Aug
18
2018

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

A new study from the Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ont. showed that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s. Specifically the risk for Alzheimer’s was a combination of high saturated fats in the diet in combination with too much sugar.

The third triggering factor was the normal aging process that also contributed to the development of Alzheimer’s.

The study showing that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s

Master student Bradley Baranowski and PhD student Kirsten Bott conducted the experiments under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Rebecca MacPherson. The experimental group consisted of middle-aged mice that were observed for 13 weeks. They received a high-fat/high-sugar diet. The control group received a normal diet.

The experimental group with the high fat/high sugar diet was aging prematurely. They also showed elevated inflammatory markers, elevated insulin levels and cellular stress. Dr. Rebecca mentioned that the middle-aged mice would be comparable to humans aged 40 to 60. “[We’re] trying to see what the initiating signals are that can lead to progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” MacPherson said.

Lifestyle choices matter

“People often view Alzheimer’s disease as a genetic disease when in fact, genetic mutations leading to Alzheimer’s accounts for less than five per cent of cases,” Baranowski said in the press release. “This study highlights that our lifestyle choices matter and can potentially put us at risk of developing or progressing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Other studies that support the concept that lifestyles matter

Over the years many other researchers have analyzed what factors contribute to getting Alzheimer’s. It probably is a combination of several factors.

Age

Age is one of the major risk factors. Most Alzheimer’s patients are above the age of 65. Above 65 the risk doubles every 5 years. By the time we are 85 our risk is 1/3 to get it.

Family history

If you have a parent, brother or sister who came down with Alzheimer’s, you have a higher risk of getting it.

Environmental factors

Often environmental factors like eating too much sugar or too much saturated fat are confused with family history factors. Nutritional habits in a family can be like a tradition. It may appear as if this is a family history of Alzheimer’s when in reality poor eating habits were passed on from generation to generation. A lot more research is necessary in this area.

History of Head injury

A history of a closed head injury carries with it a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. We need to use seat belts in cars and helmets when bicycling. Avoid risky sports activities where you would sustain a traumatic brain injury.

Heart disease

There is a link between heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. When brain arteries get clogged, the brain deposits more beta-amyloid protein as plaques. This is a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Older Latinos and older African Americans

Older Latinos have a 1 ½-times higher risk than older whites to get Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other hand older African-Americans are 2-times more likely than older whites to come down with Alzheimer’s. The reason for this is not entirely clear. But a big factor likely is the cardiovascular risk that is higher in Latinos and African Americans. This translates into a higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

There are more publications that point out that Alzheimer’s disease is largely preventable by cutting out those factors that contribute to its development.

Here is a list of steps to follow in order to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. First of all treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively. This eliminates cardiovascular risk factors, which keeps the brain vessels open.
  2. Furthermore quit smoking. By preserving the cardiovascular system the brain stabilizes.
  3. Another important factor is physical activity: exercise daily! This maintains cardiopulmonary fitness. It also keeps your brain vessels open.
  4. Also, take care of your diet: eat balanced meals and avoid junk food. A Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet are examples of diets that help prevent Alzheimer’s. Note that these are low sugar and low saturated fat diets. This fits the initial observation that you read in the beginning of this blog. Mice on a high fat/high sugar diet showed premature aging and developed Alzheimer’s. Knowing this, it is good to do the opposite: cut out excessive saturated fats and sugar. Sugar increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which leads to hardening of arteries.
  5. Mental stimulation is another important factor for preventing Alzheimer’s. With lifelong bilingualism there was a delay of about 4.5 years in onset of dementia. The ACTIVE study is in the link above. It showed that mental stimulation could indeed delay the onset of Alzheimer’s over a 10-year period. 
Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Above all, I cannot emphasize enough how important a healthy diet is for a healthy mind. The combination of an overabundance of saturated fats and refined sugar was found to be the cause of premature aging in mice. But likewise, we know from human trials that this also causes premature aging in humans and higher incidence of Alzheimer’s. As a result, it is logical to recommend a lower intake of saturated fat and to reduce sugar intake. It will prevent hardening of the arteries and slow down the development of Alzheimer’s.

But there are many other recommendations to avoid getting Alzheimer’s: quit smoking. Stay physically active by exercising daily. Use a Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet to prevent Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials with these diets have shown them to be effective. Treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively as this will stabilize your metabolism. As a result it also prevents Alzheimer’s. Finally, stimulate your brain every day by doing various activities. This forms new synaptic connections inside your brain and postpones Alzheimer’s from setting in as you age.

Apr
28
2018

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Recently a study from California and France showed that animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you. This review goes back to  this original study from April 2, 2018.  Other studies have shown that there is a higher mortality with a meat-based diet.

How the study was done

Researchers followed 81,337 men and women from the Adventist Health Study-2 for a time of over 9.4 years. Between 2002 and 2007 they also researched the diet of the study participants. They used food frequency questionnaires. 2276 cardiovascular deaths occurred during the observation period. The risk for cardiovascular mortality regarding meat protein consumption was 1.61-fold. The cardiovascular risk for the nuts and seeds protein consumption group was 0.60. This means that the meat-consumers had a 61% higher heart attack and stroke rate. In comparison, the group that consumed nuts and seeds had 40% less heart attacks and strokes than people on a regular diet.

Discussion of the study

This study is rather large and went on for a long time (9.4 years). This gives the study great statistical power. The message from the study is quite clear. The more animal protein you eat, the higher your risk will be to succumb to cardiovascular disease. Having a heart attack or stroke prematurely will shorten your lifespan. In contrast, those whose protein source comes mainly from nuts and seeds are better off. They have a 40% lower probability to die from heart attacks or strokes.

Other studies regarding “animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you”

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Diabetes caused by red meats, processed meats, whole grains and sugar-sweetened beverages

A European study was analyzing risk foods that can lead to diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28397016 The publication of the study was  in May 2017. Red meats, processed meats, whole grains and sugar-sweetened beverages caused a 3-fold higher risk to develop type 2 diabetes. This was compared to people avoiding those foods. Study participants consuming legumes and nuts had a low risk of developing diabetes. In between was a moderate risk group who ate refined grains, eggs, fruit, vegetables, dairy and fish. Consumption of risk-decreasing foods resulted in a 42% reduction of diabetes.

Foods that caused heart attacks and strokes

A March 7, 2017 study from Boston analyzed the key foods that cause increased mortality.  Intake of high sodium, highly processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and also unprocessed meats caused heart attacks and strokes. In addition, a lack of nuts/seeds, low consumption of seafood omega-3 fats, low vegetable and low fruit consumption also caused mortality from heart attacks and strokes.

Nuts reducing inflammatory biomarkers

A September 2016 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA looked at the correlation of nut consumption and an anti-inflammatory response. 5013 patients from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study received food consumption questionnaires.

Research used two parameters for measuring inflammatory biomarkers: on the one hand blood tests checked the C-reactive protein (CRP), on the other hand they observed interleukin 6. Interestingly there was a correlation between nut consumption and decrease of inflammatory markers. When 5 or more helpings of nuts per week were part of the dietary habits, there was a 20% reduction in the CRP value and a 14% reduction of interleukin 6 , which was a difference to those persons who never consumed nuts. This is significant, because we know that inflammation of the lining of the arteries is a cause for high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation of the arteries can also cause type 2 diabetes.

Dietary intake among US adults, 1999-2012

This June 2016 study has the title ”Dietary Intake Among US Adults, 1999-2012”. Comparisons were made between a previous dietary study of 1999-2000 and now. The investigators noted some improvements in dietary habits. The persons consumed more whole grains and nuts or seeds. They also had slightly increased fish and shellfish intake. On the other hand, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages had decreased. But other food components like salt intake, total fruits and vegetables, processed meats and saturated fat had not changed. There was an increased consumption of whole fruit and a decrease of 100% fruit juice (which is sugar laden). Unfortunately there was also some bad news: low-income Americans still have poor food intake, so do non-Hispanic blacks or Mexican American adults.

Mediterranean diet can prevent cognitive decline

A July 2016 review shows that a Mediterranean diet can prevent cognitive decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In this overview the authors have collected evidence showing that adherence to a Mediterranean diet does indeed prevent cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet consisted of intake of fruit, fish, vegetables and less consumption of sugar, red meat and dairy. The researchers found that the incidence of cancer, strokes, heart attacks and diabetes were all lower, as was dementia. They pointed out that MRI studies have revealed that the brain volume showed a reduction by 5% per decade after the age of 40. From the third to the 8th decade of our lives the short-term memory can show a reduction of about 50%.

Deterioration of general health related to cognitive decline

The authors point out that the combination of heart disease, stroke and diabetes are often an indication that the person’s overall health is declining. Cognitive decline will soon follow, when physical decline is evident. What people often do not realize is that all of these conditions are related to decades of poor diets. Change the diet to a Mediterranean diet, and your heart health will improve; also a stroke and diabetes may be prevented. The interesting observation is that often cognitive functioning also improves. This makes sense: if the brain circulation improves, oxygen and nutrients can reach the brain cells again and brain function can now improve.

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Conclusion

I mentioned a recent publication, which stated that animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you. When I looked at other publications I found this confirmed. Finally I reviewed a study that investigated the use of the Mediterranean diet to improve cognitive function. It became apparent that physical illnesses, like heart attacks, strokes and diabetes, have also a connection to a loss of cognitive function in older age. It may point to a general aging of the lining of the arteries. An anti-inflammatory diet, like the Mediterranean diet, has the potential to improve the lining of the arteries. This leads to a reduction of medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. In addition it can also reverse cognitive decline. The switch to a Mediterranean diet is not dramatic! It can, however, dramatically improve your overall health and wellbeing as you age.

More info: http://www.askdrray.com/healthy-olive-oil/

Mar
17
2018

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Don Benedict hurt his lower back and tells about benefits of hot baths and saunas to relieve his chronic pain. He is a 70-year old former handball player. He played competitive handball for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest. His story is reviewed here. In order to stay in shape, he ran 5 miles every other day. But at the age of 57 he ruptured a disc in his back. In the following years he ruptured several more discs and had three back surgeries for that. Eventually scar formation set in and no more surgery was possible. This left him with a chronic pain syndrome, for which he received prescriptions for strong pain medications. OxyContin, Tramadol and anti-anxiety pills were on his prescription list. He needed to take 14 doses of pills per day to control his chronic back pain.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for chronic pain

Finally he remembered that as a younger man he was a summer river guide on Idaho’s Salmon River. When he and his wife had sore muscles they would relax in the hot baths of natural hot springs. Other people who visited these hot springs told him how having hot baths helped them for their aches and pains. For the past four years Don and his wife have been visiting the hot springs in Idaho City three times per week. This has decreased Don’s back pain significantly. He could reduce more than half of his pain medications and reduce the potency of the pain pills as well. The water temperature in the hot springs hovers between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). His wife, who has an asthmatic condition, reported that the hot soaks helped her muscle spasms around the throat.

Other treatment modalities to prevent chronic pain

13 years ago, when Don ruptured his first disc stem, cell treatments were not readily available. But if the same would happen today an unconventional stem cell therapy could be a treatment modality, and chronic pain could be avoided. I am mentioning this here, because Don’s suffering from chronic back pain was causing him a lot of unnecessary suffering. Discectomy surgery, which destabilizes the back and causes scarring, is not the first choice of treatment today.

Stem cell therapy

Instead stem cells are taken from the patient’s fatty tissue (liposuction) and from the bone marrow. A stem cell mix between bone marrow stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells (from fatty tissue) is made. Platelet rich plasma is added to this as an activator. The mix is injected into the disc space of the ruptured disc. Now the stem cells do their magic healing. The beauty of this medical procedure is that healing takes place without any scarring. The stem cells mend all of the damage. They do so by transforming themselves into identical body cells that overbridge broken tissues.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for heart

  1. 2016 study published in the Journal of Physiology describes a study that included adults in their low twenties. Their arms were intermittently exposed to 40.5°C (105°F) water temperature for 60 minutes over a period of 8 weeks. This lowered their blood pressure and caused the arteries in the treatment group to be more flexible.
  2. Scientists in Finland have focused on the benefits of saunas, which is a Scandinavian tradition. Their study in the American Journal of Hypertension followed more than 1,600 middle-age men for almost 25 years. The results showed that the more the men visited saunas, the less they were suffering from high blood pressure. These were the statistics:
  • Visited sauna 2 to 3 times per week: 24% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who had a sauna only once or not at all.
  • Visited sauna 4 to 7 times per week: 46% reduction of blood pressure.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding dementia prevention

2016 study out of Finland found that frequent exposures to saunas could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Compared to having a sauna only once per week (no reduction of dementia) these were some observations:

  • Visiting the sauna 2-3 times per week: 22% reduction of dementia.
  • Visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week: 66% reduction of dementia.

With regard to Alzheimer’s disease the corresponding figures were a 20% reduction and a 65% reduction.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for brain injuries

Dr. Burke from the Emory University Rehabilitative Hospital is investigating the benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding brain-injured patients.

He recommends 4 saunas per week for brain-injured patients. Dr. Burke said: “This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition, but can’t physically do some of the exercises.“

Caution regarding benefits of hot baths and saunas

Within 48 hours of a new injury, Dr. Burke says, it is best to use ice packs in order to reduce the swelling of the tissues. But subsequently he switches the patients to heat in form of saunas. Some patients have low blood pressure to start with. They may not be good candidates for hot baths as they may pass out when their already low blood pressure gets a further reduction. Always check with your own doctor before doing hot baths or saunas.

Europe’s history of hot baths and saunas

Saunas have a long history in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

Hot baths have a century-old history in Europe and Japan.

Father Sebastian Kneipp invented hydrotherapy, where cold and hot water baths are applied sequentially. The present resurgence of interest in the benefits of hot baths and saunas for healing purposes is nothing new. What may be new is that the medical profession at large is finally paying attention to the research of Father Sebastian Kneipp. He knew that there were benefits of hot baths and saunas.

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Conclusion

There are benefits of hot baths and saunas. This is what was spelled out in the studies cited in this review. The fact that heat can heal was something that Father Sebastian Kneipp knew long time ago. Medical facts have a way to recirculate. But now we know that it can lower blood pressure and can improve the flexibility of arteries. It can help with tissue perfusion and reduce chronic pain. But it also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition it helps patients with brain injuries to recover faster than without hot baths and saunas.

Advantage of heat treatments

The advantage of heat treatments is the fact that no side effects occur like with the use of drugs. Heat treatments are natural, but drug treatments are artificial. Hot baths and saunas can easily be part of one’s lifestyle. If you feel you need more of it, you can go ahead and do it, but if you feel you don’t need as much, use less. Make it fit into your lifestyle. It is also obvious that too much of a good thing is no longer a good approach to wellness. Limit the temperature in hot baths and don’t exaggerate the time you spend in a hot sauna.

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Mar
10
2018

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

A new study from France documented dementia from excessive alcohol abuse. One million patients who needed admission to hospitals in France for early dementia took part in that study. This was based on this publication. Dementia is a clinical syndrome, where the cognitive ability deteriorates progressively.

The study from France regarding dementia from excessive alcohol abuse

According to the French National Hospital Discharge database it was especially relevant that alcohol use disorders were present in 16.5% of the men and 4% of the women with dementia. Those who did not have the diagnosis of dementia had only half the amount of alcohol abuse disorders in both sexes.

There are other diseases that can lead to dementia like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. These cases were not part of this study.

The association with alcohol abuse was particularly evident in early dementia cases at an age below 65.

Furthermore, alcoholics also have a shorter life expectancy.

Several mechanisms responsible for dementia development

Alcohol can cause dementia in several ways.

  • First of all, alcohol and the metabolic by-product acetaldehyde have toxic effects on the brain. They cause long-term toxic effects and functional brain damage is the result.
  • Furthermore, heavy alcohol abuse leads to liver damage with resulting changes in metabolism. Ammonia production from the cirrhotic liver causes brain damage in a condition called hepatic encephalopathy.
  • In addition, heavy drinking is a strong vascular risk factor. This leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
  • Often it is the population group that is uneducated, people who smoke and people with depression who suffer from the effects of alcohol abuse.
  • Finally, heavy drinking is more frequent in men than in women. In men the dementia risk was 4.7-fold, in women 4.3-fold.
  • Obesity, smoking and high blood pressure are also risk factors for dementia. If these cases were not part of the study, heavy alcohol abuse caused an increase in dementia in both sexes by a factor of 3-fold.

Possible biases of the study

Dr. Kostas Lyketsos, a neuropsychiatry professor and director of the John Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center did not take part in the study and its investigation. A non- biased observer, Dr. Kostas Lyketsos stated that there is a problem with precision of the data the larger the study population is. In this case there were more than 1 million participants, so a number of biases can influence the outcome of the study. For instance, one problem is that these patients with mild cognitive impairment were inpatients in a hospital. Normally such patients would not be in a hospital. Another fact was that none of the participants had received questionnaires of the amount of alcoholic drinks they consumed, and as a result it is difficult to knows exactly how high the amount of alcohol was that caused the damage to the brain.

Country bias

The large sample size was from only one country, France. This means that we do not know whether there would be ethnic differences between countries. Nevertheless the findings of this study are important. In a 2014 review by the WHO the average person in France consumed 12.2 liters of pure alcohol per year. In contrast the average person in the US consumed only 9.2 liters of pure alcohol in this year. Apart from these concerns it is important to realize that alcohol has toxic effects on the brain. This can also result in dementia.

Other studies regarding alcohol abuse and dementia

The media has praised alcohol for preventing heart attacks. On the other hand, there are other articles in which we hear about alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis, both of which can be killer diseases. To get some clarification, let us examine the various facts.

Dr. Finnel mentioned that 7.9% of all emergency room visits in the US are due conditions which have an association to alcohol(Ref.1). When the causes of deaths  that are a consequence to alcohol are listed, they are: cancer of the mouth and pharynx, alcohol abuse disorders, coronary heart disease causing heart attacks, cirrhosis of the liver, traffic accidents, poisonings, falls and intentional injuries. You don’t get that from the news. Instead you read about the one glass of red wine per day that is good for women and up to two glasses of red wine that is good for men to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Bioflavonoids

It is the bioflavonoids and among those in particular resveratrol, that are the active ingredient responsible for heart health.

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that protects against ischemia-reperfusion injuries.  It is responsible for the cardio protective properties of red wine known as the “French paradox” (Ref.2). According to this reference resveratrol contributes to at least 3 processes that stabilize the metabolism.

Toxicity of alcohol

According to the WHO 5.9% of all deaths worldwide is a consequence of alcohol overconsumption.  In 2012 the WHO recorded that 7.6% of deaths in males, but only 4% of female deaths were due to alcohol. Toxicity comes from the breakdown product acetaldehyde, which all cells can convert from alcohol. Liver cells are especially able to do that. According to Ref. 3 alcohol diffuses easily through all of the cell membranes and reaches every organ in the body. The toxicity of acetaldehyde is shutting down the mitochondria, which affects the energy metabolism and causes cell death. The immune system reacts with inflammation, when it attempts to repair the damage.

So, what are the major damages which alcohol can cause? First there is fat accumulation (steatosis), next chronic inflammation followed by necrosis (dying of cells) and finally fibrosis. An example of fibrosis is liver cirrhosis, where non-functioning connective tissue replaces liver cells.

Different tissue sensitivity to alcohol

Certain tissues are more susceptible to alcohol toxicity than others. As the concentration of alcohol is highest in tissues that are in direct contact with alcoholic drinks, cancers related to alcohol consumption develop in the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and in the colon and rectum. The pancreas is particularly vulnerable to inflammation and fibrotic changes with degeneration into cancer of the pancreas. The heart tissue and the arteries are very sensitive to alcohol.  Hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, cardiomyopathy and myocarditis as well as irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) can develop. The brain is very sensitive to toxic effects of alcohol as well. This causes major depression, personality changes with violent behavior, car accidents and injuries.

Other toxic effects of alcohol on organs

Kidney disease (alcoholic nephropathy) is another illness due to too much alcohol. Five percent  of breast cancers in northern Europe and North America are a direct consequence to the toxic effects of alcohol (Ref.3). Finally, the liver being so active in detoxifying alcohol, will be not functioning and finally develops liver cirrhosis, as described before. This accounts for a lot of premature deaths at a relatively young age (typically in the mid to late 50’s).

Ref. 3 goes on to say that literature exists which claims that 1 to 2 drinks per day would be useful for prevention of heart disease. But the observation of the authors is that people will not discipline themselves to stick to these limits and very quickly enter into the zone of alcohol toxicity. The authors further noted that with regard to causing any kind of cancer there is no safe lower limit; the risk is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk starts right above the zero point.

The pathologist has the last word

When I studied medicine at the University of Tübingen, Germany I attended lectures in the pathology department where Professor A. Bohle, M.D. demonstrated pathology findings of deceased patients. Dr. Bohle had a special interest in Mallory bodies. These are alcohol inclusion cysts within liver cells that can be stained with a bright red dye.

Histological documentation of toxic effects in livers of corpses

I will never forget when Prof. Bohle pointed out that the livers of this most diverse population, whose bodies we had the privilege as medical students to study, had a rate of 25% positive Mallory bodies. He wanted to impress on us as medical students to watch out for the alcoholics that are usually missed in general practice. Obviously 25% of the pathology population was affected by the consumption of alcohol. It was Prof. Bohle’s hope that we could perhaps interfere on the primary care level before things went out of control. Many of these corpses were the sad results of traffic accidents that could have been prevented. (In 2018 things have changed: seat belts and alcohol limits are standard, in 1968 in Germany they were not).

Alcohol as an aging substance

Consistent use of alcohol on a regular basis will slow down cell metabolism and hormone production significantly. The major effect of alcohol leads to poisoning of the mitochondria in multiple organs, which translates into faster aging and a shortened life expectancy. This in turn results in a change of appearance. An older person who has abused alcohol for a number of years may look 5 to 10 years older than their chronological age.

50% of people above the age of 65 drink daily (Ref.4). Some more statistics: alcohol abuse in elderly men is 4-times higher than in elderly women. 5% to 10% of all dementia cases are related to alcohol abuse. About 15% of older adults are experiencing health risks from abusing alcohol. And about 90% of older adults are using medications. Close to 100% of medications can adversely interact with alcohol (Ref.4).

Social pressure

These are the scientific facts, and then there is social pressure, when you are invited to a party.

When you are young and believe that you are invincible, do you care what the science says? You want to have a “good time” and not worry about consequences. The data about long-term exposure and a slowly increasing cancer risk is there. The wine industry will remind you that 1 drink for women and two drinks for men will protect you from heart attacks. They will withhold the cancer information from you, as they don’t really want to hear about that (yes, it’s bad for their business!).

Resisting social pressure and doing what is good for you

Can you have a good time at a party without drinking alcohol? Yes, you can. You can talk and you can listen; you are probably more with it than those who had too much to drink. I like mineral water and hold on to a glass of that.

I explained in a blog before how I was convinced by three speakers at an A4M conference to join those who abstain from alcohol.

Socializing without alcohol is doable. You may at times miss it, but you can warm up even to a crowd that had a few drinks too much. It is about choice: we can choose what we want out of life.

 

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

Conclusion

Alcohol is a cell and nerve poison. The medical need for “one glass of wine for women and two glasses of wine for men to prevent heart attacks and strokes” has been vastly exaggerated. Fact is that resveratrol and other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E can also prevent cardiovascular disease. They are alcohol-free! The risk of dementia development as a long-term result of alcohol exposure is something that is only now getting attention by the medical profession. We live longer these days, and this makes alcohol exposure over the decades a real threat to our mental wellbeing. Consumption of alcohol needs to be re-evaluated by every one of us. What risks are we willing to take? Is the stress-relieving effect of alcohol worth the risk of losing our mind to Alzheimer’s disease? If we care about our future the answer should be clear!

References

Ref. 1: John T. Finnell: “: Alcohol-Related Disease“ Rosen’s Emergency Medicine, Chapter 185, 2378-2394. Saunders 2014.

Ref. 2: “Hurst’s The Heart”, 13th edition, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2011. Chapter 54. Coronary Blood Flow and Myocardial Ischemia.

Ref. 3: Ivan Rusyn and Ramon Bataller: “Alcohol and toxicity”, 2013-08-01Z, Volume 59, Issue 2, Pages 387-388; copyright 2013 European Association for the Study of the Liver.

Ref. 4: Tom J. Wachtel and Marsha D. Fretwell: Practical Guide to the Care of the Geriatric Patient, Third Edition, Copyright 2007 by Mosby.

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Feb
24
2018

What Causes Premature Aging?

Some people look 10 years older than their stated age, and we often wonder: what causes premature aging? Accelerated or premature aging can have a multitude of underlying causes. I will list a few here:

1. Weakening hormones

Men go through andropause at around the age of 60 to 65 and women go through menopause around the age of 55 to 65. In both males and females it is the sex hormones that are missing around that age. If hormones replacement follows fairly quickly with bioidentical hormones, this will not affect the visual appearance that much. In contrast, if bioidentical hormones are not the therapeutic choice for  hormone replacement, but synthetic ones, the hormones are not in balance, as synthetic hormones do not restore the hormonal balance. Nothing is gained, as the person will still age prematurely.

Synthetic versus bioidentical hormone replacement

In addition the synthetic hormones will cause heart attacks, strokes, clots, and cancer. Prescriptions for synthetic hormones are often the cause that the aging patient population gets these serious complications. Frequently physicians insist on using synthetic hormones from a “reputable” drug company to replace missing hormones. The reason this does not work is that a male has testosterone receptors. They need to be stimulated by bioidentical testosterone to restore all of his missing functions. Also, the same is true in menopausal females who need stimulation of their estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. Consequently, only bioidentical hormones will return a postmenopausal woman back to normal. There is a perfect fit between the bioidentical replacement hormones and her hormone receptors. Using synthetic hormones is like trying to unlock a door with a key that does not have a perfect fit: you damage the lock!

2. Missing human growth hormone (HGH) and thyroid hormones

These hormones have a special place in aging.

Human growth hormone deficiency

First, HGH production is running out in many people at age 60. A person with HGH deficiency will have lower muscle mass and strength. Other symptoms are dry and thin skin, particularly at the back of the hands. Men are balding, and they loose interest in sex. There are difficulties concentrating and they may have “senior moments”, which are memory lapses. Often they are prone to depression and anxiety. A blood test will frequently show elevated triglycerides. A blood test (IGF-1) and a urine test exist which make it possible to look for HGH metabolites to assess whether a 40, 50 or 60 year-old person is producing enough HGH. Many may need replacement of HGH. This is administered by injection through a tiny needle into the skin, similar to a diabetic injecting insulin. This will bring back what was missing due to HGH deficiency.

Thyroid hormone deficiency

Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are other important factors that could make you look older prematurely. Your hair is getting thinner; your skin turns dry and pale. The nails may be getting brittle. When the outside half of the eyebrows is very thin or missing, this can be a sign of hypothyroidism. In a similar vein the skin in the face may be puffed up due to swelling of the layers under the skin (myxedema). It is important to diagnose hypothyroidism, which is common in the aging population. The physician needs to order a blood tests (TSH, T3 and T4). If TSH is above the upper limit, your physician needs to replace both T3 and T4 by tablets (I prefer Armour as the T3 and T4 is balanced).

3. Smoking

The lining of the airways absorb cigarette smoke. The chemicals circulate around in the blood and lead to aging of the skin. Chronic cigarette smoke exposure also melts away the subcutaneous tissue. The end result is a haggard look. The natural glow disappears from the skin and because of carbon monoxide binding to hemoglobin the skin color looks more greyish. In addition the blood vessels are narrowing or clogging. This means that the body cannot absorb nutrients as well, and cells are starving. There is only one remedy for this: quit smoking!

4. Overexposure to ultraviolet light

The radiation of UV light can penetrate deep into and under the skin. This makes the subcutaneous fat melt away. The largest UV exposure is in the facial area. As a result we see aging there. The end result is a sagging appearance of the face. This link has an image of a woman before and after a non-surgical facelift with stem cells and fatty tissue: Stem Cell Treatments That Are Currently Available – Medical Articles by Dr. Ray

In a surgical procedure the physician harvests mesenchymal stem cells from fatty tissue by liposuction. A cell separator separates the mesenchymal stem cells, the connective tissue and the fat cells. The connective tissue is discarded. Mesenchymal stem cells and fat cells are mixed and injected into the thinned subcutaneous fatty tissue until the person’s younger facial contour is back to normal. Typically this will last for 10 years or more.

5. Drugs and alcohol abuse

Both can lead to malnutrition with weight loss and loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue, which causes sagging breasts in women. In men “beer tits” are common. The reason for this is estrogen accumulation, as alcohol interferes with the elimination of estrogen in the liver. Alcohol is a general cell poison. It causes all of the cells to age prematurely. The more alcohol you drink, the faster you age. The skin develops wrinkles, loss of elasticity and collagen, redness and puffiness. In other words chronic alcohol abuse ages you prematurely. The only remedy for this is to quit drinking. Some of your skin vitality may come back. Our body has an amazing capability to heal itself!

6. Medical illnesses

Many medical illnesses like diabetes, mental illness (depression and schizophrenia), multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease; cancer and others make you look a lot older very fast.

I will briefly explain the reasons for this.

  • Diabetes

With diabetes type 2 the pancreas releases too much insulin after a meal with starches and sugar; think about a sweet muffin or a toast with jam. The extra insulin causes inflammation. This stimulates enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.

  • Mental illness like depression and schizophrenia

We know from studies that depression leads to shortening of telomeres. This in turn causes cell death in the most rapidly dividing cells like in the skin and hair follicles. The end result is prematurely aged hair and skin. Schizophrenia also leads to premature shortening of the telomeres, which causes premature aging, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation and oxidative stress. The end result is that the person looks older than what their chronological age is.

  • Multiple sclerosis

It is sometimes difficult to discern in patients with MS what is normal aging and what is aging from the disease. This link gives some background on this. Many MS patients are anxious, and anxiety and stress by itself also leads to premature aging.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

The chronic inflammation of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can lead to premature aging. High doses of vitamin D3 and molecularly distilled fish oil can be useful to help treat the inflammation. Probiotics are also important to restore the bowel flora.

  • Cancer

Cancer leads to cachexia (excessive weight loss). There is also excessive inflammation, which leads to accelerated aging. The inflammation causes increased oxidative stress. This leads to tissue damage and DNA damage, which makes all cells more vulnerable to develop other cancers. Oxidative stress can substantially accelerate telomere shortening. As a result skin can become saggy, wrinkles develop and the person looks prematurely aged.

7. A chronic lack of physical activity

People who never exercise tend to get overweight and eventually obese. This leads to premature aging. Exercise would elongate telomeres, but inactivity shortens them. Obesity leads to increased oxidative stress and to DNA damage. Obesity also shortens telomeres. All of this leads to premature aging.

What Causes Premature Aging?

What Causes Premature Aging?

Conclusion

These are only a few examples of causes of accelerated aging. The key is to stick to a healthy, balanced diet (like the Mediterranean diet) and exercise regularly. Stop smoking (if you do), don’t take street drugs, and make sure you get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps your hormones regenerate overnight. The sympathetic overdrive from your daily activities is counterbalanced by the parasympathetic activities during sleep that causes relaxation. For hormone replacement you may have to see an anti-aging physician, a naturopath or integrative medicine physician. This may be your only chance to address any hormonal deficiencies. Conventional medicine does a very poor job of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) with synthetic hormones. Conventional practitioners want to treat you with synthetic hormones that will make you sick. Hormones for replacement have to be bioidentical! This way you will live 10 to 15 years longer, look younger and stay healthy.

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Jan
27
2018

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Dr. Robert G. Silverman gave a talk about bacterial toxins threatening the brain. He spoke at the 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec. 15, 2017. First of all, he pointed out how changes in the gut flora can affect the integrity of the gut wall. In addition this can eventually this lead to a leaky gut syndrome. But it does not end here. As a result the toxins enter the blood stream and affect the blood/brain barrier. Consequently in the end various neurological diseases can develop from this.

Here I am giving a brief overview of the talk by Dr. Silverman. But he was not the only one speaking to this subject. Several other speakers also brought up this subject throughout the conference. They stressed the importance of rectifying any gut dysbiosis to stop leaky gut syndrome and a leaking blood/brain barrier.

Leaky gut syndrome

When the gut flora changes there are often enteropathogenic E. coli strains, Shigella and Salmonella that invade the lining of the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. When toxins enter the blood stream, the body is starting to form antibodies against various proteins. Antibodies are acting against various targets: bacterial cytotoxins, cytoskeletal proteins, tight junction proteins and food antigens. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from toxins of gram-negative gut bacteria can also leak into the blood. This affects key organs like the liver, the heart, lungs, the joints, the immune system and the thyroid. When this process has gone on for some time, the blood/brain barrier is breaking down next. The intestinal inflammation causes the release of inflammatory cytokines that circulate in the blood stream. The cytokines cross the blood/brain barrier and activate the support cells in the brain, called microglia. This in turn causes inflammatory degenerative changes in the brain.

Blood/brain barrier

LPS circulating in the blood from gut bacteria endotoxins increase the permeability of the blood/brain barrier. This is bad news for the brain as it becomes vulnerable to attacks from the antibodies mentioned and from food particles. Dr. Silverman cited papers showing that circulating antibodies that cause inflammation in the brain can be the starting point for early Parkinson’s disease. Autoimmune antibodies can cause even depression.

Intestinal permeability can be assessed by various antibody constellations. For instance IgA antibodies point to an ongoing issue/early leaky gut syndrome. IgM antibodies indicate early onset and IgG antibodies chronic issues of leaky gut syndrome. If you add various antigens like LPS, zonulin and actomyosin you can pinpoint which structure of the gut wall is affected by leaky gut syndrome, and the antibody type adds more information about the timing of the onset of leaky gut syndrome.

Bacterial toxins threatening the brain when BBB damaged

As I already mentioned the blood/brain barrier (BBB) is often simultaneously affected when there has been leaky gut syndrome. There may be a delay, but eventually the BBB breaks down also, and the brain will be in jeopardy. Dr. Silverman gave an example of how depression can develop as result of a breakdown of the BBB. Chronic intestinal inflammation can suppress the sensitive hippocampus cells from regenerating. Physicians call that impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis. Inflammatory cytokines damage the neuronal cell progenitors. As a result patients with inflammatory bowel disease can have mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Sophisticated BBB blood tests can pinpoint whether the BBB is intact or establish whether there is impairment. The important thing to remember: there is a gut brain connection.

Fixing the gut to stop bacterial toxins threatening the brain

In order to fix the BBB, you must first concentrate on fixing leaky gut syndrome.

  • Avoid gluten, as gluten is causing inflammation of the gut wall.
  • Start taking probiotics that contain more than 30 Billion lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per daily dose.
  • Do a heavy metal detox involving phytonutrients, hops, turmeric, Andrographis, zinc, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and watercress plant extract. Andrographis, also known as the “King of Bitters”, is an Ayurvedic medicine used to promote digestion and stimulate appetite.

Nutrients to fix the blood/brain barrier

Dr. Silverman uses the following nutrients to repair the blood brain barrier.

  • Acetyl L-Carnitine: this helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage
  • Berberine: reduces inflammation in brain injuries
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: preserves the integrity of the BBB by controlling oxidative stress
  • Curcumin: decreases brain swelling, preserves the BBB and increases tight junction protein in brain cells
  • Vitamin D3 (5000 IU or more): protects the BBB by various mechanisms
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: they increase cell membrane fluidity and protect the BBB
  • Resveratrol: reduces inflammation and restores the BBB

Neuroplasticity

In order for the brain to adapt to changes, it must be flexible, which means on a cellular level that nerve cells form new synapses, neurological pathways etc. This is what neuroplasticity means. Here are the factors that Dr. Silverman listed as facilitating neuroplasticity.

  • Regular exercise
  • DHA from fish oil capsule supplements
  • Turmeric
  • Whole coffee extract
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Lactobacillus brevis and Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium animalis Lactis 420 (B420)
  • Probiotics: they feed the healthy gut bacteria (e.g. apple cider vinegar)
  • Elevate magnesium in the brain through L-threonate
Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Conclusion

In the last few years it has become abundantly clear that leaky gut syndrome is not an isolated matter. It is invariably connected to a breakdown of the blood/brain barrier (BBB). Leaky gut syndrome alone is bad enough as it can lead to a number of autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto thyroiditis and others. But when the BBB is affected, antibodies can now affect nerve cells, can cause Parkinson’s disease, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease. There is no reliable database for what can happen to the brain when the BBB breaks down.

Because of these connections it is important to sanitize the gut, re-establish a healthy gut flora and overcome leaky gut syndrome. This will at the same time repair the broken down BBB. It will also prevent further possible damage to the brain in the future. Your gut health is your brain health. Take care of both your gut as well as your brain!

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Jan
06
2018

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Dr. Pamela Smith talked about Lyme disease the great imitator when she gave a presentation. This was at the 25th Congress of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Dec. 14-17, 2017, which I attended. Dr. Smith gave a talk about how to approach a complex patient when multiple systems are affected. Part of that talk dealt with Lyme disease, which I will review below in some detail.

Transmission of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the US. As a result about 200,000 new cases of Lyme disease occur in the US every year.

The transmission occurs through ticks that that carry a spirochete, called Borrelia burgdorferi.

This bacterium, much as syphilis, which also is caused by a spirochete, produces imitator disease patterns. Clinically it can be a challenge to diagnose Lyme disease.

The common way of transmission to humans is by infected ticks that bite the skin. But Dr. Smith said that transmission of the spirochete can also occur by breastfeeding, blood transfusions, in vitro fertilization and finally by sex. Although originally Lyme disease infected ticks were found on deer, other species can also be carriers. Ticks from mice, foxes, raccoons, songbirds, chipmunks, and squirrels can also transmit Lyme disease.

Clinical presentation of Lyme disease

Only 30 – 40% of adults with Lyme disease have the characteristic rash of the “bull’s-eye lesion” (erythema migrans). With children this presentation is even less common (only 10% have erythema migrans). If there is a bull’s-eye lesion, this will last from one week to several months. A laboratory test using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA test) can confirm the diagnosis of the disease.

Disseminated early or late Lyme disease

Fatigue, headaches and weakness can be non-specific symptoms of Lyme disease. Furthermore, other non-specific symptoms like back pain, muscle and joint pains as well as chills can detract the physician from diagnosing Lyme disease. In addition irregular heartbeats, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, memory loss, gait problems, bladder and kidney problems are other symptoms. Finally, liver problems, sore throat, fever, seizures, depression, dementia, hallucinations, mood swings and arthritis can be other symptoms.Even eating disorders, verbal aggression, schizophrenia and suicide can be symptoms of Lyme disease.

Common symptoms that have a link to Lyme disease

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include headaches, fatigue, joint pain and swelling of joints, stiffness of the neck or back. There can be difficulties with concentration, speech or writing. Further symptoms are sleep disturbances, numbness or tingling of arms or feet and forgetfulness. 

Lyme disease development

Borrelia burgdorferi can be found inside body cells and outside of cells as biofilms. This form makes them resistant as it allows Borrelia burgdorferi to exchange DNA and makes them resistant to antibiotics. There are also two major forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, namely cell-wall forms and cystic forms. Once the patient has been bitten by the infected tick Borrelia can quickly change shape into the more difficult to treat cystic form. Within 24 hours Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the body. Common such areas are the eyes, brain tissue and glial cells, heart, collagen, synovial fluid of joints and skeletal muscle fibers.

Lyme disease can also complicate many other diseases. These are ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, MS, bipolar disorder, neurological disease, heart disease (Lyme carditis) and autism.

Treatment of Lyme disease

  1. Dr. Smith said that Lyme disease is often complicated by dysfunctional gut flora. She prefers to start patients on a sugar-free and gluten-free diet. The patient also has to take probiotics.
  2. 75% of Lyme disease patients show a cure after three weeks of Doxycycline 100 mg twice per day. Alternatively cefuroxime 500 mg twice per day is a medication of choice.
  3. Cefuroxime only treats the cell‐wall forms. Doxycycline treats the intracellular forms. Metronidazole or tinidazole will help to eradicate the cystic forms of Lyme disease.
  4. Grapefruit seed extract is another treatment modality if the patient is allergic to Metronidazole. It eradicates the cystic form of Lyme disease.
  5. Serrapeptase from whole leaf stevia extract will also help to eradicate Borrelia biofilms and persisters.
  6. Monolaurin, a coconut oil extract is effective in treating all three morphological forms of Borrelia burgdorferi.

Patients with neurological symptoms

Patients with neck stiffness, headaches or neuropathy need treatment for a longer period of time. These patients also need monitoring for recurrent Lyme disease at the end of the treatment.

Case presentation of a patient with Lyme disease

Dr. Smith presented one of her patients with Lyme disease in detail. She was a 45-year old executive. She suffered from extreme fatigue. It took quite a few tests to find out that her antibody titers against Lyme disease were very high.

Here is her long list of symptoms: hair loss, four urinary tract infections in quick succession, brain fog, extreme fatigue, systemic pain, musculoskeletal pain, anxiety and depression, eczema, psoriasis, itching, stomach ache, trouble eating, weight loss of 12 pounds, flu, strep presented like meningitis.

Comprehensive treatment of patient with Lyme disease

Dr. Pamela Smith instituted a comprehensive treatment protocol. It turned out that she had developed gastritis, which was the reason for her weight loss. This needed conventional treatment. After the treatment with antibiotics, her energy picked up, and her appetite came back. She also engaged in yoga and other self-awareness programs. She deliberately slowed down her lifestyle activities. Her symptoms were mostly gone or significantly diminished. She was able to function. She experienced energy, joy, and could focus again. The only symptoms left were some mild pain, some bladder problems, some limitations with her diet and mild brain fog.

Husband had Lyme disease

Part of the work-up was to test her husband for Lyme disease. He tested positive. He was also treated although he was entirely asymptomatic. When his treatment was finished, the doctor tested him for a specific antibody and this came back as negative. This meant that he now was free of Borrelia burgdorferi and would no longer be able to infect her. The doctor thought that it was most likely through sex that she had contracted Lyme disease. The problem is that some people are completely asymptomatic, but nevertheless they can be carriers of Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Lyme Disease The Great Imitator

Conclusion

Lyme disease, the great imitator, has become a more common disease in the US and around the world. Years back Lyme disease was often overlooked. But lately physicians have diagnosed Lyme disease earlier as diagnostic tests have improved. With earlier treatment a lot of suffering of the patient can be prevented. But in many cases symptoms are confusing as Lyme disease involves several organ systems. This makes the diagnosis more difficult. By diagnosing Lyme disease earlier, treatment can start at an earlier stage, and the patient will soon return to a state of wellness.

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Oct
14
2017

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible future clues from a trial using TOMM40 marker

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

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

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

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Sep
09
2017

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

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

The heart experiment

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

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

Overview of how stem cells can reverse heart failure

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

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

Other experiments that rejuvenate tissues of older animals

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

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

More evidence that rejuvenation of heart cells is possible

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

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

Degenerative changes in humans responding to stem cells

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

Growth hormone improving heart function in heart failure patients

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

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Young Heart Stem Cells Can Cure Old Hearts

Conclusion

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

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Sep
02
2017

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

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

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

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: high blood pressure patients

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: diabetes patients

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: improves bone density

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-aging effects

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

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

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

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

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: resveratrol and cancer

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

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: cardiovascular disease

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: polycystic ovarian syndrome 

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: anti-arteriosclerotic effects in diabetics

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: ulcerative colitis patients

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

Resveratrol effective in humans: Alzheimer’s disease prevention

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

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Resveratrol Effective In Humans

Conclusion

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

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

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