December 22, 2014

299 Statins, Muscle Pain & Vit. D [22 December 2014]

A commonly reported side effect of statin (cholesterol-lowering) drug therapy is musculoskeletal pain, called statin-induced myalgia (SIM), affecting 10-20% of patients. Another side effect is the blockage of the metabolic pathway that produces coenzyme Q10, necessary for the production of energy in the form of ATP in the mitochondria of our cells. It is generally believed that this reduction in Q10 is responsible for the muscle pain and fatigue experienced by many statin users. And indeed, taking coenzyme Q10 does reduce or eliminate the pain in most people.

Muscle pain is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. So it’s not too surprising to learn that studies have found a correlation with vitamin D status and muscle pain in people using statins. Two studies in 2014 examined this relationship.

The first, published in the journal PLOS ONE in March, followed 5,526 adults for 7 years and measured the vitamin D status when they began statin drug therapy. The risk of developing muscle pain was strongly correlated with vitamin D status; 21% higher for those with the lowest levels compared to the highest. The D level at which the greatest change occurred was 15 ng/ml (37.5 nmol/L). Note that this is about half the minimum vitamin D level recommended by some for optimum health – see my post #295 last month. Significantly, some of the participants with low D levels did not experience muscle pain until starting statin therapy, suggesting that it is the SIM that the D prevented, not general muscle pain.

The more recent study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis in December, compared the rate of pain reported in 1,057 statin users and 4,850 non-statin users, for which vitamin D blood levels were available. The researchers found the risk of developing muscle pain was 90% higher (nearly double) for those with D levels below 15 ng/ml. Interestingly there was no significant difference in pain reported between the statin users and non-users for those with D levels higher than 15 ng/ml.

More research is being done but I wouldn’t wait. If I was taking a statin drug, in addition to supplementing with Q10, I would make sure my D levels were adequate.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. See this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

December 15, 2014

298 Omega-7 Update [15 Dec 2014]

Last April I introduced you to Omega-7, the fourth essential fatty acid. At that time there had been no good human studies on it. That has now changed with a 2013 study by a research center in Puerto Rico.

The study, published in August 2014 in the J. Clinical Lipidology, is the first human randomized controlled trial of palmitoleic acid (Omega-7). The researchers selected 60 adult men and women with dyslipidemia (unhealthy blood levels of fats) and divided them into two groups. The experimental group received 220 mg of Omega-7; the control group a placebo capsule of MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Before and after 30 days the participants’ blood levels were tested for lipids and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP, a marker for inflammation).

After the 30 day trial the group taking Omega 7 had significant improvements compared to the controls. Triglycerides were reduced 15%; LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) was reduced 8%; and HDL (the “good cholesterol”) had increased 5%. But the greatest change was in the hsCRP levels which were reduced 44%.

Side effects were rare in this study. Two or three participants in the Omega-7 group experienced gastrointestinal distress and one had a headache during the study period. No adverse effects were noted in the control group.

This is an important study in the research on Omega-7. Previous animal studies and human epidemiological studies found associations between higher blood levels of Omega-7 and improved blood lipid levels, but did not show cause and effect. This study showed that supplementing with Omega 7 will improve blood lipids and reduce inflammation. Other previous studies suggested that Omega-7 could reduce fatty liver and also improve insulin sensitivity (low insulin sensitivity is a risk factor for the development of diabetes). Further research is needed to verify these results.

Omega-7 is abundant in only a few foods: seabuckthorn berries, macadamia nuts and some cold water fish like anchovies and wild salmon. It is available as a supplement from seabuckthorn berry oil and purified fish oil.

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

December 8, 2014

297 Mental Health Revolution [8 Dec 2014]

The discovery of the first anti-depressant in the 1950s ushered in a revolution in mental health. This and the families of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs that followed not only provided results not possible before but did much to remove the stigma of mental illness. They showed that mental illness is a chemical imbalance, not a character flaw, and not the fault of the person experiencing it.

Unfortunately, recent research is finding that while these drugs have good short term results, the long term can be a different story. Dr. Julia Rucklidge, a clinical psychologist in New Zealand, expanded on this topic in a recent TEDx Talk. She reported huge rates of increases over the past few years in ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses in New Zealand and internationally, and then discussed the long term shortcomings of conventional treatments.

Rucklidge has spent the last ten years researching the effects of micro-nutrition on mental health. She and other researchers around the world, have found that the broad spectrum high dose supplement she works with consistently provides superior, often dramatic, results in the short term, without the long term side effects of conventional treatments, for many different conditions including: stress, anxiety, addictions, depression, ADHD, OCD, autism, and Bipolar Disorder. Links to these studies can be found on the TrueHope website. She explains that eating well is essential for mental health but for some people it is not sufficient to turn around a serious mental condition. She also cautioned that the number of nutrients (36) and the dosage used by the researchers are far higher than you would find in a regular multivitamin.

I first wrote about this program in January 2010 "A Discovery of Truehope". Listen to an interview with Truehope founder Anthony Stephan talking about the program and how it came to be.

Rucklidge sums it up this way:
“Poor nutrition is a significant and modifiable risk factor for the development of mental illness… Optimizing nutrition is a safe and viable way to avoid, treat or lessen mental illness.”

I think it’s time for the next revolution in mental health.

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

December 1, 2014

296 Going Grain–Free [1 Dec 2014]

Have you considered going on a gluten-free diet or the more comprehensive grain-free diet? Should you consider it?

Dana James in her November 12, 2014, article in MindBodyGreen “So, Should You Eat Gluten or Not?” argues that practically everyone should avoid gluten. After describing how gluten has changed in some modern grains; how it causes gut permeability which is aggravated by stress; how gluten leads to food cravings; and knocks gut bacteria “out-of-whack”, James lists who, in her opinion, should and who should not eat gluten. Her “no” list is so comprehensive and her “yes” list is so strict that no one I know would qualify.

Here is my list for who should consider trying a gluten or grain free diet:
• diagnosed with Celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)
• crave carbs, especially breads & baking (eg doughnuts!)
• digestive problems – gas, bloating, abdominal pain
• joint pain, numbness in extremities
• want to lose or at least stop gaining weight
• feel depressed or experience “fuzzy brain”.

Notice I said “try”. I recommend going grain-free for a month and see what happens. You might be surprised, as was Carrie Vitt when her family went grain-free (MindBodyGreen November 18, 2014, “10 Things I didn’t Expect When Our Family Went Grain-Free”): the cravings left in only 3 days; appetites were reduced and they could go longer between meals; cooking and even baking was easier; no one complained and even the kids loved it; her mind was more alert with no low blood sugar crashes; she lost unwanted pounds; and most importantly her autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s) went into full remission.

So don’t go grain-free just because it’s trendy. Give it a try if you wish, and then after a month or so decide if you have noticed enough positive changes that you want to make it a permanent part of your lifestyle. If not then you can continue to make whole grains part of your healthy diet.

I previously wrote on this topic in April 2012 (Wheat - Beyond Gluten); October 2013 (Grain and Our Brain); and September 2014 (Maybe It's Not Gluten).

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