Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Trouble with Wheat I, or “How You Got Fat Silently”

The Trouble with Wheat, or “How You Got Fat Silently”

Reference: Your Hidden Food Allergies are Making You Fat, Rudy Rivera 2002

Date:  Sept  24th, 2010

Wheat, the staff of life.  Bread of Life.  Sort of like a holy topic.  But there’s trouble just below the surface.  We eat a lot of wheat.  Donuts, cookies, cake, bread, crackers, bagels, tortillas, chapattis, buns, spaghetti, pasta, noodles, rolls, pie, turnovers, ….. We like wheat.   Humans have thousands of forms of wheat.  And as civilizations have evolved, wheat has served us pretty well.  As a whole grain, it seems to be pretty good for us when we eat it with all its fiber attached.   But there is something about wheat that’s lurking just below the surface that opens up a much bigger topic.  How you got fat is the much bigger topic.  And the problem to explore is how wheat plays a role in that.  That and “long latency” disease.  Silent inflammation.

Humans only figured out how to grow, store and keep wheat about 10,000 years a go.  Prior to that, we ate grains for about two weeks of any given year as they ripened, and during our evolution in Africa in the proverbial “Garden”, we didn’t have wheat at all.  It was only 150 years ago that we figured out how to make fine white flour in Minneapolis and only 50 years ago how to make huge combines in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas where we grow wheat by the million tons, and store it for the world to eat later.  So wheat is everywhere in our food chain.  And with it, we are living into our 70s and 80s.

But we are developing degenerative diseases in our 50s and 60s that make life miserable for us, and eventually kill us in our 70s.  And you could be living safely and happily into your hundreds.  But not with wheat, at least not for many of us.

Long latency diseases are illnesses that start the day you are born, but take 30 to 40 years before they are expressed.  In that time, you can still successfully have babies, pass on your genes, raise families, get jobs, have careers and retire, only to find yourself ill.  Your doctor tells you, “You need to lose weight”, “Your diabetes is a problem”, “You must get your blood pressure down” “Your cholesterol is too high”.  Where did all that come from?  Who invented this cholesterol craze?  What’s wrong with my blood pressure?  But in that long latent period, you body had silent inflammation going on in your gut, in your arteries, in your cells that was quietly eating away at your vitality, until something had to give.  One example of a long latency disease is high blood pressure.  High blood pressure is not common in indigenous societies that don’t eat sugar and white flour.  In America, 70% of us have it by age 70.  Vitamin D in childhood protects you from multiple sclerosis.  The disease starts in your 40s and 50s, but the latency period goes back to pregnancy.  We know mothers with more sunshine have children with less MS decades later.

WWW. What will Work for Me.  The first step of understanding is accepting the premise that you can live to 100 with a good mind if you avoid degenerative long latency illnesses.  The next step, which we will do next week, will be to explain where silent inflammation gets started.  And then, how to avoid it and fix it, today!

B Vitamins May Delay Alzheimer’s

B Vitamins May Delay Alzheimer’s

Reference:  Online Public Library of Science Sept 9, 2010

Competency: Brain Health

B Vitamins are an interesting bunch.  They are water-soluble and tend to get washed out easily.  If we are on water pills for high blood pressure we tend to lose a lot B vitamins.  If our “one alcohol a day” is a bit bigger than the preferred size, we may not get enough nutrition from regular food and be short of B vitamins, thiamine in particular.  But more insidious than that, we have reported before that the gradually loss of our ability to absorb B12 sneaks up on us after 50 because we slowly lose the ability to make intrinsic factor, a protein our stomach makes that snags B12 and helps us absorb it.

Hence, here we find ourselves, living into our 70s and 80s with a gradual decline in B vitamins.  B vitamins are critical to assisting your mitochondria in making energy.  If you don’t have energy in your brain, you can’t think as well.   But worse than that, without sufficient energy, your blood brain barrier starts breaking down and you are more vulnerable to the effects of MSG soaking into your brain.  Did you know that drinking one can of spicy tomato juice with MSG in it will raise your blood level of glutamate some 20 fold?  And in an elderly person, that MSG can leak into their brain cells because the glial cells (protectors of our neurons) aren’t able to make enough energy to keep the MSG out.  MSG makes neurons overexcited, and then they die. And if enough neurons die, your brain shrinks.  It follows that a shrinking brain has less computing capacity than a bigger brain.   And that all comes back to those nifty B vitamins.   Normal brain shrinkage is only about .5% per year.  Alzheimer’s sufferers lose as much as 2-3% per year.

So, it would follow that if you tried giving a whole lot of extra B vitamins to folks who are getting along in years, and then measure them for brain shrinkage you find that the participants who got the extra B vitamins did MUCH better at shrinkage.  Take 168 volunteers with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” and follow them for two years.  On average, the folks getting the B vitamins had a 30% decrease in shrinkage compared to the placebo folks.  That’s not just a little.  That’s a lot.  In some folks, it was even up to 50% less shrinkage.  Mild cognitive impairment is not the same as Alzheimer’s, but once diagnosed with it you have about a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer’s in the next 5 years.  This is more than the 40 year old stressed out Mom who can’t remember where her car keys were.   MCI is enough impairment that your daily life is becoming limited.

What we also know is that about 8% of our brains are omega fatty acids, and folks who supplement themselves with DHA also have bigger brains.  Not proven is what happens with a combination of B vitamins and omega fats.  If I take extra B vitamins and fish oil, will my brain stay at its current size?  We don’t know, but it’s a conjecture worth gambling on.

WWW.  What will work for me?  Dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains are all magnificent sources of B vitamins.  The DASH diet, with it’s 9 servings a day of vegetables and fruits will do it for you.  With 9 servings of veges and fruits, you will easily get enough B.  But a Vitamin pill or a B complex isn’t a bad idea.  Over age 50, you might just ask your doctor about a B12 blood level once in a while.

Your Mother Made You Fat!

Your Mother Made You Fat!

Reference:  Journal of Nutrition 140(9) 1595 2010

Competency: Good Fats, Bad Fats

Here is the experiment just published in the Journal of Lipid Research (what, you didn’t read that one!) that gives another piece of evidence that you can blame it all on your mother.  If you give four generations of rats a diet in which you mimic our modern American diet of lots of omega-6 fatty acids (otherwise known as vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and most vegetable oils) with a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids (otherwise known as fish oil, DHA and EPA), you see a gradual increase in body mass from generation to generation.  Each generation  of rats in this experiment had the exact same food and were able to eat whatever they wanted.  And their food had the same balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids we have in America: about 15:1.  And each generation then got fatter than the prior generation.  That means that the diet one generation eats gradually turns into a genetic effect.

How can that happen?  Our genes are fixed!  Aren’t they?  Well, yes and no.  The field of nutragenomics is emerging and really is just about that: how does what you eat affect how your genes are effected.  We are pretty sure that you have about 10 times the number of  combinations of genes because of the way we can add methyl groups to our DNA and to the histone proteins that protect our DNA.  The basic DNA doesn’t change, but the way the gene is expressed changes, one generation to the next. And this research shows exactly that effect.  The CSG-3 gene (colony stimulating factor-3) and the nocturnin gene both steadily increased each generation.    This could lead to an altered expression of how fat is stored that is then passed on to the next generation, not on the DNA itself but on the proteins that line DNA and the chemical groups attached to the outside.  It works like a gene, but only takes one generation to make the change.

How did that happen?  Well, in the last 100 years our intake of omega fats, derived primarily from grass raised animals has dropped as our meat is mostly raised on grains like corn and beans.  Feedlot raised animals have dramatically lower levels of omega fats in their tissue.  And, in the same time period, the industrial production of vegetable oils made them much cheaper.  We love fried food and oil of any kind.   The ratio of omega 3 to 6 was probably about 1:1 or 1:2 in our Paleolithic days.  Today, in America it is usually around 1:15.   In urban neighborhoods where cheap fast food is a norm, ratios as high as 1:50 are common.  And obesity is just taking off.  Conclusion: the ratio of omega fats in our diet not only affects us in the short term, but may be contributing to the obesity of our children in the longer term.  We know from the Lyon Heart study that reducing your ratio to 1:4 lowers your risk of heart disease by more than the effect of a statin drug.

At least we don’t have to blame it on ourselves.  Our mother takes another guilt trip for the cause.

WWW. What will work for me.  Well, we now have two generations to think about when we eat.  How you eat affects you, and maybe your kids too.  The only way to gradually reverse this is to start changing your ratio of omega fats in your diet.   Eat more fish oil, avoid vegetable oil in all it forms.   An alternative tactic is just attack the research and state that it was all done in mice.  No way, Jose, am I going to change.   I personally take a gram a day of fish oil.  I’m raising that to two.  Morning and evening, three big pills.

Migraine Linked to Glutamate Balancing Gene

Migraine Linked to Glutamate Balancing Gene

Sept 1, 2010


Competency:  Brain Health

This is a first.  An international collaboration of genetic data bases looking at 3,000 patients with chronic migraine to 10,000 folks without migraine, and then expanding that to another 3,000 migraine sufferers and 40,000 controls found a common set of gene disorders that are highly associated with migraine headaches.  What the gene codes for is the level of glutamate between nerve cells.  It’s the Gap that matters.

Glutamate is the most common neurotransmitter in the brain.  Nerve cells pass messages between each other by releasing tiny packets of neurotransmitters (there are about 50 of them) which then react with the linking nerve cell.  The transmitter is then digested, reabsorbed or excreted.  The level remaining between the nerve cells is incredibly tightly regulated.  Glutamate has been covered in this column just a couple months ago because of the building body of evidence that links excess glutamate in our diets to a host of problems like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

The variant gene the researchers found alters the level of the activity of the EATT2 gene, which manages the level of glutamate clearing in the nerve connection gap.  The EAAT2 gene have previously been linked to other neurological diseases like epilepsy, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression.

Of course, this is way to early to be certain about anything because this is just finding a genetic link.  What catches my eye is that this link fits so tightly with a pattern of burgeoning neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that have multiplied in their frequency in recent decades.  In these decades we have been subjected to huge quantities of MSG in our diets as a flavor enhancer and aspartame in our drinks as a sweetener.  MSG (mono sodium glutamate) and aspartate (part of aspartame) are neurotransmitters that affect the glutamate receptor.  Credible research in animals shows that the dietary level of MSG that we humans have is shown clearly to cause “neuroexcitotoxicity” in delicate parts of the brain, the very parts that are damaged in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and ALS.  Neuroexcitotoxicity means nerve cells get inspired to fire off, and fire off, and fire off and fire, fire, fire and then die.  They don’t know how to stop.  In Parkinson’s, some 90% of the glutamate firing nerve cells in the substantia nigra are dead before we develop Parkinson’s.  But many of us in America have 30-40% of those cells dead when we die, but we never got Parkinson’s.  Folks in other parts of the world who never eat MSG or aspartame die with no cells in their substania nigra damaged.  This suggests, (doesn’t prove) that MSG and aspartame are causing problems (in the gap).

Now we see a genetic link that connects migraines, the most expensive neurological disease in America (one in six women and one in 12 men suffering from it) to the levels of glutamate in our brain nerve connections.

What makes this so interesting to me is that I’ve personally seen several close friends have dramatic improvement in their migraines when they ceased drinking aspartame.  And any good migraine clinic worth its salt will have a preliminary instruction to their new patients to get off of all products that have MSG and aspartame in them.  That means virtually no diet soda.  And, as we reviewed before, finding prepared foods without MSG is no mean feat.  Try it.  It’s a real challenge.

WWW. What will work for me?  I’ve been avoiding MSG and aspartame for several months now.  I’m getting used to the taste of clear water and liking it.  I’ve found some Stevia containing Crystal Lite products, and bought them.   I like them!  And the loved ones in my family who get migraines certainly all know about it.  If you are “twenty nine” and wanting to be young and sharp in your thinking forever, keep your eye out for MSG and aspartame.  Let’s all grow gracefully older together.  Mind Your Gap!