May
20
2017

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

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

What are telomeres?

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

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

What is the significance of telomeres?

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

Interventions that help telomere length

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

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

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

Cancer and telomeres

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

CLL

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

Lung cancer

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

Prostate cancer

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

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

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

Breast cancer

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

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

CNS disorders and telomeres

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

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

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

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Conclusion

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

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

Apr
22
2017

Only Moderate Alcohol Consumption Benefits Your Heart

A new study from England finds that only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart. The study was released on March 22, 2017 in Great Britain. 1.937 million people (51% women, 49% men) had participated in this investigation over 6 years. The lead author, Dr. Steven Bell is a genetic epidemiologist. He said that this study was done to clear up some of the confusion from previous studies. He wondered why the control group without alcohol exposure had more cardiac problems than the moderate group. It did make sense though, that the high alcohol group had worse cardiac problems.

But he and researchers from Cambridge University and University College London did this study to get more detail. They wanted to know why the current non-drinking group used as a control was not looked at more carefully. It consisted of a mix of lifelong abstainers; people who drank formerly, but then gave it up. And the other group was those who drink on an occasional basis.

With this in mind the researchers designed their study. They also used also larger numbers to increase the reliability of the study.

Details of English study

The data comes from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink providing anonymous patient records from general practices in England. The patients upon entry into the study had to be older than 30 years, but have no evidence of cardiovascular disease. A total of 1,937,360 patients qualified to be part of the study.

Based on patients’ records and patients recollections people, researchers looked at 5 classes of drinkers:

  • Non-drinkers (14.3%)
  • Former or ex-drinkers (stopped drinking at one point, 3.7%)
  • Occasional drinkers (drinking rarely, 11.9%)
  • Moderate drinkers (drinking within sensible limits, 61.7%)
  • Heavy drinkers (hazardous alcohol use, 8.4%)

The end point of the study researchers concentrated on the frequency of cardiovascular diseases like angina, heart attack, sudden cardiac death, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and others. I only listed 6 of the 12 cardiovascular diagnoses as otherwise it would get too technical.

More information: Most study participants were non-smokers, their BMI was within normal limits, and they also did not have diabetes.

Findings of the study

There were significant differences among subclasses of alcohol consumption and the development of cardiovascular diseases over 6 years.

  1. The findings were in line with a number of previous similar studies that showed a U-type dose response curve between developing cardiovascular diseases and alcohol consumption. The group of non-drinkers (where former and occasional drinkers were removed) often had a 20% to 56% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, while moderate drinkers had no added risk.
  2. On the other hand the heavy drinkers were at risk of developing cardiac arrest (50% increased risk) or heart failure (22% increased risk). A death from a sudden heart attack occurred in heavy drinkers with a risk of 21% increased risk. A former drinker had a 40% increased risk for this, but a non-drinker a risk of 56% increased risk!
  3. A non-drinker had a 32% increased risk of getting a regular heart attack, a former drinker had a 31% increased risk, an occasional drinker 14%, a moderate drinker no added risk, and a heavy drinker had a 12% reduced risk! This seemed to show that drinking alcohol keeps the coronary arteries open and clean. I have had pathology demonstrations with Professor Dr. Adalbert Bohle at Tübingen University during my medical training in 1969. At that time he pointed out how clear and wide open the coronary arteries were in chronic alcoholics. It was not heart disease that killed those patients; they had died from end stage liver cirrhosis, and we saw pathological slides of that.
  4. Heavy drinkers get more ischemic strokes (33% increased risk) and more intracerebral hemorrhages (37% increased risk).
  5. Obstruction of blood vessels in the lower legs (peripheral arterial disease) is common with heavy drinkers (35% increased risk) and even former drinkers (32% increased risk). Non-drinkers have a 22% increased risk while moderate drinkers have a 0% risk (no increased risk).
  6. There was no association between heavy drinking and aortic aneurysm. On the other hand, non-drinkers (32% increased risk) and former drinkers (23% increased risk) showed an increased risk of aortic aneurysm formation.

Other effects of alcohol consumption

The study above did not take into consideration that alcohol consumption has many other consequences beside cardiovascular effects. One for instance is the effect on the brain and the increase of serious car accidents. Another effect is the causation of cancer.

The American Cancer Society clearly states that alcohol consumption has been causatively associated with the following cancers.

  • Cancer of the mouth
  • Cancer of the pharynx (throat)
  • Cancer of the larynx (voice box)
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Cancer of the liver
  • Cancer of the breast
  • Cancer of the colon
  • Alcohol also plays a role with cancer of the pancreas

Many studies have shown a dose-response curve between alcohol consumed and the development of these cancers. In other words there is never a safe low dose, below which no cancer would be caused over time.

These authors conducted a metaanalysis of 16 prospective cohort studies including 6,300 patients. It showed that alcohol caused cancer of the colon and rectum. High intake of alcohol showed a 50% increased risk of causing colon cancer. With regard to rectal cancer the risk was 63% higher. In both cases the highest alcohol intake was compared to the lowest category of alcohol intake.

These authors concluded their discussion by pointing out that 6% of the worldwide cancer deaths are attributed to alcohol intake. They also stated that colorectal cancer risk increased by 50% in the heaviest alcohol users. Among the group of heavy drinkers the cancer death rate would likely be 9%. There would a reduction of mortality from cardiovascular disease by one third in middle and old age. The end result would be 6% mortality again; essentially there is no change.

No matter how you try to solve this equation, there is a risk of cancer deaths from exposure to alcohol. There is also a risk that heavy drinking can cause significant cardiovascular diseases mentioned.

Only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart

Only moderate alcohol consumption benefits your heart

Conclusion

Everything we do in life has consequences. With regard to drinking you know that accidents are more common in drinkers; with prolonged exposure to higher alcohol consumption you can get dementia. Moderate amounts appear to have significant protection from heart disease, but the risk for several cancers is not negligible. This point was not mentioned in the study I discussed in the beginning of my blog. In the latter part I included some data about cancer risks from alcohol consumption.

The paradox remains that non-consumption of alcohol is associated with a significant cardiovascular risk because of a U-shape dose response curve. Moderate alcohol use is associated with the lowest cardiovascular risk. The question is whether we can balance moderate drinking with staying in the low cancer risk area. The recommendation of 1 glass of wine for women and 2 glasses of wine for men has been confirmed by the above study. This is considered a healthy preventative dose with respect to cardiovascular risk. It is the official recommendation for cardiovascular disease prevention. The cancer literature clearly states that there is a small cancer risk from moderate alcohol intake. This is particularly true for the 8 cancers discussed.

Dr James Nicholls, the director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK had this to say. He pointed to the fact that there are other ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. For those who do not drink at present it would not make sense to take up drinking. You can strengthen your heart by starting a Mediterranean diet and starting to exercise regularly. The beneficial substance for your heart in red wine is known as resveratrol that can be taken as a supplement. Resveratrol has no side effects and does not have the cancer risk of an alcoholic drink. Dr. Nicholls added, “If you drink within the existing guidelines it is unlikely that alcohol will either lengthen or shorten your life.” It is really up to every individual to balance the wine glass with personal health!

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Mar
11
2017

Obesity And Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

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

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

Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer

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

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

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

Diabetes increases mortality from cancer

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

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

Carbohydrate restriction diet to prevent obesity

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

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

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

Supplements to prevent obesity, diabetes and cancer

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

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

Obesity And Diabetes Can Cause Cancer

Conclusion

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

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Nov
05
2016

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

One of the news stories in 2016 was about health risks of night shifts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2000 that 15 million workers (16.8 % of the working population) were doing alternative shifts (night shift work mixed with daytime shifts). In 2016 they reported 14.8% were working alternate shifts. Among blacks, Asians and Latino Americans the percentage of working alternative shifts was higher, namely 20.8%, 15.7% and 16%, respectively.

Shift work is more common in certain industries, such as protective services like the police force, food services, health services and transportation.

Evidence of health risks of night shifts

There are several publications that showed evidence of health risks of night shift workers. Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts.

  1. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.
  2. This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Blood tests from daytime workers were compared to night shift workers. Inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts were obtained. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
  3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.
  4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.
  5. In a study from China 25,377 participants were included in a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work were unaffected with regard to cancer.
  6. A Polish study examined hormones and the body mass index (BMI) among 263 women who worked night shifts and 269 women who worked day shifts. When night shift workers had worked more than 15 years at nights, their estrogen levels, particularly in postmenopausal women were elevated compared to the daytime workers who served as controls. The BMI was also increased in the nighttime workers.
  7. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): a study in Spain showed that working for more than 20 years in rotating night shifts was associated with a 1.77-fold higher risk of developing CLL. The authors noted that melatonin levels in that group were much lower than in controls that worked only day shifts. Working in straight night shifts did not show higher risks of CLL compared to daytime workers.
  8. In a Korean study from Seoul 100 female medical technologist who worked nighttime had their melatonin levels tested, which were compared to daytime workers.  They measured 1.84 pg/mL of melatonin for the nighttime workers compared to 4.04 pg/mL of melatonin in the daytime workers. The authors felt that this is proof that the diurnal hormone system has been disrupted. When the melatonin level is altered, the circadian hormone rhythm is also changed.
  9. A group of 168 female hospital employees doing rotating nightshift work in Southern Ontario hospitals were compared to 160 day workers. Cortisol production was assessed. Cortisol production in day workers and in shift workers on their day shift was similar. However, shift workers on their night shift had flatter cortisol curves and produced less cortisol. The authors felt that this disruption of cortisol production would explain why rotating night shift workers have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  10. A Danish study with female nurses followed 28,731 nurses between 1993 and 2015. Daytime nurses were compared to rotating nighttime nurses and the incidence of diabetes was measured. Night shift workers had a risk between 1.58-fold to 1.99-fold when compared to daytime workers to develop diabetes. The risk for evening shift workers was less (between 1.29-fold and 1.59-fold).

Diurnal hormone rhythm behind health risks of night shifts

Your body has its own rules. It rewards you, if you sleep 7 to 8 hours during the night, but it will penalize you severely, if you turn it upside down. The reason is our built-in diurnal hormone rhythm. A peak of melatonin regulates sleep during the night. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland (on the base of the skull) when it gets dark outside. Daytime wakefulness is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. These two hormones inhibit each other, cortisol inhibits melatonin and melatonin inhibits cortisol. All the other hormones are also regulated according to the diurnal rhythm: testosterone is highest in the morning, human growth hormone is highest between midnight and 3 AM etc.

When you work daytime shifts, your diurnal hormone rhythm is unchanged. But if you work night time shifts, your hormones have to adapt. This is very similar to traveling east or west where you cross several time zones. Your internal diurnal hormone system has to adjust to these changes. Typically it takes 1 day to adjust to a 1-hour time zone difference.

In people who work permanent night shifts, the hormone changes stay adjusted and there is no further switching. But most employers want to be “fair” to everybody, so they introduced the rotating night shifts, which as all the publications cited above show is the worst thing you can do. It messes with your diurnal hormone rhythm, and some people never switch completely to the new hours worked. They don’t get enough daytime sleep because the kids are loud during the day etc. The rotating shift workers are running the highest risk of getting cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, leukemia, and they have low levels of melatonin.

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Health Risks Of Night Shifts

Conclusion

When shift workers work constant night shifts, this is less stressful to our system than the more common rotating shift work. This is where you work night shifts for a period of time, then the schedule switches to day shift, and you keep on rotating. The least health risks are associated with regular daytime work. People exposed to rotating night shifts suffer from poor sleep. They have a higher risk of gaining weight, getting obese and acquiring diabetes in time. They are at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes and cancer. All-cause mortality is about twofold higher than for workers who work day shifts.

The underlying problem seems to be a disturbance of the diurnal hormone rhythm. Normally this regulates our waking/sleeping rhythm and keeps us healthy. But with nighttime work melatonin production weakens, cortisol production is reduced and hormone rejuvenation during rest periods suffers greatly. This weakens the immune system, allows cancer to develop and leads to chronic inflammation causing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The remedy to prevent this from happening is to catch little naps whenever you can during the day and, if at all possible, work daytime shifts permanently.

Jun
18
2016

High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

In the last few years we learnt a lot about vitamin D3, but the newest thing is that high vitamin D3 prevents cancer.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reported that with respect to several cancer types higher doses of vitamin D3 led to less cancer over a period of time.

The cancers investigated were colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung and bladder cancer. As people do absorb vitamin D3 differently, the researchers found that the best way to measure vitamin D3 concentration in the body is to use serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). In the past not much attention was paid to this matter. However, several studies including the present study showed that in patients who had a lower level of 20 ng/ml cancer rates were higher.

The researchers used data from two prior studies, a randomized clinical trial of 1,169 women and a prospective cohort study of 1,135 women. The researchers found that the age-adjusted cancer incidence was 1,020 cases per 100,000 person-years in the randomized clinical trial, called “Lappe cohort”. The other prospective cohort study was called the “GrassrootsHealth cohort” with an age-adjusted cancer incidence of 722 per 100,000 person-years. The interesting fact was that the Lappe cohort median blood serum level of 25(OH)D was 30 nanograms per milliliter, while the GrassrootsHealth cohort had a higher level of 25(OH)D of 48 ng/ml. This likely explains the lower cancer rate in the GrassrootsHealth cohort. In order to increase the statistical significance the two trials were combined. The striking finding was that above 40 ng/ml the overall cancer risk was more than 71% lower than for the group of people whose level of 25(OH)D was 20 ng/ml or lower. The above ScienceDaily article was based on this scientific study.

Other studies showing high vitamin D3 prevents cancer

  1. In a 2015 study Afro American men were found to have 71% less prostate cancer, if their serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level was at least 30 ng/ml or higher.
  2. This 2006 study reported a 14-year prospective follow-up in men where all cancers were counted and blood serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were correlated to cancer incidence. An increase of 25 nmol/L (=10 ng/ml) in predicted serum 25(OH)D level was associated with a 17% reduction in total cancer incidence, with a 29% reduction in total cancer mortality and a 45% reduction in digestive-system cancer mortality. These investigators stated that it takes about 1500 IU of vitamin D3 increase per day to achieve an increment of serum 25(OH)D increment of 25 nmol/L (=10 ng/ml).
  3. A publication from the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Jan. 2016 is more critical of the evidence regarding vitamin D3 and the claim that it lowers cancer rates. They reviewed the cancer literature and found that for colorectal cancer there is a clear inverse relationship between serum 25(OH)D levels on the one hand and rates and mortality of colorectal cancer on the other hand. However, with breast cancer the literature was more divided. Only higher vitamin D levels were related to a lower risk for progression of breast cancer and a lower mortality rate. Randomized, double-blind clinical trials with regard to breast cancer failed to show effectiveness on cancer prevention or reduction of mortality. For prostate cancer conditions were similar with the exception of a study using 4000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, which inhibited progression of prostate cancer.
  4. In a mouse model using a carcinogen to induce ovarian cancer there was an inverse dose-relationship between vitamin D3 and ovarian tumor development both in tissue culture and in the animal.

How high vitamin D3 prevents cancer

  1. Several studies have attempted to speculate how vitamin D3 may prevent cancer. Chirumbolo summarized the literature and noted that vitamin D3 has been shown to function as an immune cytokine stimulating the immune system non-specifically.  Vitamin D3 is also anti-inflammatory and counters insulin resistance and inflammatory kinins in obesity. Flavonoids with their antioxidant activity are also cancer preventing. As we know that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher cancer frequency it is important to use vitamin D3 as supplements in our diet.
  2. This Chinese study examined the effects of vitamin D3 on cancer prevention. It found that vitamin D3 combines three specific actions in one. Vitamin D3 is anti-proliferative meaning that it stops uncontrolled cell division. Secondly, it has an apoptotic (cell death) effect, which means it supports the removal of cells that are dying. If they are dying, but not removed, cancer can occur from these cell remnants. The third effect of vitamin D3 is that it has differentiating effects in several malignant cell types. When cancer cells are non-differentiated (=more immature cells) cancer can multiply quickly. When cancer cells are becoming more specific cells uncontrolled multiplication is much more difficult. This is an effect that controls the speed by which cancer cells divide and how quickly cancer metastasizes.
High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

High Vitamin D3 Prevents Cancer

Conclusion

There still is some confusion about the effects of vitamin D3 regarding cancer prevention. In colorectal cancer the statistics are clear: vitamin D3 can significantly prevent colorectal cancer to a large extent. There are also preventative effects in breast cancer and prostate cancer, but individuals may have to take at least 4000 IU of vitamin D3 or more. This is particularly true in higher latitudes where sunlight exposure is lower in the wintertime. Also, people absorb vitamin D3 differently. For this reason it is important to at least check your serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels on a few occasions. This will tell you whether your vitamin D3 supplementation is sufficient. Aim for levels in the 50-80 ng/ml, which is health promoting.

Apart from cancer prevention vitamin D3 is also important for prevention of cardiovascular disease (particularly in diabetics), osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Apr
23
2016

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

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

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

Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

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

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

Cardiovascular disease

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

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

Obesity

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

Diabetes

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

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

Autoimmune disorders

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

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

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

Cancer

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

Toxicity of green tea extract

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

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Healing Powers Of Green Tea

Conclusion

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

Apr
02
2016

Women Win Turning Older

Supercentenarians may teach us something about the question “Why do women win turning older”? Supercentenarians are people who are 110 years or older. Presently there are 53 of them distributed over the world, 51 are females and two are males. According to Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet this is not by chance: in other mammal species females often live longer than their male counterparts. They theorize that stem cells live longer under the influence of estrogen and this may be the explanation for the difference. They wanted to answer the burning question: “Is life expectancy linked to gender and stem cells”?

Observations regarding why women win turning older

Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet describe that several pieces of evidence are important to note.

  1. Castrated males, called eunuchs, live on average 14 years longer than the average male.
  2. Experiments with male mice treated with estrogen increased their lifespan compared to untreated male controls.
  3. Neural stem cells (NSCs) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have estrogen receptors in females. This leads to extra stimuli during pregnancy, but also during the menstrual cycle in women or the estrus cycle in female mammals.
  4. It gets more complicated: There are non-estrogen regulated stem cell niches in the liver, skin and subcutaneous tissue (important for wound healing and resident muscle stem cells, called satellite cells (SCs). For some reason liver regeneration and wound healing, but also healing of muscle injuries in women and female mammals occurs at a faster pace. Scientists still do not have an answer for this. Theories are that perhaps women with their two X-chromosomes are at an advantage compared to males (only one X-chromosome) with respect to certain wound repair mechanisms.
  5. There is the question whether longevity and self-repair capacity would be related, either through stem cell populations (NSCs, HSCs, SCs), other repair mechanisms or tissue proliferation.
  6. There are gender differences in aging patterns of stem cells. For instance studies in dizygotic twins showed that telomere length of blood cells in the female twin was much longer than in the male twin. This is thought to be due to genetic factors other than hormones, but again favoring the female.
  7. A study in males showed that there is an accumulation of damaged DNA in SC’s of muscle tissue with older age that leads to muscle senescence. In older men there is a delayed response to a specific exercise stimulus with regard to the satellite cell division (SC) when compared to the response in young men.
  8. In females estrogen stimulates telomere growth of stem cells (NSCs and HSCs), which prevents premature stem cell exhaustion.

Effects of diet and exercise on life expectancy

The Potsdam study analyzed 4 healthy behaviors in 23,153 German participants aged 35 to 65 years over 7.8 years. They looked for the development of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and cancer as end points. The 4 healthy behaviors were: to be a lifelong non-smoker , having a body mass index lower than 30, performing 3.5 h/week or more of physical activity, and adhering to healthy dietary principles (high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread and low meat consumption).

Those who had adopted all 4 healthy lifestyles reduced the development of serious disease by up to 80%. Dr. David Katz delivered a keynote address at the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas Dec. 10-14, 2014 entitled “Integrative Medicine: A Bridge Over Healthcare’s Troubled Waters”. He mentioned the Potsdam study. And he mentioned what the new logic of a healthy lifestyle is: a healthy lifestyle causes healthy telomeres of somatic cells and of stem cells; this causes health until a ripe old age.

Life Expectancy Linked To Gender And Stem Cells

Life Expectancy Linked To Gender And Stem Cells

Conclusion why women win turning older

It seems that women and female mammals are more protected by nature than males. The previously called ”weak sex” is in fact a lot stronger! This may be the reason that among supercentenarians there are only a few males remaining. But we don’t know how many males take the lifestyle factors of the Potsdam study serious. Males who want to age gracefully have to pay more attention to healthy lifestyles. This leads to longer telomeres and this allows for stem cell and somatic cell renewal. There are still many unanswered questions, but life expectancy is definitely related to how well we preserve stem cells throughout our body. This in turn depends very much on our lifestyle patterns.

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Jan
09
2016

Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

In the December 2015 issue of the LifeExtension Magazine Mr. William Faloon provided an interesting editorial that outlined the dangers of X-rays, particularly of CT scans. Physicians often order CT scans to decrease their medico-legal risks or because they own part of the CT scan equipment.

Various publications give estimates of unnecessary CT scans in the order of 30% to 50%.

Brief history of X-ray machine inventions         

Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, a German physicist was investigating electromagnetic wave lengths and detected electromagnetic waves in the range of X-rays. He won the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901 for his achievement.

  1. Marie Curie and her husband were experimenting with X-rays producing machines and developed the prototype of an X-ray machine that could be used for diagnostic purposes to visualize broken bones or the typical findings of pneumonia or tuberculosis on chest X-rays.
  2. Thomas Edison was fascinated by this type of work and invented the fluoroscopy X-ray machine where the doctor could get instant feedback by watching on a screen when a needle was inserted. A helper, Clarence Dally who worked in Edison’s lab developed radiation sickness from X-ray overdoses and died. This haunted Edison for the rest of his life and he quit experimenting with X-rays.
  3. The CT scan was invented in the 1980’s and was immediately used for difficult to diagnose clinical cases. It was not advertised that the dosage of one abdominal CT scan was about 400-times stronger than that of a simple lung X-ray. This means that the danger of developing cancer as a late complication due to a CT scan also had a 400-fold higher risk. High sensitivity CT scans using lower X-ray doses have been invented, but they are not always available. It is simpler for the technician to keep the X-ray dose at the higher dosage setting than adjust the CT scanner to the body mass index of patients. A child should not receive the dosage of an adult, but again it is simpler to keep the CT dosage dial in the same setting. This is an unnecessary X-ray overexposure for the patient.

History of cancer complications from radiation

When Mrs. Curie was experimenting with X-rays and radioactive elements she was not aware of the potentially deadly effects of radiation. She died in 1934 at the age of only 67 of aplastic leukemia from unprotected exposure to radiation.

Unfortunately there were many radiation disasters throughout history that made it clear that X-rays can cause cancer years after the original exposure.

The nuclear bombs of Nagasaki and Hiroshima are ugly reminders how ionizing radiation affects people in terms of getting cancer even years after the initial exposure.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed a lot of people not only in the Chernobyl area (the present state of the Ukraine), but also in Belorussia.

The latest experience comes from the Fukushima disaster in Japan, where authorities initially were slow to respond. Now they have a regular screening in place that identifies youngsters at risk for developing cancers and leukemia.

What all of these disasters have taught medical researchers is that cancerous transformation of tissues can occur even decades after prior exposure. At present there is no safe test that will predict with certainty when a cancer will develop.

Radiation exposure from various X-ray procedures

Because cases of cancer depend on the dosage used for diagnostic purposes, I am going to list dosages for common X-ray procedures, compared to a chest X-ray (modified according to article in the December 2015 LifeExtension Magazine):

Diagnostic             Effective dose (mSv)             Number of Chest               Time to reach dose from                                                          

procedure                                                               X-rays needed to                background radiation

                                                                               get equivalent dose

Chest X-ray                        0.02                                              1                                                 2.4 days

(PA film)

Skull X-ray                           0.1                                               5                                                 12 days

Lower back                          1.5                                             75                                                182 days

Kidney X-rays                      3                                               150                                                 1.0 year

Stomach and

intestine exam                      6                                               300                                                 2.0 years

Colon exam (Barium)           8                                               400                                                  2.7 years

CT scan head                       2                                               100                                                 243 days

CT scan abdomen                8                                               400                                                  2.7 years

You see from this overview that a CT scan generally has a higher X-ray dosage than a plain X-ray, but internal organ X-rays (stomach/intestine and colon X-rays) also use a high dosage of X-rays.

Balance the patient’s need for an X-ray with the risk from it

A CT scan has the ability to image soft tissues, bone and blood vessels, which makes it a useful tool to depict bone fractures, distinguish between hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke and visualize an abscess in the soft tissue. On the other hand there are real concerns about radiation exposure and possible cancer development years after the tests have been done. With any medical procedure physicians have no problems accepting a risk versus benefit analysis. However radiation history showed that physicians were totally oblivious to the possibility of radiation being able to cause cancers until only recently. In the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it became clear that even decades after exposure new cancer cases were found among exposed people. Most recently with children and adults exposed to radiation from Fukushima it is clear that thyroid cancers are much more frequent in exposed children and adults than in non-exposed controls.

Researches compared over 680,000 children and adults born in the 1980’s who had at least one CT scan done with a similar large, matched group who were never exposed to a CT scan (Ref.1). The ones who had their CT scan in childhood had a risk of 24% to develop any kind of cancer. If the same person had more than one CT scan the cancer risk was even higher: 35% higher in the first 4 years of exposure; 25% higher at 4 to 9 years and 14% higher still at 10 to 14 years. A group who had their first CT scan exposure 15 years or more ago still had a 24% risk of developing cancer compared to controls who never had a CT scan. What type of cancers did they get? It is a vary varied list: solid tumors in the digestive tract, urinary tract, brain, ovary/uterus, skin and thyroid; among blood cancers they got leukemia and lymphomas. There were also other cancers that were less frequently encountered.

If follows from this:

  1. If another study is available that can show an abscess, then an ultrasound that does not utilize ionizing radiation would be a superior test to use!
  2. An MRI scan of the brain is superior in stroke patients to distinguish between hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke than a CT scan.
  3. Plain X-rays with less radiation exposure than CT scans often show bone fractures well enough for the orthopedic surgeon to be able to say whether or not a surgical intervention is necessary or conventional management with casts is sufficient. As can be seen from the table above there is 20-fold less X-ray exposure than with a CT scan.

Protection from ionizing radiation

In the fall-out of Chernobyl and Fukushima researchers have gone back to some fundamental observations. Certain supplements have been shown to be cancer protective.

Four plant-derived remedies are useful in fighting radiation damage from CT scans or X-rays.

  1. Blueberries or blueberry extract has been shown to repair DNA damage from radiation.
  2. Ginkgo biloba, a well-known botanical is capable of scavenging free radicals (reactive oxygen species) produced by radiation. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to reduce abnormal chromosomes by 60% in previously radiation-exposed individuals compared to non-treated controls. During the Chernobyl disaster blood samples from Armenian workers who cleaned up the nuclear reactor had 17.9 abnormal chromosomes per 100 cells; after 120mg of ginkgo biloba for 2 months the cells with chromosome damage were reduced to 5.7 per 100 cells. These benefits persisted for 7 months, but after 1 year 33% of workers had abnormal chromosomes again.
  3. Lemon balm extract is used in the meat industry to keep meat from oxidizing. Lemon balm has three stabilizing functions regarding ionizing radiation: it boosts the levels of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which is an essential component of the body’s system to protect itself from ionizing radiation. The second effect of lemon balm is to stabilize lipid cell membranes, which prevents direct cell damage following radiation. The third effect of lemon balm is protection of DNA similar to blueberries. In one study radiation technologists were given 1.5 grams/100ml of lemon balm tea twice daily for 30 days. Judging by various cell markers these radiation technicians experienced between 10% and 61% of lower radiation damage on their cells.
  4. Spirulina extract stimulates white cell, monocyte and red cell production following exposure to radiation. Research has shown that 4 grams of Spirulina per day for 21 days following the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion given to youngsters normalized their blood values and they survived. Other research has shown that Spirulina stimulates the granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), which stimulates bone marrow precursor cells, the precursors of immune cells.
Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

Safety Of CT Scans And X-Rays

Conclusion

The medical profession has belittled radiation damage, until the landmark study of 2013 emerged and the consequences were described above. Now there is no question that the radiation dosage of CT scans has been linked to causation of cancer. The decision to order a CT scan should be done cautiously and needs to take into consideration the seriousness of the patient’s condition, the benefit of what CT scan findings would show and the risk that this CT scan will impose on the patient. Alternative non-ionizing tests such, as ultrasounds and MRI scans should be considered. If a CT scan cannot be avoided, blueberries, Ginkgo biloba, lemon balm and Spirulina should be given at least 5 days before and 5 days after the CT scan to minimize the ionizing radiation effect on the body’s tissues, which in turn will reduce the risk of developing cancer later. It is important for the patient to be informed. Anybody who is told that he or she needs a CT scan should not be afraid of asking questions about alternative investigation techniques.

References

Ref. 1: Mathews JD et al. “Cancer risk in 680,000 people exposed to computed tomography scans in childhood or adolescence: data linkage study of 11 million Australians.” BMJ. 2013; 346:f2360.

Dec
05
2015

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that processed foods are cancer producing. The report also stated that to a lesser degree red meat is also cancer causing. Overall there are 34,000 people per year worldwide who die from cancers that are related to the consumption of processed foods. They are mainly colorectal cancers, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Seeing deaths from processed meat in perspective

When you relate the 34,000 processed food related cancers to all of the 8.2 million cancer deaths per year worldwide, the cancer numbers related to processed food amount to only 0.41 % of all the cancer deaths in the world, which is a very small percentage. In comparison to these numbers smoking as a cause of cancer is responsible for the death of 1 million people per year. Furthermore, there are 600,000 deaths due to drinking alcohol, and 200,000 deaths due to breathing polluted air. Of course it has to be emphasized that it is important to avoid cancer causes wherever possible!

Nevertheless we are talking about preventative deaths and the public should be informed about what the risks are due to consuming processed meats, cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and breathing polluted air.

Pancreatic cancer study

A large multi-ethnic study analyzed data from 190,545 men and women at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii. In an average follow-up time of 7 years there were 482 incidents of pancreatic cancer, and it became obvious that processed meats play a role in the increase of pancreatic cancer. After taking other risk factors into consideration like a positive family history, age, smoking and diabetes mellitus, those patients who consumed the largest amount of processed meats had a 67% increased risk for pancreatic cancer as opposed to those who had the lowest intake of these foods. A diet rich in red meats increased the pancreatic cancer risk by about 50%.

Poultry, fish, dairy products and egg intake showed no pancreatic cancer risk factor, nor did it matter how much fat, saturated fat or cholesterol was consumed over the 7 year observation period.

The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Ute Noethlings, observed that the risk increase is a consequence of meat processing. The main culprit would very likely be carcinogenic substances which are used in processed meat production.

Too much red meat

Grain fed or corn fed and antibiotic treated regular beef changes the gut bacteria and can cause superbugs. The change of the gut flora can lead to inflammation in the gut lining and a condition called “leaky gut syndrome”. We carry almost 2 pounds of gut bacteria in us at any given time. Residual antibiotics from regular beef and chicken reduce that amount and change the composition of our gut flora.

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 have the same effect. To prevent leaky gut syndrome, heart attacks and strokes from developing you can also 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. But this does not mean that you pop a supplement, and you can blissfully ignore sensible nutrition!

Red meat can cause heart attacks in diabetics

Red meat is one of the sources of protein, but doctors from the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the January edition of Diabetes Care, that a type 2 diabetes diet should go easy on red meat.

Type 2 diabetics are at risk for subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD), and intake of iron rich food was significantly associated with a greater risk of fatal CHD. The results come from a prospective study of 6,161 women from the Nurses’ Health Study.

All of these patients reported a diagnosis of adult onset diabetes, and they were followed between 1980 through 2000, which amounts to an impressive 54,455 person-years follow-up. Attention was paid to the food questionnaires, which were monitored for the consumption of iron and red meat such as beef, pork or lamb as a main dish, also for the use of beef in roast beef sandwiches and mixed dishes, hamburger, hot dog, processed meat and bacon. Note was also taken of other nutrients such as seafood and poultry.
Women with diabetes who ate the most iron in the form of heme found in red meats had a 50% increased risk of total coronary heart disease as compared to those with the lowest intake. The risk ratio with women was more obvious for postmenopausal women when compared with premenopausal women .

While lean beef may be a good protein food to the average population, type 2 diabetics might choose to cut back on red meat and processed red meat sources and replace it with a heart-friendlier choice. Fresh seafood, rich in omega -3 fatty acids, would rank high on the list of a healthy eating plan.

Another prospective study of 72,113 women over 18 years found a definitive relationship between dietary patterns and cancer and heart attacks. A prudent diet with high intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains had a very low cancer and heart attack rate. Conversely a Western diet consisting of high intakes of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, French fries, and sweets/desserts led to a higher cardiovascular mortality risk of 22% and a higher cancer mortality risk of 16%.

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

Conclusion

Although the World Health Organization has now announced that processed food is carcinogenic, this piece of news is not entirely new. Hopefully it will work its way into the consciousness of the population at large. Meat processors producing sausages, ham and other processed meat varieties will not stop advertising their products in a way to make them sound tasty and delicious for the consumer. Colorful images are geared to make the prospective buyer drool, but this is a make-believe world in the art of commercials. In the end it is the consumer who has to make a decision which food is tasty and also beneficial. Only when the customer makes the choice for health and stops buying foods that border to being nutritionally hazardous products, we will see a true change in health statistics. But while you are thinking about changes, do not forget to quit smoking, cut down your alcohol consumption and perhaps, if possible move to a less polluted area. All of that will help to reduce mortality rates!

More info about pancreatic cancer: Causes of cancer of the pancreas.

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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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