• Vitamin D Helps Combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus

    Vitamin D Helps Combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus

    An article in the Lancet describes that vitamin D helps combat the Covid-19 coronavirus. A publication in the Lancet (diabetes and endocrinology) on Aug. 3, 2020 reviewed randomized controlled trials between 2007 and 2020. The authors of the study wanted to see whether vitamin D had curative effects on Covid-19 … [Read More...]

  • Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

    Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

    A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the … [Read More...]

  • Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

    Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

    Research on white women aged 70 years or older found that eating fish protects the brain from air pollution. Dr. Ka He from the Columbia University of New York published the new study on July 15, 2020 in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 1,315 women who did … [Read More...]

  • The Immune System Changes With Age

    The Immune System Changes With Age

    When we are young, we do not think about our immune system, but the immune system changes with age. When we are older than age 60, we notice that we may be taking longer to recover from a flu. How does the immune system work? There are two parts to the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive … [Read More...]

  • Key Factors for Centenarians

    Key Factors for Centenarians

    A study from Washington State University (WSU) showed some of the key factors for centenarians to survive. The publication of the study goes back to June 17, 2020. In general, it was common knowledge that genetics plays a role in 25% to 35% of centenarians for their survival. That is to say, the remainder is the … [Read More...]

  • Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

    Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

    A new study showed that fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk. This study was reviewed here. The article is based on the June 10, 2020 publication of the British Medical Journal. They did large population studies showing that obesity is an independent risk factor for severe disease and death from Covid-19. … [Read More...]

    Aug
    15
    2020

    Vitamin D Helps Combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus

    An article in the Lancet describes that vitamin D helps combat the Covid-19 coronavirus. A publication in the Lancet (diabetes and endocrinology) on Aug. 3, 2020 reviewed randomized controlled trials between 2007 and 2020. The authors of the study wanted to see whether vitamin D had curative effects on Covid-19 coronavirus infections. Indeed, Dr. Adrian R Martineau and Dr. Nita G Forouhi pointed out that researchers examined vitamin D already in the 1930’s. In other words, at that time they showed that supplementation with cod liver oil prevented absenteeism in various industries. Notably, the active ingredient in cod liver oil was later found to be vitamin D. Vitamin D stimulates the immune system to overcome flu infections.

    How Vitamin D overcomes Covid-19

    The meta-analysis by Dr. Adrian R Martineau and Dr. Nita G Forouhi showed that vitamin D has several effects on Covid-19. In the early stages vitamin D stimulates host responses of the immune system against SARS-CoV-2 (= Covid-19 coronavirus). This involves the release of antimicrobial peptides, which have powerful antiviral effects making it more difficult for the virus to attack. Other publications showed that vitamin D stimulates autophagy, the process of “self-eating”. Cells that have been damaged by the virus or due to older age are removed by phagocytizing cells (monocytes, macrophages). This allows for new cells to take the place of the damaged cells.

    Symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to the symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency. Certain population groups are at a bigger risk, including older persons, obese individuals and persons Black ethnic or Asian ethnic background.  Several studies showed that supplementation with vitamin D3 became protective, preventative and therapeutic against Covid-19.

    Vitamin D has specific effects

    There are three major effects that vitamin D has.

    1. A strengthening of the epithelial barrier not allowing the coronavirus to penetrate into the lung tissue as easily.
    2. Release of defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides that eradicate any virus in the system.
    3. Interruption of the “cytokine storm”, which is responsible for viral pneumonia to develop. Without the cytokine storm there is no damage to the lungs and people do not need treatment in the ICU. This is particularly important for people above the age of 60 and for people with pre-existing diseases.
    4. With the stabilizing effect of vitamin D regarding the immune function more severe forms of Covid-19 can turn into less severe forms with a better outcome.

    Severe Covid-19 cases and vitamin D blood levels

    There were two studies that have indicated that low vitamin D blood levels have a strong association with severe cases of Covid-19.  Extremely low vitamin D blood levels were found in severe Covid-19 cases in Spain, Italy and Switzerland. .

    The authors concluded that any case of Covid-19 should receive adequate vitamin D3, but it is particularly important to the severe cases.

    Two facts evolved from these studies: first, with low vitamin D blood levels there is a greater susceptibility to get Covid-19. Secondly, Covid-19 severity increases when the patient has low vitamin D blood levels.

    What levels of vitamin D in the blood are required to fight Covid-19 coronavirus?

    Vitamin D is very important for the integrity of the immune system. With  vitamin D blood levels below 15 to 20 ng/mL (37.5–50 nmol/L) there is a paralysis of the  immune system. Any viral or bacterial infection tends to overwhelm the body. This is the reason why the mortality due to Covid-19 coronavirus is highest in patients with these low vitamin D blood levels. People with secondary illnesses (diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer) and patients above the age of 60 are at the highest risk. They have the lowest vitamin D blood levels and have the highest mortality rates. This publication describes this in more detail: Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths.

    Above a vitamin D blood level of 30 ng/mL (=75 nmol/L) a patient’s immune system is functioning normally. However, the immune system is strongest at a vitamin D blood level of 50–80 ng/mL (125–200 nmol/L), which is the upper range of the normal level for vitamin D in the blood.

    Keep in mind that vitamin D toxicity occurs only above 150 ng/mL (375 nmol/L). There is a wide margin of safety between 80 ng/mL (200 nmol/L, which is the upper range of normal) and the toxic level, which is 150 ng/mL (375 nmol/L). In any case it is important to have a blood test which gives information about the vitamin D3 blood level.

    Vitamin D Helps Combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus

    Vitamin D Helps Combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus

    Conclusion

    A new publication in the Lancet (diabetes and endocrinology) performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials between 2007 and 2020. The authors found that a low blood level of vitamin D predicts that these patients are in trouble. They will have a severe form of Covid-19 when they get exposed to the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Patients with higher normal vitamin D blood levels (50–80 ng/mL or 125–200 nmol/L) get very few symptoms of Covid-19 and have a low mortality. The reason is that their immune system is strong and they wall off the coronavirus at the epithelial barriers. Their immune system also releases polypeptides that eradicate the virus in the system. In addition, the “cytokine storm”, which is responsible for viral pneumonia is interrupted by vitamin D. Without the cytokine storm there is no damage to the lungs and people do not need treatment in the ICU.

    Supplementation with vitamin D3 is safe

    It is safe to supplement with vitamin D3 to bring the blood level into the upper range of normal. This keeps the immune system at its optimal functional level. There is a wide margin of safety between 80 ng/mL (=200 nmol/L, which is the upper range of normal) and the toxic level, which is 150 ng/mL (375 nmol/L).

    Part of the text was published here before.

     

    Aug
    08
    2020

    Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

    A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the gross domestic product. Compare this to 2018 when the US healthcare cost was 17.7% of the gross domestic product.

    The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group states: “Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

    You can improve your diet quality 

    When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other. Use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil instead for cooking and on salads.

    How does poor quality food affect your health?

    Researchers are aware of trans fats causing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes for a long time. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol, decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol. The FDA has started to initiate steps in 2015 to make the use of trans-fats in the food industry illegal. Completion of this in the US occurs in early 2020.

    Japanese trans-fat study (Alzheimer’s disease)

    This Japanese study followed 1,628 Japanese community residents (men and women) for about 10 years. Researchers used the typical trans fatty acid, elaidic acid to monitor the accumulation of trans fats in patients. This is possible with a simple blood test, which serves as a marker for industrial trans fats. 377 participants developed dementia (247 Alzheimer’s disease and 102 vascular dementia). Based on the blood elaidic acid levels earlier in the study individuals with higher trans-fat levels were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the study progressed. Patients whose trans-fat blood levels were in the higher range were 50% to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

    Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

    It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits. Note that it is not only your dietary habits that determine this, but in addition, several lifestyle factors.

    Cardiovascular disease

    Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack. It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

    Cancer

    90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking. Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, consuming too much alcohol causes cancer of the colon and rectum in both sexes.

    Diabetes

    There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

    We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

    Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

    Chronic diseases

    Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

    Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into your system and adds to chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

    Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

    Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

    Conclusion

    A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has been formed, which noted that many Americans follow very poor diets. 46% of adults in the US have unhealthy diets; but children have even more poor diets, namely 56%. This is of concern, because in time this causes a variety of diseases discussed here. Instead of just treating the symptoms of these diseases, it is important to improve the diet people are on, which prevents the development of these diseases. A well-balanced diet not only prevents diseases, it also leads to longevity and healthy aging without Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of what you eat, and be sure it is healthy!

    Part of this text was published before here.

    Aug
    01
    2020

    Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

    Research on white women aged 70 years or older found that eating fish protects the brain from air pollution. Dr. Ka He from the Columbia University of New York published the new study on July 15, 2020 in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

    1,315 women who did not have dementia at the start of the study enrolled in it. Researchers measured the air pollution of the areas where the women lived. They also measured their omega-3 fatty acid blood levels. They found that women from polluted areas who ate the lowest amounts of fish and had the lowest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood, had the highest amount of brain shrinkage.

    Methods of determining brain shrinkage, omega-3 fatty acids and pollution

    The amount of brain shrinkage was determined with MRI scans of the brain. The amount of white brain matter was measured, particularly the size of the memory-sensitive hippocampus. Blood omega-3 fatty acid content was determined in red blood cells. Pollution was determined by the fine particulate matter in air pollution at the address where the patient lived. Every woman in the study received a diet questionnaire regarding fish consumption. From this information the researchers determined the average fish consumption per week. This included broiled and baked fish, non-fried shellfish, canned tuna, tuna casserole and tuna salad. Deep fried fish was not part of the list, because other studies showed that deep-frying damages omega-3 fatty acids.

    More details regarding the study

    The researchers adjusted the study according to age, smoking status, and other factors that could affect brain shrinkage. Women with the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the highest volume of white matter in their brains as MRI scans showed. Specifically, the researchers noted the following findings:

    • Women with the highest omega-3 fatty acid level had 410 cubic cm white matter
    • Women with the lowest omega-3 fatty acid level had 403 cubic cm white matter
    • Each quartile increase in air pollution caused shrinkage of white matter by 11.52 cubic cm in those women with low omega-3 fatty acid consumption
    • In women with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels each quartile increase in air pollution caused shrinkage of white matter by only 0.12 cubic cm
    • Women with the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake had the highest volume of the hippocampus

    Comments by the lead author of the study

    Dr. Ka He stated: “Our findings suggest that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood from fish consumption may preserve brain volume as women age and possibly protect against the potential toxic effects of air pollution.” But Dr. Ka He cautioned: “It’s important to note that our study only found an association between brain volume and eating fish. It does not prove that eating fish preserves brain volume. And since separate studies have found some species of fish may contain environmental toxins, it’s important to talk to a doctor about what types of fish to eat before adding more fish to your diet.”

    Limitations of study

    The study was involving older white women. This means that the results cannot be generalized to Afro Americans, Hispanics or Asians. The researchers examined exposure to pollution only later in life, not in early life or midlife. Hopefully future studies will examine what happens with lifelong exposure to pollution.

    How to limit mercury exposure when eating fish

    Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly present in fish. It has plaque-reducing properties and also reduces the risk for abnormal heart beats. Overall this means less cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends a 3.5 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice per week.

    Mercury and other pollutants

    Pollution of the air, soil and rivers is causing accumulation of mercury and other heavy metals in ocean water.

    This affects fish that live in the ocean. There is a pecking order of predators with the larger fish feeding on the smaller fish. The bigger the predator fish, the more mercury and other pollutants they accumulate. According to this link the safest seafood is wild salmon, pollock and oysters.

    High mercury content of predator fish

    Tuna is too high in mercury, so is swordfish, and shark is even worse. I only consume fish from freshwater lakes or rivers, as well as salmon, oysters and shrimp. This way I get the lowest exposure to mercury. Why is mercury bad for you? It is a neurotoxin. It can harm your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and the immune system. Specific symptoms can include loss of peripheral vision and lack of coordination with balancing problems. There may be impairment of speech and hearing. The key is to avoid mercury exposure.

    Smaller fish low in mercury

    The first line of defense is to stick to the smaller fish. They are they prey of the large predator fish. The following fish/mussels belong into the low mercury group (alphabetical order): anchovies, catfish, clam, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, herring, mackerel, mullet, oyster, perch, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, sole, squid, trout and whitefish.

    Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements

    You may want to supplement your omega-3 fatty acid intake by fish oil capsules. It is important that you choose the more expensive higher potency products. A molecular distillation process that removes mercury, PCB and other heavy metals creates these higher potency products. This way you only get the enriched omega-3 fatty acids in pure form. EPA and DHA in one capsule should be in the 900 mg to 1000 mg range, not less. I take 2 capsules twice per day as a daily supplement. This helps you to balance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which cuts down any inflammatory process (from too many omega-6 fatty acids) in you.

    Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

    Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

    Conclusion

    A new study from the Columbia University of New York has shown that women older than 70 can preserve the white matter of their brains by consumption of fish. This included the hippocampus which is crucial for memory. The researchers measured the recent exposure of these women to pollution. They noted that the women who were exposed to the highest amounts of pollution had the best protection of the white matter of their brains by the highest consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation, but when enough omega-3 fatty acids are part of the nutrition, the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio switches towards anti-inflammation and health.

    How to consume omega-3 fatty acids safely

    Omega-3 fatty acids are in fish and seafood. Unfortunately, mercury is contaminating these foods. But when you stick to the smaller fish and use molecularly distilled omega-3 supplements you can largely avoid this problem.

    Parts of this text has been published before here.

    Jul
    25
    2020

    The Immune System Changes With Age

    When we are young, we do not think about our immune system, but the immune system changes with age. When we are older than age 60, we notice that we may be taking longer to recover from a flu.

    How does the immune system work?

    There are two parts to the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system works to protect us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and fungi from the time we are born. The adaptive immune system uses B lymphocytes from the bone marrow to produce antibodies against viruses. This provides often lifelong immunity against this specific virus, but takes 3 to 5 days to kick in. Vaccinations can also trigger antibody production to protect us from viruses in the future. Both the adaptive and the innate immune system work together closely.

    What are the ingredients for a fully functioning immune system?

    The immune system consists of various immune organs that are distributed throughout the body. The bone marrow produces lymphocytes, granulocytes, macrophages, eosinophils and basophils. The adenoids in the back of the nasal passages and the tonsils in the back of the throat contain a lot of lymphocytes that are ready to protect us from colds and flus. We have lymph nodes throughout the body and they are connected with lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid that travels in the lymphatic vessels.

    Other sites of lymphocyte production

    The small intestine contains the Peyer’s patches, a collection of lymphocytes that protect our gut from invading bacteria or viruses. The spleen is located in the left abdominal cavity under the diaphragm. It removes old red blood cells and provides lymphocytes for the immune system. The thymus gland is located between the breast bone and the trachea. It changes bone marrow derived lymphocytes (B cells) into T lymphocytes that can process antigens from viruses and pass them on to the adaptive immune system for a full antibody response.

    Cellular interactions between various players of the immune system

    Back in the 1970’s it was already known that there were bone marrow derived B lymphocytes and thymus processed T lymphocytes. We knew then that B cells were involved in antibody production (adaptive immunity). T lymphocytes were thought to turn into killer T lymphocytes to kill cancer cells. But some T cells were T helper cells to process antigen and present it to B lymphocytes for antibody production.

    More research since then refined what we know about the cells of the immune system.

    Natural killer cells (NK cells)

    Natural killer cells (NK cells) are part of the innate immune system. They attack cancer cells and cells that are infected by viruses. It takes about 3 days for their full action to develop. NK cells utilize the cell surface histocompatibility complex to decide whether to destroy a cell or not. T cell lymphocytes do not have the ability to do that. In the Covid-19 coronavirus situation NK cells play an important role to combat the disease right away.

    Monocytes

    They are large white blood cells that can differentiate further into macrophages and dendritic cells. Monocytes are part of the innate immunity, but they have an antigen presenting capability, which makes them also part of the adaptive immunity.

    Memory T cells

    The immune system learns to adapt to viruses and bacteria that we have come in contact with. The reason for the memory of the immune cells are the memory T cells. They replicate like stem cells, which keeps a clone of T lymphocytes, T helper cells and cytotoxic T killer cells in the background. They circulate through the body including the lymph glands and the spleen.

    Immunosenescence as we age

    There are several factors that come together, which age our immune system. The term for this is “immunosenescence“. There are genetic differences and differences due to the sex hormones. Estrogens increase the response of the immune system. In contrast, progesterone and androgens (including testosterone) decrease the immune response. This may be the reason why women tend to live longer than men.

    As we age there are more and more memory T cells (both cytotoxic T cells and T helper cells). This weakens the formation of the natural killer cells (NK cells) of the innate immune system. Even the initiation of the adaptive immune system can be slower when we age and also the response to the flu vaccine. In addition, this can pave the way to autoimmune diseases.

    The immune system changes with age: Evidence of immunosenescence

    The following 3 factors show whether a person has immunosenescence:

    • The immune system has difficulties to respond to new viruses/bacteria or to vaccines
    • Accumulation of memory T cells crowding out cells of the rest of the immune system
    • Low-grade inflammation that is chronic and persists (“inflamm-aging”)

    The process of immunosenescence starts with the involution of the thymus gland around the time of puberty. At that time the sex hormone secretion is highest. At the same time a growth factor from the bone marrow and the thymus gland decreases. It has the name interleukin-7 (IL-7). The end result is a slow decrease of the innate immune system with age and a more substantial weakening of the adaptive immune system due to a lack of naïve T and B cells. 

    Chronic viruses can weaken the immune system further

    The varicella herpes zoster virus causes chickenpox. In some people the chickenpox virus can persist, but the immune system actively keeps it controlled. In the 60’s or 70’s when the immune system is weakened from aging, there can be a flare-up as shingles, a localized form of the chickenpox virus.

    Another virus, the human cytomegalovirus can cause a chronic infection that often persists lifelong. In this case the immune system is chronically weakened because of a massive accumulation of T memory cells, which keeps the human cytomegalovirus infection at bay.

    What we need when the immune system changes with age 

    Vitamin A

    Both the innate and adaptive immunity depend on vitamin A and its metabolites. The skin cells and mucosal cells function as a barrier, which is important for the innate immunity. The skin/mucosal lining of the eye, the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts help the innate immunity to keep viruses and bacteria out of the body. Vitamin A is important to support macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. In addition, vitamin A supports the adaptive immune system, namely T and B lymphocytes, so that the body can produce specific antibodies against viruses.

    I do not take vitamin A supplements as I eat diversified foods like spinach, vegetables, poultry, Brussels sprout, fish and dairy products that contain vitamin A and carotenoids.

    Vitamin C

    This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

    Vitamin D

    The immune system is very dependent on vitamin D as the immune cells all contain vitamin D receptors. People who have less than 10 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood are vitamin D deficient. They have much higher death rates when they get infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

    Vitamin D regulates the expression of target genes. At the center is the vitamin D receptor, which is a nuclear transcription factor. Together with the retinoic X receptor (from vitamin A) the vitamin D receptor binds small sequences of DNA. They have the name “vitamin D response elements” and are capable of initiating a cascade of molecular interactions. The result is a modulation of specific genes. Researchers identified thousands of vitamin D response elements that regulate between 100 and 1250 genes.

    You need enough vitamin D for your immune system

    When enough vitamin D is present in the blood (more than 30 ng/mL) the immune system releases the peptides cathelicidins and defensins, which effectively destroy bacteria and viruses.

    Vitamin D has mainly an inhibitory function regarding adaptive immunity. It inhibits antibody production from B cells and also dampens the effect of T cells. Researchers reported that vitamin D3 is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

    I am a slow absorber of vitamin D3 as repeat blood vitamin D levels showed. I need 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to get a blood level of 50-80 ng/mL (=125-200 nmol/L). This is the higher range of normal. Everybody is different. Ask your physician to check your blood level of vitamin D. Toxic vitamin D blood levels are only starting above 150 ng/mL (= 375 nmol/L).

    Vitamin E

    This is a vitamin that is fat soluble and helps the body to maintain its cell membranes. But researchers found that vitamin E also stimulates the T cell-mediated immune response. This is particularly important for the aging person to prevent respiratory tract infections. I take 125 mg of Annatto tocotrienols per day (this is the most potent form of vitamin E).

    Vitamin B6

    This vitamin is important for antibody production by B cells. Vitamin B6 regulates the metabolism of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. Antibodies and cytokines require vitamin B6. The T helper immune cells that initiate an adaptive immune response depend on vitamin B6 as well. I take a multi B complex vitamin (Mega B 50) twice per day, so I supplement with a total of 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily.

    Folate

    Folic acid is a coenzyme for the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Studies in humans and animals have shown that folate deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infections. People with folate deficiency develop a megaloblastic anemia with immune weakness that leads to chronic infections. With my B complex supplement I get 2 mg of folic acid daily.

    Vitamin B12

    Methylation pathways depend on vitamin B12 as a coenzyme. Vitamin B12 is also involved as a coenzyme in the production of energy from fats and proteins. In addition, hemoglobin synthesis depends on vitamin B12. Patients with vitamin B12 deficiency develop pernicious anemia. These patients also have a weak immune system due to natural killer cell activity suppression and because circulating lymphocyte numbers are significantly decreased.

    Treatment with cyanocobalamin reverses the immune weakness rapidly and treats pernicious anemia at the same time. I take 50 micrograms twice per day as part of the Mega-B50 multivitamin tablet. But I also inject 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 every 6 months subcutaneously to be sure it is absorbed into the body. In older age the intrinsic factor from the stomach lining, which is required for absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine, can be missing, leading to vitamin B12 deficiency despite swallowing supplements.

    Minerals required for a good immune response

    Researchers identified five minerals that are essential for a strong immune system. They are zinc, iron, selenium, copper and magnesium.

    Zinc

    Zinc is important for a normal function of the innate and adaptive immune system. As zinc cannot be stored in the body, taking regular zinc supplements (30 to 50 mg daily) is important. I take 50 mg of amino acid chelated zinc daily.

    Iron

    Iron is important for cell oxygen transport and storage, DNA synthesis and for mounting an effective immune response. In particular it is the T cell differentiation and proliferation where iron is needed. Iron deficient people get a lot of infections because the immune system is paralyzed. I eat one spinach salad or steamed spinach daily, which gives me enough iron supply per day.

    Selenium

    Selenium is a trace mineral that is important for a normal immune response and for cancer prevention. When selenium is missing, both the adaptive and innate immune system are suffering. In this case viruses are more virulent. With selenium supplementation cell-mediated immunity is improved and the immune response to viruses is more potent. I take 200 micrograms of selenium per day.

    Copper

    Deficiency in copper results in a very low neutrophil blood count and causes susceptibility to infections. Copper is a trace mineral that participates in several enzymatic reactions. It is important for the innate immune response to bacterial infections. A well-balanced Mediterranean diet contains enough copper, which is why I do not supplement with extra copper.

    Magnesium

    An important cofactor for vitamin D in the body is magnesium. Magnesium participates in many enzymatic reactions. Between vitamin D and magnesium, the immune system is strengthened. I take 150 mg of magnesium citrate twice per day. By the way, magnesium also helps us to get a restful sleep, if we take it at bedtime.

    Other dietary factors that strengthen the immune system

    Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body and help to modulate the immune system. I take 1800 mg of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) twice per day. I also like to eat fish and seafood at least 3 times per week.

    Probiotics benefit both the innate and the adaptive immune system. They strengthen the epithelial gut barrier, which is an important innate immune defence. Probiotics also lower the risk for Clostridium difficile gut infections. I take one probiotic every morning.

    The Immune System Changes With Age

    The Immune System Changes With Age

    Conclusion

    The immune system consists of different organs like the bone marrow, the spleen, lymph glands, Peyer’s patches in the gut, the thymus gland and more. There is the innate immune system, which responds immediately to a virus like the Covid-19 coronavirus. The adaptive immune response involves antibody production against, for instance, the measle virus or the mumps virus. With the aging process the immune system slows down (immunosenescence). This involves an accumulation of memory T cells and a depletion of natural killer cells (NK cells). This means that the innate immunity is getting weaker as we age and chronic inflammation occurs more often. This is the reason why people above the age of 65 get more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 coronavirus. They are also more affected by influenza-type illnesses.

    Take supplements to strengthen the immune system

    I reviewed the cofactors of a healthy immune system in some detail. It is important that you pay attention to these, particularly the vitamin D3 intake. With a strong immune system, we can survive viral infections better, including the current Covid-19 coronavirus. Future research will likely detect how to reactivate a sluggish immune system in older people. This way vaccination responses following flu injections will become more reliable in seniors.

    Jul
    18
    2020

    Key Factors for Centenarians

    A study from Washington State University (WSU) showed some of the key factors for centenarians to survive. The publication of the study goes back to June 17, 2020. In general, it was common knowledge that genetics plays a role in 25% to 35% of centenarians for their survival. That is to say, the remainder is the result of lifestyle factors. It is important to realize that the environmental factors play a significant role in the survival of centenarians, said Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student. He and his research team determined what allowed centenarians to reach an age of 100 or above. Briefly, they identified the following factors that were necessary.

    Three factors identified by the Washington State University study

    • walkability of the neighbourhood, which encourages regular exercising
    • belonging to the higher socioeconomic class
    • a high percentage of working population in the neighborhood (a mixed population) was also important

    In the discussion the authors of the WSU study said that “blue zones” of centenarians had been mentioned before in the literature. To clarify, these are areas in the world where more than the average of centenarians live. Dan Buettner used the term “blue zones” in a National Geographic article about where centenarians were located.

    The blue zones

    He wrote a book about the location of the 5 blue zones. Notably, they are located in Sardinia (Italy), the islands of Okinawa and a group of Seven Day Adventists in Loma Linda. California. In addition, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, and the island of Icaria, Greece complete the 5 blue zones. Specifically, Dan Buettner described the following characteristics of the lifestyle of centenarians.

    • They engage in regular physical activity
    • Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes
    • Calorie intake is moderate
    • Moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine
    • Having a purpose in life
    • Engaged in family life
    • Having an active spiritual life
    • Reducing stress
    • Engaged in social life

    Other attributes of centenarians

    Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. In particular, the topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “. Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. He took an interest in people above the age of 100. These people, he felt, are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. Dr. Hertoghe went on to say that centenarians have a will to live. Indeed, they adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active.

    More positive attributes of centenarians

    Other psychological features, by the same token, show that they have a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another key point is that they have self-determination. It must be remembered also that they are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. In addition, there is a connection between their basic values, beliefs and spirituality. Truly, centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. For one thing, centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

    In the following I am reviewing some of the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave.

    The will to live

    For one thing, it takes courage to grow old, and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. Essentially, they have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Surprisingly, their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

    Adaptability

    In other words, this describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. However, 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group had a 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher probability of not developing cognitive impairment. That is to say, they rated themselves to be in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. In essence, these high resilient centenarians had no short-term health decline.

    Remaining active

    If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

    Positive emotions

    One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

    A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

    Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

    Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

    What is the centenarian spirit?

    When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

    By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48% in males. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%. Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

    The fasting mimicking diet helps you to reach a longer life

    clinical trial with 100 subjects was undertaken by Dr. Longo and his research team. He measured markers after 3 cycles of a fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. They found that the FMD reduced aging markers, improved diabetes and reduced susceptibility for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In another publication Dr. Longo and co-authors describe how autoimmune diseases can be improved by the use the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

    Another publication by Dr. Longo describes that “age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke” can be prevented by fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

    Even cancer prevention and cancer treatment can be helped by the fasting mimicking diet.  The FMD makes chemotherapy more tolerable.

    Key Factors for Centenarians

    Key Factors for Centenarians

    Conclusion

    As we reviewed the factors that lead to longevity, we learnt that engaging in regular moderate exercise is one of the key factors. But belonging to the higher socioeconomic class and living in a mixed neighborhood with people from all walks of life is also important. We also reviewed the blue zones according to Dan Buettner. Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes with moderate calorie restriction prolongs your life. Add to this moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine, and having a purpose in life. Augment this further with being engaged in family life, having an active spiritual life and reducing your stress level.

    Living longer is a matter of fulfilling these longevity factors

    With all of this you are on your way to become a centenarian. A review by Dr. Hertoghe in a lecture given at an Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas in 2019 added more criteria centenarians have. He provided references regarding the will to live, being adaptable, remaining active and harboring positive emotions. The more of these factors you can adopt, the longer you will live. At the same time, you will avoid getting diseases like heart attacks, strokes or cancer, which leads to a longer and healthier life.

    The above text contains parts of this blog. The part about the fasting mimicking diet was published here before.

    Jul
    11
    2020

    Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

    A new study showed that fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk. This study was reviewed here.

    The article is based on the June 10, 2020 publication of the British Medical Journal.

    They did large population studies showing that obesity is an independent risk factor for severe disease and death from Covid-19. One study with 428,225 participants had 340 admitted to hospital with confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus. 44% of them were overweight and 34% were obese. Another study, the OpenSAFELY study used linked electronic health records. 17,425, 445 participants were included and 5,683 Covid-19 deaths occurred. In this study there were 29% overweight and 33% obese persons. The researchers noted a dose-response relationship between excess weight and severity of Covid-19. The researchers removed confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, and social deprivation.

    Critical illness and death rates in overweight and obese people

    They realized that critical illness caused by Covid-19 was increased compared to normal-weight people as follows.

    • Covid-19 risk 44% higher in overweight people
    • Covid-19 risk 97% higher in people with obesity

    This means that the risk for serious illness from Covid-19 was 1.44-fold for overweight persons and 1.97-fold for obese persons compared to normal-weight controls. The OpenSAFELY study also looked at the death rates from Covid-19 for people with obesity. Two obesity categories were investigated: obesity with a BMI of 30-34.9 and BMI of greater than 40 compared to normal-weight controls. Here are the death rates.

    • BMI of 30-34.9: 1.27-fold increased risk
    • BMI of greater than 40: 2.27-fold risk

    Possible mechanisms explaining fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

    The researchers mentioned three possible mechanisms why overweight and obese people may have higher Covid-19 disease and death rates than normal-weight controls.

    First, angiotensin converting enzyme-2 is found with higher frequency in fat cells of overweight and obese persons. Researchers are aware of the fact that the Covid-19 coronavirus uses this enzyme to enter body cells. It may also be the reason that fat cells become reservoirs that can shed virus for much longer than in normal-weight people with less fat cells. They pointed out that others have seen this also and found it with other viruses. In the case of influenza A, obesity prolonged viral shedding by 42% compared to normal-weight controls. And with H1N1 influenza obesity was an independent risk factor for hospitalization and death.

    Weaker immune system, more lung resistance

    Secondly, any virus can weaken the host’s defence of the immune system. Researchers showed this previously with the influenza virus. But now with Covid-19 coronavirus the cytokine storm due to a weak immune system is a major factor in making the viral infection worse. A lack of vitamin D is another factor in promoting the cytokine storm.

    Third, obesity decreases lung function and it is difficult to improve this. There is greater lung resistance in the airways and it is difficult to expand the lungs in obese patients. When the doctor transfers patients with obesity to the intensive care unit, it is more difficult to increase their oxygen saturation with artificial ventilation.

    Unhealthy environment, so fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

    The researchers point out that we live in a very unhealthy environment. In 2016 there were 1.9 billion people worldwide who were overweight or obese. These figures are rapidly rising. Presently about 65% to 70% are overweight or obese in the UK or the US. Obesity causes high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and cancer. We are all surrounded by processed food with extra salt, sugar, wheat and other unhealthy ingredients. The high mortality and deaths rates of Covid-19 in overweight and obese people point to the problem that society has.

    Reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats in food

    The culprits are salt, sugar and saturated fats. Merchants and food producers must reduce them in processed food. In the UK new government regulations have already resulted in lower salt content in foods. As a result, there is less high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease is in decline. All nations need to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fat. When the weight comes down, we all are less prone to catching dangerous viruses.

    Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

    Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

    Conclusion

    The pandemic has taught us a new lesson, namely that overweight and obese people are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 coronavirus. In a research paper of the British Medical Journal concrete figures showed that the Covid-19 risk is 44% higher in overweight people and that it is 97% higher in people with obesity. The OpenSAFELY study also showed that obese people with a BMI of 30-34.9 have a 1.27-fold increased risk of catching Covid-19. But morbidly obese people with a BMI of greater than 40 have a 2.27-fold risk of catching Covid-19. There is a clear linear dose-response curve between the amount of fat a person accumulates and the risk for Covid-19.

    Cut out junk food and decrease your risk for Covid-19

    Covid-19 is directly related to the amount of junk food we eat. As a result we can say that eating junk food increases the Covid-19 risk. The opposite is true also: sensible eating and cutting out junk food makes you lose some pounds, and your risk for Covid-19 decreases.

    Jul
    04
    2020

    Probiotics and a Phage Blend for Digestive Problems

    In general, probiotics and a phage blend for digestive problems can help patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is important to realize that about ¾ of Americans suffer from digestive problems. They develop symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea and stomach pains. To put it another way, about 1 in 7 Americans suffer from the condition, called chronic irritable bowel syndrome. That is to say, he underlying problem is an imbalance of gut bacteria where the bad ones outnumber the good ones. There are a number or reasons why bowel flora gets disrupted. We eat more processed foods, less fiber, and beef products from industry farms contain antibiotic residues. In feedlots for beef cattle antibiotics are fed to the animals as growth promoters. The residues in the meat kill the good bacteria in our guts and the bad ones proliferate. This causes digestive problems, but also weakens our immune system.

    How probiotics work

    Probiotics can restore our gut flora to a large extent. But some of the probiotic action gets lost in the stomach from the acidic milieu. A recent publication from a panel of gastroenterologists has not supported the wide use of probiotics. They came to the conclusion that probiotics have not shown enough benefit to a number of clinical conditions. The researchers mentioned Crohn’s disease, C. difficile infection, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in particular of not responding to probiotics. But this may be because of inactivation of some of the power of the probiotics by stomach acid. In addition, by not using phages to potentiate the probiotic action probiotics may fail to permanently to improve the gut flora. I have previously discussed the importance of probiotics for the gut flora.

    History and use of bacteriophages

    Bacteriophages are now often just called phages. Dr. Frederick Twort, an Englishman detected phages in 1915 during World War I. Essentially a phage consists of either DNA or RNA and a protein envelope around this. Phages are very specific for certain bacterial strains. They attach to the bacteria and inject their own DNA or RNA into the bacteria. This stops the bacteria from multiplying, but makes the bacteria produce many more identical phages. Phages are useful to control the growth of problem bugs including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, the regulatory agencies were slow to approve phages despite a good safety record. Life Extension Magazine recently published a review article about this subject.

    Phages helping to protect probiotic bacteria

    Phages naturally play a role in keeping the gut flora stable. In this lengthy review, published in January 2020 phage actions are reviewed. It also mentions the connection between the gut flora and the immune system. The Life Extension Magazine article mentioned above describes experiments that show the action of phages. E. coli is the main bacterium in the large intestine. It is also the bacterium that can cause pneumonia, diarrhea and urinary tract infections.

    Experiments with bacteria and phages in Petri dishes

    According to the Life Extension Magazine article researchers did experiments with Bifidobacterium longum, one of the desirable gut bacteria. This was placed on a Petri dish along with E. coli bacteria. In a second Petri dish Bifidobacterium longum, E. coli and a phage mix were placed. After 5 hours there was hardly any growth of Bifidobacterium longum in the first petri dish, as it was crowded out by E. coli. The result in the second Petri dish was interesting: the Bifidobacterium longum colonies were 7000-times higher in number than in the other Petri dish without the phage mixture. The phages had selectively attacked the E. coli bacteria, which made room for the Bifidobacterium longum bacteria to multiply.

    Animal experiments with bacteria and phages

    The Life Extension Magazine review mentions animal experiments with phages next. One group of mice received B. longum and the disease-causing E. coli in their food. The other group had the same bacteria plus a mix of phages directed against E. coli. For the phage group the results within 24 hours were as follows.

    • The E. coli count in the small intestine was 10-fold lower, in the large intestine 100-fold lower and in the fecal matter 100-fold lower.
    • The phage group also had a 100-fold increase of the B. longum count in the small intestine. The large intestine also had a 100-fold increase of the B. longum count. And there was a 40-fold increase of B. longum in the fecal matter.

    Control mice without the phage mix developed constipation and intestinal segments showed redness, swelling and leaks. In contrast, the phage mix group of mice showed no side effects and had improved digestive function.

    Human studies using probiotics and a phage blend for digestive problems

    Safety tests of phage therapy were next in 2005 involving 15 volunteers. There were no side effects using two different phage concentrations to diminish E. coli. Researchers had done other safety experiments in Russia and in Poland in the past. Patients with ulcerative colitis responded with improved symptoms and improved endoscopic findings to treatment with two probiotics. They received fermented milk products (Cultura) containing live lactobacilli (La-5) and bifidobacteria (Bb-12) for 4 weeks. There were 51 patients with ulcerative colitis and 10 patients with familial adenomatous polyposis. Abdominal cramps, Involuntary defecation, leakage and the need for napkins were significantly reduced in both groups. An endoscopic score of inflammation showed a significant decreased when the baseline exam was compared to the exam after the 4-week intervention.

    Literature review about phages

    Here is a thorough review in a publication dated 2004 from Poland describing the action of bacteriophages, now simply called phages. It lists many human experiments and shows that phages are safe to use in humans.

    Irritable bowel syndrome

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) presents with a pathological intestinal function, which can be quite disabling. Another name for it is “spastic colon”, because many patients complain of significant bowel spasms. Some health providers still use this alternative term. This syndrome is more common among women and there is a theory that female hormones may have something to do with the pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Testosterone on the other hand may have a calming effect on the gastrointestinal tract.

    Symptoms and treatment of IBS

    Generally speaking, irritable bowel syndrome occurs first in the teens or early twenties, but then frequently tends to become chronic. The patient chiefly complains of abdominal bloating and distension. Bowel movements lead to a marked relief of pain. There is often mucous in the stools. After a bowel movement there is often a feeling that the rectum did not empty entirely, even though it did. Food intake or stress can bring on these symptoms and they always occur during the waking period. At nights most patients have no pain.

    Among other measures taking probiotics alone or mixed with phages can normalize the bowel flora. In older men IBS symptoms may indicate a reduction in testosterone production. If the blood contains a low testosterone level, the physician may want to replace the missing testosterone with injections or bioidentical testosterone creams. This can improve IBS in older males.

    A safe delivery system for probiotics and a phage blend for digestive problems

    Life Extension has developed a dual capsule that brings the inner content safely through the stomach and protects the mix of probiotics and phages from stomach acid. The capsule only opens in the small intestine where it releases its content of probiotics and phages into the gut. This allows the good bacteria like B. longum to multiply and suppresses E. coli, which would otherwise interfere with the beneficial bacteria.

    Probiotics and a Phage Blend for Digestive Problems

    Probiotics and a Phage Blend for Digestive Problems

    Conclusion

    About ¾ of Americans suffer from digestive problems. Many have a disbalance of the gut flora. But it is not easy to replace poor gut flora with a healthy one. Recent research showed that a combination of 7 probiotic strains with a mix of 4 E. coli fighting phages can give tremendous relief from bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramps to patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Life Extension has developed a special dual capsule that “sneaks” the capsule through the stomach. It will only open in the small intestine. This way the content of the inner capsule with the mix of probiotics/phages stays safe from the stomach acid. At the end many more beneficial bowel-bacteria are growing in the small and large intestine. This normalizes the symptoms of the patient and leads to better digestion of food. Probiotics and phages are the new players in the gut microbiome.

    Jun
    27
    2020

    A New Antibiotic, Teixobactin Can Overcome Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

    A new antibiotic, teixobactin can overcome antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The discovery of teixobactin took place in 2015. It is a peptide with 11 amino acid units. Teixobactin is derived from a gram-negative bacterium, Eleftheria terrae. It is the first of a new class of antibiotics that can kill superbugs. Two examples, for instance are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Researchers have been battling with difficult solubility of teixobactin and problems synthesizing this peptide in the laboratory. Teixobactin binds to the membranes of the bacteria it fights. This is a new mechanism for this new class of antibiotics, different from conventional antibiotics.

    Mechanisms of fighting bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics

    But it is exactly this quality that is necessary to fight the antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers showed that teixobactin binds weakly to a component of the bacterial cell wall, called “Lipid II”. But they found a second mechanism, namely blocking precursors of cell membrane synthesis in the bacteria they fight. Because of these unique mechanisms it is possible for them to fight a multitude of bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics. Teixobactin has a unique molecular structure, which makes it difficult for resistant bacteria to develop resistance to it.

    Antibiotic resistance

    Resistance to antibiotics is a worldwide problem. There are several factors that worked together to make antibiotic resistance such a big issue. For instance, in the past many doctors prescribed antibiotics for any viral cold, even knowing that antibiotics only work against bacteria. Aside from this, the agricultural practice of using antibiotics as a growth stimulator is also an important factor for antibiotic resistance to develop. It is the bacteria that become resistant, not the human body. Several clinical entities involving resistant bacteria exist that show the magnitude of the problem.

    Flesh-eating disease

    Necrotizing fasciitis (or flesh-eating disease) can develop when you swim in contaminated waters and the bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus enters through skin sores or wounds. The CDC warns that you should stay out of salt water or brackish water, if you have a skin wound. The flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus can become very aggressive, once it has entered the body. Right now, 1 out of 5 people who get infected will die and many people require ICU treatment. Others need limb amputations. All of this can happen within only 1 or 2 days of becoming ill. The hope is that with the development of teixobactin as an injectable medication or as an oral pill there will no longer be deaths, amputations and scarring due to this bacterium, as the antibiotic will very quickly eradicate Vibrio vulnificus. I have previously written about what hospitals can do to fight superbugs.

    The most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria

    Here is a brief review of the most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    Mycobacterium tuberculosis

    Since the 1950’s and 1960’s tuberculosis was treatable with a combination of two antibiotics over a period of six months to two years. But in the last 10 years more and more resistant strains of tuberculosis have developed. This is called multi-drug-resistant TB. In 2013 statistics showed that 3.7% of newly diagnosed tuberculosis cases were multi-drug-resistant TB. Many of these cases can be traced back to prisons and homeless shelters.

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

    MRSA has become a common resistant bacterium that can present with difficult to treat boils in the skin, but also as a fulminant infection as necrotizing fasciitis (or “flesh-eating disease”). About 1/3 of the cases of flesh-eating disease are caused by MRSA.

    Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)

    This gut bacterium is naturally resistant to many antibiotics. The rest of the gut bacteria usually suppress the growth of C. difficile. But many patients can get overgrowth of C. difficile in their gut following treatment with antibiotics. Recolonization with probiotics can help to reintroduce a balanced bowel flora. In the US about 500,000 individuals come down every year with diarrhea due to C. difficile. This leads to approximately 15,000 deaths yearly.

    Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE)

    Physicians find enterococci in the gut and the female genital tract of patients. They can become resistant when the patient is treated with vancomycin for another infection. The VRE can then become a problem of its own with difficult to treat infections in the genital tract of females, the gut or in wounds from surgery. It has become a problem in immunocompromised patients.

    The gonorrhea causing bacteria

    In the last 70 to 80 years Neisseria gonorrhoea, the cause of gonorrhea, has been treated with only one antibiotic, but gradually the bacterium developed antibiotic-resistance. Lately, with more and more resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoea, the CDC has recommended to treat gonorrhea with two overlapping antibiotics.

    Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)

    There are two problem bugs among this category of enterobacteria, Klebsiella species and Escherichia coli (E. coli). These bacteria reside in hospitals where they can accumulate and are present in patients with immune system compromise. Medical devices like catheters and ventilators transmit these bacteria. Once a patient is sick with CRE, there is a danger of blood poisoning (septicemia), which has a high death rate.

    How do regular antibiotics kill bacteria and how can they become resistant?

    Normally, when antibiotics are not resistant, they interfere with the cell membrane production of the bacteria. Specifically, conventional antibiotics prevent bacteria from synthesizing a molecule, called peptidoglycan. Without peptidoglycan bacteria are not stable enough to survive in humans. But there are other mechanisms as explained in this link how antibiotics manage to kill bacteria.

    Now I like to address the question how bacteria can become resistant to conventional antibiotics. This happens with overuse of antibiotics, i.e. prescribing antibiotics when a person suffers from a viral illness where antibiotics do not work. Other overuse comes from agriculture where cattle in feed lots get antibiotics as growth promoters. The FDA is strongly criticizing this practice, because residuals of antibiotics in beef can alter the bowel flora in man. The antibiotics kill all the sensitive bacteria. But the resistant bacteria, that have undergone mutations and adapted to the antibiotics, will survive.

    Why teixobactin and analogues can avoid resistance

    Since the detection of teixobactin many analogues have been synthesized. A new antibiotic, teixobactin can overcome antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The teixobactin analogues need more fine tuning, but they will be a breakthrough in the treatment of resistant bacteria. As this peptide attacks two targets on bacteria, it is not easy for bacteria to develop resistance against these new antibiotics.

    A New Antibiotic, Teixobactin Can Overcome Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

    A New Antibiotic, Teixobactin Can Overcome Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

    Conclusion

    Resistant bacteria have become a serious health concern in the last decade. Physicians overprescribing antibiotics and farmers feeding antibiotics to cattle in feedlots as growth promoters were the driving forces. In 2015 came the breakthrough and discovery of teixobactin. This is a peptide with 11 amino acid units. Teixobactin is a derivative of a gram-negative bacterium, Eleftheria terrae. A new antibiotic, teixobactin can overcome antibiotic-resistant superbugs. In the meantime, researchers have been able to improve solubility by developing teixobactin analogues. More research is necessary. But all of the researchers who work in this field claim that this will very soon be extremely useful for patients with super bugs. This super-antibiotic will be a weapon fighting super bugs. Before the release of this medication clinical trials will be the next step.

    Jun
    20
    2020

    Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

    We knew since the mid 1990’s that chronic inflammation can cause many diseases. Among these are cancer, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), arthritis, dementia (Alzheimer’s disease), frailty and other degenerative disorders. LifeExtension reviewed this topic in 2019.

    Older people often accumulate chronic inflammation, which associates with the aging process. Persistent pain is one of the symptoms that chronic inflammation can cause.

    Doctors use tests like the C-reactive protein, hemoglobin A1C, homocysteine and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate to measure chronic inflammation.

    When the doctor diagnoses chronic inflammation, it is important to find ways to inhibit it and finally resolve it. Curcumin, ginger and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are examples of measures that help inhibit inflammation. But it is only lately that scientists have found specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM) that help to resolve chronic inflammation. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which health food stores offer as supplements.

    Specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM)

    Researchers isolated several pro-resolving mediators that are metabolites of omega-3 fatty acids. This link discusses an experiment where researchers obtained synovial fluid from arthritis patients who took omega-3 fatty acids. They compared this to synovial fluid from volunteers who also took omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Within 4 weeks there was a big difference for the arthritis patients with higher levels of E- and D-series SPMs in synovial fluid and plasma. Dr. Silverman reviewed the action of SPMs here. He points out that they can be taken as supplements and that they are safe, because they do not have any side effects. Conditions such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and various musculoskeletal conditions with chronic inflammation respond very well to SPM supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (EPA) metabolize into the E-series resolvins.  On the other hand, Krill oil with Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) metabolizes into protectins, maresins and the D-series resolvins.

    Three vital tasks of pro-resolving mediators

    SPMs fulfill three vital tasks, called remove, restore and renew.  First, they activate macrophages, which remove dead cells and cellular debris as a result of chronic inflammation. Second, they restore the healthy balance of inflammatory compounds and anti-inflammatory substances. Third, SPMs help renew tissues that were damaged by chronic inflammation.

    Some examples where SPM’s were helpful resolving inflammation in health conditions

    • Alzheimer’s disease patients had reduced SPMs in cerebrospinal fluid of living patients and in the hippocampus of corpses who had Alzheimer’s disease.
    • A research group showed that defective SPM resolution can be responsible for missing resolution of atheromatous plaques in arteries. This leads to more and more hardening of arteries until a heart attack or stroke occurs.
    • With obesity or metabolic syndrome insulin resistance develops. Researchers found that certain SPM’s are missing in obesity, which causes chronic inflammation. However, they also found that precursors of SPMs such as 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA) can serve as a novel treatment agent to treat obesity-related complications.

    Newer studies about SPMs

    • 62 patients with knee osteoarthritis had the precursor of resolvins, 17-HDHA tested in the blood. Compared to controls with no arthritis the 17-HDHA level in the arthritis patients was low. When levels of 17-HDHA were high, there was no pain in osteoarthritis patients.
    • Chronic periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition in the mouth. In a rabbit model this condition was cured with resolvin E1 derived from omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Delayed wound healing is typical for type 2 diabetes. In a mouse model with diabetic mice researchers inflicted skin wounds on mice. Subsequently they showed that with resolvins mice wounds healed much faster than in control mice.
    • Chronic kidney failure, liver impairment, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease showed abnormalities in the SPM system in humans. Potentially they will be healed with the help of resolvins or their precursors, which includes the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
    Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

    Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

    Conclusion

    New compounds have been detected that derive from the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. They have the name specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM). Included are the resolvins D1 and D2, the resolvins E1, E2 and E3 as well as the precursors 18-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid (18-HEPE) and 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA). The function of these compounds is to stimulate macrophages to clean up areas of chronic inflammation and remove cell debris and injured cells that cannot survive. While anti-inflammatories like ginger and curcumin only tone down the inflammation, SPMs help to resolve chronic inflammation. Various chronic clinical conditions were identified as being due to chronic inflammation. Chronic kidney failure, liver impairment, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease showed abnormalities in the SPM system. We may soon see alternative approaches treating these conditions with specialized pro-resolving mediators.

    Jun
    13
    2020

    Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

    A recent publication came to the conclusion that a Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes in diabetes. This Canadian and Spanish study compared prospective cohort studies and randomized trials (RCT). 41 reports (3 RCTs and 38 cohorts) formed the basis for this analysis.

    Details of the study

    Metaanalysis showed that a Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease incidence by 38%. It also reduced myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) by 35%. Next the authors compared the highest to the lowest adherents to the Mediterranean diet (Med diet). The highest Med diet adherents showed the following reductions:

    Cardiovascular disease mortality: 21%

    Coronary heart disease incidence: 27%

    Coronary heart disease mortality: 17%

    Stroke incidence: 20%

    Stroke mortality: 13%

    The conclusion was that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to prevent heart disease and strokes in people with diabetes.

    Other studies

    In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. Again, the question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

    Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

    What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

    Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

    The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

    More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

    An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

    As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that it is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

    No processed food means healthier living

    The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

    Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than the fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. And after dinner go for a walk!

    Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

    In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

    In a 2012 study from Spain it was found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

    How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

    Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil will increase the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles are called HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles, which cleans out plaques from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

    Endothelial function

    The endothelium is the lining of the arteries. Normal endothelial functioning involves widening of the arteries and maintaining its flexibility. The body achieves this through production of a signal molecule, called nitric oxide; the endothelial cells that line our arteries from inside produce it. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide as well (Ref.1).

    In a group of patients with poor endothelial function 2 tablespoons of olive oil (polyphenol rich) per day given over 4 months (the time of the study) showed a significant improvement of endothelial function.

    The authors suggested that an enzyme in the endothelial cells, called nitric oxide synthase is being stimulated by components of polyphenol-rich olive oil. This leads to protracted release of nitric oxide, which in turn keeps blood vessels flexible and wide open. Other investigators found that olive oil can influence even a hereditary gene variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase found in people with a history of premature heart attacks. This high-risk group of people should take extra virgin olive oil regularly to prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

    Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the arteries no longer can deliver adequate amounts of blood to vital organs like the heart or the brain. Endothelial dysfunction is also present in patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Introducing extra virgin olive oil in the diet of these patients will help restore their endothelial function.

    Lowering blood pressure

    In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil. The polyphenols of olive oil released nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure. This is an important finding. High blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of hardening of the coronary arteries. This leads to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, but also stroke. Regular intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often will reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function.

    Preventing heart attacks and strokes

    In April of 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published a Spanish diet study that showed that a participants on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts had 30% less heart attacks over 5 years than people on a low fat control diet. Other studies have also shown that olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. We also know that regular exercise reduces the risk further; so does keeping your body mass index below 25.0. Extra virgin olive oil is part of the protection from heart attacks and strokes. The study did not show any protection against cancer.

    Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

    Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

    Conclusion

    A Mediterranean diet reduced heart attacks and strokes in diabetic patients, but also in patients without diabetes. Here I attempted to show what the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet are that lead to such astounding positive effects. There is an emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients of food. In addition, olive oil and a lack of processed food are also important. With these wholesome ingredients the lining of the arteries works best. The body reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. The end result is that there are less heart attacks and strokes, and people live longer.

    Note: Part of this was previously published here and also here.