• Reduction of Alcohol Intake Is Associated with Less Heart Attacks and Strokes

    Reduction of Alcohol Intake Is Associated with Less Heart Attacks and Strokes

    Recently Korean researchers showed that a reduction of alcohol intake is associated with less heart attacks and strokes. This was published on March 28, 2024. The researchers followed 21,011 participants who were heavy drinkers. The baseline examination took place 2005-2008 and a follow-up exam was between 2009 and … [Read More...]

  • Eating the right Food Determines your Health

    Eating the right Food Determines your Health

    CNN had an interview with Dr. Leana Wen about the fact that eating the right food determines your health. Dr. Wen is a wellness expert, an emergency physician and adjunct associate professor at George Washington University. How much does the quality of food we eat influence our health? There are detailed studies … [Read More...]

  • Regular Exercise Makes you 9 years younger

    Regular Exercise Makes you 9 years younger

    A recent publication noted that regular exercise makes you 9 years younger. The researchers meant that the biological age is 9 years younger than your chronological age. They went one step further and proved that regular exercise elongates your telomeres, which is why people who exercise regularly live longer. … [Read More...]

  • New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

    New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

    A recent study explained that a new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is very reliable. Specifically, it determined with 96% accuracy elevated levels of beta amyloid. It also accurately identified tau protein, another Alzheimer’s marker, with 97%. The original research study was published at JAMA … [Read More...]

  • Living with the Aging Process

    Living with the Aging Process

    The following article describes living with the aging process. Older adults undergo the process of aging between the ages of 50 and 80. This is a complex process affecting various systems parallel. There are hormone factors that are particularly prominent in women during menopause. Joints are affected by … [Read More...]

  • Ashwagandha’s Benefits

    Ashwagandha’s Benefits

    Medical news today had an article in October 2023 that reviewed ashwagandha’s benefits. I thought it would be useful to discuss this topic in an abridged version. Often things get distorted on the Internet and a reality check helps to separate facts from fiction. Ashwagandha (botanical name: Withania somnifera) is a … [Read More...]

    May
    13
    2024

    Reduction of Alcohol Intake Is Associated with Less Heart Attacks and Strokes

    Recently Korean researchers showed that a reduction of alcohol intake is associated with less heart attacks and strokes. This was published on March 28, 2024. The researchers followed 21,011 participants who were heavy drinkers. The baseline examination took place 2005-2008 and a follow-up exam was between 2009 and 2012. Definition of heavy drinking was as follows:

    • For men: 4 drinks (56 g) per day or more than 14 drinks (196 g) per week.
    • For females: more than 3 drinks (42 g) per day or more than 7 drinks (98 g) per week.

    Reduced alcohol intake resulted in a 23% reduced risk of heart attacks or strokes, which was a significant finding. Patients benefited most from alcohol reduction regarding angina and ischemic strokes. This study was also reviewed in Medscape:

    Other studies showing benefits of less alcohol intake

    A 2018 study in Plos Medicine examined a US population of 99,654 adults (68.7% female).

    At the time of the enrolment, they were 55–74 years old. The overall time of follow-up was 8.9 years. Scientists looked at the various risks of cancer development or deaths from cardiovascular disease as a function of the amount of average alcoholic drinks consumed. The results were as follows:

    • Never drinkers: 1.09-fold risk of cancer or death.
    • Infrequent drinkers: 1.08-fold risk of cancer or death.
    • Heavy drinkers: 1.10-fold risk of cancer or death.
    • Very heavy drinkers: 1.21-fold risk of cancer or death.

    Heart attack risk and cancer risk from alcohol consumption are different

    In addition, with respect to cardiovascular risk it followed a J-curve. This means that light alcohol use reduced the probability of death from a heart attack or stroke, but with moderate or heavy alcohol use the risk of death increased. In contrast, with respect to cancer there was a linear curve, which means that no dose of alcohol was safe for cancer development. The more alcohol you consumed, the higher the risk of cancer development was. Another study also showed that only moderate alcohol consumption benefited people in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

    Chinese study

    In 2021 a joint US/Chinese study examined the effects of alcohol consumption on cancer, deaths from cardiovascular disease and mortality in general. 83,732 adult Chinese participants were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer in the beginning of the study. The researchers categorized participants based on self-reported alcohol consumption into 6 groups.

    1. 0 g alcohol/week (non-drinkers).
    2. 1-25 g alcohol/week.
    3. 26-150 g alcohol/week.
    4. 151-350 g alcohol/week.
    5. 351-750 g alcohol/week.
    6.  > 750 g alcohol/wk.

    Results of the US/Chinese study

    After 10 years of follow-up there were 6411 cases of CVD, 2947 cancers and 6646 deaths. After 10 years of observation researchers calculated the risk for cancer, CVD and mortality as follows. The risk groups are the same as mentioned above.

    The lowest risk was group 2 with 1-25 g alcohol per week, which was set as 1.0. In comparison to these non-drinkers had a risk of 1.38-fold.

    1.     1.38-fold risk
    2.     1.0
    3.     1.15-fold
    4.     1.22-fold
    5.     1.33-fold
    6.     1.57-fold

    The peculiar finding in this study was that non-drinkers had a risk of developing cancer, heart attacks or strokes like heavier drinkers. The risk curve has the name of a J-curve, which means the risk goes first down (like group 2, the 1-25 g alcohol/week group). Subsequently the risk curve goes up in a linear fashion. When people smoke and drink the risk is higher than the risks of people who only drink alcohol.

    Reduction of Alcohol Intake Is Associated with Less Heart Attacks and Strokes

    Reduction of Alcohol Intake Is Associated with Less Heart Attacks and Strokes

    Conclusion

    The fact that alcohol is a cell poison has been public knowledge for some time. I reviewed three studies that showed that less alcohol consumption saves lives. It does so by causing less cancer, heart attacks and strokes. The peculiar finding was that the group consuming 1-25 g alcohol/week had the best health statistic. This group had the lowest risk of causing cancers or cardiovascular disease (CVD). In comparison non-drinkers had a 1.38-fold risk to cause cancer or CVD. Those participants who were smoking as well had risks much higher than people consuming alcohol alone. If you want to live longer and stay healthy don’t smoke and drink not more than 1-25 g alcohol/week. This translates into 1.6 to 1.8 alcoholic drinks per week.

    Apr
    13
    2024

    Eating the right Food Determines your Health

    CNN had an interview with Dr. Leana Wen about the fact that eating the right food determines your health. Dr. Wen is a wellness expert, an emergency physician and adjunct associate professor at George Washington University.

    How much does the quality of food we eat influence our health?

    There are detailed studies that showed the following effects of healthy food on our lives.

    • If you eat a diet consisting of more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts, the following will happen. You could exceed the age of controls eating unhealthy food by 10 to 13 years.

    Specifically, a woman starting such a diet at age 20 would add 10 years to her life, when starting at age 60 she could add 8 years to her life. For men starting this diet at age 20 would allow him to gain 13 years, when starting at age 60 he would add 9 years to his life.

    Additional healthy food studies

    • A 2023 Nature study found that men can add 10.8 years, women 10.4 years by switching their diets. This switch was from unhealthy diets to a longevity diet with more whole grains. In addition, the healthy diet contained more nuts and fruits and less sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats.
    • Another 2023 study from the Jama network followed over 100,000 people for more than 30 years. There was an association between adopting healthy eating patterns and a reduction in early mortality. People on a healthy diet reduced their risk of early death by 20%! The study also noticed that people who ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes had fewer other diseases. They were less likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular illness and respiratory and neurodegenerative disease. These were important findings. 

    What kinds of food make you live longer?

    Dr. Wen stated clearly that it is only minimally processed, whole food that allows a person to live longer. The highly processed foods like processed meats, sausages, cakes and cookies are a “no go”. They are the ones that cost lives from heart attacks, strokes and cancer. On the other hand, leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains associate with significantly reduced mortality. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce heart disease and dementia. It is also a good source of protein. So, stay away from hot dogs and chicken nuggets, instead enjoy salmon fillet or roasted chicken.

    Foods that you need less of

    Avoid sugar sweetened sodas and energy drinks, as they elevate cholesterol levels and cause heart attacks. Next, stay away from ultra-processed foods like chips and candies. In one study with more than 11,000 participants people who ate a lot of ultra-processed foods had a 31% higher risk of mortality.

    With what do you replace junk food?

    Here are a couple of examples. Somebody who used to drink a lot of sodas can replace them with water, sparkling water, flavored water or lemon juice, sweetened with stevia. Instead of snacking on ultraprocessed foods like chips, candies or pretzels eat nuts instead. Look at the list of ingredients before you buy anything in the grocery store. If there is a long list of ingredients including chemicals, this is ultraprocessed food. Replace it with minimally processed foods with only a few items on the ingredient list.

    Other advice for health and longevity

    1. If possible, eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Stop eating 2 hours before bedtime to allow your guts to digest the food you previously ate. This avoids heart burn and interference with your sleep.
    2. Exercise regularly. Studies showed that 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week reduced mortality by 23%.
    3. Take care of stress in your life. Cherish your social life and socialize; it is important for longevity. See your doctor regularly to take care of any medical problems you may have.
    4. Watch your sleep habits. Many studies have shown that adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Sleep restores your hormone glands, gets them ready for the next day, but it is also important for longevity.
    5. Keep your body mass index (BMI) between 21.0 and 24.0. Personally, I keep my BMI between 21.0 and 22.0. Any extra pounds of fat merely lead to elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. Eventually this leads to heart attacks and strokes, but also to diabetes.
    Eating the right Food Determines your Health

    Eating the right Food Determines your Health

    Conclusion

    A recent article in CNN described that eating the right food determines your health. One study said that you should eat a diet consisting of more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts. Doing this increases your life expectation by 10 to 13 years compared to controls who ate unhealthy food. It is only minimally processed, whole food that allows a person to live longer. You must eliminate ultraprocessed food. This means you should not consume sausages, fries, chips, pretzels and other overprocessed foods. Instead, eat leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains that associate with significantly reduced mortality. Yes, eating the right food determines your health.

    Mar
    30
    2024

    Regular Exercise Makes you 9 years younger

    A recent publication noted that regular exercise makes you 9 years younger. The researchers meant that the biological age is 9 years younger than your chronological age. They went one step further and proved that regular exercise elongates your telomeres, which is why people who exercise regularly live longer. Specifically, they found that sedentary people had 140 fewer base pairs at the endpoints of their telomeres compared to people who engaged in regular physical activity. In other words, the biological age of a person who exercises regularly is lower than that of a sedentary person. This difference can be measured in leukocyte telomeres. With regard to the base pairs contained in telomeres the highest physical activity group showed the most elongation of the telomeres. There was a 9-year difference in terms of biological age between the highest exercise group and the sedentary group.

    Other means of elongation of telomeres

    Apart from regular exercise lifestyle factors can also modify the length of telomeres.

    Smoking, a lack of regular exercise, exposure to stress and intake of polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, especially linoleic acid shortens our body telomeres. Soybean oil, sesame seed oil, walnut oil and cotton seed oil are containing 45 to 50 % of linoleic acid, and for this reason should be avoided. The antioxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids elongates telomeres by reducing the rate of telomere shortening. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene were associated with longer telomeres and a lower risk to develop breast cancer.

    A few dietary recommendations

    Here are a few healthy food recommendations that will elongate your telomeres.

    • Include antioxidants, fiber, organic soy protein and healthy fats (derived from avocados, fish, and nuts).
    • Stay lean, active, healthy, and stress-free.
    • Eat foods such as salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut, anchovies, cat-fish, flounder, flax seeds, chia seeds, kiwi, black raspberries, lingonberry, green tea, broccoli, sprouts, red grapes, tomatoes, olive fruit, and other vitamin C-rich and E-rich foods. They are a good source of antioxidants. Avoid tuna and grouper fish (too rich in noxious mercury).
    • These combined with a Mediterranean type diet containing fruits, and whole grains will help protect your telomeres.
    • There are certain individuals who live longer than the rest of us. They may have a certain advantage, which is a longevity gene that makes the telomeres longer. Resveratrol also works through elongation of telomeres.

    Telomerase can also lead to telomere length

    I attended the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) that dealt with telomere length and how nutrition can positively influence what our genes express. This ultimately determines how long we live. Dr. Al Sears gave one of the talks at the conference.

    He pointed out that shortened telomeres are causing cells to behave like old cells. In the lab we can lengthen telomeres. Telomerase activated animals regrew their brains! In the human situation the goal is to find ways to preserve the length of our telomeres in all our key organs. Alternatively, this can also be reached by inhibiting the breakdown of the enzyme telomerase, which will lead to a lengthening of telomeres. In his research Dr. Sears found at least 123 nutrients, vitamins and natural compounds that will elongate telomeres, often by stimulating telomerase.

    Lengthening of critically shortened telomeres

    Testing for critically short telomeres is clinically more important than using average telomere length tests. Dr. Sears said when a patient has been shown to have short telomeres and this patient is started on telomerase stimulating supplements, telomere lengthening can be documented within one month of starting the supplementation. Acetyl-L-carnitine and resveratrol are two substances that reliably elongate telomeres.

    Vitamin C and other telomerase stimulators

    Vitamin C will significantly delay shortening of telomeres, which translates into delayed aging. Age-dependent telomere shortening is slowed down by enrichment of intracellular vitamin C via suppression of oxidative stress. In addition, vitamin C has recently been shown to stimulate telomerase activity in certain stem cells. There is an herb, called Silymarin extract, which was found to increase telomerase activity threefold. N-acetyl cysteine is a building block for glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. In addition, it has been shown to turn on the human telomerase gene. Other telomerase stimulators are green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, gamma tocotrienol (one of the components of the vitamin E group), vitamin D3 and folic acid. Telomerase Inhibitors from Natural Products and Their Anticancer Potential.

    Regular Exercise Makes you 9 years younger

    Regular Exercise Makes you 9 years younger

    Conclusion

    A research paper found that regular exercise makes a person 9 years younger in terms of the biological age. The underlying process is that telomeres get longer with regular exercise. Specifically, the researchers found that sedentary people had 140 fewer base pairs at the endpoints of their telomeres compared to people who engaged in regular physical activity. I listed other factors that elongate telomeres and help with longevity. When you combine regular exercise with dietary factors that also elongate telomeres, you are better off than with exercise alone.

     

    Mar
    16
    2024

    New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

    A recent study explained that a new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is very reliable. Specifically, it determined with 96% accuracy elevated levels of beta amyloid. It also accurately identified tau protein, another Alzheimer’s marker, with 97%. The original research study was published at JAMA Neurology.

    Significance of tau protein and beta amyloid for Alzheimer’s diagnosis

    Both beta amyloid and tau protein play an important role in the functioning of nerve cells in the central nervous system. But people who develop Alzheimer’s disease experience a lot of beta amyloid deposits in their brains. In addition, there is an overproduction of tau protein as well with insoluble filaments that accumulate as neurofibrillary tangles.

    Conventional ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease

    Alzheimer’s disease conventionally is diagnosed by a PET scan. However, this involves some radiation exposure and costs over $5,000. Next a spinal tap allows the physician to send a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to the lab for analysis. This test gives detailed information, but people are often reluctant to get this invasive test. These tests are expensive and not covered by insurance.

    The preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson is the director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida. He was not involved in the study. Dr. Isaacson said: “Having a blood test like this can also help democratize access for people and just make it easier for our health care system to more proactively manage the tsunami of dementia risk that our society is facing. This is the key to unlock the door into the field of Alzheimer’s prevention and preventive neurology.”

    Home test

    The Alzheimer’s disease test was introduced in the US in May of 2022 under the name “AD-Detect™ Test” by Quest. Again, this test is not covered by insurance. The cost is about 399.00 USD plus a 13.00 USD physician service fee.

    Research background of the home test

    Researchers performed a clinical trial that correlated the blood test, phosphorylated tau (p-tau), with PET scanning of the brain. The blood test was also correlated with lumbar punctures and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid tests. A total of 786 participants (504 females and 282 males) were tested 3 times over 5.22 years. The researchers found that phosphorylated tau (p-tau) was a specific blood biomarker to detect Alzheimer’s disease. It was very sensitive and accurate in terms of correlation with PET scans and cerebrospinal fluid tests. The investigators concluded that the Alzheimer blood test is a practical solution for diagnosing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease early. It will also be a good tool to monitor, whether any future Alzheimer’s drug is effective in controlling the disease process.

    Discussion regarding the new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

    For years there was no easy way for physicians to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. The alternatives were to order the expensive PET scan or the invasive lumbar puncture for a cerebrospinal fluid test. Now with the new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease the physician can screen for Alzheimer’s based on clinical suspicion. The blood test can also tell whether any lifestyle changes have slowed down the clinical course or not. Another important aspect is that this test allows an earlier diagnosis of dementia.

    Difficult to interpret tests and test results in other forms of dementia

    About 20% of the study participants had blood test results, which were not clear. In a case like this the doctor would order further testing with imaging or a spinal tap to diagnose the condition accurately. Other forms of dementia like vascular dementia or Lewy body dementia were negative with this Alzheimer’s test, which added to the specificity of the test. Also, this test picks up Alzheimer’s about 10 years before symptom onset, so it is an early diagnostic test.

    New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

    New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

    Conclusion

    One of the clinical tests for Alzheimer’s disease is to test for recent memory loss. But with the new phosphorylated tau (p-tau) blood test physicians can now objectively diagnose Alzheimer’s much earlier, even when the person has no symptoms yet. Researchers validated the test in 786 participants (504 females and 282 males). They were tested 3 times over 5.22 years. Researchers also did PET scans and spinal tabs for analysis of cerebrospinal fluid in the same participants to validate the blood test. There was a 96% accuracy for elevated levels of beta amyloid. It also accurately identified tau protein, another Alzheimer’s marker with 97%. There is now a reliable Alzheimer’s blood test, which helps the physician in the management of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Mar
    02
    2024

    Living with the Aging Process

    The following article describes living with the aging process. Older adults undergo the process of aging between the ages of 50 and 80. This is a complex process affecting various systems parallel. There are hormone factors that are particularly prominent in women during menopause. Joints are affected by degenerative changes, which can lead to total knee and hip replacements. The aging process was described in an article by Monica Jimenez at Tufts University.

    What is aging?

    Aging is the loss of function over time. The body is much more complex than a car, so there are more possible points of failure.  Christopher Wiley is a scientist on the Basic Biology of Aging Team who studies the role of nutrition and metabolism in aging at a cellular level at Tufts University. He said:” The fact that life works is amazing”. He went on to say: “The body tries to maintain itself and restore homeostasis(self-healing) even in the face of all this stress and all this damage. We have these really sophisticated programs for dealing with these points of failure.”

    Aging goes on relentlessly

    He explains the aging process this way: “It can start with something as simple as a broken molecule, one little thing that goes wrong in one cell, and then it’s like the butterfly effect,” Wiley said. “The tissue starts struggling, and then the organ, and then your entire body.”

    Dr. Wiley warns about those who say physicians could make people “immortal”. “There’s definitely a misconception out there that we’re trying to make people immortal. But there is never going to be an immortality vaccine,” Wiley said. “There’s never going to be one thing that defeats all of aging. There’s always going to be another point of failure.”

    Slowing down biological aging

    The emphasis of research about aging is not to add chronological years. It is on biological aging and on how well our cells and tissues are functioning. Dr. Sarah Booth is the director of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts. She said: “Lengthening the time in which we can continue to move around, care for ourselves, and participate in social life and activities, is a worthier goal than extending years of suffering.” Many people become disabled in their last years of life, then they die. “Healthspan” is a new term for our years of freedom from disability, Booth noted.

    Factors that prolong healthy aging

    1. Telomere length: One of the factors of longevity is our telomere length. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of each chromosome. When they wear down, it leads to mistakes in the DNA copies of genetic information. There are supplements and herbs that can elongate telomeres. Exercise and the fasting mimicking diet also make telomeres longer. Older adults in good shape have longer telomeres, which stabilizes the DNA in their cells.
    2. Healthy diet: Researchers have determined that several diets are healthier than others. The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory, so is the DASH diet, which was developed for people with high blood pressure. The HNRCA of Tufts is one of six organizations that got research grants recently to investigate life-prolonging diets. The amount was for $8.5 million.

    Exercise and lifestyle factors

    1. Regular exercise: Over the years a lot of research accumulated data that shows regular exercise makes people biologically younger. Heart vessels have less atheromatous deposits and the brain stays younger as well. One study reported that 30 minutes of exercise daily prevents dementia.
    2. Other lifestyle factors: other factors are whether or not you are smoking (it goes without saying that you must quit). In addition, genetics (longevity gene), the environment (polluted or not), stress levels and socioeconomic class all play a factor in how fast we age. These latter points are difficult to tease apart, but they influence us globally. Target organs for aging are: the brain, heart, eyes, and bones, along with cancer, obesity, and more.

    Hormone replacement 

    1. Bioidentical hormone replacement: One factor about delaying aging significantly was not mentioned in the review article by Monica Jimenez. But I am including it, because bioidentical hormone replacement is important for women who undergo menopause in their 50’s. I also mention it because men enter andropause in their 60’s. BiEst estrogen and progesterone cream make a big difference for the symptoms of menopausal women. Similarly, men experience a lot of relief with testosterone injections twice a week, when blood testosterone levels are low. If they have a lack of erections (erectile dysfunction) they may in addition need to take the “happy pill”. Sildenafil or tadalafil can treat erectile dysfunction by giving a good erection to a menopausal male. Hormone replacement can add as much as 10 healthy years to your life.

    Discussion

    Dr. Booth said: “We’re looking at the same question through different lenses with different tools, technologies, and perspectives. Progress in aging research is only going to be achieved by bringing together different disciplines addressing the same problem.”

    Christopher Wiley added: “The biggest change I’ve seen in the past ten years is that we really are finding new, different ways of actually intervening somewhere that could potentially extend the healthy years of life, and prevent people from getting age-related diseases.” He mentioned that scientists are gradually reducing the suffering associated with aging: “What aging research is really trying to do is compress the morbidity and make it as small as possible – to alleviate suffering,” Wiley said. “I think that’s a much more humanitarian goal, and I think we’re having a lot of success with those efforts.”

    Living with the Aging Process

    Living with the Aging Process

    Conclusion

    Aging is a slow process that starts the moment we are born. But between the age of 50 and 80 we age faster. I mentioned 5 specific areas that can slow down the aging process. If somebody smokes, he/she must stop smoking. Cigarette and tobacco smoking  the biggest aging factor. The protective caps at the end of each chromosome go by the name of telomeres. When they shorten prematurely, mistakes occur in the DNA copies of genetic information. This leads to premature aging.

    What keeps you younger for longer

    The good news is that exercise, the fasting mimicking diet and several supplements can elongate telomeres. A healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet and regular exercise keeps the arteries open preventing heart attacks and strokes. Bioidentical hormone replacement helps to rebalance your hormones, which is important for normal cell function. In anti-aging circles they talk about life prolongation of about 10 years for hormone replacement alone. It comes down to not simply extend your lifespan, but to extend your years of healthy living without disability.

    Feb
    17
    2024

    Ashwagandha’s Benefits

    Medical news today had an article in October 2023 that reviewed ashwagandha’s benefits. I thought it would be useful to discuss this topic in an abridged version. Often things get distorted on the Internet and a reality check helps to separate facts from fiction. Ashwagandha (botanical name: Withania somnifera) is a small shrub that grows in Southeast Asia, Africa and some areas of India. An alternative name is Indian ginseng.  Ashwagandha has been part of Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years.

    About ashwagandha’s effectiveness

    Ashwagandha is part of natural medicines that go under the name of adaptogens. The effective substances of ashwagandha were isolated. Researchers named them withanolides. They are alkaloids and consist of polyoxygenated steroidal lactones with 28-carbon ergostane skeletons.

    People are taking ashwagandha supplements to counter stress and fatigue. But it also increases testosterone, which increases muscle mass. In addition, there is an increase of libido in men as well as in women.

    People with insomnia benefit from the relaxing and sleep-inducing effect of ashwagandha supplements. Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system. It also significantly counters the stress response, as it lowers cortisol levels.

    The active chemical components of ashwagandha

    Various researchers pinpointed the diverse actions of ashwagandha extracts to withanolides, which are the pharmacologically active ingredients. There are at least 25 different chemical structures of withanolides, which are depicted in this reference: This explains the diverse effects of ashwagandha extracts on the immune system, the stress hormone axis, the libido brain centers and testosterone production. One human study showed that within 96 hours of ashwagandha extract administration the immune system was activated; T cells and natural killer cells were measured and were significantly elevated in number in comparison to controls:

    Specific clinical trials showing effects of ashwagandha

    Effects on the brain

    In a small clinical study oral intake of ashwagandha improved performance on cognitive tasks, executive function, attention, and reaction time.

    Dr. Amala Soumyanath is a professor of neurology in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. She stated: “These laboratory studies show that ashwagandha extracts can act on neurotransmitter pathways including those involving serotonin and Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and also affect systems like the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) axis.”

    What does this mean? It means that ashwagandha contains a mix of withanolides that calm down the brain, particularly when it is stressed. At the same time, it increases serotonin and GABA, which has antidepressant and calming effects. Clinical trials have measured cortisol levels in volunteers and found that cortisol is lowered within a few weeks. This is the strongest evidence that ashwagandha in fact counteracts stress.

    Libido and muscle strength

    A small human study found that muscle strength was higher after exposure to oral ashwagandha in comparison to controls.

    Ashwagandha showed a significant increase of maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) in healthy adults and athletes, which is a direct measurement of exercise fitness. A clinical trial with 50 overweight males aged 40-70 years, showed that 16 weeks of oral ashwagandha increased their testosterone level by 14.7%. In addition, there were improvements in fatigue, vigor, and sexual and psychological well-being. There was also an increase of 18% of DHEA-S a precursor of testosterone. The authors felt that a larger study with a longer observation time would be beneficial to confirm this study. Overall, the objective effects of ashwagandha are in the mild to moderate category. The mild increase in testosterone affects libido only marginally. Some articles in social media are vastly exaggerating the objective findings.

    Health risk of ashwagandha

    There are downsides as well. Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system and in doing so may exacerbate autoimmune diseases. It also can increase thyroid hormones, which is important to know for people with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Men who have hormone sensitive prostate cancer should avoid ashwagandha, because it elevates testosterone.

    Researchers pointed out that gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting due to ashwagandha are common side effects. The higher the dosage and the longer the exposure is, the more likely it is that the patient experiences side effects. Researchers reported a few cases of reversible liver toxicity cases due to ashwagandha. At this point the effects of concomitant medications taken at the same time as ashwagandha is not known.

    Ashwagandha’s Benefits

    Ashwagandha’s Benefits

    Conclusion

    Lately social media is full of ashwagandha’s benefits. Rosy reports of increased libido, extra energy and boosts of confidence circulate on the Internet. Men are told that in order to build up muscle bulk with exercise they must take ashwagandha. This review checked the facts. There is a 14.7% rise in testosterone from taking ashwagandha and this may contribute to an increase of muscle mass with exercise, but this is not a huge effect. Also, the mild increase of libido due to the increase of testosterone is not as significant as reported in the social media. The active ingredients of ashwagandha are the withanolides, which researchers isolated. They do help to deal with stress-related problems like lack of energy and insomnia. In addition, they stimulate the immune system to give a stronger response.

    Side effects of ashwagandha

    But ashwagandha also has some side effects. It can make auto immune reactions worse. It can interfere with both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Men who have hormone sensitive prostate cancer must avoid ashwagandha because of the testosterone increase. Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting from ashwagandha supplementation are common side effects. So far scientific evidence is based on relatively small clinical trials. Scientists must conduct much bigger trials that are going on for several years to provide more in-depth information on the effects of ashwagandha.

    Feb
    04
    2024

    Beef and Dairy May Cause Cancer and MS

    New cancer research suggests that chronic virus particles in beef and dairy may cause cancer and MS (multiple sclerosis). The Medical journal Medscape.com had a review article that summarized this line of research.

    Papillomaviruses and cervical cancer

    Harald zur Hausen, M.D., D.Sc., a German virologist, detected that papillomavirus causes cervical cancer. He was given the Nobel prize in Medicine in 2008 for “his discovery of human papillomaviruses causing cervical cancer”. In the meantime, we know that there are two strains, namely HPV-16 and HPV-18 that are carcinogenic. We also learnt that papillomavirus causes oropharyngeal cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer and vulvar cancer. Since then, HPV vaccines are commonly in use for cancer prevention.

    Evidence for causation of colorectal cancer

    Professor Harald zur Hausen and his wife, Professor Ethel-Michele de Villiers, continued work on looking for viral particles in many other cancers. This led them to state that colorectal cancer was due to a latent viral infection. He determined that, when women were breastfeeding their infants for prolonged periods of time (about 1 year), they transmitted oligosaccharides with the breast milk to their offspring, which gave lifelong prevention against colorectal cancer to their children. He also showed that colon cancer patients had round particles in their intestinal mucous membranes, which consisted of single-stranded DNA rings.

    Persistent viruses

    The researchers said that they came from viruses and they named them bovine meat and milk factors (BMMF). In the same areas in the intestine, they detected acid radicals from oxidative stress typical for chronic inflammation. They postulated that infants who are weaned from breast milk prematurely, and started on cow milk formulas ingest BMMF. This infects the lining of the gut where a chronic subclinical BMMF infection gets established. Decades later the patient comes down with colorectal cancer. They established that children who are breast fed for 1 year do not get BMMF particles in the lining of their guts or colorectal cancer. They also don’t get MS in adult life.

    Criticism of two regulatory agencies in Germany

    The above results of professor zur Hausen and his wife were published in February of 2019. This led to a lot of press releases questioning these results. In Germany the consumption of beef and milk products is popular. The DKFZ (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) felt that an “all-clear signal” was necessary. The Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) stands for the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, situated in Berlin. It is a substructure of the German government responsible for food safety. The second agency is the Max Rubner Institute (MRI) in Karlsruhe, also known as Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food. Both agencies started to investigate the facts of Prof. zur Hausen’s research. At the end of November 2022 the BfR and MRI made a joint statement. They stated the following:

    • BMMF were not new viral agents, but variations of already known DNA sequences.
    • BMMF commonly occurred in a variety of animal- and plant-based foods.
    • BMMF were not capable of infecting human cells.
    • It was true that consumption of red and processed meat correlates with the incidence of intestinal tumors.
    • However, consumption of dairy products are linked to a reduced risk of intestinal tumors.
    • There is no evidence that breast cancer would be associated with the consumption of beef or dairy.
    • They stated that milk products and beef are valuable supplementary diet components for infants due to their micronutrients. They further stated that dairy and beef products are safe for people of all ages.

    Evidence for causation of multiple sclerosis

    Professor zur Hausen and his wife, Professor Ethel-Michele de Villiers both worked at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. They pursued research about MS. MS is usually attributed to IgG1 and IgG3 autoantibodies that destroy Schwann cells. The Hausen research team found the following perplexing facts:

    • MS was associated with the consumption of dairy products and beef products.
    • They isolated ring-shaped DNA molecules (BMMF) from dairy and cattle blood.
    • Epstein Barr virus (EBV) also plays a role in initiating MS. MS patients have higher antibody titers against EBV.
    • One research paper noticed that MS patients in Antarctica secreted EBV in their saliva in the winter month. However, vitamin D3 stopped the viral excretion. This is very interesting as vitamin D is an important immune response stimulator.

    More evidence:

    • They isolated BMMF particles from lesions of MS patients.
    • They noticed the old fact that MS is more common further away from the equator. Vitamin D production from sun exposure reduced cases of MS.
    • Prolonged breast feeding up to one year prevents life threatening rotaviruses and noroviruses in the newborn. The reason is exposure to oligosaccharides in breast milk. The mother starts producing breast milk in the middle of her pregnancy. It protects mother from tumors (including breast cancer), from MS later in life as well as type 2 diabetes.
    • The researchers formulated the hypothesis that both EBV and BMMF are responsible in patients to form MS lesions in the brain when vitamin D levels are low. A good dose of vitamin D3 every day may be helping to keep EBV and BMMF in a dormant phase.

    Discussion

    At this point there is no consensus why an increased consumption of beef and processed meat causes more colorectal cancer. The question is whether BMMF particles cause colorectal cancer or whether meat consumption experiences metabolization into carcinogenic substances? Either way it would be desirable to cut down on your red meat consumption.

    With respect to MS, we know that autoantibodies are destroying the Schwann cells. But the question is why the immune system produces autoantibodies. Could it be that persistent EBV viruses switch the immune system from a normal to an autoantibody mode? Would BMMF be an additional factor?

    Beef and Dairy May Cause Cancer and MS

    Beef and Dairy May Cause Cancer and MS

    Conclusion

    Professor zur Hausen, a virologist from Germany and his wife Professor Ethel-Michele de Villiers researched persistent viruses. Professor zur Hausen detected the connection of papilloma viruses to cervical cancer. He received the Nobel prize in medicine 2008. They proposed the theory that newborns in their first year of life have an immature immune system. If they are fed cow’s milk and/or beef during the first year they accumulate bovine meat and milk factors (BMMF), which can subsequently lead to colon cancer or to MS as an adult. Two top German institutes banded together to criticize Prof. zur Hausen’s research.

    Criticism of Professor zur Hausen’s research

    The Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) stands for the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, situated in Berlin. It is a substructure of the German government responsible for food safety. The second agency is the Max Rubner Institute (MRI) in Karlsruhe, also known as Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food. These research institutes concluded that not all of the findings of Professor zur Hausen were valid. I listed 7 of their concerns. On the other hand, they agreed that it was true that consumption of red and processed meat correlated with the incidence of intestinal tumors. Time will tell which parts of the research ultimately will be valid and which are not.

    Jan
    20
    2024

    Fasting-Mimicking Diet Is Benefitting Cardiovascular Health

    A crossover study showed that a fasting-mimicking diet is benefitting cardiovascular health. This new study was done by Dr. Valter Longo et al. from the University of Southern California. It compared the effect of two diets. They were the fasting-mimicking diet versus an unrestricted diet. In other studies Dr. Longo compared the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) with a Mediterranean diet. He said: “The significance is that fasting-mimicking diet cycles were able to decrease fat mass without reducing muscle mass and without requiring changes in the subjects’ preferred diet for 25 days a month. In contrast, the everyday Mediterranean diet required a change in everyday dietary habits and was associated with a 5 pounds loss of muscle.”

    Findings of the effects of 5 days of the fasting mimicking diet per month

    3 cycles of 5-day FMD per month showed the following effect. Fasting-mimicking diet patients experienced a remarkable decrease in trunk fat mass. Dr. Longo also showed in a previous study that the FMD reduces the circulating insulin-like growth factor 1. In addition, blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol were reduced. In short, cardiovascular markers showed a protective effect in the FMD group.

    Comments of a cardiologist to fasting mimicking diet

    Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar is a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. He was not involved in the study by Dr. Valter Longo. He said: “When we look at different sorts of diets, we really want to get down to what sort of health benefit they actually provide. It was nice to see that both the fasting-mimicking diet and Mediterranean diet – which is almost like the mainstay of recommended diets right now – both led to weight loss and improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. These are all very important cardiometabolic parameters that lead to cardiovascular disease, so it’s nice to see that both are able to do so.”

    Fasting-mimicking diet reduces abdominal fat

    He went on to say: “What was interesting about the fasting-mimicking diet is that it had the added benefit of reducing abdominal fat, which was really important because that is a big reason why a lot of people diet. Not to mention it’s still important even from a medical standpoint because abdominal fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.” He continued to point out that it will be important to show the long-term effect of the FMD. He suggested to have observations over several month and years. Also, he stressed the importance of showing the direct effect of the FMD on the reduction of cardiovascular disease. This would be in comparison to controls. All this requires much larger clinical trials with longer follow-ups.

    Advantage of fasting-mimicking diet

    The FMD is easy to follow. You only have to reduce your daily calorie intake for 5 days out of a month. The remaining 25 days they eat their normal diet. People are often unwilling to change their diet. With the FMD they only have to reduce their calorie intake to 500 to 600 calories per day. And this is only for 5 days in a row once per month. They will lose 0.5 to 0.7 units of body mass index (BMI) once a month. Compare the first day of your 5 day FMD with the day after your last FMD.

    My experience with the fasting mimicking diet

    I have done this for 6 years. In  December of 2017 I listened to a lecture by Dr. Valter Longo at a conference in Las Vegas. Immediately after I started dong monthly FMD for 5 days. This kept my BMI within 21.0 to 22.0, because I use the FMD to correct any weight gains. Whether you want to adopt a DASH diet or a Mediterranean diet is another issue. This is eventually desirable to solve. But in the meantime stay in a healthy range with your BMI with the help of the FMD.

    Fasting-Mimicking Diet Is Benefitting Cardiovascular Health

    Fasting-Mimicking Diet Is Benefitting Cardiovascular Health

    Conclusion

    The fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) is a tool to reduce your abdominal fat.  At the same time you improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. You can achieve that by reducing your daily calorie intake. With the FMD you aim for between 500 and 600 calories for 5 consecutive days every month. With body composition scales you can see how your weight, fat percentage and body mass index reduce from before. These are all very important cardiometabolic parameters. If you allow them to get out of control they lead to cardiovascular disease.  Start adopting the FMD to keep your weight the same or reduce it slightly. Worry about a possible diet change to a Mediterranean diet at a later point and introduce the beneficial changes. This makes dieting easier.

    Jan
    07
    2024

    Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

    In the New Year it pays to backup your New Year’s resolutions by looking at short-term consequences. An article in “the conversation” explains how you can keep yourself motivated to stick to healthy habits. The alternative would be to fall back into unhealthy habits, which lead to various disease conditions. Traditional thinking centered around keeping long-term outlooks in front of your mind when tempted by the smell of doughnuts. In these cases, you think that the long-term consequences of eating doughnuts or consuming sugary drinks result in diabetes and obesity. But the smell or taste of unhealthy foods can be so overpowering that the long-term consequences of potential diseases is forgotten. This is the point when your New Years resolution may fade away in favor of falling back to unhealthy eating habits.

    Think short-term to resist temptation

    The new approach is to replace the thinking of long-term outlooks by short-term outlooks. The authors cited an example of 4000 participants in 7 separate studies. When the short-term consequences of anxiety and a sugar and caffeine crash were explained for caffeine containing sugary drinks, 25% of participants were able to abstain from the energy drinks in comparison to those who were informed about long-term consequences.

    Another experiment

    A similar experiment involved the consumption of sugar in the form of cookies. One group of participants read about the short-term effects of eating sugar. A second group read about the long-term effects of eating sugar. A third group did not get any information about the effect of sugar. There was also a “reward system” for all the participants: they had to decide between receiving a tote bag or eating cookies. Those who had read about the short-term effects of sugar were 30% less likely to choose cookies than the ones who read about the long-term effects. The ones who read the short-term effects were 45% less likely to choose the cookies than the ones who read nothing about the effects of sugar.

    Verbalizing short-term consequences

    Here are some thoughts that help to verbalize short-term consequences:

    • For alcohol: excessive drinking can lead to poor sleep and hangovers.
    • Fast food can make you feel bloated or give you indigestion.
    • Sugar and starchy meals: make you bloated and give you an acidy stomach, also will lead to rapid weight gain.
    • Focus on the good taste of apples and carrots. People will eat more of it and get the health benefits without mentioning it.

    You can keep your goals easier when you combine them with small rewards here and there. When you have achieved one thing, you could watch your favorite TV show. Another reward could be a brief visit to the gym that makes you feel more fit. Or go and buy yourself a new pair of shorts for the gym. The authors of this article provide evidence from studies that showed that several mini rewards distributed throughout the day are more effective than big rewards at the end of the day.

    Measurements of weight fluctuations

    I found that body composition scales are very useful to monitor your diet intake. Here is an example how I use this device. My weights, fat% and body mass index for a number of days is listed below. The first line shows the baseline measured in the morning. On Saturday lunchtime I was invited to a Christmas family dinner. I ate more than I should have had. You can see the results on the Sunday readings: weight up, fat up and BMI up. I watched my calorie intake throughout Sunday.

    Weekday              Weight (KG)                 Fat %        Body mass index

    Saturday:                   63.6                           13.2                  21.7

    Sunday:                     64.0                           14.2                  21.9

    Monday:                    63.4                           14.3                  21.7

    It took another two days (Wednesday) before the fat percentage was down to 12.9.

    There is another powerful tool, Dr. Valter Longo’s fasting mimicking diet. I reported about this under this link. Briefly, once a month I eat only 500 to 600 calories daily for 5 days. This helps me to lose my body mass index from 21.8 down to 21.1 or 21.2. After that I can eat a normal diet until the next month when I do the fasting mimicking diet again. It is an easy way to keep my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. My wife and I prepare our own 500 to 600 calorie diet with natural food.(No, you do not get much, but it can taste good!) We do not buy Dr. Longo’s expensive diet boxes.

    Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

    Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

    Conclusion

    Focusing on short-term goals and consequences increases the percentage of success for those who have New Year’s resolutions. You can use this for many different approaches: eating less sugar, losing weight, getting regular exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, cutting out fast food and increasing your healthy vegetable and fruit intake. I also added a description of what I do with the help of body composition scales to control my weight and body mass index. I also use Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking diet once per month for 5-days. Since December 2017 (for 6 years) I practiced this. I find it extremely useful to maintain my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Medicine knows that it is important to keep your body mass index below 25.0. This will prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It also helps to look forward to a healthy New Year.

    Dec
    23
    2023

    Any Form of Exercise is good

    Here are a few items that can prolong life; among them any form of exercise is good. This article concentrates on the exercise part in relation to longevity. A recent publication described how regular exercise prolongs your long-term survival. According to a study released on occasion of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2023 there are 8 major factors that prolong life: healthy diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep health, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.  Among this group of factors regular physical activity plays a major role to prolong your life. Researcher who studied various people found that those who neglected their physical health had a chronological age of 53, but their average biological age was 57. On the other hand, a group of fit people who engaged in regular physical exercise had a chronological age of 41 years, but a biological age of 36.

    Clinical trials showing that any form of exercise is good

    JAMA Internal Medicine study by Dr. del Pozo Cruz 

    This study examined what the optimal amount of physical activity per week is to reduce mortality compared to an inactive population. 500,705 eligible US adults were observed for about 10 years. The abbreviations that the authors used in the study were as follows:

    MPA: moderate aerobic physical activity

    VPA: vigorous aerobic physical activity

    MSA: muscle-strengthening activity

    Results of mortality reduction with various amounts of physical activity

    • The best group engaged in more than 0 to 75 minutes of MPA combined with more than 150 minutes of VPA and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. Their mortality rate was 50% lower than an inactive comparison group.
    • The optimal combination for reduction of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality risk was as follows: more than 150 to 225 minutes of MPA, more than 0 to 75 minutes of VPA, and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. This reduced combined mortality of CVD and cancer by 70%.
    • The researchers stated that the adjusted mortality rates represented 50% lower mortality rate for all-cause and cancer mortality. The mortality rate for CVD mortality was 3-fold lower than for inactive controls.

    Smallest amount of exercise that reduces mortality

    In a study published in the European Heart Journal the authors asked how little exercise per week was enough to reduce mortality from heart disease. They found that it takes at least 15–20 min/week of vigorous physical activity (VPA) to reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16–40%. If you increased the exercise level by 50–57 min/week the mortality rates reduced even further.

    Are physically active jobs healthy?

    Recent research showed that people who work in physically demanding jobs are more likely to develop early cognitive impairment. This is the pre-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. 15.5 % of people who worked in high levels of occupational physical activity developed dementia. This compared to 9% risk for people whose work involved a low level of physical activity, not too much and not too little. The finding confirms the notion that there is a need for balance of physical exercise. Several publications stressed what is optimal in terms of exercise: vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week). People who expose themselves to these amounts of exercise live the longest and stay healthy.

    Discussion

    The studies discussed here showed that the right amount of exercise can reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. However, exercise is not the only factor that can do this. It is important to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet. Your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins and limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight, manage your stress, and don’t smoke.

    Any Form of Exercise is good

    Any Form of Exercise is good

    Conclusion

    In this review I touched on the importance of regular exercise to reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. Vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week) reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16% to 40%. But physical exercise is only one factor of mortality reduction. If you want the full benefit from other factors, you must quit smoking, eat a Mediterranean type diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Also you should limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight and manage your stress. Once you adopted this lifestyle, you live longer and you will get less diseases.