Monthly Archives: July 2014

Live Longer With Mindfulness

Live Longer with Mindfulness

Reference:  Nature, CNN

Let’s connect how long you live with some basic science and physiology, and then stress.   Every chromosome you have has a protective end on it called a telomere.  That is a repeating set of “nonsense DNA” that gets shortened each time the cell divides (It gives space for the duplication machinery of the chromosome to run off at the end).   That progressive shortening leads to what is called the “Hayflick Limit” which represents the number of times your cells can divide before they run out of that protective cap.  With that limit in hand, we can predict that the maximum length that humans can live is about 120, which is what we see.  If you die sooner, it’s because your telomeres shortened up too fast.   An enzyme called telomerase can rebuild those telomeres and slow aging.  That discovery earned Blackburn a Nobel Prize in 2009.

What shortens telomeres?  Want to keep yours longer?  That’s the BIG question.  Turns out stress is a biggie.  Lots of research if beginning to support it.  Epel looked at 58 highly frazzled women and compared them to 58 carefully matched controls in a widely quoted study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.  The highly stressed women had much shorter telomeres, and that translated into a decade less life expectancy.

Another study showed that telomere shortening over a couple of years predicts cardiovascular mortality over the subsequent decade.

So far so good.   Now, can you strengthen your telomerase and lengthen your telomeres?  Yup!  Stress reduction does that.  For example, if you take 30 volunteers and send them off for a 3 month retreat in Colorado where they are taught meditation, their telomeres come back longer than controls.  Not bad!   Or take 12 caregivers for demented patients (a very high stress job), and teach them Kirtan Kriya meditaion, and then measure their telomerase activity.  The meditators had a 40% improvement in telomerase activity compared to 3% of those who “just relaxed”.

Just relaxing seems logical but maybe isn’t enough.  Learning to be mindful requires practice.  It’s not just sitting still.  It is a rigorous exercise of the mind.   Rigorously practicing letting your busy, worried, stressed mind learn to be present is hard work.

WWW.  What will work for me.  I’m such a believer in this.  My scientific side keeps wanting to be skeptical because it’s hard to measure with visible solid proof.  From what I’ve seen, however, it’s real.  I have seen too many folks who have taken on the effort of learning, and they have benefited.  I bet their telomeres are longer.  At last we have a way of measuring.

To quote from the Buddha: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Pop Quiz:

  1. Telomeres are empty DNA at the end of a chromosome that gives space for the machinery of chromosome duplication to finish copying chromosomes without damaging the genes.  T or F

True.  You must have read the Wikipedia reference

  1. Because they get progressively shortened with each cell duplication, there is a limit to the number of times they can duplicate before telomeres are used up and the native DNA is damaged.  T or F


  1. You shorten your telomeres with stress.  T or F

That’s the gist of recent research.

  1. You prevent that shortening with meditation techniques that reduce stress and focus on the present.   T or F


  1. Relaxing is just as good as meditation.  T or F

False. As best we can tell, it takes focus and attention to the process of relaxing in a certain way we call mindfulness.

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Dr Whitcomb Practices Antiaging Medicine in Brookfield, WI You can learn more about him at

Green Tea Prevents Alzheimer’s

Green Tea Prevents Alzheimer’s

Reference: Kuriyama Am J Clin Nutrition

Right now Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in America, affecting about one third of folks over age 80.   Going forward, the prediction is that it will soon affect some 50% of adults in their 80s.   That’s not a very happy thought.

The mechanism of developing Alzheimer’s is not completely understood. The leading theory of its cause is that plaque formation with misshapen amyloid protein gradually starves cells to death. Another strong explanation is that the frontal brain becomes very resistant to insulin, with brain cells being unable to take up glucose. Certainly there is a strong connection between being mildly glucose intolerant and eventual Alzheimer’s risk. There are those who even call for Alzheimer’s being called Type III diabetes. Somewhere in those mechanisms is inflammation caused by oxidizing forces in the brain.   Oxidation occurs when oxygen molecules get supercharged with an extra electron and damage vital tissues. To neutralize those oxidizing events, cells use “antioxidants” that have the ability to soak up those extra electrons and dispose of them satisfactorily.

That’s where this study comes in. In the Japanese Tsurugaya Aging Project, 1003 adults over age 70 were given a “Mini-Mental Status Exam” which gives scores up to 30. The next step was to query how much green tea was consumed on a regular basis.   For green tea consumption, the odds reduction of 1-3 cups of tea a week was zero.   But for 4-6 cups a week, there was a 38% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk. For more than 2 cups a day, there was a 54% risk reduction. Black or oolong tea had a less but still positive effect.   Coffee had no benefit.  Now, asking someone with dementia facts about their lives may be prone to error because of the loss of memory, but these questions were very simple and involved regular daily habits, which might be the best data we can collect.

How does green tea do it?   Green tea has a remarkable amount of antioxidants called catechins.   The most potent catechin is called EGCG.   A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science gives a hint on how EGCG works.   EGCG was found to “mitigate” the toxicity of amyloid quite dramatically by changing the shape of the amyloid complexes making them unable to bind to other misshapen proteins.   It also helps new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, where memory is mediated.

To test the effect of green tea on the brain of young volunteers with no evidence of Alzheimer’s, another study published just last year in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In it green tea was given by NG tube (to disallow taste) in a randomized trial on 4 different occasions and brain scanning by MRI scan was conducted. In the parts of the brain associated with memory, green tea was shown to increase activity in real time.

Green tea isn’t the only antioxidant that helps ameliorate Alzheimer’s. We have written about turmeric as well.   Another very potent antioxidant.   Suggests a trend, doesn’t it!

WWW. What will work for me.   I drink green tea some of the time. Maybe I should have it a bit more if I can just remember to buy it at the grocery store. Write it down, and get some yourself.   Once you are in the daily habit, have a big mug that equals two cups. Then, you can remember this newsletter.

Pop Quiz

  1. Green tea contains many potent anti-oxidants that soak up and neutralize the damaging effects of “oxidants”? T or F


  1. Green tea’s family of antioxidants are called catechins of which EGCG is the most potent. T or F

True again

  1. Drinking over two cups a day of green tea will reduce Alzheimer’s in the future by as much as 60%. T or F

False. It is associated with it but that’s not proof it will reduce it. It might prevent it but associations are not solid proof. They are a first step and may equal proof eventually.

  1. Green tea works better than coffee at preventing Alzheimer’s. T or F


  1. Green tea and curry might make a great Anti-Alzheimer’s combination. T or F


  1. EGCG helps grow new brain cells. T or F

True, right in the part of the brain that processes memory.

Written by Dr Whitcomb who practices at Brookfield Longevity


Coconut Oil – Mouth Wash for Your Plaque

Coconut Oil – Mouth Wash Extraordinaire

Reference:  Kris Gunnars in Authority Nutrition, Asia Jr of Public Health

Coconut oil has been around a long time.  Much of the tropical world uses it, prior to the advent of cheaper vegetable oils.   There are many studies that show it to have a beneficial effect in heart disease incidence.   Most of these are epidemiological studies, not randomized controlled trials.   Coconut oil got a bad rap for the last several decades as it is a saturated fat and thereby thought to be bad for you.  However, with the recent rehabilitation of saturated fats, all that old “assumed knowledge” is being reconsidered.   Essentially, coconut oil is made of molecules mostly 10-12 carbons long.  Most animal saturated fat (like beef tallow) is 18 carbons long.   Your body knows just what to do with 18 carbon long molecules.  But 10 carbons don’t fit in the normal order of things with the net result that coconut oil seems to be mostly broken down to ketones.   Ketones give the message that it’s ok for fat cells to open up, and ketones appear to be readily used by central nervous system cells.  That makes ketones valuable partners in weight loss, seizures, heart disease, lipid reduction, cancer care – anywhere you want to switch off of the glucose economy and onto the ketone economy.

But that is not what this column is about.  This column is about coconut oil mouth wash.  Mouth wash?  “Oil pulling”.   Just ask Gwyneth Paltrow – (the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman)  I’ve had 5 or 6 people independently telling me they have whiter and cleaner mouth with less tender gums when they swish coconut oil in their mouths daily.  How does it work?   Gweneth Paltrow aside, good studies are few and far between.   But!  One published report from Malaysia shows that the more concentrated your lauric acid from coconut oil, the higher the antimicrobial activity against staph aureus and e. coli.

Teeth build up plaque under the influence of various bacteria.   One study from India compared chlorhexidine and coconut oil for reduction of bad breath and bacterial count.  Both were equivalent with a statistically significant reduction in each.   A second study was published looking at gingivitis scores.  It also showed sesame oil to be pretty good at reducing gingivitis.   So, oil–pulling with sesame oil seems to be pretty effective, is coconut oil just as good?   Very likely, but not proven.

Dental plaque is known to be an organized colony of bacteria and cell detritus called a biofilm.  Another of the putative beneficial effects of coconut oil is that it disrupts that biofilm.  So, it’s not “oil pulling” but rather biofilm dissolving!

Here is how you do it.  Take a tablespoon of coconut oil.  If it’s warmer than 76 degrees, it will be liquid.   Less and it will be solid.   In you mouth is will melt.  Swish it around for 20 minutes.   You do seem to have some saliva production and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do the first time.   You can spit it out but you might be cautious about your drain as it will cool down in your drain and may help plug it up.

WWW. What will work for me?  I’m doing it. The first day was a bit dicey but I’m now into it.  I swear my gums feels better.   I’m going to stick with it for a couple of months before I get my teeth checked by my dentist. We will have to see!

Pop Quiz

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow has the most beautiful teeth on the planet.   T or F

True, of course.  Just cover over her face and compare her teeth to yours or anyone elses.

  1. Oil pulling is a catchy phrase to describe rinsing your mouth with coconut oil for 15 minutes every day.   T or F


  1. Oil pulling pulls toxins out of your body.  T or F

False.  That may be the urban legend but that’s not what is going on

  1. Coconut oil pulling kills the bacteria that cause cavities.  T or F

True – That’ what is going on

  1. Coconut oil pulling also dissolves and disrupts the plaque that makes for cavities.   T or F