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 150 mg of vitamin E in the form of delta- and gamma-tocotrienol every day.

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Dec
22
2018

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Biological age is different from the chronological age said professor Morgan Levine from Yale Medical School. She is working in the department of pathology. She has found in her research that people of the same chronological age have very different biological ages. From a biological standpoint they may be much younger or older than their chronological age. When people are younger than their chronological age, they have less disease and less mortality. This article has reviewed the facts.

Measuring biological age

Dr. Levine also has developed tools how to determine the biological age. And when the biological age is higher than the chronological age, she recommends lifestyle changes that will set back the biological clock. We age differently according to what we eat, how our genetic make-up is, which we cannot change, whether we are physically active and what environmental toxins we are exposed to. So, the biological age determines our health status and what our final life expectancy will be.

Biomarkers for biological age

A simple blood test that your family doctor can order consists of the following. A fasting blood sugar, kidney and liver tests, immune tests and inflammatory tests. In addition the doctor will want to know whether you are smoking or not, how much alcohol you consume and how much red meat and processed meat you eat. A computer program processes these results, which determines your biological age.

Lifestyle improvements can lower biological age

Biological age testing has a strength built in. By changing your lifestyle you can lower it. When you exercise more regularly and switch to eating a Mediterranean diet you can lower your biological age. Other studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory. A telomere test, which also determines the biological age, is fixed. It is not easily changed by dietary measures and increasing your exercise.

Dr. Levine said: “I think the most exciting thing about this research is that these things aren’t set in stone.”

Putting the biological age to the test

Dr. Levine was curious what her own biological age was. She entered her blood test data and lifestyle facts into the computer. She was surprised that her biological age was not as good as her first assumption. Now she is trying to get more sleep, has increased her exercise level and improved her diet.

Her research team is working on getting the algorithm online so that everyone will be able to put one’s blood tests and other data into the computer program and calculate the biological age. The program will also recommend what steps are likely most helpful to increase one’s health and decrease the biological age.

Lower your biological age

No one wants to live a long life, if they are in pain and have various illnesses like arthritis or Alzheimer’s. But things are different, if they can change lifestyle factors and maintain a low biological age for a long time. Now they can stay active, have no pains and are able to contribute to society.

“By delaying the onset of diseases and cognitive and physical functioning problems people can still be engaged in society,” Dr. Levine said. “I think that is the ideal we should be striving for.”

Other literature about biological age

Inflammation increases the biological age

In this publication the authors stressed that inflammation is the common denominator for developing disease and premature aging. The authors stress further that it is mandatory to change one’s lifestyle to lower the biological age and live longer.

Diastolic blood pressure predicts mortality

In an older study the diastolic blood pressure was related to mortality. The higher the diastolic blood pressure was, the higher the mortality.  The authors also noted that it was the persons with the higher biological age who were at the highest risk of dying.

Scientific study about the predictors for the biological age

Here is a scientific study that examines predictors for the biological age.  This is not easy reading, but I placed it here for completeness sake.

Link to a site that can calculate your biological age

Here is a link to a site that calculates your biological age. It is probably not as good as Dr. Levine’s computer analysis will be when it is available. However, it is a good approximation to what it will be like.

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Biological Age Is Different From The Chronological Age

Conclusion

The dream of staying younger for longer is not new. Research has shown that we actually can do something about it. If we look after our lifestyle, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, eat a sensible Mediterranean-type diet and exercise regularly, our biological age will be less than our chronological age. It is the biological age that determines how old we get and whether or not we will suffer from age-related illnesses. Researchers also found out that when your biological age is younger than your actual age mortality will occur later. The math is simple. Let’s assume that your biological age is 15 to 20 years younger than your chronological age. As the average life expectancy presently is 80 years, your life expectancy can increase to 95 or 100 years.

Dec
08
2018

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

A new study showed that not exercising is more risky for you than smoking. We all know that smoking puts you at risk to get a heart attack or a stroke. It can also cause lung cancer and other cancers. So, hearing that not exercising is even more risky than smoking comes as a shocker.

The study

Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic was the senior cardiologist of this study. It was based on 122,007 patients who underwent tests using an exercise treadmill test at the Cleveland Clinic. This took place between the beginning of January 1991 and the end of December 2014. The end point in the study was all-cause mortality. The question in the study was whether exercise and fitness were lowering the risk of mortality. The result showed that 12% of the study group had the lowest exercise rate. This sedentary group had a mortality rate that was 500% higher than the top exercise performers. Compared to someone who exercises regularly the sedate group that hardly exercises still had a 390% higher death rate.

No ceiling of the benefit of exercise

What was astounding to the researchers was the fact that there was no ceiling of the benefit of exercise. The ultra fit group still had a super low mortality rate, lower than the next higher fitness group. Age did not matter either. Whether you were 40 or 80, the more you exercised, the lower your mortality rate was.

Comments about the study

Jaber said: “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker. We’ve never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this.” He went on to say: “If you compare the risk of sitting versus the highest performing on the exercise test, the risk is about three times higher than smoking.”

A sports medicine physician, Dr.Jordan Metzl who was not part of the study, said: “Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the most expensive diseases in the United States. We spend more than $200 billion per year treating these diseases and their complications. Rather than pay huge sums for disease treatment, we should be encouraging our patients and communities to be active and exercise daily.”

Other studies showing that not exercising is associated with a high mortality rate

 

The STABILITY trial

This trial was based on 15,486 patients with heart disease and found that even 10 minutes of exercise per day reduced mortality. They compared the death rate of people engaging in 10 minutes of a brisk walk with a group who did not exercise at all. The brisk walkers had a 33% lower death rate than the group who was entirely sedentary.

A lack of exercise causes a lot of chronic diseases

This review article mentions that a number of chronic diseases were related to sedentary lifestyle. Major diseases like heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, depression and anxiety and others were clearly much more common in people who were more sedentary than those who were exercising regularly.

Poor lifestyle in general causes diseases

Lifestyle, in particular regular exercises, a healthy diet and NOT smoking has a profound positive effect on our health. In one study researchers showed that 79% of major diseases including heart attacks and strokes could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. I reviewed this in this blog.

High blood pressure reduced by regular exercise

This 2017 study from Brazil has examined the effects of regular exercise on high blood pressure patients. They came to the conclusion that regular exercise can be as powerful as blood pressure lowering medication. Both bring down systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Even complications of previously untreated high blood pressure will be reversed with regular exercise while medication will not have this positive effect. Controlling high blood pressure with regular exercise will prevent diseases like heart attacks and strokes and the associated mortality.

Regular exercise and diet change to prevent type 2 diabetes

In this 2015 study the researchers noted that a combination of adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise could lead to weight loss. This was shown to prevent type 2 diabetes. The authors questions why such a lifestyle change was not more widely taught to people to prevent cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

Not Exercising Is More Risky For You Than Smoking

Conclusion

The medical profession knows for a long time that regular exercise is good for your health. But there always was a concern that perhaps too much exercise may be hazardous. A 2018 study from the Cleveland Clinic followed 122,007 patients for 14 years. All patients underwent an exercise treadmill test as a baseline. The end point was mortality during the 14 years of follow-up. The results made clear that there was no upper limit of exercise. Patients who were exercising the most still had a lower mortality than those who exercised less.

Sessile patients

But perhaps the most impressive result was that sessile patients who did hardly any or no exercise had the highest mortality. Their mortality was higher than that of smokers who exercised a little bit. If you want to avoid getting a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes or many types of cancer, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and eat a Mediterranean type diet. Regular exercise can reduce cardiovascular disease by 79%. And since the Cleveland study we know that more exercise is even better as the top athletes had the lowest mortality.

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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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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Sep
15
2018

Moderate Carb Intake Has The Lowest Mortality

A 25-year long study has shown that a moderate carb intake has the lowest mortality. A comprehensive study from the US has followed more than 15,000 men and women for 25 years. They were between 45-64 years when they entered the study and they were from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The authors chose mortality as an end point. Dr. Sara Seidelmann is a clinical and research fellow in cardiovascular medicine from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was the lead author of this study. The research group used food questionnaires and analyzed the carb content in the food. They also determined what percentage of the food composition was of animal origin or plant origin.

Research study finds moderate carb intake has the lowest mortality

The main findings of the study were that less than 40% of carbs in the diet led to an increased death rate with a mortality of between 1.4-fold and 1.8-fold. On the other hand, more than 70% of carbs in the diet also had increased mortality rates of 1.2-fold. The lowest mortality was in the group that consumed a diet where carbs were between 50% and 55%. Dr. Seidelmann explained that in terms of life expectancy the result of the study could be summarized as follows. A 50-year-old person had another 33 years to live when carb intake was in the moderate range. The low-carb person had only another 29 years to live (4 years less than the moderate carb person). The high-carb person lived another 32 years, 1 year less than the moderate carb person.

Plant-derived versus animal-derived fat and protein

The study showed that there was increased longevity when carbohydrates were exchanged for proteins and fats from plant sources. Mortality was 18% less for this group. Conversely, when carbs were replaced for animal-derived fat or protein mortality was 18% more!

Dr. Seidelmann noted that this study was coming from a US based population. In the case of an Asian group they would consume much more carbs on average, but they would replace a lot of the animal fat and protein with fish. Fish is a healthier source of protein and fat than beef or pork.

A moderate carb intake group that used protein and fat from animal sources was compared to plant sources. When protein and fat had the origin from lamb, beef, pork, and chicken the mortality over 25 years was higher. When protein and fat came from vegetables, such as nuts, peanut butter, seeds and whole-grain breads there was a lower mortality rate.

Other studies comparing the effect of animal protein versus plant protein

  1. A 2016 study that had gone on for 49 years was involving 131,342 participants. Animal protein intake showed an association with higher mortality from heart attacks and strokes. 3% of energy from processed red meat was now substituted by an equivalent amount of plant protein. This reduced the all-cause mortality by 34%, for unprocessed red meat by 12% and for egg by 19%.

 

  1. Red meat is cancer-producing. Several studies have shown this. When red meat is digested, cancer-causing substances are released that can be the cause of cancer in the lining of the stomach and the colon. The above link says we should limit red meat consumption to 65 grams (2oz.) per day or 2 servings (130 grams or 4 oz.) 3 to 4 times per week. We should avoid eating more than 455 grams (1 pound) of lean red meat per week.

Triglycerides are an independent risk factor for heart attacks

In this publication evidence is also present that triglycerides are an independent risk factor that can cause heart attacks.

When you eat too many carbs, the body produces the excess you don’t need into triglycerides, and it deposits its subsequently as fat in fatty tissue.  Physical activity burns up some of the triglycerides. But when we eat too much refined sugar and starchy foods, there will be an excess of triglycerides putting our blood vessels and our hearts at risk.

Regular exercise prevents disease and premature deaths

Many studies have shown that regular exercise prevents heart attacks and premature deaths. We even know the mechanism of why this is so. Exercise releases nitric oxide ((NO) from our blood vessels, which widens the arteries. This also prevents high blood pressure. Exercise elevates the protective HDL cholesterol. When regular exercisers were compared to a non-active group they had a 41% lower risk of death. All-cause hospitalizations were down by 21% and cardiac hospitalizations were down 32%.

Discussion

  1. Barry Sears is the inventor of the Zone Diet. I attended a lecture in 2001 at an Anti-Aging Conference in San Diego. Dr. Sears was the keynote speaker at this conference. He stressed that a diet with 55% of complex carbs would be the best diet. It is interesting that Dr. Seidelmann in the study mentioned in beginning of this blog found the same thing. The lowest mortality was in the group that consumed a diet where carbs were between 50% and 55%.
  2. The second point that is important to note is that it matters whether we eat protein derived from animals or from plants. Even small steps help. When we reduce our animal protein intake by only 3% of the energy intake, and replace it by plant protein, there is a significant reduction in mortality.
  3. Exercise is rarely mentioned in relation to diets. But exercise needs to be included every day and you will experience a reduction of cardiac hospitalizations of 32% as mentioned above.
Moderate Carb Intake Has The Lowest Mortality

Moderate Carb Intake Has The Lowest Mortality

Conclusion

A moderate carb intake, as is the case in the Mediterranean diet and in the Zone Diet of Barry Sears, has the lowest mortality rate. Complex carbs (in vegetables) are absorbed much slower. As a result the risk for heart attacks is much lower. The opposite is true for refined carbs from sugar. They cause heart attacks and strokes with premature mortality. Dr. Sara Seidelmann led a study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that lasted 25 years. Less than 40% of carbs in the diet led to an increased death rate with a mortality of between 1.4-fold and 1.8-fold. These diets are paleo-type diets, the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet. More than 70% of carbs in the diet also had increased mortality rates of 1.2-fold.

The healthiest diet

People who consumed a diet where carbs were between 50% and 55% had the lowest mortality rate (Zone Diet). Another finding of this study, which was confirmed by others is that animal-based protein is unhealthier than plant-based protein. Even replacing 3% of energy from an animal-based diet with plant-derived protein delayed mortality significantly.

If you want to live longer and stay healthy you need to critically evaluate what you eat.

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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. It remains the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

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!