (the protective cholesterol) and elevated LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). But it does not stop there. We know from studies that often the insulin level is elevated in the sense of hyperinsulinism. In fact that person has often the metabolic syndrome, which is a characteristic change of the metabolism in an obese person. The blood is thicker with clotting factors floating around, there are inflammatory kinins that circulate and these factors work together on causing hardening of the arteries.

Why is a beer belly dangerous?

There are not only cardiovascular risk on the long-term causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. There is a danger of fat deposits in the liver, called fatty liver disease.

In time this can turn into liver cirrhosis and in some cases develop into liver cancer. Because belly fat causes inflammation in the system including in the lining of the blood vessels, this can in time also affect the immune system, weakening it and eventually allowing cancer to develop. Common cancers that are associated with obesity are breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and pancreas and colon cancer in both sexes.

In men beer bellies produce a lot of estrogen, the female hormone. This is so because fat tissue contains the enzyme aromatase that metabolizes male hormones into estrogen. Estrogen in men is only good in traces, but when it is massively produced it will counter testosterone production and will cause heart attacks and strokes.

What can be done about a beer belly?

We need to understand how beer bellies develop. One of the sources of fat from beer bellies is the consumption of foods that contain a lot of fructose. Food manufacturers have been diligent in mixing high fructose corn syrup into sugary drinks and into a myriad of processed foods.

Sugar itself can only be processed and stored until the glycogen stores in the liver and the muscles are filled. The liver metabolizes a surplus of sugar into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. This is also the case for any fructose that comes from metabolized sucrose (table sugar) and from the high fructose corn syrup popular with the food processing industry. One problem is that fructose can only be processed by the liver, while glucose gests directly taken up by cells with the help of insulin.

The surplus of fructose is mostly used to metabolize into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol before it is stored as fat in fat cells. Unfortunately a lot of the fat will end up between your guts, in the liver as fatty liver and in the beer belly, a metabolically more active form of fat.

The sad part is that in the 1960’s I have seen the German economic wonder (“Wirtschaftswunder”) where many mid fifty to mid sixty business men died as a result of obesity and subsequent heart attacks and strokes. At that time it was thought that Germans having been starved during World War II lived it up in the late fifties and 1960’s to the point where they ate what they could get hold of: cakes, fatty cheeses, whipped cream, fatty foods like pork roasts and beef. They also consumed loads of bread, buns, pasta and sugar. Margarine also became popular with its hydrogenated fatty acids that also contained free radicals. The end result was that they gained weight, did not exercise and developed their beer bellies.

Since the 1980’s when low fat/high carbs became popular to replace saturated fatty acids that were supposed to be responsible for heart attacks, strokes and obesity, obesity continued to steadily increase. Sure, the hydrogenated fatty acids did not help and should be cut out. But the bigger problem was the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and over-consuming high glycemic-index carbohydrates.

Here is the solution of what to do get rid of the beer belly.

  1. Remove sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your diet.
  2. The second effective step is to cut out as many empty starches that you can cut out like white rice, bread, sweets, cookies, cakes, ice cream and pasta. The reason for this is that these starchy foods get metabolized in the gut into sugar, which causes an insulin response. The extra insulin is responsible for developing inflammation in the arteries, which eventually leads to heart attacks and strokes.
  3. Exercise on a regular basis. This will produce HDL cholesterol, the protective cholesterol, which balances LDL cholesterol.
  4. Perhaps the most important step is to rebalance your food intake. With this I mean that you replace high glycemic-index carbs with low glycemic-index carbs. This means you will eat a lot of salads, steamed vegetables, and fruit. This gives you a lot of extra fiber, which your system needs to slow down the rate of sugar absorption, helps you to lower LDL cholesterol and helps you to detoxify your body in the gut where toxins are bound to fiber.
  5. If you are heavily into alcoholic drinks there is another source of refined carbohydrates that gets metabolized into LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and can cause fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis. A moderate consumption of alcohol (one drink for women per day and two drinks for men per day) lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while excessive alcohol intake increases the risk.
  6. Bioidentical hormone replacement may be something you have not heard about. But if you are a woman above the age of 40 or a man above the age of 50 chances are that your natural hormone production from your testicles or adrenal glands (in a man) or from the ovaries or adrenal glands (in a woman) are no longer keeping up with the demand of regular life. Part of the aging process is that is that the production of our sex hormones slows down shortly before menopause in women and shortly before andropause in men. This will not only manifest itself in hot flashes and sleep disturbance in women or in erectile dysfunction and grumpiness in men; it will eventually lead to a lack of energy metabolism in the heart, the brain and other organ systems that have sex hormone receptors. A lack of hormones translates into yet another cause of heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. This is an area where conventional medicine disagrees with anti-aging medicine. But it is my experience from years in general practice that heart attacks, strokes, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer in both sexes, cancer of the breasts, uterus and ovaries in women and prostate cancer in men are indeed more common when natural hormone production has declined.

On the other hand, when bioidentical hormone replacement is given, the metabolism of all cells will return to normal and the likelihood of not developing all these illnesses at an earlier time is diminishing as well. It is not a panacea for eternal life, but it will add significant longevity without premature disabilities, which is what we all need.

Beer Belly Bad News

Beer Belly Bad News

Conclusion

Although weight gain around the waistline is common these days and increased mortality due to heart attacks, strokes and cancer is common, we do not have to accept this as the new norm. We need to assess our food intake habits, cut out the items that contribute to the beer belly and ask ourselves what other change in lifestyle we need to do to improve our body shape and our energy metabolism. Life is too precious to just throw away years of fruitful living in our golden retirement years. Work on these factors in midlife or even in younger years and you will enjoy disease-free aging.