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.

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.

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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”

 .

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.

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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Oct
14
2017

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

“A new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s”; so reported a study dated August 11, 2017. Most of all, they found that a genetic marker, TOMM40 was stronger than the established genetic marker APOE4. It seems like the older studies overlooked the importance of the new TOMM40 genetic marker. This new marker may have been present at the same time as APOE4.

Details of study regarding a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s

The APOE4 is especially relevant for the formation of lipoproteins. APOE4 showed a strong association with the formation of amyloid plaque. This is located in the brain areas where Alzheimer’s disease developed. Therefore the thinking in the past was that APOE4 would be the culprit behind memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, the new study shows evidence that the TOMM40 genetic marker is the gene that actually orchestrates the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Thalida Em Arpawong is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California (USC) Dornsife College. She conducted research about the TOMM40 marker. Her supervisor was senior investigator Carol A. Prescott, who is a professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College. She co-published the paper.

More info about the study involving a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s

Professor Prescott used two verbal memory test results. They were the United States Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). In these tests immediate recall was compared to delayed recall 5 minutes later. Alzheimer’s patients have problems with short term memory recall.  In total the study examined 20,650 HRS participants and 11,391 ELSA participants. Their age was 50 years and above since this is the typical age for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Genetic data was part of the examination in 7,486 HRS participants and 6,898 ELSA participants. The scientists looked at 1.2 million genetic variations of the human genome to fit the memory loss. In conclusion, only one gene area, TOMM40 showed a strong association with decline in immediate and delayed memory recall.

Hence professor Carol A. Prescott summarized the findings: “The results from this study…raise the question of how many findings in other studies show an association with APOE4 that may in fact be due to TOMM40 or a combination of TOMM40 and APOE4.”

Possible future clues from a trial using TOMM40 marker

A review paper points out the start of a new trial, called TOMMOROW. The review paper points out that the location of APOE and TOMM40 are on chromosome 19 in very close proximity. Pioglitazone is a drug that controls diabetes. Patients tolerate it well. It is used in the TOMMORROW trial. As this review paper states the TOMM40 gene is responsible for the outer mitochondrion membrane. Consequently the paper states: the “outer mitochondrial membrane channel through which peptides and proteins travel into mitochondria to support mitochondrial function and biogenesis” is the key for understanding Alzheimer’s disease. Because pioglitazone is a drug that induces mitochondrial doubling the researchers hope that it will help Alzheimer’s patients.  It will probably be interesting to follow the phase 3 trial TOMMORROW, where research will observe the delay in onset of minimal cognitive impairment.

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

A New Genetic Marker For Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

Research has found a new genetic marker for Alzheimer’s, TOMM40 that identifies a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Its location is close to the marker APOE on chromosome 19. It appears that TOMM40 may be more reliable in identifying patients at risk for Alzheimer’s disease than the older APOE marker. As a result research has started a new phase 3 trial, called TOMMORROW. This will tell whether or not Pioglitazone, a diabetic drug maybe useful in delaying Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk patients.

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Jun
10
2017

Dementia And Strokes From Diet Drinks

,You can get dementia and strokes from diet drinks. This is what a recent study published on April 20, 2017 in the American Heart Association Journals has shown. Because of the bad press around sugary drinks more and more people have switched to diet drinks. But the authors of this study have found a correlation of consuming diet soft drinks (with artificial sweeteners), dementia and ischemic strokes.

How was the study done?

The community-based Framingham Heart Study followed patients on diet soft drinks for 10 years. There were two age groups: mean age of 62 and mean age of 69. There were 2888 participants in the younger age group and 1484 participants in the older age group. Researchers observed the younger age group for strokes, the older for dementia. During the observation time there were 97 cases of stroke (82 of them ischemic) and 81 cases of dementia (63 due to Alzheimer’s disease). In comparison to the controls with no consumption of diet drinks, there was an increase of 296% of ischemic stroke and 289% increase of Alzheimer’s disease. This was the data consuming diet soft drinks for 10 years. Another control group had consumed sugar-sweetened beverages. They did not develop strokes or dementia (observation time too short). As can be seen under this link the popular press also reviewed the study.

What do we know about artificial sweeteners?

Here is a brief review of the most common sweeteners.

1. Saccharin

This sweetener’s history goes back to 1879 when the Russian chemist Constantin Fahlberg first noted experimenting with coal tar compounds that one of the end products, benzoic sulfanide, tasted sweet. In fact it was between 200 and 700 times sweeter than granulated sugar! But there were political struggles that accompanied this saccharin throughout the years. There were rumours that in rats saccharin could cause bladder cancer. The health authorities became concerned. This led to Congress passing the Pure Food and Drug Act in June of 1906, to protect the public from “adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs or medicines.”

The origin of the FDA

This was the precursor of the FDA that would examine all of the medical evidence and consider the pros and cons of sweeteners as well. President Roosevelt took saccharin for weight control to replace sugar. In 1908 Roosevelt felt he had to stop the actions of overzealous Dr. Harvey Wiley, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chemical division who was of the opinion that saccharin should disappear from market. Dr. Wiley did not give up his fight and finally the FDA decided to ban saccharin in processed foods, but to continue to allow private sales of saccharin.

2. Cyclamate 

Cyclamate first appeared in 1937. The company marketed the sweetener initially to achieve better control of blood sugars in diabetes. Because of the reduction in sugar consumption it allowed diabetic patients to cut the amount of insulin required to control diabetes. Cyclamate did not have a bitter aftertaste, so in a marketing move the company mixed cyclamate with saccharine. The ratio was 10 parts of cyclamate to 1 part of saccharin , which resulted in the creation of “Sweet ‘N Low. In 1958 the FDA gave cyclamate the GRAS designation: “generally recognized as safe”. The good fortunes of cyclamate did not last long: in 1969 damaging animal experiments showed that cyclamate/saccharin had caused chromosomal breaks in sperm of rats. Another study from 1970 showed bladder tumors in rats. Other studies showed lung, stomach and reproductive tumors in animal experiments with cyclamates/saccharin.

History of Sweet N’ Low sweetener

The FDA wanted to shut down the sale of the Sweet N’ Low sweetener, but public pressure and the food processing industry forced the issue to be brought up in front of Congress. The compromise was to use a warning label: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” In the year 2000 and beyond researchers did several animal experiments. The data from Denmark, Britain, Canada and the United States on humans showed no signs of bladder cancer from exposure to Sweet N’ Low. In 2000 Congress removed the warning labels.

3. Aspartame 

The detection of aspartame occurred in 1965. James M. Schlatter, a chemist, was looking for anti-ulcer drugs, but noticed the intensely sweet flavor when he licked his fingers. This led to the newest sweetener by 1973. We know it by the trade names Equal, NutraSweet or Sugar Twin. As this sweetener consists two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. The body metabolizes it except people with phenylketonuria, with certain rare liver disorders or pregnant women. High levels of phenylalanine occur in their blood, because they cannot metabolize aspartame properly. Any food made with aspartame has to carry that restriction on the label, a requirement by the FDA.

Problems with Aspartame

In 1996 W. Olney and his associates presented research that implied that Aspartame would have caused brain tumors in rats. But later these experiments were disproven and studies from children with brain tumors showed “little biological or experimental evidence that aspartame is likely to act as a human brain carcinogen.”

4. Sucralose

The history of sucralose goes back to 1976 when insecticide researchers looked for new types of insecticides. They found that chlorinated sugar worked as an insecticide. One of the researchers tasted sucralose and to his surprise it was very sweet. If you Google “Splenda and insecticide”, you have a hard time finding references regarding the history of sucralose, but 20 years ago I found a detailed description that explained how one of the chemists doing insecticide research accidentally tasted one of the research products, and it was about 600-times sweeter than table sugar.

Sucralose kills ants

Here is one of the few references that explains that sucralose was discovered while looking for new insecticides. I have repeated the insecticide experiment myself in Hawaii where small ants are ubiquitous. Out of curiosity I took a package of Splenda from a coffee shop and sprinkled the contents in the path of ants. In the beginning the ants were reluctant to eat it, but after a short time they came and took it in. They slowed down, and finally they were all dead. A few hours later the only thing visible were dead ants that were only 1/3 of their original size. This was proof enough for me that Splenda, which originates from insecticide research, is not suitable for human consumption.

Side effects of sucralose in humans

In the meantime Dr. Axe in the above references lists the side effects in humans: “Migraines, agitation, numbness, dizziness, diarrhea, swelling, muscle aches, stomach and intestinal cramps and bladder problems.” In the Splenda marketing scheme they decided to first introduce Splenda gradually into diabetic foods as a sweetener, then later sell it to the public at large. Don’t fall for it! It was a side product of insecticide research, and insecticides have the undesirable quality of being xenoestrogens, which block estrogen receptors in women. As a result estrogen can no longer access the body cells, including the heart. The final consequence for a woman is a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This can cause heart attacks, strokes and cancer. In men estrogen-blocking xenoestrogens can cause breast growth and erectile dysfunction. Taken everything together Splenda seems to be too risky for its sweetness.

5. Other sweeteners

Other sweeteners researchers have not stopped looking for newer, better sweeteners. There is a number of sugar alcohols with less calories than sugar such as erythritol. Another common sugar alcohol is xylitol, used in chewing gum. The advantage is that these are natural sweet alcohols that exist in nature. Xylitol originated from birch wood and the general opinion was that it was useful to fight tooth decay. Manufacturers of chewing gum mixed xylitol into some of their products. Karl Clauss and Harald Jensen in Frankfurt, Germany detected another sweetener, acesulfame potassium, also known by the names acesulfame K, Ace-K, or ACK in 1967 when they experimented with various chemicals. This is known under the brand name “Sweet One”, but is often disguised in processed foods together with other artificial sweeteners to mimic the taste of sugar.

6. Stevia 

Stevia has been used for over 400 years, particularly in South America. It grows like a small bushy herb with leaves that can be taken to sweeten foods.  With modern, reliable extracting procedures (Sephadex column) it is possible to separate the bitter component of stevia and discard it leaving stevia behind without any bitter aftertaste. Stevia occupies 40% of the sweetener market in Japan. In Europe and North America there is a lot of competition with the above-mentioned sweeteners, mainly because of clever marketing techniques. The FDA gave stevia GRAS status  in 2008.

What does sugar in soft drinks do?

Sugar is an emotional topic that can get people caught up in heated discussions. The sugar industry and the sugar substitute industry have also powerful lobby groups that provide the Internet and the popular press with conflicting stories to convince you to buy their product. There is good data to show that sugary drinks cause heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. Let’s not forget the metabolism behind the various sugars and starchy foods leading to fat deposits, high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol.

Cut out sweets, cut out artificial sweeteners, but you can use stevia

Forget the emotions of severing yourself from your favorite fix.  Instead replace the familiar sweet taste you are used to from childhood on with stevia. At least this is what I do. The only alternative would be to take the plunge and cut out any sweet substance altogether, which I am not prepared to do. If you can do it, by all means go ahead. For more details regarding the effects of sugar and starchy foods read the blog under this link.

Dementia And Strokes From Diet Drinks

Dementia And Strokes From Diet Drinks

Conclusion

Diet soft drinks have become very popular. The reason is that studies in the past showed that sugary drinks can cause heart attacks and strokes. Now a new study revealed that diet soft drink consumption is associated with dementia and strokes. These drinks contained saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame or sucralose. They did not contain stevia, a natural sweetener because it is a natural, not a patented sweetener. It seems that companies’ profits are higher with chemical, patented sweeteners.

The problem with manufacturers and the FDA regulatory body

Looking back in time it seems perfectly legal that a company produces a chemical, patents it and sneaks it through the FDA channels for approval. The company then markets diet soft drinks turn out later to produce dementia and ischemic strokes in much larger studies. The FDA originally based their judgement on much smaller experiments for the initial approval. I have noticed that companies are now quietly introducing stevia, a natural sweetener to avoid potential legal problems down the road. Perhaps it is time to follow the Japanese lead where stevia is already occupying 40% of the sweetener market.

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May
20
2017

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Dr. Mark Rosenberg gave a talk on prevention of telomere shortening. This was presented at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. The detailed title was: “The Clinical Value of Telomere Testing”.

What are telomeres?

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes. They are very important in the aging process. Prematurely shortened telomeres are linked closely to all major diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Telomeres are also a measure of the aging process. Aging occurs due to a decrease of the number of cells in organs and/or because of a lack of functioning of these organs. Telomeres get shortened every time a cell divides. But when the telomeres are used up, there comes a time when cells can no longer divide. These cells become senescent cells or they enter apoptosis (programmed cell death).

The senescent cells can become a problem when they get transformed into cancer cells and their telomeres lengthen again. These cancer cells divide rapidly and this can become the reason why cancer patients to die.

What is the significance of telomeres?

Telomere dysfunction is the first sign that the telomeres are getting shorter in a person compared to the average telomere length in a comparable age group. This is not only important for aging, but also has clinical implications. The shorter telomeres are, the higher the risk for cardiovascular disease. Telomere length also provides prognostic information about the mortality risk (risk of dying) with type 2 diabetes and for many cancers. Many physicians incorporate a telomere blood test into periodic health checks, if the patient can afford it.

Interventions that help telomere length

Here are a number of things we can do to lengthen our telomeres.

  1. Rosenberg mentioned that the strongest effect on telomere lengthening comes from caloric restriction and weight loss. 80 years ago they showed at the Cornell University that rats put on calorie restriction had a 30% increase in their mean and maximum lifespan. Many research papers have confirmed that the same is true in man and that the common denominator is telomere lengthening.
  2. Next are regular physical activity, meditation, reduction of alcohol consumption and stopping to smoke.
  3. Taking antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids regularly will also lengthen telomeres.
  4. Improving one’s dietary pattern by adopting a Mediterranean type diet that contains cold-pressed, virgin olive oil.
  5. Telomerase activators. Here is some background on the TA-65 telomerase activator, which is based on Chinese medicine. A one year trial was completed with 250 units and 1000 units of TA-65 per day. The lower dose (250 units) showed effective telomere lengthening, while the placebo dose did not. The 1000 unit dose did not show statistical significance.

Should you wish to take TA-65, only take 250 units per day, not more.

Cancer and telomeres

There is a strong correlation between cancer and telomere shortening. When cells are at the brink of dying toward the end of their life cycle the telomeres get shorter and shorter. This is the point where the cells can turn malignant. Certain genetic abnormalities help the malignant transformation, like 11q or 17q deletions or a p53-dependent apoptosis response. Once cancer cells have established themselves they activate telomerase in 85% of cases. In the remaining 15% of cancer cases telomeres are activated through telomerase-independent mechanisms. Here are a few examples.

CLL

CLL stands for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It is a disease of the aging population. At age 90 people’s bone marrow cells have a telomere length of only 50% of the length at birth. This is the reason that in older age CLL is more common. Researchers observed a population segment and found that the shorter telomeres were, the poorer the overall prognosis and overall survival for CLL was.

Lung cancer

Researchers examined the telomerase activity in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. When telomerase activity was present, the 5-year survival was only 55%. When telomerase activity was absent, the prognosis was 90% survival after 5 years.

Prostate cancer

  1. Prostate cancer risk correlated with telomere shortening in stromal cells. Men with shorter telomere length in stromal cells had a 266% higher risk of death compared to men with normal telomere length.
  2. Another study took blood samples and determined the telomere length in lymphocytes (the immune cells). Those men who came down with prostate cancer within a year after they had their blood sample, had short telomeres. The risk for prostate cancer in these patients was 355% higher than in the prostate cancer negative controls.

Yet another study looked at surgical tissue samples from 596 men that

Underwent surgery for clinically localized prostate cancer. Patients whose samples showed variable telomere lengths in prostate cancer cells and shorter telomeres compared to prostate samples with less variable telomere length and longer telomeres had a much poorer prognosis. They had 8-times the risk to progress to lethal prostate cancer. And they had 14-times the risk of dying from their prostate cancer.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is diverse and consists of cases whose origins are genetic (BRCA1 and BRCA2), but there are also cases where the cancer is local or has a higher stage. In families with mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 telomeres are significantly shorter than in spontaneous breast cancer. Increased telomerase activity in breast cancer cases is directly related to how invasive and aggressive the breast cancer is.

  1. In one study researchers analyzed blood leukocytes in 52 patients with breast cancer for telomere length  versus 47 control patients. Average telomere length was significantly shorter in patients with a more advanced stage of breast cancer than in early breast cancer. Mutated HER patients had the shortest telomeres. It follows from this that checking for the HER status and blood telomere testing adds to the knowledge of potential cancer development and prognosis.
  2. In patients with with larger breast tumors, more lymph node metastases and more vascular invasion the researchers found short telomere length of the cancer cells.
  3. More aggressive breast cancer cells have higher telomerase activity. More than 90% of triple negative breast cancers have short telomeres.

CNS disorders and telomeres

Dr. Rosenberg presented evidence for a correlation between shorter telomeres and the development of dementia. But dementias with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease are also linked to short leukocyte telomeres. The length of blood telomeres predicts how well stroke patients will do and how people with depression will respond to antidepressants.

Cardiovascular disease and telomeres

The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system controls our blood pressure and keeps it constant. When this system is not stable, our blood pressure shoots up and causes cardiovascular disease. This is tough for the heart, as it has to pump harder against a higher-pressure gradient. A study of 1203 individuals was examining the connection between leukocyte telomere length and renin, aldosterone and angiotensin II activity. It concluded that oxidative stress and inflammatory responses affect the telomere length of leukocytes and that the more stress there is in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, the more cardiovascular disease develops. The conclusion of the study was that the overall cardiovascular stress leads to shortening of leukocyte telomeres.

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Prevention Of Telomere Shortening

Conclusion

Telomere length testing from a simple blood test will become a more important test in the future as hopefully the cost comes down (currently about 300$). It can predict the general aging status by comparing a single case to the general telomere length of the public. But it can also predict the cancer risk, risk for mental disease and cognitive deficits (Alzheimer’s disease). In addition your cardiovascular status correlated globally with this test. What are the options for the patient, if the test comes back with short telomeres?

It allows you to change your lifestyle and adopt a healthy diet. You can exercise regularly, take antioxidants and meditate. There are even telomerase activators that are gradually becoming more known. They lengthen the telomeres. The cost of telomerase activators will likely still be a problem for some time. All in all telomere length tests are here to stay, but healthy lifestyle choices are the only tool for effective intervention at this point. This is good news: healthy lifestyle choices like non-smoking, exercise and avoiding non-processed foods are either free or have a reasonable price tag. Telomerase activators are big business and at this point not really affordable!