Sep
12
2015

Ageless Aging

We have been exposed to a lot of clichés about aging, which makes it more difficult to dispel rumors and to clearly focus on what can and what cannot postpone aging and the associated disabilities. Here I will attempt to summarize what is known about this topic.

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (also known as A4M) has published a book where all of this is discussed in detail (Ref.1). But there are yearly conferences as well in Las Vegas and other places where further details regarding anti-aging are discussed. Since 2009 I have been attending the conferences in Las Vegas regularly every year.

Based on this knowledge let me start by reviewing the tools of anti-aging that can be used to slow down the process of aging significantly.

  1. Mitochondria

At the center of anti-aging is the preservation and metabolic optimization of the mitochondria. Each of our cells contains little particles called mitochondria, which is where our energy metabolism takes place. Mitochondria function like mini-batteries.

The citric acid cycle builds up ATP, which is subsequently hydrolyzed into ADP and orthophosphate releasing energy for cell metabolism.

Old people who shuffle when they walk and have difficulties climbing stairs have lost significant amounts of mitochondria and simply run out of energy. The key to prevent this from happening is to preserve our mitochondria. We inherited them from our mother, because only the head of the sperm, which does not contain mitochondria entered the ovum when the egg cell that was destined to become you was fertilized. Subsequently the mitochondria from mother’s egg have provided all of the mitochondria in the cells of our body.

  1. Preserving mitochondria

There are supplements that specifically preserve mitochondria: PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) helps mitochondria to multiply. A typical dose to take every day is 20 mg. Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10, 400 mg per day is a dose that I recommend). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.

There are simple lifestyle changes that you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate SIRT1 genes, which in turn stimulate your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.

Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. 300 to 500 mg of trans-Resveratrol once daily is a good dose.

Build in regular exercise into your day – and I mean every day– as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ. Lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism. I recommend 300 mg per day.

L-arginine is an amino acid that is a precursor of nitric oxide (NO). Red beet is a rich source of nitric oxide, which is directly released into your system. There are also commercial products for NO. This keeps the arteries open, prevents high blood pressure and also hardening of the arteries and has a direct effect on preserving mitochondria.

Researchers from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD found that mitochondrial DNA content varies according to age (less mitochondrial DNA in older age), sex (yes, women have more than men) and mitochondrial DNA; it even has an inverse relationship to frailty and a direct relationship to life expectancy. This paper was published in February of 2015.

Each mitochondrion has its own mitochondrial DNA contained in 2 to 10 small circular chromosomes that regulate the 37 genes necessary for normal mitochondrial function.

In multi ethnic groups it was apparent that mitochondrial DNA content was dictated by the age of a person.

Frailty was defined as a person who had aging symptoms including weakness, a lack of energy compared to the past, activity levels that were much lower than before and loss of weight. When persons with frailty as defined by these criteria were identified, they were found to have 9% less mitochondrial DNA than nonfrail study participants.

Another subgroup were white participants; when their bottom mitochondrial DNA content was compared to the top mitochondrial DNA content, the researchers found that frailty was 31% more common in the bottom DNA content group. This means that white people are more prone to frailty and they should take steps early on to prevent this from happening.

  1. Slowing down hardening of our arteries

It makes sense that young people who do not have signs of hardening of their arteries have better blood supply to their cells and thus supply their mitochondria with more oxygen and nutrients than frail, older people. The same is true for people who exercise regularly.

Vitamin D and vitamin K2 have been shown to lower calcium in the blood vessels and to retain calcium in the bone preventing osteoporosis. This is particularly useful in postmenopausal women. This October 2014 publication mentions that apart from vitamin D and vitamin K2 resveratrol and inositol are additional factors helping to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

This September 2013 publication confirms that a deficiency for vitamin K2 is common in the general population. This deficiency leads to osteoporosis and calcification of the arterial wall and causes heart attacks, strokes and bone fractures. Supplementation with vitamin K2 at 200 micrograms per day every day is recommended to prevent this from occurring.

  1. Sugar and starchy foods

You need to understand that starchy foods equal sugar, once digested. As a result a refined cereal breakfast=sugar, pasta=sugar, bread=sugar, donuts=sugar, potatoes=sugar and so on. It has to do with the glycemic load. When you cut out sugar and starchy foods (meaning that the glycemic index of the foods you eat is below 50) you will shed 30 to 50 pounds of weight within 3 to 5 months, if you are overweight or obese. You will feel a lot more energy. Your blood vessels will be cleaned out as the oxidized LDL cholesterol will disappear and the HDL cholesterol will mop up what cholesterol deposits were there before.

It is certainly good for you, if you are not into the sugar and candy stuff, but the seemingly harmless pizza and all the other starchy foods mentioned above are of concern as well. All of the high -glycemic carbs stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. This in turn produces inflammation in tissues including the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the complications of this.

Where does this leave us? For decades we have been told that saturated fats and cholesterol in our diet were the culprits and we replaced them with sugar that is part of a low-fat diet. We need to pay attention to the glycemic index and cut out high glycemic foods. However, it is OK to eat some carbs from the medium glycemic food list and most of our carbs from the low glycemic food list. With regard to fat it is important to consume only the healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids. As you make these adjustments to your life style you will also prevent many cancers, as you normalize the body’s metabolism and help prevent chronic inflammation, which can cause arthritis and cancer. Finally, pay attention to stress management. The body and the mind work together. Uncontrolled stress leads to heart attacks and strokes.

  1. Cut down on processed foods

Processed foods contain the wrong type of vegetable oils that are composed of omega-6 fatty acids. This disbalances the ratio of omega-6 fatty acid versus omega-3 fatty acids. This is typical for all the processed foods, but also fast food places in the industrialized world. The consequence of this disbalance is the formation of arachidonic acid and inflammation of tissues. This causes high blood pressure from inflammation of the arteries, arthritis from inflammation in the joints and can irritate the immune system to the point of causing autoimmune diseases. The end result after decades of exposure to a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids are disabilities from end stage arthritis, as well as heart attacks and strokes from inflammation of the arteries due to the hardening of the arteries.

The remedy for this is to cut out all processed food and stick to the basics of preparing your own food from healthy ingredients with no food preservatives.

Use olive oil for salads and coconut oil for cooking. Take omega-3 supplements to restore the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid balance.

  1. Replace hormones with bioidentical ones

When I watch postmenopausal women, many look prematurely aged with sagging skin in their faces. Had they replaced their missing hormones when they entered menopause, the bioidentical hormones used for replacement therapy would have helped their skin to remain younger looking, hardening of the arteries would have been postponed and osteoporosis in the bones would also have been prevented.

With men it is now known that testosterone is vital for prevention of prostate cancer, but it is also important to prevent heart attacks, strokes and dementia as they age.

I would recommend that you see a naturopath or an anti-aging physician to have your hormones checked and if necessary start replacement with bioidentical hormones.

Ageless Aging

Ageless Aging

Conclusion

Slowing down aging and avoiding disabilities from aging are now a possibility, if we manage our lives in a way that the biochemistry of our bodies remains the same and our mitochondria continue to function, even when we get older. I discussed the details of how to do that above. I have also written a book on the subject of anti-aging, which deals with these topics in more detail.

I hope that you incorporate at least some of these steps in your life to prevent suffering from disabilities as you age and to avoid premature aging.

References:

Ref.1: Ronald Klatz, MD, DO and Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP, Executive Editors: “Encyclopedia of Clinical Anti-Aging Medicine & Regenerative Biomedical Technologies”. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA, 2012.

Jun
13
2015

Preserving Our Energy

We are all aging, and as we do we are gradually losing energy until we reach our last breath. Here I like to review where our energy comes from and what we can do to preserve our energy. When we preserve our energy we are in fact also slowing down the aging process and this in essence is the approach to anti-aging.

Mitochondria are power packs of energy

Each of our body cells has many mitochondria to give us energy. Some organs are more demanding. They are the main players in our body like the brain, the heart, the liver or the kidneys. Their cells have thousands of these energy packages. Without the mitochondria there would be no energy available to these key organs to perform all the work they do. They allow us to think and produce brain hormones, to contract our heart muscle and pump the blood through our arteries. They are organs like the liver that are in charge of all of the major metabolic reactions or the kidneys that filter our blood for impurities and eliminate them in urine. Mitochondria can be likened to our power bundles that give our organs and us energy to get through life.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is an energy rebuilder. But it has to be deep enough and long enough, and there has to be enough REM sleep to give us the feeling that we had a refreshing sleep. As we age some of our hormone production slows down. One of those substances is melatonin. It is crucial for good and restful sleep. If our body is not producing enough, we can supplement with small dosages like 3 mg orally to help our body to initiate sleep. It is not an addictive substance. It is the body’s own hormone. Should you wake up later in the night, you could take another 3 mg of melatonin. There is no risk either to feel tired or “hung over” after taking melatonin.

Exercise regularly

The cheapest energy you can get is by exercising regularly. When you exercise on a treadmill, go jogging or go for a brisk walk you condition your heart, improve your lungs; in short you develop cardiovascular fitness. At the same time your muscles are strengthened with isometric exercises. You are optimizing your energy flow. In the process of exercising you create a stimulus for your mitochondria to multiply in the affected tissues. This applies as much to your muscles as it does to your heart and to your lungs. You will find that your muscle strength increases. With exercise you spend energy, but you feel more energetic from it because your body is being tuned up.

Manage stress

Self-hypnosis is a simple way to allow your whole body to relax. However, the various forms of yoga will do the same thing for you. Meditation is another way of finding peace and tranquility. All of these methods will re-energize you. They calm your brain, help you to cope with stress and rebalance your hormones at the same time.

Lifestyle

You need a lifestyle that is conducive to keeping your energies. Listed here are several factors that interfere with energy production.

  1. Smoking: If you smoke, you burn up energy with every cigarette you consume. You interfere with the oxygen transport through your lungs, but the chemicals that poison your system also poison the mitochondria of the cells. By smoking you are destroying your power packs. Pollution damages your lungs in a similar fashion as smoking does, but it is a slower process. There are a number of big cities with severe air pollution and they may not be worthwhile visiting.
  2. Sugar and starchy foods: Back in the 1970’s based on the Framingham Heart Study it was thought that hardening of arteries would be due to an accumulation of cholesterol from fat in the diet. Saturated fatty acids were accused to be the culprit. A low fat diet was supposed to be the solution. But the end result was the obesity and diabetes wave that we still see now. There had to be another explanation of where hardening of the arteries came from. Banning fats did not lead to better statistics. The new observation was that a low carb/medium fat diet was associated with low heart attack rates, low stroke rates, and even low cancer rates. Researchers also found the real culprit: They are sugar, starchy foods and processed foods. Sugar and starchy foods are metabolized in the liver into LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and they also oxidize LDL cholesterol. This starts a vicious process of inflammation of the lining of the arteries with fat deposits into the wall of the arteries. By eating the wrong foods we interfere with our body chemistry to the point where free radicals are produced that attack everything in us including our mitochondria. I have blogged about this many times before. You can read about it here.
  3. Alcohol: the famous one glass of red wine for women and two glasses of red wine for men is supposedly keeping us younger for longer. This is true for the resveratrol in the red wine, which is a powerful antioxidant. But to say that alcohol itself would prolong your life is a white lie. Alcohol is a nerve and cell poison; it robs you of energy. I take the resveratrol as a supplement from the health food store to protect my system. I stay away from alcohol.

Keep the arteries open

We need healthy arteries to pump blood through all of the branches and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body cells. Unfortunately, as we age our arteries tend to get deposits that make them more narrow, and this could also raise our blood pressure. The end result is that less nutrients and oxygen will reach our body cells. We perceive that something is wrong by not feeling as energetic as usual. Simple lifestyle changes as mentioned below can improve our circulation and lower our blood pressure. Chelation therapy has also been shown as helpful in the TACT study.

Get rid of inflammation

Dr. Paul Ridker found that approximately 50% of patients with heart attacks had a normal cholesterol level. He was looking for a more meaningful screening test and found it in the C-reactive protein. If the test result was higher than 3 there was a high probability that there was inflammation somewhere in the body, but a test result of less than 1 was normal. In the meantime scientists have learnt that the C-reactive protein is a very sensitive tool to measure inflammation in the body, but it is not specific for heart attacks. It is also positive in people with arthritis, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Chronic inflammation is also destroying immune cells: this explains the development of cancer as the end stage of chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation robs you of energy. We can do a lot with natural anti-inflammatory supplements to quench inflammation.

Preserve your immune system

We can strengthen our immune system by exercise, taking vitamin C regularly and by taking vitamin D3 supplements to just name a few. DHEA, the precursor hormone from the adrenal gland also helps stimulate the immune system.

Balance your hormones

As we age we loose hormones one by one. With melatonin this starts happening after the age of 20, with DHEA and growth hormone after you are in your mid thirties. Women start to get into menopause at the age of 45 to 55, but this can occur earlier or later. Men are going through their hormone change (andropause) at the age of 55 to 60. Both, women and men know when they are entering their hormone change because of a lack of energy and a few other unpleasant symptoms. Women get hot flashes. Men get grumpy, have erectile dysfunction, a lack of sex drive, week muscles and slower thinking. If you feel those symptoms, seek the help of a naturopath who is knowledgeable on bioidentical hormone replacement. Chances are that your regular doctor will want to prescribe synthetic hormones unless you can find an anti-aging physician. If your blood tests show deficiencies in the sex hormones, you will need to get a bioidentical hormone prescription. They are usually dispensed as creams, which you apply to your chest wall or non-hairy forearms in the morning. After 4 weeks your energy will be back, and your body will function normally again. All the body functions that you thought were gone forever just needed that extra stimulus from the missing bioidentical hormones.

Organic, GMO free food

I was tempted to just write “good food”. But this may be confusing to people. It is difficult anywhere in the world to get good food. Often insecticides and pesticides contaminate fruit and vegetables, which function as xenoestrogens blocking hormonal receptors. These residues are toxic for your body, and they are destructive to your energy. Organic food with the USDA certification or any independent certification is the best way to ensure that you get a good food product. I take this seriously and pay the extra dollar. We do not need plates heaped with foods. Small helpings of good quality foods are more important for our well-being.

Treat depression and mental disease

People who are depressed will complain of a lack of energy. Their brain circuits are constantly in overdrive being busy with negative thinking. Cognitive therapy can help depressed patients to face their negative emotions. It is a learning process of thinking step by step to distinguish what is real and what is magic thinking. It is important to seek qualified help. Depressed patients distort the way they think, but cognitive therapy sets their thinking straight (Ref.1). When the thinking is normalizing, the drained energy returns, people sleep better again and they can use the energy to move forward.

Positive thinking

Negative thoughts are draining you of energy. You want to stay optimistic within what’s reasonable. Be thankful for all the good things in your life. Minimize what’s negative, but think about positive solutions to get rid of energy draining parts in your days. Do this persistently until it becomes part of your life and you will have extra energy that you didn’t waste in negative thinking or by getting caught up in needless anxiety. Worrying does not get us anywhere, but it depletes our energy.

Preserving Our Energy

Preserving Our Energy

What can we do to prevent aging?

It follows from all that I said that anything that preserves energy would also prevent premature aging.

As mentioned, it is important to exercise regularly (gym, swimming, dancing, fast walking, jogging etc.). Have good, balanced nutrition, preferably organic food. Some supplements are also helpful: resveratrol, Co-Q-10; pages 100 to 103 of my book contain more vitamins and supplements (Ref.2). Here is a link to my website NetHealthBook, which also addresses vitamins and supplements (scroll down to table). Avoid sugar and starchy foods to avoid oxidizing LDL cholesterol. Use bioidentical hormones to replace what is missing. Get your 7 to 8 hours of sleep and don’t forget relaxation. Detoxify to get rid of toxins that would slow you down. Infrared saunas are one way to detoxify. It is helpful to consider chelation treatments. Last but not least have a positive outlook on life.

Conclusion

Our energy that we feel tells us whether we are staying healthy or whether we are at the verge of getting sick. It is best to maintain your energy at all times by doing a combination of things outlined above. You will retain youthful energy; you prevent cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. Most of all you have the energy to do the things you want and love to do.

I prefer to work on staying well and in the process I have the energy to do the things I want to do. Part of it is blogging, part of it is writing books, and part of it is dancing. The key is that I like what I am doing. I invite you to do what will keep you energized. Listen to your body.

 

References:

1. David D. Burns, MD: “feeling good – the new mood therapy” 1999, Harper Collins.

2. Dr. Schilling’s book, March 2014, Amazon.com:“A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling

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.

Apr
15
2015

Avoid Brain Atrophy

When a 24-year old football player (Chris Borland) suddenly decides to quit his active sports career, because he wants to plan for a disability-free long life without brain atrophy, the world listens. Chris did his research about traumatic brain injuries, which can lead to degenerative brain disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Trauma to the brain is just one cause of brain shrinkage (medically termed “brain atrophy”).

I like to take a broader overview of the topic of brain atrophy, which looks at all of the factors that can lead to brain shrinkage including physical injuries to the brain from blows to the head.

The vast majority of cases of brain shrinkage do not come from physical injuries, but rather from medical illnesses. Many of them including many sports injuries are preventable. This is the topic of my blog today.

Brain atrophy means a loss of brain cells, which causes a smaller brain. An MRI scan (around 800 to 1000$) will give information about the brain.The most sophisticated tool to depict the functioning of the brain may be the SPECT scan (ranging from 2000 to 2500$).

What causes brain atrophy?

It is important to realize that a multitude of different factors can cause the same end result – brain atrophy. All of these factors work together causing brain atrophy and the more factors are at play the worse the outcome. So, let’s review the various known causes of brain atrophy.

Diabetes

It has been known for a long time that diabetics can develop brain atrophy and dementia when their blood sugars are not well controlled. This leads to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

Insulin and IGF-1, a factor produced by the liver in response to human growth hormone have been found to counter the development of brain atrophy in diabetics.

The key in patients with diabetes is a close control of blood sugars, best measured as the hemoglobin A1C blood test. At the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) Dr. Theodore Piliszek stated that the new normal range for hemoglobin A1C is 3.8 to 4.9%, quite a bit lower than the normally recommended values. Accepting the old values that proclaim levels of 5.5. as normal automatically puts you in a higher risk of developing brain atrophy and dementia.

Cardiovascular disease

What is good for the heart is good for the brain. That is what Dr. Perlmutter stated in his book (Ref.1). But the reverse is also true: if your cardiovascular system is sick, your brain gets sick!

Here is a full-text article that describes how intimately connected heart function and brain function is.

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term and includes atrial fibrillation, blood clots in the coronary arteries or brain vessels (medically called “thrombotic events”), high and low blood pressure, heart failure, heart valve defects, low cardiac output, inflammation in the blood and a genetic marker, called Apo E, which is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The end result of any of these conditions will cause brain atrophy. Once a problem is identified, it is important that the patient is seeing the appropriate specialist who will take care of the risk factor in order to prevent brain atrophy.

Vitamin B deficiency

Some people are born with a certain degree of a methylation defect, a deficiency of certain enzymes, which prevents methylation of brain hormones and other metabolic products. This can lead to depression, schizophrenia, memory loss and you guessed right: brain atrophy, which manifests itself as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

By using the proper nutrients with high enough supplements of vitamin B2, B6 and B12 this biochemical process can be restored and brain atrophy can be prevented. SAMe is also a useful supplement that supports methylation and a normal brain metabolism. Ref.2 explains methylation defects in more detail.

Obesity

The question is whether the “brain shrinks as the waist expands”. The answer is a clear “yes”. Researchers have found that the grey matter (with which we think) in the frontal lobes of the brain shrink in obese people of all ages. The researchers found further that the grey matter shrunk in the temporal and parietal parts of the brain of people in middle and old age.

The key here is to cut out refined carbs (sweetened sodas, pasta, bread, sugar in any form), as they are the ones that cause obesity. This occurs by the liver metabolizing sugar and turning it into fat that is stored. Just by cutting out sugar and starchy foods both my wife and I lost 50 pounds each in 2001. It can be done, but it takes a bit of will power.

The terminology may be confusing here: it is really sugar that causes brain atrophy via causing obesity and damage to the blood vessels.

Smoking and alcoholic beverages

Smoking leads to brain atrophy by damaging the blood vessels that are supposed to supply the brain with nutrients. If blood vessels close off or hardening of the arteries reduces the blood flow to the brain, brain cells die and brain atrophy develops.

Smoking also robs the body of vitamins, which slows down the brain cell function.

Alcohol is a nerve cell poison; it causes brain atrophy by directly damaging the brain cells (grey matter).

The results are memory loss, poor judgment, problems planning one’s future, loss of control with regard to emotions. This can lead to violent behavior and problems with regard to inter-personal relationships.

Genetic factors

ApoE4 gene variant, which causes inherited Alzheimer’s disease, causes a change of brain metabolism with deposits of a glue-like substance in the brain that damages nerve connections resulting in memory loss.

Researchers believe that ApoE4 is implicated in 20 to 25% of all Alzheimer’s cases.

Despite this apparent negative story, there is hope by radically changing one’s diet and taking supplements. Not every patient with one or two doses (alleles) of ApoE4 comes down with Alzheimer’s.

Avoid Brain Atrophy

Avoid Brain Atrophy

What can you do to prevent brain atrophy?

Supplements: Take regular B complex vitamins (particularly B2, B3, B6, folic acid, B12), vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q-10 (or CoQ-10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwaganda, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE. All of these have been found to support brain function and often restore memory function. Unfortunately regular anti-Alzheimer’s medications are not keeping their promise and on average just delay Alzheimer’s by 3 to 6 months. For details how these supplements work see this link.

Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA: These essential fatty acids from fish oil are very useful as they are anti-inflammatory and help support the normal brain metabolism, particularly DHA. In a Feb. 2015 US study from the Rhode Island Hospital 193 Alzheimer’s patients, 397 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and 229 normal individuals were followed for 5 years with MRI scans and cognitive tests every 6 months. 117 subjects were taking fish oil on a regular basis. The study showed a decline in gray matter in those who did not take fish oil and in carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene (a gene liked with Alzheimer’s disease). The gray matter on the MRI scans and brain function measure with cognitive function tests were much better preserved in those who took fish oil supplements.

Resveratrol: This powerful antioxidant is an anti-aging supplement. It is preventing heart disease, hardening of the arteries and helps preserve brain function by keeping the brain vessels from getting clogged up. DHA and omega-3-fatty acids are helping in that regard as well.

Eat nuts: Nuts are healthy (provided you are not allergic to them); but just because you are allergic to one kind does not mean you are allergic too all of them. Often a person allergic to hazelnuts will not be allergic to Macadamia nuts, cashew nuts or walnuts. Nuts contain a mixture of essential fatty acids, blood vessel friendly, saturated fatty acids and minerals that are all brain supportive.

Exercise regularly: Whoever moves and exercises keeps the heart healthy and whatever keeps the heart healthy keeps the brain healthy as stated before.

Stress management and sleep (avoid chronic overstimulation of your brain): In our hectic society everything has to be instant, the expectations of managers are high, the labor force is stressed. The fastest runner, the best player etc. is celebrated. The rest of us often feel like “underdogs”, if we allow this type of thinking to rule ourselves. Use yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation, religious mediation and prayer to counter some of the stress from everyday life. We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips and required total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

Avoid sugar and starchy foods: I left this point as the last as it may be more difficult to understand. I started touching this topic under “obesity” above. An overload of refined carbs leads to an overstimulation of the pancreas pouring out insulin. Too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) causes hormonal disbalance and leads to diabetes type 3, the more modern name for Alzheimer’s. All starch is broken down by amylase into sugar, so essentially you get a sugar rush from any starchy food as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of this are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. I have blogged about these topics in many separate blogs.

Conclusion

In this blog I have reviewed how brain atrophy develops. There are a multitude of factors that over a lifetime can lead to brain atrophy. Repetitive head trauma from contact sports is only one reason; poor nutrition with too much sugar and starch and missing essential fatty acids (omega-3/DHA) is another potential cause. Add to this a lack of exercise, too much stress, alcohol and smoking and you covered most of the causes. Studies have shown that even when you carry the ApoE4 gene trait, only 30% will express it as supplements can suppress the expression of it. The key is prevention. Preserve your brain cells, prevent brain atrophy!

References:

Ref. 1: David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

Ref.2: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Mar
14
2015

Frail Mitochondrial DNA Equals Frail People

New research on mitochondria has shown that “frail mitochondrial DNA equals frail people”. More specifically, researchers from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD found that mitochondrial DNA content varies according to age (less mitochondrial DNA in older age), sex (yes, women have more than men) and mitochondrial DNA even has an inverse relationship to frailty and a direct relationship to life expectancy. This paper was published in February of 2015.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses within each cell and there are between 10 and several thousand mitochondria per cell, depending on what the power needs of a cell type are.

Each mitochondrion has its own mitochondrial DNA contained in 2 to 10 small circular chromosomes that regulate the 37 genes necessary for normal mitochondrial function.

In order to track mitochondrial DNA and its relationship to frailty and old age, the Johns Hopkins University researchers accessed data from two large clinical trials. One study was the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), which took place between 1989 and 2006. The other one was the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study spanning from 1987 to 2013. Blood tests were available on participants from both studies that allowed determinations of mitochondrial DNA.

In multi ethnic groups it was apparent that mitochondrial DNA content was dictated by the age of a person.

Frailty was defined as a person who had aging symptoms including weakness, a lack of energy compared to the past, activity levels that were much lower than before and loss of weight. When persons with frailty as defined by these criteria were identified in the two studies, they were found to have 9% less mitochondrial DNA than nonfrail study participants.

Another subgroup were white participants; when their bottom mitochondrial DNA content was compared to the top mitochondrial DNA content, the researchers found that frailty was 31% more common in the bottom DNA content group. This means that white people are more prone to frailty and they should take steps early on to prevent this.

Mortality data were also examined and it turned out that those study participants who had the highest level of mitochondrial DNA lived 2.1 years longer on average than those with the lowest level of mitochondrial DNA.

The study also found that women in the two clinical trials had 21% more DNA in their mitochondria on average than men.

Prevention of DNA loss from mitochondria

The study did not suggest any preventative steps against mitochondrial DNA loss. But there is ample evidence in the literature that this can be achieved through supplements that can both help multiply mitochondria as well as stimulate the metabolism of mitochondria. Lifestyle changes are also effective.

I am not supporting the specific brands of supplements mentioned in the Dr. Whitaker link, but find the common sense explanations useful, as they explain what the supplements do.

Frail Mitochondrial DNA Equals Frail People

Frail Mitochondrial DNA Equals Frail People

You may find the scientific data too tedious to delve into, but let this list be of help for you to preserve your health and your vitality:

  1. Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10, I take 400 mg per day). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.
  2. Another supplement, 20 mg of PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) per day stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Between the two supplements you will have more energy as optimal mitochondrial function is ensured.
  3. There are simple lifestyle changes you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate SIRT1 genes, which in turn stimulates your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.
  4. Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. Exercise more and regularly as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ. I take 500mg of trans-Resveratrol once daily.
  5. Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism. I recommend 300mg per day.
  6. L-arginine is an amino acid that is a precursor of nitric oxide (NO). I prefer taking NO as the NEO-40 supplement where nitric oxide is directly released into your system. I take 1 lozenge of Neo-40 twice per day.

There are many write-ups about mitochondrial supplements. Here is an article that I found some time ago in the life Extension Magazine.

Frail Mitochondrial DNA Equals Frail People

Mitochondrial DNA

Caution is needed to discern between salesmanship and science regarding mitochondrial support, but this blog should start you off in the right direction.

Reference:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-12/jhm-aom121614.php

Feb
14
2015

Laser Therapy Going Beyond Skin Deep

There was an interesting workshop alongside of the A4M conference mid December 2014 organized by Jonathan Schwartz who gave an overview of the use of low-dose laser therapy for various clinical applications. It involved the use of the Dr. Michael Weber low-dose laser machine, which has a lot of versatility.

  1. First there are 5 laser light frequencies in the rainbow colors (infrared, red, yellow, green, blue) and the colors have very special characteristics as will be explained further below.
  2. There are a multitude of applicators like skin acupressure point applicators, a shower for hair loss applications, a head adapter, which looks like a crown. With this device red light will penetrate into the brain through the skull bone. There is also a mouth shower and various lengths needle applicators that can be used to access the body intravenously or interstitially (direct tissue approach). At the center of the equipment is the Weberneedle Compactlaser, which can be attached to the various applicators.

Laser characteristics

The blue laser penetrates about 1 cm (0.39 inch) under the skin, a green laser penetrates only 0.5 cm (0.19 inch); like the blue laser the yellow laser penetrates through the skin with a depth of 1 cm (0.39 inch). The red laser has a penetration depth of 2-3 cm (a bit more or less than 1 inch) and the infrared laser penetrates 5-7 cm (2 to 2 1/2 inches).

In addition the various lasers have different inherent qualities: The red laser is good for tissue regeneration, which lends itself for chronic pain. Green and blue lasers have anti-inflammatory effects, which helps in acute pain. The yellow laser can be used for detoxification, has antidepressant qualities and photosensitizes hypericin, a substance derived from St. John’s wort, which is known to have antidepressant qualities. The various types of laser mentioned can be used interstitially, intravenously and just on the skin surface over acupuncture points. Dr. Weber explained that detailed research has revealed that the low-dose energy beam sends out energy that is taken up by the surrounding tissues and cells. The mitochondria of the cells get activated to produce more ATP, which the cells use to heal themselves.

Meeting in Placentia

Forward to a meeting in Placentia, CA on Feb. 7, 2015 where Dr. Michael Weber and several other speakers gave presentations on the use of the Dr. Weber laser system. A number of local doctors who had an interest in learning more about the low-dose laser system were there as well. It was a daylong mini conference.

Three volunteers were used to demonstrate the use of the system. I was volunteering about a chronic left lower back pain that various chiropractors had problems adjusting in the past year. I have a strong family history of arthritis on my mother’s side and my maternal grandmother’s side as well. The health professionals thought that I likely have developed arthritis in the left sacro-iliac joint. Dr. Weber used the interstitial needle, which is 4 cm (1.57 inches) long. The skin was injected with a local anesthetic first, and then the needle was inserted, which I could hardly feel. Now he injected 5 cc of normal saline. This was used, so that the laser light would spreads more into the surrounding area. Dr. Weber explained that he was very close to the SI joint with the tip of the needle on the left. He attached a blue laser to it for 20 minutes and switched it to a green laser for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime the other two volunteers were treated.

One was a physician in the group who had a chronic planter’s fasciitis. He was treated with an intravenous laser application. First a special butterfly was inserted, through which a sterile laser probe could be threaded and then attached. He received a red laser.

The third volunteer had a chronic right knee problem from congenital Osgood Schlatter disease. In him Dr. Weber used an approach of intraarticular injection and he attached a blue laser for 20 minutes, followed by a yellow laser for another 20 minutes. A physician with a California license supervised all of these procedures.

I woke up the following day with no pain in my left lower back, but at the same time the lesser right lower back pain had also disappeared. I figure that due to the fact that my back mobility is back the untreated right side must have normalized as well. It is now 7 days following the procedure and I still have no back pain. Yesterday I saw my local chiropractor in Southern California and he confirmed that my back was much easier to adjust than the month before (Update April 12, 2015: my lower back is still pain free!).

Normally a case like mine would require 5 to 6 weekly treatments before the problem is resolved. Dr. Weber explained that more complicated problems like fibromyalgia would take 15 to 20 treatments in succession or more. The principal is always that you treat where the symptoms are; in the follow-up visit the healthcare practitioner treats the remaining symptoms until all of the symptoms have resolved.

The intriguing fact is that low-dose laser therapy seems to fit right into gap where conventional medicine has failed.

Clinical cases that respond to laser therapy

Dr. Weber has collected clinical cases that improve with laser treatments, such as diabetes, chronic liver diseases, chronic pain syndromes, rheumatoid arthritis, polyneuropathy, chronic inflammatory disease, cancer (with photodynamic therapy), fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, allergies and eczema. This, however, is just a partial list.

Photodynamic cancer therapy is made possible by the fact that certain substances have absorption spectra that are activated by different wavelength. This amplifies the effect of the natural substance that is used by several folds. For instance Chlorin E6 absorbs a red laser (around 660 nm). A blue laser activates Curcumin. A yellow laser activates Hypericin. Here is a website that explains the principle of phototherapy.

Various cancers can be treated where conventional medicine has so far failed. Examples are lymph metastases from breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and bladder cancer. I have blogged regarding a combination treatment for breast cancer before, where phototherapy with lasers and immunostimulation were combined. Esophageal cancer is treated through esophagoscopy combined with a laser that activates curcumin, which had been taken orally well before the procedure. Not all of the cases are successful, but the majority of them are.

Otherwise routine low-dose laser applications are used for tendinitis, tennis elbow, sprains and soft tissue injures.

Laser-Therapy-Going-Beyond-Skin-Deep

Laser-Therapy-Going-Beyond-Skin-Deep

You can combine the laser system with prolotherapy. Prolotherapy is done first by injecting hyperosmolar dextrose solution, which is a strong stimulator of stem cells. Using the same needle, but attaching the Weber low-level laser therapy will activate the stem cells and protect them from dying off.

Conclusion

Low dose laser therapy using the Weber Medical technology is a new treatment modality available to the interested physician. I think that it will cause a revolution within medicine. It is scientifically sound and it fits right into the difficult to treat patients; the patients that otherwise would be unlikely to respond. However, they will respond well to these new treatment modalities. Apart from musculoskeletal problems, various cancers will also respond to this. The Mayo clinic is starting a study on treating cancer using phototherapy and the Dr. Weber low-dose laser system.

Feb
08
2015

Preserve Your Memory

At the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She gave a comprehensive overview of what you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The better we understand the causes of Alzheimer’s the more we can interfere with the biochemical processes that lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Various parts of the brain have different functions like pattern recognition, interpreting auditory and visual stimuli and so on. In the past it was thought that once the bran is developed, it would be stationary until we die. Brain researchers have shown that instead the brain continues to develop even after the teenage years. New brain cells can develop as long as we live and new synapses, the connections between brain cells can form all the time.

A lack of sleep causes insulin levels to rise, which causes a lack of memory. Alzheimer’s disease has been termed diabetes type 3 because of this close connection of memory loss and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. In fact diabetics are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

There are several subunits of the brain like the hypothalamus, thalamus, hippocampus and the amygdalae, which are important for normal brain function and memory. The hippocampus in particular is a major memory-processing unit, which indexes, constructs and rearranges memories.

Apart from the anatomy of the brain, neurotransmitters are important for the proper functioning of the various parts. Although there are more than 100 of them the most important neurotransmitters are acetylcholine, GABA, glutamate, dopamine and serotonin. Each of these neurotransmitters binds to only one specific receptor before a signal can be sent from one neuron to the next. There is a decline in the speed of neurotransmission with age and also a memory decline. Compared to the memory in a young person a person at the age of 75 has a decline in memory function of about 40%.

Why do people experience memory decline?

Apart from genetic predisposition the majority of people who come down with Alzheimer’s disease do so because of neglecting the body and their brain. Neglecting elevated blood pressure by not treating it properly with medication will lead to vascular dementia. As already mentioned earlier hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood) from obesity, untreated type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome is another mechanism.

Lack of exercise is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, so is insomnia and a lack of sleep (less than 7 hours per night). With aging there is often poor nutrition, lack of absorption of nutrients, inflammatory bowel conditions with poor absorption of nutrients and body inflammation. A significant portion of the population is deficient for various enzymes in the methylation pathway, which can lead to high homocysteine levels and the danger of premature heart attacks and vascular dementia. Psychological health can also affect memory loss, as depression and anxiety are associated with it. Toxins like heavy metals, fuels, pesticides, solvents and fluoride can over time lead to memory loss and Alzheimer’s as well.

Lifestyle habits and Alzheimer’s

There are many lifestyles that cause memory loss: too much stress (from high cortisol levels that damage the hippocampus); smoking that damages acetylcholine receptors; chronic alcohol abuse leads to memory problems from the toxic effect of alcohol on brain cells, which in turn causes a disbalance of serotonin, endorphins and acetylcholine in the hippocampus.

Lack of exercise is an independent risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases the blood supply of the brain, strengthens neural connections and leads to growth of neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. Mood-regulating neurotransmitters are increased (serotonin, endorphins).

Sleep deprivation leads to memory loss, but so does the use of aspartame, the artificial sweetener of diet sodas.

Sugar consumption and too much pasta (which gets metabolized within 30 minutes into sugar) causes oxidization of LDL cholesterol and plaque formation of all the blood vessels including the ones going to the brain. On the long-term this causes memory loss due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen flowing into the brain.

Hormone changes

A lack of testosterone in men and estrogen in women interferes with cognition and memory. For this reason it is important after menopause and andropause (=the male menopause) to replace what is missing with the help of a knowledgeable health professional.

Too much DHEA from stress can decrease memory, but too little DHEA from aging can also do this. Alzheimer’s patients have DHEA levels that are 48% lower than men and women of the same age who have normal memories. Pregnenolone is a precursor of DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Dr. Smith called pregnenolone the “hormone of memory in the body”. At an age of 75 most people have a 65% lower level of pregnenolone than a persons in the mid 30’s. Pregnenolone keeps your brain balanced between excitation and inhibition, helps you to cope with stress and gives you energy. But before you consider supplementing with a pregnenolone hormone level should be ordered by a knowledgeable health professional. Dosing can be tricky as too much pregnenolone can result in too much DHEA, estrogen, progesterone or testosterone.

Progesterone is manufactured inside the brain, spinal cord and nerves from its precursor, pregnenolone, but in women it also comes from the ovaries until the point of menopause. Progesterone is needed in the production of the myelin sheaths of nerves and it has a neuroprotective function. In menopausal women bioidentical progesterone is a part of Alzheimer’s prevention.

Melatonin is a hormone, a powerful antioxidant and a neurotransmitter at the same time. It helps in the initiation of sleep, stimulates the immune system and protects from the toxic effects of cobalt, which has been found to be high in Alzheimer’s patients.

Other factors contributing to Alzheimer’s

Any inflammatory condition can trigger destruction of neurons, so do the beta-amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s. Contributory factors can be food allergies, disbalance of gut bacteria, recreational drugs (particularly ecstasy) and certain medications. Dr. Smith stated that the most common foods causing allergies that affect the brain are: sugar, wheat, dairy, eggs, shellfish, potatoes, beef, tomatoes, corn, coffee, peanuts, roasted soy beans and yeast.

Dr. Smith mentioned that these medications can affect memory: statins, sedatives, steroids, levodopa, muscle relaxants; antihypertensive drugs, antidepressants, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, anti-arrhythmic drugs, pain relieving drugs (analgesics) and antihistamines. If you are on any of these, you may want to discuss alternatives with your doctor. Dr. Perlmutter mentioned in Ref. 1 that statins interfere with brain function and can lead to Alzheimer’s.

Promoting brain health

Medication helps only to stall further memory loss for up to 6 months, so Dr. Smith said about medications only: “much research is still needed in this area”.

On the other hand she stated that many foods, vitamins and supplements in combination could improve memory and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. She spent considerable time in the remainder of her talk on details regarding foods, vitamins and supplements.

Dr. Smith said that we need to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants like blueberries, apples, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries; cherries, cranberries, cooked kale, garlic, grapes, prunes, raisins and raw spinach. But at the same time she stressed that we cannot trust the food industry anymore, and we need to buy organic foods. She gave an example of the “dirty dozen” as defined by the environmental working group (contaminated fruits and vegetables).

Food intake also applies to portions:eat 5 to 6 smaller meals per day. Consume red meat only three times per week.

The brain needs fats like nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts etc.

Fish also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. The problem with predator fish like tuna or swordfish is that they are contaminated with mercury. But wild salmon and mackerel are still OK. A good alternative is to supplement with pharmaceutical grade EPA/DHA omega-3 capsules. They are molecularly distilled, which means they are not contaminated with mercury or PBC’s and they are more concentrated; they typically contain 1000 to 1400 mg of EPA/DHA per capsule. One to two capsules twice per day (a total of 2 to 4 per day) would be a good anti-inflammatory dose.

Specific food recommendations

Use olive oil and coconut oil for cooking; avoid the omega-6 oils (safflower oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, corn oil to just mention a few). These latter oils, which are heavily advertised by the food industry, create too much arachidonic acid leading to body inflammation. Your brain is very sensitive to inflammation, which causes Alzheimer’s. For the same reason avoid deep fried foods and processed foods.

There is more you need to watch for: no food additives, no artificial food colorings, no preservatives, flavors and MSG. Be alert about the food industry’s alternative “language” or terminology for MSG: “natural flavor”, “yeast extract” etc.

Preserve Your Memory

Preserve Your Memory

Brain nutrients

Dr. Smith reviewed a long list of brain nutrients that support the brain in its metabolism and prevent the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

I will only highlight the most effective and established nutrients here.

DHA: It has been known since 1999 that Alzheimer’s patients are missing DHA in their system. Molecularly distilled fish oil with high omega-3 fatty acids (both EPA and DHA) is one of the mainstays of prevention of inflammation in the body and the brain. 2 capsules twice per day of the concentrated 1000mg to 1400 mg capsules is desirable to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Phosphatylserine (PS): This phospholipid is part of the membrane of brain cells and controls what nutrients enter into them. It also increases the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine. Dr. Smith mentioned that PS is naturally present in foods like brown rice, fish, soy and green vegetables (particularly the leafy ones). The daily dosage recommended by Dr. Smith is 300 mg (note: some people develop a bothersome, but harmless bitter taste in the mouth at this dose; in this case take a lower dose like 100 or 200 mg per day).

Ginkgo Biloba: It improves blood flow to the brain and counteracts shrinkage of the hippocampus with age. Dr. Smith recommends 60 mg to 240 mg daily.

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant, helps stimulating the sprouting of new nerve cells and nerve fibers. Take 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid daily for memory.

Dr. Smith recommended many other supplements, which I will not explain in detail here: B vitamins, vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q-10 (or CoQ-10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwaganda, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE.

When the benefits of taking CoQ-10 were discussed, Dr. Smith reminded the audience that “whatever is good for the heart, is good for the brain”. She recommended to read Dr. Perlmutter’s book from which this phrase was borrowed (Ref. 1).

Genetic factors

Dr. Smith pointed out that there are about 5 genes that have been detected that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and in addition the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4). About 30% of people carry this gene, yet only about 10% get Alzheimer’s disease, which shows how important lifestyle factors are (in medical circles this is called epigenetic factors) to suppress the effect of the APOE4 gene. She also stated that our genes contribute only about 20% to the overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This leaves us with 80% of Alzheimer’s cases where we can use the brain nutrients discussed above and exercise to improve brain function.

Conclusion

Don’t wait for a magic pill to be developed  by Big Pharma. Follow the simple steps in combination that Dr. Pamela Smith talked about in her presentation: Exercise, have organic food to keep toxins out of your body and brain, replace missing hormones with bioidentical ones and take supplements that are known to be effective (link for male menopause). In other words provide the right environment for your genes to work properly without getting Alzheimer’s disease.

Reference:

1. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

Jan
30
2015

Prolotherapy And Stem Cell Therapy

This blog is the 5th blog and the last one of a series that dealt with telomeres, lifestyle and stem cells, topics that were on the agenda of the 22nd Annual Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014). Here are summaries of two talks from this conference that dealt with methods of repairing damage to your joints or bones without surgery. Treatments consist of stimulating local stem cells through a treatment called “prolotherapy” where needles are used to inject concentrated dextrose. I will explain below why this method is effective. A modification of this original prolotherapy is when the effect of it is amplified by growth factors from so-called platelet rich plasma (PRP), which is mixed with the dextrose injection. The ultimate healing jerk occurs when you mix in stem cells with the PRP into the injured tissues. Images before the procedures and images some time after the procedures were shown at both lectures with impressive results.

1. Dr. Fields’ talk was entitled “Repairing joints and spine without surgery: prolotherapy/PRP/stem cell therapy”.

This talk concentrated on the use of prolotherapy with concentrated dextrose and prolotherapy with platelet rich plasma (PRP) with or without the addition of stem cells in the treatment of various musculoskeletal injuries.

When prolotherapy is done by itself 12.5% Dextrose is used to inject into the area of injury. Dr. Fields said that the reason it works is that local stem cells in the injured area are getting activated where the Dextrose is injected and these activated stem cells will do the healing (details explained in an interview with Dr. Reeves). This result can be improved by injecting a small amount of PRP very focally to an area of ligament rupture. PRP is obtained by centrifuging blood from the patient’s vein. The red blood cells are discarded, but the platelet fraction and some of the plasma is used as the PRP preparation. To amplify the effect of the PRP stem cells from bone marrow and from fatty tissue are mixed into the injection. Dr Fields explained that bone marrow is aspirated from the pelvic bone and in the same patient a liposuction is also done to receive adipose tissue. Both tissue samples are put through a cell separator to obtain bone marrow derived stem cells and adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells. Both fractions are combined as they make a superior stem cell mix and are activated by adding platelet rich plasma. This mix was used for bone fractures that were slow to heal, for ruptured tendons, ligaments, Achilles tendons and rotator cuff tears. Dr. Fields showed before-slides and several weeks to months after-slides with MRI scans of the original injuries and the final healed tendons and ligaments. I have never seen such beautiful healing with no residual scar. Stem cells are the specialists of healing such defects because they change into whatever cell type is required and they fill in the defects. This explains the perfect function after the injury is healed following stem cell and PRP injection. It also explains why many athletes who had this done went on to winning more medals after the repair. You do not hear about success stories that often after conventional surgery, because the range of motion and strength suffer from scarring following conventional surgical repairs.

Case histories: several patients with knee injuries that were treated with prolotherapy were shown on video testimonials explaining that their procedures only involved needles in the injured area, that they experienced almost complete pain relief on the day of the procedure and that they could rehabilitate right away.

Slides were also shown of specific knee ligament injuries involving the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). These are very important support ligaments within the knee.

But this was not all: there were lower back injuries with ruptured discs. Conventional medicine would have offered a discectomy, but here these patients were treated with prolotherapy. They experienced a stabilization of the weak areas, spontaneous resorption of the prolapsed disc and stabilization and strengthening of the weak spine. MRI scans of the spinal injury before treatment and several months after the treatment were shown with a complete normalization of the spine. In my work as a Medical Advisor for Workers’ Compensation cases that I was doing for 16 years I have never seen a single case like that.

A similar spinal injury in the neck was shown as well with a testimonial from that person. Again there was minimal pain, immediate rehabilitation and a full range of motion several weeks after the injury had been treated with stem cells.

What is treated with prolotherapy?

Basically all of the major joints can be treated with prolotherapy: the shoulder, knee, back, the neck, ankle, elbow and hip. The types of injuries that are treated are sports injuries, fibromyalgia, sciatica, muscle tears, tendonitis, arthritis, bursitis and temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).

Dr. Fields also stressed (and so did Dr. Purita, which we will learn below) that activated platelet rich plasma needs to be used to activate stem cells.

Two special cases were presented, namely patellar tendinitis and Achilles tendinitis, which both respond very well to prolotherapy and PRP plus stem cell therapy. This provides complete healing of these otherwise very difficult clinical entities.

An image was shown from the late C. Everett Koop, MD, the former Surgeon General of the Untied States who had this to say about prolotherapy: ““I have been a patient who has benefited from prolotherapy. Having been so remarkably relieved of my chronic disabling pain, I began to use it on some of my patients.” This may yet be the strongest argument to at least consider prolotherapy in otherwise hopeless cases.

2. Dr. Joseph Purita gave a lecture on the “Effects of PRP And Stem Cell Injections”. As explained above PRP stands for platelet rich plasma, which is a “soup” of various growth factors and exosomes =cell-to-cell mediators). He discussed the importance of the proper harvesting of PRP. He explained that apart from white blood cells (WBC) and platelets an important component of PRP are very small embryonic like stem cells (VSELs). They can be seen with the microscope. The missing link has been the observation that white blood cells produce inflammatory substances, which have been detrimental when stem cell injections with PRP were done in the past (poor survival rate of stem cells). Now it has been detected that photo-activation of the PRP before injection leads to anti-inflammatory behavior of the WBC in PRP. Dr. Purita calls this “light activated PRP”, which leads to the best results with stem cell/PRP injections. Soft laser stimulation with red, green and blue soft lasers have been shown to improve tissue healing significantly when stem cells and light activated PRP are used. As already described in Dr. Field’s talk the main sources for good stem cells are the fat tissue (from the “love handles”) and the bone marrow (obtained from pelvic bone). Dr. Purita also explained that nitric oxide and electrical stimulation also help to improve stem cell survival and reduce inflammation. All of these methods are revolutionizing orthopedics where injured tissues can be mended with the help of injecting stem cells, light activated PRP and using laser treatments. Dr. Purita showed very detailed technical aspects of these procedures with various applications. For instance, he showed a slide regarding treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. All this is contained in the plasma that is used to inject PRP into a joint with degenerative arthritis. When you mix this with bone and adipose tissue derived stem cells and inject it into the knees of a person with degenerative arthritis, you get the ideal remedy to calm down the degenerative process with instant pain relief and the stem cells are transforming into cartilage cells (chondrocytes) building up hyaline cartilage. The end result is a new knee surface where the old and the new repaired knee surfaces are knitted into one seamless unit.

PRP by itself can be used successfully for repairing bursitis of shoulders and rotator cuff tears, muscle tears and sprains, meniscus tears of the knee, mild to moderate osteoarthritis of various joints and spine disorders, particularly facet joint problems.

Prolotherapy And Stem Cell Therapy

Prolotherapy And Stem Cell Therapy

Dr. Purita gave a thorough overview of stem cells. He pointed out that stem cells fulfill two criteria:

  1. They are undifferentiated and they are capable of self-renewal by replication
  2. They can undergo differentiation into specific cell lineages.

From a practical point of view as already mentioned in Dr. Field’s talk there are two sources for stem cells that are important: stem cells derived from adipose tissue (also called MCS or mesenchymal stem cells) and bone marrow derived stem cells, obtained usually from the pelvic bone. When they are mixed and stimulated with PRP they are the miracle mix that will help heal all these injuries.

What does the FDA say to stem cell therapy? “The FDA states it is ok to use these cells as long as they are put back into the same patient and they are minimally manipulated.”

Dr. Purita listed a host of other factors beside platelet rich plasma that supports stem cells, increases their survival on transplantation and stimulates them to differentiate and heal the defect at the recipient site as quickly as possible. Photoactivation of platelet rich plasma with low level lasers (soft lasers) will release exosomes, which are tiny particles, released by platelets and white blood cells. They contain proteins and genetic material required for wound healing and stimulation of stem cells.

Towards the end of the talk Dr. Purita showed an MRI scan of a knee with avascular necrosis (dead bone) before and after treatment with stem cells, PRP and low level laser therapy. There was a complete resolution of the avascular necrosis without any surgery. A second case was shown where the initial MRI scan showed a complete tear of the medium collateral ligament (MCL tear) of the knee and the follow-up scan showed the same ligament intact. This was achieved without surgery, just by treating the patient with an injection of stem cells; PRP and using low-level laser therapy to activate PRP.

Conclusion

Prolotherapy and stem cell therapy are the hottest new treatment modalities for ruptured tendons, ligamentous injuries, and disc herniations in the neck and in the lower back. You will not get this from your primary care physician or from your regular orthopedic surgeon at the present time, because they profit from the conventional procedures. But you owe it to your health to try these alternatives first as they are much less invasive and they involve your own cells that will heal the defects with a very high probability. You still have the option to seek the advice of an orthopedic surgeon, should these alternative procedures fail (which is unlikely). Unfortunately most insurance carriers will not pay for this service at this time.

Disclaimer: Dr. Schilling has no conflict of interest with regard to Regenexx or any of the other companies of which images were shown; they simply displayed the best images with regard to the many illustrations in this blog.

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Jan
22
2015

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

The previous three blogs have dealt with telomeres, stem cells and lifestyle as a theme. In this blog you find summaries from three talks at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) that dealt with telomere length and how nutrition can positively influence what our genes express, which ultimately determines how long we live. This is at the center of anti-aging medicine and this is why I dealt with it in some detail.

1) Dr. Theodore Piliszek: “Personalized Genetics: Applying Genomics to General Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Modification”

The individual’s metabolism is different from one person to the next. As a result of this, one needs to match the diet one recommends for a patient to that person’s genetic make-up.

The Mediterranean diet has 20% protein, 35% fat, 45% carbs; here is the composition of other diets:

Low carb diet: 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbs

Low fat diet: 20-25% protein, 20-25% fat, 50-55% carbs

Balanced diet: 20% protein, 25% fat, 55% carbs

Snack only on low caloric foods; otherwise leptins react and make you hungry. A sweet tooth predisposes you to develop diabetes. Lactose intolerance is more common than previously thought. 30% of type II diabetics presently will develop dementia and Alzheimer’s is now often referred to as type III diabetes. With sugar being present in so many processed foods, this figure will likely jump to 60% in the future!

Methylation is very important for your well being. Here is a quick link to explain methylation in simple terms without getting too much into biochemical nomenclature. Having said this, vitamin B2, B6, B12 are needed for this biochemical process, SAMe is also a supplement that supports methylation.

If you do not have a longevity gene, you need to watch that you stick to organic food, stay active, may be add methylated folate and vitamin B12. Each patient should get a supplement list that is customized.

The health practitioner should ask the patient to keep a food diary for 1 week, which gives the doctor the nutritional profile including what the patient consumes in the way of drinks. Check vitamin D3 blood levels! Adequate levels of vitamin D3 are necessary for the musculoskeletal system and the immune system. Endurance training is important up to age 45. Beyond that age emphasis should be on isometric exercises (weight lifting).

Dr. Piliszek stated that the life expectancy in the US is falling behind many other countries. I did a quick Google check regarding life expectancy around the world as follows: US: 78.7 years; Canada: 81.2 years; France: 82.7, Italy: 82.9; Spain: 82.3; Portugal 80.37; Sweden: 81.7; Denmark: 80.05; Norway: 81.45; Germany: 80.89; Poland 76.8; Russia: 70.56. Seeing that the conference took place in the US, there is a lot of room for the US to improve habits with regard to food intake.

Dr. Piliszek stated that the normal range for hemoglobin A1C is skewed in the medical literature and the recommendations are too high; it should be: 3.8 to 4.9 %. This is very important to know for diabetics and any caregiver who looks after diabetes patients, because if you are satisfied with a hemoglobin A1C of 6.0 as still being “normal”, the diabetic patient dies prematurely of a heart attack or a stroke. Contrary to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) recommendation it is important to take note: the new normal range for hemoglobin A1C is 3.8 to 4.9%! A patient whose hemoglobin A1C is 5.5 has diabetes and needs to be treated aggressively to prevent complications associated with diabetes.

2) George Rozakis, MD: “Nutrigenomics”

This talk focused on how one could use nutrition to heal when genetic errors are present in the metabolism. This field is called “nutrigenomics”. It deals with using diet modifications and nutrients to change gene expression. Another way to express this is that with proper epigenetic changes by using the right nutrients for a person with an inherited weakness, using the right nutrients for a person with an inherited weakness can extend life. At the same time you need to avoid nutrients that would harm a person with a certain genetic weakness.

We all have inherited some minor or not so minor genetic errors in the genetic code. We are made up of 50 trillion cells with 30,000 genes and 23 pairs of chromosomes, so there are bound to be a few minor genetic code errors that make us more or less susceptible to develop disease, particularly when our telomeres are shortening with age making self-repair of many of our aging cells difficult, if not impossible.

Genes program our cells to run biochemical reactions within the cells. Correct methylation pathways are important for normal cell function. However, if there is a methylation defect, abnormalities set in and homocysteine accumulates.

With various enzyme defects you need to use appropriate supplements to normalize the metabolic defect. Vitamin B2, B6 and B12 supplementation will often stabilize methylation defects and homocysteine levels return to normal. This is important as severe, familial cardiovascular disease can be postponed this way by several years or more.

In a similar vein 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.

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 important in 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 cause many different cancers. Hypomethylation is the most common DNA defect of cancer cells.

Mental illness is another 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.

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 normalize.

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

Life Expectancy Is Influenced By Lifestyle

3) Dr. Al Sears: “Telo-Nutritioneering: The latest generation of telomere modulators”.

Shortened telomeres are causing cells to behave like old cells. In the lab we can lengthen telomeres. Telomerase activated animals regrew their brains!! In the human situation the goal is to find ways to preserve the length of our telomeres in all our key organs. Alternatively this can also be reached by inhibiting the breakdown of the enzyme telomerase, which will lead to a lengthening of telomeres. In his research Dr. Sears found at least 123 nutrients, vitamins and natural compounds that will elongate telomeres, often by stimulating telomerase.

Testing for critically short telomeres (HT Q-FISH method) is clinically more important than using average telomere length tests. Dr. Sears said when a patient has been shown to have short telomeres and this patient is started on telomerase stimulating supplements, telomere lengthening can be documented within one month of starting the supplementation. Acetyl-L-carnitine and resveratrol are two substances that reliably elongate telomeres.

Vitamin C will significantly delay shortening of telomeres, which translates into delayed aging. In addition vitamin C has recently been shown to stimulate telomerase activity in certain stem cells. There is an herb, called Silymarin extract, which was found to increase telomerase activity threefold. N-acetyl cysteine is a building block for glutathione, a powerful ant-oxidant. In addition it has been shown to turn on the human telomerase gene. Other telomerase stimulators are green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, gamma tocotrienol (one of the components of the vitamin E group), vitamin D3 and folic acid.

Dr. Sears suggested that we should take the following supplements and vitamins for “telo-nutritioneering” (alphabetically arranged) with recommended dosages:

Acetyl L-carnitine: 1,000 mg daily; alpha tocopherol: 400 IU daily; folic acid: 2 mg to 5 mg daily; gamma tocotrienol: 20 mg minimum daily; ginkgo biloba: 40 mg to 80 mg daily (cycle every 4 to 6 weeks); green tea (EGCG): 50 mg daily; L-arginine: 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily; N-acetyl cysteine: 1,800 mg to 2,400 mg daily; resveratrol: 10 mg to 20 mg daily; silymarin: 200mg twice daily; vitamin C: 540 mg minimum daily; and vitamin D3: 2,000 IU daily.

Even if you are only taking 5 or 6 of these twelve telomerase boosters daily, you are doing well, particularly if you are also watching your lifestyle (regular exercise, not smoking, cutting out excessive alcohol intake and avoiding sugar).

Conclusion

This is only the beginning of rethinking epigenetic treatment approaches. For too long organized medicine has used a “cookie-cutter” approach of diagnosing and treating diseases. Now we are realizing that changes in hormones and shortening of telomeres with aging can cause inflammation and premature deaths. The future of medicine, which has already started, uses nutritional changes, vitamins and supplements, bioidentical hormone replacements and exercise to stabilize cell metabolism and postpone age-related diseases.

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Jan
16
2015

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Dr. Sandy Chang gave a talk at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas Dec. 10-14, 2014 entitled “Telomere measurement as a diagnostic Test in cardiovascular and Age-related disease”, but a shorter title would be “telomere length a telltale sign of aging” (my choosing).

Dr. Chang pointed out that it is now well established that telomere length is directly related to health. The shorter the telomeres are the higher the probability to get the following: early menopause, infertility, diabetes, wrinkles, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, stress and a lack of stem cells. In this BMJ study from 2014 it was shown on a large population basis that shorter white blood cell telomeres lead to a higher risk of coronary heart disease causing heart attacks. Decreased telomere length is also associated with the development of breast cancer, cancer of the ovary and uterus, cancer of the prostate and skin cancer.

Because of these connections it makes sense to determine a person’s telomere length. If it is short, do check-ups more often to detect any cancer early when it can still be treated.

Telomere length measurements are now done in many infertility clinics as short telomeres both in the male and female is associated with infertility.

The newest finding and perhaps the most important is that a healthy lifestyle, vitamins and supplements can elongate telomeres while a poor lifestyle leads to shortening of telomeres.

Here are the factors that lead to shortening of telomeres:

– Chronic stress

– Poor diet and nutritional habits

– Chronic inflammatory diseases

– Metabolic disorders

– Lack of consistent exercise/sedentary lifestyle

– Obesity, high BMI and body fat

– Smoking

– Over consumption of alcohol

– Lack of sleep / insomnia

When short telomeres are detected, it is important for the physician to look at lifestyle changes to protect telomeres from decreasing their length even further. This has the potential of preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s when it comes to brain health. It can prevent osteoporosis and metabolic diseases (diabetes, metabolic syndrome). Telomerase is the buzzword today, which is an enzyme that all of our cells have. The purpose why we have telomerase in our cells seems to be helping us build up and repair telomeres. Any substance that preserves telomerase or prevents the breakdown of telomerase will prevent shortening of telomeres and will also prevent the above-mentioned diseases.

These supplements lead to lengthening of telomeres:

-Vitamin C and E

-Omega-3 and polyphenols

-Vitamin A and D3

-All of these help controlling oxidative stress, reduce DNA damage, reduce inflammation and build up telomere length.

-A good diet and nutrition (Mediterranean type diet) will prevent telomere shortening as well and also lead to telomere lengthening.

-T-65, an extract from astragalus has been shown in vitro to lengthen telomeres, but there is no publication yet about in vivo effects in humans.

-Resveratrol is useful to prevent shortening of telomeres as well.

-Exercise also is a simple means to prevent telomere shortening.

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Telomere Length A Telltale Sign Of Aging

Another talk on telomeres was given by Dr. Harvey Bartnof with the title “Telomere Shortening and Modulation: Case Studies From The Clinic”.

This talk was a comprehensive review of what is known about telomeres, about the fact that many diseases are due to telomere shortening, about animal experiments, ways of how to lengthen telomeres and finally some data on human studies with regard to telomere lengthening.

In the following I will briefly review all of these areas that were discussed. Some of this material overlaps with Dr. Chang’s lecture.

What produces telomere shortening? Dr. Bartnof showed 4 slides that listed all of the conditions and diseases that are associated with telomere shortening. Telomere shortening is associated with twice the risk to die from a heart attack when compared to people with normal telomeres.

a) Known genetic conditions in humans associated with telomere shortening

There are three known genetic conditions due to telomere shortening: A premature aging syndrome, called dyskeratosis congenitalis; patients with this condition die prematurely from cancer, or from bone marrow failure.

People with Werner syndrome who have a genetic telomere loss have a mean life expectancy of only 54 years.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is another genetic condition with shortened telomeres due to mutations.

b) Telomere shortening associated with these health conditions

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD who is one of the three researchers who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their work on telomeres in 2009 stated the following: “Telomere shortness is associated with just about all the major diseases of aging… from cardiovascular disease, death from cardiovascular disease, risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, diabetes risks such as insulin resistance, vascular dementia, to osteoarthritis.”

An enormous amount of clinical investigations have been done since in cohort groups like people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.

There is natural shortening of telomeres due to the aging process. When we compare telomere length of body cells of a 20-year old and call this 100%, the telomeres of a 100-year old person are on average only 40%. A study from the Karolinska Institute found in a group of matching twins where one twin had shortened telomeres, this twin had a 2.8 times greater risk of death than the twin with normal telomere length.

However, as already mentioned a number of other factors can lead to shorter telomeres like chronic stress in workers who look after Alzheimer patients, being of the Caucasian race (compared to African-American), having had less education, chronic unemployment, depression, pessimism, single people versus married people, phobic anxiety in women and hostility in men, poor sleep and too little sleep, migraine headaches in women, low physical activity, smoking cigarettes and alcohol consumption. The list does not stop here. Other conditions are associated with telomere shortening like heroin abuse, exposure to smog, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and lead, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cirrhosis of the liver, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, chronic kidney disease and disability in the elderly.

c) Effects of medications on telomere length

Antidepressants used against depression have a telomere lengthening effect, but NSAID’s, aspirin and interferon-alpha shorten telomeres. Other telomere shortening effects come from cancer chemotherapy.

d) Telomerase activation elongates telomeres

Successful experiments in various mouse strains showed that special strains that were telomerase deficient, could be reconstituted to normal by reinserting telomerase: atrophied organs regrew back to normal size and function. In humans it was shown that increased physical activity elongated telomeres, so did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet, marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen in women and testosterone in men, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. The Astragalus-derived telomerase activator TA-65 has been shown in animal experiments to elongate telomeres. The human data about TA-65 is still spotty or not available (it is also very expensive and may be unnecessary given the fact that so many other agents are known to lengthen telomeres).

e) Human data on telomere lengthening

Much can be achieved by changing one’s lifestyle: cut out toxins like cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. Get involved in a regular exercise program, which has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol and to elongate telomeres. Adopt a Mediterranean type diet including olive oil; take vitamin E, D, C and supplements with resveratrol and murine omega-3 fatty acids, all of which elongate telomeres. Get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours per night) and do yoga and meditation. Avoid distress and tone down your stress level to eustress (normal stress level associated with every day living). An older person should use bioidentical hormones to replace missing hormones. All of this taken together will create a milieu in your body where telomeres get elongated and you live longer without disease. Several clinical conditions were mentioned where baseline telomere length was assessed initially and was found to be too short; simple lifestyle changes were then initiated, which were able to improve telomere length and treat these diseases successfully. In addition TA-65 (also termed T-65) was given in some of these cases, but in a subsequent discussion Dr. Bartnof admitted that he could not comment on how effective TA-65 by itself was as it was only one component of many other effective telomerase stimulators given. Till further research is out on this substance, it may be just very costly without spectacular benefits on its own.

Conclusion

I gave a summary of the talks by Dr. Chang and Dr. Bartnof regarding telomeres, but these were not the only talks about telomeres, although quite representative for the others. Both speakers pointed out how powerful lifestyle is for our body functions as this is what lengthens our telomeres and allows us to live longer, disease-free lives. Stem cells also have telomeres, but they are on average longer than the rest of the body cells (called somatic dells). An improved lifestyle will keep our stem cells in good shape, so they are there when needed to replace aging somatic cells.

The new logic of a healthy lifestyle is:

A healthy lifestyle causes healthy telomeres of somatic cells and of stem cells; this causes health until a ripe old age. In the next few weeks I will blog about more topics from the 22nd Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas. Stay tuned.

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