Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sugar is Really, Really Bad!

Sugar is Really, Really Bad!
Reference:  JAMA Feb 4th, 2014How bad?   Just awful, and at small amounts.  Quanhe Yang at the CDC did a pretty exhaustive epidemiological study is from our national nutrition study called NHANES.   In that study, there are some 31,000 statistically random folks from every part of America who have been followed very carefully since 1988.  An extra careful analysis was done on 11,000 of them for mortality based on what they eat.  Sugar is a new element in our diet that was picked out for special scrutiny.What they found was pretty sobering.  You see, it only takes one sugared soda to get 6-8 % of your calories from sugar for a whole day.  The average American is getting just over 15% of their calories from sugar.   The worst 20% of Americans are at or above 25% of their

calories from sugar.    Mortality measures with heart disease were the main marker in this study and found to be about 240% higher for those in the highest group compared to those in the bottom 20%.  They didn’t measure Alzheimers or cancer, as those diseases take longer to develop, but I suspect those will be the next indicators to show up with longer study.

About 37% of America’s sugar consumption comes from sugared drinks.  As soda’s go down, sports drinks are going up.   (By the way, the sugar in fruit was not counted as sugar in this study).  Now, our health advisors in America, the Institute of Medicine recommends we keep sugar below 25%.  (Laughable).  Even the stodgy, conservative, cautiousAmerican Heart Association recommends less than 150 calories a day for men, 100 for women.  That would be about 5%.   For most of us, that would be an 80% reduction in

consuption.  And since those recommendations came out, Americans have dropped from 17% to 15%, so there is a recent decline.  That’s a bit hopeful.

We have a raft of physiological studies that tell us the bad things sugar does, just not huge population studies to prove it.  We know, for instance, that higher sugar makes for higher insulin, and higher insulin is a risk factor for cancer.  We know that higher sugar makes for higher blood pressure, but no one is yet ready to say that sugar causes high blood pressure.  We know that more sugar makes for fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, glycated hemoglobin.  And that’s probably the key.  I believe that higher sugar attaches to molecules all over your body.  We can measure hemoglobin A1c, the marker of glucose stuck to hemoglobin.  But if we can see it stuck to hemoglobin, then it’s also sticking to all proteins everywhere. Your immune system thinks of those abnormal proteins as foreign invaders, and sets off alarm bells.  With that, you have inflammation.  With low-grade inflammation, you have the table set for all our modern diseases.  And this study shows us the scope of that risk.

Where is sugar hidden?   Not just in sugared drinks, but peanut butter, ketchup, bread, candy, junk food, ice cream, salad dressing…..77% of packaged foods contain sugar.   From less than 1% of our natural diet 500 years ago, to 15% today, added sugar remains the biggest change in our diets, and the worst.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I try to avoid sugar. But then Valentine’s Day comes along and I get 6 pretty truffles in a box.  Watching my diet for the last four days, I’m probably getting 5-6 oz a day.  And I’m being pretty good.  I’ve got more work to do.  Likely you do too.

Pop Quiz
spacer (1K)1.  The normal human diet, prior to the introduction of sugar had how much sugar a year?A.  Less than 1% of calories.  Honey was sort of it.2.  The average American is now eating what percent of their diet from sugar?

A.  15%

3.   The highest 20 % of Americans are eating what percent of their diet from sugar?


4.  Which raises their risk of dying from heart disease by how much?


5.  Our Advisory Panel for good nutrition, the Institute of Medicine, advises that we keep sugar consumption below 10% of calories.  T or F

False.  They advise below 25%, which means they haven’t got a clue and haven’t been paying attention.

6.   America’s number one source of sugar is…….?

Sugared drinks, including sports drinks.

Vitamin D Gets a Downshift

Vitamin D Gets a Downshift
Reference:  Neal Binkley in JCEMWhat a life!  At least 28.9 hours a week on the beach in Hawaii.   Got any volunteers this time of year in Wisconsin?  That’s who Neal Binkley and Bruce Hollis went looking for to investigate what Vitamin D level do we get in the most sun-soaked Caucasians he could find.   They found 90 adults.  Binkley and Hollis are some of the strongest advocates for D in the country.  Binkley is at U of Wisconsin and first broke the door open with his seminal study of low D in Wisconsin with a seasonal variability.  They were interested to find what happened to “white guys” when they hang out in the sun a lot.

What would you guess the mean level of D would be?  It was 31.6.  The very highest was 62 ng.   If insufficient was below 30, then half the folks in this study were insufficient, despite have intense deep, dark tans and abundant exposure. Now, there could be many reasons for this seemingly low number.  Sunblock works.  The study was done during Hawaii’s “winter” though one might chuckle at that concept.  Not everyone surfs at the height of the day with the most intense sun exposure.   Late afternoon is much nicer if you are a surfer and get out of bed at 1 pm.   Sun is going down then and you don’t get as much D.  But the real reason may be just because, that’s the way it is.  There may be more variability in making D in the human population that we perceived.  My prior report from Tanzania with Africans living right on the equator showed a higher range with D leveling out around 50-55 average.

Why would some folks have lower D?  Skin pigment is a necessary ingredient to protect circulating folate.  Dark skin makes sure folate is protected from UVB radiation.  Light skin and your folate gets fried when you spend lots of sun time.   Maybe a deep tan is a problem and too efficient at blocking UVB radiation.  Or maybe there are other ideas that we just haven’t thought of yet.  For example, all the association studies of Vitamin D being associated with illness may be backwards.  Maybe the disease consumes the Vitamin D, leading to a lower level and not vice versa.

It does raise the question as to whether we should have an upper limit of D being 100 when you can’t get humans that high, no matter what.  That limit was set on the hypothetical grounds that PTH (parathyroid hormone) keeps dropping until you get to 100.  Now, high PTH is always bad.  It affects many organ systems, all badly.  The less PTH you have, the better. At least that was the word on the street.

When Dror reports in JCEP that 20-36 is the range of lowest cardiovascular risk, with risk above and below, we have to sit up and listen.  There were plenty below (insufficient) but the concept that there is risk above a certain limit is new.  Nature has many “J-shaped” curves with an optimal lower range.   These two papers together make a compelling argument to revisit the safest range.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I’m pushing a reset button.  New research showing risk at the top end is unexpected, but that’s what research does.   Sounds to me like 30-40 might be my new goal.  I know you don’t make cathelicidin (your natural internal antibiotic) below 32.  So which risk do you want?  But I’m backing off 60-80 for sure and instead of 5000 a day, we might all want to drift down a bit and do that 5000 pill 4 times a week so you get 3000 a day.   2000 a day and you end up at 29, on average.  Oh bother, forget it all.  Tickets to Hawaii are still available.  Spend 29 hours this next week…..on the beach.

Pop Quiz
spacer (1K)1.  Normal Vitamin D levels have been thought to be 30-100.  T or FTrue2.   That range was based, in part, on the ability of D to suppress PTH, parathyroid hormone, and the lower the PTH, the better off we are.  T or F

Also True

3.  Heavily sun exposed Hawaiians with 30 hours a week of sun exposure and deep, deep tans, have average D levels of 31.  T or F


4.  Maybe humans tan too much to their detriment.  Tanning is designed to protect folate?  T or F

True.  But this low level of D in heavily sun exposed folks raises a lot very interesting questions.

5.  Dror’s study is a bit more alarming because he found the risk begins to rise for cardiac events when you get above 40.  T or F


6.   A reasonable adjustment of dose might be to cut your D intake to about 20,000 IU a week during winter if you have been on 5000 a day forever.   T or F

Probably just right

7.  If Hollis and Binkley are looking for volunteers to head of to Hawaii next week, would you go?

(Smart man/woman)

Strontium: Bony Builder for Icy January Days

Strontium:   Bony Builder for Icy January Days
Reference:   Meunier NEJM,  COMB Study Genuis 2012Have you ever heard of strontium?  Likely not, though you may have used it.  It used to be about 10% of the toothpaste Sendodyne for sensitive teeth.   You naturally eat about 1-2 mg a day of the stuff, and you probably have about 250 – 300 mg of it in your skeleton.  As an element, it acts precisely like calcium with a 2+ charge, but it’s the next “size” up on the periodical table of elements.  (Remember high school chemistry?).  Now, we Americans have a curious problem shared with Western Europe, but not much of the rest of the world.  We break bones like crazy.  Our hip fracture rate is orders of magnitude greater than many parts of the world where folks eat more alkaline diets (more vegetables), eat more grass raised animal products (Vitamin K2) and have more physical activity.But this January, I’ve had a bunch of friends who have fallen on the ice and hurt themselves with one fracture or another.  And I’ve had family with broken wrists, broken hips, and almost worst of all, horrible kyphosis (bent spine).  With kyphosis you compress one spinal bone and the pressure builds on the next one, so they all start squishing and you get more and more bent.  These fractures are all preventable.  But not without lifetime and life style effort.

That’s where strontium comes in.  Turns out strontium, all by itself, works to make bone stronger.  It fits in right where calcium does in the crystal lattice of bone, but seems to be a bit bigger and fits more “snugly”, making for stronger bone.    That’s what multiple different studies have shown.

The New  England Journal study, published almost a decade ago, made the topic mainstream.   In that study, over 1600 women with thin bones and at least one vertebral fracture were treated with strontium ranelate, two grams a day, for a couple of years.  The very first year they had a 49% reduction in repeat fractures with a subsequent 41% reduction the following intervals.  Calcium and Vitamin D were added too.

In the COMB study, Vitamin K2 was added to Strontium and Magnesium, Vit D and Fish oil.  It demonstrated an 8% increase in bone density in just one year.  That is about 4 times greater than the density increase you get with the artificial patent medicines pushed by modern pharma and advertised on TV all the time.  What’s appalling is that now our health care systems have taken up the trumpet call and hound you to be on bone density drugs of one brand or another (at a cost of $ 3000 a year) without offering you the safe and natural alternative of natural strontium.

Bone isn’t built with just calcium, or just Vitamin D.  It takes  a complex mix.  Another interesting trivia is how well prunes build bone, probably because of the boron in prunes.   Magnesium, zinc, copper, silicon, manganese, selenium potassium, molybdenum and B12 round out the mix in addition to Vit D and K2.  You can get most of those in a mix called Osteo-Mins, or Pro-Bono from OrthoMolecular.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I’m officially “older” and my risk of fall and fracture is like yours.  I’m taking K2, D, magnesium, strontium, fish oil separately.  I have shoveled my driveway at least 40 times this winter without falling so far.  I think I’m very deficient in silica right now and am contemplating how to expose myself to 100 of yards of it, with Vitamin D and very little exercise in Ft Myers, ASAP.

Pop Quiz
spacer (1K)
1.   Strontium is a foreign chemical that is dangerous for you.  T or FFalse.  You already have it in you.  It got a bad rap back in the 50’s when above ground nuclear bomb testing in New Mexico led to radioactive strontium showing up in cow’s milk in New York.  That’s because it does act like calcium.2.   Strontium is in the same chemical class as calcium, only a bit bigger.  T or fExactly right.  So is magnesium, only magnesium is a bit smaller than calcium.3.  The COMB study combined strontium with fish oil, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2,  and magnesium to make bones be 8% denser in just one year, four times the rate of prescription patent medicine.  T or FTrue.  That’s what makes the COMB study so intruiging.4.   Healthy bones need more than just calcium.  In fact, about 13 key elements are all part of bone and each help a little bit.  T or FTrue

5.  Dried plums are also good for building bones because….?

They have boron.  They are also quite rich in alkaline salts. that may also contribute.

6.  Strontium, all by itself, can reduce the risk of repeat spinal fractures in osteoporotic women as much as 40% the very first year.  T or F

Wow.  True.

7.   65 year old women with osteoporosis have a high risk of fracture of spine, hip, wrist —
T or F

Terrible, but true.

8.  Sand is a great source of silica, a necessary ingredient for bone.  T or F

False.  Sorry. But being on a sunny beach makes for Vitamin D and you get to be happy!

Animals are Getting Fat Too

Animals are Getting Fat Too

Reference  UAB Reporter

You thought it was just us humans getting fat?  Well, in the last 50 years, we have certainly been victims to a widespread epidemic of obesity. We have blamed it on our diets, our laziness, our food, vending machines, school lunch programs, soda size, white carbs and what not. But most of us have the impression that it is happening to just us humans.  Those lovely creatures in nature seem exempt.

Wrong!  David Allison, from the Univ of Alabama, Birmingham, is a professor of health statistics looked at 24 populations of animals exposed to humans and found that with a better than 1 to 8 million chance for error, these 24 “data sets” of 20,000 different animals all pointed to the same trend.  Marmosets in Univ of Wisconsin labs were his first clue.  These little monkeys are getting chubby. But so are rats in government research labs, rats in the alleys of Baltimore, housecats,  chimps, macaques….  So, it’s not just humans.  There is something in the environment that is getting to all of us.  We can’t blame the Snicker Bar quite so easily.  His suggestion was that it could be changes in light, infection by viruses or something yet to be determined.

I think we need to throw the net of curiosity and investigation further.  It’s my hunch there are the following issues we need to consider.

a)Sensitivity to genetically modified foods – wheat being number one (yes, marmoset chow likely has wheat in it and alley rats get the same stuff we get)

b)50,000 untested chemicals with their alternative chemical effects on us

c)Changes in stress and social support for us and our animals

d)Loss of critical nutrients like omega fats

e)Over-indulgence in new foods like trans fats and omega-6 fats

f)Sugar in everything

g)Artificial sweeteners

h)Background radiation from the electrical soup we live in

i)Change in sleep

j)Acidity of our life style compared to prior alkaline lifestyle

k)Not to mention: chronic viruses, changes in light, changes in exercise, junk food machines everywhere, glycemic index, no exercise and all the standard stuff.

Some of those ideas strike me, and likely you, as being a bit far fetched.  But when you deep dive into each and every one, there turns out to be emerging discussion, research and robust intellectual support.

WWW. What will work for me.  We just put our dog on a gluten free diet to help with all her allergies.  She is getting a bit chubby too.  I do observe that if we walk her every day, her chubbiness is well controlled.  Hmmm.  Hope all those ideas up there aren’t an excuse not to get my walk in every day too.

Sleep is Your Brain on Detox

Sleep is brain detox
Reference:  Science Oct 2013Is you don’t get enough sleep, how do you feel?  Lousy.  Cranky, irritable, can’t remember….to name a few of the consequences of inadequate sleep.  We know sleep appears to consolidate memory, but it might do something else even more important: detox.  That’s what this article suggest.The brain is an incredibly active organ, using at least 20% of our energy while only having 1% of our weight.  That means the cells are really humming.  They are delicate little devils, using up to 50 different neurotransmitters and connecting to each other with over 100 trillion connections.  Each neuron is shrink wrapped with glial cells to protect it from outside poisons and toxins.  Those glial cells are essentially white cells and therefore part of our immune system.   We do know that the sleeping brain uses just as much energy as the awake brain, so sleep is not rest for the brain.  It has to be something else.

But what is that something else?  We still aren’t sure, but we are sure we need it. To get a hint of what’s happening , Dr Nedergard did a very unique experiment.  Using double photon imaging, he was able to tract a dye injected into the fluid system in which the brain floats in mice.   He was able to show that the spaces between the brain cells increased by as much as 60% when the mice were asleep. The lymph fluid between the cells started flowing much faster.  The brain cells shrank down.

Dr Nedergard is on a bit of a role. Last year she reported that the fluid around the brain dumps into the lymph system of the body (the fluid that accumulates between your tissues and flows through your lymph glands and then into your venous circulation.)  She called it the glymphatic system (great pictures and explanation of U of Rochester web site).   She was curious to fully understand this system and what role it played in wakefulness and sleep.

When the sleeping mice were awakened, the flow slowed down dramatically and the cells reinflated up to their full size quite promptly.   They were also able to show that the protein beta-amyloid gets cleared out of the brain at twice the rate during sleep than while awake.  Beta amyloid is what accumulates in the damaged Alzheimer’s brain.  It is considered a neurotoxin that is naturally made, but needs to be disposed of promptly.  Well, sleeping does that.

Different animals need different amounts of sleep.  We humans become almost dysfunctional if we are awake more than 18 hours.  By 24 hours, we are in crisis mode and can fall asleep very easily.   Eight hours seems to suit us. Cats need 12 hours. Dogs sleep as much as 16 hours a day.  Elephants only sleep 3 hours.  Is that because their brain is that much bigger and can accommodate space for the detox to be happening all the time?

WWW.  What will work for me?  Hmm.  No wonder I feel so good when I get a full 8 hours.  Or why it is so delicious to fall asleep on Sunday afternoon and get “trapped inside a nap”, unable to emerge from my delicious slumber.  My brain is telling me it needs clean up its act.  Maybe I’ll make more of an effort to get my full 8.

Pop Quiz

1.  Your brain uses sleep to help consolidate memory?  T or F

Yup. That was our first understanding of sleep.

2.  Your brain rests while your sleep and uses less energy, allowing you to awaken and feel refreshed?  T or F

Nope.  You must have been texting while reading.  You burn as much energy while asleep as while awake.  Consider the weight loss implications.

3.   Our brains have a drainage system here-to-for undiscovered that connects to every brain cell and allows it to drain off toxins.  T or F


4.   If you are the researcher that discovers it, you get to name it, and Dr Nedergaard called it the “glymphatic” system.  T or F

True.  Crafty name as it describes it well: a combination of glial cells working with the lymphatic system to get rid of gunk.

5.   During sleep, the glymphatic system swells by about 60% and flows as much at two times faster.  T or F


6.   During sleep, your brain can get rid of beta amyloid twice as fast as while awake.  T or F


7.  You need more sleep.  T or F

True.  Americans are averaging under 7 hours a night.  Not good.