May
21
2014

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

 

3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!

Conclusion:

As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/cancer-mortality-rate/

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis: http://nethealthbook.com/news/higher-vitamin-d-levels-associated-lower-risk-mortality/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Feb
08
2014

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

It has been known for a long time that cancer cells can survive without the ordinary aerobic pathways of energy production. They can get energy from a metabolic pathway, which bypasses normal cell metabolism (aerobic glycolysis). But many attempts of designing a cancer therapy to exploit this difference have so far been unsuccessful.

This Mayo Clinic website even explains that it would be a myth that cancer would grow better with sugar. The following pieces of research question this myth.

Sugar makes cancer grow faster (activates oncogenes) in fruit flies

In this study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City fruit flies were used as an animal model. You may ask, why fruit flies; we are not fruit flies, we are humans! As incredible as it sounds, on a cellular level our cell metabolism and the cell metabolism of fruit flies is identical. But the generation time of fruit flies is much shorter and results can be seen in days and weeks. To achieve the same in human trials would take months and years. Also, researchers could breed a strain of fruit flies that was susceptible to develop tumors. When they were fed sugar, the fruit flies developed insulin resistance within a short time. This model was chosen by the researchers as it is known for some time that in humans insulin resistance from diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic diseases leads to a higher risk of developing breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. The researchers wanted to sort out what the metabolic advantage of the cancer cells was under these conditions.

The researchers found that the sugar in the diet activated silent cancer causing genes (called “oncogenes)” in the fruit flies that in turn helped to promote insulin resistance and the development of tumors. Because of the insulin resistance sugar could not enter into the normal body cells, but the tumor was using up all of the sugar allowing the tumor cells to multiply at a rapid rate. The end result was that the sugar from the diet fed the cancer cells directly making them grow faster. Interestingly, when these flies that had developed tumors on a high sugar diet were switched to a high protein/low sugar diet, the tumors stopped growing and were contained.

In this fruit fly example the researchers were subsequently able to block cancer cell growth by special cancer suppressing drugs (acarbose, pyrvinium and an experimental drug AD81), which were given in combination. 90% of the flies given the triple-drug treatment survived to adulthood while control flies not treated with this regimen all died of their tumors.

Although this model was only done in fruit flies and one could question whether or not this was relevant to what is happening in human cancer patients, the following piece of research puts this fear to rest.

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

Sugar As A Cause Of Cancer

Human breast cancer cell study in vitro

In January 2014 the American Society for Clinical Investigation published a collaborative study between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, CA and the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, which used human breast cells in tissue culture showing that sugar could cause breast cancer.

The original papers of this US/Japanese research team are quite technical and I do not expect you to understand this link where it is published. I posted it for those who want in depth information. The researchers used a simple tissue culture model where they could observe tumor growth in cell cultures under the microscope using a gel where the breast tissue samples were placed side by side with normal breast cells that served as controls. The cell cultures of both normal cells and malignant cells were obtained from the same reduction mammoplasty tissue samples. This way the cell cultures mimicked a situation as close to the reality of what is going on in a woman’s body when breast cancer develops.

The normal breast epithelial cells were seen in culture to get organized as a roundish cell formation (an acinus formation) while the cancer cells were growing as irregular cell clumps. This visual effect was reproducible and is depicted in the paper. With high sugar concentrations in the growth medium breast cancer cells multiplied at a faster rate, not so the normal cells. But some normal cells underwent a transformation into abnormal and cancerous cell types. On the other hand, when sugar concentrations were severely restricted, morphological changes took place where cancer cells slowed down their growth or stagnated while some of them even changed into the normal cell formation (acinus formation). Using various known oncogene stabilizers the investigators could show that the same effect was noted as with the low sugar concentration in the growth medium.

The investigators tested whether other cell lines of breast cancer would show similar results as to the effects of sugar feeding or restriction. They were able to show that high sugar feeding activated cancer cells, no matter where the cancer cell lines originated. The authors discussed that metformin, which is known to control the metabolism in diabetic patients and lowers blood sugar levels, has also been shown to calm down growth of cancer (due to stopping oncogene stimulation), which improves the survival rates of many different cancer types in diabetic patients; it also reduces the risk of developing cancer in those who are taking metformin.

Other investigators have shown in mouse experiments that an impressive lowering of cancer rates could be achieved with low carb diets.

Human evidence for cancer causation and cancer prevention

Several clinical studies seem to indicate that there is a higher cancer rate in diabetics where insulin resistance can lead to activation of cancer producing genes (called oncogenes) and cause various cancers. In this link colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer are discussed in relationship to diabetes and insulin resistance. High glycemic foods (sugar, starchy foods) were associated with breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. The majority of trials showed this association although not all. The more obese patients were, the more pronounced the insulin resistance was and the more the relationship to these cancers became apparent. A diet that is high in starchy foods like potatoes, rice and bread is causing pancreatic cancer as was shown by researchers at the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health. High glycemic diets have shown to cause colorectal cancer, diabetes and being overweight. The Standard North American Diet (SAD) is a pathway to many chronic illnesses due its high load in refined carbohydrates. Ironically the abbreviation for it is “SAD”, which in my opinion reflects adequately its sad influence on health and well being. We know now that sugar and starchy foods lead to insulin overproduction, which in turn causes the metabolic syndrome (also known as “insulin resistance”). This causes the immune system to weaken and fat to be deposited as visceral fat in the stomach area. Visceral fat is metabolically very active as it secretes cytokines like tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), COX-2 enzymes and others. Insulin and growth factors from the visceral fat gang up together with the elevated blood sugar, which activates tumor-producing genes (oncogenes) to cause cancer.

While cancer rates are higher in patients with insulin resistance, they were lower in patients who did have normal insulin levels. It is important to concentrate your efforts on normalizing weight, which will normalize insulin sensibility and avoid the development of cancer. Sugar avoidance and avoidance of cereals and starchy foods will help you achieve this goal.

Conclusion

Although the idea that sugar could cause cancer has been around since 1924 (Dr. Warburg), it has taken up to now to be proven in animals and humans.

The purpose of this blog was to show how there is a connection between the consumption of sugar and starchy foods and various cancers in man. Animal experiments are useful in suggesting these connections, but many clinical trials including the Women’s Health Initiative have shown that these findings are also true in humans. It is insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption that is causing cancer.

We are now in a position to know why people who consume a low carb diet, develop less cancer than people who consume a high carb diet. I have followed such a low carb diet (also known as low-glycemic index food diet) since 2001 and find it easy to follow. However, I do not dispute that it takes some discipline to change the old way of eating to the new one. The benefits are definitely worth it: you are feeling well now and you are staying well as you age.

More information about hyperinsulinism that can cause breast cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/breast-cancer/causes-breast-cancer/

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

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Apr
07
2013

Caution, Processed Food Ahead

During the last month there have been three large studies that drew media attention regarding healthy food intake. The first study dealt with processed meats (sausages, ham, bacon). Over 12.7 years those consuming 160 Gm per day (=5.64 oz.) were 44% more likely to die prematurely than those who ate only 20 Gm (=0.7 oz.) of processed meat per day. The study included 10 European countries including about 500,000 people over almost 13 years; nearly 10,000 people died from cancer and 5,500 from heart problems.

Then there was the Harvard study that analyzed 114 national dietary surveys around the globe and came to the conclusion that every year there are 180,000 obesity related deaths from overuse of sugary drinks. The US stands third highest on the ranking list regarding deaths from drinking sugary soda pops. The deaths are due to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes, which associate with obesity.

As if this was not enough the third bad news story was published shortly after regarding salt overuse: At a cardiology conference in New Orleans Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the main author regarding the sugar study mentioned above, revealed a long-term study regarding salt intake between 1990 and 2010 .  He determined that 15% of all deaths that occur around the world every year (which translated into 2.3 million people) are the result of salt overuse. The recommended salt limit is 1500 mg per day. But many people in the study consumed 4000 to 6000 mg of salt per day or more. This led to hypertension, heart attacks and strokes with the yearly mortality rates indicated.

Caution, Processed Food Ahead

Caution, Processed Food Ahead

 

What do these studies have in common and why is processed food so devastating?

All these studies pointed out that processed foods are dangerous to your health. Sausages, ham and bacon contain a lot of fat and salt; they are full of extra calories and they elevate your fatty substances in your blood (triglycerides, cholesterol). The extra salt raises your blood pressure. Processed meat is also poor in omega-3-fatty acids. No wonder that they can cause heart problems and cancer.

Next we have the sugary soda drinks, but also the hidden sugar in starchy processed foods like cookies, bagels, bread and cakes. Dough and pasta digests within 30 minutes into sugar, which your gut absorbs and your liver processes as extra calories to be stored as fat. Where? As visceral fat and subcutaneous fat,  and the end result is obesity. At the same time the sugar from soft drinks and the sugar from starches stimulate the pancreas to produce extra insulin, which leads to hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. This is known as metabolic syndrome and was found to be an independent risk factor for heart attacks apart from high LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides. We know for quite some time that obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are all associated with a higher rate of deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

Finally, there is the salt overuse story. In 2009 the same Harvard group that gave us the world data on salt mortality now, stated that 102,000 Americans die every year from salt overconsumption. The same study cited that 82,000 Americans die needlessly every year due to their love affair with deep fried foods (due to high trans fatty acids) , and 84,000 die from a lack of omega-3-fatty acids in their diet, which when present in the diet protects from heart attacks and strokes. What does food processing do? It reduces or eliminates dietary omega-3-fatty acids, adds cheap oils containing omega-6-fatty acids (the fatty acids that lead to inflammation), adds salt, sugar and starch. It is the perfect recipe to die from strokes and heart attacks. The same research group from Harvard University did a study in India, published in 2010, where they established that salt overconsumption caused insulin resistance and this was the cause of higher mortality from heart attacks and strokes.

Other studies pointing to the dangers of processed food

Deficits in cognitive function (dementia or Alzheimer’s disease) have been linked to dietary habits, particularly sugar and starch overconsumption. Research has established that hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance is responsible for the degenerative changes in the brain of Alzheimer patients. This study also pointed out that these diets are typically very low or deficient in omega-3-fatty acids, which is necessary for normal nerve cell metabolism in the brain. The lack of it leads to brain cell disease like Alzheimer’s and a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in nerves leads to damaged nerves which in turn cause excruciating pain.This condition is also known as neuropathy. Here is a good blog about why you should avoid processed foods, if you want to keep a clear mind as you are aging.

In the middle ages it was first observed that overindulging in red meat and sausages caused gout attacks.Gout was known as a disease of the rich. Higher uric acid levels, which are found in gout have been linked to higher mortality rates from heart attacks and stokes. A low purine diet can lower the risk for gout and also the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It is interesting that this type of a diet is also devoid of processed food at the same time.

What can we do to reduce dangers to our health?

We have identified the suspects; it is sugar, starchy foods, salt and processed meats. Instead of just buying precooked meals, boxed foods and other processed foods from the center of the grocery store or from a fast food place, look for original ingredients more at the periphery of the grocery store.  Read food labels and look for sugar, fat and salt content. Start buying organic food and buy the ingredients you need to prepare a meal by yourself. When you start preparing your own meals with organic ingredients, you may as well avoid the toxins that I described in a recent blog.

By buying organic foods, you largely avoid these toxins. Don’t exceed your daily limit of 1500 mg of salt, as your kidneys are not able to process this and would cause you to get high blood pressure. Personally I cut out all sugar and starch from my diet since 2001. This includes potatoes, pasta, bread, bagels, French fries, toast etc. However, you will get enough complex carbohydrates (from vegetables and greens), which get absorbed much slower and do not cause the insulin surge by the pancreas as highly processed carbs would do. You want to eat foods rich in omega-3-fatty acids, but there are problems with seafood (even salmon) as it is often contaminated with mercury. You can circumvent this by taking three capsules of high potency, molecularly distilled omega-3 per day. This is free of toxins and protects your brain and nerves from the dangers mentioned above. Your organic vegetables and greens have enough natural minerals in them that you will hardly ever require to add salt to your food. Do not add extra salt when you cook or when you eat your prepared meals. Use spices instead. Also avoid eating out too often. Restaurants are notorious for overusing salt.

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

Here is a useful blog that helps you to identify the problems with processed food and what you need to do to improve your food intake. http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/processed-foods.html

Other links:

1. Processed meat: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/processed-meat-cancer-heart-disease-death-risk_n_2829092.html

2. Sugary drinks: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/health/sugary-drinks-deaths/index.html?hpt=he_c2

3. Alzheimer’s and pre-diabetes with insulin resistance: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/17/carb-diet-alzheimers/1637481/

Last edited Nov. 6, 2014