Oct
03
2015

What Stress Does

We all are stressed out at times. Some people are stressed all the time and this is called chronic stress.

Acute stress

Let’s say you were involved in a minor rear-ender accident. It is annoying, but at least you were not injured. But you have to deal with the insurance company, get the repair done and maybe get a car rental during the time of repair. Yes, you may have a few days where you feel that your hands are shaky and your heart pounds, or your sleep may not be restful. But when everything is done things are back to normal. This is an example of acute stress with a shorter running time. It has a limited severity, is an inconvenience, but it does not really affect your body on the long-term.

Chronic stress

Let’s assume the car accident was more severe and you received a personal injury with a broken leg. You end up in hospital and the orthopedic surgeon fixes the fracture with a surgical plate. The leg has to be in a cast for several weeks, and you have to use crutches. Every day you feel reminded of the car accident, because it is awkward to walk with crutches. After weeks you notice that you have gained weight. Your doctor is also worried about you because your blood pressure showed higher readings. You do not sleep as well, waking up frequently and having nightmares about another fictitious accident. On top of that you came down with the flu. What happened here? The stress reaction released cortisol, which weakened your immune system and may be responsible for you catching the flu. On the long-term cortisol can also contribute to high blood pressure, but so can alcohol consumption. You may have increased your alcohol intake in the evening to relax more, but with the chronic stress and the cortisol increase this can cause high blood pressure. The weight gain that you noticed has to do with the fact that you cannot work out any more because of your healing leg fracture and you having to use crutches. Inadvertently you may also eat a bit more rich food; a lot of people do that as food can be used as comfort food. And why do you sleep less well? Chronic cortisol elevation leads to lower melatonin levels, as these two hormones are natural opponents. A high melatonin level leads to a low cortisol level and vice versa. With relaxation methods you can lower cortisol and the melatonin level increases normalizing your sleep. Chronically elevated cortisol can also lead to weight gain as sugar is converted into fatty acids that are stored as subcutaneous fat. Muscles can melt down when cortisol is high giving the appearance of spindly arms and legs.

Causes of chronic stress

Holmes and Rahe tested a stress scale in 1970, which has become the standard ever since. You get a certain amount of points for a stressful event, e.g. 100 for the death of a spouse; 45 point for retirement; 23 for trouble with the boss etc. Add up all of the points that are affect you right now; if the total score is less than 150 points there is only a minor risk of getting medical problems from the chronic stress; for 150 to 299 points the risk of illness is moderate and for 300 and more points you are at a significant risk for illness.

There is physical illness and mental illness that chronic stress can cause. Physical illness can be high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries. The long-term risks from this are possible heart attacks and strokes. But chronic adrenalin and noradrenalin elevation associated with chronic stress can burn part of your brain cells in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. This can lead to memory loss, spatial memory loss and aggression. Mental illness caused by chronic stress can be anxiety, depression, social isolation, panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychosomatic symptoms can include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain and difficulties concentrating.

Job stress and cancer

Perhaps one of the best examples of job stress and cancer is a study where the amount of breast cancer was correlated to the amount of stress. I discussed this in another blog. Briefly, women with a less responsibility had the lowest rate of breast cancer, but they too had some stress as there was a higher breast cancer risk after 15 years on the job versus only 5 years on the job. The same study showed that women with high responsibility had the highest breast cancer rates. A hormone disbalance can explain this based on high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress. If cortisol is high, the cortisol binding globulin (CBG) increases; this in turn also binds more circulating progesterone, as progesterone attaches to CBG. CBG is a transport protein for both cortisol and progesterone. The end result is that estrogenic compounds get the upper hand, a condition called estrogen dominance. I have explained under the above link that this was the real reason for the increase in breast cancer in the stressed women. Similar mechanisms are causing other cancers to occur more frequently with chronic stress.

Chronic stress and cardiovascular disease

High stress jobs were found to cause a 2.2 to 2.4-fold increase of strokes and heart attacks due to cardiovascular disease when compared to low stress jobs. This was based on a British Medical Journal study in October 2002. As I discussed above under a brief description of chronic stress cardiovascular disease is often what develops as part of chronic stress. People who are under chronic stress feel that they do not have enough time to prepare good, healthy food at home. They tend to eat out more often. Even well educated people just swallow a quick hamburger and other processed foods. This increases the bad fats like trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids in their system causing inflammation of the blood vessels as explained in this blog. The LDL cholesterol and triglycerides get elevated, sugar from sugary snacks oxidizes the LDL cholesterol and your coronary arteries and brain arteries get clogged up. This sets anybody on the downward pathway, and it is now only a matter of time when the chronically stressed person will develop a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic stress extremes: PTSD and burnout in soldiers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture during the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014). The title was: “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. Burnout is the extreme of chronic stress. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way. Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. Their burnout severity can be monitored using the teacher’s burnout scale already mentioned. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about hormone deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? It is important, because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body. Also, by recognizing what is going on and helping the affected individuals, a lot of pain and suffering can be prevented.

Accelerated aging from telomere shortening

Chronic stress has been shown to cause telomere shortening. So does a lack of sleep (insomnia), smoking and alcohol overconsumption, all conditions that can be associated with chronic stress. What can we do about this? Learn what shortens telomeres and ultimately your life. Cut out what you can and take supplements that lengthen your telomeres.

Positive thinking combats stress

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

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

Building social ties and mutually supportive relationships will also build you up. It makes you feel that you belong, you have your place in society, you help others, and they support you.

We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips requiring total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

What Stress Does

What Stress Does

Conclusion

Stress can be deadly, particularly if it lingers on and becomes chronic. But we can reorganize our lives to minimize stress. Some people may decide to seek a less stressful occupation. Others may elect to stay at that job, but develop hobbies and get involved in relaxation methods to combat job stress. The key is to start thinking about what stress you may be under and then develop a plan to counter it so you can allow yourself to rebalance your life.

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Sep
19
2015

Obesity Shortens Life

Of all the factors that definitely shorten life, obesity stands out like a giant. Let’s review a couple of facts regarding obesity:

  1. Americans who were born between 1966 and 1985 became obese at a much earlier age than their parents
  2. Obesity occurs at a younger age than in the past. 20% of people born between 1966 and 1985 were obese in their 20s.
  3. The longer you are obese, the higher the chance of getting seriously sick or dying prematurely from complications of associated diseases like diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, liver disease and cancer.
  4. Severely obese people live up to 20 years less than non-overweight people.
  5. Obesity causes about 300,000 deaths in the U.S. annually

Change of metabolism

Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, which is known as metabolic syndrome. The liver changes its metabolism slightly producing more triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and clotting factors, which increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary emboli. The pancreas produces more insulin, which gives rise to reactive hypoglycemia. This means that 2-3 hours after a meal you become hungry as your blood sugar declines from the extra insulin. You are craving a sugary drink, a donut or other starchy food (pizza, fries, bread etc.). Unfortunately these types of foods reinforce the metabolic syndrome: the liver changes the sugar into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Excess sugar will oxidize the LDL cholesterol, which causes atheromas (hardening of the arteries). Protein is being caramelized, which is called “advanced glycation end-products” or AGEs. This reference clearly explains how to counter this: increase your consumption of fish, legumes, vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk products and whole grains; also reduce your intake of solid fats, full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, and highly processed foods. There are other hormone changes that take place in obese people.

Death statistics due to obesity

In this study 849 autopsies were performed over 10 years, of which 32.3% were of obese persons. Leading causes of deaths in obese people were: malignancy (31.4%), infection (25.9%), ischemic heart disease (12.8%), pulmonary embolism (6.2%) and liver disease (2.9%). Table 2 of this link shows the causes of death in non-obese individuals as well: malignancy (32.5%), infection (23.8%), ischemic heart disease (10.4%), pulmonary embolism (2.9%) and liver disease (0.7%). The figures do not look all that different except that liver disease and pulmonary embolism are significantly more often the cause of death in obese patients than in normal weight patients. What you do not see in these figures is that obese people get these conditions at a much younger age as a result of complications from the associated diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, kidney disease and liver disease.

Diabetes

The metabolic changes with regard to the metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance.

As obesity worsens the balance is lost where the body can compensate and type 2 diabetes develops with increased blood sugar values and symptoms of diabetes. Surprisingly with regular exercise and changes in food intake (adopting a low glycemic index diet) this can be treated successfully. Usually this change is also associated with some weight loss, which helps to stabilize the metabolism. If nothing is done to to change diabetes, there is a high risk for heart attacks, strokes and subsequent secondary conditions like diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy and vascular complications.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure

High blood pressure is part of the metabolic syndrome. Unfortunately in obesity it is often difficult to control and may require several different antihypertensive medications in combination to control it. One way to quickly get the blood pressure under control is to make a concentrated effort to reduce a few pounds of weight; this can be achieved by cutting out refined carbs and sugar and starting an exercise program of walking and swimming.

Smoking

Smoking continues to remain a problem. Men as a group are now smoking less while women are increasing their smoking rates. Smoking causes various cancers, but also increases death rates from heart disease and strokes. In connection with obesity it is clear that the obese smoker has the highest risk of dying prematurely. This is depicted in this link based on the original Framingham study.

Disabilities and nursing homes

Obese people get disabled earlier, ending up in nursing homes. This poses a huge problem there for the staff. Back injuries and disabilities in the caregivers of nursing homes have increased significantly in the last few decades.

Osteoarthritis

80% of hip replacements and 90% of knee replacements are due to osteoarthritis. Obesity is the strongest modifiable risk factor that leads to osteoarthritis and subsequent surgery. There is a lot of morbidity and mortality associated with total knee and total hip surgeries. Part of this is the susceptibility to clot formation from the changes in metabolism associated with the metabolic syndrome. This often leads to pulmonary emboli and higher death rates following surgery when compared to surgery in people with normal weight.

Heart attacks and strokes

As there is an increase of the amount of heart attacks and strokes in overweight and obese people it is important to reduce your BMI when you realize that it is creeping up. Regular exercise along with a Mediterranean diet helps to improve this. Avoid processed foods that often have hidden sugar and refined carbs in them. Also cut out sugar. Use stevia, a natural sweetener, if you want to sweeten your food or drinks.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

In the past nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was rare. Now with the increase of obesity it is common. It can lead to liver cirrhosis with hepatic failure, a common cause of death. But after several years of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer may develop within the cirrhotic liver. Physicians saw this condition only rarely in decades past.

Kidney disease

With obesity there is a negative effect on the kidneys from the metabolic syndrome. Hyperinsulinism affects the capillaries of the filtration units, called glomeruli. They start to proliferate and undergo a form of degenerative change, called glomerulosclerosis. This decreases the filtration capacity of the glomeruli and the kidneys as a whole. After a few decades of this process kidney failure can set in. When an obese person develops diabetes, this will also have a negative effect on kidney function and accelerate the deterioration of kidney function. The end result is kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Cancer and obesity

Chronic inflammation that is worsened by the metabolic syndrome leads to higher rates of various cancers. A prospective study of more than 900,000 US adults was conducted for 16 years. In 1982 when the study was started none of the participants had cancer. After 16 years 57,145 of the study participants had died of cancer. Those in this study who had a BMI of 40.0 or more had cancer death rates that were 52% higher for males and 62% higher for females when compared to normal weight men and women. It was noticeable that the digestive tract showed higher cancer rates in the obese: esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon and rectum; other more frequent cancers were kidney cancer, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There were also trends of higher cancer death rates with regard to cancer of the stomach and prostate in men and breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer in women. The authors concluded that due to the rising obesity rates in the US population cancer rates in men will soon reach the 14% level and in women the 20% level out of the total death rates.

Treating obesity

Treatment of obesity requires a multifaceted approach. I have discussed this in detail in this blog. Briefly, the diet of the obese person needs to be closely looked at. Sugar and starchy foods need to be eliminated. Low glycemic foods like vegetables, lean meat and salads should be encouraged. A regular exercise program needs to be instituted, starting with swimming and walking. Later a gradual transition into gym type activities could be contemplated.

Weight loss surgery has been successfully applied in some obese patients with a BMI that is greater than 30.0 up to a BMI of 39.9. In a 5-year follow up after LAP-band surgery no surgical complications were reported and the mean percentage weight loss was 15.9±12.4%.

Obesity Shortens Life

Obesity Shortens Life

Conclusion

Obesity is a condition that has been gradually developing since the 1980’s. When you look at the food intake changes rationally it is not surprising that this is happening. Sugar consumption, high-fructose corn syrup consumption and the consumption of processed food have to be cut down, if not cut out completely. You can forget shopping at the middle section of any grocery store, where all that processed food is located. Go to the vegetable section and buy a lot of food from there. Low fat dairy products, eggs, and low fat meats as well as salmon and other seafood are foods that are healthy. There is one problem though and that is the feeding of antibiotics to chickens, turkeys and beef cattle. This leads to superbugs and changes your gut flora. I suggest you buy organic meats. I eat organic food and have cut out wheat also as wheat underwent forced hybridization in the 1970’s. All of the wheat in the world now is this type of wheat that is too rich in gliadin, which causes leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. For this reason I avoid all wheat.

I see no reason why obese people could not gradually shed their pounds and regain their stable metabolism. Those with diabetes will be able to shed that diagnosis as they shed their pounds. The kidney and liver function will also stabilize when you shed enough pounds. The goal should first be to reach a BMI of 25.0 to 30.0, which is the overweight category. The next goal would be to aim for shedding even more pounds until you reach a BMI of fewer than 25.0. If you say this is too tough to do, I am saying: giving up is not an option. Cherish your health!

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Sep
12
2015

Ageless Aging

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

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

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

  1. Mitochondria

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

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

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

  1. Preserving mitochondria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Slowing down hardening of our arteries

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

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

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

  1. Sugar and starchy foods

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

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

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

  1. Cut down on processed foods

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

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

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

  1. Replace hormones with bioidentical ones

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

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

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

Ageless Aging

Ageless Aging

Conclusion

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

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

References:

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

Aug
29
2015

Problems With The Western Diet

Lately there have been various news reports cautioning us about the Western diet. We eat too much processed food, we eat too much sugar and we have to be careful with how much fat and what kind of fat we eat. Take this story from the CNN. Half the world lives in big cities. And this number will reach 70% in the year 2050, if the urbanization trend continues at the same rate. With it comes the consumption of fast food. The wealthier people are, the more meat they eat. This is exactly what is bad for us. Too much meat can cause gout, particularly when paired with alcohol. First it is time to explain some more about the Western diet. “The biggest features of a Western diet are overconsumption of over-refined sugars, highly refined and saturated fats, animal protein and a reduced intake of plant-based fibers,” says Ian Myles. He is located at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This statement is specific enough: we are eating too much fat, red meat, salt and sugar, and too little fiber.

Too much fat

In processed foods we get too many omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to cause clogging of arteries and causing heart attacks and strokes, if not balanced with enough omega-3 fatty acids. But many processed foods still have hidden trans fats, which distribute free radicals in your system; this in turn causes hardening of the arteries again. Free radicals also age you faster. A candy bar with palmitic acid and fructose for instance, leads to a slow grade inflammation. The immune system mistakenly takes palmitic acid for the gut bacterium E.coli and mounts an immune reaction. This low-grade inflammation causes inflammation in the blood vessels, but also weakens the immune system. The sugar part of the candy bar oxidizes LDL cholesterol leading to clogging of arteries, which causes heart attacks and strokes.

Too much red meat

Grain fed and antibiotic treated regular beef changes the gut bacteria and can cause super bugs. The change of the gut flora can lead to inflammation in the gut lining and something called “leaky gut syndrome”. We carry almost 2 pounds of gut bacteria in us at any given time. But residual antibiotics from regular beef and chicken reduces that amount and changes the composition of our gut flora.

You can read in this blog that the changes taking place from consuming regular beef changes your liver metabolism and leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes deadly heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, grass fed beef or organic beef do not do this. To prevent leaky gut syndrome, heart attacks and strokes from developing you can take probiotics every day, which should include these two species: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. This keeps your gut flora stable and does not allow your food to undermine your health.

To much salt and sugar

Too much salt is often in processed food to prolong the shelf life. But we humans are very sensitive to overdoses of salt. Our kidneys have to work overtime to get rid of the excess salt. We need to drink enough water to allow the kidneys to produce urine, which will eliminate the excess salt. Persistent excessive salt intake will also cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart problems, strokes and aortic aneurysms. Restaurant food often contains too much salt and sugar.

Too little fiber

The more food is processed, the less fiber it will contain. If you go for the pizza, it may taste good, but where is the fiber? If you eat bread and butter, where is the fiber? You may say that you like a donut. I ask you again: where is the fiber? The end result is that toxins that normally would have been bound to fiber in the colon and were eliminated in the stool are now interacting with the wall of the colon causing colonic polyps and colon cancer. It may not only be fiber as plant-based diets rich in fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains were shown to be associated with a lower risk of the most common cancers. That’s the reason why people who consume a Western diet have higher rates of cancer in general. They lack fruits and vegetables.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

The recommendation in the 1980’s until about 2010 of a low fat diet to prevent heart attacks and strokes has failed miserably. It turned out that polyunsaturated fatty acids are of the omega-6 type, which gets metabolized into arachidonic acid and causes inflammation. The immune system gets suppressed from the chronic inflammation and the person becomes more prone to infections. As low fat diets are typically high in carbohydrates, there is a calorie surplus causing weight gain. Dr. Fife explains in his book that polyunsaturated acids interfere with the insulin receptor feeding into insulin resistance, which makes it even more difficult to control the metabolism and leads to more weight gain (Ref.1). The end result is what we have observed over the last few decades, a relentless obesity wave in the civilized world. It is a direct result of the Western diet.

Cancer caused by the Western diet

Breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer are cancers that are related to the Western diet. But there are likely many other cancers that are also caused by it.

We know that free radicals cause cancer, such as from trans fats and rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids found in processed foods. Cancer is more common in obese people and people with diabetes.

Habits that make us eat more

There are habits that make us eat more like snacking and falling for so-called “fitness food” which contains dubious ingredients. It may come as a surprise, but married people can also fall prey to unhealthy habits together, forgetting about working out and sneaking in “skinny cocktails”. Read what Cynthia Sass, registered dietician had to say about this on CNN.

Solution to the Western diet

You may expect me to say that you should modify this or that in the Western diet. Modification does not work. You have to get radical here! The real solution is to abandon the Western diet altogether. Replace it with the Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods. It is not that as bad as you can see from 1 week of recipes that my wife included in my book: “A survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging”.

You can eat cooked organic spinach, a piece of meat with slices of Avocado for breakfast. Cooking is done mostly with coconut oil or olive oil. Alternatively you may enjoy an egg or egg white vegetable omelette with lots of greens, mushrooms, onions and salsa and avocado on the side. Add to this caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee with stevia. Alternatively, a bowl of rolled oats, flaxseed and nuts with fresh fruit and organic milk, goat milk or yoghurt would make an excellent, sustaining breakfast. I am mentioning all of this to show you that you can get away from your familiar pancakes with maple syrup, sausages, waffles, toasts and muffins etc.

Food needs to be prepared form scratch with organic ingredients. GMO foods need to be avoided as the final judgment on these is decades away, and you do not want to become a human guinea pig.

Problems With The Western Diet

Problems With The Western Diet

Conclusion

The only way to “improve” a Western diet is to eliminate it and replace it by the Mediterranean diet. Throw all the processed food into the trash where it belongs! Avoid omega-6 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids), which have been shown to weaken the immune system and cause insulin resistance. The best fats are omega-3-fatty acids from marine oils (fish oil), coconut oil and olive oil. Forget all the other oils that are heavily advertised. They are not healthy.

I stick to organic foods although they are more expensive. Don’t forget that apart from a good diet you need to engage in a regular exercise program in order to prevent heart disease and cancer. And don’t stress out over the changes that you are about to make. Remember to manage your stress and relax!

References:

  1. Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.: “The Coconut Oil Miracle”, 5th edition,2013, Penguin Books, NY 10014

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Aug
07
2015

Sugar As White Death

Sugar is causing disability and mortality to a much higher degree than most people are aware of: a recent study pointed out that worldwide 184,000 deaths per year are attributable to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption; among those there are 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancers. Those people who developed disabilities from strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis and severe arthritis measured 8.5 million disability-adjusted life years throughout the world and were related to sugar-sweetened beverages. 4.5% of these were from diabetes that was related to sugar-sweetened beverages.

These statistics are only regarding sugar-sweetened beverages! This does not take into account mortality from sugar in processed foods, in cookies, cakes and candies. It also does not take into account starchy foods like pasta, bread, bagels, white rice etc. that are all digested by amylase in the mouth and in the gut to turn into sugar within half an hour of ingesting them.

In the following I like to give an overview of what sugar does to our system.

History of sugar production

The initial production of refined sugar was developed in India as this review of the history of sugar shows.

In Great Britain the consumption of sugar was 4 pounds per person per year in 1700; it rose to 18 pounds per year in 1800, to 36 pounds per year by 1850 and over 100 pounds per year by the twentieth century. Similar figures are true for the US and in all developed countries. In 1747 the German chemist Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beet root. Since then technology was developed to extract sugar from the beet root, which was cheaper to do than extracting it from sugar cane. Both methods are in use today. In addition high-fructose corn syrup has been developed in 1970 and it replaces sugar in many uses, for instance in soft drinks and in processed foods.

Overall we are exposed to sugar in all disguises, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, candies, sweetened yogurt that is sold as “healthy”, power bars that are sugar laden and many more.

Effect of sugar on our bodies

1. Diabetes

As already pointed out above the average sugar consumption has increased from 4 pounds per person in 1700 to above 100 pounds per person in our time. Our poor pancreas has to cope with this additional burden of sugar and if it can’t, we get diabetes. The CDC says that in 2008 there were 8 cases of new type 2 diabetes cases per 1000 people in the US. The CDC projects that in 2050 this number will likely increase to 15 new cases of type 2 diabetes per 1000 people.

This shows you that the capacity of the human pancreas is limited. There is a breaking point regarding our insulin production. The insulin production has a limit, because the insulin producing cells in the pancreas can only produce a limited amount of this sugar-clearing hormone. When this point is reached the person is said to have developed diabetes. Diabetes causes heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and circulation problems in the legs leading to amputations.

2. Cardiovascular disease

Diabetes is not the only problem that sugar causes. Our cardiovascular system is suffering because sugar makes the liver produce more LDL cholesterol that gets oxidized by sugar; the triglycerides are rising as well with continued sugar intake and with too much sugar intake there is excessive weight accumulation causing type 2 diabetes. This leads to more lipids in the arterial walls, called arteriosclerosis. The end results are heart attacks and strokes.

3. Cancer

It may not be obvious how sugar intake can lead to cancer. But sugar has been found to oxidize tissues and in the process produce dangerous free radicals. This causes chronic inflammation leading to mutations in the DNA of cells and weakening of the immune system. This will in time lead to cancer. Many cancer researchers have investigated this in detail in the last decades. I reviewed this in this blog, if you would like more information about it.

4. Brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease

Sugar overconsumption has been found to be one important factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with the development of brain atrophy. Brain atrophy is just the mirror lesion in the brain that comes from hardening of the arteries. Brain atrophy develops when not enough nutrients and oxygen reach your brain cells. Part of the brain surface dies off and memory cells are lost. The end result is dementia or Alzheimer’s. Read more about this here.

5. Arthritis can come from sugar overconsumption

As I have summarized in this blog arthritis often is due to over consumption of processed foods including sugar products.

As I am explaining in this blog Dr. Hoffer has developed a simple supplementation for arthritis that will reverse the metabolic changes that are associated with arthritis. But you must switch to a Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods, if you want to experience relief from your arthritis symptoms.

6. Low fat diet not helpful to reduce heart attack rates

As I pointed out before the low fat diet that was popular in the 1980’s until the early 2000’s did not help reducing heart attacks.

The low fat diet was laden with sugar, meaning that it was a low fat, high carb diet, and all of the problems I described above with weight gain, high LDL, high triglycerides and the development of diabetes caused more heart attacks and strokes. The real solution to preventing obesity and lowering heart attacks and strokes is to use a low carb/low to medium fat diet like the Mediterranean diet.

7. We need our muscles in older age

When we eat too many carbs from chocolate, candy, donuts and pasta there is not enough quality protein in our food to feed our muscles. If this is combined with a lack of exercise we are in double trouble of having flaccid muscles. This leads to falls and fractures, but is entirely preventable by eating a proper diet and exercising regularly.

8. ADHD can be fuelled by sugar

I have reviewed ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and mentioned that sugar and gluten sensitivity may be part of the problem. It is important to sort out nutritional factors by going through an elimination diet. Often our Western style diet (sugar and fat rich) is making things worse for the child with ADHD.

Apart from other measures avoiding sugar is very important for the ADHD patient.

9. Chronic inflammation

What causes chronic inflammation in the body and is responsible for both hardening of the arteries as well as arthritis? If you guessed sugar intake, you guessed right. I explained this in detail in this blog.

This concept is one of the biggest new things in the 21st century. The research goes back to the mid-nineties and culminated in the detection of an inflammatory marker, the C-reactive protein (CRP). The CRP level can now be used as a readily available blood test to detect inflammation in the body. Often this test will be positive in patients with arthritis, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

10. Obesity

Processed food contains wheat and sugar. The problem is that the high gliadin concentration in the Clearfield variety of wheat makes people addicted to food and sugar makes them gain weight. This is the cause of the obesity and diabetes wave. The remedy is to cut out all wheat and sugar as well as starchy foods. Switch to a Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods.

11. Pimples and acne

Who would have thought that acne could come from a combination of sugar and milk products? Careful epidemiological studies have shown that in some regions of Africa, Brazil and Japan teenagers who eat the local food do not get acne, but when they switch to a Western style diet they come down with acne.

12. Tooth decay from too much sugar

Gum infections and severe tooth decay were found in the 1990’s to cause inflammation in the blood, which can be measured by using the C-reactive protein (CRP). Streptococcus viridans, a bacterium that populates gums and teeth can cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. There are other bacteria in the mouth that feed on sugar that we eat, particularly if we do not brush and floss our teeth regularly. This means there is double trouble: Sugar causes cavities and gum disease, but also causes heart attacks and heart valve infections.

Sugar As White Death

Sugar As White Death

Conclusion

When you consider how many organ systems are affected by sugar and starchy food consumption it is no wonder that people say that they feel better when they switch from the standard American diet to a Mediterranean type diet. We do not really want to buy a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease when we go to the grocery store. But this is what you get in time when you buy the starchy foods and sugar containing processed foods that are in the center part of the grocery store. When I go shopping I always eye the groceries of my neighbor before or after me. Sometimes it is scary to look at the content of some of the shopping wagons. There is bread, potato chips, pretzels, chocolate bars, cookies, and the whole lineup that is really rich in sugar. Healthy yoghurt mixed with sugar has become unhealthy, granola is loaded with honey or maple syrup, jams contain 50% sugar, and on and on it goes. It is sobering to see how illness and disability is for sale, one shopping at a time. The reassuring truth is that you have choices!

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Jul
31
2015

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of limelight in the press; krill oil was kept more in the background by the media. But both omega-3 and krill oil are important for your health.

What can confuse you is the following paragraph that I picked up from Facebook:

“I cannot believe that in the last 7 days 3 Doctors have asked me what krill omega-3 is. One would think that those who look after our health would realize that the high levels of mercury in the regular omega-3 has reached dangerous levels. Krill oil is harvested from pristine waters of the Antarctic Ocean and tested to be free from harmful levels of mercury. If you have not heard of it, it is for brain, heart, joint and immune health.”

Clarification of what Omega-3 fatty acids are

Depending on where fish is within the ocean’s pecking order of feeding, the levels of mercury of the fish oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids will be higher or lower. Tuna, for instance is one of the predator fish on top of the line. They are large predator fish, and as a result, not a fish you want to eat as it has very high levels of mercury. Salmon on the other hand is lower in the line of predator fish. That’s why it is still recommended to eat salmon two or three times per week. Fish oil is pooled from various fish and then molecularly filtered through a special filter that removes heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and others. Knowing these facts, the Facebook text above may be accurate in stating, “regular omega 3 has reached dangerous levels”, but it is inaccurate for the molecularly filtered omega-3 fish oil, which is the only one I would recommend as a supplement. Having said that there are still significant differences in quality according to a report online that tested 51 common products in the US. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are stored in the membranes of platelets and in circulating plasma triglycerides, which is useful for the functioning of the lining of our arteries. This is called endothelium and needs to be healthy to lower blood pressure and prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3-fatty acids support the cardiovascular system foremost and the brain secondarily.

Where does Krill oil come from?

Krill oil comes from tiny crustaceans called krill that provides additional benefits that are not found in fish oil alone. Although the initial concentration of raw krill oil has less mercury per milliliter than omega-3 fatty acid fish oil, it still needs to be molecularly filtered to remove heavy metals. Also bear in mind, that the tiny crustaceans live in the same polluted ocean waters as other fish. It is a sad fact that our oceans are no longer pristine! The same is true for the Antarctic Ocean. After the filtering process both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid fish oil are equal in their quality (free of mercury, other heavy metals, PCB and dioxins).

The omega-3 fatty acids of krill oil have an affinity to bind with phospholipids in red blood cells. This enables krill oil to cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain cells providing support for the brain. In this respect krill oil has an edge over omega-3 fatty acids to support the brain. But secondarily it is also good for your heart and the lining of the arteries.

Benefits of marine oils like krill and fish oil

It is best to think about krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as complementary marine oils that have multiple beneficial effects on the body.

Studies have shown that arthritis and osteoarthritis are helped by krill oil, but also by fish oil. Similarly, heart attacks and strokes are prevented with both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that both oils reduce inflammation in the arteries that are associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome in obese people. C-reactive protein measuring inflammation was reduced by krill oil up to 30% compared to placebo within 30 days. Patients with arthritis had 20% and more reduction in stiffness and pain.

Krill oil is well absorbed into the brain and can prevent age-related brain shrinkage, preserve cognitive function and memory, prevent dementia and also possibly depression.

Other health conditions improve on both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids like osteoporosis (in combination with vitamin K2, vitamin D3 and calcium), a weak immune system, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and cholesterol problems. Both marine oils prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which helps to prevent atheroma formation and hardening of the arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Fear mongering Facebook write-ups

In this context let me clarify the fear mongering Facebook write-up cited at the beginning of this blog. It is a misconception to think that krill oil is devoid of mercury. It is only so, if it was molecularly filtered, which removes all of the mercury and more, but it leaves the beneficial DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) intact. In the same vein omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are initially more mercury containing, but after molecular filtration are entirely mercury free, the same as krill oil after molecular filtration. But the mix of omega-3 fatty acids is slightly different with krill oil being a bit richer in DHA and attaching to red blood cells easier while fish oil omega-3’s attach to triglycerides in the liquid phase of the blood, called plasma and also to platelet membranes. So neither krill oil or omega-3 fatty acids are better than the other; they are slightly different and that’s why you benefit from a mix of both. It would be a big mistake to follow the Facebook advice above and only take krill oil by blindly trusting the quotation. In my opinion it is simply a marketing plot to get you switched from fish oil to krill oil.

What combination of Krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid should I take?

Most trials with krill oil have been done with 300 mg of krill oil per day.  I take a dosage of one capsule per day of 300 mg. There are several manufacturers that produce similar products. I also take 3 capsules of omega-3 fatty acids twice per day. Each capsule has 647 mg of EPA and 253 mg of DHA, which translates into a daily dose of 3882 mg of EPA and 1518 mg of DHA. Again, there are several products from which you can choose. The reason I take a relatively high dose of fish oil is the fact that I come from a family background with severe arthritis that started in several relatives at an age of 50+. I have no sign of arthritis at age 70. It may be the result of taking these supplements and staying away from sugar and starchy foods. I need my joints to do ballroom and Latin dancing and I also need them to attend the gym regularly. Exercise by itself has been shown to prevent arthritis and prevent heart attacks and strokes. We need the benefit from all these things in combination: good nutrition, supplements and exercise.

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Conclusion

Both krill oil and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation. The key to a good krill oil or fish oil supplement is to buy the more expensive products that are molecularly distilled and therefore more concentrated, but also free of heavy metals and other contaminants. These supplements are only a small part of your overall anti-aging program that needs to include good nutrition (organic food), exercise, other supplements and if necessary bioidentical hormone replacement.

Reference: Dr. R. Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“. Paperback through Amazon.com, 2014. This text explains the anti-aging program I follow and includes recipes composed by my wife for 1 week.

Jun
20
2015

Seventeen Causes Of Blood Vessel Disease

We tend to ask the question: “What is the cause of blood vessel disease”? Would you have expected that at this point there are not just one cause, but seventeen causes of blood vessel disease identified that can all be treated? In the May 2015 issue of the Life Extension Magazine one of the causes, high homocysteine has been stressed as being an important risk factor that not every health professional has yet appreciated.

In the following overview I will briefly address all of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and then summarize what can be done to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

1. Excess cholesterol: Too much cholesterol can lead to clogged arteries. When we eat too much red meat too often, this extra dietary cholesterol can elevate your total blood cholesterol.

2. High LDL cholesterol: The LDL cholesterol is often labeled the “bad cholesterol”. In reality it is the cholesterol that is being transported from the liver to all of the body cells, which utilize it to replace the aging membranes that envelop the cells. What is important to know is that sugar and starchy foods (pasta, cakes, cookies, noodles, white rice, potatoes, pizza, muffins etc.) lead to a surge of blood sugar, which stimulates the liver to produce more LDL cholesterol. Any excess sugar in the blood will oxidize the LDL cholesterol, which leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries.

3. Low HDL cholesterol: HDL is the type of cholesterol that is transported from the cells back to the liver. Any oxidized LDL cholesterol is also mopped up by HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol has been dubbed the “good cholesterol”. It is important that LDL and HDL cholesterol are balanced. It is noteworthy that HDL cholesterol is much higher in athletes and those who exercise on a regular basis (like 5 to 7 times per week). This means that there is a surplus of the protective HDL cholesterol, which prevents hardening of the arteries.

4. Oxidized LDL: As explained above sugar and starchy foods oxidize cholesterol, so does radiation. A Mediterranean diet including olive oil will stabilize your metabolism and protect LDL from being oxidized.

5. High blood sugar: In pre-diabetes and diabetes, the blood sugars are high, but they are normal in people with a normal metabolism. As explained before it is this scenario, which leads to oxidation of LDL cholesterol and accelerated hardening of arteries. This is the reason why diabetics have severe blood vessel disease with closure of major arteries like the one going to the legs. If arterial by-pass surgery is not feasible because of the severity, often a physician has no other choice but to amputate a lower leg.

6. Excess triglycerides: People with excessive weight have a change in metabolism called metabolic syndrome, where triglycerides are high. But diabetics also often have high triglyceride levels in their blood. This is an independent risk factor to develop hardening of the arteries.

7. Elevated C-reactive protein: Dr. Paul Ridker published a landmark study in 2002 where he concluded that the blood test C-reactive protein was a reliable indicator to identify people who were at risk of developing heart attack. It measures inflammation in the body. What is inflamed here is the lining of the arteries from oxidized LDL cholesterol. I hope you see a pattern. Some of these points are actually connected.

8. Low blood EPA/DHA: Essential fatty acids are not contained in processed foods. Instead the food industry puts omega-6-fatty acids into processed foods, as this is much cheaper and leads to a longer shelf life of the processed food products. Omega-6 fatty acids are the precursor for arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation, hardening of the arteries and arthritis. By introducing fish oil or wild salmon two or three times per week you can achieve a counter balance to omega-6-fatty acids. Our bodies want us to balance omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3.

9. Excess insulin: with type 2 diabetes there is a high fasting insulin level. This leads to inflammation of the blood vessel wall and triggers accelerated hardening of the arteries. It also causes the brain arteries to get narrowed, and as a result the brain develops Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s is now called “type 3 diabetes”. An overweight or obese person who cuts out sugar in the diet and exercises can often control excessive weight, lower insulin and normalize cognitive deficits.

10. Excess fibrinogen: Blood clotting factors are manufactured in your liver and this is balanced by fibrinolytic factors that circulate in the blood. In certain conditions like diabetes, or the metabolic syndrome too much fibrinogen is produced. This can lead to blood clots.

11. Excess homocysteine: Some people are born with gene defects that program our cells to run abnormal biochemical reactions in our cells. Correct methylation pathways are important for normal cell function. However, if there is a methylation defect, abnormalities set in and homocysteine accumulates. As we age, there is also a weakening of certain enzymes that are involved in the methylation pathway. With any of these enzyme defects you need to use appropriate supplements to normalize this metabolic defect. Vitamin B2, B6 and B12 supplementation will often stabilize methylation defects and homocysteine levels return to normal. Methyl folate 1 mg per day is also very useful. Some people in older age cannot metabolize folate very well. This is important as severe, familial cardiovascular disease, where people often suffer heart attacks during the best years in their lives, can be postponed this way by several years or decades.

12. High blood pressure: Many people are not aware that high blood pressure is a disease where the linings of the arteries are inflamed and there is too little production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signaling substance contained in many vegetables, particularly in red beets. Nitric oxide is the body’s tool to keep blood pressure normal by widening the diameter of arteries. High blood pressure leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries, because the oxidized LDL cholesterol gets deposited right under the diseased lining of the arteries. Just lowering the blood pressure with medications will not remove the other risk factors; they have to be addressed separately. The DASH diet has been developed to assist in lowering elevated blood pressure.

13. Low nitric oxide: Too much sugar and starch in one’s diet cause oxidation of LDL cholesterol as explained and this causes a dysfunction of the lining of the arteries resulting in less production of NO (nitric oxide). The lack of nitric oxide causes constriction in the arteries throughout the body, which will in turn elevate the blood pressure. Exercise will also lead to more nitric oxide production, but the right diet is the other factor. There is a supplement you can buy, called NEO-40 (one or two per day can be taken as a supplement, available on Amazon in the US, in health food stores in Canada). But make no mistake: it’s not about supplements; it is about the proper diet and lifestyle!

14. Vitamin D3 deficiency: I have blogged about the importance of vitamin D3 before. Vitamin D3 is now considered to be a hormone, as all cells have receptors for this molecule. It has anti-inflammatory qualities. It helps in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

15. Low vitamin K2: In this blog I have explained that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 co-operate in removing calcium from the blood and transporting it into the bone. This way they both help in the prevention of osteoporosis. A co-factor in the prevention of osteoporosis is estrogen in women and testosterone in men.

16. Low free testosterone: Low free testosterone has been established as an independent risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. In the man there are a lot of testosterone receptors located in the heart and in the brain; this explains why with a lack of testosterone there is not only erectile dysfunction, but also the risk of developing a heart attack or a stroke.

17. Excess estrogen: When a women approaches menopause, her menstrual cycles can become irregular due to the fact that there are anovulatory cycles, and the progesterone production is starting to slow down. This hormonal state is called estrogen dominance, because estrogen dominates over progesterone. In other words, the ratio of progesterone over estrogen is less than 200 to 1 (progesterone/estrogen ratio) when saliva hormone levels are measured. This is a risk factor for hardening of the arteries. In males with a “beer belly” there is too much estrogen floating around due to an enzyme in fatty tissue, called aromatase. This enzyme manufactures estrogen out of testosterone and contributes along with other factors to causing heart attacks in that scenario.

How can we protect ourselves from these factors?

As already indicated above, there are lifestyle issues that need to be addressed as follows.

  1. First adopt a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil. No sugar, no bread, pasta, potatoes, and go extremely easy on certain fruit that is high in sugar, such as dried fruit, mango, bananas and grapes, because we do not want to oxidize our LDL cholesterol for reasons explained already.
  2. Exercise regularly. If you like, go to a gym (my wife and I do this regularly). If you are insecure, ask a trainer initially to guide you through the exercise equipment. It really is not that difficult to do. You develop a routine that is good for you. Alternatively, you may want to go for a brisk walk, run or participate in dancing. If you get easily bored, rotate the activities, but do not skip days, let alone weeks! Remember that your heart works 24/7!
  3. Take some vitamins and supplements: Vitamin B2, B6, B12 and methyl folate were mentioned before. Take vitamin D3 in a good dose like 5000 IU per day or more and vitamin K2 200 micrograms per day. Omega-3 supplements (EPA/DHA) are very useful to keep inflammation under control. For more on vitamins and supplements follow this link.
  1. Have your hormones checked. Some doctors do not feel comfortable about this; maybe you want to see a naturopath about it instead. Your body needs the hormone receptors satisfied by adequate bioidentical hormone levels; otherwise you age prematurely and give up body functions that you would rather keep. Normal hormone levels prevent osteoporosis, premature hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s, erectile dysfunction and premature wrinkles.
Seventeen Causes Of Blood Vessel Disease

Seventeen Causes Of Blood Vessel Disease

Conclusion

All of these 17 factors explained above are independent risk factors for developing hardening of the arteries, which affect mainly the heart, brain and kidneys. All you need is one of these factors, and you could develop a heart attack, stroke or kidney failure. You have no problem accepting a preventative maintenance program for your car. Think of having appropriate tests at least once a year done through your doctor. There are blood tests available to monitor hormone and vitamin levels, as well as C-reactive protein and homocysteine levels. Here are also three tests that will assess your heart function.

Your doctor may not order the tests spontaneously. Ask for it!

More info about heart attack prevention: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/prevention-heart-attack/

More info about stroke prevention: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/stroke-and-brain-aneurysm/stroke-prevention/

More on arteriosclerosis (blood vessel disease):http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

Jun
13
2015

Preserving Our Energy

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

Mitochondria are power packs of energy

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

Get enough sleep

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

Exercise regularly

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

Manage stress

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

Lifestyle

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

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

Keep the arteries open

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

Get rid of inflammation

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

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

Preserve your immune system

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

Balance your hormones

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

Organic, GMO free food

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

Treat depression and mental disease

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

Positive thinking

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

Preserving Our Energy

Preserving Our Energy

What can we do to prevent aging?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

References:

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

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

Jun
06
2015

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

There is hardly a child that did not go through the macaroni and cheese phase. Now the maker of the Kraft’s dinner is in the news for their plan of removing artificial coloring and artificial flavors. This in itself is a positive step in the right direction. Although Kraft’s is painting the positive image of being concerned about the food quality for children, I think that the trigger for the change lies in the downward spiral of the sales of junk foods. Kraft’s is not alone with this. McDonald’s has been in the news having to close down franchises and losing business to Chipotle.

Chipotle has a slogan: “whole or nothing”, meaning whole foods, no antibiotics in their meats, everything fresh.

There also has been pressure from the informed consumer. Kraft’s probably responded to the Change.org petition where 365,000 signatures were collected asking Kraft’s to remove dyes from macaroni and cheese.

Kraft did some research and found that it was indeed possible to keep the taste the same, while improving food quality by replacing food coloring with paprika, annatto and turmeric.

Food value of macaroni and cheese

So, let’s assume that this switch will be successful, which itself is positive. But what are kids actually eating? Are noodles (essentially a form of pasta) and processed cheese healthy? What about missing protein, vitamins, vegetables and lettuce?

Macaroni

I have explained before that starchy food is essentially the same as sugar. Would you say that sugar is healthy? No, because it oxidizes LDL cholesterol causing hardening of arteries leading to inflammation in the body and causing the pancreas to produce a whole load of insulin leading to hyperinsulinism with reactive hypoglycemia. This also undermines adrenal gland function causing adrenal fatigue.

Cheese

Since 1993 it is legal for the dairy industry in the US to use bovine growth hormone from Monsanto. And, yes, it is contained in processed cheese that finds its way into the cheese portion of macaroni and cheese. In Canada or Europe cheese does not contain bovine growth hormone, as it is illegal.

Here is a link that states that bovine growth hormone from dairy in the US is one of the causes of breast cancer. Now the Kraft’s macaroni and cheese story takes on a completely different twist: the longer you are exposed to this weak carcinogenic effect of cheese (due to rBGH or rBST) the higher the likelihood of developing breast cancer in girls later in life. In boys a similar glandular tissue is the prostate gland and prostate cancer in older men is common. According to the American Cancer Society research has already shown a connection between rBGH/rBST and prostate cancer later in life. I find the increased risk of breast and prostate cancer in the US concerning. However, starchy foods (the macaroni part of macaroni and cheese) are known to cause cancer of any kind because of the insulin response. So, macaroni and cheese is not an appropriate, healthy food.

Missing vegetables and salad

We need the vitamins from vegetables and salads to counter any effect of the carcinogenic effects of macaroni and cheese. Don’t stop at the pasta aisle of the supermarket.

You will need to pick up some vegetables before you go home. Often kids are reluctant to consume vegetables. One alternative is to run green leaf vegetables through the blender, add an orange and a piece of banana for better flavor and offer it as a smoothie drink.

What does this do? It adds Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Organic food

Despite the effort of changing macaroni and cheese and skipping artificial colors and flavoring substances, it does not measure up as a healthy food. Introduce new options that pack more flavor than any bland pasta product. Shop for organic food to avoid traces of pesticides and herbicides. Get used to the flavor of a Mediterranean diet without starchy foods or sugar. This diet has been associated with a long life and less disabilities in old age. So, replace the macaroni with a piece of chicken or lean grass-fed beef. Replace the cheese with vegetables. Buy an imported cheese (Parmigiano or cheddar, either organic or imported from Canada or a European country), which can be used over the vegetables. And –voila! – You got another meal, not macaroni and cheese!

The "Macaroni And Cheese" Myth

The “Macaroni And Cheese” Myth

Reasoning

It seems that concentrating solely on changing coloring and food additives, we lost our vision of what healthy food really is. We get so worked up about the old, familiar tastes, even calling it “comfort food”, that we do not care any more about the quality of our food. This should be something, which the consumer is entitled to have, and it should not be left to the maneuvering of the food industry. We need to take the control of our kitchen back into our own hands. Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a professor of medicine and public health, asked a simple question: “What’s wrong with Girl Scout cookies?” In this article she explains her concern about GMO, sugar and trans fats in the cookies Girl Scouts sell. She makes the link between cookie consumption and obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. You may not know all the intricacies of the human body, but whatever food you decide to swallow will decide which way your metabolism goes. Do you want to become hypoglycemic, diabetic or do you just want your metabolism to stay normal?

Conclusion

Macaroni and cheese is a topic that leads to a discussion of what quality nutrition should be in general. The gold standard is a Mediterranean diet, as this is associated with longevity. At the same time it is tasty. Adults need to be aware of the side effects of junk food that I mentioned above. Despite advertisements otherwise, macaroni and cheese is not a quality food as it is deficient in vital nutrients, such as quality protein, minerals and vitamins.

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May
30
2015

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Here is a recent research finding from the Mayo Clinic that caught the media’s attention: be creative, and this will prevent dementia. The study found that when people engage in creative things they could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dementia can be caused by a number of various causes. But the end result is that there is an inflammatory condition within the brain that leads to a loss of nerve cells and nerve cell connections. When brain cells and nerve cell connections are lost, memory fades, particularly in the frontal brain and in the hippocampus area.

The study

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale , AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was measured using psychological tests. At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. The finding was that the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele was associated with a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease. If there were current depressed symptoms present at the time of being enrolled into the study the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular diseases was associated with 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities were associated with a lower risk to develop MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development was reduced by 73%, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life was associated with a 53% reduction in MCI development. These are very significant observations.

What we can learn from the study

When you get older it is important that you prepare yourself for an active retirement. You may want to enroll in dance classes, as this combines physical activity with brain activity where you have to remember learnt responses (from old moves you know) and also learn new dance moves (therefore creating new nerve cell connections). You could start a hobby where you create something (arts and crafts, painting etc.). Grandma Moses did this, and she not only became famous with her artwork, but she aged gracefully; she turned 101 years old).

The brain is an organ that needs to be treated with respect. We need to give it proper nutrition and avoid cardiovascular disease as it is known that whatever is good for the heart is good for the brain.

Eat a Mediterranean diet and avoid junk foods including processed foods. If at all possible eat organic foods. Take your fish oil supplements (omega-3 and DHA), as the DHA will provide the material necessary to build up new brain cells. The omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy heart and healthy blood vessels.

Regular exercise will improve your brain circulation, even in old age. If you take the steps mentioned you will at the same time prevent arthritis from developing and by cutting out sugar and starchy foods your brain will stay sharper for longer. Nurses in care homes for Alzheimer’s patients have known for a long time that Alzheimer’s patients crave sugar and sweets. This leads to hyperinsulinism and Alzheimer’s disease. So let’s take the consequences and cut out sugar and sweets to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Apart from these physical factors that have been published in many medical journals we have now an additional tool in getting the aging persons involved in crafts: social activities like journal clubs, discussion groups, walking groups, bridge groups or religious gatherings that will stimulate the brain to form new circuits and buildup new memories. Artistic activities and learning the use of the computer are additional things that will reduce the risk of developing MCI and later dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Conclusion

As the baby boomers age and enter into the old age category these observations are very important. We should think about doing some of these things now, so we do not have to overcome inertness later. The worst you can do is to become a couch potato and watch TV all of the time. Watching other people doing sports activities does nothing for you unless you walk on a treadmill while you watch TV. I do not intend to be hard on you; I am just passing on these new research findings and practicing them myself. The final choice is up to you.

 

Reference:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/health/creativity-socializing-delay-dementia/index.html