Nov
23
2013

Stop Obesity

Introduction

Being obese is not just a problem that is known as “middle age spread’. It has become an alarming condition that affects all age groups, children, adolescents and adults; it has escalated into a health problem that affects a large percentage of the US population. Statistics are hard to ignore: in 2012 one third of adults in the US were overweight. Another third was obese. That means that  two thirds of the population exceeded the upper limit of a normal body weight (a body mass index of less than 25.0). Other countries in the Western world share in the record of being the fattest nations: they are Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Ireland and Finland. Not every country with high living standards has high obesity rates. Japan and Korea by comparison have obesity rates of 3 to 4%.

Health consequences

The diseases resulting from obesity as a direct consequence include high blood pressure, cardio-vascular problems (heart attacks and strokes), and type II diabetes. This results in health expenses spiraling upwards. The excessive weight creates additional problems. Not only the heart and blood vessels face an overload, but the joints are also bearing the brunt in the form of joint diseases like arthritis or back pain. These conditions are not fatal, but they account for less productivity at the work place and they create disabilities. In the public sector obesity presents more problems: how can an obese individual be accommodated in a standard airline seat? How can nursing personnel in a hospital manage to lift or transfer a very heavy patient without a mechanical lift?

Obesity can be compared to a snowball that is on a downhill run and if it is not stopped in time, will turn into a deadly avalanche.

Stop Obesity

Stop Obesity

Causes of obesity

In the last few years it has become clearer how obesity was created. It originated from the perfect storm that a number of practices of the food industry brought about:

1. Processed food has become more prominent in the super market, laden with salt (creating high blood pressure) and sugar (causing diabetes).

2. Wheat and wheat products are contained in a lot of processed foods, and if they are not in it directly, food manufacturers add MSG (mono sodium glutamate) to stimulate your taste buds. This leads to food addictions encouraging you to eat bigger portions and to eat more sweet, calorie-laden foods.

3. Wheat has undergone forced hybridization in the 1970’s changing the genetic make-up of wheat significantly. The result is much more gliadin, the gooey substance that stimulates your opiate receptors and makes you addicted to food and sweets (Ref. 1).

4. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are a huge problem for our bodies: sugar consumption in any form leads to overproduction of insulin, insulin resistance and diabetes. 10 to 15 years of life can be lost from premature death due to sugar overconsumption. The causes are accelerated hardening of the arteries with premature heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage. Alcohol in its many disguises is also a problem. The body metabolizes it similar to sugar, excess calories from alcoholic drinks are stored as fat.

5. The oils that are now used to produce baked goods are the cheaper omega-6-fatty acid containing oils derived from safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and canola. The result is a disbalance of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio in our diet, which causes inflammation in our bodies. This in turn causes heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s disease (Ref. 2).

6. In the US there are problems with bovine growth hormone in milk and milk products unless you buy organic milk and milk products. This too causes your fat to accumulate as it blocks your own growth hormone receptors. Antibiotic residuals in beef from feedlots also contribute to obesity in humans.

7. Add to this the fact that we have become more sessile, driving cars, watching games rather than playing games, watching TV and sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. All this burns up less calories than if you work out in a gym.

Knowing the enemy helps us to fight the causes of obesity. Here is my recipe to counter what the agro industry has been doing to us.

What can be done to stop obesity?

1. The biggest factor is to cut out genetically modified wheat that is now the only source of wheat around the world. When you cut out all wheat and wheat products from your diet, you will lose 400 calories every day. Ref. 1 describes this in detail and provides 150 recipes of tasty foods. Dr. Davis allows you a fair amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which makes dieting a lot easier and you will find that once you have lost the necessary pounds, you will keep your weight down easily. How come I know? Because I have done this myself since 2001. Why does it work? Because gliadin from wheat is an addictive protein that stimulates your opiate receptors in the brain and makes you want to eat more wheat and wheat products, which means taking in more and more calories (Ref.1). It also stimulates your taste buds to eat more sugar and starchy foods. So you need to cut out wheat.

2. Next you need to look at the glycemic index of your foods. Low and medium glycemic foods are OK to eat, but not the high glycemic index foods. It is clear from this link that white bread, pasta, rice, low-fiber cereals and baked goods are not desirable, because they are high glycemic on the index. On the other hand fruit, vegetables and legumes are desirable food choices, as they are low glycemic index foods. Legumes are higher in their carbohydrate content, and a helping of ca. ½ a cup should not be exceeded. Fruit that are high in fruit sugar (grapes, pineapple, mangoes, papayas, bananas) should be consumed in moderation. Fruit juices present an overload of sugar; just remember that it takes several apples to make one serving of apple juice! The same goes for alcoholic drinks. It likely is responsible for much of the obesity wave.

3. Perhaps the most important step is to look at the food that goes into your mouth, eliminate all MSG (monosodium glutamate) and then switch to organic food. I remember that 1/3 of the items on the kitchen shelf and in the fridge had to be thrown out when my wife and I first learnt about this in 2001. We studied the food labels of every food item that was in our kitchen. We added the switch to organic food in the last three years, after hearing about it from Suzanne Somers’ books and at several A4M anti-aging conferences in Las Vegas. Take the time to prepare most of your food that you eat yourself at home from natural, organic  ingredients. This way you can avoid sugar and extra salt, which would be present in processed foods.

4. Watch oils and fat when you cook: extra virgin, cold pressed organic olive oil is your best friend when it comes to cooking Mediterranean type food. Lately there is a trend of cooking with coconut oil, but I think this is a marketing hype (if you decide on coconut oil, make sure it is virgin and fresh pressed, not processed).  Ref. 2 explains that it is important to avoid all polyunsaturated oils as they turn rancid and lead to free radicals in your blood and in your fatty organs like the brain. In order to reintroduce the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats, it is useful to take 3 capsules or more (up to 6 or 7 per day in persons with arthritis) of a strong, molecularly distilled EPA/DHA  supplement daily that will restore your prostaglandins. This ensures that no inflammatory reactions take place in your tissues preventing heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish has been and still is highly recommended as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is also anti-inflammatory. But, unfortunately it is contaminated with various amounts of mercury wherever you are in the world, so I find it difficult to recommend it as healthy unless you are willing to undergo chelation therapy on an ongoing intermittent basis to remove heavy metals and this method may not be perfect either. Fish like sardines or wild salmon are the better choices. Tuna, swordfish or shark should never be consumed as their toxic load is dangerously high.

5. Finally, a word about reintroducing exercise. As kids we were more active. You may have played games as a youth. What our bodies need at all times is movement, walking, dancing, in short some form of activity every day. The easiest is to work out in a gym for 1 hour every day (30 minutes of aerobics like a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes and isometric exercises like working with machines or weights). Add on top of this whatever you can. This stimulates your metabolism, your blood circulation and rebalances your hormones.

Conclusion

Obesity is a national concern and a concern that affects nations internationally. Bear in mind that the food processors and the associated industry is not on a mission to increase the well being of the consumer, but is driven by the motivation to increase profits. In the past bad dietary advice added more injury to this situation, when the science behind diets was not yet developed. But now we know that a low fat high carb diet does not work; instead a balanced fat, low glycemic index diet as in a Mediterranean diet is what is beneficial. The large amounts of sugar that are currently added and consumed in many processed foods have no place in sensible human nutrition. The senseless overfeeding with grain has also presented its results: it has fattened up North America and other nations. We need quality fats (olive oil, omega-3-fatty acids and nuts). Organic food whenever possible is important in order to avoid poisoning ourselves with pesticides, antibiotic residues or bovine growth hormone. Add regular exercise to this and your recipe for treating and preventing obesity is complete.

More about metabolic syndrome (the metabolic changes associated with obesity): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

 

References

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

2. David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

 

Last edited March 4, 2015

Oct
26
2013

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Any general practitioner knows that fall and winter are the time when patients come in with a variety of complaints like a lack of energy, problems sleeping, inability to cope with stress, but often there may be non-specific pains like muscle spasm in the back, the shoulders, or indigestion. These symptoms can all be part of seasonal affective disorders (SAD) like depression, the winter blues, often coupled with anxiety.

Emotional health does not fit easily into our health care model. The receptionist will warn the doctor that this is going to be a “difficult” patient. If the doctor has only time for a 5 or 10-minute visit, where only one or two problems can be dealt with, then this does not fit when a patient with SAD has a problem concentrating, falling asleep, and presents with a long list of other complaints. Even 20 minutes or 30 minutes may not be enough to deal with this patient adequately. It is easier to send the patient for tests and to prescribe an antidepressant and a sleeping pill and reschedule for a follow-up appointment. But this likely will result in normal blood tests and investigations, added health care costs, but no solution to the patient’s problem when he  or she simply states “doctor, I feel so sick”.

I thought it would be interesting to review how our emotions can get out of balance and review an integrative approach to SAD.

Definition of SAD

Seasonal depression (also called seasonal affective disorder) occurs during fall (autumn) and winter, but this alternates with no depressive episodes during spring and summer. A person defined to suffer from SAD would have suffered from two major depressive episodes during the past 2 years with no depressive episodes in the intervening seasons of spring and summer (Ref.1). Alternative names for SAD are winter depression and wintertime blues. Typically SAD lasts about 5 months.

Brain hormone disbalance

Around 2002 it was detected that in mice there was a second light sensitive pathway from ganglion cells in the retina that were responsible for circadian hormone rhythms. This was later confirmed to be true also in humans, where photosensitive retinal ganglion cells buried deep in the retina and containing the pigment melanopsin absorb blue light in the visible light spectrum. The electrical signals are sent along the retinohypothalamic tract, so that light from the retina regulates the hormone circadian rhythm (daily hormone fluctuations including the sleep/wake cycle) in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is one of the major hormone centers in the center of the brain. As this publication shows there are minor genetic sequence changes for the retinal photopigment, melanopsin in patients with SAD. This affects about 1 to 2% of the American population. Many more have probably partial defects in the function of this pigment.

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Being SAD in Fall (Seasonal Affective Disorders)

Many hormones in our brain experience a circadian rhythm.

When the sun goes down, melatonin is produced making us sleepy. In the morning serotonin production goes up and stays up all day, which normally prevents depression. There are other hormones that cycle during the course of the day. Cortisol is highest in the morning and low in the evening and at night. Growth hormone and prolactin are highest during sleep.

There is a lack of serotonin in the brains of patients with SAD and depression.

Symptoms of SAD

A person affected by SAD or any other patient with ordinary depression will present with symptoms of lack of energy, with tearfulness, negative thought patterns, sleep disturbances, lack of appetite and weight loss and possible suicidal thoughts. On the other hand symptoms may be more atypical presenting with irritability and overindulging in food with weight gain. Some patients somaticize as already mentioned in the beginning of this review experiencing a multitude of functional symptoms without any demonstrable underlying disease. It is estimated that up to 30 to 40% of patients attending a general practitioner’s office have some form of depression and in the fall and winter season a large percentage of them are due to SAD.

Treatment approaches to SAD

There are several natural approaches to SAD. However, before deciding to go this route, a psychiatrist should assess the patient to determine the risk for suicide. When a patient is not suicidal, light therapy can be utilized.

1. Light therapy: According to Ref. 2 a light box from Sun Box or Northern Light Technologies should be used for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter months. The box should emit at least 10,000 lux. Improvement can occur within 2 to 4 days of starting light therapy, but often takes up to 4 weeks to reach its full benefit (Ref.2).

2. Exercise reduces the amount of depression. The more exercise is done the less depression remains. A regular gym workout, dancing, walking, aerobics and involvement in sports are all useful.

3. Folate and vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of depressed people have folate deficiency. Supplementation with 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid is recommended. Vitamin B12 should also be taken to not mask a B12 deficiency (Ref.3). Folate and vitamin B12 are methyl donors for several brain neuropeptides.

4. Vitamin D3 supplementation: A large Dutch study showed that a high percentage of depressed patients above the age of 65 were deficient for vitamin D3. Supplementation with vitamin D3 is recommended. (Ref.3). Take 3000 to 4000 IU per day, particularly during the winter time.

5. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been found useful for minor to moderate depression. It is superior in terms of having fewer side effects than standard antidepressant therapy (Ref.3).

6. Standard antidepressants (bupropion, fluoxetine, sertraline and paroxetine) are the treatment of choice by psychiatrists and treating physicians when a faster onset of the antidepressant effect is needed (Ref.3).

7. Electro acupuncture has been shown in many studies to be effective in ameliorating the symptoms of depression and seems to work through the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.4).

8. A balanced nutrition (Mediterranean type diet) including multiple vitamins and supplements (particularly the vitamin B group and omega-3 fatty acids) also stabilize a person’s mood (Ref.3). Pay particular attention to hidden sugar intake, as sugar consumption is responsible for a lot of depression found in the general population.

9. Restore sleep deprivation by adding melatonin 3 to 6 mg at bedtime. This helps also to restore the circadian hormone rhythm.

Conclusion

Seasonal affective disorder is triggered by a lack of light exposure in a sensitive subpopulation. An integrative approach as described can reduce the amount of antidepressants that would have been used in the past in treating this condition. This will reduce the amount of side effects. The use of a light box can reduce the symptoms of this type of depression within a few days. But the addition of electro acupuncture and St. John’s Wort may be all that is required for treatment of many SAD cases. Regular exercise and a balanced nutrition (with no sugar) and including vitamin supplements complete this treatment. If the depression gets worse, seek the advice of a psychiatrist and make sure your doctor has ordered thyroid tests and hormone tests to rule out other causes where depression is merely a secondary symptom.

More information on depression: http://nethealthbook.com/mental-illness-mental-disorders/mood-disorders/depression/

References

  1. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed. © 2013 Mosby.
  2. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine, 2nd ed. © 2010 Saunders.
  3. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders.
  4. George A. Ulett, M.D., Ph.D. and SongPing Han, B.M., Ph.D.: “The Biology of Acupuncture”, copyright 2002, Warren H. Green Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132 USA

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Jul
01
2007

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia have become a disease that is dreaded by people approaching middle age. As the population ages it has made its way into the foreground not only for the ageing group but also for younger family members who will face difficult tasks as caregivers to their loved ones.

Research is dealing with a possibility of halting the disease progression, and there are encouraging signs, that more effective treatment will be available, as long as the condition is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.

It is also logical to look at preventative measures. Healthy lifestyle choices have been cited, and a closer look has been taken by Dr. Eric Larson, executive director of the Center for Health Studies of the Group Health Cooperative, Seattle. He reports that it does at this point not seem probable that Alzheimer’s dementia can always be prevented from happening, but the onset can be delayed. Four observational studies have shown with consistency, a 30% to 40% reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s when people get regular exercise.

In his own study Dr. Larson looked at 2581 individuals age 65 and over. They were tested for cognitive function and interviewed about their exercise habits every two years. It was found that those who followed an exercise regime 3 or four times per week had a 40 % reduction in the risk of developing dementia compared to those who exercised less than 3 times per week.

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Regular Exercise Will Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Or Dementia

Exercise could consist of at least 15 minutes of hiking, aerobics, stretching, calisthenics, water aerobics, swimming, or weight training. It was also of interest to note that people with the lowest physical performance benefited most from the exercise. For people in the higher age bracket prevention of dementia (and other ills) does not have to be costly. A good pair of walking or running shoes (used more than 3 times per week) will pay a healthy dividend.

More information on prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia: https://www.askdrray.com/dementia-prevented-with-diet-and-exercise/

Reference regarding the work of Dr. Larson: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/05/23/18087.aspx

Last edited December 18, 2014