Aug
22
2020

New Alzheimer’s Blood Test Is Promising

A new Alzheimer’s blood test is promising according to a publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) July 29, 2020. Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurological illness where people lose memory and judgment. If affects about 5.8 million Americans above the age of 65. Specialists are estimating that there will be 14 million Alzheimer’s cases by the year 2050.

For many years pathologists found amyloid plaque and tau tangles in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains, which accounted for their memory loss. Researchers developed a simple, inexpensive blood test, called phospho-tau217 (p-tau217). This is one of the tau proteins that is present in both plaques and tangles of living Alzheimer’s patients.

Plaques and tangles in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients

Many research papers describe that senile plaques are part of the cortex of brains of Alzheimer’s patients. They consist of beta-amyloid substance and of neurofibrillary tangles.

To put it simple: This protein material is like glue, which prevents the neurons from working properly. It also causes the memory loss and the confusion so typical for Alzheimer’s patients. Over the years the question then arose, where this glue substance ”beta-amyloid” came from. Dr. Yasojima et al. pointed out that for many years it was thought that this abnormal protein would have come from the liver and was then deposited in the brain. However, this research group presented evidence that the beta-amyloid actually comes directly from the cells in the brain where it is found and also deposited.

Beta-amyloid has antioxidant function

The amyloid-beta precursor protein is important for normal membrane function in the brain. It also has a very important antioxidant function in normal brains and keeps lipoproteins, an important chemical substrate of the brain, from getting oxidized. Recent research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine linked these plaques with a loss of nitric oxide production in the brain, which would lead to a reduction of perfusion of brain blood vessels. This in turn can lead to a loss of oxygen and nutrients in the brain tissue.

Alzheimer’s patients have a regulation problem of amyloid-peptides

The Alzheimer’s patient’s brain appears to have a regulation problem where through some genetic or other mechanism, the auto-regulation of amyloid-peptides and other similar peptides appears to have been lost. There seems to be an overproduction of these peptides until they are no longer soluble. The insoluble surplus of these beta-amyloids is then deposited as the glue-like senile plaques that clog up the patient’s thinking, and reactive oxygen species are also released in these plaques damaging nerve tissue.

Back to why the new Alzheimer’s blood test is promising

Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD, Professor of Clinical Memory Research at Lund University, Sweden, stated the following. “While more work is needed to optimize the assay and test it in other people before it becomes available in the clinic, the blood test might become especially useful to improve the recognition, diagnosis, and care of people in the primary care setting.” The p-tau217 blood test mentioned at the beginning of this review correlates with the clinical condition of Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers evaluated the test in 1302 patients. Some had cognitive impairment others did not. The participants came from 3 large studies in Arizona, Sweden and Columbia. The Arizona branch provided 81 participants, Sweden provided 699 and Columbia 522.

Accuracy of the p-tau217 blood test

In the Arizona branch researchers could distinguish between with or without a “high likelihood of Alzheimer’s with an accuracy of 98%.

The Swedish BioFINDER Study discriminated between Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases with an accuracy of 96%.

Finally, in the Columbia branch of the study researchers distinguished between mutation-carriers and non-carriers. They could predict who would develop Alzheimer’s  20 years before patients developed cognitive deficits.

All of the facts are not out yet about Alzheimer’s, but it is exciting to see the recent progress both in terms of early diagnosis and Alzheimer’s treatment. On the long-term prevention, as always in medicine, will prevail as the most effective method regarding diminishing the frequency of this disease.

10 steps that everybody can do today to minimize the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

  1. take 2000 IU of Vit. D3 per day
  2. get a T3 and T4 blood test to rule out hypothyroidism (doctors often do not order T3)
  3. Measure lead and mercury levels in urine and stool, particularly if you have more than 3 amalgamate tooth fillings
  4. If you test positive for mercury, go for intravenous chelation therapy, which specifically removes heavy metals (including mercury) from your system.
  5. People who do regular exercises and follow good nutrition get less Alzheimer’s disease. As Alzheimer’s patients are deficient in magnesium intake, it is wise to take a magnesium supplement as discussed in Ref. 22.

Further steps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Omega-3-fatty acids (molecularly distilled Omega-3 or cod liver oil capsules etc.) and/or fish help you to preserve brain cells.
  2. Take the nutrient phosphatylserine (PS) 100 mg once daily for prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  3. Cutting out sugar and starchy food by following a low-glycemic diet brings elevated insulin levels back to normal.
  4. Mayo Clinic research recently showed that computer-based memory exercises in seniors will lead to significantly less Alzheimer’s disease in the years down the road.
  5. Progesterone cream (only bio-identical, from compounding pharmacy) has anti-Alzheimer effects. Women would incorporate this into their bio-identical hormone replacement schedule following menopause. Men would utilize the brain rejuvenating effect of testosterone into their hormone replacement routine following andropause.

Both also take small amounts of oral DHEA and pregnenolone, but have blood or saliva tests from time to time to measure hormone levels.

New Alzheimer’s Blood Test Is Promising

New Alzheimer’s Blood Test Is Promising

Conclusion

Alzheimer’s disease is a severe, disabling neurodegenerative disease of the brain. At this point there has not been an early diagnostic test. But a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describes a simple blood test, called phospho-tau217 (p-tau217). This is one of the tau proteins that is present in both plaques and tangles of living Alzheimer’s patients. A clinical trial showed that when this test is positive, it predicts up to 20 years from now that this patient likely will come down with Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this publication there will soon be a simple blood test that diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease early and reliably with an accuracy of between 96% to 98%. Lifestyle interventions may then be able to prevent the deterioration of cognitive functions. Further therapeutic interventions may come about through more research.

Part of the text was published before under the link indicated.

Aug
08
2020

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the gross domestic product. Compare this to 2018 when the US healthcare cost was 17.7% of the gross domestic product.

The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group states: “Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

You can improve your diet quality 

When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other. Use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil instead for cooking and on salads.

How does poor quality food affect your health?

Researchers are aware of trans fats causing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes for a long time. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol, decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol. The FDA has started to initiate steps in 2015 to make the use of trans-fats in the food industry illegal. Completion of this in the US occurs in early 2020.

Japanese trans-fat study (Alzheimer’s disease)

This Japanese study followed 1,628 Japanese community residents (men and women) for about 10 years. Researchers used the typical trans fatty acid, elaidic acid to monitor the accumulation of trans fats in patients. This is possible with a simple blood test, which serves as a marker for industrial trans fats. 377 participants developed dementia (247 Alzheimer’s disease and 102 vascular dementia). Based on the blood elaidic acid levels earlier in the study individuals with higher trans-fat levels were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the study progressed. Patients whose trans-fat blood levels were in the higher range were 50% to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits. Note that it is not only your dietary habits that determine this, but in addition, several lifestyle factors.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack. It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking. Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, consuming too much alcohol causes cancer of the colon and rectum in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into your system and adds to chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Conclusion

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has been formed, which noted that many Americans follow very poor diets. 46% of adults in the US have unhealthy diets; but children have even more poor diets, namely 56%. This is of concern, because in time this causes a variety of diseases discussed here. Instead of just treating the symptoms of these diseases, it is important to improve the diet people are on, which prevents the development of these diseases. A well-balanced diet not only prevents diseases, it also leads to longevity and healthy aging without Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of what you eat, and be sure it is healthy!

Part of this text was published before here.

Aug
01
2020

Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

Research on white women aged 70 years or older found that eating fish protects the brain from air pollution. Dr. Ka He from the Columbia University of New York published the new study on July 15, 2020 in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

1,315 women who did not have dementia at the start of the study enrolled in it. Researchers measured the air pollution of the areas where the women lived. They also measured their omega-3 fatty acid blood levels. They found that women from polluted areas who ate the lowest amounts of fish and had the lowest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood, had the highest amount of brain shrinkage.

Methods of determining brain shrinkage, omega-3 fatty acids and pollution

The amount of brain shrinkage was determined with MRI scans of the brain. The amount of white brain matter was measured, particularly the size of the memory-sensitive hippocampus. Blood omega-3 fatty acid content was determined in red blood cells. Pollution was determined by the fine particulate matter in air pollution at the address where the patient lived. Every woman in the study received a diet questionnaire regarding fish consumption. From this information the researchers determined the average fish consumption per week. This included broiled and baked fish, non-fried shellfish, canned tuna, tuna casserole and tuna salad. Deep fried fish was not part of the list, because other studies showed that deep-frying damages omega-3 fatty acids.

More details regarding the study

The researchers adjusted the study according to age, smoking status, and other factors that could affect brain shrinkage. Women with the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had the highest volume of white matter in their brains as MRI scans showed. Specifically, the researchers noted the following findings:

  • Women with the highest omega-3 fatty acid level had 410 cubic cm white matter
  • Women with the lowest omega-3 fatty acid level had 403 cubic cm white matter
  • Each quartile increase in air pollution caused shrinkage of white matter by 11.52 cubic cm in those women with low omega-3 fatty acid consumption
  • In women with higher omega-3 fatty acid levels each quartile increase in air pollution caused shrinkage of white matter by only 0.12 cubic cm
  • Women with the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake had the highest volume of the hippocampus

Comments by the lead author of the study

Dr. Ka He stated: “Our findings suggest that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood from fish consumption may preserve brain volume as women age and possibly protect against the potential toxic effects of air pollution.” But Dr. Ka He cautioned: “It’s important to note that our study only found an association between brain volume and eating fish. It does not prove that eating fish preserves brain volume. And since separate studies have found some species of fish may contain environmental toxins, it’s important to talk to a doctor about what types of fish to eat before adding more fish to your diet.”

Limitations of study

The study was involving older white women. This means that the results cannot be generalized to Afro Americans, Hispanics or Asians. The researchers examined exposure to pollution only later in life, not in early life or midlife. Hopefully future studies will examine what happens with lifelong exposure to pollution.

How to limit mercury exposure when eating fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly present in fish. It has plaque-reducing properties and also reduces the risk for abnormal heart beats. Overall this means less cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends a 3.5 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice per week.

Mercury and other pollutants

Pollution of the air, soil and rivers is causing accumulation of mercury and other heavy metals in ocean water.

This affects fish that live in the ocean. There is a pecking order of predators with the larger fish feeding on the smaller fish. The bigger the predator fish, the more mercury and other pollutants they accumulate. According to this link the safest seafood is wild salmon, pollock and oysters.

High mercury content of predator fish

Tuna is too high in mercury, so is swordfish, and shark is even worse. I only consume fish from freshwater lakes or rivers, as well as salmon, oysters and shrimp. This way I get the lowest exposure to mercury. Why is mercury bad for you? It is a neurotoxin. It can harm your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and the immune system. Specific symptoms can include loss of peripheral vision and lack of coordination with balancing problems. There may be impairment of speech and hearing. The key is to avoid mercury exposure.

Smaller fish low in mercury

The first line of defense is to stick to the smaller fish. They are they prey of the large predator fish. The following fish/mussels belong into the low mercury group (alphabetical order): anchovies, catfish, clam, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, herring, mackerel, mullet, oyster, perch, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, sole, squid, trout and whitefish.

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements

You may want to supplement your omega-3 fatty acid intake by fish oil capsules. It is important that you choose the more expensive higher potency products. A molecular distillation process that removes mercury, PCB and other heavy metals creates these higher potency products. This way you only get the enriched omega-3 fatty acids in pure form. EPA and DHA in one capsule should be in the 900 mg to 1000 mg range, not less. I take 2 capsules twice per day as a daily supplement. This helps you to balance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which cuts down any inflammatory process (from too many omega-6 fatty acids) in you.

Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

Eating Fish Protects the Brain from Air Pollution

Conclusion

A new study from the Columbia University of New York has shown that women older than 70 can preserve the white matter of their brains by consumption of fish. This included the hippocampus which is crucial for memory. The researchers measured the recent exposure of these women to pollution. They noted that the women who were exposed to the highest amounts of pollution had the best protection of the white matter of their brains by the highest consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation, but when enough omega-3 fatty acids are part of the nutrition, the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio switches towards anti-inflammation and health.

How to consume omega-3 fatty acids safely

Omega-3 fatty acids are in fish and seafood. Unfortunately, mercury is contaminating these foods. But when you stick to the smaller fish and use molecularly distilled omega-3 supplements you can largely avoid this problem.

Parts of this text has been published before here.

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Jul
25
2020

The Immune System Changes With Age

When we are young, we do not think about our immune system, but the immune system changes with age. When we are older than age 60, we notice that we may be taking longer to recover from a flu.

How does the immune system work?

There are two parts to the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system works to protect us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and fungi from the time we are born. The adaptive immune system uses B lymphocytes from the bone marrow to produce antibodies against viruses. This provides often lifelong immunity against this specific virus, but takes 3 to 5 days to kick in. Vaccinations can also trigger antibody production to protect us from viruses in the future. Both the adaptive and the innate immune system work together closely.

What are the ingredients for a fully functioning immune system?

The immune system consists of various immune organs that are distributed throughout the body. The bone marrow produces lymphocytes, granulocytes, macrophages, eosinophils and basophils. The adenoids in the back of the nasal passages and the tonsils in the back of the throat contain a lot of lymphocytes that are ready to protect us from colds and flus. We have lymph nodes throughout the body and they are connected with lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid that travels in the lymphatic vessels.

Other sites of lymphocyte production

The small intestine contains the Peyer’s patches, a collection of lymphocytes that protect our gut from invading bacteria or viruses. The spleen is located in the left abdominal cavity under the diaphragm. It removes old red blood cells and provides lymphocytes for the immune system. The thymus gland is located between the breast bone and the trachea. It changes bone marrow derived lymphocytes (B cells) into T lymphocytes that can process antigens from viruses and pass them on to the adaptive immune system for a full antibody response.

Cellular interactions between various players of the immune system

Back in the 1970’s it was already known that there were bone marrow derived B lymphocytes and thymus processed T lymphocytes. We knew then that B cells were involved in antibody production (adaptive immunity). T lymphocytes were thought to turn into killer T lymphocytes to kill cancer cells. But some T cells were T helper cells to process antigen and present it to B lymphocytes for antibody production.

More research since then refined what we know about the cells of the immune system.

Natural killer cells (NK cells)

Natural killer cells (NK cells) are part of the innate immune system. They attack cancer cells and cells that are infected by viruses. It takes about 3 days for their full action to develop. NK cells utilize the cell surface histocompatibility complex to decide whether to destroy a cell or not. T cell lymphocytes do not have the ability to do that. In the Covid-19 coronavirus situation NK cells play an important role to combat the disease right away.

Monocytes

They are large white blood cells that can differentiate further into macrophages and dendritic cells. Monocytes are part of the innate immunity, but they have an antigen presenting capability, which makes them also part of the adaptive immunity.

Memory T cells

The immune system learns to adapt to viruses and bacteria that we have come in contact with. The reason for the memory of the immune cells are the memory T cells. They replicate like stem cells, which keeps a clone of T lymphocytes, T helper cells and cytotoxic T killer cells in the background. They circulate through the body including the lymph glands and the spleen.

Immunosenescence as we age

There are several factors that come together, which age our immune system. The term for this is “immunosenescence“. There are genetic differences and differences due to the sex hormones. Estrogens increase the response of the immune system. In contrast, progesterone and androgens (including testosterone) decrease the immune response. This may be the reason why women tend to live longer than men.

As we age there are more and more memory T cells (both cytotoxic T cells and T helper cells). This weakens the formation of the natural killer cells (NK cells) of the innate immune system. Even the initiation of the adaptive immune system can be slower when we age and also the response to the flu vaccine. In addition, this can pave the way to autoimmune diseases.

The immune system changes with age: Evidence of immunosenescence

The following 3 factors show whether a person has immunosenescence:

  • The immune system has difficulties to respond to new viruses/bacteria or to vaccines
  • Accumulation of memory T cells crowding out cells of the rest of the immune system
  • Low-grade inflammation that is chronic and persists (“inflamm-aging”)

The process of immunosenescence starts with the involution of the thymus gland around the time of puberty. At that time the sex hormone secretion is highest. At the same time a growth factor from the bone marrow and the thymus gland decreases. It has the name interleukin-7 (IL-7). The end result is a slow decrease of the innate immune system with age and a more substantial weakening of the adaptive immune system due to a lack of naïve T and B cells. 

Chronic viruses can weaken the immune system further

The varicella herpes zoster virus causes chickenpox. In some people the chickenpox virus can persist, but the immune system actively keeps it controlled. In the 60’s or 70’s when the immune system is weakened from aging, there can be a flare-up as shingles, a localized form of the chickenpox virus.

Another virus, the human cytomegalovirus can cause a chronic infection that often persists lifelong. In this case the immune system is chronically weakened because of a massive accumulation of T memory cells, which keeps the human cytomegalovirus infection at bay.

What we need when the immune system changes with age 

Vitamin A

Both the innate and adaptive immunity depend on vitamin A and its metabolites. The skin cells and mucosal cells function as a barrier, which is important for the innate immunity. The skin/mucosal lining of the eye, the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts help the innate immunity to keep viruses and bacteria out of the body. Vitamin A is important to support macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. In addition, vitamin A supports the adaptive immune system, namely T and B lymphocytes, so that the body can produce specific antibodies against viruses.

I do not take vitamin A supplements as I eat diversified foods like spinach, vegetables, poultry, Brussels sprout, fish and dairy products that contain vitamin A and carotenoids.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

Vitamin D

The immune system is very dependent on vitamin D as the immune cells all contain vitamin D receptors. People who have less than 10 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood are vitamin D deficient. They have much higher death rates when they get infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Vitamin D regulates the expression of target genes. At the center is the vitamin D receptor, which is a nuclear transcription factor. Together with the retinoic X receptor (from vitamin A) the vitamin D receptor binds small sequences of DNA. They have the name “vitamin D response elements” and are capable of initiating a cascade of molecular interactions. The result is a modulation of specific genes. Researchers identified thousands of vitamin D response elements that regulate between 100 and 1250 genes.

You need enough vitamin D for your immune system

When enough vitamin D is present in the blood (more than 30 ng/mL) the immune system releases the peptides cathelicidins and defensins, which effectively destroy bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin D has mainly an inhibitory function regarding adaptive immunity. It inhibits antibody production from B cells and also dampens the effect of T cells. Researchers reported that vitamin D3 is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

I am a slow absorber of vitamin D3 as repeat blood vitamin D levels showed. I need 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to get a blood level of 50-80 ng/mL (=125-200 nmol/L). This is the higher range of normal. Everybody is different. Ask your physician to check your blood level of vitamin D. Toxic vitamin D blood levels are only starting above 150 ng/mL (= 375 nmol/L).

Vitamin E

This is a vitamin that is fat soluble and helps the body to maintain its cell membranes. But researchers found that vitamin E also stimulates the T cell-mediated immune response. This is particularly important for the aging person to prevent respiratory tract infections. I take 125 mg of Annatto tocotrienols per day (this is the most potent form of vitamin E).

Vitamin B6

This vitamin is important for antibody production by B cells. Vitamin B6 regulates the metabolism of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. Antibodies and cytokines require vitamin B6. The T helper immune cells that initiate an adaptive immune response depend on vitamin B6 as well. I take a multi B complex vitamin (Mega B 50) twice per day, so I supplement with a total of 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily.

Folate

Folic acid is a coenzyme for the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Studies in humans and animals have shown that folate deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infections. People with folate deficiency develop a megaloblastic anemia with immune weakness that leads to chronic infections. With my B complex supplement I get 2 mg of folic acid daily.

Vitamin B12

Methylation pathways depend on vitamin B12 as a coenzyme. Vitamin B12 is also involved as a coenzyme in the production of energy from fats and proteins. In addition, hemoglobin synthesis depends on vitamin B12. Patients with vitamin B12 deficiency develop pernicious anemia. These patients also have a weak immune system due to natural killer cell activity suppression and because circulating lymphocyte numbers are significantly decreased.

Treatment with cyanocobalamin reverses the immune weakness rapidly and treats pernicious anemia at the same time. I take 50 micrograms twice per day as part of the Mega-B50 multivitamin tablet. But I also inject 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 every 6 months subcutaneously to be sure it is absorbed into the body. In older age the intrinsic factor from the stomach lining, which is required for absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine, can be missing, leading to vitamin B12 deficiency despite swallowing supplements.

Minerals required for a good immune response

Researchers identified five minerals that are essential for a strong immune system. They are zinc, iron, selenium, copper and magnesium.

Zinc

Zinc is important for a normal function of the innate and adaptive immune system. As zinc cannot be stored in the body, taking regular zinc supplements (30 to 50 mg daily) is important. I take 50 mg of amino acid chelated zinc daily.

Iron

Iron is important for cell oxygen transport and storage, DNA synthesis and for mounting an effective immune response. In particular it is the T cell differentiation and proliferation where iron is needed. Iron deficient people get a lot of infections because the immune system is paralyzed. I eat one spinach salad or steamed spinach daily, which gives me enough iron supply per day.

Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral that is important for a normal immune response and for cancer prevention. When selenium is missing, both the adaptive and innate immune system are suffering. In this case viruses are more virulent. With selenium supplementation cell-mediated immunity is improved and the immune response to viruses is more potent. I take 200 micrograms of selenium per day.

Copper

Deficiency in copper results in a very low neutrophil blood count and causes susceptibility to infections. Copper is a trace mineral that participates in several enzymatic reactions. It is important for the innate immune response to bacterial infections. A well-balanced Mediterranean diet contains enough copper, which is why I do not supplement with extra copper.

Magnesium

An important cofactor for vitamin D in the body is magnesium. Magnesium participates in many enzymatic reactions. Between vitamin D and magnesium, the immune system is strengthened. I take 150 mg of magnesium citrate twice per day. By the way, magnesium also helps us to get a restful sleep, if we take it at bedtime.

Other dietary factors that strengthen the immune system

Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body and help to modulate the immune system. I take 1800 mg of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) twice per day. I also like to eat fish and seafood at least 3 times per week.

Probiotics benefit both the innate and the adaptive immune system. They strengthen the epithelial gut barrier, which is an important innate immune defence. Probiotics also lower the risk for Clostridium difficile gut infections. I take one probiotic every morning.

The Immune System Changes With Age

The Immune System Changes With Age

Conclusion

The immune system consists of different organs like the bone marrow, the spleen, lymph glands, Peyer’s patches in the gut, the thymus gland and more. There is the innate immune system, which responds immediately to a virus like the Covid-19 coronavirus. The adaptive immune response involves antibody production against, for instance, the measle virus or the mumps virus. With the aging process the immune system slows down (immunosenescence). This involves an accumulation of memory T cells and a depletion of natural killer cells (NK cells). This means that the innate immunity is getting weaker as we age and chronic inflammation occurs more often. This is the reason why people above the age of 65 get more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 coronavirus. They are also more affected by influenza-type illnesses.

Take supplements to strengthen the immune system

I reviewed the cofactors of a healthy immune system in some detail. It is important that you pay attention to these, particularly the vitamin D3 intake. With a strong immune system, we can survive viral infections better, including the current Covid-19 coronavirus. Future research will likely detect how to reactivate a sluggish immune system in older people. This way vaccination responses following flu injections will become more reliable in seniors.

Jul
18
2020

Key Factors for Centenarians

A study from Washington State University (WSU) showed some of the key factors for centenarians to survive. The publication of the study goes back to June 17, 2020. In general, it was common knowledge that genetics plays a role in 25% to 35% of centenarians for their survival. That is to say, the remainder is the result of lifestyle factors. It is important to realize that the environmental factors play a significant role in the survival of centenarians, said Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student. He and his research team determined what allowed centenarians to reach an age of 100 or above. Briefly, they identified the following factors that were necessary.

Three factors identified by the Washington State University study

  • walkability of the neighbourhood, which encourages regular exercising
  • belonging to the higher socioeconomic class
  • a high percentage of working population in the neighborhood (a mixed population) was also important

In the discussion the authors of the WSU study said that “blue zones” of centenarians had been mentioned before in the literature. To clarify, these are areas in the world where more than the average of centenarians live. Dan Buettner used the term “blue zones” in a National Geographic article about where centenarians were located.

The blue zones

He wrote a book about the location of the 5 blue zones. Notably, they are located in Sardinia (Italy), the islands of Okinawa and a group of Seven Day Adventists in Loma Linda. California. In addition, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, and the island of Icaria, Greece complete the 5 blue zones. Specifically, Dan Buettner described the following characteristics of the lifestyle of centenarians.

  • They engage in regular physical activity
  • Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes
  • Calorie intake is moderate
  • Moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine
  • Having a purpose in life
  • Engaged in family life
  • Having an active spiritual life
  • Reducing stress
  • Engaged in social life

Other attributes of centenarians

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. In particular, the topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “. Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. He took an interest in people above the age of 100. These people, he felt, are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. Dr. Hertoghe went on to say that centenarians have a will to live. Indeed, they adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active.

More positive attributes of centenarians

Other psychological features, by the same token, show that they have a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another key point is that they have self-determination. It must be remembered also that they are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. In addition, there is a connection between their basic values, beliefs and spirituality. Truly, centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. For one thing, centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing some of the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave.

The will to live

For one thing, it takes courage to grow old, and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. Essentially, they have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Surprisingly, their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

In other words, this describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. However, 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group had a 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher probability of not developing cognitive impairment. That is to say, they rated themselves to be in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. In essence, these high resilient centenarians had no short-term health decline.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48% in males. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%. Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

The fasting mimicking diet helps you to reach a longer life

clinical trial with 100 subjects was undertaken by Dr. Longo and his research team. He measured markers after 3 cycles of a fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. They found that the FMD reduced aging markers, improved diabetes and reduced susceptibility for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In another publication Dr. Longo and co-authors describe how autoimmune diseases can be improved by the use the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Another publication by Dr. Longo describes that “age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke” can be prevented by fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Even cancer prevention and cancer treatment can be helped by the fasting mimicking diet.  The FMD makes chemotherapy more tolerable.

Key Factors for Centenarians

Key Factors for Centenarians

Conclusion

As we reviewed the factors that lead to longevity, we learnt that engaging in regular moderate exercise is one of the key factors. But belonging to the higher socioeconomic class and living in a mixed neighborhood with people from all walks of life is also important. We also reviewed the blue zones according to Dan Buettner. Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes with moderate calorie restriction prolongs your life. Add to this moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine, and having a purpose in life. Augment this further with being engaged in family life, having an active spiritual life and reducing your stress level.

Living longer is a matter of fulfilling these longevity factors

With all of this you are on your way to become a centenarian. A review by Dr. Hertoghe in a lecture given at an Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas in 2019 added more criteria centenarians have. He provided references regarding the will to live, being adaptable, remaining active and harboring positive emotions. The more of these factors you can adopt, the longer you will live. At the same time, you will avoid getting diseases like heart attacks, strokes or cancer, which leads to a longer and healthier life.

The above text contains parts of this blog. The part about the fasting mimicking diet was published here before.

Jun
20
2020

Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

We knew since the mid 1990’s that chronic inflammation can cause many diseases. Among these are cancer, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), arthritis, dementia (Alzheimer’s disease), frailty and other degenerative disorders. LifeExtension reviewed this topic in 2019.

Older people often accumulate chronic inflammation, which associates with the aging process. Persistent pain is one of the symptoms that chronic inflammation can cause.

Doctors use tests like the C-reactive protein, hemoglobin A1C, homocysteine and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate to measure chronic inflammation.

When the doctor diagnoses chronic inflammation, it is important to find ways to inhibit it and finally resolve it. Curcumin, ginger and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are examples of measures that help inhibit inflammation. But it is only lately that scientists have found specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM) that help to resolve chronic inflammation. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which health food stores offer as supplements.

Specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM)

Researchers isolated several pro-resolving mediators that are metabolites of omega-3 fatty acids. This link discusses an experiment where researchers obtained synovial fluid from arthritis patients who took omega-3 fatty acids. They compared this to synovial fluid from volunteers who also took omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Within 4 weeks there was a big difference for the arthritis patients with higher levels of E- and D-series SPMs in synovial fluid and plasma. Dr. Silverman reviewed the action of SPMs here. He points out that they can be taken as supplements and that they are safe, because they do not have any side effects. Conditions such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and various musculoskeletal conditions with chronic inflammation respond very well to SPM supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (EPA) metabolize into the E-series resolvins.  On the other hand, Krill oil with Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) metabolizes into protectins, maresins and the D-series resolvins.

Three vital tasks of pro-resolving mediators

SPMs fulfill three vital tasks, called remove, restore and renew.  First, they activate macrophages, which remove dead cells and cellular debris as a result of chronic inflammation. Second, they restore the healthy balance of inflammatory compounds and anti-inflammatory substances. Third, SPMs help renew tissues that were damaged by chronic inflammation.

Some examples where SPM’s were helpful resolving inflammation in health conditions

  • Alzheimer’s disease patients had reduced SPMs in cerebrospinal fluid of living patients and in the hippocampus of corpses who had Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A research group showed that defective SPM resolution can be responsible for missing resolution of atheromatous plaques in arteries. This leads to more and more hardening of arteries until a heart attack or stroke occurs.
  • With obesity or metabolic syndrome insulin resistance develops. Researchers found that certain SPM’s are missing in obesity, which causes chronic inflammation. However, they also found that precursors of SPMs such as 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA) can serve as a novel treatment agent to treat obesity-related complications.

Newer studies about SPMs

  • 62 patients with knee osteoarthritis had the precursor of resolvins, 17-HDHA tested in the blood. Compared to controls with no arthritis the 17-HDHA level in the arthritis patients was low. When levels of 17-HDHA were high, there was no pain in osteoarthritis patients.
  • Chronic periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition in the mouth. In a rabbit model this condition was cured with resolvin E1 derived from omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Delayed wound healing is typical for type 2 diabetes. In a mouse model with diabetic mice researchers inflicted skin wounds on mice. Subsequently they showed that with resolvins mice wounds healed much faster than in control mice.
  • Chronic kidney failure, liver impairment, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease showed abnormalities in the SPM system in humans. Potentially they will be healed with the help of resolvins or their precursors, which includes the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

Chronic Inflammation Can Cause Many Diseases

Conclusion

New compounds have been detected that derive from the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. They have the name specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPM). Included are the resolvins D1 and D2, the resolvins E1, E2 and E3 as well as the precursors 18-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid (18-HEPE) and 17-hydroxydocosahexaenoic acid (17-HDHA). The function of these compounds is to stimulate macrophages to clean up areas of chronic inflammation and remove cell debris and injured cells that cannot survive. While anti-inflammatories like ginger and curcumin only tone down the inflammation, SPMs help to resolve chronic inflammation. Various chronic clinical conditions were identified as being due to chronic inflammation. Chronic kidney failure, liver impairment, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease showed abnormalities in the SPM system. We may soon see alternative approaches treating these conditions with specialized pro-resolving mediators.

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May
02
2020

The Quality of Food is Important

Many authors wrote books about food; the quality of food is important. Recently I came across a book review regarding the book “The Way We Eat Now” by Bee Wilson. In the March 2020 edition of the health magazine “LifeExtension” Laurie Mathena interviewed Bee Wilson about her book.

Bee Wilson explained that there is a distinct history about the production of food throughout the centuries. She described 5 phases.

  1. During the hunter/gatherer time people were eating a low-fat diet with berries, wild greens and wild animals.
  2. Stage two began around 20,000 BC. It was the agricultural age with a switch to cereals. At that time the population experienced rapid growth.

More stages

  1. Only a couple of centuries ago, agriculture made progress with crop rotation and by adding fertilizers. This led to a more varied diet. People ate more vegetables, less starchy food and animal protein.
  2. After the Second World War there was a major food transition. Processed food was introduced. People started eating more fat, meat, sugar and a lot less fiber. We are now experiencing a phenomenon that we are simultaneously overfed, but undernourished. We get too many calories, but our diet is poor in nutrients. This type of diet causes obesity and degenerative type illnesses.
  3. Stage 5 involves people abandoning junk food and eating more vegetables and fruit again. The more knowledgeable people are about the link between a good diet and health, the healthier people eat. This stage requires governments and other organizations to do their part in assisting people to make that food transition.

Food labeling changes in Chile

Here is one example of how governments can make a difference. This happened in Chile. Chile used to have the highest consumption of sugary beverages in the world. Prior to 2016 the average consumer in Chile bought more than 50% of the food as ultra-processed. This resulted in Chile having the second highest obesity rate after Mexico. The government of Chile decided in 2014 to introduce very simple labels for every food item. The government of Chile demanded that all the foods with too much sugar, high saturated fat, food high in salt and high in calories had proper labels. These labels are simple, hexagonal warning labels.

Warning labels

For instance, if a food product had too much salt in it, it would say in the hexagonal label: “Warning: high in salt”. As the labels had the effect of lowering sales, the food companies reformulated their products very quickly to stay under the threshold triggering the food warning. In 2016 Chile also decided to tax unhealthy foods higher. The government taxed sugar-sweetened colas with an 18% extra tax. Schools had to abandon junk foods sales.

Quality of food

When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grape-seed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other hand.

The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is important

In the past a healthy ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 was 4:1 or less. The average American now eats food with 16-times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3’s. This is an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 16:1. No wonder people get sick with degenerative diseases.

Brain health maintained by eating enough omega-3 fatty acids

Here is a study that looked at brain structure using MRI scans. 3660 participants aged 65 received MRI brain scans. The researchers recorded their food intake with questionnaires. They rescanned 2313 of these individuals 5 years later. The group highest in omega-3 consumption was compared to the group with the lowest omega-3 consumption. Blood tests were also done both initially and 5 years later to verify the omega-3 intake. The researchers found that the higher omega-3 group had less subclinical infarcts and the white matter of the brain was of a better grade. They concluded that fish consumption, the major source of omega-3 fatty acids, had a beneficial effect on brain health later in life, preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Cook your own food, do not eat out frequently

When you cook your own food, you can choose the right foods as you shop. Stay away from the “dirty dozen”, which is poisoned with insecticides, herbicides or pesticides. Instead you can buy organic foods that have not been sprayed with toxic substances. When you eat out, you have no choice about what you eat. Food in restaurants also contains food preservatives that are not labeled in North America, but that would be labeled in restaurant menus in Europe. In addition, food in restaurants often contains too much salt, too much sugar and the wrong oils. Omega-6 fatty acids are much cheaper than olive oil, and as a result this is what the chef uses.

Transition from stage 4 to stage 5

When you want to transition from stage 4 to stage 5 regarding your food composition you are swimming against the stream of establishment. At this point you are more or less alone when you want to abandon French fries, processed food bars, hamburgers and sugary soft drinks. But the more you eat at home, the more you take out your lunch box with food prepared at home, the more you are winning the war against convenience foods. It is what you put into your mouth, which is the fuel for your body. Don’t compromise regarding the quality of your food!

The Quality of Food is Important

The Quality of Food is Important

Conclusion

The quality of food is important. We have been inundated by ads from the food industry that we should eat fast foods (hamburgers, French fries), processed foods like power bars and drink sugary drinks. We have met the entire lineup on television! But it is best to buy basic foods and prepare all your food from scratch. Be careful that you avoid the “dirty dozen” foods. If you want to eat these, buy the organic food versions. This way you avoid pesticides and other poisons. Stick to extra virgin olive oil as a fat source and avoid vegetable oils. Soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grape-seed oil contain a lot of omega-6 fatty oils.

Inflammation caused by vegetable oils

These cause inflammation in your blood vessels and joints. The end result are heart attacks, strokes and arthritis. I also eat a lot of wild salmon and other seafoods, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, I take two capsules of molecularly distilled fish oil in the morning and at night. Eat more vegetables and fruit. You are now paying attention to the fact that the quality of food is important.

Here is a link to the book by Bee Wilson; “The Way We Eat Now”.

Mar
14
2020

Telomeres are Important

In the first place, Dr. Joseph Raphaele reviewed why telomeres are important at a Conference in Las Vegas in December 2019. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15, 2019. The actual title of his lecture was: “Telomeres in 2019; clinical developments and cutting-edge applications”.

Notably, Dr. Raphaele reviewed how various animals have quite different life expectancies. First, the Aldabra giant tortoises, for instance can live up to 152 years. Second, the house mouse can at the most live up to 6 years, but its predator, the cat lives up to 38 years. Finally, humans can live up to 122.5 years.That is to say, the average mortality rate doubling curve of man is 8 years. Dr. Raphaele introduced the terms “lifespan” and “health-span”.

Lifespan versus health-span

The first thing to remember is that our lifespan is defined by the number of years we live. On the contrary, the health-span is defined by the number of years you do not have any disease and your physical and mental health are good. Dr. Raphaele explained that for the most part the body’s organs have a limit of functioning after 80. For this reason the kidneys, the maximum heart rate, the maximum breathing capacity and the maximum work rate (oxygen uptake) all decline after the age of 80. It is important to realize that in 1961 Dr. Leonard Hayflick showed that there is a limit of how often cells can divide. After 60 doublings cells in tissue culture either die or just stop dividing. The built-in molecular clock resides in the telomeres. The telomeres are the caps at the end of the chromosomes in the cell’s nucleus.

Telomeres and their function in aging

In a word, what is the function of telomeres? In essence, the telomeres protect the integrity of our genes. For the most part, they protect the chromosomes from deteriorating, prevent DNA fusion and massive instability of the genes. In addition, the telomeres allow the cells to divide in an orderly fashion, but only up to the Hayflick limits. In short, the bottom line is that telomeres prevent cells from mutations of the DNA, from senescence and from death.

Shortening of telomere length with age

Dr. Raphaele said that one of the important findings was that telomere length is shortening with age. Notably, he showed a slide similar to this. To clarify, this graph shows telomere length as a function of the lifespan in years. The telomere length is obtained by a blood test. This determines the length of the telomeres in white blood cells. At a young age it has a length of between 8 and 10 kb. kb stands for kilobase. A kilobase consists of 1,000 pairs of nucleic acid sequences. So, 10 kb means 10,000 pairs of nucleic acid sequences. Around the age of 80 people have much shorter telomeres, only 4 to 6 kb. There is an enzyme, called telomerase that can elongate telomeres by approximately 10%. But this may not be desirable as too much telomerase activation can also stimulate cancer growth.

Age changes telomere length

Dr. Raphaele explained further that a telomere loses about 100 base pairs per cell division. But there are other factors that shorten telomeres. Smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, stress and a low antioxidant status all can shorten telomeres. Certain congenital conditions can shorten telomeres by 28%. Dyskeratosis congenita is such a condition where 80% patients die by the age of 30 due to aplastic anemia. This is associated with bone marrow failure. 10% of these patients die from cancer. Apart from age, which shortens telomeres slowly, lifestyle factors are very important. A good lifestyle where you exercise regularly, you don’t smoke and you eat a healthy diet will slow down the shortening of your telomeres. Controlling your stress, sleeping enough hours per night and taking supplements also delays telomere shortening. Certain medications that control diabetes, high blood pressure or thyroid medication that treats hypothyroidism also delay telomere shortening.

Telomeres and shortened lifespan

Researchers could show that good lifestyle practices work by increasing telomerase to a certain degree. This results in lengthening of telomeres and translates into up to 10 years of increased life span. Jerry Shay, PhD said in 2011: “While the aging process is complex and certainly cannot be explained solely on the basis of telomere biology, there is a growing consensus that in some situations telomere biology and telomere tests may have important utility similar to cholesterol assays or blood pressure monitoring measurements.”

Telomeres are not just a biological clock inside our cells. They have a great influence on the function of mitochondria and on how many mitochondria multiply inside cells. This latter process is called mitochondrial biogenesis. In addition, telomeres regulate gene expression.

Chronic diseases associated with shortened telomeres

Here is a list of chronic diseases where all the patients have shortened telomeres.

  • High blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes and obesity
  • Chronic stress
  • Metabolic syndrome

Telomeres in cardiovascular disease

Telomere length was found to be shortened in those who developed a heart attack. Researchers compared the telomere length in coronary artery disease (CAD) patients to people with no history of heart attacks. In comparison to this normal group the heart attack victims had telomeres typical for people who are chronologically 11.3 years older than the healthy controls. The researchers calculated that people with telomere shortening had a 3-fold higher risk of coming down with a heart attack.

Telomere length enhancers

  1. Lifestyle changes can have positive effects on telomere length. Examples are smoking cessation, weight loss and stress reduction.
  2. Dietary changes: we know that fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) supplements elongate telomeres as does a low-fat diet.
  3. Supplements like vitamin D3, antioxidants (vitamin C and E) and astragalus (TA-65) elongate telomeres as well. The astragalus supplement, TA-65 showed a significant elongation of telomeres after 12 months while controls lost telomere length.
  4. Exercise: in a 24-week experiment of care workers regular aerobic exercise increased the telomeres by 67.3 base pairs.
  5. Bioidentical hormone replacement in aging people: when hormones are missing after andropause and menopause, the natural hormones need replacing, or the telomeres are shortening.
  6. High cortisol levels cause telomere shortening.
  7. Human growth hormone elongates telomeres via telomerase activation.
  8. The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) was shown to extend life and telomeres as well.

Therapeutic rationale for telomere lengthening in CAD and AD

Patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) are at risk for developing heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Here is an overview of many clinical trials that have been done in humans with CAD. It shows shortening of telomeres in these high-risk patients. But the review also shows that telomeres can lengthen by changing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Researchers were increasing the enzyme telomerase that indirectly lengthens telomeres. Both approaches prevent serious cardiovascular disease and increase life expectancy significantly. In severe cases of telomere shortening the physician can consider TERT gene therapy.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) also is a condition where telomeres are shortened compared to normal controls. Time will tell whether TERT gene therapy is possible to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Telomeres are Important

Telomeres are Important

Conclusion

Telomeres are the caps of the chromosomes in our cells. In the past the word “telomere” appeared obscure and only scientists discussed this among themselves. Now we know that telomere shortening is often the reason for chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and obesity. Patients who have these conditions often have shortened telomeres in their white blood cells. Over the years we have learnt that lifestyle changes can have positive effects on telomere length. Smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss and stress reduction are elongating telomeres.

Additional factors elongating telomeres

In addition, supplements like antioxidants (vitamin C and E), vitamin D3 and astragalus root (TA-65) elongate telomeres as well. By elongating telomeres, a person can add 10 to 11 years of disease-free life to the normal life expectancy. Researchers showed that telomerase activation by human growth hormone increased telomere length without causing cancer. Dr. Thierry Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Belgium spoke about HGH replacement in aging people on other occasions. He said that cautiously treating patients with low doses of HGH when blood tests showed deficiency, adds about two decades of life-expectancy to these patients’ lives.

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Mar
07
2020

Eat Right for a Long Life

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk at a conference in Las Vegas stressing the importance to eat right for a long life. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. The actual title of her presentation was “Nutrition for Longevity”.
Dr. Gersh has a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.

In the first place she pointed out that an anti-inflammatory diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy oils like olive oil and fish. This is a modified Mediterranean diet. On the other hand, with a pro-inflammatory diet or Western diet, you eat high fat, cholesterol, lots of protein from red beef, high sugar, excessive salt and a lot of processed and fast-food.

Prevention of diseases

It is important to realize that for prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative diseases you need to eat fruits and vegetables, which contain important phytochemicals. They contain a wide variety of molecules, like carotenoids, vitamins and polyphenols. Another key point is that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale) contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds. They protect you from cancer.

Vitamins and magnesium

It must be remembered that in order to strengthen the immune system and prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) we need the following: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the enzyme Co-Q10, vitamin A, B complex, C, D, E, carotenoids, phytosterols, stilbenes and flavonoids. Another key point is that magnesium is extremely important. Many of our dietary habits have reduced magnesium intake to a minimum. Our soils are depleted of magnesium, it is no longer in drinking water, and it is absent in processed foods. However, magnesium is involved as a co-factor in more than 700 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. Magnesium is involved in heart contractions, is important to maintain our blood pressure and is important for glycemic control. It is also important for bone development and for DNA and RNA synthesis. Magnesium binds serotonin and dopamine to their receptors and plays a role in many more body functions.

Brassica vegetables

This group of vegetables consists of broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Notably, they have long been recognized to lower the risk of many cancers. The first thing to remember is that the active ingredients in them are glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. Certainly, food preparation has a lot of influence on maintaining beneficial substances in the brassica vegetables. To emphasize, finely shredded vegetables had a marked decline of their glucosinolate levels by 75% within only 6 hours. On the negative side, microwave cooking destroys 74% of glucosinolates, but on the positive side, storage in room air preserves almost all of the glucosinolates for 1 week. In addition, stir frying brassica also preserves the glucosinolates. This reference points out how fruit and vegetables can contribute to cancer prevention.

The gut microbiome

The Western diet leads to a change in the gut flora with Gram-negative bacteria taking over the healthy gut flora and disrupting the intestinal barrier. To emphasize, this result is called endotoxemia. Part of this is increased serum endotoxin, which mainly consists of lipopolysaccharides. Indeed, it causes gut inflammation and a breakdown of the gut barrier. When this happens, autoimmune antibodies are produced. To put it another way, the Western diet undermines your health. In a word, high fat foods and added sugars (refined carbohydrates) lead to increased Gram-negative bacteria and the disruption of the intestinal barrier.

An unhealthy diet causes disease

In the long run this causes autoimmune diseases, leads to higher heart attack rates and to diabetes. Healthy gut bacteria in fact help to digest fibre, which leads to three short-chain fatty acids: butyrate, acetate and propionate. For the most part, they are important as energy source, affect cardiometabolic health and appetite. On balance, butyrate also helps to maintain the blood brain barrier.

Importance of fiber

Higher fiber content in food leads to less cardiovascular disease, has positive effects on obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Fiber changes the microbiome in the gut, leads to less gut permeability and more short-chain fatty acids production.

The best diet

  • 60% to 70% complex carbohydrates are the foundation of a healthy diet. It consists of vegetables, green leafy and root vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and fruit.
  • Eat healthy fats from nuts, olives, seeds, krill or fish oil. Limit fat intake to 18 to 28% of your daily calorie intake. Avoid hydrogenated fats. Limit your saturated fatty acid intake. 85% chocolate is OK. Otherwise consume olive oil and omega-3 fatty acid containing foods (from seafood and fish).
  • Add about 12% of the daily calorie consumption as protein per day. Choose fish, seafood, lean cuts of chicken, only the occasional red meat (organic or grass-fed meat)
  • Eat lots of fiber, eat organic and minimally processed food. Limit sugar, fat and salt. Avoid antibiotics from the agricultural industry, sweeteners, gluten and excessive alcohol intake. Take a daily probiotic and eat probiotic food. Eat three meals a day, a big breakfast, a moderately-sized lunch and a small dinner. A fasting mimicking diet once per month for 5 days activates your longevity genes.
Eat Right for a Long Life

Eat Right for a Long Life

Conclusion

Dr. Felice Gersh gave a talk at a conference in Las Vegas. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. She said that we need to eat right for a long life. She gave a thorough outline of what to eat and what not to eat. It is important to note that she suggested to cut out additional refined sugar and processed food. The bacteria in the gut must be normal, or the gut barrier breaks down. This failure can cause autoimmune diseases. Eating lots of vegetables and fruit as well as fiber will help to keep your gut bacteria normal.

What foods to eat

A Mediterranean type diet gives you the right foods that you need for your health. Avoid the Standard American diet as it is unhealthy and kills the good gut bacteria. Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage and Brussels sprouts prevent the development of many cancers. Eat three meals a day, a big breakfast, a moderately-sized lunch and a small dinner. This fits best into the diurnal rhythm of your gut bacteria.

 

Jun
15
2019

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

A Danish study has shown that replacing part of red meat with fish shows health benefits.

The research was done by a PhD student and pointed out that men above the age of 50 were particularly benefitting from fish substituting part of red meat in their diet. Women in the childbearing age also benefitted greatly. On this diet pregnant women as well as the unborn children become healthier.

Risk versus benefit analysis

Sofie Theresa Thomsen, the PhD student who conducted this study did risk-benefit assessments regarding partial substitution of beef with low-mercury fish. Red and processed meat contains saturated fat, which is added to the other saturated fat in the Danish diet. Red meat and processed meats have been associated with colorectal cancer and some other cancers. But red meat also contains beneficial iron. In contrast, fish contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and also contains vitamin D. But one has to be careful about methylmercury content in fish. I reviewed fish, mercury contamination and the benefits in this link.

In her calculations Sofie Theresa Thomsen replaced 350 grams of beef per week with 350 grams of low-mercury fish per week.

If all the Danish households would do this partial beef/fish exchange, the Danes would gain 7,000 healthy years of life annually. This includes, among other health conditions, the prevention of 170 deaths from coronary heart disease.

What kind of fish can you eat?

As the link above shows, there are low, medium and high methylmercury contaminated fish. The higher the fish is in the predator chain, the higher the methylmercury content. This is of particular concern for pregnant women as mercury is toxic for the fetal brain tissue. But they consume low mercury fish and shellfish, like mackerel, herring, wild salmon, shrimps or clams, pregnant women benefit greatly from the beef/fish exchange. Tuna is too high in methylmercury to be included in the beef/fish exchange. If you were to include tuna in this, you would experience a health loss.

Vitamin D and iron

The study showed further that a partial exchange of beef by fish would reduce the number of Danes who are vitamin D deficient. The 350 grams of fish per week are sufficient to significantly raise the vitamin D blood level. Conversely, replacing a part of the beef intake with fish does not cause iron deficiency problems.

Who benefits most from replacing part of red meat by fish?

Sofie Theresa Thomsen asked who would benefit most from such a beef/fish exchange diet.

On the one hand it is the older than 50 year male population who is at a significant risk of developing heart attacks. The fatty fish with omega-3 fatty acids reverses some of the plaque in the arteries and keeps coronary arteries open. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

On the other hand pregnant women and their children benefit greatly from the beef/fish exchange diet. The women will feel more energy and their offspring will have healthy brains.

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

Conclusion

A study from Denmark analyzed what happens when a person exchanges 350 grams of beef with low mercury fish or shellfish per week. The conclusion was that Danes would gain 7,000 healthy years of life annually. Among these is the prevention of 170 deaths from coronary heart disease. But the most lives saved would be among men older than 50 years due to heart attack and stroke prevention. Pregnant women are also benefitting tremendously, not only for themselves, but for their children. The fish needs to be low mercury fish, as mentioned above, as mercury is a central nervous system toxin. Tuna is too high in mercury.

I have cut out red meat and meat products from my diet since 2015, when the WHO came out with the statement that red meat causes colorectal cancer. As a result I eat a lot more low mercury seafood and shellfish.