Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

New research, more extensive than previous research has shown that no amount of alcohol is good.

This is completely against the widespread belief that moderate consumption of alcohol would prevent heart disease.

Specifically, previous research had shown the following: one glass of alcohol per day for women and 2 glasses of alcohol for men was reportedly make us live longer.

New research with larger population numbers

But a new study involving much larger population groups, all ages, and drinkers versus non-drinkers came to a different conclusion. It concluded that the previous recommendation was based on only heart attack rates, but excluded other causes of sudden death like heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and strokes. With the compilation of all these cardiovascular diseases, the statistics suddenly started to look different. Now even small amounts of alcohol killed. What is worse, there was clear evidence that binge drinkers have much worse survival statistics than moderate drinkers. When you drink according to the American Heart Association’s recommendation, you drink smaller amounts of alcohol daily.

Binge drinking

But many of us like to live it up on weekends or whenever there are friends over who also like a few drinks. This binge drinking habit lowers the life expectancy by an average of 10 years. It does so because the list of complications I mentioned above. In addition there are alcoholic liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and various cancers that shorten your life.

Global health study

The funders of this global health study was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The original study appeared in the Lancet. The combined study population was 28 million individuals. There were 649,000 cases of various deaths due to alcohol. Here is a summary of the abbreviated outcome of the global health study. As you can see from this, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption as even small amounts of alcohol over a long period of time lead to significant damage in the body. You can prevent heart attacks to a certain extent. But instead people die from a ruptured aorta, from strokes or from heart failure. The leading cause of death for men and women age 15 to 49 worldwide was alcohol. It accounted for almost 1 in 10 deaths.

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

  • Over 300 disabilities and diseases were directly related to alcohol consumption. The findings were collected in 195 countries, classified by age and sex. The data was gathered between 1990 and 2016.
  • Globally, 2.4 billion people drink alcohol. 25% are women who consume 0.73 drinks on average each day, 39% are men drinking 1.7 drinks a day.
  • Denmark, Norway and Germany drank the most alcohol globally.
  • For ages 50 and up the leading causes of death were: road injuries, suicides and tuberculosis.

More statistics

  • Most deaths caused by alcohol came from cardiovascular disease and cancer for all countries.
  • When you look only at drinkers, the standard recommendation of the American Heart Association regarding low alcohol consumption seems true. But the new study compared non-drinkers with drinkers. From this it is clear that even one drink a day has a risk of premature death.
  • At the age of 40 cutting down long-term alcohol use will add 1 to 2 years of life expectancy.
  • For all ages 2.8 million people die globally every year from alcohol related diseases.
  • Half of the world does not drink at all. This means that the ones, who drink, consume double as much as the statistics show.
  • Americans prefer beer. They drink about 27 gallons of beer, 2.6 gallons of wine and 2.2 gallons of spirits per adult/year.

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

Binge drinking is the consumption of 5 drinks or more in an evening for men or 4 drinks for women. The CDC is concerned about binge drinking, because of its association with significant organ damages. There are 4 major concerns regarding these effects. Heart disease and cancer; diabetes; memory loss and appearance. In the following I will zero in on these alcohol-related conditions. 

Heart disease

As this article pointed out above, there is a very limited protective effect, but mostly in above 55-year-old women who drink in moderation (1 glass of alcohol; per day). They have some protection from developing heart attacks, because their LDL cholesterol gets lowered and their clotting system is influenced in positive ways. But 6% of breast cancer in women is due to the effect of alcohol consumption, which is a downfall. For both men and women binge drinking is what kills. Binge drinkers who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week (more than 7 drinks in the US) experience increased deaths. The causes are heart failure, strokes, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where the main artery bursts. Apart from that alcohol-related pancreatitis and liver cirrhosis can kill as well.

Cancer

A relatively new finding is that alcohol has a close relationship to causing various cancers. Alcohol weakens the immune system. Also, alcohol has a negative influence on the bacterial composition, the microbiome in our digestive tract, is. This can be a cause for colon cancer. Liver cancer, mouth cancer and breast cancer also has a direct relationship to increased alcohol consumption. Esophageal cancer and laryngeal cancer are also related to alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

Alcohol can stimulate the pancreas to release insulin, which may give you hypoglycemic attacks. As alcohol contains empty calories, over the course of several years alcohol consumption can add to your weight, causing obesity and type 2 diabetes. As diabetes has detrimental effects on the heart and blood vessels, this mixed with alcohol consumption, can worsen cardiovascular disease thus increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Memory loss

In the beginning of chronic alcohol consumption you may enjoy the relaxing effect of alcohol. This is merely the toxic effect of alcohol on brain cells. Alcohol has the effect of inhibiting brain cells, which makes you feel relaxed, super-sociable and even silly. In reality you are starting to loose control. After several years of this effect you are left with feelings of anxiety, depression and anger. This is when trouble starts to occur. People out of control are more likely to get into fights and get injured or killed. People can develop blackouts where they do not remember parts of the evening or an entire event. Memory loss is starting. The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that is involved in processing short- term memory into long-term memory. A form of dementia can occur that was brought on by chronic alcohol overconsumption.

Appearance

Alcohol dries out the skin cells and body cells. The face gets wrinkles. Your skin looks parched and gives you the appearance of a prematurely aged person. Alcohol can interfere with your sleep and when you have a lack of it you end up with dark circles around your eyes as well as puffy eyes. It does not make for a good picture, whether it happens inside the body or on your skin!

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

A new study that was larger and more comprehensive than any previous study has exposed the myth that one drink for women and two drinks for men would protect you from heart disease. It may protect you from heart attacks, but it definitely does nothing to protect you from other heart conditions. There is also sudden death from heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and stroke. When you factor all that in as well, even your low, moderate alcohol consumption has health risks. The global health study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The combined study population was 28 million individuals.

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

649, 000 registered cases of various deaths occurred due to alcohol. This included deaths from traffic accidents, injuries, cancer, heart disease and suicide. This global study compared the life expectancy and disease frequencies of alcohol-consuming people with non-alcohol consuming people. It concluded that non-alcohol consuming people live on an average up to 10 years longer than their alcohol-consuming counterparts. No studies up to now have been that comprehensive. The results from twenty-eight million people speak for themselves, and the death statistics are clear. It is worthwhile to look at the details and draw your own conclusion.

Sep
22
2018

The Best Foods For Your Heart

In the following I will describe 16 foods, which are the best foods for your heart. I will also comment as to why I believe they are best. This review is based on this article in “Medical News Today”.

But I have added many other comments to it.

Heart disease is still the number 1 killer. We need to change what we eat.

Vegetables

The regular intake of green leaf vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) has an association with the  preservation of cognitive function. In the Nurses’ Health Study starting in 1984 women were asked about their usual intake of a specified portion of food items, including 15 fruits and 28 vegetables. At a later date, between 1995 and 2001, researchers decided to ask the oldest participants (70 years and older) to participate in a cognitive function study. Two years later researchers repeated these tests.The main finding of the study is that women with the highest intake of green, leafy vegetables had the least decline in their cognitive function. The vegetable lovers, who consumed five serving of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower had less decline in their cognitive function. On the other hand the highest decline showed up in the group that averaged only 2 servings per week.

Asparagus

Asparagus is a source of fiber, folate, multiple vitamins and chromium. Chromium enhances the function of insulin to transport sugar into cells. Asparagus contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and carcinogens. It is said to help prevent lung cancers, larynx cancer, and bone, breast and colon cancers.

Berries

Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are full of bioflavonoids. These are antioxidants, which prevent cardiovascular disease.

It is the anthocyanines, which prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Berries also have bioflavonoids and reduce lipid formation in the blood. Berries contain fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Broccoli

This fiber rich vegetable helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Broccoli and kale likely have preventative effects against colon cancer.

Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils

Legumes or pulses are a great way to consume plant-derived protein. People who are on vegan diets should be eating them for a protein source. They also contain lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. We know that they lower cholesterol, which prevents heart disease. Other healthy nutrients they contain are bioflavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Dark chocolate

This is a food rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate is chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content. Please note: “milk chocolate” is nothing better than candy and devoid of any health benefits. Dark chocolate increases the protective HDL cholesterol and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is said to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Don’t exceed eating 1 to 2 oz. per day, as chocolate has some sugar in it and the fat content would be detrimental with higher consumption.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids in the form of α-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA reduces LDL cholesterol and it dissolves plaque in the arteries. ALA also reduces blood pressure to a certain degree. All of this helps reduce cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). Note that flaxseeds must be ground to powder to release the nutrients from its tough shell. Both chia and flaxseeds can be used as an egg replacement in vegan cooking.

Fish high in omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly present in fish. It has plaque-reducing properties and also reduces the risk for abnormal heart beats. Overall this means less cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends a 3.5 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice per week.

Coffee

A Brazilian study from 2018 showed that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day would stop coronary artery calcification. Many other studies have shown reduced mortality from heart attacks and strokes with increased coffee intake.

Green tea

Green tea is known to reduce blood pressure slightly and to reduce cholesterol. Both effects are beneficial for the cardiovascular system (prevents heart attacks and strokes). Green tea also prevents many cancers. Whatever we know about coffee consumption seems to also be true for green tea consumption.

Nuts

Nuts contain healthy fatty acids (omega-3). But they also contain fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Use them in desserts, in salads and as a quick food on the go. They are definitely healthier than protein bars.

Liver

Liver is one of the nutrient rich foods. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12 and biotin.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. This is important for prevention of heart disease.

Red wine (may be)

The bioflavonoids of red grapes have been the subject of much research. There is a dose-response curve showing a protective effect with regard to heart attacks and strokes with the consumption of  1 to 3 glasses of red wine per day. But unfortunately there is also a dose-response curve with respect to alcohol consumption and cancer causation. Personally, I take resveratrol from the health food store, 500 mg daily and consume white wine or red wine very rarely.

Tomatoes

There are a number of beneficial phytochemicals in tomatoes. Carotenoids like lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthine and beta-carotenes are helping to prevent prostate cancer and colon cancer. Potassium and folate are cardioprotective.

Spinach

Eating spinach regularly will provide you with magnesium, iron and bioflavonoids. Magnesium is good for a regular heart rhythm. The other nutrients are good for skin, bone and hair health.

Discussion

I have reviewed why these 16 foods are the best foods for your heart. We have seen that many foods that are rich in antioxidants are also cancer preventative. People who eat a Mediterranean diet will get these 16 foods, because their meals are balanced with nutrients. But if you eat a hamburger or a pizza you will not get balanced nutrients. The more one-sided your food intake, the more dangerous your lifestyle becomes. This is the problem with the Standard American diet (“SAD”). You need all of the components of the 16 foods described here. Junk food won’t do, as it consists only of empty calories.

The Best Foods For Your Heart

The Best Foods For Your Heart

Conclusion

It is useful to review healthy foods as was done above. Now it is a matter of including them in your daily food intake. If this is overwhelming you, start with baby steps. One or two healthy foods here or there are a good start. Increase this until you cover all the 16 foods mentioned. The more balanced your food intake is, the more antioxidant vitamins you will get. And the more heart disease and cancer prevention you will experience.

Apart from good, balanced nutrition we also need regular exercise for heart disease and cancer prevention. Go to a gym, go for a walk, climb some stairs. Get away from the computer and television. Together with best foods for your heart this will keep you healthier for longer.

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.

Jun
02
2018

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

I found an article dealing with combatting aging using artificial intelligence. It comes from the April 2018 edition of the Life Extension Magazine.  Both of those concepts sound intriguing: “combatting aging”. It would be nice, if this would be a possibility! And “artificial intelligence” (A.I.) sounds mysterious. LifeExtension researchers have partnered up with an A.I. group, called Insilico Medicine.

Why did Life Extension engage in this project? Many people have side effects with the drug metformin, which is an old diabetes drug. It turns out that metformin stimulates anti-aging genes that help to elongate telomeres and also activate genes that prolong lives otherwise. The thought was to find out how exactly metformin protects against age-related disorders. Once researchers located the genes, they may be able to find herbs that can do the same as drugs with less side effects. Often herbs are safer than drugs.

Background regarding metformin

The FDA accepted metformin (trade name Glucophage) as the first-line therapy for type 2 diabetics, particularly if they are overweight or obese.

Side effects include gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and flatulence. Even though this drug is not new, research does not fully understand all metabolic effects of metformin.

Promise of metformin as an anti-aging drug

A trial in Great Britain found that metformin has an interesting anti-aging effect. Diabetics on metformin lived longer than a control group of patients without diabetes who were not on metformin. The diabetics lived 15% longer than the controls. Further experiments with human cells and animal experiments showed that metformin is able to stimulate the mitochondria without producing as many free radicals. Free radicals cause inflammation that leads to heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The suggestion is that all of these diseases will be suppressed when the patient is on metformin.

Mimicking the effects of metformin with three herbs

The co-operative research between the Life Extension researchers and Insilico Medicine researchers concentrated on finding data that would replace the beneficial effects of metformin with three herbs stimulating the same life-prolonging targets in human cells. This is not a small task. The following three herbs in combination cover more than 78% of the actions of metformin.

Withaferin A (found in Ashwagandha)

Weight loss

Withaferin A is a component of the life-prolonging herb ashwagandha. This herb is in use in Ayurvedic medicine because of its ant-inflammatory action; it is also anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-obesity and has appetite-regulating activities. An important observation by researchers was that within 21 days of exposing obese mice to withaferin A they lost 23% of their weight. Other mice on the same diet received control solutions and did not lose weight.

Effect on neurodegenerative disease

There is a neurodegenerative condition, called Lou Gehrig disease (=amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A group of mice that were the subjects of genetic modification to develop Lou Gehrig disease received withaferin A in their food. Compared to controls without withaferin A they had a 39% reduction of damaged proteins in their spinal cords. They also had 60% less loss of motor nerve cells. These are the nerve cells that pass on the electrical signals between the brain, the spinal cord and into the muscles. The life span of these animals that received withaferin A was 5.4% longer than control animals.

Ginsenoside (found in Ginseng)

The structure of ginsenoside is steroid-like. As the name already suggests, it is present in ginseng. The Insilico Medicine team noticed that it affects many of the same age-decelerating pathways like metformin. Ginsenoside prevents damage to the DNA and prevents loss of mitochondria, particularly in the brain and heart. In cancer cases ginsenoside also suppresses cancer stem cells, which slows down cancer growth. All in all ginsenoside reduces inflammatory changes; it also fights neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Gamma linolenic acid (present in borage seed oil)

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid. The source of it is the evening primrose plant, black currant oil or borage. The Insilico Medicine researchers found that many pathways that metformin triggers are also responding to GLA. GLA can reduce inflammation, help with adaptation to stress can modulate metabolism and participates in regulation of gene expression. GLA is also part of energy sensing in diabetes and obesity. It also can slow down cancer development.

Discussion

One has to be cognizant of the fact that LifeExtension is in the business of selling herbal supplements. It would be in the company’s interest to find an herbal combination that mimics what Metformin does. They say they have found it; so we are told in the April 2018 article of the LifeExtension magazine. But a 78% overlap of actions when the herbs were compared to metformin is not a 100% overlap.

Conflict of interest

There seems to be a conflict of interest between doing basic research on anti-aging and marketing an anti-aging product. I like to see confirmation of these findings by other independent researchers. I am not too keen to spend $1.40 every day for the rest of my life in the hopes that this herbal concoction would slow down aging. Also to state that this mix of three herbs would do the same as Metformin is a large leap of faith. At this point I am not even ready to swallow metformin just because of one trial in England that showed a beneficial anti-aging effect.

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Conclusion

The old dream of finding a pill for anti-aging is alive and well. If you believe this research you are likely to buy this pill and keep on taking it for the rest of your life. But I am not so certain that either swallowing metformin or swallowing this herbal concoction will do what the researchers were hoping for. They have done some basic research with mice and rats. But they tested each of the herbs  separately, and the researchers have then mixed the herbs and claim, that this mix will do what each single herb in isolation has done. We do not know anything about the interaction between these herbs. We do not know whether there will be the same anti-aging results with the mix. All these claims are yet subject to more testing.

Proposed clinical trial

I like to see a human trial where the anti-aging pill of Life Extension is given once per day for several years (let’s say 5 years). After that anti-inflammatory indicators, telomere length and toxicity should be tested in each subject that is part of the study. If trials like this were successful in humans, I would consider buying this new supplement, but not any earlier!

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May
27
2018

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

You hear from time to time that there are benefits of eating nuts. But you don’t often see more details about it. I came across an article entitled “Nut lovers rejoice: Your favorite snack protects your heart”. It stressed that nuts prevent heart attacks. I will review some of this information here, but also touch on other aspects.

What nuts contain

Nuts contain fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, folate and many minerals (zinc, potassium, magnesium). These ingredients have their own positive effects on your metabolism. For instance the fiber will lower cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, which are risk factors for heart attacks. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Here is a review that shows why eating nuts makes a difference for your health. Despite all of the good that nuts do, you need to keep an eye at the overall quantity of nuts you eat. Nuts can contain up to 80% as oil, even though they are good oils. But the extra calories associated with the oil can make you gain some weight. When you add nuts to your diet you need to subtract some of the lesser quality saturated fats, so that your overall calorie balance does not change.

How do we know that nuts are healthy?

A British study from 2016 did a meta-analysis of people who ate nuts versus people who did not include nuts in their diet. 10 studies showed that eating nuts reduced mortality from all causes by 19%. In 5 studies where cardiovascular mortality was measured, a reduction of 27% was noticeable. Congestive heart disease in 3 studies showed a reduction by 34% when the patients consumed nuts. Stroke mortality was 17% less, as 3 studies showed. This is just an example of a few studies that show how effective supplementation of your diet by a few nuts here and there can be on the general mortality. It especially applies to mortality which is due to heart disease and strokes. Other effects of nut consumption are the reduction of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and abdominal aneurysm (each by 15 to 20%).

Allergic reactions to nuts

A small percentage of people are allergic to various nuts. Nuts can cause a severe asthma attack, if the person has been sensitized to them in the past. They can cause angioneurotic edema in a small portion of people who may have inherited this condition. Tree nut allergies can cause anaphylaxis as is explained in this link.

The right dosage of nuts

This Australian website says that 30 grams of nuts, which is a handful of them would be the right dose per day. This is about 1 ounce per day. By including a variety of nuts your nutritional content will equal out. Some nuts have more calcium (almonds); others have more plant sterols (pistachios) or more fiber (pecans).

How bias can get introduced into medical literature

The Karolinska institute in Sweden analyzed the lifestyle and behavior pattern of nut lovers. Nut lovers were also into other healthy lifestyles: they smoked less than non-nut lovers. Nut lovers were leaner, physically more active and drank less alcohol.

They also ate more fruit and vegetables. Nut-lovers’ blood pressure was lower than the blood pressure of non-nut lovers. And people who consumed nuts on average had better education. Some of these lifestyle patterns can also protect the heart and contribute to less strokes. The researcher must be vigilant to control for the other lifestyle patterns except for the difference in the nut consumption when looking for the effect of nut consumption. If this is not done, there could be confounding, which introduces a bias into the final results.

Combine nut supplements and adopt a healthy lifestyle

This said, you know now about the results of good research. It is best to not be concerned about biases any more. For the average consumer it is important to apply what we know: use nuts regularly (about 30 grams per day, which is a handful). But it would not be a bad idea to adopt some of the other healthy lifestyles that nut eaters tend to have. In other words, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, cut out sugar, drink less alcohol and eat fruit and vegetables regularly. This way you will amplify the health promoting effect of the nut supplements.

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Conclusion

We learnt that nut consumption is healthy. Only a small number of people who are allergic to nuts have to avoid them. The majority of people benefit from incorporating a small amount of nuts into their diet. Research has shown that it lowers mortality in general, lowers cardiovascular mortality and mortality from congestive heart disease. Eating nuts also reduced stroke mortality and lowers the risk of atrial fibrillation. When research is done, confounding factors like healthy lifestyles have to be controlled. But when an individual wants to reduce health risks, it does not harm to use healthy lifestyle factors along with nuts to reduce any risk. It will amplify the healthy effects of eating nuts.

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May
19
2018

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Many times we hear terms like LDL and HDL cholesterol , but what lowers LDL cholesterol? We have to go back to a time when the ongoing Framingham Heart Study wanted to find out what caused a heart attack or a stroke. In the 1960’s scientists found out that cigarette smoking increased heart attack risk and also blood cholesterol. Then in the 1980’s the news came out that HDL (high density lipoproteins) reduced the risk of heart disease. Eventually several research institutions agreed that LDL (low density lipoproteins) was the culprit for causing plaque deposits in arteries. This caused heart attacks and strokes. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Clarification of HDL and LDL cholesterol

Recently a review article asked the question: “What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?”

Below I will review what LDL and HDL cholesterol do in our system. I will also mention normal values for blood tests. This will help you to understand your own blood test results. Then I will review what you can do to lower LDL cholesterol and to increase HDL cholesterol.

The function of LDL and HDL cholesterol

Total cholesterol in the blood contains LDL cholesterol, small dense LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The small dense LDL cholesterol is more dangerous than LDL cholesterol. It infiltrates the lining of the arterial walls aggressively. A normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL. When triglycerides, another form of lipid is high in the blood, LDL cholesterol forms a lot more small dense LDL cholesterol. This is the case in diabetics or in obese people. It is the reason why they are very vulnerable to develop heart attacks and strokes. The optimal range for triglycerides is less than 80 mg/dL.

HDL cholesterol is protective from hardening of the arteries and protects you from heart attacks or strokes. HDL dissolves LDL cholesterol, brings it to the liver, and the liver excretes it into bile. You want to have more than 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Cholesterol math

The total cholesterol conventionally is calculated like this:

LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol + (triglyceride/5) = Total cholesterol

You see that the small dense LDL is not part of it here, but high triglyceride levels would increase the total cholesterol value as the inclusion of 20% of triglycerides in this equation compensates for this.

There is also a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol that is important. This ratio should be below 3.4 for both women and men. This is also known as the ½ average risk for a heart attack or stroke. If your value is equal to that or below, you are in a very low risk category to get a heart attack or stroke.

Now I will deal with the question: what lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Now we need to review what can be done to lower an LDL cholesterol which is too high. Don’t tell me that you want to take one of the statin drugs. These drugs have serious side effects and are only indicated for the most serious cases of high cholesterol values.

Most common measures to reduce LDL cholesterol

  • Cut out red meat

    First of all, cutting out red meat (like beef, pork and sausages) to an absolute minimum, for instance once per week or less is important. The reason is that these meats have more cholesterol in them and also more saturated fats than any other foods. Compare that to poultry, fish and vegetables like beans, which are healthy food sources.

  • Eliminate trans fats

    Furthermore, we need to eliminate trans fats as they are causing heart attacks. There is an important difference between ruminant trans fats and artificial trans fats. Ruminant trans fats have been part of the human diet for millennia like milk fat and fat from cows that are on pasture or lamb. Milk products for instance contain fat with 2-5% natural trans fats. 3-9 % of the fat in beef and lamb consists of natural trans fats. Studies have shown that the body is able to handle these natural trans fats, and heart attacks are not more frequent in people eating moderate amounts of these products including butter from cows that graze on pasture.

  • Artificial trans fats

    Quite the opposite is true for artificial trans fats in margarine that comes from vegetable oil. Avoid bakery items like sweet pieces or muffins and other products that contain hydrogenated oils. Read labels! Use olive oil or coconut oil, but avoid vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil or grape seed oil to get away from trans fats and unstable oils that turn rancid. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Cut out sugar and starchy foods

    Another important item is to cut out sugar and starchy foods because these will raise your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which also leads to hardening of your arteries. Starchy foods are broken down by pancreatic juices into sugar, which enters your blood stream, causing an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. When the short-term storage of sugar as glycogen is exhausted in muscle and liver tissue, the liver has to process any surplus of sugar that is still there. The end results are triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately the protective HDL cholesterol does not reach higher levels, when the LDL cholesterol is increased. A persistent diet of high-refined carbs will increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It follows from this that we are all better off cutting out sugar and starchy foods from our food intake as it will reduce LDL cholesterol and small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Increase your soluble fiber intake

    Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating vegetables, oats and oat bran, lentils, fruits and beans. Why does this decrease LDL cholesterol? The liver tries to eliminate too much cholesterol by binding it to bile salts and excreting it into your small bowel. But the last part of the small bowel reabsorbs some of these bile salts, and from there they return to the liver. This is called the enterohepatic pathway of bile salts. Soluble fiber intake binds those bile salts and prevents re-absorption in the enterohepatic pathway, eliminating cholesterol safely in stool. Clinical trials have also shown that soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway).

  • Plant sterols and fiber supplements

    Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (Amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that are beneficial in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

  • Take a whey protein supplement

    There are two major milk proteins, whey and casein. Only whey protein binds to total and LDL cholesterol, lowering both. It is available in health food stores. Follow the package insert of the whey product for dosing.

  • Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake

    Omega-3 fats naturally present in fish oils and nuts. They increase the amount of circulating HDL cholesterol, which binds the bad LDL cholesterol. Go ahead and eat salmon, herring and mackerel as well as walnuts, ground flaxseeds and almonds. You can also take molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. This pure form of fish oil is free of mercury and other heavy metals. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid, an important supplement for the brain. Tests have shown that fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor, but without the statin side effects. The end result: your total cholesterol/HDL ratio decreases, as does the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Here is a review of other oils in your diet.

Measures that will increase HDL cholesterol 

  • Eat foods with anthocyanin

    In a 24-week study with diabetic people HDL levels rose by 19% when food was eaten that was rich in anthocyanin. This consisted of eggplant, purple corn, red cabbage, blueberries and blackberries. The advantage of raising the HDL cholesterol level is that the total cholesterol to HDL ratio decreases, which lowers the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

  • Exercising regularly

    Exercising will increase your HDL cholesterol, which again decreases the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. This number should be between 1 and 3.5, the lower, the better.

  • Take a supplement called Ubiquinol, or Co-Q-10

    Adults above the age of 60 need 400 mg once daily, younger people need between 200 mg and 300 mg daily. Co-Q-10 prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which would aggressively attack the arterial walls causing hardening of the arteries. What causes oxidation of cholesterol? The answer is clear: fried foods like french fries or deep fried chicken will lead to oxidation; other culprits are margarine, commercially baked goods and cigarette smoking.

  • Calcium and vitamin D3

    Recently a study on postmenopausal and overweight or obese women found that supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D3 lowered cholesterol.

  • Polyphenols

    Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine. Over 130 studies on humans have shown improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has a connection to a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet, and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol, warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.1). Take about 250 mg of resveratrol daily.

  • Niacin/ nicotinic acid

    This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin. It can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when patients take higher doses of 2.25 grams per day. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies researchers found a significant reduction of heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks. These are precursor syndromes before developing a stroke. Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin also reduces oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

  • Curcumin

    This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one. It is reducing oxidative stress. But it is  also an anti-inflammatory. In addition it counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when patients took 500 mg of curcumin for only 7 days (Ref.1). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)

    This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and in the past health practitioners knew about its use as being heart supportive. Strangely enough some conservative physicians bad-mouthed this vitamin. In the meantime health practitioners have returned to using the vitamin. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the best-known, but you also want to be sure that you are getting gamma tocopherol with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day. It remains the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Conclusion

Over the years cardiovascular researchers have accumulated knowledge about supplements that will reduce LDL cholesterol or increase HDL cholesterol. It has practical value: you can look at your own lab results and choose what fits your situation best. You should always make these decisions together with your health care provider. None of the methods reviewed here have any serious side effects. On the other hand statins, as I have reviewed in the link provided, do have significant side effects. Keep in mind that cholesterol is a normal body component that our body needs to make human cell walls. But we do not need to smoke (stopping it lowers LDL cholesterol). We need regular exercise (increases HDL cholesterol). Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride values within the normal ranges that I listed and as a result you will do well in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes!

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”

 .

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/

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Apr
21
2018

3 Cups Of Coffee Stop Clogged Arteries

There is a new coffee study that says 3 cups of coffee stop clogged arteries. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association on March 24, 2018. It was part of the cross sectional Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health. This study took place from August 2008 to December 2010. It followed 15,105 civil servants, aged 35 to 74 years. They were living in 6 Brazilian cities (Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, São Paulo, and Vitoria). The final study sample comprised 4426 individuals who underwent CAC measurements.

CAC score

CAC stands for “coronary artery calcium”. Other tests in the past have shown that CAC is a very sensitive test that quantitates the calcification status of coronary arteries. The CAC score is also known as Agatston score. It also predicts how likely it is that a person with a high CAC count will develop a heart attack down the road. A score of 100 or less is considered to be a low risk for developing a heart attack later in life. If the score is between 100 and 400, it is a moderate risk. A score of more than 400 ranks as a high risk to develop a heart attack.

Study design

Upon entering the study the participants had an extensive entrance exam and interview. Part of this was a nutritional and lifestyle questionnaire. This told the examiners whether the patients were smokers or not. Their age ranged between 35 and 74 years. Participants took a CAC test. 4426 individuals who underwent CAC measurements became part of the study. The participants’ blood pressure and body weight were additional measurements.

Results of the study

There was a negative correlation between the amount of coffee consumed on a daily basis and the CAC score. Specifically, the following observation emerged regarding daily coffee consumption and the risk of a higher than 100 CAC score.

  • Less than 1 cup per day: odds ratio 0.85
  • 1 to 3 cups per day: odds ratio 0.73
  • More than 3 cups per day: odds ratio 0.33

These results show clearly that there is an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and risk of developing coronary artery hardening. Those who consume 3 or more cups of coffee have a lower coronary artery disease risk.

The risk to develop coronary artery calcification in coffee drinkers (3 or more cups) is 67% lower. The comparison group are non-coffee drinkers.

Discussion of the results

The research paper from Brazil compares their results with many other research facilities and concludes that others had very similar conclusions. For instance, a 2014 publication pointed out that consuming more than 5 cups of coffee per day had no association with heart disease and did not cause any increased mortality.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day, which reduces the risk of getting diabetes type 2 or cardiovascular disease.

Korean study using CAC scores

One other relevant Korean study that involved 25,138 participants is also of note. The participants consumed 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day. They also underwent CAC tests. The coffee drinkers had a 41% lesser prevalence of CAC score in comparison to non-coffee consuming controls. The authors of the present study said that the Korean study was comparable to their own findings.

Comparison of study to previous literature

Mortality data and coffee consumption

In a large Harvard study that I discussed on Nov. 18, 2017 the end point was mortality data. There too, was a dose response curve. With 3 to 5 cups of decaffeinated or regular coffee there was a reduction of death rates by 15%. Less coffee consumption produced less reduction of mortality.

Stroke data and coffee consumption

In another review on March 4, 2013 I reviewed a 10-yer study that looked at the effect of 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day in 32,600 women. There was a 25-32% reduction of strokes compared to non-coffee or tea consuming controls. I also reviewed a Finnish study that consisted of 29,133 smokers (smoking 5 cigarettes a day) aged 50 to 69 who were stroke free when entering the study. It ended in 1993 and the study had lasted for at least 5 years. Drinking two cups of black tea or 8 cups of coffee reduced the stroke risk by 21 to 23%.

Stroke mortality and coffee consumption

In the Annals of Internal Medicine (June 17, 2008) researchers have found that coffee consumption can be beneficial to reduce stroke mortality. A study using the data from 41,736 male and 86,214 female subjects is quite informative. Researchers followed these people over 18 years in the male group and over 24 years in the female group. The risk of all-cause mortality decreased significantly with increasing coffee consumption in the male as well as in the female group. Men had a relative risk reduction of 20% in comparison to those with the lowest level of coffee consumption. Women with intermediate to high consumption of coffee had a relative risk reduction of 10% to 30 % when compared to the group that drank less than 1 cup of coffee per day. The end point here was risk of death from stroke.

3 Cups Of Coffee Stop Clogged Arteries

3 Cups Of Coffee Stop Clogged Arteries

Conclusion

Coffee has a number of anti-oxidant bioflavonoids that help increase survival. The main study reviewed measured the effects of coffee consumption by calcium scores of the coronary arteries. This is a specific way to look at the relative risk to come down with a heart attack in the future. Other ways to measure the beneficial effect of coffee are mortality as the end point, stroke or stroke mortality. I have reviewed some studies that used all of these end points. It is interesting to observe that consumption of 3 to 5 cups of coffee has such a beneficial effect. It does not matter whether it is regular or decaffeinated coffee. Both have the identical effect. This has been shown by a recent Harvard study.

Coffee and tea make you live longer

Coffee keeps the arteries open for longer, if we consume 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day. This allows our brain to think longer and allows our heart to beat for many more years. It is time to stop the research and to apply what was found: 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day. If tea is what you prefer, you are in luck. Everything I said about coffee also applies for green and black tea. There is one word of caution. Using copious amounts of sugar in your coffee or tea will most likely cancel some or all of the benefits. Cream and sugar-laced Frappuccino or Chai Lattes are calorie bombs and not conducive to good health. I use stevia instead of sugar to sweeten my coffee.

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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Feb
10
2018

What To Do To Stop Eating Junk Food

Eating junk food is a favorite pastime in North America, so what to do to stop eating junk food? Everybody knows that it is not a good choice, and it is known that health problems have a connection to unhealthy eating habits. When you are used to eating junk food, your taste buds are accommodated to the inferior foods that you want to avoid. I would suggest you educate yourself first regarding what junk food is, and next compare it to healthy food. Junk food has additives and taste enhancers.

Monosodium glutamate

Monosodium glutamate is one additive that often is on the ingredient list of processed foods. This is not a harmless flavor enhancer. It belongs into the group of excitotoxins. The substance can destroy brain cells. It also has the potential to give you a nasty headache, especially if larger quantities are in the food. When we look for food, we do not want to get a headache or risk losing our memory down the road. I threw out all MSG containing foods in 2001. To make it challenging MSG comes under many disguised names: autolysed yeast, monosodium glutamate, textured protein, yeast food, sodium caseinate and others.

Read labels and exclude products with MSG in it. It is a good investment into your future without Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders.

Avoid refined sugar

Next you want to make sure that sugar is excluded from your diet; with this I mean refined sugar as well as sugar from processed foods. If you read food labels, you probably are aware of how much sugar manufacturers include in processed foods. It tastes pleasing, it is cheap and it makes people come back to buy more. But you as the consumer have a right to get rid of this as it causes your insulin level to increase, and on the long term paves the way to diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes), Alzheimer’s disease and others. As a result I do not buy anything with added sugar.

Use stevia instead of sugar

If I like to sweeten my coffee or yogurt, I can do it by adding a tiny bit of stevia, a natural plant sweetener. There are no calories, there is no insulin response, no worry about diabetes or Alzheimer’s, and no tooth decay either.

Cook more meals at home and avoid restaurants

The more you can cook at home, the easier it is to take your lunch salad along in a BPA free container. It is better for you, better for your health, and by actively avoiding junk outlets; restaurants will get the message and offer healthier food choices down the road. It is a process of years to change consumer habits. You will be the beneficiary. Here is an example how to order food in a restaurant, if you want to make healthy choices:

Eating out at a restaurant

What would you like for a drink?

The first thing the waiter will do is asking you what drinks you want to order. My answer is sparkling (or non-sparkling) mineral water. This establishes that I do not want to order alcoholic drinks or sugary sodas. They are empty calories; they are also overpriced. But if you really want to have a glass of red or white wine, make sure that you pick a good one and only one glass. Studies have shown that the resveratrol in it will prevent heart attacks, but too much of it undermines your liver and the healthy condition of your pancreas.

The main event

Next the waiter will come with bread and butter. It is best to skip these offerings. I just say: “Thank you, but I don’t eat bread or pasta”. As a matter of fact I usually tell the waiter when I order the mineral water that I do not want any bread. Waiters nowadays understand: no carbs! (The truth is that you do indeed eat carbs. Vegetables and fruit are low-density carbs!) It goes like a red line through the rest of the order. It starts when I order my meal: a bowl of salad as a starter is great, and next I order meat or fish with a side of vegetables. The waiter understands, and often restaurants will offer to substitute the pasta or potatoes with extra vegetables.

Dessert anybody?

After the meal the waiter will temptingly produce the dessert menu: any dessert today? The answer is a simple “no, not today”. After a filling meal nobody needs a dessert that is off the calorie Richter scale!

Usually this is the blueprint for me at a restaurant. With this approach you will avoid weight gain, but you will leave the restaurant satisfied. Unfortunately these days in most restaurants we do not have any choices yet with regard to organic food. More restaurants are starting to pay attention. Again, it is consumer habits that make a change!

At home the thought processes are very similar to eating out in a restaurant. You develop some discipline and stick to healthy foods. Avoid sugar, MSG, too many starchy foods and processed foods. Before you know it, it becomes a lifestyle that you take with you wherever you go.

Shopping for healthy foods

As we want to go out to restaurants less and eat at home more, it is important that I tell you how to shop. We want healthy food with no or a minimum of insecticide residues on vegetables or fruit. This is why it is important to buy a lot of organic vegetables and fruit.

Before you start shopping I suggest you look at your fridge critically. Cut out all refined sugar and starchy foods. So you go through the content of your fridge and look at all of the labels to assess what every food contains. I did exactly this in 2001 and 1/3 of the content of my fridge had to be thrown out, as it was incompatible with a sensible diet. Not to add any additional sugar was easy, but things like jams that have 45% to 50% of sugar in them had to be removed as well. Bread had to go and all soft drinks (=sugary drinks) had to go. It was quite an eye opener.

Maintenance of your no sugar program

In the meantime we shop at the periphery of a grocery store as follows.

Start at the deli: your low fat cheese varieties, roasted chicken or turkey breast or lean ham if you choose are all found here.
Go on to the meats: lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb will be found here.
Fish and seafood: salmon, sole, cod, halibut, trout, mussels, shrimp will be there to choose from.

Continue at the vegetarian section: tofu, tempeh and veggie burgers. It is debatable how valuable soy products really are. About 95% of the soy crop is genetically engineered, and textured soy protein has nothing to do with a “natural” product.
At the dairy section you will look for 1% milk, almond milk or pea protein milk, yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, and more low fat variety of cheeses.

More shopping

The bakery section is also at the periphery, but you will want to be very discerning, as these are products which offer not much more than dense carbohydrates, trans fats, and a lack of minerals. The dozen bagels will not offer you much nutritional bang for your buck!
Finally you will arrive at the produce department. You will likely go for all the green leaf choices like leaf lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, as well as the cabbage varieties (broccoli, green cabbage, sui choy, napa cabbage and cauliflower).

More shopping for the right foods

The other ones on your list are the intensely colored non- root vegetables like tomatoes, red and green peppers, also mushrooms, which are a power house of minerals, green beans, asparagus, as well as onions and garlic. You will also buy your fruit: apples, oranges, grapefruit and other citrus, pears, berries, and pineapple. You will go easy on mango, papaya, and banana because of their high sugar content.

The deep frozen section can be your best ally

Look for deep frozen vegetables, fruit, and fish as well as meats. As vegetables are quickly readied for the freezer, their vitamin content can be higher than that of a vegetable that has spent 8 days in transit from the field to the produce department. The deep frozen section also gives you access to a lot of variety. You’ll be able to enjoy some strawberries, even when they are not in season. Read the labels, as some fruit have been packaged with sugar syrup. Look for the varieties, where no sugar has been added. The frozen section also contains some highly processed items: deep-fried foods and dessert selections, which may not be an accessory to full health, but rather to an empty wallet.

Canned foods

Canned foods can be useful, as long as you are dealing with fruit that are canned in their juices and not in sugar syrup. The vegetables are less valuable in vitamins than their deep frozen counterparts. Watch out for varieties, where less salt is added. The label will tell you” low sodium”. With canned products it is also important to pay attention to the can. Many of the cans are lined with a BPH product, which is an immune disruptor. Look out for cans, where the label clearly states that they are “BPH free.”

Some more staple foods

You will not have to navigate all the aisles, except for your cleaning products and your cosmetics. There are some staples, which you will also require: olive oil, some olives, almonds or macadamia nuts (raw or dry roasted). The one cereal product, which is valuable, are coarse rolled oats and some pot barley. Both varieties carry a lot of fibre, which makes them very useful food staples. Avoid the “quick cooking” or “instant” oats. Due to the processing, the carbohydrates are absorbed a lot faster and consequently trigger a higher insulin response.

Shopping for drinks

You will wonder about drinks next. Having passed the colas, ginger ales and other sugar sodas you may eye the diet drinks. Beware of drinks sweetened with aspartame. There is increasing evidence that phenylalanine (brand names: Aspartame, NutraSweet and Sweet’N Low) is not a “harmless” sweetener. Newer research has shown that it can cause gastroesophageal reflux (=GERD) and migraine headaches.

Stevia, a sweetener from a South American plant, does not have harmful effects. It is safe to use as a sweetener and does not cause an insulin response. You are best served with mineral water, purified drinking water, herb teas, tea or coffee. Fruit juices do have vitamins and minerals, but they are high in sugar causing an insulin release.

No canned fruit juices

You would not really eat 3 large apples in one sitting. So why insist on drinking 8 oz. of apple juice? You’ll ingest all the sugar and forgo the fibre! You’ll also notice, that a lot of fruit juices have been mixed with sugar, water, artificial flavor, some color, and as an apology some vitamin C is often on the list of ingredients. They are appearing on the shelves as “a good source of vitamin C”. In reality we are dealing with flavored, colored sugar water. Use your own judgment, whether you want to spend your dollars on this selection!

Convenience and snack foods

In the aisle adjacent to the pop you will very likely encounter a huge selection of convenience and snack foods. They have several things in common: you have met them on TV, some will be high in starches and fat (chips), others will be high in starches, sugar, and fat (cookies, donuts, cream pastries), and we are dealing with trans fats. Do take time to read the listed ingredients, and then decide, whether you and those who eat in your household deserve nutritional garbage. You have now completed your round trip in the supermarket.

Summary of your round trip in the supermarket

To sum up the most important facts, remember the following:

  • Do most of your shopping at the periphery of the store.
  • Look for fresh products – the less processed, the better.
  • Read the ingredients on labels.
  • Stay away from nutri-garbage
  • Buy the majority of your fruit and vegetables as organic produce. There are exceptions like raspberries, blackberries, asparagus, avocado where the regular produce is clean. But strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, celery, grapes, spinach and tomatoes are all part of the crop that has been sprayed. Beware of the “Dirty Dozen“!
What To Do To Stop Eating Junk Food

What To Do To Stop Eating Junk Food

Conclusion

When you cut out junk food and adopt healthy food habits , you will loose a few pounds, which is natural. The sugar and starchy food you cut out had calories that you are no longer consuming. This makes you loose some weight. But you will feel more energy, because you are feeding your body what it needs. You no longer get those hypoglycemic episodes that made you tired before. Essentially you switched from the Standard North American diet that includes junk food to a Mediterranean-type diet. This type of a diet has been found to be anti-inflammatory. It prevents arthritis, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. It may also prevent some cancers, but various studies on cancer get different results. If you follow this type of a diet without junk food you will live a longer life and stay healthier.

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