Aug
18
2018

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

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

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

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

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

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

Lifestyle choices matter

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

Other studies that support the concept that lifestyles matter

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

Age

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

Family history

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

Environmental factors

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

History of Head injury

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

Heart disease

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

Older Latinos and older African Americans

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

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease

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

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

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

Poor Diet Habits Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

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

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

Dec
31
2016

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

.Eli Lilly’s promising drug solanezumab failed; so, what works against Alzheimer’s? This drug was supposed to dissolve the amyloid deposits that function like glue and make the patients lose their memory. This phase 3 trial was to test the drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety. But instead it showed that the new drug did not stop the loss of memory.

Brain bleeding as a side effect of potential Alzheimer’s drug

Now all those who were hoping for solanezumab to be effective, will jump on another drug, aducanumab. Biogen from Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed this drug. Out of 165 subjects only 125 completed preliminary studies. 40 patients who discontinued it, had negative side effects. These included fluid building up in the brain, which was thought to be due to removal of the plaques. But others, had brain bleeding.

Although the drug manufacturer is still hoping that aducanumab will work out as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug, I have my doubts. A drug that can have potential brain bleeding as a side effect does in my opinion not qualify as an anti-Alzheimer’s drug.

Factors that help prevent Alzheimer’s

1. Diet can be as effective as a drug in treating Alzheimer’s

In September 2015 researchers from Rush University published results of putting Alzheimer’s patients on the MIND diet. The MIND diet was a prospective study where 923 people aged 58 to 98 years participated. Researchers followed these people for 4.5 years. Three groups of diets were tested: Mediterranean diet, DASH diet and MIND diet.

The MIND diet study result

The adherence to the diet was measured: those who followed the diet very closely, other participants who were less diligent, and finally those who were not compliant with the diet. With regard to the MIND diet the group with the highest adherence to the diet reduced the rate of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to the lowest third. This is like a highly effective Alzheimer’s drug! The second group still was able to reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s by 35%, which would be like a regular strength drug. The control diets were the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The group that was strictly adhering to the DASH diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 39%, the group that was very conscientious in adhering to the Mediterranean diet reduced Alzheimer’s by 54%. The middle thirds of both control diets did not show any difference versus the lower thirds.

Findings of Alzheimer prevention by diet

The conclusion was that a strict Mediterranean diet had a very good Alzheimer prevention effect, as did a strict MIND diet. However, when patients did not adhere too well to a diet, the MIND diet was superior still yielding 35% of Alzheimer’s prevention after 4.5 years. The other diets, when not adhered to that well, showed no difference from being on a regular North American diet. Here is more info about the MIND diet.

Conclusion

Avoid the Standard American Diet. Adopt a Mediterranean diet and stick to it in a strict fashion or adopt the MIND diet. The other benefit is that there are no side effects!

2. Stress and Alzheimer’s

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 women aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychological stress ratings went back to 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 of them Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other forms of dementia). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. The condition became more severe the more stress they had to face in the past. Women with exposure to stress on one, two or three examinations had higher dementia rates later in life in comparison to women who had no exposure to any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after exposure to one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after exposure to three stressful episodes.

Conclusion

Prevention of Alzheimer’s is possible by avoiding stress and seeking counselling when stress occurred .

3. Be creative, prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia

In an April 8, 2015 publication from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and Scottsdale, AZ 256 participants aged 85 years and older (median age 87.3 years, 62% women and 38% men) were followed for 4.1 years. Psychological tests measured mild cognitive impairment (MCI). At the time of recruitment into the study all of the tests for MCI were normal. As the study progressed it became apparent that there were various risk factors that caused the onset of MCI, which is the immediate precursor of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding was that the presence of the genetic marker APOE ε4 allele carried a risk of 1.89-fold to develop MCI and later Alzheimer’s disease.

Further findings of the study

When patient showed signs of depression at the time of enrolment into the study, the risk of MCI development was 1.78-fold. Midlife onset of high blood pressure led to a 2.43-fold increase and a history of vascular disease showed a relationship of 1.13-fold higher MCI development. The good news was that four activities correlated with a lower risk of developing MCI with aging. When the person engaged in artistic activities in midlife or later in life the risk for MCI development 73% lower, involvement in crafts reduced it by 45% and engagement in social activities by 55%. In a surprise finding the use of a computer late in life reduced MCI development by 53%. These are very significant observations. This would be equivalent to highly effective anti-Alzheimer’s drugs.

Conclusion

If you stimulate your mind in older age, even browsing on the computer, this will help you to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Lifestyle factors contributing to Alzheimer’s

a) Sugar consumption: Sugar consumption and too much starchy food like pasta (which gets metabolized within 30 minutes into sugar) causes oxidization of LDL cholesterol and plaque formation of all the blood vessels including the ones going to the brain. On the long-term this causes memory loss due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen flowing into the brain.

b) Lack of exercise: Lack of exercise is an independent risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise increases the blood supply of the brain, strengthens neural connections and leads to growth of neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. Exercise increases mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins.

c) Sleep deprivation leads to memory loss, but so does the use of aspartame, the artificial sweetener of diet sodas. Make your own homemade lemonade. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Add mineral water to fill an 8 oz. glass. Add a tiny bit of stevia extract for sweetening. Stir and enjoy. Stevia has been in use for thousands of years.

5. Hormone changes

A lack of testosterone in men and estrogen in women interferes with cognition and memory. For this reason it is important after menopause and andropause (=the male menopause) to replace what is missing with the help of a knowledgeable health professional.

Progesterone is manufactured inside the brain, spinal cord and nerves from its precursor, pregnenolone, but in women it also comes from the ovaries until the point of menopause. The myelin sheaths of nerves requires progesterone and progesterone also has a neuroprotective function. In menopausal women bioidentical progesterone is a part of Alzheimer’s prevention.

Melatonin is a hormone, a powerful antioxidant and a neurotransmitter at the same time. It helps in the initiation of sleep, stimulates the immune system and protects from the toxic effects of cobalt. Lab tests in Alzheimer’s patients found elevated values. In an aging person it is wise to use melatonin at bedtime as a sleep aid and to preserve your brain.

6. Genetic risk of Alzheimer’s

At the 22nd Annual A4M Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Dr. Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She pointed out that there are about 5 genes that have been detected that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and in addition the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4). About 30% of people carry this gene, yet only about 10% get Alzheimer’s disease, which shows how important lifestyle factors are (in medical circles physicians call this the “epigenetic factors”) to suppress the effect of the APOE4 gene. She also stated that our genes contribute only about 20% to the overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This leaves us with 80% of Alzheimer’s cases where we can use the brain nutrients and hormones discussed above and exercise to improve brain function.

7. Vitamin D3 protects your brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease of old age. We know that it is much more common in patients with type 2 diabetes where insulin levels are high. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease can be termed type 3 diabetes.

The resulting neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid-beta deposits damage nerve cells, which are responsible for the memory loss and the profound personality changes in these patients.

What does vitamin D3 have to do with this?

A 2014 study showed that a low vitamin D level was associated with a high risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, the findings were as follows.

  • Vitamin D level of less than 10 ng/ml: 122% increased risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Vitamin D level 10 to 20 ng/ml: 51% increased risk of Alzheimer’s

The same research group found in two trials that vitamin D deficiency leads to visual memory decline, but not to verbal memory decline.

Generally supplements of vitamin D3 of 5000 IU to 8000 IU are the norm now. But some patients are poor absorbers and they may require 15,000 IU per day. The physician can easily determine what the patient needs in the dosage of vitamin D3 by doing repeat vitamin D blood levels (as 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels). The goal is to reach a level of 50-80 ng/ml. The optimal level with regard to nmol/L is 80 to 200 (according to Rocky Mountain Analytical, Calgary, AB, Canada).

8. Avoid sugar overload

We already mentioned sugar consumption under point 4. But here I am mentioning it again because of the insulin reaction. An overload of refined carbs leads to an overstimulation of the pancreas pouring out insulin. Too much insulin (hyperinsulinemia) causes hormonal disbalance and leads to diabetes type 3, the more modern name for Alzheimer’s. All starch is broken down by amylase into sugar, which means that anybody who consumes starchy food gets a sugar rush as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of chronic inflammation are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

What Works Against Alzheimer’s?

Conclusion

In the beginning we learnt about a failed phase 3 trial regarding an anti-Alzheimer’s drug. Next we reviewed several factors that can all lead to Alzheimer’s and that have been researched for many years. It would be foolish to think that we could just swallow a pill and overlook the real causes of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe there will never be a successful pill that can solve the increasing Alzheimer’s problem. It is time that we face the causes of Alzheimer’s. This means cutting down sugar to normalize your insulin levels.

Lifestyle changes necessary to avoid Alzheimer’s

We need to supplement with vitamin D3 because we know that it helps. For women in menopause or men in andropause it is time to replace the missing hormones with bioidentical ones. We need to handle stress and avoid sleep deprivation. And, yes we need to exercise regularly. Following a sensible diet like the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet makes sense. And let us keep our minds stimulated. Chances are, when we do all of this that we will not need any Alzheimer’s pill. This is not good news for the drug companies, but will be very good news for you. Last but not least, there are no side effects, only health benefits!

Additional resource on how to preserve your memory.

Oct
29
2016

High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Research published in April 2016 shows that high insulin levels can cause Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is more common in diabetics. But until recently nobody knew why there would be this association. Finally new research from New York University (NYU) has shed light on this puzzle. It seems like the key is an enzyme that breaks down insulin, called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). Melissa Schilling (no relation to me), an innovation professor at NYU has discovered the metabolic pathway between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This finding has enormous implications regarding the prevention of Alzheimer’s, as I will discuss below. Here is a link to the original paper.

Background information about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease affects about 5.2 million Americans and 44 million people worldwide. Above all, there is a progressive loss of cognitive functioning over a long period of time due to senile plaques in the cerebral cortex and the subcortical areas of the brain. These senile plaques consist of amyloid-beta substance and neurofibrillary tangles. This protein material is like glue, which prevents the neurons from working properly and certainly causes memory loss and the confusion, which is so typical for Alzheimer’s patients. Normally amyloid-beta is in solution and prevents lipoproteins in the brain from oxidizing. But when the insulin-degrading enzyme is busy breaking down high levels of insulin, these processes overload this enzyme system. Amyloid-beta experiences supersaturation, as the body does not eliminate it at a normal speed. Consequently, this leads to the glue-like deposits of amyloid-beta in Alzheimer’s brains.

A 2004 estimate for the direct cost of Alzheimer’s disease to the US amounted to  $214 billion. By 2050 this could go up to $1.5 trillion, if there will be no cure Alzheimer’s.

High insulin levels can cause Alzheimer’s, but other mechanisms too

Professor Schilling found in her research that there are four main malfunctions that can lead to high amyloid-beta in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

  1. First, with diabetes type1, when the patient does not receive enough insulin, the insulin-degrading enzyme in the brain is not working hard enough. This results in inadequate removal of amyloid-beta from the brain and neurofibrillary tangles of amyloid-beta accumulate.
  2. Second, IDE requires zinc as a co-factor to work properly in breaking down amyloid-beta. Zinc deficiency is quite common, particularly in older people. In this case insulin levels are normal, but the removal of amyloid-beta from the brain is inadequate, as IDE function has become lower.
  3. Furthermore, in early type 2 diabetes there are high insulin levels and there is a competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta. This is probably the most common form of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Finally, excess production of an amyloidogenic protein can lead to an overabundance of amylin-beta, which overwhelms the insulin-degrading enzyme.

What treatment options are there for Alzheimer’s disease?

These four mechanisms from above have several implications as follows.

  1. If a type 1 diabetic patient is insulin deficient, intranasal insulin would be beneficial.
  2. If the patient has type 2 diabetes, intranasal insulin or insulin by injection would be the wrong approach. As stated earlier, there is the competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta. It is the insulin-degrading enzyme, which is the limiting factor. This involves simple dietary changes where the patient cuts out sugar and limits starchy foods in the diet. This normalizes insulin levels and the IDE function returns to normal.
  3. Alzheimer’s patients and patients with mild cognitive dysfunction should be tested with glucose tolerance tests (GTT). It the test is abnormal, a knowledgeable dietician should be consulted.
  4. Obesity is strongly associated with hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. Again frequent GTT should be done followed by dietary intervention when abnormal.
  5. Professor Melissa Schilling stated that 86 million Americans are pre-diabetic, but they have no symptoms. Only glucose tolerance testing can diagnose that condition. This will prevent a lot of cases of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
  6. Large parts of the population have no knowledge of the glycemic index of carbohydrates. In order to limit glucose overload and excessive insulin production there is a need for educational nutritional programs. This will be a powerful tool in Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

High Insulin Levels Can Cause Alzheimer’s

Conclusion

It has been general knowledge for some time that diabetics have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease. People have known Alzheimer’s as “Diabetes of the brain” or “Type 3 Diabetes”. This new research has shed some light on the connection of elevated insulin to Alzheimer’s disease. It was news to me that there is a competitive inhibition of the elimination of insulin and amylin-beta via the insulin-degrading enzyme. It boils down to recognizing that sugar overconsumption causes Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to keep your brain power until a ripe old age, you better eliminate a lot of sugar and adopt a healthy Mediterranean diet.

Dec
27
2014

Stem Cells, Telomeres, Hormones And Lifestyle

I recently attended the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014) and stem cells, telomeres, hormones and lifestyle were the highlights this year. Every year there seems to be something new to learn. There were a lot of talks about stem cell treatments, about how lifestyle changes can be healing and how telomeres are in the center of epigenetics. Epigenetics is anything a person can do with lifestyle to help the body work better. In the center of many talks were telomeres, the small caps at the end of the DNA. With every cell division telomeres get shortened a bit until at the end of our lives our telomeres are significantly shorter. In one talk a slide was shown where the measurements of white blood cell telomeres from blood tests of a population from 20 to 100 years were shown. At the age of 100 the average telomere length was only 40% of the average length of telomeres of the group at the age of 20.

In the past it was thought that our genes and how they function was something constant. Well, we have to rethink this both in positive ways as well as negatively. Using telomere blood tests it has been shown that certain diseases are associated with shorter telomeres. But on the other hand positive lifestyle changes and certain supplements can elongate telomeres by stimulating an enzyme called telomerase. Drinking excessively, doing drugs, smoking and even using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) shorten your telomeres. This is what epigenetics is all about. It is true that you cannot change your genetics, but you can change the epigenetics (meaning the length of telomeres).

As this topic is so large, I have decided to give an overview about the conference in this blog and in future blogs provide more details about some of the key talks.

A review like this is always personal. Other people probably would find other talks more illuminating. So here are my personal impressions about the topics that I found most fascinating.

Stem cells

There were several talks about stem cells. Dr. Joseph Purita talked about the rejuvenating effects of PRP (platelet rich plasma) on stem cells that are injected. This was a fairly technical talk, but pointed out how important it is to provide the appropriate growth factors to nurture transplanted stem cells for a long-term success. The sources of stem cells can be from fatty tissue around the “love handles” or the abdominal fat. A stem cell separator is used to separate stem cells from the rest of the tissue. This is combined with PRP coming from centrifuged blood and is combined with the stem cells and injected. The newest insight is that short-term exposure to red, green and blue soft lasers further activates stem cells. Another source for stem cells is the bone marrow, usually from the pelvic bone, particularly for orthopedic surgical problems like non-healing fractures or torn ligaments. Slides were shown of completely healed avascular necrosis following stem cell treatment. At other lectures on prolotherapy combined with stem cell therapy completely torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee and a complete rotator cuff tear in the shoulder in another patient were healed (MRI scan shown before and after treatment).

Lifestyle

Dr. David Katz gave a presentation about “Integrative Medicine: A Bridge Over Healthcare’s Troubled Waters”. He pointed out that the first three things on the McGinnis list of actual causes of deaths in the US in 1993 were tobacco use, diet and lack of exercise. In 2004 the revised list no longer contained tobacco as the number one killer. All of the public campaigns had changed the culture of smoking so that the average American has changed the lifestyle. Stopping smoking has become desirable, and people know the devastating consequences of smoking. Dr. Katz stated that there is no magic pill to reduce mortality. However, if a healthy lifestyle were a pill, this is exactly what would reduce mortality by 80%. If you exercise on a regular basis, eat a Mediterranean type diet, and avoid sugary drinks you will prevent 80% of heart attacks, strokes and many cancers.

Telomeres

Dr. Sandy Chang gave a talk about “Telomere measurement as a diagnostic test in cardiovascular and age-related disease”. He pointed out that there is a large body of literature showing that telomere length is directly related to health. The shorter the telomeres are, the higher is the probability to experience problems: early menopause, infertility, diabetes, wrinkles, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, stress, a lack of stem cells. These are a number of factors that shorten telomeres: stress, poor diets, smoking, obesity, chronic inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders like diabetes, over consumption of alcohol and lack of sleep.

Dr. Chang mentioned that there is a whole host of factors that can elongate telomeres by stimulating telomerase. It has been shown in humans that increased physical activity elongated telomeres. So did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. In addition higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen in women and testosterone in men, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are also elongating telomeres.

Other speakers also talked about telomeres: Dr. Al Sears’ talk was entitled: “Telo-Nutritioneering: The latest generation of telomere modulators”. He mentioned that in his research he has identified at least 123 nutrients, vitamins and natural compounds that will elongate telomeres, often by stimulating telomerase. Vitamin C will significantly delay shortening of telomeres, which translates into delayed aging. In addition vitamin C has recently been shown to stimulate telomerase activity in certain stem cells. There is an herb, called Silymarin extract, which was recently found to increase telomerase activity threefold. N-acetyl cysteine is a building block for glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant. In addition it has been shown to turn on the human telomerase gene. Other telomerase stimulators are green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, gamma tocotrienol (one of the components of the vitamin E group), vitamin D3 and folic acid.

Dr. George Rozakis gave a talk entitled “Nutrigenomics” where he mentioned that many diseases are due to methylation defects, a cellular pathway that required vitamin B2, B6 and B12. People with this defect have minor genetic variations that lead to elevated homocysteine in the blood. For instance migraine sufferers often have methylation pathway problems, which involves histamine overproduction and 92% of them can be helped with a histamine-restricted diet. Correcting a methylation pathway defect with the help of L-methylfolate can cure other diseases like depressive illness that does not respond to conventional antidepressant medication.

Stem Cells, Telomeres, Hormones And Lifestyle

Stem Cells, Telomeres, Hormones And Lifestyle

Hormone changes with stress

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture on “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way. Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? Because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body.

Conclusion

This year’s conference was a very interesting combination of new information on stem cell therapy, telomeres and lifestyle intervention. As we age we lose hormones, which makes us age faster as the telomeres shorten faster. Shorter telomeres lead to inflammation in the body, which cause a myriad of disease processes. This aging process can be countered by adopting a healthier lifestyle with regular exercising, a Mediterranean diet and abandoning unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive drinking or taking illicit drugs. Vitamins and supplements, particularly resveratrol, CoQ-10 and omega-3 fatty acids will help to elongate and stabilize our telomeres. As Dr. Katz said: “A healthy lifestyle will reduce your mortality rate by 80%”.

Aug
10
2013

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

In many previous blogs I have mentioned that bioidentical hormone replacement prolongs life. Here is a more detailed look at what such hormone replacement looks like for both women and men. Before I get into details I want to stress that I am talking about replacing what is missing and replacing only with natural hormones, not some artificial hormone derivative produced by a drug company. The reason this is immensely important is that hormone receptors in the body are distributed all over our vital organs including bones, blood vessels and the nervous system. If there is no lock and key fit (bio-identical hormone fitting the hormone receptor), there is trouble as the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 has shown. Unfortunately they had used synthetic hormones for HRT that were not fitting the hormone receptors, and this caused many problems (heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, cancer).

Physiology of aging

As we age, we gradually produce fewer hormones in our hormone glands, but the various hormone glands deteriorate in their functions at different rates. Beyond the age of 30 we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. As a result our sleep pattern may change, as melatonin is necessary for a deep sleep. The decreasing growth hormone production means that we are losing some of our muscle mass and accumulate more fat in the subcutaneous tissues. Our adrenal glands produce less DHEA at the age of 35 to 40, a hormone that is a precursor to our sex hormones in males and females. The gonads (testicles and ovaries) also produce fewer hormones, a process which already starts 5 years before menopause and about 5 years before andropause (the male menopause equivalent).

Typically a woman will get into menopause at the age of 45 to 55 at which time the periods stop and postmenopausal symptoms are interfering with her well-being.  Men get into andropause (the male equivalent of menopause) at the age of 55 to 65 at which time erectile dysfunction occurs and often the individual will become the “grumpy old man”.

Other hormones such as thyroid hormones are also affected by the slow down. Hypothyroidism is common in people above the age of 50.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement

Baseline laboratory tests

In order to know what is going on, the physician or naturopath needs to order a number of tests to assess whether there is inflammation, how your key hormone levels are; the cardiovascular system markers should also be checked, the liver enzymes and vitamin D3 level. Inflammatory markers are fasting insulin levels and C-reactive protein (CRP). Fasting cholesterol and subfractions (HDL, LDL, VDLP, small LDL) and fasting triglycerides are also measured. Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4, TSH) are measured to rule out over or under function. Typically hypothyroidism is found, which would have to be rectified by taking Armour (a mix of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones).

At this point I need to explain that long time ago the research by Dr. Lee has shown that progesterone hormone levels are notoriously unreliable when blood tests are done. All of the other sex hormones, and cortisol are also not that reliable with blood tests. For this reason the saliva hormone tests have been invented that conveniently report a panel of 5 hormones from one saliva sample: DHEAS (which is the storage form of DHEA), estradiol (the major estrogen in a woman), progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. The saliva hormone tests correlate very well with the actual tissue hormone levels. You can order the saliva tests through Dr. Lee’s website. Another longstanding lab in the US is Dr. David Zava’s lab. In Canada the Rocky Mountain Analytical Lab can process your saliva tests.

Women’s hormone replacement

Let us assume that a woman is getting postmenopausal symptoms and bioidentical hormone replacement is being discussed. The physician will want to first rule out that insulin resistance is not present by ordering a fasting insulin level. If this is normal and the other baseline tests are normal as well except for missing estrogen and progesterone, the physician will usually start to replace progesterone first using a bioidentical hormone cream to be applied once or twice per day. If estrogen levels were also low, the next step in 4 weeks or so is to add Bi-Est, a bioidentical estrogen replacement cream. After 8 weeks of hormone replacement the saliva hormone test is repeated to see whether the estrogen and progesterone levels have come up and also, whether the ratio of progesterone to estrogen is at least 200 or more. Dr. Lee has extensively researched this and found that women with a ratio of less than 200 to 1 (progesterone/estrogen ratio) were more prone to breast cancer. He also stated in this link that there are 3 basic rules with regard to bioidentical hormone replacement:

1. only replace hormones, when they were measured to be low.

2. use only bioidentical hormones (never synthetic hormones) and

3. only replace with low doses of bioidentical hormones to bring hormone levels to physiological levels (body levels that were experienced to be normal before).

Many women who are not replaced in menopause have estrogen dominance meaning that the progesterone/estrogen ratio is less than 200:1, which puts these women at risk of developing breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese also are estrogen dominant (from estrogen produced in excess through aromatase in the fatty tissue, explained further below), which makes them more prone to breast cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer. Without bioidentical hormone replacement inflammatory processes take place in the joints (causing arthritis), in the nervous system (causing Alzheimer’s and dementia) and in the blood vessels (causing heart attacks and strokes). Rebalancing your hormones to a youthful state by paying attention to the hormone levels and the hormone ratios mentioned will remove the inflammatory reactions and reduce the risk for cancer.

Men’s hormone replacement

Males enter andropause 10 to 15 years later than women are entering menopause. Typically testosterone production slows down leading to hair loss, erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s/dementia. Blood tests (bioavailable testosterone) or saliva tests are both reliable in determining a deficiency. Replacement with bioidentical hormone creams once per day is the preferred method of treatment. Overweight and obese men produce significant amounts of estrogen through an enzyme localized in fatty tissue, called aromatase.

Aromatase converts testosterone and other male type hormones, called androgens, into estrogen. Estrogen causes breast growth, weakens muscles, and leads to abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease and strokes.

Similar to women, where the progesterone/estrogen ratio is important, there is another ratio for men, called testosterone/estrogen ratio. This should be in the 20 to 40 range for a man to feel good and energetic. Unfortunately many men above the age of 55 have testosterone/estrogen ratios much smaller than 20. This makes them more prone to heart disease and prostate cancer (Ref.1).

However, a male also does need a small amount of estrogen and normal thyroid hormones as well as all of the other hormones for his “hormonal symphony” (mentioned in Ref. 2) to function at his best.

Safety of hormone replacement

There are still otherwise reputable websites that state that bioidentical hormones are not safer than standard synthetic hormones. This confuses the consumer and does not serve the public well. I much prefer the text of the Wikipedia, which is a more thorough review regarding safety of hormone replacement and explains what the issues are.

In the US there is a collective experience of about 25 years on thousands of patients, but there have not been any randomized studies, as Big Pharma that would have the money to finance such studies is not interested in proving that bioidentical drugs would be safer than their distorted synthetic hormone copies that will not fit the body’s hormone receptors. There are some noble exceptions as Big Pharma is producing bioidentical insulin and human growth hormone that had toxicity studies done and showed safety. In Europe bioidentical hormones have been used since the 1960’s, on a larger scale since the 1970’s. So the European experience of safety of bioidentical hormones is presently about 40 to 50 years.

The FDA is contributing to the confusion of the public as can be seen from this publication. One example where the FDA is confusing the consumer, is the progesterone product Prometrium, a bioidentical micronized progesterone capsule that can be taken by mouth. By law the manufacturer had to put a warning label on the package identical to progestin, which is the synthetic, non-bioidentical hormone having been shown to have severe side effects. As is explained in this last publication Prometrium should not have been required to have a warning label in it ; the paper explains what I have already stated above, namely that bioidentical hormones are the safest form of hormone replacement and administered in the right ratios will actually prevent cancer and prevent premature cardiovascular and joint deterioration. In other words, bioidentical hormone replacement can add many years of useful life when started early enough before permanent organ damage sets in from the aging process (which would be due to missing hormones).

Why bother about hormone replacement?

Nature has a plan of “knocking us off” to make room for the next generation. The only way that you can change nature’s plan of killing us prematurely through cardiovascular disease, arthritis, dementia and loss of your sexual life is by bioidentical hormone replacement. Of course you also need the other ingredients of known life prolongers such as healthy (preferably organic) foods, exercise and detoxification. Many women are scared to treat the hormone deficiencies that cause their menopausal symptoms because of the Women’s health Initiative results with synthetic hormones. Men who would benefit from testosterone are often anxious that they may get prostate cancer, when in reality it is the exact opposite: testosterone prevents prostate cancer (Ref.3).

Conclusion

I wrote this blog about bioidentical hormone replacement in order to clarify this often-misunderstood topic. Don’t get confused by the FDA, by highbrow medical websites (such as the likes I mentioned). Big Pharma has a powerful lobby that attempts to keep the medical profession in the belief that their products are better than those that nature has provided (I call it “defend your patent rights”). We are still in a flux state where anybody who tells the truth about hormones gets much criticism. In another few decades it will be an accepted fact and people will wonder why the Women’s Health Initiative was done without a control with bioidentical hormones. With bioidentical hormone replacement you can add about 20 years of youthful life without disabilities to the normal life expectancy. Exercise, detoxification and organic food with avoidance of wheat, starch and sugar can add another 5 to 10 years to your life. The baby boomers are lucky that they have this new tool to prolong life. I wonder whether they will put it to good use.

More information about bioidentical hormone replacement: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/anti-aging-medicine-women-men/

References:

1. John R. Lee: “Hormone Balance for Men – What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Prostate Health and Natural Hormone Supplementation”, © 2003 by Hormones Etc.

2. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008

3. Abraham Morgentaler, MD “Testosterone for Life – Recharge your vitality, sex drive, muscle mass and overall health”, McGraw-Hill, 2008

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Jan
22
2013

Long-Term Multistep Weight Management

In February of 2001 my wife and I attended an anti-aging conference in San Diego. The keynote speaker was Dr. Barry Sears who is the inventor of the zone diet. We had read a book from him before the conference and were excited to hear him speak in person. We liked the book; we liked the talk, so we cut out sugar, starchy foods and stuck to a diet where the calories derived 50% from low-glycemic, complex carbohydrates, 25-30% from lean meat, poultry and fish. Calories derived from fat were reduced to about 15-20% (there is hidden fat even in lean meat). No butter, but instead some lean cheeses and olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings. We shed both 50 pounds within 3 months without any hunger pangs. Our energy increased and this has stayed  this way ever since. There was no problem getting down with our BMI’s (body mass index) to 23.5 or 24.0, which is usually viewed as normal by the medical profession. We noticed, however, that when we did not exercise, there was a problem maintaining our normal weight.  We are under the care of an anti-aging physician who did special tests like fasting insulin, C- reactive protein, and hormone tests. They were all normal. We took up ballroom dancing really seriously having been inspired by “Dancing With the Stars”. This was 6 years ago. What started innocently with only a few basic ballroom lessons three times per week has now blossomed into dancing more than 10 different dance styles 5 times per week.

Long-term Multistep Weight Management

Long-term Multistep Weight Management

3 ½ years ago both of our energy levels were slowly going down, particularly after a long night of dancing. Hormone tests revealed the initial stages of age-related hormone deficiencies which did not come as a surprise , as  decreasing hormone levels was a topic discussed  in detail at the conference in San Diego in 2001 (we also attended several other anti-aging conferences on a yearly basis from 2009 onwards). With bioidentical hormone replacements these levels normalized within one year, our energy was back and our weight stayed normal. We enjoy travelling, but there can be problems with our multistep weight management program. We need to watch our diet (no toxins, preferably only organic food), and physical exercise may be less regimented. In 2008 we read Suzanne Somers’ book “Breakthrough”. We ordered urine tests for toxic metals and we were shocked that we had noticeable levels of mercury and lead. Since then we started to cut our salmon consumption from 3 to 4 times per week down to once or twice per week. To get rid of the heavy metals we started intravenous chelation treatments with vitamin C (10 Gm) and Glutathione (1250 mg) every two weeks. In July 2012 there were reports of radioactive salmon from the Japan nuclear disaster earlier that year in the Canadian media. After this news we stopped eating all fish and other seafood, not only because of radioactivity, but also because of other toxins like mercury, cadmium, PBC’s etc.  We do take high doses of molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acids along with our other supplements. We also started eating mostly organic foods as we do not want to ingest insecticides, herbicides and other toxins.

We acquired body composition scales, which give information about fat percentage including visceral fat percentage, muscle mass percentage, BMI, weight and the basic metabolic rate. We wanted to define the end point of what our ideal body weight would be. We noticed that our dance program was not good enough to lower the BMI below about 23.5; using the body composition scales we noted that our body fat content was still too high and the visceral fat percentage was still in the 6% range. It took a prolonged trip to the US where we could not find enough dance events to decide that we would introduce a one hour gym program consisting of 30 minutes of treadmill, 15 minutes of upper body circuits, and 15 minutes of lower body circuits every day as a basis to our exercise program. Any dance activity would be just an additional exercise on top of the base exercise from the gym. It took only about 2 months before our fat composition decreased, our muscle mass increased, the visceral fat went to a normal at 5% and the BMI was now stabilized at the 21.5 to 22.0 range. We feel a lot more confident in managing our weight long-term without really thinking much about the weight. It is now a routine we follow, like an athlete would do to stay in shape. While nobody has a permanent guarantee to everlasting health, we do it to prevent the diseases we do not need in our retirement like diabetes, arthritis, heart attacks, strokes, cancer or Alzheimer’s.

What we did not know until after the 20th A4M Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas (mid December 2012) was that inadvertently we were protected from exposure to chemically modified wheat from 2001 onwards as we had cut out all refined carbohydrates and starchy foods (including wheat) since then. Unfortunately many Americans still expose themselves unknowingly to larger or smaller quantities of wheat, suffer from leaky gut syndrome with the associated changes in the immune system and the development of autoimmune diseases.

Personally, I believe that long term weight management is possible: you can turn older and hopefully wiser…not wider. The good news: it can be done. The bad news: this is not an instant fix, but a program that needs to be part of your lifestyle package.

More information on weight loss: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/weight-loss-and-diet/

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014

Sep
01
2007

Emotional Distress Impairs Cognitive Function

Stress has been linked to numerous medical conditions, such as heart disease, stomach problems and muscle spasm. Stress also has been quoted as a silent killer.

Research in the field of Alzheimer’s has shown that negative emotions and chronic distress are associated with increased vulnerability to this disease.

Study author Dr. Robert Wilson of the Rush’s Alzheimer’s disease Center in Chicago has found that people most prone to psychological distress were 40% more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) than the group that is least distress prone.

Dr. Wilson stated that these individuals would not necessarily see a psychiatrist to help them deal with their negative emotions. It becomes clear, however, that persistent negative emotional states truly impact the physical well being, and also the cognitive status. For this reason more medical attention should be given to an older patient with emotional problems and even mild depression.

Emotional Distress Impairs Cognitive Function

Emotional Distress Impairs Cognitive Function

It can become a treatment challenge, if there are personality traits or deeply entrenched behavior patterns that may not respond well to treatment. By understanding the biological link between chronic distress and loss of cognitive function in old age, early intervention can be a way to delay symptoms or to prevent disease onset.

More information on Alzheimer’s: http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/alzheimers-dementia-and-delirium/

Reference: The Medical Post, August 7, 2007, page 53

Last edited November 3, 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

Feb
01
2003

Coffee — What’s The Scoop…

In a recent issue of The Medical Post, a weekly news magazine for Canadian Physicians (The Medical Post, Jan. 28, 2003), Dr. Suzan Biali has revisited what is medically known about the effects of coffee on health.

This doctor is a family physician in Vancouver/B.C., but also has a degree in dietetics. Here is a summary in table form of what this medical review found.

Dr. Biali also mentioned the recent publication in the November issue of the Lancet by the Dutch investigators that coffee consumption of more than 7 cups per day would cut diabetes in half.

Summary: It would appear that coffee consumption is better than previously thought of. Most people can benefit from it. But this is a personal preference issue. Some groups of patients should refrain from coffee consumption entirely such as patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Coffee -- What's The Scoop...

Coffee — What’s The Scoop…

Others such as women in early pregnancy (particularly the first 3 to 4 months) should refrain from it. When infertility is a problem it is wiser to refrain completely from coffee as well. Patients with a tendency to ulcers likely should refrain or cut down the coffee consumption. The majority of the population likely could enjoy a cup of coffee and prevent degenerative neurological diseases (Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease). Some patients with psychiatric illnesses (phobias, anxiety disorders) likely should stay away from coffee as should patients with high blood pressure or heart rhythm irregularities.

Coffee — what’s the scoop?

Effects of coffee on: Comments:
first trimester pregnancy 5 or more cups a day can cause miscarriages
infertility women who drink 250 mg of caffeine per day (5 to 6 cups) experience infertility
no hip fractures a large Minnesota study showed in 2001 that there were NO hip fractures with coffee consumption
calcium in bones despite the rumors otherwise, there is NO link of coffee consumption to calcium loss
rheumatoid arthritis (RA) This is the patient group where osteoporosis has been found to be present with coffee consumption; a Finland study found a 2-fold risk with more than 4 cups per day, and a 15-fold risk with more than 11 cups per day (in RA patients only)
Alzheimers and Parkinsons the cells in the basal ganglia that produce dopamine get stimulated by coffee; this is also the seat of the addiction (though mild) to coffee and the cause for headaches when coffee is suddenly withdrawn. This effect  prevents Alzheimers and Parkinsons, both bad degenerative neurological disorders.
stomach problems anybody with a tendency for stomach ulcers or duodenal ulcers tends
to get worse with coffee. Arabian type coffee is less acidy than South American coffee. Coffee does not cause ulcers, but may stimulate existing acid production and in higher doses may stimulate
H.pylori growth.
panic attacks and insomnia more sensitive people tend to feel anxious with a single cup of coffee per day, others can tolerate many cups. When a patient complains about panic attacks or insomnia the physician will likely inquire about how much coffee the person drinks.
high blood pressure long term coffee users show almost no effect on blood pressure, it does not cause high blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure
or a history of a stroke still should refrain from drinking coffee

Last edited December 10, 2012