Monthly Archives: August 2015

How To Live to be 100 – Make a Blue Zone

Blue Zone Solution – How to Live to 100

Reference:   Blue Zone Solutions by Dan Buettner

August 31, 2015

What’s a Blue Zone?   It’s the places in the world where people live up to 100. This is a research-based book that looks at those little “hot spots” where there are the most centarians and tries to ferret out just what got them to 100.

The places listed are Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, the Ogliastra Region of Sardina, Loma Linda, California (7th day Adventists), and Nicoya, Costa Rica.

Dan Buettner has done more than list the common findings that appeared to contribute to their long lives. His core thesis is that it’s not just one thing that makes for healthy life style, it’s the totality, the ecosystem.   He has started a project of creating Blue Zone communities in America.   He has found four towns in Iowa that have agreed to participate in the key feature of being a Blue Zone: changing the overall environment to make “healthy” choices something that enough people do that your ecosystem supports it naturally.   Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Spencer and Mason City have all signed up. In each of those communities up to 40% of the residents thave agreed to participate in moving more, eating differently and focusing on community and relationships.

The list of what Buettner says makes for longevity include his “Power Nine”.   First, Move More Naturally. Add walking, gardening, less driving. Two, have a purpose when you wake up. Three, find a way to let go of stress. Downshift.   Four: Hara Hichi Bu – eat till you are 80% full, with your smallest meal late in the day. Five: Plant Slant – more vegetables, beans, soy, lentils with meat here and there. Six: Have Wine at Five.   Seven: Moais – social groups of support that connect regularly and have your back. Eight: Community – 258 of 263 centarians belonged to some faith community. Attend some sort of faith community and add 4-14 years to your life. Nine: Loved Ones First. Commit to a life partner and add 3 years. Take care of frail elderly in your home.

Eating is a big part of it.   In all the varied cuisines, he found some commonalities.   The Mediterranean diet was 50% fat, but that was from almost all olive oil. It also included daily doses of greens right from the garden. The Seventh Day Adventists were almost vegans with only tiny amounts of meat.   None of the diets had sugar, or modern vegetable oils, or trans fats, or high glycemic grains. The Sardinians had dense durum wheat but ate much more barley. The Okinawans had tons of sweet potatoes. A sprinkling of meat here and there, or fish.

What the book doesn’t address is that all these societies had women spending all day making food, not in careers or jobs.   They were all of “modest means” in “traditional societies” with clearly defined gender roles, on the margin of modern society.  Even the Seventh Day Adventists  fit the description of being pretty “traditional”.  What to make of that?

This book might be your pathway on what to do once you have lost weight and reversed the toxicity of our modern American diet, rich in sugar, processed fats and grains and abundant in fake chemicals and mass produced vegetables picked for shipping and handling, not directly from a local garden.  Certainly, the strong emphasis on friends, stress and environment is something we should all pay attention to.

WWW. What will work for me.   I’m eager to see what lab testing shows on folks who do this. I’m completely on board with the community data. We all need and yearn for love and connection in our lives.   Our American suburbs isolate us into lonely cells walled off by green lawns.   Now I understand the wonderful role played by my church community, my hiking club, my bridge club, my fishing buddies. They have my back. They check in on me. They are my Moais.   Can you create your own Blue Zone? Can we encourage one another by our group participation? Check out your next potluck dinner, see what you can create. Find someone else’s back to cover.

Pop Quiz

  1.   A Blue Zone is an place of unusual “excellence” in biological survival – where more of us humans live longer, better and well.   T or F


2.   All the Blue Zones in this book showed that aging folks woke up with something to do and look forward to, a purpose.  T or F


3.    All long lived societies have food emphasizing vegetables, locally grown foods, less sugar, less meat and no modern trans fats – fats being animal origin or olive.   T or F

That seems to be the general trend.

4.    The Blue Zone experiment in America involves 4 towns where up to 40% of people are participating in making a “healthier” environment that includes exercise, friendships, social belonging and reinforced food choices.   T or F

That is the premise.  That we need to change our whole environment.

5.   Participating in a faith community once a month appears to add time to your life.  T or F

Well, it may, but the data seems to be four times, and that adds from 4 to 14 years.

Low Fat Versus Low Carb Diet Study – Misleading Pseudoscience

Low Fat Diet Loses Weight Better than “Low Carb” – Supposedly!

Reference: Cell Metabolism, August 2015,   Washington Post

This is a fascinating. A study of exactitude, but with tons of confounding possibilities.   Here is what was done. Nineteen obese adults (BMI of 36 and % body fat around 40%), wanting to lose weight, were admitted to a metabolic unit and fed precisely 2740 calories a day for five days. In that time period, they were fed 50% carbs, 35% fat and 15% protein, more or less the Standard American Diet.   That was baseline.

Then, they were switched to a low fat diet, or a low carb diet. Each day they spent an hour in the gym and then fed a precise 30% reduction in calories for the next 6 days. While on the experimental diets they were placed in a sealed chamber that could measure exactly how much carbon dioxide and nitrogen they were putting out. The low carb diet reduced carbs from 350 grams a day to 140.   The low fat diet kept carbs at 350 a day and reduced the fat, reducing it from 109 to 17 grams of fat.   Sugar went up in the low fat diet from baseline 152 grams a day to 170, but was still at 37 grams a day in the low carb (that’s over an ounce).    They then repeated the whole cycle on the other diet, switching from low fat to low carb, and vice versa.

The low fat diet was shown to lose 110 grams more fat than the low carb folks.   On average, the study subjects lost 463 grams on the low fat diet, and 245 grams on the low carb diet.   That is about one pound versus half a pound. They did that in 10 days.  When you measure the amount of nitrogen and CO2 you excrete in a metabolic chamber, you can get pretty accurate calculations with error rates down to an ounce, compared to fat measurements by DEXA scan that has a half pound error rate.

What does this study prove?   There have been previous studies showing greater loss with low fat diets, but none for some 20 years. (Rabast)   Our methods of checking multiple data items are also considerably improved since the last go around.   I’m totally fascinated, but I suspect we have some fatal flaws in this study.

First of all, the study only last 6 days in each segment. It is useful to give a precise number of calories for science’s sake, but I believe we humans can’t control ourselves that precisely, and carbs stimulate our brains to eat more.

But a bigger flaw was calling 140 grams of carbs low carb.   That is lower than 350, but it’s not low.   40 grams of carbs would be low, and 20 is what it takes to really turn on weight loss and turn off insulin.   At 140 grams a day, the subject’s insulin levels actually did decline on the low carb segment, but not to low enough levels (12 to 10).

In my teleological explanation, I would maintain that 140 grams of carbs a day is plenty enough to keep insulin up enough to turn on calorie storage – and when combined with high fat, you would expect no weight loss to occur.

To me the take away is that you can lose weight if you can control calories precisely. That is the basis of the mail order weight loss programs, or Weight Watchers.   Calories matter and you do have to eat less to lose weight.   I have several complaints with this study.   One, I don’t have a mother measuring out precise meals for me, and carbs never fill me up and keep me full. Fat does.   When I eat carbs, I eat too many. Two, this study was 6 days long.   It takes 6 weeks for your body to accommodate to low carbs. If this study went longer, it would show the dramatic departure between the two groups on HDL levels, LDL sizes and triglyceride levels. By being only 6 days, we aren’t even over the induction phase of ketosis.   That makes it fatally flawed, twice. Finally, low carb at 140 grams a day. Ha. Stupid. It’s not a low carb study. I would state that 140 grams of carbs is enough to keep making sufficient insulin to store fat and carbs, hence nether is reduced sufficiently to lose weight.   (Insulin dropped from 12 to 9.4 – not enough to get to weight loss – aka, an insulin of 5 or less.)   It’s a dumb pseudoscience study.

WWW. What will work for me.   I’m going to be more willing to consider precisely measured diet plans, if I can show that they improve cardiac risk factors as well as the low carb does. For now, I’m completely charmed with the effectiveness of low carb at improving cardiac risk factors, Alzheimer’s risk factors, cancer risk factors, weight loss, … did I leave anything else out.   I think this study, making a lot of press media, is really only making misleading noise.


Pop Quiz

  1. A low carb weight loss program should probably be at least 40 grams of carbs at the maximum. T or F


  1. On precisely measured calorie counts it is possible to demonstrate that low fat diets lose more fat weight that low carb.   T or F

That’s what this study did, over 6 days, with a 140 grams of carbs as low carb.

  1. 6 days is enough to induce ketosis. T or F

Barely, and probably not always

  1. This study called 140 grams of carbs “low carb”. Atkins would do what?

Roll over in his grave

  1. Carbs are more filling that fat. T or F

False.   Fats make you feel full.

  1. This study proves that low fat beats low carb. T or F

False.   Perfect example of misleading science.

Sleeping on your Side Washes Your Brain the Best

Sleeping on your Side Lowers Risk for Alzheimer’s

Reference: Jr Neuroscience August 2015, New York Times

August 17, 2015

Sleeping on your side may reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s!   How so? Well, the above referenced study was done in rats, so we aren’t certain it works in humans, but it appears to reflect what happens in all mammals. The evidence of what happens when we sleep is increasing.

Sleep is your brain on “flush”. It’s cleaning itself and washing away accumulated toxins. When you are awake, your brain is using up to 50 different neurotransmitters to conduct its business of thinking and surviving.   Those neurotransmitters are sent out along very long, tiny thin wires called axons to connect with other cells all over your brain.   Little packets of those chemicals are secreted on one side of synapse to cause a reaction on the other side. The chemicals may be picked back up, or may be digested.   At the end of the day, you are left with a lot of chemical breakdown products a long way away from where they were manufactured. The wires (axons) are so thin that there is a big problem transporting the waste products back.   You feel tired and ready to sleep.   If you don’t get sleep, you start to slow down your thinking, make errors and within a few days, hallucinate before you die.

That’s where the glymphatic system comes in.   It was described only in the last few years when it was discovered to actually connect the lymph system to the brain. What is more dramatic is what happens when you sleep.   The glymphatic system swells in size (as much as 60%) and the axons shrink in size. This allows for a huge increase in the flow of lymph fluid while you sleep. The amount of flow that can be accommodated by that change in fluid size is as much as 10 fold.

It’s as though your brain can either play in the band, or dance to the music, but it can’t do both at the same time. It can think and function as what we call awareness, or it can flush and cleanse itself in what we call sleep.   But toxins are building up every second you are awake, and eventually have to be flushed out.

So, just what did this study show?   Rats, when sleeping on their sides, are much more efficient at cleansing their brains than when they sleep on their backs or stomachs. Now all mammals naturally sleep on their sides predominantly.

What gets flushed out is not just the chemical break down product but also β-amyloid, the protein that is found concentrated in Alzheimer’s.   Dr. Helene Benveniste used MRI technology with kinetic modeling to measure the exchange rate of the cerebrospinal fluid with the glymphatic system fluid.   With fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracing, they were able to see the change in fluid flow during wakefulness and sleep by looking directly at the brains of the anesthetized rats.   This is another study confirming the existence of the glymphatic system, and building on that to show that it is most efficient when you lay on your side.

Lots of dementia related diseases have sleep disorders as part of their pathology. Alzheimer’s is no exception.   And there appears to be links between chronic sleep loss and Alzheimer’s.

WWW. What will work for me.   I like sleeping on my side but my shoulder aches if I don’t have two pillows to support me.   I’m going to pay attention to see if I get more restful sleep when I lay on my side or on my stomach, and avoid my back.


Pop Quiz

  1. During sleep, the fluid flow of your brain’s drainage system increases 60%. T or F

False. The size of the vessels increase in cross section 60% but that means the flow can increase as much as 10 fold.

  1. Your brain can either cleanse itself or think, but can’t do both at the same time. T or F


  1. Your brain has a system of fluid channels that are connected to the lymph system out of which fluid flows during sleep, now called the glymphatic system. T or F


  1. Lack of sleep means toxins are building up? T or F

True. That may be sleep’s most important action.

  1. Sleep flushes out β-amyloid, the protein that accumulates in Alzheimer’s. T or F




Spicy Foods Help You Live Longer

Spicy Foods Help You Live Longer

Reference: British Medical Journal, August 2015

Hurray!   Tabasco Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, Cholula Sauce, …. is on the menu again.   In a study from China following 487,735 people for 7.2 years (that’s a lot of people years) we find that eating spicy foods, particularly using chilies, adds years to your life. In fact, eating spicy foods twice a week reduces your risk of death from heart disease and cancer 10%.   If you raise it to 4-7 times, you get a 14% boost.   Even once a week gets you some improvement.

This news made almost every media channel this last week.   The taste of chili has been spreading across America and more and more of us are beginning to add a bit of “piquant” to our recipes.   And some of us just slather it on.

What’s the mechanism? Turns out chilies are pretty interesting little devils.   Capsaicin, the not chemical of chilies, is probably the responsible party.   In a recent focused article also in the BMJ the authors review the potential for capsaicin to be helpful in heart disease.   Capsaicin stimulates the TRPV1 receptor. (Transient receptor potential vanilloid 1)   This is the receptor on your lips that goes nuts when you eat chilies.   That receptor is a pain receptor in your mouth. The TRPV receptor is also in your liver, your blood vessels, your fat cells, T cells, Mast cells, fat cells – lots of places, and in each of them you turn the cell “on” by increasing calcium influx into the cell. In blood vessels, this effect turns on Nitric Oxide production, which results in your blood vessels being stretchier and your blood pressure lower.   And in turns on Nrf2 responsive proteins to help the anti-oxidant effect of Nrf2 activating foods.

Capsaicin also activates Uncoupling Protein 2.   This protein helps electrons shuttle down the electron transport chain without really making energy. Instead they make heat.   But more importantly, by uncoupling, you reduce the oxidative stress on the blood vessels. Blood vessels see the stress of too much sugar first. Protecting them from that stress is very helpful, and may be why chilies reduce the risk for heart disease.

How about cancer? Well, we’ve been hearing reports for years.   Prostate cancer seems to be responsive. In this study, 80% of cancer cells got nudged over to natural cell death instead of living longer.   In stomach cancer, the Enox proteins seem to be inhibited by capsaicin. This may be behind the effectiveness found by the Morres of the combination of Capsaicin and EGCG combined.

How about Alzheimer’s? Yup.   On a rat model of Alzheimer’s less plaque formation resulted with eating capsaicin. Indians who eat a lot of spicy curry have some 80% less Alzheimer’s.   May be from the curcumin, or maybe the chilies play a role too.

This is an epidemiological study. It is not causation.   They did control for age, gender, education, marital status, alcohol, tobacco, and every other variable they could think of and still showed those robust findings.   To show “proof” we need a randomized placebo controlled trial of cause and effect. And considering that chilies are cheap and abundant, that won’t happen soon. No money or profit to be made.

WWW. What will work for me? 7 days a week for me. I put “Slap Ya Momma” Cajun hot spice on my eggs for breakfast. I find that if you start getting used to it, it’s addictive and you want more and more. And this study suggests you are on a good path when you do that.   With all the great Mexican, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants around, surely you can find something spicy you like.


Pop Quiz

  1. Capsaicin seems to help make blood vessels stretchier? T or F


  1. If you eat two spicy meals a week, you live 10% longer. T or F

False. Trick question. You have a 10% lower risk of dying. It might be the same, but not quite.

  1. If you have “spicy” food more than 4 times a week, you raise that benefit higher. T or F

Yup. 14%

  1. This is almost a good a benefit as exercise every day. T or F

Nope. But half as good is still pretty good.   Exercise gets you as much as 30-40% once you get fit. Imagine jogging with a jug of Sriracha sauce.

  1. Prostate cancer cells have been shown to spiral into cell death with capsaicin. T or F





Reference:, Pall in APS, Thieme, Wikipedia, Science Direct

August 3, 2015

Ever heard of Nrf? (Nuclear factor erythroid derived) I bet you thought Nerfs were some blue cartoon character, or better yet, a foam ball with which you could play office basketball. Not so. Nrf 2 is a protein that is in every tissue in your body, waiting in your cells to be activated. It has a controlling protein that limits its activity until something bad comes along to activate it.   It then travels into your cell nucleus and turns on all the processes that protect your cell from damage by binding to the hARE (human Antioxidant Response Element) region of DNA.   hARE is the uber regulator of all antioxidant response systems in your cell.

With such activation, your cells turn on a very wide array of cell protection pathways. This places NRF smack dab in the middle of your fundamental cell protection mechanisms. Its breakdown logically follows as being central to many illnesses.   Free radicals floating around in your blood appear to be some of the strongest activators of the NRF system suggesting that oxidative stress plays a huge role in many illnesses: Metabolic syndrome, Autoimmune, inflammatory bowel, HIV, MS, epilepsy, chronic kidney disease, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, sepsis, atherosclerosis.   With that, it logically follows that raising NRF will help treat many of those illnesses.

This is not to claim that NRF is your sole cell protective mechanism. Glutathione is also critical.   What is interesting is the link between the two.   Each of the three genes that encode for the production of the glutathione producing enzymes are individually activated by NRF. As is the gene that turns on glutathione reductase, the enzyme that converts used glutathione back into activated glutathione. As is the gene that turns on the 8 steps to make NADH, the energy source for glutathione. This makes NRF2 and glutathione closely integrated into a system that handles “oxidative stress”.

What causes that stress?   There is increasing evidence that our lifestyle of highly refined carbohydrates, made into products like flour (from any source) which is quickly digested and stimulates the production of insulin, leads to oxidative stress. Once we are overweight, our fat cells then produce showers of activating chemicals that keep it going.   It’s not just being overweight that does it. We live in a sea of chemicals in our modern world, many of which contribute a small part and which, cumulatively add up to a lot of harm.   Heavy metals are particularly bad players.

The $ 64 question then remains, “How do we activate Nrf2 and turn all that bad stuff off?”.   Here is a partial list:   the phenolic antioxidants (code for spices and herbs like turmeric, rosemary, thyme,), the gamma-delta tocotrienols, the isothionates (code word for broccoli and other kale family plants), allyl sulfides (code word for garlic and onions) , carotenoids (lycopene in particular – aka carrots and tomatoes), fish oil, fasting and exercise.   Hmm.   Sounds like a healthy diet.     This sounds like how coffee, chocolate, turmeric, olive oil, broccoli, red hot peppers, green tea, resveratrol, garlic, blueberries, rosemary, oregano, sage all work to prevent diseases like cancer. And at last, I’ve figured out where peroxide (H202) works – it turns on Nrf2).

WWW. What will work for me?   I don’t know how to measure the effects of Nrf2 activation but I believe it is real. There are pills out there touting their ability to activate Nrf2. I’ve given peroxide IV for inflammation and seen great results.   I just want a test to show that it’s working. That doesn’t exist yet. Back to eating a meal packed with tomatoes, garlic, broccoli, hot peppers, turmeric and resveratrol. Sounds like curry with red wine.


Pop Quiz

  1. Nrf2 is the common pathway to turn on inflammation. T or F

False. That would be NFκB – another common pathway in every cell but it turns on the fire. Nrf turns it off.

  1. Nrf2 activation is turned off by our modern lifestyle. T or F

True – particularly our consumption of refined carbohydrates.

  1. Fasting turns on Nrf2. T or F


  1. Tomatoes and broccoli, blueberries, olive oil all turn it on? T or F


  1. We don’t have a good measure to see turned on Nrf2 is? T or F

True, except for how you feel when you have a chronic disease.