Archive for June 2013

Alzheimer’s – An Epidemic

In the United States, the UK and other Western countries, Alzheimer’s disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans and almost 1 million Britons including one in eight people aged 65 and over, living with the disease.

By 2050, it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect one in four Americans and Brits, rivaling the current prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

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There is still no known cure for this devastating disease, and very few treatments. Alzheimer’s drugs are often of little to no benefit at all, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime.

Research repeatedly suggests the best hope for patients lie in prevention through optimal diet, exercise and staying socially and mentally active.

While memory loss is common among Westerners, it is NOT a “normal” part of ageing. Research has shown that even mild “senior moments” are caused by the same brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These cognitive changes are by no means inevitable!

Tips for Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease

The beauty of following The Fat Loss Puzzle is that it helps treat and prevent all chronic degenerative diseases, from the common ones like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s to the ones you have never heard of or can’t even pronounce.

The plan is the first step in addressing Alzheimer’s disease, which is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans and almost a million Britons, including one in eight people aged 65 and over, living with the disease.

Remember, while memory loss is indeed common among Westerners, it is NOT a “normal” part of aging, and cognitive changes are by no means inevitable. People who experience very little decline in their cognitive function up until their deaths have been found (post-mortem) to be free of brain lesions, showing that it’s entirely possible to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place… and one of the best ways to do this is by leading a healthy lifestyle.

  • Sugar and Fructose. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders.
  • Improve magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition and may be superior to other forms.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer’s patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.

Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer’s.

  • Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3. This is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However other sugars (sucrose is 50% fructose by weight), grains and lack of exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer’s.
  • Cinnamon  is very effective in controlling blood sugar and insulin; also cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin, two compounds found in cinnamon, have an inhibitory effect on the aggregation of a particular protein called tau. Tau plays a large role in the structure and function of neurons.
  • Vitamin B12: In addition to the research presented above, a small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by two percent. Remember sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
  • Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw or steamed veggies every day. Avoid supplements with folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
  • High-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil or fish oil. High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
  • Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50% mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However you should be healthy prior to having them removed.
  • Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
  • Exercise regularly. It’s been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized, thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1 alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less PGC-1 alpha in their brains11 and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s. I would strongly recommend reviewing The Fat Loss Puzzle for my specific dietary recommendations.
  • Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
  • Eat blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. Cherries and pomegranates are also very good. Like any fruit though, avoid excesses here.
  • Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Avoid anticholinergic and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
  • Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.

Other Natural Treatments for Your Anti-Alzheimer’s Arsenal

Finally, there are a few other nutritional recommendations worth noting for their specific benefits in preventing and treating dementia. So, although your fundamental strategy for preventing dementia should involve a comprehensive lifestyle approach, you may want to consider adding a few of these natural dietary agents to your anti-Alzheimer’s arsenal. These four natural foods/supplements have good science behind them, in terms of preventing age-related cognitive changes:

  • Coconut Oil: The primary fuel your brain needs for energy is glucose. However, your brain is able to run on more than a single type of fuel, one being ketones (ketone bodies), or ketoacids. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy.
  • The medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil are a GREAT source of ketone bodies, because coconut oil is about 66% MCTs. In fact, ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by diabetes or Alzheimer’s.
  • Astaxanthin is a natural pigment with unique properties and many clinical benefits, including some of the most potent antioxidant activity currently known. As a fat-soluble nutrient, astaxanthin readily crosses your blood-brain barrier. One study found it may help prevent neurodegeneration associated with oxidative stress, as well as make a potent natural “brain food.”

The molecules of astaxanthin neutralize free radicals and other oxidants without being destroyed or becoming pro-oxidants themselves in the process. It’s is a unique molecule whose shape allows it to precisely fit into a cell membrane and span its entire width. In this position, astaxanthin can intercept potentially damaging molecules before they can damage your cells.

You can get some astaxanthin by taking krill oil, which is a fantastic omega-3 fat supplement. But you can boost your astaxanthin even MORE by adding a pure astaxanthin supplement to your nutritional regimen. For optimal absorption, make sure to take krill oil and/or astaxanthin with a fat-containing meal, since both are fat-soluble.

  • Gingko Biloba: Many scientific studies have found that Gingko Biloba has positive effects for dementia. Gingko, which is derived from a tree native to Asia, has long been used medicinally in China and other countries. A 1997 study from JAMA showed clear evidence that Gingko improves cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia.

Research since then has been equally promising. One study in 2006 found Gingko as effective as the dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s type dementia. A 2010 meta-analysis found Gingko Biloba to be effective for a variety of types of dementia.

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): ALA can stabilise cognitive functions among Alzheimer’s patients and may slow the progression of the disease.

 

 

Do These Diabetes Drugs Point to Another Avandia Scandal

Back in 2010, when Victoza, a type 2 diabetes drug, was approved, some sources warned about the safety risks of taking this drug. In several animal studies, Victoza caused thyroid tumours. In human studies, many patients developed pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas.

Despite these worrying results, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave Victoza the green light, dismissing all the safety warnings from their panel members. At the time, the drug was hailed as a revolution in the treatment of type-2 diabetes,a condition that affects 2.5 million Britons.

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Avandia all over again?

Victoza falls in a class of drugs called incretin mimetics (also known as GLP-1 agonist, or DPP-4 inhibitors). These drugs are sold under the names Victoza, Januvia, Byetta, Exenatide and Liraglutide and they work by mimicking incretin hormones to help control blood sugar levels.

Incretin hormones are a group of gut hormones that naturally stimulate the release of insulin in response to a meal. As your blood sugar rises after a meal, the drug prompts your pancreas to release insulin. It also prevents your pancreas from releasing too much glucagon, another hormone, which causes your liver to release stored sugar into your bloodstream. On top of that, it also inhibits DPP-4, an enzyme that destroys the hormone incretin.

These drugs also slow the rate at which your stomach empties after you’ve eaten a meal, which may reduce feelings of hunger. This dampens the rate at which your blood sugar rises after eating.

Sounds great, right?

Not really…

Three years after this ‘miracle cure’ hit the market, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study which found that in most cases, hospital admissions for pancreatitis happened within the first 60 days of patients taking the incretin mimetic drug Januvia. The study warned that patients taking this diabetes drug have twice the risk of developing acute pancreatitis.

In response to these results, a spokesperson for Merck, the makers of Januvia, rejected the idea that the drug could cause pancreatitis and added: “Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of our medicines and vaccines and the patients who use them.”

That’s despite the fact that research published in 2011 indicated that Januvia could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 172 per cent and thyroid cancer by 48 per cent.

In fact, the writing was already on the wall for incretin mimetic drugs just one year after their approval, when FDA officials issued a warning, linking Victoza use to an increased risk of pancreatitis, thyroid cancer, and kidney failure.

In another study, published in the journal Diabetes, pancreases from 20 diabetics were examined. In patients treated with incretin therapy there was a 40 per cent increase in pancreatic cells as well as cell damage. Of the 8 pancreases of patients who received incretin therapy, 7 were associated with Januvia. The researchers concluded that “in humans, incretin therapy resulted in ‘marked’ cell proliferation and damage, with a potential for evolution into cancer.”

Now, an investigation by the British Medical Journal and Channel 4 Dispatches has looked into all the findings of these studies, and found that the manufacturers of incretin mimetic drugs (including Merck, Novo Nordisk and Amylin Pharmaceuticals) may have been trying to hide the potentially harmful side effects of these drugs.

Dr Deborah Cohen, the BMJ‘s investigations editor, said that the evidence of these trials “may seem inconclusive” on their own, but added: “When considered alongside other emerging and long standing evidence, a worrying picture emerges, posing serious questions about the safety of this class of drug.”

Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor-in-chief, said the manufacturers had been “unwilling to share their data” and that patients and doctors had “not been kept properly informed about the uncertainties surrounding these drugs.”

Well, that’s no big surprise… It’s sounds like Avandia all over again and as we’ve learned from that experience, if you value your health and your life, it’s probably best not to wait for health officials to ban these drugs. They’ll probably only take action when it’s already too late for thousands of patients.

Pumpkin Pie Shake

This breakfast and lunch smoothie will keep you full and nourished throughout the day. Great for a post workout shake!

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Serves 1

Ingredients:
300g of steamed pumpkin or butternut squash (chilled or frozen)
1/2 small banana (frozen if you prefer)
150ml of unsweetened almond milk
25g scoop of undenatured whey protein
2 tbsp of full fat Greek bio yogurt
1 tbsp ground flaxseeds (linseeds)
Splash coconut milk
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Method:
Put all ingredients in a blender or container if using a stick blender and blend for about a minute. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

Mini Aubergine Pizzas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Aubergines – 3 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into half-inch thick slices
2 tbsp EV olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 large vine tomatoes, sliced
20g grated Gruyere
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

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Method:

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 180 degrees C. Brush both sides of the eggplant with the oil and season with the salt pepper and oregano, then top with the sliced tomato. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until browned and almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the grated cheese. Bake until the cheese melts and browns, 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve on plates with balsamic drizzle.

Simple and delicious!