Monthly Archives: December 2008

Chicken Legs and High Blood Pressure

Chicken Legs and High Blood Pressure

Competency # 14 SUPERFOOD

Reference:  Saiga et al, Journal of Agric Food Chem 2008: 56, 9586-9591

Competency #2: Dash Diet

Once in a while this column just has to give you something right down close to home……   This is just too good to be true.  I read this and just fell out of my chair laughing.  This is hilarious.  Chicken legs reduce blood pressure!  Can’t you see it, “Buffalo Wings Saves Your Heart”?  So, what is this all about?

Actually, this is real research.  It turns out that chicken cartilage has sequences of amino acids in them that actually act like ACE inhibitors.  Drs Saiga et al from Hiroshima University in Japan worked on dissolving cartilage out of chicken legs.  They were using the feet part, not the bones, but it was still the cartilage section.  They actually found four short chains of amino acids that had ACE inhibitor activity.  Gly-Ala-Hyp-Gly-Leu-Hyp-Gly-Pro is an 8 amino acid sequence that has the most potency that is plentiful in chicken cartilage.  When you take these sequences and give them to rats, their blood pressure drops for not just a few hours, but actually several weeks. Can’t you see the rats with little blood pressure cuffs around their tails?   Now, rats have a higher pressure than humans but they had a 50 point drop in their pressure at 6 hours.  50 points!  That’s not an insignificant measurement.  This is a real drop with real results.  And the peptides survive going through the stomach.  They are effectively absorbed and have real action on the arteries in the rats.

ACE inhibitors are some of our very best high blood pressure medications.  They relax your arteries and reduce the load of work off your heart in a way nothing else does as effectively.  In fact, the use of ACE inhibitors is one of the critical actions we advise all doctors to use for heart disease patients.  They are key to our control of high blood pressure.  Control of our blood pressure is one of the critical actions for all of us.  The DASH Diet was designed to have an integrated approach of multiple combined components to give you the best way to lower your blood pressure.  We now can add chicken legs, another superfood,  to the formula.

Now, this is not research on all the parts of the chicken but our modern chicken farming uses young chickens that are barely 6 and 7 weeks old.  Most of their bones are still very soft and composed of a good deal of cartilage.  Grandma used to make you chicken noodle soup that is essentially all a wonderful mix of boiled chicken bones with all that yummy cartilage in it. You know how I adore Grandma.

WWW:  What will work for me?  Well, to be truthful, I like chewing the cartilage part off of chicken bones.  I think it’s delicious.  Now I’m going to have justification at Thanksgiving for chewing on the ends of the turkey bone too.  Think how delicious that breast bone section could be.  Imagine a whole new line of gourmet cooking.  What do you think…..what would you like with your fine French Wine?  Chicken legs?   And how would you like them served?   Straight up!  When you’ve finished choking over this, consider how well your blood pressure drops when you fall out of your chair laughing!  I’ve finally found a topic to rival Vitamin D.


Unwrapping Presence

Unwrapping Presence

Competency # 22 Social Wellness and Friendships

Reference: The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

It’s the Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Eid season and I can’t wait to get together with my family.   I look at Sonya Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness and I think of this time of year and what it is that I look forward to.  I want to be with my family, to share the love and caring we feel for one another.  I want the presence of their company.   Not presents, presence is what I want.  I’ve unwrapped enough gifts.  Heavens knows, I wrapped enough gifts too.

So, it was a surprise on opening our church bulletin and reading the insert from Donna Schaper, one of our denomination’s leading contemporary writers, to see her comments comparing presents to “presence”.   The smallest present in the world, she writes, is someone all wrapped up in themselves.  Unwrapping presence is what this holiday season should be all about.  The presence of ourselves with our families.  The presence of the “Christ” child is the presence of peacefulness in our hearts because of the contentedness we feel when we are surrounded by love.  When we unwrap ourselves and let our hearts flow out to one another, we forget our own small desires and ambitions and find ourselves drawn into those around us.

There’s evidence to show that “Nurturing Social Relationships” is one of the gifts you can give to yourself.  When you let yourself become “unwrapped” and nurture those around you, you become more connected.   Lyubomirsky details how those communities with strong social support systems live the longest.  The Sardinians in Italy, the Okinawans of Japan, the Seventh Day Adventists in California all have communities of very long-lived people.  And when asked what their first priorities are, all three list, “Put family first”.    What’s unique and interesting is that the amount of possessions, income, size of homes, job title all change with our life circumstances.  We adapt pretty quickly to those events, and don’t change our happiness much with increases in income or increases in “stuff”.

So, that’s something no one can take away from you.  Caring for those around you is not just good for them, it’s good for you.  What do I need to do to make that happen?  I need to unwrap myself.  I need to give time to my family.  Talking time, silent time, playing time, but time.   I need to make sure my loved one feels appreciated.  I need to make sure each day that I say “thank you” for something she’s done.   I need, each day to listen to her dreams and support her in what she looks forward to and let myself feel the pleasure of observing that I listened well enough to catch the opportunity.   It’s those activities, Lyubomorsky writes, that indelibly write happiness into your life.  That’s the sacredness of everyone’s story this season.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I’ve wrapped enough presents.  Sonya and Donna teach me to think about presence.  My happiness is something I can invest in.  And in these very tough times,  that’s what I really want for Christmas.  Unwrap yourself a little this season.  Maybe we’ll have Peace on Earth after all.

Supercharging your Mitochondria

Mitochondria III:  Supercharging your Mitochondria
Competency # 4 ACTIVITY
Reference:   Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2008

Mitochondria are basically where aging happens.   We learned that exercise is a magic potion for making mitochondria multiply.  But there is another story to tell.  This story starts with the Department of Defense asking Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina to study the chemical quercetin.  The army wants strong soldiers with the ability to have extra endurance and strength.  Dr. Davis started by giving mice a dose of quercetin of 850-1,700 mg a day in human equivalents.  (Apples have about 200 mg per pound)  Aside from eating 4 pounds of apples a day, you can’t get that much from food by yourself.

But guess what happens to mice when they got that much quercetin?  The number of mitochondria increased 30% within a week.  And the mice got more endurance on their treadmills along with that change.  That means they were burning more energy, or had more energy to burn.  Either way.  The implications for us humans are huge.  This could be a way of raising your metabolism, or rate of burn.  That could help get rid of those extra calories and pounds, while using a natural compound found in apples, onions, grapes, capers…..

And the benefits of quercetin didn’t stop there.  When the army took a bunch of young kids and exercised them like crazy (3 hours a day of intense bike riding) and then exposed them to cold and flu viruses, they got less colds.

So guess who’s out there pedaling quercetin?  Lance Armstrong of course.  (Pedaling…. Of course) There is a product on the market that he is selling that has quercetin in it.  I won’t sponsor any product so you’ll have the find the name on your own.  I’m an apple guy.

But that’s not the only hint about nutritional supplements that might help supercharge your mitochondria.   There is also beginning evidence that lipoic acid and carnitine, two chemicals that are used by mitochondria as specific elements in their metabolism of energy, both increased the ability of rats to exercise by 100%.  And that was with geriatric rats.  So Andrew Weil has jumped on that band wagon and he’s selling a product that claims to make your mitochondria healthier.  It has carnitine and lipoic acid in it.  Despite no human studies yet…..   I can’t wait.

WWW: What will work for me.  Well, I want to keep doing the Macarena until I’m 90 so I need to keep my mitochondria happy.  Exercise is a sure fire bet.  But quercetin is very interesting.  I ate an apple for lunch.  Three more, and who knows what will happen.  Realistically, this is a new topic to follow.  I’m interested.  We are down to the nitty-gritty of burning energy.  We’ll stick with it .



Mitochondria II: Keeping the Power Grid Up and Running

Mitochondria II:  Keeping the Power Grid Up and Running
Competency # 4 ACTIVITY
Reference:   Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2006

As you drive from Milwaukee to Fond du Lac Wisconsin you pass by some of the prettiest farms in Wisconsin.  The rolling hills are home to some of America’s best dairy land and the premium farmland is fertile.  Just south of Fond du Lac, you cross over the Kettle Moraine formation and find yourself on a wide high plain that used to separate two sheets of glacier.  It’s windy, all the time.  And today you find wind turbines, lots of them.  As far as the eye can see, softly whirring away.  The faster the wind blows, the faster the giant blades spin, generating power for you and me.

Your mitochondria are quietly whirring away inside you.  They can’t quite switch on and off as easily as wind turbines, or coal burning power plants.  There isn’t a simple off switch. If you have a healthy mitochondria, that little devil just can’t help itself.  It just churns out energy.  Did you get that?  It can’t quite help itself.  A healthy little mitochondria just churns out energy.

That means there is a complex balance going on inside each of us.  It’s not just as simple as energy in and energy out.  You have a basal metabolic rate.  You take some calories and just burn them.  The dance of hormones and genes determines how you split those calories up.  We are now pretty sure that if you eat lots of white carbohydrates and simple sugars, your body will put out insulin in response and put those simple sugars into long term storage (“Minute on lips = Lifetime on Hips” was referring to all things sugar).  But, underlying that temptation to storage, you have a basal metabolic rate, and that’s the rate at which your mitochondria chew their way through the energy that’s supplied to them.  Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy you are burning each and every day just sitting around doing nothing.

Turns out if you do that too much, you gradually ratchet the number of mitochondria down.  The less you exercise, the slower your metabolism becomes and the less fuel you burn.  If you exercise rigorously, and I mean enough to get sweaty for at least 15-20 minutes a day, you put out the message that you need more power from the grid.  Your internal hormonal mix stimulates the mitochondria to start dividing and multiplying.   In about six weeks of daily exercise, you can document that you have increased the number of mitochondria some 50%.

50% more!  And once you have those little devils in place, they just burn away all day long.  For a mere 15 minutes a day, you can shame them into working hard for you all day long, burning more energy than you need.  And that means losing weight without even trying.

WWW:  What Will Work for Me!  WOW.  50% increase in my power grid by exercising.  I need motivation to keep going at exercise.  Knowing that I’m maintaining my supply of lower powerplants by exercising gives me motivation.  Get the visual?  Little tiny powerplants, burning away fat.  Day and night.  Next week…… cutting edge new ideas.