May
26
2019

The Foods That Are Killing Us

There is an article in a CNN report talking about the foods that are killing us. This review is based on an article in the Lancet. The Lancet study was based on a global review of eating habits in 195 countries. The question in the study was which of 15 food items caused the diseases that killed people. The answer was surprising. There are either omissions or unhealthy components of foods that kill us. Here is a list of 12 food groups that are problematical.

A dozen foods that were found to be problematical in the global review

  • Diet high in sodium (4 grams per day, which is 86% above the optimal level)
  • Low intake of whole grains (only 23% of optimal levels)
  • Low fruit intake
  • Diet high in trans fatty acids
  • Low omega-3 fatty acid diet (due to low intake of sea food)
  • Diet low in calcium
  • Diet low in fiber
  • High intake of sugar beverages or sugary foods (49 grams of sugar per day)
  • Processed meat intake too high (4 grams per day, 90% more than optimal)
  • Red meat consumption too high (27 grams per day, 18% higher than optimal)
  • Nut and seed intake too low (only consuming 12% of desired amount)
  • Diet low in milk (16% of desired amount)

Each of these components or several of them in combination create deficiencies in us or overburden us to the point where we can get sick and disabled.

Different countries have different eating habits

Globally there were 11 million deaths found in 2017 and 255 million years of disability because of various dietary inadequacies.

Here is the lineup of the leading causes of death:

  • cardiovascular disease with 10 million deaths and 207 million years of disability.
  • Cancers caused 913,090 deaths and 20 million years of disability.
  • Type 2 diabetes caused 338,714 deaths and 24 million years of disability.

This was broken down into statistics for each of the contributory countries. Here I am only citing some pertinent data that shows the importance of balanced meals for a healthy life expectancy.

Different death rates in various countries

There were big differences in terms of cardiovascular disease deaths according to various regions. Central Asia had the highest death rate with 613 deaths per 100,000 people per year. In contrast the high-income Asia Pacific group had only a cardiovascular death rate of 68 per 100,000 people per year.

Cancer deaths were highest in East Asia with 41 deaths per 100,000 people. The lowest cancer rate was found in North Africa and the Middle East with 9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Among the 20 most populous countries Egypt had the highest diet-related deaths, namely 552 deaths per 100,000 people. On the other hand Japan had the lowest of all diet related deaths with 97 deaths per 100,000 people. 

Some highlights how unhealthy foods kill us

Globally people only eat 12% of the desirable amount of nuts and seeds. They only drink 13% of what they should consume in terms of milk. People worldwide eat 23% of the desirable amount of whole grains.

Nuts and seeds contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower your risk of getting heart attacks and strokes.

Milk is a good source of calcium, protein, minerals and vitamins. However, milk, yogurt or cheese should be consumed as low fat varieties. Alternatively people who do not consume milk should look for protein carriers such as soy milk or pea milk.

If you eat nuts and vegetables you can largely compensate for low milk consumption. If you don’t get enough whole grains, you are missing a whole lot of nutrients. This makes you more vulnerable of getting cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity.

Other unhealthy foods can kill us

The WHO has labelled red meat and processed meat as being carcinogenic

Studies clearly showed a higher than normal rate of colorectal cancer in those who consumed larger amounts of red meat and/or sausages.

Sugar overconsumption

Sugar overconsumption leads to a variety of conditions. Weight gain with the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes are common when you eat too much sugar. But even cancer like colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer is more common in people who overindulge in sugar or sugary drinks. Sugar consumption raises your triglyceride and LDL level. This will eventually lead to hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

Gout develops with purine containing foods

Gout can be caused by consuming a lot of red meat combined with copious amounts of beer. This is how royalty in the Middle Ages suffered from gout attacks. Gout had the nickname of “Disease of the affluent.” Both beer and red meat contain a lot of purines, which the kidneys cannot handle. The uric acid crystals that precipitate around joints cause excruciating pains.

 What the global health study showed

Researchers of the global health study stated that improving the diet habits could potentially eliminate 1 in 5 deaths globally. Dietary risks for major diseases like heart attacks, strokes and cancer are independent from sex, age and socioeconomic status.

Three dietary factors stood out: too much salt, too little fruit and too little whole grain. These three items were responsible for 50% of diet-related deaths and 66% of “disability-adjusted life years”. The authors used this expression to describe how years of disability had their root in diet deficits (e.g. too little fruit) or overdoses of unhealthy food components (e.g. salt).

The leading dietary risk factors are too much salt, low whole grain, low fruit consumption, low vegetable intake and low omega-3 fatty acid consumption. On top of that come the previously established risks due to sugar overconsumption, excessive fat intake and consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Discussion of the meaning of these results

Deaths from heart attacks and strokes

We know for some time that high sugar and high starchy food intake cause elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL cholesterol. This leads to hardening of the arteries and eventually to strokes and heart attacks.

High sodium intake

Sodium intake of more than 2300 mg per day is considered high and can cause high blood pressure. heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms.

Eating not enough fruit

If you eat too little fruit, your system does not get enough vitamin C and other vitamins. Heart disease, cancer and anemia could develop from that.

Eating not enough vegetables

People who do not eat enough vegetables do not have enough antioxidants that protect them from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable chemicals that attack cells and DNA. Mutated cells can cause cancer. If you eat too little vegetables, you are at a higher risk of getting cancer. But there is another aspect of vegetables: phytonutrients protect from hardening of the arteries and blockages of heart and brain vessels. When someone does not eat enough vegetables, the risk for heart attacks and strokes is higher. Eating vegetables also protects you from diabetes and keeps the blood sugar more stable.

Not eating enough whole grain

Whole grain was identified as missing in a lot of people’s diet. When you incorporate whole grains into your food, you reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity.

There are vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and lignans in whole grain. Other nutrients are beta-glucan, several phytochemicals, phytosterols, phytin, and sphingolipids. All of these are necessary to maintain good health.

Low omega-3 fatty acid consumption

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy skin, brain development (neurodevelopment of children) and prevention of heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cancer because of their anti-inflammatory action and inhibition of cell growth factors. In one study rectal cancer showed a 21% reduction comparing the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake to the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Colon cancer showed no effect to omega-3 consumption, but breast cancer showed a reduction with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Researchers showed that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can slow down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Protein deposits called amyloids were found less in the brain of patients with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation; in addition the brain volume was preserved more with the omega-3 supplement. Low omega-3 fatty acid consumption also has a detrimental effect on macular degeneration of the eyes and on joint pains of rheumatoid arthritis patients.

The Foods That Are Killing Us

The Foods That Are Killing Us

Conclusion

I have reviewed a global health study that described various risks that led to deaths from different diseases. It was noticeable that death and disability rates varied significantly according to different countries. The authors also looked into food habits and could pinpoint certain food deficiencies that caused diseases that prematurely disabled or killed people. I have described the various one-sided food habits that led to specific diseases.

What we should all learn from this complicated study is that we all can strive to eat more balanced meals. You want to eat a low sodium diet, eat enough fruit and vegetables, to which you add some nuts. Eat enough whole grains and add omega-3 fatty acids. This way the risk of getting cancer, cardiovascular diseases or other problems can be significantly reduced.

Jan
05
2019

Health Benefits of Vitamin E Tocotrienols

Dr. Barrie Tan gave a talk about health benefits of vitamin E tocotrienols that I attended. This occurred at the 26th Anti-Aging Conference of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec. 13-15, 2018).

First of all, Dr. Tan stressed that there has been some confusion about vitamin E, as in the past the school of thought was that the main active ingredient of vitamin E would be alpha-tocopherol. Furthermore, many clinical trials with this ingredient go back to the 1960’s, which showed antioxidant activity. But further research revealed that there were many other tocopherols and isomers of tocotrienols. What is worse is that beneficial cardiovascular effects of the newer tocotrienols became null and void through traces of alpha-tocopherol in the mix.

Finally, this led to purer vitamin E production without alpha-tocopherol contamination. Recent clinical trials found that health benefits of vitamin E tocotrienols are linked to delta- and gamma-tocotrienols. They were many times more active in preventing heart attacks and strokes than former mixes of vitamin E.

Annatto derived tocotrienol

In 2002 scientists were able to extract pure tocotrienol without contamination of alpha-tocopherol from annatto. Prior to this vitamin E came from rice and the red palm fruit. But rice contained 50% of tocopherols, while the red palm fruit contained 25% of it.

Here are several sources of vitamin E. The components of tocopherols and tocotrienols vary depending on the source as follows.

Rice: 50% tocopherols (inactive or antagonistic), 15% alpha- and beta-tocotrienols (less active); 35% delta- and gamma-tocotrienols (most active).

Red palm fruit oil: 25% tocopherols, 25% alpha- and beta-tocotrienols, 50% delta- and gamma-tocotrienols.

Annatto: 90% delta tocotrienols and 10% gamma-tocotrienols.

Subsequent research was able to discern between the detrimental effect of alpha-tocopherol and the protecting effect of delta- and gamma-tocotrienols. Now the recommendation of Dr. Tan is to use only annatto-derived vitamin E to prevent heart attacks and strokes. He called annatto-derived vitamin E the vitamin E for the 21st century.

Tocopherol interfering with action of tocotrienols

Dr. Tan explained that alpha-tocopherol blocks absorption of tocotrienols from the gut. It also prevents storage of tocotrienols in liver and fatty tissue. By itself alpha-tocopherol leads to premature elimination of prescription drugs. It also increases blood pressure and cholesterol. What is worse is that alpha-tocopherol increases the risk of prostate cancer and glioblastoma in humans. It also decreases bone mass and increases LDL oxidation, which leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries.

Action of tocotrienols

In contrast to tocopherols, tocotrienols (particularly the delta and gamma isomers) have all the attributes that you want from vitamin E. It has the highest anti-oxidant properties among the tocotrienols. Delta- and gamma-tocotrienols accumulate in LDL cholesterol and in lipid-rich organs like the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, spleen and skin. Abdominal adipose tissue from obesity also stores delta- and gamma-tocotrienols.

Tocotrienol’s antioxidant activity

When you use a vitamin E preparation consisting of only delta- and gamma-tocotrienols, the portion of vitamin E contained in cell membranes protects against oxidation. Vitamin E  also protects lipids from omega-3 supplements and lipids in foods and beverages from oxidation. Tocotrienols are about 50-fold more potent as antioxidants compared to tocopherols. Based on this information it is not by chance that the following statistics were the results of clinical trials.

Cholesterol lowering effect of vitamin E delta- and gamma-tocotrienols

Dr. Tan cited a 6-week placebo controlled clinical study where the anti-oxidant power was measured in terms of reduction of LDL and total cholesterol.

A group of elderly patients were divided into a subgroup that had normal levels of cholesterol and another subgroup with elevated lipid levels. After 6 weeks of taking a vitamin E preparation consisting of 90% delta tocotrienols and 10% gamma-tocotrienols the blood levels dropped as follows.

Hypercholesterolemic group:    LDL cholesterol    Triglycerides       CRP

                                                          20-28%                11-18%         31-48%

In healthy elderly patients the CRP still dropped 21-29%. Gamma-glutamyl transferase, a predictor for heart attacks dropped by 14-20%.

Another study on postmenopausal women for 12 weeks also showed beneficial effects of tocotrienols.

Hardening of arteries

Dr. Tan explained that hardening of arteries is due to a combination of factors. It is due to combined chronic inflammation and deposits of LDL cholesterol in the wall of the arteries. Studies have shown that monocyte adherence is the first step in fatty streak formation in arteries. Delta-tocotrienol is 60 times more powerful than alpha-tocopherol in inhibiting monocyte adherence. Gamma-tocotrienol is 30 times more powerful than alpha-tocopherol. This proves that taking a vitamin E preparation of 90% delta tocotrienols and 10% gamma-tocotrienols is the most advantageous vitamin E combination to take.

Health benefits of vitamin E tocotrienols include hardening of carotid artery

A 4-year study examined the effect of taking 240mg of tocotrienol-tocopherol supplementation. 88% of patients who took the vitamin E supplement showed improvement (regression of the carotid artery stenosis). Placebo patients deteriorated 60%, only 8% improved. In the 4th year of the study total cholesterol decreased by 14% and LDL cholesterol fell by 21%.

Health benefits of vitamin E tocotrienols include type 2 diabetes

Patients with type 2 diabetes received tocotrienols. Within 60 days of taking 250 mg of tocotrienols the serum total lipids were reduced by 23% and total cholesterol by 30%. The LDL cholesterol was reduced by 42%. Triglycerides were also lowered by 15-20%. C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation was lowered between 35-60%.

Beneficial effects of tocotrienols on the eyes and skin

Tocotrienols have antioxidant effects on the eyes and skin. With regard to eye diseases glaucoma and cataracts are improving and macular degeneration in diabetics is responding as well.

The subcutaneous fatty tissue absorb tocotrienols well. Delta- and gamma-tocotrienol largely neutralize oxidative stress from UV light and ozone.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

This condition has a close association with obesity and the metabolic syndrome. The liver stores excessive fats. About 30-40% of US adults suffer from this disease. Researchers conducted a 12-week study with 71 NAFLD patients. It was randomized, double blind and placebo-controlled. After 12 weeks of supplementation with delta- and gamma-tocotrienol there was evidence of reduction of stress on the liver by improved liver enzymes. The ALT and AST enzymes were reduced by 15-16%. There was also an 11% reduction of triglycerides and 18% lowering of CRP, which indicates a reduction of inflammation. The fatty liver index score showed a decrease of 11%. This suggests that there was intrahepatic fat reduction. The group with delta- and gamma-tocotrienol supplements lost on average 9.7 pounds. Here is another study regarding non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and using tocotrienols.

Health Benefits of Vitamin E Tocotrienols

Health Benefits of Vitamin E Tocotrienols

Conclusion

Vitamin E supplementation is undergoing rejuvenation after research has established that it is delta- and gamma-tocotrienol that are the active antioxidants among the 10 or so tocopherol and tocotrienol isomers. The most active of them, delta- and gamma-tocotrienol, have excellent absorption in the gut and migrate through the blood stream to the lipid rich cells in the body. Key organs like the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, spleen and skin accumulate vitamin E. Even the abdominal adipose tissue takes up vitamin E, which is beneficial when a person becomes obese or develops diabetes. Apart from lowering triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, vitamin E (delta- and gamma-tocotrienol) is also important for directly interfering with hardening of the arteries.

Vitamin E protecting skin, eyes and liver

Vitamin E also protects the skin and eyes against UV light. There can be a partial reversal of tissue damages. Finally, I pointed out that vitamin E can reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is important to leave out alpha-tocopherol, which is an older form of vitamin E that is cheaper to produce, but will interfere with the function of delta- and gamma-tocotrienol as explained. As I mentioned earlier, various vitamin E supplements are on the market. It is obvious that they are not equally beneficial.

I recommend you take about 125 mg of vitamin E in the form of delta- and gamma-tocotrienol every day. I take Annatto tocotrienols (Cardiovascular Research Ltd.) 1 softgel daily.

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Oct
27
2018

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Four diseases cause most of the deaths around the world: cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. This story is the news right now. 50% of the 193 UN member states that signed a treaty in 2015 are falling short of their promise. They wanted to reduce premature deaths from these diseases by 2030. But this is not happening as this story shows.

I like to review these 4 key diseases and what we can do ourselves about eliminating them. We cannot afford to wait for things to happen on a national level. Rather we need to go to the grass roots of every country and change the risk factors that cause these 4 diseases.

Cancer

First, cancer is a disease of older people, unless strong genetic factors are present. In this case even children can get leukemia, brain tumors and osteogenic sarcoma. In older people DNA mutations and DNA breaks happen more often as we age. On the other hand, if we diagnose cancer in stage 1 or 2 (in the early stages), it is quite often curable.

Oncoblot test, a cancer screening test

Probably one of the less known new criteria is the fact that there is a very sensitive cancer blood test, called the Oncoblot test (released about 4 years ago by the FDA). The latest screening test that came out of the human genome project is called the Oncoblot test. It screens for 25 of the most common cancers. And it is screening for ENOX2 proteins from cancer cells. It is a 1000 USD test in the US that health plans will not cover, but it will screen for more than 25 different common cancers 6 to 8 years before they would otherwise become clinically manifest.

If you discover cancer with this early blood test and you treat it right away, you have a good chance to live a few years longer. You may come down with another cancer down the road, but treat it early again, and you will still have a better life expectancy. Remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths, cancer is one of them!

Cardiovascular disease

Furthermore, people develop cardiovascular disease from poor eating habits and a lack of regular exercise. There are a few percentage points of people with familiar high cholesterol. These people need to see their family doctor for a prescription to lower cholesterol. But the majority of people will do well by changing their diet into a Mediterranean diet; lose weight until their body mass index reaches a value of 21 to 24. With this diet it is important to cut out all refined sugar and starchy foods. Regular exercise in a gym will also prevent hardening of the arteries. Chelation therapy has been shown in this study to help reduce hardening of arteries.

Diabetes patients have accelerated hardening of the arteries

We know from diabetic patients who have accelerated hardening of the arteries how devastating cardiovascular disease can be. Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, amputations of the lower leg and blindness are just some examples. Even patients who do not have diabetes can get these complications at an older age. The key is to think preventatively, change the diet, exercise regularly and you will lower all those risks. Remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths; cardiovascular diseases belong to that group and are a major player.

Chronic respiratory diseases

There are different reasons why a person may develop chronic respiratory disease. A common disease is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD often has a link to smoking heavily as a younger person. This is where the damage to the lung tissue has started. Exposure to cigarette smoke leads to loss of elastic tissue in the bronchial tubes. The lungs have a difficult time to exhale to get rid of the CO2. The end result is that your breaths are shallow and you can’t get enough oxygen, because the lung is already filled with air.

Asthma and COPD

Another disease is asthma. Nowadays physicians can treat this condition well with a corticosteroid inhaler and salbutamol. Salbutamol dilates the airways by relaxing the muscles of the bronchial tubes. The corticosteroid keeps the lining of the bronchial tubes thin, so that the air can move in and out of the lung.

If asthma is not treated properly there can be permanent damage to the airways and the clinical picture would look similar to COPD.

With end-stage COPD patients the only therapy the physician can offer is continuous oxygen flow treatment. With power failures these machines that supply oxygen will stop working. People need to make provisions to have a back-up generator. Again, we need to remember: four diseases cause most of the deaths. Chronic respiratory diseases belong to them.

Diabetes

Patients with type-2 diabetes (Type 2 DM) are usually older than 30 years of age.

That’s why they are called “mature onset diabetes” or “adult onset diabetes”. For several decades a patient may “incubate” diabetes and have one or more of the diabetes risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol or high triglycerides, but have normal blood sugars.

Physicians have followed patients like this for several decades in the well known Framingham Heart Study and found that a high percentage of them do come down with type-2 diabetes later in life. In the past this time of incubation was termed “pre-diabetes”. Now we call it “syndrome of insulin resistance” or “metabolic syndrome”. Diabetes belongs to the group of diseases that are associated with chronic inflammation in the body.

Causes of type-2 diabetes

Type-2 diabetes often associates with other endocrinological diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome (an adrenal gland hyperactivity) or acromegaly (increased growth hormone production). In these diseases other hormones are tilting the hormone balance by counteracting insulin thus leading to a relative shortfall of insulin, which is another cause for type-2 diabetes. There is confusion among scientists regarding possible genetic reasons for type-2 diabetes. The environment or weight gain may trigger various genetic loci that exist. The syndrome of insulin resistance has shown some connections between hypertension, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Death in diabetics usually comes from a heart attack, a massive stroke, but it may also come from systemic infections, called sepsis. Dr. Taylor from Newcastle University showed on 30 volunteers that 43% of diabetics could be cured by a diet of 600-700 calories for 8 weeks. The medical literature also knows that regular exercise is beneficial for diabetics. It cannot be overstressed that four diseases cause most of the deaths; diabetes belongs to them and is a major player.

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Four Diseases Cause Most Of The Deaths

Conclusion

Four diseases cause most of the deaths. They were the cause of death for several years. They are cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. The secret is to minimize the impact of each of these diseases. You can prevent chronic respiratory diseases by stopping to smoke and treating asthma properly. To treat cancer successfully one needs to diagnose it early and remove it surgically. With cardiovascular disease chelation therapy has shown a difference. Otherwise a regular exercise program and a Mediterranean diet, which has anti-inflammatory qualities, will help. Dr. Taylor from Newcastle University demonstrated that he can treat diabetes with a low calorie diet. Each one of us has a responsibility to do something about our diagnosed condition. We cannot wait for magic cures. We need to do what has known benefits. Hopefully with these short hints will help you to improve your health.

Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

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

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

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

New research with larger population numbers

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

Binge drinking

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

Global health study

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

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

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

More statistics

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

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

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

Heart disease

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

Cancer

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

Diabetes

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

Memory loss

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

Appearance

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

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

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

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

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

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Sep
22
2018

The Best Foods For Your Heart

In the following I will describe 16 foods, which are the best foods for your heart. I will also comment as to why I believe they are best. This review is based on this article in “Medical News Today”.

But I have added many other comments to it.

Heart disease is still the number 1 killer. We need to change what we eat.

Vegetables

The regular intake of green leaf vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) has an association with the  preservation of cognitive function. In the Nurses’ Health Study starting in 1984 women were asked about their usual intake of a specified portion of food items, including 15 fruits and 28 vegetables. At a later date, between 1995 and 2001, researchers decided to ask the oldest participants (70 years and older) to participate in a cognitive function study. Two years later researchers repeated these tests.The main finding of the study is that women with the highest intake of green, leafy vegetables had the least decline in their cognitive function. The vegetable lovers, who consumed five serving of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower had less decline in their cognitive function. On the other hand the highest decline showed up in the group that averaged only 2 servings per week.

Asparagus

Asparagus is a source of fiber, folate, multiple vitamins and chromium. Chromium enhances the function of insulin to transport sugar into cells. Asparagus contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and carcinogens. It is said to help prevent lung cancers, larynx cancer, and bone, breast and colon cancers.

Berries

Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are full of bioflavonoids. These are antioxidants, which prevent cardiovascular disease.

It is the anthocyanines, which prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Berries also have bioflavonoids and reduce lipid formation in the blood. Berries contain fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Broccoli

This fiber rich vegetable helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Broccoli and kale likely have preventative effects against colon cancer.

Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils

Legumes or pulses are a great way to consume plant-derived protein. People who are on vegan diets should be eating them for a protein source. They also contain lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. We know that they lower cholesterol, which prevents heart disease. Other healthy nutrients they contain are bioflavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Dark chocolate

This is a food rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate is chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content. Please note: “milk chocolate” is nothing better than candy and devoid of any health benefits. Dark chocolate increases the protective HDL cholesterol and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is said to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Don’t exceed eating 1 to 2 oz. per day, as chocolate has some sugar in it and the fat content would be detrimental with higher consumption.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids in the form of α-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA reduces LDL cholesterol and it dissolves plaque in the arteries. ALA also reduces blood pressure to a certain degree. All of this helps reduce cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). Note that flaxseeds must be ground to powder to release the nutrients from its tough shell. Both chia and flaxseeds can be used as an egg replacement in vegan cooking.

Fish high in omega-3s

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.

Coffee

A Brazilian study from 2018 showed that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day would stop coronary artery calcification. Many other studies have shown reduced mortality from heart attacks and strokes with increased coffee intake.

Green tea

Green tea is known to reduce blood pressure slightly and to reduce cholesterol. Both effects are beneficial for the cardiovascular system (prevents heart attacks and strokes). Green tea also prevents many cancers. Whatever we know about coffee consumption seems to also be true for green tea consumption.

Nuts

Nuts contain healthy fatty acids (omega-3). But they also contain fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Use them in desserts, in salads and as a quick food on the go. They are definitely healthier than protein bars.

Liver

Liver is one of the nutrient rich foods. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12 and biotin.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. This is important for prevention of heart disease.

Red wine (may be)

The bioflavonoids of red grapes have been the subject of much research. There is a dose-response curve showing a protective effect with regard to heart attacks and strokes with the consumption of  1 to 3 glasses of red wine per day. But unfortunately there is also a dose-response curve with respect to alcohol consumption and cancer causation. Personally, I take resveratrol from the health food store, 500 mg daily and consume white wine or red wine very rarely.

Tomatoes

There are a number of beneficial phytochemicals in tomatoes. Carotenoids like lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthine and beta-carotenes are helping to prevent prostate cancer and colon cancer. Potassium and folate are cardioprotective.

Spinach

Eating spinach regularly will provide you with magnesium, iron and bioflavonoids. Magnesium is good for a regular heart rhythm. The other nutrients are good for skin, bone and hair health.

Discussion

I have reviewed why these 16 foods are the best foods for your heart. We have seen that many foods that are rich in antioxidants are also cancer preventative. People who eat a Mediterranean diet will get these 16 foods, because their meals are balanced with nutrients. But if you eat a hamburger or a pizza you will not get balanced nutrients. The more one-sided your food intake, the more dangerous your lifestyle becomes. This is the problem with the Standard American diet (“SAD”). You need all of the components of the 16 foods described here. Junk food won’t do, as it consists only of empty calories.

The Best Foods For Your Heart

The Best Foods For Your Heart

Conclusion

It is useful to review healthy foods as was done above. Now it is a matter of including them in your daily food intake. If this is overwhelming you, start with baby steps. One or two healthy foods here or there are a good start. Increase this until you cover all the 16 foods mentioned. The more balanced your food intake is, the more antioxidant vitamins you will get. And the more heart disease and cancer prevention you will experience.

Apart from good, balanced nutrition we also need regular exercise for heart disease and cancer prevention. Go to a gym, go for a walk, climb some stairs. Get away from the computer and television. Together with best foods for your heart this will keep you healthier for longer.

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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.

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Jun
02
2018

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

I found an article dealing with combatting aging using artificial intelligence. It comes from the April 2018 edition of the Life Extension Magazine.  Both of those concepts sound intriguing: “combatting aging”. It would be nice, if this would be a possibility! And “artificial intelligence” (A.I.) sounds mysterious. LifeExtension researchers have partnered up with an A.I. group, called Insilico Medicine.

Why did Life Extension engage in this project? Many people have side effects with the drug metformin, which is an old diabetes drug. It turns out that metformin stimulates anti-aging genes that help to elongate telomeres and also activate genes that prolong lives otherwise. The thought was to find out how exactly metformin protects against age-related disorders. Once researchers located the genes, they may be able to find herbs that can do the same as drugs with less side effects. Often herbs are safer than drugs.

Background regarding metformin

The FDA accepted metformin (trade name Glucophage) as the first-line therapy for type 2 diabetics, particularly if they are overweight or obese.

Side effects include gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and flatulence. Even though this drug is not new, research does not fully understand all metabolic effects of metformin.

Promise of metformin as an anti-aging drug

A trial in Great Britain found that metformin has an interesting anti-aging effect. Diabetics on metformin lived longer than a control group of patients without diabetes who were not on metformin. The diabetics lived 15% longer than the controls. Further experiments with human cells and animal experiments showed that metformin is able to stimulate the mitochondria without producing as many free radicals. Free radicals cause inflammation that leads to heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The suggestion is that all of these diseases will be suppressed when the patient is on metformin.

Mimicking the effects of metformin with three herbs

The co-operative research between the Life Extension researchers and Insilico Medicine researchers concentrated on finding data that would replace the beneficial effects of metformin with three herbs stimulating the same life-prolonging targets in human cells. This is not a small task. The following three herbs in combination cover more than 78% of the actions of metformin.

Withaferin A (found in Ashwagandha)

Weight loss

Withaferin A is a component of the life-prolonging herb ashwagandha. This herb is in use in Ayurvedic medicine because of its ant-inflammatory action; it is also anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-obesity and has appetite-regulating activities. An important observation by researchers was that within 21 days of exposing obese mice to withaferin A they lost 23% of their weight. Other mice on the same diet received control solutions and did not lose weight.

Effect on neurodegenerative disease

There is a neurodegenerative condition, called Lou Gehrig disease (=amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A group of mice that were the subjects of genetic modification to develop Lou Gehrig disease received withaferin A in their food. Compared to controls without withaferin A they had a 39% reduction of damaged proteins in their spinal cords. They also had 60% less loss of motor nerve cells. These are the nerve cells that pass on the electrical signals between the brain, the spinal cord and into the muscles. The life span of these animals that received withaferin A was 5.4% longer than control animals.

Ginsenoside (found in Ginseng)

The structure of ginsenoside is steroid-like. As the name already suggests, it is present in ginseng. The Insilico Medicine team noticed that it affects many of the same age-decelerating pathways like metformin. Ginsenoside prevents damage to the DNA and prevents loss of mitochondria, particularly in the brain and heart. In cancer cases ginsenoside also suppresses cancer stem cells, which slows down cancer growth. All in all ginsenoside reduces inflammatory changes; it also fights neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Gamma linolenic acid (present in borage seed oil)

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid. The source of it is the evening primrose plant, black currant oil or borage. The Insilico Medicine researchers found that many pathways that metformin triggers are also responding to GLA. GLA can reduce inflammation, help with adaptation to stress can modulate metabolism and participates in regulation of gene expression. GLA is also part of energy sensing in diabetes and obesity. It also can slow down cancer development.

Discussion

One has to be cognizant of the fact that LifeExtension is in the business of selling herbal supplements. It would be in the company’s interest to find an herbal combination that mimics what Metformin does. They say they have found it; so we are told in the April 2018 article of the LifeExtension magazine. But a 78% overlap of actions when the herbs were compared to metformin is not a 100% overlap.

Conflict of interest

There seems to be a conflict of interest between doing basic research on anti-aging and marketing an anti-aging product. I like to see confirmation of these findings by other independent researchers. I am not too keen to spend $1.40 every day for the rest of my life in the hopes that this herbal concoction would slow down aging. Also to state that this mix of three herbs would do the same as Metformin is a large leap of faith. At this point I am not even ready to swallow metformin just because of one trial in England that showed a beneficial anti-aging effect.

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Combatting Aging using Artificial Intelligence

Conclusion

The old dream of finding a pill for anti-aging is alive and well. If you believe this research you are likely to buy this pill and keep on taking it for the rest of your life. But I am not so certain that either swallowing metformin or swallowing this herbal concoction will do what the researchers were hoping for. They have done some basic research with mice and rats. But they tested each of the herbs  separately, and the researchers have then mixed the herbs and claim, that this mix will do what each single herb in isolation has done. We do not know anything about the interaction between these herbs. We do not know whether there will be the same anti-aging results with the mix. All these claims are yet subject to more testing.

Proposed clinical trial

I like to see a human trial where the anti-aging pill of Life Extension is given once per day for several years (let’s say 5 years). After that anti-inflammatory indicators, telomere length and toxicity should be tested in each subject that is part of the study. If trials like this were successful in humans, I would consider buying this new supplement, but not any earlier!

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May
27
2018

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

You hear from time to time that there are benefits of eating nuts. But you don’t often see more details about it. I came across an article entitled “Nut lovers rejoice: Your favorite snack protects your heart”. It stressed that nuts prevent heart attacks. I will review some of this information here, but also touch on other aspects.

What nuts contain

Nuts contain fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, folate and many minerals (zinc, potassium, magnesium). These ingredients have their own positive effects on your metabolism. For instance the fiber will lower cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, which are risk factors for heart attacks. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Here is a review that shows why eating nuts makes a difference for your health. Despite all of the good that nuts do, you need to keep an eye at the overall quantity of nuts you eat. Nuts can contain up to 80% as oil, even though they are good oils. But the extra calories associated with the oil can make you gain some weight. When you add nuts to your diet you need to subtract some of the lesser quality saturated fats, so that your overall calorie balance does not change.

How do we know that nuts are healthy?

A British study from 2016 did a meta-analysis of people who ate nuts versus people who did not include nuts in their diet. 10 studies showed that eating nuts reduced mortality from all causes by 19%. In 5 studies where cardiovascular mortality was measured, a reduction of 27% was noticeable. Congestive heart disease in 3 studies showed a reduction by 34% when the patients consumed nuts. Stroke mortality was 17% less, as 3 studies showed. This is just an example of a few studies that show how effective supplementation of your diet by a few nuts here and there can be on the general mortality. It especially applies to mortality which is due to heart disease and strokes. Other effects of nut consumption are the reduction of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and abdominal aneurysm (each by 15 to 20%).

Allergic reactions to nuts

A small percentage of people are allergic to various nuts. Nuts can cause a severe asthma attack, if the person has been sensitized to them in the past. They can cause angioneurotic edema in a small portion of people who may have inherited this condition. Tree nut allergies can cause anaphylaxis as is explained in this link.

The right dosage of nuts

This Australian website says that 30 grams of nuts, which is a handful of them would be the right dose per day. This is about 1 ounce per day. By including a variety of nuts your nutritional content will equal out. Some nuts have more calcium (almonds); others have more plant sterols (pistachios) or more fiber (pecans).

How bias can get introduced into medical literature

The Karolinska institute in Sweden analyzed the lifestyle and behavior pattern of nut lovers. Nut lovers were also into other healthy lifestyles: they smoked less than non-nut lovers. Nut lovers were leaner, physically more active and drank less alcohol.

They also ate more fruit and vegetables. Nut-lovers’ blood pressure was lower than the blood pressure of non-nut lovers. And people who consumed nuts on average had better education. Some of these lifestyle patterns can also protect the heart and contribute to less strokes. The researcher must be vigilant to control for the other lifestyle patterns except for the difference in the nut consumption when looking for the effect of nut consumption. If this is not done, there could be confounding, which introduces a bias into the final results.

Combine nut supplements and adopt a healthy lifestyle

This said, you know now about the results of good research. It is best to not be concerned about biases any more. For the average consumer it is important to apply what we know: use nuts regularly (about 30 grams per day, which is a handful). But it would not be a bad idea to adopt some of the other healthy lifestyles that nut eaters tend to have. In other words, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, cut out sugar, drink less alcohol and eat fruit and vegetables regularly. This way you will amplify the health promoting effect of the nut supplements.

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Benefits Of Eating Nuts

Conclusion

We learnt that nut consumption is healthy. Only a small number of people who are allergic to nuts have to avoid them. The majority of people benefit from incorporating a small amount of nuts into their diet. Research has shown that it lowers mortality in general, lowers cardiovascular mortality and mortality from congestive heart disease. Eating nuts also reduced stroke mortality and lowers the risk of atrial fibrillation. When research is done, confounding factors like healthy lifestyles have to be controlled. But when an individual wants to reduce health risks, it does not harm to use healthy lifestyle factors along with nuts to reduce any risk. It will amplify the healthy effects of eating nuts.

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May
19
2018

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Many times we hear terms like LDL and HDL cholesterol , but what lowers LDL cholesterol? We have to go back to a time when the ongoing Framingham Heart Study wanted to find out what caused a heart attack or a stroke. In the 1960’s scientists found out that cigarette smoking increased heart attack risk and also blood cholesterol. Then in the 1980’s the news came out that HDL (high density lipoproteins) reduced the risk of heart disease. Eventually several research institutions agreed that LDL (low density lipoproteins) was the culprit for causing plaque deposits in arteries. This caused heart attacks and strokes. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Clarification of HDL and LDL cholesterol

Recently a review article asked the question: “What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?”

Below I will review what LDL and HDL cholesterol do in our system. I will also mention normal values for blood tests. This will help you to understand your own blood test results. Then I will review what you can do to lower LDL cholesterol and to increase HDL cholesterol.

The function of LDL and HDL cholesterol

Total cholesterol in the blood contains LDL cholesterol, small dense LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The small dense LDL cholesterol is more dangerous than LDL cholesterol. It infiltrates the lining of the arterial walls aggressively. A normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL. When triglycerides, another form of lipid is high in the blood, LDL cholesterol forms a lot more small dense LDL cholesterol. This is the case in diabetics or in obese people. It is the reason why they are very vulnerable to develop heart attacks and strokes. The optimal range for triglycerides is less than 80 mg/dL.

HDL cholesterol is protective from hardening of the arteries and protects you from heart attacks or strokes. HDL dissolves LDL cholesterol, brings it to the liver, and the liver excretes it into bile. You want to have more than 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Cholesterol math

The total cholesterol conventionally is calculated like this:

LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol + (triglyceride/5) = Total cholesterol

You see that the small dense LDL is not part of it here, but high triglyceride levels would increase the total cholesterol value as the inclusion of 20% of triglycerides in this equation compensates for this.

There is also a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol that is important. This ratio should be below 3.4 for both women and men. This is also known as the ½ average risk for a heart attack or stroke. If your value is equal to that or below, you are in a very low risk category to get a heart attack or stroke.

Now I will deal with the question: what lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Now we need to review what can be done to lower an LDL cholesterol which is too high. Don’t tell me that you want to take one of the statin drugs. These drugs have serious side effects and are only indicated for the most serious cases of high cholesterol values.

Most common measures to reduce LDL cholesterol

  • Cut out red meat

    First of all, cutting out red meat (like beef, pork and sausages) to an absolute minimum, for instance once per week or less is important. The reason is that these meats have more cholesterol in them and also more saturated fats than any other foods. Compare that to poultry, fish and vegetables like beans, which are healthy food sources.

  • Eliminate trans fats

    Furthermore, we need to eliminate trans fats as they are causing heart attacks. There is an important difference between ruminant trans fats and artificial trans fats. Ruminant trans fats have been part of the human diet for millennia like milk fat and fat from cows that are on pasture or lamb. Milk products for instance contain fat with 2-5% natural trans fats. 3-9 % of the fat in beef and lamb consists of natural trans fats. Studies have shown that the body is able to handle these natural trans fats, and heart attacks are not more frequent in people eating moderate amounts of these products including butter from cows that graze on pasture.

  • Artificial trans fats

    Quite the opposite is true for artificial trans fats in margarine that comes from vegetable oil. Avoid bakery items like sweet pieces or muffins and other products that contain hydrogenated oils. Read labels! Use olive oil or coconut oil, but avoid vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil or grape seed oil to get away from trans fats and unstable oils that turn rancid. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Cut out sugar and starchy foods

    Another important item is to cut out sugar and starchy foods because these will raise your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which also leads to hardening of your arteries. Starchy foods are broken down by pancreatic juices into sugar, which enters your blood stream, causing an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. When the short-term storage of sugar as glycogen is exhausted in muscle and liver tissue, the liver has to process any surplus of sugar that is still there. The end results are triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately the protective HDL cholesterol does not reach higher levels, when the LDL cholesterol is increased. A persistent diet of high-refined carbs will increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It follows from this that we are all better off cutting out sugar and starchy foods from our food intake as it will reduce LDL cholesterol and small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Increase your soluble fiber intake

    Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating vegetables, oats and oat bran, lentils, fruits and beans. Why does this decrease LDL cholesterol? The liver tries to eliminate too much cholesterol by binding it to bile salts and excreting it into your small bowel. But the last part of the small bowel reabsorbs some of these bile salts, and from there they return to the liver. This is called the enterohepatic pathway of bile salts. Soluble fiber intake binds those bile salts and prevents re-absorption in the enterohepatic pathway, eliminating cholesterol safely in stool. Clinical trials have also shown that soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway).

  • Plant sterols and fiber supplements

    Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (Amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that are beneficial in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

  • Take a whey protein supplement

    There are two major milk proteins, whey and casein. Only whey protein binds to total and LDL cholesterol, lowering both. It is available in health food stores. Follow the package insert of the whey product for dosing.

  • Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake

    Omega-3 fats naturally present in fish oils and nuts. They increase the amount of circulating HDL cholesterol, which binds the bad LDL cholesterol. Go ahead and eat salmon, herring and mackerel as well as walnuts, ground flaxseeds and almonds. You can also take molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. This pure form of fish oil is free of mercury and other heavy metals. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid, an important supplement for the brain. Tests have shown that fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor, but without the statin side effects. The end result: your total cholesterol/HDL ratio decreases, as does the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Here is a review of other oils in your diet.

Measures that will increase HDL cholesterol 

  • Eat foods with anthocyanin

    In a 24-week study with diabetic people HDL levels rose by 19% when food was eaten that was rich in anthocyanin. This consisted of eggplant, purple corn, red cabbage, blueberries and blackberries. The advantage of raising the HDL cholesterol level is that the total cholesterol to HDL ratio decreases, which lowers the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

  • Exercising regularly

    Exercising will increase your HDL cholesterol, which again decreases the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. This number should be between 1 and 3.5, the lower, the better.

  • Take a supplement called Ubiquinol, or Co-Q-10

    Adults above the age of 60 need 400 mg once daily, younger people need between 200 mg and 300 mg daily. Co-Q-10 prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which would aggressively attack the arterial walls causing hardening of the arteries. What causes oxidation of cholesterol? The answer is clear: fried foods like french fries or deep fried chicken will lead to oxidation; other culprits are margarine, commercially baked goods and cigarette smoking.

  • Calcium and vitamin D3

    Recently a study on postmenopausal and overweight or obese women found that supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D3 lowered cholesterol.

  • Polyphenols

    Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine. Over 130 studies on humans have shown improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has a connection to a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet, and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol, warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.1). Take about 250 mg of resveratrol daily.

  • Niacin/ nicotinic acid

    This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin. It can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when patients take higher doses of 2.25 grams per day. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies researchers found a significant reduction of heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks. These are precursor syndromes before developing a stroke. Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin also reduces oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

  • Curcumin

    This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one. It is reducing oxidative stress. But it is  also an anti-inflammatory. In addition it counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when patients took 500 mg of curcumin for only 7 days (Ref.1). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)

    This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and in the past health practitioners knew about its use as being heart supportive. Strangely enough some conservative physicians bad-mouthed this vitamin. In the meantime health practitioners have returned to using the vitamin. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the best-known, but you also want to be sure that you are getting gamma tocopherol with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day. Newer research has shown that tocotrienol is more powerful than tocopherols. I take 125 mg of tocotrienols daily.

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Conclusion

Over the years cardiovascular researchers have accumulated knowledge about supplements that will reduce LDL cholesterol or increase HDL cholesterol. It has practical value: you can look at your own lab results and choose what fits your situation best. You should always make these decisions together with your health care provider. None of the methods reviewed here have any serious side effects. On the other hand statins, as I have reviewed in the link provided, do have significant side effects. Keep in mind that cholesterol is a normal body component that our body needs to make human cell walls. But we do not need to smoke (stopping it lowers LDL cholesterol). We need regular exercise (increases HDL cholesterol). Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride values within the normal ranges that I listed and as a result you will do well in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes!

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Apr
28
2018

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

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

How the study was done

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

Discussion of the study

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

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

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

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

Foods that caused heart attacks and strokes

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

Nuts reducing inflammatory biomarkers

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

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

Dietary intake among US adults, 1999-2012

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

Mediterranean diet can prevent cognitive decline

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

Deterioration of general health related to cognitive decline

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

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Animal Protein Is Bad And Nut Protein Good For You

Conclusion

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

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