Alzheimer’s Disease tied to infections

Alzheimer’s Disease and Infectious agents: a new line of research, and hope.

 

amyloid plaques in brain from salmonella infection

Salmonella bacteria, represented by the red spots, entrapped in a cage of proteins called beta amyloid, represented in green. (Credit Robert Moir and Rudolph Tanzi, Massachussets General Hospital and Harvard Medical School)

The possibility that Alzheimer’s disease is closely tied to infections that cause the development of amyloid plaques is BIG news indeed. Exactly what causes the plaques has proved to be elusive for many years. As reported in this NY Times piece, researchers at Harvard have found that when infectious agents cross the brain blood barrier in non-human animal subjects, their brains respond by enveloping them in plaques consistent with the ways in which they form in Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It’s “early days” yet, but this could prove to be a very fruitful line of inquiry.  Until an underlying cause, or set of causes for a disease is discovered, both treatment and prevention are severely restricted.

Read more here “Could Alzheimer’s Stem from Infections?  It Makes Sense, Experts Say” New York Times article here:

 


A Study on Fats That Doesn’t Fit the Story Line

A Decades-Old Study, Rediscovered, Challenges Advice on Saturated Fat

cheeseburger
There was a lot of news this week about a study, published in the medical journal BMJ, that looked at how diet affects heart health. The results were unexpected because they challenged the conventional thinking on saturated fats.
See more on the NYTimes blog page

 

 


Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Some nutrient sources contain dense amounts of Vitamin D3, and it can be acquired in significant amounts by including them in one’s diet, though in many instances the amounts would probably fall below recommended levels. This is partly because during the course of evolution in Equatorial zones, skin exposed to solar radiation became the principal way of humans acquiring it, rather than through our diet. Furthermore not all Vitamin D is actually absorbed when it is eaten. It’s absorption is mainly at the distal (far) end of the large intestine. Vitamin D is mainly stored in the liver and kidneys of mammals, but not for long periods of time. Predatory carnivores like wolves and cats, as well as human beings who, until the advent of agriculture, were also predators, can acquire Vitamin D from consuming the organs of prey animals. Humans were (and are) also food collectors of bird eggs and mushrooms, which are also good sources of Vitamin D.

Sources of Vitamin D3 in food

Fish

The highest concentrations of D3 are found in oily fish. It accumulates in fish livers after becoming concentrated through the food chain, beginning with algae and moving up through small fish eaten by larger fish that are in turn eaten by ever larger fish. Cod liver oil is the densest nutrient source available at reasonable cost. And oily fish, especially salmon, are also an excellent and widely available source.

Sardines, herring, mackerel, swordfish, trprocessing-salmon-fish-meat-725x472out and tuna also supply significant amounts of Vitamin D. The extra benefit from all these fish are that they contain Omega 3 fatty acids, a potent fat with many additional health benefits. Sardines, herring and baby mackerel are also eaten whole and so their small bones can also increase calcium intake.

Mushrooms

Vegans as well as other vegetarians can rely on many mushrooms for some of their vitamin D. Shiitake mushrooms hold significant quantities and are a source of protein as well. Even less costly portobello mushrooms also contain useful amounts of D and are widely available.

mushroom

Food Preparation to minimize loss of Vitamin D

How these foods are prepared is important in order to maximize the dose received. Frying fish in oil reduces the Vitamin D available because it is a fat soluble vitamin–and can be dissolved all along the cooking surface of the fish where it is taken up by the oil in which it’s cooked. Steamed, baked or broiled fish retain more Vitamin D. Higher temperatures can destroy some vitamin D too, but if the fish is steamed, the temperature never exceeds that of boiling water and all the benefits, as well as the taste of the fish, are retained.

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk is widely fortified with Vitamin D (as are many processed foods). Vitamin D fortification in developed countries was undertaken as an inexpensive and effective way to prevent “Rickets” which is a serious disorder of bone development mainly found in children, especially those who are desperately poor. Vitamin D is also found in significant amounts in milk from dairy herds that rely on pasture for forage. It is present in new-mown hay because it’s produced by dying and drying plants, specially alfalfa. Animals that consume large amounts of such forage produce milk with Vitamin D3 in higher amounts than those fed other types of feed in barns. Importantly cow’s milk is fortified with D3–so a true benefit is derived. Fortification is an inexpensive and effective way for public health campaigns to help all people to avoid the most serious vitamin D deficiencies, particularly rickets. However, eating many processed foods to gain vitamin D is not a good idea because many of these possess a long list of other far less desirable attributes.holsteins in field

Conclusion

Dietary acquisition of vitamin D may be problematic for many individuals due to dietary restrictions associated with biological and cultural sensitivities including: vegetarianism (either as a religious or ethical stance), lactose intolerance related to aging or the basic physiology of most of the global population, and dietary restrictions related to other health issues and medical treatments. Dietary supplementation with Vitamin D3 is recommended for nearly all people who do not spend significant amounts of time exposed to the sun. That means most of us.


Health Conditions

We review some of the latest scientific research on type 2 diabetes. Research shows that unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is not a chronic and progressive disease and can in most cases be prevented as well as reversed/cured with lifestyle changes alone, with little or no medication, and in particular, with the addition of two powerful aides: intermittent fasting and high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Reversing Type2 Diabetes article

For a better understanding of high intensity interval training and its significance to type 2 diabetes please refer to: THE BEST EXERCISE FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES PATIENTS.

We also look at talking to your doctor and other health care professionals. Sharing information with your health care team about treatments you are pursuing is essential. For example, some drugs and herbs can create serious interactions that could even jeopardize your life, let alone your treatment goals. Or, the side effects of one treatment can be misidentified as the symptoms of a disease. This can easily happen if there is not good communication. We provide a checklist to help you & your health care professional achieve a clear understanding of what each of you is doing, and why.

Talking With Your Doctor


Reversing Type 2 Diabetes

With Intermittent Fasting

April 19, 2016


Type 2 diabetes is generally categorized as a progressive, chronic lifelong condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/home/ovc-20169860 Even though this is true for Type 1 diabetes, is it true for type 2 diabetes? It is quite apparent that the answer is no.

type 2 diabetes is not a chronic and progressive disease and can in most cases be prevented as well as reversed/cured with lifestyle changes alone, with little or no medication, and in particular, with the addition of two powerful aides: intermittent fasting and high intensity interval training (HIIT). We review some of the latest scientific research on type 2 diabetes. We also analyze the benefits of intermittent fasting and how it can help with type 2 diabetes. For a better understanding of high intensity interval training and its significance to type 2 diabetes please refer to: THE BEST EXERCISE FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES PATIENTS.

Diabetes 101

In simple terms, “diabetes” refers to a condition which results in high levels of sugar in the blood. In type 1 diabetes this happens because of the body’s inability to produce sufficient insulin. In type 2 diabetes it happens because the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and eventually can not produce sufficient insulin. Even though they are very different, in both cases the body’s ability to use glucose as fuel is impacted.

Type 1 or “early onset” diabetes is caused by an autoimmune process in the body causing the immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The pancreas is unable to make sufficient insulin. Insulin allows the cells to turn the glucose in the blood into energy. Without sufficient insulin, the glucose builds up in the blood. If left untreated this condition will cause death from a hyperglycemic coma. The condition of type 1 diabetes is manageable with the use of insulinimages-3 injections, and is also known as “insulin-dependent” diabetes. There is currently no known cure.

Type 2 or “late onset” diabetes is caused because the cells in the skeletal muscle, liver and fat become resistant to insulin and are unable to use it effectively, even though the pancreas is producing generally too much insulin. The pancreas makes more and more insulin to compensate for the inefficiency, but eventually it can not keep up and the glucose builds up in your blood. This condition is both preventable and reversible.

From Prediabetes to Type 2 Diabetes

Prediabetes refers to a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Almost 50 per cent of those with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes. http://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/prediabetes

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes have become epidemic due to sedentary lifestyles and worsening diets that are too high in sugars and sugar-forming foods such as carbohydrates. According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of diabetes has nearly tripled: from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/

Insulin resistance occurs when there are problems with the insulin receptors on the cell or actions inside the cell; it is like a lock being defective or a door being jammed. Essentially, the insulin receptors become overwhelmed and start breaking down. Not enough glucose is shuttled into the cells, and too much glucose remains in the bloodstream.

Insulin resistance causes the pancreas to compensate by making more and insulin, which leads to hyperinsulinemia – high blood insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer compensate by secreting the large amounts of of insulin required to keep blood sugar at normal levels.

For a more in-depth discussion of type 2 diabetes, please go to TYPE 2 DIABETES: NOT A CHRONIC DISEASE.

Conventional Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes

The conventional approach to treating prediabetes and type 2 diabetes involves several phases. Unfortunately, it is predicated on the mistaken belief that type 2 diabetes is a progressive, chronic lifelong condition.

Patients are first told to change their lifestyle – diet and exercise – to reduce the body’s need for insulin and to lower insulin levels. Because these lifestyle changes are extremely hard to implement and there is generally little support to help patients make the necessary changes, it seldom works.

Healthcare professionals are aware that few patients will make the necessary lifestyle changes and so, right off the bat, some will prescribe, along with lifestyle recommendations, oral medications. Other healthcare professionals will wait until the prescribed lifestyle changes have failed to prescribe the oral medications.

There are currently more than 10 classes of diabetes drugs, each of which aim to lower blood glucose in a different way. The primary goal of these drugs is not to cure/reverse the causes of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes; their goal is to mask/manage the symptoms. They are often prescribed in combination with each other or with insulin therapy. http://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/guide/treatment/

When lifestyle changes and oral medications have failed to manage the symptoms, as they quite often do, it is time for insulin therapy. According to Diabetic Living, between 30 and 40 percent of those with type 2 end up taking insulin therapy.
http://www.diabeticlivingonline.com/medication/insulin/insulin-and-type-2-diabetes-what-you-should-know

The primary goal of insulin therapy, like the oral medications, is to manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes by compensating for the lack of insulin production.

Neither the oral medications nor insulin therapy aim to deal with the primary problem of insulin resistance and do not tackle the underlying causes:  hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance.

Side Effects of Oral Medications and Insulin Therapy

Potential side-effects of some of the most common type 2 diabetes oral medications, include:

  • Sulfonylureas: low blood sugar, upset stomach, skin rash or itching, weight gain
  • Biguanides/Metformin: sickness with alcohol, kidney complications, upset stomach, tiredness or dizziness, metal taste
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: gas, bloating and diarrhoea
  • Thiazolidinediones: weight gain, risk of liver disease, anaemia risk, swelling of legs or ankles,
  • Meglitinides: weight gain, low blood sugar http://www.diabetes.co.uk/features/diabetes-medication-side-effects.html

The side-effects of insulin therapy are:

  • weight gain
  • low blood sugar
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea
  • sexual dysfunction

http://www.yourhormones.info/endocrine_conditions/diabetes_mellitus.aspx

As if this was not bad enough, the newer classes of type 2 diabetes drugs, with names like GLP-1, DPP-4, SLGT2, have even scarier side-effects: pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, urinary infections, thyroid cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and renal and gallbladder problems. https://www.drugwatch.com/2014/05/12/increasing-side-effects-diabetes-drugs/
When you consider that these drugs are usually prescribed in combination, you really have something to be worried about.

The Big Gun – Weight-Loss Surgery

When drugs have failed to manage/mask the symptoms of type 2 diabetes the medical system’s last resort is weight-loss surgery. There are many types of weight-loss surgery, known collectively as bariatric surgery, with gastric bypass being the most common type. Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries make changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight by limiting how much you can eat, or by reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. In effect, such procedures produce weight loss the way that diet and exercise, when undertaken conscientiously, would do.

The good news is that weight-loss surgery works for weight loss, and the research shows significant improvements in type 2 diabetes following the surgery. For example, a 2015 observational study which followed 5,225 bariatric patients for one year after surgery found that 62% of the gastric bypass patients improved to the point that they were able stop insulin therapy. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25573879

The bad news is that weight-loss surgery comes with lots and lots of potential risks, both of a short-term and long-term nature.
Short-term risks associated with weight-loss surgery include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
  • Death (rare)

Longer-term risks include:

To sum up, the healthcare system deals with type 2 diabetes with token efforts at lifestyle changes, then puts significant effort into prescribing oral drugs and insulin that aim to manage/mask symptoms. And if that fails, the last resort is surgery, which works quite well to promote weight loss, but comes with a significant risk.

Lifestyle Changes – Diet and Exerciseimages-6

Given the many risks associated with drugs and surgery, why not give lifestyle changes, diet and exercise a chance? It has been well established that lifestyle changes have a significant impact on the development of type 2 diabetes. Three large randomized controlled studies showed that individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes significantly improved their conditions by lifestyle changes alone. Two studies showed a 43% reduction in the development of type 2 diabetes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18502303 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17098085
and one study showed a 34% reduction http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19878986

To find out about foods & recipes that are Blood Sugar Regulators click here.

Intermittent Fasting the Secret Weapon

Given that the primary problem with calorie restriction dieting is that few people will stick with it long term, we are fortunate to have an effective alternative. Fasting in one form or another has been around for as long as humans, sometimes as a consequence of having limited access to food, and sometimes due to religious or spiritual beliefs. It is easy to see that we evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time, and it is not hard to argue that fasting may in fact be more “natural” than eating three meals a day “on a schedule”.

Until very recently in human history, sporadic or seasonal access to food was the norm. This explains why our livers and muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for quick access, and why we can also sustain ourselves for weeks at a time by drawing from our long term reserves: fat.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting. It has been “trending” with endorsements from celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Jackman.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to help people not only lose weight as well or better than a low calorie diet, but also to help with many other health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  It is important to remember that intermittent fasting is more a pattern of eating than a diet, and that it is easier to stay on it than a “diet”.

The three most common ways to practice intermittent fasting are:

  • The 5:2 method where you fast for two days per week and eat normally during the remaining five days.
  • Alternate-day fasting where you eat normally on one day and restrict yourself to 500 calories on the alternate day.
  • The 16:8 method where you restrict your meals on a daily basis to eight hours per day by skipping either breakfast or dinner.
For a better understanding of high intensity interval training and its significance to type 2 diabetes please refer to: THE BEST EXERCISE FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES PATIENTS.

For a more detailed explanation of intermittent fasting you can go to INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS IT FOR YOU?
Intermittent fasting is easier to adhere to than standard calorie restriction diets for most people. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559  Most diets fail because people do not follow the diet over the long term. Several studies have found that intermittent fasting is easier to follow than calorie restriction diets. As a result, more people are willing to stick with it and adapt more easily to an intermittent fasting routine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20815899

For example a 2012 observational study of 16 obese individuals found a high degree of compliance and significant weight loss. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793855

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which leads to a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24789008 A 2015 study of 20 healthy males found that they not only lost significant weight, but that fasting is in itself sufficient to improve insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26155596

A 2014 study of individuals with chronic liver disease found that they lost weight and showed significantly improved symptoms with regard to liver disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25546434 This is important because liver disease is a leading cause of death in type 2 diabetes. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/3/734.full

Another way that Intermittent Fasting could affect type two diabetes is its potential for reducing  abdominal or visceral fat. This kind of fat is found under the abdominal muscle and around organs such as the intestines, liver and pancreas. It is different from subcutaneous fat, the kind of fat that you can pinch. A 2012 observational study of 732 obese participants concluded that abdominal fat was associated with more than a twofold increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1360863

Recently it has been shown that the primary cause of type 2 diabetes is the buildup of visceral fat in the liver and pancreas which prevents normal insulin action and secretion; both of which are reversible with weight loss. Importantly the tolerance of fat within the liver and pancreas varies widely depending on the individual and type 2 diabetes develops only when there is more fat than can be coped with. Fortunately, the reverse is also true and when the fat level drops below the individual threshold the diabetes reverses. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/magres/research/diabetes/reversal.htm

Several animal studies have shown the effectiveness of intermittent fasting for the reduction of visceral fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559 Some preliminary human studies have shown that both calorie restriction diets and intermittent fasting result in weight loss, but that intermittent fasting results in a greater percentage loss of visceral fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24993615

Conclusion

Type 2 diabetes is both preventable and reversible. It does not have to be a chronic lifelong disease.

Oral medications and insulin therapy are effective to manage/mask the symptoms of type 2 diabetes but do little else. At best they are a stop gap measure and have numerous health risks. Weight-loss surgery helps in many cases, but also comes with numerous health risks.

Without question, lifestyle changes (diet in particular) work to prevent, reverse and cure type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately very few people are able to implement the required changes.

Intermittent fasting is helpful for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes because it reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting is also a powerful weight loss tool because it helps you eat fewer calories, boosts your metabolism, and as a result is effective in losing weight and particularly belly fat, which is a significant factor in reversing type 2 diabetes.

Intermittent fasting is a relatively simple strategy to lose weight and maintain muscle mass because it requires very little behavioural change. This means intermittent fasting is simple enough that you will actually do it, and effective enough that it will make a difference.

Intermittent fasting or any lifestyle change should not be undertaken without first consulting with your healthcare providers.


A “Fast” Way to Lose Weight

With Intermittent Fasting

March 23, 2016


Intermittent fasting is “trending” with endorsements from celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Jackman. It is more of a pattern of eating than a diet and it is easier than a “diet”. In addition, not only does it help you lose weight as well or better than a low calorie diet, but it also has been shown to help with many other health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

However, the main motivation to try intermittent fasting is to lose weight. And the simplest, but certainly not the only, reason that it works is due to eating fewer meals. Unless you compensate by eating much more during the remaining meals, you will consume fewer calories.

A “Fast” History of Intermittent Fasting

Until very recently in human history, sporadic or seasonal access to food was the norm. This fits in nicely with the fact that our livers and muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for quick access, and we can also sustain ourselves for weeks at a time by drawing from our long term reserves – fat.

Fasting, in one form or another has been around for as long as humans, sometimes as a consequence of having limited access to food and sometimes due to religious or spiritual beliefs. It is easy to see that we evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time, and it is not hard to argue that fasting may in fact be more “natural” than eating three meals a day “on a schedule”.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a term used to describe various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting.

The three most common ways to practice intermittent fasting are:

  • The 5:2 method where you fast for two days per week and eat normally during the remaining five days.
  • Alternate-day fasting where you eat normally on one day and restrict yourself to 500 calories on the alternate day.
  • The 16:8 method where you restrict your meals on a daily basis to eight hours per day by skipping either breakfast or dinner.Intermittent Fasting vs Calorie Restriction Diets

For a more detailed explanation of intermittent fasting you can go to INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS IT FOR YOU?

It has been shown that intermittent fasting is easier to follow than calorie restriction diets.(1) This is important since most diets fail because they are not followed over the long term. Fortunately, more people are willing to stick with intermittent fasting and adapt more easily to it than a traditional calorie restriction diet.(2) A 2012 study of 16 obese individuals found a high degree of compliance and significant weight loss with intermittent fasting.(3)

Part of the reason that people tend to stick with intermittent fasting has to do with the fact that most experience significant weight loss, and nothing breeds compliance like success.

A large part of that success can be attributed to the fact that our body produces ghrelin and other metabolic hormones which determine blood sugar levels and do so based on our eating patterns. Therefore, if you regularly skip breakfast or dinner your body will stop telling you that you are hungry at that time. This explains why people can adapt to regular periods of fasting.(4)

What the Science Tells us About Intermittent Fasting

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting enhances hormone function, which helps with weight loss. For example, a 2013 randomized study involving 112 overweight women showed that intermittent fasting substantially improves insulin sensitivity and weight loss.(5) Another study showed that two days of fasting can quintuple human growth hormone levels.(6) These hormones are important for breaking down body fat and facilitating the use of fat for energy. As a result, intermittent fasting increases your metabolic rate by up to 3.6% which helps you burn more calories.(7)

Because intermittent fasting causes an increase in human growth hormone, it plays an important part in the maintenance of lean body mass and the decrease of body fat.(8) Raising human growth hormone levels while improving insulin sensitivity results in healthy weight loss. A 2011 review study concluded that intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, but just as importantly, results in less muscle loss than a standard calorie restriction diet.(9)

A 2012 study of 50 healthy Ramadan observers found significant improvement in body fat percentage. Another important finding was that, even though the participants had regained the weight lost during the Ramadan fast six weeks later, they did not gain any additional weight as often happens with many types of calorie-restrictive diets.(10)

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting works both by boosting your metabolic rate – calories out – and by generally reducing the amount of food you eat – calories in.

Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight loss tool that works better than conventional calorie restriction diets because it is easier to stick with and gives superior results.

(1)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582559
(2)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20815899
(3)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793855
(4)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18220691
(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23591120
(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1548337
(7)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2405717
(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2355952
(9)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21410865
(10)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23244540


The Rogue Immune Cells That Wreck the Brain

Solving a mystery behind brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

 

brain cell oligodendrocyte

A type of brain cell known as an oligodendrocyte

Is it possible that many common brain disorders, despite their wide-ranging symptoms, are caused or at least worsened by the same culprit, a component of the immune system? If so, could many of these disorders be treated in a similar way—by stopping these rogue cells?

Beth Stevens thinks she has solved a mystery behind brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Read More


Restoration & Prevention Diets

March 21, 2016


Restoration & Prevention Diets are dietary regimes meant to impact specific health issues rather than weight loss in particular.  These diets contain elements of popular dietary programs, particularly the Mediterranean Diet.

Restoration & Prevention Diets are intended to reduce symptoms that are only sometimes associated with being overweight. While they could be helpful for many people who struggle with weight, their primary goal is to alleviate or even avoid a specific health problem. People for whom extra weight is not a challenge might need to make changes in order just to maintain weight, control high blood pressure or chronic pain, or avoid difficulties with food digestion.

Given the prevalence of neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in our aging population, a proactive approach could involve adopting the MIND diet.

As with any diet, if you have any health issues and would like to see if one of these restoration and prevention diets can help you, please consult a healthcare professional before starting.

We summarize and provide references and links to the following restoration & prevention diets:

  • MIND Diet – this diet is intended to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. MIND diet is a combination of parts of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. It is promoted broadly by researchers (mostly epidemiologists), physicians, gerontologists & naturopaths.

 

  • DASH Diet is a group of food restrictions recommended to avoid high blood pressure (hypertension). It was designed by scientists working for the US government.

 

  • FODMAP Diet is designed and promoted by some specialist physicians (Gastroenterologists) and alternative practitioners (especially Naturopaths) to assist people with digestive issues that cluster around Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

 

  • ANTI-INFLAMMATORY Diets are designed to avoid a wide array of symptoms associated with the inflammation process, and are especially helpful for people with autoimmune problems. Anti-inflammatory diets are promoted by a wide array of health care specialists. They may also have a beneficial impact on other symptoms and illnesses and weight.

 


Astaxanthin: Prince of Antioxidants

March 20, 2016


Astaxanthin has been hailed by some as the “King of Antioxidants” with incredible health benefits and claims that it can cure everything from sunburn to cancer. If astaxanthin is that good, why haven’t most people ever heard of it?

The idea behind the claims is that astaxanthin has significant anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties which lead to many health benefits, including protection from sun damage, improved athletic performance, protection from heart disease, eye disease, cancer and longer lives.

The question is, how valid are these claims? It is our aim to explain to you what astaxanthin is, what the health benefits are and how much substance there is behind the claims.

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring fat-soluble carotenoid found in microalgae. It works its way up the food chain and is what makes krill, shrimp, trout, salmon and flamingos pink. Even though it has not received the same attention as other carotenoids, such as vitamins C and E, it is possibly a far more powerful antioxidant than these and other better known carotenoids.

What are Carotenoids?images-4

Identifiable by their orange, yellow, and red pigments, carotenoids are found in many plants, algae, and bacteria. There is a significant amount of scientific evidence that carotenoids act as antioxidants in the body, protecting against cellular damage. There are over 600 carotenoids, with beta-carote
ne, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and astaxanthin being the most common.

Many studies have shown that people consuming diets rich in carotenoids from natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are healthier, and live longer because carotenoids are efficient free radical scavengers and reduce oxidative stress.(1)

urlWhat is an Antioxidant?

In simple terms, antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons, and occur when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Free radicals can inflict damage by causing a long series of chain reactions that prompt oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is the imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract their harmful effects. One of the principal harmful effects of oxidative stress is inflammation which ultimately causes damage to cell structures, including the lipids and membranes, proteins, and DNA.

The body has a defense system of antioxidants which serves to prevent free radical damage.
Antioxidants interact with free radicals and stop the chain reaction before the vital molecules are damaged. The body cannot manufacture antioxidants and so they must be supplied from our diet or supplements.

Astaxanthin and Other Carotenoids

While similar to other carotenoids with many of the same health benefits, some believe that astaxanthin is superior because it has a unique structure and works in some very unique ways. It is thought that unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin positions itself across the entire cell membrane, protecting all parts of the cell, and is able to trap radicals both inside of the membrane and at the membrane surface.

This claim is a significant one because it provides a rationale for why astaxanthin may be more effective than other antioxidants. However, the only scientific backing we have been able to find for this claim is a 2001 Japanese study which compares the effectiveness of beta carotene and astaxanthin on free radicals. This study found that astaxanthin was twice as effective, and concluded that its effectiveness was due to its unique ability to trap free radicals near the membrane surface and in the interior of the membrane.(2)

We could not find any follow up studies that investigate this important claim.

There are other claims made about astaxanthin that also attempt to distinguish it from other carotenoids. One claim is that astaxanthin acts on at least five different inflammatory pathways and can handle more free radicals at any given time than other antioxidants. Another claim is that, unlike other antioxidants, it does not become pro-oxidant because it forms an electron cloud around itself, so that when free radicals come by to steal electrons they are absorbed into the cloud and neutralized. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find any scientific studies that effectively back up these claims. The authority for these theories seems to be Dr. Robert Corish MD, who is professed to be one of the world’s leading experts on astaxanthin. He may well be, but that does not in itself constitute valid scientific evidence for the propositions. And there is also the fact that he serves as the medical director for the largest producer of astaxanthin, which…. we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Another bold and often repeated claim is that astaxanthin is the most potent antioxidant nature has to offer and that it is 800 times greater than CoQ10, 75 times greater that ALA, 550 times greater than green tea catechins and 6,000 times greater than Vitamin C. This claim seems to be based on a 2007 Japanese study which compared several antioxidants to determine their ability to combat singlet oxygen.(3) Even though this is an important study, it was not a human study or even an animal study, and it was funded by the leading producer of astaxanthin. And even the study concluded that far more research is required before these claims can be conclusively validated.

None of this means that astaxanthin does not have many health benefits and may indeed be the best of the carotenoids as an antioxidant. For example, in an assay study in 2000, astaxanthin was shown to have the highest antioxidant activity compared to other carotenoids.(4)

We will now look at some of astaxanthin’s health benefits that have at least some scientific validation.

Can Astaxanthin Improve Athletic Performance?

One of the benefits of astaxanthin that has piqued the interest of researchers is its ability to enhance athletic performance. Whether you are an elite athlete or just interested in increasing your tolerance for yard work, can this carotenoid help?

In a 2012 study, astaxanthin was shown to have positive benefits with regard to exercise-induced stress. This was a double blind study covering a ninety day period. Thirty-two elite male soccer players were given either a placebo or astaxanthin (4 mg/day). Each week they trained 5 to 7 days for 10 to 15 hours. Those taking astaxanthin showed less oxidative stress, inflammation and an enhanced immune response. (5)

Can Astaxanthin Protect Your Skin?

It would appear so, given the results of two 2012 significant Japanese human clinical studies. In one, an open-label non-controlled study, 30 healthy women were given 6 mg per day oral supplementation and 2 ml of a topical solution of astaxanthin for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the women showed significant improvement with regard to wrinkles, elasticity and age spots.

The other, a randomized double-blind placebo controlled study, involved 36 healthy male subjects. For 6 weeks the subjects were given the same supplementation as the women and showed similar results.(6)

A preliminary clinical trial of 25 individuals, conducted by an astaxanthin manufacturer in the course of patent research, found that after two weeks of supplementation of 4 mg per day, there was a statistically significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden skin.(7)

Can Astaxanthin Protect Your Heart?

Researchers are also looking into claims that astaxanthin can benefit heart health. A 2006 study examined astaxanthin’s effects on rats with hypertension (high blood pressure), and results indicated that it may help to improve elastin levels and arterial wall thickness.(8)

Other claims include the idea that astaxanthin can prevent heart disease and help lower cholesterol, but there does not yet appear to be sufficient evidence to support these claims.

Can Astaxanthin Help You Live Longer?

A study has shown that doses as low as 2 mg/day for 4 weeks lead to a significant reduction in the measurable oxidative DNA damage by about 40%.(9)

Oxidative stress or the production of free radicals is thought to be a principal mechanism of aging. Both slowing down the production of free radicals or increasing antioxidants to neutralize free radicals ought to slow down the aging process.

In a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2010, young healthy women were given astaxanthin supplements (0, 2 or 8 mg/day) for 8 weeks. They found that those taking astaxanthin showed less oxidative stress and inflammation, and an enhanced immune response. Interestingly, both doses of astaxanthin decreased DNA damage and enhanced the immune response. (10)

What are Some Other Health Benefits of Astaxanthin?

One study found short and long term benefits for the treatment of breast cancer, including reduced growth of breast cancer cells.(11)

Astaxanthin may also have a future in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, and joint pain, including conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, which affects nearly one in five Americans. However, results so far have been mixed.(12)

In a 2005 study, astaxanthin showed positive results for male fertility. Over the course of three months, the double-blind study examined 30 different men who were previously suffering from infertility. The researchers saw improvements in sperm parameters, like count and motility, and improved fertility in the group who received a strong dosage of astaxanthin. As this was a relatively small-scale study, more evidence and research is needed to support this claim.(13)

An interesting 2009 study found that: astaxanthin has a protective efficacy against several deleterious effects caused by high glucose exposure and proposed that astaxanthin should be explored further as a potential antidiabetic remedy for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy.(14)

Sources of Astaxanthinimgres-6

Microalgae produce astaxanthin to protect themselves from various environmental stresses including excessive UV radiation.(15) H. pluvialis has the highest levels of astaxanthin found in nature at 40,000 parts per million. The other main sources are: phaffia yeast 10,000, arctic shrimp 1,200, krill 120, plankton 60 and salmonids 5.(16)

At this point if you feel that astaxanthin would be beneficial for you, and unless you eat a lot of wild caught alaskan salmon or a lot of arctic shrimp, supplementation of 4 mg per day is probably a good idea.

Conclusion

Even though there are a growing number of scientific studies, most of them are small and not large randomized controlled studies. Nonetheless, some of the existing studies do provide compelling evidence of health benefits.

Therefore, while the jury is still out on some of the health claims made with regard to astaxanthin, you can be pretty certain that, as an antioxidant, astaxanthin is good for you. The title of “King of the Carotenoids” if nothing else, is premature; perhaps a better title is “Prince of the Carotenoids” and in the future we will see if it can ascend to the big throne.