Monthly Archives: February 2011

Vitamin D: It Takes MUCH MUCH MORE!

Vitamin D:  It Takes MUCH MUCH MORE!

Reference:  Cedric Garland,  AntiCancer Research (approved for publication) Feb 2011

Cedrid Garland and the Creighton University Vitamin D team found several thousand volunteers in the community who agreed to take their own determined dose of Vitamin D, and to get their blood levels checked at their own expense.  This made for a very nice study in that all the participants were motivated, were more likely to be compliant with continuing to take their Vitamin D, and were willing to pay their own way to get their levels checked (all at one lab, ZRT, that will do a Vit D test for $ 25 through the mail with verified reliability).  They found some very interesting findings that may well change the way we take vitamin D in the future.

First of all, they found that only 10% of people in America have enough D in their blood to prevent many major diseases by as much as 50%.  Those folks almost all worked a substantial portion of their time out of doors, and got D from sunshine.

Secondly, they were able to show that most folks need to take D at a level of about 4000 to 8000 IU a day to cut the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer,  Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis by HALF.  Did you get that?  Half!  Can you imagine a world in which those diseases are cut in half.

The recent IOM report on D cited 600 IU a day as what most adults should take for bone health, and pointed did not comment on any other diseases.  They did, however, pointedly state that up to 4000 IU a day was safe.  And their own internal toxicity report found no real toxicity below 14,000 IU a day.  But lots of studies continue to flood the literature that Dr. Garland doesn’t even allude to.  The survival of heart attacks doubling when Vit D is above a threshold is one example.  The reduction of C-sections by over 50% if adequate levels are achieved is another.  The reduction of preterm delivery with 6000 IU a day by 50% isn’t mentioned.  The strong associations of low D and Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s isn’t on Garlands list.   The Japanese study where influenza rates are cut in half, doubling the effectiveness of flu shots wasn’t mentioned.  Nor was the reduction in blood pressure.  Can you imagine  a world where those things are true?  And we haven’t even gotten to depression and seasonal affective disorder…

How much D is 4000-8000 IU a day?  A young 20 year old Caucasian American will make that much D in 4 to 8 minutes of good sunshine.  Young adults with white skin make 1000 IU a min.  We just don’t get it in Wisconsin with our 6 months of winter.  It’s the understanding of long-latency diseases that confounds us.  Our standard of proof, the randomized placebo controlled trial, takes many, many years to prove when you have an illness that takes 40 years to play out.   African Amerians need 5 to 6 times that much sun to make the same amount, but will with 40 minutes of sun.

What Garland did find is that no one showed any toxicity up to 10,000 IU a day.  None.  The weight of evidence of benefit versus risk isn’t all positive.  There are some kidney stones.  And some literature about a slight uptick of some rare cancers, maybe, (one or two studies) versus hundreds of positive studies.

WWW.  What will work for me?  What am I doing?  I’m taking my 5000 IU every day.  My blood level is 82.  I’ve had a kidney stone.  I’ll settle for that risk.  That’s my target (50-80).  It’s what I would have if I worked outdoors.  I work indoors and when I started, my D was 7 ng. ( I had a kidney stone then too)  My risks are much much lower for all the other illnesses when I have a level of 82.  It’s what I want for my loved ones and family.  Want to play it safe?  The IOM says 4000 IU a day is safe.  That will give most people a level of about 50 ng.  You are covered by any “risk” concerns as we have a national body (the IOM) stating that that is safe.  In my opinion, and for my friends, I want that as your minimum.

Brain Health VI: The Gut-Immune-Brain Triad

Brain Health VI: The Gut-Immune-Brain Triad

Reference:  American Academy AntiAging Webinar: Jan 10, 2011 Andrew Heyman

A triad of Gut-Brain-Immune system! How on earth does that pertain to brain health? It does.  Follow me here.  Your gut is your first line of defense, checking to see what is safe and not safe from the outside world.  Once the food you eat and ingest gets past your gut, your immune system (70% of which is around the gut) has to also check and defend you.  Finally, your brain is all about learning from what your gut and your immune system are communicating back.  Is this food safe?  Can I eat it? The command and control function of your gut-immune-brain triad is all about sampling the world and checking out what’s safe.

Where it goes awry is with stress.  When you get overly stressed and can’t escape, your brain puts out cortisol.  Too much cortisol!  It also cranks out epinephrine and nor-epinephrine from the Fight or Flight arm (sympathetic) of the autonomic nervous system.  With that kind of stress and high cortisol, your gut gets leaky.  More proteins leak through that normally would be held outside.  When they leak through, your immune system reacts and gets over-stimulated, putting out all sorts of chemical messengers called cytokines that circulate back up to your brain and cause inflammation, not just in your gut, but also in your brain.  The epinephrine acts as a multiplier of the cortisol effect to help create a vicious cycle of stress, injured gut, hyped up immune system and then a feedback to your brain where you get emotions of anxiety, chronic pain, fatigue.  Think of the last time you were under stress.  Did your tummy ache or feel all riled up?  Did you get a cold?  Did you feel exhausted and tired?  Did you have more aches and pains?  Headache? It’s likely you can easily think back and relate to an event like this.

How did you recover?  Probably by your own native resiliency and common sense.  But can you be more intentional the next time.  Can you see the functioning triad of brain-gut-immune malfunction and how they all contribute to the cycle of perpetuating dysfunction?  You get a vicious cycle set up that keeps turning the wheel of stress.  If you can break the wheel’s turning at any point, you can interrupt the momentum.  Try it.

Here are some tips.  For example, we now know that you can turn on your parasympathetic system (calming, mellow, relaxed side) and counteract the synergistic inflammatory effect of the sympathetic system (fight or flight) by a variety of strategies.  Breathing exercises can turn on your parasympathetic system in just a few minutes.  Meditation takes longer but lasts much longer.  Yoga does the same.  Can you take up yoga?  It’s anti-inflammatory!  And a lot safer than pills.  There’s more.  A good night’s sleep also cools off inflammation and lowers cortisol.  Gurgly upset gut?  Probiotics will stimulate healing in your gut.  Can you take probiotics for a couple of days? Can you add theanine (200 mg) to your bedtime routine, as well as some melatonin (3 mg) so that you get a great night’s sleep?  Take theanine twice a day and see how much calmer you feel.  It’s cheap and safe.   Magnesium as a supplement will calm inflammation in your brain. (400 mg a day)  Vitamin D turns down inflammation (4000 IU a day) and is strongly associated with less depression.  Turmeric is increasingly being found to stifle inflammation.  Can you take a good walk and get sweaty?  Add all those together!  Make it lifestyle?

WWW. What will work for me.  We all find ourselves in a pickle from time to time.  We feel stressed and frustrated, and then depressed.  Can you make a more holistic attack on the problem at hand?  More than just a good talk with a friend, can you think about how to sooth your churning gut, your ticked off immune system, your burning brain?  I’m personally trying the theanine and melatonin combination for sleep.  A good night’s sleep, and a lot gets smoothed out in the morning.  Try it.  And remember, the theanine works better is you take it twice a day.  (Extract of green tea and been used in Japan for decades with no reported toxicity)  I’ve not ever been described as mellow, but I feel more calm and on purpose.  And cherish the talk with that good friend.  That helps too.

Brain Health V: Supplements to Support a Healthy Brain

Brain Health V:  Supplements to Support a Healthy Brain

Reference:  Building Brain Nutrition Michael Schmidt PhD 2007 Pub Frog Ltd

Competency:  Brain Health

What are the supplements you might want to consider to keep your brain healthy?  What does it take to make the motor purr?  Here’s my list and the reasons why.

Healthy Phytonutrients;  THIS IS WHERE YOU START (after taking your 2 mile walk)

1.     Blueberries and all berries are strong brain food.  I personally eat a ½ cup of blueberries every day on my breakfast cereal.  Rats with Alzheimer’s stay well on blueberries. (Less Parkinson’s with more berries just this week)

2.     Turmeric is a power-packed antioxidant.  It’s the yellow in mustard and curry.  Suggest a capsule a day or 500 mg a day: make your own with black pepper 10%.  Indians have 80% less Alzheimer’s when they eat curry a lot.

3.     Understand the ORAC score: Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity. Get to 10,000 points every day.  1 cup of blueberries is 6000 points so it’s not impossible.  But a banana is only 100 points – 100 bananas is hard.  A wide variety of colored foods will do it.  And you get your minerals naturally.

Healthy Fats:  THIS IS STEP TWO

1.     Fish Oil.  Preferably ultra-purified to get the dioxins and PCBs out.  1 tsp a day or 3 grams of DHA/EPA.   I like the taste of Nordic Naturals liquid.

2.     GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) from primrose oil or borage oil to balance and synergize with the DHA and EPA.  1.5 grams a day

3.     Gamma delta Vitamin E: 100 IU a day to stabilize your fats

Healthy Energy Production without Inflammation

1.     Coenzyme Q10:  100 mg a day to soak up radicals.  And add 100 mg if on statins or diabetes medications

2.     N-Acetyl cysteine:  helps make glutathione, our strongest natural antioxidant – no clear guidelines on dose but  50-300 mg a day is pretty good

3.     Alpha lipoic acid 50-200 mg a day makes for another good antioxidant

4.     Magnesium: 400 mg a day (cools off inflammation very nicely and cheaply)  Get it in the maleate or glycinate forms – not the oxide form.  Zinc, chromium and selenium are also important: a multivitamin will do

5.     B vitamins: particularly thiamine, B12 and riboflavin

6.     Vitamin D:  pretty strong association studies all showing folks with Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s with lower D than controls.  Makes sense to keep your D up.  The IOM says up to 4000 IU a day is safe.  It turns off inflammation in many ways.

WWW:  What will work for me?  Remember to sleep well, laugh hard, pray often (or meditate) and cherish your family and friends.  Loving and caring is brain food.

Written by John E Whitcomb MD

Brain Health IV: The Fatty Acid Balance and Formula for Anti-Inflammatory Brain Health

Brain Health IV:  The Fatty Acid Balance and Formula for Anti-Inflammatory Brain Health

Reference:  Building Brain Nutrition Michael Schmidt PhD 2007 Pub Frog Ltd

Competency:  Brain Health

Here is your checklist in review so far.  Next week we will finish with supplements to add to the final mix.  This is what we have talked about “so far”.

1.You must exercise every day.  Your brain is dependent on it.  Just do it.  20 minutes and sweaty in better.

2.Your brain is made of a crucial balance of fats.  The type of fat is critical.  Your tongue is not discerning and many things that taste fatty and delicious are wickedly dangerous for you.

a.Very Dangerous:

i.Trans fats: Avoid French fries, Tortilla chips, mayonnaise, margarine, whipped topping, potato chips, cookies, puffed cheese snacks, chicken nuggets, cake icing

ii.Saturated fat:  Avoid corn fed meat, bacon, lard, refried beans, skin of chicken.  If it looks good on your bird feeder, it isn’t good for your brain

b.Foods with Omega-3 Fats that are Good For You

i.Fish: anchovies, deep sea fish like tuna and mackerel, salmon, haddock, herring, krill, cod, snapper, trout…scallops

ii.Nuts: Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds

iii.Chia seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds

c.Good Omega – 6 Fats

i.Borage oil and Primrose oil have high concentrations of good healthy omega-6 fatty acids called GLA (gamma linolenic acid) that also make anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the E1 family (anti-inflammatory, blood thinner, pain killer)

d.Healthy Brain Membrane Food

i.Eggs, particularly organic, have phosphatidyl serine and choline in them.  Soy also has it too.

e.Antioxidant support:  Gamma Delta Vitamin E 100 mg a day


WWW: What will work for me.  It’s all in the balance of these fats.  Our brains are meant to be roughly 40% omega three fatty acids (DHA and EPA) by dry weight or 16% wet weight.  That’s a huge amount of our brain substance.  Our brain membranes aren’t very discriminating and will substitute omega-6 fatty acids instead.  Albeit it small, the difference between the two may be huge in that our brain nurse cells called glial cells can convert omega 3 and omega 6 to either anti-inflammatory or inflammatory prostaglandins.  There is evidence that our abundance of omega-6 fats have shifted the balance of 3:6 in our brain from a 40:60 ratio to a 20:80 ratio in extreme cases.  Of course this hasn’t been studied prospectively so it’s just interesting information for now, but it correlates with the rise in much brain disease in our society.   My formula:  3 grams a day of fish oil, 1.5 grams a day of GLA, 100 mg a day of gamma-delta Vitamin E to prevent DHA oxidation.


Brain Health 3: The Wonders of Exercise

Brain Health 3: The Wonders of Exercise

Date:  Feb 2 2011

Andel et al  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2008) 63 (1): 62-66.

Competency: Brain Health

This is the hard one.  Your brain needs you to exercise.  And you really don’t want to.  You want to sit on the couch and watch CSI.  To become motivated to exercise you have to have some really primal forces pushing you.  How about not eating if you don’t walk?  Or, no sex for you if you don’t run a bit….  In our evolutionary past that was basically it.  We had to run to chase down lunch (gazelles and kudu) or to get away from our predators (lions).  Or, we had to be on the move to find the next seasonal food source that might be a couple of miles away.  If you examine the most primitive hunter gatherers on the planet (Hadza in Tanzania) you find folks who hunt around the clock whenever an opportunity arises, walking miles to kill one baboon to share among twenty individuals.  A lot of walking for a little bit of food.  We evolved walking, running and stressing our muscles a lot.

Life is easier now.   You may have to climb five stairs in your tri-level house on your way to breakfast.  And maybe you have to walk down to the mailbox to leave an envelope for the postman.  And that’s about it.  There is all that standing around the water cooler, of course.  But come on, you aren’t getting sweaty.  Put a pedometer on and you only walk about 1500 to 2000 steps a day.  And your brain is gradually turning to mush.

The details of why exercise is so good for you are not completely known.  It’s likely something to do with osteocalcin, a marvelous little protein washed out of bones with exercise that makes you much more sensitive to insulin.  And with lower insulin you have less inflammation.  Something there is in your brain nurse cells called glial cells that wrap themselves around your regular brain cells and protect them that doesn’t like insulin, but still need lots of glucose as energy.  If you want a healthy brain you want glial cells that never get activated.  You want them to be calm and relaxed and mellow.  And to get to mellow, your glial cells need to have you exercise.

The research is just stunning.  Here is just one example.  Andel in the Journal of Gerontology published a lovely twin study, following some 3100 pairs of twins in Sweden for thirty years.  He was able to find 90 pairs who developed Alzheimer’s in one and not the other.  The effect of exercise was pretty big.  Light exercise like gardening and walking reduced risk of dementia as much as 40%.  Sweaty exercise with  sports reduced the risk as much as 65%.  And that was 31 years later.  But this column has reviewed this idea many times.  We’ve reviewed that even light exercise measurably affects your memory within just 6 months, and the effect lasts 18 months afterwards.

WWW.  Want a healthy brain?  It’s pretty simple.  You just have to move more than you are moving now.  10 K a day is a very interesting number.  You add that much walking to your 2K day, and you get to keep your brain.  It will take you about an hour. Find a friend.  Make it a habit.  Join the Milwaukee Hiking Club.   I’m there and would love to introduce you.  5 hikes a week, rain or shine.  No cost.  Nice people.  We walk about 5 miles at a time.  And laugh.