Jun
15
2019

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

A Danish study has shown that replacing part of red meat with fish shows health benefits.

The research was done by a PhD student and pointed out that men above the age of 50 were particularly benefitting from fish substituting part of red meat in their diet. Women in the childbearing age also benefitted greatly. On this diet pregnant women as well as the unborn children become healthier.

Risk versus benefit analysis

Sofie Theresa Thomsen, the PhD student who conducted this study did risk-benefit assessments regarding partial substitution of beef with low-mercury fish. Red and processed meat contains saturated fat, which is added to the other saturated fat in the Danish diet. Red meat and processed meats have been associated with colorectal cancer and some other cancers. But red meat also contains beneficial iron. In contrast, fish contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and also contains vitamin D. But one has to be careful about methylmercury content in fish. I reviewed fish, mercury contamination and the benefits in this link.

In her calculations Sofie Theresa Thomsen replaced 350 grams of beef per week with 350 grams of low-mercury fish per week.

If all the Danish households would do this partial beef/fish exchange, the Danes would gain 7,000 healthy years of life annually. This includes, among other health conditions, the prevention of 170 deaths from coronary heart disease.

What kind of fish can you eat?

As the link above shows, there are low, medium and high methylmercury contaminated fish. The higher the fish is in the predator chain, the higher the methylmercury content. This is of particular concern for pregnant women as mercury is toxic for the fetal brain tissue. But they consume low mercury fish and shellfish, like mackerel, herring, wild salmon, shrimps or clams, pregnant women benefit greatly from the beef/fish exchange. Tuna is too high in methylmercury to be included in the beef/fish exchange. If you were to include tuna in this, you would experience a health loss.

Vitamin D and iron

The study showed further that a partial exchange of beef by fish would reduce the number of Danes who are vitamin D deficient. The 350 grams of fish per week are sufficient to significantly raise the vitamin D blood level. Conversely, replacing a part of the beef intake with fish does not cause iron deficiency problems.

Who benefits most from replacing part of red meat by fish?

Sofie Theresa Thomsen asked who would benefit most from such a beef/fish exchange diet.

On the one hand it is the older than 50 year male population who is at a significant risk of developing heart attacks. The fatty fish with omega-3 fatty acids reverses some of the plaque in the arteries and keeps coronary arteries open. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

On the other hand pregnant women and their children benefit greatly from the beef/fish exchange diet. The women will feel more energy and their offspring will have healthy brains.

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

Replacing Part Of Red Meat With Fish Shows Health Benefits

Conclusion

A study from Denmark analyzed what happens when a person exchanges 350 grams of beef with low mercury fish or shellfish per week. The conclusion was that Danes would gain 7,000 healthy years of life annually. Among these is the prevention of 170 deaths from coronary heart disease. But the most lives saved would be among men older than 50 years due to heart attack and stroke prevention. Pregnant women are also benefitting tremendously, not only for themselves, but for their children. The fish needs to be low mercury fish, as mentioned above, as mercury is a central nervous system toxin. Tuna is too high in mercury.

I have cut out red meat and meat products from my diet since 2015, when the WHO came out with the statement that red meat causes colorectal cancer. As a result I eat a lot more low mercury seafood and shellfish.

May
11
2019

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

A review article of CNN reviewed how male fertility could be improved naturally. Studies have shown that males contribute about 40 to 50% of the responsibility of any fertility problem of the couple. This means that a couple with infertility issues will benefit from interventions that include the male partner. Dr. Natan Bar-Chama is the director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health in New York. He is a board-certified urologist and male infertility specialist. Dr. Bar-Chama has done research into what affects male fertility. He found that there are several factors that are important for male fertility.

Lifestyle factors

The big factors that interfere with fertility are obesity, caffeine and alcohol intake, smoking, marijuana intake, lack of exercise and wearing too tight underwear resulting in increased scrotal temperature.

Obesity

Overconsumption of refined carbs like sugar and processed foods leads to obesity. The best for him is to change his diet to a Mediterranean diet. This supports weight loss and at the same time improves sperm quality.

Obese men tend to father children that often are not viable. It may be that it is due to genetic changes in the sperm in obese men. These changes can affect fertilization, but also embryo development. Researchers have detected sperm DNA fragmentation in sperm from obese men, which can lead to pregnancy loss. Weight loss in obese men improves sperm quality.

Caffeine and alcohol intake

More than 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day relates directly to difficulties for a couple to conceive. When it comes to alcohol intake, the male should not drink more than one glass of wine or the equivalent of alcohol in beer or spirits per day. Higher consumption results in male infertility due to poor sperm quality. Physicians have warned women for a long time that they should stop drinking alcoholic beverages, if they want to become pregnant. It is best, if both partners don’t drink for the sake of a healthy pregnancy.

Smoking

Stop tobacco and drug use. Smoking and drug abuse have been consistently shown to be bad for sperm quality and are associated with infertility. Marijuana use leads to low sperm counts, which is a cause of infertility.

Lack of exercise

Moderate aerobic exercise and resistance exercise can improve sperm quality.

However, excessive exercise has shown negative effects on sperm. Bicycling for 5 hours or more has been shown to reduce sperm quality due to the heating up of the scrotum and the testicular tissue. For the same reason men wearing boxer shorts instead of tight underpants were observed to have higher sperm concentration and sperm counts.

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress can damage sperm. This involves smoking, a junk food diet, obesity, pollution, radiation and heavy metals like mercury from big game fish (like tuna, shark, sable fish, sword fish etc.). Dr. Bar-Chama said: ”When you cause damage to cell membranes, you are impacting the ability of the sperm to attach, penetrate and activate the complex fertilization process”. In order to counter these negative effects of the environment it is helpful to take antioxidants.

Some of the common antioxidants are: vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, folic acid, lycopene and coenzyme Q-10. If you get 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, you get most of the antioxidant vitamins and minerals. You find selenium in Brazil nuts, sardines and halibut. Oysters, dark-meat poultry, crab, and fortified cereals contain zinc, which supports male fertility.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and seafood has been shown to increase the success rate of couples who want to get pregnant. Low mercury seafood like scallops, clams, shrimp, oyster, sardines, salmon and squid are a good source of omega-3 fatty acid.

Get some nuts

A handful of nuts or two also helps the male to produce more healthy sperm. This study showed that nut consumption improved the total sperm count. In addition, it increased vitality, motility, and morphology of the sperm.

Cut out processed meats

Another study showed that consumption of processed meat had a negative association with fertility rates in couples that desired children. However, eating chicken instead of processed meat gave the fertility rates a boost.

 

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

Male Fertility Could Be Improved Naturally

Conclusion

We have been lulled into thinking that when there are fertility problems in a marriage, it would likely be due to female reproductive problems. This kind of thinking is old school and has been disqualified by newer research. It turns out that often the problem originates from the man, if he is unwilling to change his lifestyle to get ready to father a child. As outlined above there are quite a few factors that interfere with sperm production and motility of the sperm. If he wants to father a child, he needs to take good care of his sperm by adopting healthy lifestyles. Sperm, it turns out are much more vulnerable to toxic changes, heat from tight clothing, and nutritional deficiencies.

Healthy food for the man results in a healthy child

Not everything is exclusively the responsibility of the female. The male also needs to eat balanced meals and might also benefit from some antioxidants and supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seafood are also good for sperm production and motility. Add some moderate physical exercise, and he will be ready to father a child. It is very much a team effort, as both parents- to- be have to do their part and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Sep
22
2018

The Best Foods For Your Heart

In the following I will describe 16 foods, which are the best foods for your heart. I will also comment as to why I believe they are best. This review is based on this article in “Medical News Today”.

But I have added many other comments to it.

Heart disease is still the number 1 killer. We need to change what we eat.

Vegetables

The regular intake of green leaf vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) has an association with the  preservation of cognitive function. In the Nurses’ Health Study starting in 1984 women were asked about their usual intake of a specified portion of food items, including 15 fruits and 28 vegetables. At a later date, between 1995 and 2001, researchers decided to ask the oldest participants (70 years and older) to participate in a cognitive function study. Two years later researchers repeated these tests.The main finding of the study is that women with the highest intake of green, leafy vegetables had the least decline in their cognitive function. The vegetable lovers, who consumed five serving of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower had less decline in their cognitive function. On the other hand the highest decline showed up in the group that averaged only 2 servings per week.

Asparagus

Asparagus is a source of fiber, folate, multiple vitamins and chromium. Chromium enhances the function of insulin to transport sugar into cells. Asparagus contains glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and carcinogens. It is said to help prevent lung cancers, larynx cancer, and bone, breast and colon cancers.

Berries

Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are full of bioflavonoids. These are antioxidants, which prevent cardiovascular disease.

It is the anthocyanines, which prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Berries also have bioflavonoids and reduce lipid formation in the blood. Berries contain fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Broccoli

This fiber rich vegetable helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Broccoli and kale likely have preventative effects against colon cancer.

Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils

Legumes or pulses are a great way to consume plant-derived protein. People who are on vegan diets should be eating them for a protein source. They also contain lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals. We know that they lower cholesterol, which prevents heart disease. Other healthy nutrients they contain are bioflavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Dark chocolate

This is a food rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate is chocolate with more than 70% cocoa content. Please note: “milk chocolate” is nothing better than candy and devoid of any health benefits. Dark chocolate increases the protective HDL cholesterol and prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is said to prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Don’t exceed eating 1 to 2 oz. per day, as chocolate has some sugar in it and the fat content would be detrimental with higher consumption.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids in the form of α-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA reduces LDL cholesterol and it dissolves plaque in the arteries. ALA also reduces blood pressure to a certain degree. All of this helps reduce cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). Note that flaxseeds must be ground to powder to release the nutrients from its tough shell. Both chia and flaxseeds can be used as an egg replacement in vegan cooking.

Fish high in omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly present in fish. It has plaque-reducing properties and also reduces the risk for abnormal heart beats. Overall this means less cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends a 3.5 oz. serving of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice per week.

Coffee

A Brazilian study from 2018 showed that drinking 3 cups of coffee a day would stop coronary artery calcification. Many other studies have shown reduced mortality from heart attacks and strokes with increased coffee intake.

Green tea

Green tea is known to reduce blood pressure slightly and to reduce cholesterol. Both effects are beneficial for the cardiovascular system (prevents heart attacks and strokes). Green tea also prevents many cancers. Whatever we know about coffee consumption seems to also be true for green tea consumption.

Nuts

Nuts contain healthy fatty acids (omega-3). But they also contain fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Use them in desserts, in salads and as a quick food on the go. They are definitely healthier than protein bars.

Liver

Liver is one of the nutrient rich foods. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12 and biotin.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. This is important for prevention of heart disease.

Red wine (may be)

The bioflavonoids of red grapes have been the subject of much research. There is a dose-response curve showing a protective effect with regard to heart attacks and strokes with the consumption of  1 to 3 glasses of red wine per day. But unfortunately there is also a dose-response curve with respect to alcohol consumption and cancer causation. Personally, I take resveratrol from the health food store, 500 mg daily and consume white wine or red wine very rarely.

Tomatoes

There are a number of beneficial phytochemicals in tomatoes. Carotenoids like lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthine and beta-carotenes are helping to prevent prostate cancer and colon cancer. Potassium and folate are cardioprotective.

Spinach

Eating spinach regularly will provide you with magnesium, iron and bioflavonoids. Magnesium is good for a regular heart rhythm. The other nutrients are good for skin, bone and hair health.

Discussion

I have reviewed why these 16 foods are the best foods for your heart. We have seen that many foods that are rich in antioxidants are also cancer preventative. People who eat a Mediterranean diet will get these 16 foods, because their meals are balanced with nutrients. But if you eat a hamburger or a pizza you will not get balanced nutrients. The more one-sided your food intake, the more dangerous your lifestyle becomes. This is the problem with the Standard American diet (“SAD”). You need all of the components of the 16 foods described here. Junk food won’t do, as it consists only of empty calories.

The Best Foods For Your Heart

The Best Foods For Your Heart

Conclusion

It is useful to review healthy foods as was done above. Now it is a matter of including them in your daily food intake. If this is overwhelming you, start with baby steps. One or two healthy foods here or there are a good start. Increase this until you cover all the 16 foods mentioned. The more balanced your food intake is, the more antioxidant vitamins you will get. And the more heart disease and cancer prevention you will experience.

Apart from good, balanced nutrition we also need regular exercise for heart disease and cancer prevention. Go to a gym, go for a walk, climb some stairs. Get away from the computer and television. Together with best foods for your heart this will keep you healthier for longer.

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Jun
03
2017

Fish, The Good And The Bad

I am going to review fish, the good and the bad. Fish can be very nutritious, because it contains a lot of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But because of pollution it also has various degrees of mercury, PBC’s and other impurities.

I will discuss the good about fish oil first. Later we will learn that wild salmon is one of the best fish to eat, while we should avoid tuna due to mercury pollution.

The good about fish

Omega-3 fatty acids, also called marine oil, is an essential fatty acid. It balances omega-6 fatty acids of which we eat too much. Processed foods are full of omega-6 fatty acids, because they keep a long time on the grocery shelves without turning rancid. But when the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is getting higher than 3:1 we are experiencing a problem. The body stimulates the arachidonic acid pathway, a metabolic pathway that produces inflammatory substances and arthritis. An old home remedy for arthritis is to use fish oil (cod liver oil). It changes the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio back to more normal levels, which can help arthritis patients. Early stage of arthritis can even heal.

Omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation

Many processed foods contain only omega-6 fatty acids, because this is the cheapest way to produce them (they are based on vegetable oils). Instead of this you want to eat healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids contained in nuts and fish. You can also add molecularly distilled, high potency omega-3 fatty acids (purified fish oil) as a supplement to help restore the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in the food you eat. Corn oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and peanut oil contain omega-6 fatty acids. These are the ones that cause inflammation and disease. You must avoid them!

Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio

Compare the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids with that of omega-3 fatty acids.

The linoleic acid of omega-6 fatty acids metabolizes into arachidonic acid, which causes pro-inflammatory mediators, PGE2 and LTB4 as shown in the metabolism link. On the other hand with omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) metabolizes into EPA, DHA and the anti-inflammatory mediators PGE3 and LTB5.

It is easily understandable why a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods will disbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio should be 1:1 to 3:1, but many Americans’ omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 6:1 to 18:1. Omega-6-fatty acids cause arthritis, heart disease and strokes. Be particularly careful avoiding soybean oil. It has become the most popular oil in the last few decades to foul up the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. We consume it through processed foods and cooking oils.

Omega-3 supplements

When it comes to balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, be aware that nutritional balancing can help you restore the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 to 3:1. An easy way is to cut out processed foods as much as possible. Supplement with molecularly distilled fish oil capsules to add more omega-3 fatty acids into your food intake. Here is an example of rheumatoid arthritis patients that received omega-3 supplements. After 24 weeks their joint swelling and tenderness decreased significantly.

Rebalancing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was able to treat depression as this research showed. This makes you wonder how much depression may be caused by overconsumption of processed food.

Dr. Blatman suggested the following doses of omega-3 supplementation for various purposes:

  • 1 gram/day as supplementation for healthy adults with a good diet
  • 1-3 grams/day for people with cardiovascular disease
  • 5-10 grams/day for patients with an autoimmune disease, with chronic pain or with neuropsychiatric conditions

He mentioned that these doses are empirical, but in his experience this is what really works. Due to quality differences he suggested that you buy fish oil capsules in a health food store. Stay away from discount stores (the quality is the worst) and drug stores.

Other healthy oils are olive oil and coconut oil. They are also useful for cooking.

The bad about fish

1. Mercury and other pollutant

Pollution of the air, soil and rivers is causing accumulation of mercury and other heavy metals in ocean water.

This affects fish that live in the ocean. There is a pecking order of predators with the larger fish feeding on the smaller fish. The bigger the predator fish, the more mercury and other pollutants they accumulate. According to this link the safest seafood is wild salmon, pollock and oysters.

High mercury content of predator fish

Tuna is too high in mercury, so is swordfish, and shark is even worse. I only consume fish from freshwater lakes or rivers, as well as salmon, oysters and shrimp. This way I get the lowest exposure to mercury. Why is mercury bad for you? It is a neurotoxin. It can harm your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and the immune system. Specific symptoms can include loss of peripheral vision and lack of coordination with balancing problems. There may be impairment of speech and hearing. The key is to avoid mercury exposure.

2. Rancidity of fish oil

Rancid fish oil contains free radicals that attack the lining of the arteries. There would be no point in taking fish oil, if it is rancid and destroyed what you want to protect. When you store fish oil, it can interact with oxygen and form lipid peroxides, which are free radicals. The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s quality standards monitors rancidity in fish oil. Get fish oil that meets or exceeds the Council’s standards. If you refrigerate fish oil, it stays fresh longer.

Managing mercury pollution

Smaller fish low in mercury

The first line of defense is to stick to the smaller fish. They are they prey of the large predator fish. The following fish/mussels belong into the low mercury group (alphabetical order): anchovies, catfish, clam, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, herring, mackerel, mullet, oyster, perch, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, sole, squid, trout and whitefish.

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements

You may want to supplement your omega-3 fatty acid intake by fish oil capsules. It is important that you choose the more expensive higher potency products. A molecular distillation process that removes mercury, PCB and other heavy metals creates these higher potency products. This way you only get the enriched omega-3 fatty acids in pure form. EPA and DHA in one capsule should be in the 900 mg to 1000 mg range, not less. I take 2 capsules twice per day as a daily supplement. This helps you as indicated above to balance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which cuts down any inflammatory process in you.

More good news about omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have multiple anti-inflammatory effects. This helps for treating arthritis, osteoporosis, preventing heart attacks and brain shrinkage. Even depression can be influenced positively when krill oil and fish oil are both taken at the same time. It is best to think about krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as complementary marine oils having multiple beneficial effects on the body. Studies have shown that arthritis and osteoarthritis improve with krill oil, but also with fish oil. Similarly, heart attacks and strokes are prevented with both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that both oils reduce inflammation in the arteries that is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome in obese people. C-reactive protein measuring inflammation was reduced by krill oil up to 30% compared to placebo within 30 days. Patients with arthritis had 20% reduction in stiffness and pain.

More on krill oil

Krill oil is well absorbed into the brain and can prevent age-related brain shrinkage, preserve cognitive function and memory, prevent dementia and also possibly depression.

Other health conditions improve on both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids like osteoporosis (in combination with vitamin K2, vitamin D3 and calcium), a weak immune system, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and cholesterol problems. Both marine oils prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which helps to prevent atheroma formation and hardening of the arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Fish, The Good And The Bad

Fish, The Good And The Bad

Conclusion

Children received cod liver oil in the past to prevent rickets. In the 1960’s Dale Alexander wrote a book called “Arthritis and Common Sense”. Since then medicine has been revolutionized in the late 1990’s by the idea that inflammation in the body is responsible for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease. It is in this area that omega-3 fatty acids are an important supplement as fish oil capsules and krill oil capsules. These supplements can be bought molecularly distilled to be free of mercury and other pollutants.

Anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids

The anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids is a powerful preventative for all these diseases mentioned. It no longer is a question, whether these supplements work. It has become a fact backed up by large studies including mortality statistics. Even the FDA has included seafood into their food recommendations. The key is to rebalance your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and incorporate marine oils in your diet. Your body will thank you for it with a longer, healthier life.

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Aug
20
2016

New FDA Food Guidelines

A recent news release describes 2016 new FDA food guidelines. In it the FDA recommends to double the amount of seafood (fish and shellfish) as well as to cut down saturated fat and sugar. Coffee, which was labeled a culprit in the past is now recommended to a total of 400 mg of caffeine per day as it is heart protective. Cholesterol is no longer considered an enemy, but sugar, saturated fats and trans fats are.

Here is a breakdown of what each of these recommendations means.

New FDA food guidelines regarding increasing fish and shellfish

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids have finally entered the recommended diet plan of the FDA. This reflects the nutritional research over the last few decades that noticed a longer life expectancy for people who eat more seafood and less red meat.

The only problem with seafood can be its mercury contamination. The higher predator fish are in the food chain, the more contaminated fish meat is. The FDA recommends to avoid tuna fish as a food source, as it is very high in mercury. An exception is canned tuna as it has been washed and some of the mercury got lost in the food processing. Wild salmon, sardines and oysters are low in mercury and good sources of omega-3 oils.

New FDA food guidelines regarding reduction of saturated fat

The FDA now recommend to reduce saturated fat to 10% of the total daily caloric intake. This is not undisputed as some studies show that saturated fat may not be involved in the production of hardening of the arteries. Other studies have shown that breast cancer is more common when more saturated fat is consumed.

When the news came out in the 1980’s that saturated fats would be bad for arteries, there was a switch to polyunsaturated acids: safflower oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, corn oil and soybean oil or grape-seed oil.

However, the irony is that these vegetable oils were highly unstable and led to oxidation causing heart disease and cancer.

In contrast olive oil is a much more stable oil. In the Mediterranean olive oil associates with longer lives.

New FDA food guidelines regarding protective effect of coffee

In the past few years many studies have shown the coffee consumption prolongs life. The FDA has now officially recognized these studies and recommends that consumption of up to 400 mg caffeine will help promote health. On the other hand the FDA also recommends that those who do not drink coffee, should not change their lifestyle just because of these recommendations.

New FDA food guidelines regarding sugar reduction

An entirely new recommendation of the FDA says to reduce sugar in anybody’s diet. The FDA explains that too many processed foods contain sugar. Food merchants  add sugar in drinks like coffee, fruit juices, food items like muffins and cakes.

In the past decades it has become clear that sugar much more so than fat is the culprit. It is sugar and starchy food that causes hardening of arteries. The liver metabolizes sugar into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels lead to deposited into arteries and fatty tissue. In this context it makes sense that the FDA now recommends a reduction of sugar intake.

 New FDA food guidelines regarding cholesterol

In the past scientists thought that cholesterol in meat would be the cause of high cholesterol in the blood. This was an oversimplification. We now know that only a small portion of the blood cholesterol comes from food sources.  Cholesterol from food sources is no longer of importance with regard to risks for heart attacks and strokes. It is sugar and too many starchy foods (bread, pasta, pizza, muffins, cakes cookies) that the body digests into sugar. This accounts for high cholesterol, as the liver metabolizes sugar into LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

New FDA Food Guidelines

New FDA Food Guidelines

Conclusion

The new food guide by the FDA has fundamentally changed the previous recommendations based on newer nutritional studies. Now the FDA says to double fish and shellfish in comparison to previous recommendations. Coffee is no longer the enemy, but your friend. You need to avoid sugar and starch over consumption, as this can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eat more vegetables and fruit. These recommendations closely resemble a Mediterranean diet, which several studies tell us prolong life. Abandon the American Standard diet with hamburgers, processed foods and sugary drinks. Pay attention to the FDA food recommendations!

Oct
17
2015

Depression Needs Treatment

Depression is common and depression needs treatment. 10% of all men and 20% of all women have a period of depression in their lives. In people with medical illnesses depression is more common: 20% to 40% (Ref.1).

First, the peak age for depression is usually the age of 25 to 44. There are special groups where depression is also common. In adolescents 5% are affected with depression and 13% of women tend to get depressed after delivery, a condition called postpartum depression.

Second, in any age group with depression there is a risk of suicide, but with adolescents this is particularly true.

Third, about 10% to 15% of people with general medical illness are developing depression, such as patients with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiac disease, HIV infection, end-stage renal failure and cancer.

Causes of depression

Officially it is not known what causes depression. That is what medical textbooks say. However, other books like Datis Kharrazian’s book “Why isn’t my brain working?” offers several scenarios that can cause depression and he has examples of cases that were cured of depression (Ref.2). He points out that deficiencies in two major brain transmitters can cause depression: serotonin and dopamine.

Serotonin

First of all, serotonin is produced in the midbrain from the amino acid tryptophan in two biochemical steps. These biochemical conversions require iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, folic acid and magnesium as co-factors. But you also need the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA) to transport tryptophan through the blood/brain barrier into the brain.

Dopamine

Furthermore, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is also necessary for learning. The brain synthesizes dopamine from tyrosine, which has to be manufactured in the liver from the amino acid phenylalanine. You need to have a healthy liver to produce tyrosine, which needs to be transported through the blood/brain barrier into the brain; similar to tryptophan this requires the “large neutral amino acid transporter” (LNAA). People with hepatitis, fatty liver, insulin resistance or diabetes may have problems with the LNAA transporter, which can cause dopamine deficiency (Ref.2). But they may also have low serotonin, if tryptophan did not enter the brain because of a transportation problem. This will happen with sugar overconsumption, as insulin resistance develops and affects the LNAA transporter resulting in both low serotonin and dopamine (Ref.2).

Inflammation

Finally, in the 1990’s researchers confirmed that inflammation is also a possible factor in the causation of neurological disease including depression. Ref. 2 points out that gut issues can become brain issues as inflammatory substances can leak trough a leaky gut into the blood stream and trough a leaky blood/brain barrier into the brain. Hypothyroidism can activate brain inflammation and lead to an imbalance of the neurotransmitters. Gluten sensitivity is also an important cause of depression through the inflammatory connection, but few physicians recognize the full impact of this.

Tests for depression

There are no laboratory tests that would define depression. However, every patient should receive a blood test to check for hypothyroidism, a common cause of depression. When the tests confirm hypothyroidism, the physician can easily treat this with thyroid hormone replacement.

Otherwise the physician diagnoses depression by doing a mental status examination, history and review of symptoms. A good start is to ask: “In the past 2 weeks how little interest or pleasure in doing things have you had?” and “Have you been feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the past 2 weeks?” (Ref.3).

There are detailed psychometric questionnaires available such as the Beck Depression Inventory that can assist the physician to establish the diagnosis.

Myths of depression

One of the myths regarding depression is that it would be contagious. As a matter fo fact, a study on 2000 high school students showed that depression was not infective. The contrary was true: human interaction with friends who had a “healthy mood” improved depression. By the same token, when you constantly compare yourself with your Facebook friends, and you are not in the best mood, your mood may worsen and you could become depressed.

Treatment of depression

Despite advances in the treatment of depression the response rate with antidepressant therapy has a limit of 60% to 70%. According to Ref.4 inadequate dosing and misdiagnoses account for the fact that 30% to 40% of treated people with depression have treatment failures. Typically the first antidepressant involves a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), but newer trials have shown that the older monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) have a higher success rate when treating depression initially (Ref.4).

For example, a good antidepressant for mild to moderate depression is St. John’s wort, which is recommended by Ref. 5 as having less side-effects as other antidepressants.

In treating resistant depression the psychiatrist often employs other combinations of antidepressants. In addition the health professional recommends to add cognitive/behavioral therapy, which makes the overall treatment more successful. It goes without saying that complicated cases of depression belong into the hands of an experienced psychiatrist.

Suicides

Unfortunately a mental disease like depression still has a stigma attached to it. As a result many people are in deep denial about the fact that mental disease exists. Friends who do not understand depression may inadvertently say things that make the symptoms of the depressed person more severe and distance themselves at a time when they would need support from friends. The end result is that the patient feels lonely, misunderstood and that suicidal thoughts enter the mind. Men often resist seeking treatment for depression, women are better in seeking professional help and getting effective treatment.

Need for a psychiatrist to help prevent suicides

This is where a psychiatrist needs to intervene. If this does not happen, people start attempting suicide and finally commit suicide. In the US committed suicides have a gender ratio of male to female of 3:1 to 10:1. These situations become very difficult. The family needs to step in and talk to the patient. It is best to accompany the patient to the hospital for an assessment. You may want to go to the hospital in your private car or by ambulance. Don’t be shy to call 911 for an ambulance. Better to be cautious than have a major crisis that ends in completed suicide.

Alternative depression treatments

There are alternative treatments for depression.

  1. Magnetic therapy for depression: This therapy is also called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and was approved for Canada and in 2008 by the FDA. But it is not as powerful according to Ref. 3 as unitemporal electroconvulsive therapy.
  1. Bifrontal electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Electroconvulsive therapy with two pedals applied to the front of the skull appears to have the best results in terms of treating depression.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which will take care of the inflammatory component of depression. Both fish oil and krill oil in combination give the optimal response as outlined here.

Vitamin D3 and light box therapy

  1. Vitamin D3 is also anti-inflammatory and will contribute to an improvement with existing depression, but it also helps prevent the development of depression when taken in regularly as a supplement.
  2. Light box therapy: The observation of seasonal affective disorder (SADS) can develop as a result of lack of light. This has led to the discovery that light boxes are helpful for treating depression and also for prevention of depression due to seasonal affective disorder.

The patients should use a light box for 30 minutes every morning during the fall and winter months. The box should emit at least 10,000 lux. Improvement can occur within 2 to 4 days of starting light therapy, but often it takes up to 4 weeks to reach its full benefit.

Avoid alcohol and too much sugar

  1. It is known for a long time that alcohol is a depressant; it can actually cause depression and in persons with bipolar disease it can trigger a flare-up of that disorder as well.
  2. Finally it matters what you eat: sugar and too much starchy foods (high glycemic index carbs) lead to insulin overproduction and insulin resistance. This causes inflammation, and this will cause depression. As mentioned earlier it also lowers the two key brain transmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

The solution is an anti-inflammatory diet, the Mediterranean diet without sugar and high glycemic index carbs; only low glycemic index carbs are part of this diet. This will normalize insulin production and eliminates inflammation.

B vitamins, electroacupuncture and exercise

  1. Vitamin supplements: Folate and vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of depressed people have folate deficiency. Supplementation with 400 mcg to 1 mg of folic acid often helps. Vitamin B12 should also be taken to not mask a B12 deficiency (Ref.5). Folate and vitamin B12 are methyl donors for several brain neuropeptides.
  2. The symptoms of depression often improve with electro acupuncture, as shown in many studies. This treatment ameliorates the symptoms of depression and seems to work through the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (Ref.6).
  3. Exercise on a regular basis helps to equalize the mood and seems to exert a slight anti-depressant effect on the person who engages in regular physical activity.
Depression Needs Treatment

Depression Needs Treatment

Conclusion

I have attempted to show the complexity of depression and what we know about its causes and treatment. Very likely there are several causes for depression and further research will hopefully bring more clarity to this. Over the years psychiatrists have developed treatment modalities, both conventional and unconventional, by trial and error. The physician and patient need to use common sense: if a treatment is working, stick to it and use it. If it does not work, move on and try something else. More complex cases should be referred to a psychiatrist who has the most experience with patients that are difficult to treat. Do not neglect life-style factors and alternative depression treatments as they can often help to stabilize depression significantly. We all must be vigilant about suicide risks in depressed patients and act by calling 911, if necessary to intervene.

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

References

1. Depression, Major: Fred F. Ferri M.D., F.A.C.P., Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2016, by Elsevier, Inc.

2. Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

3. Goldman-Cecil Medicine “Major depressive disorder” 2016, by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

4. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry, Second Edition: Theodore A. Stern MD, Maurizio Fava MD, Timothy E. Wilens MD and Jerrold F. Rosenbaum MD © 2016, Elsevier Inc.

5. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. © 2012 Saunders.

6. George A. Ulett, M.D., Ph.D. and SongPing Han, B.M., Ph.D.: “The Biology of Acupuncture”, copyright 2002, Warren H. Green Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132 USA

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Jul
31
2015

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of limelight in the press; krill oil was kept more in the background by the media. But both omega-3 and krill oil are important for your health.

What can confuse you is the following paragraph that I picked up from Facebook:

“I cannot believe that in the last 7 days 3 Doctors have asked me what krill omega-3 is. One would think that those who look after our health would realize that the high levels of mercury in the regular omega-3 has reached dangerous levels. Krill oil is harvested from pristine waters of the Antarctic Ocean and tested to be free from harmful levels of mercury. If you have not heard of it, it is for brain, heart, joint and immune health.”

Clarification of what Omega-3 fatty acids are

Depending on where fish is within the ocean’s pecking order of feeding, the levels of mercury of the fish oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids will be higher or lower. Tuna, for instance is one of the predator fish on top of the line. They are large predator fish, and as a result, not a fish you want to eat as it has very high levels of mercury. Salmon on the other hand is lower in the line of predator fish. That’s why it is still recommended to eat salmon two or three times per week. Fish oil is pooled from various fish and then molecularly filtered through a special filter that removes heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and others. Knowing these facts, the Facebook text above may be accurate in stating, “regular omega 3 has reached dangerous levels”, but it is inaccurate for the molecularly filtered omega-3 fish oil, which is the only one I would recommend as a supplement. Having said that there are still significant differences in quality according to a report online that tested 51 common products in the US. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are stored in the membranes of platelets and in circulating plasma triglycerides, which is useful for the functioning of the lining of our arteries. This is called endothelium and needs to be healthy to lower blood pressure and prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3-fatty acids support the cardiovascular system foremost and the brain secondarily.

Where does Krill oil come from?

Krill oil comes from tiny crustaceans called krill that provides additional benefits that are not found in fish oil alone. Although the initial concentration of raw krill oil has less mercury per milliliter than omega-3 fatty acid fish oil, it still needs to be molecularly filtered to remove heavy metals. Also bear in mind, that the tiny crustaceans live in the same polluted ocean waters as other fish. It is a sad fact that our oceans are no longer pristine! The same is true for the Antarctic Ocean. After the filtering process both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid fish oil are equal in their quality (free of mercury, other heavy metals, PCB and dioxins).

The omega-3 fatty acids of krill oil have an affinity to bind with phospholipids in red blood cells. This enables krill oil to cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain cells providing support for the brain. In this respect krill oil has an edge over omega-3 fatty acids to support the brain. But secondarily it is also good for your heart and the lining of the arteries.

Benefits of marine oils like krill and fish oil

It is best to think about krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as complementary marine oils that have multiple beneficial effects on the body.

Studies have shown that arthritis and osteoarthritis are helped by krill oil, but also by fish oil. Similarly, heart attacks and strokes are prevented with both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids. It appears that both oils reduce inflammation in the arteries that are associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome in obese people. C-reactive protein measuring inflammation was reduced by krill oil up to 30% compared to placebo within 30 days. Patients with arthritis had 20% and more reduction in stiffness and pain.

Krill oil is well absorbed into the brain and can prevent age-related brain shrinkage, preserve cognitive function and memory, prevent dementia and also possibly depression.

Other health conditions improve on both krill oil and omega-3 fatty acids like osteoporosis (in combination with vitamin K2, vitamin D3 and calcium), a weak immune system, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and cholesterol problems. Both marine oils prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which helps to prevent atheroma formation and hardening of the arteries. This prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Fear mongering Facebook write-ups

In this context let me clarify the fear mongering Facebook write-up cited at the beginning of this blog. It is a misconception to think that krill oil is devoid of mercury. It is only so, if it was molecularly filtered, which removes all of the mercury and more, but it leaves the beneficial DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) intact. In the same vein omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are initially more mercury containing, but after molecular filtration are entirely mercury free, the same as krill oil after molecular filtration. But the mix of omega-3 fatty acids is slightly different with krill oil being a bit richer in DHA and attaching to red blood cells easier while fish oil omega-3’s attach to triglycerides in the liquid phase of the blood, called plasma and also to platelet membranes. So neither krill oil or omega-3 fatty acids are better than the other; they are slightly different and that’s why you benefit from a mix of both. It would be a big mistake to follow the Facebook advice above and only take krill oil by blindly trusting the quotation. In my opinion it is simply a marketing plot to get you switched from fish oil to krill oil.

What combination of Krill oil and omega-3 fatty acid should I take?

Most trials with krill oil have been done with 300 mg of krill oil per day.  I take a dosage of one capsule per day of 300 mg. There are several manufacturers that produce similar products. I also take 3 capsules of omega-3 fatty acids twice per day. Each capsule has 647 mg of EPA and 253 mg of DHA, which translates into a daily dose of 3882 mg of EPA and 1518 mg of DHA. Again, there are several products from which you can choose. The reason I take a relatively high dose of fish oil is the fact that I come from a family background with severe arthritis that started in several relatives at an age of 50+. I have no sign of arthritis at age 70. It may be the result of taking these supplements and staying away from sugar and starchy foods. I need my joints to do ballroom and Latin dancing and I also need them to attend the gym regularly. Exercise by itself has been shown to prevent arthritis and prevent heart attacks and strokes. We need the benefit from all these things in combination: good nutrition, supplements and exercise.

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Two Is Better Than One: Omega-3 And Krill Oil

Conclusion

Both krill oil and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation. The key to a good krill oil or fish oil supplement is to buy the more expensive products that are molecularly distilled and therefore more concentrated, but also free of heavy metals and other contaminants. These supplements are only a small part of your overall anti-aging program that needs to include good nutrition (organic food), exercise, other supplements and if necessary bioidentical hormone replacement.

Reference: Dr. R. Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“. Paperback through Amazon.com, 2014. This text explains the anti-aging program I follow and includes recipes composed by my wife for 1 week.

Apr
15
2015

Avoid Brain Atrophy

When a 24-year old football player (Chris Borland) suddenly decides to quit his active sports career, because he wants to plan for a disability-free long life without brain atrophy, the world listens. Chris did his research about traumatic brain injuries, which can lead to degenerative brain disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Trauma to the brain is just one cause of brain shrinkage (medically termed “brain atrophy”).

I like to take a broader overview of the topic of brain atrophy, which looks at all of the factors that can lead to brain shrinkage including physical injuries to the brain from blows to the head.

The vast majority of cases of brain shrinkage do not come from physical injuries, but rather from medical illnesses. Many of them including many sports injuries are preventable. This is the topic of my blog today.

Brain atrophy means a loss of brain cells, which causes a smaller brain. An MRI scan (around 800 to 1000$) will give information about the brain.The most sophisticated tool to depict the functioning of the brain may be the SPECT scan (ranging from 2000 to 2500$).

What causes brain atrophy?

It is important to realize that a multitude of different factors can cause the same end result – brain atrophy. All of these factors work together causing brain atrophy and the more factors are at play the worse the outcome. So, let’s review the various known causes of brain atrophy.

Diabetes

It has been known for a long time that diabetics can develop brain atrophy and dementia when their blood sugars are not well controlled. This leads to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

Insulin and IGF-1, a factor produced by the liver in response to human growth hormone have been found to counter the development of brain atrophy in diabetics.

The key in patients with diabetes is a close control of blood sugars, best measured as the hemoglobin A1C blood test. At the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine In Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) Dr. Theodore Piliszek stated that the new normal range for hemoglobin A1C is 3.8 to 4.9%, quite a bit lower than the normally recommended values. Accepting the old values that proclaim levels of 5.5. as normal automatically puts you in a higher risk of developing brain atrophy and dementia.

Cardiovascular disease

What is good for the heart is good for the brain. That is what Dr. Perlmutter stated in his book (Ref.1). But the reverse is also true: if your cardiovascular system is sick, your brain gets sick!

Here is a full-text article that describes how intimately connected heart function and brain function is.

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term and includes atrial fibrillation, blood clots in the coronary arteries or brain vessels (medically called “thrombotic events”), high and low blood pressure, heart failure, heart valve defects, low cardiac output, inflammation in the blood and a genetic marker, called Apo E, which is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The end result of any of these conditions will cause brain atrophy. Once a problem is identified, it is important that the patient is seeing the appropriate specialist who will take care of the risk factor in order to prevent brain atrophy.

Vitamin B deficiency

Some people are born with a certain degree of a methylation defect, a deficiency of certain enzymes, which prevents methylation of brain hormones and other metabolic products. This can lead to depression, schizophrenia, memory loss and you guessed right: brain atrophy, which manifests itself as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

By using the proper nutrients with high enough supplements of vitamin B2, B6 and B12 this biochemical process can be restored and brain atrophy can be prevented. SAMe is also a useful supplement that supports methylation and a normal brain metabolism. Ref.2 explains methylation defects in more detail.

Obesity

The question is whether the “brain shrinks as the waist expands”. The answer is a clear “yes”. Researchers have found that the grey matter (with which we think) in the frontal lobes of the brain shrink in obese people of all ages. The researchers found further that the grey matter shrunk in the temporal and parietal parts of the brain of people in middle and old age.

The key here is to cut out refined carbs (sweetened sodas, pasta, bread, sugar in any form), as they are the ones that cause obesity. This occurs by the liver metabolizing sugar and turning it into fat that is stored. Just by cutting out sugar and starchy foods both my wife and I lost 50 pounds each in 2001. It can be done, but it takes a bit of will power.

The terminology may be confusing here: it is really sugar that causes brain atrophy via causing obesity and damage to the blood vessels.

Smoking and alcoholic beverages

Smoking leads to brain atrophy by damaging the blood vessels that are supposed to supply the brain with nutrients. If blood vessels close off or hardening of the arteries reduces the blood flow to the brain, brain cells die and brain atrophy develops.

Smoking also robs the body of vitamins, which slows down the brain cell function.

Alcohol is a nerve cell poison; it causes brain atrophy by directly damaging the brain cells (grey matter).

The results are memory loss, poor judgment, problems planning one’s future, loss of control with regard to emotions. This can lead to violent behavior and problems with regard to inter-personal relationships.

Genetic factors

ApoE4 gene variant, which causes inherited Alzheimer’s disease, causes a change of brain metabolism with deposits of a glue-like substance in the brain that damages nerve connections resulting in memory loss.

Researchers believe that ApoE4 is implicated in 20 to 25% of all Alzheimer’s cases.

Despite this apparent negative story, there is hope by radically changing one’s diet and taking supplements. Not every patient with one or two doses (alleles) of ApoE4 comes down with Alzheimer’s.

Avoid Brain Atrophy

Avoid Brain Atrophy

What can you do to prevent brain atrophy?

Supplements: Take regular B complex vitamins (particularly B2, B3, B6, folic acid, B12), vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q-10 (or CoQ-10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwaganda, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE. All of these have been found to support brain function and often restore memory function. Unfortunately regular anti-Alzheimer’s medications are not keeping their promise and on average just delay Alzheimer’s by 3 to 6 months. For details how these supplements work see this link.

Omega-3 fatty acids including DHA: These essential fatty acids from fish oil are very useful as they are anti-inflammatory and help support the normal brain metabolism, particularly DHA. In a Feb. 2015 US study from the Rhode Island Hospital 193 Alzheimer’s patients, 397 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and 229 normal individuals were followed for 5 years with MRI scans and cognitive tests every 6 months. 117 subjects were taking fish oil on a regular basis. The study showed a decline in gray matter in those who did not take fish oil and in carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene (a gene liked with Alzheimer’s disease). The gray matter on the MRI scans and brain function measure with cognitive function tests were much better preserved in those who took fish oil supplements.

Resveratrol: This powerful antioxidant is an anti-aging supplement. It is preventing heart disease, hardening of the arteries and helps preserve brain function by keeping the brain vessels from getting clogged up. DHA and omega-3-fatty acids are helping in that regard as well.

Eat nuts: Nuts are healthy (provided you are not allergic to them); but just because you are allergic to one kind does not mean you are allergic too all of them. Often a person allergic to hazelnuts will not be allergic to Macadamia nuts, cashew nuts or walnuts. Nuts contain a mixture of essential fatty acids, blood vessel friendly, saturated fatty acids and minerals that are all brain supportive.

Exercise regularly: Whoever moves and exercises keeps the heart healthy and whatever keeps the heart healthy keeps the brain healthy as stated before.

Stress management and sleep (avoid chronic overstimulation of your brain): In our hectic society everything has to be instant, the expectations of managers are high, the labor force is stressed. The fastest runner, the best player etc. is celebrated. The rest of us often feel like “underdogs”, if we allow this type of thinking to rule ourselves. Use yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation, religious mediation and prayer to counter some of the stress from everyday life. We need some stress to get us going, but we do not need “distress”. Dr. Hans Selye, the father of the general adaptation syndrome due to stress, gave a lecture about this topic in Hamilton, Ont. in 1977, which I attended. I vividly remember how he projected a picture of his skeleton showing bilateral hip replacements. He said that chronic stress could lead to arthritis. He had developed end stage arthritis in his hips and required total hip replacements on both sides. He wanted to illustrate that stress leads to physical consequences; it may be a heart attack in one person, a stroke in another, arthritis in a third. Constant overdrive has physical consequences.

Avoid sugar and starchy foods: I left this point as the last as it may be more difficult to understand. I started touching this topic under “obesity” above. 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, so essentially you get a sugar rush from any starchy food as well. Too much sugar in the blood oxidizes LDL cholesterol, which leads to inflammation in the body. The consequence of this are the following conditions: hardening of the arteries, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s due to brain atrophy, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. I have blogged about these topics in many separate blogs.

Conclusion

In this blog I have reviewed how brain atrophy develops. There are a multitude of factors that over a lifetime can lead to brain atrophy. Repetitive head trauma from contact sports is only one reason; poor nutrition with too much sugar and starch and missing essential fatty acids (omega-3/DHA) is another potential cause. Add to this a lack of exercise, too much stress, alcohol and smoking and you covered most of the causes. Studies have shown that even when you carry the ApoE4 gene trait, only 30% will express it as supplements can suppress the expression of it. The key is prevention. Preserve your brain cells, prevent brain atrophy!

References:

Ref. 1: David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

Ref.2: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

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Apr
11
2015

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

There was a story in CNN last year describing the dramatic recovery of a youngster who was involved in a hit and run brain injury. The physicians involved in his care strongly recommended “to let him go”. His family did not give up on him and tried bioidentical progesterone cream first and finally fish oil in high doses, which lead to a successful recovery from this young man’s brain injury. Nine weeks after the accident the patient was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital, still unconscious. At that time the family increased the fish oil dosage to 20 grams (=20,000 mg) per day. Within two days the young man woke up from his coma and called his mother on a cell phone.

The benefits of fish oil

Fish oil is sold under various brand names. The high potency ones contain about 1400mg of fish oil in one soft gel. Each soft gel has 647mg EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid, commonly known as omega-3 fatty acid) and 253 mg DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and other fatty acids. Any of these more potent fish oil preparations are molecularly distilled meaning that mercury, cadmium and PBA impurities have been removed from the product before it is passed on to consumers.

Fish oil boosts your memory, it helps brain cells to function better. EPA is more beneficial for the lining of arteries and prevents heart attacks and strokes. The DHA component of fish oil is the building block of brain cells, and likely it was DHA that brought the young man with the hit and run accident back to consciousness.

Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is important for arthritis and prevention of heart attacks.

Everyday supplementation with fish oil

For persons with no arthritis and health risks a good fish oil supplement dose would be 1 or 2 of the higher potency fish oil capsules per day. This will help to prevent inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends to consume salmon two times per week, which will also give you a good dose of fish oil.

People with arthritis need more fish oil

As this link shows people with arthritis need more omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), namely 2.7 grams or more (=2700 mg or more) per day.

This would mean 5 capsules of the high potency supplement I described above to bring the total EPA to just above 3000 mg per day. People who have arthritis have so much more inflammation in their body that they need this higher amount of fish oil to get the condition under control. When you start fish oil supplements for arthritis it takes about 2 to 3 months for the fish oil to work before the inflammation is under control. So be patient.

Fat metabolism

When it comes to the metabolism of fatty acids, it is important to know the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that we take in. For instance, there are a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood. On the other hand there is more omega-6 fatty aid in chicken and processed meat. Omega-6 fatty acid gets metabolized into arachidonic acid that causes inflammation. Most processed foods have too much omega-6 fatty acids in them. Here is a hint: when we consume more omega-3 fatty acids by increasing our fish oil supplementation, we counterbalance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This will slow down aging, will control inflammation in the body and will prevent disabilities.

Side effects of fish oil

  1. Be aware that there is a difference between “fish oil” and “cod liver oil” or “halibut liver oil”. Cod liver and halibut liver oil has vitamin A in it; so avoid these formulations as this could lead to toxic levels of vitamin A.
  2. Fish oil is generally safe; there may be a mildly upset stomach at higher dosages, which is harmless and the dosage can be reduced until the stomach accepts it.
  3. Fish oil tends to thin the blood and theoretically there may be a problem when a person takes aspirin or blood thinners. Discuss this with the doctor. Patients with atrial fibrillation on blood thinners should discuss with their doctor whether it is safe for them to take fish oil supplements.
  4. Patients on platelet inhibitors (ASA and others) should first clear with their physician whether it is safe. The FDA did a review on this and stated that theoretically there could be interference in these situations, but practically no case was found that would have substantiated this.
  5. The cytochrome P450 pathway in the liver, which is used to eliminate antidepressants, erythromycin and many acid suppressing drugs (cimetidine, ranitidine) etc. is not interfering with the elimination of fish oil. The FDA confirmed this. This means that you will not have to fear that you overdose with fish oil because of drug interactions in the liver.

Fish oil supplementation in diabetes and heart disease

Many studies have shown that fish oil improves the control of diabetes, improves heart disease based on narrowing of coronary arteries and lowers blood pressure. It does so because of the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil; this improves endothelial functioning, which leads to more nitric oxide production and lowering of high blood pressure. Patients find that they do not need as much insulin some time after starting fish oil supplementation, and their blood sugar is better controlled. They also get more energy, which may help to motivate them to engage in regular exercise, which in turn helps improve diabetes, prevents cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish oil to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Apart from other factors mentioned in this link the regular consumption of fish and fish oil will help improve memory and Alzheimer’s in general. It is the DHA contained in fish oil that is needed by the brain and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help keep the cardiovascular system healthy.

A study in the medical journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia from June 14, 2014 followed 193 older men and women with Alzheimer’s patients for 5 years. Every half-year they had a magnetic resonance imaging study (MRI scan) of the brain and neuropsychological testing. 117 subjects used fish oil supplements throughout the study. They were the ones who maintained their brain volume and in particular the hippocampus area, which is important for memory. They also preserved their brain function compared to those subjects who did not consume fish oil. They showed shrinkage of the brain and a decrease in size of the hippocampus as well as poor brain function in neuropsychological testing. Patients who were carriers of the apolipoprotein E4 gene did not show the protective effect with fish oil.

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

Conclusion

Consumption of fish and supplementation with fish oil capsules is a valuable adjunct to all of the other health measures you can take to preserve brain and heart function like regular exercise and consumption of a Mediterranean diet. Take a supplement, which is higher dosed and is molecularly distilled (also called pharmaceutically pure). This way you will get all the health benefits, and you will avoid exposure to toxins from the ocean, which are not eliminated in the less potent, non-purified and cheaper fish oils.

Oct
04
2014

The Problem Are Sugar And Starchy Foods

Fareed Zacharia interviewed Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta on CNN on Sept. 10, 2014 regarding why sugar is worse than fat.

I like to explain why it is important to rethink the issues of fat, cholesterol, sugar, starchy foods, longevity, prevention of cardiovascular diseases (strokes, heart attacks) and cancer.

I have blogged about this many times before, but perhaps an overview regarding these issues would be in order.

The Framingham Heart Study indicated first that too much cholesterol in our system was a problem leading to heart attacks and strokes (Ref. 3). As more research was done, the reasons for this have become clearer.

1.Liver metabolism

The liver plays a major role in the metabolism of glucose. Digestion of refined starchy foods starts in the mouth where amylase from the saliva digests the surface of the pasta or white bread you eat. The stomach carries on with this process and the job is finished in the small intestine with the help of pancreatic enzymes (Ref.1). This digestive process is so efficient that within 20 to 30 minutes all of the refined carbs from pasta, donuts and bread appear as sugar in the blood stream. The portal vein system that collects the nutrients from the gut delivers all sugar straight to the liver where it is reassembled into glucagon as the storage form in the liver and skeletal muscles. This would all be good, would we have periods of fasting in between our sugar consumption. Periods of famine are no longer part of modern civilization, but consumerism is. Most of the processed food contains sugar and this leads to excess sugar uptake, which has to be processed by our liver. The end result is production of LDL cholesterol, oxidization of LDL cholesterol by sugar and in the process the production of VLDL (=very low-density lipoproteins) that leads directly to deposits in the arterial walls and clogging of arteries. Triglycerides are also produced, which leads to fat deposits (the cause of the obesity wave all around us).

2. Where does the fat that we see around us come from?

In the past we thought that it was from too much saturated fat and cholesterol in the food that would have caused the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the body. Now we know that this was an over-simplification. In fact more cholesterol and fat comes from metabolized sugar and with a slight time delay also from starchy foods.

Sugar and starchy foods (like pasta, white rice, white bread, potatoes, grapes, honey etc.) get metabolized by your liver into LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat. This does not mean that you should not pay attention to the total fat content and the quality of fats you eat.

3. The finer points about subfractions of cholesterol

You have heard many times about the good (HDL) and the bad (LDL) cholesterol. Sugar and refined starches do not only lead to the production of LDL cholesterol, but also to oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is very aggressive (VLDL=very low-density lipoproteins) leading directly to deposits in the arterial walls and to clogging of arteries. Your doctor can order a detailed lipid profile test, if you belong into a higher risk group to determine your VLDL level.

It may surprise you to read that many of the foods that were demonized in the past 2 to 3 decades like whole eggs; unprocessed grass-fed red meat, coconut oil etc. are now seen to be good for you.

But there are provisos: supplement with molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acids, have enough vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and calcium in your diet or supplement with these. This will make sure that calcium will leave the blood stream (not lead to arteriosclerosis) and enter into the bones where it is needed for healthy bone structure. The anti-inflammatory effect of vitamin D3 and of the omega-3 fatty acids will prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks and cancer.

The Problem Are Sugar And Starchy Foods

The Problem Are Sugar And Starchy Foods

4. Four major conditions causing heart attacks and strokes

According to Ref. 2 only 4 conditions have been proven over the years to lead to serious hardening of arteries causing strokes and heart attacks: dyslipidemia (high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol and VLDL), hypertension, cigarette smoking, and/or diabetes (Ref. 3). What has not been appreciated until recently is the fact that sugar and refined starchy foods metabolized by the liver are the culprits in causing plaque in arteries as the oxidized LDL cholesterol is aggressively invading the arterial wall and is inflammatory. A total cholesterol level greater than 5.2 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) has been shown to be associated with increased heart attacks and strokes. Ref. 2 also points out that dietary changes; days of fasting and weight loss have all been shown to stabilize and reduce plaque lesions and reduce heart attacks and strokes. It is the rupture of unstable plaques that lead to attraction of platelets and thrombus formation. It is this localized thrombosis that leads to the closure of coronary arteries or brain vessels causing heart attacks and strokes. According to Ref. 2 there are 9 factors that determine whether we get a stroke or heart attack, the four factors mentioned above (dyslipidemia, hypertension, cigarette smoking, diabetes) and abdominal obesity, lack of physical activity, low daily fruit and vegetable consumption, alcohol overconsumption, and a psychosocial risk. This latter factor includes any kind of chronic stress like interpersonal stress at work or home, depression, financial stress, major life events like marriage, death, divorce, and lack of control. Counseling is useful for support regarding psychosocial risk factors. It is significant to note that according to Ref. 2 several studies have shown that 90% of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by paying attention to these 9 risk factors. Managing stress effectively and seeking professional help for psychosocial difficulties as well as avoiding the  physical health risks will contribute to good allover health.

Conclusion

Where does this leave us? For decades we have been told that saturated fats and cholesterol in our diet were the culprits and we replaced them with sugar that is part of a low-fat diet. We need to pay attention to the glycemic index and cut out high glycemic foods. However, it is OK to eat some carbs from the medium glycemic food list and most of our carbs from the low glycemic food list. With regard to fat it is important to consume only the healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids. By taking care of the 4 major causes of heart attacks and strokes and also attending to the additional minor contributors mentioned above you will be able to eliminate 90% of the cardiovascular events. As you change these things you will also prevent many cancers as you changed the body metabolism and chronic inflammation has been taken care of as well as I pointed out in several blogs before. Finally, pay attention to stress management. The body and mind work together.

I have discussed all of these items in detail in my book as well (Ref. 3).

More information on high density and low density carbs: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/carbohydrates/

References:

1.Townsend: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 19th ed.,Copyright 2012 Saunders.

2.Melmed: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed.,Copyright 2011 Saunders.

3. Dr. R. Schilling: “A Survivor’s Guide to Successful Aging“. Paperback through Amazon.com, 2014.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014