Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Next Big Thing In Health and Nutrition!

Curly kale

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Usually I like to take information that I find from many different sources, put it together and give you my opinion on it here on my blog.  Well today I came across and article on Dr. Mercola’s health site, www.mercola.com, that was so good that I wanted to re-post it here on my blog in its entirety without commenting on it.  I think Dr. Mercola said everything about as well as it could be said.  This information is on vitamin K and it’s very well put together.  The article is a bit long but well worth the read! Please enjoy!

Dr. Mercola’s Article

Vitamin K may very well be “the next vitamin D” as research continues to illuminate a growing number of benefits to your health.

It is probably where vitamin D was ten years ago with respect to its appreciation as a vital nutrient that has far more benefits than was originally recognized.

And, according to Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of vitamin K, nearly everyone is deficient in vitamin K – just like most are deficient in D.

Vitamin K measurements in blood plasma can be done accurately, but the results are not necessarily helpful because they mainly reflect what you ate yesterday. Because of this, we will have to trust Dr. Vermeer on his assessment that most are too deficient to reap all of its health benefits. Vitamin K researchers across the world will acknowledge him as a leader in this field.

Most people get enough K from their diets to maintain adequate blood clotting, but NOT enough to offer protection against the following health problems—and the list is growing:

  • Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and leukemia
  • Brain health problems, including dementia, the specifics of which are still being studied

Vitamin K comes in two forms, and it is important to understand the differences between them before devising your nutritional plan of attack.

The Two Basic Types of Vitamin K

Vitamin K can be classified as either K1 or K2:

  1. Vitamin K1: Found in green vegetables, K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. (This is the kind of K that infants need to help prevent a serious bleeding disorder.) It is also vitamin K1 that keeps your own blood vessels from calcifying, and helps your bones retain calcium and develop the right crystalline structure.
  2. Vitamin K2: Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K. It is present in high quantities in your gut, but unfortunately is not absorbed from there and passes out in your stool. K2 goes straight to vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver. It is present in fermented foods, particularly cheese and the Japanese food natto, which is by far the richest source of K2.

Vitamin K2 can convert to K1 in your body, but there are some problems with this, which I will discuss shortly. As a supplement, K1 is less expensive, which is why it’s the form used for neonates.

Making matters even more complex, there are several different forms of vitamin K2.

MK8 and MK9 come primarily from dairy products. MK4 and MK7 are the two most significant forms of K2, and act very differently in your body:

  • MK4 is a synthetic product, very similar to vitamin K1, and your body is capable of converting K1 into MK4. However, MK4 has a very short half-life of about one hour, making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement. After reaching your intestines, it remains mostly in your liver, where it is useful in synthesizing blood-clotting factors.
  • MK7 is a newer agent with more practical applications because it stays in your body longer; its half-life is three days, meaning you have a much better chance of building up a consistent blood level, compared to MK4 or K1. MK7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product called natto. You could actually get loads of MK7 from consuming natto as it is relatively inexpensive, and is available in most Asian food markets. Few people, however, tolerate it’s smell and slimy texture.

Let’s take a look at what scientific studies are showing us about vitamin K2.

Vitamin K Research has Come a Long Way

In 2008, a German research group discovered that vitamin K2 provides substantial protection from prostate cancer[1], which is one of the leading causes of cancer among men in the United States. According to Dr. Vermeer, men taking the highest amounts of K2 have about 50 percent less prostate cancer.

Research results are similarly encouraging for the benefits of vitamin K to your cardiac health:

  • In 2004, the Rotterdam Study, which was the first study demonstrating the beneficial effect of vitamin K2, showed that people who consume 45 mcg of K2 daily live seven years longer than people getting 12 mcg per day[2].
  • In a subsequent study called the Prospect Study[3], 16,000 people were followed for 10 years. Researchers found that each additional 10 mcg of K2 in the diet results in 9 percent fewer cardiac events.

Preliminary findings also suggest that vitamin K can help protect you from brain disease. However, it is too early to say exactly what types of damage it prevents—and how—but it is an area of intense interest to vitamin K scientists right now.

Vitamin K2 is CRUCIAL in Preventing Osteoporosis

The evidence suggests that vitamin K2 is essential for your bone health, but it is a nutrient the vast majority of you do not get in adequate amounts from your diet.

How does vitamin K lead to bone health?

Osteocalcin is a protein produced by your osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation), and is utilized within the bone as an integral part of the bone-forming process. However, osteocalcin must be “carboxylated” before it can be effective. Vitamin K functions as a cofactor for the enzyme that catalyzes the carboxylation of osteocalcin.

Vitamin K2 has been found to be a far more effective “activator” of osteocalcin than K1.

There has been some remarkable research about the protective effects of vitamin K2 against osteoporosis:

  • A number of Japanese trials have shown that vitamin K2 completely reverses bone loss and in some cases even increases bone mass in people with osteoporosis[4].
  • The pooled evidence of seven Japanese trials show that vitamin K2 supplementation produces a 60 percent reduction in vertebral fractures and an 80 percent reduction in hip and other non-vertebral fractures[5].
  • Researchers in the Netherlands showed that vitamin K2 is three times more effective than vitamin K1 in raising osteocalcin, which controls the building of bone[6].

Although your body can convert K1 into K2, studies show that the amount of K2 produced by this process alone is insufficient. Even if you are consuming enough K1, your body uses most of it to make clotting factors, leaving little remaining for your bones.

In other words, your liver preferentially uses vitamin K1 to activate clotting factors, while most of your other tissues preferentially use K2.

Vitamin K2 has also been found to offer you other benefits—besides your bones!

Vitamin K2 Lowers Your Cancer Risk

As mentioned earlier, we are also learning that vitamin K2 has a major role in preventing cancer.

The recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study[7], published in the October 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found high intake of vitamin K2—not K1—leads to reduced cancer risk, as well as a thirty percent lower risk of dying from cancer[8].

A study funded by the National Cancer Institute found that vitamin K2 might help reduce the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 45 percent lower risk for this type of cancer, compared to those with the lowest vitamin K2 intake[9].

Scientists attribute this to the important role that vitamin K2 plays in inhibiting inflammatory cytokines, which are related to this type of lymphoma, and vitamin K’s role the lifecycle of your cells.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin K from Your Diet?

Eating lots of green vegetables will increase your vitamin K1 levels naturally, especially:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

You can obtain all the K2 you’ll need (about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams of natto daily, which is half an ounce. However, natto is generally not pleasing to the Westerner’s palate, so the next best thing is a vitamin K2 supplement.

But remember, you must always take your vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.

Although the exact dosing is yet to be determined, Dr. Vermeer recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults. You must use caution on the higher doses if you take anticoagulants, but if you are generally healthy and not on these types of medications, I suggest 150 mcg daily.

Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about overdosing on K2—people have been given a thousand-fold “overdose” over the course of three years, showing no adverse reactions (i.e., no increased clotting tendencies).

The Synergistic Effects Between Vitamin K and Vitamin D

It’s important to realize that vitamin K does not work alone. It needs collaborators—and vitamin D is an important one.

These two agents work together to increase MGP, or Matrix GLA Protein, which is the protein that is responsible for protecting your blood vessels from calcification. In fact, MGP is so important that it can be used as a laboratory measure of your vascular and cardiac status.

The results of human clinical studies suggest that concurrent use of vitamin K2 and vitamin D may substantially reduce bone loss.

If you are concerned about your bones, you must balance this nutritional triad:

  1. Vitamin D
  2. Vitamin K
  3. Calcium

Increasing calcium is good for your bones but not so beneficial for your arteries, which can become calcified, but vitamin K protects your blood vessels from calcifying when in the presence of high calcium levels.

So you really must pay attention to the synergism of all three of these nutrients if you want to optimize your benefits.

I am convinced we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vitamin K and its many valuable functions in your health. It’s truly an exciting area in nutritional science today.

In the meantime it is my STRONG encouragement to make sure you find some regular source of vitamin K2. This will mean eating about four ounces of fermented cheese a day (preferably raw) or taking a high quality vitamin K2 supplement.

It is my strong belief that in ten years time there will be as much passion and appreciation for this stealth vitamin as we have for vitamin D today.

References


  • [1] Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S and Linseisen J. “Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg)” Am J Clinical Nutrition April 2008;87(4):985-992 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/4/985
  • [2] Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MHJ, van der Meer IM, Hofman A and Witteman JCM. “Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: The Rotterdam Study” November 2004; J Nutr 134:3100-3105 http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/134/11/3100
  • [3] Daniels, S. “Vitamin K2, but not K1, effective for heart health benefits: Study” NutraIngredients.com February 12, 2009 http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Vitamin-K2-but-not-K1-effective-for-heart-health-benefits-Study
  • [4] Vermeer C, Shearer M J, Zitterman A, Bolton-Smith C, Szulc P, Hodges S, Walter P, Rambeck W, Stocklin E, Weber P. “Beyond deficiency: Potential benefits of increased intakes of vitamin K for bone and vascular health” Eur J Nutr. December 2004;43(6):325-335
  • [5] Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, Shearer MJ, Gilbody S, Torgerson DJ. “Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166: 1256-1261
  • [6] Schurgers LJ, Teunissen KJF, Hamulyak K, Knapen MHJ, Hogne V, Vermeer C. “Vitamin K-containing dietary supplements: Comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and natto-derived menaquinone-7” Blood. 2006
  • [7] Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, and Linseisen J. “Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: Results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg)” Am J Clin Nutr (March 24, 2010) http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28691v1
  • [8] Daniells S (March 30, 2010) “Vitamin D may reduce cancer risk: EPIC study” Nutraingredients.com http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Vitamin-K-may-reduce-cancer-risk-EPIC-study
  • [9] “Vitamin K may protect against developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma” (April 20, 2010) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/185923.php

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High Fructose Corn Syrup – The Natural Killer

Sugar Blues and greens

Image by Mona Loldwoman (Look for the good) via Flickr

You’ve seen the commercials haven’t you?  Two fit young adults are sitting on a grassy hill having a picnic.  The woman says to her partner, “Would you like a bite,” as she extends a popsicle.  The man responds, “I thought you loved me, that has high fructose corn syrup in it.”  She says, “So what.”  He says, “Well you know what they say about it.”  She interrupts and says “What!?  That it’s made from corn?  That it has the same calorie content as table sugar and that it’s fine to eat in moderation?”

All of this is to suggest that high fructose corn syrup really isn’t bad for you because it’s made from corn and that its calorie content isn’t any higher than regular sugar.  While those facts are true it’s only a tiny fraction of the story.

The truth of the matter is that high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst additives you can possibly consume because of the metabolic effects it has once it has been consumed.

Until the 1970’s cane sugar was the sweetener of choice for the food industry.  In the 70’s the corn derived sweeteners like maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup were developed.  It was sweeter and cheaper so of course the food industry moved to using it instead of cane sugar.

You can find HFCS in a wide variety of foods like soft drinks, salad dressings, processed cakes and candies, breakfast cereal and brand-name breads.  This additive raises the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

HFCS intake increased by more than 1000% from 1970 to 1990 and now accounts for more than 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages.

Cardiovascular Risk

Unlike regular table sugar that contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose, HFCS contains 80% fructose and 20% glucose.  This is problematic because glucose and fructose are metabolized differently in the body.  Glucose is a readily available source of energy and is metabolized more slowly into energy for the body to use.  Fructose is processed differently.  It is metabolized extremely quickly.  In fact, it is metabolized so fast that the body cannot use all of it for energy.  This becomes problematic because our bodies are not designed to get rid of extra energy.  Our bodies view this as a reserve that could be used later.  And how do we store energy?  As fat!  When you consume HFCS you increase your production of triglycerides and fat storage in the liver.  The rise in triglycerides promotes atherogenic lipid deposition and raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.  If severe enough it can even lead to liver dysfunction.

Diabetes

HFCS also raises the risk of diabetes.  Before a person develops full-blown diabetes they go through a stage called insulin resistance.  In this stage your body actually stops responding to the hormone insulin.  This causes your body to not be able to effectively process sugar into energy.  If this continues diabetes results.  The list of complications from diabetes includes heart disease, neuropathy, blindness, kidney disease and circulatory issues.

High Blood Pressure

HFCS also contributes to high blood pressure.  When you consume HFCS you inhibit an enzyme called endothelial nitric oxide synthase. This enzyme is located in the walls of your arteries and is responsible for producing nitric oxide.  This is a potent dilator of the arteries.  It basically allows the vessels to relax.  If the vessels cannot relax they do not allow blood to flow unimpeded.  When blood meets resistance in the vessels, high blood pressure is what occurs.

Gout

Consumption of HFCS has been linked to a condition called hyperuricemia.  In this condition, uric acid levels in the blood rise.  This leads to the painful condition called gout.  In gout, uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints of the body causing a very painful arthritis.

The Bottom Line

HFCS is ubiquitous in our food supply.  I always recommend that my patients avoid it at all costs.  If you eat a natural diet and avoid processed foods as much as possible avoiding HFCS is actually very easy to do.  HFCS raises the risk of many diseases and recent research even indicates it accelerates the growth of some cancers.  While it is a cheap way to sweeten food, it costs the public their health.  Do yourself a favor and keep it out of your diet.

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“I’m destined to get (insert disease here) because my parents did.” – Maybe Not.

The field of genetics has rapidly evolved over the last 15-20 years.  The latest push in genetics is trying to figure out why some people with specific genes express them and why some do not.  For example, a very well-known gene is the “breast cancer” gene called BRCA.  This gene is known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer, but it’s not an absolute.  Just because you have the gene does not mean you are going to get breast cancer.  So why the difference?  Why would one woman with the gene get breast cancer and the next not?

Well some new research on vitamin D may help us find out.  It is clear that vitamin D is a potent genetic regulator.  The reduction in cancer rates and the rates of other diseases drops sharply with adequate vitamin D levels.  Most people, however, do not have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is considered a vitamin, but it’s really a hormone.  It is best obtained from direct sunlight but dietary sources do exist and include fortified milk, eggs and oily fish.  Vitamin D is probably best known for helping people build and maintain strong bones.  While it is essential for that, the story for vitamin D only begins there.

Vitamin D is believed to have a role in controlling genes linked to major diseases such as certain types of cancers, dementia, and autoimmune disorders, new research has found.

“Through large scale studies, we now have a good idea of the genes involved in common complex diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus,” wrote lead author, Dr. Sreeram Ramagopalan of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University.

Scientists from University of Oxford, The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and Simon Fraser University in Canada identified 2,776 gene positions occupied by the vitamin D receptor and 229 genes that changed in response to vitamin D.  That’s right, thousands of genes respond to vitamin D.  To put this in perspective, the human genome has an estimated 23,000 genes.  That means vitamin D has a direct effect on over 12% of our genes. It doesn’t get more important than that!

What I want to stress is that if you are concerned about a part of your family’s health history as it relates to you (and who isn’t) taking vitamin D is good insurance.  It may just offset your genetic potential for disease by controlling your genes and keeping the bad ones turned off and the good ones turned on.

How much should I take?

I always recommend that my patients have their serum vitamin D checked.  It has become a very routine test for physicians to order and just about every person who comes to see me walks out of my office with a lab requisition to check vitamin D.

Taking vitamin D is simple.  Most people, even ones in sunny climates, can benefit from taking vitamin D.  Here in the Northeast I recommend my patients take 4,000-6,000 IUs per day for maintenance.  If we are working to significantly raise serum levels a dose of at least 10,000 IUs per day is necessary.  The point is check your blood levels.  Shoot for a level of between 55 and 65 ng/ml.  Once you reach that level you must maintain it to continue to get all the benefits that vitamin D provides.

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What’s all the hype over wheat and milk allergies anyway?

Wheat.

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Wheat and milk are staples in most Americans’ diets.  The dairy and grain industry like it that way to be certain.  But what exactly is all the hype over eliminating these potential allergens from our diets?  And is there really any research to support all of our concerns?

Well, in one word, yes.  The short explanation of why is that both wheat and dairy are extremely prevalent in our diets.  Wheat consumption in this country is quite high – about 137 pounds per year per person.  Dairy consumption is even higher with 605 pounds consumed per year per person!  The high amounts of these in our diets leads to high levels of exposure and, therefore, higher levels of allergies and sensitivities.  What exactly do these substances do to our bodies?  This is a good question and to properly answer it we will have to break down both wheat and dairy a little further.

Wheat

Saying that a person is allergic to wheat is actually a bit inaccurate.  What people are allergic or sensitive to is the protein in wheat called gluten.  Gluten is also found in rye, oats and barley to name a few.  This protein is allergenic for good reason.  In many people it is incompletely broken down in our gut and is absorbed in a format that the body cannot recognize or use.  When this happens the immune system kicks in and there’s your allergy.  Most of the time proteins are broken down into their individual amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  If we take several amino acids and hook them together we get something called a peptide.  If we take several of those peptides and hook them together we get our protein.  The body must do this in reverse order if you will when it digests our foods – protein to peptides to amino acids.  If this does not occur properly your body may absorb the peptides.  The problem with this is that the body cannot recognize the peptides as useful and actually sees them as an invader.  Invaders must be destroyed and our army (the immune system) takes over and destroys these peptides but leaves us with the after effects.  A gluten allergy causes many of the traditional allergy symptoms:

  • Swelling, itching or irritation of the mouth or throat
  • Hives, itchy rash or swelling of the skin
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cramps, nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis

In children, changes in behavior might also be seen.  This happens because the undigested gluten peptide is known to circulate in the blood and bind to receptors in the brain altering behavior.  It is a complex cascade of events but many parents have noticed significant improvements at school and at home after eliminating gluten from their child’s diet.

Gluten is also the offender in people who have celiac disease.  Celiac disease and gluten allergy or sensitivity are two separate entities.  Celiac disease is a chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten.  Abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea and maldigestion are the signs and symptoms.  While celiac disease involves an immune system response, it’s a more complex food reaction than a food allergy.

Dairy

Dairy allergies can be just as problematic.  They often cause the same signs and symptoms as a gluten allergy.  The main problem comes from the protein in milk called casein.  Casein has the same issues with under digestion as gluten.  When the break down is incomplete, allergies result.  New research seems to point to the type of casein that is present in most Americans’ diets.  There are many types of casein and the difference is only the order in which the amino acids are arranged.  That order, however, seems to be critical for developing allergies.  Most milk consumed in this country is called A1 milk.  A1 stands for the type of casein in the milk.  This is the most prevalent type of casein in our milk supply.  This is the case because almost all of our cows in this country are of European decent and genetically they produce the A1 casein.  Cows of African or Asian decent produce a different kind of casein called A2.  This type of casein has not been linked to allergies as has the A1 variety.  If you or your child are allergic to milk, options are available.  Goat’s milk is a great option.  It contains casein but it contains the A2 version.  It is a great option for people suffering with milk allergies.

I must touch on lactose intolerance for a moment.  Lactose is the sugar present in milk.  Being lactose intolerant is not a milk allergy.  Lactose intolerance stems from an enzymatic deficiency.  The lactase enzyme is not present to break down the sugar in the milk.  The immune system is not involved and therefore it is not an allergy.  The symptoms include gas, bloating and diarrhea.

In my practice I often see people who have undiagnosed allergies.  They can cause many disturbing symptoms and by eliminating the offending foods people often feel much better.  If you suspect a milk or a wheat allergy the gold standard for testing is an elimination diet.  In this you completely eliminate anything from the diet that might contain wheat or milk, for instance.  I have people avoid it for 3 weeks and then reintroduce the offending foods in full force to see if there’s a change.  You must add them back in at a high level so there can be no mistake as to whether it affects you.  Also, be sure to eliminate either wheat or dairy, not both at the same time.  That way you’ll be sure you’ve found the right (or wrong!) food for you.  Blood tests that test whether your immune system has reacted to wheat and dairy are also available and stool tests work as well.

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Achy Joints? Nutrition is critical, just ask a moose

A new report on moose has some interesting information with regards to human beings and arthritis.  This report suggests that nutrition plays a critical role in the development of arthritis.

The report is the end of a 50 year study on the moose of Ilse Royale, an uninhabited island in Lake Superior.  The study was the longest predator-prey study ever conducted.  What was found was that these moose had arthritis.  They had arthritis that was very similar to the arthritis that humans develop and the conclusions that the scientists came up with were fascinating.  They believe that nutritional deficiencies early in life lead to higher rates of arthritis in the moose.

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis in humans.  It currently affects 27 million Americans, up from 21 million in 1990.  The exact cause is unknown, but general wear and tear on the body seems to break down cartilage leading to inflammation of the joints.  Being sedentary, overweight and some genetic differences increase the risk and severity of arthritis.  Now, nutrition is being recognized as playing a part as well.

To me, this seems obvious.  If nutrition early in life is poor, how can one expect bones and cartilage to form optimally? Over time this may lead to problems with the joints.  Because human beings age slowly, the effects of poor nutrition are magnified.

In humans, bones continue to grow into early adulthood so it is likely that nutrition, in terms of bone and cartilage formation, is critically important.  Later in life nutrition continues to be important because of several factors.

For one, we know that eating a poor diet leads to weight gain.  Being overweight is a significant risk factor for arthritis.  It is important to maintain a healthy weight because not doing so places unnecessary stress on the joints and leads joint deterioration later in life.

Nutrition is also important because controlling inflammation is crucial.  High levels of inflammation destroy tissues and can increase the effects of osteoarthritis.

Genetic factors associated with arthritis are also influenced by nutrition.  In the field of genetics a new subset of study has developed.  This is called epigenetics.  Epigenetics states that each and every one of our genes has a switch on them and it is the environment that determines what genes get turned on and what genes get turned off.  Poor nutrition is known to turn on genes that are detrimental to our health like genes for cancer and now, perhaps, genes that cause arthritis to get worse.  It makes sense with what is known already about the human genome.

Information linking nutrition to arthritis is not that new and human example do exist.  Bones of 16th-century American Indians in Florida and Georgia showed significant increases in osteoarthritis after Spanish missionaries arrived and tribes adopted farming, increasing their workload but also shifting their diet from fish and wild plants to corn.  Similar patterns occurred when an earlier American Indian population in the Midwest began farming maize.  British scientists studying people born in the 1940s found low birth weight (indicating poor prenatal nutrition) linked to osteoarthritis in the mens’ hands.

I think the take home point is that nutrition, from the womb to the very last days of our lives, is important.  The fuel we put in our bodies is the only way we grow and survive.  It stands to reason then that if we put food in that is of low nutritional quality, we will have low quality growth and survival.  Unfortunately, mainstream medicine focuses too much on what drug they can give you to trick your body into thinking there is no longer a problem.  What we should focus on is good, healthy eating habits.  This would significantly reduce disease rates and improve everyone’s overall health.

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Fast Food Chains To Offer Statins With Their Meals?

Below is a blog post from cnn.com.  It simply amazes me that a peer reviewed journal would suggest that fast food companies offer statins with their meals to offset their horrible health effects.  See my comments at the end of the article.

CNN Blog Post

A new report in the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that fast food restaurants should offer statins – a popular class of cholesterol-lowering medications – alongside their unhealthy food.

“We propose that the fast food industry is well placed to offer advice and supplements to counteract the cardiovascular harm arising from the foods they purvey,” the report said. “These companies already have an infrastructure for providing a variety of condiments… A generic statin could be added to the panoply of items in the self-service tray at little additional cost.”

The study – which likened taking a statin before eating to putting on a bike helmet before biking – was based on analyses of other scientific studies, and concluded that taking the drugs could offset the risk of eating fast food just enough to render the food harmless.

“Most of the primary prevention statin regimes we examined, with the exception of pravastatin, had the strength to counteract the increase in risk caused by an unhealthy diet; or eating an additional 36 g[rams] of total fat or 2.8 g[rams] of trans fat per day – approximately equivalent to a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small milkshake,” the British researchers said in the study.

But Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, says that not only isn’t the solution that simple, it could be dangerous.

“There are other things regarding obesity that are important that a statin won’t neutralize, such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” Sacco said. “Even though we agree statins have a lot of good evidence in reducing cardiovascular and stroke risk, there are certain risks with any medications.”

The risks are relatively infrequent but include liver damage, muscle cramps and long-term muscle damage.

The British researchers concluded that the risks of eating fast food are much greater.

“Statins have been shown to be safe even at high doses,” the report says. “The documented safety record of statins is substantially better than that of fast foods, which carry not only direct cardiovascular risks, but other risks due to obesity.”

But regardless of whether the benefits do in fact outweigh the risks,  Sacco says there are far better ways to reduce the negative effects of obesity.

“If you can control it with diet and exercise, that would be our preference rather than having to take a medicine.”

Dr. Court’s Comments

This is perhaps the most ridiculous recommendation I have ever seen from a mainstream medical publication.  They are suggesting that fast food chains offer cholesterol lower medications, called statins, with their meals to offset the negative health effects they have on human physiology. This is the pinnacle of not taking responsibility for one’s health.  Why take responsibility if you can take a pill to supposedly offset the detriments to your health from eating the most unhealthy foods in the world?

Statin medications are not as safe as Big Pharma would like you to believe. Statins are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol (HMG-CoA reductase). The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established—there are now 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.

For starters, reported side effects include:

  • Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
  • Anemia
  • Acidosis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Immune depression
  • Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
  • Cataracts

These side effects hardly seem harmless and to give them as an option with your value meal from McDonald’s is outrageous.  It is a great marketing ploy by the pharmaceutical industry to get as many American’s on statins as possible.  Think about it.  Wouldn’t this kind of strategy significantly increase sales of statin drugs?  Of course it would.  And where do we start and stop giving them to people.  Does a 3 year old eating a happy meal get a statin to go with it?  What about people who are already taking statins?  Do they just take extra because you really never can get to much medication can you?  The slope is a slippery one and I cannot believe this has even been suggested.

I was happy to see the president of the American Heart Association take the other side of this story.  He mentions that statins do nothing to offset the other health complications of fast food like diabetes and high blood pressure.  This is true.  You can’t take a statin to avoid diabetes.  What he doesn’t mention is the fact that those kinds of food – food high in refined sugar – are notorious for raising inflammation in the body.  When you raise inflammation you raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis to name just a few.  You can’t control inflammation by taking a statin.  Some new research does suggest that statins lower one of the inflammatory enzymes called CRP.  But that’s just one.  There are others that are still detrimental to one’s health.

This kind of a recommendation is dangerous.  Period.  It is also irresponsible for the American Journal of Cardiology to publish such information.  It plants a dangerous seed.  This kind of a recommendation encourages people to continue to make poor decisions regarding their diets.  It gives them an excuse to continue to destroy their health under the pretense that they are offsetting their bad decisions with a pill.  Instead, we should be encouraging people to make healthier choices regarding their diet and lifestyle.

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Filed under Big Pharma, Diet, Public Health

Dr. Court’s Whipped Fruit Dessert

Usually I post things here on the blog about current topics in health.  Today I’d like to take small departure from that and give you a great recipe for a dessert that I came up with just yesterday.

I was with a patient and he asked me if there was an alternative for him for ice cream.  He was asking because I have asked him to significantly reduce carbohydrate intake in order to help him with his particular condition.  At first I told him he’d just have to live without it for a while.  He then told me that he was craving something sweet and delicious and would love an alternative.

I thought for a second and came up with this recipe off the top of my head.  I even impressed myself.  I didn’t tell my patient I had never tried it before, but I figured it had to be good.  It sounded good!  If he reads this I hope he’s not too mad at me.  I am thankful he made me think because I came up with this great recipe for something sweet that isn’t bad for you.

He was my last patient of the day yesterday.  After he left I made some phone calls and headed home.  I didn’t think much about the treat I told him about until after dinner.  About an hour after dinner I wanted some ice cream!  It must be contagious or something!

The craving hit and I decided I’d make this treat that I had told my patient about that I had never actually tried (until last night!)  So below is the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
6 medium raw strawberries
1/2 banana
A very small splash of vanilla extract (sorry I didn’t measure this one!)

That’s it!  Pretty simple right?

Instructions

  1. Take your fruit and puree them together in a blender or food processor (I used a blender).
  2. With a hand mixer mix the heavy cream until it becomes whipped cream and is nice and light.
  3. Add your pureed fruit and a splash of vanilla extract to your whipped cream and stir until mixed well.
  4. Put it in the freezer for about a 1/2 hour.  This cools the mixture but should not freeze it.  It tastes much better cold but not frozen.  I left mine in the freezer a little longer than a 1/2 hour and it began to freeze around the edges.  The frozen edges lost their sweetness.
  • Dish and Serve!  This recipe serves 2-3 people.

Feel free to send me any ideas you might have about making it better!  You certainly could do this with any kind of fruit.  My advice, however, would be to keep it as low glycemic as possible.  The main flavor of my concoction last night was strawberry which is low glycemic.  I used the high glycemic banana only as a sweetener and it worked great.  This whole dessert had a total of about 25g of carbohydrate and my wife and I split it, yet it satisfied our sweet tooth last night.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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Filed under Diet