May 26, 2014

269 The Implications of Epigenetics [26 May 2014]

The modern science of Epigenetics began with a few litters of skinny brown mice at Dukes University in 2003. What made these baby mice surprising was their lineage – their parents, grandparents and generations before them, were bred to have a gene that made them fat and yellow. The only difference was these mothers had been given what was essentially a prenatal vitamin, which left the gene intact while somehow turning it off. By the way the brown mice were not only slimmer but had lower rates of diabetes and cancer than their yellow ancestors. Similarly pregnant mice supplemented with choline had babies that developed super memories and as adults broke all the maze records.

External triggers suppress a gene by a process called methylation. A methyl marker on a gene turns it off, partially or completely. An environmental trigger either adds or removes a methyl marker, thus affecting the expression of that gene. Epigenetic triggers could be a vitamin, a toxin, a nutrient deficiency or even an emotional experience. They can come from your mother, grandmother or father, and can occur before conception, in utero, shortly after birth or throughout adulthood. And methyl markers may be passed down to future generations.

Babies born in Holland after the “Hunger Winter” famine of 1944-45 had low birth weights and, as adults, were at higher risk of obesity, coronary disease and certain cancers. A generation later their babies also had low birth weights. A British study found that men who started smoking before puberty had sons (but not daughters) with a higher risk of obesity. Grooming by mother rats affects their babies’ brain development, causing them to grow up calmer and more confident than babies ignored by their mothers. Identical twins experience different triggers throughout their life that alter their risk for diseases such as cancer, allowing one to develop cancer while the other does not.

What are the implications of epigenetics? The importance of prenatal nutrition and maternal nurturing are obvious. More important is the epiphany that we need not be slaves to our genes. Just because our parents and grandparents suffered from obesity, diabetes or cancer doesn’t mean we have to. We can – and I would argue should – do something about it. Improving our nutrition, reducing stress, getting sufficient exercise and rest could free us from much of our genetic destiny.

Source: Survival of the Sickest – the surprising connections between disease and longevity by Dr Sharon Moalem, 2007

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

May 19, 2014

268 What is the Paleo Diet? [19 May 2014]

You have probably been hearing a lot about a so-called paleo diet. What is it and what can we learn from it?

Paleo is a Latin prefix meaning “old” or “ancient”. In this case it is short for Paleolithic, or “Old Stone Age”, a period in human history prior to agriculture. The paleo diet is a modern attempt to recreate the diet of our pre-agricultural ancestors.

The paleo diet movement started in the 1970s with a book called “The Stone Age Diet” by Walter L. Voegtlin, who argued that humans are primarily carnivorous with an ideal diet of mostly protein and fats and little carbohydrates. The diet has been adapted and promoted by many since, and is now more popular than ever. Advantages touted by the promoters include having more energy, getting & staying slim, and living longer. The diet is said to reduce the risk of degenerative diseases including obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer, and often reverse the symptoms in people already suffering from these conditions.

So what foods are allowed in the paleo diet?
• lean proteins like grass-fed beef, bison, free range chicken
• fish & seafood
• nearly all fruits and vegetables
• nuts and seeds in moderation
• healthy fats like avocados, fish oil, olive oil

Foods to be avoided:
• grains, legumes, starchy vegetables
• dairy & alcohol
• processed foods & sugar

If you think you would like to try the paleo diet, there are several books and many websites for more information.

Many people who do a 30 day trial decide to stay with it because of how great they are feeling. There are many different versions and you can choose how strictly you wish to follow it. Let me know how you do.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

May 12, 2014

267 Lactose Intolerance – a new treatment [12 May 2014]

About 70% of the world’s human population loses the ability, as adults, to produce lactase, the enzyme which breaks down lactose (milk sugar). In cultures such as ours where dairy is a part of the normal diet, this creates a problem. Typical symptoms observed within an hour or two of consuming milk sugar include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea. There are two strategies to deal with lactose intolerance – dietary avoidance and lactase supplements.

Now there is a third option. Just this year a new product has been approved in Canada for the treatment of lactose intolerance. Sulmedol®, a special form of sulfur, actually restores the ability to digest lactose by reactivating lactase production in the intestine. It was accidentally discovered in 2003 by Dr Airudin Khan at the U. of Western Ontario, London, who was studying homocysteine levels. Sulmedol® works in two ways: by reactivating the genes that control lactase production, and by increasing the production of the amino acid L-Cysteine, an essential component of the lactase enzyme.

The treatment requires taking 2 capsules daily, while avoiding all sources of lactose, for 4 to 12 weeks. Lactose intolerance is tested at 4 weeks and every 2 weeks after that until symptoms have disappeared. The program is continued for another 4 weeks and then stopped. You should then be able to consume dairy symptom-free. Some people may need to repeat the treatment in a few years. The treatment is not effective for true dairy allergies involving the immune system.

In a clinical trial, 90% of 41 adults tested had their lactose tolerance restored after 12 weeks (some sooner). Most remained tolerant for a median of 76 weeks without further treatment. Side effects were minimal – three people experienced some bloating and flatulence during the treatment phase.

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium and phosphorus. Other expected benefits from taking the sulfur supplement would be lowered homocysteine levels (implicated in heart disease, osteoporosis and brain dysfunction) and increased glutathione, arguably the most important antioxidant in our cells. Healthy skin hair and nails all require sulfur containing amino acids.

Source: and lecture by Marva Ward, CNP.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

May 5, 2014

266 The Retracted GMO Study [5 May 2014]

Back in December of 2012 I reported on a French animal study published that September in Food and Chemical Toxicology that showed significantly increased kidney and liver toxicity, including large tumor growth, in rats fed genetically engineered (GE) corn. Then in November 2013 this study was retracted by the editor.

While I’m sure proponents of GE crops viewed this as a vindication of the safety of their technology, anti-GE lobbyists like J. Mercola and J. Wright saw it as the capitulation of science to pressure from big business. Just what was wrong with the study that merited its retraction?

In response to a large number of letters to the editor questioning the validity of the findings, the Editor-in-Chief reviewed the study examining all aspects of the peer review process and even requested the raw data from the authors (which was supplied). He found no evidence whatsoever of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data but did have concerns about the small number of animals (200) and the strain of rats used (tumor-susceptible), both of which had been noted in the original peer review process. He concluded that “the results presented while not incorrect are inconclusive” and on that basis decided to retract the paper.

The authors later published, in the same journal, a detailed response to all the criticisms received. They noted that 75% of the first week’s letters critical to their mammalian toxicology study came from plant biologists (not animal toxicologists) and Monsanto employees. The strain of rats used was the same as in the only previous study done on one of the corn varieties (which used 400 rats but lasted only 90 days). They reiterated that their work remains “the most detailed study involving the life-long consumption of an agricultural GMO… and the first long term detailed research on mammals exposed to a highly diluted pesticide in its total formulation”.

It seems to me that this study, representing the longest (lifespan) GMO study to date, is worthy of publication, even if its results are inconclusive. I have seen many studies that are inconclusive and call for bigger or better studies. I am sure, though, that the industry will not be in any hurry to repeat this one.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.