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

Incoming search terms:

Aug
29
2015

Problems With The Western Diet

Lately there have been various news reports cautioning us about the Western diet. We eat too much processed food, we eat too much sugar and we have to be careful with how much fat and what kind of fat we eat. Take this story from the CNN. Half the world lives in big cities. And this number will reach 70% in the year 2050, if the urbanization trend continues at the same rate. With it comes the consumption of fast food. The wealthier people are, the more meat they eat. This is exactly what is bad for us. Too much meat can cause gout, particularly when paired with alcohol. First it is time to explain some more about the Western diet. “The biggest features of a Western diet are overconsumption of over-refined sugars, highly refined and saturated fats, animal protein and a reduced intake of plant-based fibers,” says Ian Myles. He is located at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This statement is specific enough: we are eating too much fat, red meat, salt and sugar, and too little fiber.

Too much fat

In processed foods we get too many omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to cause clogging of arteries and causing heart attacks and strokes, if not balanced with enough omega-3 fatty acids. But many processed foods still have hidden trans fats, which distribute free radicals in your system; this in turn causes hardening of the arteries again. Free radicals also age you faster. A candy bar with palmitic acid and fructose for instance, leads to a slow grade inflammation. The immune system mistakenly takes palmitic acid for the gut bacterium E.coli and mounts an immune reaction. This low-grade inflammation causes inflammation in the blood vessels, but also weakens the immune system. The sugar part of the candy bar oxidizes LDL cholesterol leading to clogging of arteries, which causes heart attacks and strokes.

Too much red meat

Grain fed and antibiotic treated regular beef changes the gut bacteria and can cause super bugs. The change of the gut flora can lead to inflammation in the gut lining and something called “leaky gut syndrome”. We carry almost 2 pounds of gut bacteria in us at any given time. But residual antibiotics from regular beef and chicken reduces that amount and changes the composition of our gut flora.

You can read in this blog that the changes taking place from consuming regular beef changes your liver metabolism and leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes deadly heart attacks and strokes. On the other hand, grass fed beef or organic beef do not do this. To prevent leaky gut syndrome, heart attacks and strokes from developing you can 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.

To much salt and sugar

Too much salt is often in processed food to prolong the shelf life. But we humans are very sensitive to overdoses of salt. Our kidneys have to work overtime to get rid of the excess salt. We need to drink enough water to allow the kidneys to produce urine, which will eliminate the excess salt. Persistent excessive salt intake will also cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart problems, strokes and aortic aneurysms. Restaurant food often contains too much salt and sugar.

Too little fiber

The more food is processed, the less fiber it will contain. If you go for the pizza, it may taste good, but where is the fiber? If you eat bread and butter, where is the fiber? You may say that you like a donut. I ask you again: where is the fiber? The end result is that toxins that normally would have been bound to fiber in the colon and were eliminated in the stool are now interacting with the wall of the colon causing colonic polyps and colon cancer. It may not only be fiber as plant-based diets rich in fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains were shown to be associated with a lower risk of the most common cancers. That’s the reason why people who consume a Western diet have higher rates of cancer in general. They lack fruits and vegetables.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

The recommendation in the 1980’s until about 2010 of a low fat diet to prevent heart attacks and strokes has failed miserably. It turned out that polyunsaturated fatty acids are of the omega-6 type, which gets metabolized into arachidonic acid and causes inflammation. The immune system gets suppressed from the chronic inflammation and the person becomes more prone to infections. As low fat diets are typically high in carbohydrates, there is a calorie surplus causing weight gain. Dr. Fife explains in his book that polyunsaturated acids interfere with the insulin receptor feeding into insulin resistance, which makes it even more difficult to control the metabolism and leads to more weight gain (Ref.1). The end result is what we have observed over the last few decades, a relentless obesity wave in the civilized world. It is a direct result of the Western diet.

Cancer caused by the Western diet

Breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer are cancers that are related to the Western diet. But there are likely many other cancers that are also caused by it.

We know that free radicals cause cancer, such as from trans fats and rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids found in processed foods. Cancer is more common in obese people and people with diabetes.

Habits that make us eat more

There are habits that make us eat more like snacking and falling for so-called “fitness food” which contains dubious ingredients. It may come as a surprise, but married people can also fall prey to unhealthy habits together, forgetting about working out and sneaking in “skinny cocktails”. Read what Cynthia Sass, registered dietician had to say about this on CNN.

Solution to the Western diet

You may expect me to say that you should modify this or that in the Western diet. Modification does not work. You have to get radical here! The real solution is to abandon the Western diet altogether. Replace it with the Mediterranean diet without sugar and starchy foods. It is not that as bad as you can see from 1 week of recipes that my wife included in my book: “A survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging”.

You can eat cooked organic spinach, a piece of meat with slices of Avocado for breakfast. Cooking is done mostly with coconut oil or olive oil. Alternatively you may enjoy an egg or egg white vegetable omelette with lots of greens, mushrooms, onions and salsa and avocado on the side. Add to this caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee with stevia. Alternatively, a bowl of rolled oats, flaxseed and nuts with fresh fruit and organic milk, goat milk or yoghurt would make an excellent, sustaining breakfast. I am mentioning all of this to show you that you can get away from your familiar pancakes with maple syrup, sausages, waffles, toasts and muffins etc.

Food needs to be prepared form scratch with organic ingredients. GMO foods need to be avoided as the final judgment on these is decades away, and you do not want to become a human guinea pig.

Problems With The Western Diet

Problems With The Western Diet

Conclusion

The only way to “improve” a Western diet is to eliminate it and replace it by the Mediterranean diet. Throw all the processed food into the trash where it belongs! Avoid omega-6 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids), which have been shown to weaken the immune system and cause insulin resistance. The best fats are omega-3-fatty acids from marine oils (fish oil), coconut oil and olive oil. Forget all the other oils that are heavily advertised. They are not healthy.

I stick to organic foods although they are more expensive. Don’t forget that apart from a good diet you need to engage in a regular exercise program in order to prevent heart disease and cancer. And don’t stress out over the changes that you are about to make. Remember to manage your stress and relax!

References:

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

Incoming search terms:

Aug
22
2015

Tools To Turn 100

A Swedish longevity study that went on for 50 years gave me the idea to blog about the factors that can help you to turn 100 and still have your mental capacity and good health. Let me introduce you to this study.

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Göteborg, Sweden (which is the same as the University of Gothenburg) decided back in 1963 to follow a group of 855 Gothenburg men born in 1913 until they would either die or turn 100. The idea was to find out what killer diseases are in the way to reach such a ripe old age and if they would survive, what was it that made them to reach this age.

Think of it as a race to turn 100. The researchers had checkpoints along that journey: various surveys were conducted at the age of 54, 60, 65, 75, 80 and 100 to consider the factors that lead to longevity. 27% (232) of the original group reached the age of 80, and 13% (111) made it to 90. Only 1.1% of the men made it to the age of 100.

What were the causes of death for the other ones who did not make it? 42% of deaths after the age of 80 were due to heart attacks, 20% due to infectious diseases, 8% due to strokes, 8% due to cancer, 6% due to pneumonia and 16% due to other causes. 23% of the men over 80 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What else did the researchers find out? Factors that made people survive were refraining from smoking, maintaining a healthy cholesterol level and limiting coffee consumption to not more than 4 cups per day.

Another marker for longevity was either paying high rent for a condominium or own a house; in other words, a certain amount of wealth seems to be associated with longevity. Passing a fitness test at age 53 riding a bicycle was another peculiar finding of the study. This one points to the importance of fitness and clarity of thought as markers for longevity. There was a genetic factor also, as those who had a mother who lived to a ripe old age also survived longer than others who did not have this longevity advantage. However, researchers stressed that overall this genetic factor was of minor importance, the other factors that are under our control were much more important.

Two of the men who were 100 years old dropped out of the study: one because of dementia, the other one for personal reasons. Here are some of the facts about the other seven: none of them smoked; 2 lived at home, 5 in assisted living facilities. All of them wore hearing aids; all of them had good spatial and temporal cognition. All of them were slim, had good posture, but all used walkers to prevent falls or assist them walking. They were all able to read and watch TV, and most of them wore glasses.

Dr. Wilhelmsen who was part of the entire 50-year research effort said about the centenarians: “All of them were clinically healthy, satisfied with their circumstances and pleased to be living where they were.”

Other research about marriage, health and life expectancy

There is some peculiar research that found that men who are married are healthier than single men. This study came from the University College in London and was based on a group of 10,000 British people who were born within one week of each other on March 1958.

Being married or living common-law was beneficial for men compared to single men. One biomarker was the metabolic syndrome (a cluster of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes), which was found to be 14% higher in non-married males while in females it did not matter whether they were married or not: they had the same low rate of metabolic syndrome. The longer men were married, the healthier they were. This was not so for the single male. Women, who married in their late twenties or early thirties, were much healthier in their later midlife compared to women who never married.

Harvard has published some interesting facts on men and marriage. A survey of 127,545 American adults showed that married men live longer than the unmarried males of the controls. A review of studies in the early 2000 suggested that when men were married to a well educated woman this may be causing heart attacks in the men. Quite peculiar, isn’t it? But this was refuted in a larger 2009 study, which found that married men live longer and are healthier when the partner is well educated.

Unhappiness and stress were singled out as a cause of high blood pressure, which leads to heart attacks later. Harvard reveals several other facts that are important with respect to longevity: cancer mortality is higher in unmarried men than in married ones; married men are at a lower risk of developing depression. They were found to have higher rates of satisfaction with life in retirement than their peers who never married. Marriage protects cognitive function and leads to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Marriage is also associated with improved blood sugar levels and better outcomes with respect to cancer treatment or when hospitalized for other reasons.

General factors leading to longevity

We heard now several interesting points that seem to be linked to longevity. But what is it exactly that is behind some of these observations?

1. Diet

The Mediterranean diet is the gold standard as it has been shown to lead to the lowest mortality rates among diets.Note that longevity increases even more when sugar and starchy foods are avoided. And yes, a Mediterranean diet cuts down the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Exercise

It has been shown in many studies that regular exercise will reduce all diseases by about 50%! This is better than any medication; this is simply a must, if you are at all interested in living longer and healthier. Not only will your heart benefit from that, but your mind will thank you and not enter into dementia.          

3. Alcohol

This has been drummed to death, but the limit is 1 glass of red wine for women and 2 glasses of wine for men. Personally I do not believe that this is true. I have explained in a blog that the same heart protective effect can be achieved by 250 mg of resveratrol as supplement and avoiding alcohol altogether will prevent a number of cancers.

4. Smoking

Originally the Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking is an important risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Hundreds of other studies have verified this. Despite this fact women as a group are now repeating the experiment that has already been completed for men: smoking causes lung cancer and many other cancers as well as cardiovascular disease. I see young women thoughtlessly walking around town puffing their lives away.It shows you how powerful cigarette commercials are. Sometimes it is frustrating to watch this as a health care provider!

5. Stress management

This means seeking ways to reduce stress like meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga and others. This also means building social ties and mutually supportive relationships. It makes you feel that you belong, you have your place in society, you help others, and they support you.

6. Avoiding iatrogenic disease

Physician-caused illness is getting more common. Medications have become stronger and often have more potent side effects. For instance, if a physician treats a gluten-induced rash called dermatitis herpetiformis with a drug called Dapsone, the patient can get severe anemia, violent abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. A strict gluten-free diet would probably have helped the patient to clear up the rash. All of the symptoms that the patient had to suffer as a result of Dapsone were from this “iatrogenic disease”, which simply means they happened as a result of the doctor’s malpractice that had caused a medication-induced disease.

7. Avoiding exposure to free radicals

Many different agents like substances from pollution, radiation, rancid unsaturated oils and others contain free radicals that damage tissues and cause inflammation. Antioxidants like vitamin C, E and resveratrol can stop this as is reviewed here.

8. Using vitamins and supplements

As already indicated this will help to reduce free radical exposure by the use of antioxidants; reduce inflammation by using omega-3 fatty acids, Co-Q-10, vitamin C and E, resveratrol and others.

9. Avoid accidents

As you are aware, accidents can kill. Wear seat belts, drive safely, and stick to speed limits, particularly in curves. Also don’t drink and drive, don’t use your phone and don’t text and drive. The use of street drugs is also a common cause for accidents.

10. Use bioidentical hormone replacement

When we experience the change of life, called menopause in women and andropause in men we can allow nature to knock us off the planet or use scientific knowledge. It has been proven that it is perfectly safe not to use Big Pharma’s hormone concoctions that the body cannot recognize. Synthetic hormones cause iatrogenic disease as proven in the Women’s Health Initiative. Bioidentical hormones, however simply replace what is missing in menopause and andropause.

The reason this is important is that our system has hormone receptors on the surface of all body cells. In order to have normal function, we depend on bioidentical hormones to assist cell metabolism. For instance the heart muscle in a man has testosterone receptors as has his brain. In women estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors are contained in the cells. Using the right mix of bioidentical hormones based on saliva hormone tests or blood hormone tests can help the treating physician or naturopath to rebalance the body’s natural hormone needs with bioidentical hormone creams applied to the skin.

Tools To Turn 100

Tools To Turn 100

Conclusion

Tools to turn a hundred years old and still be fairly alert and fit are listed above. It is important that we start thinking along those lines, because it is only prevention that gets us safely there. If you allow yourself to constantly live it up and run your health down, how can you expect to turn 100? In the last 50 years the life expectancy has risen at least 20 years (85 years now, 65 years then). Now we are seeing a downward trend in the obesity and overweight population and the diabetics. They are the ones vulnerable to iatrogenic disease and mortality. They also are at a higher risk to die from heart attacks and strokes and they are more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. Also, single men would do well to see their physician more often to check out their health status and perhaps change detrimental lifestyles that married men would not get into, because their wives talk to them. If you can switch from a curative approach in healthcare that usually does not work too well anyways to a preventative approach, you have a good chance to make it to 100. I talk to you then.

Jul
31
2015

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of limelight in the press; krill oil was kept more in the background by the media. But both omega-3 and krill oil are important for your health.

What can confuse you is the following paragraph that I picked up from Facebook:

“I cannot believe that in the last 7 days 3 Doctors have asked me what krill omega-3 is. One would think that those who look after our health would realize that the high levels of mercury in the regular omega-3 has reached dangerous levels. Krill oil is harvested from pristine waters of the Antarctic Ocean and tested to be free from harmful levels of mercury. If you have not heard of it, it is for brain, heart, joint and immune health.”

Clarification of what Omega-3 fatty acids are

Depending on where fish is within the ocean’s pecking order of feeding, the levels of mercury of the fish oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids will be higher or lower. Tuna, for instance is one of the predator fish on top of the line. They are large predator fish, and as a result, not a fish you want to eat as it has very high levels of mercury. Salmon on the other hand is lower in the line of predator fish. That’s why it is still recommended to eat salmon two or three times per week. Fish oil is pooled from various fish and then molecularly filtered through a special filter that removes heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and others. Knowing these facts, the Facebook text above may be accurate in stating, “regular omega 3 has reached dangerous levels”, but it is inaccurate for the molecularly filtered omega-3 fish oil, which is the only one I would recommend as a supplement. Having said that there are still significant differences in quality according to a report online that tested 51 common products in the US. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are stored in the membranes of platelets and in circulating plasma triglycerides, which is useful for the functioning of the lining of our arteries. This is called endothelium and needs to be healthy to lower blood pressure and prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3-fatty acids support the cardiovascular system foremost and the brain secondarily.

Where does Krill oil come from?

Krill oil comes from tiny crustaceans called krill that provides additional benefits that are not found in fish oil alone. Although the initial concentration of raw krill oil has less mercury per milliliter than omega-3 fatty acid fish oil, it still needs to be molecularly filtered to remove heavy metals. Also bear in mind, that the tiny crustaceans live in the same polluted ocean waters as other fish. It is a sad fact that our oceans are no longer pristine! The same is true for the Antarctic Ocean. After the filtering process both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid fish oil are equal in their quality (free of mercury, other heavy metals, PCB and dioxins).

The omega-3 fatty acids of krill oil have an affinity to bind with phospholipids in red blood cells. This enables krill oil to cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain cells providing support for the brain. In this respect krill oil has an edge over omega-3 fatty acids to support the brain. But secondarily it is also good for your heart and the lining of the arteries.

Benefits of marine oils like krill and fish oil

It is best to think about krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as complementary marine oils that have multiple beneficial effects on the body.

Studies have shown that arthritis and osteoarthritis are helped by krill oil, but also by fish oil. Similarly, heart attacks and strokes are prevented with both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that both oils reduce inflammation in the arteries that are associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome in obese people. C-reactive protein measuring inflammation was reduced by krill oil up to 30% compared to placebo within 30 days. Patients with arthritis had 20% and more reduction in stiffness and pain.

Krill oil is well absorbed into the brain and can prevent age-related brain shrinkage, preserve cognitive function and memory, prevent dementia and also possibly depression.

Other health conditions improve on both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids like osteoporosis (in combination with vitamin K2, vitamin D3 and calcium), a weak immune system, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and cholesterol problems. Both marine oils prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which helps to prevent atheroma formation and hardening of the arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Fear mongering Facebook write-ups

In this context let me clarify the fear mongering Facebook write-up cited at the beginning of this blog. It is a misconception to think that krill oil is devoid of mercury. It is only so, if it was molecularly filtered, which removes all of the mercury and more, but it leaves the beneficial DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) intact. In the same vein omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are initially more mercury containing, but after molecular filtration are entirely mercury free, the same as krill oil after molecular filtration. But the mix of omega-3 fatty acids is slightly different with krill oil being a bit richer in DHA and attaching to red blood cells easier while fish oil omega-3’s attach to triglycerides in the liquid phase of the blood, called plasma and also to platelet membranes. So neither krill oil or omega-3 fatty acids are better than the other; they are slightly different and that’s why you benefit from a mix of both. It would be a big mistake to follow the Facebook advice above and only take krill oil by blindly trusting the quotation. In my opinion it is simply a marketing plot to get you switched from fish oil to krill oil.

What combination of Krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid should I take?

Most trials with krill oil have been done with 300 mg of krill oil per day.  I take a dosage of one capsule per day of 300 mg. There are several manufacturers that produce similar products. I also take 3 capsules of omega-3 fatty acids twice per day. Each capsule has 647 mg of EPA and 253 mg of DHA, which translates into a daily dose of 3882 mg of EPA and 1518 mg of DHA. Again, there are several products from which you can choose. The reason I take a relatively high dose of fish oil is the fact that I come from a family background with severe arthritis that started in several relatives at an age of 50+. I have no sign of arthritis at age 70. It may be the result of taking these supplements and staying away from sugar and starchy foods. I need my joints to do ballroom and Latin dancing and I also need them to attend the gym regularly. Exercise by itself has been shown to prevent arthritis and prevent heart attacks and strokes. We need the benefit from all these things in combination: good nutrition, supplements and exercise.

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Conclusion

Both krill oil and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation. The key to a good krill oil or fish oil supplement is to buy the more expensive products that are molecularly distilled and therefore more concentrated, but also free of heavy metals and other contaminants. These supplements are only a small part of your overall anti-aging program that needs to include good nutrition (organic food), exercise, other supplements and if necessary bioidentical hormone replacement.

Reference: Dr. R. Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“. Paperback through Amazon.com, 2014. This text explains the anti-aging program I follow and includes recipes composed by my wife for 1 week.

Jul
25
2015

Light Can Interrupt Your Circadian Rhythm

A light bulb company from Florida has decided to put warning labels on the light bulbs they manufacture to tell you that artificial light can have health consequences: light can interrupt your circadian rhythms.We do not easily see that it should matter whether you use artificial light at night or not.

Introduction

What we do know is that in the evening when we close our eyes and shut out the light the melatonin production gets elevated, we get sleepy, and we fall asleep. During our sleep the immune system receives a boost from the higher melatonin blood concentration, while cortisol takes a rest and levels are lower overnight. Melatonin is also a powerful anti-cancer agent and this would fit in with the study that found that a loss of the clock gene in shift workers was correlating to a worse prognosis regarding their breast cancer.

There are other diseases that can develop when the circadian rhythm is not maintained. Here are a few examples: neurodegenerative disease, cancer, depression, and sleep disorders.

This link shows how the internal central clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus is responsible for keeping time inside of us. The suprachiasmatic nucleus is situated just above the optic chiasm, hence the name.

The clock gene influences the peripheral clock via the clock genes in each organ to be synchronized. If you disregard your internal clock, expose yourself to prolonged artificial lighting and delay going to sleep in time you will create a disorganized central/peripheral rhythm, which weakens the immune system, disrupts your normal hormone rhythms, and ultimately this can lead to disease.

Breast cancer from interrupted circadian rhythm

Women in California were followed with regard to developing breast cancer and nightly exposure to artificial light.

In this study the authors found a 1.34-fold higher breast cancer risk in premenstrual women exposed to high levels of ambient light at night compared to women who were not.

Similarly, a 2014 study showed a difference with regard to breast cancer rates in women who were working night shifts and women who worked normal hours.

The study showed a loss of clock genes in shift workers with breast cancer that was associated with a worse prognosis of their breast cancer compared to those who were not shift workers and had normal clock genes.

Is it a good idea to tell people that light bulbs can be harmful?

Fred Maxik, the Florida based Lighting Science Group chief officer thinks it is a good idea. Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi, the director of the Center of Epigenetics and Metabolism at the school of medicine at University of California Irvine who has authored many studies on the negative effect of artificial lighting on the circadian rhythm also thinks that labeling light bulbs is a good idea. He cautions that there are even more powerful light sources like TV’s and computers that can disrupt the circadian rhythm the later it gets in the evening. “And think about how many people look at Facebook at 2 a.m. That is way more disruptive, but this is certainly a good start; we need to keep increasing awareness in a larger population that light at the wrong time of day can harm you” Dr. Sassone-Corsi added.

It is somewhat nebulous what effects a disruption of the circadian rhythm has in our system. But we do know that sleep deprivation can cause overeating and obesity, memory loss, short attention span, diabetes, depression, car accidents, sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death due to deadly electrical heart rhythms (ventricular fibrillation).

This 2015 study suggests that melatonin should be used to treat people who are involved in shift work. This will help to reset the circadian rhythm to normal.

Origin of circadian rhythm disorders

Sleep disorders can start in childhood, usually when school starts with structured days and normal bedtime hours, followed by school holidays and weekends where late bedtime hours or irregular sleep habits are the rule. Circadian rhythm disorders are not disorders of sleep quality, but rather disorders in timing of sleep (Ref.1). Circadian rhythm disorders start usually when the child enters school, but can develop as late as in adolescence. 10 to 18% of children and adolescents have circadian rhythm disorders. It is not known why some children find it easy to switch between the irregular sleeping habits of summer to the regular sleeping habits during school days. But others are not able to switch and have problems in school with inattention, daytime sleepiness, irritability, hyperactivity and combativeness. Circadian rhythm disorder tends to persist and can turn into adult circadian rhythm disorder. There are also morning types and evening types (in medical lingo morning chronotypes and evening chronotypes).

Delayed sleep phase disorder

One of the most frequent subtypes of circadian rhythm disorder is the delayed sleep phase disorder. This is what is often found in adolescents who push for a later and later bedtime. The fact that they sleep in until 11 AM or 1 PM reinforces it. They like to shut their windows with a black curtain to keep the sunlight out. At night they like to spend time in front of a computer or the TV. They like to go to sleep only at 1, 2 or 3 AM. They may not be aware what is happening to them: the lack of morning sunlight exposure in the early morning hours of the day leads to a delayed setting of the dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) at the end of the day, which is regulated through the suprachiasmatic nucleus (a part of the hypothalamus). By taking frequent blood or saliva melatonin levels researchers have been able to measure corresponding melatonin levels at the time of the DLMO.

We know from research with astronauts in space travel that melanopsin is produced in the blue-light-sensitive photopigment in the ganglion cell layer of the eye. Melanopsin travels from there along the optic nerve into the suprachiasmatic nucleus, where it helps to set the circadian rhythm for the day.

The day is defined by first opening our eyes when we wake up, getting the first melanopsin dose in the circadian rhythm headquarters of the hypothalamus; two yours before we fall asleep we have the dim light melatonin onset where melatonin is just starting to rise, which makes us gradually tired. Maybe the cave men and women sat around the fireplace and told each other stories. We could listen to soft music in a less brightly lit area.

Treatment of delayed sleep phase disorder

It is important to note that people with a delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) do not have a sleep disorder: they have normal sleep at an abnormal time (Ref.1)

Here is how the sleep specialist treats delayed sleep phase disorder.

  1. Exposure to sunlight or to blue LED light at the time of awakening for 20 minutes to 1 hour is key to resetting the circadian rhythm to an earlier point than has been the case. This involves that the child, adolescent or adult has to get used to setting an alarm clock to a desired time in the morning. In order the preserve the resetting of the circadian rhythm towards the evening it is important that from 5 to 6 PM in the evening exposure to the bright lights is avoided. This includes light emission from TV’s, i-phones or computers. The eye would otherwise reset the circadian rhythm via the melanopsin mechanism to a later time.
  2. Melatonin treatment is used to advance or delay circadian rhythms. Melatonin also has a sedating effect, but only about 20% respond to that within 30 minutes by falling asleep. The doses in commercial products override the circadian rhythm effect. Sleep experts use much smaller doses of melatonin to reset the internal clock. Thinking of an adolescent who goes to sleep at 2 AM, the DLMO would be at midnight. To phase advance an individual like that a small amount of melatonin (0.5 to 1.0 mg) would be given at 6 to 8 PM (that is 4 to 6 hours before the DMLO point or 6 to 8 hours before the previous bedtime). The morning exposure to bright light works together with the early evening dose of a tiny dose of melatonin, which by itself is not enough to put the person to sleep at that time.
  3. Supportive sleep hygiene methods: It is important that the parents understand the underlying problem. If necessary, they may have to seek the advice of a sleep expert and discuss the details with him/her. 2 hours prior to bedtime the child needs to be exposed to dim light, which is light that does not have blue light in it. The level of dimness is such that reading is difficult. No TV, no cell phone or I pad is allowed. In this dim light atmosphere melatonin is expressed normally and will be produced and released by the pineal gland in higher amounts. Establish a regular bedtime with which all family members can agree. This is best kept on school days, holidays and weekends. If you would sleep in, you would switch your time machine in your head to another time zone further west and it would be an effort to switch it back! There are many children and adolescents who can switch back and forth easily, but the person with DSPD cannot switch easily and would get stuck again in the familiar late sleeping pattern.

Avoid cola and other caffeinated beverages, including green tea, as they stimulate. The bedroom should be dark, quiet and comfortable. Sound machines have not been shown to enhance sleep (Ref.1).

Light Can Interrupt Your Circadian Rhythm

Light Can Interrupt Your Circadian Rhythm

Conclusion

Circadian rhythm disturbances are more common than previously thought of. There is a certain percentage of children who enter the school system that develop delayed sleep phase disorder. This often stays with them into adolescence and can even carry on into adulthood. Two simple tools have been shown to treat this: early morning light exposure for 20 minutes to 1 hour and a small dose of evening melatonin to reset the circadian rhythm. There likely are thousands of untreated people with circadian rhythm disorders. As not all circadian rhythm disorders are the same it is advisable to seek the advice of sleep disorder expert, if sleep patterns are problematic.

 

References:

1. John H. Herman, Chapter 5, 35-43. “Circadian Rhythm Disorders”

Principles and Practice of Pediatric Sleep Medicine

Second Edition. Stephen H. Sheldon et al., 2014, Elsevier Inc.