The common denominator between Cancer and Obesity
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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.
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
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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.
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.’
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.
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
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Beta-glucan is a family of complex carbohydrates that serve as structural elements in the cell walls of plants, yeasts, and mushrooms. LifeLink’s beta-glucan comes from baker’s yeast. This supplement is now of great interest to medical researchers because of its ability to stimulate immune function, to improve cholesterol profiles, and to inhibit (or even reverse) cancer progression. Its immune effects are broad and can be directed at many health problems, including:
- high cholesterol
- over-eating, obesity
- viral infections, such as hepatitis, HIV
- bacterial infections
- parasitic infections
Immune system modulation. The body’s first lines of defense against infections involve physical barriers and the destruction of invading microorganisms by antibodies. Pathogens that manage to evade these defenses will (one hopes) trigger further defensive processes known as ‘cell-mediated immunity’. Beta-glucan operates at both of these stages of immunity..
Beta-glucan acts in very complex ways upon the immune system. It stimulates the production of various signaling molecules, and these, in turn, activate immune cells. In this way, beta-glucan activates a wide variety of immune defenses, protecting the body against infections by viral, bacterial, fungal and protozoal pathogens, and even defending it against cancer.
Cancer-fighting properties. Beta-glucan’s anti-cancer effects result from its ability to modulate the immune system. And its immune effects derive from its activation of macrophage cells. Macrophages are immune cells that trap and engulf foreign cells and particles, scavenge cellular debris, and destroy infectious agents such as viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi.
Studies in cell culture, in lab animals, and in humans have shown that the anti-tumor activity initiated by beta-glucan can be long-lived and can occur even when beta-glucan is given orally one month prior to the presence of a tumor. Some of the cancer types that have been shown to be sensitive to beta-glucan supplementation include:
- breast cancer
- colon cancer
- liver cancer
- lung cancer
Pollen allergies. Pollen allergies are caused by a poorly regulated immune system. Beta-glucan seems to improve immune regulation. Researchers at Meiji University have shown that beta-glucan “is able to alleviate cedar pollen-induced allergic symptoms.”
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Like most businesses, health and life insurance companies are out to make a buck, and one way they augment their income is by investing in other industries.
But a new study has found that $1.88 billion from this industry is backing the top five publicly traded fast food chains. Excessive consumption of this sort of food has been repeatedly linked to a host of health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
“Life and health insurance firms profess to support health and wellness, but their choice of financial investments has raised doubts,” wrote Arun Mohan and his coauthors, all at the Department of Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, in an article published online April 15 in the American Journal of Public Health .
The largest burger backer was Northwestern Mutual, which had invested $422.2 million in publicly traded fast food corporations, including $318.1 million in McDonald’s, according to Mohan’s research.
It’s already common knowledge that the insurance industry has made even bigger investments in tobacco (handing over almost $4.5 billion, according to a 2009 study), but evidence is mounting that obesity and other dietary diseases are becoming as much of a burden on health – both individual and national – than smoking. People who live near fast food restaurants are more likely to have a stroke than residents living farther away, according to another 2009 study. And high-fat foods have been shown to be rather addictive, at least in animal models.
The researchers conceded that “fast food can be consumed responsibly,” but Mohan and his colleagues asserted that “the marketing and sale of products by fast food companies is done in a manner that undermines the public’s health.”
Although most companies – and many individuals – hand their investment portfolios over to financial firms (or separate company departments) to manage, the authors argued that, “insurers ought to be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility.”
“Our data illustrate the extent to which the insurance industry seeks to turn a profit above all else,” Wesley Body, senior author of the study, said in a prepared statement. “Safeguarding people’s health and well-being take a back seat to making money.”
Source: Scientific Americanhttp://www.ilifelink.com/