Monthly Archives: April 2014

Omega 7 Fatty Acids – As good as OO7

Omega 7 Fatty Acids – As good as OO7

Reference  Stefan, Diabetes Care 2012

If you knew that Harvard Medical School had applied for a patent on a here-to-fore unstudied omega fatty acid, would you be intrigued?    Palmitoleic acid is called an Omega-7 because it has a double bond after 7 carbon atoms.  It is only 16 carbons long and only one double bond.  So, it’s a touch shorter than the 18 carbon fats.

What makes palmitoleic acid unique is that it looks like a fat, but acts like a hormone.  It fits in that unique nitch between fat cells and inflammation.  This is of huge interest because this is where metabolic syndrome wreaks its havoc.  Because it’s a fat that acts like a hormone, we call it a lipokine.  Its effects are felt throughout the space that’s essentially called “metabolic syndrome”.  This is where we find ourselves when we get a bit pudgy and have a waistline greater than ideal, a blood pressure just above normal, high blood fats, slightly errant kidneys and a very high risk of developing heart disease and stroke.  In other words, most of us.  We have an unprecedented epidemic of obesity and vascular disease in America with metabolic syndrome being the mechanisms that we see being all screwed up.

The net effect of all of that is inflammation.  And inflammation drives all our modern diseases from heart disease to stroke, but includes cancer and Alzheimer’s (in the bonus round if you make it 80).

What’s triggered the understanding of palmitoleic acid’s effectiveness is the understanding of an enzyme called stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1, or SCD1 for short.  When you genetically engineer an animal to have no SCD1, the inflammation naturally present in their fat tissue goes away.  Same thing if you give animals palmitoleic acid.   Their inflammation goes away.  That’s in animals.

What happens in humans?  Well, a small study shows that the administration of  palmitoleic acid to folks with higher levels of C-reactive protein resulted in a 73% decrease in their CRP when taking 210 mg of palmitoleic acid.  73% is a nice number.    In a randomized trial of humans, not published yet,  30 days of “007” resulted in a 43% reduction in CRP.

What’s the nitty-gritty mechanism for this very powerful effect?  It may all be simple glucose management.   Palmitoliec acid has been shown to increase the glucose uptake of muscle cells, so that glucose is stored as harmless glycogen instead of circulating in blood, glycating tissues and stimulating the rise of insulin and CRP.  Another mechanism is that palmitoleic acid stimulates the pancreas beta cells to multiply. More beta cells, more insulin.

The final kicker with palmitoleic acid is that it appears to suppress appetite in animal studies by elevating cholecystokinin, one of our appetite suppressing hormones.

Where can I get palmitoleic acid?  It comes naturally in macadamia nuts and palm nuts.  Unfortunately, it comes along with palmitic acid, which blocks it and counters its beneficial effects.  To be useful, you have to separate the two.

WWW. What Will Work for Me?  I’m very curious.  I’m going to purchase some and see if it makes a difference in my data.  This may be very significant.  I can’t wait to hear more research.  Unpublished reports can’t be the basis for action.  But then,  Agent 007 might just “Die Another Day”, or “Tomorrow Never Dies”.   Thanks James.

Pop Quiz

1.     Omega seven fats come from?

Extracted from palm nuts or macadamia nuts

2.     Omega fats are also called palmitoleic acid and have how many double bonds?

One double bond like olive oil, making it act as much as a hormone as a fat.

3.     Palmitoleic acid makes beta cells in the pancreas multiple?  T or F

In animals and petri dishes, but fascinating.

4.     Palmitoleic acid makes CRP drop as much as 70% in small studies?

Unpublished and therefore not reliable, but intruiging.

5.     Palmitoleic acid reduces appetite? T or F

True.  And that may help you to lose weight.

6.     Palmitoleic acid reduces glucose uptake by muscles?  T or F

It INCREASES glucose uptake. That’s what makes its effect so powerful

Thunder God Vine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Are Chinese Herbs for Real?  Thunder God Vine

Reference:  MedPage,

If someone offered you some “Chinese Herbs” for your sore aches and pains, would you choose them over aspirin, or ibuprofen?  What’s aspirin?  (Hint:  willow bark)  Plants have been the source of many of our most effective botanicals.  So, if someone offered you Chinese Herbs to treat a really serious disease like rheumatoid arthritis, would you be a bit shy?   Likely so, if you are the average American you would see the standard American rheumatologist for your rheumatoid arthritis, until you read this article.   You wouldn’t recognize the rich history of plant-based medications that have developed in China over the last 3,000 years.

If you then read Xuan Zhang’s article in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases this month on Thunder God Vine, you would sit up and pay attention.  Here are the facts of his study.  Take a randomized, placebo controlled trial of methotrexate (standard therapy for RA) and compare it to Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), otherwise known in China as Thunder God Vine.  You would find that the TwHF did better than the methotrexate at reducing pain and inflammation.  Did you hear that?  Better!   With six months of therapy,  the TwHF improved 55% of patients versus only 45 for methotrexate.  The two combined achieved a 77% rate of improvement.  (The threshold was set at a “50% improvement” by American College of Rheumatology criteria.)    Uncontrolled prior studies from China have touted 95% rates of improvement.

T. wilfordia has been used for joint pain in China for thousands of years and is considered an approved drug for the treatment of RA in China.  Why haven’t we heard about it sooner?  Fifty years of closed communist society might be the best explanation.  Chauvinistic belief in Western scientific methods might be another.  Or just plain isolation in separate buckets without the chance to mix ideas under rigorous methods of investigation might be the best reason.  The Chinese found it by trial and error.  Now we have real opportunity to investigate just how and why it’s so effective.

What’s the mechanism by which it works?   TwHF has been studied before.  In 2009 a study published in the Annals also showed effectiveness in RA.  The treatment comparison was with  sulfasalazine and was shown to be better.  Measurement of the inflammatory eicosanoid IL-6 in the RA patients was shown to dramatically drop, suggesting that the method of action is through cyclooxygenase suppression.  The family of compounds called diterpinoids are known to suppress the transcription of genes that encode for inflammation.  TwHF is loaded with diterpinoids.

TwHF is extracted from the peeled root of the vine.  The leaves, root peelings and stems are highly poisonous.  Perhaps you want to make sure you are getting your TwHF from a reputable source.  Hmm.

WWW. What will work for me.  I’m eager to know how to get hold of this stuff.  I know so many folks with RA.  So far, cruising the net, I can only find bulk batches of it.  It may be so potent that it requires FDA approval and prescription administration.  But it sounds like plants win again. Another amazing compound.  And considering that we all have aches and pains, this may be significant for all of us.

Pop Quiz

1.   We have discovered about all the plant based medicines there are to be discovered.  T or F

False.  Not even close.

2.   Chinese herbs are mostly placebo effect medications.  T or F

Again, false.  You didn’t read the article above.

3.   Thunder God Vine is safe to use for arthritis.  T or F

False.  The carefully prepared and extracted root extract has wonderful and effective anti inflammatory effects, but the leaves, stems and root peelings are highly toxic.

4.   Thunder God vine root extract is better than Methotrexate for RA treatment.  T or F

That’s it in a nutshell.

5.  The combination of methotrexate and Thunder God Vine is also good.  T or F

Not just good, best yet.

Interested in seeing Dr. Whitcomb for this and other new and alternative treatments for RA and other autoimmune illnesses?  Please visit his web site at

Too Much Sitting is Linked to Disability

Too Much Sitting is Linked to Disability

Reference:  J Phys Act Health 2014

How much time do you spend each day sitting?   Ever thought about that?  Ever considered that there might be a limit to what is good for you?   Gives you pause, doesn’t it.

Turns out that sitting for too long is not good for you.  In this breakthrough study from Northwestern University, sitting too long is identified as an independent risk factor for adults over age 60 for disability in performing activities of daily living like eating, getting out of bed, dressing and bathing.

Is there a boundary over which you should be careful?   It appears that 9 hours a day is sort of ok.  It is connected to a 3.6% chance of being limited in activities of daily living.  At that point, for each extra hour a day spent sitting, your chance of being unable to care for yourself increases 46%.  That means you hit about 21% chance of being unable to care for yourself when you hit 15 hours a day.  That is about the limit of time you can spend sitting if not in bed.

And here is final kicker.  This effect happens regardless of extra aerobic activity.  Working out heavily for 30 minutes doesn’t make up for sitting the rest of the time.  Ouch!!

The implications for the rest of us, prior to being in our “declining years” might be pretty big.  Most of us sit at desks.  Standing seems to be the answer.  It’s not aerobic.  It doesn’t get top billing when it comes to buying nice expensive spandex, but it’s not sitting, and it’s enough.

Let’s get specific here.  Can you find yourself a grease board you can jot notes down that you put up in your cubicle?  You can stand in front of that and draw concepts and put up your “to-do” list.  Can you get in the habit of talking on the phone, standing?   For a bonus round, can you get a standing desk?  Can you volunteer to take out the trash? Can you park your car at the far end of the parking lot?  It’s hours on the hoof that count.  As long as it’s not butt in the chair.

WWW. What will work for me.  I’m eyeing a wall I have all my ridiculous certificates on.  It’s a great place for a concept board.   I could stand there when I’m at work.  I have been inspired by a friend who just got a standing desk.  My job is all sitting.  My car is sitting.  My computer is sitting.  Supper is sitting.  TV is sitting.  At least winter is over and the yard beckons.  Stop by and see the grease board.  See if I really did it!


Pop Quiz

  1. Sitting is an independent risk factor for further disability with activities of daily living?  T or F


2.  The threshold for starting to show decline appears to be about 6 hours.  T or F.

Nine hours was the threshold this study considered meaningful

3.  We all prefer to sit rather than stand, walk or run.  T or F

The nature of all animals is to rest when all needs are met.

4.   The effect of prolonged sitting is softened by 30 minutes of daily rigourous exercise.  T or F


5.  Just walking around or standing seems to be sufficient so soften the deleterious effect of sitting.  T or F


6.  If you have a sedentary desk/computer job, you would be well served to have some structure part of your day standing or walking – on the order of several hours worth.  T or F

That’s the implication of this study.


Too Much Protein?

Too Much Protein?

Reference:  Levine Cell Metabolism 2014 Le Coutoure Cell Metabolism 2014

One of the more expedient ways to lose weight is to embark on a low carb diet.  The so-called Atkins diet that is currently used at Duke to create the most effective method of weight loss in America is very popular.  It effectively satisfies appetite and allows people to lower their insulin levels.  With lower insulin, you have a lower impetus to store calories.  With satisfied appetite, folks can then tap into their fat stores. That’s called weight loss.

Along comes a fly in the ointment.  Levine, et al, in this study followed the observation that both mice and humans with defects in their IGF-1 receptors (insulin growth factor – surrogate for growth hormone) live longer and have reduced age related illnesses.  Protein restriction lowers IGF-1 activity in humans.  With that, a natural question arises: what happens to humans with low and high protein intake diets?

Levine and his team embarked on a statistical analysis of 6381 adults from NHANES (our national nutrition study population that represents America).  They were over age 50.  They parsed out those folks who ate less than 10% of their calories from protein, 11-19% and over 20% for comparison study.  After 18 years of follow-up they found some remarkable differences between the groups.  Under age 65, a high protein diet resulted in much high rates of death (three times the rate) from cancer and heart disease.   And then, at age 65 it switches.  Low protein becomes dangerous and high protein became protective.   And uniquely, the protein effect was erased if the source was plant protein.  (Vegetarians can breathe a sigh of relief here.)

Humans eat what they want.  Mice eat what you feed them.  In the same journal, a follow up study using mice with variable amounts of protein found that you could dictate the risk of premature mortality by protein restriction more accurately than with calorie restriction.  Mice with low-protein and high carbohydrate fared the best.  When the researchers lowered calories but not the protein, no benefit was obtained in life extension.

The key is probably a specific protein called mTOR.  The low protein, high carb mice had low levels of mTOR in their blood, and it rose in proportion to the quantity of  specific amino acids that are more abundant in animal, but not plant proteins.  And interestingly enough, low protein but high fat erased the benefit.

This is a very controversial topic!  It raises many questions, and one study may not be enough to swing any major opinions.  But a new light has been turned on.  What do we do the for long haul if we are to take this research into our own “data base”

WWW.  What Will Work for Me?   This sounds to me like the results of the China Study.  mTOR gives us something specific to study and examine.  As I put it together, weight loss is clearly a huge priority for reduction in diabetes risk.  The Atkins approach may have a role.  Clearly, there are societies that have eaten nothing but animal protein for millennia without adverse effect.  My suspicion is that this study is flawed, not by design but by the changes in meat.  Our modern animal protein is all feed lot based, with little omega fats and no Vitamin K2.  Little wonder eating more of it may cause trouble. But long term, perhaps we are back to more plant sourced material.  Esselstyn has proven you can reverse heart disease with a plant based, no oil diet.  The China Study showed the same.  Colin Campbell’s first observations in his Philippine studies was that high protein diets resulted in cancer.  I suspect the carbohydrates we should be having should be low glycemic, whole foods and not anything in a bag, a box, a carton or from a fast food lane.  That corroborates “alkaline diets” based on green vegetables.  Fascinating.  Don’t you love the twists and turns of this nutrition tale?

Pop Quiz

1.  A great way to lose weight is by the Atkins approach?  T or F


2.  This study shows that folks who eat more animal protein will have at least three times the mortality than those who eat less than 10 % of their calories from animal sources.  T or F


3.  Then, after age 65, increased protein becomes protective?  T or F

That’s exactly what this study showed.

4.  In mice, the exact same effect was shown – and the protein mTOR was found to be the controlling feature.  T or F


5.  Vegetable protein did not seem to cause the same harmful effect.  T or F


6.  Studies like this might not be complete, because they don’t control for such variables as omega fats, which are missing from modern western animal protein, or Vitamin K2 – also missing.

Hmmm.  Good point.

7.  But the basic physiology of this study seems sound, and corroborates other modern observations like Esselstyn’s work reversing vascular disease and Colin Campbell’s work in the China Study (despite flaws and criticisms of both).  T or F


8.  I’m eager to hear more on this topic.  It appears the mTOR line of investigation might bear future insights.

You bet!