Jun
25
2016

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

We know that stress can age you prematurely, but what do we need to do to prevent unhealthy aging? This is exactly what this review by cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn has done. It points out that the right lifestyle makes the difference.

Studies showing how to prevent unhealthy aging

Several studies have shown how to avoid getting heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

  1. Kahn reported that in 2001 the Harvard School of Public Health published a study where 84,941 healthy female nurses had been followed who were free of heart disease, cancer and diabetes at baseline. But only 3.4% of the 84,941 women managed to stay healthy after 16 years of the study. The secret? Their body mass index (BMI) was less than 25.0, their diet was high in polyunsaturated fat and fiber, low in trans fat and low in glycemic load, they engaged in regular moderate exercise with a minimum of 30 minutes per day; they did not smoke and they drank ½ an alcoholic drink per day. Their risk to get diabetes was 91% lower than the rest of the study. This shows you how powerful lifestyle choices are.
  2. In 2004 an international study (the INTERHEART study) reported in the Lancet the lifestyle of 15,152 cases that developed heart attacks in 52 countries with 14,820 controls who did not have heart attacks. The researchers found 9 risk factors that accounted for 90 to 95% of the heart attacks. They were smoking, elevated cholesterol risk ratio, diabetes, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, stress, low intake of fruit and vegetables, high alcohol intake and lack of physical exercise. Obesity was considered a high risk when the waist circumference measured more than 35 inches in a woman or more than 40 inches in a man. All these 9 risks can be eliminated by lifestyle changes.
  3. The 2006 Health Professional Study spanned over 16 years in a group of 40 to 75 year old doctors without a heart attack at baseline. It noted that male doctors who were lacking the 5 heart attack risk factors had 87% less heart attacks than controls without health lifestyles. What were the lifestyle factors? A body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, being a nonsmoker, being physically active for more than 30 minutes a day, having not more than moderate amounts of alcohol intake and having a diet that was more than 40% plant based.
  4. In 2007 a Swedish study reported on 24,000 women after menopause that had no heart attacks initially. After 6 years of follow-up 308 women developed heart attacks. An analysis showed what the risk factors were for those who developed heart attacks. Those who did not have these risk factors reduced their risk of getting a heart attack by 92%. What lifestyle factors were protective? Four factors were identified: a low-risk diet (consisting of high vegetable and high fruit intake, whole grains, legumes, fish and moderate alcohol intake), not smoking, walking or biking 40 minutes daily and a low waist circumference.
  5. In 2008 the Harvard University released a study that was a further follow-up of the Health Professional study with more than 43,000 men and also the Nurses’ Health Study with more than 71,000 women. The question here was what would prevent the development of strokes? The investigators found that in both groups stroke risk could be reduced by 50% when the following 5 lifestyle factors were adhered to: no smoking, keep the BMI below 25, exercise at least 30 minutes daily with moderate activity, don’t exceed a modest alcohol intake, have a diet intake in the top 40% of fruit and vegetables and whole grains.
  6. A 14 yearlong study from the Netherlands was published in 2014, where almost 18,000 men and women without heart disease at the beginning of the study were followed. More than 600 heart attacks occurred throughout the study. People who stuck to 4 lifestyle habits reduced their heart attack rates by 67%; if they adhered to 5 lifestyle factors they reduced the heart attack rate by 83%. The 4 initial lifestyle factors were: doing an average of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, eating a Mediterranean style diet rich in fruit and vegetables and whole grains, not smoking and having more than one alcoholic drink per month. This gave you a reduced risk of your heart attack rate by 67%. Add one more good habit: sleep 7 or more hours per night on average. This reduces the risk of you getting a heart attack by 83%!
  7. A Swedish heart study with initially more than 20,000 men was going on for 11 years. There were 5 lifestyle habits the investigators identified as essential to reduce heart attack rates. Unfortunately only 1% of the study group adopted all 5 lifestyle factors, but they dropped their chance of getting a heart attack or dying of a heart attack by 86%. The lifestyle factors were: a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains and low fat; not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, thin waistline and more than 40 minutes of physical activity.

Preserving health and vitality to prevent unhealthy aging

There is a clear pattern in all of these large studies. A healthy lifestyle preserves your health by keeping your joints and muscles in good working order. Your heart and lungs are staying well conditioned, because you engage in cardiovascular training every day. This keeps your nitric oxide going, which is an important signaling molecule that in turn reduces your blood pressure.

When we remove disabling diseases like strokes and heart attacks and prevent diabetes from developing, life expectancy is increasing. When people remain physically active even in old age, this translates into fewer disabilities and less frailty. Even Alzheimer’s disease is observed to occur less when good lifestyle habits are adhered to.

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

Prevent Unhealthy Aging

Conclusion

The studies cited here show how lifestyle factors can make a significant difference in preventing heart attacks and strokes. In the past even doctors ignored the risk of smoking. A few years back conventional medicine negated that lifestyle factors could make a difference. Now we have more studies than we need to prove that this is so. It is more important that we adhere to as many of the lifestyle factors identified in these studies to make a real difference in our lives. We also need to set an example to the next generation and to our peers. Adopting healthy lifestyle factors has to become a cultural habit for society at large. This will help reduce healthcare costs, but most importantly this will help you and me to live longer, healthier lives.

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Jan
23
2016

Life Extended By Several Decades

Have you ever thought about the possibility to prolong your “Freshness Date”? At the 23rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about “How to extend the human lifespan by 40 years”. Dr. Hertoghe explained that it is possible to extend life by paying attention to the factors that prolong life and combining them as an anti-aging type lifestyle. He made a distinction between

  1. normal aging: up to age 82
  2. healthy aging: up to age 100
  3. anti-aging medicine: up to age 122
  4. reversing aging medicine: much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more.

Normal aging (up to age 82)

When you live without any interventions your life expectancy on average is about 82 years. From the age of 50 to 60 onwards you may encounter problems with increased cholesterol, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks and strokes. Coronary artery by-pass surgery may extend an individual’s life by 10 to 15 years. But hardening of the arteries in the general circulation will eventually cut down the blood supply to vital organs leading to premature death that could have been avoided.

Around the mid 60’s to mid 70’s 12.4% of African Americans or 2.9% Caucasians get Alzheimer’s disease. These figures worsen rapidly with further aging: in their mid 70’s to mid 80’s 32.5 % of African Americans and 9.8% of Caucasians suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. At the age of 85+ years 54% of African Americans and 27% of Caucasians have Alzheimer’s disease. Particularly with normal aging Alzheimer’s has already increased, and this trend is likely going to continue.

Memory loss also leads to a shortened survival curve; people with memory loss live two years less on average than compared to a group with no memory loss.

Add to this loss of life because of depression, which is common in older age. Compared to a non-depressed group of older people the depressed group lived 30% shorter over a period of two years.

Musculoskeletal pain is reported in younger age (18-44) to be 38%; the next demographic group aged 45-64 reported 61% of musculoskeletal pains; seniors between 65 and 74 had 68% of musculoskeletal pain, and in the demographic group of 75 and up 71% of persons suffered of musculoskeletal pain. As we will learn later there may be hormone deficiencies behind these neck and back pains that, if left alone. lead to falls, fractured hips and premature loss of life. Those who survive accidents will often become wheel chair bound and get admitted to nursing homes.

One specific subgroup of patients with musculoskeletal pain are rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. After 10 years of having rheumatoid arthritis patients will have a survival of only about 50%; if more than 30 joints are involved (more severe form of the disease) only about 40% will survive. In other words, rheumatoid arthritis is an important factor for lowering people’s life expectancy.

At an age of 65 to 74 men have 23% of disabilities, while woman have 27.5% disabilities. This increases between the ages of 75 or older to 40% for men and 44.5% for women. At the age of 65 disabled men have a 3.5% higher death rate than the average population; disabled women’s death rate is 2.5% higher than the normal population. In other words, disability kills.

Urinary urgency and incontinence leads to a 3.13-fold higher mortality rate than a control group of men who do not have these symptoms.

65% of men and 85% of women above the age of 50 have abdominal obesity. This is not just a harmless condition. It is associated with increased triglyceride levels and increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

By the age of 65-74 heart disease has a frequency of 32% in men and 23% in women. At the age of 75 years and older this jumps to 44% in men and 32% in women. Once heart disease is established, it causes a lot of premature deaths: on average persons with heart disease live 10 years shorter than those who do not have heart disease!

Healthy aging (up to age 100)

If we look at normal aging, we realize that all these diseases and disabilities we discussed are eventually killing us. In order to live longer we have to take steps that are known to interfere with some of these factors. For instance, quitting smoking will prevent heart disease, several cancers and chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema). Positive thinking, social support and transcendental meditation will increase survival by preventing mental illness and depression, which in turn will prevent suicides. A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the Pegan diet will avoid cardiovascular disease and cut down cancer rates. One dietary change called the “polymeal” would contain fish, fruit, vegetables, garlic, almonds, a moderate amount of wine and dark chocolate. Compared to the Standard American diet this type of diet would add 9 years for men and 8.1 years for women regarding their life expectancy. For instance, prostate cancer showed a 7-fold increase in a group of men who ate a lot of pickled vegetables, fermented soy products, salted fish and preserved meats, when compared to a control group who did not include these foods. In a group of women who had their meat well done and ate three servings of beef per week, breast cancer risk was 4.62-fold higher that the risk of women who had their meat done rare or medium rare.

Overall cancer and cardiovascular mortality dropped by 35% in a study where 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables were eaten per day.

A regular exercise program will strengthen the heart and lungs, keep your weight stable, reduce heart attacks and strokes and reduce the probability to develop cancer. A group of men between 61 and 81 were observed over 12 years and divided into those who did not exercise versus those who walked more than 2 miles per day. The exercising men had 19% less mortality compared to the sessile men. Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables or from taking supplements reduces global mortality from all causes by 46% compared to controls that did not. Similarly taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) daily reduced all cause mortality by 20%.

Dr. Hertoghe calls this “healthy aging” and this would allow you to be able to reach an age of about 100 years.

Anti-aging medicine (up to age 122)

Dr. Hertoghe told the audience that further attention to anti-aging factors could reduce mortality even further. In particular, he found over the years that paying attention to correcting hormonal weaknesses would have profound effects on how old a person becomes. Thyroid hormone replacement has been one of the steps that have helped people to experience more energy and less musculoskeletal problems (less muscle pain, less falls, less fractures and complications). This translates into more energy and longer lives.

One slide showed that a low free T3 level (low thyroid) was associated with a 3.6-fold higher death rate. A low free T3 level predicts of cumulative death rate in cardiac patients most accurately.

T3 is also important for the maintenance of the immune system, which shows in patients with tuberculosis: the one-year mortality rate in thyroid deficient patients with low T3 levels was 75%, while patients with a normal thyroid had a mortality from tuberculosis of only 7%.

Secondly, replacing missing sex hormones can add more life because cardiovascular disease is postponed (less heart attacks, less strokes), there is less cancer and better cancer survival, if a person comes down with cancer. Many statistics were quoted.

One interesting slide showed the longitudinal survival follow-up of congenital dwarfs in comparison with their normal brothers or sisters. Untreated male dwarfs turned only 56 years on average, while their unaffected normal brothers turned 75 years on average (19 years longer). With female dwarfs the difference is even more striking: untreated females dwarfs turned 46 years on average, while their normal sisters turned 80 years on average (a difference of 34 years).

Another publication showed that the heart attack risk was 3.8-fold higher in a group of patients with hypopituitarism (under function of the pituitary gland), but the treatment group (treated with GH) had a normal rate of heart attacks.

11606 men aged 40 to 79 years were followed for between 6 and 10 years. The group who had the top 25% range of testosterone had a 19% lower mortality rated from heart attacks or cancer.

Older women, particularly aged 100 in Okinawa had 2.3-fold higher testosterone levels than women in the US at age 70. On the other hand 70-year old Okinawan women had 2.7-fold higher estrogen levels than US women.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) prior to developing breast cancer showed a 27% longer survival among 984 breast cancer patients in Sweden compared to those without prior hormone treatment.

In another group of breast cancer patients (2755 patients) aged 35 to 74 who were treated with bioidentical hormone replacement after their breast cancer diagnosis, 50% had a lower recurrence rate (compared to no-BHRT treatment) and there was a reduction of 66% of mortality from breast cancer compared to controls without BHRT treatment. Another study showed that breast cancer patients would have a mortality rate of 33.3% without hormone treatment, 12.5% mortality rate after non-estrogen hormone use and 6% after estrogen/progesterone use.

This shows the healing results of the various natural hormones.

A group of 280 men and women around the age of 50 were treated with anti-aging hormone replacement for 2 or more years. In the beginning there were 34% of women and 15% of men with coronary artery disease. There were also 36.4% of women and 34.1% of men with high blood pressure. After replacing all of the missing hormones with bioidentical hormones for more than 2 years, coronary artery disease had dropped to 1.6% of the women and 1.08% of the men; high blood pressure had dropped to 2% of the women and 3% of the men. No drugs, just hormones! Of course, initially there were drugs used to stabilize their condition, but they could gradually be dropped safely, because the underlying hormone deficiency, which was the cause of cardiovascular disease, had been treated (treating the cause rather than the symptoms).

Dr. Hertoghe presented data of 6.38-year follow-up of 286 consecutive patients using anti-aging medicine (replacement of missing hormones with bioidentical hormones). These patients had an overall cancer rate of 2.1%, which compared very favorably to the 3.2% cancer rate among US women, 3.1% French women and 3.1% Belgium women on no hormones. This is the type of information that is needed following the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that scared women into the false belief that hormones would be “poisonous”. In the WHI synthetic hormones were used causing cancer and heart attacks; the reason for this was that synthetic hormones are not the identical shape as the natural hormones. But hormones and hormone receptors have to fit like a key into a lock; otherwise they are not effective or even block the natural life prolonging action of the natural hormone. This is why in the WHI study the outcomes were poor. Using bioidentical hormones heart attacks and strokes are prevented and they are also cancer-protective.

Reversing aging medicine (much more than 122, perhaps to age 150 or more)

General medicine has the goal to make patients as healthy as possible. With reversing aging medicine the goal is to make patients as young as possible so that they are at their healthiest and feel younger again.

With anti-aging medicine using a healthy diet, exercise and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy the patients can add 15 years of good life. Add to these organ transplants, if necessary, telomerase activators and stem cell therapy and you can add another 25 years of life expectancy to a total of 40 years.

Growth hormone deficiency is the one factor that has been underestimated. We have seen in the discussion of dwarfs in comparison to their healthy brothers and sisters that normal growth hormone production can add between 19 and 34 years (average 26.5 years) of life. Dr. Hertoghe has done blood tests (IGF-1) and lately also 24-hour urine metabolite tests of growth hormone on aging patients and found that many are deficient with regard to GH production. These were patients who already had their thyroid hormones replaced, if abnormal and had their sex hormones replaced when they were found to be low. But they lost hair, developed old looking faces with wrinkles, loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue giving the face a hollow appearance. They also had muscle and joint pains and thin skin, particularly over the back of their hands. He replaced their missing GH using daily GH self-injection with a tiny needle (similar to diabetes injections) and within 1.5 to 3 years the wrinkles disappeared, the faces started to look younger and patients did feel younger. Their muscle and joint pains had disappeared and their hair grew back. The dosage range is between 0.1mg and 0.3mg, a tiny amount of GH daily. This is not inexpensive, but some health care plans pay for this, as a lack of GH is a true hormone deficiency.

Often it is a single limiting organ that determines when we die, typically the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, small bowel, pancreas or bone marrow. Organ transplants can add years of life, but it can be cumbersome to find a suitable donor. Another limitation is, as one study showed, that only 40% to 60% of organ transplants are surviving 8 years after doing the transplant surgery.

Stem cell therapies are other ways to prolong life. More research is needed to perfect this, but essentially 220 different cell types could be derived from stem cells in the future to replace malfunctioning organs.

Life Extended By Several Decades

Life Extended By Several Decades

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer can be a reality today, if you are willing to discipline yourself to watch what you are eating (Mediterranean type diet), exercise regularly and have a positive psychological attitude. If the outdoor air is poor where you live, you may want to consider moving to a place with good air quality. Sleep well for 7 ½ hours every night and retire not later than 10 to 11PM. You need to be asleep between midnight and 3AM as the growth hormone peak occurs at that time. Take supplements that contain longevity micronutrients (magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Co-Q-10, selenium, zinc, iron in premenopausal women etc.). Replace all missing hormones with bioidentical ones, like thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), sex hormones, DHEA and GH. Stem cell therapy and telomerase activators for cell rejuvenation will also have more of a place in the future.

Even, if you do only part of this reversing aging program you will slow down aging.

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May
30
2015

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

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

The study

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

What we can learn from the study

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

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

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

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

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

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Be Creative, Prevent Dementia

Conclusion

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

 

Reference:

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

 

Apr
11
2015

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

There was a story in CNN last year describing the dramatic recovery of a youngster who was involved in a hit and run brain injury. The physicians involved in his care strongly recommended “to let him go”. His family did not give up on him and tried bioidentical progesterone cream first and finally fish oil in high doses, which lead to a successful recovery from this young man’s brain injury. Nine weeks after the accident the patient was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital, still unconscious. At that time the family increased the fish oil dosage to 20 grams (=20,000 mg) per day. Within two days the young man woke up from his coma and called his mother on a cell phone.

The benefits of fish oil

Fish oil is sold under various brand names. The high potency ones contain about 1400mg of fish oil in one soft gel. Each soft gel has 647mg EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid, commonly known as omega-3 fatty acid) and 253 mg DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and other fatty acids. Any of these more potent fish oil preparations are molecularly distilled meaning that mercury, cadmium and PBA impurities have been removed from the product before it is passed on to consumers.

Fish oil boosts your memory, it helps brain cells to function better. EPA is more beneficial for the lining of arteries and prevents heart attacks and strokes. The DHA component of fish oil is the building block of brain cells, and likely it was DHA that brought the young man with the hit and run accident back to consciousness.

Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is important for arthritis and prevention of heart attacks.

Everyday supplementation with fish oil

For persons with no arthritis and health risks a good fish oil supplement dose would be 1 or 2 of the higher potency fish oil capsules per day. This will help to prevent inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends to consume salmon two times per week, which will also give you a good dose of fish oil.

People with arthritis need more fish oil

As this link shows people with arthritis need more omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), namely 2.7 grams or more (=2700 mg or more) per day.

This would mean 5 capsules of the high potency supplement I described above to bring the total EPA to just above 3000 mg per day. People who have arthritis have so much more inflammation in their body that they need this higher amount of fish oil to get the condition under control. When you start fish oil supplements for arthritis it takes about 2 to 3 months for the fish oil to work before the inflammation is under control. So be patient.

Fat metabolism

When it comes to the metabolism of fatty acids, it is important to know the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that we take in. For instance, there are a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood. On the other hand there is more omega-6 fatty aid in chicken and processed meat. Omega-6 fatty acid gets metabolized into arachidonic acid that causes inflammation. Most processed foods have too much omega-6 fatty acids in them. Here is a hint: when we consume more omega-3 fatty acids by increasing our fish oil supplementation, we counterbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This will slow down aging, will control inflammation in the body and will prevent disabilities.

Side effects of fish oil

  1. Be aware that there is a difference between “fish oil” and “cod liver oil” or “halibut liver oil”. Cod liver and halibut liver oil has vitamin A in it; so avoid these formulations as this could lead to toxic levels of vitamin A.
  2. Fish oil is generally safe; there may be a mildly upset stomach at higher dosages, which is harmless and the dosage can be reduced until the stomach accepts it.
  3. Fish oil tends to thin the blood and theoretically there may be a problem when a person takes aspirin or blood thinners. Discuss this with the doctor. Patients with atrial fibrillation on blood thinners should discuss with their doctor whether it is safe for them to take fish oil supplements.
  4. Patients on platelet inhibitors (ASA and others) should first clear with their physician whether it is safe. The FDA did a review on this and stated that theoretically there could be interference in these situations, but practically no case was found that would have substantiated this.
  5. The cytochrome P450 pathway in the liver, which is used to eliminate antidepressants, erythromycin and many acid suppressing drugs (cimetidine, ranitidine) etc. is not interfering with the elimination of fish oil. The FDA confirmed this. This means that you will not have to fear that you overdose with fish oil because of drug interactions in the liver.

Fish oil supplementation in diabetes and heart disease

Many studies have shown that fish oil improves the control of diabetes, improves heart disease based on narrowing of coronary arteries and lowers blood pressure. It does so because of the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil; this improves endothelial functioning, which leads to more nitric oxide production and lowering of high blood pressure. Patients find that they do not need as much insulin some time after starting fish oil supplementation, and their blood sugar is better controlled. They also get more energy, which may help to motivate them to engage in regular exercise, which in turn helps improve diabetes, prevents cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish oil to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Apart from other factors mentioned in this link the regular consumption of fish and fish oil will help improve memory and Alzheimer’s in general. It is the DHA contained in fish oil that is needed by the brain and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help keep the cardiovascular system healthy.

A study in the medical journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia from June 14, 2014 followed 193 older men and women with Alzheimer’s patients for 5 years. Every half-year they had a magnetic resonance imaging study (MRI scan) of the brain and neuropsychological testing. 117 subjects used fish oil supplements throughout the study. They were the ones who maintained their brain volume and in particular the hippocampus area, which is important for memory. They also preserved their brain function compared to those subjects who did not consume fish oil. They showed shrinkage of the brain and a decrease in size of the hippocampus as well as poor brain function in neuropsychological testing. Patients who were carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene did not show the protective effect with fish oil.

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

Conclusion

Consumption of fish and supplementation with fish oil capsules is a valuable adjunct to all of the other health measures you can take to preserve brain and heart function like regular exercise and consumption of a Mediterranean diet. Take a supplement, which is higher dosed and is molecularly distilled (also called pharmaceutically pure). This way you will get all the health benefits, and you will avoid exposure to toxins from the ocean, which are not eliminated in the less potent, non-purified and cheaper fish oils.

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Dec
06
2014

Regrets Following Holiday Foods

Countless blogs have been written about gaining pounds with holiday food. This is not my topic in this blog. I am looking at the medical evidence of what is happening to our bodies, some of which is permanent. I like to focus on the gallbladder, blood pressure, heart function and gout. I will provide little clinical vignettes that make my points clear.

Gallbladder disease

Many patients are unaware that their gallbladder has developed stones that accumulate over several years, perhaps even several decades. But, if infection sets in there is an acute flare-up of gallbladder pain, which can be excruciating. Also, when one of the stones is transported into the gallbladder duct, there is a sudden colicky pain similar to labor pains. In cases where the migrating stone blocks the common bile duct, the patient can get jaundiced and the pancreatic juice can get backed up leading to an acute pancreatitis.

What does that have to do with overindulging during a Thanksgiving meal? Fatty sauces, ham, and gravy can all lead to more cholesterol deposits in the gallbladder and make stones larger. Add to this a rich dessert with ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream and you’ve got yourself a fairly fatty feast. So, this one fatty meal can make a difference by bringing on symptoms of a previously undiagnosed condition, and you spend hours in an emergency room of a hospital.

The scenario could look like this case:

Fred is a 40-year-old teacher, somewhat overweight who enjoyed a holiday meal at his parent’s place for Thanksgiving. His health has been good with no surgeries. Following the turkey dinner, which he enjoyed he noticed right upper abdominal pain, and he started to vomit. As the pain did not improve, his parents called an ambulance that brought him to a hospital. The emergency physician said that he was concerned about Fred’s gallbladder. He ordered a CT scan and this showed multiple stones with one of the stones being stuck in the cystic duct. Despite pain medication and bed rest the situation did not resolve (the stone did not pass). A surgeon was called in and a laparoscopic cholecystectomy was performed. Fred recovered within only 3 days and could return to teaching. The fatty food of the Thanksgiving dinner was only the tip of the iceberg in this case. The fact that there have been many pre-existing gallbladder stones tells us that this patient had the chronic habit to eat foods with too much fat and cholesterol. Here is a blog that I found containing sensible eating suggestions.

High blood pressure

Extra salt intake leads to an elevation of blood pressure. If a person has borderline high blood pressure, the extra salt intake from holiday meals can get the blood pressure out of control and this in turn can cause a stroke (typically a hemorrhagic stroke) or is a strain to the heart leading to a heart attack or to congestive heart failure.

Janice is a 50-year-old janitor who has had problems with borderline high blood pressure readings. Normally her blood pressure was 140 over 90, and when she watched her salt intake it would go down to 125 over 80. She bought a blood pressure monitoring device, just so she could measure her own blood pressure at home. Following the Thanksgiving turkey dinner she noticed that she developed fullness in her head and a headache and her face looked flushed. She took her blood pressure with a reading of 160 over 100. It had never been that high. When she saw her doctor he asked her what she had for Thanksgiving dinner: they sat together with friends and had potato chips with dip and drank some red wine with it. Next for the meal she enjoyed the roasted, brined turkey and ham. Yes, she did add some more salt to the mashed potatoes too.

The doctor found her blood pressure to be 165 over 100. He explained to her that she needs to go on a DASH diet, which is low in salt. He also started her on blood pressure pills. Here is another link for a low salt diet.

Heart attack following turkey dinner

When working as an intern in teaching hospitals of McMaster University of Hamilton/Ont. during my training in 1975 to 1978 I noticed a strange correlation between holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and intensive care unit admissions with acute heart attacks. Later a formal study was published that there is indeed such a correlation between consuming a big meal with fat, salt and refined carbohydrates and the development of a heart attack.

This likely does not develop without prior silent conditions of high triglycerides, high cholesterol and insulin resistance leading to inflammatory substances circulating in the blood. The C-reactive protein is one of the substances that has emerged as a useful monitoring device and a fasting insulin level. Both should be low or the person is at a higher risk of developing a heart attack.

Add to this a festive, large meal and you got troubles at your hand like in the next case:

Joan is a 62-year-old high school principal who developed chest pain within 2 hours of having enjoyed her Christmas dinner. She was known to have high cholesterol levels for about 5 years and she had been taking statins for 4 years as diet alone could not control it. But she loved food in general and was about 20 pounds overweight. The doctor had discussed exercise with her, but she felt too busy doing other things. Now all of this came back to her as she was recovering in a hospital bed from an emergency stent procedure. They had to insert two stents to overcome narrowing of the coronary arteries. She was now pain free and felt that she needed to do something about her lifestyle. She would see a dietician and record her weights daily. She wanted to loose 20 pounds and yes, she wanted to start mild exercise when her doctor allowed it and gradually build it up to a maintenance program.

Regrets Following Holiday Foods (Gout Patient)

Regrets Following Holiday Foods (Gout Patient)

Gout attack following rich meal

It is known since the Middle Ages that feasting on a large meal of beef combined with lots of beer or wine can cause a gout attack. Gout at this time was known as a disease of the affluent. The poor obviously could not afford big feasts. Today we know that purines are the end product of meats and this gets excreted in the kidneys. However, alcohol prevents the purines to be excreted in the urine so that uric acid levels exceed a certain limit beyond which uric acid crystals are precipitated in soft tissues like around joints, which is very painful.

The following case will illustrate this:

Carl, a 45-year-old sales person suddenly developed excruciating pain and swelling in his left big toe. He went to the emergency room of the closest hospital. After some tests he was told that he had come down with acute gout. His blood tests showed a high uric acid level and biopsy samples from the left toes also revealed uric acid crystals. With the help of colchicine and allopurinol things turned back to normal within 3 days.

The gout episode occurred just 4 hours after his holiday meal consisting of a few beers and copious amounts of turkey meat. He also seems to be addicted to soft drinks which are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup which he consumes freely all day long.

It is known that sugar from soft drinks make a person 85% more prone to develop gout than a person who uses diet drinks or water.

Here is a diet sheet for Carl to prevent his next gout attack.

Conclusion

Who would have thought in the past that food could be a dangerous substance with the potential of making us sick? But this is exactly what I wanted to point out in this blog. Of course, it does not stop at holidays where we tend to eat more of what we normally eat. It pays dividends watching what we consume even in the days between feasts. For instance a DASH diet is a good idea for those of us who may have developed borderline high blood pressure. Avoiding excessive red meat is a good idea for prevention of heart attacks and strokes, as your cholesterol stays lower. Avoiding soft drinks with sugar and fructose is good prevention for avoiding obesity, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Get the greens going (vegetables, salads etc.) to live longer without disabilities.

Last edited Dec. 6, 2014

Sep
13
2014

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

Recently I saw a flyer of a fast food chain restaurant entitled “Food Fact”. Interestingly you get the contents of a list of bakery items, warm breakfast items, burgers, sandwiches and wraps for lunch as well as yogurt parfaits and fruit cups.

I have to commend the restaurant chain to attempt to educate their customers by itemizing each item.  They have listed the serving size broken down into calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar, protein, dietary fiber, vitamin C, A, calcium and iron.

Based on my dietary habits I need to check this list.

No trans fat

Years ago I have given up on trans fats because trans fat contain free radicals that accelerate hardening of the arteritis. Granted , the percentage is low, but 20% come from natural meats and 80% from processed foods. It is the 80% from processed foods that I avoid. Here is another review that explain trans fats in more detail. This eliminates the baked sweet pieces like croissants, cookies, raisin bran muffins, oat fudge bars and even spinach feta wraps.

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

What To Watch Out For In Restaurant Foods

Total fat

Now we come to total fat. The content list shows me that calories in total and fat content in total are closely related. But you reach the peak when you swallowed a sausage, egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich. This alone accounts for 500 calories. This is also high in cholesterol and high in sodium, so not really on my list of desirable foods.

Sodium content

I am now getting concerned about my blood pressure as I follow the sodium content. Who would have thought that a spinach feta wrap has more than 800mg of sodium? And ham and a Swiss Panini have more than 1500 mg of sodium? Literally 50% of the food list would not be on my menu, if I want to limit my sodium intake to 400mg or less per helping. Especially the sandwiches are out!

Hidden sugar

So, now I am looking at a yoghurt for a light snack,  but suddenly the sugar column has sprung up from 1-2 mg of sugar content in simple sandwiches to 37 to 55 mg of sugar for honey creek yoghurt parfait to strawberry blueberry parfait. It is not the yoghurt, it’s not the fruit, it is extra sugar, honey or high-fructose corn syrup mixed in here. This is definitely not what I am going to choose.

Refined carbs

Although the carbs by weight do not appear too high on the list, it is the total of sugar and carbs and the fat that has been added, which add up very quickly to hefty calorie sums in all of the foods. I am shaking my head and I absolutely cannot find anything that is healthy and would merit being eaten by me.

Missing greens

I am missing vegetables and salads.  The only thing I see that I can eat is their classic oatmeal, which has 160 calories with a nut medley topping. I may add a decaf-coffee sweetened with my own stevia that I brought along and some cream (because that’s how I still like it having been raised in Germany).

Homemade food

Then I rush to the health food store and to the grocery store and load up on organic foods, meat, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, spinach, organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And, yes, a tub of plain goat yoghurt. Organic walnut halves are also on the list (quite expensive, I must say).

I suddenly realize that now I have all of the ingredients to never enter a restaurant again. I can prepare my own food and I can do it the way I want it, not how the food industry wants me to eat it.

If I ate the food industry’s way, the salt content would send my blood pressure through the roof and I would get hardening of the arteries within the shortest time (from refined sugar, starchy foods and trans fats).

I find the taste of home cooked meals superb. All of the flavors are there. Of course, I do not mind spending the extra money on the organic food, because the tastes are the way my grandmother’s food used to taste. I rarely add salt and my blood pressure is 105/65, so something must be going right.

I am thinking what would happen, if more people would do what I do: avoid restaurants, especially fast food places, pack your own lunch box with an organic salad and enjoy dinner at home. It can be simple, tasty, healthy, and economical. Nobody needs to be an accomplished chef to do that. Would there be pressure on the food industry to open up organic restaurants and offer alternatives to those who want to enjoy healthy, tasty foods ?  Or are the fast food places here to stay forever and ever?

Conclusion

I thought I go with you today to one of those fast food places that actually list their food content. Listing it does not really help when the whole list consists almost exclusively of foods that are having serious drawbacks, be it in the addition of too much sodium, fats, sugar or refined carbohydrates.

You do not want to get accelerated hardening of your arteries from too much fat, trans fat, sugar and starchy foods. You don’t want to get high blood pressure from too much salt day after day. You may want to rethink that processed foods are really lacking the nutrition that your body needs to function well and healthy. A lot of them are best to be thrown out. You need fresh, organic vegetables and lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard etc. Maybe you want a vegetable omelet for breakfast with egg white, spinach, peppers and Swiss chard? Take charge of your own life. Look after your own affairs. This includes what you do in your kitchen and what foods you consume.

More information on:

1. High blood pressure: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/

2. Cardiovascular disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

May
21
2014

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

 

3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!

Conclusion:

As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/cancer-mortality-rate/

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis: http://nethealthbook.com/news/higher-vitamin-d-levels-associated-lower-risk-mortality/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Apr
30
2014

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

The Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994 made it easier for people to acquire supplements and vitamins from health food stores. But since then there has been a proliferation of various products that are sold as supplements and not as drugs. It may give you the impression that all supplements are harmless, but this is not so. There are some supplements like vitamin A where you need to watch that you are not inadvertently overdosing, as toxicity is a problem; calcium supplements are also potentially toxic, if overdone. And amino acid supplements (protein supplements) can lead to an overdose of brain hormones. Here is a sample of some of the supplements that I would want you to watch.

1.Vitamin A toxicity:

Vitamin A is essential for normal night vision, for red blood cell production in the bone marrow and for the immune system. Here is a brief review about its metabolism. But while small amounts are beneficial for the body, high doses are toxic. In the 19th century the Arctic explorer Elisha Kane reported that consumption of polar bear liver caused severe headaches, drowsiness, irritability and vomiting within a few hours of ingesting it.

It is now known to be due to “pseudotumor cerebri”, a condition that mimics a brain tumor, but is caused by an acute overdose of vitamin A contained in liver (Ref. 1).

In the US where people eat enough meat, fish and dairy products, there is no overt vitamin A deficiency. Read this link to avoid overdosing with vitamin A in multiple supplements.

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

Overuse Of Supplements Can Create Health Risks

2. Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant vitamin and is needed as a co-factor for many metabolic reactions. It is participating in the production of collagen and connective tissues, helps with fatty acid transport and is necessary for the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.2). The lack of vitamin C is known as scurvy; symptoms include bleeding gums from fragile capillaries, delay in wound healing and impaired bone metabolism. Although in the earlier research it was hoped that vitamin C would prevent colds and cure cancer, more recent reevaluations found that it does not prevent you from getting colds, but it accelerates the recovery from colds by cutting down the recovery time by as much as 25 to 30% and it also does have some cancer protective effects (Ref.2). Higher doses seem to be more beneficial, but 1500 mg per day seems to now be the consensus of a reasonable upper dose limit per day.

What about kidney stones? Several studies in the past have warned about vitamin C being broken down in some people into calcium oxalate kidney stones. Here is a brief review of the literature with regard to kidney stone formation. A study regarding the DASH diet, which is used for people with high blood pressure, showed that the incidence of kidney stones is almost half for both men and women compared to controls on a normal North American diet.

There has been a concern among the medical community that vitamin C as a supplement would increase kidney stones (oxalate stones). However a 2014 study showed that when both vitamin C and vitamin E are taken as supplements, the kidney stone formation goes down.

Many inhabitants of industrialized countries including the population in the US and other countries are magnesium deficient and this can be a major factor for forming calcium oxalate stones. But it has been known for decades that those who develop kidney stones excrete more oxalates in their urine (so-called “oxalate excreters”). Here is a 1996 study that measured this in detail.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg to 2000 mg of vitamin C per day.

If you are taking in a lot of green smoothies from green leaf vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard) that are high in water-soluble vitamins, you may not require any vitamin C supplements. In other words, think about what else you do and eat and add it up, so you do not exceed a total of 1500 mg of vitamin C per day.

3. Calcium supplements:

Calcium is a key mineral in the body, important not only for healthy bone structure, but also to balance the electrolytes within the blood, in the extra cellular fluid space and within our cells. If calcium is low, the brain is more prone to seizures and the heart can produce dangerously irregular heart beats. We definitely need a balance of calcium! Because calcium is so central to our wellbeing, several factors work together to keep our calcium levels stable: the kidneys, the thyroid, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the bone as a reservoir of calcium, the gastrointestinal tract for absorption and a good, balanced nutrition. The chapter on “Vitamins and Minerals” of Ref.3 points out that 4000 mg of calcium per day definitely causes toxicity (hypercalcemia and milk-alkali syndrome).

Absorption is dose dependent meaning that only 500mg of calcium carbonate is absorbed at a time. Vitamin D3 deficiency leads to reduced calcium absorption. But with high doses of vitamin D3, which is now often recommended, more calcium is absorbed, so it is important not to take too many calcium supplements. They can also interfere with iron and zinc absorption and when more than 2600 mg of calcium is taken magnesium absorption is inhibited as well. Calcium can interfere with thyroid hormone supplements (take 4 hours apart) and may reduce the effect of calcium channel blockers, drugs used for angina or high blood pressure.  There is a balance between calcium stored in bone (99% of total body calcium) and the circulating portion of 1% of calcium in the blood. The parathyroid hormone and calcitonin are also involved in this balance. Hypercalcemia is the condition when calcium is too high. Common causes are the improper use of diuretics (thiazide diuretics), overuse of calcium carbonate supplementation (often for osteoporosis) and overuse of vitamin D3, which increases the absorption of calcium (Ref.3). See your family doctor for blood tests and advice what to do in your case.

4. High protein diets and protein (amino acid) supplements:

Many protein supplements are available through health food stores and vitamin stores. The advertisers often state that our food would be substandard and these supplements would help “to regain strength”.  Athletes hope to get stronger muscles from amino acid supplements because they are the building block for protein that builds up muscles. Fact is that no supplements are needed when you eat balanced meals containing meat and fish and you exercise regularly. The protein in your food will be broken down into amino acids and your body metabolizes this into your own protein. Here is a website that reviews the subject of supplementation with amino acids.

It is clear from this that this is a rather complex problem. Vegetarians may require these supplements to replace protein for the missing meat intake. But the rest of us have to guard ourselves against overdosing with too much meat, amino acids supplements or protein supplements.

High protein diets (Atkins diet and others) have been glorified as being helpful for weight loss. But the long-term effect of such diets lead to chronic kidney damage in those with diabetes and high blood pressure as evidenced by protein leakage in the urine (called ”microalbuminuria”, Ref.4).

According to this reference the average protein requirement is 0.6 g of protein/kg body weight/day. This text comments that this would be compatible with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for protein intake. For a person weighing 140 lbs. this translates into about 50 grams of protein per day. Here is a website that explains the upper limit of meat intake with the example of an 8-ounce portion of top sirloin steak.

Protein supplements have become very popular, but you need to be careful when you supplement with this that you do not get an overdose of amino acids. Amino acid profiling has been useful for physicians and naturopaths to examine deficiencies in children or adults checking for essential amino acids in the blood.  However, in the industrialized countries such as the US, Canada and others the larger concern is now the overuse of meat in our food (e.g. Atkins-like diets) and protein supplements. The same amino acid screening tests will find several of the ingredients (amino acids) in these protein supplements to be too high. In this case it is imperative to stop the protein supplements to prevent amino acid toxicity.

This study warns that not enough is known how performance-enhancing supplements affect the metabolism of the body. There are discussions that perhaps upper limits for amino acid supplements need to be established:

5. Creatine supplementation:

Other supplements of concern are creatine supplementation in the sports-minded and in athletes who want to build up muscle mass. Creatine is synthesized by the liver form amino acids derived from fish and meat that is broken down into the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. So, there is no shortage, but athletes and sports minded people want to push the envelope and take in additional creatine that helps their energy metabolism (ATP production) in the muscles to increase their performance (Ref. 5) Creatine is vital for the brain, the heart, the kidneys and the eyes (retina). It is a buffer for lactic acid during anaerobic exercise. Some of the side effects are muscle cramps, diarrhea, fluid retention and kidney failure when exposed to high heat and dehydration. There are no long-term studies of the use of creatine supplements, yet some athletes are taking them long-term.

Conclusion:

We are tempted by various merchants and infomercials to take in more and more vitamins and supplements including protein and amino acid supplements. But when you eat well-balanced meals, preferably organic food, you already have enough protein, nutrients, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A contained in food. So you may be inadvertently putting a strain on your kidneys that have to eliminate whatever it is that is too much for your body to take. Your liver may also be quietly working overtime as well. Your brain gets overactive by the surplus of amino acids that are utilized by the brain to make brain hormones. Your system can only take so much; at one point a surplus of supplements will make you sick! So, be vigilant and think about what your regular food intake already provides. Do you really need that supplement or do you already get enough from your food intake? Are you falling for some marketing scheme? Remember, you are the steward of your own health!

References:

1.Shannon: Chapter 69: The Vitamins. Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed.© 2007 Saunders

2. Mandell: “Water-Soluble Vitamins”. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed. © 2009 Churchill Livingstone

3. Rakel: Chapter “Disturbances in Calcium and Phosphate” and chapter entitled “Vitamins and Minerals”. Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed. © 2011 Saunders

4. “High Dietary Protein Intake” in “Taal: Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney”, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders

5. DeLee: DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2009 Saunders

Last edited April 30, 2014

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Apr
12
2014

Lead Still Poisoning Us

We are living in an environment that puts emphasis on quality control, and companies around us take pride in their high quality products, supervised by the FDA. This is how it ideally should be. But is it really? Unfortunately not!

I read the headlines about lipsticks on April 4, 2014 and could not believe it!

When it comes to skin care or cosmetic products, things start to get scary.  Skin is not a barrier, but it is an organ of our body. From skin cream and ointment applications in medicine it is known that pharmaceutical compounds can be applied to the skin, and this way the body can readily absorb active substances.

When it comes to cosmetics, the skin areas to which cosmetics are applied have softer skin, for example the mouth. The vulnerable skin of the lips can readily absorb any chemical substance, and this is where health concerns get even more serious.

In 2010 as the above link shows the FDA determined that all of the “400 lipsticks tested had traces of lead in them, ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm. Another study from California noted that there were other toxic metals in lip sticks and lip glosses containing chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum in addition to lead. Even to the unconcerned this sounds like a precarious cocktail of noxious substances! On June 1, 2013 I wrote a blog about toxins in the bathroom. I mentioned the dirty dozen of chemicals that repeatedly are found in cosmetics. With this new information of traces of lead still being in cosmetics, more so than previously reported, women need to be more careful about the choice of lipsticks that they are using.

1.History of lipsticks:

This overview explains that the long-lasting lipstick was only invented around the 1950’s (“Sticks on you, not on him” was the slogan).

Traces of lead were often recorded, but not really thought to be that dangerous. The thinking of the FDA at that time was that children needed to be protected from lead in house paints, but nobody mentioned that lead was part of the red pigment and therefore had to be part of a lipstick. The FDA did know this, but the concentration was supposed to be so small and absorption was thought to be negligible, so considered to be safe for an adult.

Lead Still Poisoning Us

Lead Still Poisoning Us

2. Evidence of considerable absorption of lead:

We know from several studies summarized in this link that various components of cosmetics including lipsticks and lip-glosses get absorbed through the skin. Lead is no exception to this. A 2011 study showed in children in Africa that lead-containing cosmetics for tribal ceremonies in children had higher lead concentrations in their blood than children who did not use these cosmetics.

When doing a PubMed review on the subject I came across a very interesting study: In India there is a practice that parents apply kajal (also called kohl or surma cosmetic) around their eyes, on old traditional practice. Unfortunately this is a lead-containing cosmetic, which is absorbed into the blood and can cause lead poisoning. According to this ancient belief this application of cosmetics around the eyes would keep their eyes cool and clean and is supposed to improve vision, strengthen the eyes and prevent eye diseases. None of these belief are compatible with Western medicine (although a lot of the Ayurveda medicine is valid).

In another 2010 study done in the mountainous Aseer region in the Southwest of Saudi Arabia here there is pristine air quality, 176 pregnant patients with a single baby were followed to see whether there was an effect with regard to lead poisoning in the offspring. Two groups of women were identified, those with lead levels of more than 200 mcg/L in the blood and another group with less than 200 mcg/L. The researchers noted that there was no difference with regard to prematurity, size of the baby or premature rupture of membranes (premature birth).

The conclusion of this study was that there was significant absorption of lead from 100% lead sulfide eye cosmetic “kohl” only on those who used it. To my surprise nobody mentioned anything about the lead levels in the children, which is an example of compartmentalization of science. Common sense would dictate that these children who were at higher risk from mothers with over 200 mcg/L should have received chelation treatments to remove lead (we do this in Western medicine!).

3. Different lip sticks and lip glosses analyzed in Europe and in the US:

A European study showed that 31% of lipsticks and 4% of lip glosses tested positive for lead. All of them had less than 0.88 mg/kg of lead (less than 1 mg/kg). Pink lipstick or lip gloss (0.81 and 0.38mg/kg) tested lower than purple lipstick or lip gloss (0.88 and 0.37mg/kg) and red (0.58 and 0.25mg/kg), but purple tested the highest! I did not know that until now when I researched this.  On average the tests show that the gloss has half the concentration of the lipstick.

Don’t be fooled by the difference in recommended safe levels in Canada (10 mg/kg) and Germany (20 mg/kg). Germany has a very powerful chemical industry with lobbyists that likely lead to this higher “safe” level. In Canada it is the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada. No country got it right so far:  A zero tolerance (meaning a blood level of 0 mg/kg in babies and adults alike) is the only solution for humans. A little bit over a long time can lead to chronic chronic lead poisoning.

One other interesting tidbit for those who need to apply something to their lips:

The more expensive lipsticks had much less lead in it than the cheaper varieties (don’t buy the dollar store brands).

Contrast this to an FDA initiated study between 2009 and 2012, published in 2012 that showed that the average lipstick concentration in 400 lipsticks tested  was 1.11 mg/kg, but the highest concentration was 7.19 mg/kg and 13 of them tested 3.06 mg/kg. Here is another review that shows more details (ppm equals mg/kg, so you can compare directly with the figures above. As stated before, in my opinion and that of toxicologists around the world who are the real experts in this a “0 mg/kg” level (no lead in the body) should be the acceptable norm!

Only organic lipsticks and lip-glosses are recommended, if you must wear any of such products. Here is a helpful blog that tells you more positive news (lead and chemical free products).

4. What are the effects of chronic low lead exposure?

Adult lead toxicity is not as common as in the past. Painters in the decades leading up to the 1970’s when laws became more stringent were the ones mostly affected (Ref.1). Keep in mind that more than 30 million tons of lead was released into the air in the US before the lead ban finally remedied this in the 1970’s.  This phasing out was completed in 1995. The mean blood lead levels of Americans declined by 35% since. The EPA is monitoring lead levels in public water systems.

Lead is a nerve poison. It leads to fatigue, insomnia, irritability, lethargy, headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and tremor. It can also affect the nerves of the extremities, more so in the arms than the legs, which was significant in the past century among painters using lead paints. (“Upper extremity paresis” found in painters). Chronic lead poisoning targets the kidneys and the bone marrow. In the kidneys leakage of the filtration units, called glomeruli, leads to loss of microglobulins that can be measured in the urine among other tests. Above a level of 30 mcg/dL (this is the same as above 300 mcg/L) electrophysiological studies reveal often the ulnar nerve conduction is disturbed, which is the cause for the arm weakness in painters. The bone marrow toxicity can be seen in stippling of red blood cells and anemia develops subsequently. High blood pressure and fertility issues are also common (low sperm count in men, higher rate of spontaneous abortions and stillbirths in women). The gums around the teeth show lead lines (blue discoloration).  I will not get into lead toxicity in children, as this is a big topic of its own. Needless to say symptoms are much worse as any pediatrician can tell you. It goes without saying that should you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor and have appropriate tests done.

5. Treatment and prevention:

As we do not see acute lead poisoning as much as in the past, except sadly to say still in development countries and highly industrialized areas with lead emissions into the air, I like to emphasize the importance of prevention here.

a)    If you absolutely must have make-up and/or lip sticks or lip gloss, at least go for the expensive, organic products. You owe it to yourself. However, having said that keep in mind that anything you put on your skin anywhere is absorbed to a certain percentage. So, why mess with your body’s metabolism? I really question this. For your skin you can use a product called “Youth serum” from LifeExtension, where only a few drops will suffice to cover your face and neck with a thin film. Within a few seconds this is absorbed into the skin and it will stimulate your skin to grow where wrinkles are, so the wrinkles flatten out in time.

b)    Keep in mind that skin appearance is hormone dependent, males need testosterone as they age and women need bioidentical progesterone. The first link under point 2 above claims that progesterone would be cancer producing. This is not true: it is progestin, a synthetic copy of progesterone that does this. So, bioidentical progesterone in cosmetics would be cancer preventing in women (men should stay away from a woman who has applied this for at least two hours as skin transfer will block testosterone production). Worse still: if a manufacturer uses progestin (the synthetic version), the traces of it over a long period of time will act like xenoestrogens, which can cause breast cancer in the woman who uses such a product and through transfer can cause prostate cancer in a man.

c)    If you insist on using chemicals on your skin, you may want to consider seeing a naturopathic physician who does intravenous chelation. Lab tests are available to assess the levels of heavy metals and toxins in your body. If the levels are creeping up, chelation treatments from time to time may be needed in people with measured elevations of lead levels in blood tests and/or urinary lead level elevations.  Discuss this with your doctor.  Removal of any accumulated mercury, lead, and cadmium or other heavy metals will be an option. I have summarized detoxification methods elsewhere.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I think that it has to be carefully considered, how much use of lipstick application is necessary. Next the choice of a high quality product is of utmost importance. Taking all the factors together, its constant use cannot be recommended, especially since there is not only lead present, which is a known health hazard. Beside lead there are many other chemicals that get absorbed and their effects have not been adequately tested by the agencies.

More information on vitamins and detoxification: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/

References:

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Chapter 73, “Lead” by Michael W. Shannon, MD, MPH © 2007, Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Mar
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2014

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins are toxins that may be in your drinking water, in what you eat, in the air you breathe, or they enter your body through your skin when you swim in contaminated water or walk on a sandy, wet beach.

In the following blog I will address some of these issues and how we can defend ourselves against toxins.

The youngest and most vulnerable

Toxins are particularly bad for infants and premature babies.

The reasons for this are the following ones: their kidney function (tubular secretion) is only 20% to 30% of that of an adult; the cytochrome P-450 enzyme system in the liver, one of the toxin eliminators is slowed down to only 25% to 50% of the adult activity and glucuronidation in the liver, another detoxification process, reaches adult levels only at the age of 3 years. The kidneys and the liver are limiting the removal of toxins by way of urine and bile in the newborn. Stomach acidity in a premature has a pH of 4.7, in a full-term newborn 2.3–3.6 and in an adult 1.4–2.0. This is important to note as a lack of stomach acid increases susceptibility of newborns and infants to gastrointestinal infections and cause diarrhea. Percutaneous absorption in newborns is much higher than in adults, which makes them very susceptible to absorbing toxins through the skin (Ref.1).

Diabetes from environmental toxins

Environmental toxins can cause insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins and is found primarily in food and beverage containers. The world population has been exposed to this since 1957 and as a result 90% of US residents have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. Ref.2 explains that the higher the urine concentration of BPA, the higher the risk is for developing diabetes.

Persistent organic pollutants are another source of concern: pesticides and herbicides, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, hexachlorobenzene, and hexachlorocyclohexane have all been found in humans. Several investigators have shown that virtually all of the risk in obese patients to develop diabetes comes from the fat-soluble persistent organic pollutants (Ref.2).

Inorganic arsenic is another pollutant that is found in soil and rock naturally and finds its way into the drinking water. About 8% of the public water system of the US exceeds 10 mcg/L for drinking water, which has been set as the safe limit for drinking water by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard. Anything above those levels is considered toxic.Ref.2 describes that people who ingest inorganic arsenic will excrete it in the urine; the highest group with arsenic in their urine had a risk of 3.58-fold to develop diabetes when compared to the lowest group. Curiously enough organic arsenic that is found in fish and shellfish is excreted in the urine unchanged and does not cause diabetes. Overall this indicates to me that nobody should consume or cook with contaminated water that contains inorganic arsenic. Reverse osmosis filters will protect you from this risk.

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Protecting Yourself From Environmental Toxins

Other toxins around the house

Volatile organic compounds are often contained in carpets, but also in laser and inkjet printers. They are part of everyone’s life as this link shows. Varied symptoms like irritation of eyes, nose or throat, breathing problems, headaches, loss of coordination, damage to the liver, kidneys and the brain have been reported after exposure to volatile organic compounds. Long-term exposure can even cause cancer in animals and has been suspected to cause cancer in humans as well.

Air fresheners and cleaning solutions that contain ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes have been the subject of a study that examined concentrations in the air and interaction with ozone that can also be released by some cleaners. As this link shows the investigators concluded that with exposure to high enough concentrations and long enough exposures to these fumes lung cancer can be caused in cleaning personnel. They recommended to use cleaning solutions only in diluted form and to air out the premises well after cleaning. Another component of many air fresheners and cleaning chemicals is paradichlorobenzene, the same chemical that is contained in mothballs.

There have been problems with flame retardants: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are cancer producing; they have been outlawed in the US since 2004, but older mattresses, upholstery, television, computer casings and circuit boards may still contain them.

Lead and mercury poisoning, and radioactive pollutants

Manufacturers were not allowed to use lead in paints anymore since 1978. Paint from buildings older than that still may contain lead. There have been serious lead poisonings in children who were gnawing on items painted with lead containing paint. Lead causes problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. Just last year a news story about lead found in fashion jewelry surfaced warning about cheap fashion jewelry from China. Lead form these items can be absorbed through the skin and cause lead poisoning. Because of the apparent lack of regulations in China it is my recommendation not to buy anything that goes into your mouth or on your skin, if it has been grown or produced in China.

Mercury from tuna and other predator fish: It is sad that the oceans are polluted to the point where it has become unsafe to eat predator fish as there is an accumulation of mercury through the food chain.

How did things develop this way? Back 100 years and more ago gold panning and the purification process of gold caused mercury to enter into rivers and allow mercury to end up in the oceans where it has since accumulated; it just sits there as it has nowhere to go.

Coal burning (yes, there is mercury in coal) has also contributed to this by smoke being emitted from smoke stacks containing mercury vapors, which ended up returning to earth as polluted rain and drained through the river system into the oceans.

It is monomethylmercury that accumulates in the tissue of humans. It affects many organs, such as the brain, kidneys, lungs, and skin. It causes various symptoms like red cheeks, fingers, and toes; there can be bleeding from the mouth and ears; it can cause rapid heartbeats, high blood pressure, intense sweating, loss of hair, teeth, and nails. It also can cause blindness, loss of hearing, impaired memory, and lack of coordination, disturbed speech and birth defects. You may think all mercury comes from the outside. However, silver amalgam fillings in your teeth could also be the source of mercury poisoning. It is a good idea to replace amalgam/mercury fillings with ceramic fillings.

There are many forms of other marine pollution as this link shows.

One particular concerning aspect is pollution with radioactive materials as the Fukushima disaster in Japan has shown. Following the catastrophe on March 11, 2011 there have been several leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, which are described here. Dr. John Apsley II pointed out that with the explosions in Fukushima there were also several releases of radioactive pollution into the stratosphere. This pollution has subsequently traveled around the globe and has come down as radioactive rain. He has made it his ambition to help people minimize radiation exposure from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.

Protecting yourself from toxins

Having said that pollution and toxins are problems that we are living with, how can we protect ourselves from all of that?

1. Avoid as many unsafe chemicals around you as you can. This includes checking ingredients in hair care and body care products, toothpaste, hair dyes, cosmetics, mouthwashes and underarm deodorants.  I have written a blog about toxins in the bathroom and what you should watch for.

2. I would recommend you switch from a standard food to organic food. It has become unsafe to eat non-organic meats, leafy vegetables, vegetables and fruit. There are too many residues of herbicides and pesticides contained also in meat, not only in vegetables and fruit. Washing will not remove these substances, even though some merchants may tell you otherwise. Buyer beware!

3. Detoxification methods are available and I have reviewed them in this blog. Briefly, to remove lead and mercury a formal intravenous chelation protocol should be followed.  Depending on how many heavy metal toxins you have on board, you may need only a few treatments or else up to 20. Here is a more conservative website stating that it would be safe to have silver amalgam fillings. I think that gold and ceramic fillings are much safer.

4. Genetically modified food is another danger as I have summarized in this blog. This is another reason why I like to stick to organic food. There is evidence that GMO food causes autoimmune diseases, infertility and chronic inflammation that can eventually lead to cancer. It may take decades to prove this, but I am not willing to be a human guinea pig.

5. I have mentioned in a prior blog that we live in a toxic world. You need to carefully look at your home and remove toxins. You need to assess your drinking water. A water analysis can tell you how good the water in your home is and whether there are concerns about inorganic arsenic. Usually places that sell filter systems can advise you in that regard. Your drinking water should either be bottled pure water or else reverse osmosis water that can be part of a filter system in your house.

6.Vitamins and supplements have been shown to support your cell integrity and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect you from toxins. I discussed this in detail in my NetHealthBook under nutrition. For instance vitamin D3 in doses of 5000 IU or more and CoQ-10 are powerful anti-inflammatories and CoQ-10 is also an antioxidant and preserves mitochondrial function. High fish oil supplements (3 to 6 Grams per day) have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cell membrane integrity. With these overlapping qualities of vitamins and supplements your body will be in a much stronger position to defend itself against the negative effects of toxins. When you take multivitamins, this translates into telomere lengthening of 5.1% (or converted into a survival advantage of 9.8 years when it is accumulated over a life time). Ref. 4 explains this in more detail.

7. Exposure to radioactive substances is a scary thought, but this is becoming more and more a reality, at least for those who live close to disaster areas such as the Fukushima site in Japan or the Chernobyl site in the Ukraine. But according to Dr. Apsley II low dose radiation that we have already received in the US and in Canada following the Fukushima disaster is equally disastrous (Ref.3). Many of the vitamins and supplements I have mentioned are also cell and mitochondria protective and will help with DNA repair following radiation damage, but you must avoid sugar and other refined carbs and starches to reduce the oxidative effect on cells and on LDL cholesterol to prevent premature aging and cell death. Ref. 3 contains a lot more detail about this and explains what specific supplements can be taken to detoxify your system from specific radioactive elements that function as free radicals. There are specific antidotes for radioactive iodine-129 and iodine-131, radioactive cesium-137 and others.

Conclusion

Many people shrug their shoulders when they hear that pollution has an effect on their lives. They feel that they are powerless and cannot do anything about this. The truth is far from this! Above I mentioned seven points that you can follow to counter toxins. On top of that you can get politically active and urge your government representative to create a nuclear free zone in your area. Ref. 3 contains compelling evidence why this is so important not only for us now, but for future generations and the future of mankind. We need to hold those who provide us with food and beverages accountable for the quality of these. Shrugging it off is not good enough. Get involved. Buy organic food. Avoid the section in the grocery store where sugar and high carb foods are sold. It’s good for your own health, but it will collectively change the mentality of the grocery store owners who will notice that they are stuck with the comfort foods that sold well in the past. This new trend will result in cheaper prices for healthy foods and more availability of organic food.

References

1. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. © 2007 Saunders. Chapter 18:“Toxicologic Issues in the Neonate”.

2. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders. Chapter 31: “Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome”.

3. Dr. John W. Apsley II : “Fukushima Meltdown & Modern Radiation: Protecting Ourselves and Our Future Generations” © 2011. Temet Nosce Publications, Sammamish, WA 98075

4. Xu, Qun, Parks, C.G., DeRoo, L.A., Cawthon, R.M., Sandler, D.P. and Chen, H. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89 (April 2009):1857-63. Full text (PDF): http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1857.full?sid=9aab0e13-b4d2-42ad-b44c-15cffc6771c3

Last edited March 8, 2014