Feb
11
2017

Genetic Switches To Treat Obesity And Diabetes

Dr. Michael Nova gave a talk recently about the role of genetic switches to treat obesity and diabetes. The talk was given as part of the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The full title of the talk was “Nutritional Genetics and Epigenetics in Diabetes and Obesity Management”. Dr. Michael Nova is the Chief Innovation Officer at Pathway Genomics, San Diego, CA 92121.

Twin studies are a powerful tool to show that longevity is both genetically caused as well as environmentally.

These types of studies have shown that a long life (longevity) has been caused by about 20% from genetics. 80% was contributed by a healthy lifestyle. There are powerful epigenetic factors that can slow down aging and that can interfere with the inflammatory process that causes heart disease, obesity and diabetes. There are specific inflammatory markers done with blood tests that detect inflammation. One of the first inflammatory markers detected was the C-reactive protein.

What diseases are caused from inflammation?

Dr. Nova showed a slide depicting MS and Alzheimer’s disease in the head. In the heart area atherosclerosis was shown to cause heart attacks and strokes. Next diabetes, lupus, obesity and irritable bowel disease were depicted. Finally there is arthritis that interferes with joint movements. All of these conditions have inflammation at the core, which leads to worsening of the conditions, if the inflammation is not stopped through nutritional or medical means.

Age-related diseases also due to inflammation

Inflammation is not only confined to these conditions. Research has shown that the following age-related diseases belong into the inflammatory category. These are: osteoporosis, depression, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s), asthma, central obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. In these diseases the C-reactive protein is often up, so is the fasting insulin level. The rest of the talk concentrated on how various changes in food intake and supplements could lead to epigenetic changes that improve the patients’ conditions.

Human genetics are complicated

The speaker mentioned how complex the human genetics are, and he showed a number of slides that are too complicated to discuss here. There are unstable genes, which can become important in the development of illnesses, particularly when you don’t exercise and you eat a Standard North American diet. There are genes involved that cause diabetes, but they need environmental triggering to get expressed. Dr. Nova showed one slide that listed two genetic variants, which when activated by inflammation rendered the person positive for diabetes or heart disease. If inflammation is vigorously treated with a Mediterranean diet and Metformin, the hemoglobin A1C will decrease to less than 6.0% and diabetes will disappear.

Obesity and genetic factors

Obesity has a 40% to 60% hereditary rate. The fat mass and obesity-associated gene, FTO gene for short is the reason some people gain weight. When this gene is not present the person has no problem maintaining a normal weight. The FTO gene is located on chromosome 16. There are other genes with complicated names that can also increase weight.

It is important that there are many factors that work together in developing obesity. Dr. Nova called this the “epigenetic modulation”. He explained further that there are at least 12 factors working together that can reduce obesity. These are:

  1. Diet
  2. Diurnal/seasonal correlations
  3. Smoking and other toxic chemicals
  4. Street drug use
  5. Disease exposure
  6. Financial status
  7. Exercise status
  8. Microbiome healthy?
  9. Therapeutic drugs
  10. Alternative medicine
  11. Social interactions
  12. Psychological state

Low carbohydrate diets and the ketogenic diet are helping to reduce weight. Financial stress leads to more cortisol production, which leads to weight gain. An unhealthy bacteria composition in your gut causes you to gain weight, while a good composition of bacteria helps you lose weight. Overcoming depression with cognitive therapy can help reduce your weight. Those are just a few examples in more detail from the list of 12 factors.

Extensive research has shown that genetic factors and environmental factors interact to lead to epigenetic marks or imprinting. These epigenetic factors have an influence on gene expression, but they don’t change the underlying DNA sequencing.

There are still gaps of knowledge how obesity develops, what percentage is due to genetic factors and how much is due to other factors including diets.

Diabetes and genetic factors

Major metabolic processes in our body cells like phosphorylation, acetylation and methylation can be influenced by nutrition. This allows epigenetic mechanism of actions to interfere with the expression of inherited health problems like diabetes and other diseases. This has the potential to improve quality of life.

Useful supplements

Dr. Nora showed a slide with a number of useful supplements.

  • EGCG is the effective component of green tea. It supports the viability of the beta-islets of the pancreas that produce insulin. It leads to more secretion of insulin.
  • Naringin and Hesperidin decrease high blood sugar levels.
  • Anthocyanin decreases high blood sugar levels.
  • Quercetin increases cell proliferation in the liver and the pancreas.
  • Vitamin D3 reduces diabetes incidence and inflammation of the insulin-producing cells.
  • Biotin in combination with chromium increases insulin secretion and lowers blood sugars.
  • Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin has anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid protects against diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels.

There are several genes involved in the development of type 2 diabetes, one of them is the FTO gene that is also involved in the development of obesity. But Dr. Nora projected a slide that showed 14 other genes that can be involved in the development of diabetes. I have elected to not get into all of those details.

What Dr. Nora concluded is the fact that nutrition could play a vital role in preventing these genes from being expressed. He talked about silencing genes, which good nutrition and supplements can do.

Silencing diabetes genes

A Mediterranean diet can stabilize the metabolism and fight inflammation. Zinc and magnesium are important cofactors in enzymes necessary to prevent diabetes. Vitamin D3 and omega-3 intake are helping to control inflammation and preserve beta cells in the pancreas in diabetes patients.

Nutritional genetic modifiers are

Foods that methylate DNA and silence genes are: citrus (hesperidin), apples (phloretin) and tomatoes (lycopene). The following foods do both DNA methylation and histone modifications: turmeric (curcumin), cinnamon (coumaric acid), green tea (EGCG), soybean (genistein), coffee (caffeic acid) and broccoli (isothiocyanates). These three foods only do histone modifications: garlic (allyl mercaptan), grapes, (resveratrol) and cashew nuts (anacardic acid).

Functional foods with regard to obesity and diabetes

Here are a few food items and their effects on your health.

  • The lignans of flaxseed lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
  • The catechins of green tea prevent obesity, but also obesity-induced type 2 diabetes.
  • Saponins of fenugreek lower lipid peroxidation and increase the antioxidant level.
  • Soy proteins contain phytoestrogen, genistein and daidzein; this lowers cholesterol levels in the blood, prevents lipid peroxidation and has antioxidant activity.
  • Banaba leaves extract contains corosolic acid and ellagitannins. These substances are able to lower glucose levels in the blood. It also has an anti-obesity effect.
  • Grapes and related products contain anthocyanin, flavan-3-ols and flavonols. They have blood pressure lowering qualities, lower blood fat levels and prevent hardening of the arteries.
  • Dark chocolate contains flavanols that are the main type of flavonoid found in it. Flavanols decrease blood pressure and make platelets in the blood less sticky. This prevents heart attacks and strokes. In addition LDL cholesterol is decreased.
  • Red wine, berries, pears, and apples: proanthocyanidins are the active polyphenols that make all of these fruit valuable. The antioxidant effects of proanthocyanidins prevent LDL to get oxidized, which in turn slows down hardening of the arteries. It reduces the inflammation associated with narrowing of blood vessels and normalizes the lining of arteries.
  • Onions contain two active ingredients, allyl propyl disulfide (which makes you cry when you cut onions) and S-methyl-cysteine sulfoxide. These substances have anti-diabetic effects and lower blood fatty substances.
  • Turmeric contains curcumin, which possesses antidiabetic properties.
  • Fruit and vegetables contain fiber, which lowers blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C.
  • Stevia from the stevia plant reduces blood sugars following a meal in patients with type 2 diabetes.

In summary, all these substances are examples of triggering epigenetic mechanisms to interfere with the expression of negative inherited health problems.

Genetic Switches To Treat Obesity And Diabetes

Genetic Switches To Treat Obesity And Diabetes

Conclusion

This was a whirlwind review of how genetic and epigenetic traits can be overcome by a healthy diet, by supplements, fruit and vegetables, exercise and other healthy lifestyles. After reading about this huge line-up of substances that can contribute to your health, you may feel slightly overwhelmed. Are you going to get all these wonderful items from the health food store and live on a bunch of supplements? Of course this is not the fact! Some herbals can be extremely helpful to combat inflammation, such as curcumin. But the most essential fact remains very simple: to cut down sugar and too many starchy foods, as they will trigger suppressed genes to cause diabetes, obesity, heart attacks and strokes. We need to inform ourselves and stay vigilant to the fact how toxic processed foods are, and we have to cut them out in order to stay healthy. We can become much more resilient to health challenges than we may have thought possible.

Dec
21
2013

Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

If you are like most people, you probably still think that “healthy grains” like wheat are good for you and are “essential for a well balanced diet”. Ever since Kellogg’s introduced cereal for breakfast and the bagel was invented as a mid morning snack, which has captured the tastes of millions, the Agro Industry and the food industry have lobbied to have “healthy grains” in the food pyramid or on your plate. The very thought of “the daily bread” is deeply ingrained in our culture.

Other agencies like the Heart Foundation, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly “American Dietetic Association“) and the American Medical Association have reiterated this statement over and over until both the public and physicians accepted this as the truth. However, the scientific data does not support this point of view!  It has been a myth!

We are gradually learning that there has been a big misinformation campaign going on as far back as 1984 (and before) when a consensus panel came up with revised normal values for cholesterol and we as the medical profession were told (myself included) to treat high cholesterol levels much earlier and more aggressively than in the past with statins.

Big Pharma is still pushing for this. Now that I am retired for more than three years I can freely write about what is really going on. The truth has already leaked out, but it is not yet common knowledge.

I like to review the switch from the old school of thought that a high carb/low fat diet would be healthy to the new school of thought that a low carb/high healthy fat diet is healthy. Before you panic, sit back, relax and read what I am saying.

Buying into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

Buying Into High Carb, Low Fat Myth Makes You Sick

A brief history of the high carb/low fat diet recommendation

It was the Framingham Study, which is an ongoing study since 1948 where a large group of people was followed for decades to sort out what causes heart attacks and strokes and how one could develop a program of prevention. This objective at the beginning of the study was very noble and promising. However, as time went on the results from the Framingham Study that were published intermittently appeared to be more and more confusing.

First there was the lipid theory that was based on the observation that high lipids (called triglycerides) and high cholesterol in the blood would cause heart attacks and strokes. It was assumed that it must have been the fats in the diet that would have caused this. Based on this thinking the lipid theory of arteriosclerosis was formulated, a theory trying to explain how heart attacks were caused.

If this theory were true, a lowering of the blood lipids and cholesterol should have lowered the rates of heart attacks and strokes. Many large trials were done and the statins were developed to lower cholesterol. In a recent blog I have explained that this has not lowered the mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes, but instead of admitting that the researchers made a mistake, many are still doggedly holding on to the dogma of the lipid theory. The truth is that the lipid theory has not been proven to be true; the recommendation of a high carb/low fat diet has also not worked out to save lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes. In fact the opposite is true: older people with high cholesterol live longer and have less Alzheimer’s disease than those with lower cholesterol levels in the blood as Ref. 1 has explained in detail. Dr. Perlmutter mentioned a study from the Netherlands (Ref. 1, page78) involving 724 individuals who on average were 89-year old that were followed for 10 years. Those with high cholesterol lived longer than those with low cholesterol, exactly the opposite of what the lipid theory predicted! Specifically, for each 39% increase in cholesterol there was a 15% decrease in risk of mortality. Think about it: the brain and the heart have LDL receptors on their cell surfaces for a reason. The reason is that both vital organs burn fat and need cholesterol to build up the membranes of the brain and heart cells.

Despite this compelling evidence Big Pharma is in denial and you will still find the lipid theory of arteriosclerosis heavily mentioned on the Internet as the only “valid” explanation for how heart attacks and strokes would be caused.

Inflammation as the alternative explanation of arteriosclerosis

Since the mid 1990’s the first reports surfaced to explain that about 50% of patients with normal cholesterol levels still develop heart attacks. In these patients the C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, was very high indicating that an inflammatory process likely caused their illness.

Subsequently further research was able to show that the LDL cholesterol, when oxidized by sugar was responsible for clogged arteries in these patients. It also became apparent that diabetics have a much higher risk to develop heart attacks than patients with normal blood sugars. This led to the conclusion by several different research teams that the lipid theory was wrong and needed to be abandoned.

Instead a new theory has developed that explains that heart attacks and strokes develop in patients where free radicals have damaged LDL cholesterol. This oxidizes LDL cholesterol and leads to hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). Sugar from increased carbohydrate intake has a lot to do with this: it leads to glycation of protein causing glycation end products (abbreviated as AGE’s).

This is an appropriate name as it really is the cause of premature aging, of developing wrinkles, of getting premature hardening of arteries and having a 50-fold risk of free radical formation. This in turn will lead to more tissue aging. LDL used to be thought of as the “bad cholesterol” (I myself have used that term in the past). LDL is now known to be the friendly and important transport form of cholesterol, which is sent from the liver to the brain and heart cells that need it for their metabolism. If LDL is oxidized, however, it becomes useless and the heart and brain cannot absorb cholesterol for membrane synthesis via the LDL receptors. The end result is that vital organs like the heart and the brain do not get enough oxygen and nutrients, which leads to heart attacks and strokes. The free radicals that are released from oxidized LDL cholesterol and that circulate in the blood cause an inflammatory response in the lining of the arteries all over the body, which you know as hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

This may sound complicated, but all you need to remember is that sugar and starch consumption lead to accelerated hardening of arteries in your body, which causes heart attacks and strokes.

Reassessment of what a heart healthy, brain friendly diet is

The above-mentioned research findings require a complete re-thinking of what a healthy diet would be. The villain turned out to NOT be saturated fat (meat, eggs, butter and avocado), but rather TRANS fat (margarine, hydrogenated polyunsaturated fatty acids) and I agree with the FDA that this should be abolished.  Trans fat is full of free radicals oxidizing LDL cholesterol, which we just learnt is causing hardening of arteries. It is sugar and starches that turned out to be the main villain. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in safflower oil, sun flower oil, grape seed oil and canola oil are bad for you also as they lead to inflammation through the arachidonic acid system in the body. Conversely flaxseed oil, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) derived from fish oil are very protective (anti-inflammatory) oils, as is olive oil and coconut oil. These latter two are anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids. Keep in mind that you want to change the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids more in the direction of omega-3 fatty acids, so that the ratio will be between 1:1 and 1:3. Most Americans are exposed to ratios of 1:8 to 1:16 (too many omega-6 fatty acids in fast food and processed foods), which leads to inflammation of the arteries as well.

The new “heart and brain healthy diet” consists of no refined carbohydrates (sugar and starch), but about 45% complex carbohydrates (organic vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, garlic, peppers, Swiss chard, zucchini, asparagus etc.), 20 % protein and 35% saturated and other fats like omega-3 (1:3 mix with omega-6) fatty acids and monounsaturated fats (like olive oil or coconut oil).

According to Ref.1 you can even eat butter, lard and other animal fats provided they come from clean (not antibiotic or bovine growth hormone treated) animals. Dr. Perlmutter (Ref.1) points out that even extreme diets like the Inuit diet with 80% saturated fat and 20% protein leads to longevity with healthy arteries. The patients who died in the many trials including the Framingham Study did so, because of free radicals from sugar, starch and wheat. Wheat contains the addictive gliadin molecule (part of gluten), which makes people eat more sweets and starchy foods. The liver turns the extra calories into visceral fat deposits that in turn cause the release of cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) and COX-2 enzymes.

This causes inflammation, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Contrary to what Big Pharma wants you to know cholesterol is an anti-inflammatory, LDL is a cholesterol transporter (provided it is not oxidized) and HDL is protective of hardening of the arteries as long as the “ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol” is less than 3.4 for males and 3.3 for females. This is the cholesterol risk ratio used by cardiologists to determine the risk of coronary artery disease. The average risk of this ratio for Americans is 5.0 for males and 4.4 for females. The ideal ratio to strive for is the “1/2 average risk” ratio of 3.4 for males and 3.3 for women (Ref.2).

Paradigm shift in causation of heart attacks and strokes, but also of cancer, and neurological diseases

As pointed out in Ref. 1 there has been a paradigm shift in our thinking about what causes inflammation and what causes all of the major diseases including premature aging. Many physicians are not up to date in this new thinking although it has been in the medical literature since about 1995. In my colleagues’ defense I like to say that they are busy people and they do not always have the time to do their continuing education. However, it is imperative that the public learns about this paradigm shift as it affects literally everyone. In my YouTube video on the home page of www.nethealthbook.com I have talked about this new thinking in the summer of 2012. Now we are learning that there is an anti-inflammatory, cholesterol containing, fat rich diet without refined carbs, but containing ample complex carbs, which is a modified zone diet or a modified Mediterranean diet that will prevent all these diseases. At the same time it is a weight loss diet as cholesterol and fat in your diet stops the liver from producing lipids and triglycerides and helps you to lose weight. Critics will say that it sounds too good to be true, but I agree with Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Davis, both of whom have provided ample evidence that it is true. Try some of their recipes. Just read Ref. 1 and 2, where recipes are listed in the back part of their books. Or try the recipes I listed for one day in this blog. I am publishing a book entitled “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging” through Amazon.com, which will come out later in early 2014 where you can find recipes for 1 week in the last chapter.

Conclusion

There has been a paradigm shift in the thinking of how hardening of the arteries is caused. Now it is known that an inflammatory process causes it. It is an overindulgence in sugar, starch and wheat products that causes the liver to produce lipids, cholesterol and leads to the “wheat belly” and the “grain brain”. All of this causes cytokines to bring about an inflammatory reaction that affects the lining of arteries causing heart attacks, strokes, but also Parkinson’s disease, MS, autism, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig disease and Alzheimer’s disease (Ref.1). The inflammation does not stop there. If you keep up the high carb/low fat diet, it will lead to various cancers (Ref. 1 and 3). The solution is a diet high in healthy fats (I would call it a low carb/medium high healthy fat diet) as outlined above consisting of 30 to 35% healthy fat, 20% of protein and 45 to 50% of complex carbs, but none of the refined carbs. I have followed such a diet since 2001. I am enjoying that I can now eat  a reasonable amount of healthy fats, which I was not aware of being allowed before I read Ref. 1 and 3, but I continue with the antioxidant vitamins and anti-inflammatory supplements to prevent LDL oxidization. I hope that many of you can benefit from prevention so you can enjoy a healthy life without being a victim of illness or disability.

More information on:

1. arteriosclerosis: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

2. paradigm shift regarding hardening of the arteries: My book “A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling” explains the content of this blog in much more detail.

References

1. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

2. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

3. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Nov
30
2013

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Lovastatin (Mevacor, from Merck) was the first statin drug approved by the FDA in 1987 as a cholesterol-lowering drug in the US. It made history in helping high-risk heart attack patients reduce their cholesterol levels and has helped safe many lives. But with the detection around 2002 that heart disease is an inflammatory disease, and that measuring the C-reactive protein with a blood test was a better than measuring cholesterol levels in predicting who would be at risk for developing a heart attack, the landscape has changed. Lifestyle changes have also been shown to be very effective in reducing cholesterol, C-reactive protein and triglyceride levels. In fact, lifestyle changes will reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. The newest flurry of activity with calls for putting more people on statins (see this recent news article) makes me suspicious that there could be a misrepresentation of the facts.

In this blog I am analyzing the literature to get to the bottom of the facts on reducing risk for heart attacks and strokes. I also come to my own conclusion.

Facts about cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is part of the cell walls and plays a vital role in our metabolism. Liver cell membranes, for instance contain about 30% cholesterol. However, most of the cholesterol in our body comes from metabolism, 20 to 25% from the liver, the rest in the gut, adrenal glands and the reproductive organs, and also from the brain (the myelin sheaths contain a lot of cholesterol). 50% of the body’s cholesterol is recycled through bile salts and reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut (called the enterohepatic pathway).

Cholesterol is vital for cell function, for insulation of nerve fibers (myelin sheaths) and for synthesis of our steroid hormones (sex hormones and vitamin D3, which  is now considered to be a hormone). The medical establishment took most of the information regarding heart attack and stroke prevention from the ongoing Framingham study. This clearly pointed to the importance of lowering the LDL cholesterol fraction (the “bad” cholesterol) and maintaining or increasing the HDL fraction (the “good” cholesterol). When it was realized that concentrating only on lowering cholesterol missed 50% of all heart attacks that researchers refocused and found the missing link, namely inflammation. Inflammation is at the cause of heart attacks and strokes, high cholesterol and lipids were only secondary phenomena. Ref. 2 points out that a comprehensive approach to treating a patient with high cholesterol should involve a combination of treatments aimed at the underlying risk factors for heart disease or stroke in a particular patient. This involves sophisticated blood tests where a metabolic derangement can be pinpointed. It should include measuring cholesterol fractions, lipids, the C-reactive protein, hormone levels and more.

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

How the traditional thinking about cholesterol has changed

The Framingham study has provided the basis for the drug industry to produce statins until about 2002 when our thinking about cholesterol being the culprit for causing heart attacks has forever changed. Subsequently further research showed that other factors like inflammation of the blood vessels, the metabolic syndrome associated with obesity and lack of exercise were also to blame for causing heart attacks and strokes. Recently more details have come to light, which point to multiple causes like the consumption of too much sugar, too much trans fats, too much salt and eating too much over processed convenience food.  We end up gaining weight, develop the metabolic syndrome and inflammation of arteries (including the coronary arteries of the heart and the brain vessels). It is the lack of nitric oxide in the lining of the arteries, which combined with inflammatory substances from visceral fat are responsible for hardening of the arteries as the ultimate consequence of faulty nutrition and lack of exercise. We also know that oxidized LDL, particularly the very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), will release free radicals and damage the arterial walls. CoQ-10 is a supplement, which is known to counteract this. One important test that had developed out of the Framingham study is the “ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol”, which is used by cardiologists to determine the risk of coronary artery disease. The average risk of this ratio for Americans is 5.0 for males and 4.4 for females. The ideal ratio to strive for is  the “1/2 average risk” ratio of 3.4 for males and 3.3 for women (Ref.2). A fit, slim person who eats a low carb, normal fat diet (modified Mediterranean diet) will often have a ratio of only 3.0, well below the 1/2 average risk. The moment you introduce grains in your diet (cereals, bread, pasta) your liver will convert carbs into LDL cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol will drop resulting in a high risk ratio of above 5.0 (often 7 or 8 or more). The LDL will get oxidized and is deposited into your arteries setting you up for coming down with a heart attack or stroke down the road.

How do statins work?

The statins are a group of drugs that inhibit an enzyme, called the hydroxymethylglutaryl–Coenzyme A (HMG-CoA), which leads to a lowering of cholesterol, specifically a fraction known as the LDL cholesterol. The success story of lovastatin (Mevacor) led to a flurry of new HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (cholesterol lowering drugs) such as fluvastatin (Lescol), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor) in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. Collectively it is now a 26 billion industry in annual sales.

Later investigations showed that there were other mechanisms by which statins helped, namely they were found to decrease the inflammatory reaction, which can be measured by lowering of the C-reactive protein. However, there are significant side effects in about 1 to 3% of people who take this medication, particularly an inflammation of liver cells (evident from elevation of liver enzymes) and a myopathy, which is a painful muscle condition (Ref. 1). This latter fact, which can occur in as many as 33% of the population at large (particularly the exercise minded) has limited the use of statins in competitive athletes where myopathies can occur in as many as 75% of athletes treated with statins (Ref.2). The reason for that is that the muscles of athletes cannot keep up with the demands put on them when they are kept in check by the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. On the other hand statins have prevented heart attacks and deaths from heart attacks and strokes in about 25% to 35% of patients treated with them as many clinical trials have shown (Ref.1), but simple supplements that have no side effects can do the same or do even better (see below).

The lack of cholesterol synthesis by the body’s cells when statins are given, leads to an expression of more LDL receptors on the cell surfaces. LDL binds to these receptors and enters the cells, which removes the circulating high risk LDL fraction of cholesterol from the blood thus causing a drop in LDL cholesterol. All of the side effects of statins (pull down to side effects in this link) can be explained as a result of the slow-down of organ functions (brain, muscles, gut, adrenal glands, etc.) as cholesterol synthesis is reduced.

New information from the Framingham Heart Study

So far everything I said made sense. But when I came across Ref. 4 I noticed that there was a bombshell of new information from another follow-up study of the Framingham Heart Study (Ref. 5) that did not fit in with the latest marketing drive of the statin manufacturers. In this study from 2005 Boston researchers had studied the outcomes of 789 men and 1105 women over a period of 16 to 18 years with respect to cognitive function. Participants were divided into total cholesterol groups that showed levels that were desirable (less than 200), borderline (200 to 239) or high (above 240). The astounding results were that higher cognitive functioning as documented in multiple cognitive tests in these three groups showed the best performance in the group with the highest cholesterol and the worst cognitive test outcomes in the lowest cholesterol group, quite opposite of what was expected.

Another important piece of research (April 2013) comes from Spain where doctors followed a group of 7447 patients with a high cardiovascular risk who were put on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with nuts or a regular diet. The end point was death from heart attack or stroke. After 4.8 years the study had to be interrupted as the Mediterranean groups showed a significant survival advantage over the group on a regular diet.

Ref. 4 cited literature evidence that statins cause a 48% increased risk in postmenopausal women who take statins to develop diabetes. It also cites compelling evidence that diabetes patients are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 15 years and are 1.75 times more likely to develop any kind of dementia in the same time period.

Dr. Seneff from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT explains in great detail that statins effectively reduce cholesterol synthesis in the liver, which in turn starves the brain of one of its main nutrients explaining why patient develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as a result of statin treatment.

So, the lessons to be learnt from these clinical trials are that you want to offer your brain enough cholesterol and healthy fat to have a normal metabolism. Fortunately, what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. Conversely avoid statins, if you can and try alternatives first. Ref. 4 explains that for years the experts had the wrong theory that low fat/high carb was what would be good for your heart and brain, but the opposite is true: what is good for your heart and brain is a high healthy fats/low refined carb diet.

Make sure that with your blood tests that fasting insulin is low (no insulin resistance), that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is less than 3.4 (low risk for heart attacks or strokes) and that the hemoglobin A1C level is low (4.8 to 5.6%, ideally less than 4.5%), which means you are not diabetic.

How alternative treatment can save you from heart attacks

Lifestyle treatment through dietary intervention, moderate exercise, and weight loss has been somewhat neglected by mainstream medicine, but is now recognized in regular textbooks of medicine as first-line treatment (Ref. 3). Most patients can lower LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15% through a change in diet. High-risk patients with established heart disease (narrowing of coronary arteries) require a drop of 30 to 60% of LDL cholesterol; this high-risk patient group may need an addition of a statin. In patients with metabolic syndrome or diabetes high triglycerides are often present and will respond to decreased intake of simple sugars, alcohol, and calories (Ref.3). Total calorie intake should be adjusted according to what the weight is when weighed every day with the goal of reducing the weight when overweight or obese, but maintaining the weight when it is in the normal body mass index range (BMI of 20 to 25). The total fat intake should be around 25%-35% of the total calorie intake. Specifically, saturated fat needs to be less than 7% of total calories, polyunsaturated fat up to 10% of total calories and monounsaturated fat up to 20% of total calories. Healthy fats according to Ref. 4 are extra-virgin olive oil, organic butter, almond milk, avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters and cheese ( except for blue cheeses). Other healthy fats are sesame oil, coconut oil, and the oils found in seeds like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Note that trans-fats (such as in margarine and baked goods) are a “no-no” as it causes free radicals in your body, which would accelerate the hardening of your arteries. Complex carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit are the main source of total calories providing 50%-60% of the total calories. Fiber intake needs to be 20-30 grams per day. Protein intake should be about 15% of total calories. Fat should provide 25% to 35% of the total calories per day. Cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg per day. You may want to consider the use of plant sterols (2 grams per day) to enhance LDL cholesterol lowering. Physical activity from moderate exercise should expend at least 200 kcal per day (better 300 kcal).

Which supplements prevent heart attacks and strokes?

There are several nutrients that have been shown to be powerful preventers of heart attacks and strokes. I will review them briefly here (based on Ref. 2):

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): The cells lining the arteries are only working well when their mitochondria are working properly producing chemical energy in form of ATP. CoQ10 is an important component of the mitochondrial metabolism; it is also the only fat soluble antioxidant that gets absorbed into the LDL particles where it protects these from oxidation. Statins suppress CoQ10 synthesis, so patients on statins need to take CoQ10 supplements daily to counteract this. However, anybody who is healthy now should take CoQ10 as a daily supplement for prevention. I take 400 mg per day.

2. Vitamin E (tocopherols): this fat soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and has been praised in the past as being heart supportive, was subsequently bad-mouthed by some conservative physicians, but lately has been resurrected. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the most known, but gamma tocopherol is the one you want to make sure you are also getting with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day as this is the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

3. Curcumin: This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one; it is reducing oxidative stress, is an anti-inflammatory and counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed a reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when 500 mg of curcumin was taken only for 7 days (Ref.2). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

4. Polyphenols: Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols contained in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine.  Over 130 studies have been done on humans showing improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.2). Take about 250 mg of it daily.

5. Niacin/nicotinic acid: This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin; it can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when higher doses of 2.25 grams per day are used. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies it has been shown to significantly reduce heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks (precursor syndrome before developing a stroke). Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin has also been shown to reduce oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

6. Fish oil (omega-3-fatty acids): Because heart attacks are due to an inflammatory process and high LDL cholesterol is thought to be only a secondary phenomenon, it is very important to have this additional tool of an important anti-inflammatory supplement. In the past it was still safe to eat fish fairly frequently per week. But with mercury, radioactive iodine from Japan’s leaking reactor and carcinogenic PBC’s all congregating in the ocean waters, it is no longer safe to consume fish in large quantities. The remedy to this situation is molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid. Fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA were shown to reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor or even more effective, but without the statin side effects. The amount of the dangerous small dense LDL is also being reduced with fish oil. Fish oil supplements have reduced the mortality from heart attacks and strokes and led to a higher survival from non-fatal heart attacks. At the same time these preventative fish oil doses will also treat and prevent arthritis.

7. Other useful supplements: Soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others have been shown in clinical trials to reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway). Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that have been proven to be of benefit in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

Conclusion

Recently there was a review in a medical journal that demonstrated that clinical guidelines (in this case for clinical guidelines for lowering cholesterol) erred 40% of the times when measured against scientific tests as this link explains. When it comes to saving lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes, what is needed is a multifactorial approach that treats the multifactorial causes of cardiovascular disease. Just pushing for treating more people with statins as Big Pharma is attempting to do is not addressing the fact that cholesterol is needed for our metabolism and the synthesis of our hormones. It is much superior to use a combination of different approaches that overlap and thus potentiate each other in their effects excluding statins first. Exercise creates more nitric oxide production by the lining of the arteries, which opens up arteries and prevents spasms. A proper diet with as many of the proven vitamins and other support factors will control inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles as explained. This will prevent heart attacks and strokes as has been shown in many clinical trials. Only patients who come from families with genetically high cholesterol or high triglycerides and those patients who had heart attacks and strokes should be exposed to statins as they are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. They need all of the help they can get in addition to the lifestyle factors mentioned. Most other patients and the public at large will do quite well without statins (no side effects of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and muscle pains). And, yes, a diet high in healthy fats, but low in refined carbs is what your brain and heart need (the opposite of what you have thought, see Ref. 4).

More information about side-effects of statins (acute pancreatitis): http://www.askdrray.com/pancreatitis-can-occur-with-statin-use/

Lower cholesterol with Mediterranean diet: http://nethealthbook.com/news/mediterranean-diet-benefits-us-workers/

 

References

1. Bonow: Braunwald’s Heart Disease – A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

2. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

3. Melmed: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

4. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

5. http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/1/24.full.pdf

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
10
2013

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

In many previous blogs I have mentioned that bioidentical hormone replacement prolongs life. Here is a more detailed look at what such hormone replacement looks like for both women and men. Before I get into details I want to stress that I am talking about replacing what is missing and replacing only with natural hormones, not some artificial hormone derivative produced by a drug company. The reason this is immensely important is that hormone receptors in the body are distributed all over our vital organs including bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. If there is no lock and key fit (bio-identical hormone fitting the hormone receptor), there is trouble as the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 has shown. Unfortunately they had used synthetic hormones for HRT that were not fitting the hormone receptors, and this caused many problems (heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, cancer).

Physiology of aging

As we age, we gradually produce fewer hormones in our hormone glands, but the various hormone glands deteriorate in their functions at different rates. Beyond the age of 30 we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. As a result our sleep pattern may change, as melatonin is necessary for a deep sleep. The decreasing growth hormone production means that we are losing some of our muscle mass and accumulate more fat in the subcutaneous tissues. Our adrenal glands produce less DHEA at the age of 35 to 40, a hormone that is a precursor to our sex hormones in males and females. The gonads (testicles and ovaries) also produce fewer hormones, a process which already starts 5 years before menopause and about 5 years before andropause (the male menopause equivalent).

Typically a woman will get into menopause at the age of 45 to 55 at which time the periods stop and postmenopausal symptoms are interfering with her well-being.  Men get into andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) at the age of 55 to 65 at which time erectile dysfunction occurs and often the individual will become the “grumpy old man”.

Other hormones such as thyroid hormones are also affected by the slow down. Hypothyroidism is common in people above the age of 50.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Baseline laboratory tests

In order to know what is going on, the physician or naturopath needs to order a number of tests to assess whether there is inflammation, how your key hormone levels are; the cardiovascular system markers should also be checked, the liver enzymes and vitamin D3 level. Inflammatory markers are fasting insulin levels and C-reactive protein (CRP). Fasting cholesterol and subfractions (HDL, LDL, VDLP, small LDL) and fasting triglycerides are also measured. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4, TSH) are measured to rule out over or under function. Typically hypothyroidism is found, which would have to be rectified by taking Armour (a mix of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones).

At this point I need to explain that long time ago the research by Dr. Lee has shown that progesterone hormone levels are notoriously unreliable when blood tests are done. All of the other sex hormones, and cortisol are also not that reliable with blood tests. For this reason the saliva hormone tests have been invented that conveniently report a panel of 5 hormones from one saliva sample: DHEAS (which is the storage form of DHEA), estradiol (the major estrogen in a woman), progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. The saliva hormone tests correlate very well with the actual tissue hormone levels. You can order the saliva tests through Dr. Lee’s website. Another longstanding lab in the US is Dr. David Zava’s lab. In Canada the Rocky Mountain Analytical Lab can process your saliva tests.

Women’s hormone replacement

Let us assume that a woman is getting postmenopausal symptoms and bioidentical hormone replacement is being discussed. The physician will want to first rule out that insulin resistance is not present by ordering a fasting insulin level. If this is normal and the other baseline tests are normal as well except for missing estrogen and progesterone, the physician will usually start to replace progesterone first using a bioidentical hormone cream to be applied once or twice per day. If estrogen levels were also low, the next step in 4 weeks or so is to add Bi-Est, a bioidentical estrogen replacement cream. After 8 weeks of hormone replacement the saliva hormone test is repeated to see whether the estrogen and progesterone levels have come up and also, whether the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is at least 200 or more. Dr. Lee has extensively researched this and found that women with a ratio of less than 200 to 1 (progesterone/estrogen ratio) were more prone to breast cancer. He also stated in this link that there are 3 basic rules with regard to bioidentical hormone replacement:

1. only replace hormones, when they were measured to be low.

2. use only bioidentical hormones (never synthetic hormones) and

3. only replace with low doses of bioidentical hormones to bring hormone levels to physiological levels (body levels that were experienced to be normal before).

Many women who are not replaced in menopause have estrogen dominance meaning that the progesterone/estrogen ratio is less than 200:1, which puts these women at risk of developing breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese also are estrogen dominant (from estrogen produced in excess through aromatase in the fatty tissue, explained further below), which makes them more prone to breast cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer. Without bioidentical hormone replacement inflammatory processes take place in the joints (causing arthritis), in the nervous system (causing Alzheimer’s and dementia) and in the blood vessels (causing heart attacks and strokes). Rebalancing your hormones to a youthful state by paying attention to the hormone levels and the hormone ratios mentioned will remove the inflammatory reactions and reduce the risk for cancer.

Men’s hormone replacement

Males enter andropause 10 to 15 years later than women are entering menopause. Typically testosterone production slows down leading to hair loss, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s/dementia. Blood tests (bioavailable testosterone) or saliva tests are both reliable in determining a deficiency. Replacement with bioidentical hormone creams once per day is the preferred method of treatment. Overweight and obese men produce significant amounts of estrogen through an enzyme localized in fatty tissue, called aromatase.

Aromatase converts testosterone and other male type hormones, called androgens, into estrogen. Estrogen causes breast growth, weakens muscles, and leads to abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease and strokes.

Similar to women, where the progesterone/estrogen ratio is important, there is another ratio for men, called testosterone/estrogen ratio. This should be in the 20 to 40 range for a man to feel good and energetic. Unfortunately many men above the age of 55 have testosterone/estrogen ratios much smaller than 20. This makes them more prone to heart disease and prostate cancer (Ref.1).

However, a male also does need a small amount of estrogen and normal thyroid hormones as well as all of the other hormones for his “hormonal symphony” (mentioned in Ref. 2) to function at his best.

Safety of hormone replacement

There are still otherwise reputable websites that state that bioidentical hormones are not safer than standard synthetic hormones. This confuses the consumer and does not serve the public well. I much prefer the text of the Wikipedia, which is a more thorough review regarding safety of hormone replacement and explains what the issues are.

In the US there is a collective experience of about 25 years on thousands of patients, but there have not been any randomized studies, as Big Pharma that would have the money to finance such studies is not interested in proving that bioidentical drugs would be safer than their distorted synthetic hormone copies that will not fit the body’s hormone receptors. There are some noble exceptions as Big Pharma is producing bioidentical insulin and human growth hormone that had toxicity studies done and showed safety. In Europe bioidentical hormones have been used since the 1960’s, on a larger scale since the 1970’s. So the European experience of safety of bioidentical hormones is presently about 40 to 50 years.

The FDA is contributing to the confusion of the public as can be seen from this publication. One example where the FDA is confusing the consumer, is the progesterone product Prometrium, a bioidentical micronized progesterone capsule that can be taken by mouth. By law the manufacturer had to put a warning label on the package identical to progestin, which is the synthetic, non-bioidentical hormone having been shown to have severe side effects. As is explained in this last publication Prometrium should not have been required to have a warning label in it ; the paper explains what I have already stated above, namely that bioidentical hormones are the safest form of hormone replacement and administered in the right ratios will actually prevent cancer and prevent premature cardiovascular and joint deterioration. In other words, bioidentical hormone replacement can add many years of useful life when started early enough before permanent organ damage sets in from the aging process (which would be due to missing hormones).

Why bother about hormone replacement?

Nature has a plan of “knocking us off” to make room for the next generation. The only way that you can change nature’s plan of killing us prematurely through cardiovascular disease, arthritis, dementia and loss of your sexual life is by bioidentical hormone replacement. Of course you also need the other ingredients of known life prolongers such as healthy (preferably organic) foods, exercise and detoxification. Many women are scared to treat the hormone deficiencies that cause their menopausal symptoms because of the Women’s health Initiative results with synthetic hormones. Men who would benefit from testosterone are often anxious that they may get prostate cancer, when in reality it is the exact opposite: testosterone prevents prostate cancer (Ref.3).

Conclusion

I wrote this blog about bioidentical hormone replacement in order to clarify this often-misunderstood topic. Don’t get confused by the FDA, by highbrow medical websites (such as the likes I mentioned). Big Pharma has a powerful lobby that attempts to keep the medical profession in the belief that their products are better than those that nature has provided (I call it “defend your patent rights”). We are still in a flux state where anybody who tells the truth about hormones gets much criticism. In another few decades it will be an accepted fact and people will wonder why the Women’s Health Initiative was done without a control with bioidentical hormones. With bioidentical hormone replacement you can add about 20 years of youthful life without disabilities to the normal life expectancy. Exercise, detoxification and organic food with avoidance of wheat, starch and sugar can add another 5 to 10 years to your life. The baby boomers are lucky that they have this new tool to prolong life. I wonder whether they will put it to good use.

More information about bioidentical hormone replacement: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/anti-aging-medicine-women-men/

References:

1. John R. Lee: “Hormone Balance for Men – What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Prostate Health and Natural Hormone Supplementation”, © 2003 by Hormones Etc.

2. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008

3. Abraham Morgentaler, MD “Testosterone for Life – Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health”, McGraw-Hill, 2008

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jul
27
2013

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

It was not until about the mid 1990’s when it became apparent that gum infections and severe tooth decay could cause inflammation in the blood measurable by using the CRP marker (C-reactive protein). As this link shows Dr. Joseph Muhlestein at the University of Utah demonstrated in 1996 that chronic gum infection could cause a heart attack. He isolated the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79% of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, while samples from heart transplant patients isolated this bacterium in only about 5%. The new thinking was that bugs that multiply in diseased gums could migrate into the blood and cause platelets from the blood to clump together and block coronary arteries causing heart attacks. Harvard University researchers have confirmed this. In the past it was known that a bad tonsillitis with an aggressive bacterium, Streptococcus viridans, could cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. Neglected cavities in teeth can also harbor this bacterium. Another study in 2009 showed that two particular strains of bacteria in infected gums, Tannerella forsynthesis and Preventella intermedia, were associated with an increased risk for heart attacks; but it was more the overall burden of bacteria in the infected gums than the specific bacteria strains that mattered most.

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

 

Preventing heart disease by brushing and flossing

With this background it is easier to understand that we need to take good care of our teeth and gums, if we want to maintain good health. As a start most people should see their dental hygienist (who usually works in a dentist’s office) twice a year. The dental hygienist will probe the depth of gingival pockets with a periodontal probe. A normal depth measures up to and including 3 mm. Deeper pockets than that usually indicate that the patient did not floss regularly. One needs to floss at least once per day, better twice per day and it should not bleed after flossing (initially when a person flosses for the first time the gums tend to bleed a bit).

The hygienist will do scaling of plaques on the tooth enamel. Any cavity that is detected will be brought to the attention of the dentist. At the end of the scaling procedure fluoride is applied, which puts a coating on the tooth surfaces to prevent tooth decay.

When deeper pockets (6 mm or more) are detected a trial of subgingival root brushings has shown to have a very beneficial result within only 14 days.

Periodontal pockets were improved and bacterial counts of periodontal infections were shown to have improved as well.

Oral care and cavity prevention in the population

It has been accepted for quite some time that a combination of brushing and flossing are the best methods to control dental plaque, which is the precursor for cavities.

In order to test the knowledge of adults in families with small children these authors from the School of Public Health of the Maryland University investigated Maryland’s adult population knowledge regarding caries prevention. It turns out that there were deficiencies in knowledge about the prevention of dental caries and the importance of fluoride to create strong, decay resistant enamel.

A randomized, prospective study is planned in Hong Kong which will start teaching oral hygiene to kindergarten children aged 3 and will be reinforced several times later to instill good dental hygiene behaviors into these children’s health routine as outlined in this link. Not only is it important to teach brushing and flossing, but also food habits with cutting down on sugary and starchy snacks as these foods make the saliva acidy promoting caries producing bacteria in the plaque.

This English study shows that a primary school based caries prevention program reduced caries by 35% when sugar intake was limited in the interventional group and brushing of teeth was done twice per day along with flossing.

An addition to flossing for those with narrow tooth intervals or those with braces is a waterpik system. This can be used to clean food residues from the spaces between your teeth and from gum pockets. Flossing once or twice per day is still needed to remove plaque to avoid tartar build-up. Before bedtime it is advisable to floss first, then use a waterpik, then use your electric toothbrush with a fluoridated toothpaste. During the day use the waterpik after meals followed by brushing with an electric toothbrush with non-fluoridated toothpaste.  Water Picks are also called “water flossers”; they are easier on your gums.

Other measures helpful in preventing tooth decay

Xylitol is a natural sweetener originally derived from birch. Sugarless gum often is sweetened with Xylitol. This study has shown that chewing Xylitol containing gum can effectively reduce caries. This paper describes that the increased saliva production from chewing gum provides a slightly alkaline environment for teeth. This helps to clear out sugar faster from the oral cavity after a meal, inhibits bacterial growth, neutralizes the pH in plaque that is on the acidy side after sugar consumption. The authors concluded that chewing Xylitol gum is a useful addition to the other known preventative measures of dental decay prevention, such as brushing and flossing teeth.

The techniques the dentist is using to treat plaque and dental decay have been refined by a new technique describe in this Australian publication as a minimum intervention caries prevention program.

The four methods used in minimum intervention dentistry are described here.

1. Recognition: to recognize potential caries factors early through lifestyle factor analysis and saliva testing.

2. Reduction: alter the diet and lifestyles to increase the pH of the saliva, which will reduce the risk factors for caries.

3. Regeneration: to arrest and reverse minimum lesions at the earliest stage. Use agents such as fluorides and casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphates to achieve this.

4. Repair: when a cavity is present, a technique of “conservative caries removal” involves using bioactive materials to allow healing of the dentine layer of the tooth.

Reduction of cariogenic bacteria

I already mentioned above that alkalization of saliva by chewing Xylitol gum could significantly help prevent tooth decay. It does so by raising the pH, while chewing on sugary foods or starchy foods lowers the pH (making it more acidy). Growth of caries producing bacteria, which are called “cariogenic bacteria” is stimulated by acidy saliva and inhibited by alkaline saliva. For this reason people whose diet consists of a lot of vegetables and greens will have more alkaline saliva and are less prone to develop cavities. The worst foods to get cavities are sugar in its many disguises and starchy products (candies, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, bagels, cookies, cakes).

What can cause bacteria from the mouth to appear in the blood? One common condition is periodontitis, which is a chronic inflammatory condition of pockets of the gums around the teeth. This originates from neglecting your teeth and not flossing. Smokers are more afflicted by this as well. Dental procedures called scaling and root planing are often done for chronic periodontitis. This study from January 2013 shows that there is about the same amount of bacteria that leak into the blood following these procedures when compared to flossing.

Sometimes a dentist will recommend using a short-term antibiotic to reduce the leakage of bacteria into the blood, particularly with people who have heart valve problems or had porcine heart valve replacement in the past. This publication from 2009 also describes that dental flossing causes bacteria to be shed into the blood (bacteremia).

Conclusion

Dental self-care should be taught to children at an early age to educate them to brush their teeth twice a day and floss them at least once per day. At the same time they need education what causes cavities in terms of food intake and that fluoride can help make teeth more cavity resistant. They should avoid sugar in pop, candies and cookies etc. Parents best teach by example! Regular visits to the dentist’s office will safe money on the long term. Regular scaling by a dental hygienist every 6-month will remove plaque from which cavities develop when bacteria thrive in them and produce acids that affects the enamel. Minimum intervention dentistry discussed above (4 methods used) can prevent your teeth from decaying. Regular flossing will keep your gums healthy and reduce the colonization of the mouth with bad, cariogenic bacteria. With all this in place you likely will keep your teeth for a long time and not need dentures or tooth implants because of lost teeth. At the same time you will prevent your immune system being overwhelmed by mouth bacteria, which could have lead to a heart attack had you neglected your teeth. As mentioned in the beginning, a CRP blood test is a useful tool to rule out chronic infection.

More information on:

1. Tooth decay: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/dentistry.php#Tooth_Decay

2. Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Reference: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/your-guide-gum-disease

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jan
22
2013

Long-Term Multistep Weight Management

In February of 2001 my wife and I attended an anti-aging conference in San Diego. The keynote speaker was Dr. Barry Sears who is the inventor of the zone diet. We had read a book from him before the conference and were excited to hear him speak in person. We liked the book; we liked the talk, so we cut out sugar, starchy foods and stuck to a diet where the calories derived 50% from low-glycemic, complex carbohydrates, 25-30% from lean meat, poultry and fish. Calories derived from fat were reduced to about 15-20% (there is hidden fat even in lean meat). No butter, but instead some lean cheeses and olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings. We shed both 50 pounds within 3 months without any hunger pangs. Our energy increased and this has stayed  this way ever since. There was no problem getting down with our BMI’s (body mass index) to 23.5 or 24.0, which is usually viewed as normal by the medical profession. We noticed, however, that when we did not exercise, there was a problem maintaining our normal weight.  We are under the care of an anti-aging physician who did special tests like fasting insulin, C- reactive protein, and hormone tests. They were all normal. We took up ballroom dancing really seriously having been inspired by “Dancing With the Stars”. This was 6 years ago. What started innocently with only a few basic ballroom lessons three times per week has now blossomed into dancing more than 10 different dance styles 5 times per week.

Long-term Multistep Weight Management

Long-term Multistep Weight Management

3 ½ years ago both of our energy levels were slowly going down, particularly after a long night of dancing. Hormone tests revealed the initial stages of age-related hormone deficiencies which did not come as a surprise , as  decreasing hormone levels was a topic discussed  in detail at the conference in San Diego in 2001 (we also attended several other anti-aging conferences on a yearly basis from 2009 onwards). With bioidentical hormone replacements these levels normalized within one year, our energy was back and our weight stayed normal. We enjoy travelling, but there can be problems with our multistep weight management program. We need to watch our diet (no toxins, preferably only organic food), and physical exercise may be less regimented. In 2008 we read Suzanne Somers’ book “Breakthrough”. We ordered urine tests for toxic metals and we were shocked that we had noticeable levels of mercury and lead. Since then we started to cut our salmon consumption from 3 to 4 times per week down to once or twice per week. To get rid of the heavy metals we started intravenous chelation treatments with vitamin C (10 Gm) and Glutathione (1250 mg) every two weeks. In July 2012 there were reports of radioactive salmon from the Japan nuclear disaster earlier that year in the Canadian media. After this news we stopped eating all fish and other seafood, not only because of radioactivity, but also because of other toxins like mercury, cadmium, PBC’s etc.  We do take high doses of molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acids along with our other supplements. We also started eating mostly organic foods as we do not want to ingest insecticides, herbicides and other toxins.

We acquired body composition scales, which give information about fat percentage including visceral fat percentage, muscle mass percentage, BMI, weight and the basic metabolic rate. We wanted to define the end point of what our ideal body weight would be. We noticed that our dance program was not good enough to lower the BMI below about 23.5; using the body composition scales we noted that our body fat content was still too high and the visceral fat percentage was still in the 6% range. It took a prolonged trip to the US where we could not find enough dance events to decide that we would introduce a one hour gym program consisting of 30 minutes of treadmill, 15 minutes of upper body circuits, and 15 minutes of lower body circuits every day as a basis to our exercise program. Any dance activity would be just an additional exercise on top of the base exercise from the gym. It took only about 2 months before our fat composition decreased, our muscle mass increased, the visceral fat went to a normal at 5% and the BMI was now stabilized at the 21.5 to 22.0 range. We feel a lot more confident in managing our weight long-term without really thinking much about the weight. It is now a routine we follow, like an athlete would do to stay in shape. While nobody has a permanent guarantee to everlasting health, we do it to prevent the diseases we do not need in our retirement like diabetes, arthritis, heart attacks, strokes, cancer or Alzheimer’s.

What we did not know until after the 20th A4M Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas (mid December 2012) was that inadvertently we were protected from exposure to chemically modified wheat from 2001 onwards as we had cut out all refined carbohydrates and starchy foods (including wheat) since then. Unfortunately many Americans still expose themselves unknowingly to larger or smaller quantities of wheat, suffer from leaky gut syndrome with the associated changes in the immune system and the development of autoimmune diseases.

Personally, I believe that long term weight management is possible: you can turn older and hopefully wiser…not wider. The good news: it can be done. The bad news: this is not an instant fix, but a program that needs to be part of your lifestyle package.

More information on weight loss: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/weight-loss-and-diet/

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014

Dec
01
2008

Disease Of Peripheral Blood Vessels Occurs With Metabolic Changes

Metabolic syndrome has serious health consequences: diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are just a few conditions that are associated with it. It is also known that diabetic patients are prone to pressure sores and ulcers of their feet and if the leg became gangrenous, the patient would lose it due to the need to amputate. Peripheral artery disease or PAD has recently been studied by Dr. Aruna D. Pradhan, and the prospective study involved 27,000 women. At the beginning of the study the middle aged women were free of cardiovascular disease, but a quarter of them had the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. Twenty five percent of those with the condition also were diabetic. During the 13 years of follow-up 114 women developed peripheral artery disease and those patients with metabolic syndrome were 62% more likely to develop the disease. The individuals with metabolic syndrome had other features: they were less likely to exercise, more likely to smoke and their weight was higher. But 7,000 women with metabolic syndrome had another important feature in their lab tests: they had markedly higher levels of biomarkers of systemic inflammation, which was manifested in higher levels of C-reactive protein.

Disease Of Peripheral Blood Vessels Occurs With Metabolic Changes

Metabolic syndrome causes peripheral artery disease

 

 

Once all the criteria are stacked up against each other, it becomes obvious that the presence of metabolic syndrome alone is not responsible for the most significant increase in peripheral artery disease. It is not the high cholesterol levels or the high triglyceride readings that are the villains in this condition. The driving force is systemic inflammation, as documented by the high C-reactive protein levels in blood tests.

More information about hardening of arteries: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

American Heart Association, New Orleans, Nov. 8 to 12, 2008

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014

Apr
01
2007

Quick Test Predicts Sepsis

One of the big risks for a patient undergoing abdominal surgery has been the threat of peritonitis, which means infection in the abdominal cavity. Apart from pneumonia, which can be another one of those life threatening diseases, peritonitis remains a severe threat even today, as it is accounting for roughly 60% of mortality in the surgical intensive care units. It is not the peritonitis itself that is the killer but the spread of the infection through the blood stream to vital organs. Once the vitals are affected, infection will lead to a general shutdown: multiple organ failure or septic multi-organ dysfunction syndrome known as MODS, which is what kills the patient.
Our ancestors could not control sepsis. Antibiotics had yet to be discovered. Today the main challenge remains a timely detection of sepsis. Once sepsis has overrun the body, even antibiotic treatment comes too late for the patient.
The best methods that are currently available for the detection of sepsis are CAT scans and fine needle aspiration. Both have their shortfalls: the CAT scan may be unavailable and fine needle aspiration can increase the infection risk. One biomarker, the C reactive protein has only a limited use to predict septic MODS, as C reactive protein levels show a sharp increase in the presence of surgical trauma, regardless whether there is infection or not. German research has tested another potential blood sepsis marker, procalcitonin. Unlike the C reactive protein procalcitonin levels are not affected by surgical trauma, but it shows an increase in the presence of bacterial or fungal infection. There is a rapid automated assay for procalcitonin, the Kryptor PCT essay. It can be completed in 20 minutes, which is important, as time is of essence in emergency situations. Among 82 recruited patients with peritonitis, more than half had infections due to E.coli. Nine had fungal infections. Procalcitonin levels were markedly higher in patients who later went on to suffer MODS. All patients in the study were tested within 96 hours of the onset of symptoms. C reactive protein levels were not useful in terms of a predictive value.

Quick Test Predicts Sepsis

Kryptor PCT measures procalcitonin for quick diagnosis of sepsis

The test is useful for two purposes: it helps with the early detection of a septic condition, so treatment can start early. It also identifies patients who won’t develop septic MODS.The sensitivity and the accuracy of the test does not necessarily make it a true “sepsis marker”. Researchers believe that the degree of systemic procalcitonin reflects a weak immune system. The test picks up those patients who are susceptible to severe infections. As a result timely treatments can be started for them right away.

Reference: National Review Of Medicine, March 15,2007, page 3

Last edited December 5, 2012

Aug
01
2006

New Screening For Cardiovascular Disease

Checking out the patient’s heart disease risk factors used to be very basic. Lifestyle questions were one aspect: was the patient smoking? Did he have a lack of exercise? Did he have a risk of heart disease in the family? The patient’s diet was analyzed and the body weight was assessed. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels were the basic labs that provided more information. The risk factor assessment, as exemplified by criteria from the Framingham study, made a lot of sense.

In the meantime cardiologists are concerned that all these points are no longer sufficient in identifying individuals at risk for heart disease. Dr. Morteza Naghavi, president for the Association for the Eradication of Heart Attacks, is concerned that it is not only obesity and hypertension that bear the risk for heart attacks, but atherosclerosis. A lot of heart attacks occur in the low- and moderate risk groups. As far as he is concerned, every man aged 45-75 and every woman from 55-75 needs to be screened. We are better equipped to do something for people who have a high plaque burden (deposits in the blood vessels.) Statins are the medication of choice to help these patients.

Screening techniques have become less invasive, as imaging technology has made large progress in recent years. The condition of the carotid artery can be assessed by ultrasound (carotid intima-media thickness or CIMT). Coronary calcification score (CACS) can be measured by CT scanner. The tests are done in a few minutes, and the cost at the most is a few hundred dollars. A patient would only be screened every five years. Screening procedures work and save lives, as demonstrated in the screening for breast cancer. The SHAPE team (The Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education) has calculated that the screening cost is even better than breast cancer screening. There are other tests that improve the sensitivity of traditional criteria, like the blood test for C-reactive protein, but in assessing the patient’s risk, it does make sense to go to the source of disease. The striking color image that demonstrates the atherosclerotic burden will allow the patients to see the problem with their own eyes.

New Screening For Cardiovascular Disease

New Screening For Cardiovascular Disease

It may be a healing shock that has a beneficial effect on the compliance of patients. Test results of laboratory work are words, but here a picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to encourage the patient to actively work on prevention.

More information on heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Reference: National Review Of Medicine, July 30, 2006, page 7

Last edited November 1, 2014

Jan
01
2006

Combination Of Drugs Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis

Several treatment options have become available to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but side effects can be a problem. Corticosteroids are still needed, and methotrexate has been added. While anti-tumor-necrosis factor therapy (TNF alpha antibody) is a very beneficial form of treatment, there are patients who fail to respond or have toxicity to these therapy forms.
Dr. Stanley Cohen, a clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas investigated 520 patients who had not adequately responded to methotrexate and anti-TNF therapy. The patients received the genetically engineered monoclonal antibody, rituximab (Rituxan), which so far has been used to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was found to be highly effective for active rheumatoid arthritis when given with methorexate in patients who experienced an inadequate response to anti-TNF therapies.
The patients were randomly selected and received either a single dose of 1000mg rituximab or placebo on days one and fifteen. All patients received a corticosteroid prior to the infusion. They also took a short course of oral corticosteroids between the two injections. For the patients on rituxmab, the medication proved beneficial. It was also well tolerated. Statistically 51% of the patients on rituximab had at least a 20% improvement on the swollen and painful joints and at least 20% improvement in 3 to 5 other criteria, like general well being, disability or laboratory tests of C-reactive protein.
Only 18% of the placebo group showed any improvement. It was also noted that the effects of this one-time treatment could last up to 15 months.
As good as the current medication is, there are treatment failures. Dr. David Karp, chief of Rheumatic diseases at the same university but not involved with this study finds the development very valuable.

Combination Of Drugs Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis

Combination Of Drugs Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis

He concludes that it becomes important in this area to personalize the treatment plan. The future is to look at the patients’ blood or gene makeup and prescribe specific therapies directed at their particular problem.

More information regarding treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/rheumatoid-arthritis/treatment-rheumatoid-arthritis/

Reference: The Medical Post, December 20, 2005, page 33

Last edited October 30, 2014