Nov
26
2018

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

New research presented at the London Microbiome Meeting asked the question “are gut bacteria crucial to healthy aging?” Marina Ezcurra, is a Ph.D. is a researcher working at the Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom. She uses a nematode (round worm) model to investigate various aspects of aging. Nematodes like C. elegans provide a useful model not only for genetic work, but also for the human gut flora as well. Moreover, it allows making observations about the connection between bacterial genes and aging. Coupled with the fact that the worm has such a short lifespan, the researchers can test bacterial genes, the aging of the worm and get meaningful results in short order.

It seems like one of the research objectives was changing the nematode’s gut flora and observing life expectancy and age-related diseases.

Pathological versus healthy gut bacteria composition

Dr. Ezcurra did a couple of experiments with the nematode C. elegans as a model. She could show that the worm’s gut bacteria composition mattered. First of all, if there was a pathological composition of the gut flora, the worm did not turn as old and there were various age-related diseases that developed. Secondly, they were very comparable to human age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Another senior author researched how genes of gut bacteria influence life expectancy

Meet Dr. Meng Wang, associate professor of molecular and human genetics, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He did extensive genetic research on C. elegans. He used this model, because C. elegance lives only 2 to 3 weeks. This animal model is easy to manipulate. For instance, he studied the gut bacteria composition. This link explains that he tested about 4000 E.coli bacteria with various gene defects. 29 E.coli strains when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan.12 bacterial mutants among those prevented cancer and amyloid-beta, found in Alzheimer’s disease. Some mutant bacteria caused longevity by acting on processes linked to aging.

Colanic acid is an important anti-aging factor in C.elegans

Dr. Wang joined Dr. Christophe Herman, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, for further research. It turned out that one of the keys to longevity of the nematodes were the mutant bacteria in the gut over-producing the polysaccharide colanic acid. This allowed the nematodes to live much longer. The researchers could show further that fission and fusion processes with regard to mitochondria are important. Mitochondria are the energy packages in cells and these processes are regulated by the presence of colanic acid. As a result, if your gut has good bacteria you can grow old and escape Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Dr. Meng Wang said: “Of the nearly 4,000 bacterial genes we tested, 29, when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan. Twelve of these bacterial mutants also protected the worms from tumor growth and accumulation of amyloid-beta, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.” 

Creating longevity with metformin, a diabetic drug

Physicians have known for some time that metformin stimulates longevity genes. This is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Dr. Ezcurra mentioned on 24 October, 2018 in her talk at the London microbiome Meeting that she had done experiments with C. elegans and metformin. Metformin reduces the risk of cancer and increases longevity in C. elegans as well as in mice (other experiments). Currently there is a clinical trial going on that investigates anti-aging under the influence of metformin in older people.

Effects of metformin on anti-aging

Metformin has the potential to target diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s pathologies all at once.

The anti-aging effect in humans with metformin involves the gut bacteria. Dr. Ezcurra says that this is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Metformin influences the folate bacterial metabolism of the gut flora. Other research has shown that the Akkermansia bacteria in the gut, which are good, desirable bacteria, will increase from 3-5% to 12.44% of the gut flora under the influence of metformin. Here is the discussion in detail in the following link.

Effect of gut bacteria on psychiatric diseases, obesity and diabetes

Dr. Ezcurra said that there are many studies showing that dysbiosis of the gut can lead to psychiatric diseases, Parkinson’s disease, obesity and diabetes etc.

We need to know more about whether a healthy gut flora will let us age without causing age-related diseases. Dr. Ezcurra stated: “By better understanding the links between nutrition, microbiome, and health, we can understand how the elderly can maintain their microbiome, and also help them directly by using pre- and probiotic strategies. This would help us age in a better way, maintaining health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.”

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Conclusion

The composition of the gut microbiome appears to determine whether we age gracefully or not and whether we get sick as we age or not. Everything depends on the diversity of the gut flora. There are bacteria in the gut that are good for us and also bacteria that are bad for us. Metformin has been shown to stimulate the good gut bacteria to multiply. Dr. Ezcurra is continuing her research into this. She clearly stated that it should be possible for us to age in a better way and maintain health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.

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Oct
13
2018

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

The distribution of obesity in women and men is different, when they gain weight on a low fat/high carb diet. The distribution of fat follows a pear shape in women due to fat accumulated around the hips. In males excessive fat accumulates around the waist, which gives them an apple shape appearance.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have done experiments using a mouse model. They wanted to see what changes take place when obesity develops. Djurdjica Coss was the lead researcher of the study from the UCR School of Medicine.

The reason why this study was thought to be necessary

Many men and women have relatively normal weights until their mid 50’s. But when women approach menopause, they tend to accumulate fat in the thigh areas (pear-shape obesity). When their weight continues to rise, they also accumulate weight in the abdominal area. It is general knowledge that the fat in the abdominal region is metabolically more active producing inflammatory kinins.

Men above the age of 50 or 60 are also accumulating fat, but typically in the abdominal area right away. The name for this is apple-shape obesity. Unfortunately this is the fat we just discussed, metabolically active with inflammatory kinins. It is known to be the cause for heart attacks and strokes as it accelerates hardening of the arteries in the whole body. Dr. Coss found in doing experiments on mice that estrogen plays a major role in the development of obesity as discussed below.

The mouse experiments to study the development of obesity

The research team of Dr. Coss compared a group of mice that had their ovaries taken out. The ovaries in females are the main source of estrogens. They fed them a high-fat diet comparing their weight gain to that of male controls on the same diet. Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, called metabolic syndrome. This condition has an association with the production of inflammatory substances originating from the abdominal fat accumulation. Both male and female mice underwent a series of blood tests. They were also physically inspected. The female mice had the pear-type accumulation of fat, the males an apple-type fat accumulation.

More details about what obesity did to the experimental mice

In males there was a reduction of sperm count in the obese group as well as low muscle strength. In addition they were low in energy, had a lack of libido and their testosterone levels were low. The sperm number and the testosterone level had fallen to 50% of what they were when their weight was normal. This is what happens in human obese males as well. The inflammatory substances, that the abdominal fat creates, broke down the blood/brain barrier, and this affected the brain.

Among the female mice there was no neuroinflammation in the brain. There was no change in their hormones, which was quite a remarkable finding. This was a surprise and points out that beside estrogens there are other mechanisms to protect females from the effects of obesity.

Brain inflammation from obesity

Dr. Cross explained that in male mice the fat accumulation was of the apple-type. Female mice had the pear type fat accumulation. The fatty tissue in females did not release inflammatory kinins. On the other hand, the abdominal fat in the males released inflammatory kinins. These attracted macrophages, which is a cell type of the immune system. Activated macrophages now became aggressive and broke down the blood/brain barrier. This resulted in neuroinflammation of the brain. The brain normally is an immune protected site because of the blood/brain barrier. When this breaks down because of the action of inflammatory kinins from abdominal fat, the brain starts to develop memory loss like in Alzheimer’s disease.

Women before and after menopause

In females who still produce enough estrogen, fat from the pear type obesity distribution does not produce inflammatory kinins. This explains the relative protection of premenstrual women from heart attacks and neuroinflammation. But menopausal women start accumulating fat around the abdomen as well. At that point they can also develop inflammatory kinins and neuroinflammation. This is why the heart attack and stroke rate increases in postmenopausal women with apple-shape obesity.

Other studies supporting the effects of obesity in men and women 

Inflammatory substances in obese people affecting their brain

This publication shows that in a group of 141 neurologically healthy obese individuals the anti-inflammatory defense in the brain was weakened. Subsequently, various brain conditions developed because of the inflammatory substances affecting the brain.

How obesity affects your body functions

Obesity affects the body in various ways. It is particularly the apple type obesity that causes inflammatory substances circulating in the blood. A multitude of conditions can develop from this.

  • The cholesterol shows an increase of the bad LDL cholesterol and a reduction of the good HDL cholesterol.
  • The blood pressure rises. Without treatment high blood pressure can cause strokes.
  • Type-2 diabetes often develops because the insulin production cannot keep up with the demand. A second factor is a loss of insulin receptor sensitivity. As a result the insulin receptors of the body cells become resistant to insulin.
  • The gallbladder often develops stones, which may require gallbladder surgery.
  • Some cancers are increasing in frequency: endometrial cancer, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver cancer.
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are more common, in part because of the neuro-inflammatory processes that I mentioned before.
  • Body pain and problems with physical functioning: obese people have more back pains, hip and knee pains from the extra weight. Slim people are less likely to have these problems. Obese people require more hip and knee replacement surgeries for end-stage arthritis than slim people.

Difference of metabolism in pear-shape versus apple-shape obesity

Back to the pear versus apple distribution of fatty tissue in obesity. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes as the apple type obesity. The difference in metabolism between the two is explained in detail here.

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Conclusion

You may have heard that women tend to accumulate fat more around their hips, possibly because of hormonal factors. This is a pear-type fat distribution. In men who turn obese the fat accumulation follows an apple pattern. This type has a more aggressive metabolism in the fat tissue with inflammatory kinins accessing the blood circulation. It also affects the blood/brain barrier. Normally this barrier does not allow proteins to enter the brain. But when a person is obese, inflammatory kinins and proteins can enter the brain freely causing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Many obese people also develop type-2 diabetes leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Low fat diet from the 1980’s

The low fat diet of the 1980’s has caused a lot of obesity around the world. The problem is that merchants who provide low fat products have replaced fat with refined sugar. The liver converts refined sugar into fatty acids and triglycerides. These end up as fatty tissue. Given enough time this is causing obesity. Those who are obese need to cut out refined sugar in its many disguises. In addition they also need to cut down their starchy food intake. In the gut starchy foods break down into sugar.

When you cut out sugar and starchy foods, a person will typically lose 50 pounds in 3 months, at which point they have lost the label of “obesity”. They will also feel more energetic. The best advise for you is to maintain your weight loss with a Mediterranean diet. Research studies have shown that it is beneficial and anti-inflammatory.

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Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

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

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

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

New research with larger population numbers

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

Binge drinking

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

Global health study

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

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

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

More statistics

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

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

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

Heart disease

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

Cancer

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

Diabetes

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

Memory loss

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

Appearance

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

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

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

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

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

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Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

Aug
18
2018

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

A new study from the Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ont. showed that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s. Specifically the risk for Alzheimer’s was a combination of high saturated fats in the diet in combination with too much sugar.

The third triggering factor was the normal aging process that also contributed to the development of Alzheimer’s.

The study showing that poor diet habits can cause Alzheimer’s

Master student Bradley Baranowski and PhD student Kirsten Bott conducted the experiments under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Rebecca MacPherson. The experimental group consisted of middle-aged mice that were observed for 13 weeks. They received a high-fat/high-sugar diet. The control group received a normal diet.

The experimental group with the high fat/high sugar diet was aging prematurely. They also showed elevated inflammatory markers, elevated insulin levels and cellular stress. Dr. Rebecca mentioned that the middle-aged mice would be comparable to humans aged 40 to 60. “[We’re] trying to see what the initiating signals are that can lead to progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” MacPherson said.

Lifestyle choices matter

“People often view Alzheimer’s disease as a genetic disease when in fact, genetic mutations leading to Alzheimer’s accounts for less than five per cent of cases,” Baranowski said in the press release. “This study highlights that our lifestyle choices matter and can potentially put us at risk of developing or progressing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Other studies that support the concept that lifestyles matter

Over the years many other researchers have analyzed what factors contribute to getting Alzheimer’s. It probably is a combination of several factors.

Age

Age is one of the major risk factors. Most Alzheimer’s patients are above the age of 65. Above 65 the risk doubles every 5 years. By the time we are 85 our risk is 1/3 to get it.

Family history

If you have a parent, brother or sister who came down with Alzheimer’s, you have a higher risk of getting it.

Environmental factors

Often environmental factors like eating too much sugar or too much saturated fat are confused with family history factors. Nutritional habits in a family can be like a tradition. It may appear as if this is a family history of Alzheimer’s when in reality poor eating habits were passed on from generation to generation. A lot more research is necessary in this area.

History of Head injury

A history of a closed head injury carries with it a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. We need to use seat belts in cars and helmets when bicycling. Avoid risky sports activities where you would sustain a traumatic brain injury.

Heart disease

There is a link between heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. When brain arteries get clogged, the brain deposits more beta-amyloid protein as plaques. This is a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Older Latinos and older African Americans

Older Latinos have a 1 ½-times higher risk than older whites to get Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other hand older African-Americans are 2-times more likely than older whites to come down with Alzheimer’s. The reason for this is not entirely clear. But a big factor likely is the cardiovascular risk that is higher in Latinos and African Americans. This translates into a higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

There are more publications that point out that Alzheimer’s disease is largely preventable by cutting out those factors that contribute to its development.

Here is a list of steps to follow in order to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. First of all treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively. This eliminates cardiovascular risk factors, which keeps the brain vessels open.
  2. Furthermore quit smoking. By preserving the cardiovascular system the brain stabilizes.
  3. Another important factor is physical activity: exercise daily! This maintains cardiopulmonary fitness. It also keeps your brain vessels open.
  4. Also, take care of your diet: eat balanced meals and avoid junk food. A Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet are examples of diets that help prevent Alzheimer’s. Note that these are low sugar and low saturated fat diets. This fits the initial observation that you read in the beginning of this blog. Mice on a high fat/high sugar diet showed premature aging and developed Alzheimer’s. Knowing this, it is good to do the opposite: cut out excessive saturated fats and sugar. Sugar increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which leads to hardening of arteries.
  5. Mental stimulation is another important factor for preventing Alzheimer’s. With lifelong bilingualism there was a delay of about 4.5 years in onset of dementia. The ACTIVE study is in the link above. It showed that mental stimulation could indeed delay the onset of Alzheimer’s over a 10-year period. 
Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Above all, I cannot emphasize enough how important a healthy diet is for a healthy mind. The combination of an overabundance of saturated fats and refined sugar was found to be the cause of premature aging in mice. But likewise, we know from human trials that this also causes premature aging in humans and higher incidence of Alzheimer’s. As a result, it is logical to recommend a lower intake of saturated fat and to reduce sugar intake. It will prevent hardening of the arteries and slow down the development of Alzheimer’s.

But there are many other recommendations to avoid getting Alzheimer’s: quit smoking. Stay physically active by exercising daily. Use a Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet to prevent Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials with these diets have shown them to be effective. Treat diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity aggressively as this will stabilize your metabolism. As a result it also prevents Alzheimer’s. Finally, stimulate your brain every day by doing various activities. This forms new synaptic connections inside your brain and postpones Alzheimer’s from setting in as you age.

Apr
28
2018

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Recently a study from California and France showed that animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you. This review goes back to  this original study from April 2, 2018.  Other studies have shown that there is a higher mortality with a meat-based diet.

How the study was done

Researchers followed 81,337 men and women from the Adventist Health Study-2 for a time of over 9.4 years. Between 2002 and 2007 they also researched the diet of the study participants. They used food frequency questionnaires. 2276 cardiovascular deaths occurred during the observation period. The risk for cardiovascular mortality regarding meat protein consumption was 1.61-fold. The cardiovascular risk for the nuts and seeds protein consumption group was 0.60. This means that the meat-consumers had a 61% higher heart attack and stroke rate. In comparison, the group that consumed nuts and seeds had 40% less heart attacks and strokes than people on a regular diet.

Discussion of the study

This study is rather large and went on for a long time (9.4 years). This gives the study great statistical power. The message from the study is quite clear. The more animal protein you eat, the higher your risk will be to succumb to cardiovascular disease. Having a heart attack or stroke prematurely will shorten your lifespan. In contrast, those whose protein source comes mainly from nuts and seeds are better off. They have a 40% lower probability to die from heart attacks or strokes.

Other studies regarding “animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you”

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Diabetes caused by red meats, processed meats, whole grains and sugar-sweetened beverages

A European study was analyzing risk foods that can lead to diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28397016 The publication of the study was  in May 2017. Red meats, processed meats, whole grains and sugar-sweetened beverages caused a 3-fold higher risk to develop type 2 diabetes. This was compared to people avoiding those foods. Study participants consuming legumes and nuts had a low risk of developing diabetes. In between was a moderate risk group who ate refined grains, eggs, fruit, vegetables, dairy and fish. Consumption of risk-decreasing foods resulted in a 42% reduction of diabetes.

Foods that caused heart attacks and strokes

A March 7, 2017 study from Boston analyzed the key foods that cause increased mortality.  Intake of high sodium, highly processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and also unprocessed meats caused heart attacks and strokes. In addition, a lack of nuts/seeds, low consumption of seafood omega-3 fats, low vegetable and low fruit consumption also caused mortality from heart attacks and strokes.

Nuts reducing inflammatory biomarkers

A September 2016 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA looked at the correlation of nut consumption and an anti-inflammatory response. 5013 patients from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study received food consumption questionnaires.

Research used two parameters for measuring inflammatory biomarkers: on the one hand blood tests checked the C-reactive protein (CRP), on the other hand they observed interleukin 6. Interestingly there was a correlation between nut consumption and decrease of inflammatory markers. When 5 or more helpings of nuts per week were part of the dietary habits, there was a 20% reduction in the CRP value and a 14% reduction of interleukin 6 , which was a difference to those persons who never consumed nuts. This is significant, because we know that inflammation of the lining of the arteries is a cause for high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation of the arteries can also cause type 2 diabetes.

Dietary intake among US adults, 1999-2012

This June 2016 study has the title ”Dietary Intake Among US Adults, 1999-2012”. Comparisons were made between a previous dietary study of 1999-2000 and now. The investigators noted some improvements in dietary habits. The persons consumed more whole grains and nuts or seeds. They also had slightly increased fish and shellfish intake. On the other hand, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages had decreased. But other food components like salt intake, total fruits and vegetables, processed meats and saturated fat had not changed. There was an increased consumption of whole fruit and a decrease of 100% fruit juice (which is sugar laden). Unfortunately there was also some bad news: low-income Americans still have poor food intake, so do non-Hispanic blacks or Mexican American adults.

Mediterranean diet can prevent cognitive decline

A July 2016 review shows that a Mediterranean diet can prevent cognitive decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In this overview the authors have collected evidence showing that adherence to a Mediterranean diet does indeed prevent cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet consisted of intake of fruit, fish, vegetables and less consumption of sugar, red meat and dairy. The researchers found that the incidence of cancer, strokes, heart attacks and diabetes were all lower, as was dementia. They pointed out that MRI studies have revealed that the brain volume showed a reduction by 5% per decade after the age of 40. From the third to the 8th decade of our lives the short-term memory can show a reduction of about 50%.

Deterioration of general health related to cognitive decline

The authors point out that the combination of heart disease, stroke and diabetes are often an indication that the person’s overall health is declining. Cognitive decline will soon follow, when physical decline is evident. What people often do not realize is that all of these conditions are related to decades of poor diets. Change the diet to a Mediterranean diet, and your heart health will improve; also a stroke and diabetes may be prevented. The interesting observation is that often cognitive functioning also improves. This makes sense: if the brain circulation improves, oxygen and nutrients can reach the brain cells again and brain function can now improve.

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Conclusion

I mentioned a recent publication, which stated that animal protein is bad and nut protein good for you. When I looked at other publications I found this confirmed. Finally I reviewed a study that investigated the use of the Mediterranean diet to improve cognitive function. It became apparent that physical illnesses, like heart attacks, strokes and diabetes, have also a connection to a loss of cognitive function in older age. It may point to a general aging of the lining of the arteries. An anti-inflammatory diet, like the Mediterranean diet, has the potential to improve the lining of the arteries. This leads to a reduction of medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. In addition it can also reverse cognitive decline. The switch to a Mediterranean diet is not dramatic! It can, however, dramatically improve your overall health and wellbeing as you age.

More info: https://www.askdrray.com/healthy-olive-oil/

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Mar
17
2018

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Don Benedict hurt his lower back and tells about benefits of hot baths and saunas to relieve his chronic pain. He is a 70-year old former handball player. He played competitive handball for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest. His story is reviewed here. In order to stay in shape, he ran 5 miles every other day. But at the age of 57 he ruptured a disc in his back. In the following years he ruptured several more discs and had three back surgeries for that. Eventually scar formation set in and no more surgery was possible. This left him with a chronic pain syndrome, for which he received prescriptions for strong pain medications. OxyContin, Tramadol and anti-anxiety pills were on his prescription list. He needed to take 14 doses of pills per day to control his chronic back pain.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for chronic pain

Finally he remembered that as a younger man he was a summer river guide on Idaho’s Salmon River. When he and his wife had sore muscles they would relax in the hot baths of natural hot springs. Other people who visited these hot springs told him how having hot baths helped them for their aches and pains. For the past four years Don and his wife have been visiting the hot springs in Idaho City three times per week. This has decreased Don’s back pain significantly. He could reduce more than half of his pain medications and reduce the potency of the pain pills as well. The water temperature in the hot springs hovers between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). His wife, who has an asthmatic condition, reported that the hot soaks helped her muscle spasms around the throat.

Other treatment modalities to prevent chronic pain

13 years ago, when Don ruptured his first disc stem, cell treatments were not readily available. But if the same would happen today an unconventional stem cell therapy could be a treatment modality, and chronic pain could be avoided. I am mentioning this here, because Don’s suffering from chronic back pain was causing him a lot of unnecessary suffering. Discectomy surgery, which destabilizes the back and causes scarring, is not the first choice of treatment today.

Stem cell therapy

Instead stem cells are taken from the patient’s fatty tissue (liposuction) and from the bone marrow. A stem cell mix between bone marrow stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells (from fatty tissue) is made. Platelet rich plasma is added to this as an activator. The mix is injected into the disc space of the ruptured disc. Now the stem cells do their magic healing. The beauty of this medical procedure is that healing takes place without any scarring. The stem cells mend all of the damage. They do so by transforming themselves into identical body cells that overbridge broken tissues.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for heart

  1. 2016 study published in the Journal of Physiology describes a study that included adults in their low twenties. Their arms were intermittently exposed to 40.5°C (105°F) water temperature for 60 minutes over a period of 8 weeks. This lowered their blood pressure and caused the arteries in the treatment group to be more flexible.
  2. Scientists in Finland have focused on the benefits of saunas, which is a Scandinavian tradition. Their study in the American Journal of Hypertension followed more than 1,600 middle-age men for almost 25 years. The results showed that the more the men visited saunas, the less they were suffering from high blood pressure. These were the statistics:
  • Visited sauna 2 to 3 times per week: 24% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who had a sauna only once or not at all.
  • Visited sauna 4 to 7 times per week: 46% reduction of blood pressure.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding dementia prevention

2016 study out of Finland found that frequent exposures to saunas could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Compared to having a sauna only once per week (no reduction of dementia) these were some observations:

  • Visiting the sauna 2-3 times per week: 22% reduction of dementia.
  • Visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week: 66% reduction of dementia.

With regard to Alzheimer’s disease the corresponding figures were a 20% reduction and a 65% reduction.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for brain injuries

Dr. Burke from the Emory University Rehabilitative Hospital is investigating the benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding brain-injured patients.

He recommends 4 saunas per week for brain-injured patients. Dr. Burke said: “This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition, but can’t physically do some of the exercises.“

Caution regarding benefits of hot baths and saunas

Within 48 hours of a new injury, Dr. Burke says, it is best to use ice packs in order to reduce the swelling of the tissues. But subsequently he switches the patients to heat in form of saunas. Some patients have low blood pressure to start with. They may not be good candidates for hot baths as they may pass out when their already low blood pressure gets a further reduction. Always check with your own doctor before doing hot baths or saunas.

Europe’s history of hot baths and saunas

Saunas have a long history in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

Hot baths have a century-old history in Europe and Japan.

Father Sebastian Kneipp invented hydrotherapy, where cold and hot water baths are applied sequentially. The present resurgence of interest in the benefits of hot baths and saunas for healing purposes is nothing new. What may be new is that the medical profession at large is finally paying attention to the research of Father Sebastian Kneipp. He knew that there were benefits of hot baths and saunas.

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Conclusion

There are benefits of hot baths and saunas. This is what was spelled out in the studies cited in this review. The fact that heat can heal was something that Father Sebastian Kneipp knew long time ago. Medical facts have a way to recirculate. But now we know that it can lower blood pressure and can improve the flexibility of arteries. It can help with tissue perfusion and reduce chronic pain. But it also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition it helps patients with brain injuries to recover faster than without hot baths and saunas.

Advantage of heat treatments

The advantage of heat treatments is the fact that no side effects occur like with the use of drugs. Heat treatments are natural, but drug treatments are artificial. Hot baths and saunas can easily be part of one’s lifestyle. If you feel you need more of it, you can go ahead and do it, but if you feel you don’t need as much, use less. Make it fit into your lifestyle. It is also obvious that too much of a good thing is no longer a good approach to wellness. Limit the temperature in hot baths and don’t exaggerate the time you spend in a hot sauna.

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Mar
10
2018

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

A new study from France documented dementia from excessive alcohol abuse. One million patients who needed admission to hospitals in France for early dementia took part in that study. This was based on this publication. Dementia is a clinical syndrome, where the cognitive ability deteriorates progressively.

The study from France regarding dementia from excessive alcohol abuse

According to the French National Hospital Discharge database it was especially relevant that alcohol use disorders were present in 16.5% of the men and 4% of the women with dementia. Those who did not have the diagnosis of dementia had only half the amount of alcohol abuse disorders in both sexes.

There are other diseases that can lead to dementia like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. These cases were not part of this study.

The association with alcohol abuse was particularly evident in early dementia cases at an age below 65.

Furthermore, alcoholics also have a shorter life expectancy.

Several mechanisms responsible for dementia development

Alcohol can cause dementia in several ways.

  • First of all, alcohol and the metabolic by-product acetaldehyde have toxic effects on the brain. They cause long-term toxic effects and functional brain damage is the result.
  • Furthermore, heavy alcohol abuse leads to liver damage with resulting changes in metabolism. Ammonia production from the cirrhotic liver causes brain damage in a condition called hepatic encephalopathy.
  • In addition, heavy drinking is a strong vascular risk factor. This leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
  • Often it is the population group that is uneducated, people who smoke and people with depression who suffer from the effects of alcohol abuse.
  • Finally, heavy drinking is more frequent in men than in women. In men the dementia risk was 4.7-fold, in women 4.3-fold.
  • Obesity, smoking and high blood pressure are also risk factors for dementia. If these cases were not part of the study, heavy alcohol abuse caused an increase in dementia in both sexes by a factor of 3-fold.

Possible biases of the study

Dr. Kostas Lyketsos, a neuropsychiatry professor and director of the John Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center did not take part in the study and its investigation. A non- biased observer, Dr. Kostas Lyketsos stated that there is a problem with precision of the data the larger the study population is. In this case there were more than 1 million participants, so a number of biases can influence the outcome of the study. For instance, one problem is that these patients with mild cognitive impairment were inpatients in a hospital. Normally such patients would not be in a hospital. Another fact was that none of the participants had received questionnaires of the amount of alcoholic drinks they consumed, and as a result it is difficult to knows exactly how high the amount of alcohol was that caused the damage to the brain.

Country bias

The large sample size was from only one country, France. This means that we do not know whether there would be ethnic differences between countries. Nevertheless the findings of this study are important. In a 2014 review by the WHO the average person in France consumed 12.2 liters of pure alcohol per year. In contrast the average person in the US consumed only 9.2 liters of pure alcohol in this year. Apart from these concerns it is important to realize that alcohol has toxic effects on the brain. This can also result in dementia.

Other studies regarding alcohol abuse and dementia

The media has praised alcohol for preventing heart attacks. On the other hand, there are other articles in which we hear about alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis, both of which can be killer diseases. To get some clarification, let us examine the various facts.

Dr. Finnel mentioned that 7.9% of all emergency room visits in the US are due conditions which have an association to alcohol(Ref.1). When the causes of deaths  that are a consequence to alcohol are listed, they are: cancer of the mouth and pharynx, alcohol abuse disorders, coronary heart disease causing heart attacks, cirrhosis of the liver, traffic accidents, poisonings, falls and intentional injuries. You don’t get that from the news. Instead you read about the one glass of red wine per day that is good for women and up to two glasses of red wine that is good for men to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Bioflavonoids

It is the bioflavonoids and among those in particular resveratrol, that are the active ingredient responsible for heart health.

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that protects against ischemia-reperfusion injuries.  It is responsible for the cardio protective properties of red wine known as the “French paradox” (Ref.2). According to this reference resveratrol contributes to at least 3 processes that stabilize the metabolism.

Toxicity of alcohol

According to the WHO 5.9% of all deaths worldwide is a consequence of alcohol overconsumption.  In 2012 the WHO recorded that 7.6% of deaths in males, but only 4% of female deaths were due to alcohol. Toxicity comes from the breakdown product acetaldehyde, which all cells can convert from alcohol. Liver cells are especially able to do that. According to Ref. 3 alcohol diffuses easily through all of the cell membranes and reaches every organ in the body. The toxicity of acetaldehyde is shutting down the mitochondria, which affects the energy metabolism and causes cell death. The immune system reacts with inflammation, when it attempts to repair the damage.

So, what are the major damages which alcohol can cause? First there is fat accumulation (steatosis), next chronic inflammation followed by necrosis (dying of cells) and finally fibrosis. An example of fibrosis is liver cirrhosis, where non-functioning connective tissue replaces liver cells.

Different tissue sensitivity to alcohol

Certain tissues are more susceptible to alcohol toxicity than others. As the concentration of alcohol is highest in tissues that are in direct contact with alcoholic drinks, cancers related to alcohol consumption develop in the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and in the colon and rectum. The pancreas is particularly vulnerable to inflammation and fibrotic changes with degeneration into cancer of the pancreas. The heart tissue and the arteries are very sensitive to alcohol.  Hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, cardiomyopathy and myocarditis as well as irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) can develop. The brain is very sensitive to toxic effects of alcohol as well. This causes major depression, personality changes with violent behavior, car accidents and injuries.

Other toxic effects of alcohol on organs

Kidney disease (alcoholic nephropathy) is another illness due to too much alcohol. Five percent  of breast cancers in northern Europe and North America are a direct consequence to the toxic effects of alcohol (Ref.3). Finally, the liver being so active in detoxifying alcohol, will be not functioning and finally develops liver cirrhosis, as described before. This accounts for a lot of premature deaths at a relatively young age (typically in the mid to late 50’s).

Ref. 3 goes on to say that literature exists which claims that 1 to 2 drinks per day would be useful for prevention of heart disease. But the observation of the authors is that people will not discipline themselves to stick to these limits and very quickly enter into the zone of alcohol toxicity. The authors further noted that with regard to causing any kind of cancer there is no safe lower limit; the risk is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk starts right above the zero point.

The pathologist has the last word

When I studied medicine at the University of Tübingen, Germany I attended lectures in the pathology department where Professor A. Bohle, M.D. demonstrated pathology findings of deceased patients. Dr. Bohle had a special interest in Mallory bodies. These are alcohol inclusion cysts within liver cells that can be stained with a bright red dye.

Histological documentation of toxic effects in livers of corpses

I will never forget when Prof. Bohle pointed out that the livers of this most diverse population, whose bodies we had the privilege as medical students to study, had a rate of 25% positive Mallory bodies. He wanted to impress on us as medical students to watch out for the alcoholics that are usually missed in general practice. Obviously 25% of the pathology population was affected by the consumption of alcohol. It was Prof. Bohle’s hope that we could perhaps interfere on the primary care level before things went out of control. Many of these corpses were the sad results of traffic accidents that could have been prevented. (In 2018 things have changed: seat belts and alcohol limits are standard, in 1968 in Germany they were not).

Alcohol as an aging substance

Consistent use of alcohol on a regular basis will slow down cell metabolism and hormone production significantly. The major effect of alcohol leads to poisoning of the mitochondria in multiple organs, which translates into faster aging and a shortened life expectancy. This in turn results in a change of appearance. An older person who has abused alcohol for a number of years may look 5 to 10 years older than their chronological age.

50% of people above the age of 65 drink daily (Ref.4). Some more statistics: alcohol abuse in elderly men is 4-times higher than in elderly women. 5% to 10% of all dementia cases are related to alcohol abuse. About 15% of older adults are experiencing health risks from abusing alcohol. And about 90% of older adults are using medications. Close to 100% of medications can adversely interact with alcohol (Ref.4).

Social pressure

These are the scientific facts, and then there is social pressure, when you are invited to a party.

When you are young and believe that you are invincible, do you care what the science says? You want to have a “good time” and not worry about consequences. The data about long-term exposure and a slowly increasing cancer risk is there. The wine industry will remind you that 1 drink for women and two drinks for men will protect you from heart attacks. They will withhold the cancer information from you, as they don’t really want to hear about that (yes, it’s bad for their business!).

Resisting social pressure and doing what is good for you

Can you have a good time at a party without drinking alcohol? Yes, you can. You can talk and you can listen; you are probably more with it than those who had too much to drink. I like mineral water and hold on to a glass of that.

I explained in a blog before how I was convinced by three speakers at an A4M conference to join those who abstain from alcohol.

Socializing without alcohol is doable. You may at times miss it, but you can warm up even to a crowd that had a few drinks too much. It is about choice: we can choose what we want out of life.

 

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

Dementia From Excessive Alcohol Abuse

Conclusion

Alcohol is a cell and nerve poison. The medical need for “one glass of wine for women and two glasses of wine for men to prevent heart attacks and strokes” has been vastly exaggerated. Fact is that resveratrol and other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E can also prevent cardiovascular disease. They are alcohol-free! The risk of dementia development as a long-term result of alcohol exposure is something that is only now getting attention by the medical profession. We live longer these days, and this makes alcohol exposure over the decades a real threat to our mental wellbeing. Consumption of alcohol needs to be re-evaluated by every one of us. What risks are we willing to take? Is the stress-relieving effect of alcohol worth the risk of losing our mind to Alzheimer’s disease? If we care about our future the answer should be clear!

References

Ref. 1: John T. Finnell: “: Alcohol-Related Disease“ Rosen’s Emergency Medicine, Chapter 185, 2378-2394. Saunders 2014.

Ref. 2: “Hurst’s The Heart”, 13th edition, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2011. Chapter 54. Coronary Blood Flow and Myocardial Ischemia.

Ref. 3: Ivan Rusyn and Ramon Bataller: “Alcohol and toxicity”, 2013-08-01Z, Volume 59, Issue 2, Pages 387-388; copyright 2013 European Association for the Study of the Liver.

Ref. 4: Tom J. Wachtel and Marsha D. Fretwell: Practical Guide to the Care of the Geriatric Patient, Third Edition, Copyright 2007 by Mosby.

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Feb
24
2018

What Causes Premature Aging?

Some people look 10 years older than their stated age, and we often wonder: what causes premature aging? Accelerated or premature aging can have a multitude of underlying causes. I will list a few here:

1. Weakening hormones

Men go through andropause at around the age of 60 to 65 and women go through menopause around the age of 55 to 65. In both males and females it is the sex hormones that are missing around that age. If hormones replacement follows fairly quickly with bioidentical hormones, this will not affect the visual appearance that much. In contrast, if bioidentical hormones are not the therapeutic choice for  hormone replacement, but synthetic ones, the hormones are not in balance, as synthetic hormones do not restore the hormonal balance. Nothing is gained, as the person will still age prematurely.

Synthetic versus bioidentical hormone replacement

In addition the synthetic hormones will cause heart attacks, strokes, clots, and cancer. Prescriptions for synthetic hormones are often the cause that the aging patient population gets these serious complications. Frequently physicians insist on using synthetic hormones from a “reputable” drug company to replace missing hormones. The reason this does not work is that a male has testosterone receptors. They need to be stimulated by bioidentical testosterone to restore all of his missing functions. Also, the same is true in menopausal females who need stimulation of their estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. Consequently, only bioidentical hormones will return a postmenopausal woman back to normal. There is a perfect fit between the bioidentical replacement hormones and her hormone receptors. Using synthetic hormones is like trying to unlock a door with a key that does not have a perfect fit: you damage the lock!

2. Missing human growth hormone (HGH) and thyroid hormones

These hormones have a special place in aging.

Human growth hormone deficiency

First, HGH production is running out in many people at age 60. A person with HGH deficiency will have lower muscle mass and strength. Other symptoms are dry and thin skin, particularly at the back of the hands. Men are balding, and they loose interest in sex. There are difficulties concentrating and they may have “senior moments”, which are memory lapses. Often they are prone to depression and anxiety. A blood test will frequently show elevated triglycerides. A blood test (IGF-1) and a urine test exist which make it possible to look for HGH metabolites to assess whether a 40, 50 or 60 year-old person is producing enough HGH. Many may need replacement of HGH. This is administered by injection through a tiny needle into the skin, similar to a diabetic injecting insulin. This will bring back what was missing due to HGH deficiency.

Thyroid hormone deficiency

Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are other important factors that could make you look older prematurely. Your hair is getting thinner; your skin turns dry and pale. The nails may be getting brittle. When the outside half of the eyebrows is very thin or missing, this can be a sign of hypothyroidism. In a similar vein the skin in the face may be puffed up due to swelling of the layers under the skin (myxedema). It is important to diagnose hypothyroidism, which is common in the aging population. The physician needs to order a blood tests (TSH, T3 and T4). If TSH is above the upper limit, your physician needs to replace both T3 and T4 by tablets (I prefer Armour as the T3 and T4 is balanced).

3. Smoking

The lining of the airways absorb cigarette smoke. The chemicals circulate around in the blood and lead to aging of the skin. Chronic cigarette smoke exposure also melts away the subcutaneous tissue. The end result is a haggard look. The natural glow disappears from the skin and because of carbon monoxide binding to hemoglobin the skin color looks more greyish. In addition the blood vessels are narrowing or clogging. This means that the body cannot absorb nutrients as well, and cells are starving. There is only one remedy for this: quit smoking!

4. Overexposure to ultraviolet light

The radiation of UV light can penetrate deep into and under the skin. This makes the subcutaneous fat melt away. The largest UV exposure is in the facial area. As a result we see aging there. The end result is a sagging appearance of the face. This link has an image of a woman before and after a non-surgical facelift with stem cells and fatty tissue: Stem Cell Treatments That Are Currently Available – Medical Articles by Dr. Ray

In a surgical procedure the physician harvests mesenchymal stem cells from fatty tissue by liposuction. A cell separator separates the mesenchymal stem cells, the connective tissue and the fat cells. The connective tissue is discarded. Mesenchymal stem cells and fat cells are mixed and injected into the thinned subcutaneous fatty tissue until the person’s younger facial contour is back to normal. Typically this will last for 10 years or more.

5. Drugs and alcohol abuse

Both can lead to malnutrition with weight loss and loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue, which causes sagging breasts in women. In men “beer tits” are common. The reason for this is estrogen accumulation, as alcohol interferes with the elimination of estrogen in the liver. Alcohol is a general cell poison. It causes all of the cells to age prematurely. The more alcohol you drink, the faster you age. The skin develops wrinkles, loss of elasticity and collagen, redness and puffiness. In other words chronic alcohol abuse ages you prematurely. The only remedy for this is to quit drinking. Some of your skin vitality may come back. Our body has an amazing capability to heal itself!

6. Medical illnesses

Many medical illnesses like diabetes, mental illness (depression and schizophrenia), multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease; cancer and others make you look a lot older very fast.

I will briefly explain the reasons for this.

  • Diabetes

With diabetes type 2 the pancreas releases too much insulin after a meal with starches and sugar; think about a sweet muffin or a toast with jam. The extra insulin causes inflammation. This stimulates enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.

  • Mental illness like depression and schizophrenia

We know from studies that depression leads to shortening of telomeres. This in turn causes cell death in the most rapidly dividing cells like in the skin and hair follicles. The end result is prematurely aged hair and skin. Schizophrenia also leads to premature shortening of the telomeres, which causes premature aging, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation and oxidative stress. The end result is that the person looks older than what their chronological age is.

  • Multiple sclerosis

It is sometimes difficult to discern in patients with MS what is normal aging and what is aging from the disease. This link gives some background on this. Many MS patients are anxious, and anxiety and stress by itself also leads to premature aging.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

The chronic inflammation of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can lead to premature aging. High doses of vitamin D3 and molecularly distilled fish oil can be useful to help treat the inflammation. Probiotics are also important to restore the bowel flora.

  • Cancer

Cancer leads to cachexia (excessive weight loss). There is also excessive inflammation, which leads to accelerated aging. The inflammation causes increased oxidative stress. This leads to tissue damage and DNA damage, which makes all cells more vulnerable to develop other cancers. Oxidative stress can substantially accelerate telomere shortening. As a result skin can become saggy, wrinkles develop and the person looks prematurely aged.

7. A chronic lack of physical activity

People who never exercise tend to get overweight and eventually obese. This leads to premature aging. Exercise would elongate telomeres, but inactivity shortens them. Obesity leads to increased oxidative stress and to DNA damage. Obesity also shortens telomeres. All of this leads to premature aging.

What Causes Premature Aging?

What Causes Premature Aging?

Conclusion

These are only a few examples of causes of accelerated aging. The key is to stick to a healthy, balanced diet (like the Mediterranean diet) and exercise regularly. Stop smoking (if you do), don’t take street drugs, and make sure you get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps your hormones regenerate overnight. The sympathetic overdrive from your daily activities is counterbalanced by the parasympathetic activities during sleep that causes relaxation. For hormone replacement you may have to see an anti-aging physician, a naturopath or integrative medicine physician. This may be your only chance to address any hormonal deficiencies. Conventional medicine does a very poor job of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) with synthetic hormones. Conventional practitioners want to treat you with synthetic hormones that will make you sick. Hormones for replacement have to be bioidentical! This way you will live 10 to 15 years longer, look younger and stay healthy.

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Jan
27
2018

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Dr. Robert G. Silverman gave a talk about bacterial toxins threatening the brain. He spoke at the 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec. 15, 2017. First of all, he pointed out how changes in the gut flora can affect the integrity of the gut wall. In addition this can eventually this lead to a leaky gut syndrome. But it does not end here. As a result the toxins enter the blood stream and affect the blood/brain barrier. Consequently in the end various neurological diseases can develop from this.

Here I am giving a brief overview of the talk by Dr. Silverman. But he was not the only one speaking to this subject. Several other speakers also brought up this subject throughout the conference. They stressed the importance of rectifying any gut dysbiosis to stop leaky gut syndrome and a leaking blood/brain barrier.

Leaky gut syndrome

When the gut flora changes there are often enteropathogenic E. coli strains, Shigella and Salmonella that invade the lining of the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. When toxins enter the blood stream, the body is starting to form antibodies against various proteins. Antibodies are acting against various targets: bacterial cytotoxins, cytoskeletal proteins, tight junction proteins and food antigens. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from toxins of gram-negative gut bacteria can also leak into the blood. This affects key organs like the liver, the heart, lungs, the joints, the immune system and the thyroid. When this process has gone on for some time, the blood/brain barrier is breaking down next. The intestinal inflammation causes the release of inflammatory cytokines that circulate in the blood stream. The cytokines cross the blood/brain barrier and activate the support cells in the brain, called microglia. This in turn causes inflammatory degenerative changes in the brain.

Blood/brain barrier

LPS circulating in the blood from gut bacteria endotoxins increase the permeability of the blood/brain barrier. This is bad news for the brain as it becomes vulnerable to attacks from the antibodies mentioned and from food particles. Dr. Silverman cited papers showing that circulating antibodies that cause inflammation in the brain can be the starting point for early Parkinson’s disease. Autoimmune antibodies can cause even depression.

Intestinal permeability can be assessed by various antibody constellations. For instance IgA antibodies point to an ongoing issue/early leaky gut syndrome. IgM antibodies indicate early onset and IgG antibodies chronic issues of leaky gut syndrome. If you add various antigens like LPS, zonulin and actomyosin you can pinpoint which structure of the gut wall is affected by leaky gut syndrome, and the antibody type adds more information about the timing of the onset of leaky gut syndrome.

Bacterial toxins threatening the brain when BBB damaged

As I already mentioned the blood/brain barrier (BBB) is often simultaneously affected when there has been leaky gut syndrome. There may be a delay, but eventually the BBB breaks down also, and the brain will be in jeopardy. Dr. Silverman gave an example of how depression can develop as result of a breakdown of the BBB. Chronic intestinal inflammation can suppress the sensitive hippocampus cells from regenerating. Physicians call that impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis. Inflammatory cytokines damage the neuronal cell progenitors. As a result patients with inflammatory bowel disease can have mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Sophisticated BBB blood tests can pinpoint whether the BBB is intact or establish whether there is impairment. The important thing to remember: there is a gut brain connection.

Fixing the gut to stop bacterial toxins threatening the brain

In order to fix the BBB, you must first concentrate on fixing leaky gut syndrome.

  • Avoid gluten, as gluten is causing inflammation of the gut wall.
  • Start taking probiotics that contain more than 30 Billion lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per daily dose.
  • Do a heavy metal detox involving phytonutrients, hops, turmeric, Andrographis, zinc, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and watercress plant extract. Andrographis, also known as the “King of Bitters”, is an Ayurvedic medicine used to promote digestion and stimulate appetite.

Nutrients to fix the blood/brain barrier

Dr. Silverman uses the following nutrients to repair the blood brain barrier.

  • Acetyl L-Carnitine: this helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage
  • Berberine: reduces inflammation in brain injuries
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: preserves the integrity of the BBB by controlling oxidative stress
  • Curcumin: decreases brain swelling, preserves the BBB and increases tight junction protein in brain cells
  • Vitamin D3 (5000 IU or more): protects the BBB by various mechanisms
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: they increase cell membrane fluidity and protect the BBB
  • Resveratrol: reduces inflammation and restores the BBB

Neuroplasticity

In order for the brain to adapt to changes, it must be flexible, which means on a cellular level that nerve cells form new synapses, neurological pathways etc. This is what neuroplasticity means. Here are the factors that Dr. Silverman listed as facilitating neuroplasticity.

  • Regular exercise
  • DHA from fish oil capsule supplements
  • Turmeric
  • Whole coffee extract
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Lactobacillus brevis and Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium animalis Lactis 420 (B420)
  • Probiotics: they feed the healthy gut bacteria (e.g. apple cider vinegar)
  • Elevate magnesium in the brain through L-threonate
Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Conclusion

In the last few years it has become abundantly clear that leaky gut syndrome is not an isolated matter. It is invariably connected to a breakdown of the blood/brain barrier (BBB). Leaky gut syndrome alone is bad enough as it can lead to a number of autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto thyroiditis and others. But when the BBB is affected, antibodies can now affect nerve cells, can cause Parkinson’s disease, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease. There is no reliable database for what can happen to the brain when the BBB breaks down.

Because of these connections it is important to sanitize the gut, re-establish a healthy gut flora and overcome leaky gut syndrome. This will at the same time repair the broken down BBB. It will also prevent further possible damage to the brain in the future. Your gut health is your brain health. Take care of both your gut as well as your brain!

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