Archives for July 2017

Jul
29
2017

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some drink milk, others are lactose intolerant; this is the fact about drinking milk.

For a long time the dairy marketing board advertised with the slogan: “Got milk?”. But dairy milk consumption has declined over the past decades.

Why this is has been reviewed in this article. I like to review the problem of lactose intolerance, milk as a source of calcium to prevent osteoporosis and offer alternatives to milk consumption.

Lactose intolerance

Milk cows have been around in Europe for about 6000 years. But not everybody can tolerate milk products. Most of the Europeans, North Americans and Australians have adjusted the digestive enzymes in their duodenum to produce enzymes, called lactase that digest milk sugar (lactose) into glucose and galactose. But up to 75% of the world population (Africa, South America, Asia) is lactase deficient; they cannot tolerate dairy products. They get abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting from drinking a glass of dairy milk. This link explains why goat milk is better than cow’s milk for those who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.

It is also interesting that many people who are lactase deficient can tolerate cheeses, yogurt and other fermented milk products as the fermenting bacteria have digested the lactose.

Other problems with dairy products

Problems with mass production of dairy items are the following:

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are responsible for the majority of milk products on grocery market shelves. This means that the animals are fed unnatural corn, which leads to deficiencies and omega-6 fatty acids in the milk products.
  • Herds of animals receive antibiotics to prevent infections.
  • Farmers are administering bovine growth hormone (bST, bovine somatotropin) to stimulate more milk production. The antibiotics lead to superbugs in humans, the bST may be causing autoimmune diseases and breast cancer in humans. The healthiest milk is milk from grass-fed cows. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids. All of the milk products derived from this type of milk are also healthy.

Milk as a source of calcium

One key advertising slogan of the dairy industry used to be that milk would be such a good source of calcium, which would prevent osteoporosis. But milk also has a lot of animal protein in it, which acidifies blood. This means that the kidneys use calcium to neutralize acidic blood and excrete calcium. The net result is that there is more calcium leaving the body. Some of the calcium from the bone serves to keep the balance between acidity and alkalinity neutral.

This 12 year long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study involving 77, 761 women between the ages of 34 to 59 showed that a higher consumption of milk did not protect against hip and wrist fractures.

The myth that full fat milk causes heart attacks and strokes

There is another myth floating around, namely that full fat milk would be bad for the heart because of increased saturated fatty acids. But an Australian study showed that full fat milk is healthier for you than milk with less fat.

After 14.4 years of follow-up the group that consumed the most milk compared to the lowest fat intake group had a 69% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease!

A 2016 study showed that consumption of plain yogurt was associated with better health outcomes on the long term. Be more concerned about the sugar content than the fat content of yogurt!

Prevention of osteoporosis

For years numerous sources have indoctrinated us to accept a false concept. It is the concept of increasing milk consumption (“Got milk?”) for increased calcium intake and possible osteoporosis prevention. The sales mantra went like this: Milk-calcium-osteoporosis prevention. Now we know the real truth. Milk provides protein and calcium.  But  absorption of calcium is poor and the acidified blood is alkalinized through calcium from milk and from the bone leaking calcium into the blood and into the urine. The end result is a net loss of calcium from the bone, as it is more important to the body to keep the blood’s acid/base stable than to increase the calcium level in the bone. Sadly all the high consumers of milk from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study ended up having fractures from osteoporotic bones.

Prevention of osteoporosis requires intake of vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and calcium (supplement or diet) as I have reviewed in this blog. In addition regular exercise is also very beneficial as is bioidentical sex-hormone replacement. It is interesting that a large clinical trial that I mentioned in this blog showed after 7 years that there were 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than in the placebo group. Vitamin K2 is essential to keep calcium in the bones and to keep calcium out of the blood vessel walls. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium absorption through the gut wall and to deposit calcium into bone. Without all of these ingredients it is not possible to prevent osteoporosis.

Alternatives to milk consumption

  1. One obvious step is to replace cow’s milk by goat milk. As you can see from this link, there are many advantages to goat milk. What I find important is the fact that those with lactase deficiency often can tolerate goat milk while they would otherwise react to cow’s milk. There are also many goat milk products like cheese and yogurt, all of which are very healthy. They do not contain any antibiotics or bovine growth hormone (bST), the use of which is confined to cows. Goat milk products are also an excellent source of protein.
  2. You can eat a more vegetable-based diet. A lot of vegetables and fruit have calcium and protein in them.
  3. You can consume almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The downside to know is the fact that almond milk is not a significant source of protein. It has the advantage of being slightly alkaline; this will ensure that the calcium absorbed in the gut will reach the bones as long as you also supplement with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. The many “fake milk” products such as rice milk, coconut milk and hemp milk are also poor protein sources. The only product higher in protein is soymilk. But soy has its own problems: over 90 % of the crop in North America is genetically engineered, and soy is a known allergen. As of recent, another product based on pea protein is available, and the protein content is excellent, so it is worth looking for it (It is called “Ripple”).
Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Conclusion

Drinking milk as a source of protein and calcium has become an obsession a few decades back. In the meantime it turned out that drinking milk tips the acid-base balance in the direction of acidity. This causes osteoporosis, as the kidneys excrete all of the calcium from milk that is absorbed. On top of that even more calcium is taken out from bones to recalibrate the acid-base balance.

Up to 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant. They get sick from drinking cow’s milk. But they usually tolerate goat milk quite well. Considering the fact that antibiotics are used in cow milk production and recombinant bovine growth hormone as well, I have joined the crowd that prefers goat milk instead of cow’s milk. I take the supplements I mentioned for bone maintenance (vitamin D3 and K2) and I get lots of calcium also from vegetables and salads. I have no lactose intolerance, but that’s my take on milk.

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Jul
22
2017

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation can calm your mind, but new research has shown that relaxation reduces inflammation as well.

This article is based on a research paper in Frontiers in Immunology in June of 2017.

It concentrated on the calming effect of meditation on the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which causes inflammation. We know that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system activates the inflammatory pathway by expressing the genes responsible for NF-κB. These authors showed that the reverse is true also, namely that  meditation suppresses inflammation.

This metaanalysis of 18 research papers included 846 participants.

Here are brief summary findings of these 18 studies. Note that diverse relaxation methods had very similar results on the genes expressing inflammatory markers.

1. Qigong practitioners

First of all, a group of Qigong practitioners had 132 downregulated genes and 118 upregulated genes when compared to non-meditating controls. Meditation strengthens the immune system and delays cell death.

2. Sudarshan Kriya yoga

Also, one form of yoga breathing is Sudarshan Kriya yoga. Subjects who practiced this form of breathing yoga for 1 hour per day did not have the stress-related response on white blood cells. In contrast, the controls who did not meditate this way showed no change in the white blood cell response to stress. Those practicing yoga had a strengthened immune system. The meditators also showed strengthening of genes that inhibit cell death.

3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Furthermore, eight patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia were practicing the “seven yoga breathing patterns”; the popular Indian yoga teacher, Swami Ramdev, developed these. Those patients practicing the breathing yoga technique activated 4,428 genes compared to controls. They showed an up to twofold upregulation, which strengthened their immune system.

4. Loneliness in older people

Another study noted that loneliness in older people causes inflammation, morbidity and mortality. 55-85 year old volunteers were taking a course of mindfulness-based stress reduction. The researchers wanted to find out whether it was due to increased inflammation that older people were more susceptible to disease. The physicians tested blood mononuclear cells for genome-wide transcriptional profiling. Those older persons who had reported loneliness had more transcription factors for nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) than controls without feelings of loneliness. After an 8-week course those who no longer felt loneliness had a reversal of proinflammatory gene expression. The genes that had changed expression were located on monocytes and B-lymphocytes; these are cells of the immune system.

5. Care workers for patients with mental health problems

Care workers who looked after patients with mental health problems or chronic physical problems often have stress-induced chronic inflammation markers in their blood. A study involving 23 caregivers used a practice of Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM) assisted by an audio recording every day for 8 weeks. The subjects filled in questionnaires for depression and mental health before and after the 8-week trial. Physicians also took blood samples for transcriptional profiling before and after the KKM trial.

Meditation effects genes and reduces inflammation

The KKM meditation group had significantly less depressive symptoms and showed improvements in mental health. There were down-regulations in 49 genes and up-regulations in 19 genes compared to the controls. The pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression showed a decrease; the anti-viral gene expression showed an increase. This was measured using the IRF-1 gene. This gene controls the expression of the interferon-regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1 gene), which controls the immune response to viral infections. The interesting observation here was that a time of only 8 weeks of meditation was able to reduce inflammatory substances in the blood and could activate the immune system to fight viruses better. Further tests showed that it was meditation that stimulated the B cells and the dendritic cells.

6. Younger breast cancer patients

Younger breast cancer patients taking a mindfulness meditation course: Another study involved younger stable breast cancer patients after treatment that also had insomnia. Patients with both breast cancer and insomnia often have a lot of inflammatory markers in the blood. In a study with 80 patients 40 underwent treatment with Tai-Chi exercises, the other group of 40 with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Tai-Chi exercises reduced IL-6 marginally and TNF (tumor necrosis factor) significantly. There was a 9% reduction with regard to the expression of 19 genes that were pro-inflammatory; there was also a 3.4% increase with regard to 34 genes involved in regulating the antiviral and anti-tumor activity in the Tai-Chi group when compared to the cognitive-behavioral therapy group.

Measurable results of mindfulness meditation course

While cognitive therapy has its benefits, the winner was the Tai-Chi group where there was down-regulation of 68 genes and up-regulation of 19 genes. As in the prior study there was a decrease of the pro-inflammatory NF-κB expression, which reduced the inflammatory response.

7.  Study with fatigued breast cancer patients

In another breast cancer study with fatigued breast cancer patients the patients practiced 3 months of Iyengar yoga. After 3 months of yoga 282 genes showed up-regulation and 153 genes showed down-regulation. There was significant lowering of the expression of NF-κB. This suggests a lowering of inflammation. At the same time questionnaires showed that the fatigue factors experienced a reduction 3 months after initiating yoga exercises.

8. Mindful meditation used in younger breast cancer patients

A group of 39 breast cancer patients diagnosed before the age of 50 received six weekly 2-hour sessions of mindful awareness practices (MAP). This program is very suitable for cancer survivors. In addition to the group sessions the patients also did daily exercises of between 5 minutes and 20 minutes by themselves. The control group consisted of patients on a wait list. The investigators used several psychological measure (depression and stress) and physical measures (fatigue, hot flashes and pain) to assess their progress. Gene expression in the genome and inflammatory proteins were measured at baseline and after the intervention.

Effects of mindful awareness practices

Mindful practices showed clear benefits: they reduced stress, and sleep disturbances, hot flashes and fatigue showed improvement. Depression also shoed a marginal reduction. There were 19 pro-inflammatory genes that were mad ineffective, but not in the control group that did not do mindful practices. Gene tests revealed that transcription factor NF-κB had significant down-regulation. Conversely the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid receptor and the interferon regulatory factors showed higher values. Genes with down-regulation came from monocytes and dendritic cells while genes with up-regulation came from B lymphocytes.

9. Telomerase gene expression

Lifestyle modification changes telomerase gene expression: 48 patients with high blood pressure enrolled in an extensive lifestyle program teaching them about losing weight, eating less sodium, exercising, adopting a healthy diet and drinking less alcohol. The other choice was to use transcendental meditation (TM) combined with health education with weekly sessions for 4 months. It turned out that both programs led to an increased expression of telomerase genes. Both groups did not show telomerase changes, but the authors stated that the observation time was too short for that to occur. The extensive health education program turned out to be better for patients with high blood pressure as it decreased the diastolic blood pressure more and resulted in healthier lifestyles.

10. Older patients with insomnia

Mind-body interventions for older patients with insomnia: Examiners divided a sample of 120 older adults with insomnia into two groups. They treated one group with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the other group with Tai Chi. The control group consisted of a group of people participating in a sleep seminar. 4 months after the intervention the CBT group had a significantly reduced C-reactive protein (CRP). The pro-inflammatory markers were lower in both groups after 2 months and in the Tai Chi group this remained low until 16 months. Gene expression profiling showed that CBT downregulated 347 genes and upregulated 191 genes; the Tai Chi group had downregulated 202 genes and upregulated 52 genes. The downregulated genes were mostly inflammatory genes while the upregulated genes controlled mostly interferon and antibody responses.

11. Patients with bowel disease

19 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and 29 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) were treated with a relaxation response-based mind-body intervention. This consisted of 9 weekly meetings, each lasting 1.5 hours and practices a home for 15-20 minutes. The participants were taught breathing exercises and cognitive skills designed to help manage stress. At the end of the mind-body intervention and at a follow-up visit 3 weeks later participants of both the IBS and IBD groups scored higher in quality of life and lower in the level of anxiety they had before. They had reduced symptoms of their conditions.

Results of relaxation response-based mind-body intervention on IBS patients

The IBS group showed an improvement in 1059 genes. These were mostly improvements in inflammatory responses, in cell growth, regarding proliferation, and also improvements in oxidative stress-related pathways. The IBD group showed improvements in 119 genes that were related to cell cycle regulation and DNA damages. Other genetic tests showed that NF-κB was a key molecule for both IBS and IBD. The main finding was that relaxation response-based mind-body intervention was able to down regulate inflammation in both IBD and IBS.

12. Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients receiving a course of MBSR

25 caregivers participated in a course of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). Using 194 differently expressed genes the investigators could predict who would be a poor, moderate or good responder to the MBSR intervention. These genes related to inflammation, depression and stress response. 91 genes could identify with an accuracy of 94.7% at baseline whether the person would receive psychological benefits from the MBSR program.

13. Higher state of consciousness in two experienced Buddha meditators

Genetic tests showed, similar to the description of other cases that genes affecting the immune system, cell death and the stress response experienced stimulation. EEG studies in both individuals during deep meditation were almost identical with an increase of theta and alpha frequency ranges.

14. Rapid gene expression in immune cells (lymphocytes) in the blood

One study used gentle yoga postures, meditation and breathing exercises. 10 participants recruited at a yoga camp had yoga experience between 1.5 months and 5 years. Their response resulted in 3-fold more gene changes than that of controls. Otherwise the findings were very similar to the other studies.

15. Genomic changes with the relaxation response

The relaxation response (RR) is the opposite of the stress response.  One study examined how various modes of entering into the relaxation response like yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and repetitive prayer would lead to beneficial gene effects. As in other studies inflammation was reduced and the immune system was stimulated from the relaxation response. This was verified with detailed gene studies. The authors noted that different genes were activated in people who had done long-term RR practice versus people who practiced RR only for a shorter time. There were distinctly different gene expressions.

16.  Energy metabolism and inflammation control

Relaxation responses beneficial for energy metabolism and inflammation control: Experts with experience in RR were compared with a group of novice RR practitioners. Experts and short-term practitioners expressed their genes differently at baseline. But after relaxation both experts and novices had gene changes in the area of energy metabolism, electron transport within the mitochondria, insulin secretion and cell aging. The upregulated genes are responsible for ATP synthase and insulin production. ATP synthase is responsible for energy production in the mitochondria and down regulates NF-κB pathway genes. Inflammation was reduced by these changes. All these beneficial gene changes were more prominent in expert RR practitioners. Other beneficial changes noted were telomere maintenance and nitric oxide production in both expert and novice RR practitioners.

17. Relaxation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes

Mindfulness meditation changes stress recovery and silences two inflammatory genes: Experienced meditators were tested after an intensive 8-h mindfulness meditation retreat workshop. Two inflammatory genes were silenced by mindfulness meditation compared to controls. Other genes that are involved in gene regulation were found to be downregulated as well. These experienced meditators had a faster cortisol recovery to social stress compared to controls.

18. Vacation and meditation effect on healing from disease

This last study investigated the effect of a 6-day holiday retreat. One group was offered a 4-day meditation course, one group was the control group just holidaying and the third group was an experienced meditation group who also took the retreat meditation course. Depression, stress, vitality, and mindfulness were measured with questionnaires. All groups were positively changed after the holiday and remained this way at 1 month after the retreat. 10 months after the retreat novice meditators were less depressed than the vacation control group. At the center of the experiment was the gene expression study.

Effects of holiday and meditation

390 genes had changed in all of the groups. The authors assumed that this was due to the relaxation experience of the retreat. The genes involved related to the stress response, wound healing, and injury. Other genes measured inflammation (control of tumor necrosis factor alpha). Another set of genes measured the control of protein synthesis of amyloid beta (Aβ) metabolism, which causes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. All groups had markers that indicated less risk of dementia, depression and mortality, which was likely due to the relaxation from the retreat.

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Relaxation Reduces Inflammation

Conclusion

This study is a meta-analysis of 18 research papers. The authors found that very different approaches to relax the mind have fairly consistent universal effects on reducing inflammation. Most of this work was done with genetic markers. No matter what type of relaxation method you use, you will have beneficial effects from it. But the beneficial effect is not only strengthening the immune system, it also improves sleep, depression, anxiety and blood pressure. In addition it is improving your stress response, wound healing, risk of dementia and it reduces mortality. We don’t quite understand all of the details yet.

What is definitely documented is the effect of the mind-body interaction. It also points clearly to the relaxation response from meditation and similar relaxation methods. This has been proven beyond any doubt through genetic tests.

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Jul
15
2017

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Scientific papers describe how unhealthy added sugar is, so getting rid of sugar in your diet is the answer.

An article was published in CNN that describes a one-month sugar detox program.

Brooke Alpert, the co-author of the book “The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight — Look and Feel Great” describes the details of a sugar detox program.

 The first three days of sugar detox

You need to go cold turkey for three days to eliminate any sugar to break the addiction cycle. During this time you may experience anxiety, sugar craving and moodiness.

You must not consume any added sugars during the first 3 days, but also keep away from fruit. Avoid starchy vegetables. This includes corn, sweet potatoes, peas and butternut squash. You also need to avoid dairy, because of the milk sugar in it. In addition avoid grains and alcohol. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables and healthy fats”, says Alpert. You would enjoy a breakfast with 3 eggs any style. Lunch contains 6 oz. of poultry, tofu or fish. Add a green salad. For dinner your helpings are bigger, but it would be similar to lunch, perhaps with added vegetables. Snacks can be 1 oz. of nuts or a few slices of bell peppers with hummus. Your beverages: unsweetened tea, black coffee or water.

People should avoid sweeteners according to Alpert. Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco agrees. He said that artificial sweeteners cause you to store more fat. Dr. Lustig added: “You also end up overeating later on to compensate for the increased energy storage”.

Day four of sugar detox

On day 4 the patient can reintroduce an apple. It will now taste a lot sweeter, because in the past sugar suppressed the natural fruit sugar taste. Full fat, unsweetened cheese and yogurt are also part of the diet. Alpert added: “Fat, fiber and protein slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster.” Higher sugar content vegetables like carrots, snow peas and high-fiber crackers can be part of the diet in the second half of the first week.  Those who like it can also add three glasses of red wine.

Second week of sugar detox 

Add a serving of berries that are full of antioxidants. Also add an extra serving of dairy. You can also eat more starchy vegetables like winter squash and yams.

Third week of sugar detox

Barley, quinoa and oatmeal can now be added back. Grapes and clementines are now also allowable. Those who like wine can now add another glass of red wine. One ounce of dark chocolate per day can also be added. “Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.

Week four of sugar detox

You now can have two starches per day, like bread and rice. In addition you can enjoy high-fiber crackers. You can have 5 glasses of red wine per week. You may want to eat a sandwich. Once you have completed 31 days no fruit is off-limits. You can allow yourself the occasional indulgences like an ice cream or a piece of cake at a birthday party. “Because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one. The whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life,” Alpert said.

Weight loss with sugar detox

There can be a lot of weight loss with a sugar detox; depending on how much sugar the person was consuming before the detox started. Alpert recalled that of 80 subjects who tested the sugar detox people lost between 5 and 20 pounds within 31 days. Many people reported that their belly fat was going and they had to readjust their belts. There were other things participants noted: brighter eyes, fewer dark circles around the eyes, clearer skin, more energy and not as many mood swings.

Many people are not properly educated; they reduce fat intake, but add sugar and start gaining weight. By cutting out sugar and adding healthy fats in their diet, they now feel satisfied. The sugar craving has disappeared.

Side effects of sugar detox

You may feel grumpy and weak. This likely is due to low blood sugar and a piece of fruit will help you overcome this. In other cases it could be due to too little fluid intake and when you drink some water, this feeling will pass. Make sure you have supportive family and friends through the first three-day of sugar detox. “You need people around you to help you be successful,” Dr. Lustig said. “The whole family has to do it together.” Some irritability is expected due to sugar and caffeine withdrawal. This will pass and get better with every day. There are persons who should not go on this program: diabetics, people who take medicine to control blood sugar and extreme athletes. Pregnant women should also not follow a sugar detox program.

Why it is important to limit sugar intake

The American Heart Association (AHA) clearly spelled out what the limits are for added sugars:

For men: a daily dose of 9 teaspoons of sugar from all foods,

For women: a daily dose of 6 teaspoons of sugar from all foods.

When you start reading labels, which I started to do since 2001, you realize that it is very easy to exceed these daily limits. What does this do? It makes your pancreas produce more insulin than is good for you. You start switching your metabolism into the metabolic syndrome, you gain weight, and you get inflammation. This is what the AHA is concerned about. You start developing high blood pressure; get high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and atheromatous plaques in your coronary and brain arteries. Eventually you come down with a heart attack or a stroke.

In the last 100 years sugar consumption per person has skyrocketed.

This has led to a disbalance of our diet and it is because of this that we are facing the obesity wave now. All I am saying is replace sugar with stevia extract, which to my knowledge does not have the undesirable side effects that other sweeteners do and eat a Mediterranean type diet, which we know is balanced.

Watch the maximum recommended sugar intake per day set by the American Heart Association and balance your meals, and you will do a lot better than on the Standard American diet. The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory.

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Getting Rid Of Sugar

Conclusion

We learnt about how a sugar detox can get you off sugar addiction. I also summarized why it is important to keep sugar consumption within limits set by the American Heart Association. Too much sugar can derange our metabolism, which is called metabolic syndrome. This can lead to diabetes. Eating a Mediterranean diet and keeping sugar intake low is the pathway to good health. It also keeps inflammation at bay.

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Jul
08
2017

Stem Cells For Osteoarthritis

Many clinicians have used stem cells for osteoarthritis of the knee or other joints for some time. However, objective publications about the effectiveness of stem cells are only coming out now. Both stem cell types, derived from fat or stem cells from the bone marrow, are effective. Most doctors are using stem cells from fat (mesenchymal stem cells), because they are so much easier to harvest.

CNN reported about a man, Bill Marlette who had lost one of his arms in the past. He ended up overusing the other arm and as a result developed end-stage osteoarthritis in his wrist. He could not find relief with conventional methods of anti-inflammatories and pain pills. Next he went to a stem cell expert in Munich, Germany who treated him with mesenchymal stem cells from his fatty tissue. Only one treatment took away his chronic pain and helped him regain his wrist mobility.

Approval of stem cell therapy in Germany

Prof. Dr. Eckhard Alt, an expert in regenerative medicine has previously treated patients with end stage osteoarthritis and had good clinical outcomes with it. As a result the German regulatory agency has approved his treatment protocol.

Dr. David Pearce, executive vice president for research at Sanford Health in South Dakota said that Prof. Dr. Eckhard Alt was the first one to use fat cells as a source of mesenchymal stem cells to treat osteoarthritis. He went on to say: ”Those stem cells don’t have to be programmed in any way, but if you put them in the right environment, they will naturally turn into what the cell type around them is.” The physician harvests the stem cells through liposuction. An enzyme mixture is necessary to separate the stem cells from fat cells, oil and connective tissue. A cell separator can also help separating the stem cells from the rest of the cells and tissue.

A case of wrist osteoarthritis

As I mentioned before only one injection was necessary to relieve the chronic pain of Bill Marlette’s wrist. Since his return the doctors in the US have followed Bill closely. They took MRI scans and noted that the bony cysts associated with the severe arthritis have disappeared. His wrist and hand strength have returned to normal. The pain almost disappeared. There were no side effects whatsoever. Because the stem cells are of the same tissue type as all his other cells of his body, one would not expect any tissue rejection by the immune system. Bill Marlette did not need any pain pills following the procedure in August 2016. And he says: “I have more range of motion with my wrist, shaking hands didn’t hurt anymore,” he said. “My wrist seems to continue to improve, and there’s less and less pain all the time.”

Past experiences treating osteoarthritis with mesenchymal stem cells

A 2014 clinical trial from Korea involved 18 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee where adipose mesenchymal stem cells were injected. The high dose group did best. After 6 months there was significant improvement, also confirmed by arthroscopy. The previous cartilage defect in the femoral and tibial condyles had decreased in size. Range of motion in the knee joints and pain had also improved. There were no adverse effects from the treatment.

Chinese study

Mesenchymal progenitor cells have the propensity to develop into cartilage. At the Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University Shanghai, China the following experiment took place in 2015. The researchers grew human adipose mesenchymal cells in vitro. Later they injected these mesenchymal progenitor cells into the knees of rabbits with experimentally produced osteoarthritis. Despite doing xenotransplants (human cartilage to rabbits) with known HLA differences the cartilage grew and cured the osteoarthritis of the rabbits. The new cartilage had human HLA markers while the rabbit cartilage underneath had rabbit HLA markers. At 16 weeks the researchers examined the tissues under the microscope and another exam involved the HLA marker testing.

Tehran study

A study from Tehran, Iran was carried out on 18 patients with ankle, knee and hip osteoarthritis in 2015. Physicians injected stem cells from the bone marrow into the osteoarthritic joint. The doctors followed the patients and ordered occasional MRI scans for 30 months. All of the patients had improved significantly with regard to their joint function and pain. The MRI scans also showed thickening of the joint surfaces from new cartilage production.

French/German study

In a 2016 joint French/German study 18 patients with end stage knee osteoarthritis were treated with stem cells. The stem cells came from adipose tissue that went through a cell separator. Physicians injected the mesenchymal stem cell fraction into the osteoarthritic knees. This was a phase I study to rule out any adverse reactions, but none were evident. It also established that there were significant positive improvements in pain and mobility with regard to the affected knees.

General remarks about how stem cells heal osteoarthritis

The example above with end stage osteoarthritis of the wrist was just one example of where osteoarthritis can strike. Perhaps the more common other locations are hips, knees and the facet joints of the lower lumbar spine (causing chronic lower back pain).

The same treatment procedure, which Bill Marlette’s wrist benefitted from is useful for all these other locations. The common factor in osteoarthritis is that the cartilage is getting thinner and thinner until bone rubs on bone causing excruciating pain. It is here where mesenchymal cells can come to the rescue. The stem cells will assess what requires a repair after injection into an affected joint. They recognize that there is a lack of cartilage. Then they transform themselves into chondrocytes, which are cartilage-forming cells. How can stem cells do that? They come with a program to replace missing cells, particularly cartilage and bone cells. But if they are within fatty tissue, they cannot act within a joint that has osteoarthritis. The doctor has to transport the mesenchymal cells into the joint where they can then begin their healing function.

Other methods to treat osteoarthritis

Stem cells are only one of several regenerative treatment modalities for osteoarthritis. Another method are platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. Platelets have a lot of anti-inflammatory substances in them and also growth factors that can stimulate stem cells contained in the synovial membrane, the lining of any joint. To get PRP plasma, it is necessary to spin down blood and harvest the PRP fraction with a syringe. After three PRP injections were given into the knees of 90 patients with end stage osteoarthritis these patients were followed for two years.

In the beginning before treatment 100% of the patients had symptoms. After one year following the treatment with PRP their knee functions were normal in 67% of them. After two years only 59% had normal knee function. The investigators pointed out that this treatment modality initially helped to a certain point, but then the effects were slowly fading away.

Stem cell treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee

The literature on either bone stem cells or fat stem cell use for osteoarthritis of the knee in man is still sparse. Nobody has done larger clinical trials. Part of the reasons could be that total knee and total hip replacement in orthopedics is very lucrative. We are still in a symptomatic treatment mode. Physicians treat osteoarthritis conservatively with anti-inflammatories and pain pills. When bone rubs on bone, there can be excruciating pain. The physician refers the patient to an orthopedic surgeon who likely will do invasive surgical procedures. My own impression in general practice in the past is that these procedures do not always turn out the way they are supposed to work. Following total hip or knee replacement joint swelling often remains; pain issues are still there. There can be unequal height issues, balancing problems and so on.

Here is a review of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis.  This publication is very conventional medicine. An attitude change by conventional medicine would be useful to catch up with what is happening in real life. Some patients will travel abroad to Munich as Bill Marlette did. But others may travel to other places like India, Mexico or wherever medical tourism takes you. Regenerative medicine is there to stay.

Stem Cells For Osteoarthritis

Stem Cells For Osteoarthritis

Conclusion

We have learnt about a case of severe osteoarthritis of the wrist that has been cured in Germany with one injection of mesenchymal stem cells. More common than wrist osteoarthritis is osteoarthritis of the hips, knees and the facet joints of the lower lumbar spine. The same stem cell therapy can be given for osteoarthritis in these locations. I find it very strange that progress in stem cell treatments is so slow in the US. The FDA has decided to be open to clinical trials with stem cell treatments, but progress seems to be much slower than in other countries. Why? We may never know. In the meantime, patients may seek treatments in other countries where such treatments are offered. In real estate sales there is a saying: “Buyer beware”.

Be cautious, if you get treated abroad

The same goes for stem cell treatments in another country. Should you contemplate doing this, do your homework; ask about the qualification of the treating physician, about safety records and whether the local authorities have approved this procedure. In the case of Bill Marlette’s osteoarthritis of the wrist the procedure in Munich, Germany had been accepted by the European equivalent of the FDA, the European Medicines Agency. Safety is top priority, effectiveness is next.

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Jul
01
2017

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form through cooking food at high temperatures. Sugar molecules react with proteins crosslinking them and changing how they function. It prevents proteins from doing their job. Glycation also causes inflammation, which damages mitochondria, the power packages inside cells that provide the body with energy. Overall AGEs lead to premature aging, which comes from the toxic protein reactions. Advanced glycation end products accumulate as glycated proteins in the tissues of the body. This leads to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Effect of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) on the body

The toxic effects of AGEs frequently occur in the following tissues.

  • The accumulation of AGEs can cause kidney disease and kidney failure (renal failure). In this case the kidneys no longer filter the blood to excrete waste. Hemodialysis may be necessary.
  • AGEs damager joint cartilage, so it can no longer handle stress and joint stiffness sets in. AGEs are now recognized as a major cause of osteoarthritis.
  • Cross-linked proteins from AGEs can cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Damaged proteins accumulate in brain cells that disable and kill them eventually.
  • Glycation of LDL particles is an important cause of increasing the plaque formation in arteries by LDL. Glycated LDL is much more susceptible to oxidation than regular LDL. Oxidized LDL causes damage to the lining of the arteries and destroys endothelial nitric oxide synthase. This is a critical enzyme that maintains vasodilatation and blood flow. When glycation of LDL has set in, LDL receptors can no longer recognize it. This means that glycated LDL continues to circulate in the bloodstream where it contributes to the atherosclerotic process. It forms a plaque which becomes a reason for heart attacks and strokes. Glycation of LDL is particularly common in patients with diabetes.
  • Glycation of the skin sensitizes the skin to UV light damage. It triggers oxidative stress that increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Glycation damages our eyes. It causes clouding of the lens (cataracts) and it damages the retina. Macular degeneration can ultimately cause blindness.
  • When glycation affects the discs in the spinal cord, this can cause disc protrusions and disc herniations. Injuries to the nearby spinal nerves can happen causing limping and leg or arm weakness.

Nutrients to counter AGEs

There are nutrients that can slow down the rate of glycation and as a result will halt the aging process.

Benfotiamine

Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of the water-soluble vitamin B1 (thiamine). It can reverse glycation in cell cultures and in humans.

As a result the damage to the cells that are lining arteries is reduced. Benfotiamine also counters diabetic neuropathy, retinopathy and nephropathy.

Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate

Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate is a metabolite of vitamin B6. It is similar to benfotiamine in that it counters glycation and dissolves deposited AGEs. It is particularly useful to stop fat and protein glycation. In diabetic patients lipid glycation is often a problem as these authors have shown. Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate traps glucose breakdown products before they become part of glycation reactions.

Carnosine

Carnosine is a dipeptide, made up of the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine. It is found in higher concentration in muscle and brain tissue. Carnosine scavenges for free radicals and prevents AGE formation. This prevents both lipid glycation and protein glycation. This publication states that carnosine can play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Carnosine prevents protein crosslinking. The result is that tangled protein clumps cannot accumulate and cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Carnosine also reduces blood lipid levels and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaques. This reduces the risk of plaque rupture, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Carnosine also has a mitochondria stabilizing function resisting the destructive effects of oxidative stresses.

Luteolin

Many plants contain luteolin, which is a bioflavonoid. It has anti-inflammatory effects and works by suppressing the master inflammatory complex, called NF-kB.  NF-kB triggers the production of multiple cytokines and is the cause of many cancers, chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases and septic shock. Kotanidou et al. did an experiment where they injected mice with Salmonella enteritis toxin, either with or without luteolin protection. Without luteolin only 4.1% of the mice survived on day 7. With luteolin protection 48% were alive on day 7.

Luteolin has been shown to be effective as an anti-inflammatory in the brain, the blood vessel lining, intestines, skin, lungs, bone and gums.

All these four supplements are available in the health food store. They work together and would be recommendable in diabetic patients where glycation is most prominent. But these supplements are also useful for older people who want to slow down the aging process in general.

Nutrients to slow down mitochondrial aging

Glycation causes mitochondrial deterioration and dysfunction. It accelerates aging in every aspect. AGEs (advanced glycation end products) crosslink proteins, lipids, but also damage enzymes and DNA. Glycation causes a slow down of mitochondrial energy production. The end result is a lack of energy and slower repair processes, which all depend on mitochondrial energy production. The following supplements have shown some merit in reversing this process.

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)

PPQ is a supplement that is known to produce new mitochondria in cells. This helps the energy metabolism of aging cells to recover.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid that occurs abundantly in heart and skeletal muscles cells, brain cells and cells of the retina. These are areas in the body with high metabolic rates that can burn out mitochondria. Taurine regulates enzymes in mitochondria that harvest energy from food substances. In patients who experience accelerated aging, a lack of taurine can produce an energy crisis. But supplementation with taurine can rescue the cells by reducing oxidative stress and restoring the function of mitochondria in cells that are aging. Brain cells were putting out new shoots, called neurites when taurine was given as a supplement. This helps to improve brain connection, and preserves memory and cognition.

R-lipoic acid

R-lipoic acid helps to extract energy from foods and support mitochondrial function. When R-lipoic acid is given to aging animals, their metabolic function improves, the mitochondria become healthier and there are less oxidative stress-inducing byproducts. It protects their liver, heart and brain cells from oxidative stress in their mitochondria. It is becoming known as an energy-giving supplement.

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

Conclusion

Sugar overconsumption and overcooking food cause advanced glycation end products (AGEs) through lipid and proteins cross-linking. This leads to premature loss of organ function. The mitochondria are also slowed down. This creates premature aging. Fortunately there are a few supplements like benfotiamine, pyridoxal 5’-phosphate, carnosine and luteolin. They protect against glycation. Mitochondria can also be protected by PPQ, taurine and R-lipoic acid. Although we cannot stop the aging process, avoiding sugar and stopping to consume overcooked food, such as barbecued meats and deep fried food is a sensible step in prevention. Aging can slow down significantly with this approach and some supplements.

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