Nov
14
2020

Why We See More Food Allergies

A recent review in a BBC article explained why we see more food allergies. It is important to note that one of the more important food allergies are peanut allergies. Certainly, they have risen from 1 in 250 children in 1997 to 1 in 70 children in 2008.

By all means, allergies come in various degrees of severity; an anaphylactic reaction is the most severe form. Notably, in England there was a rise of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis from 1,015 in 2013 to 1746 in 2019. This is a 72% increase in 6 years!

Theories why there may be more food allergies now

There are a number of theories why food allergies have been on the rise. There is a consensus now that the right composition of the gut bacteria is important for normal immune reactions to take place.

Hygiene theory

David Strachan proposed the hygiene theory of allergies in 1989. Briefly, his observation was that children of larger families were less likely to develop allergies. He interpreted this to mean that infections among siblings stabilized the immune system. In the meantime, it has become obvious that the gut plays an important role for the immune system.

Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory

Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory came out in 2003. This theory states that friendly microbes in the environment are mixing with the gut flora. This trains the immune system to balance.

Gut bacteria theory

There is good evidence that the more a child is given antibiotics as a child, the more likely it is that the person develops a food allergy later. The mechanism seems to go via the gut flora. In a way this is the other coin of Graham Rook’s “old friends” theory. If you kill the “good friends” bacteria in the gut by antibiotics, the immune system strikes back with allergic reactions.

Dual-allergen exposure

By exposing the child at 4 to 11 months to peanuts or peanut butter, the immune system develops tolerance to the peanut protein (LEAP=learning early about peanut). A study showed that by doing this 80% of 5-year and older children and adults do not have a peanut allergy.

Prenatal vitamin D and food allergies

A German study found that prenatal exposure to higher amounts of vitamin D resulted in a higher risk of developing food allergies before the age of two.

Use antibiotics only when necessary

Gut biome studies showed that the use of antibiotics can have long lasting effects on the composition of the gut flora. A patient in sepsis may require antibiotics. But when the patient has recovered it is important that the bowel flora is restored with probiotics. This balances the immune system and avoids allergic reactions.

Immunotherapy for food allergies

Allergists have long used desensitisation techniques to deal with inhalant allergies. Allergy shots every two or three weeks can be very helpful to suppress immune reactions to inhalants. The same technique works also for many food allergies. The allergist tests the patient’s skin on the forearm to see what positive reactions occur. Based on these findings an allergy serum is composed. A small amount is injected in intervals. The smallest amount is given first and the concentration is gradually increased until the maintenance dose is reached. This causes the immune system to produce competing antibodies that reduce the antibody-mediated reaction to the food allergies.

Why We See More Food Allergies

Why We See More Food Allergies

Conclusion

Food allergies are increasing in frequency and severity. There are several theories why food allergies develop. The most likely one is that friendly bacteria in the environment become part of the gut environment in the newborn. If we have the right composition of gut bacteria our immune system reacts normally. Administering antibiotics frequently and overcleaning our kitchens with too many cleaning agents affects our bowel flora negatively. This disbalance can cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, exposing a newborn between the age of 4 and 11 months to a variety of adult foods including peanut products will desensitize the child to peanut protein and prevent future allergies. Those who are severely affected by food allergies can see an allergist for allergy testing and consider desensitisation through allergy injections.

Aug
29
2020

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Notably, there are health benefits from vitamin C supplements as I will explain below. A recent publication in the Journal of Intensive Care stated that vitamin C may lower ventilator time for sick patients in the ICU. In this case, researchers performed  a meta-regression analysis. It is important to realize that higher doses of vitamin C changed the need for ventilation. Vitamin C given intravenously or by mouth significantly reduced the need for ventilation in sick patients. To explain, the researchers pooled eight clinical trials and compared them to a control group who did not receive vitamin C treatment. In detail, the researchers noted that there was a 14% reduction with regard to ventilator use in the treatment group. To clarify, they had received vitamin C infusions while patients who did not receive vitamin C infusions served as controls.

Five of the clinical trials involved patients who received 10 hours or more ventilation treatment. Certainly, these patients were sicker than the average ICU patients. They experienced a 25% reduction of ventilator time after receiving between 1 and 6 grams of vitamin C. The physicians gave this intravenous or orally.

History of Mega doses of vitamin C

Indeed, in the 1940’s mega doses of vitamin C were given intravenously in an attempt to treat polio. Eventually, in the late 1960’s Linus Pauling called high doses of vitamin C the “healing factors for diseases”. But subsequent clinical investigations showed that vitamin C had limitations. The Oregon State University website reports that some of the claims about vitamin C in the past went overboard. Here are some points about vitamin C that we need to remember.

  • Vitamin C is an important cofactor in many enzymatic reactions, such as the biosynthesis of collagen, carnitine and neuropeptides. In addition, the regulation of gene expression requires vitamin C and vitamin C is an important antioxidant.
  • A prospective cohort study showed that higher vitamin C blood levels lowered the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes.

More effects of vitamin C

  • Patients in need of a surgical procedure benefitted from vitamin C. Researchers showed that vitamin C was a valuable adjunct to conventional medicine in cardiovascular disease  Vitamin C reduced arrhythmia and myocardial injury following cardiac procedures.
  • There is insufficient evidence that regular vitamin C intake prevents cancer. Randomized controlled clinical trials reported no effect of vitamin C on cancer.
  • 10 grams per day of vitamin C has no association with toxic or adverse effects in most people. However, some adults are more sensitive to vitamin C and develop gastrointestinal disturbances and diarrhea with megadoses of vitamin C. For these people physicians recommend  taking up to 2 grams per day of vitamin C.

Vitamin C and disease prevention

Several clinical trials involving vitamin C supplements showed significant positive effects on patients. Below I am briefly reviewing these clinical trials.

Endothelial function

Endothelial function was improved with doses of above 500 mg of vitamin C. This likely is the reason that there is a reduction of cardiovascular disease in people who consume 1000 mg of vitamin C daily.

High blood pressure

Vitamin C at 500 mg daily lowers high blood pressure. A clinical trial found that 500 mg of vitamin C daily lowers the systolic blood pressure by 3.84 mm mercury and the diastolic blood pressure by 1.48 mm mercury. Over several years’ time this can prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Vitamin C and the immune system

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

Heart failure, strokes and heart attacks

Many studies showed some effects on reduction of heart attacks, strokes and congestive heart failure. With respect to strokes there was a 42% risk reduction over 9.5 years when the highest vitamin C plasma level was compared to the lowest level. But results regarding heart attack prevention and prevention of CHF were only marginal.

Cancer and vitamin C

Stomach cancer: there was a 45% reduction of stomach cancer when high vitamin C plasma level cases were compared to low plasma level cases.

Colon cancer: A pooled study based on 13 prospective cohort studies showed that vitamin C supplementation reduced colon cancer risk by 19%.

Large B cell lymphoma: After 11 years of follow-up the Women’s Health Initiative found that vitamin C supplementation reduced diffuse large B cell lymphoma by 31%.

Researchers could not show significant effects of vitamin C on other cancers.

Type 2 Diabetes (=adult onset diabetes)

A large European study going on for 12 years showed a strong inverse relationship between blood levels of vitamin C and the onset of diabetes. Patients with the highest vitamin C blood levels had a 62% lower risk of developing diabetes. Physicians compared this to low level vitamin C controls.

Mortality reduction with vitamin C supplementation

In the EPIC-Norfolk prospective study a clear inverse relationship was found with higher vitamin C blood levels and a reduction in risk of all-cause mortality.

Recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C

The official dietary recommendation for vitamin C in adults is 90 mg daily for males and 75 mg daily for females. However, in view of the above mentioned clinical trials I would recommend the following. Supplement with 500 mg to 1000 mg of vitamin C daily to have enough vitamin C reserves. The reason I say this is that the official dietary recommendation was based on preventing scurvy, the historic insufficiency disease of vitamin C. In addition, as mentioned before, vitamin C is safe to take up to 10 grams per day. Many physicians recommend taking a smaller amount of vitamin C found to prevent strokes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, improve endothelial function and strengthen the immune system.

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Health Benefits from Vitamin C Supplements

Conclusion

In my review I discussed health benefits from vitamin C supplements. Briefly, doctors noted that severely sick patients on respirators in the ICU setting were able to reduce the ventilator use.  This was significant after they received between 1 and 6 grams of intravenous or oral vitamin C. However, patients with the highest vitamin C supplementation had a 62% lower risk of developing diabetes than low level vitamin C controls. Vitamin C lowered high blood pressure moderately and prevented strokes by 42%. Vitamin C stimulates the immune system together with vitamin D, A, E and some trace minerals. There are many more health benefits from vitamin C supplements. The official dietary recommendation for vitamin C in adults is 90 mg daily for males and 75 mg daily for females. However, I take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily as the evidence shows that this is healthier.

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Jul
25
2020

The Immune System Changes With Age

When we are young, we do not think about our immune system, but the immune system changes with age. When we are older than age 60, we notice that we may be taking longer to recover from a flu.

How does the immune system work?

There are two parts to the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system works to protect us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and fungi from the time we are born. The adaptive immune system uses B lymphocytes from the bone marrow to produce antibodies against viruses. This provides often lifelong immunity against this specific virus, but takes 3 to 5 days to kick in. Vaccinations can also trigger antibody production to protect us from viruses in the future. Both the adaptive and the innate immune system work together closely.

What are the ingredients for a fully functioning immune system?

The immune system consists of various immune organs that are distributed throughout the body. The bone marrow produces lymphocytes, granulocytes, macrophages, eosinophils and basophils. The adenoids in the back of the nasal passages and the tonsils in the back of the throat contain a lot of lymphocytes that are ready to protect us from colds and flus. We have lymph nodes throughout the body and they are connected with lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid that travels in the lymphatic vessels.

Other sites of lymphocyte production

The small intestine contains the Peyer’s patches, a collection of lymphocytes that protect our gut from invading bacteria or viruses. The spleen is located in the left abdominal cavity under the diaphragm. It removes old red blood cells and provides lymphocytes for the immune system. The thymus gland is located between the breast bone and the trachea. It changes bone marrow derived lymphocytes (B cells) into T lymphocytes that can process antigens from viruses and pass them on to the adaptive immune system for a full antibody response.

Cellular interactions between various players of the immune system

Back in the 1970’s it was already known that there were bone marrow derived B lymphocytes and thymus processed T lymphocytes. We knew then that B cells were involved in antibody production (adaptive immunity). T lymphocytes were thought to turn into killer T lymphocytes to kill cancer cells. But some T cells were T helper cells to process antigen and present it to B lymphocytes for antibody production.

More research since then refined what we know about the cells of the immune system.

Natural killer cells (NK cells)

Natural killer cells (NK cells) are part of the innate immune system. They attack cancer cells and cells that are infected by viruses. It takes about 3 days for their full action to develop. NK cells utilize the cell surface histocompatibility complex to decide whether to destroy a cell or not. T cell lymphocytes do not have the ability to do that. In the Covid-19 coronavirus situation NK cells play an important role to combat the disease right away.

Monocytes

They are large white blood cells that can differentiate further into macrophages and dendritic cells. Monocytes are part of the innate immunity, but they have an antigen presenting capability, which makes them also part of the adaptive immunity.

Memory T cells

The immune system learns to adapt to viruses and bacteria that we have come in contact with. The reason for the memory of the immune cells are the memory T cells. They replicate like stem cells, which keeps a clone of T lymphocytes, T helper cells and cytotoxic T killer cells in the background. They circulate through the body including the lymph glands and the spleen.

Immunosenescence as we age

There are several factors that come together, which age our immune system. The term for this is “immunosenescence“. There are genetic differences and differences due to the sex hormones. Estrogens increase the response of the immune system. In contrast, progesterone and androgens (including testosterone) decrease the immune response. This may be the reason why women tend to live longer than men.

As we age there are more and more memory T cells (both cytotoxic T cells and T helper cells). This weakens the formation of the natural killer cells (NK cells) of the innate immune system. Even the initiation of the adaptive immune system can be slower when we age and also the response to the flu vaccine. In addition, this can pave the way to autoimmune diseases.

The immune system changes with age: Evidence of immunosenescence

The following 3 factors show whether a person has immunosenescence:

  • The immune system has difficulties to respond to new viruses/bacteria or to vaccines
  • Accumulation of memory T cells crowding out cells of the rest of the immune system
  • Low-grade inflammation that is chronic and persists (“inflamm-aging”)

The process of immunosenescence starts with the involution of the thymus gland around the time of puberty. At that time the sex hormone secretion is highest. At the same time a growth factor from the bone marrow and the thymus gland decreases. It has the name interleukin-7 (IL-7). The end result is a slow decrease of the innate immune system with age and a more substantial weakening of the adaptive immune system due to a lack of naïve T and B cells. 

Chronic viruses can weaken the immune system further

The varicella herpes zoster virus causes chickenpox. In some people the chickenpox virus can persist, but the immune system actively keeps it controlled. In the 60’s or 70’s when the immune system is weakened from aging, there can be a flare-up as shingles, a localized form of the chickenpox virus.

Another virus, the human cytomegalovirus can cause a chronic infection that often persists lifelong. In this case the immune system is chronically weakened because of a massive accumulation of T memory cells, which keeps the human cytomegalovirus infection at bay.

What we need when the immune system changes with age 

Vitamin A

Both the innate and adaptive immunity depend on vitamin A and its metabolites. The skin cells and mucosal cells function as a barrier, which is important for the innate immunity. The skin/mucosal lining of the eye, the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts help the innate immunity to keep viruses and bacteria out of the body. Vitamin A is important to support macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. In addition, vitamin A supports the adaptive immune system, namely T and B lymphocytes, so that the body can produce specific antibodies against viruses.

I do not take vitamin A supplements as I eat diversified foods like spinach, vegetables, poultry, Brussels sprout, fish and dairy products that contain vitamin A and carotenoids.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant. It can neutralize reactive oxygen species, which are produced when the immune cells fight viruses and bacteria. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes are all supported by vitamin C. Vitamin C and E co-operate in their antioxidant functions. Vitamin C is essential for a strong antibody response with bacterial or viral infections. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C once daily.

Vitamin D

The immune system is very dependent on vitamin D as the immune cells all contain vitamin D receptors. People who have less than 10 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood are vitamin D deficient. They have much higher death rates when they get infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Vitamin D regulates the expression of target genes. At the center is the vitamin D receptor, which is a nuclear transcription factor. Together with the retinoic X receptor (from vitamin A) the vitamin D receptor binds small sequences of DNA. They have the name “vitamin D response elements” and are capable of initiating a cascade of molecular interactions. The result is a modulation of specific genes. Researchers identified thousands of vitamin D response elements that regulate between 100 and 1250 genes.

You need enough vitamin D for your immune system

When enough vitamin D is present in the blood (more than 30 ng/mL) the immune system releases the peptides cathelicidins and defensins, which effectively destroy bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin D has mainly an inhibitory function regarding adaptive immunity. It inhibits antibody production from B cells and also dampens the effect of T cells. Researchers reported that vitamin D3 is useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

I am a slow absorber of vitamin D3 as repeat blood vitamin D levels showed. I need 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to get a blood level of 50-80 ng/mL (=125-200 nmol/L). This is the higher range of normal. Everybody is different. Ask your physician to check your blood level of vitamin D. Toxic vitamin D blood levels are only starting above 150 ng/mL (= 375 nmol/L).

Vitamin E

This is a vitamin that is fat soluble and helps the body to maintain its cell membranes. But researchers found that vitamin E also stimulates the T cell-mediated immune response. This is particularly important for the aging person to prevent respiratory tract infections. I take 125 mg of Annatto tocotrienols per day (this is the most potent form of vitamin E).

Vitamin B6

This vitamin is important for antibody production by B cells. Vitamin B6 regulates the metabolism of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. Antibodies and cytokines require vitamin B6. The T helper immune cells that initiate an adaptive immune response depend on vitamin B6 as well. I take a multi B complex vitamin (Mega B 50) twice per day, so I supplement with a total of 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily.

Folate

Folic acid is a coenzyme for the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Studies in humans and animals have shown that folate deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infections. People with folate deficiency develop a megaloblastic anemia with immune weakness that leads to chronic infections. With my B complex supplement I get 2 mg of folic acid daily.

Vitamin B12

Methylation pathways depend on vitamin B12 as a coenzyme. Vitamin B12 is also involved as a coenzyme in the production of energy from fats and proteins. In addition, hemoglobin synthesis depends on vitamin B12. Patients with vitamin B12 deficiency develop pernicious anemia. These patients also have a weak immune system due to natural killer cell activity suppression and because circulating lymphocyte numbers are significantly decreased.

Treatment with cyanocobalamin reverses the immune weakness rapidly and treats pernicious anemia at the same time. I take 50 micrograms twice per day as part of the Mega-B50 multivitamin tablet. But I also inject 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 every 6 months subcutaneously to be sure it is absorbed into the body. In older age the intrinsic factor from the stomach lining, which is required for absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine, can be missing, leading to vitamin B12 deficiency despite swallowing supplements.

Minerals required for a good immune response

Researchers identified five minerals that are essential for a strong immune system. They are zinc, iron, selenium, copper and magnesium.

Zinc

Zinc is important for a normal function of the innate and adaptive immune system. As zinc cannot be stored in the body, taking regular zinc supplements (30 to 50 mg daily) is important. I take 50 mg of amino acid chelated zinc daily.

Iron

Iron is important for cell oxygen transport and storage, DNA synthesis and for mounting an effective immune response. In particular it is the T cell differentiation and proliferation where iron is needed. Iron deficient people get a lot of infections because the immune system is paralyzed. I eat one spinach salad or steamed spinach daily, which gives me enough iron supply per day.

Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral that is important for a normal immune response and for cancer prevention. When selenium is missing, both the adaptive and innate immune system are suffering. In this case viruses are more virulent. With selenium supplementation cell-mediated immunity is improved and the immune response to viruses is more potent. I take 200 micrograms of selenium per day.

Copper

Deficiency in copper results in a very low neutrophil blood count and causes susceptibility to infections. Copper is a trace mineral that participates in several enzymatic reactions. It is important for the innate immune response to bacterial infections. A well-balanced Mediterranean diet contains enough copper, which is why I do not supplement with extra copper.

Magnesium

An important cofactor for vitamin D in the body is magnesium. Magnesium participates in many enzymatic reactions. Between vitamin D and magnesium, the immune system is strengthened. I take 150 mg of magnesium citrate twice per day. By the way, magnesium also helps us to get a restful sleep, if we take it at bedtime.

Other dietary factors that strengthen the immune system

Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids

It is important to note that polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body and help to modulate the immune system. I take 1800 mg of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) twice per day. I also like to eat fish and seafood at least 3 times per week.

Probiotics

Prebiotics benefit both the innate and the adaptive immune system. They strengthen the epithelial gut barrier, which is an important innate immune defence. Probiotics also lower the risk for Clostridium difficile gut infections. I take one probiotic every morning.

The Immune System Changes With Age

The Immune System Changes With Age

Conclusion

The immune system consists of different organs like the bone marrow, the spleen, lymph glands, Peyer’s patches in the gut, the thymus gland and more. There is the innate immune system, which responds immediately to a virus like the Covid-19 coronavirus. The adaptive immune response involves antibody production against, for instance, the measle virus or the mumps virus. With the aging process the immune system slows down (immunosenescence). This involves an accumulation of memory T cells and a depletion of natural killer cells (NK cells). This means that the innate immunity is getting weaker as we age and chronic inflammation occurs more often. This is the reason why people above the age of 65 get more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 coronavirus. They are also more affected by influenza-type illnesses.

Take supplements to strengthen the immune system

I reviewed the cofactors of a healthy immune system in some detail. It is important that you pay attention to these, particularly the vitamin D3 intake. With a strong immune system, we can survive viral infections better, including the current Covid-19 coronavirus. Future research will likely detect how to reactivate a sluggish immune system in older people. This way vaccination responses following flu injections will become more reliable in seniors.

Jul
11
2020

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

A new study showed that fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk. This study was reviewed here.

The article is based on the June 10, 2020 publication of the British Medical Journal.

They did large population studies showing that obesity is an independent risk factor for severe disease and death from Covid-19. One study with 428,225 participants had 340 admitted to hospital with confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus. 44% of them were overweight and 34% were obese. Another study, the OpenSAFELY study used linked electronic health records. 17,425, 445 participants were included and 5,683 Covid-19 deaths occurred. In this study there were 29% overweight and 33% obese persons. The researchers noted a dose-response relationship between excess weight and severity of Covid-19. The researchers removed confounding factors like age, sex, ethnicity, and social deprivation.

Critical illness and death rates in overweight and obese people

They realized that critical illness caused by Covid-19 was increased compared to normal-weight people as follows.

  • Covid-19 risk 44% higher in overweight people
  • Covid-19 risk 97% higher in people with obesity

This means that the risk for serious illness from Covid-19 was 1.44-fold for overweight persons and 1.97-fold for obese persons compared to normal-weight controls. The OpenSAFELY study also looked at the death rates from Covid-19 for people with obesity. Two obesity categories were investigated: obesity with a BMI of 30-34.9 and BMI of greater than 40 compared to normal-weight controls. Here are the death rates.

  • BMI of 30-34.9: 1.27-fold increased risk
  • BMI of greater than 40: 2.27-fold risk

Possible mechanisms explaining fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

The researchers mentioned three possible mechanisms why overweight and obese people may have higher Covid-19 disease and death rates than normal-weight controls.

First, angiotensin converting enzyme-2 is found with higher frequency in fat cells of overweight and obese persons. Researchers are aware of the fact that the Covid-19 coronavirus uses this enzyme to enter body cells. It may also be the reason that fat cells become reservoirs that can shed virus for much longer than in normal-weight people with less fat cells. They pointed out that others have seen this also and found it with other viruses. In the case of influenza A, obesity prolonged viral shedding by 42% compared to normal-weight controls. And with H1N1 influenza obesity was an independent risk factor for hospitalization and death.

Weaker immune system, more lung resistance

Secondly, any virus can weaken the host’s defence of the immune system. Researchers showed this previously with the influenza virus. But now with Covid-19 coronavirus the cytokine storm due to a weak immune system is a major factor in making the viral infection worse. A lack of vitamin D is another factor in promoting the cytokine storm.

Third, obesity decreases lung function and it is difficult to improve this. There is greater lung resistance in the airways and it is difficult to expand the lungs in obese patients. When the doctor transfers patients with obesity to the intensive care unit, it is more difficult to increase their oxygen saturation with artificial ventilation.

Unhealthy environment, so fat deposits mean higher Covid-19 risk

The researchers point out that we live in a very unhealthy environment. In 2016 there were 1.9 billion people worldwide who were overweight or obese. These figures are rapidly rising. Presently about 65% to 70% are overweight or obese in the UK or the US. Obesity causes high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and cancer. We are all surrounded by processed food with extra salt, sugar, wheat and other unhealthy ingredients. The high mortality and deaths rates of Covid-19 in overweight and obese people point to the problem that society has.

Reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats in food

The culprits are salt, sugar and saturated fats. Merchants and food producers must reduce them in processed food. In the UK new government regulations have already resulted in lower salt content in foods. As a result, there is less high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease is in decline. All nations need to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fat. When the weight comes down, we all are less prone to catching dangerous viruses.

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

Fat Deposits Mean Higher Covid-19 Risk

Conclusion

The pandemic has taught us a new lesson, namely that overweight and obese people are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 coronavirus. In a research paper of the British Medical Journal concrete figures showed that the Covid-19 risk is 44% higher in overweight people and that it is 97% higher in people with obesity. The OpenSAFELY study also showed that obese people with a BMI of 30-34.9 have a 1.27-fold increased risk of catching Covid-19. But morbidly obese people with a BMI of greater than 40 have a 2.27-fold risk of catching Covid-19. There is a clear linear dose-response curve between the amount of fat a person accumulates and the risk for Covid-19.

Cut out junk food and decrease your risk for Covid-19

Covid-19 is directly related to the amount of junk food we eat. As a result we can say that eating junk food increases the Covid-19 risk. The opposite is true also: sensible eating and cutting out junk food makes you lose some pounds, and your risk for Covid-19 decreases.

Jun
06
2020

Adequate Vitamin D Level Strengthens the Immune System

The Covid-19 coronavirus crisis is teaching us that an adequate vitamin D level strengthens the immune system.

When we age, our resistance to infections weakens, but this may be because our immune system needs more vitamin D3. I have reviewed the super powers of vitamin D3 before in 2014. In the past the thought was that the human body would need only 400 IU of vitamin D3 every day to cure rickets. And these were the daily vitamin D3 recommendations from medical authorities for several decades. Gradually it became known that for cancer prevention, infection prevention, cardiovascular illness prevention and for diabetes prevention much higher doses of vitamin D3 were necessary. As pointed out in the previous link, almost 50% of the world population is deficient in vitamin D. This is due to a lack of exposure to sunlight and due to inadequate supplementation with vitamin D3.

History of vitamin D

Dr. Adolf Windaus received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1928. It was to acknowledge “… his studies on the constitution of the sterols and their connection with vitamins”. His work involved the metabolism of vitamin D and the precursors of vitamin D.

Rickets

As the above link shows, rachitic children were treated since the mid 1800’s with cod liver oil and since the early 1900’s also with ultraviolet light. But we know now that 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day is just enough to cure rachitic children, but it is not enough to strengthen the immune system to fight influenza viruses or the Covid-19 coronavirus. I will discuss further below what vitamin D blood levels are important to achieve a healthy state of the immune system.

Adequate vitamin D level strengthens the immune system

The immune system is very complicated and consists of many cell types that interact with each other and the rest of the body. It is important to recognize that the innate immune system immediately inactivates intruding viruses. But the vitamin D blood concentration has to be high enough. The acquired immunity consists of antibodies that are produced by B cells. The antibodies were produced during prior infections that you have survived and you are now immune to. However, other antibodies that circulate in your blood may have originated from vaccines you received in the past (whooping cough, measles, tetanus, diphtheria etc.). With the Covid-19 coronavirus it is the innate immunity that plays the biggest role until a vaccine will be found in the future.

Vitamin D is a hormone

This 2013 paper explains that vitamin D is a hormone that stimulates its own vitamin D receptor. This is a nuclear receptor that has close relations to the cell DNA and can stimulate more than 900 polypeptides. They are messenger molecules that are involved in a variety of physiological functions. One of the key functions is the immune system. This link explains that T cells that have vitamin D receptors can develop into cytotoxic T cells (also known as “killer T cells”). They are important in fighting cancer, but also parasites.

The key is that the hormone vitamin D can release more than 100 polypeptides that have the power to fight virus attacks including the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Three mechanisms how vitamin D works against the virus

The researchers outlined 3 mechanisms of how vitamin D works:

  • Maintaining tight epithelial junctions making it more difficult for the Covid-19 coronavirus to penetrate.
  • “Killing enveloped viruses through induction of cathelicidin and defensins.” These powerful antiviral polypeptides can kill viruses that have invaded the blood stream within 1 to 2 days.
  • “…And reducing production of proinflammatory cytokines by the innate immune system, thereby reducing the risk of a cytokine storm leading to pneumonia.” It is people who get the viral pneumonia that are at a high risk of death. By bringing the blood level up to the higher range of normal, between 50 and 80 ng/mL, patients that have encountered Covid-19 coronavirus are more likely to survive.

Two polypeptides, cathelicidin and defensins

Again, I like to emphasize that it is not vitamin D that has a direct effect on the virus. It is two polypeptides, cathelicidin and defensins, which are powerful antiviral polypeptides, that are released by vitamin D.

They can kill viruses that have invaded the blood stream and can eliminate the cytokine storm. This all happens very fast, within only 1 to 2 days. But you have to have an adequate vitamin blood level for this to occur (about 50-80 ng/mL).

Sources of vitamin D

First of all, vitamin D is readily absorbed from food. But there are not many foods that contain enough vitamin D for the immune system. The ones that contain vitamin D are as follows:

  • “Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.
  • Beef liver.
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks. “

Sun induced amount of vitamin D

Secondly, vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin from exposure to sunlight. But for this to happen all the necessary enzymes need to be present.  This link explains that many older people above the age of 65 have low vitamin D blood levels because of a lack of sun exposure and a lack of cutaneous synthesis because of enzyme issues.

Vitamin D supplements

The most reliable source of vitamin D are vitamin D3 supplements. When people supplement with the same dose of vitamin D3 there will be people who get higher vitamin D blood levels than others, as absorption in the gut is different for different people.  The ones who have relatively low vitamin D blood levels are often called “slow vitamin D absorbers”. But when the vitamin D3 dosage is increased even those people will reach the recommended high normal range (50-80 ng/mL).

Vitamin D blood level

The vitamin D blood test has the scientific name “25-hydroxy vitamin D level”. This is now the recognized gold standard for determining who is deficient or has normal levels with respect to vitamin D. The following 2013 publication has studied the vitamin D level of 1,470 healthy Swiss men and women, 60 years or older. Vitamin D levels were classified as severely deficient when the level was below 10 ng/mL. The vitamin D level was deficient between 10 and 20 ng/mL. The level was insufficient when between 21 and 29 ng/mL. A level above 30 ng/mL is normal.

8 % of the subjects were severely insufficient and 66% had insufficient vitamin D levels. Only 26.1% of the subjects had normal levels. Over 50% of healthy older Swiss (above the age of 70) had insufficient vitamin D levels.

Which vitamin D level is safe and which is not?

A peer-reviewed publication of the effects of vitamin D in health and disease contains 269 references.

What vitamin D level is optimal? This question was reviewed in this paper.

  • Below 15 ng/mL the immune system is paralyzed
  • With a level above 30 ng/mL the immune system is working
  • A level of 50-80 ng/mL has the immune system working optimally
  • Above 150 ng/mL toxic vitamin D levels start
  • With 300 ng/mL severe toxicity begins

Vitamin D toxicity

It is only with high levels of vitamin D (more than 150 ng/mL) that you have to worry about high calcium levels in the blood or kidney stones (toxic levels). But the key is to not exceed 80 ng/mL regarding the vitamin D blood level. This gives you a lot of flexibility before you reach toxic levels (above 150 ng/mL). For those who want more information, here is a thorough, peer reviewed publication about vitamin D toxicity with 59 references.

Vitamin D supplement compliance

The question is why not more people take adequate vitamin D3 supplements.  We know that vitamin D can prevent so many chronic diseases including serious viral infections. The answer is complex, but it includes a fear of the population of vitamin toxicity (kidney stone and high calcium levels). However, as pointed out before, this occurs only above a vitamin D level of 150 ng/mL. With proper vitamin D blood level monitoring you never reach toxic levels of vitamin D.

Denial

Denial likely is another major factor. People feel that if they have a balanced diet, they would be protected from vitamin D insufficiency. As pointed out before this is a grave error to think as our food does not contain sufficient vitamin D to strengthen our immune system.

False security with low doses of vitamin D

Finally, there are people who think that low doses of vitamin D, like 1000 IU of vitamin D daily, would be enough. But it is not enough. This is why testing vitamin D blood levels is so important. It is a reality check. The blood level must be in the high normal range (50-80 ng/mL). At this level the immune system functions optimally.

Compliance issues

In this context there was an interesting study done by LifeExtension, a company that publishes monthly health magazines. In this study the company examined the vitamin D blood levels of LifeExtension members. They are the ones who should be knowledgeable in how important it is to have good, preventative vitamin D blood levels. The study showed that 38% of the vitamin D test results were less than 30 ng/mL. In addition, 69% of the vitamin D tests were less than 40 ng/mL. Finally, 85% of the vitamin D test results were less than 50 ng/mL. What this means is that LifeExtension members were non-compliant when it came to taking regular adequate vitamin D3 doses. This resulted in levels that were too low for the majority to protect them from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Covid-19 coronavirus infections and vitamin D blood level

There is a tight relationship between vitamin D blood levels and the strength of the immune system. Essentially, coronavirus mortality measures who is vitamin D deficient. Without enough vitamin D on board the virus penetrates into the blood stream and penetrates the lining of the respiratory tract. Next the cytokine storm develops, which leads to viral pneumonia. Higher doses of vitamin D3 will mitigate the course of Covid-19 coronavirus.

Adequate Vitamin D Level Strengthens the Immune System

Adequate Vitamin D Level Strengthens the Immune System

Conclusion

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has taught us how important an intact immune system is to survive the virus when you get it. We do know for some time how closely related a good vitamin D level is with the functioning of the immune system. I have reviewed here what a desirable vitamin D level is and how we can achieve this with oral vitamin D3 supplements. The goal is to achieve a vitamin D level in the upper range of normal (50-80 ng/mL). With a level like this the virus cannot penetrate the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and even if it did, it cannot produce a cytokine storm in the blood that would lead to the deadly viral pneumonia or to blood clots. When the virus invades the bloodstream, vitamin D releases powerful antiviral polypeptides that can kill viruses within 1 to 2 days.

Literature

Here are some peer-reviewed publications on vitamin D:

 

May
09
2020

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Vitamin D deficiency caused rickets in the past, but now we know that vitamin D is the definitive link for other health problems. The lack of it is the reason for numerous illnesses. A search in my website gives you more than 170 blogs where I am discussing the effect of vitamin D. These describe how vitamin D is the definitive link in a lot of different diseases. In a 2015 study from Brazil the authors noted that a critical vitamin D blood level was 12 ng/mL. All these critically ill patients received treatment in an ICU setting. In vitamin D blood levels of 12 ng/mL the mortality rate was 32.2%. A control group of ICU patients with more than 12 ng/mL had a mortality rate of only 13.2%. The authors concluded that a low vitamin D level on ICU admission was an independent risk factor for mortality in this critically ill patient group.

A few diseases where low vitamin D is the definitive link for a poor outcome

In patients, who have arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, influenza and others, the laboratory tests that shows their 25-hydroxy vitamin D level, are usually below 15 ng/mL. This link has 269 peer reviewed references.

2015 Italian study showed that microvascular complications in diabetes patients were high, if the vitamin D3 blood levels were low. If patients had high levels of vitamin D, there were no complications such as retinopathy or nephropathy. But if levels were below 20 ng/mL, damages were significant in the capillaries of the eyes and kidneys.

Multiple sclerosis

It has been known for some time that in the northern hemisphere MS is more common because of the lack of sunshine, which in turn leads to less vitamin D3 production in the skin. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where immune cells attack the lining of nerves. Both nerve cells and immune cells have vitamin D receptors. It appears that vitamin D calms down immune cells and remission of an MS relapse is more likely.

Dr. Fitzgerald and colleagues published a study in JAMA Neurology in 2015. Results of this study showed marked differences between MS patients with high and low vitamin D levels.

Multiple sclerosis rates with high and low vitamin D levels

Patients with the highest vitamin D blood levels (more than 40 ng/mL) had the lowest rates of new MS lesions. Previous studies found that a low blood level of vitamin D (less than 25 ng/mL) had an association with a higher risk of developing MS. Dr. Fitzgerald’s study showed that a 20 ng/mL (50.0-nmol/L) increase in serum vitamin D levels associated with a 31% lower rate of new MS lesions. Patients with the highest vitamin D level of more than 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) had the lowest amount of new MRI lesions (47% less than the patients with the lowest vitamin D levels).

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

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

Specifically, the researchers found the following observations.

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

Vitamin D is the definitive link for the immune system

In a publication of 2006 Dr. John Cannell and co-workers have reviewed why influenza has seasonal outbreaks. They found that the innate immune system was very dependent on vitamin D. Those who did not get enough sunlight in the northern hemisphere during January, February, March and April have an average 25-hydroxy vitamin D level of only 15 to 17 ng/mL. In contrast, from July to September the same volunteers had vitamin D levels of 24 to 29 ng/mL. The authors stressed that this was the reason why spring flus in the late winter/early spring season are common, but disappear in summer.

Vitamin D requirements for immune system is 2000 IU or more per day

Vitamin D is essential for the functioning of the innate and adaptive immune system. They also are the reason why children are not as affected by influenza viruses as adults are. Dr. Cannell said: “The innate immunity of the aged declined over the last 20 years due to medical and governmental warnings to avoid the sun. While the young usually ignore such advice, the elderly often follow it”. Had the older patients taken higher doses of vitamin D3 every day, their immunity would have been as strong as the children’s immunity. The publication cites another paper that found that 2000 IU per day or more will strengthen the immune system. Note that this is a higher dose than  treating rickets. Treatment of rickets responds to only 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

Mechanism of action of vitamin D in infectious diseases like influenza or Covid-19 coronavirus

Here is evidence from US researchers that states that higher doses of vitamin D3 will mitigate the course of influenza and of Covid-19 coronavirus. The researchers outlined that vitamin D has 3 effects:

  1. Maintaining tight epithelial junctions making it more difficult for the Covid-19 coronavirus to penetrate them.
  2. “Killing enveloped viruses through induction of cathelicidin and defensins.” These powerful antiviral polypeptides can kill viruses that have invaded the bloodstream within 1 to 2 days.
  3. “…And reducing production of proinflammatory cytokines by the innate immune system, thereby reducing the risk of a cytokine storm leading to pneumonia.” People who get viral pneumonia are at a high risk of death. By bringing the vitamin D blood level up to the higher range of normal, between 50 and 80 ng/mL, patients that have encountered Covid-19 coronavirus are more likely to survive.

Criticism of high dose vitamin D treatment

A common criticism of treatment with higher doses of vitamin D is that people would develop high blood calcium levels and would get kidney stones. Three recent studies have demystified this. A 2012 study looked at patients who were in the higher range of calcium levels, but deficient in vitamin D. They were treated with vitamin D3 und closely supervised. The calcium levels did not change after 1 year of high doses of vitamin D.

This 2018 study observed that there is a small amount of kidney stone formers who will form kidney stone with or without vitamin D3 treatment.  However, the large majority of patients do not form kidney stones with vitamin D treatment and their blood calcium levels stay the same before and after vitamin D treatment.

Toxic vitamin D blood levels

Toxic levels of vitamin D blood levels are above150 ng/mL, or 375 nmol/L. The therapeutic levels discussed here are well below these toxic levels.

Placebo controlled New Zealand study fails to show kidney stones

A placebo-controlled study from New Zealand went on for 3.3 years. 100,000 IU of vitamin D3 monthly (3333 IU per day on average) in the experimental group were compared to a placebo group. There were no vitamin D induced kidney stones and also no changes in calcium levels.

In past studies regarding vitamin D toxicity were done. But with these investigations there were many confounding factors that led to false results.  The investigators at those times mistakenly thought that they were side-effects of vitamin D. Up to this day conventional medicine often warns of hypercalcemia and kidney stones with vitamin D treatment. While the patient is on higher vitamin D levels, the physician can do blood and urine tests to see whether or not there is any concern.

Polypeptides released by vitamin D

There are more than 100 polypeptide hormones that are controlled by vitamin D. The most important ones for control of bacterial and viral infections are the defensin family and the cathelicidin family of polypeptides. They are instrumental in preventing the cytokine storm with a Covid-19 coronavirus infection treated with high vitamin D doses.

Decades after the original description of vitamin D researchers found out that vitamin D actually is a hormone.

There are vitamin D hormone receptors on almost every cell of the body. Vitamin D integrates the body cells and they respond as one unit. It is only recently that researchers found out about the release of polypeptides, particularly defensin and cathelicidin. They are  vital in the defence against the Covid-19 Coronavirus and the various flu types.

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Vitamin D Is the Definitive Link

Conclusion

The detection of vitamin D originally occurred when rickets was examined. But later researchers found that vitamin D has hormone qualities.

You can prevent several diseases, like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and influenza. But you must take adequate amounts of vitamin D to bring the vitamin D blood level up. 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood levels are now recognized as the standard test to measure whether you have enough vitamin D on board. When it comes to fighting infections the vitamin D blood level has to be above 30 ng/mL (above 75 nmol/L). At this level the immune system will release defensin and cathelicidin polypeptides. These are powerful antiviral and antibacterial substances that can even fight Covid-19 coronavirus.

High vitamin D therapy is safe

With careful monitoring of blood vitamin D levels side effects of high vitamin D dosages were not found. Conventional medicine keeps on repeating old studies with confounding errors. This scares people, and as a result they don’t want to take enough vitamin D for prevention. Hypercalcemia and kidney stones were NOT found in randomized newer studies. As long as the vitamin D level does not exceed 50-80 ng/mL (or 125-200 nmol/L) vitamin D therapy is perfectly safe.

Mar
23
2019

Immune System Can Trigger chronic fatigue syndrome

A study from February 2019 stated that the immune system can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome. Specifically, researchers observed that interferon treatment in hepatitis C patients could lead to chronic fatigue syndrome in 33% of patients.

Interferon treated hepatitis C patients can develop chronic fatigue syndrome

In this cased 54 patients with hepatitis C received treatment with Interferon. 18 of them (33%) developed chronic fatigue syndrome, which persisted. 57 control did not develop it. With this in mind, patients were examined at baseline, during the 6 months to 1-year Interferon treatment and 6 months following the end of the treatment.

It was noted that baseline interleukin levels (IL-6 and IL-10) were higher in the fatigued patients. Interferon treatment worsened the interleukin levels, and the interleukin levels stayed high from then on. Moreover, symptoms of pain from chronic fatigue syndrome also stayed with the patients after the treatment had ended.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have a viral illness in the beginning

The lead researcher, Carmine Pariante, professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London, noted the following. Before patients come down with chronic fatigue syndrome they frequently have a major infection or a flu virus. This certainly mobilizes an interferon response from their immune system. Professor Pariante said that it is the overstimulation of the immune system that leads to an overproduction of interferon, which likely causes chronic fatigue syndrome.

In the US an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans present with chronic fatigue syndrome according to the CDC.

The observation described above confirms the theory that a chronic stimulation of the immune system likely underlies the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. It was the patients undergoing treatment for hepatitis C with interferon, persistently high IL-6 and IL-10 levels together with pain symptoms that caused chronic fatigue syndrome.

Example of a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome

A 19-year old patient with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) explained that her CFS kept her hostage inside. When she gets dressed it feels like there is a blackness going over her eyes. She cannot lead a conversation or speak as she has absolutely no energy. So, the only thing she can do is to lie down and exist. Her pain and fatigue is  debilitating. She feels that her body and brain are unable to recover from even the smallest effort. About 25% of CFS cases are severe cases. This means that they are house bound, bedridden and wheelchair dependent.

Immune System Can Trigger chronic fatigue syndrome

Immune System Can Trigger chronic fatigue syndrome

Conclusion

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been a mystery for a long time. But a new UK research study has shed some light on a hyperactive immune system that may cause CFS. The research team found that 33% of patients with hepatitis C who received treatment with interferon developed CFS. When lab tests analyzed their blood values, they had developed high interleukin levels (IL-6 and IL-10). This was a sign for an overstimulation of the immune system. Other patients who did not develop CFS normalized their interleukin levels. The control patients had no changes in interleukins.

Overactive immune system can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome

The researchers are of the opinion that an overactive immune system is responsible for the development of CFS. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a devastating multi-system chronic disease with pain and weakness. A significant number of patients suffer from permanent disability. The researchers hope that with more research they may be able to find a solution and treatment protocol. Presently no form of treatment is available.

Dec
30
2017

Fasting Mimicking Diet

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) was at the center of this year’s anti-aging conference in Las Vegas. This was the 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas, Dec. 14-16, 2017. Dr. Valter Longo, PhD reviewed some of the research he had done on longevity in yeast cells, worms and mice.

Fasting mimicking diet relevant in humans

Dr. Longo pointed out that this type of research has relevance in humans. If there was a cure for cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, we would live 13 years longer. But if we stimulated longevity with this pulsed calorie restricted diet, we would live on average 30 years longer. There is a rare genetic abnormality where people are deficient for IGF-1, a growth factor produced in the liver. These genetically IGF-1 deficient people live longer and do not develop cancer. Observations like these and detailed mouse experiments inspired Dr. Longo to develop a new diet plan. Patients would receive a fasting mimicking diet on 5 days per month. The rest of the month would consist of a normal, balanced diet. 5 days of the month the person would consume a low 800-calorie diet. This is enough to ensure adherence to the diet, but low enough to lead to enormous metabolic changes including youth-preserving stem cell stimulation.

Clinical Application of fasting mimicking diet in cardiovascular health

Dr. Joel Kahn, Prof. of Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine lectured later that day. He is also the Director at the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. His talk was entitled “The Fast Track to Slow Cardiac Aging: Fasting &Targeted Nutrition”. He mentioned that a fasting mimicking diet was a powerful tool in cardiology to prevent heart attacks and hardening of arteries. He explained in detail the complex aging pathways that involve three components, IGF-1, mTOR and PKA. When lifestyle choices stimulate these genetic markers, accelerated aging is a consequence. But with the inhibition of those markers longevity can happen. He added that researchers looked at heart cells, where the same principles apply. Dr. Kahn pointed out that the basic research of Dr. Longo enables clinicians to see positive results in patients who follow caloric restriction for 5 days in a month on a regular basis.

How does the fasting mimicking diet work?

It is best to let one of the users of this diet explain how it works. Once per month you eat calorie-restricted food with only 800 calories per day and you follow this regimen for 5 days. Some patients receive 1100 calories for the first of these 5 days, if they have difficulties switching from normal food to the boxed food. Dt. Longo has developed boxed food, called ProLon (from L-Nutra). ProLon stands for “pro longevity”. Dr. Longo and Dr. LaValle mentioned at the conference that these prepared meals make it a lot easier for patients to stick to the low calorie diet. Three hundred dollars for the boxed food for 5 days are a stiff price, and this may well be out of reach for you.

Alternative way to make your own 800 calorie food at home

Nevertheless, this should not stop you. You can look at the ingredients online and copy the boxed food by creating your own balanced 800 calories per day food at home. It is true: you have to do some research! But counting calories and finding information about the caloric content of food on the Internet is not difficult. And preparing these very, basic, small and simple meals does not require a degree in nutrition. Here is another testimony from a user of the fasting mimicking diet.

Effect of the fasting mimicking diet on the metabolism

In the past it was thought that only ketogenic diets or periods of fasting would trigger longevity genes. But the basic research of Dr. Longo and others has shown that a low calorie diet for only 5 days can achieve the same thing. Longevity genes are activated; the negative aging pathways including IGF-1, mTOR and PKA are suppressed. The immune system gets activated from this. It also  leads to lowering of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and diabetes improves. With the fasting mimicking diet the stomach sees some food, but the cells are fasting. According to Dr. Kahn this combination down regulates the body’s key nutrient-sensing pathways, which activates cellular regeneration and rejuvenation.

Clinical observations

Dr. Khan observed a high compliance rate with 3 cycles of the fasting mimicking diet. 94% of a group of patients were compliant over 3 months. Mild fatigue, mild headaches and mild weakness were present, but improved with each cycle. In addition to the above findings Dr. Khan found that there was weight loss, abdominal fat loss and waist circumference loss. There was also a reduction in IGF-1 levels, a reduction of the C-reactive protein and stimulation of stem cells.

Inflammation reduced, autoimmune diseases improved

The reduction of the C-reactive protein proves that semi-fasting reduces inflammation. The finding of stimulation of stem cells explains that regenerative processes can take place. Pain disappears, people report more energy and are generally feeling better.

There are other clinical findings. The positive effects from following the fasting mimicking diet last for several months. Also, when patients are on chemotherapy for cancer, the FMD will protect the healthy cells from the side effects of chemotherapy.

Dr. Kahn and Dr. LaValle noted that autoimmune disease responded to FMD. This was shown in both animal experiments using mice and in clinical case reports. Dr. LaValle described a 46-year old former Olympic athlete swimmer who had multiple sclerosis. After FMD she lost all of her muscle aches and cured her optic neuritis. This was something conventional medicine could not do for her.

Clinical applications of fasting mimicking diet

Here are some of the conditions that will respond to it.

  • Obesity, because of the weight loss effect
  • Diabetes: insulin resistance becomes lower and blood sugar levels drop.
  • High blood pressure reduced: many patients were able to reduce their medications or discontinue them
  • Prevention of heart attacks and strokes
  • Pain conditions will improve as all kinds of pain disappears, an effect for which at this point is no explanation
  • Autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis improve, likely because of the effect of increased stem cell circulation
  • Prevention of heart attacks because of reduction of LDL, triglycerides and CRP
  • Cancer cure rates improved by protecting normal cells and bone marrow
  • Longevity improved in mice with a 3-fold increase of their life span. Telomere length in humans was increased. Increased stem cells will find defective areas that need repair. This effect will open up a new chapter in medicine.

Maintaining the achievements of the fasting mimicking diet

At this point the implications of this new approach to weight loss and metabolic rejuvenation can only be estimated.

Limiting calories for 5 days triggers a metabolic change, which is permanent. You can experience the full effect of this rejuvenating low calorie treatment. You can do it every month without having to fear vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Here is another link to the website of Dr. Axe where the fasting mimicking diet is also recommended.

Fasting Mimicking Diet

Fasting Mimicking Diet

Conclusion

The 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas, Dec. 14-16, 2017 had a new theme. Several talks dealt with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). It is a calorie-reduced diet for 5 days in a month that will reset your metabolism. But it will also stimulate your stem cells and can heal autoimmune diseases. If you need chemotherapy for cancer, it protects your bone marrow and improves cancer cure rates. The interesting thing is that the effects of this low calorie treatment persist permanently for many months.

With the help of this diet longevity has been shown in mice; there has been a threefold life expectancy boost. Smaller trials in humans have shown telomere lengthening and stem cell stimulation. It is too early to say what the long-term effects will be for humans. But you can treat yourself with the FMD for 5 days of every month on an ongoing basis. The other days of the month you are eating a normal diet. This will ensure that your metabolism stays in top shape.

A healthier and longer life

Practical applications for the FMD are huge. Patients with obesity, diabetes and pain conditions all benefit from this. High blood pressure drops. There will be prevention of heart attacks, and there is improvement in patients with autoimmune diseases. There is better cancer survival when on the FMD. Finally there is a strong possibility that you will live longer, but also stay healthier on this intermittent calorie restricted diet.

As Dr. LaValle said: it is “fasting with food”, and Dr. Kahn added: “Eat less, live more!”

More info:  Life extension through calorie restriction.

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Apr
16
2016

Sleeping Habits

When you are a child or a youngster sleeping habits are rarely a problem. But as people age, they tend to have problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Older people may also have certain hormone deficiencies, which can contribute to a change in sleeping habits.

Some basics regarding sleeping habits

There are a couple of facts that everybody should know about sleep, so you work with nature, not against it.

Need of 7 to 8 hours of sleep

The way our bodies are hardwired, we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep and we need to fall asleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Diurnal hormone rhythm

The reason for the relative rigid sleeping schedule time wise is the diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also known as the circadian clock that is dictated by the light of the sun (24 hour cycle). Light going into our eyes in the morning inactivates melatonin. But in the evening the pineal gland releases melatonin after sunset. This is what keeps the internal clock on time. We all know how we derail when we fly east or west. There are differences. I find that I am more affected when I fly west than east. The readjustment for me often takes one or two weeks for a 9-hour time zone difference.

Melatonin production is age-sensitive

Melatonin is gradually produced less as we age. The highest melatonin production occurs around 10 years of age. From then on melatonin production declines. This likely is the reason why older people more often have insomnia problems.

Melatonin rules at night, cortisol rules during the day

There is interplay between melatonin and cortisol. These two hormones complement each other. When you sleep melatonin governs and resets the hormones to be ready in the morning. This involves an early testosterone peak for the male and cortisol, which has to be ready the moment you wake up. It is cortisol coming from the adrenal glands that rules during the day and is giving us energy. Thyroid hormones also gives you energy during the day. As I will explain below, human growth hormone is an energy-giving hormone as well that also clears your mind.

Human growth hormone

What is not as much known is that human growth hormone (GH) provides energy for us. Growth hormone is released as a spurt between midnight and 3 AM, when you’re deep asleep. The purpose of that is to get you ready with regard to energy for the next day. If you drink alcohol after 5PM the afternoon before, you will miss most of that GH spurt during the night and have a hangover (lack of energy the following day).  At the 23 rd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine on Dec. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas the endocrinologist, Dr. Thierry Hertoghe from Belgium gave a talk about GH and said that even one drink during the evening before you go to sleep will cancel 75% of the GH spurt causing a lack of energy the following day.

Regular alcoholic drinks can interfere with growth hormone production

When you have alcoholic drinks evening after evening as many people do, you interfere with your deepest sleep, creating a fitful sleep and you can develop GH deficiency, which can be measured with blood and urine tests. GH deficiency leads to premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles, musculoskeletal problems, muscle weakness and dementia. Many people in their 80’s look “old”. In fact they may be growth hormone deficient and could be treated with human GH, if GH deficiency were confirmed by tests. Part of the aged appearance is reversible in cases of growth hormone deficiency by treating with daily GH injections.

Less melatonin as we age

As we age, we produce less melatonin and less growth hormone. All of these hormone levels can be determined. If they are low, they should be replaced with small amounts of whatever hormone is missing.

Other hormones that are important

There are other hormones that are important for energy: cortisol from the adrenal glands, thyroid hormones and DHEA from the adrenal glands. When people get older there is a problem with melatonin production and an evening dose of melatonin supplement of 3mg is advisable. People beyond the age of menopause (females) and andropause (males) need bioidentical sex hormone replacement. Once they have sufficient hormone levels, they will also have more energy. It is advisable to get all of these hormones tested using a saliva hormone test.

How to assess growth hormone deficiency

Growth hormone is a bit more difficult to assess, but IGF-1 levels give a first indication what your growth hormone levels are doing. The newest test is a 24-hour urine collection or an overnight urine sample looking for growth hormone metabolites. If levels are found to be low, daily replacement of growth hormone using a pen similar to insulin injections in diabetics can be given, using pure human growth hormone. You would need to seek the advice of a knowledgeable naturopath.

What does insomnia do to you?

From a psychological point of view performance is slower, there is a slower reaction time and there is a risk of developing anxiety or depression. The immune system gets weakened, high blood pressure can develop and there is a risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It is common to gain weight becoming overweight or obese. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep. Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span.

How to improve sleeping habits

Set your alarm clock for 8 hours later when you go to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, but wake up to the alarm clock after 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Don’t sleep longer than 8 hours per night. Your internal diurnal hormone rhythm will thank you for regulating your sleep/wake rhythm by giving you the energy you want. I enjoy mine.

Sleeping habits include problems falling asleep or sleeping through

Falling asleep: As we mostly have a lack of melatonin, the first step is to take 3mg to 5mg of melatonin at bedtime. But it should be taken during the window of opportunity fitting into the diurnal hormone rhythm as mentioned above: between 10PM and 11PM. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for melatonin to take effect. If you do not fall asleep within that time frame, you are likely thinking too much. If that were the case, I would recommend taking 1 or 2 capsules of valerian (500 mg strength) from the health food store. This combined with melatonin should help in more than 80%-90% of insomnia cases.

Not sleeping through: Some of you, particularly if you are elderly, may wake up at 3 or 4 AM and have a hard time falling asleep again. At that time it would be safe to take another 3mg of melatonin and if this does not work within 20 minutes add another 500mg valerian capsule.

If you continue to have insomnia problems, see your physician. You may need sleep studies done or you may have problems with your thyroid gland (hypo- or hyperthyroidism), which needs to be checked. The doctor needs to be aware of other medical problems including depression. Melatonin and valerian are safe. Other sleeping pills have multiple side effects including memory problems.

Part of good sleeping habits is to provide a quiet, comfortable bedroom

The following points are good checklist for a comfortable sleep environment (Ref.1).

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, soundproof, and comfortable with the room temperature being not too warm, and you develop a “sleep hygiene”. This means you get to sleep around the same time each night, have some down time 1 hour or so before going to bed and get up after your average time of sleep (for most people between 7 to 9 hours). Do not sleep in, but use an alarm clock to help you get into your sleep routine.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs. If you must smoke, don’t smoke later than 7PM.
  • Get into a regular exercise program, either at home or at a gym.
  • Avoid a heavy meal late at night. A light snack including some warm milk would be OK.
  • Do not use your bedroom as an office, reading place or media center. This would condition you to be awake.  Reserve your bedroom use only for intimacy and sleeping.
  • If you wake up at night and you are wide awake, leave the bedroom and sit in the living room doing something until you feel tired and then return to bed.
  • A self-hypnosis recording is a useful adjunct to a sleep routine. Listen to it when you go to bed to give you something to focus on (low volume) and you will find it easier to stop thinking.
Sleeping Habits

Sleeping Habits

Conclusion

We need to be aware how important a proper hormone balance is when it comes to a healthy sleep pattern. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones are easy to measure. Bioidentical hormone replacement is necessary, if one of the hormones is low. To check GH levels, the doctor orders an IGF-1 level and/or metabolites of GH in a 24-hour urine sample as explained above. Older people need to replace melatonin deficiency the way I summarized above. With these measures sleeping habits improve, and you will get your 7 to 8 hours of restoring sleep. Forget the notion of the past that older people would not need as much sleep. Especially for an aging individual it is important to have a good night’s sleep in order to feel well and energized every day.

References

Ref.1: Jean Gray, editor: “Therapeutic choices”, 5th edition, Chapter 8 by Jonathan A.E. Fleming, MB, FRCPC: Insomnia, © 2008, Canadian Pharmacists Association.

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Sep
03
2014

Probiotics Are Important For Your Health

We need to be aware that probiotics are important for your health. Growing up in Germany after World War II I remember that occasionally there were interesting newspaper headings. It  showed an older person in the nineties when the average life expectancy was in the late 60’s. The reporter asked, “What did you do to turn that old?” The answer was that the person always ate a lot of yogurt.

This did not sink into mainstream medicine at that time and people did not really believe this statement. How could eating yogurt make a person live longer?

Fast forward to 2014. You read about probiotics in magazines, on the Internet, and even TV commercials expose you to it.

In the Wikipedia it is accepted that yogurt can help seniors who have a lower bifidus bacteria population in their colon to rebalance their gut flora, which will prevent colon cancer. It also describes that yogurt can help yeast infections in women.

In the meantime probiotics have been developed and concentrations like 20 to 80 billion bacteria per capsule with a mix of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are available in the health food store for prevention.

The medical profession has studied the effects of higher potency probiotics and came to the conclusion that probiotics have indeed effects on the body far beyond the gut.

Here are a few highlights.

Bowel disease improves

In cases of bacterial or viral diarrhea the frequency of bowel movements and the intensity of bowel cramps gets helped within a few days, and recovery from the diarrhea is much faster with probiotic than without. Patient with irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis are helped with probiotics. Probiotics help both constipation and diarrhea in otherwise healthy people as well.

Immune system booster

The small bowel contains clusters of immune cells within the bowel wall. Together they are a formidable immune organ in the gut, which connects to the blood and the rest of the immune system throughout the body (lymph glands, spleen, bone marrow). Specifically it has been proven in humans that macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, which are the working horses of the immune system, are all stimulated by probiotics.

Less respiratory infections

School children who were given 1 capsule of probiotics twice per day for 3 months and flu symptoms and absenteeism were observed due to colds and flus. When they did get a viral infection, the illness had a shorter course, resulting in much less school absenteeism over the course of the trial when compared to a placebo group. It seems that a healthy gut flora stimulates the immune system to work at its best.

Cancer prevention

To a certain degree cancer can be prevented by probiotics and other nutritional factors. Breast cancer is one of the cancers where probiotics have been shown to be effective in reducing disease.

Apparently the probiotic bacteria bind to the cancer causing factors (carcinogens) that some of the bad gut bacteria produce. Probiotics also suppress other bacteria that convert pro-carcinogens into carcinogens. This is not all: the probiotics also interfere with enzymes involved in the production of carcinogens in the gut. This stimulates the gut immune cells to produce cytokines that are needed in the battle against early cancer. Probiotics play a role in multiple processes that help the body to fight cancer, not only in the gut, but also in the rest of the body!

Helps diabetes get better

How can gut bacteria help diabetes, which is an endocrinological disease? Both human and animal studies have shown that insulin resistance is improved by probiotics. In a 6-week study both blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1C values (that measure long-term control of diabetes) dropped significantly by eating 300 grams of yoghurt per day when compared to a control group who did not.

Obesity

Probiotics given to mothers at least one month prior to birth and at least up to 6 months after birth prevented excessive weight gain in both the mothers and their children. In addition, probiotics can suppress a lot of the inflammatory substances in obesity.

Probiotics reduce cardiovascular risk

Several studies have shown that probiotics lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and inflammatory markers in the blood stream resulting in lower risk for hardening of the arteries.

One should not look at probiotics as a single factor for prevention of heart attacks and strokes. Combine probiotics with exercise and a low refined carbohydrate diet. High sugar and starch diets lead to absorption of sugar in the stomach and small intestine. This results in a lack of nutrients to support the gut flora. Combine probiotics with vegetables and lettuce. Then you have the proper mix of fiber, minerals and other nutrients to sustain balanced bacteria in the bowels. This prevents heart attacks and strokes and keeps inflammatory markers down. I have blogged about this before and stated that the combination of organic food (to avoid antibiotic residues in our diet), fruit and vegetables combined with probiotics will protect you from heart attacks and strokes.

Probiotics Important For Your Health

Probiotics Are Important For Your Health

Conclusion

Maybe the newspaper articles in Germany after the Second World War were right. There is something in yogurt (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species) that can make you live longer. The explanation seems simple: add probiotics to your diet.  You will have a better immune system and get less respiratory infections. But you also prevent heart attacks, strokes and prevent obesity and cancer. All of this in combination will lead to healthier lives, and more people will live to tell about it.

Last edited Sept. 3, 2014