Apr
20
2019

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

It can be confusing to see that various countries have big differences in cancer rates, but here I am giving some reasons for variations in cancer rates.

The following countries have high cancer rates: Denmark, France, Belgium, United States, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia.

These countries have low cancer rates: Niger, Yemen, Oman, Nepal, Mauritania, Gambia, Cape VerSe, Bhutan. These are only samples; it is not a complete list.

Short life expectancy in many low cancer rate countries

People in many low cancer rate countries do not live long lives because of parasitic infestations, bacterial infections and AIDS. Life expectancy in Gambia, for instance is only 61.15 years. People in Yemen suffer from malnutrition and the life expectancy is only 64.95 years. One can make an argument therefore that people do not live long enough to get a lot of cancer. Cancer is a disease of the older population, as DNA mutations, shorter telomeres, and loss of mitochondria in older cells cause many cancers.

These three countries have various cancer rates

Low cancer rates in India

India is one of the countries with lower cancer rates when compared to the US. Scientists have pointed out that 40% of Indians are consuming vegetarian diets without meat; (red meat consumed in high amounts like in the US is carcinogenic). India has some of the highest spice consumption in the world. We know that curcumin, for instance, has cancer-preventing qualities. You could say that Indians inadvertently treat themselves with herbal, non-toxic chemotherapy (curcumin and others spices) before a cancer even occurs. On the other hand India is a nation with high consumption of refined sugar, which is a factor that can cause cancer over a long period of time. The life expectancy in India is only 68.56 years, which skews the statistics towards lower cancer rates when one compares India to countries with a life expectancy of 80.0 years.

Why is Denmark a high cancer rate country?

The biggest factors are a reliable cancer reporting system, but also a high smoking rate among Danish women and high alcohol consumption in the Danish population. See below what these factors do.

Why is Oman a low cancer rate country?

A study done in Oman showed that a lot of people do not know that certain risk factors could be changed to lower the present cancer incidence. Cigarette smoking, passive smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, reduced intake of fruit and vegetables, increased consumption of red meat and processed meats, infection with HPV, being overweight, less physical activity and an age above 70 are all risk factors for cancer. At the present time Oman still compares favorably with the US, as there is less obesity in Oman. But the average person still eats fairly healthy with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables.

Increasing cancer rates in Oman

The cigarette consumption per year per person in Oman is 271.1 versus 1016.6 in the US. The life expectancy has increased from 50.47 in 1970 to 77.03 in 2016. Oman is expecting the cancer rate to double by the year 2030 due to the increasing life expectancy and lifestyle factors (more drinking, smoking and gaining weight from junk food). A lot of the differences in the cancer rates between the US and Oman are simply due to lifestyle differences. 

Cancer risk factors analyzed

What do the various cancer risks mean in terms of cancer development?

Cigarette smoking

About 480,000 premature deaths are caused by cigarette smoking in the US. This is due to a combination of cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Smoking causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, rectum, but also acute myeloid leukemia.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is as bad, if not worse than smoking. This reference explains that a passive smoker has double exposure to cigarette smoke, namely to the smoke from the smoker, but also to the direct smoke from the burning cigarette. This means that a passive smoker may have exposure to a higher concentration of carcinogens than the smoker!

Excessive alcohol consumption

Heavy alcohol consumption introduces a cell poison into your body. If you drink more than 8 drinks per week as a woman or more than 15 drinks per week as a man, you are a heavy drinker. It leads to cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, colon, liver, breast and prostate. The data on prostate cancer is somewhat weaker.

Reduced intake of fruit and vegetables

Consumption of fruits and vegetables, but also foods high in fibre are known to reduce the risk of cancer. This is why the WHO brought out this fact sheet. So, when you lower the intake of fruits and vegetables, you have less of a cancer protective effect, which leads to more cancer.

Increased consumption of red meat and processed meats

Another big factor about cancer causation is when you eat foods that contain known carcinogens. Such cancer causing substances are contained in red meat, processed meat like sausages, and salt-preserved foods.

Infection with HPV

Type 16 and 18 HPV virus is the cause of cervical cancer, penile cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, anal cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancer. It can be of concern for all sexually active people.

Being overweight

When a person gets overweight or obese, there is more estrogen production from the fat cells that circulate in your blood.  There is also more insulin production and IGF-1 production, which is a growth factor for cancer cells. Estrogen dominance due to estrogen production from fat cells with a relative lack of cancer-controlling progesterone tips the balance towards cancer development. These are the cancers that are common in obesity: breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (lining of the uterus), esophagus, kidneys and pancreas.

Less physical activity

Breast cancer and colon cancer are reduced when people exercise regularly. This seems to be because of a reduction in circulating estrogen in women and because of reduced insulin and insulin-like growth factors. Even prostate cancer can be kept at bay with a regular brisk walk.

An age above 70

The medium age for cancer diagnosis is 66 years. This means that half of the cases are below this age, the other half above it.  25% of new cancer cases are diagnosed in the age group of 65 to 74. Age is an independent, but important risk factor for the development of cancer.

Sugar and starchy food consumption

Refined sugar and starchy foods lead to an accumulation of fat. At the same time there is a metabolic change with more insulin production and growth factors appear in the blood. It is these growth factors and an increase in estrogen (via aromatase) from the fat cells that lead to conditions that favor cancer development. Switch to a low-glycemic diet like a Mediterranean diet, and you can reverse this process.

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

Some Reasons For Variations In Cancer Rates

Conclusion

It is never too late to reduce your cancer risk. No matter how old we are, it is never too late to live healthier, which translates into a stronger immune system. We can stop smoking, or cut out drinking too much. If we keep a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet we will stop chronic inflammation in our bodies and strengthen our immune system. We need to stay away from ultraviolet light (direct sun exposure). We also need to stay active, no matter whether it is choosing to take the stairs and take daily walks, or whether we exercise regularly in a gym.

Apr
06
2019

Healthier After Age 60

Unhealthy lifestyles have staying power, so what can we do be healthier after age 60? A recent CNN article describes 10 ways how to adopt a healthier lifestyle when you get close to retirement.

The thinking is that 5 years before your retirement at 65 you should perhaps adopt a healthier lifestyle.

2017 study by Dr. King regarding lifestyles before and after retirement

Dr. Dana King was the author of a 2017 study where lifestyles before and after retirement were compared.

Seven factors were examined, namely cardiovascular factors including physical activity, healthy diet, healthy weight, smoking status, total cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure. Retirees were more likely to have poorly controlled blood pressures compared to non-retirees. 23.9% of retirees had uncontrolled blood pressure versus 15.1% of non-retirees. This difference was statistically significant. There was another significant difference with regard to physical activity. Retirees were 1.85-fold more active than non-retirees. But sadly, the other 5 of the 7 points did not significantly improve. There were no differences in healthy weight, smoking rates, healthy diet, glucose levels or cholesterol control.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your diet

Adopt a Mediterranean diet. This is an anti-inflammatory diet that prevents hardening of the arteries. It lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and also triglycerides. It is also recommended to consume at least 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day. When you cook only with olive oil and use only olive oil and Balsamic vinegar for salads, it is relatively easy to reach or surpass the recommended 2 daily tablespoons of olive oil.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your exercise status

You have more time when you retire. The easiest to get into a routine regarding regular exercise is to get a membership in a gym. In the beginning you may want to see a trainer to show you some routine exercises on weight machines. You start the program off with 30 minutes on the treadmill. Before long you get used to the exercise routine and you feel stronger. But your system also produces much more of the protective HDL cholesterol, which is sensitive to regular exercise. If you have been physically inactive, get some input from your health care provider.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your weight

It is not exercise, but a healthy diet, which controls your weight. Having adopted a Mediterranean diet is a big first step in that direction. But it is also important to cut out sugar and starchy foods (potatoes, rice, bread, muffins, pasta etc.). This will reduce your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. On the long term you prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your smoking status

It is old knowledge that smoking cuts down on life expectancy. Better quit smoking now than later. It prevents heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and many other cancers.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your blood pressure

Regular exercise, weight loss and quitting to smoke will all lower your blood pressure. Some people though continue to have high blood pressure. It is important to seek medical advice regarding this. People with persistent elevated blood pressure need medication to have this controlled in order to avoid getting a hemorrhagic stroke.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your glucose levels

The diet I described will help you to control your blood sugars. Your doctor can order a hemoglobin A1C, which summarizes your average blood sugars over the past 3 months. Controlling your blood sugar is important to prevent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes reduces your life expectancy significantly. The risks are heart attacks, strokes, blindness, leg amputations, kidney damage and cancers.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your cholesterol

When I discussed a healthy diet, I indicted that it lowers the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. This reduces the risk of hardening of the arteries. A regular exercise program increases the protective HDL cholesterol, which reinforces the protection from heart attacks and strokes.

Healthier After Age 60

Healthier After Age 60

Conclusion

Whether we retire or not, we should all strife to achieve these 7 changes of lifestyle that Dr. Dana King has discussed. They were cardiovascular factors including physical activity, healthy diet, healthy weight, smoking status, total cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure. Each of these factors is important on its own. But when you tackle all of them simultaneously, there is a potentiation of these factors that allows you to get super-healthy. That’s what you want for your life after age 60. It is not too late to start! You want to be healthier after age 60!

Mar
30
2019

Obesity Fuels Cancer Development

A recent review by the American Cancer Society found that obesity fuels cancer development. As a matter of fact, what the researchers found was that younger millennials are more in danger of both getting obese and of getting obesity related cancers. Also, the rates of baby boomers with respect to obesity-related cancer were much lower than rates from millennials.

Results of the study showing obesity fuels cancer development

In like manner, as the summary by CNN shows, there is an increase of obesity and also an increase of various cancers of the population of millennials versus the same age group among baby boomers. As an illustration, take pancreatic cancer, one of the obesity related cancers. Normally it occurs in people above the age of 65. Here is the increase of frequencies according to age group:

Ages 25 to 29: 4.34% increase.

People aged 30 to 34: 2.47% increase.

Age bracket 35 to 39: 1.31% increase.

Those aged 40 to 44 years: 0.72% increase.

With this in mind you can see clearly that the younger age group is at a higher risk for developing pancreatic cancer. Certainly, the problem is that obesity in children has become more rampant and this has led to early obesity by the age of 35. The other side of the coin in this case is an increased pancreatic cancer rate.

Other cancers that are obesity-related

Indeed, 6 out of 12 obesity related cancers have shown an increase in frequency because of increasing obesity. These cancers are: multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer, uterine cancer, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.

Notably, people born around 1985 had a higher rate of multiple myeloma and kidney cancer than people born around 1950. Multiple myeloma was 1.59-fold higher and kidney cancer 4.91-fold higher in the group of people born around 1985 in comparison to people born around 1950.

Cancer associated with obesity, but may not be caused by obesity

MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Dr. George Chang, who was not associated with the analysis cautioned: “The study was not set up to establish causation. We know there are many factors that have an association with both obesity and cancer, such as lack of exercise and poor diet. How much each of those factors contribute to cancer is less clear.” Specifically, the study found that the rate of obesity-related cancers in millennials now is about double the rate of what it was in baby-boomers at the same age.

Discussion of the obesity and cancer problem

  1. First of all, obesity is now starting in childhood, teenagers and young adults. 5 of the 6 obesity related cancers (colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic cancer) have increased in the younger population. These require mostly surgery and according to Dr. Chang, who is an oncological surgeon, complication rates are higher among obese patients. Dr. Chang added that chances are also that complications will be more severe.
  2. Secondly, we need government-sponsored programs to reverse the obesity trend. This should include changing the diet from the Standard American diet (essentially junk food) to a Mediterranean diet. There should be an elimination of sugar and starchy foods or the use should be just a bare minimum. Reducing or even eliminating red meat is definitely necessary. The WHO has determined that beef, pork and lamb are causing cancer, because they contain weak carcinogens.  Coupled with this is the necessity to initiated regular exercise programs.
  3. Thirdly, fatty tissue in obese patients release growth factors and proteins that function as hormone-like factors stimulating cell growth. These factors stimulate any carcinogenic process. Researchers are still actively working on analyzing this process further.
Obesity Fuels Cancer Development

Obesity Fuels Cancer Development

Conclusion

Childhood obesity has already had the result that obesity-related cancers (multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer, uterine cancer, gallbladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer) occur at a younger age and more frequently. The cancer rate among obese millennials now is already double the number of what the baby-boomers was at the same age. The key is to treat obesity aggressively with regular fitness programs and with a major diet shift. We know what caused the obesity wave. It is overconsumption of sugar, junk foods, starchy foods, processed foods and fat overuse.

A major change in diet

This means the kids need to cut out sugar. An alternative is to sweeten only with stevia, if they need a sweet taste. They also need to cut out starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and processed food. Processed food contains a lot of sugar and gluten from wheat. Gluten and sugar both stimulate the appetite center. This is what we want to avoid. What remains is a Mediterranean diet without the junk from the North American diet. You end up eating a lot of vegetables, salads and fruit. Fish is a good protein source, poultry as well. Implementing these changes will show positive results for the health of the entire population, not only the millennials.

Mar
09
2019

Live The Life That We Evolved For

A review article at CNN by a psychiatrist recommends that we live the life that we evolved for. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI explains that man lived on this planet only since 200,000 years. But it takes about 1 million years for evolutionary changes to take place. As a result of this we tend to still behave in our lives the way we may have reacted 10,000 years ago. It is useful to think back of us being hunters and gatherers.

Anxiety, an ancient emotion

Anxiety, for instance, is an emotion that goes far back to 10,000 years ago when humans had to be part of the tribe. If an opposite tribe was fighting them chances were high that they could get killed. Even if your own tribe did no longer like you, there was a strong possibility that you were driven out or killed. This left us with an inheritance going back many millennia of anxiety. In modern life though it is the boss who does not like something you did. It could be a deadline for a school or college project that makes us anxious or some political news. The reasons have changed, but anxiety is still there!

Live the life that we evolved for: assess what we eat

Food was very scarce 10,000 years ago. When the tribe finally caught some prey, there was a feast where fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds were eaten. Refined sugars were not available. You did not know when the next time would come where you had ample food. Today we still behave this way: we eat what we can and eat some more. The only problem is that there is no longer the pattern of famine orfeast. Instead there is easy access to the fridge with all kinds of food. We also have access to fast food places. And we drink sodas, eat candies and other sweets. Eventually we end up fat and fatigued.

Live the life that we evolved for: which way do we move?

Our ancestors had to run and walk many miles a day to find food. They may have been attacked by wild animals and had to flee. They also needed to chase a prey for food. Constant movement was the order of the day. What are we doing today? We did not evolve to step into a car and drive to work. We also did not evolve to sit at a desk from 9AM to 5PM. In the evening we sit in front of the TV or lie on a couch eating munchies and drinking beer.

Our modern life

It is no wonder that we gain weight, that our heart and lungs do not get conditioned, and that our muscles are a pile of mush. We need to think back what our bodies were built to do. Perhaps a long walk would be healthier than sitting all the time. Some of us do not mind to visit a gym daily and build an exercise routine into the day. This mimics the activities of the hunter/gatherers and is a lot better for our bodies.

Live the life that we evolved for: sleep problems

Many people today have problems to fall asleep. The sun had 100% control of the diurnal rhythm in the past. Now we have artificial lightning, blue light from TV’s, computer screens and iPhones. We are constantly getting stimulated. In addition, the stories we read or see on TV get us excited, so that the stress hormone, cortisol is released and melatonin, the sleeping hormone gets suppressed. Taken all this together, it is not really a wonder we have problems sleeping. Relaxation methods can help us to tone down before we go to sleep. You may want to meditate, do self-hypnosis, practice some yoga or just lie still and relax, clearing your mind, and more importantly switch the TV off and put the computer on “sleep”. Sleep for you comes easier this way.

Live the life that we evolved for: our fears

10,000 years ago fear was a normal part of our lives. There were predators you had to fear. There were tribal wars where you had to fight for your survival. You had to fear starvation. The fight/flight response was a reality. Compare this to our lives now. We may fear an exam, a meeting at work or agonize what to wear for a party. We have no real existential fears unless you live in a war zone. Many people may feel that they do not have enough fear in their lives, so they get drawn to horror and mystery stories, computer games, haunted houses etc. But this is fodder for anxiety!

Live the life that we evolved for: how to feel better

When we adopt a pet, let’s say a dog, we understand that it needs food, exercise, love and sleep. But when it comes to the human animal in us, we find it hard to understand that we need that too. In fact, we need to live the life that we evolved for. We need some form of exercise all the time, because that is what we were meant to do 10,000 years ago and our bodies are still built for that. When you walk the dog, you may make new friends or even a date. If you go to the gym, you realize that your muscles work better and begin to make your body fitter. You will also feel better about yourself. You appreciate that your mood is lifting, and you feel the increased energy and strength.

Dr. Arash Javanbakht said about the bottom line:

“If we treated our body the way responsible dog owners treated their dog, we would live a much happier life.”

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Conclusion

It takes people 1 million years for evolutionary changes. We do not change our behavior fast. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI compared our lives now with the lives of the hunters/gatherers in the past. People ate fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds when a prey was hunted. But then there was an episode of fasting. People then had to walk and run all day long to catch some food again or they had to run to escape from a predator. Nowadays we use cars for transportation, use the elevator to get upstairs and walk from the table at home to the TV set. If we do not move enough and we eat the wrong foods, we do not turn fit but we turn fat.

Our modern lives

We also use LED lights from TV’s, computers, iPhones and tablets that interfere with our diurnal hormone rhythm. It is not about going back to sending smoke signals, but it is all about setting limits and when to stop and disengage from social media and the phone. Not setting limits is part of why we have problems to sleep. Stress can also be a factor of insomnia. Dr. Javanbakht says that we need to relearn how our bodies were built. We need proper nutrition without high-energy carbs. In addition we need regular exercise that will help us to relax and feel more energy. Anxieties will lift and we will feel better about ourselves.

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Oct
13
2018

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

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

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

The reason why this study was thought to be necessary

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

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

The mouse experiments to study the development of obesity

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

More details about what obesity did to the experimental mice

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

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

Brain inflammation from obesity

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

Women before and after menopause

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

Other studies supporting the effects of obesity in men and women 

Inflammatory substances in obese people affecting their brain

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

How obesity affects your body functions

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

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

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

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

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Conclusion

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

Low fat diet from the 1980’s

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

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

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Sep
29
2018

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

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

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

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

New research with larger population numbers

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

Binge drinking

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

Global health study

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

Some alcohol-related statistics

The following were the observaions in the study.

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

More statistics

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

Common clinical conditions from alcohol consumption

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

Heart disease

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

Cancer

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

Diabetes

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

Memory loss

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

Appearance

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

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good

Conclusion

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

Alcohol related deaths and diseases

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

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Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

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

Common diseases of older people

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

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

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

What other common diseases do older people get?

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

Osteoarthritis

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

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

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

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

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

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

Cancer

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

Respiratory diseases

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

Osteoporosis

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

Alzheimer’s

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

Diabetes

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

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

Falls and balance problems

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

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

Obesity

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

Depression

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

Oral health

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

Poverty

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

Shingles

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

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

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

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

Other illnesses

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

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

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

Know your risks and be vigilant

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

Aug
18
2018

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

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

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

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

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

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

Lifestyle choices matter

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

Other studies that support the concept that lifestyles matter

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

Age

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

Family history

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

Environmental factors

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

History of Head injury

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

Heart disease

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

Older Latinos and older African Americans

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

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

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

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

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

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

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Jun
09
2018

What Makes Chips Addictive?

When you emptied an entire bag of potato chips, you may ask yourself: what makes chips addictive? Scientists talk about hedonic hyperphagia or hedonic hunger. In plain English, it is the pleasure of eating, even when you are not hungry. There are certain foods that seduce you to overeat, and one of these are chips. Chocolate or candy can be other high-hedonic rating foods.

Erlangen experiments

A group of researchers from the Erlangen University in Germany set out to get to the bottom of this addiction eating. 17 healthy subjects with a body mass index of between 19 and 27 were recruited for eating experiments. They got either high calorie chips or low calorie zucchini. The chips created a marked stimulation on a functional MRI scan where the nucleus accumbens was lighting up. When they consumed zucchini no such stimulation could be documented. The researchers had done similar experiments with the same foods on rats. They too had functional MRI scans and the tests showed similar stimulation after the test animals consumed chips, but not after zucchini.

Nucleus accumbens, the addiction center for food

Professor Andreas Hess and his team in Erlangen say that the nucleus accumbens is the addiction center for food. They also did experiments with fat to carbohydrate composition to find the most addictive mixture. There is a certain fat to carbohydrate ratio that triggers food addiction. What surprised the Erlangen researchers was that both in rats and humans the optimal addiction potential was identical.

  • They found that rats preferred 35% of fat and 45% of carbohydrates in their chips. With humans there is the other factor: on top of the fat/carb mixture we like to taste some salt and spices, because this also will stimulate our appetite. The food industry has figured this out long time ago. This knowledge from tasting experiments is built into processed food.
  • The Erlangen researchers  also found that in obese people the nucleus accumbens was lighting up more intensely the higher the BMI was. That means that obese people are more food-addicted!

Triggering the nucleus accumbens

  • Professor Hess postulates that the 35% fat to 45% carb mix in potato chips is ideal for the body. It can mobilize quick energy from carbs, but also have storable energy from fat at the same time. It is this mix, which stimulates the addiction center in the nucleus accumbens.
  • In a study from Bethesda, Maryland researchers found an overlap between food addiction and drug addiction.  The common pathways in both is the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This dopamine release makes us feel good, and as a result, we want to experience it again.
  • In this study patients with bulimia nervosa were examined. They found that   overconsumption of sugar-laden foods had very similar effects as drugs in drug-addicted patients. It is the release of dopamine, glutamate and the opioid system that are involved in both. The nucleus accumbens is also receiving stimulation in both situations.

What can be done about food addiction?

This publication noted that people who are food addicted eat higher amounts of fat and carbohydrates. With this mix the feel-good nucleus accumbens produces most dopamine, which is the driving force behind the addiction.

  • If you cut out sugar, you find it easier to control your eating portions. But you also must cut out processed food, as this is where a lot of hidden sugar is coming from.
  • Cut down on your fat consumption. Even if you reduce it from 35% to 10% or 15%, this is a huge step forward. It reduces your calorie intake significantly, but also reduces the stimulation of your appetite center.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, salads and some fruit. Be careful with some fruit like grapes, bananas, mangos, papayas and dates. They are all higher in sugars. If you cannot entirely avoid those, use portion control, so you are not overeating on them.

Portion control

Besides changing the food quality, you can reduce the portions of food you are eating. Instead of mindlessly emptying a whole bag of chips, you could get a small bowl and fill part of the bag of chips into it. Remove the bag into a cupboard that is difficult to reach. If you are sitting and watching TV, you could eat one chip at a time, but only during commercial breaks. This way your chip eating becomes more conscious and more controlled, and you set a limit. In time you may find that you can replace the chips with a lower calorie food like slices of apples, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

What Makes Chips Addictive?

What Makes Chips Addictive?

Conclusion

Researchers found that chips were addictive in rats and in humans. Functional MRI scans of brains in rats and humans showed that potato chip eating stimulated the nucleus accumbens. It was lighting up in both species when the test subjects consumed potato chips. Surprisingly, it did not matter, whether these were test animals or humans! A review of several research papers showed a similarity between food addiction and drug addiction. It is dopamine and other brain transmitters that stimulate the nucleus accumbens, which is the addiction center. One of the keys, professor Hess from Erlangen University in Germany found, is the fat/carb mix. When the potato chips contained 35% fat and 45% carbs, this stimulated the nucleus accumbens.

Changing your eating habits

Knowing all of this helps us to be able to change our eating habits. To avoid the pitfalls of food addiction, cut out sugar and starchy foods, and remove processed foods from your diet. Also reduce some of the fat to 10% or 15% fat in your total diet. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit low in sugar. In addition you should also consider with portion control to avoid mindless munching. Before you know it you can shed the pounds that you may have accumulated before. You will be able to reduce your BMI to 21 to 23. Many people have done it before you.

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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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