Dec
19
2015

Beer Belly Bad News

You heard the expression “beer belly”, but now we learn “beer belly bad news”. It is an unflattering term for increased abdominal girth, especially in males. It is quite often that this picture is found in middle-aged men who consume more beer than what is good for them, but they may also mill around the hot dog stands at the ball game instead of being physically active. Any leftover calories are stored as belly fat, which protrudes their stomach as if they were pregnant.

There is a big difference between belly fat and body fat. Belly fat is metabolically much more active. Body fat is more sessile. So, it is the belly fat we need to do something about as this has been shown to be associated with heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

 

Abdominal girth to hip ratio instead of BMI

Originally it was thought that excessive weight would best be measured with the body mass index (BMI). But subsequently it was shown that athletes with well-developed muscles could have BMI’s that were in the overweight (between 25.0 and 30.0) or even obese category (more than 30.0). Also, some people with heavy bones can have excessive BMI values despite them being normal based on other measurements. The new measurement is the old fashioned abdominal girth to hip ratio.

Weight gain leads to metabolic syndrome

You measure the abdominal girth, the hip girth and divide the abdominal girth by the hip girth. Normally this should be 80% (=0.8) or less for women and 90% (=0.9) or less for men. But a person with a beer belly will have ratios of 1.2 or 1.5.

If you take blood tests of that person you would also find elevated triglycerides, lowered HDL cholesterol (the protective cholesterol) and elevated LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). In addition, we know from studies that often the insulin level is elevated in the sense of hyperinsulinism. In fact that person has often the metabolic syndrome, which is a characteristic change of the metabolism in an obese person. The blood is thicker with clotting factors floating around, there are inflammatory kinins that circulate and these factors work together on causing hardening of the arteries.

Why is a beer belly dangerous?

There are not only cardiovascular risk on the long-term causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. There is a danger of fat deposits in the liver, called fatty liver disease.

In time this can turn into liver cirrhosis and in some cases develop into liver cancer. Because belly fat causes inflammation in the system including in the lining of the blood vessels, this can in time also affect the immune system, weakening it and eventually allowing cancer to develop. Common cancers that are associated with obesity are breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and pancreas and colon cancer in both sexes.

Estrogen from aromatase in beer bellies

In men beer bellies produce a lot of estrogen, the female hormone. This is so because fat tissue contains the enzyme aromatase that metabolizes male hormones into estrogen. Estrogen in men is only good in traces, but when the body produces it massively, it will counter testosterone production and will cause heart attacks and strokes.

What can you do about a beer belly?

We need to understand how beer bellies develop. One of the sources of fat from beer bellies is the consumption of foods that contain a lot of fructose. Food manufacturers have been diligent in mixing high fructose corn syrup into sugary drinks and into a myriad of processed foods.

Sugar itself can only be processed and stored until the glycogen stores in the liver and the muscles are filled. The liver metabolizes a surplus of sugar into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. This is also the case for any fructose that comes from metabolized sucrose (table sugar) and from the high fructose corn syrup popular with the food processing industry. One problem is that fructose can only be processed by the liver, while glucose gets directly taken up by cells with the help of insulin.

German obesity wave after WWII in the 1960’s

The surplus of fructose metabolizes into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol before the body stores it as fat in fat cells. Unfortunately a lot of the fat will end up between your guts, in the liver as fatty liver and in the beer belly, a metabolically more active form of fat.

The sad part is that in the 1960’s I have seen the German economic wonder (“Wirtschaftswunder”) where many mid fifty to mid sixty business men died as a result of obesity and subsequent heart attacks and strokes. At that time Germans who were starving during World War II lived it up. This was in the late fifties and 1960’s. They ate whatever they could: cakes, fatty cheeses, whipped cream, fatty foods like pork roasts and beef.

Unhealthy hydrogenated fats, starchy food and sugar caused beer bellies

They also consumed loads of bread, buns, pasta and sugar. Margarine also became popular with its hydrogenated fatty acids that also contained free radicals. The end result was that they gained weight, did not exercise and developed their beer bellies.

In the 1980’s the school of thought was that saturated fatty acids  were responsible for heart attacks, strokes and obesity.  A low fat/high carb diet became popular and continued to steadily increase. Sure, the hydrogenated fatty acids did not help and should be cut out. But the bigger problem was the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and over-consumption of high glycemic-index carbohydrates.

Steps of how to get rid of the beer belly

Here is the solution of what to do get rid of the beer belly.

Eliminate sugar and high fructose from diet

Remove sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your diet.

Remove empty starches from your diet

The second effective step is to cut out as many empty starches that you can cut out like white rice, bread, sweets, cookies, cakes, ice cream and pasta. Starchy foods metabolize in the gut into sugar, which causes an insulin response. The extra insulin is responsible for developing inflammation in the arteries, which eventually leads to heart attacks and strokes.

Regular exercise

Exercise on a regular basis. This will produce HDL cholesterol, the protective cholesterol, which balances LDL cholesterol.

Rebalance your food intake

Perhaps the most important step is to rebalance your food intake. With this I mean that you replace high glycemic-index carbs with low glycemic-index carbs. This means you will eat a lot of salads, steamed vegetables, and fruit. This gives you a lot of extra fiber, which your system needs to slow down the rate of sugar absorption. It also  helps you to lower LDL cholesterol and detoxify your body in the gut where fiber binds toxins.

Moderate your alcohol intake

If you are heavily into alcoholic drinks, this is another source of refined carbohydrates. They metabolize into LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and can cause fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis. A moderate consumption of alcohol (one drink for women per day and two drinks for men per day) lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while excessive alcohol intake increases the risk.

Bioidentical hormone replacement

Bioidentical hormone replacement may be something you have not heard about. But if you are a woman above the age of 40 or a man above the age of 50 chances are that you need some hormone tests. As a male, your natural hormone production from your testicles or adrenal glands is likely not keeping up.  As a woman, your ovaries or adrenal glands are no longer keeping up with the demand of regular life. Part of the aging process is that the production of our sex hormones slows down. It does so shortly before menopause in women and shortly before andropause in men.

Lack of function of key organs in menopause and andropause

This will not only manifest itself in hot flashes and sleep disturbance in women. Men experience erectile dysfunction and grumpiness. Eventually this leads to a lack of energy production in the heart, the brain and other organ systems. When these organs have sex hormone receptors, but circulating sex hormones are missing, they cannot function optimally.

Lack of hormones causes heart attacks, strokes and cancer

A lack of hormones translates into yet another cause of heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. This is an area where conventional medicine disagrees with anti-aging medicine. Years in general practice have taught me that heart attacks, strokes, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer happen more often when hormones are missing in both sexes. Cancer of the breasts, uterus and ovaries and prostate cancer are more common when sex hormones are missing. These cancers occur when natural sex hormone production declined.

On the other hand, with bioidentical hormone replacement the metabolism of all cells will return to normal. With this the likelihood of not developing all these illnesses at an earlier time is diminishing as well. It is not a panacea for eternal life, but it will add significant longevity. And with this comes the knowledge that you will not get premature disabilities, which is what we all need.

Beer Belly Bad News

Beer Belly Bad News

Conclusion

We need to assess our food intake habits and cut out the items that contribute to the beer belly. Next we need to ask ourselves what other change in lifestyle we require.  Think about anything to improve our body shape and our energy metabolism. Life is too precious to just throw away years of fruitful living in our golden retirement years. Work on these factors in midlife or even in younger years and you will enjoy disease-free aging.

Dec
05
2015

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that processed meat causes cancer. The report also stated that to a lesser degree red meat is also cancer causing. Overall there are 34,000 people per year worldwide who die from cancers that are related to the consumption of processed foods. They are mainly colorectal cancers, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Seeing deaths from processed meat in perspective

When you relate the 34,000 processed food related cancers to all of the 8.2 million cancer deaths per year worldwide, the cancer numbers related to processed food amount to only 0.41 % of all the cancer deaths in the world, which is a very small percentage. In comparison to these numbers smoking as a cause of cancer is responsible for the death of 1 million people per year. Furthermore, there are 600,000 deaths due to drinking alcohol, and 200,000 deaths due to breathing polluted air. Of course it has to be emphasized that it is important to avoid cancer causes wherever possible!

Nevertheless we are talking about preventative deaths and the public should be informed about what the risks are due to consuming processed meats, cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and breathing polluted air.

Pancreatic cancer study

A large multi-ethnic study analyzed data from 190,545 men and women at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii. In an average follow-up time of 7 years there were 482 incidents of pancreatic cancer, and it became obvious that processed meats play a role in the increase of pancreatic cancer. After taking other risk factors into consideration like a positive family history, age, smoking and diabetes mellitus, those patients who consumed the largest amount of processed meats had a 67% increased risk for pancreatic cancer as opposed to those who had the lowest intake of these foods. A diet rich in red meats increased the pancreatic cancer risk by about 50%.

Alternatives to red meat

Poultry, fish, dairy products and egg intake showed no pancreatic cancer risk factor, nor did it matter how much fat, saturated fat or cholesterol was consumed over the 7 year observation period.

The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Ute Noethlings, observed that the risk increase is a consequence of meat processing. The main culprit would very likely be carcinogenic substances which are used in processed meat production.

Too much red meat

Grain fed or corn fed and antibiotic treated regular beef changes the gut bacteria and can cause superbugs. The change of the gut flora can lead to inflammation in the gut lining and a condition called “leaky gut syndrome”. We carry almost 2 pounds of gut bacteria in us at any given time. Residual antibiotics from regular beef and chicken reduce that amount and change the composition of our gut flora.

Adopt sensible nutrition

Consuming regular beef will change your liver metabolism and lead to accelerated hardening of the arteries. This in turn causes deadly heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, grass fed beef or organic beef do not have the same effect. To prevent leaky gut syndrome, heart attacks and strokes from developing you can also take probiotics every day, which should include these two species: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. This keeps your gut flora stable and does not allow your food to undermine your health. But this does not mean that you pop a supplement, and you can blissfully ignore sensible nutrition!

Red meat can cause heart attacks in diabetics

Red meat is one of the sources of protein, but doctors from the Harvard School of Public Health reported in the January edition of Diabetes Care, that a type 2 diabetes diet should go easy on red meat.

Type 2 diabetics are at risk for subsequent coronary heart disease (CHD), and intake of iron rich food was significantly associated with a greater risk of fatal CHD. The results come from a prospective study of 6,161 women from the Nurses’ Health Study.

Diabetes more common when diet contains red meat

All of these patients reported a diagnosis of adult onset diabetes, and they were followed between 1980 through 2000. This amounts to an impressive 54,455 person-years follow-up. Attention was paid to the food questionnaires, which were monitored for the consumption of iron and red meat. Red meat consists of beef, pork or lamb as a main dish. Red meat is also in beef in roast beef sandwiches and mixed dishes, hamburger, hot dog, processed meat and bacon. The examiners of the study also took note  of other nutrients such as seafood and poultry.
Women with diabetes who ate the most iron in the form of heme found in red meats had a 50% increased risk of total coronary heart disease as compared to those with the lowest intake. The risk ratio with women was more obvious for postmenopausal women when compared with premenopausal women .

Western diet with red meat and processed meat causes higher heart attack and cancer rates

Lean beef may be a good protein food to the average population. But type 2 diabetics might choose to cut back on red meat and processed red meat sources. They can replace red meat with a heart-friendlier choice. Fresh seafood, rich in omega -3 fatty acids, would rank high on the list of a healthy eating plan.

Another prospective study of 72,113 women over 18 years found a definitive relationship between dietary patterns and cancer and heart attacks. A prudent diet with high intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains had a very low cancer and heart attack rate. Conversely a Western diet consisting of high intakes of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, French fries, and sweets/desserts led to a higher cardiovascular mortality risk of 22% and a higher cancer mortality risk of 16%.

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

Processed Meat Causes Cancer

Conclusion

The World Health Organization announced that processed food is carcinogenic. This piece of news is not entirely new. Hopefully it will work its way into the consciousness of the population at large. Meat processors producing sausages, ham and other processed meat varieties will not stop advertising their products. They advertise in a way to make them sound tasty and delicious for the consumer. Colorful images seduce the prospective buyer. These images make you drool. But this is a make-believe world in the art of commercials. In the end it is the consumer who has to make a decision which food is tasty and also beneficial.

Healthy food leads to healthy people

Customers need to make the choice for health and stop buying foods that border to being nutritionally hazardous products. This is when we will see a true change in health statistics. But while you are thinking about changes, do not forget to quit smoking. Also, cut down your alcohol consumption and perhaps, if possible move to a less polluted area. All of that will help to reduce mortality rates!

More info about pancreatic cancer: Causes of cancer of the pancreas.

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Nov
10
2015

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Dr. Frank Hu and colleagues have recently re-examined the old question of whether sugary soda drinks make you sick. They usually contain high fructose corn syrup, a mixture of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This sugar mix can be found in sugary soda drinks as well as in many processed foods like fruit spreads. Dr. Hu’s publication is listed in PubMed , but details can be found in this summary.

The study found that one or two cans of sugary soda drinks per day lead to

  • As high as a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes,
  • A 35 percent greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease, and
  • A 16 percent increased risk of stroke.

Difference in metabolism between fructose and glucose

The study also found that there is a difference of how glucose, the main sugar that the body uses for energy is metabolized versus fructose from high fructose corn syrup or the breakdown of table sugar, a disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose combined as one molecule. Glucose gets directly absorbed from the gut into the blood circulation and with the help of insulin gets further absorbed directly into body cells. In contrast the liver metabolizes fructose into triglycerides, which can cause fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. Fructose also raises the bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). This in turn is a risk factor for developing diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

It is fructose in sugary drinks and processed foods that are largely responsible for weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The newest finding: heart failure can also be caused by high fructose corn syrup

A study in Sweden has recently shown that sugary drinks can cause heart failure. Researchers followed 4200 Swedish men for 12 years in regard to their food habits. The study found that the men who drank at least two sweetened drinks per day had a 23% higher risk of developing heart failure. Dr. Susanna Larsson, a co-author of the study, said: “The takeaway message is that people who regularly consume sweetened beverages should consider limiting their consumption to reduce their risk of heart failure”. Heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans. It develops either on its own in persons with inadequately treated high blood pressure or in people who had a previous heart attack. It is a condition, which disables the heart to effectively pump enough blood with nutrients and oxygen into the tissues.

Symptoms of heart failure

People who develop this condition feel the symptoms: they get short of breath with minimal activity. They also may wake up short of breath in the middle of the night. It is a miserable life, as people with heart failure experience severe restrictions in their daily activities. Even walking a flight of stairs becomes a struggle or even an impossible task. Total disability is the next step. The key is prevention: do not use high fructose corn syrup, and stay away from sugar in any form; instead use stevia to sweeten your food when needed.

Be careful how you replace saturated fatty acids

Dr. Frank Hu has also participated in a study that spanned over 24 to 30 years and examined the replacement of saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), monounsaturated fatty acids and whole grain carbohydrates. The study involved 84,628 women (Nurses’ Health Study, 1980 to 2010), and 42,908 men (Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 1986 to 2010). Detailed questionnaires assessed the diet every 4 years. 7,667 cases of cardiovascular disease (CHD) occurred during the long observation times. Compared to controls that did not change their diet with respect to saturated fatty acid intake, those who replaced with PUFA had 25% less CHD, those who replaced with monounsaturated fatty acids had 15% less CHD and those who replaced saturated fatty intake with whole grains had 9% less CHD. A subgroup that had replaced saturated fatty acid intake with carbohydrates from refined starches/added sugars ended up with a 10% increase of CHD.

Cutting fructose out of diet lowers cholesterol and weight

A new study by Dr. Robert Lustig and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco showed on 43 children that a change of diet reducing dietary sugar from 28% to 10% and replacing it with other complex carbohydrates led to a significant reduction in triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.

The nucleus accumbens in the brain is the reward center for addictions

The fructose stimulus was taken away, which stimulates a part in the brain, called nucleus accumbens, where the reward center is located. This is the reason why the more sugar you take in, the more addicted to sugar you become. Not surprisingly when physicians changed the diet, there were internal signs of improving with regard to blood tests. But physically the children also showed weight loss just within 10 days as their total calorie intake had reduced. There is another observation with regard to fructose metabolism. Normally after a meal there is suppression of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. But when you drink a sugary drink with fructose in it, there is no suppression of ghrelin. The result is that you do not feel satisfied and you keep on consuming fructose containing drinks resulting in weight gain.

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Sugary Soda Drinks Make You Sick

Conclusion

What we eat matters in terms of long-term consequences. This is certainly true for refined sugar intake. Don’t lull yourself into the belief that honey is “healthy”. Even though it is a natural product, your body treats it according to its chemical composition. It is sugar, and unfortunately it will get you into health problems naturally. Even the fashionable agave syrup contains largely fructose: again, this is bad news for your health! No matter what type of sugar you choose, the long-term consequences have haunting qualities. Consequences of sugar intake are weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. You will agree that is not worth to take any of these risks just to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Alternatives to sugar

Biting into a crisp, sweet apple is enjoyable and has never harmed anybody. Eating a small helping of fruit salad to top off a meal can be a delicious finale to dinner. If you need a sweetener, it is better for you to use the plant-derived stevia, which is available as a powder or a liquid. Smallest quantities are adequately sweetening foods. Stevia has no calories and none of the consequences of sugar: you’ll enjoy the sweetness without the bitter aftereffects of tooth decay or heart disease!

Nov
07
2015

Eat Your Avocado

“Eat your avocado” is an appropriate invitation to eat this super food with many positive effects on people’s health. That is to say, first, it helps arthritis, in addition it is good for your vision, besides it protects against cardiovascular disease, moreover it fights metabolic syndrome, further it helps in weight maintenance and finally, it even protects against some cancers. Avocado contains healthy oils and many vitamins and minerals.

Avocado composition

80% of an avocado is fiber making it a valuable food to prevent colon cancer. Among the minerals it is noteworthy that avocados are rich in boron and potassium. In terms of vitamins it is rich in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K and pantothenic acid. It does not contain cholesterol, but contains monounsaturated fat (oleic acid). In fact, oleic acid is the compound in olive oil responsible for lowering your blood pressure. The oils in avocado contain first 71% monounsaturated fatty acids, secondly 13% polyunsaturated fatty acids and thirdly 16% saturated fatty acids. This mix promotes healthy blood lipids, but also helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals. In addition to all that avocados contain phytosterols, a number of carotenoids, non-carotenoid antioxidants, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and glutathione.

Cardiovascular disease protection

The combination of fiber and folate in avocado help to reduce LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL leads to hardening of arteries. The folate reduces homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Phytosterols that are similar in structure to cholesterol compete with cholesterol absorption in the gut.

In a 2015 study several diets were compared with regard to LDL lowering potential, either a low fat diet, or two forms of medium fat diets, where one contained one avocado per day. The results were surprising in that the low fat diet led to a reduction of LDL by 7.4 mg/dL while the avocado diet caused a reduction of LDL by 13.5 mg/dL.

The oils in avocados also seem to suppress the appetite center in the brain helping people to eat less and controlling obesity and diabetes.

Arthritis prevention

In a 2014 study hip osteoarthritis was examined for over 3 years. Researchers could show that an extract from avocados and soybeans was protective of osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory components of avocado like omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, phytosterols and non-carotenoid antioxidants all work together in countering joint inflammation. Boron abundantly contained in avocado also was found to be essential for healthy joints.

Eye protection

Avocado has its own mixture of carotenoids, like alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, neochrome, chrysanthemaxanthin and others. The green pulp contains these. They have anti-inflammatory properties. The fatty acid profile of avocados helps to absorb carotenoids, as they are fat-soluble. Researchers conducted a a two phase clinical study to show that avocado added to salsa or to salad was leading to a 5- to 15-fold higher absorption of the carotenoids in salsa and salad when compared to avocado-free salsa and salad.

This is an important observation that we should remember: always eat some avocado with any fruit or vegetable that contains carotenoids, as this will improve the absorption of the carotenoids tremendously.

Why is that so important for eye disease? In a 2008 study a total of 1802 women aged 50 to 79 years from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Oregon were followed who had intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin above the 78th percentile. Researchers compared these women to women below the 28th percentiles in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. This involved eye examinations in both groups. The eye specialists examined their eye lenses for nuclear cataracts. The surprising finding was that women with the highest quintile category of diet or serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin had 32% less nuclear cataracts than women in the lowest quintile of lutein and zeaxanthin.

The conclusion was that carotenoids of avocados have vision protective effects.

Metabolic syndrome and obesity

This 2013 study included 17,567 US adults and part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Researchers compared avocado eaters and non-avocado consumers. Interestingly, avocado eaters had a much better overall food quality in their diet. They ate more vegetables, fruit, fiber and less added sugar. Calorie and sodium intake were identical in the two groups. But body weight, body mass index and waist circumference were significantly lower in avocado eaters than in the non-avocado control group. The cardio protective HDL cholesterol was significantly higher in the avocado group. The odds ratio for developing metabolic syndrome, the change in metabolism due to obesity was 50% lower in avocado consumers than in non-consumers. All of this is good news for the consumer, if we eat some avocado.

Skin, beauty and anti-aging

We don’t like to develop too many wrinkles, as they are a sign of premature aging. The oils of avocados have been used for some time in skin care products as they stimulate collagen production in the skin and reduce wrinkles. But when you eat avocados, the carotenoid substances (such as lutein and zeaxanthin) serve for skin protection, protecting you from UV light damage. In addition, avocados contain vitamin E and glutathione, which help to scavenge free radicals. Otherwise the skin would prematurely age and wrinkle. The end result is that you see a reduction in the development of wrinkles, when you consume avocados. The beneficial effects on your blood vessels in combination with protecting your skin will age your body slower, a point that has been noted in the anti-aging literature.

Cancer blocking properties

In the following I will briefly review the findings of several cancer research groups, but this review is by no means complete.

Leukemia

This 2015 study describes a new chemotherapeutic agent, derived from avocado that they named Avocatin B. Avocatin B is active against the difficult to treat acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). It works by targeting mitochondrial components of AML, but does not affect healthy leukocytes or leukocyte progenitor stem cells.

Colon and esophageal cancer

The authors of this study from Iran describe four phytoextracts of avocado for treatment of patients with esophageal cancer and colon cancer. They noted that the phytoextracts have a much lower toxicity than standard chemotherapeutic agents and significantly slow growth of these cancers. They plan to use these phytoextracts as complementary treatments of esophageal and colon cancers.

Oral cancers

This paper describes that avocado extracts were shown to be successful in treating oral cancers.

Cancer prevention

In this paper it is discussed that the phytochemicals in avocados arrest cancer cells in their cell division cycle and lead to apoptosis, which is natural cell death. The authors believe that eating avocado regularly can help prevent a whole array of different cancers by this mechanism.

Eat Your Avocado

Eat Your Avocado

Conclusion

Avocados are a super food, which has many beneficial effects. Perhaps one of the outstanding effects is prevention of obesity and the metabolic syndrome as discussed. Women may want to eat it because of the beneficial effects on skin and beauty. We all should have an interest in wanting to prevent heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

But who does not want to prevent cataract surgery and keep good vision until a ripe old age? It is possible by eating avocados. And would you not want to prevent osteoarthritis? Eat avocados and add some omega-3 fatty acid from distilled fish oil as well to get the full anti-inflammatory effect. Your joints will thank you and let you swiftly move wherever you want to go.

I thought you should know about the health benefits of eating avocados. They make a nice addition to your food, not only as guacamole, but in a wide variety of dishes. Use a few slices on your salad. Make a tasty dip. And find inspiring recipes online that you can easily find and copy.

Oct
24
2015

Best Anti-Aging Products

It seems like every day there is some news about a vitamin or supplement that has the reputation of being good for you, so here are the best anti-aging products. But the ordinary person does not really know what will have an effect on anti-aging and what will not.

In the following I will review the key vitamins and supplements that have published anti-aging effects. With this I mean that there has been a consensus of anti-aging experts that several studies have shown a positive clinical effect of vitamins and supplements. Not all claims in the media are true.

Vitamins and supplements needed for heart attack and stroke prevention

Several studies stressed that vitamin K2 is a key vitamin. It removes calcium from the vascular compartment and transports it into the bones for storage. Osteoporosis prevention and prevention of heart attacks and strokes have a close link.  In my opinion this is not common knowledge. Another study from 2013, the Women’s Health Initiative in the US used a much larger patient base of 36,282 postmenopausal women. Researchers followed these women for up to 7 years. Initially there was some confusion as to how compliant the patients were in taking the required 1000 mg of calcium carbonate and 400 IU of vitamin D3. To clarify, the supplement compliant group when compared 7 years into the trial had 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than the placebo group.

Vit. D3 did not cause kidney stones and needs to be taken in higher doses

This supplementation did not cause kidney stones in the study group, as some physicians often cite as the reason why they do not want to recommend supplementation with vitamin D3 and calcium. In other words all of these kidney stone concerns you have so often read in the media are not true.

  • The second vitamin (beside vit. K2) needed is vitamin D3 in doses of 4000 IU to 5000 IU per day. This helps to absorb calcium in the gut, but also helps to transport it into the bones away from the arteries. Apart from these vitamins and supplements regular exercise is necessary to condition heart and lungs. The overall effect is that osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes are prevented. In addition, keep in mind that patients also need to avoid sugar as well to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which causes heart attacks.

PQQ, C0-Q-10, magnesium, hawthorn

  • You also need PQQ and Co-Q-10 for heart attack and stroke prevention (see below). These two supplements strengthen the mitochondria, the tiny power packages within the heart muscle cells and the brain cells. The better the support, the more resilient the heart and the brain are to the changes with aging. The heart and the brain are particularly rich in mitochondria.
  • There is a need for vitamin D3, alpha-lipoic acid and resveratrol in combination for prevention of heart attacks and strokes, because of their anti-inflammatory actions (see below).
  • Studies showed that magnesium and green leaf tea extract are effective in preventing heart attacks
  • Hawthorn is an herb that has been found useful for prevention of heart disease and treatment of mild heart failure (in Germany known as “Crataegutt”).

Improvement of mitochondrial function

If we want to have energy when we age, we need to take care of our mitochondria. This is where the biochemical processes take place that produce energy for us.

As I have summarized in this blog, there are several steps and supplements that will help us preserve mitochondria:

  • Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.
  • Another supplement, PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Thus, between the two supplements you will have more energy as optimal mitochondrial function is ensured.

Lifestyle changes, resveratrol, alpha-lipoic acid

  • There are simple lifestyle changes you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate the genes, which in turn stimulates your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.
  • Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate the metabolism of your mitochondria. Exercise more and regularly as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of the mitochondrial metabolism.

Anti-inflammatory vitamins and supplements

Since the mid 1990’s the medical profession knows that inflammation plays an important role in the development of heart attacks, strokes, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis (both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. Here is a list of vitamins and supplements that counter inflammation:

  • Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is an anti-inflammatory helping to prevent heart disease and cancer.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: This anti-inflammatory is both water and oil soluble. It is an antioxidant protecting from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and may reduce the size of a stroke.
  • Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are found in fruit and vegetables. One of the most potent ones is resveratrol. Resveratrol prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which prevents heart attacks. It also prevents Alzheimer’s disease and helps prevent insulin resistance as well.

Garlic, ginger tea, ginseng, green tea extract

  • Garlic: This herb has anti-inflammatory effects, stimulates the immune system and lowers blood pressure moderately. It is in use as an adjunct in treating high blood pressure, also for prevention of heart disease and of various cancers. It helps to reduce inflammation with osteoarthritis.
  • Ginger root extract: Ginger root is an anti-inflammatory, but also has anti-nausea effects and is useful for seasickness, morning sickness and side-effects from chemotherapy. Arthritis is also helped by it.
  • Ginseng: Ginseng is a popular herbal medicine; it has anti-inflammatory effects and improves immune function. Often people take it during the cold and flu season.
  • Green tea extract: Green tea extract is anti-inflammatory and has anti-oxidant effects. It is used for cancer prevention, stomach upsets, and diarrhea. It also helps in patients with Crohn’s disease and helps prevent heart disease.

Melatonin, rutin, selenium

  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland. It is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also helps you to sleep. In higher doses it is used as anti-cancer medicine as it stimulates the immune system.
  • Rutin: Rutin is a bioflavonoid that is used to strengthen blood vessels, helps in stroke prevention and helps with osteoarthritis.
  • Selenium: Selenium is a trace element and an important anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. In other words, it stimulates the immune system, helps in prevention of cancer, and converts T4 thyroid hormone into the more active T3 thyroid hormone.

Cod liver oil, coenzyme Q-10, flax seed

  • Cod liver oil (omega-3) and krill oil are both omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil contains more DHA, while fish oil derived omega-3 fatty acids contains more omega-3. Both krill oil and fish oil are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation.
  • Coenzyme Q10 has antioxidant properties, but also anti-inflammatory properties and helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • Flax seed: Ground flax seed has anti-inflammatory omega-3 in it, cancer-protective lignans, blood pressure lowering properties and mild blood thinning activity. Flax seed has a rather tough shell. With a cheap coffee grinder you can easily grind your flax seed. In a few seconds it is ground. It is important to wipe out the grinder after use with a damp cloth to prevent future rancidity of leftover ground flax seed.

Methylation defects and vitamin supplementation

Some people are born with enzymatic defects in the methylation pathways. They are more prone to diverse diseases like autism, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, adrenal dysfunction, addiction, cancer, allergies, immune weakness, diabetes etc.

Here is a list of the methylation pathway vitamins and trace elements important for those who are born into families where mental illness or diabetes is frequent, as they are the ones who often have methylation defects, many of which can be corrected (Ref.1).

  • Vitamin B2/riboflavin: Riboflavin is used for neonatal jaundice as part of phototherapy. Some adult patients experience relief from migraines.
  • Vitamin B6/pyridoxine: Pyridoxal phosphate is a co-factor of many enzymatic reactions in amino acid, glucose and lipid metabolism.

B-vitamins supporting nerves and bone marrow function

  •  Vitamin B12 is essential for your nerve function, bone marrow function (or severe anemia follows). It gives you energy and keeps you normal, but it is not a cure all. Sometimes in older patients absorption is a problem, but B12 injections every couple of months can easily overcome this.
  • Research about neural tube defects (spina bifida) in the baby of a folate deficient mother led to the discovery of folic acid. Heavy smokers and drinkers can get folate deficient.DNA synthesis requires folate as a co-factor.

Magnesium and zinc

  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body. It helps with asthma, bone health, muscle pain and prevents heart attacks. It also cures psychiatric disease like anxiety and agitation. Magnesium is a co-factor for many enzymes reactions.
  • Zinc: Because zinc is an essential trace element, it is involved in many organ systems and zinc is used for many health problems. People may have heard that zinc is an important supplement in male infertility and erectile dysfunction. But patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis, macular degeneration and night blindness. Zinc is a natural opponent of copper meaning that when zinc is low, copper levels in the blood are often high. This constellation can cause insomnia.

What makes a vitamin or supplement an anti-aging product?

If a vitamin or supplement fits into one of these following classes, it helps slow down aging and thus would be considered an anti-aging product:

1. Antioxidants (fight oxidant stress)

First of all, a typical representative would be vitamin C, which prevents oxidative damage of our DNA. Others are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, Gingko biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, L-glutathione, magnesium, manganese, melatonin, N-acetyl cysteine, potassium, rutin, selenium, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10. We have discussed them above.

2. Anti-inflammatory action (fighting inflammation)

Secondly, vitamin D3 comes to mind, which suppresses inflammation in nerves (MS) or in blood vessels preventing heart disease. Others are alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, green tea extract, melatonin, rutin, selenium, cod liver oil (omega-3), coenzyme Q10, and ground flax seed.

3. Preserving mitochondrial function

Thirdly, B-vitamins and coenzyme Q10 are examples that do this. Mitochondria are important to provide energy in the body. Others are acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, ginger root extract, ginseng and selenium.

4. Prevent insulin resistance

Furthermore, there are vitamins and supplements that will prevent insulin resistance. This is pretty important as diabetes, where insulin resistance is present will shorten life expectancy. Ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium are examples of supplements that prolong life through countering insulin resistance. Others that do this are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, beta-carotene, chromium picolinate, garlic, ginger root extract, manganese, potassium, and selenium.

5. Providing membrane integrity

In addition, other supplements are prolonging life by providing membrane integrity: beta-carotene, garlic and selenium belong into this group. Others are ginger root extract, ginseng, cod liver oil (omega-3), and ground flax seed.

6. Cure of partial methylation defects

Finally, partial methylation defects can be cured with B vitamins explained earlier and this has been shown to help improve some mental disorders significantly, improve life quality, prevent suicides and prolong life.

Many vitamins and supplements have not only an action in one of those categories, but in two or more (Ref. 2).  B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate belong into category 1, 3, 4 and 6, so there is a huge overlap and this is what anti-aging physicians consider an advantage. Often conventional physicians shake their heads and say that the overlapping actions would prove that they are worthless.

Overlapping actions of supplements and vitamins

However, as time went on conventional physicians have started to adopt more and more the anti-aging concept, because science is proving in large trials from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, from various Chinese universities, from American universities like Loyola University and Harvard Medical School, Salk Institute and others that the overlapping concept is valid.

Because of the overlapping effect of vitamins and supplements you may not need to take all of these listed here as long as you have a good overlap. I have listed dosages of vitamins and supplements in this link (scroll half-way down to the table entitled: Vitamins and supplements, your basic “life insurance”).

Best Anti-Aging Products

Best Anti-Aging Products

Conclusion

Although the topic seems to be complex, the basic idea is simple. We need to get away from processed food and return to eating whole foods, preferably organic foods. A good diet is the Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruit and lean meat. Use mostly olive oil in salads. With this basic approach you will receive most of the vitamins and supplements I mentioned above. You can get more sophisticated and add some of the key vitamins and supplements I mentioned.

Some lab tests may help with supplements

It is also useful to use lab tests to establish, whether there are vitamin deficiencies, and it is equally important that vitamin levels-such as vitamin D3- are not too high and not too low. Supplementation without verifying the need for it or exceeding the required dosage is not contributing to health (Ref.3). Many of the issues, which you find in this blog you will also find in more depth in my anti-aging book (Ref.4).

References

Ref.1: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Ref.2: Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

Ref. 3: Ronald Klatz, MD, DO and Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP, Executive Editors: “Encyclopedia of Clinical Anti-Aging Medicine & Regenerative Biomedical Technologies”. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA, 2012.

Ref. 4: Dr. Schilling’s book, March 2014, Amazon.com:“A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling

Oct
03
2015

What Stress Does

I like to discuss what stress does. We all are stressed out at times. Some people are stressed all the time and this is called chronic stress.

Acute stress

Let’s say you were in a minor rear-ender accident. It is annoying, but at least you had no injury. But you have to deal with the insurance company, get the repair done and maybe get a car rental during the time of repair. Yes, you may have a few days where you feel that your hands are shaky and your heart pounds, or your sleep may not be restful. But when everything is done things are back to normal. This is an example of acute stress with a shorter running time. It has a limited severity, is an inconvenience, but it does not really affect your body on the long-term.

Chronic stress

Let’s assume the car accident was more severe and you received a personal injury with a broken leg. You end up in hospital and the orthopedic surgeon fixes the fracture with a surgical plate. The leg has to be in a cast for several weeks, and you have to use crutches. Every day you feel reminded of the car accident, because it is awkward to walk with crutches. After weeks you notice that you have gained weight. Your doctor is also worried about you because your blood pressure showed higher readings. You do not sleep as well, waking up frequently and having nightmares about another fictitious accident. On top of that you came down with the flu. What happened here? The stress reaction released cortisol, which weakened your immune system and may be responsible for catching the flu.

High blood pressure and increased alcohol consumption

On the long-term cortisol can also contribute to high blood pressure, but so can alcohol consumption. You may have increased your alcohol intake in the evening to relax more, but with the chronic stress and the cortisol increase this can cause high blood pressure. The weight gain that you noticed has to do with the fact that you cannot work out any more because of your healing leg fracture and you having to use crutches. Inadvertently you may also eat a bit more rich food; a lot of people do that as food can be used as comfort food.

Disbalance of melatonin and cortisol with stress

And why do you sleep less well? Chronic cortisol elevation leads to lower melatonin levels, as these two hormones are natural opponents. A high melatonin level leads to a low cortisol level and vice versa. With relaxation methods you can lower cortisol and the melatonin level increases normalizing your sleep. Chronically elevated cortisol can also lead to weight gain as sugar is converted into fatty acids that are stored as subcutaneous fat. Muscles can melt down when cortisol is high giving the appearance of spindly arms and legs.

Causes of chronic stress

Holmes and Rahe tested a stress scale in 1970, which has become the standard ever since. You get a certain amount of points for a stressful event, e.g. 100 for the death of a spouse; 45 point for retirement; 23 for trouble with the boss etc. Add up all of the points that are affect you right now; if the total score is less than 150 points there is only a minor risk of getting medical problems from the chronic stress; for 150 to 299 points the risk of illness is moderate and for 300 and more points you are at a significant risk for illness.

Physical illness and mental illness from stress

There is physical illness and mental illness that chronic stress can cause. Physical illness can be high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries. The long-term risks from this are possible heart attacks and strokes. But chronic adrenalin and noradrenalin elevation associated with chronic stress can burn part of your brain cells in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. This can lead to memory loss, spatial memory loss and aggression. Mental illness caused by chronic stress can be anxiety, depression, social isolation, panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychosomatic symptoms can include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain and difficulties concentrating.

Job stress and cancer

Perhaps one of the best examples of job stress and cancer is a study where the amount of breast cancer was correlated to the amount of stress. I discussed this in another blog. Briefly, women with a less responsibility had the lowest rate of breast cancer, but they too had some stress as there was a higher breast cancer risk after 15 years on the job versus only 5 years on the job. The same study showed that women with high responsibility had the highest breast cancer rates.

How stress leads to higher breast cancer rates

A hormone disbalance can explain this based on high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress. If cortisol is high, the cortisol binding globulin (CBG) increases; this in turn also binds more circulating progesterone, as progesterone attaches to CBG. CBG is a transport protein for both cortisol and progesterone. The end result is that estrogenic compounds get the upper hand, a condition called estrogen dominance. I have explained under the above link that this was the real reason for the increase in breast cancer in the stressed women. Similar mechanisms are causing other cancers to occur more frequently with chronic stress.

Chronic stress and cardiovascular disease

High stress jobs were found to cause a 2.2 to 2.4-fold increase of strokes and heart attacks due to cardiovascular disease when compared to low stress jobs. This was based on a British Medical Journal study in October 2002. As I discussed above under a brief description of chronic stress cardiovascular disease is often what develops as part of chronic stress. People who are under chronic stress feel that they do not have enough time to prepare good, healthy food at home. They tend to eat out more often. Even well educated people just swallow a quick hamburger and other processed foods.

Bad fats lead to heart attacks and stroke

This increases the bad fats like trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids in their system causing inflammation of the blood vessels as explained in this blog. The LDL cholesterol and triglycerides get elevated, sugar from sugary snacks oxidizes the LDL cholesterol and your coronary arteries and brain arteries get clogged up. This sets anybody on the downward pathway, and it is now only a matter of time when the chronically stressed person will develop a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic stress extremes: PTSD and burnout in soldiers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture during the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014). The title was: “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. Burnout is the extreme of chronic stress. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way.

Burnout or PTSD

Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. The teacher’s burnout scale already mentioned can monitor their burnout severity. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about hormone deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? It is important, because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body. Also, by recognizing what is going on and helping the affected individuals, a lot of pain and suffering can be prevented.

Accelerated aging from telomere shortening

Chronic stress has been shown to cause telomere shortening. So does a lack of sleep (insomnia), smoking and alcohol overconsumption, all conditions that can be associated with chronic stress. What can we do about this? Learn what shortens telomeres and ultimately your life. Cut out what you can and take supplements that lengthen your telomeres.

Positive thinking combats stress

Negative thoughts are draining you of energy. You want to stay optimistic within what’s reasonable. Be thankful for all the good things in your life. Minimize what’s negative, but think about positive solutions to get rid of energy draining parts in your days. Do this persistently until it becomes part of your life and you will have extra energy that you didn’t waste in negative thinking or needless, anxious anxiety. Worrying does not get us anywhere, but it depletes our energy.

Relaxation methods counter stress

Self-hypnosis is a simple way to allow your whole body to relax. However, the various forms of yoga will do the same thing for you. Meditation is another way of finding peace and tranquility. Prayer is know to help people in sickness and in health. All of these methods will re-energize you. They calm your brain, help you to cope with stress and rebalance your hormones at the same time.

Building social ties and mutually supportive relationships will also build you up. It makes you feel that you belong, you have your place in society, you help others, and they support you.

Constant overdrive has physical consequences

We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. In his case, he said, he had developed end stage arthritis in his hips requiring total hip replacements on both sides. To illustrate further that stress leads to physical consequences, he explained that one person may develop a heart attack, another a stroke, a third could get arthritis. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

What Stress Does

What Stress Does

Conclusion

Stress can be deadly, particularly if it lingers on and becomes chronic. But we can reorganize our lives to minimize stress. Some people may decide to seek a less stressful occupation. Others may elect to stay at that job, but develop hobbies, learn how to relax and take relaxation classes to combat job stress. The key is to start thinking about what stress you may be under and then develop a plan to counter it so you can allow yourself to rebalance your life.

Sep
25
2015

Testosterone

One of the driving hormones in a man is testosterone. It also is known that with age testosterone levels fall. The lesser known fact is the importance of monitoring testosterone levels in aging males, so they have the choice of intervening with the aging process. Here are the facts about testosterone, about replacement of testosterone and about the anxieties of the medical profession to deal with this.

Androgen receptors contained in key tissues

Androgen receptors are situated in the key organs like the brain, heart, muscles, bones, kidneys, fat cells, genitals, hair follicles and skin. They respond to all male hormones, called androgens, like testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and DHEA. DHT is produced by metabolizing testosterone with the help of an enzyme, called 5α-reductase in the adrenal glands. This is responsible for hair loss in males and some females. There is a genetic factor for this. It is important that the man continues to have all tissues stimulated by testosterone when he ages or the key organs mentioned are going to suffer.

A lack of testosterone as the man ages (around 55 to 65) leads to a slowdown in thinking, osteoporosis in the bones, muscle atrophy (melting in of muscle tissue), and a lack of sex drive. Mood swings can turn the male into the “grumpy old man”. The skin gets thinned and is more brittle.

Animal experiments have shown that the development of fatty streaks in blood vessels happens at a higher rate in castrated animals. The more encouraging finding in these animals is the fact that this condition is reversible by replacement of testosterone. In healthy males of a younger age all organs are working well. The problems starts when males age and the hormone regulation in the brain slows down, which ultimately leads to andropause in males, the equivalent of menopause in women. When testosterone is replaced in an aging man with low testosterone levels, the androgen receptors in key organs mentioned above are stimulated and normal organ function returns.

Reluctance of physicians to prescribe testosterone

It used to be taught to medical students that testosterone would be the cause for prostate cancer. This was based on old observations by Dr. Huggins, a Canadian born surgeon who practiced in Chicago, that orchiectomy improved the survival of advanced prostate cancer patients by a small percentage. Dr. Lee pointed out that Dr. Huggins neglected to realize that testicles make both testosterone and small amounts of estrogen.

When an orchiectomy was done (because of the belief that testosterone production was the culprit) inadvertently the real cause of prostate cancer (an estrogen surplus) was also removed thus improving the survival of these patients somewhat. Nowadays we have more sophisticated testing methods. Dr. Abraham Morgentaler (Ref. 1) has compiled a lot of evidence about the importance of testosterone in men. He proved, based on a lot more modern references that it is not testosterone that is the cause of prostate cancer. We know now that estrogen dominance is responsible for prostate cancer and that this develops as stated above because of the low testosterone and low progesterone during the male menopause (also called “andropause”). Dr. Morgentaler, a urologist from Harvard University has taken prostate cancer patients and put them on testosterone. To his and everyone else’s surprise testosterone treated prostate cancer patients improved, their prostate cancer either disappeared or become much less aggressive, which can be measured with the Gleason score based on its microscopic appearance. The result was that they did better, not worse on testosterone.

Unfortunately the history of testosterone, orchiectomy and prostate cancer as explained led to confusion among the medical profession. We now know that testosterone is innocent with respect to prostate cancer, testicular cancer or any other cancer. But some of the old-timers among the physicians doggedly hold on to their false belief from the past because they were taught this way. If a man asks one of these physicians for testosterone replacement he may not only be told that he/she could not do that, but will also receive a tirade of false statements about testosterone.

We dealt with the myth of prostate cancer that is not related to testosterone treatment. There is another myth that older physicians often cite: that testosterone would supposedly be causing blood clots. At the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (Texas, USA) a large study was done involving 30,572 men, ages 40 years and older. They all had venous thromboembolism and received an anticoagulant drug or an intravascular vena cava filter following their diagnosis. They also had a low testosterone level and were given testosterone replacement therapy. They were followed and monitored for further venous thromboembolism. None were found in any of the men. The conclusion of the investigators was that filling a testosterone prescription was not associated with any clotting condition.

Aging and testosterone

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study showed that testosterone has been declining in the male population over a period of 20 years. Partially this was related to aging, but otherwise there may also be environmental factors, called estrogen-like substances or xenoestrogens, that have contributed to it as well. Although age is a factor, there is so much variation from man to man, that it is best to just measure testosterone and determine whether the total testosterone level is above or below 500 ng/dL. This seems to be the most reliable indicator in determining whether a man needs hormone replacement, apart from symptoms due to testosterone loss. These are: increased risks for prostate problems and/or cancer, cardiovascular disease, loss of bone density, a rise in cholesterol and urinary dysfunction. Dr. Randolph describes this in detail and also discusses who needs bioidentical testosterone replacement.

A New England Journal of Medicine study from September 2013 explained that apart from testosterone the male body needs a small amount of estradiol, the female hormone for normal functioning. This is achieved through the enzyme aromatase contained in fatty tissue. But testosterone replacement must be given as the bioidentical testosterone, so that a small amount of it can be converted by aromatase into estradiol. I have reviewed this in a blog entitled “The Full Story About Testosterone”.

Risk of prostate cancer

Having reviewed the hard facts about prostate cancer risk, it is now clear that older men get prostate cancer because of lowered testosterone in their blood and increased body weight, where fat converts androgens by the aromatase into estradiol; this leads to estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes breast cancer and uterine cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. When the total testosterone level in a man is lower than 500 ng/dL it is a sign that he needs testosterone replacement therapy to protect his prostate from prostate cancer.

Cardiovascular disease

As the cardiovascular system has a lot of androgen receptors on its cell surfaces, it is important that the man continues to have the proper stimulus from androgenic hormones (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and DHEA) for proper contractility of heart cells and relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the arteries to control blood pressure. With a lack of testosterone there is hardening of the arteries, loss of muscle cells in the heart muscle and increase of blood pressure. So far there is only an indication that low testosterone is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. It has not been proven that it is the cause (so webmd.com says). But careful replacement with bioidentical testosterone helps patients to get rid of their symptoms, have the energy to exercise and feel better. Long-term studies have already shown that hormone replacement saves lives, but the medical profession is slow to accept this (Ref.1). Here is a link that explains this a bit further.

If a man who is low in testosterone wonders whether it would be worthwhile to go on testosterone therapy, here is the clear answer: would you like to have a 47% lowered risk of dying, a reduction of 18% in heart attacks and 30% reduction in the risk for a stroke? This is what a 14-year follow-up study published in the European Heart Journal in August, 2015 found.

The same is true for cardiovascular disease as stated above: if the total testosterone level in a man is lower than 500 ng/dL it is a sign that he needs testosterone replacement therapy to protect his cardiovascular system to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Loss of bone density

Older men can get osteoporosis, which can lead to compression fractures in the spine and to fractures in the hip, the ankle or wrist. It is thought that with the lack of testosterone there is also a lack of estradiol via the aromatase pathway in fatty tissue. This small amount of estradiol is thought to prevent osteoporosis all his life until the testosterone drops with older age. Once again it is important to monitor his total testosterone level and replace with bioidentical testosterone when it is lower than 500 ng/dL.

Rise in cholesterol

With obesity the metabolic syndrome sets in where the LDL cholesterol is increased. This is a direct risk for hardening of the arteries. In an obese older man with low testosterone there is a double risk from the low testosterone and the metabolic syndrome. As a result the heart attack and stroke rates in obese men with low testosterone are much higher than in obese men with normal testosterone levels. Men with obesity need to lose weight by changing their diet to healthier eating habits and starting a regular exercise program with swimming and walking. At the same time those with a testosterone level of lower than 500 ng/dL should have testosterone replacement with bioidentical testosterone.

Urinary dysfunction

A hyperactive bladder, dribbling, hesitancy and leaking bladder can all be part of testosterone deficiency. But this is not that easy to diagnose. A full consultation by an urologist may be necessary to assess various other causes that could hide behind these symptoms. Part of the work-up though is to measure the total testosterone level and replace with bioidentical testosterone when it is lower than 500 ng/dL

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease can be due to a lack of testosterone. It is therefore important to measure the total testosterone level in a man. If it is lower than 500 ng/dL, as mentioned before , it is a sign that he needs testosterone replacement therapy to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Burnout

According to Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium, there are several hormones that can be missing in a person with burnout: a lack of cortisol, thyroid, growth hormone, testosterone/estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin. The middle-aged manager with burnout would have other hormones missing apart from testosterone. This needs to be measured with blood tests. Whatever is low would have to be replaced with bioidentical hormones.

Some details regarding testosterone measurements and delivery

The deeper you delve into testosterone replacement, the more details there are to consider.

First, there is a sex hormone-binding globulin that is mostly produced by the liver and circulating in the blood.

It is like a storage form of testosterone and only 1 to 2% of the total testosterone is unbound. This is called the free or bioavailable testosterone. Some physicians measure just that portion of testosterone.

Second, when it comes to replacement of testosterone in a man who is deficient for testosterone, there are several delivery systems, which some people find a little confusing. There are testosterone gels, which are least absorbed; another application are creams which are often prepared by compounding pharmacies. These creams are usually well absorbed. But some men do not absorb either creams or gels. They need testosterone injections or testosterone pellets. The goal is to replace testosterone in a manner that there is a fairly equal amount of testosterone available at all times. Some men achieve that only with testosterone pellets, others with testosterone cypionate injections. For this reason blood test that determine the levels of free testosterone are necessary.

Testosterone

Testosterone

Conclusion

Testosterone is a key hormone in the male and needs to be monitored, particularly when he is aging. A careful history of his symptoms needs to be taken by a knowledgeable physician or naturopath. If blood tests show that the total testosterone is less than 500 ng/dL replacement with bioidentical testosterone is needed.

 

References:

Ref.1: Dr. Abraham Morgentaler: “Testosterone for Life – recharge your vitality, sex drive, and overall health” McGraw-Hill, 2009

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Sep
19
2015

Obesity Shortens Life

Of all the factors that definitely shorten life, obesity stands out like a giant. Let’s review a couple of facts regarding obesity:

  1. Americans who were born between 1966 and 1985 became obese at a much earlier age than their parents
  2. Obesity occurs at a younger age than in the past. 20% of people born between 1966 and 1985 were obese in their 20s.
  3. The longer you are obese, the higher the chance of getting seriously sick or dying prematurely from complications of associated diseases like diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, liver disease and cancer.
  4. Severely obese people live up to 20 years less than non-overweight people.
  5. Obesity causes about 300,000 deaths in the U.S. annually

Change of metabolism

Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, which is known as metabolic syndrome. The liver changes its metabolism slightly producing more triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and clotting factors, which increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary emboli. The pancreas produces more insulin, which gives rise to reactive hypoglycemia. This means that 2-3 hours after a meal you become hungry as your blood sugar declines from the extra insulin. You are craving a sugary drink, a donut or other starchy food (pizza, fries, bread etc.). Unfortunately these types of foods reinforce the metabolic syndrome: the liver changes the sugar into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Excess sugar will oxidize the LDL cholesterol, which causes atheromas (hardening of the arteries). Protein is being caramelized, which is called “advanced glycation end-products” or AGEs. This reference clearly explains how to counter this: increase your consumption of fish, legumes, vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk products and whole grains; also reduce your intake of solid fats, full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, and highly processed foods. There are other hormone changes that take place in obese people.

Death statistics due to obesity

In this study 849 autopsies were performed over 10 years, of which 32.3% were of obese persons. Leading causes of deaths in obese people were: malignancy (31.4%), infection (25.9%), ischemic heart disease (12.8%), pulmonary embolism (6.2%) and liver disease (2.9%). Table 2 of this link shows the causes of death in non-obese individuals as well: malignancy (32.5%), infection (23.8%), ischemic heart disease (10.4%), pulmonary embolism (2.9%) and liver disease (0.7%). The figures do not look all that different except that liver disease and pulmonary embolism are significantly more often the cause of death in obese patients than in normal weight patients. What you do not see in these figures is that obese people get these conditions at a much younger age as a result of complications from the associated diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, kidney disease and liver disease.

Diabetes

The metabolic changes with regard to the metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance.

As obesity worsens the balance is lost where the body can compensate and type 2 diabetes develops with increased blood sugar values and symptoms of diabetes. Surprisingly with regular exercise and changes in food intake (adopting a low glycemic index diet) this can be treated successfully. Usually this change is also associated with some weight loss, which helps to stabilize the metabolism. If nothing is done to to change diabetes, there is a high risk for heart attacks, strokes and subsequent secondary conditions like diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy and vascular complications.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure

High blood pressure is part of the metabolic syndrome. Unfortunately in obesity it is often difficult to control and may require several different antihypertensive medications in combination to control it. One way to quickly get the blood pressure under control is to make a concentrated effort to reduce a few pounds of weight; this can be achieved by cutting out refined carbs and sugar and starting an exercise program of walking and swimming.

Smoking

Smoking continues to remain a problem. Men as a group are now smoking less while women are increasing their smoking rates. Smoking causes various cancers, but also increases death rates from heart disease and strokes. In connection with obesity it is clear that the obese smoker has the highest risk of dying prematurely. This is depicted in this link based on the original Framingham study.

Disabilities and nursing homes

Obese people get disabled earlier, ending up in nursing homes. This poses a huge problem there for the staff. Back injuries and disabilities in the caregivers of nursing homes have increased significantly in the last few decades.

Osteoarthritis

80% of hip replacements and 90% of knee replacements are due to osteoarthritis. Obesity is the strongest modifiable risk factor that leads to osteoarthritis and subsequent surgery. There is a lot of morbidity and mortality associated with total knee and total hip surgeries. Part of this is the susceptibility to clot formation from the changes in metabolism associated with the metabolic syndrome. This often leads to pulmonary emboli and higher death rates following surgery when compared to surgery in people with normal weight.

Heart attacks and strokes

As there is an increase of the amount of heart attacks and strokes in overweight and obese people it is important to reduce your BMI when you realize that it is creeping up. Regular exercise along with a Mediterranean diet helps to improve this. Avoid processed foods that often have hidden sugar and refined carbs in them. Also cut out sugar. Use stevia, a natural sweetener, if you want to sweeten your food or drinks.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

In the past nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was rare. Now with the increase of obesity it is common. It can lead to liver cirrhosis with hepatic failure, a common cause of death. But after several years of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer may develop within the cirrhotic liver. Physicians saw this condition only rarely in decades past.

Kidney disease

With obesity there is a negative effect on the kidneys from the metabolic syndrome. Hyperinsulinism affects the capillaries of the filtration units, called glomeruli. They start to proliferate and undergo a form of degenerative change, called glomerulosclerosis. This decreases the filtration capacity of the glomeruli and the kidneys as a whole. After a few decades of this process kidney failure can set in. When an obese person develops diabetes, this will also have a negative effect on kidney function and accelerate the deterioration of kidney function. The end result is kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Cancer and obesity

Chronic inflammation that is worsened by the metabolic syndrome leads to higher rates of various cancers. A prospective study of more than 900,000 US adults was conducted for 16 years. In 1982 when the study was started none of the participants had cancer. After 16 years 57,145 of the study participants had died of cancer. Those in this study who had a BMI of 40.0 or more had cancer death rates that were 52% higher for males and 62% higher for females when compared to normal weight men and women. It was noticeable that the digestive tract showed higher cancer rates in the obese: esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon and rectum; other more frequent cancers were kidney cancer, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There were also trends of higher cancer death rates with regard to cancer of the stomach and prostate in men and breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer in women. The authors concluded that due to the rising obesity rates in the US population cancer rates in men will soon reach the 14% level and in women the 20% level out of the total death rates.

Treating obesity

Treatment of obesity requires a multifaceted approach. I have discussed this in detail in this blog. Briefly, the diet of the obese person needs to be closely looked at. Sugar and starchy foods need to be eliminated. Low glycemic foods like vegetables, lean meat and salads should be encouraged. A regular exercise program needs to be instituted, starting with swimming and walking. Later a gradual transition into gym type activities could be contemplated.

Weight loss surgery has been successfully applied in some obese patients with a BMI that is greater than 30.0 up to a BMI of 39.9. In a 5-year follow up after LAP-band surgery no surgical complications were reported and the mean percentage weight loss was 15.9±12.4%.

Obesity Shortens Life

Obesity Shortens Life

Conclusion

Obesity is a condition that has been gradually developing since the 1980’s. When you look at the food intake changes rationally it is not surprising that this is happening. Sugar consumption, high-fructose corn syrup consumption and the consumption of processed food have to be cut down, if not cut out completely. You can forget shopping at the middle section of any grocery store, where all that processed food is located. Go to the vegetable section and buy a lot of food from there. Low fat dairy products, eggs, and low fat meats as well as salmon and other seafood are foods that are healthy. There is one problem though and that is the feeding of antibiotics to chickens, turkeys and beef cattle. This leads to superbugs and changes your gut flora. I suggest you buy organic meats. I eat organic food and have cut out wheat also as wheat underwent forced hybridization in the 1970’s. All of the wheat in the world now is this type of wheat that is too rich in gliadin, which causes leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. For this reason I avoid all wheat.

I see no reason why obese people could not gradually shed their pounds and regain their stable metabolism. Those with diabetes will be able to shed that diagnosis as they shed their pounds. The kidney and liver function will also stabilize when you shed enough pounds. The goal should first be to reach a BMI of 25.0 to 30.0, which is the overweight category. The next goal would be to aim for shedding even more pounds until you reach a BMI of fewer than 25.0. If you say this is too tough to do, I am saying: giving up is not an option. Cherish your health!

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Sep
12
2015

Ageless Aging

We have been exposed to a lot of clichés about aging, which makes it more difficult to dispel rumors and to clearly focus on what can and what cannot postpone aging and the associated disabilities. Here I will attempt to summarize what is known about this topic.

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (also known as A4M) has published a book where all of this is discussed in detail (Ref.1). But there are yearly conferences as well in Las Vegas and other places where further details regarding anti-aging are discussed. Since 2009 I have been attending the conferences in Las Vegas regularly every year.

Based on this knowledge let me start by reviewing the tools of anti-aging that can be used to slow down the process of aging significantly.

  1. Mitochondria

At the center of anti-aging is the preservation and metabolic optimization of the mitochondria. Each of our cells contains little particles called mitochondria, which is where our energy metabolism takes place. Mitochondria function like mini-batteries.

The citric acid cycle builds up ATP, which is subsequently hydrolyzed into ADP and orthophosphate releasing energy for cell metabolism.

Old people who shuffle when they walk and have difficulties climbing stairs have lost significant amounts of mitochondria and simply run out of energy. The key to prevent this from happening is to preserve our mitochondria. We inherited them from our mother, because only the head of the sperm, which does not contain mitochondria entered the ovum when the egg cell that was destined to become you was fertilized. Subsequently the mitochondria from mother’s egg have provided all of the mitochondria in the cells of our body.

  1. Preserving mitochondria

There are supplements that specifically preserve mitochondria: PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) helps mitochondria to multiply. A typical dose to take every day is 20 mg. Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10, 400 mg per day is a dose that I recommend). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.

There are simple lifestyle changes that you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate SIRT1 genes, which in turn stimulate your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.

Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. 300 to 500 mg of trans-Resveratrol once daily is a good dose.

Build in regular exercise into your day – and I mean every day– as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ. Lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism. I recommend 300 mg per day.

L-arginine is an amino acid that is a precursor of nitric oxide (NO). Red beet is a rich source of nitric oxide, which is directly released into your system. There are also commercial products for NO. This keeps the arteries open, prevents high blood pressure and also hardening of the arteries and has a direct effect on preserving mitochondria.

Researchers from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD found that mitochondrial DNA content varies according to age (less mitochondrial DNA in older age), sex (yes, women have more than men) and mitochondrial DNA; it even has an inverse relationship to frailty and a direct relationship to life expectancy. This paper was published in February of 2015.

Each mitochondrion has its own mitochondrial DNA contained in 2 to 10 small circular chromosomes that regulate the 37 genes necessary for normal mitochondrial function.

In multi ethnic groups it was apparent that mitochondrial DNA content was dictated by the age of a person.

Frailty was defined as a person who had aging symptoms including weakness, a lack of energy compared to the past, activity levels that were much lower than before and loss of weight. When persons with frailty as defined by these criteria were identified, they were found to have 9% less mitochondrial DNA than nonfrail study participants.

Another subgroup were white participants; when their bottom mitochondrial DNA content was compared to the top mitochondrial DNA content, the researchers found that frailty was 31% more common in the bottom DNA content group. This means that white people are more prone to frailty and they should take steps early on to prevent this from happening.

  1. Slowing down hardening of our arteries

It makes sense that young people who do not have signs of hardening of their arteries have better blood supply to their cells and thus supply their mitochondria with more oxygen and nutrients than frail, older people. The same is true for people who exercise regularly.

Vitamin D and vitamin K2 have been shown to lower calcium in the blood vessels and to retain calcium in the bone preventing osteoporosis. This is particularly useful in postmenopausal women. This October 2014 publication mentions that apart from vitamin D and vitamin K2 resveratrol and inositol are additional factors helping to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

This September 2013 publication confirms that a deficiency for vitamin K2 is common in the general population. This deficiency leads to osteoporosis and calcification of the arterial wall and causes heart attacks, strokes and bone fractures. Supplementation with vitamin K2 at 200 micrograms per day every day is recommended to prevent this from occurring.

  1. Sugar and starchy foods

You need to understand that starchy foods equal sugar, once digested. As a result a refined cereal breakfast=sugar, pasta=sugar, bread=sugar, donuts=sugar, potatoes=sugar and so on. It has to do with the glycemic load. When you cut out sugar and starchy foods (meaning that the glycemic index of the foods you eat is below 50) you will shed 30 to 50 pounds of weight within 3 to 5 months, if you are overweight or obese. You will feel a lot more energy. Your blood vessels will be cleaned out as the oxidized LDL cholesterol will disappear and the HDL cholesterol will mop up what cholesterol deposits were there before.

It is certainly good for you, if you are not into the sugar and candy stuff, but the seemingly harmless pizza and all the other starchy foods mentioned above are of concern as well. All of the high -glycemic carbs stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. This in turn produces inflammation in tissues including the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the complications of this.

Where does this leave us? For decades we have been told that saturated fats and cholesterol in our diet were the culprits and we replaced them with sugar that is part of a low-fat diet. We need to pay attention to the glycemic index and cut out high glycemic foods. However, it is OK to eat some carbs from the medium glycemic food list and most of our carbs from the low glycemic food list. With regard to fat it is important to consume only the healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids. As you make these adjustments to your life style you will also prevent many cancers, as you normalize the body’s metabolism and help prevent chronic inflammation, which can cause arthritis and cancer. Finally, pay attention to stress management. The body and the mind work together. Uncontrolled stress leads to heart attacks and strokes.

  1. Cut down on processed foods

Processed foods contain the wrong type of vegetable oils that are composed of omega-6 fatty acids. This disbalances the ratio of omega-6 fatty acid versus omega-3 fatty acids. This is typical for all the processed foods, but also fast food places in the industrialized world. The consequence of this disbalance is the formation of arachidonic acid and inflammation of tissues. This causes high blood pressure from inflammation of the arteries, arthritis from inflammation in the joints and can irritate the immune system to the point of causing autoimmune diseases. The end result after decades of exposure to a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids are disabilities from end stage arthritis, as well as heart attacks and strokes from inflammation of the arteries due to the hardening of the arteries.

The remedy for this is to cut out all processed food and stick to the basics of preparing your own food from healthy ingredients with no food preservatives.

Use olive oil for salads and coconut oil for cooking. Take omega-3 supplements to restore the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid balance.

  1. Replace hormones with bioidentical ones

When I watch postmenopausal women, many look prematurely aged with sagging skin in their faces. Had they replaced their missing hormones when they entered menopause, the bioidentical hormones used for replacement therapy would have helped their skin to remain younger looking, hardening of the arteries would have been postponed and osteoporosis in the bones would also have been prevented.

With men it is now known that testosterone is vital for prevention of prostate cancer, but it is also important to prevent heart attacks, strokes and dementia as they age.

I would recommend that you see a naturopath or an anti-aging physician to have your hormones checked and if necessary start replacement with bioidentical hormones.

Ageless Aging

Ageless Aging

Conclusion

Slowing down aging and avoiding disabilities from aging are now a possibility, if we manage our lives in a way that the biochemistry of our bodies remains the same and our mitochondria continue to function, even when we get older. I discussed the details of how to do that above. I have also written a book on the subject of anti-aging, which deals with these topics in more detail.

I hope that you incorporate at least some of these steps in your life to prevent suffering from disabilities as you age and to avoid premature aging.

References:

Ref.1: Ronald Klatz, MD, DO and Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP, Executive Editors: “Encyclopedia of Clinical Anti-Aging Medicine & Regenerative Biomedical Technologies”. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA, 2012.

Sep
05
2015

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Lately coconut oil has enjoyed a renaissance. A few years back it was still considered the saturated fat villain and was accused of causing heart attacks. The problem is that clinical trials could never proof that coconut oil would cause heart attacks or strokes; it actually showed the opposite: coconut oil prevented heart attacks! This is very interesting! This story is related to a powerful lobbying campaign of the soybean oil industry.

But perhaps more interesting is the fact that the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil have a multitude of applications in the healthcare field so that your wrinkles and hair will benefit, your teeth will get less cavities and gum disease, you will have less infections, the immune system will be stronger and you will get less heart disease. But this is not all: coconut oil has been shown to specifically fight bacterial infections, viral infections, fungal infections and some parasitic infections. Anybody interested in 36 pounds of weight loss over 1 year? With coconut oil it is possible. There are definitely health benefits of coconut oil for you, hence the title of this blog.

In the following I will review this in more detail.

Properties of coconut oil

Coconut oil is derived from the white flesh of the coconut of the coconut palm tree. Cold-pressed coconut oil contains 92% saturated fats, 6%monounsaturated fats and 2% polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil in comparison contains 14% saturated fats, 77% monounsaturated fats and 9% polyunsaturated fats.

Tropical oils are coconut oil and palm kernel oil. These are the best sources of medium and short-chain fatty acids, which are fats ideal for cooking and frying food in a pan as both oils have a high smoking point. Coconut oil contains 64% of medium chain fatty aids (MCFA) while palm kernel oil has 58% of MCFA. Coconut oil is the one dietary oil that is least vulnerable to oxidation and formation of free radicals. This is the reason why it is safest for cooking or deep-frying. It has a melting point of 76 Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). That means it is a white solid fat below that temperature and is a clear liquid oil above this temperature.

Coconut oil is composed of 48% lauric acid, 18% myristic acid, 7% capric acid and 0.5% caprylic acid. The coconut oil is a triglyceride, where three fatty acids are bound to a glycerol molecule. But when it gets in contact with our skin, the skin bacteria immediacy hydrolyze it into free fatty acids and glycerol. The same breakdown is happening in our mouth and gut by our own bacteria. The free fatty acids (FFA) are what give it the beneficial clinical effects. The FFA have antibacterial effects, antiviral effects, antifungal effects and antiparasitic effects. Specifically, lauric acid and monolaurin are the most anti-bacterial compounds of coconut oil. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the richest source of lauric acid; they contain almost 50% of lauric acid in their fats. In comparison, butter only contains 3% lauric acid.

Infections treated with coconut oil

Bacteria

Antibiotic resistant bacterial strains have become a serious problem in the past few years. Because of this it is important to know that the fatty acids derived from coconut oil have alternative antibiotic effects. Sinus infection can be treated by consuming coconut oil.

The CDC has reported that 75% of all cases of food poisoning are due to eating ground beef. This is due to resistant E.coli strains from beef that were fed antibiotics, so they would fatten up. The excuse of the Agro industry is that the farmers have to use antibiotics as the cattle in the crowded conditions of feedlots would otherwise get diseases. In 1993 seven hundred people got sick from eating contaminated Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers and at least 4 children died. Other common food poisoning bugs are salmonella strains. In 1994 a milk truck carrying milk that was contaminated with salmonella was shipped to an ice-cream factory in Minnesota. The contaminated ice cream was shipped to stores in several states and led to food poisoning of 224,000 people, the largest food poisoning outbreak in the US history. Giardia is another parasite that is common in India. Here is a study that showed how children with diarrhea due to giardia can be managed with coconut oil.

If you add all the cases of foodborne illnesses each year there are between 6.5 million to 81 million Americans who get sick and about 9,000 die as a result. One of the reasons of death from food poisoning is kidney disease and subsequent kidney failure; another common reason is blood poisoning.

So how does coconut oil fit into foodborne infections? When you eat 1 or two tablespoons of coconut oil three times with meals, the free fatty acids of coconut oil that are released in the gut get taken up into the blood stream and circulate in the body. If the free fatty acids encounter bacteria the medium chain fatty acids infiltrate the membrane of the bacterium and cause it to rupture. The same process happens in the gut to bacteria that do not belong there. Pathological E.coli, salmonella species and other pathological bacteria get eradicated in the same way I have just described. Other bacteria against which coconut oil is effective are H. pylori (the problem bug that causes gastric ulcers), Chlamydia pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Staphylococcus aureus (rodent study), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Neisseria (the cause of gonorrhea) and many gram-positive bacteria (Ref.1, p. 75 and 76). I am afraid that most of these claims could not be verified by a PubMed search. PubMed had a reference regarding Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a mouse assay and both of these bacteria did not respond to coconut oil in various concentration.  However, Clostridium difficile, which is a problem bug with chronic diarrhea patients responded to coconut oil treatment.

Some women are plagued by frequent urinary infections. Coconut oil is a simple remedy that will treat these infections and when you eat coconut oil as a supplement or cook with it regularly you are having a good chance to eliminate them altogether.

When men get older they can be plagued by benign prostatic hypertrophy. This is a condition where the prostate is enlarged and squeezes the part of the urethra that travels through the prostate gland. The end result is that he has difficulties urinating. Urologists usually recommend a shaving off the prostatic tissue through a special cystoscopic procedure.

In a study on rats coconut oil was shown to decrease the prostatic weight as a result of treatment with coconut oil. In Ref.1 Dr. Fife stated that 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil three times per day with meals would bring the swelling of the prostate gland down within only a few days and urination would be back to normal. However, I did a PubMed search for human data on benign prostatic hyperplasia and could not find a single literature quotation to confirm this.

Viruses

What about flu bugs? Dr. Fife cited a case of a woman who was just starting to come down with the flu (Ref.1). He recommended that she should take 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil dissolved in lukewarm orange juice with every meal. On the first day her symptoms got worse as one often sees with seasonal infections. On the second day she expected to get worse again, but to her surprise the symptoms were starting to go away. By the end of the third day all of her symptoms had gone!

Other infectious agents that respond to coconut oil are: HIV, herpes-1 and 2, Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of mononucleosis), influenza virus (all strains), hepatitis C virus, Coxsackie B4 virus and others. A full list can be seen on p. 75 and 76 of Ref.1.

One of the chronic virus infections is hepatitis C. A person who has this condition is at a higher risk of developing liver cirrhosis and subsequently hepatocellular liver cancer. By using Coconut oil in the stage of chronic liver infections with hepatitis C virus the medium chain fatty acids do their trick of invading the outer membrane of the hepatitis C virus. The virus particles all rupture and release their genetic codes and cannot find another way of regenerating themselves. Within a few weeks and months the person can be completely hepatitis C free. Their energy comes back as the liver function returns to normal. From here the patient can rest assured that cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer won’t develop.

Fungal infections

This is not the end of the surprising effects of coconut oil. Yeast bugs and other fungal infections respond very well to coconut oil. Candida albicans, the cause of gut infections, chronic vaginal infections and opportunistic infections in AIDS patients gets eradicated very similarly to the flu patient described above.

Athletes foot is a fungal infection between the toes that can go on for years with frequent flare ups, but it can be eliminated in just a few days by topical application of coconut oil. If you take it internally as well, it gets secreted through your sweat glands and eradicates the yeast bugs that way.

Parasites

Giardia lamblia is the cause for a common gut infection that is picked up by outdoor enthusiast, when they drink contaminated water. Cryptosporidium is another one of these parasites that won’t make cows sick, but when we consume drinking water that has not been fully sanitized, we get abdominal cramps and diarrhea. AIDS patients get seriously ill from this. Coconut oil comes to the rescue: it will do the same as with all the other bugs: destroy the envelope of the bugs with its MCFA’s, which destroys them. There is no anti-parasitic drug resistance that would develop. Several tapeworms respond very well to coconut oil treatment. However, some parasites like F. hepatica did not respond to coconut oil.

With respect to the transmission of malaria it was found that 2% Neem oil in coconut oil is an effective anti malarial mosquito repellant for 12 hours.

Dr. Fife gave an example of the building of the Panama Canal. The contractors found that the local indigenous Indians were the most reliable workers and never got sick. Yellow fever and malaria were the two diseases that plagued imported workers. According to Dr. Fife investigators found out that the local Indians consumed coconut oil regularly, which kept them slim and infection free including free of malaria and of yellow fever (Ref. 1, p. 94). I am afraid that a PubMed check for pertinent references regarding suppression of malaria and yellow fever could NOT be found.

Dental decay and coconut oil

Due to its broad-spectrum antibiotic properties coconut oil kills the germs that cause dental decay and gum disease, called periodontitis. You will keep the dentist less busy with regular coconut oil intake and save yourself a lot of dental bills.

Less heart attacks with coconut oil

There is a connection between poor dental hygiene, which leads to chronic Chlamydia pneumoniae infection and heart disease. Regular coconut oil consumption reduces heart attack rates and mortality of heart disease. Although the long-chain fatty acids of saturated fat and trans fat (hydrogenated vegetable oils) have been shown to cause hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), this is NOT the case for medium-chain fatty acids from coconut oil. Research has shown that coconut oil is neutral with respect to blood cholesterol. Medium fatty acids are directly metabolized into energy by the liver, so they do not continue to circulate in the blood stream like other fats. In coconut consuming areas like Sri Lanka and Kerala, India very little heart disease was registered until the early 1980’s. Then only one of every 100,000 deaths was attributed to heart disease in Sri Lanka; and only 2.3 out of 1000 people in Kerala, India suffered from coronary artery disease in 1979. In contrast in the US about 333 out of 1000 Americans die of coronary heart disease every ear, that’s 1 in 3 people! Cardiovascular protection is further discussed here.

In this context it is interesting to read on this website that they believe coconut oil would cause heart attacks. Another study in Malaysian volunteers showed the opposite: no sign of changes in cholesterol, triglycerides or inflammatory markers. Many other studies have also shown that the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil are neutral or beneficial in terms of cardiovascular disease.

Corn oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, peanut oil and even olive oil are increasing the risk for blood clots, which in turn is a risk for developing heart attacks and strokes. They are also omega-6 fatty acids that lead to inflammation and indirectly cause heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids and the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil reduce the risk of clot formation. This means there are only three safe oils: omega-3 fatty acids, coconut oil and olive oil when used non-heated and in combination with either omega-3 or with coconut oil. When combined with one or two of the other oils the blood clotting property of olive oil is neutralized.

Several mechanisms investigated in a rat model showed cholesterol-lowering effects of coconut oil. But when it comes to human studies, it was shown in premenopausal Philippine women that lipid profiles were also beneficially influenced by coconut oil consumption.

Improving the looks of your skin and hair

Coconut oil is protecting the skin against damage, heals and gives it a healthy and youthful appearance. It has been observed in Polynesians who are exposed to a lot of sun that they are protected from sunburns by applying coconut oil, and their skin remains youthful looking into an older age without the development of precancerous or cancerous skin conditions. They are eating coconut oil and put it onto their skin as a lotion. Coconut oil helps for extremely dry skin. At the same time it prevents bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

In one study mild to moderate atopic dermatitis skin rashes improved significantly with virgin coconut oil. Many cosmetics contain coconut oil and you may wonder how safe this is. A safety study has been performed regarding coconut oil based cosmetics and you can rest assured that it was found to be very safe.

Even hair can be treated with coconut oil. Dr. Fife quotes a New York hair stylist Amanda George who said: “I massage two teaspoons of warm coconut oil into my hair before bed, then wash it out in the morning.” Her hair is luxuriant, soft and shimmering (Ref. 1, p.135).

Alzheimer’s disease

Coconut oil has an inhibitory effect in terms of the development of Alzheimer’s. It seems that the medium chain fatty acids prevent aggregation of amyloid-β peptide and thus stop the further development in the direction of Alzheimer’s; coconut oil also helps reduce elevated LDL, insulin resistance and hypertension, which are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Detoxing with coconut oil

When you first use coconut oil it can have a strong detoxification effect (medically termed “Herxheimer reaction”). It stimulates the immune system and helps the body to get rid of any stored toxins and germs. There can be a skin rash, sinus congestion, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhea. Not everybody experiences all of these symptoms, but one or the other. This can go on for a day or two, but sometimes it may take longer like several weeks. It may feel as if you are coming down with a flu, but this is not true: you are detoxifying and you will feel more energetic when this is behind you. Coconut oil is hypoallergenic, so it is very rare to have a true allergy to coconut oil. Most people do not experience the above described detoxification reaction.

Lose weight while eating coconut oil

Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) from coconut oil have a different metabolism than long chain fatty acids (LCFA) like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil and others. Studies have shown that MCFA are burnt directly by the liver and lead to a higher body temperature production, called “thermogenic effect”. Various researchers found a two to threefold higher burning of calories in MCFA compared to LCFA. Over one year this translated into a weight loss of 36 pounds, if you replaced all of the LCFA fats in your diet with MCFA fats. Here is a clarification that coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids and is metabolized differently than animal fats. The weight loss happens like a “side effect” when you switch to cooking with coconut oil and supplementing with coconut oil. Here is a weight reduction study that was done in 20 healthy, obese Malay volunteers. They were all males.

Cancer

The role of coconut oil in cancer treatment is not yet investigated. Carbohydrate restriction is one way of starving tumor cells. It is conceivable that a ketogenic diet including coconut oil may be beneficial for cancer patients, but trials to this effect have not yet been done, which means we do not have the evidence for or against it. However, here is a study that showed that breast cancer patients had much less side-effects with chemotherapy when supplemented with coconut oil.

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Conclusion

Coconut oil has experienced a renaissance in the last view years. It is now available in containers of various sizes as organic virgin coconut oil. Try a small container first and see how you react. In the beginning you may detox and feel like you have the flu for a few days. But later you will have more energy and you’ll gradually notice improvements of energy, of skin and hair. Your body will notice further improvements internally as the immune system functions better and you lose a few pounds. Your heart is pumping blood easier as there is less hardening of the arteries. Cook with coconut oil, as the smoking point for coconut oil is higher than olive oil, which means you are not eating oxidized or toxic oil. Use olive oil in your salad dressings. Throw away all the other oils, such as safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and soybean oil or grapeseed oil. These are largely omega-6 containing oils that cause heart attacks and strokes as they get oxidized and cause inflammation in the body through the arachidonic acid system.

Remember this: cook with coconut oil and use olive oil for salad dressings.

Read labels and make sure you are not buying the cheaper hydrogenated coconut oil with free radicals in it; opt for the cold pressed, virgin coconut oil, which is more expensive, but healthy.

In reviewing Dr. Fife’s “The Coconut Oil Miracle” I found that there are many experiential stories that may ultimately be true, if confirmed by trials or studies. I have attempted to find references, but could not find them for all topics mentioned above; be cautious regarding these gaps. I recommend that you keep an open mind, but at the same time stay critical. I think the overall evidence supports that coconut oil is a valuable nutrient that has many positive effects.

 

References

Ref.1: Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.: “The Coconut Oil Miracle”, 5th edition,2013, Penguin Books, NY 10014

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