Nov
23
2019

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Compromise Your Health

In an editorial of the October 2019 edition of LifeExtension William Faloon explained that omega-6 fatty acids compromise your health. He focused particularly on memory loss and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

After a review of the medical literature he noted that Americans are eating too many foods that are laden with omega-6 fatty acids. Part of it is due to food processing with the wrong oils ). But the other problem is that processed foods also are full of omega-6 fatty acids. The merchants like omega-6 fatty acids, because they prolong the shelf life of products. But recent evidence shows that a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in our food can interfere with our memory and may even lead to dementia.

Evidence that omega-6 fatty acids are interfering with brain function

A recent publication analyzed 116 non-demented subjects aged 69 on average.

Blood tests were taken where 32 nutrients related to a Mediterranean diet were analyzed. In addition the researchers from the University of Illinois did functional MRI scans to assess higher brain function. The researchers also did cognitive tests to assess mental functioning.

  • The results of these experiments showed that higher lycopene levels had an association with better memory and higher executive function.
  • Subjects with higher carotenoids and trans lutein showed higher intelligence on testing.
  • B-vitamins that reduce homocysteine (vitamin B2, folate and vit. B12) and vitamin D showed an association with better executive functioning.
  • Two parts of memory testing showed that a proper balance of omega 6 to omega 3 ratio resulted in a better memory.
  • Higher omega-3 levels in the blood associated with higher overall intelligence and better executive function.

Impact of omega-6 on brain function

Researchers have proven that omega-3 fatty acids can help controlling inflammation in the body. This can prevent cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. However, our western food contains a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids, which causes inflammation in the body. It depends on our food choices, but it also depends on the preparation of the food. One chicken leg with skin contains about 1800 mg of omega-6 fatty acids. The process of deep-frying the same chicken leg increases the content to 4322mg of omega-6.

One deep fried KFC chicken breast with skin has 12,663 mg omega-6 fatty acids The reason is that a lot of the deep-frying oil is full of omega-6 fatty acids.

Cooking oils

Here is a run down of cooking oils. All of the cooking oils have a different mix of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid composition. Many also contain oleic acid, which is an omega-9 fatty acid.

Researchers have proven that omega-3 fatty acids can help control inflammation in the body. This can prevent cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

As it is obvious from the table in the second last link olive oil contains 71.27% oleic acid, 9.76% omega-6 and 0.76% omega-3. It is the content of the majority of oleic acid (omega-9), which makes olive oil such healthy oil. Only two table spoons of olive oil per day will prevent heart attacks and strokes because oleic acid lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and increases the good HDL cholesterol. Olive oil removes beta-amyloid plaques inside the brain, which means it prevents Alzheimer’s disease.

Recommendation of best cooking oil

Considering that olive oil has such powerful healing properties, I recommend that you cook and bake with olive oil. Also use olive oil as part of your salad dressing. On the other hand avoid these oils: corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil. They contain too much inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Our western food contains a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids, which causes inflammation in the body. It depends on our food choices what is in the food. But it also depends on the preparation of the food. One chicken leg contains about 1800 mg of omega-6 fatty acids. When it is deep fried with skin it contains 4322mg of omega-6.

One deep fried KFC chicken breast with skin: 12,663 mg Omega-6 fatty acids. One of the reasons is that a lot of the deep-frying oil is full of omega-6 fatty acids.

Math to calculate retained omega-6 from deep-frying

You notice that many cooking oils are high in omega-6. Soybean oil has 50.42% omega-6 in it. If you cook French fries or chicken in it and the food retains only 1 teaspoon of oil in it, that’s 5000 mg times 50.42%, which is 2521 mg of omega-6 added just from deep-frying your food.

Balancing omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are mainly used for energy. But the problem is that in our western diet too many omega-6 fatty acids are in our food. Omega-6 fatty acids can be converted into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other hand. In the past a healthy ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 was 4:1 or less. The average American now eats food with 16-times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3’s. This is an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 16:1.

KFC chicken breast example

In the example of a KFC chicken breast with skin 12,663 mg omega-6 fatty acids are consumed. To balance this with omega-3 fatty acids the person would have to consume 3166 mg omega-3 fatty acids. One serving of wild salmon provides 2000 mg of omega-3. I take 3600 mg of molecularly distilled fish oil every day as a supplement (2 capsules in the morning and 2 at night). Together with the wild salmon this is 5600 mg of omega-3. This would result in an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2.26:1, which is considered to be well balanced. But generally people do not consume so much seafood and fish oil supplements to balance the omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3. It comes down to be selective with your food choices.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease (dementia)

Since the mid 1980’s dementia cases have reduced by an average of 25%.

This is because people have become more conscious of healthier eating habits and supplements. More people take lycopene, a carotenoid supplement that helps prevent heart disease. Whatever helps the heart also helps the brain. Omega-3 supplements and consumption of seafood, especially wild salmon, is also useful. If people will reduce their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio to 4:1 or less, which too can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Study to show that omega-3 fatty acids preserve the brain in older age

The following study looked at brain structure using MRI scans. 3660 participants aged 65 received MRI brain scans. The researchers recorded their food intake with questionnaires. They rescanned 2313 of these individuals 5 years later. The group highest in omega-3 consumption was compared to the group with the lowest omega-3 consumption. Blood tests were also done both initially and 5 years later to verify the omega-3 intake. The researchers found that the higher omega-3 group had less subclinical infarcts and the white matter of the brain was of a better grade. They concluded that fish consumption, the major source of omega-3 fatty acids, had a beneficial effect on brain health later in life.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Compromise Your Health

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Compromise Your Health

Conclusion

Omega-6 fatty acids are abundantly present in junk food, deep fries, processed foods and polyunsaturated oils like corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil. Because food processors like the long shelf life of processed food made with these oils, people’s intake of omega-6 fatty acids has been climbing. Now the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio regarding the average American food consumption is about 16:1. It should be 4:1 or less. It is important that you learn what contains omega-6 fatty acids and that you start cutting down. You do need a certain amount of omega-6 fatty acids for cell energy, but most people do not get enough marine based omega-3 fatty acids. Wild salmon and other seafood provides omega-3 fatty acids.

Balancing omega-6 with omega-3

I have shown using an example how you can balance omega-6 and omega-3. Having the right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 will also help you prevent dementia down the road. Consuming more olive oil can prevent heart disease and dementia as well. This contains oleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid), which lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol.

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.

Apr
11
2015

Fish Oil, Your Best Supplement

The following review describes fish oil, your best supplement. There was a story in the CNN 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. Subsequently they gave him fish oil in high doses, which lead to a successful recovery. Nine weeks after the accident the physicians transferred the patient to the rehabilitation hospital. He was still unconscious from his brain injury. 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 available under various brand names. The high potency ones contain about 1400 mg of fish oil in one soft gel. Each soft gel has 647 mg EPA  and 253 mg DHA. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid, commonly known as omega-3 fatty acid. DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. Any of these more potent fish oil preparations are molecularly distilled. That means that mercury, cadmium and PBA impurities have been removed from the products. Only then are the fish oil capsules 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. It likely 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

When a person has no arthritis and no other health risks less fish oil supplement suffices. The 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 also gives 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 acid in chicken and processed meat. Omega-6 fatty acid metabolizes 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 the patient can reduce the dosage 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 they could not find a single case substantiating 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 needed less insulin some time after starting fish oil supplementation, and their blood sugar was 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. The DHA content in fish oil supports 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. Patients who supplemented with fish oil were the ones that preserved their brain function. Physicians compared them to those subjects who did not consume fish oil. Whoever did not supplement with fish oil showed brain shrinkage and a decrease in size of the hippocampus. In addition, they had 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 fish oil capsules is a valuable adjunct to all of the other health measures.  Fish oil preserves 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. The less potent, non-purified and cheaper fish oils do not eliminate toxins.

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Apr
19
2014

Measuring Your Heart Function

Recently I came across a book by Dr. Steven Masley, cardiologist (fellow of the American Heart Association, see Ref.1). The heart’s function is to pump your blood reliably all your life. It is a complicated organ, but it works well, if we treat it well. Western medicine has taught us that with complicated machinery and tests we can assess how the heart is doing. But until recently there was no reliable easier way to assess our cardiac health function. The purpose of this blog is to summarize a three-pronged approach to measure your heart and blood vessel health. It is described in detail in Ref.1, but I doubt that many people have yet read this important reference book. It is also important to FIRST see your doctor whether you are able to do the Bruce protocol (treadmill test, the third component below). If you neglect to be cleared by your doctor you run the risk of possibly getting angina pains or getting a heart attack.

1. Carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test: You measure the degree to which there is hardening of the coronary arteries indirectly by measuring the thickness of the lining of the carotid arteries (carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test). Dr. Masley has showed over a period of 10 years and more in many patients at his Health Center that there is a close correlation between the degree of coronary artery hardening and the degree of hardening of the carotid arteries. He stated that his research has shown that “90% of the time, the carotid arteries, the coronary arteries, and even the arteries of your legs all grow plaque at the same time”. The gold standard for checking the condition of your coronary arteries is a heart catheterization as Dr. Masley explains (page 58). But he adds: “IMT testing should be the new gold standard for cardiovascular plaque testing. However, this is not yet the case. Despite its usefulness, 95% of doctors are not ordering this screening test for their patients. You can rest assured that this is a situation I am to change“.

Measuring Your Heart Function

Measuring Your Heart Function

2. A detailed lipid analysis called the VAP test: A detailed laboratory test analyzing your lipid fractions (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol and VAP test). The buoyant HDL fraction, called HDL2 is the key to having a low risk for hardening of the arteries. HDL2 is large, fluffy and is designed to remove garbage from within the lining of the arteries. Also, the cholesterol ratio is another measurement for a low risk for hardening of the arteries when it is less than 3.0. The first two tests assess how much hardening of the arteries there is present and when they are normal, there is a relative reassurance that nothing drastic (like a heart attack or stroke) should happen within the next 10 years provided you keep up a regular exercise program and healthy food intake.

3. Bruce protocol (Treadmill test): The Bruce protocol (treadmill test) is often done by a cardiologists, but can also be done through many gyms, where a trainer with experience in exercise physiology will do it. This functional test measuring cardiac output has been developed many decades back and has withstood the test of time. Here is an overview what this is. As the slope of a treadmill and the speed of the belt are increased, the heart needs to do more work to maintain blood flow to your extremities and vital organs. The trainer or exercise physiologist measures the response of the heart activity in relation to the increase of the exercise load. A complicated formula allows calculating how much your maximal cardiac output is. This test has several variations and can be complicated to understand. Essentially, the higher the numbers you can create, the better. Here is a table with various results of the VaO2max from Bruce protocols and how they are interpreted.

4. Treating abnormalities found with the three basic tests: These are the necessary tools that tell you where you are in regard to your heart function. People with heart failure should not do this third test, because their heart muscle is too weak to sustain this and they would get heart failure meaning that blood gets backed up into the lungs and there could be severe breathing problems leading to a lack of oxygen (anoxia) in the heart tissue, which in turn can cause irregular heart beats (fibrillation of the heart muscle) and a heart attack. Assume that the first two tests were within the normal limit for your age, then the Bruce protocol would give you the maximum heart output at the peak level of your treadmill test. At this point you are measuring directly the cardiac output (in other words what your heart is capable of pumping for you in a certain time unit). This measurement is what physicians call the VaO2 max  or maximal oxygen consumption. This is the best index for maximal heart capacity. If your levels are higher than normal, you have extra reserves with respect to your heart as a pump for times when you need it. If this latter tolerance test shows poor results, it usually means that you were inactive and you would benefit from an exercise program. If the first test shows hardening of the arteries more than is appropriate for your age, you would need to look at your eating habits. At the same time often the VAT values and the cholesterol ratio is off meaning that you are eating the wrong foods and it shows in your blood test results.

5. Advise regarding diet, exercise and relaxation: Dr. Masley’s book has several sections that explain what needs to be done when things are not normal. For instance, the author does not mince words when it comes to eating the right fats and cutting out sugar and starchy foods. For instance on page 199 there is a neat table that lists the fiber content of different foods. We need more fiber to slow down the absorption of sugary substances, which will minimize the insulin response following a meal. Dr. Masley also mentions that omega-3-fatty acids from fish and good seafood choices will balance the omega-6-fatty acids that would lead towards the arachidonic acid pathway, which causes arthritis, inflammation and cancer. There are many more dietary recommendations, too numerous to repeat them all here. Suffice it to say that molecularly distilled omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D 1,500 to 3000 Units daily, and magnesium supplements are all good for you heart. Vitamin K2 gets calcium out of your blood vessels and into the bone (100 micrograms per day). Other worthwhile supplements mentioned in the book are CoQ-10 (50 to 200 mg twice per day), but it would be wise to have blood levels drawn, which should be above 2.5mcg/ml to which the CoQ-10 intake could be titrated. Curcumin and Resveratrol are also recommended. Most of all, it seems that regular physical exercise such as a balanced gym program is the single most effective way to reverse hardening of the arteries as measured by the carotid IMT testing.

Conclusion: Times have changed. It used to be thought that our lives were following a one-way street downwards. During periods of malnutrition, lack of exercise, being sessile and abusing alcohol and drugs this may well be the case. However, we now know that this is reversible. Change to healthier food, start smoothies with organic vegetables in a mixer, get going and walk. Jog or use a gym to get regular exercise. Physical exercise reverses the fat deposits inside the lining of the arteries. The HDL-2 fraction rises and helps counteract the elevated LDL cholesterol. Even the mood of the person who exercises regularly becomes more stabilized. Using these simpler three tests the physicians will not need the more complicated Thallium heart scans, heart catheterization etc. These three tests described above are well worth being done every two years, so that you can monitor what’s going on with your heart and blood vessels in general. What questions do you have? You could ask them below.

More information on heart disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/

References: 1. Dr. Steven Masley, MD: “The 30-day Heart Tune-Up – A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, Center Street, A Division of Hachette Book Group Inc. New York, Boston, Nashville, USA © 2014.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Jul
06
2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

When your grandmother grew up there was very little convenience food, maybe ketchup and yes, there was processed cheese and coke. There were also bread and butter.

Now we go through a large grocery store and the center of the whole store is occupied by convenience food, row after row.

What is convenience food? It is pre-cooked or processed food that sits on a shelf waiting to be bought and consumed. You may be able to just eat it the way it is (power bars, fruit yoghurt snacks, ice cream, breakfast cereals etc.) or you just have to microwave it for a minute or two (ready made meals, pizzas). Even, if you make a fresh salad, you top it with a salad dressing that has been processed and may contain chemicals that are not necessarily healthy for you.

This blog is meant to make you think and get educated as a consumer. As a physician I am guided by what is healthy for you, but at the same time food needs to be interesting and taste good and be affordable.

As fat, carbohydrates and protein are the main food groups that we eat, I will deal with each of these categories first followed by vitamins and minerals, which we also need.

Fats and oils

Many convenience foods are full of saturated fatty acids, which contribute to the overall calorie count of the package and are one of the main reasons why we gain weight and deposit fat into our arteries in preparation for a heart attack or stroke down the road. As you may know the worst form of fat is hydrogenated fat, also known as “trans fat”.

It contains free radicals from the hydrogenation process, which damage your cells and interfere with normal body metabolism. Read labels and avoid any foods that have a long shelf life as this is due to hydrogenated fats and chemicals known as food preservatives.

This food group also contains sausages and other processed meat; I wrote a separate blog about this recently.

If you eat cheese, reduce your saturated fat intake by buying cheese with only 18% fat (such as Cantenaar cheese, Jarlsberg light, skim milk mozzarella and goat cheese). Avoid the rich 45% type cheeses. The best oil in your kitchen would be an organic cold pressed olive oil. It figures prominently in Mediterranean cooking.

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

The Inconvenient Truth About Convenience Foods

Sugar, starch and other carbohydrates

A large portion of snacks from the mid section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy until you see from the ingredient list on the label that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Often low calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces to go along with it.

Protein in meats, dairy products and sausages

You would think that a healthy cut of meat from the grocery store would be a good source of protein for you. You probably did not think that it could be contaminated with a superbug when you bought it. This is especially true for ground meats like hamburger meat. If you bought a portion of organic meat you can be more certain that you are buying a qualitatively superior product. I discussed this whole issue of superbugs in meat and meat products in this blog recently.

We need to be aware of the agroindustry, the feedlots and what they fed the animals. I only buy organic meat and organic dairy products as my source of protein. I avoid sausages altogether because of the food additives that they contain, which are cancer causing.

The problem with prepared meats like chicken nuggets and others is that they contain breading and food preservatives and they have been deep fried, which makes these items an unhealthy choice.

What are some of the problems with dairy products? Despite the allegations that bovine growth hormone would be harmless to your health, your body thinks otherwise. Your body has hormone receptors that are very specific and bovine growth hormone can block them so your own human growth hormone from the pituitary gland cannot function properly. This is why I would recommend only organic milk products. You may have heard that in many European countries bovine growth hormone is banned for that reason.

Next the fat content of dairy products needs to be monitored: go for low-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt. While we are talking about yoghurt, stay away from fruit yoghurts that have all kinds of sugar and food additives mixed in. Add fruit of your choice and stevia, if you need a sweet taste.

Vitamins and minerals

The more foods are processed, the less natural vitamins and minerals stay behind. Particularly vitamin C and the B complex group are affected, but also magnesium, which is an important co-factor to enzymatic reactions within our cells. Often processed foods contain too much salt with sodium displacing potassium from the cells resulting in a lack of energy and high blood pressure.

Your best prevention is to stick to as little processed food as possible and to eat organic. If you eat enough organic greens and vegetables, there is an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Prepare your own soups as canned products are high in sodium; another unwanted additive is often sodium glutamate (MSG), which comes under many disguised names. It belongs to the group of excitotoxins like aspartame and is not welcomed by your brain cells.

Public Awareness

Lately there has been more of public interest and awareness to the detrimental effects of convenience foods. Alarming reports about the increase in the obesity rates, the rise in diabetes type 2 even in children have been in the media for some time. The publications are not only North American, but also European, as can bee seen in this link.

New legislation is being introduced in many states of the US regarding school snacks and vending machines in schools.

Not all food news is bad. Recently it was reported that fish oil could protect against the effects of junk food. Omega-3-fatty acids contained in fish oil are helping to rebalance the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6-fatty acids in food, which often is disbalanced towards an overabundance of omega-6 fatty aids in processed foods. Rebalancing the omega3/omega6 ratio in food helps to normalize the metabolism of the brain and prevents hardening of arteries.

What you can do to get healthy food

It starts when you buy food. Read labels and look for calories, sugar, fat and sodium content. You may be surprised how many stores carry organic foods now. The price may not be that much more. There is a useful app for your cell phone, Buycott, that you may want to download. This way you can scan items in the store and find out what ingredients are contained in a particular food item and which company produces it.

With meats it is particularly important to buy organic (because of superbugs and also because of the aspect that feed lot animals often receive antibiotics and hormones). Stick to organics also with vegetables and greens (xenoestrogens in non-organic greens that block hormone receptors). Milk products also need to be organic because of the bovine growth hormone facts mentioned above.

When you eat out, things become more difficult unless you find an organic food restaurant. You can always prepare your own salad for lunch with organic greens and a lean protein food, which you keep refrigerated until you are ready to consume it. On weekends a portable picnic in a park can be a great way to relax and socialize, especially in summer.

More information about nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014

Jan
03
2004

Old-Fashioned Fish Oil Boosts Heart Health

You do not need to spoil your appetite with the thought of swallowing cod liver oil, but see yourself enjoy a piece of salmon instead. Dr. Jehangir N Din and collegues published an article entitled “Omega 3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease—fishing for a natural treatment” in the first January edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2004;328:30-35,January 3, 2004). These cardiology researchers from the University of Edinburgh/England have reviewed all of the recent medical literature regarding the beneficial effects of omega-3-fatty acids on heart disease. The following are some facts they found.

The interesting story regarding the omega-3-fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory qualities, is that they balance the detrimental effects of the omega-6-fatty acids, which lead to inflammation not only in joints, but also in blood vessels. In the standard North American and European foods the omega-6-fatty acids are overconsumed. To counter the bad effects of the omega-6-fatty acids, more omega-3-fatty acids need to be ingested.

Old-Fashioned Fish Oil Boosts Heart Health

Old-Fashioned Fish Oil Boosts Heart Health

So, what should we consume in terms of omega-3-fatty acids? The American Heart Association made the recommendations in the second table below.

Current consumption of omega-3-fatty acids in North America and Europe is low. Recently an expert US panel of nutritionists determined that the US consumption per day is about 0.1 to 0.2 grams per day and should be 0.65 grams per day as a minimum according to the recommendations by the American Heart Association.

Facts regarding omega-3-fatty acids:
Omega-3-fatty acids from fish and fish oils protect against heart disease
Following heart attacks fish oil is helpful in preventing more heart attacks
Hardening of arteries stops when fish oil or fish is eaten regularly
Rapid response critics pointed out that exercise is as important as fish oil
Trials with fish oil showed reduction in death rates from strokes and heart attacks from between 15% and 29% over 2 to 3.5 years (several studies)
The beneficial effects are due to a combination of stabilizing irregular heart beats, preventing clots, countering hardening of arteries, countering inflammation, improving function of lining of arteries, lowering of triglycerides (bad fatty acids) and lowering of blood pressure

The authors of this paper from England disagree and state that at least 1 gram per day would be needed to lower the heart attack risk to the low levels in Asia. The British Nutrition Foundation has recommended to use 1.2 grams of omega-3-fatty acids per day.

Fish or fish oil capsules as a protective effect on blood vessels*
Patients without documented coronary heart disease: Eat a variety of (preferably oily) fish at least twice weekly. Include oils and foods rich in inolenic acid
Patients with documented coronary heart disease: Consume 1 g of eicosapentanoic and docosahexanoic acid daily, preferably from oily fish. Supplements could be considered in consultation with a doctor
Patients with hypertriglyceridemia: Take 2-4 g of eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid daily, provided as capsules under a doctor’s care
*As recommended by American Heart Association 

How does that translate into how much fish you would have to eat to get about 1 gram of omega-3-fatty acids per day? To make things simpler I have categorized fish and seafood in the table below based on the data from this article into low, medium and high marine derived omega-3-acid foods. You obviously need to eat more of the low category seafood to achieve 1 gram of omega-3-fatty acid than of the high category seafood.

How much fish and seafood you need to eat to get 1 gram of omega-3-fatty acids…
Concentration of omega-3-fatty acids in seafood: Type of fish and seafood consumed:
Low (eat 1 lbs) Catfish, Haddock
Medium (eat 1/3 -1/2 lbs) Tuna, Halibut, Oyster, Cod, Flounder, Sole
High (eat 2 or 3oz.) Atlantic salmon, Sardines, Rainbow trout, Atlantic herring, Mackerel

Before you overindulge in seafood from the low and medium category, check with your doctor first whether you are allowed so much protein. Some people have protein restrictions due to poor kidney function or because of gout. The authors of this study stated that you should eat a seafood meal with 1 gram of omega-3-fatty acid twice per week. Other sources of omega-3-fatty acids (=alpha-linolenic acid) are plant products such as soy beans,flaxseed, walnuts and rapeseed oil. In Asia fish and soy bean products are consumed in much bigger quantities than in the US.

Last edited December 8, 2012

May
01
2003

Allergies, Asthma And Diabetes All Helped By Fish Oil

Cod liver oil was what your grandmother told you to take. It turns out she was right as two studies from Manchester/England and Boston/US have shown. The common denominator are omega-3-fatty acids, which are found in fish oil, cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon and other fish, generally speaking all sea food that feasts on plankton.

1. A prospective study with a cohort of 1100 children from before their birth until their 5th birthday, which will be next year, is being conducted in Manchester/England.

A smaller pilot study with 37 children (4-year-olds from this cohort) was recently analyzed as reported in Denver by Dr. Clare Murray, a pediatric lung specialist from the University of Manchester. The investigators have done detailed diet analyses with the help of the parents. They found that children with severe asthma were taking in a lot less omega-3-fatty acids than a healthy control group. Further analysis showed that the asthmatic group took in a lot of the inflammation provoking omega-6-fatty acids, whereas the control group had a much better balance between these two unsaturated fatty acids. Apparently it is the ratio between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that determines whether the prostaglandin metabolism is switched versus pro-inflammatory (ratio more than 3 to 1) or versus anti-inflammatory (ratio 3 to1 or less). This article can be found in the Medical Post, Vol39, No.17 (page 19), April 29, 2003.

2. Another study is mentioned on the same page of the Medical Post: Dr. Frank Hu from the Harvard School of Public Health is the lead author of a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. 5103 female nurses with established type 2 diabetes have been followed for about 18 years and their medical histories, life styles and eating habits were updated every two years.

Allergies, Asthma And Diabetes All Helped By Fish Oil

Allergies, Asthma And Diabetes All Helped By Fish Oil

In the beginning of the study every patient was free of heart disease and cancer. The big surprise was that eating fish 5 times per week diminished the risk for developing heart disease by 65%. Even the women in the study who ate fish once or twice per week had 40% less heart disease than those who did not eat fish. In addition, fish eaters survived those who were not fish eaters much better (lower mortality). Controls of women without diabetes who ate fish five times per week had also a reduction of heart disease by 35% compared to non fish eating controls. Dr. Hu stated that it is the omega-3 fatty acids in fish that are the active ingredient. They are known to reduce irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) that can lead to sudden death. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce blood fat levels (triglycerides), clot formation and improve blood vessel function. He also noted that both genders have the same benefit (no difference between male and female), just that the study was done on female nurses.

Comments: For your information the table below shows what foods contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our food
Type of unsaturated fatty acid: Foods that contain this type of unsaturated fatty acid:
omega-3 fatty acid flaxseed oil, walnuts, macadamia nuts, fishoil, canola oil, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and most cold water fish
omega-6-fatty acid corn oil, cotton seed oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil

In the past 50 years the food industry has changed the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in many common foods to the point that the ratios are now 12 to 1 and up to 25 to 1. It is cheaper to produce these foods in that manner as they often have a longer shelve life. Read food labels. Inform yourself about omega-3 fatty acids. Take 2 capsules of a high strength, molecularly distilled (to remove PCB’s, mercury and other heavy metals) fish oil once per day and include more fish in your meals. Avoid deep fried foods, as they contain omega-6 fatty acids.

Here are some links explaining this more:

Link about balanced nutrition.

More details about fat and fatty acids.

Last edited October 26, 2014