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.

Nov
12
2016

Stress Drives Our Lives

Every year the American Psychological Association (APA) monitors the American public how stress drives our lives. This yearly report has been compiled since 2007. About 75% of the people questioned reported that they have experienced moderate to high stress over the past month.

Symptoms when stress drives our lives

What kind of symptoms can stress cause? It can cause sleep deprivation, anxiety, headaches and depression. But there can be more symptoms from any disease that stress may cause. The “Stress in America” report from February 2016 shows on page 5 that unhealthy life habits are used by low-income Americans to cope with stress. A bar graph shows that watching television or movies for more than 2 hours per day is common. Another way of coping is to surf the Internet more often, take more naps or sleep longer. Eating more, drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking more are other unhealthy ways to cope with stress.

As the stressed person gains extra weight and eventually becomes obese, there is a higher rate of diabetes that can develop with all of its complications.

Causes of stress in our lives

The “Stress in America” survey was based on 3,068 adults in the US who completed the survey during August 2015. 72% were stressed out about financial issues. 22% of these said that they were extremely stressed in the past month as a result of money concerns. Other common concerns were work, the economy, family responsibilities and concerns about personal health. Average stress levels among Americans decreased when compared to 2007. On a 10-point stress score respondents rated their stress at 4.9 in 2016 compared to 6.2 in 2007. But according to the American Psychological Association this is much higher than a stress rating of 3.7 considered to be a healthy level.

Stress affects people from all walks of life, workers, women, young adults, students and those with lower incomes.

“Stress is caused by the loss or threat of loss of the personal, social and material resources that are primary to us” Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Rush University Medical Center said. “So, threat to self, threat to self-esteem, threat to income, threat to employment and threat to our family or our health…” is what causes stress.

Stress drives our lives causing disease

When stress is too much for our system, we are starting to see pathology develop. “Stress is seldom the root cause of disease, but rather interacts with our genetics and our state of our bodies in ways that accelerate disease” professor Hobfoll says. The following are common diseases that can result from chronic stress.

Heart attacks and strokes

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for a mean of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There were a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours compared to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. A dose-response association was calculated for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives our lives and causes substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us treat daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next many people still smoke, which has been proven long time ago to be bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. As comfort food relieves stress, extra pounds are put on. As you know it is easier to put weight on than get it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This deteriorates your health outlook.

Diabetes

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition unhealthy eating habits associated with stress can cause weight gain and high blood sugars leading to diabetes.

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Their waist/hip ratio was elevated.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless.

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

Diabetes was significantly associated with a 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder with a 1.53-fold risk. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Stress has been identified as being at least a contributing factor. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease

A 2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychological stress was rated in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was reported higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past and was more severe the more stress they were exposed to in the past. Women who were exposed to stress on one, two or three examinations were observed to have higher dementia rates later in life, when compared to women who were not exposed to any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher when exposed to one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher when exposed to three stressful episodes.

Remedies for stress

Before you can attempt to remedy stress, you must first detect that you are under stress. You can recognize this when you have problems sleeping, you suffer from fatigue, when overeating or undereating is a problem, and if you feel depressed. Others may feel angry or are irritable. Some bad lifestyle habits may also make you aware that you are under stress. You may smoke or drink more in an attempt to manage stress. Some people abuse drugs.

Here are some suggestions how to remedy stress:

  1. Seek support from family, friends or religious organizations. If you engage in drugs or alcohol overuse or you feel suicidal, it is best to seek the advice from a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  2. Engage in regular exercise. This produces endorphins, the natural “feel-good” brain hormone. This reduces symptoms of depression and improves sleep quality.
  3. Do something that increases pleasure, such as having a meal with friends, starting a hobby or watching a good movie.
  4. Positive self-talk: avoid negative thoughts like “I can’t do this”. Instead say to yourself “I will do the best I can”. Psychologists have developed a technique where they teach patients how to turn negatives into positives. It is called “cognitive therapy”. You may want to seek the advice of a psychologist to have a few cognitive therapy sessions.
  5. Daily relaxation: you may want to use self-hypnosis, tai-chi exercises or meditation to reduce your stress levels.
Stress Drives Our Lives

Stress Drives Our Lives

Conclusion

Stress is very common. Diverse diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease can all be caused by stress. It is important to minimize the impact of stress by seeking family support and support from friends. Engaging in regular exercise will release endorphins and make you feel better. Relaxation exercises and seeking counselling can all help you to manage stress. It is not a force in your life that can be ignored or simply tolerated. Stress is indeed there, but we can make a difference by managing it to avoid that stress manages us.

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Sep
17
2016

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Forbes invited me to publish a blog I wrote for Quora, “Seven steps to live over 100 years”.

The topic of habits by people who live more than a hundred years has been reviewed many times in the media. It continues to be popular. Here are seven things you can do to stay healthy followed by an explanation why.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step1: Stay active

You want to stay active every day, even if you retire. You want to move and keep your mind busy. Part of that is to do a daily formal exercise routine to keep those muscles toned, which will prevent falls in the future.

Explanation: when you keep your muscles toned and you move about, your balance organ and coordination remains sharp, you are less likely to fall and break a hip. 50% of those who sustain a hip fracture die.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 2: Eat a healthy diet

Eat a Mediterranean type diet or follow the Okinawan diet. These diets contain less meat (or no meat as in the Seventh Day Adventist diet), but lots of vegetables and fiber. This keeps your cholesterol down, your arteries open and your metabolism controlled, preventing diabetes. If you are not obese and you have no diabetes, you are going to be OK with your cardiovascular system for decades to come.

Explanation: Heart attacks are still on top of the mortality list. Avoid them and you got it made, if you want to make it to 100 and beyond. But we need to stay away from the poor fats and the obsession about eating beef. Red meat, if eaten too often gives you a higher risk of getting cancer and heart disease. So eat it only once a week at the most, the rest would be chicken, turkey meat or fish. Nothing wrong with a vegetarian meal, let’s say kidney beans or lentils on a day in between. This still gives you protein for your muscles, but spares you a heart attack.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 3: Take care of your teeth

Brush your teeth and floss every day. This will control the bacteria in your mouth and prevent leakage into your blood affecting your heart valves. Studies have shown that this prevents heart attacks.

Explanation: When I heard this first about 20 years ago, I found it strange. But the literature is clear: chronic gingivitis is associated with bacteria that grow on the gums and spread into your blood. They can then colonize your heart valves and even the lining of the arteries, particularly where there is already hardening of the arteries (arterial plaque). This can lead to heart valve disease like mitral valve disease or heart attacks.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 4: prevention of disease

See your physician right away if there is a new skin lesion or anything that is different on your body. Removal of early cancer and treatment of any early medical condition is always easier to treat than waiting until it is out of control. Particularly with cancer treatment at an early stage, which usually involves only a small surgical procedure, this will reward you with a ripe old age.

Explanation: I learnt this point in general practice. Patients who waited until small problems become big problems were always much worse off than patients who saw me for small problems that we could remedy at an early stage. As mentioned above this is particularly important in cancer cases, as usually stage 1 and 2 of a cancer is curable with surgery. Once you get lymph node metastases and distant metastases, the cancer is much more difficult to treat, if at all. This is a principle that is pretty much true for any disease. The prevention factor is huge. Make use of it!

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 5: Lifestyle matters

Watch excesses like smoking (cut it out!), alcohol intake, and recreational drugs. Smoking causes heart attacks, strokes, and cancers, which shorten your life. Recreational drugs just interfere with your body chemistry and have side effects. Cut them out, if you cherish growing older than 100. Alcohol needs to be kept at a very low consumption, if you want to preserve your liver, which is your central metabolic organ. If you can’t handle moderation with alcohol consumption, cut it out. No one has died from not consuming alcohol.

Explanation: I have already explained why lifestyle choices matter. The alcohol question is one that will be discussed back and forth for centuries. There are cardiologists who tell you that men should drink 1 to 2 drinks per day and women 1 drink per day and we all live longer, because of prevention of heart disease. The wine industry makes sure that you will hear this cardiology rule. It is true that centenarians often drink one glass of red wine per day. But there are plenty of centenarians who never drank in their life. It is a matter of personal choice.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 6: Avoid obesity and diabetes

I did mention to avoid obesity under point 2 above, which is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Your ideal body mass index should be in the 21 to 22 range. You can achieve this by following the diets I mentioned above. You should cut out sugar and starchy foods.

Explanation: I have followed such a diet since 2001 and my body mass index is between 21 and 22. I grew up in Germany where an emphasis was put on sweets and starchy foods. Needless to say my modified Mediterranean diet deviates from the good old German diet significantly. I find healthy food very tasty.

Seven steps to live over 100 years – step 7: Sleep and hormones

Getting sleep regularly, having an optimistic outlook on life, and having good relationships help to keep the immune system strong and keep your hormones balanced. This in turn will keep you healthy emotionally and physically.

Explanation:

There are two comments I like to make. One is that when you have calm nerves, and your emotions are balanced, your stress hormones are controlled. We know that people who are laid back and easy going live longer. The type A personality is the one who gets a heart attack.

The other point is that hormones have running times. When they start missing, we get menopause or andropause. When we are in our 50’s it is time to have your hormones checked by a knowledgeable health practitioner (naturopath, anti-aging physician). At this point regular physicians are mostly uneducated about bioidentical hormone replacement. I mention this as in European studies it has been shown that replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones resulted in more youthful lives. Life expectancy can be prolonged by 15 years using bioidentical hormones according to Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist in Belgium. http://www.askdrray.com/life-extended-by-several-decades/

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Seven Steps To Live Over 100 Years

Conclusion

People have always been fascinated about the factors that lead to a healthy age above 100 years. I am suggesting that you concentrate on enjoying your life and keeping toxins out. Engage in some form of exercise or stay active all the time. Adopt a healthy diet. This is where perhaps most people go wrong. They think they can go on pouring junk foods and alcohol down their throats and never get heart disease or cancer. The truth is not quite like that. We do need to adopt a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet. We also need to limit drinking to a healthy level. Replacing missing hormones with bioidentical ones will prolong your life as well. Given these recommendations, happy journey to 100 and beyond!

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Jul
09
2016

Avoid That Heart Attack

Recently Dr. Mark Hyman mentioned a 7-point program to avoid that heart attack. If you follow the recommendations below, chances are that you do not only avoid heart attacks, but also strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The Potsdam (or EPIC) study has shown that adhering to 4 simple things can reduce

Diabetes by 93%

Heart attacks by 81%

Strokes by 50%

All cancers by 36%.

What were those 4 points?

  1. Not smoking
  2. Exercising 3.5 hours a week
  3. Eating a healthy diet
  4. And maintaining a healthy weight

So with a few more points added it is no wonder that the figures can be even more impressive.

Other studies have also shown the importance of lifestyle changes to improve health outcomes; the INTERHEART study was based on 30,000 people in 52 countries that were followed along. Researchers found that 90 percent of all heart disease could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes.  I have added another point, regular exercise that has been proven to be very effective in preventing many diseases.

So, what are the 8 points that can assure that our health improves?

  1. Avoid that heart attack with a colorful, plant-based diet

Your dietary intake is important, because it provides all of the building blocks for your body. You want whole foods that are rich in phytonutrients. Often rainbow colors are mentioned, because the more varied your vegetables look, the more balanced the micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the food items. Below we will learn that we want to avoid processed foods and hydrogenated fats, but we want to increase fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by stabilizing your blood sugar

Never eat refined carbs alone, as this goes chases up your blood sugar levels and causes unhealthy insulin reactions. Too much insulin production causes inflammation in the body, which can cause inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, clogged arteries with heart attacks and strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. You want to balance complex carbs from vegetables with healthy fats and clean protein in every meal. Avoid sugars- no matter whether it is “natural brown” or white sugar and refined carbohydrates. Your pancreas does not differentiate between honey and other sugars, and it will react the same way!

  1. Avoid that heart attack by increasing fiber intake

The more fiber you can tolerate, the better. 50 grams would be ideal, but not everybody can tolerate this due to bloating or a queasy stomach. But even if you can add 5 or 10 grams of fiber per day, this is progress. Fiber decreases LDL cholesterol by intervening with the enterohepatic pathway. Fiber is found in nuts, beans, vegetables, seeds and berries that have lower sugar in them. You can also take a fiber supplement directly like psyllium husk.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by cutting out processed foods

Processed foods and junk foods are popular as they fill you up fast when you are hungry. But they need to be avoided at all costs. Sodas, juices and diet drinks affect your sugar and fat metabolism. The extra calories that come from sugary drinks are the biggest contributors to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Even 100% fruit juice is not healthy, because all of the fiber is removed and you are drinking sugar water to which your pancreas reacts by producing extra insulin. As already discussed the extra insulin just causes inflammation. May I suggest a homemade lemon juice that you make by squeezing ½ lemon into a glass; add a tiny bit of Stevia for sweetening and sparkling mineral water. This is a healthy drink without sugar. You can drink this as often as you want. Another component of processed food are omega-6 fatty acids. They are in processed foods, because they increase the shelf life in stores. But they cause inflammation in the body unless balanced by omega-3 fatty acids (see below).

  1. Avoid that heart attack by increasing omega-3 fatty acids

Fish and seafood provide you with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately not all fish are healthy. Tuna is a predator fish that accumulates a lot of mercury from the polluted oceans. As a result of this it is not on my fish list. I prefer wild salmon. I also take molecularly distilled fish oil, which has omega-3 fatty acids in it. Many processed foods contain only omega-6 fatty acids, because this is the cheapest way to produce them (they are based on vegetable oils). Also avoid soybean oil, which is the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio should be 1:1 to 3:1, but many Americans’ omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 6:1 to 18:1. Omega-6-fatty acids cause arthritis, heart disease and strokes. Instead you want to eat healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids contained in nuts and fish. You can also add molecularly distilled, high potency omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement to help restore the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in your food intake.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by eliminating all hydrogenated fat

Hydrogenated fat like margarine has been shown to cause accelerated hardening of the arteries, which causes heart attacks and strokes. Read labels and eliminate any food that contains hydrogenated fats. If the label indicates that you are dealing with a product containing ”partially hydrogenated oil”, stay away from it as well! Butter from grass fed cows is a healthy fat. Olive oil and coconut oil are both good cooking oils. Olive oil is also good in salad dressings.

  1. Avoid that heart attack by keeping alcohol to a minimum

The problem with alcohol is that it is a cell poison. On the other hand small amounts have been show to reduce heart attacks and strokes (one glass for women, two glasses for men per day). However, due to the cell poison effect even low amounts of alcohol contribute to cancer causation, and as a result of that alcohol remains a problem. If you must consume alcohol limiting the intake to minimal amounts is prudent. In women ovarian cancer can be caused by alcohol and men prostate cancer. In both sexes pancreatic cancer can be caused by alcohol. Higher amounts of alcohol raise inflammation with elevation of blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. One recommendation: either consume no alcohol or use alcohol in moderation. One glass does not kill you, but several ones may do it over time!

  1. Avoid that heart attack by exercising regularly

Regular exercise is yet another factor that can help you to reduce heart attacks, strokes and cancer even further. I added it as point 8, because it is fundamentally such an important preventative factor. Some studies have shown as much as a 50% drop in many diseases simply by introducing regular exercise.

Avoid That Heart Attack

Avoid That Heart Attack

Conclusion

It is all about lifestyle factors. Pay attention to your diet. Add fiber, subtract sugar. Avoid processed foods, omega-6 fatty acids and hydrogenated fat. Have enough omega-3 fatty acids as fish and supplements. Keep alcohol to a minimum. Your benefits from changing these lifestyle factors, result in huge benefits. You are avoiding 90% of diabetes, 80% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 35% of cancers.

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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.

Dec
26
2015

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Coffee has long been a subject of heated discussions. It has been praised or condemned. Many studies have been done in the past; some showed health benefits, some did not. A new, larger study was done by the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA to re-examine this issue for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

Mortality was determined among 74,890 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), 93,054 women in the NHS 2, and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study after a medium follow-up of 22.5 years. 19,524 women and 12,432 men died during that time period. Ming Ding is a doctoral student in the Harvard School of Public Health department of nutrition and was the lead author of the study that was published in the medical journal “Circulation”. She pointed out that in the past there were confounding problems: although many studies had shown that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease, the results in many studies were blurred. Studies often did not distinguish between smokers and nonsmokers; so a beneficial effect from coffee drinking was wiped out by the cardiovascular risk from smoking.

Ding’s studies took this into account and also other confounding factors like how much sugary soda pop people were drinking and whether or not they were eating well. In addition they normalized for other factors that could interfere like drinking alcohol and eating red meat.

Without normalizing for the factors mentioned above the study results were as follows. Study participants had less than a cup of coffee and three cups a day had a 5% to 9% lower risk of dying than those who drank no coffee. Those who drank more than three cups a day did not see any benefit.

However, when all the confounding factors were removed and the various groups were compared again the following emerged:

  • Less than 1 cup of coffee per day: 6% lower death rates than non-coffee drinkers.
  • 1 cup to 3 cups of coffee per day: 8% lower death rates.
  • 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day: 15% lower death rates.
  • More than 5 cups of coffee per day: 12% lower death rates.

Ming Ding was associated with another research paper that had shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. She found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk of getting diabetes later in life.

When asked about what would be responsible for the reduced death rates with coffee consumption, Ding explained: “There are at least two known chemicals in coffee, namely lignans and chlorogenic acid that could reduce inflammation and help control blood sugar, both of which could help reduce the risk of heart disease”.

Although there seems to be a linear response up to 5 cups of coffee consumption, above 5 cups this linear relationship disappeared. It was not explained whether there was a saturation point reached, whether there was yet another hidden confounding factor or whether there were detrimental effects on the adrenal glands with too much coffee consumption.

Another finding was that it did not matter whether the coffee was regular (caffeinated) coffee or decaffeinated coffee. The results were identical.

Many other studies did not have the large numbers to show whether or not decaffeinated coffee was as effective in preventing heart disease.

Finally, there was another peculiar finding; suicides were down by 20% to 36%, if a person drank at least one cup of coffee per day. But if a person consumed less than 1 cup of coffee per day the suicide rate was 36% higher than the control group with no coffee consumption. This is a rather peculiar finding, particularly for the consumption of less than 1 cup of coffee. But other studies have also shown a decrease in suicide rates with coffee consumption.

Although previous studies had shown a reduction in liver and prostate cancer, after the removal of confounding factors this study did not show any effects on cancer causation or cancer death rates with coffee consumption.

Discussion

The Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA has excelled in high quality nutritional studies for decades. But this study is particularly important, because it is so large giving it more statistical power; secondly, the observation time of an average of 22.5 years is longer than most coffee studies in the past. Add to this the removal of the noise (called confounding factors) that interfered with the objective of the study and you end up with a very meaningful result.

The important findings were that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have the same effect of saving lives. Perhaps you want to drink not more than 5 cups of coffee per day. That lowers your risk of premature death by 15%. It is most likely that it is the effect of lowering the rate of diabetes and heart attack rates that is responsible for the risk reduction. At least this was the opinion of the chief investigator. Cancer rates were not lowered by coffee consumption.

I sleep better when I drink decaffeinated coffee, so for me the notion that decaffeinated coffee had the same effect as regular coffee was important.

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Coffee Could Be A Lifesaver

Conclusion

Here is a study that is large enough, went long enough, and showed decisively that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee will reduce the death rate by 15% up to 5 cups of coffee per day. This finding was true for both males and females. Coffee seems to also reduce the suicide risk by a mechanism that has not yet been determined. If you want to live 15% longer than your previous life expectancy would have been without coffee, you may now have your coffee and enjoy it!

Dec
19
2015

Beer Belly Bad News

You heard the expression “beer belly”. It is an unflattering term for increased abdominal girth, especially in males. It is quite often that this picture is found in middle-aged men who consume more beer than what is good for them, but they may also mill around the hot dog stands at the ball game instead of being physically active. Any leftover calories are stored as belly fat, which protrudes their stomach as if they were pregnant.

There is a big difference between belly fat and body fat. Belly fat is metabolically much more active. Body fat is more sessile. So, it is the belly fat we need to do something about as this has been shown to be associated with heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Originally it was thought that excessive weight would best be measured with the body mass index (BMI). But subsequently it was shown that athletes with well-developed muscles could have BMI’s that were in the overweight (between 25.0 and 30.0) or even obese category (more than 30.0). Also, some people with heavy bones can have excessive BMI values despite them being normal based on other measurements. The new measurement is the old fashioned abdominal girth to hip ratio.

You measure the abdominal girth, the hip girth and divide the abdominal girth by the hip girth. Normally this should be 80% (=0.8) or less for women and 90% (=0.9) or less for men. But a person with a beer belly will have ratios of 1.2 or 1.5. This is where it shows that there is a problem. If you take blood tests of that person you would also find elevated triglycerides, lowered HDL cholesterol (the protective cholesterol) and elevated LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). But it does not stop there. We know from studies that often the insulin level is elevated in the sense of hyperinsulinism. In fact that person has often the metabolic syndrome, which is a characteristic change of the metabolism in an obese person. The blood is thicker with clotting factors floating around, there are inflammatory kinins that circulate and these factors work together on causing hardening of the arteries.

Why is a beer belly dangerous?

There are not only cardiovascular risk on the long-term causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. There is a danger of fat deposits in the liver, called fatty liver disease.

In time this can turn into liver cirrhosis and in some cases develop into liver cancer. Because belly fat causes inflammation in the system including in the lining of the blood vessels, this can in time also affect the immune system, weakening it and eventually allowing cancer to develop. Common cancers that are associated with obesity are breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and pancreas and colon cancer in both sexes.

In men beer bellies produce a lot of estrogen, the female hormone. This is so because fat tissue contains the enzyme aromatase that metabolizes male hormones into estrogen. Estrogen in men is only good in traces, but when it is massively produced it will counter testosterone production and will cause heart attacks and strokes.

What can be done about a beer belly?

We need to understand how beer bellies develop. One of the sources of fat from beer bellies is the consumption of foods that contain a lot of fructose. Food manufacturers have been diligent in mixing high fructose corn syrup into sugary drinks and into a myriad of processed foods.

Sugar itself can only be processed and stored until the glycogen stores in the liver and the muscles are filled. The liver metabolizes a surplus of sugar into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. This is also the case for any fructose that comes from metabolized sucrose (table sugar) and from the high fructose corn syrup popular with the food processing industry. One problem is that fructose can only be processed by the liver, while glucose gests directly taken up by cells with the help of insulin.

The surplus of fructose is mostly used to metabolize into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol before it is stored as fat in fat cells. Unfortunately a lot of the fat will end up between your guts, in the liver as fatty liver and in the beer belly, a metabolically more active form of fat.

The sad part is that in the 1960’s I have seen the German economic wonder (“Wirtschaftswunder”) where many mid fifty to mid sixty business men died as a result of obesity and subsequent heart attacks and strokes. At that time it was thought that Germans having been starved during World War II lived it up in the late fifties and 1960’s to the point where they ate what they could get hold of: cakes, fatty cheeses, whipped cream, fatty foods like pork roasts and beef. They also consumed loads of bread, buns, pasta and sugar. Margarine also became popular with its hydrogenated fatty acids that also contained free radicals. The end result was that they gained weight, did not exercise and developed their beer bellies.

Since the 1980’s when low fat/high carbs became popular to replace saturated fatty acids that were supposed to be responsible for heart attacks, strokes and obesity, obesity continued to steadily increase. Sure, the hydrogenated fatty acids did not help and should be cut out. But the bigger problem was the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and over-consuming high glycemic-index carbohydrates.

Here is the solution of what to do get rid of the beer belly.

  1. Remove sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your diet.
  2. The second effective step is to cut out as many empty starches that you can cut out like white rice, bread, sweets, cookies, cakes, ice cream and pasta. The reason for this is that these starchy foods get metabolized in the gut into sugar, which causes an insulin response. The extra insulin is responsible for developing inflammation in the arteries, which eventually leads to heart attacks and strokes.
  3. Exercise on a regular basis. This will produce HDL cholesterol, the protective cholesterol, which balances LDL cholesterol.
  4. Perhaps the most important step is to rebalance your food intake. With this I mean that you replace high glycemic-index carbs with low glycemic-index carbs. This means you will eat a lot of salads, steamed vegetables, and fruit. This gives you a lot of extra fiber, which your system needs to slow down the rate of sugar absorption, helps you to lower LDL cholesterol and helps you to detoxify your body in the gut where toxins are bound to fiber.
  5. If you are heavily into alcoholic drinks there is another source of refined carbohydrates that gets metabolized into LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and can cause fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis. A moderate consumption of alcohol (one drink for women per day and two drinks for men per day) lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while excessive alcohol intake increases the risk.
  6. Bioidentical hormone replacement may be something you have not heard about. But if you are a woman above the age of 40 or a man above the age of 50 chances are that your natural hormone production from your testicles or adrenal glands (in a man) or from the ovaries or adrenal glands (in a woman) are no longer keeping up with the demand of regular life. Part of the aging process is that is that the production of our sex hormones slows down shortly before menopause in women and shortly before andropause in men. This will not only manifest itself in hot flashes and sleep disturbance in women or in erectile dysfunction and grumpiness in men; it will eventually lead to a lack of energy metabolism in the heart, the brain and other organ systems that have sex hormone receptors. A lack of hormones translates into yet another cause of heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. This is an area where conventional medicine disagrees with anti-aging medicine. But it is my experience from years in general practice that heart attacks, strokes, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer in both sexes, cancer of the breasts, uterus and ovaries in women and prostate cancer in men are indeed more common when natural hormone production has declined.

On the other hand, when bioidentical hormone replacement is given, the metabolism of all cells will return to normal and the likelihood of not developing all these illnesses at an earlier time is diminishing as well. It is not a panacea for eternal life, but it will add significant longevity without premature disabilities, which is what we all need.

Beer Belly Bad News

Beer Belly Bad News

Conclusion

Although weight gain around the waistline is common these days and increased mortality due to heart attacks, strokes and cancer is common, we do not have to accept this as the new norm. We need to assess our food intake habits, cut out the items that contribute to the beer belly and ask ourselves what other change in lifestyle we need to do to improve our body shape and our energy metabolism. Life is too precious to just throw away years of fruitful living in our golden retirement years. Work on these factors in midlife or even in younger years and you will enjoy disease-free aging.

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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!

Aug
07
2015

Sugar As White Death

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

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

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

History of sugar production

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

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

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

Effect of sugar on our bodies

1. Diabetes

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

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

2. Cardiovascular disease

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

3. Cancer

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

4. Brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s disease

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

5. Arthritis can come from sugar overconsumption

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

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

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

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

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

7. We need our muscles in older age

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

8. ADHD can be fuelled by sugar

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

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

9. Chronic inflammation

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

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

10. Obesity

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

11. Pimples and acne

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

12. Tooth decay from too much sugar

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

Sugar As White Death

Sugar As White Death

Conclusion

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

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Apr
15
2015

Avoid Brain Atrophy

When a 24-year old football player (Chris Borland) suddenly decides to quit his active sports career, because he wants to plan for a disability-free long life without brain atrophy, the world listens. Chris did his research about traumatic brain injuries, which can lead to degenerative brain disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Trauma to the brain is just one cause of brain shrinkage (medically termed “brain atrophy”).

I like to take a broader overview of the topic of brain atrophy, which looks at all of the factors that can lead to brain shrinkage including physical injuries to the brain from blows to the head.

The vast majority of cases of brain shrinkage do not come from physical injuries, but rather from medical illnesses. Many of them including many sports injuries are preventable. This is the topic of my blog today.

Brain atrophy means a loss of brain cells, which causes a smaller brain. An MRI scan (around 800 to 1000$) will give information about the brain.The most sophisticated tool to depict the functioning of the brain may be the SPECT scan (ranging from 2000 to 2500$).

What causes brain atrophy?

It is important to realize that a multitude of different factors can cause the same end result – brain atrophy. All of these factors work together causing brain atrophy and the more factors are at play the worse the outcome. So, let’s review the various known causes of brain atrophy.

Diabetes

It has been known for a long time that diabetics can develop brain atrophy and dementia when their blood sugars are not well controlled. This leads to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

Insulin and IGF-1, a factor produced by the liver in response to human growth hormone have been found to counter the development of brain atrophy in diabetics.

The key in patients with diabetes is a close control of blood sugars, best measured as the hemoglobin A1C blood test. At the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) Dr. Theodore Piliszek stated that the new normal range for hemoglobin A1C is 3.8 to 4.9%, quite a bit lower than the normally recommended values. Accepting the old values that proclaim levels of 5.5. as normal automatically puts you in a higher risk of developing brain atrophy and dementia.

Cardiovascular disease

What is good for the heart is good for the brain. That is what Dr. Perlmutter stated in his book (Ref.1). But the reverse is also true: if your cardiovascular system is sick, your brain gets sick!

Here is a full-text article that describes how intimately connected heart function and brain function is.

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term and includes atrial fibrillation, blood clots in the coronary arteries or brain vessels (medically called “thrombotic events”), high and low blood pressure, heart failure, heart valve defects, low cardiac output, inflammation in the blood and a genetic marker, called Apo E, which is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The end result of any of these conditions will cause brain atrophy. Once a problem is identified, it is important that the patient is seeing the appropriate specialist who will take care of the risk factor in order to prevent brain atrophy.

Vitamin B deficiency

Some people are born with a certain degree of a methylation defect, a deficiency of certain enzymes, which prevents methylation of brain hormones and other metabolic products. This can lead to depression, schizophrenia, memory loss and you guessed right: brain atrophy, which manifests itself as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

By using the proper nutrients with high enough supplements of vitamin B2, B6 and B12 this biochemical process can be restored and brain atrophy can be prevented. SAMe is also a useful supplement that supports methylation and a normal brain metabolism. Ref.2 explains methylation defects in more detail.

Obesity

The question is whether the “brain shrinks as the waist expands”. The answer is a clear “yes”. Researchers have found that the grey matter (with which we think) in the frontal lobes of the brain shrink in obese people of all ages. The researchers found further that the grey matter shrunk in the temporal and parietal parts of the brain of people in middle and old age.

The key here is to cut out refined carbs (sweetened sodas, pasta, bread, sugar in any form), as they are the ones that cause obesity. This occurs by the liver metabolizing sugar and turning it into fat that is stored. Just by cutting out sugar and starchy foods both my wife and I lost 50 pounds each in 2001. It can be done, but it takes a bit of will power.

The terminology may be confusing here: it is really sugar that causes brain atrophy via causing obesity and damage to the blood vessels.

Smoking and alcoholic beverages

Smoking leads to brain atrophy by damaging the blood vessels that are supposed to supply the brain with nutrients. If blood vessels close off or hardening of the arteries reduces the blood flow to the brain, brain cells die and brain atrophy develops.

Smoking also robs the body of vitamins, which slows down the brain cell function.

Alcohol is a nerve cell poison; it causes brain atrophy by directly damaging the brain cells (grey matter).

The results are memory loss, poor judgment, problems planning one’s future, loss of control with regard to emotions. This can lead to violent behavior and problems with regard to inter-personal relationships.

Genetic factors

ApoE4 gene variant, which causes inherited Alzheimer’s disease, causes a change of brain metabolism with deposits of a glue-like substance in the brain that damages nerve connections resulting in memory loss.

Researchers believe that ApoE4 is implicated in 20 to 25% of all Alzheimer’s cases.

Despite this apparent negative story, there is hope by radically changing one’s diet and taking supplements. Not every patient with one or two doses (alleles) of ApoE4 comes down with Alzheimer’s.

Avoid Brain Atrophy

Avoid Brain Atrophy

What can you do to prevent brain atrophy?

Supplements: Take regular B complex vitamins (particularly B2, B3, B6, folic acid, B12), vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q-10 (or CoQ-10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwaganda, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE. All of these have been found to support brain function and often restore memory function. Unfortunately regular anti-Alzheimer’s medications are not keeping their promise and on average just delay Alzheimer’s by 3 to 6 months. For details how these supplements work see this link.

Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA: These essential fatty acids from fish oil are very useful as they are anti-inflammatory and help support the normal brain metabolism, particularly DHA. In a Feb. 2015 US study from the Rhode Island Hospital 193 Alzheimer’s patients, 397 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and 229 normal individuals were followed for 5 years with MRI scans and cognitive tests every 6 months. 117 subjects were taking fish oil on a regular basis. The study showed a decline in gray matter in those who did not take fish oil and in carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene (a gene liked with Alzheimer’s disease). The gray matter on the MRI scans and brain function measure with cognitive function tests were much better preserved in those who took fish oil supplements.

Resveratrol: This powerful antioxidant is an anti-aging supplement. It is preventing heart disease, hardening of the arteries and helps preserve brain function by keeping the brain vessels from getting clogged up. DHA and omega-3-fatty acids are helping in that regard as well.

Eat nuts: Nuts are healthy (provided you are not allergic to them); but just because you are allergic to one kind does not mean you are allergic too all of them. Often a person allergic to hazelnuts will not be allergic to Macadamia nuts, cashew nuts or walnuts. Nuts contain a mixture of essential fatty acids, blood vessel friendly, saturated fatty acids and minerals that are all brain supportive.

Exercise regularly: Whoever moves and exercises keeps the heart healthy and whatever keeps the heart healthy keeps the brain healthy as stated before.

Stress management and sleep (avoid chronic overstimulation of your brain): In our hectic society everything has to be instant, the expectations of managers are high, the labor force is stressed. The fastest runner, the best player etc. is celebrated. The rest of us often feel like “underdogs”, if we allow this type of thinking to rule ourselves. Use yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation, religious mediation and prayer to counter some of the stress from everyday life. We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips and required total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

Avoid sugar and starchy foods: I left this point as the last as it may be more difficult to understand. I started touching this topic under “obesity” above. An overload of refined carbs leads to an overstimulation of the pancreas pouring out insulin. Too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) causes hormonal disbalance and leads to diabetes type 3, the more modern name for Alzheimer’s. All starch is broken down by amylase into sugar, so essentially you get a sugar rush from any starchy food as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of this are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. I have blogged about these topics in many separate blogs.

Conclusion

In this blog I have reviewed how brain atrophy develops. There are a multitude of factors that over a lifetime can lead to brain atrophy. Repetitive head trauma from contact sports is only one reason; poor nutrition with too much sugar and starch and missing essential fatty acids (omega-3/DHA) is another potential cause. Add to this a lack of exercise, too much stress, alcohol and smoking and you covered most of the causes. Studies have shown that even when you carry the ApoE4 gene trait, only 30% will express it as supplements can suppress the expression of it. The key is prevention. Preserve your brain cells, prevent brain atrophy!

References:

Ref. 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.

Ref.2: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

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