Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Stop Inflammation Now! by Richard M. Fleming MD

If you think the Atkin's diet is safe, you'll think twice after reading this book. Nothing earth shattering in here if you've read the Harvard diet and health books. More confirmation that caloric restriction is still the only game in town when it comes losing weight and staying your healthiest. Milk and dairy products get a big black eye, and you should consider cutting them out of your diet if you have any known family issues with dairy already. Net net: eat your veggies, fruits, whole grains, lower your animal protein intake, and give up on dairy. Stuff you probably knew already, but here are the sobering facts to motivate you to stick to this diet.

"The NE Journal of Medicene found that women who had high C reactive protein [a marker of stress and inflammation] levels were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as women with high cholesterol levels. Researchers from Harvard followed 27,939 women for 8 years... They found that there was a higher correlation between high C-RP levels than with high LDL cholesterol levels." p15 Stress and inflammation could be prove to be far more dangerous than cholesterol.

"Once the body is thrown into stress, certain hormones, particularly cortisol, force release of fat stored in the tissues, which floods the bloodstream and flows to the heart. That of course increases blood cholesterol levels... [In today's] sedentary lifestyle... the heart doesn't utilize the available as fuel in order to fight, flee or simply burn as a fuel for exercise. On the contrary, once the fat is dumped into the bloodstream, its primary effect is to contribute to coronary heart disease." p36 Perhaps one additional benefit of exercise is not only that it decreases stress levels [see below], lowering cortisol, but also that it burns up the excess fat created by that cortisol.

"Only 7% of the total cholesterol load is in your blood. The other 93% is stored in your tissues... Your liver produces about 1000 mg of cholesterol a day [far in excess of the amount you consume in your diet]." p41 I wonder if drinking alcohol in some way affects the liver's ability to synthesize and release cholesterol? Could that be the mechanism by which we garner a benefit from alcohol?

"Dietary fat also contributes to insulin resistance. Fat coats the exterior of the cells and blocks the insulin receptor sites... the body has to produce more insulin in order to force [the glucose] in. Fat also infiltrates the cell membrane, where it causes oxidation, which triggers an immune reaction. This creates inflammation... [causing] the swollen cell membrane to form a barrier of sorts against the glucose and insulin in the blood." p52 Why being fat and overweight leads to diabetes. Also, why anti-oxidants may reduce heart disease and stroke.

"A study of 3,638 over 40 year old healthy men found that those who engaged in the lowest amounts of physical activity each month, 3 exercise session or fewer, had the highest levels of C-RP... Those who engaged in moderate exercise, 4 to 21 sessions per month, had significantly lower levels of C-RP, and those who exercised frequently, 22 times per month or more, had the lowest levels of C-RP." p62
"Men between the ages of 60 and 79 who exercised regularly had lower levels of not only of C-RP but also fibrinogen, a protein that increases the tendency of the blood to form clots. Clots are an underlying cause of most heart attacks [and strokes]... The blood of men who exercised regularly was far less viscous, which meant that it was better able to circulate to cells and organs, including the heart." p63
If you still haven't figured out that regular exercise is one of the best things you can do after reading this blog, you're beyond hope.

"A lean person stores about 100,000 calories as fat [each pound of fat is 3,500 calories so this about 28 lbs of fat - doesn't sound that lean to me actually - nearly 20% body fat]... by contrast our capacity to store carbohydrates is limited to 1,500 calories, which we store primarily [as glycogen] in the muscles and liver." p67 If you didn't burn fat during an aerobic work out, you'd hit the wall well before mile 10. Your brain, by the way, only burns glusose, and cannot burn fat, so when your glucose drops - that's hitting the wall for marathoners.

"High protein consumption elevates homocysteine, an amino acid that significantly increases a person's chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke... An ongoing Harvard study of 80,000 women has found that women with high homocysteine levels have 3 times the rate of heart disease than women with low homcysteine." p79
"The protein from meat, eggs, cheese and other dairy products increases an amino acid called methionine, which is converted to homocysteine. The body used folic acid and vitamins B6 & B12 to break down homocysteine... folic acid and B6 are primarily found in plant foods such as green vegetable and whole grains. Without these foods, the odds are great that you won't get enough to lower homocysteine levels." p81
"[The Harvard study] has shown that women who consumed the highest amounts of folic acid and vitamin B6 had only 1/2 the risk of dying of heart attack as women with the lowest intakes." p82 If you're crazy enough to be on Atkin's for a long time, make sure to take plenty of folic acid and B6 supplements.

"The chemicals fibrinogen, homocysteine, and C-RP are produced by the liver when it becomes inflamed and imbalanced, usually due to high quantities of pro-inflammatory foods." p 99

"Turmeric and its relative, ginger root, both lower leukotriene levels and reduce inflammation... After 15 days of treatment [using turmeric extract], fibrinogen levels were halved... Researchers in Israel have found that people who regularly eat turmeric have lower risks of urinary tract cancers." p101

"Problems arise when growth factors stimulate excessive growth so that they stimulate cells to multiply even when the cells are not needed. That's when growth factors give rise to immune and inflammatory reactions, which can lead to several kinds of illnesses, including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer." p101

"The most potentially dangerous [growth factor] is insulin-like growth factor 1, known as IGF-1. This chemical plays a role in heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer... [it] also causes constriction of blood vessels... There are two causes of elevated IGF-1: chronically high insulin levels, caused by consuming too many calories and consuming cow's milk and milk products." p102

"Cow's milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. naturally contain IGF-1. Research has shown that cows treated with genetically engineered bovine growth horomone (rBGH) have significantly higher quantities of IGF-1. " p103

"Studies have shown that milk proteins attach themselves to the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin. Recognizing the milk proteins as a [foreign] threat, the immune system attacks these peptides, but in the process also destroys the insulin producing cells... When scientists examine populations around the world, they discover a strong association between milk consumption and diabetes." p104

"People with gingivitis are at a much higher risk of having heart disease. So too are those with ulcers, created by bacteria, and bacterial pneumonia." p112
"Bacteria alone cannot cause heart disease, but the more bacteria or infectious agents there are in your system, the greater your risk of heart attack and stroke. [There's even] a recent association between individuals receiving smallpox vaccinations and heart attacks." p113
How exactly to bacteria contribute to heart disease? First the arteries must have some damage or disease to begin with. Then the "Bacteria setup housekeeping in your artery tissue than your immune system recognizes their presence. The first member of your defenses to spot the bacteria is complement [which has a] rather interesting way of dealing with bacteria [by] poking holes in the arterial cell membranes. " This causes a larger immune response and inflammation. "The net effect is even more inflammation, which means unstable plaques, more vasoconstriction, and more clot formation." p113

"Numerous studies have shown that in sensitive people, milk proteins can trigger production of inflammatory cytokines (such as tumor necrosis factor). This is especially the case in children who have a milk sensitivity, and in people who suffer arthritis. Studies have shown that elimination of milk products significantly reduces inflammation throughout the bodies of such people." p114 Got milk? Got inflammation?

"Balloon angioplasty has never been shown to save lives or extend life, though it has killed some of those who undergo the surgery [ 1 in 1000 die within 1 day of surgery]. Its only value is to relieve chest pain, something that can be accomplished with dietary change and drug treatment." p124

Coronary bypass surgery is not for everyone. "Researchers have found that people who have any combination of the following: a weakened heart muscle, blocked left main coronary artery, significant narrowing of all 3 main coronary arteries, and have bypass surgery live longer than those who don't have the operation." p126 But man they pay a very high price. "Nearly everyone who undergoes a bypass operation experiences some degree of brain damage, which is permanent for 15 to 44% of those people... 10% of those who undergo surgery die during the procedure or immediately afterward. 13% experience serious side effects, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, bleeding, and infection." p126

"Most people go to sleep between 1opm and midnight. If there's food in your stomach, your sleep will be disturbed. After 7pm, the body tends to convert any calories still in the stomach into fat and triglycerides." p140

Atkins on trial. Here are the results of a 1 year study of 100 volunteers who placed into 1 of 4 diets: Pure vegetarian and low grains - no animal protein; vegetarian with whole grains - no animal protein; American Heart Association diet; Atkins diet. The results...
"Up until the 3 month point, people do low weight and experience a drop in cholesterol on all of the diets." However after that diets diverge considerably.
"Diet 1 lost 18% of total body weight on average. Diet 2 lost 12% of their body weight. Only folks on the AHA diet did not lose weight. Atkins dieters lost 13%"
"Diet 1 experienced a [massive!] 39.1% drop in total cholesterol. Diet 2, a 30.4% drop. The AHA diet only saw a 5% drop. Atkin's raised cholesterol by 5.3%"
LDL Diet 1: 52% reduction; Diet 2: 39% reduction; AHA 6.1% reduction; Atkins 6% INCREASE
HDL Diet1: 9% increase; Diet 2: 3.6% increase; AHA 1.5% decrease; Atkins: 5.8% decrease
Triglycerides Diet1: 37.3 decrease; Diet2: 34.7% decrease; AHA 1% increase; Atkins5.5% increase
Homocysteine Diet1: 13.6% decrease; Diet 2 14.6% decrease; AHA 9% increase; Atkins 12.4% increase
Inflammation Diet1: 7.4% decrease; Diet2: 10.8% decrease; AHA 4.7 increase; Atkins 31% increase
Fibrinogen Diet1: 11% decrease; Diet2 6.3% decrease; AHA .6% decrease; Atkins 11.9 increase
So Atkins can help you lose weight, and may not cause harm during the first 3 months. But after that watch out! It's a diet that you can stick with for the rest of your life, because that won't be very long from the looks of these results.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich 2003

This is a natural science book. It is very light reading and requires no technical knowledge. Here's a blurb from my favorite magazine about it.

From Scientific AmericanThere cannot be many people who have gone into a beavers' lodge. Heinrich, professor of biology at the University of Vermont, did that in his quest to see how animals survive winter. It was a summer when the pond had dried up and the beavers were not in residence, but with a flashlight and room enough to turn around, Heinrich was able to conclude that the accommodation would be quite cozy for a beaver family in winter. Similarly trying to see for himself as much as possible, he describes the winter survival strategies of many animals. He marvels in particular at the success of the golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa), a bird "scarcely larger than a ruby-throated hummingbird" that remains active all through the winters of Maine and Alaska, its life "played out on the anvil of ice and under the hammer of deprivation." The kinglet, he says, symbolizes the "astounding and ingenious strategies that animals have evolved for coping in the winter world."

My comments are in bold italics.

“Cold water is denser than hot water, and so cold water sinks as hot rises (convection). But, the change is not so uniform. Water becomes densest at 4 degrees C. As a result when lakes warm up in the springtime from 0 to 4, as the ice melts, the surface water sinks. This denser water displaces colder bottom water and its nutrients, which then rise toward the surface and feed the life above.” This is very interesting and when coupled with the fact that ice is less dense than liquid water, our water world is a very livable place indeed. Consider the state of our oceans and bodies of water if the solid state of water (ice) were more dense than its liquid state as is common with most substances. Cold water, being denser would fall down – and getting colder as it fell, it eventually would freeze solid from the bottom up. “The ecological consequence of this phenomenon would be that there would be no bodies of water in the far northern or southern regions. Sunshine in the summer would melt only the upper layers of ice, and any aspiring body of water would soon become a huge permafrosted ice lens.” Page 18

An evolutionary puzzle? “Male Manitoba red-sided garter snakes emerge from the rocky crevices before females and then wait at the periphery to intercept the females. As soon as a female emerges from the den, she is enveloped in a ball of dozens of suitors. Curiously, some of these males mimic females, and are mistaken as such by other males. Their behavior just doesn’t make sense (yet), but with more information I trust that it eventually will.” – page 230 Here’s a speculation by me: The males who mimic do not attract their brothers, who carry many of the same genes. This would require that the brothers are able to sense relatedness. If so, then the tranvestite brother would attract other competitive males, increasing his brother’s odds. Totally unproven, and the key assumptions of fraternal relatedness and sensory perception would have to be proven to lend creedence to this speculation.

“Hibernating bears metabolize mostly fat, they do not accumulate huge amounts of urea in their blood (urea is mostly produced through the metabolization of protein). What smalls they do produce they convert into creatine, which is nontoxic. Additionally, instead of becoming a toxic waste, the nitrogen wastes in hibernating bears are biochemically recycled into protein; hence no loss of muscle mass even as they don’t exercise.Thus a hibernating bear never needs to get a drink or take a leak all winter. Water is conserved because none is needed to flush out toxic wastes, and the animals stay in shape” Additionally the bears neither get bed sores nor suffer from bone loss during their long slumber, things that humans experience when immobile. “In their long evolutionary history, those (bears) who could not tolerate the rigors of prolonged inactivity were weeded out.” Pp 259-260

“1 in 3 Americans over 50 is completely sedentary. Therefore our muscles deprived of exercise become restitant to insulin that normally promotes the absorption of glucose; blood sugar reaches dangerously high levels whenever we consume sugar/starch containing products and so we risk the onset of adult diabetes. Our bodies are not adapted to inactivity. In our evolutionary history, in constrast to bears, exercise was constant. Inactivity adversely affects every organ system in the body, at least so long as we continue to eat.” p 261

“Every hour of vigorous exercise as an adult was repaid with 2 hours of additional life span. There is a limit obviously to the benefits of human exercise or else more exercise could make us immortal. Instead too much exercise increases the aging process as well. I suspect the debate of optimum exercise for longevity may relate less to how much exercise we get than to how many calories we take in versus how many we burn off. There is correlation between eating less and having a longer lifespan.” More creedence to caloric restriction. P 261

Overall I would only give this book 1 star out of 4.