Jan
21
2017

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Matthew Andry, MD talked about the effects of metformin on the gut microbiome. This talk was delivered at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The congress took place from Dec. 9 to Dec. 11, 2016 in Las Vegas. A lot of the sessions that I attended dealt with the gut flora and how it affects our health. This talk belongs to the theme of what a healthy gut microbiome can do for us.

History of metformin

Dr. Andry is a clinical associate professor of the Indiana School Of Medicine.

He pointed out that metformin has been used for a long time for type 2 diabetes, particularly, if fasting insulin levels are high. Metformin is a biguanide, which was isolated from French lilac (also known as Goats Rue). In the middle ages this herb was used to treat “thirst and urination”. In retrospect we recognize these as symptoms of diabetes. Chemists were able to synthesize the active ingredient in this herb in the 1920’s. Since then it is known as metformin. Dr. Jean Stern was able to show in the 1950’s in clinical studies that Glucophage, the brand name of metformin was able to reduce blood sugar without raising insulin levels. Between 1977 and 1997 metformin enjoyed wide spread acceptance for treating diabetics. Several clinical investigators demonstrated that diabetic patients on metformin lived longer and had less heart attacks than patients who were treated otherwise.

Metformin is the first-line drug in the treatment of type 2 diabetes in children and adults. It is one of the most widely prescribed drugs throughout the world with 120 million prescriptions per year.

Off-label use of metformin

There are many other clinical conditions for which metformin have been found to be beneficial. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), obesity, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis are a few examples of off-label use of metformin. Metformin is also used as an anti-aging agent as it was found to elongate telomeres, which helps people to live longer. Metformin has been identified as a possible cancer prevention agent. In prostate cancer it was found to have an effect against prostate cancer stem cells. Without these cells prostate cancer does not recur after surgical removal.

Action of metformin

Metformin increases the action of an enzyme, AMPK, which leads to lipid oxidation and breakdown of fatty tissue (catabolism). In the liver the metabolic pathway of making sugar from fatty acids, called gluconeogenesis is inhibited. Metformin causes increased uptake of sugar into skeletal muscle tissue. This is the reason for the previously mentioned stabilization of blood sugar. Metformin has two beneficial effects on the liver. First it stabilizes insulin sensitivity. This means that a given amount of insulin has a larger effect on the liver. Secondly metformin decreases the toxic effect of fatty acids on the liver tissue. In other words metformin has a healing effect on non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a precursor to fatty liver and liver cirrhosis. Metformin also has an effect on the appetite center in the brain. It helps many obese and overweight people, but not all to lose weight. The mechanism for that effect is in the hypothalamus, where the appetite center is located. The neuropeptide Y gene expression in the hypothalamus is inhibited by metformin leading to reduced appetite.

Finally, metformin also normalizes the gut flora. This last point was the main focus of Dr. Andry’s talk.

Metformin and the gut

An animal experiment on mice showed in a study published in 2014 that metformin was stimulating the growth of a beneficial gut bacterium, Akkermansia. This is a mucin-degrading bacterium. But it also affects the metabolism of the host. The authors found that metformin increased the mucin-producing goblet cells.

Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria were fed to one group of mice. This group was on a high fat diet, but not on metformin. The mice showed control of their blood sugars, as did the metformin group. In other words manipulation of the gut flora composition could achieve control of the diabetic metabolism. The authors concluded that pharmacological manipulation of the gut microbiota using metformin in favor of Akkermansia might be a potential treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Effect of metformin on the gut flora

Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria comprise 3%-5% of the gut flora. It does not form spores and is strictly anaerobe, in other words oxygen destroys it. This is the reason why it is difficult to take it as a supplement. It is mostly growing in the mucous of the epithelium layer of the gut. The highest number of Akkermansia bacteria is found in the colon, lesser amounts in the small intestine of all mammalian species including the human race.

Here are the effects of metformin on Akkermansia:

  • Metformin increases the Akkermansia bacteria count both in a Petri dish as well as in the gut of experimental mice. This suggests that metformin acts like a growth factor for Akkermansia.
  • Metformin increased the count of Akkermansia bacteria by 18-fold up to a maximum of 12.44% (up from the normal 3-5%) of all of the gut bacteria.
  • Researchers observed that the mucin layer of the lining of the gut in metformin treated mice was thicker. This suggests that the thickness of the mucin layer plays a role in increasing the Akkermansia count.

Effect of the gut on the body’s metabolism

Other researchers have investigated how a high fat diet can change the composition of the gut bacteria, which in turn are altering the body’s metabolism. Essentially a shift in the bowel flora can increase the gut’s permeability. This is called leaky gut syndrome. It leads to absorption of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from bad bacteria in the gut. The end result is endotoxemia in the blood. This causes systemic inflammation in the body. Insulin resistance and obesity develop and this can be followed by type 2 diabetes. It is interesting to note that the effects of a high fat diet that led to these changes can be reversed by increasing Akkermansia bacteria in the gut or by treating with metformin.

An interesting mouse experiment showed that the changes that take place in the gut bacteria with cold exposure could be transferred to germ-free mice with no gut flora. This changed their metabolism proving that gut bacteria have profound influences on the metabolism. The fact that the gut bacteria have a profound influence on the metabolism is not only true for animals, but also for humans.

Akkermansia Facts

Here are a few facts about the Akkermansia bacteria.

  • The amounts of Akkermansia bacteria in the gut are inversely related to how fat we are. This is measured by the body mass index (BMI). Fat people have less Akkermansia in their guts.
  • A high fat diet lowers the amount of Akkermansia in the gut
  • Systemic inflammation is present with low Akkermansia counts
  • A high fat diet causes gut permeability (leaky gut syndrome).
  • Low levels of Akkermansia causes worsened severity of appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Low levels of Akkermansia causes fat storage (both in subcutaneous fat and visceral fat).
  • Low levels of Akkermansia cause insulin resistance (associated with diabetes) and high blood sugars.
  • Increased Akkermansia counts increase brown fat’s ability to burn calories, which leads to weight loss. Decreased Akkermansia counts lead to fat storage (weight gain).
  • Increased Akkermansia improves gut-barrier integrity
  • Increased Akkermansia reduces visceral and total body fat
  • Increased Akkermansia reduces synthesis of sugar in the liver (gluconeogenesis)

We have 10 times more bacteria in the gut than we have cells in our body. The Akkermansia percentage of the gut flora can be decreased from antibiotics or food that contains traces of antibiotics. If there is a lack of Akkermansia species, there is more gut permeability, causing LPS increase and causing increase of inflammation in the body. This translates into high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or MS. But it can also cause inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.

What increases Akkermansia?

We can increase Akkermansia bacteria in the gut by eating Oligofructose-enriched prebiotics. Oligofructose belongs into the inulin type soluble fibers. It is found in a variety of vegetables and plants. This includes onions, garlic, chicory, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, navy beans and wheat. But wheat can be problematic. Clearfield wheat is the modern wheat variety which is now grown worldwide. It is much richer in gluten and can cause problems with gut permeability.

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit will give you enough of oligofructose to maintain a healthy percentage of Akkermansia in your gut bacteria.

Metformin as pointed out earlier can be used as pharmacotherapy. But it must be stressed that the use of metformin for dysmetabolic syndrome is off-label. There are real side effects of metformin. Lactic acidosis with an unusual tiredness, dizziness and severe drowsiness can develop. Also chills, muscle pain, blue/cold skin and fast/difficult breathing has been described. Slow/irregular heartbeat, vomiting, or diarrhea, stomach pains with nausea are also listed under side effects.

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Effects Of Metformin On The Gut Microbiome

Conclusion

Our gut bacteria are important for us, more so than you may be aware of. An anaerobe bacterium, Akkermansia makes up 3%-5% of the gut flora. This bacterium lives in the mucous layer of the lining of the gut and ensures that the gut wall is tight. When these bacteria are lacking (due to consumption of junk foods) the gut wall becomes leaky, which is why this condition is called “leaky gut syndrome”. Irritating toxic substances can now leak into the blood stream and lipopolysaccharides are among them. This causes inflammation in the gut wall, but can go over into the blood vessels and the rest of the body including the brain. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or MS can develop from the inflammation. But it may also cause inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.

Eating lots of vegetables and fruit will give you enough of oligofructose to maintain a healthy percentage of Akkermansia in your gut bacteria. In particular, onions, garlic, chicory, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes and navy beans provide lots of oligofructose to support Akkermansia in your gut bacteria.

As pointed out earlier metformin can be used as pharmacotherapy of dysmetabolic syndrome. But it must be stressed that the use of metformin is off-label. It is also important to remember, that with effects there are side effects of metformin.

It may be news to you, how close the health of the gut is connected to our overall health. With the knowledge that food can be your medicine, choose your foods wisely. Add some or all of the above named foods that help you support beneficial gut bacteria, and take care of your health!

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Jan
02
2017

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

The neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter gave a keynote address where he pointed out that gut bacteria can protect your brain. The topic of his actual talk was “Rewrite your brain’s destiny” and the venue was the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Many of the talks centered around the gut microbiome. In this talk Dr. Perlmutter stressed the fact that the right mix of gut bacteria will protect your brain, while the wrong mix can make you sick. There were many slides, but too much information to mention all of details of the talk here. I will summarize the broad outline of Dr. Perlmutter’s presentation and emphasize the practical implications this has for everyday life to prevent degenerative brain diseases.

A few facts

  1. Did you know that the brain uses 25% of the body’s energy, but has only a 3% of the body’s weight?
  2. The gut flora has trillions of gut bacteria with its own DNA material. 99% of the DNA material in our body comes from the gut bacteria and the bacteria on our skin surface; only 1% of the entire DNA in the body is your own DNA. We are eating for 100 trillion bacteria, but if they are good bacteria they provide us with important vitamins and they produce molecules that stimulate our immune system.
  3. This means we better have bacteria in our guts that are friendly, not the bad bacteria that can cause us problems. An Italian study determined the gut flora of children in central Africa (Burkina Faso) and compared the gut flora to children from developed countries in Europe. There was a significant difference with the African children having a healthy microbiome in the gut and the children from developed Europe having unhealthy gut bacteria. This is important new information. Many other research papers have established that leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases are linked to dysbiosis, which is the name for the unhealthy microbiome in the gut.

Chronic inflammation

Dr. Perlmutter showed several slides where literature was cited showing that chronic inflammation in the civilized world is increasing. He also showed that dysbiosis (unhealthy gut bacteria taking over) is also increasing. On several slides Dr. Perlmutter showed that in civilized countries like Iceland, Denmark, Germany, the US, Japan and others the bacterial diversity of the gut bacteria in people was vastly reduced compared to the diversity of gut bacteria of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries that have diminished gut bacterial diversity (dysbiosis) also have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand the same countries with diverse gut bacteria have a low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. When infestation with parasites was examined there was also a parallel between increased parasitic stress and low Alzheimer’s disease rates, again in countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria or rural India. The same countries where gut dysbiosis was present the parasitic infestation was low.

Further research has established that gut dysbiosis leads to an inflammatory condition of the gut where lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from gut bacteria are absorbed causing inflammatory reactions within the body.

At the same time this leaky gut syndrome can cause obesity and leakage in the gut/brain barrier as indicated in this link. The result is neuroinflammation, cognitive impairment and vulnerability to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Our most dreaded brain diseases come from inflammation: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis etc. These are degenerative brain disorders due to chronic inflammation. If you eat a lot of red meat, sausages and processed foods your gut microbiome will undergo negative changes. If you eat healthy food with lots of vegetables, fruit and you cut out sugar and too many starches, you have a healthy microbiome, which develops a robust immune system. We have to rethink the gut/brain connection and learn how to prevent these chronic illnesses.

Obesity and gut dysbiosis

In the link above it was shown that obesity is associated with inflammation. It was also shown with MRI scans that the part in the brain, called hippocampus was shriveled up (atrophied). This is a typical sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators also confirmed with mental health functional tests that these patients had cognitive decline.

Another study also noticed that in a group of obese patients the hippocampus part of the brain was shriveled up the more obese people were. Obesity is associated with dysbiosis of the gut flora.

Practical application: the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are both healthy, balanced diets, strikingly different from the Standard American diet. In a study the hypothesis was tested whether the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet would postpone dementia in a group of elderly patients. The answer was: yes, the hypothesis is true.

What does gut dysbiosis do?

It was shown in mice that chronic inflammation of the gut through ingestion of an irritant (dextran sodium sulfate) led to reduced new nerve growth in the hippocampus compared to control animals. It only took 29 days to show a marked difference between experimental and control animals in terms of reduced growth in the nerve cells of the hippocampus, the center of cognitive control.

The negative mediators were inflammatory kinins released from the gut wall and affecting the brain.

Antibiotic treatments and antibiotic residues in milk, milk products, meat, but also in all GMO foods are the irritants of the gut wall in humans. The antibiotics change the gut flora and lead to dysbiosis, which then causes gut wall inflammation and the cascade of events described above. The new finding is that GMO food contains RoundUp (they are “Roundup ready” crops). The herbicide Roundup was originally patented as an antibiotic and still leads to significant dysbiosis. Dr. Perlmutter urged the audience to buy organic food as the only method to reduce our exposure to Roundup. Roundup contributes to causing celiac disease and gluten intolerance in addition to exposure to the modern wheat (Clearfield wheat). The FDA is starting to do testing on foods for Roundup (glyphosate).

If things are sounding bad for Roundup, it only gets worse: Roundup has now been linked to causing cancer. In medicine it usually takes some time before definite action is taken. The agriculture industry is so deeply entrenched in the use of Roundup; I suspect that denial will be the first line of defense. My first line of defense in turn is to stick to organic food.

To sum up: Roundup and the Standard American diet lead to dysbiosis in the gut, which causes leaky gut syndrome. This causes inflammation with the release of cytokines and LPS from the gut wall to the blood. These substances cross the blood/brain barrier and lead to inflammation in the brain. This affects the hippocampus with the classical sign of shrinkage. But Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism in children and Alzheimer’s disease in older people are all caused by chronic inflammation. There are three more brain-related diseases that are related to gut inflammation: stroke, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dr. Perlmutter spent some time explaining that antibiotic overuse even leads to an increase of breast cancer as a Danish study has shown. Antibiotic use showed a linear increase of breast cancer as a result of increased antibiotic amounts used. The highest group had a twofold risk compared to a control group with no antibiotic use. Dr. Perlmutter interpreted this to indicate that chronic gut inflammation can even cause a disease like breast cancer.

What can we do to diversify our gut bacteria?

  1. Exercise: A recent study has shown that regular exercise is associated with a diversified gut flora. The reason seems to be the production of butyrate with exercise, which leads to a diversified gut flora. There are reduced LPS levels (lipopolysaccharides from gut bacteria) in people with a higher fitness score.
  2. Eat a DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet as indicated above.
  3. Avoid GMO foods because of the presence of Roundup, which functions like an antibiotic and leads to gut bacteria dysbiosis.
  4. Remember “Antibiotics are weapons of mass microbial destruction”. If you need to take them be careful that you rebuild your gut flora with probiotics. Use of antibiotics increases the risk of type-2 diabetes by 1.53-fold. It also causes a quadrupling of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. A woman should consider natural childbirth whenever possible, as with a vaginal birth the child is “anointed with gut bacteria”. Vaginally delivered children remain healthier than children delivered by Cesarean section for several years.
  6. Acid-suppressing medications and NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medication for arthritis) can also lead to dysbiosis. Proton pump inhibitors increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 44%.
  7. Prebiotic fiber can prevent Alzheimer’s. Probiotics do the same.
  8. Avoid sugar: even the Oompa Loompa knew that “If you eat sugar, you get fat” as this YouTube video shows. And obesity is associated with gut dysbiosis with the associated higher risk of degenerative brain diseases.
  9. Take magnesium supplements (250 mg twice per day) and DHA from fish oil capsules. It stabilizes your brain metabolism.
  10. In severe, persistent cases of gut dysbiosis a fecal transplant can be considered by your gastroenterologist. This procedure is done in more than 500 hospitals in the US.
Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Gut Bacteria Can Protect Your Brain

Conclusion

The diversity of gut bacteria is immensely important. As discussed, in rural areas of the world there is gut bacteria diversity. In civilized parts of the world dysbiosis of the gut flora frequently occurs. This can lead to gut inflammation and the inflammation eventually gets internalized and can even reach the brain. These are the points to remember: exercise; avoid GMO foods, use prebiotics and probiotics. Avoid antibiotics; also avoid meat from animals that were fed antibiotics for faster growth. Don’t eat processed foods and avoid sugar. A healthy gut creates a healthy body, and this includes a healthy brain as well.

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Dec
31
2016

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

Eli Lilly’s promising drug solanezumab failed; so, what works against Alzheimer’s? This drug was supposed to dissolve the amyloid deposits that function like glue and make the patients lose their memory. This phase 3 trial was to test the drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety. But instead it showed that the new drug did not stop the loss of memory.

Now all those who were hoping for solanezumab to be effective, will jump on another drug, aducanumab. Biogen from Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed this drug. Out of 165 subjects only 125 completed preliminary studies. 40 patients who discontinued it, had negative side effects. These included fluid building up in the brain, which was thought to be due to removal of the plaques. But others, had brain bleeding.

Although the drug manufacturer is still hoping that aducanumab will work out as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug, I have my doubts. A drug that can have potential brain bleeding as a side effect does in my opinion not qualify as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug.

Factors that help prevent Alzheimer’s

1. Diet can be as effective as a drug in treating Alzheimer’s

In September 2015 researchers from Rush University published results of putting Alzheimer’s patients on the MIND diet. The MIND diet was a prospective study where 923 people aged 58 to 98 years participated. Researchers followed these people for 4.5 years. Three groups of diets were tested: Mediterranean diet, DASH diet and MIND diet.

The MIND diet study result

The adherence to the diet was measured: those who stuck to the diet very closely, another section of participants that were less diligent, and finally one segment of people who did not take the entire thing too serious. With regard to the MIND diet the group with the highest adherence to the diet reduced the rate of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to the lowest third. This is like a highly effective Alzheimer’s drug! The second group still was able to reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s by 35%, which would be like a regular strength drug. The control diets were the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The group that was strictly adhering to the DASH diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 39%, the group that was very conscientious in adhering to the Mediterranean diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 54%. The middle thirds of both control diets did not show any difference versus the lower thirds. The conclusion was that a strict Mediterranean diet had a very good Alzheimer prevention effect, as did a strict MIND diet. However, when patients did not adhere too well to a diet, the MIND diet was superior still yielding 35% of Alzheimer’s prevention after 4.5 years. The other diets, when not adhered to that well, showed no difference from being on a regular North American diet. Here is more info about the MIND diet.

Conclusion:

Avoid the Standard American Diet. Adopt a Mediterranean diet and stick to it in a strict fashion or adopt the MIND diet. The other benefit is that there are no side effects!

2. Stress and Alzheimer’s

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 women aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychological stress was rated in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 of them Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other forms of dementia). The risk of dementia was reported higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past and was more severe the more stress they were exposed to in the past. Women who were exposed to stress on one, two or three examinations were observed to have higher dementia rates later in life, when compared to women who were not exposed to any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher when exposed to one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher when exposed to three stressful episodes.

Conclusion:

Avoiding being stressed and seeking counselling when stress occurred could prevent Alzheimer’s.

3. Be creative, prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale, AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was measured using psychological tests. At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. The finding was that the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele was associated with a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease. If there were current depressed symptoms present at the time of being enrolled into the study the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular diseases was associated with 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities were associated with a lower risk to develop MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development was reduced by 73%, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life was associated with a 53% reduction in MCI development. These are very significant observations. This would be equivalent to highly effective anti-Alzheimer’s drugs.

Conclusion:

If you stimulate your mind in older age, even browsing on the computer this will help you to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Lifestyle factors contributing to Alzheimer’s

a) Sugar consumption: Sugar consumption and too much starchy food like 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.

b) Lack of exercise: 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. Exercise increases mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins.

c) Sleep deprivation leads to memory loss, but so does the use of aspartame, the artificial sweetener of diet sodas. Make your own homemade lemonade. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add mineral water to fill an 8 oz. glass. Add a tiny bit of stevia extract for sweetening. Stir and enjoy. Stevia has been used for thousands of years.

5. 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.

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. In an aging person it is wise to use melatonin at bedtime as a sleep aid and to preserve your brain.

6. Genetic risk of Alzheimer’s

At the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Dr. Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She 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 and hormones discussed above and exercise to improve brain function.

7. Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease of old age. We know that it is much more common in patients with type 2 diabetes where insulin levels are high. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease can be termed type 3 diabetes.

The resulting neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta deposits damage nerve cells, which are responsible for the memory loss and the profound personality changes in these patients.

What does vitamin D3 have to do with this?

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level was associated with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically the following observations were made.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require 15,000 IU per day. What the patients need in the dosage of vitamin D3 can be easily determined by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200 (according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada).

8. Avoid sugar overload

We already mentioned sugar consumption under point 4. But here I am mentioning it again because of the insulin reaction. 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, which means that anybody who consumes starchy food gets a sugar rush as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of chronic inflammation are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

Conclusion

In the beginning we learnt about a failed phase 3 trial regarding an anti-Alzheimer’s drug. Next we reviewed several factors that can all lead to Alzheimer’s and that have been researched for many years. It would be foolish to think that we could just swallow a pill and overlook the real causes of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe there will never be a successful pill that can solve the increasing Alzheimer’s problem. It is time that we face the causes of Alzheimer’s. This means cutting down sugar to normalize your insulin levels. We need to supplement with vitamin D3 because we know that it helps. For women in menopause or men in andropause it is time to replace the missing hormones with bioidentical ones. We need to handle stress and avoid sleep deprivation. And, yes we need to exercise regularly. Following a sensible diet like the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet makes sense. And let us keep our minds stimulated. Chances are, when we do all of this; no Alzheimer’s pill will be needed. This is not good news for the drug companies, but will be very good news for you. Last but not least, there are no side effects, only health benefits!

Additional resource on how to preserve your memory.

Dec
17
2016

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Magnesium is an important co-factor in many biochemical reactions, so magnesium is essential to life.

Many diverse diseases and cancers can develop from magnesium deficiency. The key is to supplement with magnesium regularly to get more than the government recommended daily allowance (RDA). The RDA for magnesium is 420 mg a day for males and 320 mg a day for females.

In the following I will review the diseases that occur without enough magnesium on board.

A lack of magnesium can cause heart disease

In this 2014 study 7216 men and women aged 55-80 with at high risk for heart attacks were followed for 4.8 years. The risk of death from a heart attack was found to be 34% lower in the high tertile magnesium group when compared to the lower magnesium tertile group.

The protective mechanism of magnesium was found to be as follows. Magnesium counteracts calcium and stabilizes heart rhythms. Magnesium helps to maintain regular heart beats and prevents irregular heart beats (arrhythmias). It also prevents the accumulation of calcium in the coronary artery walls. This in turn is known to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Another study, which was part of the Framingham Heart Study, examined calcification of the heart vessels and the aorta as a function of magnesium intake.

There were 2,695 participants in this study. For each increase of 50 mg of magnesium per day there was a 22% decrease in calcification of the coronary arteries. For the same increase of magnesium the calcification of the body’s main artery, the aorta, fell by 12%. Those with the highest magnesium intake were 58% less likely to have calcifications in their coronary arteries. At the same time they were 34% less likely to have calcifications of the aorta.

In a Korean study a group with low magnesium levels was at a 2.1-fold higher risk of developing coronary artery calcifications compared to a group with normal magnesium levels.

Low magnesium increases your stroke risk

In a 2015 study 4443 subjects, men and women aged 40-75 were followed along.

928 stroke cases developed. The group with the highest 30% of magnesium intake was compared with the lowest 10% of magnesium intake. They had significantly lower blood pressure (7 mm mercury) and lower total cholesterol levels. They also had 41% less strokes than those with low magnesium intake.

In a 2015 study that lasted 24 years the authors investigated 43,000 men.

Those with the highest magnesium supplement had a 26% lower stroke risk. They had been compared to those with the lowest magnesium intake.

Among women low magnesium levels were shown to cause 34% more ischemic strokes than in controls.

This study was from 32,826 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who were followed for 11 years.

It is clear from all these studies that supplementation with magnesium can prevent strokes.

Magnesium protects kidney function

This study examined 13,000 adults for 20 years to see how kidney function was dependent on magnesium levels. Those with the lowest magnesium levels had a 58% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. It makes sense when you consider that magnesium is needed to keep arteries healthy, blood pressure low, and blood sugars stable. In diabetics where blood sugar is not controlled kidneys develop kidney disease. This is called diabetic nephropathy. In the presence of magnesium supplementation and a low sugar diet people are less likely to develop diabetes or kidney disease.

Magnesium helps blood sugar control

A metaanalysis showed that magnesium supplementation was able to improve blood sugar control. This occurred in both diabetics and borderline non-diabetics within 4 months of supplementing with magnesium.

Magnesium has been known in the popular press to be an important factor in helping control blood sugar. Here is an article as an example.

Magnesium good for bones and teeth

Magnesium is important for calcium metabolism and this is helping your bones and teeth to stay strong. About half of the body’s magnesium is stored in bone. Teeth are the other location where a lot of magnesium is found.

Low levels of magnesium lead to osteoporosis, because one of the two structural components of bone (calcium and magnesium) is missing. In addition low magnesium causes inflammatory cytokines to increase. These break down bones. The Women’s Health Initiative showed that when daily magnesium intake exceeded 422.5 mg their hip and whole-body bone mineral density was significantly greater than in those who consumed less than 206.6 mg daily.

With regard to healthy teeth magnesium is important as it prevents periodontal disease.

This study found that there was less tooth loss and there were healthier periodontal tissues in 4290 subjects between 20 and 80.

Those who took magnesium supplements had healthier teeth.

Migraine sufferers improve with magnesium

A double blind randomized study showed that magnesium supplementation can reduce migraines. In this trial 600 mg of magnesium supplementation was used for 4 weeks.

This reduced migraines by 41.6% in the magnesium group compared to the non-supplemented control group.

Another study showed that both intravenous and oral magnesium are effective in reducing migraine headaches.

Intravenous magnesium showed effects on improving migraines within 15 – 45 minutes. The authors concluded that both oral and intravenous magnesium could be added as a supplement to other migraine treatments.

Cancer can be caused from too little magnesium

You may be surprised to hear that magnesium can even prevent some cancers. Two cancers have been studied in detail. I will limit my discussion to these two.

Pancreatic cancer

One study found that pancreatic cancer was reduced. 142,203 men and 334,999 women, recruited between 1992 and 2000, were included. After 11.3 years on average 396 men and 469 women came down with pancreatic cancer. On the male side they found that when the body mass index (BMI) was greater than 25.0 there was a 21% reduction of pancreatic cancer for every 100 mg of added magnesium per day. There were a lot of smokers on the female side, which interfered with the study as confounding factors undermined statistical validity.

In another study, the US male Health Professionals Follow-up Study was examined after 20 years of follow-up. Those with a BMI of above 25.0 on magnesium supplementation had a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. The pancreatic cancer rate in the higher magnesium group was 33% lower than in the lower magnesium group. The higher group consumed 423 mg of magnesium daily, the lower group 281 mg per day. It is significant that in both studies it was the heavier patients who came down with pancreatic cancer. It is known that obesity is a pancreatic risk factor.

Colorectal cancer

A study done on Japanese men showed that magnesium could protect them significantly from colon cancer.

Men who consumed the highest amount of magnesium developed 52% less colon cancer over 7.9 years. They were compared to the group with the lowest 20% intake of magnesium. The women in this study did not reach statistical significance.

A study from the Netherlands examined colon cancer in patients. They found that only in patients with a BMI of greater than 25.0 magnesium did have protective effects. For every 100 mg of magnesium per day increase there was a 19% reduction of colon polyps. And there was also a 12% reduction of colorectal cancer for every 100 mg increase of magnesium per day.

Magnesium plays an important role in genome stability, DNA maintenance and repair. It also prevents chronic inflammation and reduces insulin resistance, all factors contributing to cancer reduction.

Live longer with magnesium

Consider that magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in the body. Add to this that magnesium is a co-factor of more than 300 enzymes in the body. Magnesium is required as an important co-factor in the conversion of chemical energy from food that we ingest. Magnesium is regulating blood sugar, blood vessel health and our brain electrical activity. 50% of our stored magnesium can be found in our bones, which helps the strength and integrity of them.

Because of the distribution of the enzymes that are helped by magnesium to function properly, virtually every cell in the body depends on our regular intake of magnesium.

Since the 1950’s soils are depleted of magnesium where vegetables are grown and fruit trees are raised. We simply do not get enough magnesium from food.

But chelated magnesium is freely available in health food stores. Take 250 mg twice per day, and you will have enough.

Because our metabolism slows down, there is a critical age where magnesium deficiency becomes more obvious than when we are younger. By the age of 70 there are 80% of men and 70% of women who do not get the minimum of magnesium-required amount they should get (350 mg for men and 265 mg for women).

At this age many people are on multiple drugs. For many proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are used to suppress acid production in the stomach. PPI’s have been associated with low magnesium blood levels.

This link explains that PPI’s should not be used for longer than 1 year.

Low magnesium levels accelerate the aging process on a cellular level. Low magnesium levels increase senescent cells that can no longer multiply. Some of them could cause the development of cancer. These senescent cells also can no longer contribute to the immune system. This causes more infections with an adverse outcome.

Remember to take chelated magnesium capsules or tablets 250 mg twice per day and you will be protected from low magnesium levels in your body.

Here is why we live longer with magnesium supplementation

Our blood vessels will not calcify as early; they keep elastic for longer, preventing high blood pressure. Our kidneys will function longer with magnesium, preventing end-stage kidney disease. We need our kidneys to detoxify our system! The more than 300 enzymatic reactions all over our body help that we have more energy and that cancer is prevented. When there are fewer strokes and less heart attacks this helps reduce mortality. It also helps that there is less of a risk for Alzheimer’s disease with magnesium supplementation, because insulin resistance is reduced, which has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The bottom line is we live longer and healthier; that is what is meant with longevity.

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Magnesium Is Essential To Life

Conclusion

Magnesium is a key essential mineral. It balances calcium in the body and participates in many enzymatic reactions in the body as a cofactor. As long as we have enough of this mineral we won’t notice anything. It is with magnesium deficiency that things go haywire. You could get heart disease or a stroke. You could get kidney disease. You even could get pancreatic cancer or colorectal cancer. If this is not enough, magnesium deficiency can cause diabetes, osteoporosis and bad teeth. You may suddenly die with no obvious cause. But, if your magnesium blood level is balanced from regular supplements, you will carry on living and eliminate a lot of health problems.

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Nov
12
2016

Stress Drives Our Lives

Every year the American Psychological Association (APA) monitors the American public how stress drives our lives. This yearly report has been compiled since 2007. About 75% of the people questioned reported that they have experienced moderate to high stress over the past month.

Symptoms when stress drives our lives

What kind of symptoms can stress cause? It can cause sleep deprivation, anxiety, headaches and depression. But there can be more symptoms from any disease that stress may cause. The “Stress in America” report from February 2016 shows on page 5 that unhealthy life habits are used by low-income Americans to cope with stress. A bar graph shows that watching television or movies for more than 2 hours per day is common. Another way of coping is to surf the Internet more often, take more naps or sleep longer. Eating more, drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking more are other unhealthy ways to cope with stress.

As the stressed person gains extra weight and eventually becomes obese, there is a higher rate of diabetes that can develop with all of its complications.

Causes of stress in our lives

The “Stress in America” survey was based on 3,068 adults in the US who completed the survey during August 2015. 72% were stressed out about financial issues. 22% of these said that they were extremely stressed in the past month as a result of money concerns. Other common concerns were work, the economy, family responsibilities and concerns about personal health. Average stress levels among Americans decreased when compared to 2007. On a 10-point stress score respondents rated their stress at 4.9 in 2016 compared to 6.2 in 2007. But according to the American Psychological Association this is much higher than a stress rating of 3.7 considered to be a healthy level.

Stress affects people from all walks of life, workers, women, young adults, students and those with lower incomes.

“Stress is caused by the loss or threat of loss of the personal, social and material resources that are primary to us” Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Rush University Medical Center said. “So, threat to self, threat to self-esteem, threat to income, threat to employment and threat to our family or our health…” is what causes stress.

Stress drives our lives causing disease

When stress is too much for our system, we are starting to see pathology develop. “Stress is seldom the root cause of disease, but rather interacts with our genetics and our state of our bodies in ways that accelerate disease” professor Hobfoll says. The following are common diseases that can result from chronic stress.

Heart attacks and strokes

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for a mean of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There were a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours compared to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. A dose-response association was calculated for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives our lives and causes substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us treat daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next many people still smoke, which has been proven long time ago to be bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. As comfort food relieves stress, extra pounds are put on. As you know it is easier to put weight on than get it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This deteriorates your health outlook.

Diabetes

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition unhealthy eating habits associated with stress can cause weight gain and high blood sugars leading to diabetes.

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Their waist/hip ratio was elevated.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless.

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

Diabetes was significantly associated with a 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder with a 1.53-fold risk. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Stress has been identified as being at least a contributing factor. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease

A 2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychological stress was rated in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was reported higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past and was more severe the more stress they were exposed to in the past. Women who were exposed to stress on one, two or three examinations were observed to have higher dementia rates later in life, when compared to women who were not exposed to any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher when exposed to one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher when exposed to three stressful episodes.

Remedies for stress

Before you can attempt to remedy stress, you must first detect that you are under stress. You can recognize this when you have problems sleeping, you suffer from fatigue, when overeating or undereating is a problem, and if you feel depressed. Others may feel angry or are irritable. Some bad lifestyle habits may also make you aware that you are under stress. You may smoke or drink more in an attempt to manage stress. Some people abuse drugs.

Here are some suggestions how to remedy stress:

  1. Seek support from family, friends or religious organizations. If you engage in drugs or alcohol overuse or you feel suicidal, it is best to seek the advice from a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  2. Engage in regular exercise. This produces endorphins, the natural “feel-good” brain hormone. This reduces symptoms of depression and improves sleep quality.
  3. Do something that increases pleasure, such as having a meal with friends, starting a hobby or watching a good movie.
  4. Positive self-talk: avoid negative thoughts like “I can’t do this”. Instead say to yourself “I will do the best I can”. Psychologists have developed a technique where they teach patients how to turn negatives into positives. It is called “cognitive therapy”. You may want to seek the advice of a psychologist to have a few cognitive therapy sessions.
  5. Daily relaxation: you may want to use self-hypnosis, tai-chi exercises or meditation to reduce your stress levels.
Stress Drives Our Lives

Stress Drives Our Lives

Conclusion

Stress is very common. Diverse diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease can all be caused by stress. It is important to minimize the impact of stress by seeking family support and support from friends. Engaging in regular exercise will release endorphins and make you feel better. Relaxation exercises and seeking counselling can all help you to manage stress. It is not a force in your life that can be ignored or simply tolerated. Stress is indeed there, but we can make a difference by managing it to avoid that stress manages us.

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Oct
29
2016

High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Research published in April 2016 shows that high insulin levels can cause Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease has been known to occur more often in diabetics. But until recently it was not known why there would be this association. New research from New York University (NYU) has shed light on this puzzle. The key is an enzyme that breaks down insulin, called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). Melissa Schilling (no relation to me), an innovation professor at NYU has discovered the metabolic pathway between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This finding has enormous implications regarding the prevention of Alzheimer’s, as I will discuss below. Here is a link to the original paper.

Background information about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.2 million Americans and 44 million people worldwide. There is a progressive loss of cognitive functioning over a long period of time due to senile plaques in the cerebral cortex and the subcortical areas of the brain. These senile plaques are made up of amyloid-beta substance and of neurofibrillary tangles. This protein material is like glue, which prevents the neurons from working properly and causes memory loss and the confusion, which is so typical for Alzheimer’s patients. Normally amyloid-beta is in solution and prevents lipoproteins in the brain from oxidizing. But when the insulin-degrading enzyme is busy breaking down high levels of insulin, this enzyme system is overwhelmed. Amyloid-beta gets supersaturated, as it is not eliminated at a normal speed. This leads to the glue-like deposits of amyloid-beta in Alzheimer’s brains.

It is estimated that in 2004 the direct cost to the US of Alzheimer’s disease was $214 billion. By 2050 this could go up to $1.5 trillion, if no cure is found.

High insulin levels can cause Alzheimer’s, but other mechanisms too

Professor Schilling found in her research that there are four main malfunctions that can lead to high amyloid-beta in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

  1. With diabetes type1, when the patient does not receive enough insulin, the insulin-degrading enzyme in the brain is not working hard enough. This results in inadequate removal of amyloid-beta from the brain and neurofibrillary tangles of amyloid-beta are deposited.
  2. IDE requires zinc as a co-factor to work properly in breaking down amyloid-beta. Zinc deficiency is quite common, particularly in older people. With this mechanism insulin levels are normal, but amyloid-beta is removed poorly, as IDE function is diminished.
  3. In early type 2 diabetes there are high insulin levels and there is a competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta. This is probably the most common form of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Excess production of an amyloidogenic protein can lead to an overabundance of amylin-beta, which overwhelms the insulin-degrading enzyme.

What treatment options are there for Alzheimer’s disease?

Several implications follow from the four mechanisms that were described above.

  1. If a type 1 diabetic patient is insulin deficient, intranasal insulin would be beneficial.
  2. If the patient has type 2 diabetes, intranasal insulin or injected insulin would be the wrong approach. As stated earlier, there is the competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta. It is the insulin-degrading enzyme, which is the limiting factor. Simple dietary changes are needed where sugar is cut out and starchy foods are limited. This normalizes insulin levels and the IDE function returns to normal.
  3. Alzheimer’s patients and patients with mild cognitive dysfunction should be tested with glucose tolerance tests (GTT). It the test is abnormal, a knowledgeable dietician should be consulted.
  4. Obesity is strongly associated with hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. Again frequent GTT should be done followed by dietary intervention when abnormal.
  5. Professor Melissa Schilling stated that 86 million Americans are pre-diabetic, but they have no symptoms. Only glucose tolerance testing can diagnose that condition. This will prevent a lot of cases of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
  6. Large parts of the population have no knowledge of the glycemic index of carbohydrates. In order to limit glucose overload and excessive insulin production educational nutritional programs are needed. This will be a powerful tool in Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

It has been known for some time that diabetics have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s has also been called “Diabetes of the brain” or “Type 3 Diabetes”. This new research has shed some light on the connection of elevated insulin to Alzheimer’s disease. It was news to me that there is a competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta via the insulin-degrading enzyme. It boils down to recognizing that sugar overconsumption causes Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to keep your brain power until a ripe old age, you better eliminate a lot of sugar and adopt a healthy Mediterranean diet.

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Oct
08
2016

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

More and more studies are showing that vitamin D3 protects your brain. It protects against MS, but also against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In the following I will review what evidence there is to support each of these topics.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from multiple sclerosis (MS)

It has been known for some time that in the northern hemisphere MS is more common because of the lack of sunshine, which in turn produces less vitamin D3 in the skin.

MS is an autoimmune disease where immune cells attack the lining of nerves. Both nerve cells and immune cells have vitamin D receptors. It appears that immune cells are calmed down by vitamin D3 and remission of an MS relapse is more likely.

There are two forms of MS, the relapsing-remitting MS and the progressive MS. The first one (relapsing-remitting) is more common. After a bout of active MS, the illness calms down and the condition of the patient is stable for some time until the next relapse occurs.

With progressive MS there are two forms, primary progressive MS and secondary progressive MS. The primary form is a case of MS where symptoms steadily worsen, without any remission. The secondary form of progressive MS occurs at the end of fairly stable relapsing-remitting MS. Symptoms become more pronounced and the condition deteriorates steadily from there.

Progression and disability in MS patients with various vitamin D3 levels

Dr. Fitzgerald and colleagues published a study in JAMA Neurology in 2015.

They took 1482 men and women who were on interferon beta-1b treatment. This treatment utilizes the immunomodulator interferon beta-1b and reduces the number of relapses in patients with MS. The study took place between November 2003 and June 2005. Results were analyzed between June 2013 and December 2014. The researchers measured vitamin D levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D). The vitamin D levels were obtained at baseline, at 6 months and 12 months.

The number of brain lesions were measured by MRI scans. All of the patients also underwent a functional test, called expanded disability status scale. This measured impairment of ambulation, ability to communicate and activity levels.

Results of this study showed marked differences between patients with high and low vitamin D levels. Those patients who had the highest vitamin D blood levels (more than 40 ng/mL) had the lowest rates of new MS lesions. Previous studies had found that a low blood level of vitamin D (less than 25 ng/mL) in patients was associated with a much higher risk of developing MS. Dr. Fitzgerald’s study showed that a 50.0-nmol/L increase in serum vitamin D levels associated with a 31% lower rate of new MS lesions. Patients with the highest vitamin D level of more than 100 nmol/L had the lowest amount of new MRI lesions (47% less than the patients with the lowest vitamin D levels).

Another study showed that a low-dose vitamin D level accelerated MS. There was a 5.9-fold risk converting the initial relapsing-remitting form of MS into the secondary progressive form of MS.

All these studies show that vitamin D3 can decrease the risk of getting MS. In addition vitamin D3 also delays progression in those who have MS.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Parkinson’s disease

Vitamin D3 plays a role in preventing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes tremor in muscles, causes balancing problems and eventually can lead to dementia. A metaanalysis was done in 2014 and 7 studies where identified to be relevant. The authors were looking for correlation of vitamin D levels with Parkinson’s disease. 1008 patients were included in the metaanalysis with 4,536 controls.

  • Patients with a vitamin D level of less than 75 nmol/L had a 1.5-fold higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than the controls.
  • Patients with a vitamin D level of less than 50 nmol/L were at a 2.2-fold higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Another metaanalysis utilized 5,690 Parkinson’s disease patients and 21251 matched controls.

It found that vitamin D levels of less than 20 ng/ml were associated with a risk of 2.08-fold to develop Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, vitamin D3 supplementation reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 38%. Outdoor work reduced the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 28%.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease of old age. We know that it is much more common in patients with type 2 diabetes where insulin levels are high. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease can be termed type 3 diabetes.

The resulting neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta deposits damage nerve cells, which are responsible for the memory loss and the profound personality changes in these patients.

What does vitamin D3 have to do with this?

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level was associated with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically the following observations were made.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Vitamin D3 combined with metformin suppresses cancer

The newest development with respect to vitamin D3 is the finding that it also has anti-cancer effects. Dr. Li demonstrated that vitamin D reduced prostate cancer cell line growth by 45% while metformin alone reduced it by 28%.

But when both vitamin D and metformin were present in the cell cultures there was growth inhibition of 86%. Dr. Li explained that vitamin D potentiated the growth inhibitory effect of metformin.

Vitamin D3 protects your brain: guidelines to proper vitamin D3 dosing

For years the medical profession stated that 400 IU of vitamin D3 would be enough supplementation. It may be enough to prevent rickets in children. But these low doses will be insufficient in many patients who are deficient for vitamin D to prevent MS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.

A study on medical staff in Northern India showed that 85% of the staff had very low vitamin D levels of less than 10 ng/ml.

It took high doses of vitamin D3 to increase the vitamin D level in the blood.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require 15,000 IU per day. What the patients need can be easily determined by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200 (according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada).

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

Vitamin D3 Protects Your Brain

Conclusion

Many people are deficient with regard to vitamin D, and they do not know it. The most important thing is to do a vitamin D blood test to assess your vitamin D status.

We know for a long time that vitamin D plays a role in bone metabolism and this is why women approaching menopause often need vitamin D3 supplementation. But it may come to you as news that vitamin D3 also protects from MS, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, as indicated above, we know that many cancers are suppressed by taking vitamin D3 regularly.

When you realize that all body cells have vitamin D receptors on their surface, it is no surprise that vitamin D3 is so important to take. The vitamin D3 receptors must be there for a reason. If your body is deprived of this valuable vitamin, the high risk of degenerative diseases will be the consequence.

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Jun
11
2016

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

An April 2016 study from Indiana University found that drugs can cause dementia. There were 451 people enrolled in the study with an average age of 73. 60 of them were taking at least one or more anticholinergic drugs. Anticholinergic drugs are drugs that inhibit the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in nerves or in the brain. The end result is that spasms in the stomach, bowel or bladder are relieved. Also the many over-the-counter sleep medications that may contain anticholinergic drugs help you to fall asleep easier. In the above-mentioned study researchers measured the effects that the drugs have, using different tests. They used memory and cognitive tests to check for memory loss, reasoning and judgment. PET scans were used for measuring brain metabolism. MRI scans were used to look for structural brain changes.

Results on how anticholinergic drugs can cause dementia

Memory tests and cognitive function tests showed that those taking anticholinergic drugs did worse on memory tests, verbal reasoning, problem solving and planning. The PET scan showed that glucose utilization by the brain was down in those who were taking anticholinergic drugs. The hippocampus was particularly affected with lower glucose utilization. This is the center where short-term memory is processed. It is also the area where Alzheimer’s patients have been found to have problems with early memory loss.

MRI scans showed that there were structural brain changes in the patients that were using anticholinergic drugs. Their brains had reduced brain volume (brain atrophy) and the brain cavities in the brain, called ventricles were enlarged. Overall this meant that their brains had much less brain cells when compared to controls that did not take anticholinergic drugs.

In a 2013 study from the Indiana University researchers had established that it took only 60 days of taking cholinergic drugs to cause cognitive problems. Using drugs with only weak anticholinergic side effects, it took up to 90 days before the same cognitive deterioration could be measured.

The researchers concluded that it would be wise for physicians to consider switching a patient to medication that does not include anticholinergic side effects to prevent development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Anticholinergic drugs can cause dementia

In the study above it was stated that it was the group of anticholinergic drugs that was particularly problematic. These are over-the-counter-drugs like sleep aids, antihistamines, and incontinence drugs etc. that were having anticholinergic side effects. The more of these types of drugs are taken, the more interaction can take place, leading to full-blown anticholinergic symptoms. As people age, they collect more and more symptoms and diseases. Physicians tend to treat the symptoms with various medications, so it is not unusual for an elderly person to be on 5 or 6 different drugs. If one or more of these drugs have anticholinergic side effects, this can add up and cause the kind of observations the above mentioned clinical study showed: dementia symptoms and proof that the brain metabolism has been slowed down. The brain also experiences the structural changes of dementia that I mentioned.

Possibility that herbs and drugs can cause dementia

The problem does not stop here. It is possible that over-the-counter herbs that you may innocently get in the health food store can participate in the overall metabolic interaction of anticholinergic substances. Many herbs have pharmacological substances in them that have specific helpful effects. But whenever a drug or herb has a positive effect, quite often there is an undesirable effect or side effect.

Historically Belladonna is a poisonous plant that has medicinal values. Unfortunately many Belladonna preparations are available in health food stores that are not regulated by the FDA. Belladonna has strong anticholinergic side effects that interfere with other anticholinergic side effects.

There are many other herbs that are available without prescription.

Kava-kava is an herb and a hallucinogenic that has anticholinergic properties. Keep in mind that the more you use Kava-Kava, the more your brain gets shut down. Why? The anticholinergic effect of Kava-Kava shuts down acetylcholine, the main stimulus in your brain cells to help you think.

Passionflower is an herb that sedates and is often used as a tincture to help you to fall asleep. What is perceived as a natural effect is merely the anticholinergic effect on the central nervous system.

Hops is the calming compound found in beer. It is also often used together with other sedating herbal sleeping remedies in teas.

St. John’s wort is also on the list. In smaller doses this herbal antidepressant may be useful and may have less side effects than commercial antidepressants. But there are possible side effects of dry mouth and constipation, which are the result of the anticholinergic side effect.

Skullcap is often used in tea to help a person to fall asleep. But keep in mind that the effect of helping you fall asleep comes from the anticholinergic effect of skullcap on brain cells.

All of these herbs are not any different from the medications discussed earlier, except that they are a bit weaker with regard to the anticholinergic effect.

Street drugs can cause dementia

Many street drugs are sedating and they have anticholinergic effects. It is therefore no surprise that with chronic use of street drugs drug users can come down with dementia, even at a relatively young age. Long-term use of anticholinergic drugs is associated with delirium and dementia.

Particularly benzodiazepines, meperidine (an opioid), antidepressants and many other drugs when taken together cause dementia, in part because of additive anticholinergic activity.

In an Edinburgh study from England 34 deceased patients, who were heavily using street drugs were autopsied. Their brains were compared to healthy 16-year-old non-drug users. There was nerve cell damage in the brain area involved with learning, memory and wellbeing. The pathologist found the same dementia findings that would be present in much older Alzheimer patients. We have to conclude from this that the damage was done by the anticholinergic effect of the drugs that were used as a mix in the years prior to their deaths. There can be added toxicity to nerve cells from interacting drugs and their side effects.

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

Drugs Can Cause Dementia

Conclusion

Whenever you have a substance that helps to get you drowsy so you can sleep better, be careful and check that it is not because of the anticholinergic effect of an herb or an over-the-counter drug. Melatonin is an exception, because this is your body’s own sleeping hormone that your body knows. Whenever anticholinergic drugs or herbs act on your brain they can over time cause an irreversible brain atrophy, which can been shown by MRI scans as in the study mentioned above. This leads to cognitive problems including memory problems. PET scans have also shown a permanent slowdown of glucose metabolism of the brain cells of the hippocampus, where short-term memory is located. Without that function you get permanent dementia. Instead of being treated symptomatically ask your physician for the cause of your symptoms and have the cause treated. You may not always get the answer you need from conventional medicine. As the next step you may want a second opinion from a naturopath to see whether there would be an alternative treatment available that does not involve anticholinergic medications. Go to the root of the problem, avoid drugs that cause damage, and keep your brain healthy and your mental capacities without cognitive deficits!

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Apr
23
2016

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Powerful catechins that are a special form of bioflavonoids provide the healing powers of green tea. Research teams have proven that these catechins are only contained in green tea, not so much in black tea. The most effective of several catechins contained in green tea is EGCG, which stands for EpiGalloCatechin-3-Gallate. It crosses the blood/brain barrier and is very important for the protection of the brain from Alzheimer’s disease. But green tea or green tea extract has a diversified pharmacological action. It is said to protect you from cardiovascular disease, from obesity, from diabetes, from autoimmune disorders, from cancer and from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In the following I like to comment on how green tea or its extract can protect from all of these diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease

Although there are 5 or 6 approved anti-Alzheimer’s drugs, none of them work for very long. They may at best postpone the deteriorating memory for 6 months, but then the effect of the drug wears off. The reason is that the drugs do not stop the production of the deadly beta-amyloid. It is the beta-amyloid that damages nerve cells that you want to preserve so you can think and memorize. In contrast a simple phytochemical, the catechin EGCG has been shown in animal experiments and in human trials to stop beta-amyloid production and increase solubility of beta-amyloid fragments in the brain. The end result is better memory and no further deterioration.

In a study of 13,988 elderly Japanese observed over 3 years the group that consumed 3 to 4 cups of green tea daily had 33% less strokes, cognitive impairment and osteoporosis.

Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland enrolled 12 healthy volunteers aged 21 to 28 and fed them extracts of green tea or placebo fluid via feeding tubes. This was done to rule out taste as a factor. Functional MRI scans were applied as the subjects were given memory-stimulating tasks. Only the green tea extract was boosting activity in the frontal brain of the subjects. This was located in a specific area, called dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area is known to be involved with language comprehension, reasoning and learning. It also switches short-term memory into long-term memory, called working memory processing.

Studies in animals have shown that nerve cells are protected from the toxic effect of beta-amyloid and at the same time the production of new brain nerve cells (neurons) is triggered by green tea extract. This is really good news for Alzheimer’s disease patients and their families: green tea extract delays further memory deterioration and stimulates the development of new nerve cells in the brain!

Cardiovascular disease

In a 2006 Japanese study 40,530 Japanese adults aged 40 to 79 years without history of stroke, coronary heart disease, or cancer at baseline were observed for 7 years. Diaries were kept about how many cups of green tea each person was drinking per day. The biggest effect was seen with regard to prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

Men had a mortality reduction of 12% for heart attacks when they drank 5 cups or more of green tea; in women the corresponding mortality reduction for heart attack was 31%, a bigger effect. Overall mortality from strokes was lower than from heart attacks making the effect of green tea consumption even more beneficial with respect to stroke prevention. In this study no cancer preventing effect was observed for green tea.

Obesity

It appears that green tea increases heat production and burns fat in the process. There was a small effect in terms of weight loss and a beneficial effect increasing the protective HDL cholesterol in this 2012 Polish study on obese patients. The authors compared either 379 mg of green tea extract, or a placebo, daily for 3 months. They concluded: “The results of this study confirm the beneficial effects of green tea extract supplementation on body mass index, lipid profile, and total antioxidant status in patients with obesity.”

Diabetes

Although there are claims in some studies that green tea would prevent diabetes, this question was thoroughly investigated in this Chinese 2014 study.

No effects were noted on fasting blood sugars or on hemoglobin A1C values, a very sensitive indicator for the presence or absence of diabetes. All these lab tests were unchanged following consumption of green tea or green tea extract. Forget using green tea for diabetes prevention; cut out sugar and starchy foods instead.

Autoimmune disorders

Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus are both autoimmune diseases. Green tea extract has shown in humans that symptom severity can improve; green tea polyphenols (GTPs) possess anti-inflammatory properties that benefit patients with autoimmune diseases.

In an animal model arthritis researchers determined that T helper cells are weakened and bone resorption is inhibited by EGCG from green tea extract.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA have noted that green tea extract is useful in calming down the immune response in autoimmune diseases. They concluded: “Altogether, these studies identify and support the use of EGCG as a potential therapeutic agent in preventing and ameliorating T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.”

Cancer

Many research papers have found that EGCG from green tea extract has immune modulatory effects that are useful in combination with chemotherapy. A combination of cisplatin therapy with green tea extract has been found to have more effects on colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer than each one on its own. Similarly chemotherapy of breast cancer had better results in humans when EGCG from green tea extract was added as an immune modulation. More research, particularly in humans is needed to fully understand the mechanism of action of EGCG.

Toxicity of green tea extract

Animal experiments showed that higher doses of green tea extract could cause toxicity in the liver and in the nose of rats and mice. I was not able to find objective evidence for green tea toxicity in the PubMed system with respect to humans.

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Conclusion

Perhaps the most important discovery regarding green tea extract is that it crosses easily through the blood/brain barrier into the brain. This can postpone Alzheimer’s disease and can even lead to new neuron formation. The beneficial cardiovascular effects are also useful and combine well with exercise and good nutrition for prevention. Particularly stroke prevention is a useful property of EGCG from green tea extract. The effect on obesity is marginal whereas there was no effect of green tea on prevention of diabetes. The immune modulatory effect of green tea extract is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and of cancer. Existing treatments for these conditions are becoming more effective by adding green tea extract.

Mar
19
2016

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

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

Book overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 15 gives you a brief summary of the book.

Kirkus Review

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

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Healing Gone Wrong – Healing Done Right

Conclusion

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

The book is written in American English.

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

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

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

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