Apr
18
2020

Changes of Metabolism by Inflammation

Dr. James LaValle gave a presentation about changes of metabolism by inflammation in Las Vegas. I listened to this lecture on Dec. 15, 2020. The 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas took place from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. His original title was: “Innovations in Metabolism and Metaflammation”. This talk was complex and as a result it may not be easy reading. But it shows how various factors can affect our metabolism and our life expectancy.

In the first place he understands “metabolism” as all of the chemical reactions together that make you feel the way you feel today. In the same way metabolism is the chemistry that drives you toward future health. It is equally important to note that disregulation of your metabolism occurs from global metabolic inflammatory signalling. As has been noted he called this “metaflammation” (inflammation affecting your metabolism).

Dr. LaValle said that understanding disruptors of your metabolism can lead to renew your health on a cellular level. The key to achieve this is to remove inflammatory signals.

Factors that accelerate aging and damage your metabolism

It is important to realize that several factors interfere with the normal aging process. Oxidative stress and inflammation are major factors. But hormone disbalance and increased blood sugar values and insulin resistance can also contribute to accelerated aging and damage your metabolism. Certainly, with a disturbance of the immune balance, autoimmune reactions can take place, which also does not help. In addition, pollutants from the environment derange the metabolism due to heavy metals that block important enzymatic reactions. In the minority there are also genetic factors that can interfere with a normal metabolism.

Many of the metabolic changes can lead to chronic inflammation. One source of inflammation can be lipopolysaccharides that stimulate the immune system to start an inflammatory process.

Many conditions are associated with inflammation such as diabetes, obesity, stress, the SAD diet (standard American diet), and liver or kidney damage.

How Metaflammation is developing

Metaflammation can start in the gut with microbiota alterations. The wrong types of bacteria can release lipopolysaccharides, and low grade endotoxemia develops. With obesity inflammatory kinins start circulating in the body. Stress can activate inflammatory substances in the brain and the rest of the body. Major contributors to inflammation in the body come from faulty diets. The Western diet contains too much sugar and refined carbs; it is too high in trans fats and saturated fats. It contains too many artificial additives, preservatives, salt, sweeteners and dyes. And it is too low in nutrients, complex carbs and fiber.

More problems with metaflammation

Kidney and liver illness can contribute to metaflammation. Several diseases come from chronic inflammation, like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, depression, cancer, dementia, osteoporosis and anemia. Metaflammation alters the methylation patterns, which can slow down your metabolism. Increased blood lipids and chronic inflammation of the blood vessels lead to cardiovascular problems. The liver and kidneys are the major detoxification organs, and their disease leads to more metaflammation. Metaflammation also leads to hormone disbalances, sleep disorders and dysfunction of the immune system. The brain reacts to metaflammation with cognitive dysfunction and mood disorders. Muscle loss (sarcopenia) is another issue, so is osteoporosis. Finally, chronic metaflammation can cause cancer.

Major causes of metaflammation

The three major causes of metaflammation are changes of the gut microbiome, obesity and chronic stress. When the gut bacteria change because of a Western diet, the wrong bacteria release lipopolysaccharides that are absorbed into the blood. The gut barrier is breaking down and a low grade endotoxemia develops. With obesity adipokines, which are inflammatory substances secreted by the fatty tissue, circulate in the blood. Chronic stress activates inflammation in the brain and in the body.

Two major conditions are common with metaflammation: hyperlipidemia (high fat levels in the blood) and hyperglycemia. Both of these conditions change the metabolism and lead to cardiovascular disease (hyperlipidemia) or to type 2 diabetes (hyperglycemia). Both of these metabolic changes lead to one or more of the conditions mentioned above, accelerate the aging process and lead to premature deaths.

Interaction of various organ systems can cause metaflammation

Dr. LaValle stated that it is vital that your hormones stay balanced. With chronic stress cortisol production is high. This causes increased insulin production, reduced thyroid hormone and lowered serotonin and melatonin production in the brain. It also leads to autoimmune antibodies from the immune system and decreased DHEA production in the adrenal glands. In addition, growth hormone production and gonadotropin hormones are slowing down. We already heard that cortisol levels are up. The end result of these hormone changes is that the blood pressure is up and abdominal visceral obesity develops. The brain shows cognitive decline, with memory loss as a result. The bones show osteopenia, osteoporosis and fractures. The muscles shrink due to sarcopenia, frailty is very common. Heart attacks and strokes will develop after many years. The immune system is weak and infections may flare up rapidly. There are also higher death rates with flus.

Other mechanism for pathological changes with hormone disbalances

When Insulin is elevated, inflammatory markers are found in the bloodstream. This elevates the C-reactive protein and leads to damage of the lining of the blood vessels in the body. A combination of insulin resistance and enhanced atherosclerosis increases the danger for heart attacks or strokes significantly.

There is a triangle interaction between the thyroid, the pancreas and the adrenals. Normally the following occurs with normal function. The thyroid increases the metabolism, protein synthesis and the activity of the central nervous system. The pancreas through insulin converts glucose to glycogen in the liver. It also facilitates glucose uptake by body cells. The adrenal hormones are anti-inflammatory, regulate protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and contribute to energy production.

Change of thyroid/pancreas/adrenals triangle when cortisol is elevated

When cortisol is elevated the balance of the thyroid/pancreas/adrenals’ triangle is severely disturbed. Cortisol is high, the T4 to T3 conversion is limited and, in the brain, there is hippocampus atrophy with memory loss and brain fog. The immune system will change with production of inflammatory kinins (IL-6 and TNF alpha). Insulin sensitivity is down, sugar craving up and weight gain develops (central obesity).

Change of thyroid/pancreas/adrenals triangle when the thyroid is depressed

The thyroid activity can be lower because of autoimmune antibodies (Hashimoto’s disease) or because of hypothyroidism developing in older age. This leads to decreased pregnenolone synthesis from cholesterol. As pregnenolone is the precursor for all the steroid hormones, the metabolism slows down profoundly. Mentally there is depressed cognition, memory and mood. The cardiovascular system shows reduced function. In the gut there is reduced gastric motility. The mitochondria, which are tiny energy packages in each cell, are reduced in number, which causes a loss of energy. There is increased oxidative stress, increased lactic acid production and decreased insulin sensitivity.

Cardiovascular disease not just a matter of high cholesterol

Dr. LaValle stressed that a heart attack or stroke is not just a matter of elevated cholesterol. Instead we are looking at a complicated interaction between hypothyroidism, diabetic constellation and inflammatory gut condition. The inflammatory leaky gut syndrome causes autoimmune macrophages and Hashimoto’s disease. The end result is hypothyroidism. The inflammatory kinins (TNF-alpha, IL-6) affect the lining of the blood vessels, which facilitates the development of strokes and heart attacks. You see from this that cardiovascular disease development is a multifactorial process.

Microbiome disruption from drugs

Drugs affecting the intestinal flora are antibiotics, corticosteroids, opioids, antipsychotics, statins, acid suppressing drugs like protein pump inhibitors (PPI’s) and H2-blockers. Other factors are: high sugar intake, pesticides in food, bactericidal chemicals in drinking water, metformin, heavy metals and alcohol overconsumption. Chronic stomach infection with H. pylori, stress and allergies can also interfere with the gut microbiome.

The microbiome disruption affects all facets of metabolism. This means that there can be inhibition of nutrient absorption and this may affect the gut/immune/brain axis. There are negative effects on blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. A disturbance of the sleep pattern may be present. A significant effect on the hormonal balance can occur (thyroid hormones, sex hormones and appetite related hormones). When liver and kidney functions slow down, there is interference of body detoxification.

Dr. LaValle talked more about details regarding the gut-brain-immune pathology. I will not comment on this any further.

Changes of Metabolism by Inflammation

Changes of Metabolism by Inflammation

Conclusion

Dr. LaValle gave an overview in a lecture regarding changes of metabolism by inflammation. This took place at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019.

This article is complex and contains a lot of detail, but there is one simple truth: oxidative stress and inflammation are major factors that influence our health on many parameters and lead to a list of illnesses. They lead to hormone disbalance and increased blood sugars and insulin resistance, which can also contribute to accelerated aging and damage of your metabolism. Dr. LaValle explained how high cortisol from chronic stress can lead to low thyroid hormones and in the brain, there is hippocampus atrophy with memory loss and brain fog. With alterations of the immune system there is production of inflammatory kinins (IL-6 and TNF alpha). Insulin sensitivity is down, sugar craving up and weight gain develops (central obesity). It does not stop there! We put our hope in medications, but the sad truth is that there are

Drugs that change the gut biome

Many drugs that are common also change the gut biome with resulting increased permeability of the gut wall (leaky gut syndrome). This overstimulates the immune system and leads to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Whenever there is an injury to the gut barrier, the blood brain barrier is following suit. This is how brain disease can develop as a result of a change in the gut biome. Impaired cognition, memory and mood can result from this. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the worst conditions that may be related to a combination of gut inflammation, chronic stress and inflammatory kinins.

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Feb
24
2018

What Causes Premature Aging?

Some people look 10 years older than their stated age, and we often wonder: what causes premature aging? Accelerated or premature aging can have a multitude of underlying causes. I will list a few here:

1. Weakening hormones

Men go through andropause at around the age of 60 to 65 and women go through menopause around the age of 55 to 65. In both males and females it is the sex hormones that are missing around that age. If hormones replacement follows fairly quickly with bioidentical hormones, this will not affect the visual appearance that much. In contrast, if bioidentical hormones are not the therapeutic choice for  hormone replacement, but synthetic ones, the hormones are not in balance, as synthetic hormones do not restore the hormonal balance. Nothing is gained, as the person will still age prematurely.

Synthetic versus bioidentical hormone replacement

In addition the synthetic hormones will cause heart attacks, strokes, clots, and cancer. Prescriptions for synthetic hormones are often the cause that the aging patient population gets these serious complications. Frequently physicians insist on using synthetic hormones from a “reputable” drug company to replace missing hormones. The reason this does not work is that a male has testosterone receptors. They need to be stimulated by bioidentical testosterone to restore all of his missing functions. Also, the same is true in menopausal females who need stimulation of their estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors. Consequently, only bioidentical hormones will return a postmenopausal woman back to normal. There is a perfect fit between the bioidentical replacement hormones and her hormone receptors. Using synthetic hormones is like trying to unlock a door with a key that does not have a perfect fit: you damage the lock!

2. Missing human growth hormone (HGH) and thyroid hormones

These hormones have a special place in aging.

Human growth hormone deficiency

First, HGH production is running out in many people at age 60. A person with HGH deficiency will have lower muscle mass and strength. Other symptoms are dry and thin skin, particularly at the back of the hands. Men are balding, and they loose interest in sex. There are difficulties concentrating and they may have “senior moments”, which are memory lapses. Often they are prone to depression and anxiety. A blood test will frequently show elevated triglycerides. A blood test (IGF-1) and a urine test exist which make it possible to look for HGH metabolites to assess whether a 40, 50 or 60 year-old person is producing enough HGH. Many may need replacement of HGH. This is administered by injection through a tiny needle into the skin, similar to a diabetic injecting insulin. This will bring back what was missing due to HGH deficiency.

Thyroid hormone deficiency

Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are other important factors that could make you look older prematurely. Your hair is getting thinner; your skin turns dry and pale. The nails may be getting brittle. When the outside half of the eyebrows is very thin or missing, this can be a sign of hypothyroidism. In a similar vein the skin in the face may be puffed up due to swelling of the layers under the skin (myxedema). It is important to diagnose hypothyroidism, which is common in the aging population. The physician needs to order a blood tests (TSH, T3 and T4). If TSH is above the upper limit, your physician needs to replace both T3 and T4 by tablets (I prefer Armour as the T3 and T4 is balanced).

3. Smoking

The lining of the airways absorb cigarette smoke. The chemicals circulate around in the blood and lead to aging of the skin. Chronic cigarette smoke exposure also melts away the subcutaneous tissue. The end result is a haggard look. The natural glow disappears from the skin and because of carbon monoxide binding to hemoglobin the skin color looks more greyish. In addition the blood vessels are narrowing or clogging. This means that the body cannot absorb nutrients as well, and cells are starving. There is only one remedy for this: quit smoking!

4. Overexposure to ultraviolet light

The radiation of UV light can penetrate deep into and under the skin. This makes the subcutaneous fat melt away. The largest UV exposure is in the facial area. As a result we see aging there. The end result is a sagging appearance of the face. This link has an image of a woman before and after a non-surgical facelift with stem cells and fatty tissue: Stem Cell Treatments That Are Currently Available – Medical Articles by Dr. Ray

In a surgical procedure the physician harvests mesenchymal stem cells from fatty tissue by liposuction. A cell separator separates the mesenchymal stem cells, the connective tissue and the fat cells. The connective tissue is discarded. Mesenchymal stem cells and fat cells are mixed and injected into the thinned subcutaneous fatty tissue until the person’s younger facial contour is back to normal. Typically this will last for 10 years or more.

5. Drugs and alcohol abuse

Both can lead to malnutrition with weight loss and loss of subcutaneous fatty tissue, which causes sagging breasts in women. In men “beer tits” are common. The reason for this is estrogen accumulation, as alcohol interferes with the elimination of estrogen in the liver. Alcohol is a general cell poison. It causes all of the cells to age prematurely. The more alcohol you drink, the faster you age. The skin develops wrinkles, loss of elasticity and collagen, redness and puffiness. In other words chronic alcohol abuse ages you prematurely. The only remedy for this is to quit drinking. Some of your skin vitality may come back. Our body has an amazing capability to heal itself!

6. Medical illnesses

Many medical illnesses like diabetes, mental illness (depression and schizophrenia), multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease; cancer and others make you look a lot older very fast.

I will briefly explain the reasons for this.

  • Diabetes

With diabetes type 2 the pancreas releases too much insulin after a meal with starches and sugar; think about a sweet muffin or a toast with jam. The extra insulin causes inflammation. This stimulates enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.

  • Mental illness like depression and schizophrenia

We know from studies that depression leads to shortening of telomeres. This in turn causes cell death in the most rapidly dividing cells like in the skin and hair follicles. The end result is prematurely aged hair and skin. Schizophrenia also leads to premature shortening of the telomeres, which causes premature aging, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation and oxidative stress. The end result is that the person looks older than what their chronological age is.

  • Multiple sclerosis

It is sometimes difficult to discern in patients with MS what is normal aging and what is aging from the disease. This link gives some background on this. Many MS patients are anxious, and anxiety and stress by itself also leads to premature aging.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

The chronic inflammation of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can lead to premature aging. High doses of vitamin D3 and molecularly distilled fish oil can be useful to help treat the inflammation. Probiotics are also important to restore the bowel flora.

  • Cancer

Cancer leads to cachexia (excessive weight loss). There is also excessive inflammation, which leads to accelerated aging. The inflammation causes increased oxidative stress. This leads to tissue damage and DNA damage, which makes all cells more vulnerable to develop other cancers. Oxidative stress can substantially accelerate telomere shortening. As a result skin can become saggy, wrinkles develop and the person looks prematurely aged.

7. A chronic lack of physical activity

People who never exercise tend to get overweight and eventually obese. This leads to premature aging. Exercise would elongate telomeres, but inactivity shortens them. Obesity leads to increased oxidative stress and to DNA damage. Obesity also shortens telomeres. All of this leads to premature aging.

What Causes Premature Aging?

What Causes Premature Aging?

Conclusion

These are only a few examples of causes of accelerated aging. The key is to stick to a healthy, balanced diet (like the Mediterranean diet) and exercise regularly. Stop smoking (if you do), don’t take street drugs, and make sure you get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps your hormones regenerate overnight. The sympathetic overdrive from your daily activities is counterbalanced by the parasympathetic activities during sleep that causes relaxation. For hormone replacement you may have to see an anti-aging physician, a naturopath or integrative medicine physician. This may be your only chance to address any hormonal deficiencies. Conventional medicine does a very poor job of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) with synthetic hormones. Conventional practitioners want to treat you with synthetic hormones that will make you sick. Hormones for replacement have to be bioidentical! This way you will live 10 to 15 years longer, look younger and stay healthy.

Jul
30
2016

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

The American Medical Association (AMA) has just released a new policy recommendation and statement that LED streetlights can be harmful. After meticulous reviews of the research on the effect of white LED streetlights and their effect on health the AMA decided that it needed to publish its recommendations so that city fathers have some guidelines for illuminating their cities.

Cost and energy savings from white streetlights

Many cities in the US have already switched from the yellowish traditional streetlights to the high-intensity LED lighting. The cities did this unilaterally without consulting health professionals or the public. The cities wanted to save money by using white LED lights. But as we will discover below there are serious health consequences to this.

Historic lighting solutions

We did not always have streetlights. Physicists use Kelvin units (K) to measure the intensity of light. The term“color temperature” (CT) is in us to describe color composition. Before Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison invented electricity we burnt candles and wood at night. This produced a light of 1800 K, which was yellow and red with hardly any blue. Next came incandescent light bulbs. They have a color temperature of 2400 K, which contains less blue and more yellow and red. The new light source is the LED light, which contains a lot more blue color and appears to us as white light. The color temperature is around 4000 K to 5000 K.

LED streetlights can be harmful to your health

Who would have thought that switching streetlights could have anything to do with your health? The newest LED street lights are emitting large amounts of blue light. Our eyes perceive this as white light, but it also creates nighttime glare, much more so than conventional lighting. Eye discomfort from blue-rich LED lighting can interfere with visual acuity and cause road hazards. The blue-rich LED streetlights happen to operate at the wavelength that suppresses melatonin during the night. Researchers believe that the white LED lamps cause interference with the important circadian sleep rhythm. This effect is much stronger with the white LED lights in comparison to the conventional streetlights. The interference with the sleep rhythm means that there is less sleep time. The sleep subjects reported that their sleep quality was unsatisfactory. There is daytime sleepiness and impaired daytime functioning. White light LED lights can even cause obesity.

Effect of white LED light on animals

Animals can also react to white LED light. The bright outdoor LED lights disturb many species that need a dark environment. Poorly designed LED lighting disorients some birds. Researchers detected that insects, turtles and certain fish species also experience disturbance in their habitat by white LED lights. US national parks have adopted lighting designs that reduce the effects of light pollution on wildlife. So far nobody has shown any concern, what light pollution does to humans!

AMA guidelines to reduce impact of white LED lights

The AMA has come out with new guidelines to help reduce the impact of white LED light. Instead of high-intensity white streetlights the AMA recommends to communities to use the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The AMA has recommended a color temperature of no more than 3000 K. This type of light has more of a mix of blue, green, yellow and red in it and very little white. In contrast the CT of bright LED streetlights have 4000 K to 5000 K. This contains a lot of blue light, which appears as white to the eye. Seattle and New York belong to the cities that recently had their streetlights retrofitted to the white LED streetlights.

American Medical Association (AMA) recommendation

According to the AMA guidelines these lights should now be refitted again. The AMA also recommends that the lights should be shielded to minimize glare and the detrimental effect on humans and the environment. There should also be a possibility of dimming the lights in off-peak periods.

Evidence from medical literature that LED streetlights can be harmful

Here I am reviewing what has been found in the medical literature about white LED lighting that is now preferably used in street lighting.

Cataracts caused by high color temperature

A Chinese lab tested epithelial cell lines derived from human lenses under a variety of light sources. The lab had previously established that oxidative stress on epithelial cells from human lenses was the most important factor for developing cataracts in humans. Human epithelial cells were cultured in the presence of different LED light frequencies. A high color temperature of 7378 K caused damage to the epithelium while controls of lower color temperatures of 2954 K and 5624 K LED lights did not. The authors concluded that white LED light with a high color temperature could cause significant photobiological damage to human lens epithelial cells. This in turn can cause cataracts and legal blindness.

Human retinal cell cultures damaged by white LED light

Another research group studied human epithelial pigment retinal cells in tissue culture. They exposed the tissue cultures to various light frequencies, namely white, blue, green or red LED light. Reactive oxygen and DNA damage were assessed. The white light showed the highest amount of damage to the human retinal cell in culture.

Intermittent exposure to white LED light in long-term care residents

In a trial on senior long-term care home residents researchers found that intermittent exposure to bright light (versus red light) showed positive cognitive effects on the seniors. It is not clear why with respect to cognitive function there is a positive finding using white LED lights, while the other tests mentioned above showed negative effects on the lens and the retina of the eyes.

Blue light filters for night shift workers

In another investigation blue light filters were employed in night shift workers and the investigators detected beneficial health effects. In animal experiments the same results were found.

Normally in shift workers cancer, heart disease, metabolic disturbances, depression, anxiety disorders and reproductive problems are found.

 

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

LED Streetlights Can Be Harmful

Conclusion

Despite the evidence in the medical literature showing that yellow lights are better than the newer white LED lights, cities have been converting the yellow streetlights to white LED streetlights. It makes economic sense, but harms people. The American Medical Association is attempting to convince authorities to use common sense. The AMA wrote guidelines and hopes that city fathers will reconsider their decisions. If you are concerned, voice your opinion by talking to your political representative.

Nov
30
2013

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Lovastatin (Mevacor, from Merck) was the first statin drug approved by the FDA in 1987 as a cholesterol-lowering drug in the US. It made history in helping high-risk heart attack patients reduce their cholesterol levels and has helped safe many lives. But with the detection around 2002 that heart disease is an inflammatory disease, and that measuring the C-reactive protein with a blood test was a better than measuring cholesterol levels in predicting who would be at risk for developing a heart attack, the landscape has changed. Lifestyle changes have also been shown to be very effective in reducing cholesterol, C-reactive protein and triglyceride levels. In fact, lifestyle changes will reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. The newest flurry of activity with calls for putting more people on statins makes me suspicious that there could be a misrepresentation of the facts.

In this blog I am analyzing the literature to get to the bottom of the facts on reducing risk for heart attacks and strokes. I also come to my own conclusion.

Facts about cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is part of the cell walls and plays a vital role in our metabolism. Liver cell membranes, for instance contain about 30% cholesterol. However, most of the cholesterol in our body comes from metabolism, 20 to 25% from the liver, the rest in the gut, adrenal glands and the reproductive organs, and also from the brain (the myelin sheaths contain a lot of cholesterol). 50% of the body’s cholesterol is recycled through bile salts and reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut (called the enterohepatic pathway).

Cholesterol is vital for cell function, for insulation of nerve fibers (myelin sheaths) and for synthesis of our steroid hormones (sex hormones and vitamin D3, which  is now considered to be a hormone). The medical establishment took most of the information regarding heart attack and stroke prevention from the ongoing Framingham study. This clearly pointed to the importance of lowering the LDL cholesterol fraction (the “bad” cholesterol) and maintaining or increasing the HDL fraction (the “good” cholesterol). When it was realized that concentrating only on lowering cholesterol missed 50% of all heart attacks that researchers refocused and found the missing link, namely inflammation. Inflammation is at the cause of heart attacks and strokes, high cholesterol and lipids were only secondary phenomena. Ref. 2 points out that a comprehensive approach to treating a patient with high cholesterol should involve a combination of treatments aimed at the underlying risk factors for heart disease or stroke in a particular patient. This involves sophisticated blood tests where a metabolic derangement can be pinpointed. It should include measuring cholesterol fractions, lipids, the C-reactive protein, hormone levels and more.

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

Statins Can Hurt The Consumer

How the traditional thinking about cholesterol has changed

The Framingham study has provided the basis for the drug industry to produce statins until about 2002 when our thinking about cholesterol being the culprit for causing heart attacks has forever changed. Subsequently further research showed that other factors like inflammation of the blood vessels, the metabolic syndrome associated with obesity and lack of exercise were also to blame for causing heart attacks and strokes. Recently more details have come to light, which point to multiple causes like the consumption of too much sugar, too much trans fats, too much salt and eating too much over processed convenience food.  We end up gaining weight, develop the metabolic syndrome and inflammation of arteries (including the coronary arteries of the heart and the brain vessels). It is the lack of nitric oxide in the lining of the arteries, which combined with inflammatory substances from visceral fat are responsible for hardening of the arteries as the ultimate consequence of faulty nutrition and lack of exercise. We also know that oxidized LDL, particularly the very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), will release free radicals and damage the arterial walls. CoQ-10 is a supplement, which is known to counteract this. One important test that had developed out of the Framingham study is the “ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol”, which is used by cardiologists to determine the risk of coronary artery disease. The average risk of this ratio for Americans is 5.0 for males and 4.4 for females. The ideal ratio to strive for is  the “1/2 average risk” ratio of 3.4 for males and 3.3 for women (Ref.2). A fit, slim person who eats a low carb, normal fat diet (modified Mediterranean diet) will often have a ratio of only 3.0, well below the 1/2 average risk. The moment you introduce grains in your diet (cereals, bread, pasta) your liver will convert carbs into LDL cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol will drop resulting in a high risk ratio of above 5.0 (often 7 or 8 or more). The LDL will get oxidized and is deposited into your arteries setting you up for coming down with a heart attack or stroke down the road.

How do statins work?

The statins are a group of drugs that inhibit an enzyme, called the hydroxymethylglutaryl–Coenzyme A (HMG-CoA), which leads to a lowering of cholesterol, specifically a fraction known as the LDL cholesterol. The success story of lovastatin (Mevacor) led to a flurry of new HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (cholesterol lowering drugs) such as fluvastatin (Lescol), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor) in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. Collectively it is now a 26 billion industry in annual sales.

Later investigations showed that there were other mechanisms by which statins helped, namely they were found to decrease the inflammatory reaction, which can be measured by lowering of the C-reactive protein. However, there are significant side effects in about 1 to 3% of people who take this medication, particularly an inflammation of liver cells (evident from elevation of liver enzymes) and a myopathy, which is a painful muscle condition (Ref. 1). This latter fact, which can occur in as many as 33% of the population at large (particularly the exercise minded) has limited the use of statins in competitive athletes where myopathies can occur in as many as 75% of athletes treated with statins (Ref.2). The reason for that is that the muscles of athletes cannot keep up with the demands put on them when they are kept in check by the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. On the other hand statins have prevented heart attacks and deaths from heart attacks and strokes in about 25% to 35% of patients treated with them as many clinical trials have shown (Ref.1), but simple supplements that have no side effects can do the same or do even better (see below).

The lack of cholesterol synthesis by the body’s cells when statins are given, leads to an expression of more LDL receptors on the cell surfaces. LDL binds to these receptors and enters the cells, which removes the circulating high risk LDL fraction of cholesterol from the blood thus causing a drop in LDL cholesterol. All of the side effects of statins (pull down to side effects in this link) can be explained as a result of the slow-down of organ functions (brain, muscles, gut, adrenal glands, etc.) as cholesterol synthesis is reduced.

New information from the Framingham Heart Study

So far everything I said made sense. But when I came across Ref. 4 I noticed that there was a bombshell of new information from another follow-up study of the Framingham Heart Study (Ref. 5) that did not fit in with the latest marketing drive of the statin manufacturers. In this study from 2005 Boston researchers had studied the outcomes of 789 men and 1105 women over a period of 16 to 18 years with respect to cognitive function. Participants were divided into total cholesterol groups that showed levels that were desirable (less than 200), borderline (200 to 239) or high (above 240). The astounding results were that higher cognitive functioning as documented in multiple cognitive tests in these three groups showed the best performance in the group with the highest cholesterol and the worst cognitive test outcomes in the lowest cholesterol group, quite opposite of what was expected.

Another important piece of research (April 2013) comes from Spain where doctors followed a group of 7447 patients with a high cardiovascular risk who were put on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with nuts or a regular diet. The end point was death from heart attack or stroke. After 4.8 years the study had to be interrupted as the Mediterranean groups showed a significant survival advantage over the group on a regular diet.

Ref. 4 cited literature evidence that statins cause a 48% increased risk in postmenopausal women who take statins to develop diabetes. It also cites compelling evidence that diabetes patients are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 15 years and are 1.75 times more likely to develop any kind of dementia in the same time period.

Dr. Seneff from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT explains in great detail that statins effectively reduce cholesterol synthesis in the liver, which in turn starves the brain of one of its main nutrients explaining why patient develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as a result of statin treatment.

So, the lessons to be learnt from these clinical trials are that you want to offer your brain enough cholesterol and healthy fat to have a normal metabolism. Fortunately, what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. Conversely avoid statins, if you can and try alternatives first. Ref. 4 explains that for years the experts had the wrong theory that low fat/high carb was what would be good for your heart and brain, but the opposite is true: what is good for your heart and brain is a high healthy fats/low refined carb diet.

Make sure that with your blood tests that fasting insulin is low (no insulin resistance), that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is less than 3.4 (low risk for heart attacks or strokes) and that the hemoglobin A1C level is low (4.8 to 5.6%, ideally less than 4.5%), which means you are not diabetic.

How alternative treatment can save you from heart attacks

Lifestyle treatment through dietary intervention, moderate exercise, and weight loss has been somewhat neglected by mainstream medicine, but is now recognized in regular textbooks of medicine as first-line treatment (Ref. 3). Most patients can lower LDL cholesterol by 10 to 15% through a change in diet. High-risk patients with established heart disease (narrowing of coronary arteries) require a drop of 30 to 60% of LDL cholesterol; this high-risk patient group may need an addition of a statin. In patients with metabolic syndrome or diabetes high triglycerides are often present and will respond to decreased intake of simple sugars, alcohol, and calories (Ref.3). Total calorie intake should be adjusted according to what the weight is when weighed every day with the goal of reducing the weight when overweight or obese, but maintaining the weight when it is in the normal body mass index range (BMI of 20 to 25). The total fat intake should be around 25%-35% of the total calorie intake. Specifically, saturated fat needs to be less than 7% of total calories, polyunsaturated fat up to 10% of total calories and monounsaturated fat up to 20% of total calories. Healthy fats according to Ref. 4 are extra-virgin olive oil, organic butter, almond milk, avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters and cheese ( except for blue cheeses). Other healthy fats are sesame oil, coconut oil, and the oils found in seeds like flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Note that trans-fats (such as in margarine and baked goods) are a “no-no” as it causes free radicals in your body, which would accelerate the hardening of your arteries. Complex carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit are the main source of total calories providing 50%-60% of the total calories. Fiber intake needs to be 20-30 grams per day. Protein intake should be about 15% of total calories. Fat should provide 25% to 35% of the total calories per day. Cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg per day. You may want to consider the use of plant sterols (2 grams per day) to enhance LDL cholesterol lowering. Physical activity from moderate exercise should expend at least 200 kcal per day (better 300 kcal).

Which supplements prevent heart attacks and strokes?

There are several nutrients that have been shown to be powerful preventers of heart attacks and strokes. I will review them briefly here (based on Ref. 2):

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): The cells lining the arteries are only working well when their mitochondria are working properly producing chemical energy in form of ATP. CoQ10 is an important component of the mitochondrial metabolism; it is also the only fat soluble antioxidant that gets absorbed into the LDL particles where it protects these from oxidation. Statins suppress CoQ10 synthesis, so patients on statins need to take CoQ10 supplements daily to counteract this. However, anybody who is healthy now should take CoQ10 as a daily supplement for prevention. I take 400 mg per day.

2. Vitamin E (tocopherols): this fat soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and has been praised in the past as being heart supportive, was subsequently bad-mouthed by some conservative physicians, but lately has been resurrected. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the most known, but gamma tocopherol is the one you want to make sure you are also getting with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day as this is the one that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Simply ask staff at your health food store for a vitamin E supplement with gamma tocopherol in it. Take 400 IU per day (of the mix).

3. Curcumin: This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one; it is reducing oxidative stress, is an anti-inflammatory and counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed a reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when 500 mg of curcumin was taken only for 7 days (Ref.2). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

4. Polyphenols: Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols contained in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine.  Over 130 studies have been done on humans showing improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has been associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.2). Take about 250 mg of it daily.

5. Niacin/nicotinic acid: This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin; it can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when higher doses of 2.25 grams per day are used. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies it has been shown to significantly reduce heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks (precursor syndrome before developing a stroke). Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin has also been shown to reduce oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

6. Fish oil (omega-3-fatty acids): Because heart attacks are due to an inflammatory process and high LDL cholesterol is thought to be only a secondary phenomenon, it is very important to have this additional tool of an important anti-inflammatory supplement. In the past it was still safe to eat fish fairly frequently per week. But with mercury, radioactive iodine from Japan’s leaking reactor and carcinogenic PBC’s all congregating in the ocean waters, it is no longer safe to consume fish in large quantities. The remedy to this situation is molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid. Fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA were shown to reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor or even more effective, but without the statin side effects. The amount of the dangerous small dense LDL is also being reduced with fish oil. Fish oil supplements have reduced the mortality from heart attacks and strokes and led to a higher survival from non-fatal heart attacks. At the same time these preventative fish oil doses will also treat and prevent arthritis.

7. Other useful supplements: Soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others have been shown in clinical trials to reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway). Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that have been proven to be of benefit in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

Conclusion

Recently there was a review in a medical journal that demonstrated that clinical guidelines (in this case for clinical guidelines for lowering cholesterol) erred 40% of the times when measured against scientific tests as this link explains. When it comes to saving lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes, what is needed is a multifactorial approach that treats the multifactorial causes of cardiovascular disease. Just pushing for treating more people with statins as Big Pharma is attempting to do is not addressing the fact that cholesterol is needed for our metabolism and the synthesis of our hormones. It is much superior to use a combination of different approaches that overlap and thus potentiate each other in their effects excluding statins first. Exercise creates more nitric oxide production by the lining of the arteries, which opens up arteries and prevents spasms. A proper diet with as many of the proven vitamins and other support factors will control inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles as explained. This will prevent heart attacks and strokes as has been shown in many clinical trials. Only patients who come from families with genetically high cholesterol or high triglycerides and those patients who had heart attacks and strokes should be exposed to statins as they are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack or stroke. They need all of the help they can get in addition to the lifestyle factors mentioned. Most other patients and the public at large will do quite well without statins (no side effects of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and muscle pains). And, yes, a diet high in healthy fats, but low in refined carbs is what your brain and heart need (the opposite of what you have thought, see Ref. 4).

More information about side-effects of statins (acute pancreatitis): https://www.askdrray.com/pancreatitis-can-occur-with-statin-use/

Lower cholesterol with Mediterranean diet: http://nethealthbook.com/news/mediterranean-diet-benefits-us-workers/

 

References

1. Bonow: Braunwald’s Heart Disease – A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

2. Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013

3. Melmed: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th ed. © 2011 Saunders.

4. 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.

5. http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/67/1/24.full.pdf

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014