Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: ‘Good’ Cholesterol Might Be Bad Too

HDL cholesterol may be known as the “good” kind, but a new study suggests high levels of it are not always a good thing for women after menopause.

The study, of nearly 1,400 postmenopausal women, found that those with higher HDL levels were more likely to show “plaques” in their carotid arteries. Those arteries supply blood to the brain, and plaque buildup there signals an increased risk of both stroke and heart disease.

“We used to think, the higher the better,” said Dr. Karol Watson, director of the Women’s Heart Health Program at the University of California at Los Angeles. “But we’ve been rethinking HDL in recent years.” Watson, who was not connected to the study said “everyone agrees” that low HDL – below 40 mg/dL – is bad. But studies have also found that very high HDL is liked to trouble, too. For example, a 2016 study of over 630,000 people found that women and men with very high HDL – above 90 mg/dL – were more likely to die (of noncardiovascular causes) during the study period than those whose HDL was in the middle of the pack.

HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it does positive things, including clearing fat from the arteries and ushering it to the liver to be removed. But, Watson said, research suggests that HDL function can go awry when its environment is not ideal – such as when a person is obese or has diabetes or other health conditions causing chronic inflammation in the blood vessels. “HDL seems to be like a chameleon, changing based on its surroundings,” Watson explained.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Higher Intake of Organic Foods Tied to Lower Cancer Risk

Higher intake of organic foods is associated with lower risk for breast cancer and lymphomas, a JAMA Internal Medicine study suggests.

Nearly 70,000 French adults reported how often they consumed 16 types of organic products (e.g., fruits, vegetables, dairy items) and then were followed for roughly 5 years. During that time, over 1300 new cancers were diagnosed. After adjustment for overall diet and other confounders, cancer risk decreased as organic food consumption increased. In particular, adults with the highest intake of organic foods had a 24% lower risk for cancer than those with the lowest organic intake.

When examined by cancer type, the risk reduction was limited to postmenopausal breast cancer and lymphomas.

Commentators point to numerous study limitations and urge caution in interpreting the findings. They write, "For overall health, current evidence indicates that the benefits of consuming conventionally grown produce are likely to outweigh the possible risks from pesticide exposure. Concerns over pesticide risks should not discourage intake of conventional fruits and vegetables, especially because organic produce is often expensive and inaccessible to many populations."

My Take:
I couldn’t disagree more with the commentator’s conclusions. However, going 100% organic is not feasible for most of us.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Herpes May Account for 50 Percent of Alzheimer's Cases

The herpes virus could account for at least half of Alzheimer's cases, according to a new review of the findings of three recent studies examining links between Alzheimer's and herpes.

The new paper, published in the Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience journal, also suggests that antiviral drugs may reduce the risk of senile dementia — which is mostly caused by Alzheimer's disease — among people who have severe cases of herpes. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) is the type of herpes that results in cold sores. HSV1 is a common virus, and the majority of people will have contracted it by the time they reach old age. However, the virus remains permanently in the body and cannot be decisively removed either by the body's natural defense mechanisms or by drugs.

The virus is inactive most of the time, but when a person has HSV1, they may find that flare-ups occur when they are stressed or sick, resulting in characteristic blisters. Medical News Today have reported on several studies this year alone that have provided evidence of a connection between Alzheimer's and herpes. In June, we looked at a study in which postmortem tests on brain tissue support a mechanistic link between Alzheimer's and the herpes viruses HHV-6A and HHV-7. And in July, we brought you news on a study that found the use of antiherpetic medication may dramatically reduce dementia risk.

Study author Professor Ruth Itzhaki, from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, found in previous studies that cold sores caused by HSV1 are more prevalent among people that carry a gene variant called APOE-e4, which may increase a person's risk of developing
Alzheimer's. "HSV1 could account for 50 percent or more of Alzheimer's disease cases," she states. Our theory is that in APOE-e4 carriers, reactivation is more frequent or more harmful in HSV1-infected brain cells, which as a result accumulate damage that culminates in development of Alzheimer's."

For this review, she looked at three recent studies on the relationship between Alzheimer's and herpes or chickenpox that analyzed population data from Taiwan, a country which enrolls almost all citizens in the National Health Insurance Research Database.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Hormone-mimics In Plastic Water Bottles Act As Functional Estrogens

Plastic packaging is not without its downsides, and if you thought mineral water was ‘clean’, it may be time to think again. According to Martin Wagner and Jörg Oehlmann from the Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, plastic mineral water bottles contaminate drinking water with estrogenic chemicals.

In an analysis of commercially available mineral waters, the researchers found evidence of estrogenic compounds leaching out of the plastic packaging into the water. What’s more, these chemicals are potent in vivo and result in an increased development of embryos in the New Zealand mud snail. These findings, which show for the first time that substances leaching out of plastic food packaging materials act as functional estrogens, are published in Springer’s journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Wagner and Oehlmann looked at whether the migration of substances from packaging material into foodstuffs contributes to human exposure to man-made hormones. They analyzed 20 brands of mineral water available in Germany – nine bottled in glass, nine bottled in plastic and two bottled in composite packaging (paperboard boxes coated with an inner plastic film). The researchers took water samples from the bottles and tested them for the presence of estrogenic chemicals in vitro. They then carried out a reproduction test with the New Zealand mud snail to determine the source and potency of the xenoestrogens.

They detected estrogen contamination in 60% of the samples (12 of the 20 brands) analyzed. Mineral waters in glass bottles were less estrogenic than waters in plastic bottles. Specifically, 33% of all mineral waters bottled in glass compared with 78% of waters in plastic bottles and both waters bottled in composite packaging showed significant hormonal activity.

By breeding the New Zealand mud snail in both plastic and glass water bottles, the researchers found more than double the number of embryos in plastic bottles compared with glass bottles. Taken together, these results demonstrate widespread contamination of mineral water with potent man-made estrogens that partly originate from compounds leaching out of the plastic packaging material.

Monday, October 22, 2018

What are the Symptoms of High Estrogen?

In males and females, estrogen is an important hormone. High levels of estrogen can cause a variety of symptoms and may increase the risk of developing certain medical conditions.

Females tend to have higher levels of estrogen, while males have more testosterone. In females, estrogen plays a role in the menstrual cycle and reproductive system. In males, it is important for sexual function.

High levels of estrogen in females can lead to weight gain, particularly around the hips and waist. Excess estrogen can also cause menstrual problems, such as irregular periods, light spotting, heavy bleeding, and PMS (premenstrual syndrome). They may also experience bloating, cold hands and feet, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, low sex drive, mood changes, depression, or anxiety, memory problems, swollen or tender breasts, noncancerous breast lumps, or uterine fibroids.

In males, symptoms of high estrogen include erectile dysfunction, enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) and infertility.
High estrogen can also increase the risk of developing thyroid disease, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, or ovarian cancer. Some research suggests that men with high estrogen levels may experience depression.

Medications that can increase estrogen levels include hormonal contraceptives, certain antibiotics, some herbal or natural remedies, and phenothiazines (used for emotional disorders).

Estrogen levels vary according to a person’s age and sex. These levels also fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. The three forms of estrogen are estradiol, estriol and estrone. Estradiol is the primary form of estrogen.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What is Wryneck and How is it Treated?

Wryneck occurs when the neck muscles twist beyond their usual capacity, causing the head to tilt. The condition is also known as torticollis or loxia.

Wryneck may develop over time. It can also occur after an injury to the area, or because of a reaction to medication. A person with wryneck may find it uncomfortable or painful to put their head up straight or bend their neck to the unaffected side. It is common in infants, with some sources reporting that it affects 3 in every 100 babies. In most infants, the condition is easily treatable.

Benign paroxysmal torticollis of infancy (BPTI) is a much rarer medical disorder in infants where the baby experiences recurrent episodes of the head tilting to on side.

Some of the [common] causes of wryneck are injury to the neck or spine causing muscle spasm, infection of the head or neck, abscess in the throat or upper airway, and infections in other parts of the body, such as ears, sinuses, jaw teeth or scalp. Less common causes include scar tissue, cervical arthritis, vascular abnormalities, certain medications, and tumors.

Temporary torticollis will usually only affect a person for 1-2 days before disappearing. Those affected may need to rest while keeping their neck as still as possible.

Fixed torticollis occurs because of an underlying problem with a person’s muscles or bone structure. It can also develop if a tumor is growing in the spinal cord, putting pressure on the nerves in the area. Muscular torticollis is the most common form of fixed torticollis. It happens when the muscles on one side of the neck are particularly tight.

The doctor may request X-rays of the neck or a CT scan to diagnose the cause of wryneck.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: ‘Winter Blues’ Study Fined Key to Depression Resilience

A new study used a model of seasonal affective disorder to find out why some people don’t develop depression despite being genetically predisposed. The findings also shed light on potential new treatments for seasonal depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimate that over 16 million people in the United States, or 6.7% of the population, will have had more than one episode of major depression during the past year. A further 5% live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression. The symptoms of SAD are so similar to those of depression that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the two.

SAD, also known as winter blues, typically affects women. In fact, 4 in 5 people with the condition are women, and the reasons for this predisposition are likely to be genetic. However, while some people are genetically prone to the condition, they resist the environmental factors that might trigger it.

So, new research set out to examine the neurobiology of SAD in an attempt to understand what it actually is that makes some people more resilient to developing depression. The new study was led by Dr. Brenda McMahon, of Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the findings were published in the journal European Neuropsycholpharmacology.

As Dr. McMahon and her colleagues explain, seasonal depression is caused by insufficient daylight, making the condition more widespread in countries that are father from the Equator. She says, “Daylight is effectively a natural antidepressant. Like many drugs currently used against depression, more daylight prevents serotonin [from] being removed from the brain.

Previous studies had demonstrated that SAD tends to affect people with a gene called 5-HTTLPR. This gene encodes a cerebral serotonin transporter, a protein that regulates how efficiently serotonin – the so-called happiness neurotransmitter – is removed from the brain.

For the new study, Dr. McMahon and team recruited 23 participants – 13 of whom were women – who had not developed depression despite having the 5-HTTLPR gene. The scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan once in the summer and twice in the winter to examine the participants’ levels of both serotonin and serotonin transporter.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Vitamin A supplements could harm bone health

Vitamin A is a vital nutrient that supports the body’s development and strengthens the immune system. Because our bodies do not naturally produce vitamin A, some choose to take supplements. However, too much vitamin A is likely to harm bone health, researchers warn.

Normally, we derive vitamin A form the food we eat, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beef liver, salmon, and several dairy products. How much vitamin A someone needs depends on their age, as well as other factors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the ideal daily intake of vitamin A is 900 micrograms retinol activity equivalents for men and 700 mcg RAE for women aged 19-50.

Over time, supplementation of vitamin A might lead to an overload of this nutrient, which can actually increase a person’s risk of experiencing bone fractures. Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden reported in the Journal of Endocrinology that taking too much vitamin A can make bones “thin out,” thereby putting them at risk of fracturing easy.

Dr. Ulf Lerner and team administered doses of vitamin A the equivalent of 4.5-13 times the RDA for humans – for 1, 4, or 10 weeks. The scientists saw that after only 8 days of oversupplementation, the mice’s bone thickness had started to decrease. Over 10 weeks, the rodents’ bones became increasingly fragile and prone to fracturing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Coconut Water

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside immature coconuts. As the coconut matures, the water is replaced by coconut meat. Coconut water is sometimes referred to as green coconut water because the immature coconuts are green in color.

Coconut water is different than coconut milk. Coconut milk is produced from an emulsion of the grated meat of a mature coconut. Coconut water is commonly used as a beverage and as a solution for treating dehydration related to diarrhea or exercise. It is also tried for high blood pressure and to improve exercise performance.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly ineffective, Likely ineffective, ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for coconut water was found for diarrhea-related dehydration, dehydration caused by exercise, exercise performance, high blood pressure, or other conditions.

Coconut water is rich in carbohydrates and electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Because of this electrolyte composition, there is a lot of interest in using coconut water to treat and prevent dehydration. But some experts suggest that the electrolytes composition in coconut water is not adequate to be used as a rehydration solution.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Therapeutic Fasting Could Be an Alternative to Insulin for Some Diabetes Patients

Medically supervised fasting could eliminate the need for insulin in some patients with type 2 diabetes, according to findings in BMJ Case Reports.

Three men who'd had type 2 diabetes for 10 to 25 years — and who were taking various pharmacotherapies, including insulin — underwent nutritional training and were instructed to fast for 24 hours three times a week for several months. On fasting days, they ate just dinner. On nonfasting days, they ate lunch and dinner. Low-carbohydrate meals were advised, and participants were seen twice a month for lab testing.

Among the findings:
  • All three patients were able to discontinue insulin within 5 to 18 days. Two ultimately stopped all diabetes medications.
  • All participants saw reductions in hemoglobin A1c, and none experienced symptoms of hypoglycemia.
  • All three lost weight (10%–18% of body weight) and reduced their waist circumference.
  • Patients described feeling "terrific" and "excellent" on fasting days.
  • The researchers write, "Educating patients on the benefits of fasting ... may aid in the remission of (diabetes) and curtail the use of pharmacological interventions."

My Take:
As you know from previous blogs, I have been recommending intermittent fasting for a few of my patients. Most commonly, I recommend the 18-6 fast where you eat from noon to 6 pm and fast the rest of the day and night. In this case study they used the intermittent 24 hour fast. I typically limit this fast to two non-consecutive days a week. However, extreme health issues like chronic, insulin dependent type II diabetes often calls for extreme measures. In this scenario, fasting three days per week is warranted.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Perimenopause & the Adrenal Connection

Last weekend I attended a seminar on understanding the rise and fall of hormones during perimenopause presented by Annette Kutz Schippel, DC. She practices nutrition and chiropractic in Illinois, specializing in women’s issues and pediatrics.

This is the third seminar I have taken with her. Her style is casual and easy going but she has a wealth of knowledge. This class completes my continuing education requirements for 2018 as a diplomate in nutrition. I have the choice of attending a couple of classes each year or presenting a paper for publication. Although I enjoy the challenge of writing, especially when it has to meet the requirements of peer review, I never seem to find the time.

I’ve attended several seminars on women’s health issues, particularly on menopause. However, this is the first that focused on perimenopause and, no pun intended, it did really fill in a gap.

As women enter perimenopause, hormone levels begin to fluctuate outside the normal ovulation cycle. This transition typically begins 2-3 years prior to menopause, but can start as much as 8-10 years before true menopause. By definition, menopause officially begins after menstruation has ceased for a full year.

During this transition women often experience heavier than normal bleeding, irregularity of the cycle, insomnia, depression, mood swings, weight gain, menstrual migraines, decreased fertility, decreased libido, bladder problems, fatigue, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and more frequent illness.

Common treatment options are oral birth control, often prescribed to be taken continuously, progestin therapy, endometrial ablation surgery, bioidentical hormone treatment, partial or complete hysterectomy and/or increased use of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications.

Stress plays a large role in the severity of symptoms and typically the more severe the symptoms of perimenopause, the more severe her symptoms will be during menopause. This is because the adrenal glands, your organs that respond to stress, now have the additional burden of trying to make up for declining hormone production from the ovaries.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Can some foods reduce estrogen in men?

Estrogen and testosterone are hormones that occur naturally in male and female bodies. Some research suggests that certain foods can influence the levels of these hormones.

A 2016 study reports that testosterone levels decline by 0.4-2.0% each year after the age of 30. In some men, this decline leads to depression, reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and low energy. When a man has a low level of testosterone, a doctor may recommend testosterone injections.

Estrogen is [also] vital for men’s health. It supports the functioning of almost every area of the body, including the brain, heart, bones, muscles, and the immune system. However, if a man’s estrogen levels are too high, this can cause a number of health problems, including obesity and depression.

A handful of studies have suggested that specific foods can raise or lower estrogen levels. However, scant evidence suggests that these foods can address the health effects of high estrogen. Some research suggests that the naturally occurring estrogens in plants, for example, do not affect levels of the hormone in male bodies. The research that suggests certain foods may be able to diminish the level of estrogen is often low-quality or has involved animals rather than humans.

Soy-based products, including edamame and some meat substitutes, are especially rich in plant estrogens. These phytoestrogens are weaker than estrogens that the body produces. When plant estrogens enter the body’s cells, they push out the body’s own estrogens. In this way, consuming more phytoestrogens could lower a person’s estrogen level.

Cruciferous vegetables also contain high levels of phytoestrogens and isoflavones. Results of several studies suggest that isoflavones may prevent the body from converting testosterone to estrogen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Does Glucosamine Work?

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that is chemically classified as an amino sugar. It serves as a building block for a variety of functional molecules in your body but is primarily recognized for developing and maintaining cartilage within your joints.

Some studies indicate that supplemental glucosamine may protect joint tissue by preventing the breakdown of cartilage. One small study in 41 cyclists found that supplementing with up to 3 grams of glucosamine daily reduce collagen degradation in the knees by 27% compared to 8% in the placebo group. Another small study found a significantly reduced ratio of collagen-breakdown to collagen-synthesis markers in articular joints of soccer players treated with 3 grams of glucosamine daily over a three-month period.

Multiple studies indicate that supplementing daily with glucosamine sulfate may offer effective, long-term treatment for osteoarthritis by providing a significant reduction in pain, maintenance of joint space and overall slowing of disease progression.

Some studies have revealed significantly reduced markers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in mice treated with various forms of glucosamine. Conversely, one human study didn’t show any major changes in RA progression with the use of glucosamine. However, study participants reported significantly improved symptom management.

Monday, October 1, 2018

How cannabinoid drugs affect the experience of pain

A first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of existing research has reviewed the effects of cannabinoid drugs on the experience of pain.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that up to 50 million people in the United States have chronic pain. An increasing amount of people now turn to the medicinal benefits of cannabis for treating and alleviating pain. As a result, scientists are trying to keep up by studying the effects of cannabinoids on pain. So far, however, studies have produced mixed results. A recent study that spanned over 4 years found “no evidence” that cannabis alleviates chronic pain that is not associated with cancer.

New research puts forth an interesting explanation for why the current clinical evidence does not fully support the popularity of cannabis as a painkiller and people’s subjective accounts of its benefits. It may be that the “feel-good” factor in the use of cannabis and cannabinoid drugs makes pain “more tolerable” and “less unpleasant,” suggests the new study, and that the benefits of cannabinoid drugs may operate more on an affective level rather than a sensory one.

To help clarify the analgesic properties, Martin De vita, a doctoral researcher at Syracuse University and colleagues examined over 1,830 experimental studies on the effects of cannabinoids that were carried out over a 40-year period. The study was recently published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The results revealed that cannabinoid drugs correlated with “modest increases in experimental pain threshold and tolerance,” and a reduction in the “perceived unpleasantness of painful stimuli.”