August 29, 2016

384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s [29 Aug 2016]

I previously wrote about curcumin for its use in reducing pain and inflammation (#294 Nov. 2014) and as an adjunct in cancer treatment (#329 July 2015). I recently learned of its potential in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Curcumin is an extract of the spice turmeric which gives curry its yellow color. Chronic low-grade inflammation is increasingly recognized as playing a role in age-related diseases including arthritis, heart disease, dementia, some auto-immune diseases, and cancer. Curcumin is one of the strongest natural anti-inflammatories known, so it makes sense that it could be useful in preventing or treating these conditions. But is there any evidence for curcumin and Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Disease is associated with an accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain forming what’s called amyloid plaque. In column #334 (August 2015) I described how the newly discovered glymphatic system clears this plaque from our brain during sleep. A 2005 mouse study found that curcumin blocked the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain.

India is probably the world’s biggest consumer of curry (and therefore curcumin) and, it turns out, also has the lowest incidence of dementia. A 2006 study of 1,010 Asian adults aged 60-93 found that those who ate curry more often had significantly better scores on a Mini-Mental State Examination. A two-year study published in 2001 compared older adults in India and Pennsylvania and found the incidence rate per 1000 person-years for Alzheimer’s disease was 4.7 in the Indians compared to 17.5 for the Pennsylvania population.

In column #333 (August 2015) I listed 10 things you could do to reduce your risk of developing dementia: reduce sugar; avoid diabetes; eat enough good fats; keep your weight down; exercise; don’t smoke; avoid excessive alcohol; control blood pressure; get enough sleep, and stay mentally and socially active. Then in column #336 (Sept 2015) I added: optimize vitamin D levels. Now it looks like we can add another: take curcumin to control chronic inflammation.

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

August 22, 2016

383 Blocking the Truth [22 Aug 2016]

I’m normally skeptical of claims of media bias by people who disagree with a published news item. Recently I came across a book that opened my eyes on the extent of corporate and government influence on mainstream news in the USA (and I’m sure in Canada too).

Sharyl Attkisson is a 30 year veteran investigative journalist (and with 5 Emmys, must be a good one!). She was the reporter who in 2009 exposed the CDC’s cover-up in the H1N1 Swine ‘Flu “epidemic”. She has exposed many other scandals and controversies under both Republican and Democratic US governments.

Her 2014 book “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington” tells the story of her growing frustration in getting her stories aired on CBS TV. She reports her own experiences and puts it in perspective of the larger picture of “the decline of investigative journalism and unbiased truth telling in America today”. CBS upper management began blocking publication of certain stories. Her telephone was tapped and computers infected with a spyware owned by the CIA and FBI. In frustration she finally left CBS after 20 years to work independently. The book “Stonewalled” is one result.

How does this relate to health? It’s not just government that influences media – corporate sponsors also have undue influence with their advertising dollars. Pharmaceuticals and biotech industries particularly have a long history of quashing unfavorable stories. Here are some of the issues that, according to Attkisson, mainstream media will no longer touch:
• Vaccination safety – this one is particularly taboo
• GMO & glyphosate safety – look what they did to Dr. Oz last year
• Side effects of pharmaceuticals – especially popular ones like statins

So don’t assume because you see or hear nothing on these issues on TV or in the daily newspaper that they are unquestionably safe. Rather it’s because no one is allowed to question them. We can no longer depend on mainstream media to provide unbiased reporting.

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

August 15, 2016

382 Supplement Safety [15 August 2016]

Over the past year there have been several major news reports in The United States and Canada questioning the regulation, safety and efficacy of health supplements. The first was CBC’s Marketplace which reported in November 2015 that certain fish oils, vitamin C, and protein shakes did not meet their label claims. However after retesting it was discovered that the original lab tests were incorrect and there were in fact no problems with the products.

In March 2013 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on adverse events from supplements. Since 2008 the FDA has required supplement manufacturers to report any adverse effects from their products. Between 2008 and 2011 there were 6,307 serious (e.g. requiring a hospital visit) adverse event reports (AERs) for supplements (average 1,577 a year). The same report estimated over half (68%) of Americans use supplements, so this is amazingly low from 157 million supplement users over 4 years (1/100,000 users). During the same period there were 1,736,437 AERs from pharmaceutical drugs, with fewer (only 48%) of Americans using them (average 434,100 per year or 1/253 users). In 2008 alone there were 26,517 AERs for vaccines and 526,527 AERs for approved pharmaceutical drugs.

The nature of the supplement AER’s were generally less serious than for drugs. 21% were for accidental ingestion by children (whose parents took them to the hospital as a safety precaution). Of the remaining AERs, 35% were from energy and weight loss products. Many of these contain caffeine which resulted in heart palpitations, prompting a visit to the hospital where they were examined and sent home. Deaths from supplements are very rare, less than one a year, in contrast with pharmaceuticals which kill over 100,000 Americans each year – more than from motor vehicle accidents!

While this data shows the overwhelming safety of supplements compared with drugs, I don’t want to leave the impression that supplements should be used carelessly. Balance is essential with many nutrients, especially vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Choose quality reputable brands, use only what you need, do your own research, and get advice from knowledgeable professionals.

CBC MarketPlace documentary
GAO report
Health Impact News: GAO report critique
Mercola: Consumer Reports article critique

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

August 8, 2016

381 Protein Source – Plant or Animal? [8 Aug 2016]

An interesting study was published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study examined data from two previous epidemiologic studies involving over 130,000 health professionals, average age 49, to see if source of protein – animal or plant – has an influence on health and longevity.

The study found that (after factoring out known risk factors) eating more animal protein (meat) was weakly associated with slightly higher mortality, particularly cardiovascular, while eating more plant protein was more strongly associated with a lower mortality.

Curiously these associations only occurred in people with at least one unhealthy lifestyle factor – smoking, heavy alcohol intake, overweight, or physically inactive. For those with a healthy lifestyle the source of protein did not affect mortality. The type of meat was also significant – replacing plant protein for processed meat had a greater reduction of mortality than replacing unprocessed red meat. And there was no association found with fish or poultry and mortality. Note that this is an observational study and does not necessarily show a causal relationship.

How to account for the lack of effect of protein source on the healthy lifestyle group? One possible explanation is that the healthy lifestyle people may have had more fibre and healthier plant foods in their diet, made healthier choices of animal protein (less processed meat, more poultry and fish), and cooked it in a healthier manner (not deep-fried or burned).

This study was limited to older adult health professionals and may not apply to other age or socio-economic groups. For example previous studies have shown that children and adolescents do better on animal protein from red meat (in moderation) as it provides significant and easily absorbed amounts of protein and micronutrients such as iron, zinc and Vitamin A which are crucial to growth and development, and may even help prevent chronic disease in adulthood.

In conclusion, it appears that increasing plant sourced protein may be especially helpful if you smoke, drink too much, are overweight or inactive, or if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, or kidney disease.

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

August 1, 2016

380 Adrenal Fatigue [1 August 2016]

Following four weeks on thyroid health, I want to review another important endocrine gland – the adrenals. I wrote about adrenal fatigue in March 2015, #311 & #312. Adrenal fatigue is one of the possible causes for low thyroid function, as elevated cortisol (from stressed adrenals) inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3.

Suspect you have adrenal fatigue if you:
• run out of energy before lunch
• rely on caffeine to make it through the day
• crave sugar
• crash (brain fog, no energy) 2 hours after eating sugar
• are irritable or depressed
• have low libido (adrenals are making stress hormones instead of sex hormones).

Adrenal fatigue is a serious health issue. Chronically elevated stress hormones can cause brain inflammation which results in not only bad moods, but also worsening memory, earlier dementia, and increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

See my column #311 for the three stages of adrenal fatigue developed by Dr. Robin Berzin: 1) wired and tired; 2) stressed and tired; and 3) burned out.

In column #312 I list Dr. Berzin’s 9 step protocol to help her patients recover:
1. Eat plenty of colored vegetables, sufficient lean protein, and gluten free whole grains; avoid foods that cause inflammation and those you are sensitive to.
2. Go to bed before 11 pm to avoid a late night cortisol surge.
3. B vitamins, especially B5, B6 and B12 are essential for energy production.
4. Cool inflammation with vitamin C, curcumin and omega-3 supplements.
5. Other important nutrients include vitamin D, selenium, magnesium & zinc.
6. Drink plenty of pure water to rehydrate your cells.
7. Use adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenals like ashwagandha, and rhodiola.
8. Include relaxation (not naps) in your day and avoid high intensity workouts.
9. Reassess your definition of success to reduce stress levels in your life.

Following these 9 steps, Dr Berzin finds that most people with adrenal fatigue can recover without the need for hormone therapy.

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