Monthly Archives: April 2011

Why Rabbits Don’t Have to Do Pushups

Why Rabbits Don’t Have to Do Pushups!

Competency: Vitamin D

April  26, 2010

Reference: Ardestani A, et al Relation of Vitamin D Level to Maximal Oxygen Uptake in Adults. Am J Cardiol. 2011 Feb 22.

Ever seen a rabbit doing aerobics?  Pumping iron?  Even seen a deer out jogging to stay in shape?  Any squirrels doing Tai Chi?   How is it that these animals can stay in great shape without going to the Y?   Of course, the first thought that came to your mind is that these animals don’t have to stay in great shape, just enough to be faster than the slowest member of their type.  As long as I can run faster than you, I’m safe from the bears that are chasing us.  Same with the squirrel.  But there is a deeper question here that might be more interesting.

This is what Dr Ardestani and his group from Hartford discovered and published.  They took 200 volunteers of all shapes and sizes, all levels of fitness and all ages and found a very interesting linear relationship.  For every level of cardiovascular fitness, Vitamin D levels predicted your being in better shape.  In fact, couch potatoes showed the strongest effect.   There was a marked difference between those with a level of 60 and 20 ng.  This included and was held constant for the amount of time folks spend outdoors.  Exercise buffs are often outdoors, so Vitamin D levels would be higher in them by sun exposure.  This was controlled for.  This is the second study this column has covered that says the exact same thing.  Our prior review showed that in high school girls fitness measured by the ability to jump, climb, push, run and lift was all predicted in a linear fashion by Vitamin D level.

How does D do that?  Fundamentally, D is your stem cell hormone.  It tells every cell in your body to mature into a mature cells.  Immature cells, without adequate Vit. D can’t mature and do their function.  Every tissue in your body (all 1900 cell types we’ve looked at so far) have stem cells and those stem cells respond to D.  Just like plankton in the bottom of the ocean that have been dormant for 10,000 years, when brought to the surface and exposed to light,  make D before they start to divide, our stem cells need D to start the journey to maturity.  (So in winter, with no D, your white blood stem cells don’t mature and you then can’t fight viruses.  So you get the flu)  Same with muscle cells.

That means part of deconditioning is not just being a couch potato, but being a couch potato indoors away from the sun.    The flip side of that is that being a couch potato on vitamin D might just slow down your deconditioning.  That’s what this study says.

So that’s why rabbits don’t have to pump iron to stay in shape.  They are outdoors all day long. They are getting their D naturally.  Our hunter gatherer forebears were outside all day long.  Our great-grandparents who were farmers were outdoors all day long.  And now, we’ve moved indoors, onto the couch and behind the computer screen.  We don’t pump iron, we don’t go to the Y and ….. we at least take our D.

WWW. What will work for me.  I just had some measurements of my own personal fitness.  It was not a pretty sight.  I’m out of shape.  Rather badly. My mortality risk is higher because my cardiovascular fitness is below average.  But now I understand why D reduces all cause mortality so significantly.  It plays on every tissue in my body to mature, even my flabby muscles.  As much as they can.  I continue to aim for a level of 60 ng, as that is about what those bunny rabbits, squirrels, deer…..and great grandparents had.  When I first measured my level of D without any supplementation, my level was 7 ng.  Yours is too, if you aren’t on a supplement.  So, lets all get in shape with summer coming.  Get outdoors, with some sun block after 20 minutes, and get in shape.  You the proverbial 40 year old mother of two with no time to exercise?  I would love to hear how you use your imagination to keep in shape, and get outdoors with the kids.

Oxaloacetic Acid: Tricking the Grim Reaper

Oxaloacetic Acid: Tricking the Grim Reaper

Reference:  Cash, Open Longevity Science 3;22-27 2009

What’s the best way to prolong the life of mammals?  Well, the science is pretty well established.  Restrict calories like mad.  Cut down by 30% and you will add 20-30% to your lifespan.  You can see the effect most dramatically in Madison in the primate experiment with Rhesus monkeys that has been going on for 20 some years.  Half the monkeys are on a reduced calorie diet.  They are young looking, sleek fur, and all alive.  The half that were given full “ad litem” diets (as much as they wanted), are grey, old, arthritic and half have died.  Maybe more by now.  You can show this same effect with many mammal models.  There are several hundred thousand Americans living a life style of reduced calorie food intake.  Some accomplish it be eating every other day.  Some fast 4 to 5 days a week by missing supper.  Some just cut their calories by 30% and gut it out.

Now, what they induce is a portfolio of genes called SIRT which basically protect DNA.  There appears to be some protection of mitochondria as well.  All well and good.  But cutting my calories 30% is a drag.  I like dinner, with dessert, even if it’s only fruit.  I just like feeling full, even if it’s from a bag of carrots.

So, when resveretrol came along it seemed like a wonderful discovery.  To recap, resveretrol is the polyphenol from red wine that turns on the SIRT genes and seems to give you the same benefits as calorie restriction without the restriction.  It may be part of the explanation as to why the French seem to be able to eat ridiculous amounts of butter and still never get a heart attack.  It’s all their red wine.  I don’t drink much red wine but I am taking 200 mg a day of resveretrol.

Now, along comes oxaloacetic acid.  It’s part of your “Krebs Cycle” or the energy mechanism your body goes through to digest glucose and fat into fuel.  You naturally make oxaloacetic acid, day in and day out in every cell in your body.  Trillions of times a second your body makes oxaloacetic acid, break it down and remake it again and again as you burn up sugar and fat in the energy circle called the Krebs cycle.  But something interesting happens when you take extra as a supplement.  You seem to change the ratio of two energy intermediates in your body called NAD and NADH.  The increase in this ratio increases a substance called AMPK.  Your liver and all other cells start changing the way they process energy.  Even though the oxaloacetate only lasts for a few minutes in the blood stream, the physiological effect lasts for up to a day or so.  And all of that seems to be potentiated when you take a bit of extra vitamin C with it.  Vitamin C seems to grease the skids to make it work even better.  And in animal models, they start living longer, just like with calorie restriction.

This is downright interesting!  We may be working backwards, discovering the flaws in our current food system or “environment” by finding states in which we are a lot healthier.  All of this is animal research.  But it is also only a chemical already widely made in every cell in your body.  Maybe we used to be in an environment in which we ate a ton more Vitamin C, and had so many antioxidants in our diet, we had a high NAD/NADH ratio anyways.

WWW: What will work for me?  There is a company starting to make oxaloacetate and selling it.  It’s a bit tricky to make in a form you can prove gets into your blood.  I’m going to check it out.  If I look younger next time you see me, ask!  I think it’s a bit too early to recommend, but I love the thread of basic science that is unpacking this phenomenon.  For now I still like dinner.  I want my apple, and to eat it too.

Yup’ik Get Less Diabetes When they Eat MORE Fish Oil

Fish Oil and and Overweight Eskimos

Source:  Makhoul et al, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  March 23rd, 2011

Afraid you get too much fish oil?  I’m going to argue that you aren’t getting near enough.  At least according this this recent fascinating research.  Here is the story.  Consider the Yup’ik Eskimos who are just as overweight and obese as the rest of the American population.  Being overweight is a problem because it changes the balance of inflammation in your body.  Worst of all is being overweight around your tummy.  The fat in our abdomen is just reeking with inflammation.  And you do remember from prior columns that our fat tissue is not just a passive storage unit, right?  Correct.  Our fat tissue spews out inflammatory eicosinoids.  Eicosinoids are signaling messengers in our bodies that direct our cells to respond to the world around them.  They are made and consumed in milliseconds, so their impact and importance to our overall metabolism hasn’t been appreciated as fully as perhaps they should.  When you put out inflammatory eicosinoids, you trigger inflammation and it’s inflammation that starts the journey towards cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  Diabetes fits right there in the middle.  More diabetes, more inflammation, more fat tissue around the tummy.  Being overweight is risky.

Our overweight friends to the north they have a curious difference.  Their rate of diabetes is less than half of the general American population (3.3% vs 7.7%).  Half the diabetes!  Same obesity.  Just as chubby as us.  Not near the inflammation.  What’s the difference?  When tracking the dietary habits of the Yup’ik, the researchers were able to show that they ate about 20 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids than we eat in a typical American diet.   In fact, in the Yup’ik who tended to eat more “Western food” (flour and sugar and packaged goods) and less fish and blubber, their lower levels of serum DHA and EPA (the two most important omega-3 fatty acids) correlated strongly with higher levels of CRP (C-reactive protein, a clear marker of inflammation).  Many Yup’ik are abandoning traditional food, so there was a clear range of comparison and a clear range of risk profiles and disease outcomes to compare.

Long time readers will remember the story of Christenson and Jorgenson, the Danish explorers who spent 8 years with the Eskimos, eating not one fruit or vegetable for 8 years and returning healthy and vibrant.  In the 1920, the Eskimos were eating only fish and blubber all winter.  And then they had no heart disease that we knew of.  Now, with good research, we can still find traces of that aborignal diet, and apply good science to it.  And the results can now be published in good peer reviewed literature.

Our diets have dropped the amount of omega-3 fats we get from our food dramatically. Probably as much as 80% in the last 100 years.  Our brains are about 40% DHA and EPA, so having enough is more than just a matter of inflammation.  And the very least and modest increase in fatty fish in our diet, eating two servings a week of fatty fish (American Heart Association recommendation) has been shown to reduce sudden death 40%.  So, it’s heart health, brain health and now we can add diabetes.

WWW: What Will Work for Me.  There is a hidden implication in this.  My body mass index is 26 still.  A tiny bit overweight.  And I have ever so slightly an elevated blood sugar.  I am at risk for diabetes.  Just like 60% of Americans.  We are all in this.  If I follow the logic backwards of this study, I might be able to protect myself from the ravages of diabetes by eating more fish oil than I have been.  This study changed me.  I have started buying liquid fish oil that is lemon flavored and taking a tablespoon a day which is 3 grams of DHA and EPA.   That’s triple what I used to do, a gram a day. To get to 3 grams with pills takes 9 big honker capsules, and I can’t do that.  But whatever you choose to do, don’t ever stop your fish oil.  And if you can find a way to take two grams a day, the Yup’ik suggest it will do you well.  Now, just pronounce Yup’ik for me.  You do that, and I’m going to try and get that 26 down to 25.