May
20
2017

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Dr. Mark Rosenberg gave a talk on prevention of telomere shortening. This was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Clinical Value of Telomere Testing”.

What are telomeres?

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes. They are very important in the aging process. Prematurely shortened telomeres are linked closely to all major diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Telomeres are also a measure of the aging process. Aging occurs due to a decrease of the number of cells in organs and/or because of a lack of functioning of these organs. Telomeres get shortened every time a cell divides. But when the telomeres are used up, there comes a time when cells can no longer divide. These cells become senescent cells or they enter apoptosis (programmed cell death).

The senescent cells can become a problem when they get transformed into cancer cells and their telomeres lengthen again. These cancer cells divide rapidly and this can become the reason why cancer patients to die.

What is the significance of telomeres?

Telomere dysfunction is the first sign that the telomeres are getting shorter in a person compared to the average telomere length in a comparable age group. This is not only important for aging, but also has clinical implications. The shorter telomeres are, the higher the risk for cardiovascular disease. Telomere length also provides prognostic information about the mortality risk (risk of dying) with type 2 diabetes and for many cancers. Many physicians incorporate a telomere blood test into periodic health checks, if the patient can afford it.

Interventions that help telomere length

Here are a number of things we can do to lengthen our telomeres.

  1. Rosenberg mentioned that the strongest effect on telomere lengthening comes from caloric restriction and weight loss. 80 years ago they showed at the Cornell University that rats put on calorie restriction had a 30% increase in their mean and maximum lifespan. Many research papers have confirmed that the same is true in man and that the common denominator is telomere lengthening.
  2. Next are regular physical activity, meditation, reduction of alcohol consumption and stopping to smoke.
  3. Taking antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids regularly will also lengthen telomeres.
  4. Improving one’s dietary pattern by adopting a Mediterranean type diet that contains cold-pressed, virgin olive oil.
  5. Telomerase activators. Here is some background on the TA-65 telomerase activator, which is based on Chinese medicine. A one year trial was completed with 250 units and 1000 units of TA-65 per day. The lower dose (250 units) showed effective telomere lengthening, while the placebo dose did not. The 1000 unit dose did not show statistical significance.

Should you wish to take TA-65, only take 250 units per day, not more.

Cancer and telomeres

There is a strong correlation between cancer and telomere shortening. When cells are at the brink of dying toward the end of their life cycle the telomeres get shorter and shorter. This is the point where the cells can turn malignant. Certain genetic abnormalities help the malignant transformation, like 11q or 17q deletions or a p53-dependent apoptosis response. Once cancer cells have established themselves they activate telomerase in 85% of cases. In the remaining 15% of cancer cases telomeres are activated through telomerase-independent mechanisms. Here are a few examples.

CLL

CLL stands for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It is a disease of the aging population. At age 90 people’s bone marrow cells have a telomere length of only 50% of the length at birth. This is the reason that in older age CLL is more common. Researchers observed a population segment and found that the shorter telomeres were, the poorer the overall prognosis and overall survival for CLL was.

Lung cancer

In patients with non-small cell lung cancer the telomerase activity was examined. When telomerase activity was present, the 5-year survival was only 55%. When telomerase activity was absent, the prognosis was 90% survival after 5 years.

Prostate cancer

  1. Telomere shortening in stromal cells was found to be associated with prostate cancer risk. Men with shorter telomere length in stromal cells had a 266% higher risk of death compared to men with normal telomere length.
  2. Another study took blood samples and determined the telomere length in lymphocytes (the immune cells). Those men who came down with prostate cancer within a year after the blood sample was taken had short telomeres. The risk for prostate cancer in these patients was 355% higher than in the prostate cancer negative controls.

Yet another study looked at surgical tissue samples from 596 men that

Underwent surgery for clinically localized prostate cancer. Patients whose samples showed variable telomere lengths in prostate cancer cells and shorter telomeres compared to prostate samples with less variable telomere length and longer telomeres had a much poorer prognosis. They had 8-times the risk to progress to lethal prostate cancer. And they had 14-times the risk of dying from their prostate cancer.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is diverse and consists of cases that are genetically inherited (BRCA1 and BRCA2), but there are also cases where the cancer is local or more advanced (staging). In families with mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 telomeres are significantly shorter than in spontaneous breast cancer. Increased telomerase activity in breast cancer cases is directly related to how invasive and aggressive the breast cancer is.

  1. One study was shown where blood leukocytes were analyzed for telomere length in 52 patients with breast cancer versus 47 control patients. Average telomere length was significantly shorter in patients with a more advanced stage of breast cancer than in early breast cancer. Mutated HER patients had the shortest telomeres. It follows from this that checking for the HER status and blood telomere testing adds to the knowledge of potential cancer development and prognosis.
  2. Short telomere length was associated with larger breast tumors, more lymph node metastases and more vascular invasion. More aggressive breast cancer cells have higher telomerase activity. More than 90% of triple negative breast cancers have short telomeres.

CNS disorders and telomeres

Dr. Rosenberg presented evidence that shorter telomeres are associated with dementia. But dementias with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease are also linked to short leukocyte telomeres. The length of blood telomeres predicts how well stroke patients will do and how people with depression will respond to antidepressants.

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

Our blood pressure is kept constant through the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. When this system is not stable, our blood pressure shoots up and causes cardiovascular disease. This is tough for the heart, as it has to pump harder against a higher-pressure gradient. A study of 1203 individuals was examining the connection between leukocyte telomere length and renin, aldosterone and angiotensin II activity. It concluded that oxidative stress and inflammatory responses affect the telomere length of leukocytes and that the more stress there is in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, the more cardiovascular disease develops. The conclusion of the study was that the overall cardiovascular stress leads to shortening of leukocyte telomeres.

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Conclusion

Telomere length testing from a simple blood test will become a more important test in the future as hopefully the cost comes down (currently about 300$). It can predict the general aging status by comparing a single case to the general telomere length of the public. But it can also predict the cancer risk, risk for mental disease and cognitive deficits (Alzheimer’s disease). In addition your cardiovascular status is also globally assessed with this test. What can be done, if the test comes back with short telomeres?

It allows you to change your lifestyle and adopt a healthy diet. You can exercise regularly, take antioxidants and meditate. There are even telomerase activators that are gradually becoming more known. They lengthen the telomeres. The cost of telomerase activators will likely still be a problem for some time. All in all telomere length tests are here to stay, but effective intervention at this point is largely limited to healthy lifestyle choices. This is good news: healthy lifestyle choices like non-smoking, exercise and avoiding non-processed foods are either free or have a reasonable price tag. Telomerase activators are big business and at this point not really affordable!

Apr
29
2017

Cancer By Chance

A new theory talks about cancer by chance. In other words, it likely is mostly bad luck when cancer develops. Mathematician Cristian Tomasetti and cancer geneticist Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland developed a new model of cancer development. They found that stem cells in different organ systems divide at different rates. The faster they go through cycles of cell divisions, the higher the chances of a mutation. The mutations happen in the genetic material and can lead to cancer. Dr. Vogelstein applied this model to 32 different cancer types and found the following.

  • 66% of cancers: cancer-promoting mutations develop by chance during cell division in various organs
  • 29% of cancers are due to environmental causes
  • 5% of cancers are inherited

Stem cells in organs can turn into cancer by chance

Key to the new theory of “cancer by chance” is that cancer likely is developing from stem cells in different organs. Different stem cells have different rates of stem cell divisions.

In pancreatic cancer they found that 5% were inherited, 18% were from environmental factors (smoking) and 77% came from chance mutations. This data was derived from the Cancer Research UK database.

For prostate cancer the rate of spontaneous mutations is 95%. When all of the cancers are looked at about 1/3 of cancers are due to either environmental or inherited factors, but 2/3 of all cancers are due to random mutations (“bad luck mutations”). They pointed out this fact in their first publication.

With the second publication, as mentioned in the beginning, Vogelstein and Tomasetti concentrated on 17 common cancers in 69 countries. They searched 423 international cancer databases. Again they found that the more stem cells divided in an organ, the more random mutations occurred. This caused cancers in that organ.

Here are a few examples for lifetime stem cell divisions:

  • Colon: 6,000 cell divisions in stem cells of the colon
  • Breast: 300 cell divisions in breast stem cells
  • Lung: only 6 cell divisions in lung stem cells

Colon cancer is very common because of the high stem cell division rate. But they also looked at environmental factors. For instance, lung cancer is rare in non-smokers because stem cells in lungs divide slowly. However, the carcinogens from cigarette smoke add a huge environmental risk. The end result: there is more lung cancer in smokers. Vogelstein said that with every stem cell division there is the creation of three new cell mutations because the body has a “poor copying machine”. During meiosis DNA breaks can occur that lead to mutations. Once they occurred, they continue to get copied.

Environmental factors versus cancer by chance

In the first paper the medical community was critical about how the authors had overemphasized that two third of cancer is caused randomly. So in the second paper Vogelstein and Tomasetti mentioned quite a bit how a change of the environment can change the final outcome of developing cancer.

This is also reflected in this summary from the CNN.

They mentioned that one mutation is not enough to cause cancer. You need three or four such mutations. As we get older there is a higher likelihood that we accumulate this number of mutations, and cancer can develop. But if we exercise, stop smoking and avoid red meat, this can contribute to a much healthier environment in the dividing stem cells. In this case we may not accumulate enough stem cell mutations in our lifetime to come down with cancer.

There is a problem with prostate cancer as indicated in this German summary of Vogelstein and Tomasetti’s work.

Japanese men have an extremely low rate of prostate cancer, namely 1/25th of the rate in the US. When Japanese men immigrate to the US, it does not take long before their risk is the same as that of US men. This is a classical case of the importance of environmental factors in cancer causation. Song Wu has pointed out in a publication in Nature that in his opinion Vogelstein and Tomasetti did not pay enough attention to extrinsic (environmental) factors in the causation of cancers.

This could explain the prostate cancer conundrum just mentioned. There may be more xenoestrogens in the environment in the US when compared to Japan, and this may have caused the additional prostate cancers when Japanese men moved to the US. Xenoestrogens are estrogen-like hormones in the environment, which can cause prostate cancer.

Prevention undermines “cancer by chance”

The role of prevention is likely larger than previously estimated. Now that we know that on average 2/3 of all cancers are due to chance mutations, it is important to realize that prevention and early detection play an enormous role.

  1. Most cancers can only be cured in stage 1 and stage 2 out of 4 stages. And this is only the case when the mutated stem cells are removed along with the clone of cancer cells.
  2. In terms of reducing the risk for lung cancer this means to stop smoking.
  3. With colon cancer it means having regular colonoscopies where the suspicious polyps are removed.
  4. For prostate cancer it means to do a mapping biopsy and to do cryoablation therapy, which has a prostate cancer vaccination effect as well.
  5. Not all cancers can be diagnosed early. Pancreatic cancer is such a difficult to diagnose cancer. But screening methods have been developed that are more sensitive and very specific such as the Oncoblot test.  With this test even cancer of the pancreas can be diagnosed years before it would be clinically detectable.
  1. We do know that chronic inflammation can lead to cancer. It makes sense therefore to start with an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet. Fish oil is also anti-inflammatory.
  2. Add to this regular exercise, as we know it reduces the risk for cancer development and strengthens your heart and lungs.
  3. Vitamin D3 can reduce cancer risks in both males and females. When vitamin D3 was given and blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were above 40 ng/ml, the breast cancer rate was reduced by 71% compared to a low vitamin D3 group. Similarly in men the prostate cancer rate dropped by 71% with vitamin D3 supplementation.  There is more good news with vitamin D3. You can read about it in the link.
Cancer By Chance

Cancer By Chance

Conclusion

The causes of cancer have always been by chance, by environmental exposure and by inheritance. In recent years more detail about this has come to the forefront. Now we know that the majority of cancers develop by chance, but this does not mean we should sit back and do nothing. The PAP test with early diagnosis of cancer of the cervix and early treatment has almost eradicated this cancer. HPV vaccinations have added to the armamentarium. Colonoscopies have reduced the incidence of colon cancer, but only through screening at regular intervals. The PSA test has enabled men to check for prostate cancer, and early treatment for this is quite successful. More is known about cancer prevention through supplements and lifestyle.

Nature is cruel and wants to knock us off, as we get older. The only alternative we have is to fight back as follows: reducing environmental causes, increasing preventative steps and going for early treatment, when cancer is diagnosed.

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Apr
01
2017

When Food Causes Inflammation

Dr. Hal Blatman gave a talk about when food causes inflammation. His talk was presented on Dec. 9 at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The original title was “Food, Pain and Dietary Effects of Inflammation”.

Dr. Blatman is the medical director of Blatman Health and Wellness Center, Cincinnati and Batman Medical Services, Manhattan.

General remarks about nutrition

Dr. Blatman pointed out that mistakes of nutrition are often behind chronic diseases and illnesses. The physician’s task is to explain to patients how their food intake can be changed to improve inflammation in the body and how the body can heal itself.

Hippocrates said 400 BC “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

In this context Dr. Blatman stated that nutrition could exacerbate symptoms or relieve symptoms and there must be rules for good nutrition. If we do not take care of our nutrition, the gut flora composition changes and causes leaky gut syndrome. But if we consume healthy foods all of this improves.

Mathematical formula for when food causes inflammation

To make it easier to understand the impact of food on our health the speaker offered this formula: G-B+R=P

G stands for good, beneficial things you can put into your body.

B = bad, toxic things that affect your body negatively.

R = reserves that your body has since birth (minus the amounts you have used up)

P = pain and problems you are going to experience

It is P (pain and other medical problems) what brings the patient to see the doctor. G and B is what the patient can change. When done right, the P value in the formula reduces and the pain or medical problems go away.

Nutritional rules

Dr. Blatman said there are three rules about nutrition.

Rule #1 is to not eat fake or toxic foods

He listed NutraSweet, Splenda, Saccharin, margarine and olestra.

  1. Aspartame experiments on rats showed that it can cause cancer: Dr. Blatman said that in man it has been shown to cause multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Aspartame worsens depression, 10% is metabolized in the liver into methanol, a nerve poison.
  2. Splenda (sucralose) is made from chlorinated sugar. It reduces beneficial microflora in the gut. It also interacts with liver enzymes that are known to interfere with the bioavailability of oral drugs.
  1. Saccharin alters gut bacteria and increases glucose tolerance.
  2. Hydrogenated fat and margarine. Insects don’t eat margarine, mold will not grow on it, and it will not support life. Merchants like it because food does not turn stale on shelves. Hydrogenated fats like margarine are considered to be poisons. They raise the bad LDL cholesterol levels and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. The prostaglandin balance changes so that inflammation occurs. There is increased evidence of diabetes and the cell membrane composition changes. Proinflammatory cytokines can cause pain in the dorsal root ganglions. It follows from all of this that it is best to cut out all hydrogenated fat and margarines.
  1. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The cell membrane consists of two lipid layers at a specific ratio of omega-6 essential fatty acids and omega-3 essential fatty acids. It also contains triglycerides, phospholipids and protein. It is expected that the cell membrane absorb nutrients to move into the cell and eliminate waste out of it. The cell membrane needs to remain flexible and within neurons needs to transmit electrical information. The membrane composition is critical for the cell membranes to perform optimally. It is here that the physician has to explain this to the patient. All the fats we eat are the raw material, which will make up our cell membranes. So what fat we eat that day is built into the cell wall that is made that day or is repaired. If we eat hydrogenated fat that day, this is built into the cell wall.  A membrane with hydrogenated fat will:
  • Not transmit nutrients inside the cell
  • Will not transmit waste out
  • Causes the membrane to lose flexibility
  • In a nerve cell there will be abnormal neuron transmission

If we eat hydrogenated fat, we become like a “genuine GM truck fixed with inferior parts”, so Dr. Blatman. The interesting observation is that it takes 4 months after eliminating hydrogenated oil from the diet to get it out from red blood cells. Be aware that French fries increase pain for 4 months, so why eat them?

  1. Olestra, an artificial fat: Olestra has been developed as an artificial fat and is used in chips. It can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and weight gain with long-term use. Olestra belongs into the group of fake/toxic foods. Don’t eat Pringles or chips that are made with this.
  1. Healthy oils

There are two types of essential fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Many processed foods contain only omega-6 fatty acids, because this is the cheapest way to produce them (they are based on vegetable oils). Instead you want to eat healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids contained in nuts and fish. You can also add molecularly distilled, high potency omega-3 fatty acids (purified fish oil) as a supplement to help restore the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in your food intake. Avoid omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and peanut oil.

Compare the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids with that of omega-3 fatty acids.

The linoleic acid of omega-6 fatty acids gets metabolized into arachidonic acid, which causes pro-inflammatory mediators, PGE2 and LTB4. On the other hand with omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is metabolized into EPA, DHA and the anti-inflammatory mediators PGE3 and LTB5.

It is easily understandable why a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods will disbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio should be 1:1 to 3:1, but many Americans’ omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 6:1 to 18:1. Omega-6-fatty acids cause arthritis, heart disease and strokes. Be particularly careful in avoiding soybean oil, which is the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio through processed foods.

When it comes to balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, be aware that nutritional balancing can help you restore the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 to 3:1. An easy way is to cut out processed foods as much as possible. Supplement with molecularly distilled fish oil capsules to add more omega-3 fatty acids into your food intake. Dr. Blatman gave the example of rheumatoid arthritis patients that were put on omega-3 supplements. After 24 weeks their joint swelling and tenderness went down.

Rebalancing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was able to treat depression as this research showed. This makes you wonder how much depression may be caused by overconsumption of processed food.

Dr. Blatman suggested the following doses of omega-3 supplementation for various purposes:

  • 1 gram/day as supplementation for healthy adults with a good diet
  • 1-3 grams/day for people with cardiovascular disease
  • 5-10 grams/day for patients with an autoimmune disease, with chronic pain or with neuropsychiatric conditions

He mentioned that these doses are empirical, but in his opinion definitely help. Due to quality differences he suggested that you buy fish oil capsules in a health food store where the quality is best. Stay away from discount stores (the quality is the worst) and drug stores.

Other healthy oils are olive oil and coconut oil. They are also useful for cooking.

Rule #2 is not to eat inflammatory foods

Our body functions like a luxury car; it needs pure food to function. Anything less leads to inflammation, particularly when you eat sugar and processed foods.

Inflammatory foods are sugar, white flour, fruit juice and white/red potatoes. A medium potato=1/2 cup of sugar! Other problematic foods are wheat grain contained in breads, pasta, cereal and thickeners in soups and sauces.

What is the problem with these foods? They break down the zonulin proteins that are a bridge between the lining cells of the gut.

This leads to an increase of intestinal permeability, and leaky gut syndrome can develop. Inflammatory cytokines from visceral fat add to the gut inflammation, and cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure can develop.

Fried potatoes, in particular the consumption of French fries, have been identified as the cause of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD). Countries with the highest consumption of French fries have the highest incidence of IBD.

A Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are anti-inflammatory diets.

Rule #3 is to not disturb the bowel flora

A healthy bowel flora is symbiotic with the body. You achieve this by eating green leafy vegetables. A toxic flora from dysbiotic microbes comes from eating white flour, white sugar and red meat. Red meat leaves residues on which dysbiotic bacteria thrive.

Symbiotic gut bacteria produce vitamin K, cobalamin, pyridoxine, biotin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and short fatty acids. They also degrade metabolic toxins, prevent pathogens from colonization and they stimulate the immune system to mature.

Dysbiosis occurs when the wrong diet consisting of sodas, white flour, sugar and red meat is over consumed. There are toxins that are produced by the dysbiotic microbes. These injure the bowel wall and make the immune system work harder. Immune system dysfunction, fatigue and fibromyalgia can follow.

Dr. Blatman stated that gut dysbiosis that causes leaky gut syndrome could also cause ulcer disease, diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain and even cancer.

When Food Causes Inflammation

When Food Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

This was a whirlwind tour through a talk given by Dr. Blatman during the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. What food we eat determines what gut bacteria we harbor, symbiotic ones or toxic ones. This in turn determines which way our health develops. But the content of what we eat is also important. If we consume processed foods we end up consuming way too many omega-6 fatty acids, which cause inflammation, arthritis and heart disease. This is happening in front of our eyes, if we start seeing things the way they are. I was aware of this since the mid 1990’s. In a lecture I attended at a continuing education conference a cardiologist pointed out that inflammation was the determining factor of whether or not our patients would get a heart attack. The lecturer mentioned then that the older cholesterol concept would be replaced by the newer inflammation concept. He was right, but it goes even further! There is the important omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and fish oil supplementation helps. At the same time it is necessary cutting out processed foods. But there is the newer insight that our bowel flora and red meat consumption can culture toxic bacteria in our own gut. It is in our power to start eating more vegetables and cut out sugar and starchy food. It is time to see chips and French fries not as a “convenience” but a hazard to your health. Food does not have to cause inflammation; right food choices will help us to stay well and live longer.

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Mar
25
2017

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk recently about how stress affects our hormone system. His talk was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman stressed that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). We need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. When balanced we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. He stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. Too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which gets activated by TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), but can also be affected negatively by autoantibodies).
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.
  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. If the brain is stressed, the hypothalamus sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands. This leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can develop from this.

Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands activation and clinical effects

The main hormone axis of the stress reaction goes from the hypothalamus via the pituitary gland to the outside surface of the adrenal glands where cortisol is released. It is also called the HPA axis. Stressed people make too much cortisol, which weakens immune functions, reduces human growth hormone production, increases belly fat, increases blood pressure and reduces insulin action. Stress also reduces estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men.

The final clinical presentation is osteopenia, then osteoporosis with spontaneous fractures of bones. There is cardiovascular disease leading to heart attacks and strokes, and cognitive decline with memory loss. There are complications with infections. Also the metabolic syndrome can lead to obesity and type 2-diabetes.

Stress and the hippocampus

In the center of our brain there is a memory-processing unit, the hippocampus that converts short-term memory into long-term memory. Repeated stress interferes with normal hippocampus function. High cortisol levels interfere with the proper functioning of the hippocampus causing memory problems.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress have been shown to lead to hippocampus atrophy and can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Effects of chronic stress

Chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, to diabetes, chronic inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid disorders, cancer, neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases. Inflammation research has shown that with chronic inflammation tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is released, as key player of chronic inflammation. This however leads to the release of other inflammatory kinins like IL6 and others. The resulting chronic inflammation can cause Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, insulin resistance, dementia, metabolic syndrome, obesity and atherosclerosis with associated markers (decreased HDL, increased LDL, CRP and triglycerides).

Hormone imbalance causes disease

  1. Excess cortisol production from stress leads to Th2 type inflammatory kinins; usually associated with this is a reduction of DHEA (a male hormone in the adrenal glands), which leads to reduced Th1 type kinins. The end result is chronic inflammation. When chronic stress has tired out the adrenal glands, a four-point salivary cortisol level test shows a flat curve. This indicates adrenal gland fatigue or, if worse, even adrenal gland insufficiency. Such a pattern is found in patients with leukemia, breast cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, pituitary gland cancer and lung cancer.
  2. The metabolic syndrome is associated with dysregulation of the HPA axis. People who have this syndrome have a high morning serum cortisol level. High cortisol increases the risk to develop metabolic syndrome.
  3. Metabolic connections: high cortisol leads to a partial blockage of thyroid hormones, which in turn leads to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism will affect glucose tolerance, and if not treated leads to type 2 diabetes.

In a large study involving 46,578 members of Kaiser Permanente Northwest it was determined that for every 1 point above a fasting glucose level of 84 mg/dL there was an additional 6% risk to develop type 2 diabetes over the next 10 years.

Pathological hormone disturbances

The following hormone patterns were discussed in detail, an increased cortisol level, increased insulin level and decreased thyroid levels.

Elevated cortisol

Prolonged elevation of cortisol leads to atrophy of the hippocampus with brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s or dementia. The immune system gets altered, there is lower DHEA hormone leading to weaker muscles and weakened immunity. There is insulin resistance (decreased insulin sensitivity), decreased serotonin and increased depression. Carbohydrate cravings lead to weight gain (central obesity). Changes in the thyroid metabolism leads to hypothyroidism.

Increased insulin level

People who develop high insulin levels are usually sugar or carbohydrate addicts. As they gain weight they change their metabolism into the metabolic syndrome. The extra insulin that is floating around triggers the insulin receptors to become less sensitive (also called “resistant”). The people love to eat. They snack frequently on protein bars and candy bars. As they gain weight, their energy goes down and they often develop painful joints. This prevents them from being physically active. They notice episodes of foggy thinking. Women complain of frequent yeast infections.

The body tries to compensate by slightly decreasing thyroid hormones and slightly increasing cortisol levels.

Decreased thyroid levels

There is increased lactic acid production and decreased insulin sensitivity. Oxidative stress is increased. The patient is depressed and cognition and memory are reduced. The gut has slower motility. The mitochondria, the energy packages in each cell are reduced and functioning less productively. Cardiac function is reduced.

The body tries to compensate for the primary thyroid weakness by slightly elevating insulin and cortisol.

Treatment of stressed hormone system

Before the doctor can treat a disbalanced hormone system, blood tests have to be done that show what kind of hormone constellation is present. Dr. Heyman suggested the following support with supplements.

Treatment of thyroid disorders

Thyroid supplementation may involve any of these: Selenomethionine, iodine, chromium, thyroid glandular, tyrosine, ferritin, Ashwagandha, coleus forskohlii, 7-keto DHEA, ferritin and iron. Other possible supplements that were mentioned by Dr. Heyman were Rhodiola, schisandra, ginseng, Rg3, eurycoma longifolia, neuromedulla glandular, DHEA, tryptophan/5 HTP, licorice, Cordyceps.

This, however, is not all. Missing thyroid hormones have to be replaced with a balanced T3/T4 medication like Armour thyroid.

Adrenal support

The following supplements are used to support adrenals: Adrenal glandular, vitamin C, adrenal cortex extract, Holy Basil, Pharma GABA, Magnolia/Phellodendron, L-theanine, sterols & sterolins.

Pancreatic support

These supplements support the insulin production in the pancreas:

Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil, micro PQQ, bitter melon, cinnamon, arginine, vanadium, benfotiamine (synthetic derivative of B1 vitamin) and Bergamot.

Dr. Heyman completed his talk by giving a few patient examples, explaining what blood tests showed, what the hormone disbalance was, and which treatment options were helpful.

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

How Stress Affects Our Hormone System

Conclusion

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. He talked about how stress affects our hormone system. Symptoms from stress can stem from different causes including hormone disbalances. Conventional medicine would simply treat the symptoms. However, this will not be successful with stress-induced hormone disbalances, because it does not treat the causes. Causal treatment of the hormone disbalance will restore the person’s wellbeing and the symptoms will disappear at the same time. Anti-aging medicine and integrative medicine are attempting to follow this approach.

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Mar
11
2017

Obesity And Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

Dr. Nalini Chilkov gave a talk about how obesity and diabetes can cause cancer. The original title was “Integrative Cancer Care, Increased Rates of Cancer and Cancer Mortality Associated with Obesity and Insulin Resistance, Nutraceutical and Botanical Interventions”. Her talk was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended.

In the following I will present a brief summary of her lecture.

Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer

Obesity causes 14% of all cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women.  This link explains this in more detail. The following 15 cancers were linked to obesity in terms of causation. They are: colon cancer, gastric cancer, gallbladder cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, rectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancer, multiple myeloma and esophageal cancer.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology reported about a meta-analysis involving 82 studies. This involved more than 200,000 women with breast cancer. Premenopausal and postmenopausal women were compared who were obese or normal weight. Premenopausal, obese breast cancer women had a 75% increase in mortality compared to the normal weight breast cancer group. With postmenopausal, obese breast cancer women there was a 34% increase of mortality compared to the normal weight group.

With obese prostate cancer patients there is a similar observation. Obese patients have a more aggressive prostate cancer on the Gleason score and the cancer is in a more advanced stage at the time of diagnosis.

Diabetes increases mortality from cancer

Obesity is a common risk factor for both cancer and diabetes. But diabetes by itself is also increasing mortality of several cancers. In a consensus report details of the relationship between cancer and diabetes have been discussed in detail. The following cancers have been identified to have an increased risk of diabetes: pancreatic, gastric, esophageal, colorectal, liver, gallbladder, breast, ovarian, endometrial, cervical, urinary bladder, renal, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A meta-analysis suggests that cancer patients who are diabetic have a 1.41-fold increased risk of dying compared to those cancer patients who have normal blood sugars. Dr. Chilkov explained in detail what the various mechanism are that account for the faster cancer growth in obese and diabetic patients. High insulin levels is one of the risk factors, so is IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor. The aromatase enzyme in fatty tissue turns male type hormones into estrogen, which also can stimulate cancer growth.

Carbohydrate restriction diet to prevent obesity

Low carb diets like the Mediterranean diet, the ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet will drop blood insulin and lactate levels. Cancer size and cancer growth are related to insulin and lactate levels. A low carb diet can reduce insulin-mediated uptake of sugar into cancer cells.

Research has shown that cancer metabolism slows down when a 10%-20% carb/high protein diet is consumed by the patient. This reduces the amount of sugar that is taken up by cancer cells. It also reduces insulin, so there is less cancer growth. A ketogenic diet is a more strict way to restrict carbohydrates. Intermittent fasting is also a useful method to reduce carbohydrate intake.

Here is an interesting study that illustrates the power of intermittent fasting. The study involved 2413 patients with early breast cancer who were followed for 7 years. Those breast cancer patients, who consistently did not eat anything between dinner and breakfast for 13 hours or more, had a 36% lower risk of having a cancer recurrence. There was also a 21% lower risk of dying from breast cancer when fasting was done for 13 hours or more overnight.

Supplements to prevent obesity, diabetes and cancer

A low carb diet and in some cases even a ketogenic diet is beneficial as a baseline. A regular exercise program is also useful for general fitness building and cardiovascular strengthening. In addition Dr. Chilkov recommended the following supplements.

  1. To reduce inflammation in the body, Dr. Chilkov recommended taking 2000 to 6000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day (molecularly distilled fish oil).
  2. Berberine 500 to 1000 mg three times daily. Dr. Chilkov said that Berberine has anti-cancer properties, improves insulin sensitivity and reduces absorption of sugars in the intestinal tract.
  3. Curcumin inhibits cancer cell division, invasion and metastatic spread through interaction with multiple cell signaling proteins. Several researchers showed that curcumin could lower blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin production from beta cells in the pancreas. Triglycerides, leptins and inflammation in fat cells are also lowered by curcumin. Insulin sensitivity increases through the action of curcumin. Dr. Chilkov recommended 300 mg/day of curcumin for 3 months.
  4. Resveratrol, the bioflavonoid from red wine is a powerful anti-inflammatory. This antioxidant has several other effects, which make it challenging to measure each effect by itself. This group of investigators managed to simultaneously measure these effects. They found that resveratrol lowered the C-reactive protein by 26% and tumor necrosis factor-alpha by 19.8%. Resveratrol also decreased fasting blood sugar and insulin; in addition it reduced hemoglobin A1C and insulin resistance. The recommended daily dose of resveratrol is 1000 to 5000 mg.
  5. Green tea catechins (EGCG) help to normalize the glucose and insulin metabolism. The dosage recommended was 1-3 grams per day.
  6. Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) contain polysaccharides with antidiabetic and antiobesity effects. They make gut bacteria produce three types of short-chain fatty acids that control body weight and insulin sensitivity.
Obesity And Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

Obesity And Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

Conclusion

Obesity is a risk factor not only for diabetes, but also for cancer. Chronically elevated blood sugars, increased fasting insulin levels and increased IGF1 levels can cause cancer. In addition they can stimulate tumor growth and increase cancer mortality. It is for this reason that the health care provider should screen all diabetics for cancer. In her talk Dr. Nalini Chilkov gave clear guidelines what supplements will be beneficial to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes as well as cancer. Start with a healthy, balanced diet. Add an exercise program. Then consider some of the above-mentioned supplements to reduce your risk for cancer, diabetes and obesity.

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Feb
25
2017

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Dr. Pamela Smith gave a lecture in December 2016 showing that heart health improves with hormone replacement. Her talk was part of the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9 to Dec. 11, 2016) in Las Vegas, which I attended. The title of the talk was: “Heart health: The Importance of Hormonal Balance for Men and Women”. Her keynote lecture contained 255 slides. I am only presenting a factual summary of the pertinent points here.

1. Estrogen

Observations regarding risk of heart attacks

  1. Women have a lower risk of heart attacks before menopause compared to men of the same age.
  2. Heart attack rates go up significantly after menopause.
  3. Estrogen replacement therapy may reduce the risk of heart attacks by 50% for postmenopausal women.

Lipid profile after menopause

There is an elevation of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides as well as lower HDL cholesterol levels. All of this causes a higher risk of heart attacks for postmenopausal women. Estrogen replacement therapy increases the large VLDL particles, decreases LDL levels and raises HDL-2. These changes are thought to be responsible for helping reduce heart attack rates in postmenopausal women who do estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

Difference between oral and transdermal estrogen replacement

When estrogen is taken by mouth, it is metabolically changed in the liver. This reduces the protective effect on the cardiovascular system. In contrast, transdermal estrogen (from commercial estrogen patches or from bioidentical estrogen creams) has a higher cardioprotective effect. The liver does not metabolize transdermal estrogen. Dr. Smith explained in great detail using many slides how estrogen prevents heart attacks. Details about this would be too technical for this review. Apart from lipid lowering effects there are protective effects to the lining of the arteries. In addition there are metabolic processes in heart cells and mitochondria that benefit from estrogens. The end result is that postmenopausal women who replace estrogen will outlive men by about 10 years. Stay away from Premarin, which is not human estrogen, but is derived from pregnant mares. Also the tablet form is metabolized by the liver, which loses a lot of the beneficial effects that you get from transdermal estrogen. 

How can you document the beneficial effects of estrogen replacement?

  1. Carotid intima measurements in postmenopausal women on ERT show a consistent reduction in thickness compared to controls.
  2. The physical and emotional stress response is reduced compared to postmenopausal women without ERT.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women reduces blood pressure. Measurements showed this effect to be due to a reduction of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) by 20%. This is the equivalent of treating a woman with an ACE inhibitor without the side effects of these pills.
  4. Coronary calcification scores were lower in postmenopausal women on ERT than a control group without ERT. These calcification scores correlate with the risk for heart attacks.
  5. Oral estrogen replacement leads to proinflammatory metabolites from the liver metabolism of estrogen. This is not found in the blood of women using transdermal estrogen. The anti-inflammatory effect of transdermal estrogen is another mechanism that prevents heart attacks.
  6. Postmenopausal women on ERT had no increased risk of heart attacks or venous thromboembolism (clots in veins). Menopausal women without ERT have a risk of 40% of dying from a heart attack. Their risk of developing breast cancer is 5.5%, the risk of dying from breast cancer is about 1%. Oral estrogen use was associated with venous thromboembolism.
  7. Estrogen has antiarrhythmic effects stabilizing the heart rhythm. Dr. Smith said that in the future intravenous estrogen might be used to prevent serious arrhythmias following heart attacks.

Estrogen levels in males

Males require a small amount of estrogens to maintain their memory, for bone maturation and regulation of bone resorption. But they also need small amounts of estrogen for their normal lipid metabolism.

However, if the estrogen levels are too high as is the case in an obese, elderly man, there is an increased risk of heart disease. Factors that lead to increased estrogen levels in an older man are: increased aromatase activity in fatty tissue, overuse of alcohol and a change in liver metabolism, zinc deficiency, ingestion of estrogen-containing foods and environmental estrogens (also called xenoestrogens).

2. Progesterone

Progesterone is significantly different from the progestin medroxyprogesterone (MPA). MPA was the oral progestin that was responsible for heart attacks and blood clots in the Women’s Health Initiative. MPA increases smooth muscle cell proliferation. This in turn causes hardening of the coronary arteries. In contrast, progesterone inhibits smooth muscle cell proliferation, which prevents heart attacks. Progesterone also lowers blood pressure and elevates HDL cholesterol, but MPA does not.

Progesterone in males

In a small study Depo-Provera was given to males for 17 days. Blood tests showed a lowering of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and Apo A-1.

3. Testosterone

Testosterone replacement in women

Testosterone in women does not only increase their sex drive, but also relaxes the coronary arteries in women who were testosterone deficient. This allows more blood flow to the heart. In postmenopausal women testosterone replacement lowered lipoprotein (a) levels up to 65%. The physician will only replace testosterone in women who have either enough of their own estrogen production or else have been replaced first with bioidentical estrogen. Otherwise testosterone alone can cause heart attacks in women.

Elevated testosterone in women with PCOS

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have increased testosterone levels when they go through premenopause or menopause.

Women with PCOS are at a higher risk to develop diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. 50% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. 70% of women with PCOS in the US have lipid abnormalities in their blood.

Elevated testosterone levels in the blood can lower the protective HDL cholesterol and increase homocysteine levels. Both can cause heart attacks.

Women with PCOS have a 4-fold risk of developing high blood pressure.

Testosterone replacement in males

A 2010 study showed that low testosterone levels in males were predictive of higher mortality due to heart attacks and cancer. Low testosterone is also associated with high blood pressure, heart failure and increased risk of cardiovascular deaths. There was a higher incidence of deaths from heart attacks when testosterone levels were low compared to men with normal testosterone levels.

Low testosterone is also associated with the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which can cause heart attacks.

It is important that men with low testosterone get testosterone replacement therapy.

DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)

DHT is much more potent than testosterone. Conversion of testosterone leads to DHT via the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. While testosterone can be aromatized into estrogen, DHT cannot. Some men have elevated levels of DHT. This leads to a risk of heart attacks, prostate enlargement and hair loss of the scalp.

Andropause treatment

Only about 5% of men in andropause with low testosterone levels receive testosterone replacement in the US. Part of this is explained by rumors that testosterone may cause prostate cancer or liver cancer. The patient or the physician may be reluctant to treat with testosterone. Bioidentical testosterone has been shown to not cause any harm. It is safe to use testosterone cream transdermally. It does not cause prostate cancer or benign prostatic hypertrophy.

An increase of 6-nmol/L-serum testosterone was associated with a 19% drop in all-cause mortality.

Testosterone helps build up new blood vessels after a heart attack. Testosterone replacement increases coronary blood flow in patients with coronary artery disease. Another effect of testosterone is the decrease of inflammation. Inflammation is an important component of cardiovascular disease.

Testosterone replacement improves exercise capacity, insulin resistance and muscle performance (including the heart muscle).

Apart from the beneficial effect of testosterone on the heart it is also beneficial for the brain. Testosterone treatment prevents Alzheimer’s disease in older men by preventing beta amyloid precursor protein production.

4. DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It is a precursor for male and female sex hormones, but has actions on its own. It supports muscle strength. Postmenopausal women had a higher mortality from heart disease when their DHEA blood levels were low.

Similar studies in men showed the same results. Congestive heart failure patients of both sexes had more severe disease the lower the DHEA levels were. Other studies have used DHEA supplementation in heart patients, congestive heart failure patients and patients with diabetes to show that clinical symptoms improved.

5. Melatonin

Low levels of melatonin have been demonstrated in patients with heart disease. Melatonin inhibits platelet aggregation and suppresses nighttime sympathetic activity (epinephrine and norepinephrine). Sympathetic activity damages the lining of coronary arteries. Melatonin reduces hypoxia in patients with ischemic stroke or ischemic heart disease. Lower nocturnal melatonin levels are associated with higher adverse effects following a heart attack. Among these are recurrent heart attacks, congestive heart failure or death. Melatonin widens blood vessels, is a free radical scavenger and inhibits oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Melatonin reduces inflammation following a heart attack. This can be measured using the C-reactive protein.

In patients who had angioplasties done for blocked coronary arteries intravenous melatonin decreased CRP, reduced tissue damage, decreased various irregular heart beat patterns and allowed damaged heart tissue to recover.

6. Thyroid hormones

It has been known for more than 100 years that dysfunction of the thyroid leads to heart disease. Hypothyroidism can cause heart attacks, hardening of the coronary arteries and congestive heart failure. Lesser-known connections to hypothyroidism are congestive heart failure, depression, fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis and insulin resistance. Some cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with low thyroid levels may successfully respond to thyroid replacement.

Thyroid hormones improve lipids in the blood, improve arterial stiffness and improve cardiac remodeling following a heart attack. Thyroid hormones help with the repair of the injured heart muscle. They also work directly on the heart muscle helping it to contract more efficiently. Lower thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) values and higher T3 and T4 thyroid hormone levels lead to improved insulin sensitivity, higher HDL values (= protective cholesterol) and overall better functioning of the lining of the arteries.

Dr. Smith said that thyroid replacement should achieve that

  • TSH is below 2.0, but above the lower limit of normal
  • Free T3 should be dead center of normal or slightly above
  • Free T4 should be dead center of normal or slightly above

Most patients with hypothyroidism require replacement of both T3 and T4 (like with the use of Armour thyroid pills).

7. Cortisol

Cortisol is the only human hormone that increases with age. All other hormones drop off to lower values with age. The adrenal glands manufacture cortisol. With stress cortisol is rising, but when stress is over, it is supposed to come down to normal levels. Many people today are constantly overstressed, so their adrenal glands are often chronically over stimulated. This can lead to a lack of progesterone. It also causes a lack of functional thyroid hormones as they get bound and are less active. When women have decreased estradiol in menopause there is a decline in norepinephrine production, production of serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine. Women with this experience depression, lack of drive and slower thought processes.

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Heart Health Improves With Hormone Replacement

Conclusion

Seven major hormones have been reviewed here that all have a bearing on the risk of developing a heart attack. It is important that these hormones are balanced, so they can work with each other. Hormones can be compared to a team that works together and is responsible for our health. If one or several of the team players are ineffective, our health will suffer. For this reason hormone replacement is crucial. Hormones have effects on mitochondria of the heart muscles cells. They stabilize the heart rhythm as in the case of estradiol. But they can also strengthen the heart muscle directly through DHEA and estrogens in women and DHEA and testosterone in men. Thyroid hormones are another supportive force for the heart and can even be used therapeutically in chronic heart failure patients. When people age, many hormones are produced less, but blood tests will show this. Replacing hormones that are missing can add years of active life.

Taking care of the symphony of hormones means you are taking care of your most important organ, the heart!

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Feb
04
2017

Benefits Of The Ketogenic Diet

Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD gave a talk that clarified the benefits of the ketogenic diet. He is a professor at the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, and teaches in the Kinesiology Program. His lecture was part of the 24th Annual World Conference on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas, Dec. 9 to 11, 2016.

There were 58 slides, some of them very detailed. I will summarize as best as I can what the presentation was all about.

History of diets

Dr. Volek stated that there were unintended consequences when the low fat/ high carb diet was introduced in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Ancel Keys, a physiologist had proposed in his diet heart hypothesis that saturated fat was the culprit that caused heart attacks.

As a result all major health agencies recommended the low fat/high carb diet. Obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes were the consequences. Another offshoot later from this was the statin craze where everybody was put on statins as high cholesterol was symptomatically treated. Nothing changed the diabetes and obesity wave and heart attacks and strokes continued to kill the affected persons. Among performance athletes the hypothesis was formed that carb loading would increase muscle performance. Researchers showed evidence that carb loading would improve performance. But athletes were dissatisfied with prediabetes and metabolic problems. Both the average consumer as well as the performance athlete noted that they felt better on a low carb/high fat diet. This is what the ketogenic diet is all about.

Diet heart hypothesis

With the diet heart hypothesis the saturated fat was removed from the diet and replaced by vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid. Dr. Volek explained that blood tests and other investigations were done on people who ingested the low saturated fat/high carb diet. The question was whether this would reduce heart attack rates and deaths by lowering serum cholesterol.

The Minnesota Coronary Experiment was a double blind study, which answered this question.

Cholesterol was reduced in the experimental group. But there was no reduction of heart attacks or strokes compared to a control group. Of concern was the large amount of refined carbohydrate content with the low fat diet. This essentially was responsible for the obesity and diabetes wave. The excess sugar turned into fat deposits and to insulin resistance, which caused diabetes. The low saturated fat/high carb diet of the 1960’s to 1990’s did not reduce heart attacks and strokes. To the contrary: the obesity/type 2 diabetes wave it had caused increased mortality from strokes and heart attacks further.

Laboratory tests on low fat/high carb diet versus the ketogenic diet

Forget hypotheses for a moment. Let us review what the different diets do in terms of lab tests. In a study where 40 overweight people with metabolic syndrome were put on a low fat diet or a low carb/ketogenic diet, the following blood test results were found. There were 20 patients in each group.

  1. Low fat/high carb diet

Triglycerides in the blood went down by 20%, saturated fatty acids by 22%. LDL (the bad cholesterol) rose by 4%. Insulin levels went down by 17% and leptin levels also down by 17%. Glucose levels were down by 1%.

  1. Low carb/ketogenic diet

Triglycerides went down by 52%, saturated fatty acids by 57%. LDL (the bad cholesterol) went down by 18%. Insulin levels went down by 49% and leptin levels by 42%. Glucose levels were down by 11%.

In this group of 20 subjects for each group the body mass index went down by 5% for the low fat diet and by 10% for the ketogenic diet after 3 months. The abdominal fat went down in that time by 12% for the low fat diet and by 20% for the ketogenic diet. The conclusion from these laboratory results and from the body measurements is that the low fat diet is showing some results of weight loss, but the ketogenic diet has superior results. The same is true for the blood tests. Only the ketogenic diet showed reduction of 7 key anti-inflammatory markers. In contrast, the low fat diet did not trigger the production of a single anti-inflammatory marker.

Anti-inflammatory benefits of the ketogenic diet

A 2008 study showed that several anti-inflammatory markers were greatly reduced from the ketogenic diet while a low fat diet did not show such a reduction.

As this 2009 study showed the LDL particles were getting bigger under the influence of a ketogenic diet, but they were getting smaller with a low fat diet.

Large LDL particles are also called pattern A particles, while small LDL particles are also called pattern B particles.

As this link shows there is good evidence that small LDL particles oxidize easier and are more atherogenic (causing hardening of the arteries). This means they lead to hardening of the arteries easier translating into heart attacks and strokes down the road. It is one thing that a ketogenic diet leads to larger LDL particles, which are more resistant to oxygenation. But it is another good thing that this diet is also anti-inflammatory. Overall this means that a ketogenic diet is counteracting the development of heart attacks and strokes.

Are saturated fatty acids in the diet causing heart attacks or strokes?

Dr. Volek discussed several large studies that have investigated this question. One of these studies discussed was a metaanalysis from 2010. Like all the other studies it showed that saturated fatty acids do not cause heart attacks and strokes. This is the secret behind the Inuit and the Eskimo diet. It is a high fat and meat diet. Lots of seafood is consumed as well, which provides omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Volek pointed out that if you replace a certain percentage, let’s say 5% of saturated fatty acids with carbohydrates, this would cause 7% more heart attacks. He showed literature evidence to back this up. What causes increased heart attacks and strokes is more refined carbs in your diet (sugar and starchy foods!).

Do saturated fatty acids in your blood increase the risk for disease?

Dr. Volek showed several slides with references to various publications. Elevated saturated fatty acids in the blood cause a higher risk of getting a heart attack, heart failure, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. But this does not happen with a ketogenic diet. The values of the saturated fatty acids in the blood are 4% lower when a ketogenic diet is started. With a low carb diet the calories derived from carbs are 12%. In comparison a low fat diet has 56% of carbs. Protein content in the low fat diet is 20%, in the ketogenic diet 28%. Saturated fat content in the low fat diet is 24%, in the ketogenic diet it is 59%. Let’s assume that both diets are kept at 1500 Cal. per day. Then the saturated fat content for the low fat diet is 12 grams and the carbohydrate content is 208 grams. For the ketogenic diet these values are as follows: 36 grams of saturated fat and 45 grams of carbohydrates. Despite a threefold higher saturated fatty acid intake the circulating level of saturated fatty acids in the blood were decreased by 4%.

You are what you eat, but go easy on carbs

Dr. Volek pointed out that what makes you healthy or sick is how many carbs you include in your diet. If you follow a ketogenic diet with only 12% carbs you are much better off than when you follow a diet like the low fat diet with 56% of carbs. The higher the carb percentage in your food, the higher the production of saturated fatty acids in your system and the higher the storage of saturated fatty acids in your body fat. Conversely, the lower the carb percentage in your food is the higher the oxidation of saturated fatty acids will be. In other words the saturated fatty acids disappear from your blood. Also, with a ketogenic diet the storage of saturated fatty acids is lower in your body fat. With a low fat diet your insulin resistance increases, while with a ketogenic diet insulin resistance decreases. The difference in calories in these two diets (56% derived from carbs in a low fat diet versus 12% derived from carbs in a ketogenic diet) explains why the obesity/type 2 diabetes wave has developed and why heart attacks and strokes still top the mortality figures today.

Endurance athletes win medals on a ketogenic diet

Dr. Volek shared a few cases of world-class athletes that are on a ketogenic diet. They did well for themselves winning medals. Tim Olsen won the Western States 100-mile endurance run from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA in 2012. Zach Bitter was the 100-mile track record holder in 2015. Mike Morton won the American 24-hour distance running record for 172 miles. Two Tour De France bicyclists made first and second place, Chris Froome (first place) and Romain Bardet (second place).

Sports teams also have been successful on a ketogenic diet: the Columbus Crew soccer team; New Zealand national rugby union team, commonly called the All Blacks; the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team are all on ketogenic diets.

Dr. Volek also pointed out that the ketogenic diet has even been tested for the military. A ketogenic diet restores metabolic health, gives the soldiers more endurance, more stress resistance and decreased fatigue.

Benefits Of The Ketogenic Diet

Benefits Of The Ketogenic Diet

Conclusion

A ketogenic diet is on the one end of the carb spectrum with only 10 to 12% of calories derived from carbs. At the other end is the low fat/high carb diet that caused the obesity/diabetes wave. The Mediterranean diet is in the center. The more you are able to cut down the carb percentage in your diet by cutting out sugar and starchy foods, the more your metabolism gets stabilized and this can be measured with blood tests. The ketogenic diet makes you lose weight down to your ideal weight and makes you gain more muscle strength and physical endurance. Sophisticated blood tests have shown that inflammatory markers go down on a ketogenic diet and factors that lead to hardening of arteries also go down. The end result on the ketogenic diet is that the rate of heart attacks and strokes goes down, something which was the original goal of Ancel Keys. It did not work, but it promoted a wave of diabetes and heart disease! Ironically adding saturated fat and other healthy fats while cutting down carbs will achieve disease prevention. This is the opposite of what Ancel Keys had recommended to do and what the processed food industry has mimicked. The ketogenic diet lowers mortality by cutting down heart attacks and strokes. With this knowledge it will finally be possible to get people on a path to better health.

More information about ketogenic diet: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto

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Jan
28
2017

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Dr. Mark Houston talked about cardiovascular disease and inflammation – “the evil twins”. He presented this lecture at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas. Dr. Houston is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, TN 37232.

New thinking about cardiovascular disease and inflammation

Dr. Houston pointed out that the old thinking about cardiovascular disease has to be replaced with the new thinking. Here are a number of points regarding the new thinking.

  1. Coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure are diseases of inflammation. They are also coupled with oxidative stress, vascular immune dysfunction and dysfunction of the mitochondria.
  2. In the past it was difficult to reduce these cardiovascular diseases. With the new thinking there are now new treatment approaches that help cure cardiovascular disease.
  3. The development of heart disease has a long history. Endothelial dysfunction predates coronary artery disease by many years. This is followed by vascular smooth muscle dysfunction. Inflammation develops and structural changes occur in the small and larger blood vessels with atheromatous deposits (plaques) and final occlusion, at which point you get a heart attack.

Canadian physician Sir William Osler has already stated more than 100 years ago “A man is as old as his blood vessels”.

The old thesis was that cholesterol would lead to deposits that close coronary blood vessels and cause heart attacks. Dr. Houston called this the “cholesterol-centric “ approach. The truth is that with conventional blood tests you are missing 50% of all the high-risk patients that are going to develop heart attacks. They are missing the ones that have chronic inflammation, but normal cholesterol levels.

What was not known in the past was that oxidative stress associated with normal aging can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. This oxidative stress leads to mitochondrial DNA changes. Associated with it are biochemical changes that cause chronic inflammation, which in turn will affect the lining of the arteries. There is a metabolic change described in the literature as metabolic syndrome, which leads to high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and eventually heart attacks and strokes. The key today is to include in screening tests all parameters that will predict who is at risk to develop a heart attack or not.

Blood tests to screen for cardiovascular disease and inflammation

Blood tests and health history should be checked for dyslipidemia, high blood pressure (hypertension), hyperglycemia, smoking, diabetes, homocysteinemia, obesity etc. Also, patients with high GGTP (gamma-glutamyl transferase) levels in the blood are more at risk to develop diabetes. This in turn leads to inflammation of the arterial wall and heart attacks. There are 25 top risk factors that are associated with all causes for heart attacks.

Briefly, apart from the 7 factors already mentioned above the physician wants to check for high uric acid levels (hyperuricemia), kidney disease, high clotting factors (fibrinogen levels), elevated iron levels, trans fatty acid levels, omega-3 fatty acid levels and omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, low dietary potassium and magnesium intake with high sodium intake, increased high sensitivity C reactive protein level (hs CRP measuring inflammation). The list to test for cardiovascular disease risk continues with blood tests for vascular immune dysfunction and increased oxidative stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, subclinical low thyroid levels, hormonal imbalances for both genders, chronic infections, low vitamin D and K levels, high heavy metals and environmental pollutants.

The speaker stated that he includes a hormone profile and vitamin D levels. He does biochemical tests to check for mitochondrial defects. Micronutrients are also checked as cardiovascular patients often have many nutritional deficiencies. Inflammation is monitored through testing the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP).

In order to assess the risk of a patient Dr. Cohen, a cardiologist has developed the Rasmussen score, which is more accurate than the Framingham score.

The following tests are performed on the patient: computerized arterial pulse waveform analysis (medical imaging), blood pressure at rest and following exercise and left ventricular wall of the heart by echocardiography. Further tests include urine test for microalbuminuria, B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP, a measure of congestive heart failure), retinal score based on fundoscopy, intima-media thickness (IMT, measured by ultrasound on the carotid artery) and electrocardiogram recording (EKG).

Here is what the Rasmussen score means:

  • Disease score 0 to 2: likely no heart attack in the next 6 years
  • Disease score 3 to 5: 5% likely cardiovascular events in the next 6 years
  • Disease score > 6: 15% likely cardiovascular events in the next 6 years

Non-intervention tests to measure cardiovascular health

1. The ENDOPAT test

With this test the brachial artery is occluded with a blood pressure cuff for 5 minutes. Endothelial dysfunction is measured as increased signal amplitude. A pre- and post occlusion index is calculated based on flow-mediated dilatation. The values are interpreted as follows: an index of 1.67 has a sensitivity of 82% and specificity of 77% to predict coronary endothelial dysfunction correctly. It also correlates to a future risk for coronary heart disease, congestive heart disease and high blood pressure.

2. The VC Profile

This test measures the elasticity of the arteries. There is a C1 index that measures the elasticity of the medium and smaller vessels and the C1 index, which measures elasticity of the larger arteries and the aorta. The smaller the numbers are, the less elastic the arterial walls.

3.The Corus CAD score

This is a genetically based blood test. The score can be between 0 and 40. If the score is 40, there is a risk of 68% that there is a major blockage in one or more coronary arteries.

4. Coronary artery calcification

The CAC score correlates very well with major event like a heart attack. There is a risk of between 6- and 35-fold depending how high the CAC score is. The key is not to wait until you have calcification in your coronary arteries, but work on prevention.

Treatment of cardiovascular disease and inflammation

When heart disease is treated the doctor needs to address all of the underlying problems. It starts with good nutrition like a DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet.

Next anti-inflammatory and other supplements are added: curcumin 500 mg to 1000 mg twice a day, pomegranate juice ¼ cup twice per day, chelated magnesium 500 mg twice per day, aged garlic 1200 mg once daily, taurine 3 grams twice per day, CoQ-10 300 mg twice per day and D-ribose 5 grams three times per day. This type of supplementation helps for chest pain associated with angina. On top of this metabolic cardiology program the regular cardiac medicines are also used.

Additional supplements used in the metabolic cardiology program may be resveratrol 500 mg twice per day, quercetin 500 mg twice per day, omega-3 fatty acid 5 grams per day, vitamin K2 (MK 7) 100-500 micrograms per day and MK4 1000 micrograms per day. In addition he gives 1000 mg of vitamin C twice per day. This program helps in plaque stabilization and reversal and reduction of coronary artery calcification.

Case study showing the effect of metabolic cardiology program

Here is a case study of a heart patient that was treated by Dr. Houston. He was a white male, first treated for congestive heart failure as a result of a heart attack in June 2005. Initially his ejection fraction was 15-20%. His medications were: digoxin 0.25 mg once daily, metoprolol 50 mg twice per day, ramipril 10 mg twice per day, spironolactone 25 mg twice per day and torsemide 20 mg once daily. These medications were kept in place, but the metabolic cardiology program was applied in addition. Here are the results of his ejection fraction (EF) values after he was started on the metabolic program:

  • Initial measurement: EF15-20%. Marked shortness of breath on exertion.
  • 3 months: EF 20-25%. He reported improved symptoms.
  • 6 months: EF 25-30%. He said that he had now minimal symptoms.
  • 12 months: EF 40%. He had no more symptoms.
  • 24 months: EF 50%. He reported: “I feel normal and great”.
  • 5 years: EF 55%. He said” I feel the best in years”.

A normal value for an ejection fraction is 55% to 70%.

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Cardiovascular Disease And Inflammation

Conclusion

Testing for heart disease risk has become a lot more sophisticated than in the past, and the tests have opened up a window to early intervention. Metabolic cardiology is a new faculty of cardiology that assists in the reversal and stabilization of heart disease. It will help high blood pressure patients and stabilizes diabetes, which would otherwise have deleterious effects on heart disease. Metabolic cardiology improves angina patients. It also prevents restenosis of stented coronary arteries. As shown in one clinical example reduced ejection fractions with congestive heart failure will improve. This was achieved solely through the metabolic cardiology program.

As usual, prevention is more powerful than conventional treatment later. To give your cardiac health a good start, don’t forget to cut out sugar, exercise regularly and follow a sensible diet.

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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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