Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bones, Sugar and Sex

Bones, Sugar and Sex: The Mystery Who-Dun-It

Reference:  New York Times  8/23/2011  – Gerard Karsenty, Columbia University

Competency:  Bone Health

And you thought bones were all just dry old support systems filled with boring calcium!  Ha!  Not nearly so.   It’s back to the osteocalcin story.  We’ve known for a couple of years that bones put out osteocalcin that is a critical player in keeping your sugar in control.  That’s part of why exercise helps hold your blood glucose in control for a day or so.  Nifty.  This same team of researchers is on a tear and have figured out that osteocalcin does something a bit more interesting than just sugar control..

Sex!  Well, not quite but close.  It’s the headliner that gets you to read on.  We’ve known for a long time that proper levels of estrogen and testosterone help keep healthy bones.  So, that direction of metabolic interplay is well established. But what do bones have to do with sex?   What is the metabolic effect the other way?   Lots.  It’s osteocalcin and its effects on the testes. Dr. Karsenty found that osteocalcin has binding sites on the testes in mice.    Male mice that had been genetically altered to lack osteocalcin had fewer and smaller offspring.   Female mice had no affect on their ovaries from the osteocalcin.   Now, reported this week is that Dr. Karsenty has found that human testes also have osteocalcin receptors.  So osteocalcin is another key component to men making healthy amounts of sperm and testosterone.   We’ve known for decades that LH (leuteinizing hormone) is the critical hormone from our brains to set our production of testosterone.  Maybe osteocalcin is the fine tuner.

What is the bigger picture here?  Bones aren’t passive.  In fact, the health of your bones is being intimately linked to your overall health.  The nimble and delicate interplay of hormones between all of our organs continues to unfold.  Keeping healthy bones becomes a key component of overall health.

So the question is begged.  How do I keep healthy bones?  Exercise!  Walking, running, playing, weight bearing exercise.  What ever you are doing, do a little more!  Getting sweaty is probably a real boost.  Hormone balance.  Getting your estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone right helps.  Lower acid eating (less meat and cheese, more vegetables).  Proper sleep.  More brightly colored foods.  Less stress.  Less inflammation.  Whew, that’s the list.

WWW.  What Will Work for Me.   I’m continuing to learn to run.  Each week, I’m adding five steps to my distance.  Really, really, really, little increments.  And every 125 steps, I walk for 20.  It’s all mental.  I keep telling my brain that my life and welfare depend on those twenty minutes of sweatiness.  I keep saying “I love this” when deep down inside, my lizard brain is complaining.   And running is making me spew out more osteocalcin.  Think of that.

Vitamin B12 and Brain Shrinkage

Vitamin B12 and Brain Shrinkage

Competency: Brain Health

Reference:  Neurology Oct 2011 Dr Morris et al: Chicago Health and Aging Project

The Chicago Health and Aging Project is a unique longitudinal study looking a discrete group of aging adults.  In this part of the study, Dr. Morris et al from Rush looked at their serum B12 level and the associated markers of B12 functioning.  B12 is an interesting vitamin.  It takes a special binding protein for it to be absorbed.  As we age, we make less of that protein in our stomachs and the gradual onset of deficiency isn’t always easily picked up.  We can become anemic, or we can become slightly intellectually impaired before we have any other symptoms.  In your brain B12 is thought to play a role in helping wrap your neurons in myelin, the protein that allows impulses to pass along faster.  “Losing your edge” isn’t easy to measure over time when you just accept that you are growing older.  Measuring your processing speed isn’t something we do in medicine yet.

This study didn’t “prove” that B12 causes the brain shrinkage and loss.  In fact, B12 levels weren’t what they found were abnormal.  The association with brain shrinkage and loss of intellectual capacity in this study came with other markers of B12 deficiency.  Methylmalonate and homocysteine are both part of complex metabolic pathway in which many of the B vitamins take part, including folate and B12.  You want lower levels to show that your body is processing properly.  One important component of that processing is how you metabolize your hormones such as estrogen.  (A nice prior study was back in 2003 in the European Jr of Clinical Nutrition)

This study just shows how important following those tiny details matter.  Knowing your B12 level and having it checked by your doctor is an important function of your annual physical exam once you are over 60.   You get B12 primarily from animal products, so vegetarians and vegans do have a heightened risk of being low in B12.  With all the emphasis on eating less meat in our health conscious society, our exposure to B12 drops.  It doesn’t make sense to me that we get a critical vitamin from a food source we “shouldn’t eat”.    Throughout evolution, we must have had a diet that included meat so regularly that there was no biological penalty to losing the ability to synthesize it.  This leads me to conjecture that it’s not the meat, per se, that is the problem, but the type of meat we are eating which is feedlot raised and full of different fats that our bodies are calling for.  But B12 isn’t found in many plant products.  (Vegan Source)

At Brookfield Longevity we are following a functional medicine approach to B12 and giving it in Meyer’s solution IV.  Very interesting results with some folks having rather dramatic improvement in neurologically related symptoms.  I’m becoming a believer that more of us are deficient than we realize.

WWW. What will work for me.  I taking a supplement because I’m over 55 and I don’t eat much meat.  If you are a vegan/vegetarian, you might want to make the same extra effort!

Written by  John E Whitcomb MD

Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic

17585 W North Ave, Suite 160

262-784-5300 or or

What Happens with GM Foods Anyways?

What Happens with GM Foods Anyways?

Reference:  ISIS Report 9/5/11 Meta-analysis of GM Studies in Animals, Gilles-Eric Séralini at Caen University in France

Date:  Sept 5, 2011

Are you a Genetically Modified food-sceptic?  I have been.  Couldn’t be that much of a deal, could it?  We just haven’t gotten traction in America over this topic.  Europeans have been far more tuned to the issue, and have gone as far as banning Roundup (glyphosate) and have widespread public discussion on the topic.  In Wisconsin the vast majority of our fields are in GM corn and beans which allow them to be sprayed with Roundup for weed protection.   (You’ve seen all those spraying tractors in the spring out in the fields.)  As a consequence we have 3 ppb of glyphosate in our groundwater  which has been shown to be feminizing in frog models.   Does the Roundup get into the plant they are sprayed on?  Monsanto claims no.

Now, this review study shows a meta-analysis of 19 animal studies to investigate the results of the studies.  What they found was that the individual studies had merit, just now with greater power from the combination of many studies.  Although none of the findings were dramatically apparent, the combination of multiple abnormalities lends credence to the overall cause for concern.  The case is that glyphosate does get into food in a level sufficient to cause metabolic changes.  For example, they found that 9 tested parameters met statistical significance.   In livers they found that  animals fed GM soybeans had irregular hepatocyte nuclei, more nuclear pores, numerous small cell skeleton structures, and abundant dense fibrillar components, indicating increased metabolic rates.  GM maize-fed animals had significantly abnormal blood protein levels which indicates disturbed liver metabolism.  Rats fed Bt corn had smaller kidneys as well as focal inflammation in the kidneys.

It’s not just the findings that are the problem.  It’s the use of “scientific studies” to support your business case that is flawed.   To quote the above study.  “While studies carried out by independent scientists all reported significant effects due to GM-feeding, those carried out by Monsanto on MON863, MON810 (both Bt maize lines), and NK603 (glyphosate-tolerant soybean line) reported no evidence of toxicity. The results were kept confidential by Monsanto and the EFSA, until Séralini and his colleagues gained access to the raw data through court action, and found the experiments deeply flawed at every stage, from experimental design to data analysis and interpretation.”

I find this disturbing.  We can show that corn and beans both take up glyphosate according to this study.  And the scientific method has been subverted to meet a business objective.  So, it’s not really science and you aren’t really safe.  If our metabolism is anything like mice, (which it largely is) we are at risk.

WWW:  What will work for me.  I’m deeply saddened and frustrated that our government does not fund independent research on this topic.  We are left trusting the fox to guard the chicken coop.  And our current political campaign is all about “creating jobs” by decreasing regulation.   Regulations are what protect us in the public arena when objective research is present.  I believe we need objective research.  Stay tuned.


Written by John E Whitcomb MD

Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic

17585 W North Ave, Suite 160   262-784-5300

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Berberine, Super Herb

Berberine, Super Herb for Metabolic Syndrome, Congestive Failure, MRSA….

Competency:  Natural Plants and Herbs

Reference:  World Journal of Cardiology 2010 April 26, 2(4) 71-77

Ever heard of berberine?   Just because it has been used for over 2500 years in Aruyvedic and Chinese medicine doesn’t mean we know about it.  It is actually a pretty good intestinal antibiotic and seems to have a wide range of activities against diarrheal causing parasites, bacteria and viruses.  That would make it quite useful in tropical countries where diarrheal illnesses are high on the leading causes of mortality.  A natural plant alkaloid derived form the Coptis Chinensis plant, it is readily digested and has few serious side effects.

Why am I interested and why should you be interested?  This is one cool supplement plant.  Turns out it is just about the best herb yet for metabolic syndrome.  It does some particularly crafty things.   Metabolic syndrome is that combination of problems we all have in America:  slightly big waistline, slightly high blood sugar, slightly high blood fats, slightly high blood clotting, a bit of kidney damage.   It’s the beginning of vascular disease.  If you have a waist over 40 inches as a man, or 35 as a women, odds are you have it.  And odds are you are going to have a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes and eventually Alzheimer’s.  Pleasant thought, isn’t it!   Hence, my interest.  This may be just what we all need (in addition to weight loss and exercise).

What does berberine do that makes it so helpful? Here’s the short list.  It goes right into the nucleus of the cell and turns on the production of insulin receptors and LDL receptors.  As a consequence, you become more insulin sensitive (it is better at lowering blood sugar than metformin).  It lowers your cholesterol through a mechanism different than statins.  In fact, berberine is probably synergistic with statins.  And that’s not all.  Congestive heart failure patients on berberine can walk 30-40 percent further in timed tests, probably through the increased production of nitric oxide that helps dilate blood vessels and decreasing the work of the heart.   The mechanism is probably something to do with increasing the progenitor cells that make nitric oxide.  And if you really want to be savvy, you can say it upregulates AMPK (adenosine mono-phosphate kinase) and that in turn leads to many of its beneficial effects.  So, if you have congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and high lipids, this herb is for you!  Better yet, if you are way earlier than frank disease, and just have a big tummy and want to reduce your risk naturally, this may be your plant.  There is a big burst of interest in it in the pharma community.  Only problem, it’s already very effective and can’t be patented.   Tsk tsk.

There is one caveat.  It really works!   You may want to collaborate with your doctor and let them know you are taking it!  And get your blood sugar checked.

WWW. What will work for me.  My blood sugar is not perfect.  My blood fats are a tad high.  My waist is still just a notch under 40, but not 36 like it should be.  I’m going to give this one a try.   500 mg twice a day is the full metabolic dose.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD

Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic