May
11
2013

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

The recent news of gut bacteria possibly being involved in causing heart attacks (see details below) sounds pretty outrageous. In order to make this more understandable, we need to start backtracking how bacteria end up in our gut and what they are doing there.

Gut bacteria in our bowels at various stages in life

Even among infants there is a huge difference in the composition of the gut flora depending on whether the baby was vaginally delivered, born by Cesarean section or prematurely born and nursed in an intensive care unit for a prolonged period of time.

When we are grown up, it depends on where we live on our planet as to what type of gut flora we have. A 2011 study of the bacterial composition of stool samples in Europe versus Africa showed that the European microbiome in the colon was typical of the Bacteroides enterotype, whereas the African microbiome was dominated by the Prevotella enterotype. Other studies have shown that the type of diet we eat causes us to harbor different types of gut flora. A person eating a more vegetarian diet will have a Prevotella enterotype gut flora, while another person eating a Western style fat and protein dominated diet will have a Bacteroides enterotype gut flora. What is the gut flora doing? It lives within our gut for our mutual benefit. We provide the gut bacteria a comfortable home at body temperature where they grow best. They in turn ferment undigested foods, protect us from the growth of harmful bacteria, produce vitamins like vitamin K and biotin, and produce hormones that direct the body to store excess food as fat.

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Cleveland Clinic’s gut flora research linked to heart attacks

In April 2013 reports that heart attacks may be related to the composition of your gut flora hit the popular press, articles like this. Two years earlier, in April of 2011, the same Cleveland research group under Dr. Stanley Hazen found that the gut flora composition has an impact on heart disease. They stated that a “byproduct called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is produced when intestinal bacteria digest the nutrient phosphatidylcholine, commonly known as lecithin”. It was determined that the liver was responsible for producing TMAO out of absorbed materials from gut bacteria and that this was responsible for accelerating hardening of the arteries, which in turn caused deadly heart attacks and strokes.

As can be seen from this link the Cleveland research group is suggesting that TMAO could become a valuable screening tool when measured in patients’ blood to screen for their risk to develop a heart attack or stroke in the future. Furthermore, once these patients are identified, they can be sent to a dietitian and be put on a different diet that prevents heart attacks and strokes; also, the progress could again be monitored through repeat TMAO blood tests down the road.

Criticism of research from the Cleveland Clinic

Not every one has welcomed the study as clear-cut proof for a link between the gut flora and heart attacks, strokes and deaths. This link shows that it is questioned whether perhaps low antibiotic residues in red meat would explain the findings of the study. It rightly points out that there was no control for whether the more than 4000 patients were eating organic foods or a regular American diet. The comment goes on to say that the regular American diet contains residual antibiotics from milk, milk products, beef, chicken and turkey. These traces of antibiotics are powerful enough to have an effect on the gut flora, which likely is the reason for the differences between the vegetarian diet versus a Western style fat and protein dominated diet. It is entirely possible that grass fed beef would not lead to TMAO levels in the blood whereas regular beef or hamburger meat will raise the TMAO levels. The same could be true for egg consumption, which was also accused of raising TMAO levels. However, we do not know whether organic eggs that do not contain antibiotics would have done the same as regular eggs that contain traces of antibiotics.

Cancer caused by gut flora

This 2008 review article explains how lactobacillus and bifidobacteria (probiotics) prevent colon cancer, while bacteria of the Bacteroides and Clostridium variety increase the incidence of colon cancer and the growth rate of colonic tumors. So, the composition of your gut flora does not only matter with regard to prevention of heart attacks and strokes, but is also important in preventing colon cancer.

Change your gut flora to boost your health

Here is where the “rubber hits the road”. What I mean is that you can benefit from all of this research with regard to your health by paying attention to a few facts and possibly making a few changes as follows.

  1. I think that the argument of the bulletproofexec.com website holds true and we should all eat organic meats whenever possible. The Cleveland study has already shown that the gut flora in vegetarians stayed healthy even when they occasionally slipped and ate a regular steak.
  2. Take supplemental probiotics from the health food store. It will improve your gut flora within a day or two.
  3. Higher intake of fruit and vegetables make a measurable difference in the body decreasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes as this British research group has shown. Another research group from Italy has confirmed that an increased intake of fruit and vegetables mobilizes genetic switches that will stabilize the metabolism of the gut wall and prevent cancer of the colon.

So, the verdict for boosting your health is out: eat organic foods, use probiotics as supplements and eat more fruit and vegetables!

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

References

  1. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v19/n5/full/nm.3145.html
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23614584

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Mar
04
2013

Coffee, Tea, Vitamin C And E Prevent Stroke And Dementia

Elizabeth E. Devore, ScD, now with Brigham and Women’s and Harvard Medical School, did a long-term study involving 5,395 people aged 55 and older who were part of the long-term Rotterdam Study of medical conditions and other factors in older adults. Over the 14-year observation period 601 patients developed strokes and 599 patients developed dementia. Detailed dietary questionnaires were available from the study that helped the author to detect what the protective factors were in those who did not develop strokes or dementia. When all other factors were excluded (including tea and coffee consumption) and only anti-oxidant factors were looked at, it turned out that there was no difference in terms of stroke or dementia rates when the lowest and highest percentiles of antioxidant groups were compared. But when the lowest and highest percentiles of tea and coffee consumers were analyzed and compared, about 90% of strokes and of dementia disappeared meaning that tea and coffee consumption is protective for both.  Dr. Devore explained that other studies have shown that vitamin C helps prevent strokes and vitamin E helps to prevent dementia and that both vegetables and fruit as well as tea and coffee have been shown in other studies to help reduce both.

Here is another article that investigated the role that vitamin E plays in reducing brain aging and preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In a long-term study (over 20 years) vitamin C was shown to help prevent hemorrhagic and embolic strokes.

Coffee, Tea, Vitamin C And E Prevent Stroke And Dementia

Coffee, Tea, Vitamin C And E Prevent Stroke And Dementia

Vitamin C and E are not the only beneficial vitamins for the brain. Vitamin D3 can help prevent thromboembolic strokes as the Honolulu study going on for 34 years showed.

What about coffee and tea? There is a 10-year study involving 32,600 women where 1 or two cups of coffee per day led to a 25-32% reduction of strokes compared to non-coffee or tea consuming controls.

Males also experience a reduction of thromboembolic strokes with tea or coffee consumption. There has been a Finnish study that consisted of 29,133 smokers (smoking 5 cigarettes a day) aged 50 to 69 who were stroke free when entering the study. It ended in 1993 and had lasted for at least 5 years. Drinking two cups of black tea or 8 cups of coffee reduced the stroke risk by 21 to 23%.

Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of vitamin B complex. As this link shows vitamin B can lower cysteine, a blood component that contributes to heart attacks and strokes.

So, what should you do to prevent strokes and dementia?

Stop smoking, if you do. Avoid alcohol and drugs as much as you can. Your brain cells have very sensitive mitochondria that give you energy, but they are very sensitive to toxins. Avoid brain injuries like concussions as they can accumulate and lead to dementia. Whatever you can do for your heart is good for stroke prevention such as weight loss (down to a body mass index of 22.0), exercise, and sensible food intake (complex carbs, cut out sugar, have lean meat, more chicken, turkey, lean pork, only occasional beef). Take multiple vitamins including B, C, D3, E and drink tea or coffee. Some health oriented people may not want to hear this latter point (tea, coffee), but the studies show it is brain and heart protective.

More information on dementia: http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/alzheimers-dementia-and-delirium/dementia/

More links regarding the Elizabeth E. Devore, ScD study:

1) http://www.everydayhealth.com/stroke/how-antioxidants-really-protect-against-stroke-and-dementia-3194.aspx

2) http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20130220/high-antioxidant-diet-may-not-prevent-stroke-dementia-study-finds

Here is a link to the National Stroke Association about stroke prevention: http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=prevent

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014

Feb
05
2013

News About Your Heart Health

February is heart month every year. So I thought why not review what is new regarding heart health in the last 15 years and put it into perspective. I will start with a review of the older teaching about heart disease and then explain the paradigm shift in medical thinking and how this has changed the approach to heart disease prevention. The anatomy of the heart including coronary arteries and the heart valves has not changed over the years. The heart has always been at the center of life and will remain there. It used to be thought that when a person ages one should expect to get problems with high cholesterol, which would be the cause of hardening of coronary arteries of the heart until one day the person would experience a heart attack from the closing of one or more of the three coronary arteries. Cardiologists can then offer an arteriogram, place a stent to reopen any blocked coronary artery and the patient would be OK for another 5 to 10 years. Alternatively, coronary bypass surgery can be offered by a cardiovascular surgeon to revascularize the coronary arteries. In the mid 1990’s all this changed with the realization that 50% of heart attacks happened in patients who had normal cholesterol levels. Research showed that it was inflammation of the heart vessels followed by subsequent blockage what caused heart attacks. Since then a great deal of research in animal models and with humans showed that a lot can be done in the area of prevention of heart attacks and that very little can be done with regard to improving cure rates when damage to the heart muscle has already occurred. The paradigm shift is in the understanding of what leads to a heart attack. We now know that too much sugar, too many starchy foods and too much animal fat will lead to inflammation of the arteries including the coronary arteries. The reason is that faulty nutrition leads to a lack of omega-3 fatty acids and a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids. This starts the inflammatory cycle, which causes inflammation in the arterial walls followed by rising LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad cholesterol) and falling HDL cholesterol levels (that’s the good cholesterol). Associated with this is a lowering of nitric oxide production in the lining of the arterial walls, which leads to a narrowing of the arterial opening and simultaneous development of high blood pressure. Research of the metabolism of cells, particularly the subunits of cells called mitochondria, shed a new light on the heart as well. It turns out that the mitochondria, which are the energy producing subunits of the cells are abundantly present in those organs that have a high metabolism, such as the heart, brain, liver and kidneys.

News About Your Heart Health

News About Your Heart Health

This newer knowledge allows the prevention-oriented physician to help patients not to get heart disease on the first place by preventing inflammation of the arteries, by adding nitric oxide as a supplement, by changing the food composition, by intervening at the mitochondrial level with the help of supplements and by a regular exercise program. Over the years there have been impressive clinical trials that show that these preventative means when taken together can add 10 to 20 years of productive life without any disability. In the following I am going to describe the rationale for each of these life-prolonging steps:

  1. Preventing inflammation of the arteries: at the moment many people eat the standard North American diet consisting of foods with too much sugar, processed foods with animal fat and lots of pasta. If people switch over to a diet rich in leafy-green vegetables (kale, spinach, Swiss chard) and lean pork, turkey and chicken, this will change the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in favor of omega-3 fatty acids. This has a powerful effect on your body, as the surplus omega-3 fatty acids will suppress any inflammation in your blood vessels, which prevents heart attacks. If you also eat as much organic food as possible, you will in addition reduce the toxic load in your body from heavy metals like lead and mercury and chemicals like herbicides and insecticides that often are contained in regular non-organic foods. By cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates fasting insulin levels and triglyceride levels fall. This prevents diabetes and keeps your arteries open longer.
  2. By adding nitric oxide as a supplement such as “Neo40 daily” or “Stay young” (both of these supplements have hawthorn and red beet extract in them) the lining of the arteries gets a boost of nitric oxide production thereby lowering your blood pressure and widening the arteries in your body including the coronary arteries. The result is more oxygen and nutrients for your heart cells. By intervening at the mitochondrial level with the help of supplements and by doing occasional intravenous chelation therapy to remove heavy metals you can revive the sluggish metabolism of the mitochondria of your major organs. It’s like you are recharging the battery of your car, just here we are dealing with the microscopic energy packages, the mitochondria, in the cells of your vital organs including your heart.
  3. Certain vitamins and supplements help in this process as follows: D-ribose, alpha-lipoic acid and Co-Q-10 support mitochondria; niacin lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and elevates HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol); magnesium is an important co-factor of many enzymatic reactions in your cells and it also lowers blood pressure by widening the arteries making it easier for your heart to pump blood through them. Omega-3 and vitamin D3 both are anti-inflammatories, which makes these two important supplements for heart attack prevention. Vitamin D3 is also important for your immune system and helps to absorb calcium from the gut. Vitamin K2 has been found to be important to help transport the calcium into your bones preventing osteoporosis, so that it does not stay in your vascular system and cause hardening of your arteries by getting into your arterial walls.
  4. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is a powerful stimulus for the metabolism of your whole body, but particularly your heart. The heart needs adequate amounts of thyroid hormones and sex hormones (testosterone in males, balanced estrogen and progesterone in females). DHEA is a precursor hormone from your adrenal glands that is required in your hormone balance for support of your heart muscle. The physician can order hormone tests and replace what is missing with bio-identical hormones.
  5. A regular exercise program rounds up your heart support program. A regular exercise program by itself has been shown to be powerful heart attack prevention by cutting heart attack rates into half when compared to a non-exercise control group. Exercise builds up your heart muscle reserves and prevents clogging up of coronary arteries.
  6. Lifestyle changes can have a powerful effect in terms of preventing heart attacks. Everybody knows that those who smoke will not live as long as those who don’t. Smoking accelerates hardening of the arteries and causes not only heart attacks, but also cancer. Perhaps less known is the fact that alcohol can poison mitochondria. Due to the fact that wine also contains bioflavonoids, there have been statistics that showed that 1 glass of wine for women and two glasses of wine for men could prolong life. The wine industry was quick to exploit these statistics for the benefit of their sales. Fact is that even small doses of alcohol are a cell poison. Bioflavonoids are much more effective when taken as part of your daily supplements (resveratrol capsules) and it is much healthier for your heart and other body parts, if you do not consume any alcohol at all.

Originally the Framingham study showed that high LDL cholesterol was associated with heart attacks. But now we know that it is the overconsumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates in processed foods as well as animal fat overconsumption (mostly omega-6 fatty acids) that lead to inflammation of the lining of the arteries including LDL cholesterol overproduction from the liver. The focus has switched from lowering cholesterol and triglycerides to reducing and preventing inflammation and to supporting the mitochondria of the heart muscle cells. Simple steps as outlined above have the power to prevent about 85% or more of heart attacks. They work by treating insulin resistance through the diet changes, which in turn lowers fasting insulin levels, blood sugars and triglycerides as well as cholesterol. Inflammation is kept at bay. You prevent heart disease and in addition also arthritis, high blood pressure, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. One of the side effects is weight loss, extra energy and a sense of wellbeing.

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

Last updated Nov. 6, 2014