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How toxins are making us fat and diabetic

Each year the toxic burden in our air, food and water – and thus our bodies – grows higher than ever before. Companies manufacture 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000 different chemicals each year. That’s an almost incomprehensible amount. But to put it in perspective, an ocean supertanker carries about 3.25 billion tons. It would take 10,000 supertankers to carry the amount of chemicals that are manufactured in a single year.

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found the average person has over 91 toxic chemicals in their body. Some people had as many as 165, including 76 known to cause cancer, 94 known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 known to cause birth defects and abnormal fetal development.

Another EWG study found an average of 200 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies. Chemicals found in the second study included the organochlorine pesticides DDT and dieldrin, perfluorochemicals, brominated fire retardants, PCBs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins and furans, polychlorinated naphthalenes, and mercury.

If that wasn’t enough, the Standard American Diet itself is highly toxic. Processed and refined foods, industrial seed oils, high fructose corn syrup, and even so-called healthy foods like whole grains and soy all have a toxic effect on the body.

How environmental toxins cause diabesity

An increasing amount of evidence has linked exposure to toxins with both obesity and diabetes. Toxins cause inflammation and immune dysregulation. And as you know from reading this series, obesity and diabetes are autoimmune, inflammatory diseases.

I’ve already discussed the role of food toxins in the diabesity epidemic, so in this article we’re going to focus on how industrial chemicals in our air, water and soil contribute.

There are several mechanisms involved. Environmental toxins:

* interfere with glucose and cholesterol metabolism and induce insulin resistance;
* disrupt mitochondrial function;
* cause oxidative stress;
* promote inflammation;
* alter thyroid metabolism; and,
* impair appetite regulation.

There are probably other mechanisms that we don’t yet understand. But the ones I listed above are certainly enough to explain the link between toxins and diabesity.

Evidence supporting the role of toxins in the diabesity epidemic

A while back I wrote about a study showing that a chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA), found in packaged foods and beverages, causes obesity in mice.

A more recent study published in JAMA found that BPA increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and abnormal liver function.

A 2010 study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that exposure to organic pollutants leads to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction in rats.

A review paper by researchers in Korea reached a similar conclusion:

…the metabolic syndrome is the result of mitochondrial dysfunction, which in turn is caused by exposure to persistent organic pollutants.

A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002 observed a significant correlation between blood levels of six common persistent organic pollutants and diabetes. Those who had the highest serum levels of pollutants had a dramatically higher risk for diabetes.

Canadian Aboriginals and Great Lakes sport fishermen both have higher rates of diabetes from eating contaminated seafood.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Toxins are making us fat and diabetic.

Okay, so I’m toxic! What do I do about it?

The most obvious first step is to remove all food toxins from your diet. This means ditching processed and refined foods, industrial seed oils, and high fructose corn syrup, as well as grains, legumes and other foods with toxic effects on the body.

The second step is to take steps to reduce your exposure to chemicals at home. This means choosing non-toxic household cleaning, bath, beauty and hygiene products.

The third step is to support the body’s natural detoxification capacity so you can effectively deal with the toxins you do get exposed to. This is a crucial step, because no matter how careful we are, there’s no way to completely avoid toxins.

Compounds that support health liver detoxification include:

* Protective compounds like milk thistle and artichoke leaf extract
* Bile stimulants such as dandelion and curcumin
* Bile motility enhancers (cholagogues) like dandelion, beet juice and coffee enemas
* Antioxidants like vitamins C & E, zinc, selenium and lipoic acid

For those of you that would like some support in this area, I’ll be offering a “Paleo Detox” program sometime early next year. It’s a 30-day, supervised detoxification program incorporating a paleo diet, targeted nutrients to support healthy liver function, supportive and educational weekly meetings, and guidelines for integrating the positive changes you’ve made in the program into your day-to-day life. I will offer both local (SF Bay Area) and long-distance (via webinar) programs. Stay tuned for a future announcement on this.
Comment: For more information, or if you wish to discuss this topic, please visit our diet and health forum.

Chris Kresser, The Healthy Skeptic, Fri, 05 Nov 2010 08:32 CDT

Neurogenesis: How to Change Your Brain

“In adult centers the nerve paths are something fixed, ended, immutable. Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated.”
— Santiago Ramon Y Cajal, “Degeneration and Regeneration in the Nervous System,” 1928

This long-held tenet, first proposed by Professor Cajal, held that brain neurons were unique because they lacked the ability to regenerate.

In 1998, the journal Nature Medicine published a report indicating that neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, does indeed occur in humans. As Sharon Begley remarked in her book, “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain,” “The discovery overturned generations of conventional wisdom in neuroscience. The human brain is not limited to the neurons it is born with, or even the neurons that fill in after the explosion of brain development in early childhood.”

What the researchers discovered was that within each of our brains there exists a population of neural stem cells which are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. Simply stated, we are all experiencing brain stem cell therapy every moment of our lives.

As one might expect, the process of neurogenesis is controlled by our DNA. A specific gene codes for the production of a protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which plays a key role in creating new neurons. Studies reveal decreased BDNF in Alzheimer’s patients, as well as in a variety of neurological conditions including epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Fortunately, many of the factors that influence our DNA to produce BDNF factors are under our direct control. The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of factors including physical exercise, caloric restriction, curcumin and the omega-3 fat, DHA.

This is a powerful message. These factors are all within our grasp and represent choices we can make to turn on the gene for neurogenesis. Thus, we can treat ourselves to stem cell therapy by taking control of our gene expression.

Physical Exercise
Laboratory rats that exercise have been shown to produce far more BDNF in their brains compared to sedentary animals. And there is a direct relationship between elevation of BDNF levels in these animals and their ability to learn, as one might expect.

With this understanding of the relationship of BDNF to exercise, researchers in a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled “Effect of Physical Activity in Cognitive Function in Older Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease,” found that elderly individuals engaged in regular physical exercise for a 24-week period had an improvement of an astounding 1,800 percent on measures of memory, language ability, attention and other important cognitive functions compared to an age-matched group not involved in the exercise program.

The mechanism by which exercise enhances brain performance is described in these and other studies as sitting squarely with increased production of BDNF. Just by engaging in regular physical exercise, you open the door to the possibility of actively taking control of your mental destiny.

Caloric Restriction
In January, 2009, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published a study entitled “Caloric Restriction Improves Memory in Elderly Humans.” In this study, German researchers imposed a 30 percent calorie reduction on the diets of elderly individuals and compared their memory function with a similar age group who basically ate whatever they wanted. At the conclusion of the three-month study, those who ate without restriction experienced a small, but clearly defined decline in memory function, while memory function in the group consuming the calorie-reduced diet actually increased, and fairly profoundly. In recognition of the obvious limitations of current pharmaceutical approaches to brain health, the authors concluded, “The present findings may help to develop new prevention and treatment strategies for maintaining cognitive health into old age.” What a concept. Preventive medicine for the brain.

Curcumin
Because curcumin, the main active ingredient in the spice turmeric, increases BDNF, it has attracted the interest of neuroscientists around the world. Interestingly, in evaluating villages in India where turmeric is used in abundance in curried recipes, epidemiological studies have found that Alzheimer’s disease is only about 25 percent as common as in the U.S. There is little doubt that the positive effects of enhanced BDNF production on brain neurons is at least part of the reason why those consuming curcumin are so resistant to this brain disorder.

DHA
Like curcumin, DHA enhances gene expression for the production of BDNF. In a recently completed double-blind interventional trial, 485 healthy older individuals (average age 70 years) with mild memory problems were given a supplement containing DHA from marine algae or placebo for six months. Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Karin Yurko-Mauro, commented, “In our study, healthy people with memory complaints who took algal DHA capsules for six months had almost double the reduction in errors on a test that measures learning and memory performance versus those who took a placebo … The benefit is roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger.”

Harnessing the expression of our DNA is empowering, and the tools to better brain health are available to us all — right now!

Sources:

Results of the MIDAS trial: Effects of docosahexaenoic acid on physiological and safety parameters in age-related cognitive decline. Karin Yurko-Mauro, Deanna McCarthy, Eileen Bailey-Hall, Edward B. Nelson, Andrew Blackwell, MIDAS Investigators

Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, July 2009 (Vol. 5, Issue 4, Supplement, Page P84).

David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM is a Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition who received his M.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine where he was awarded the Leonard G. Rowntree Research Award. After completing residency training in Neurology, also at the University of Miami, Dr. Perlmutter entered private practice in Naples, Florida.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Everything you thought you knew about food is WRONG

We think we know what to eat: less red meat and more fiber, less saturated fat and more fruit and veg, right? Wrong, according to a controversial new book by obesity researcher and nutritionist Zoe Harcombe.

In The Obesity Epidemic: What Caused It? How Can We Stop It? Harcombe charts her meticulous journey of research into studies that underpin dietary advice – and her myth-busting conclusions are startling.

article_1325453_0BD31166000005Ditch conventional diet advice: Zoe Harcombe says vitamins and minerals in meat are better than those in fruit.

Myth: The rapid rise in obesity is due to modern lifestyles

According to Zoe Harcombe, the obesity epidemic has less to do with our lifestyles than with what we are eating.

‘The key thing that people don’t realize is that throughout history, right until the Seventies, obesity levels never went above 2 per cent of the population in the UK,” she says. Yet by the turn of the millennium, obesity levels were 25 per cent.

What happened? In 1983, the government changed its diet advice. After that, if you look at the graphs, you can see obesity rates taking off like an airplane. You might feel it is coincidence, but to me it is blindingly obvious.

The older dietary advice was simple; foods based on flour and grains were fattening, and sweet foods were most fattening of all.

Mum and Granny told us to eat liver, eggs, sardines and to put butter on our vegetables. The new advice was ‘base your meals on starchy foods’ – the things that we used to know made us fat (rice, pasta, potatoes and bread). That’s a U-turn.

Myth: Starchy carbohydrates should be the main building blocks of our diet

We’ve been told that carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes should form the bulk of what we eat. The trouble with this, says Zoe Harcombe, is that as carbs are digested, they are broken down into glucose.

This process makes your body produce insulin, in order to deal with the extra glucose. One of insulin’s main roles in the body is fat storage, so whenever you eat carbs, you are switching on your body’s fat-storing mechanism. Whatever carbs you don’t use up as energy will be quickly stored away in the body as fat.

We should get back to doing as nature intended and eat real, unprocessed food, starting with meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and salads.

Myth: Losing weight is about calories in versus calories out

“If only it were that simple,” says Harcombe. People think that if they cut out 500 calories a day, they will lose 1lb a week.

They might at first, but then the body will recognize that it is in a state of starvation and turn down its systems to conserve energy.

‘So you may be putting fewer calories in, but at the same time you will be using up fewer calories to get through the day.

Losing weight is more a question of fat storage and fat utilization. You need the body to move into a fat-burning mode and, to do that, you need to cut down your consumption not of calories, but of carbohydrates.’

article_1325453_0BC445BB000005Don’t over do it: Too much exercise could make you hungry so you eat more.

Myth: More exercise is a cure for the obesity epidemic

This is standard wisdom: “exercise, we think, will burn calories, lose fat and speed up our metabolism. Think again,” says Harcombe.

If you push yourself into doing extra exercise, it will be counterproductive because you will get hungry – your body will be craving carbohydrate to replenish its lost stores.

If you are trying to control weight, it is so much easier to control what you put into your mouth. Not how much, but what. Then it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do by way of exercise.

Myth: Fat is bad for us

“Real fat is not bad for us,” says Harcombe. “It’s man-made fats we should be demonizing.” Why do we have this idea that meat is full of saturated fat? In a 100g pork chop, there is 2.3g of unsaturated fat and 1.5g of saturated fat.

Fat is essential for every cell in the body. In Britain [according to the Family Food Survey of 2008], we are deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, which are responsible for healthy eyesight, bone strength, mental health, cancer and blood vessel protection and, therefore, heart health. We need to eat real fat in order for these vital vitamins to be absorbed into the body.

Myth: Saturated fat causes heart disease

Over the past 50 years, we have accepted this as one of the basic nutritional truths. But Zoe Harcombe says: “No research has ever properly proved that eating saturated fat is associated with heart disease, let alone that it causes it.”

Myth: Cholesterol is a dietary enemy

Controversially, Harcombe does not consider ‘high’ cholesterol levels a bad thing!

‘To pick a number – 5 (mmol/l) – and to say everyone should have cholesterol levels no higher than this is like declaring the average height should be 5ft 4in and not 5ft 9in and medicating everyone who doesn’t reach this meaningless number to reduce their height. It really is that horrific.

Ancel Keys, who studied cholesterol extensively in the Fifties, said categorically that cholesterol in food does not have any impact on cholesterol in the blood.

What is abnormal is the amount of carbohydrate we eat, especially refined carbohydrate, and this has been shown to determine triglyceride levels – the part of the cholesterol reading your GP may be most concerned about.

It’s the ultimate irony. We only told people to eat carbs because we demonized fat and, having picked the wrong villain, we are making things worse.

Myth: We should eat more fiber

For three decades, we have crammed fiber into our bodies to help us feel full and keep our digestive systems moving. This is not a good idea, says Harcombe.

The advice to eat more fiber is put forward along with the theory that we need to flush out our digestive systems. But essential minerals are absorbed from food while it is in the intestines, so why do we want to flush everything out? Concentrate on not putting bad foods in.

article_1325453_0622DB64000005Avoid fruit to lose weight: The sugar in them will be stored as fat.

Myth: You need to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day

“Five-a-day is the most well-known piece of nutritional advice,” says Harcombe.” You’d think it was based on firm evidence of health benefit. Think again!

Five-a-day started as a marketing campaign by 25 fruit and veg companies and the American National Cancer Institute in 1991. There was no evidence for any cancer benefit.

Myth: Fruit and veg are the most nutritious things to eat

Apparently not. Harcombe allows that vegetables are a great addition to the diet – if served in butter to deliver the fat-soluble vitamins they contain – but ­fructose, the fruit sugar in fruit, goes straight to the liver and is stored as fat.

Fruit is best avoided by those trying to lose weight, says Harcombe, who adds: ‘Vitamins and minerals in animal foods – meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – beat those in fruit hands down.”

Myth: Food advisory bodies give us sound, impartial advice

the organizations we turn to for advice on food are sponsored by the food industry. The British Dietetic Association (BDA), whose members have a monopoly on delivering Department of Health and NHS dietary advice, is sponsored by Danone, the yogurt people, and Abbott Nutrition, which manufactures infant formula and energy bars.

The British Nutrition Foundation, founded in 1967 to ‘deliver authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition in the context of health and lifestyle’, has among its ‘sustaining members’ British Sugar plc, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, J Sainsbury PLC and Kraft Foods.

‘When the food and drink industry is so actively embracing public health advice, isn’t it time to wonder how healthy that advice can be?’ says Harcombe.

Alice Hart-davis, The Daily Mail, UK, Sun, 31 Oct 2010 22:06 CDT