Aging Now a Disease? Humanity Should Treat It Like One, Scientist Says

Scientists are starting to reconsider our major preconception about aging. Is it really a natural phenomenon or a disease that could be treated?

It may be helpful to remember that under this question are a lot of factors. For instance, is aging really just a natural process that we should recognize? Why then are we so focused on creating technologies that will reverse its effects?

Philosophers have regarded aging as one of the reasons why we are afraid of death, and it has led to quite a lot of lessons about “cherishing life” and “making every moment count.”

However, the biomedical community seems to be on the verge of rethinking their stance on the matter.

Cambridge University’s Aubrey de Grey has pondered the question for a while. A trained computer scientist and a self-taught biologist and gerontologist, de Grey has been trying to reframe our mentality about aging.

In an article by Scientist, De Grey said it may be time to consider aging as a pathologic process, as in one like cancer and diabetes that can be “treated.”

It is important to remember that “aging” is the term we use to describe the changes our bodies undergo over time. The early changes are good as we develop stronger muscles and better reflexes. However, our problems begin when we start getting thinner hair and weaker resistances. Not to mention, the human body has different parts that develop at different paces.

Any wrong move in the pacing of the growth of our body results to diseases. For instance, while lipids are a natural part of our diet, too much of it will make our blood vessels harden and narrow, leading to heart attacks.

De Grey said we can (and we should) view aging as something that could be prevented. A team of scientists also share this belief.

In their paper published in Frontiers in Genetics, scientists Sven Bulterijs, Raphaella Hull, Victor Bjork, and Avi Roy believe that a lot of diseases that affect us over time are caused by aging.

Diseases such as the Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome, Werner syndrome, and Dyskeratosis Congenita are considered diseases that affect teenagers and young adults. However, they are considered normal and unworthy of attention when they are seen in older people.

Interestingly, common bodily afflictions that come with aging such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, dementia, and sarcopenia are all considered “diseases.” What makes aging different?

And while some consider the debate as something purely semantic, as in the way in which we define certain terms, there are “benefits” for such a label.

For instance, labeling aging as a disease will better help physicians make more medical efforts to remove and treat conditions associated with aging that we normally ignore. Calling something a disease will merit some form of commitment to medical intervention.

Source: natureworldnews

The Significance of Selenium

Selenium is a trace element a Swedish chemist, Baron Jöns Jacob Berzelius, discovered almost 200 years ago. Today, modern scientists recognize it as “an essential mineral of pivotal importance for human health,” with anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-cancer potential.1

This mineral is also a powerful antioxidant, which plays itself out in many ways in regard to your health. You need only a little, though, to help keep your immune system and other functions humming along in proper order.

As much as your body requires selenium, taking the proper amount is crucial, because too much (such as 400 micrograms [mcg] daily) is associated with an increased risk of diabetes.2

However, unless you’re taking a supplement, it’s not likely you’ll overdose on selenium through the foods you eat. In fact, most people have trouble getting what they need, and as many as 1 billion people worldwide have a selenium deficiency.

Your chance of having a selenium deficiency is higher if you smoke cigarettes, take birth control pills, drink alcohol or have a condition that keeps you from absorbing the nutrients you need through the foods you eat.

Free Radicals: The ‘Bad Guys’ You Don’t Want Lurking in Your Body

As previously mentioned, one of the most important aspects of selenium is that it functions as a free-radical-zapping antioxidant. What does that mean, exactly?

When you take the word apart, “anti” is something you’re against and the word or phrase that follows it is the “bad guy.” In this case, what you’re against is oxidation because it can cause oxidative stress, which in turn can lead to tissue and organ damage. According to News-Medical:

“Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants”3

While “free radicals” may be another murky term, in short, free radicals and other assorted reactive oxygen species (ROS) are caused by either normal, internal metabolic processes or via outside influences such as nicotine and X-rays, or exposure to harmful chemicals like those used to kill mosquitoes, germs in your bathroom or weeds around your patio. One study explains:

“Free radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species are generated by our body by various endogenous systems, exposure to different physiochemical conditions or pathological states. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function.

If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins and DNA and trigger a number of human diseases. Hence application of external source of antioxidants can assist in coping (with) oxidative stress.”4

It may be helpful to remember that free radicals can cause cell damage, and antioxidants fight free radicals.

Thyroid Function and the Role of Selenium

Your thyroid contains more selenium per gram of tissue than any other organ. One study explains:

“In 1957, studies investigating the requirements of nutrients in rodent diets revealed selenium (along with vitamin E) to be essential for prevention of liver necrosis. This led to the realization that selenium deficiency was responsible for a number of disorders observed previously …

(Selenium is) a contributing factor to Keshan disease in humans. Although toxicity at higher levels is still a serious problem, the importance of selenium as an essential micronutrient is now recognized.”5

Another study states that the value of selenium supplementation for people with autoimmune thyroid problems is becoming more understood and deficiency even appears to have an impact on the development of thyroid problems, possibly due to selenium’s ability to regulate the production of ROS and their metabolites.

In patients with Hashimoto’s disease, selenium supplementation “decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels and improves the ultrasound structure of the thyroid gland.”6 Further, studies for pregnant women regarding selenium say that supplementation significantly lowers the risk of postpartum thyroiditis.7

Selenium Strengths: Proper Amounts Cut Your Risk of Serious Disease

According to one meta-analysis:

“Selenium may play a beneficial role in multi-factorial illnesses with genetic and environmental linkages … Tissues particularly sensitive to changes in selenium supply include red blood cells, kidney and muscle.

The meta-analysis identified that for animal species selenium-enriched foods were more effective than selenomethionine at increasing (glutathione peroxidase) activity.”8

Immune Function

One of the most important functions of selenium is its ability to help your body fight disease. It raises your white blood cell count so you’re more able to resist infections.

An example is a study showing that selenium may help prevent a skin infection prevalent in people with lymphedema (swelling of the tissues in your arms and/or legs, usually as a result of chemotherapy or injury), and mycoplasma pneumonia, aka “walking” pneumonia.9

Cancer

In 2012, researchers reported that in areas of the world where selenium levels are naturally low, supplementing with selenium may be cancer protective.10 Study author and professor John Hesketh of Newcastle University, U.K., explained:

“The difficulty with selenium is that it’s a very narrow window between levels that are sub-optimal and those that would be considered toxic.

What our study shows is a possible link between higher levels of selenium and a decreased risk of colorectal cancer and suggests that increasing selenium intake may reduce the risk of this disease.”11

Heart Benefits

While it should be noted that some researchers say taking selenium supplements doesn’t appear to influence heart disease one way or the other or protect against heart attack, the University of Maryland Medical Center reported:

“Scientists know that low levels of selenium can contribute to heart failure, and being deficient in selenium seems to make atherosclerosis worse. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, happens when plaque builds up in arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.”12

Another study found that patients who took selenium supplements on a regular basis are “far less likely” to have another heart attack.13

Asthma

Asthma sufferers tend to have higher incidences of low selenium levels in their blood. Scientists found that diets containing high amounts of antioxidants are associated with lowered asthma prevalence in epidemiologic studies, as a report on accumulated data revealed:

“Accumulated data indicate that asthma is associated with reduced circulatory selenium (Se) … In the Se-supplemented group there were significant increases in serum Se

… Further, there was a significant clinical improvement in the Se-supplemented group, as compared with the placebo group.”14

Among 24 subjects with asthma, those who took supplements for 14 weeks had fewer symptoms than those taking a placebo, one study found. However, scientists agree that more studies are needed.15

Male infertility

Proteins found in sperm and involved in their formation are impacted by selenium and other antioxidants.

An interesting dichotomy, however, is that while studies show male infertility may be improved by the selenium in a man’s system, levels that are too high can inhibit the sperm’s ability to swim, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.16 Another study concluded:

“Selenium-enriched probiotics or inorganic selenium supplementation gave better results than probiotics supplementation and may be used to improve animal and human male fertility compromised by hyperlipidemia or obesity.”17

HIV/AIDS

Most of the African continent is selenium deficient. Simultaneously, AIDS is the most common cause of death. News-Medical, examining diseases impacted by selenium, reported:

“Taken as a whole, the geographical evidence, therefore, strongly suggests that selenium is protective against HIV infection.

Such a relationship is not limited to this virus. A frequently fatal illness of the heart, known as Keshan disease, is widespread in the population of the low selenium belt that crosses China from northeast to southwest. Keshan disease occurs only in individuals who are both selenium deficient and infected by the coxsackievirus”18

While the highest death rates from AIDS affect several of the southwestern-most portions of the continent, such as Botswana, Uganda and Kenya, “the prevalence rate for HIV infection still hovers at an unusually low 0.5 percent among women attending antenatal clinics” in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

The difference, scientists say, is that Senegal is located on the far western coast of Africa, where the soil is enriched with trace elements of selenium, contrasting the eastern portion, where the soil is devoid of the selenium that might help make a difference in this regard.

A similar situation is taking place in Finland where, to combat heart disease, legislation was passed in 1984 ordering sodium selenite to be added to all fertilizers throughout the country. Perhaps as a result, the country’s HIV rates are half that of other Scandinavian countries.

Selenium From Food: Seafood, Mushrooms and Meat

The best selenium sources from food include salmon (although only wild-caught Alaskan salmon is recommended due to widespread pollution in other fish), free-range organic turkey, lamb and grass-fed organic beef. You can also find high amounts of selenium in Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, onions and garlic and certain mushrooms.19 SFGate says:

“Mushrooms are one of the top vegetable sources for selenium. One cup of cooked shiitakes or white button mushrooms provides 19 micrograms of selenium, or 35 percent of the RDA. A more typical serving of ¼ cup provides less than 10 percent of the daily value.

A cup of cooked Lima or pinto beans averages 9 to 11 micrograms of the mineral, or about 15 to 20 percent of the RDA. Frozen cooked spinach, which is packed more tightly per cup than fresh cooked, provides 10 micrograms of selenium, or 18 percent of the RDA.”

It’s not just how much selenium is in your food, though, that determines how much you’re getting. It’s also about how much selenium is in the soil your food is grown in. Related factors include how much selenium was in the grass eaten by the cattle producing your grass-fed beef.

(Grass-fed beef, by the way, contains a healthy ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Naturally, you also want it to be free of hormones and antibiotics.)

mercola.com

 

Is Coffee Good or Bad for you?

“Dr. Hyman, I’m so confused about coffee,” writes this week’s house call. “One day I read that it’s so bad for me and the next it’s good for me. Why all the conflicting information?”

Let’s face it: Americans love their coffee, which is the number one source of antioxidants in our diet – which actually makes me kind of sad!

In a recent animal study, researchers saw improvements in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cholesterol when mice consumed coffee and fat together. (More on that combo in a minute.) They also found coffee can help reduce gut permeability or leaky gut.

Among its other benefits, studies show coffee decreases your risk for type 2 diabetes, lowers cancer risk and improves mood and memory. Coffee can also boost metabolism and sports performance.

On the other hand, coffee can become highly addictive, altering stress hormones while making you feel simultaneously wired and tired.

So I understand the confusion. It feels like one day we see studies that support coffee and the next day we see 10 reasons why coffee is bad. So let’s uncover the truth about this aromatic beverage that most of us love.

When to Avoid Coffee

Before jumping to conclusions, remember those blurred lines aren’t entirely about coffee itself. It also depends on the person drinking the coffee. The way you respond to coffee is often determined by genetics that affect caffeine metabolism. For one person, a cup could have them bouncing off the walls, while another person can have a triple espresso at dinner and fall fast asleep easily.

In other words, everyone is different and we all experience coffee’s effects differently. One patient complained about fatigue, restlessness and heart palpitations. Obviously, in that situation, I recommended avoiding coffee.

Likewise, if you suffer from adrenal fatigue, coffee could easily become dangerous. Some individuals might also be sensitive to coffee beans, meaning their bodies can’t tolerate them and they create unpleasant symptoms.

Constituents in coffee can also interfere with normal drug metabolism and liver detoxification, making it difficult for your liver to regulate the normal detoxification process.

Sometimes, too, I find patients substitute coffee for real food. Never ignore your hunger and eat regularly to prevent low blood sugar levels. Keep protein on hand and snack on a handful of nuts or seeds like almonds, pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds.

I had one patient who drank 12 cups of coffee a day yet constantly fell asleep at his desk. This person could barely function and couldn’t understand why he felt so exhausted.  The truth is he wasn’t sleeping well at night due to all the caffeine but he was too exhausted to realize it.  He wasn’t getting the proper rest his body desperately needed at the right time.

So we tapered him off coffee, and he began to sleep soundly at night, rather than nodding off  at his desk during the day.

If you fall into those categories, coffee probably isn’t for you.

Regardless, I recommend treating coffee like any other potential toxic trigger and eliminate it for at least three weeks, especially if you’re addicted and can’t seem to function without coffee or if you drink multiple cups a day.

If you need coffee every day to feel motivated or even function, you have a coffee addiction. If you have withdrawal symptoms and headaches from stopping coffee or feel like you can’t live without it, you are biologically addicted to it.  There’s also a big chance your stress hormones are out of whack and need resetting.

How to Quit Coffee   

The best way to wean off coffee is switching from drinking multiple cups to just one cup and eventually half a cup. You might also switch to green tea or herbal teas and warm lemon water.

As with any detox plan, drink adequate amounts of water and get plenty of rest during this time. I also suggest regular exercise to stabilize energy levels. Should you get irritable or have difficulty sleeping, supplement with 200 to 500 mg of magnesium citrate before bed.

My favorite detoxification rituals include a sauna, meditation and yoga. I provide powerful techniques to relax and combat stress on my website.

If you can handle it, remove coffee from your diet for three weeks and add it back in slowly. Be attentive to how you feel once you reintroduce coffee. Pay attention to your energy levels, symptoms (like anxiety or jittery feelings) or changes in digestion.

In other words, monitor how you personally respond to coffee. You are your own best doctor here.

It’s perfectly fine if you realize coffee just does not work for you. Other health-friendly beverages include green tea or non-coffee-based lattes using reishi powder and other powerful herbs.

If you find you can occasionally tolerate coffee, avoid adding milk and sugar. These two culprits do more damage than the actual coffee.

Alternately, add fat to your coffee. Once people taste the creamy, frothy goodness of fat blended with coffee, they don’t miss milk at all. You’ve probably heard of Bulletproof® Coffee, which blends MCT oil and a bit of  grass-fed butter or ghee with high-quality, organic coffee.  If you are a vegan, try adding 1 tablespoon of cashew butter for the creamy texture.

This delicious beverage keeps me satiated for hours, cuts cravings and keeps my brain extremely sharp. You can also drink this before exercise for steady energy levels without coffee’s crash.

Here is a version of my friend Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee:

In a blender, add:

  • 2 cups of hot coffee (regular or decaf), ideally fresh brewed with organic beans
  • 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter or ghee
  • 2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil or 2 Tablespoons of MCT oil
  • ½ teaspoon of organic cinnamon (optional) or 1 teaspoon of organic cocoa powder for a mocha

Blend until creamy. For best results, I suggest using a metal mesh filter in your drip coffee maker or a French press.

Note: Always be very careful when pureeing hot liquids in a blender. The heat from the liquid can cause the pressure in the blender to build up under the lid, and when the blender is turned on, the top can blow off and your hot soup will go everywhere. Keep the lid vented by removing the small window insert from the middle of the blender lid; hold a towel over the open window to prevent splattering. Always start on the lowest speed possible.

The bottom line is that much no one-size-fits-all approach exists for diet and lifestyle, and that includes your coffee intake.

One person may be able to enjoy raw, cruciferous vegetables while another needs to avoid them because of digestive issues. This same thing applies to coffee. For some people it works; others, not so much.

If you’re a coffee drinker, have you ever felt like you’ve over-relied on this popular beverage? If you temporarily gave it up, how did it affect you? Comment below or on my Facebook page. And be sure to submit your questions to drhyman.com.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Source: drhyman.com

The World Health Organization Red Meat Brouhaha

The World Health Organization (WHO) just announced that red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Yep–Right up there with glyphosate, cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos.

——–> insert facepalm <——–

This announcement is absurdly misguided and largely based upon the notoriously two least reliable forms of science we have:

1) Observational studies driven by…

2) Food questionnaires

(By the way, what did YOU have for lunch on Thursday of last week/month year?)

This is all fully based on the idea of “guilt by weak association” and any rational person knows that association is NOT causation.

UGH–Back to the nutritional Dark Ages we go…

The WHO seems to be mostly citing evidence from research based on observational studies and food questionnaires published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, which included an analysis of “two prospective cohort studies.”[1] Similar in its failures to the ill-conceived and embarrassingly poor 2011 World Cancer Research Fund “Meta-analysis”[2]—also entirely based upon observational studies and questionnaires— ZERO distinction was made between feedlot meat and 100% grass-fed meat (a potentially huge distinction), and no real effort was made to distinguish the effect of the red meat from whatever else people happened to be eating. What did they include as “red meat?”   McDonald’s hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, tacos, bologna, nitrate-laced bacon and feedlot meat (GMO-fed and God knows what else). Although they did graciously concede that red meat is “only slightly less hazardous than preserved meats.” And red meat consumption was not separated in any way from whatever else anyone was eating or doing to their health (alcohol intake, sugar consumption, grains, etc. or other lifestyle factors). And since 97% of all meat production is commercial feedlot-based, grass-fed meat likely didn’t even factor into these results at all.

Suspiciously, too, the Archives of Internal Medicine study used what is called relative risk to show their results. “Relative risk” is frequently used to make things look far worse than they are—rather than what is called absolute risk, which really tells it like it is (but might make your results look less dramatic and, well, boring and meaningless).

It is a significant fact that cancer has been consistently reported to be extremely rare to even non-existent in red meat-eating, hunter-gatherer societies.[3],[4] What in particular has characterized the difference between even Neolithic hunter-gatherer diets and the modern-day Western diet causing us so much trouble now? Data from 229 hunter-gatherer societies included in the Revised Ethnographic Atlas indicate that hunter-gatherer diets differ from typical Western ones in basically two aspects: first, a strong reliance on animal foods (45-65% of energy or E%) and second, the consumption of low-GI [glycemic index] plant foods such as fibrous vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds.[5] But we also need to take the quality of the foods they had available to them into account and the very, very different nutrient/fatty acid profile between feedlot meat and 100% naturally grass-fed meat/wild game. Grain fed meats are predominated by potentially inflammatory omega-6 content (while being nearly devoid of healthy omega-3’s), versus 100% grass-fed and finished meat (and wild game) which supplies a high percentage of highly anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA). Omega-3’s have additionally shown some significant anti-cancer benefits.[6] [7] [8]

Quality counts for a LOT and we all need to start taking that seriously. Deadly seriously.

In spite of the WHO declaration, other research has shown no meaningful link between diets higher in dietary animal fat and increased cancer risk.[9],[10] With respect to colon cancer, alone, there are many, many more (and better designed) studies finding little to no significant association with red meat and cancer than those that do, some even showing an actual lowered risk![11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]

With respect to Paleo—at least the form of Paleo I personally recommend and the form adopted by The Paleo Way, bases its meat consumption overall on two very distinct recommendations:

  • Red meat should only come from 100% pasture fed and finished animals. NO feedlot and/or commercial processed meat!
  • I recommend meat/protein in general to be consumed in strict moderation—no more than about 1 gram per kg of ideal body weight (i.e., approximating the weight of a person’s lean tissue mass)

Excessive protein from any source is potentially bad by virtue of 1) its up-regulation of proliferative mTOR pathways 2) its increase of IGF-1, which increases non-specific cellular proliferation and 3) the excess presence of glutamine and 4) protein in excess of what we need in order to meet our basic requirements is readily (up to 40% or so) converted to sugar and used the same way. –And SUGAR (not red meat) is cancer’s #1 most essential metabolic fuel.

With respect to the benefits of exclusively grass-fed meat (over feedlot meat), a particular form of fat that has been more recently lauded for its anti-cancer benefits is one exclusively found in the fat of animals fed on nothing but natural pasture.[26] [27] [28] [29] [30]    In fact, CLA may be one of the most broadly beneficial and potent cancer-fighting substances in our diet. It is somewhat uniquely able to (in very small amounts) block all three stages of cancer: 1) initiation 2) growth/promotion and 3) metastasis. Most “anticancer nutrients” are typically helpful in only one of these areas. To date, beneficial effects of natural CLA from animal fat have been found in cancers of the breast, prostate, colon and skin. In animal studies, as little as one half of one percent CLA in the diet of experimental animals reduced tumor burden by more than 50 percent.[31]   As if this wasn’t exciting enough, there is more direct evidence that CLA may reduce cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those having the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to exclusively grass-fed meat literally places women in this lowest risk category!

Additionally, French researchers measured CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women and found that the women with the most CLA had the lowest risk of cancer. In fact, the women with the most CLA had a staggering 74% lower risk of breast cancer than the women with the least CLA. [32]   In yet another study, human breast cancer cells were incubated in milk fat high in CLA or in an isolated form of CLA without any milk fat. The high CLA milk fat decreased cancer growth by 90 percent but the isolated CLA decreased it by only 60 percent. When the cells were incubated in the omega-6 fat, linoleic acid, found most abundantly in grain and grain-fed animals, cancer cell growth increased by 25 percent![33] Other women with the most CLA in their diets were also shown to have a 60% reduction overall in the incidence of breast cancer.[34]

Other studies have additionally shown breast cancer and even colon cancer preventative benefits.[35] [36] [37] [38] In keeping with this, CLA additionally exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects.[39] The inherent stability of CLA also seems to maintain itself even when meat is cooked.[40],[41] One study pointed out the following, Of the vast number of naturally occurring substances that have been demonstrated to have anticarcinogenic activity in experimental models, all but a handful of them are of plant origin. Conjugated linoleic acid is unique because it is present in food from animal sources, and its anticancer efficacy is expressed at concentrations close to human consumption levels.”[42]   CLA is highly abundant, too, in wild game. The implication here is that naturally occurring CLA in animal fat has always played an important role in our diets and may possibly even be a contributing factor to the near-zero incidence of cancer found in hunter-gatherer populations.[43] For all you Aussies out there, one study reported unusually high levels of CLA in (of all things) kangaroo meat![44]

ONLY CLA from the fat of wild game and fully pastured animals has the real anticancer health benefits you want.[45] Even though synthetic CLA is sold in capsules in health food stores, it lacks the beneficial form found exclusively in grass-fed meats and may even have potentially adverse effects. But I digress…

According to a research collaboration between Clemson University and the USDA in 2009, in addition to cancer-fighting CLA, fully pastured meat contains the following additional, potentially anti-cancer benefits[46]:

  • Higher in beta-carotene
  • Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  • Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin and B12
  • Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  • Higher in total omega-3’s[47] [48] [49]
  • A healthier ratio of (inflammatory) omega-6 to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs. 4.84)
  • Higher in trans-vaccenic acid (TVA–which can be transformed into CLA)

Also, lamb/sheep fed exclusively on pasture vs. grain contains twice as much lutein (closely related to beta-carotene but more easily absorbed), which has shown possible preventative benefits with respect to both colon and breast cancer (while additionally reducing the risk of macular degeneration).[50]

So…in a nutshell, this WHO declaration will not change the recommendations I have been making all along. 100% grass-fed and finished meat (not just red meat, by the way) consumed in moderate amounts along with quality, organic fibrous plant-based foods has been and will continue to be among my foundational recommendations for optimal health.

~ Nora Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT, BCHN

 

“Red meat is NOT bad for you. Now blue-green meat, THAT’S bad for you!”

                           —Tommy Smothers

Source:  http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/who-red-meat-brouhaha/

Sunburns and Skin Cancer

Featured photo courtesy of Kelly Sue.

Featured photo courtesy of Kelly Sue.

Introduction:

So far this Sunlight Series has discussed exactly what sunlight is, how it is produced, how it interacts with Earth’s atmosphere, what reaches the surface, and an initial look at what happens when it hits your skin. The last post focused on how UV-B radiation creates vitamin D in your skin, and how ample vitamin D levels are extremely important for optimal human health. Sunlight has other benefits too, such as nitric oxide production and the control of circadian rhythms. Clearly, for optimal health, human beings require sunlight, yet most health advice cautions against intense sunlight.

Almost everybody who is fair-skinned (or even darker skinned) has likely at some point in his or her life received a painful sunburn. It is understandable that many people believe sunlight is dangerous as extreme sunburns are indeed painful and can lead to skin cancers.  Sunlight exposure can be a factor in the development of a skin cancer, but the process is misunderstood. There are three main types of skin cancer, with only one, melanoma, being a real threat to survival. Generally speaking, one can increase one’s resistance to being sunburned, and significantly lower any chance of developing a skin cancer, particularly melanoma, all the while reaping ample vitamin D levels and helping to prevent the development of all cancers. This will be discussed in a later post.

For this post, let’s take a look first at what a sunburn is, followed by the different types of skin cancer.

What is a Sunburn?

In a similar way that UV-B radiation is able to turn 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3 (as explained in the previous post), UV-B radiation is intense enough to cause changes in other molecules as well. UV-B radiation is able to break molecules apart in your skin cells, including DNA, which causes a cascade of reactions.

If enough skin cells are damaged, the body’s immune system will react with inflammation in the form of increased blood flow causing redness and swelling. Pain receptors at the site of damage will also be activated. The skin then needs to be repaired, and one way of doing that is replacing the skin, which the sunburned-individual will experience as peeling. Skin damage also leads to the formation of melanin, which causes the oft-desired tan colour. Individuals with naturally darker skin have naturally higher concentrations of melanin even without UV-B induced production. Melanin also acts as a photoprotectant (protects against sunlight), and when sufficiently concentrated, can disperse up to 99.9% of UV-B radiationOnce enough melanin is produced (either through genetics or UV-B exposure), sunburns, including damage to DNA, become very unlikely.

Conventional medicine believes that unrecognized errors in the DNA repair process are the cause of all cancers in general, and the errors resulting from UV radiation exposure are the cause of skin cancers. It is hypothesized that if DNA is not repaired properly, then mutant DNA can proliferate, which if left unchecked can result in tumours. The work of Dr. Seyfried makes an opposing case that it is damage to mitochondria, and not DNA that causes cancer. Either way, with regard to skin cancer, UV-radiation is almost always implicated as the cause. The below case argues that this is illogical.

Skin Cancer:

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The entire category of skin cancers comprises the most common type of cancer in the US, with more than 3.5 million cases in over 2.0 million people being diagnosed annually. 80% of these 3.5 million cases are of the basal cell carcinoma variety, close to 20% are of the squamous cell carcinoma variety, and less than 1% of all skin cancer cases are life-threatening melanoma. It is estimated that all cancers (not just skin) will be responsible for 580,350 deaths in the US in 2013, of which 12,650 (2%) are the result of melanoma. 

The post on ozone depletion vs. global dimming explained that despite anthropogenic emissions decreasing the concentration of UV-blocking ozone in the stratosphere, the overall amount of sunlight (and accompanying UV radiation) hitting Earth’s surface at has decreased due to global dimming. In addition, it is estimated by the EPA that Americans (and presumably citizens of other developed countries) spend a whopping 90% of their time indoors. From these combined effects, although there has been an overall decrease in average sun and UV exposure, melanoma rates in the UK more than quadrupled from 1975-2010, with similar dramatic increases in the US as well.

Malignant Melanoma: 1975-2000. European Age-Standardized Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Sex, Great Britain.

Malignant Melanoma: 1975-2000. European Age-Standardized Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Sex, Great Britain.

How can UV radiation be the cause of melanoma if UV exposure is decreasing while melanoma rates are skyrocketing? It is the aim of this author to prove that sunlight and UV radiation is not the sole cause of skin cancer and that it has a myriad of health benefits, and that exposure should be encouraged.

First, let’s take a look at the three types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), by far the most common type of skin cancer, is rarely fatal (fatal in less than 0.1% of diagnosed cases) although it can be disfiguring if its growth is left unchecked. Basal cells are the inner layer of the epidermis. Current thought has BCC generally associated with chronic ultraviolet exposure with a list of other contributing factors such as inflammatory skin conditions and complications resulting from burns, scars, and infections. Fair-skinned caucasians are the most likely to develop BCC. It is more prevalent amongst older people with a history of intense sun exposure. Although most tumors grow on sun-exposed areas of the body, BCC tumors arise on non-exposed parts of the body (the nether regions…), indicating that UV exposure is not always a factor. A photo of a BCC tumour is shown below.

These guys are reddish and shiny. They can get really gross.

These guys are reddish and shiny. They can get really gross.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common type of skin cancer, is also rarely fatal (fatal in less than 0.5% of diagnosed cases), but can also be disfiguring in serious cases. Squamous cells are the outer layer of the epidermis. As with BCC, UV exposure gets most of the blame for causing SCC, and fair skinned individuals are most at risk. Most of these tumours are on sun-exposed parts of the body, but again, these do pop up in non-exposed areas as well, implying that UV exposure is not the only factor in tumour development. An image of a SCC tumour is below:

These ones look like a deep disgusting scab.

These ones look like a deep disgusting scab.

Melanoma:

Melanoma is by far the least common skin cancer, but also by far the most deadly (death in 12.4% of cases). Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, which are responsible for producing melanin (tan pigment). Once again, Caucasians are the most at risk. Treatment is usually surgical removal, and if the tumour returns, then chemo- and radiation-therapy is pursued. Although UV-radiation is generally implicated as the causative factor, one study found that up to 75% of melanoma tumours occur on relatively unexposed body sites. This observation has lead many researchers to hypothesize that when a certain area of the body is usually unexposed and is infrequently exposed to high doses of UV-radiation, that the skin is not “prepared” (ie: tanned) for the radiation assault and thus is more damaged which leads to skin cancer. However, there are exceptional cases where melanoma develops on areas that are almost never exposed to sunlight, including the male scrotum and urethraThe urethra is definitely one area where the sun don’t ever shine. A photo of a melanoma tumour is below.

These look like wacky-shaped dark weird freckles. Beware the wacky freckles.

These look like wacky-shaped dark weird freckles. Beware the wacky freckles.

Conclusions:

Based on the information presented above, the following conclusions can be made:

  1. UV exposure can be a factor in the development of skin cancer, especially amongst caucasians, but skin cancer also develops in areas of the body that are not exposed to sunlight.
  2. The vast majority of skin cancer cases are not life threatening.
  3. Despite the average amount of UV-exposure decreasing in developed countries, rates of skin cancer, including melanoma, are skyrocketing. UV radiation cannot explain the massive increase in skin cancer rates.

There are strategies to increase your skin’s resistance to the damage incurred by sunlight exposure through dietary and exposure habits. These will be discussed in the next post, where these practices will be outlined with the intention of educating on how to reap all the disease preventing benefits of sunlight exposure, while minimizing damage. Sounds like a win-win, and it is indeed possible.

 

Source:  http://sustainablebalance.ca/sunburns-and-skin-cancer/

Will a Nicotine Patch Make You Smarter?

Back home in New Jersey, I read through dozens of human and animal studies published over the past five years showing that nicotine—freed of its noxious host, tobacco, and delivered instead by chewing gum or transdermal patch—may prove to be a weirdly, improbably effective cognitive enhancer and treatment for relieving or preventing a variety of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s, mild cognitive impairment, ADHD, Tourette’s, and schizophrenia. Plus it has long been associated with weight loss. With few known safety risks.

Nicotine? Yes, nicotine.

Nicotine PatchIn fact—and this is where the irony gets mad deep—the one purpose for which nicotine patches have proven futile is the very same one for which they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, sold by pharmacies over the counter, bought by consumers, and covered by many state Medicaid programs: quitting smoking. In January 2012, a six-year follow-up study of 787 adults who had recently quit smoking found that those who used nicotine replacement therapy in the form of a patch, gum, inhaler, or nasal spray had the same long-term relapse rate as those who did not use the products. Heavy smokers who tried to quit without the benefit of counseling were actually twice as likely to relapse if they used a nicotine replacement product.

“I understand that smoking is bad,” said Maryka Quik, director of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Program at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute based in California’s Silicon Valley. “My father died of lung cancer. I totally get it.”

Yet for years Quik has endured the skepticism and downright hostility of many of her fellow neuroscientists as she has published some three dozen studies revealing the actions of nicotine within the mammalian brain.

“The whole problem with nicotine is that it happens to be found in cigarettes,” she told me. “People can’t disassociate the two in their mind, nicotine and smoking. It’s not the general public that annoys me, it’s the scientists. When I tell them about the studies, they should say, ‘Wow.’ But they say, ‘Oh well, that might be true, but I don’t see the point.’ It’s not even ignorance. It’s their preconceived ideas and inflexibility.”

I met Quik at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience held in Washington, D.C. Amid thousands of studies presented in a cavernous exhibition hall, the title of hers jumped out: “Nicotine Reduces L-dopa-Induced Dyskinesias by Acting at 2 Nicotinic Receptors.”

“A huge literature says that smoking protects against Parkinson’s,”she said. “It started as a chance observation, which is frequently the most interesting kind.”

The first hint of nicotine’s possible benefits, I learned, came from a study published in 1966 by Harold Kahn, an epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health. Using health-insurance data on 293,658 veterans who had served in the U.S. military between 1917 and 1940, he found the kinds of associations between smoking and mortality that even by the mid-1960s had become well known. At any given age, cigarette smokers were eleven times more likely to have died of lung cancer as were nonsmokers and twelve times more likely to have died of emphysema. Cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, larynx—blah, blah, blah. But amid the lineup of usual sus­pects, one oddball jumped out: Parkinson’s disease. Strangely enough, death due to the neurodegenerative disorder, marked by loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the midbrain, occurred at least three times more often in nonsmokers than in smokers.

What was it about tobacco that ravages the heart, lungs, teeth, and skin but somehow guards against a disease of the brain? Over the course of the 1970s, neuroscientists like Quik learned that the nicotine molecule fits into receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine like a key into a lock. By managing to slip through doors marked “Acetylcholine Only,” nicotine revealed a special family of acetylcholine receptors hitherto unknown.

And what a family. Nicotinic receptors turn out to have the extraordinary capacity to moderate other families of receptors, quieting or amplifying their functioning. According to psychopharmacologist Paul Newhouse, director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, “Nicotinic receptors in the brain appear to work by regulating other receptor systems. If you’re sleepy, nicotine tends to make you more alert. If you’re anxious, it tends to calm you.”

The primary neurotransmitter that nicotine nudges is dopamine, which plays an important role in modulating attention, reward-seeking behaviors, drug addictions, and movement. And therein lies the answer to the mystery of why nicotine could prevent a movement disorder like Parkinson’s disease, due to its effects on dopamine.

To put the drug to the test, Quik treated rhesus monkeys with Parkinson’s with nicotine. After eight weeks, she reported in a landmark 2007 paper in the Annals of Neurology, the monkeys had half as many tremors and tics. Even more remarkably, in monkeys already receiving L-dopa, the standard drug for Parkinson’s, nicotine reduced their dyskinesias by an additional one-third. Studies of nicotine in humans with Parkinson’s are now under way, supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Other research suggests the drug may protect against the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. A study involving sixty-seven people with mild cognitive impairment, in which memory is slightly impaired but decision-making and other cognitive abilities remain within normal levels, found “significant nicotine-associated improvements in attention, memory, and psychomotor speed,” with excellent safety and tolerability.

“What we saw was consistent with prior studies showing that nicotinic stimulation in the short run can improve memory, attention, and speed,” said Newhouse, who led the study.

As Newhouse sees it, “Obviously the results of small studies often aren’t replicated in larger studies, but at least nicotine certainly looks safe. And we’ve seen absolutely no withdrawal symptoms. There doesn’t seem to be any abuse liability whatsoever in taking nicotine by patch in nonsmokers. That’s reassuring.”

That’s not reassuring: it’s totally bizarre. Nicotine has routinely been described in news accounts as among the most addictive substances known. As the New York Times Magazine famously put it in 1987, “nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines, and for most people more addictive than alcohol.”

But that’s just wrong. Tobacco may well be as addictive as heroin, crack, alcohol, and Cherry Garcia combined into one giant crazy sundae. But as laboratory scientists know, getting mice or other animals hooked on nicotine all by its lonesome is dauntingly difficult. As a 2007 paper in the journal Neuropharmacology put it, “Tobacco use has one of the highest rates of addiction of any abused drug. Paradoxically, in animal models, nicotine appears to be a weak reinforcer.”

That same study, like many others, found that other ingredients in tobacco smoke are necessary to amp up nicotine’s addictiveness. Those other chemical ingredients—things like acetaldehyde, anabasine, nornicotine, anatabine, cotinine, and myosmine—help to keep people hooked on tobacco. On its own, nicotine isn’t enough.

But what about nicotine as a cognitive enhancer for people without Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or any other brain disease?

“To my knowledge, nicotine is the most reliable cognitive enhancer that we currently have, bizarrely,” said Jennifer Rusted, professor of experimental psychology at Sussex University in Britain when we spoke. “The cognitive-enhancing effects of nicotine in a normal population are more robust than you get with any other agent. With Provigil, for instance, the evidence for cognitive benefits is nowhere near as strong as it is for nicotine.”

In the past six years, researchers from Spain, Germany, Switzer­land, and Denmark—not to mention Paul Newhouse in Vermont—have published over a dozen studies showing that in animals and humans alike, nicotine administration temporarily improves visual attention and working memory. In Britain, Rusted has published a series of studies showing that nicotine increases something called prospective memory, the ability to remember and implement a prior intention. When your mother asks you to pick up a jar of pickles while you’re at the grocery store, she’s saddling you with a prospective memory challenge.

“We’ve demonstrated that you can get an effect from nicotine on prospective memory,” Rusted said. “It’s a small effect, maybe a 15 percent improvement. It’s not something that’s going to have a massive impact in a healthy young individual. But we think it’s doing it by allowing you to redeploy your attention more rapidly, switching from an ongoing task to the target. It’s a matter of cognitive control, shutting out irrelevant stimuli and improving your attention on what’s relevant.”

Of course, all the physicians and neuroscientists I interviewed were unanimous in discouraging people from using a nicotine patch for anything other than its FDA-approved purpose, as an aid to quit smoking, until large studies involving hundreds of people establish the true range of benefits and risks (even though studies find it doesn’t work for that purpose). But with so many studies showing that it’s safe, and so many suggesting it might well be the most effective cognitive enhancer now on the market, I decided to ignore not only their advice but the advice of my personal physician.

I added a nicotine patch to my list [of things to try to become smarter.]

Source:  Scientific American