Nov
02
2019

A New Drug For Alzheimer’s

It is not the first time that there has been an announcement of a new drug for Alzheimer’s. In the first place, in 2013 Pfizer had to admit that their new drug did not exceed the effects of placebo. Second, in 2016 Eli Lilly’s drug solanezumab failed to show effects in Phase 3 trials. Third, Merck developed a drug that was supposed to fight beta-amyloid plaques of the brain in Alzheimer patients. But the drug was not effective and the trials were discontinued in 2017. Fourth, Johnson & Johnson’s attempted to develop a drug that would slow cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s patients. But study participants developed elevated liver enzymes indicating liver toxicity. The trial stopped in May 2018. This meant that a new drug for Alzheimer’s had not been developed.

New drug against Alzheimer’s may be expensive

In like manner the pharmaceutical giant, Biogen and its Japanese partner Eisai have now announced that they were successful in Phase 3 clinical trials with the new drug aducanumab. In other words, patients with Alzheimer’s disease experienced better brain function, memory, cognition, orientation and language. One of the doctors involved in clinical trials of this drug notably mentioned that even, if the FDA hurdles are overcome, the drug might be extremely expensive. This could be devastating to patients and families of Alzheimer’s patients, who are most likely unable to afford a costly medication.

Alternative approach to treating and preventing Alzheimer’s

At the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She gave a comprehensive overview of what you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Surely, the better we understand the causes of Alzheimer’s the more we can interfere with the biochemical processes that lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Specifically, there are many lifestyles that cause memory loss: too much stress (from high cortisol levels that damage the hippocampus); smoking that damages acetylcholine receptors; chronic alcohol abuse leads to memory problems from the toxic effect of alcohol on brain cells. This in turn causes a disbalance of serotonin, endorphins and acetylcholine in the hippocampus. This area of the brain is where our memory is located.

Lack of exercise

The first thing to remember is that a lack of exercise is an independent risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases the blood supply to the brain, strengthens neural connections and leads to growth of neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. In addition, mood-regulating neurotransmitters are also receiving a boost (serotonin and endorphins).

Inflammatory conditions, foods and drugs that can affect memory

Conversely, any inflammatory condition can trigger destruction of neurons, so do the beta-amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s. By the same token, contributory factors can be food allergies, disbalance of gut bacteria, recreational drugs (particularly ecstasy) and certain medications. Equally important, Dr. Smith stated that the most common foods causing allergies that affect the brain are: sugar, wheat, dairy, eggs, shellfish, potatoes, beef, tomatoes, corn, coffee, peanuts, roasted soy beans and yeast. Moreover, Dr. Smith mentioned that the following medications can affect memory: statins, sedatives, steroids, levodopa, muscle relaxants, antihypertensive drugs, antidepressants, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, anti-arrhythmic drugs, pain relieving drugs (analgesics) and antihistamines. Regarding antihistamines it is only the older type like Nytol, Benadryl, Ditropan and Piriton, which have strong “anticholinergic” effects and make you tired.  If you are on any of these, you may want to discuss alternatives with your doctor. Similarly, Dr. Perlmutter mentioned in Ref. 1 that statins interfere with brain function and can lead to Alzheimer’s.

Promoting brain health

Medication helps only to stall further memory loss for up to 6 months, so Dr. Smith said about medications only: “much research is still necessary in this area”.

On the other hand she stated that many foods, vitamins and supplements in combination could improve memory and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

She spent considerable time in the remainder of her talk on details regarding foods, vitamins and supplements.

Dr. Smith said that we need to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants like blueberries, apples, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries; cherries, cranberries, cooked kale, garlic, grapes, prunes, raisins and raw spinach. But at the same time she stressed that we cannot trust the food industry anymore, and we need to buy organic foods. She gave an example of the “dirty dozen” as defined by the environmental working group (contaminated fruits and vegetables).

Portion control and healthy fats

Food intake also applies to portions: eat 5 to 6 smaller meals per day. Consume red meat no more than three times per week.

The brain needs fats like nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts etc.

Fish also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. The problem with predator fish like tuna or swordfish is that they have high contamination levels of mercury. But wild salmon and mackerel are still OK. A good alternative is to supplement with pharmaceutical grade EPA/DHA omega-3 capsules.

They are molecularly distilled, which means they are not contaminated with mercury or PBC’s, and they are more concentrated; they typically contain 1000 to 1400 mg of EPA/DHA per capsule. One to two capsules twice per day (a total of 2 to 4 per day) would be a good anti-inflammatory dose.

Specific food recommendations

Use olive oil and coconut oil for cooking; avoid the omega-6 oils (safflower oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, corn oil to just mention a few). These latter oils, which are heavily advertised by the food industry, create too much arachidonic acid leading to body inflammation. Your brain is very sensitive to inflammation, which causes Alzheimer’s. For the same reason avoid deep fried foods and processed foods.

There is more you need to watch for: no food additives, no artificial food colorings, no preservatives, flavors and MSG. Be alert about the food industry’s alternative “language” or terminology for MSG. The label often says “natural flavor”, “yeast extract” etc.

Brain nutrients

Dr. Smith reviewed a long list of brain nutrients that support the brain in its metabolism and prevent the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

I will only highlight the most effective and established nutrients here. 

DHA

It has been known since 1999 that Alzheimer’s patients are missing DHA in their system.

Molecularly distilled fish oil with high omega-3 fatty acids (both EPA and DHA) is one of the mainstays of prevention of inflammation in the body and the brain. 2 capsules twice per day of the concentrated 1000mg to 1400 mg capsules is a desirable dose to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Phosphatylserine (PS)

This phospholipid is part of the membrane of brain cells and controls what nutrients enter into them. It also increases the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine.

Dr. Smith mentioned that PS is naturally present in foods like brown rice, fish, soy and green vegetables (particularly the leafy ones). The daily dosage recommended by Dr. Smith is 300 mg (note: some people develop a bothersome, but harmless bitter taste in the mouth at this dose; in this case you can take a lower dose like 100 or 200 mg per day).

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo Biloba improves blood flow to the brain and counteracts shrinkage of the hippocampus with age. Dr. Smith recommends 60 mg to 240 mg daily.

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant which helps stimulating the sprouting of new nerve cells and nerve fibers. Take 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid daily for memory.

Other supplements

Dr. Smith recommended many other supplements, which I will not explain in detail here: B vitamins, vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwaganda, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE.

When the benefits of taking CoQ10 were discussed, Dr. Smith reminded the audience that “whatever is good for the heart, is good for the brain”. She recommended to read Dr. Perlmutter’s book from which this phrase was borrowed (Ref. 1). Her recommended dose of CoQ10 for people above the age of 50 was 400 mg per day. That’s double of what a 35-year old person would need.

Genetic factors

Dr. Smith pointed out that there are about 5 genes that have been detected to have an association with Alzheimer’s disease and in addition the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4). About 30% of people carry this gene, yet only about 10% get Alzheimer’s disease, which shows how important lifestyle factors are (in medical circles this is called “epigenetic factors”) to suppress the effect of the APOE4 gene. She also stated that our genes contribute only about 20% to the overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This leaves us with 80% of Alzheimer’s cases where we can use the brain nutrients discussed above and exercise to improve brain function. Since then new Alzheimer’s genes have been detected, namely a total of 25 genes. However, this does not change what Dr. Smith has stated, namely that a healthy lifestyle can mostly overrule the effects of genes and only 20% the genes will result in the overall risk to develop Alzheimer’s.

A New Drug For Alzheimer’s

A New Drug For Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Don’t wait for a magic pill by Big Pharma that they may come up with. The latest such pill may be aducanumab from Biogen and its Japanese partner Eisai. But as mentioned earlier the drug might be extremely expensive and unaffordable for the regular consumer.

Follow the simple steps in combination that Dr. Pamela Smith talked about in her presentation: Exercise, have organic food to keep toxins out of your body and brain, replace missing hormones with bioidentical ones and take supplements that are effective. In other words provide the right environment for your genes to work properly without getting Alzheimer’s disease.

Reference

  1. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

 

Sep
14
2019

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

A former wine industry employee warns to beware of arsenic in US wines. Recently wine testers detected that many California wines contain high amounts of arsenic. Here is a full list of wines where arsenic was found. Often it is the cheaper wines that have the highest arsenic content.

Trader Joe’s has a problem with three wines. The 2 dollar Zinfandel (“Two Buck Chuck)”, their “Menage a Trois Moscato” and “Franzia White Grenache” were too high in arsenic. They had 3-5 times the allowable amount of arsenic than the limit that is acceptable for drinking water.

The lawyers of a lawsuit against the wine industry think that the norm for arsenic content in wine should be the same as the one established for drinking water. However, the wine industry is defending itself saying that people drink more water than wine.

Arsenic in rice

In the past there were high arsenic levels in rice.  An investigation found the high levels of arsenic in rice linked to high levels of arsenic in soil. By and large high arsenic levels in rice come from inadvertent human poisoning. As explained in the Consumers Report high arsenic values were found in rice grown in these states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. These are the same states, where farmers grew cotton in the past. The U.S. has been the world’s leading user of arsenic at that time. Since 1910 about 1.6 million tons of arsenic been in use for agricultural/industrial purposes. Half of this occurred since the mid-1960s. Although arsenic is banned as an insecticide since the 1980’s, residues from the decades of use still linger on in agricultural soil today. For decades arsenic compounds were used for decades in an attempt to combat the boll weevil beetle.

Arsenic in grape juice, apple juice and chicken meat

Arsenic containing insecticides are also in use in the fruit growing industry. This explains the presence of arsenic in grape juice and apple juice. Another source of contamination with arsenic compounds comes from chicken feed that the chicken farmer uses to promote growth. As a result arsenic will be in chicken meat. For this reason alone it is recommendable to eat organic chicken that is free of arsenic.

Keep in mind that brown rice has persistently tested higher in arsenic than white rice.

Beware of arsenic in US wines and in your food

We know for some time now that chicken raised in farms have arsenic in their meat because of the practice to feed arsenic compounds to promote growth. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and is causing many cancers. As the last link said, there is a great need to regulate the food industry and check for arsenic contamination of food in general as well.

How do wine growers introduce arsenic into wine?

There are several possibilities how wine could become contaminated with arsenic. The example of arsenic in rice taught us that old cotton fields where in the past arsenic containing pesticides were in use could be the source of arsenic in rice today. If wine is grown in similar soil that has contamination with arsenic , it likely could get into the grapes.

At this point there has not been an investigation into arsenic in wine. The fact that the majority of wines had high arsenic values makes me believe that the wine growers spray arsenic compounds onto the leaves and grapes of wine plants to treat for various pests.

Organic wine

Organic wine must have a certification by an independent third-party organization. This organization does annual audits on vineyards. The grapes they grow and the soil on which the vine plants grow have to all be examined. Strict standards apply and the organic winegrower has to comply with them to receive the organic certification. Not only is there supervision by the organic certification body, but also by the department of agriculture. The wine grower cannot sell wine as “organic”, if it is not certified.

If you want arsenic free wine, buy organic wine. Here is a brief description of what certified organic wine is.

What arsenic does to your body

Long-term exposure to low doses of arsenic can interrupt the way cells communicate and function. It can contribute to developing diabetes, cancer, vascular disease and lung disease. In addition, high levels of arsenic can cause skin cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer and heart attacks. It is the inorganic arsenic compounds that are more toxic. This is what researchers found in water and unfortunately also in wine. Organic arsenic compounds as found in seafood are less toxic.

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

Beware Of Arsenic In US Wines

Conclusion

There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding arsenic in regular wines. In the US the limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Wines on average have 24 ppb of arsenic in it. A legal case is presently awaiting a trial. The issue is whether the arsenic limits in drinking water also apply arsenic limits in wine. The wine industry is adamant that people drink more water than wine, so one could not compare the two. But the wine industry also wants to sell more wine.

You can switch to an organic wine, which by definition should have less arsenic in it. Arsenic can cause lung disease and various cancers (lung and kidneys). If you drink very little or moderately, you are fairly safe from toxic effects of arsenic. But this topic needs further evaluation, and caution is in order.

Aug
03
2019

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death, that’s why it is important to learn about the best ways to prevent cancer. Generally speaking you want to remove cancer-producing substances (carcinogens) from your diet. But diet is only part of your lifestyle that can contribute to cancer. I shall list some of the more important dietary factors below and briefly touch on important other factors.

Avoid burning your meat

When you use the BBQ, you should avoid burning your meat. Even though the marks of “charring” are considered desirable on meat from the grill, this is really burnt! As a matter of fact it is a lot better to use a slow cooker at low heat and simply cook your food longer. This way you don’t create carcinogens. Avoiding to burn your meat is particularly important for the red meats.

Sugar and an overabundance of starchy foods can cause cancer

You never thought that sugar and an overabundance of starchy foods could cause cancer, but they do. The reason is that the metabolism of cancer cells is using 10- to 12-times more sugar than the metabolism of normal cells. The worst thing a cancer patient can do is to over-consume sugar. Replace sugar by stevia, which is a harmless, plant-based sweetener and does not lead to an insulin reaction. Avoid all other sugar substitutes, as there are other heath problems with most of them.

Avoid phthalates

Those who have a craving for macaroni and cheese are out of luck. This food contains phthalates that are part of the ingredients of almost every sample of cheese powder used to manufacture macaroni and cheese. Phthalates can cause infertility and breast cancer. So you must definitely avoid macaroni and cheese, at least the stuff from the box. Prepare your own!

A high fat diet

What does a high fat diet do? It increases the risk for breast cancer. But it can also increase colorectal cancer risk. Limit your fat intake to about 10% of saturated fat. That is the recommendation of the FDA. Increase your consumption of fish and seafood. Only one proviso: predator fish like shark, marlin, tilefish, swordfish and grouper are high in mercury. But wild salmon, sardines and oysters are low in mercury. You can also enjoy shrimps and prawns.

Take high dose vitamin D3 supplements

High dose vitamin D3 supplements help you to avoid cancer. There are strong statistics showing that vitamin D3 is a powerful tool to lower your risk of developing cancer. Your family doctor should take a blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D level to make sure that you absorb enough vitamin D3. There are slow and fast absorbers and the only thing to know how well your gut absorbs vitamin D3 is in doing this blood test.

Also, curcumin (turmeric) 500 mg once per day is good for cancer prevention.

Take enough fiber

Make sure you take enough fiber, which does not only reduce colorectal cancer, but also many other cancers. When you eat plant-based food, you automatically get fiber in it. North Americans are not consuming enough fiber in their diet.

Avoid processed meat and too much red meat consumption

Processed meat and red meat cause cancer.

Beef, lamb and pork seem to contribute to causing cancer according to the WHO. Use common sense and eat fish, chicken and turkey. Reduce your beef consumption. My grandmother served beef as a Sunday dish.The rest of the week simple, plant-based foods appeared on the table. Ask your grandmother, what she used to cook. Or ask your mother what she ate as a child.

Eat moderate amounts of fruit and vegetables

The claim that fruit and vegetables would protect you from cancer is not as solid as researchers thought of in the past. Newer research has shown that a basic intake of fruit and vegetables is needed for nutrients, but consuming more than that will NOT protect you from cancer.

This link explains that eating more vegetables or fruit beyond a certain point will not do harm, but will not protect you further from cancer.

Drink green tea or black tea

If you like tea, drink green tea or black tea. Sweeten it with stevia, but not with sugar. Tea has been shown to have cancer prevention properties.

Avoid alcohol consumption to prevent cancer.

Coffee is a healthy drink and it has mild anti-cancer effects as well. It does not matter whether you drink it caffeinated or decaffeinated.

Other lifestyle issues

Quit smoking

If you are still smoking, quit smoking! Smoking is by and large the biggest risk for developing lung cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Watch your calorie intake

Eat smaller meals more often. This way the production of your digestive juices will consume some calories. In addition your taste buds are satisfied, so your hunger for food is more controlled. The end result is that you will not gain weight.

Prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes

This will help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are established risk factors to develop cancer. Here is a review that shows you, which cancer types are caused by obesity. With regard to diabetes, there is a strong association to developing liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and endometrial cancer (=uterine cancer). There is a lesser risk (only 1.2 to 1.5-fold) to develop cancer of the colon and rectum, breast cancer and bladder cancer.

Pollution

Poor air quality with pollution can also be a factor in causing cancer. Pollution does not stay local, but travels through the stratosphere around the globe. The result is that now 10 to 15% of lung cancer in the US occurs in patients who never smoked. This translates into 16,000 to 24,000 deaths annually of never-smokers in the US. In certain cities such as Beijing lung cancer rates have doubled in 9 years between 2002 and 2011. Lung cancer in non-smokers can be caused from exposure to radon, to second-hand tobacco smoke, and other indoor air pollutants.

Bioidentical hormone replacement

When males do not replace missing testosterone in andropause they are much more prone to develop prostate cancer. Similarly, when women are menopausal and do not get progesterone supplementation, they develop a higher amount of breast cancer due to estrogen dominance. It follows from this that bioidentical hormone replacement in menopause and andropause will help to prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer.

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

The Best Ways To Prevent Cancer

Conclusion

There is strong evidence that certain foods can cause cancer. Other foods including supplements like curcumin and vitamin D3 can help prevent cancer. Basically, you want to avoid all that is known to cause cancer and eat more of the healthy foods that do not cause cancer. This will help to decline your cancer risk. I suggest that in addition you should quit smoking, avoid pollution as much as possible, reduce excessive alcohol intake and watch your calorie intake. By doing this you prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, and you will move into the low-risk cancer group. We all need to work on this on an ongoing basis.

Practical hints regarding the best ways to prevent cancer

The best ways to prevent cancer is to avoid processed red meat and all other processed foods. Eat more vegetables, fruit, wild salmon and other seafood. Don’t eat red meat more often than once a week and make it red meat from grass fed animals. In addition exercise regularly, get enough sleep and practice some form of relaxation (yoga, Tai Chi, self-hypnosis etc.). This lifestyle will not only prevent heart attacks and strokes, but also the majority of cancers.

Previously published here.

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Jul
27
2019

Occasional and moderate drinkers have lower mortality rates

A recent study showed that occasional and moderate drinkers have lower mortality rates. The study came from the Columbia University, New York and was done with a senior population in the US. (7,904 seniors born between 1931 and 1941). The researchers followed this population for 16 years, from 1998 to 2014. There were 5 categories of drinking.

5 drinking patterns

Lifetime abstainers: had less than 12 drinks in their lives.

Current abstainers: they drank in the past, but were abstainers during the present observation period.

Heavy drinkers: drinking 3 glasses or more per day or binging more than 5 drinks in a single day. For women heavy drinking was defined as having more than 2 drinks per day or binging more than 4 drinks in a single day.

Moderate drinkers: they drank 1 to 3 (men) or 1 to 2 (women) drinks per day 1 or more times per week.

Occasional drinkers: they drank less than 1 day per week (for instance once or twice per month) and drinking a maximum of 3 drinks for men and 2 drinks max for women.

Binge drinkers were incorporated into the heavy drinker category.

Findings

The key findings were that over 16 years occasional and moderate drinkers had a lower mortality than lifetime abstainers or current abstainers. Heavy drinkers had a higher mortality as well. The researchers depicted their data as survival curves in a graph. They also tabulated them as data.

A male moderate drinker had a 35% lower mortality, a male current abstainer had a 73% increased mortality, a male lifetime abstainer had a 19% increased mortality and a male heavy drinker had a 20% increased mortality. The researchers set the male occasional drinkers as the reference at 100%.

Women had the following results: a female moderate drinker had a 29% lower mortality, a female current abstainer had a 98% increased mortality, a female lifetime abstainer had a 71% increased mortality and a female heavy drinker had a 11% increased mortality. Again the female occasional drinkers were the reference set at 100%.

Comments about the limitations of the study

The researchers pointed out that the findings of the current abstainers were surprising. However, they were of the opinion that the volunteers in that group likely had health reasons why they quit drinking. If there were cardiac, pancreatic or liver problems (cirrhosis of the liver), these conditions may well have become the reason why they died earlier than the other groups.

They also pointed out that various confounding factors could interfere with the study. Such factors as mental health, body mass index (BMI) or socioeconomic status could interfere with the findings of the study. Further, the researchers found that smoking status in men showed less influence on mortality than it did in females.

Confounding factors

The authors of the study pointed out that it went on for 16 years with many assessments of the drinking status on an ongoing basis. Other studies were one-point assessments, which are not as reliable.

The authors were studying the effects of confounding factors, such as other diseases. They found that lung disease, depression, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer and arthritis had their own effects on mortality figures. In addition they looked at the effects of daily activity difficulties, BMI, smoking status, education, age and race/ethnicity on mortality. When all of these confounding factors were normalized, occasional and moderate drinkers still had the lowest mortality.

Graph regarding percentage of survival as a function of time

One of the most convincing findings is the depiction of the data as a percentage of survival plotted as a function of time. This clearly shows that all the time over the entire 16 years the occasional and moderate drinkers had the longest survival times. It also shows clearly that the moderate drinkers lived longer than the occasional drinkers.

Discussion

We know from other studies that moderate alcohol consumption prevents fatty deposits in coronary arteries. Over the centuries pathologists found that the arteries of alcohol consuming individuals were entirely clear of fatty deposits, although they died of other diseases. However, in heavy drinkers the balance tips and cardiovascular disease is more prominent. The biggest effect of reducing mortality likely comes from a reduction in cardiovascular disease. However, alcohol can also cause various cancers. Because of this you will want to keep alcohol consumption in the lower ranges.

Occasional and moderate drinkers have lower mortality rates

Occasional and moderate drinkers have lower mortality rates

Conclusion

An important large study involving 7,904 seniors in the US that lasted 16 years has shown the following findings: Occasional and moderate drinkers had a lower mortality rate than lifetime abstainers or current abstainers. Heavy drinkers had a higher mortality rate as well. The researcher examined possible confounding factors, but after normalizing for these, the findings were still the same.

The French paradox answered

This study may explain the French paradox: the French eat cholesterol-rich foods. However, they live a long life without heart attacks. The difference to the US is probably that they consume red wine regularly. The study described here seems to indicate that occasional and moderate alcohol consumption prolongs life. It does not give anybody a ticket to overindulge, because “it is good for you”. The importance is the dosage: stay under the limit with your alcohol intake. Be an occasional consumer and don’t exceed the limit of moderate consumption. In this case you can raise a glass to your health!

May
11
2019

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

A review article of CNN reviewed how male fertility could be improved naturally. Studies have shown that males contribute about 40 to 50% of the responsibility of any fertility problem of the couple. This means that a couple with infertility issues will benefit from interventions that include the male partner. Dr. Natan Bar-Chama is the director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health in New York. He is a board-certified urologist and male infertility specialist. Dr. Bar-Chama has done research into what affects male fertility. He found that there are several factors that are important for male fertility.

Lifestyle factors

The big factors that interfere with fertility are obesity, caffeine and alcohol intake, smoking, marijuana intake, lack of exercise and wearing too tight underwear resulting in increased scrotal temperature.

Obesity

Overconsumption of refined carbs like sugar and processed foods leads to obesity. The best for him is to change his diet to a Mediterranean diet. This supports weight loss and at the same time improves sperm quality.

Obese men tend to father children that often are not viable. It may be that it is due to genetic changes in the sperm in obese men. These changes can affect fertilization, but also embryo development. Researchers have detected sperm DNA fragmentation in sperm from obese men, which can lead to pregnancy loss. Weight loss in obese men improves sperm quality.

Caffeine and alcohol intake

More than 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day relates directly to difficulties for a couple to conceive. When it comes to alcohol intake, the male should not drink more than one glass of wine or the equivalent of alcohol in beer or spirits per day. Higher consumption results in male infertility due to poor sperm quality. Physicians have warned women for a long time that they should stop drinking alcoholic beverages, if they want to become pregnant. It is best, if both partners don’t drink for the sake of a healthy pregnancy.

Smoking

Stop tobacco and drug use. Smoking and drug abuse have been consistently shown to be bad for sperm quality and are associated with infertility. Marijuana use leads to low sperm counts, which is a cause of infertility.

Lack of exercise

Moderate aerobic exercise and resistance exercise can improve sperm quality.

However, excessive exercise has shown negative effects on sperm. Bicycling for 5 hours or more has been shown to reduce sperm quality due to the heating up of the scrotum and the testicular tissue. For the same reason men wearing boxer shorts instead of tight underpants were observed to have higher sperm concentration and sperm counts.

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress can damage sperm. This involves smoking, a junk food diet, obesity, pollution, radiation and heavy metals like mercury from big game fish (like tuna, shark, sable fish, sword fish etc.). Dr. Bar-Chama said: ”When you cause damage to cell membranes, you are impacting the ability of the sperm to attach, penetrate and activate the complex fertilization process”. In order to counter these negative effects of the environment it is helpful to take antioxidants.

Some of the common antioxidants are: vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, folic acid, lycopene and coenzyme Q-10. If you get 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, you get most of the antioxidant vitamins and minerals. You find selenium in Brazil nuts, sardines and halibut. Oysters, dark-meat poultry, crab, and fortified cereals contain zinc, which supports male fertility.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and seafood has been shown to increase the success rate of couples who want to get pregnant. Low mercury seafood like scallops, clams, shrimp, oyster, sardines, salmon and squid are a good source of omega-3 fatty acid.

Get some nuts

A handful of nuts or two also helps the male to produce more healthy sperm. This study showed that nut consumption improved the total sperm count. In addition, it increased vitality, motility, and morphology of the sperm.

Cut out processed meats

Another study showed that consumption of processed meat had a negative association with fertility rates in couples that desired children. However, eating chicken instead of processed meat gave the fertility rates a boost.

 

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

Conclusion

We have been lulled into thinking that when there are fertility problems in a marriage, it would likely be due to female reproductive problems. This kind of thinking is old school and has been disqualified by newer research. It turns out that often the problem originates from the man, if he is unwilling to change his lifestyle to get ready to father a child. As outlined above there are quite a few factors that interfere with sperm production and motility of the sperm. If he wants to father a child, he needs to take good care of his sperm by adopting healthy lifestyles. Sperm, it turns out are much more vulnerable to toxic changes, heat from tight clothing, and nutritional deficiencies.

Healthy food for the man results in a healthy child

Not everything is exclusively the responsibility of the female. The male also needs to eat balanced meals and might also benefit from some antioxidants and supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seafood are also good for sperm production and motility. Add some moderate physical exercise, and he will be ready to father a child. It is very much a team effort, as both parents- to- be have to do their part and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

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Apr
20
2019

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

It can be confusing to see that various countries have big differences in cancer rates, but here I am giving some reasons for variations in cancer rates.

The following countries have high cancer rates: Denmark, France, Belgium, United States, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia.

These countries have low cancer rates: Niger, Yemen, Oman, Nepal, Mauritania, Gambia, Cape VerSe, Bhutan. These are only samples; it is not a complete list.

Short life expectancy in many low cancer rate countries

People in many low cancer rate countries do not live long lives because of parasitic infestations, bacterial infections and AIDS. Life expectancy in Gambia, for instance is only 61.15 years. People in Yemen suffer from malnutrition and the life expectancy is only 64.95 years. One can make an argument therefore that people do not live long enough to get a lot of cancer. Cancer is a disease of the older population, as DNA mutations, shorter telomeres, and loss of mitochondria in older cells cause many cancers.

These three countries have various cancer rates

Low cancer rates in India

India is one of the countries with lower cancer rates when compared to the US. Scientists have pointed out that 40% of Indians are consuming vegetarian diets without meat; (red meat consumed in high amounts like in the US is carcinogenic). India has some of the highest spice consumption in the world. We know that curcumin, for instance, has cancer-preventing qualities. You could say that Indians inadvertently treat themselves with herbal, non-toxic chemotherapy (curcumin and others spices) before a cancer even occurs. On the other hand India is a nation with high consumption of refined sugar, which is a factor that can cause cancer over a long period of time. The life expectancy in India is only 68.56 years, which skews the statistics towards lower cancer rates when one compares India to countries with a life expectancy of 80.0 years.

Why is Denmark a high cancer rate country?

The biggest factors are a reliable cancer reporting system, but also a high smoking rate among Danish women and high alcohol consumption in the Danish population. See below what these factors do.

Why is Oman a low cancer rate country?

A study done in Oman showed that a lot of people do not know that certain risk factors could be changed to lower the present cancer incidence. Cigarette smoking, passive smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, reduced intake of fruit and vegetables, increased consumption of red meat and processed meats, infection with HPV, being overweight, less physical activity and an age above 70 are all risk factors for cancer. At the present time Oman still compares favorably with the US, as there is less obesity in Oman. But the average person still eats fairly healthy with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables.

Increasing cancer rates in Oman

The cigarette consumption per year per person in Oman is 271.1 versus 1016.6 in the US. The life expectancy has increased from 50.47 in 1970 to 77.03 in 2016. Oman is expecting the cancer rate to double by the year 2030 due to the increasing life expectancy and lifestyle factors (more drinking, smoking and gaining weight from junk food). A lot of the differences in the cancer rates between the US and Oman are simply due to lifestyle differences. 

Cancer risk factors analyzed

What do the various cancer risks mean in terms of cancer development?

Cigarette smoking

About 480,000 premature deaths are caused by cigarette smoking in the US. This is due to a combination of cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Smoking causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, rectum, but also acute myeloid leukemia.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is as bad, if not worse than smoking. This reference explains that a passive smoker has double exposure to cigarette smoke, namely to the smoke from the smoker, but also to the direct smoke from the burning cigarette. This means that a passive smoker may have exposure to a higher concentration of carcinogens than the smoker!

Excessive alcohol consumption

Heavy alcohol consumption introduces a cell poison into your body. If you drink more than 8 drinks per week as a woman or more than 15 drinks per week as a man, you are a heavy drinker. It leads to cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, colon, liver, breast and prostate. The data on prostate cancer is somewhat weaker.

Reduced intake of fruit and vegetables

Consumption of fruits and vegetables, but also foods high in fibre are known to reduce the risk of cancer. This is why the WHO brought out this fact sheet. So, when you lower the intake of fruits and vegetables, you have less of a cancer protective effect, which leads to more cancer.

Increased consumption of red meat and processed meats

Another big factor about cancer causation is when you eat foods that contain known carcinogens. Such cancer causing substances are contained in red meat, processed meat like sausages, and salt-preserved foods.

Infection with HPV

Type 16 and 18 HPV virus is the cause of cervical cancer, penile cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, anal cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancer. It can be of concern for all sexually active people.

Being overweight

When a person gets overweight or obese, there is more estrogen production from the fat cells that circulate in your blood.  There is also more insulin production and IGF-1 production, which is a growth factor for cancer cells. Estrogen dominance due to estrogen production from fat cells with a relative lack of cancer-controlling progesterone tips the balance towards cancer development. These are the cancers that are common in obesity: breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (lining of the uterus), esophagus, kidneys and pancreas.

Less physical activity

Breast cancer and colon cancer are reduced when people exercise regularly. This seems to be because of a reduction in circulating estrogen in women and because of reduced insulin and insulin-like growth factors. Even prostate cancer can be kept at bay with a regular brisk walk.

An age above 70

The medium age for cancer diagnosis is 66 years. This means that half of the cases are below this age, the other half above it.  25% of new cancer cases are diagnosed in the age group of 65 to 74. Age is an independent, but important risk factor for the development of cancer.

Sugar and starchy food consumption

Refined sugar and starchy foods lead to an accumulation of fat. At the same time there is a metabolic change with more insulin production and growth factors appear in the blood. It is these growth factors and an increase in estrogen (via aromatase) from the fat cells that lead to conditions that favor cancer development. Switch to a low-glycemic diet like a Mediterranean diet, and you can reverse this process.

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

Conclusion

It is never too late to reduce your cancer risk. No matter how old we are, it is never too late to live healthier, which translates into a stronger immune system. We can stop smoking, or cut out drinking too much. If we keep a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet we will stop chronic inflammation in our bodies and strengthen our immune system. We need to stay away from ultraviolet light (direct sun exposure). We also need to stay active, no matter whether it is choosing to take the stairs and take daily walks, or whether we exercise regularly in a gym.

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Feb
16
2019

The Most Addictive Drugs

Recently CNN reported about the most the 5 most addictive drugs. Before I review these drugs I like to briefly describe the dopamine reward system in the brain.

Introduction

The pleasure center consists of the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Together they contain dopamine neurons that communicate with the grey matter nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex. A pleasurable meal, sex, winning a video game, listening to music, earning money and reading a funny cartoon can all cause dopamine release that is perceived as pleasure. But so can drugs, such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and taking street drugs. The problem is that these latter dopamine releasing substances and drugs cause stronger activation of the dopamine system than natural rewards. But unlike natural rewards they do not cause satiety. This is the basis why drug addiction can kill.

Review of the five most addicting drugs

The neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt has been part of a committee that decided what the five most addictive drugs are.

Heroin

This is the most addictive drug. It is an opiate that causes the dopaminergic neurons to release up to 200% more dopamine than usual in experimental animals. Heroin is dangerous, because the dose that kills a person is only five times higher than the dose that leads to a high. Most deaths occur because of overdoses.

Cocaine

This drug turns dopamine neurons on, but prevents them from turning the dopamine signal off. In animal experiments cocaine caused the dopamine level to get elevated three times the normal level. 21% of people will become dependent on cocaine sometime during their life when they try it. Methamphetamine, another street drug, is similar to the strength and addictive qualities of cocaine.

Nicotine

When a person smokes a cigarette, the nicotine in it reaches the brain quickly as it is absorbed through the lungs and transported in the blood vessels to the brain. In 2002 there were about 1 billion people on earth who smoked. Every year about 8 million people die from smoking. It was shown in rats that smoking causes dopamine levels in the reward system to rise 25% to 40%.

Barbiturates

This class of drugs also has the name “downers”, because they calm you down and put you to sleep. But they also killed Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. Both died from an overdose, which suppressed their respiratory center, and they stopped breathing. In low doses barbiturates stimulate the brain and they cause euphoria, but higher doses cause respiratory failure. Nowadays barbiturates are more difficult to get, because physicians prescribe different drugs for insomnia. When a drug is not easily obtainable, it tends to fade in importance in the addiction scene.

Alcohol

In contrast to barbiturates alcohol is readily available. When a person consumes alcohol, the dopamine neurons release between 40% and 360% more dopamine than usual. 22% of people who consume alcohol develop a dependency problem later in life. The WHO estimated that about 2 billion people are addicted to alcohol and 13 million are dying from it every year. The causes of death are varied: car accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, alcohol induced dementia and various cancers.

Dr. Amen’s brain scans

Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who specializes in SPECT scan technology. SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography. This is summarized in this review.

Briefly, a SPECT scan shows where the blood flows in the brain and where it doesn’t flow. People who abuse drugs or nicotine develop areas that have a lack of perfusion. It looks like holes in the brain as depicted in this link, which can create abnormal thinking patterns. Fortunately with drug rehabilitation the brain pattern can normalize again.

The Most Addictive Drugs

The Most Addictive Drugs

Conclusion

The hallmark of drug and nicotine addiction is that the addicted person relies on using a drug to release dopamine from the reward system. Normal pleasures that would do this such as good food, sex or exercise are no longer acceptable to the addicted person. They need drugs, alcohol or nicotine to experience a stronger response. Dr. Amen’s work has shown that this behavior leads to altered brain function with holes visible on SPECT scans (Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography). Rehabilitation from drug use normalizes the findings on SPECT scans and helps the patient to return to normal functioning.

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Dec
22
2018

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Biological age is different from the chronological age said professor Morgan Levine from Yale Medical School. She is working in the department of pathology. She has found in her research that people of the same chronological age have very different biological ages. From a biological standpoint they may be much younger or older than their chronological age. When people are younger than their chronological age, they have less disease and less mortality. This article has reviewed the facts.

Measuring biological age

Dr. Levine also has developed tools how to determine the biological age. And when the biological age is higher than the chronological age, she recommends lifestyle changes that will set back the biological clock. We age differently according to what we eat, how our genetic make-up is, which we cannot change, whether we are physically active and what environmental toxins we are exposed to. So, the biological age determines our health status and what our final life expectancy will be.

Biomarkers for biological age

A simple blood test that your family doctor can order consists of the following. A fasting blood sugar, kidney and liver tests, immune tests and inflammatory tests. In addition the doctor will want to know whether you are smoking or not, how much alcohol you consume and how much red meat and processed meat you eat. A computer program processes these results, which determines your biological age.

Lifestyle improvements can lower biological age

Biological age testing has a strength built in. By changing your lifestyle you can lower it. When you exercise more regularly and switch to eating a Mediterranean diet you can lower your biological age. Other studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory. A telomere test, which also determines the biological age, is fixed. It is not easily changed by dietary measures and increasing your exercise.

Dr. Levine said: “I think the most exciting thing about this research is that these things aren’t set in stone.”

Putting the biological age to the test

Dr. Levine was curious what her own biological age was. She entered her blood test data and lifestyle facts into the computer. She was surprised that her biological age was not as good as her first assumption. Now she is trying to get more sleep, has increased her exercise level and improved her diet.

Her research team is working on getting the algorithm online so that everyone will be able to put one’s blood tests and other data into the computer program and calculate the biological age. The program will also recommend what steps are likely most helpful to increase one’s health and decrease the biological age.

Lower your biological age

No one wants to live a long life, if they are in pain and have various illnesses like arthritis or Alzheimer’s. But things are different, if they can change lifestyle factors and maintain a low biological age for a long time. Now they can stay active, have no pains and are able to contribute to society.

“By delaying the onset of diseases and cognitive and physical functioning problems people can still be engaged in society,” Dr. Levine said. “I think that is the ideal we should be striving for.”

Other literature about biological age

Inflammation increases the biological age

In this publication the authors stressed that inflammation is the common denominator for developing disease and premature aging. The authors stress further that it is mandatory to change one’s lifestyle to lower the biological age and live longer.

Diastolic blood pressure predicts mortality

In an older study the diastolic blood pressure was related to mortality. The higher the diastolic blood pressure was, the higher the mortality.  The authors also noted that it was the persons with the higher biological age who were at the highest risk of dying.

Scientific study about the predictors for the biological age

Here is a scientific study that examines predictors for the biological age.  This is not easy reading, but I placed it here for completeness sake.

Link to a site that can calculate your biological age

Here is a link to a site that calculates your biological age. It is probably not as good as Dr. Levine’s computer analysis will be when it is available. However, it is a good approximation to what it will be like.

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer is not new. Research has shown that we actually can do something about it. If we look after our lifestyle, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, eat a sensible Mediterranean-type diet and exercise regularly, our biological age will be less than our chronological age. It is the biological age that determines how old we get and whether or not we will suffer from age-related illnesses. Researchers also found out that when your biological age is younger than your actual age mortality will occur later. The math is simple. Let’s assume that your biological age is 15 to 20 years younger than your chronological age. As the average life expectancy presently is 80 years, your life expectancy can increase to 95 or 100 years.

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Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

New research, more extensive than previous research has shown that no amount of alcohol is good.

This is completely against the widespread belief that moderate consumption of alcohol would prevent heart disease.

Specifically, previous research had shown the following: one glass of alcohol per day for women and 2 glasses of alcohol for men was reportedly make us live longer.

New research with larger population numbers

But a new study involving much larger population groups, all ages, and drinkers versus non-drinkers came to a different conclusion. It concluded that the previous recommendation was based on only heart attack rates, but excluded other causes of sudden death like heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and strokes. With the compilation of all these cardiovascular diseases, the statistics suddenly started to look different. Now even small amounts of alcohol killed. What is worse, there was clear evidence that binge drinkers have much worse survival statistics than moderate drinkers. When you drink according to the American Heart Association’s recommendation, you drink smaller amounts of alcohol daily.

Binge drinking

But many of us like to live it up on weekends or whenever there are friends over who also like a few drinks. This binge drinking habit lowers the life expectancy by an average of 10 years. It does so because the list of complications I mentioned above. In addition there are alcoholic liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and various cancers that shorten your life.

Global health study

The funders of this global health study was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The original study appeared in the Lancet. The combined study population was 28 million individuals. There were 649,000 cases of various deaths due to alcohol. Here is a summary of the abbreviated outcome of the global health study. As you can see from this, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption as even small amounts of alcohol over a long period of time lead to significant damage in the body. You can prevent heart attacks to a certain extent. But instead people die from a ruptured aorta, from strokes or from heart failure. The leading cause of death for men and women age 15 to 49 worldwide was alcohol. It accounted for almost 1 in 10 deaths.

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

  • Over 300 disabilities and diseases were directly related to alcohol consumption. The findings were collected in 195 countries, classified by age and sex. The data was gathered between 1990 and 2016.
  • Globally, 2.4 billion people drink alcohol. 25% are women who consume 0.73 drinks on average each day, 39% are men drinking 1.7 drinks a day.
  • Denmark, Norway and Germany drank the most alcohol globally.
  • For ages 50 and up the leading causes of death were: road injuries, suicides and tuberculosis.

More statistics

  • Most deaths caused by alcohol came from cardiovascular disease and cancer for all countries.
  • When you look only at drinkers, the standard recommendation of the American Heart Association regarding low alcohol consumption seems true. But the new study compared non-drinkers with drinkers. From this it is clear that even one drink a day has a risk of premature death.
  • At the age of 40 cutting down long-term alcohol use will add 1 to 2 years of life expectancy.
  • For all ages 2.8 million people die globally every year from alcohol related diseases.
  • Half of the world does not drink at all. This means that the ones, who drink, consume double as much as the statistics show.
  • Americans prefer beer. They drink about 27 gallons of beer, 2.6 gallons of wine and 2.2 gallons of spirits per adult/year.

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

Binge drinking is the consumption of 5 drinks or more in an evening for men or 4 drinks for women. The CDC is concerned about binge drinking, because of its association with significant organ damages. There are 4 major concerns regarding these effects. Heart disease and cancer; diabetes; memory loss and appearance. In the following I will zero in on these alcohol-related conditions. 

Heart disease

As this article pointed out above, there is a very limited protective effect, but mostly in above 55-year-old women who drink in moderation (1 glass of alcohol; per day). They have some protection from developing heart attacks, because their LDL cholesterol gets lowered and their clotting system is influenced in positive ways. But 6% of breast cancer in women is due to the effect of alcohol consumption, which is a downfall. For both men and women binge drinking is what kills. Binge drinkers who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week (more than 7 drinks in the US) experience increased deaths. The causes are heart failure, strokes, fatal hypertensive disease and fatal aortic aneurysm, where the main artery bursts. Apart from that alcohol-related pancreatitis and liver cirrhosis can kill as well.

Cancer

A relatively new finding is that alcohol has a close relationship to causing various cancers. Alcohol weakens the immune system. Also, alcohol has a negative influence on the bacterial composition, the microbiome in our digestive tract, is. This can be a cause for colon cancer. Liver cancer, mouth cancer and breast cancer also has a direct relationship to increased alcohol consumption. Esophageal cancer and laryngeal cancer are also related to alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

Alcohol can stimulate the pancreas to release insulin, which may give you hypoglycemic attacks. As alcohol contains empty calories, over the course of several years alcohol consumption can add to your weight, causing obesity and type 2 diabetes. As diabetes has detrimental effects on the heart and blood vessels, this mixed with alcohol consumption, can worsen cardiovascular disease thus increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Memory loss

In the beginning of chronic alcohol consumption you may enjoy the relaxing effect of alcohol. This is merely the toxic effect of alcohol on brain cells. Alcohol has the effect of inhibiting brain cells, which makes you feel relaxed, super-sociable and even silly. In reality you are starting to loose control. After several years of this effect you are left with feelings of anxiety, depression and anger. This is when trouble starts to occur. People out of control are more likely to get into fights and get injured or killed. People can develop blackouts where they do not remember parts of the evening or an entire event. Memory loss is starting. The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that is involved in processing short- term memory into long-term memory. A form of dementia can occur that was brought on by chronic alcohol overconsumption.

Appearance

Alcohol dries out the skin cells and body cells. The face gets wrinkles. Your skin looks parched and gives you the appearance of a prematurely aged person. Alcohol can interfere with your sleep and when you have a lack of it you end up with dark circles around your eyes as well as puffy eyes. It does not make for a good picture, whether it happens inside the body or on your skin!

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

A new study that was larger and more comprehensive than any previous study has exposed the myth that one drink for women and two drinks for men would protect you from heart disease. It may protect you from heart attacks, but it definitely does nothing to protect you from other heart conditions. There is also sudden death from heart failure, a rupture of the aorta (aneurysm), high blood pressure that kills (fatal hypertensive disease) and stroke. When you factor all that in as well, even your low, moderate alcohol consumption has health risks. The global health study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looked at the burden that alcohol puts on 195 countries. The combined study population was 28 million individuals.

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

649, 000 registered cases of various deaths occurred due to alcohol. This included deaths from traffic accidents, injuries, cancer, heart disease and suicide. This global study compared the life expectancy and disease frequencies of alcohol-consuming people with non-alcohol consuming people. It concluded that non-alcohol consuming people live on an average up to 10 years longer than their alcohol-consuming counterparts. No studies up to now have been that comprehensive. The results from twenty-eight million people speak for themselves, and the death statistics are clear. It is worthwhile to look at the details and draw your own conclusion.

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Jun
09
2018

What Makes Chips Addictive?

When you emptied an entire bag of potato chips, you may ask yourself: what makes chips addictive? Scientists talk about hedonic hyperphagia or hedonic hunger. In plain English, it is the pleasure of eating, even when you are not hungry. There are certain foods that seduce you to overeat, and one of these are chips. Chocolate or candy can be other high-hedonic rating foods.

Erlangen experiments

A group of researchers from the Erlangen University in Germany set out to get to the bottom of this addiction eating. 17 healthy subjects with a body mass index of between 19 and 27 were recruited for eating experiments. They got either high calorie chips or low calorie zucchini. The chips created a marked stimulation on a functional MRI scan where the nucleus accumbens was lighting up. When they consumed zucchini no such stimulation could be documented. The researchers had done similar experiments with the same foods on rats. They too had functional MRI scans and the tests showed similar stimulation after the test animals consumed chips, but not after zucchini.

Nucleus accumbens, the addiction center for food

Professor Andreas Hess and his team in Erlangen say that the nucleus accumbens is the addiction center for food. They also did experiments with fat to carbohydrate composition to find the most addictive mixture. There is a certain fat to carbohydrate ratio that triggers food addiction. What surprised the Erlangen researchers was that both in rats and humans the optimal addiction potential was identical.

  • They found that rats preferred 35% of fat and 45% of carbohydrates in their chips. With humans there is the other factor: on top of the fat/carb mixture we like to taste some salt and spices, because this also will stimulate our appetite. The food industry has figured this out long time ago. This knowledge from tasting experiments is built into processed food.
  • The Erlangen researchers  also found that in obese people the nucleus accumbens was lighting up more intensely the higher the BMI was. That means that obese people are more food-addicted!

Triggering the nucleus accumbens

  • Professor Hess postulates that the 35% fat to 45% carb mix in potato chips is ideal for the body. It can mobilize quick energy from carbs, but also have storable energy from fat at the same time. It is this mix, which stimulates the addiction center in the nucleus accumbens.
  • In a study from Bethesda, Maryland researchers found an overlap between food addiction and drug addiction.  The common pathways in both is the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This dopamine release makes us feel good, and as a result, we want to experience it again.
  • In this study patients with bulimia nervosa were examined. They found that   overconsumption of sugar-laden foods had very similar effects as drugs in drug-addicted patients. It is the release of dopamine, glutamate and the opioid system that are involved in both. The nucleus accumbens is also receiving stimulation in both situations.

What can be done about food addiction?

This publication noted that people who are food addicted eat higher amounts of fat and carbohydrates. With this mix the feel-good nucleus accumbens produces most dopamine, which is the driving force behind the addiction.

  • If you cut out sugar, you find it easier to control your eating portions. But you also must cut out processed food, as this is where a lot of hidden sugar is coming from.
  • Cut down on your fat consumption. Even if you reduce it from 35% to 10% or 15%, this is a huge step forward. It reduces your calorie intake significantly, but also reduces the stimulation of your appetite center.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, salads and some fruit. Be careful with some fruit like grapes, bananas, mangos, papayas and dates. They are all higher in sugars. If you cannot entirely avoid those, use portion control, so you are not overeating on them.

Portion control

Besides changing the food quality, you can reduce the portions of food you are eating. Instead of mindlessly emptying a whole bag of chips, you could get a small bowl and fill part of the bag of chips into it. Remove the bag into a cupboard that is difficult to reach. If you are sitting and watching TV, you could eat one chip at a time, but only during commercial breaks. This way your chip eating becomes more conscious and more controlled, and you set a limit. In time you may find that you can replace the chips with a lower calorie food like slices of apples, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

What Makes Chips Addictive?

What Makes Chips Addictive?

Conclusion

Researchers found that chips were addictive in rats and in humans. Functional MRI scans of brains in rats and humans showed that potato chip eating stimulated the nucleus accumbens. It was lighting up in both species when the test subjects consumed potato chips. Surprisingly, it did not matter, whether these were test animals or humans! A review of several research papers showed a similarity between food addiction and drug addiction. It is dopamine and other brain transmitters that stimulate the nucleus accumbens, which is the addiction center. One of the keys, professor Hess from Erlangen University in Germany found, is the fat/carb mix. When the potato chips contained 35% fat and 45% carbs, this stimulated the nucleus accumbens.

Changing your eating habits

Knowing all of this helps us to be able to change our eating habits. To avoid the pitfalls of food addiction, cut out sugar and starchy foods, and remove processed foods from your diet. Also reduce some of the fat to 10% or 15% fat in your total diet. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit low in sugar. In addition you should also consider with portion control to avoid mindless munching. Before you know it you can shed the pounds that you may have accumulated before. You will be able to reduce your BMI to 21 to 23. Many people have done it before you.

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