Monthly Archives: December 2015

PEMF: A New Magic Wand for Arthritis

PEMF: A New Magic Wand for Arthritis Therapy

Reference: Bioelectromagnetics Nov 2015

Do you know what PEMF is?   It stands for pulsed, electromagnetic field therapy.   Pulses of a magnetic field are generated by a devise and those fields are applied to various tissues.   It has been available in Europe since at least the 1970s.   For whatever reason it was strictly forbidden for humans in the USA. Veterinarians were the first to adapt to it in America for injured animals with broken bones. It worked. Sports medicine doctors started using it off label in athletes. Finally, it 1979 the FDA approved it for humans with non-union fractures.

On October 13 this year (two months ago) the FDA lowered the classification status from Class 3 to Class 2, making it much easier to market and advertise. That also makes the devices cheaper. We are likely to see more of these devices.

What do they do again?  These devices create a magnetic field. On planet earth, we live in a magnetic field all the time because the earth has a molten iron core that is spinning.   That magnetic field wanders, occasionally flips over and waxes and wanes, but notably is there most of the time. That is useful because it protects us from the solar wind that would otherwise strip all of our water away, like off Mars. You can test the magnetic field with a compass that will point to magnetic north.   These devices create a small, local magnetic field just like earth’s. You may not feel the magnetic field, but your dog does, and poops most of the time in alignment with it! Birds, fish, monarch butterflies, and possibly many mammals like bats can also sense it and use if for migrations or homing.   We humans may be able to sense it, but that’s open for debate.

Research has shown that your tissue will respond to a magnetic field with faster healing.   In the now famous Soma study, rabbits had a 1 cm segment of their ulna removed surgically, and then given PEMF or sham PEMF. The treated rabbits healed in 28 days, whereas the sham treatment resulted in nothing.

So what does this study tell us?   57 adults with average arthritis score of 2.8, and average age of 61 were treated for five minutes, twice a day for 18 days. This is really not much treatment.   With that modest treatment, the treated folks reached statistical significance of improvement ( > .001) in pain, stiffness and disability for activities of daily living.   That’s pretty interesting!

There are beginning to be other studies too that align with the same concept. It appears that PEMF stimulates the generation of stem cells and new growth.   For example, stem cells from fat tissue can be shown to stimulate cartilage growth. Wouldn’t that be popular! And fat tissue may be better than bone marrow as a source of stem cells. Osteoarthritis in the elderly may be particularly helped. And do you know anyone over 60 who doesn’t have an ache or two?

Isn’t this interesting? Don’t you want to give it a try? Are there adverse side effects? Well, you can have an MRI and not be harmed (intense local magnetic field). And as best we know, no serious side effects have been documented to date.

WWW. What will work for me.   I’m into this idea. I’ve seen enough anecdotes already in my experience of people getting better.   I’ve purchased 10 of these devices and want to try it out in my practice. I think this is a technology we should pay attention to.   Just get rechargeable batteries so that you don’t use up too many regular 9V batteries.

Pop Quiz

  1. Electromagnetic fields have an effect on cellular environements? T or F

True. Not completely sure what

  1. Cellular reaction to PEMF is often to invoke anti-inflammatory reactions? T or F


  1. Human’s can sense the earth’s magnetic field? T orF

Probably false, but this position would be considered heresy in Sedona, AZ

  1. Rabbit’s repair their bones much faster under PEMF conditions? T or F


  1. Elderly folks with painful arthritis get less pain, more flexibility and better function from joints with continuous PEMF therapy? T or F

False. All those good things happened with 5 minutes, twice a day over just 18 days.

  1. There may be serious side effects from PEMF? T or F

Are you kidding. We can’t find any!


Pycnogenol: Brain Booster

Pycnogenol: Brain Booster

Reference: Journal Neurosurgical Sci Dec 2015, Medical News Today

Published Dec 21, 2015

Want to boost your memory 37%? Wow, you mean I wouldn’t forget to pick up eggs on the way home? And what on earth is pycnogenol? First of all, pycnogenol is an extract of French Maritime Pine trees. Pycnogenol is a member of the tannin family that comes from various pine trees, but also some tropical trees and some grapes. They effectively protect the plant from invasion by insects. In humans they do something else – they set off reactions that push the human body into healthy, regenerative behaviors.

Pycnogenol is a powerful antidote to oxidative stress. And what’s that? It is effectively the imbalance that happens in the body when high energy electrons escape from the electron transport chain in mitochondria where you are making energy, and make “reactive oxygen species”.   This can make damage all over the cell, particularly dangerously to DNA.   But there are hundreds of breakdown products that show up and are beginning to be measured.   Your body has means of soaking up those escaped electrons, CoQ10 for example does that. Controlling oxidative stress is an important goal to all of us.

What did they do in this study that made pycnogenol look so good?   The researchers at Chieti-Pescara University in Italy took 77 volunteers, age 55-70, and measured their ability to make decisions, memory and other cognitive functions.   Both control and study groups did various “healthy” life style changes (8 hours sleep, no later than 1030, less sugar, salt and caffeine, 20 minutes of exercise), but the study group got 100 mg of Pycnogenol a day. That was the sole difference between the two.

First, the study group showed a 28% decrease in oxidative stress. As a consequence of that, they also showed memory ability increasing 37% versus a 10% decline in the controls.   Decision making ability increased 71% in the study group but declined 5 in the controls. Attention span increased 41% versus 2 % increase in the controls.   This all sounds too good to be true. What is interesting is that this study effectively mirrors a similar study done in healthy professionals published a year earlier by Belcaro.

You can probably duplicate much of this yourself. A remarkable way to increase oxidative stress is to push a huge amount of pure glucose into your system. Eat a whole lot of sugar or white flour and see how alert and awake you feel. Do you get sleepy?   Other ways to increase oxidative stress are to be poisoned with heavy metals, to overexercise, to barbecue at high heat so that you flood your system with AGEs, )advance glycation end products.

Or, you can test oxidative stress with test kits from various labs. The marker that most folks use is 8-hydroxy-deoxyGuanosine (oxidative damage to DNA).

WWW. What will work for me.   I’m going to measure my own oxidative stress and learn how to do the test.   And it sounds like pycnogenol is a rising star in the brain health field. It probably needs to be added to the list of what we do to keep our brains healthy.


Pop Quiz.

  1. Pycnogenol is an extract of Palm Trees from tropical France. T or F

False. You weren’t paying attention.   It’s PINE trees, not palm. And France isn’t tropical – its better, it’s “Mediterranean”

  1. Pycnogenol helps quench oxidative damage. T or F

That would be true

  1. Healthy professionals can be shown to have better memory and attention span with pycnogenol. T or F


  1. Baby Boomers in their 70s have been shown to have a 15, a 25, a 37, a 41% boost in memory on pycnogenol?


  1. Pysnogenol has effects on attention span? T or F


  1. Oxidative damage can be measured. T or F

Try pronouncing 8-hydroxy-deoxyGuanosine – and you are true.

Lose a Gram of Fat, Reverse Diabetes

Lose a Gram of Fat, Lose Diabetes

Reference: Newcastle University, Diabetes Care

Published: Dec 14, 2015

Lose a gram of fat, lose diabetes. What a claim! But it is absolutely clear that losing weight does reverse adult onset diabetes. In that light, how does this claim make sense?   It turns out that the fat you have to lose is from your pancreas gland. It appears from this study that fat in the pancreas gland plays a role is the disease.

This is how this study argues. 18 people with diabetes, and 9 without who were scheduled for bariatric surgery all had measurements of fat levels in the pancreas and sensitivity to insulin, before and after surgery.   They all then had bariatric surgery and subsequently lost about 13% of body fat. Here is the critical finding: only the diabetics who then had their diabetes reversed lost fat from their pancreas gland. Those folks who weren’t diabetic didn’t have any fat loss from their pancreas glands.   Now, with a pancreas gland that is only 50 milliliters in volume, they had to develop a new procedure for calculating fat content based on the MRI scan.   Their finding was that only diabetics lost that fat, about 0.6 mls total. Did you get that, they only had to lose .6 milliliters of fat from their pancreas glands?

Can you imagine that? Does it make sense? Could this be error? Are 18 patients enough for this to be credible? Can 0.6 mls really be measured that accurately in someone who weighs over 200 pounds and needs bariatric surgery?

I’m skeptical becaue the numbers are so small, but it can make sense for the following reason.   Type II diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) only because the fat cell is insulin resistant.   It is insulin resistant because it has become too large.   There is plenty of insulin around, but the fat cell won’t respond normally.   Your pancreas can only secrete so much insulin in a life time, and when you pump out high levels for years, you eventually exhaust your ability to make anymore. An arithmetic analogy would be to claim that your pancreas can only make a million units of insulin in a lifetime. If you consume more than 45 units a day, you will run out of insulin by age 60.   That’s what we see. Folks who are overweight have insulin resistance. Their blood sugar is only slightly elevated, but their insulin is higher than ideal (my belief ideal is under 7 – most health systems claim normal range is 2-23 or so with an average around 12). In their 50s these folks have their pancreas glands starting to run out, so their insulin level starts to fall. Medication can squeeze you for a few years, but then you are using up insulin even faster. By age 60, you are completely out and need to be put on someone else’s insulin (a pig for example).

A large fat cell has the same number of insulin receptors (about 170,000) as a small cell. But they are further apart and further from the nucleus of the fat cell.   Fat cells get bigger, not more numerous, as you put on weight. That makes insulin signaling on the surface of the cell less efficient. The only way to fix that is to reduce the size of the fat cell. The only way to do that is to lose weight.

So, it makes sense. This falls in line with other studies and confirms that the proper method of reversing diabetes is weight loss, not pills. And it raises questions about what we should be testing and what our normal limits should be.   In my mind, a normal insulin level should be a goal for all of us, (<7) and a normal blood sugar should be considered as less than 87, not less than 100. At a blood sugar of 99, you are still putting out insulin, and if your fat cells are too big, too much insulin.

WWW. What will work for me.   I can’t do MRI’s on folks pancreas glands. This is obviously just a research study, but it falls in line and explains what’s happening when you lose weight. Your pancreas puts on weight, just like your fat cell. And your intracellular signaling gets out of whack with that.   You then must eat food that doesn’t require insulin: fat and green vegetables.   Hmmm. Bacon and spinach. Sounds like those Southern Gullah chefs had if figured out.


Pop Quiz


  1. To reverse adult onset diabetes I can get bariatric surgery? T or F

True. Crazy but true. Heavy duty surgery that relapses after a couple of years is nuts when you can accomplish the same with eating differently.

  1. Weight loss from my pancreas gland on the order of 0.6 ml or 1 gram of fat is enough to reverse diabetes. T or F


  1. Adult onset diabetes means you have likely been having relatively high insulin levels for years, and your pancreas gland is pooping out. T or F


  1. If you dramatically reduce your demand for insulin by losing weight and eating foods that need no demand for insulin (fat and greens), you can stretch out the life function of your pancreas dramatically. T or F

That’s the point

  1. You should have your insulin level checked as often as your blood glucose. T or F

Well, maybe not as often, but often enough to help you get to normal.


Carrageenan: Innocent or Poison?

Carrageenen: Innocent Poison

Published Dec 6, 2015

Reference: Fed. Proc, Plos One, Plos One

Ever looked on the ingredients on a granola bar that you had in your purse for a snack?   See the ingredient “carrageenan”. Ever wonder what it was? Ever bought coconut milk because you thought it was a better source of milk because you were anxious about A1 milk? Did you read the label? If you look up the source of carrageenan on Wikipedia, you will learn that they are extracted from edible red seaweeds and are widely used in the food industry for their thickening abilities.   Particularly in milk products like cheeses and ice cream. Carrageenan is a complex polysaccharide family that the human body can’t digest, and stick strongly to proteins to make them agglomerate. That makes milk shakes thick, ice cream creamy, It also makes “healthy foods” like almond milk feel more “milk like”. So, you switch to a diet with less animal protein thinking you are being helpful to yourself, and you buy coconut or almond milk. But you didn’t read the label.

Do yourself a favor. Read the labels.   Carrageenen should be one of the items that pops out at you and leads you to saying, “No thanks!”

Why?   Because carrageenan turns out to be a funny sort of poison. It induces inflammation.   In fact, it has now become the defacto lab chemical for creating inflammation to see what happens experimentally.   If you look up on Pubmed for carrageenan inflammation, you will find 3778 references. If you want to create an experimental model of cancer invasion so that you can figure out how to block it, you will use carrageenan injected into the paw of a lab rat to make the inflammation. There is some complexity to the varieties of carrageenan that are used. Supposedly “un-degraded” carrageenan is ok to add to food, but degrades isn’t.   Degraded carrageenan should really be called poligeenan, as that is likely the worse actor of the two. A recent review of all the animal effects of poligeenan was published in Research Reviews that shows the majority of damage from poligeenan comes from intestinal ulcerations in the colon of lab animals.   Poligeenan has been shown to cause cancer, all by itself when given in high enough doses. Carrageenen just makes inflammation.   Interestingly enough, poligeenan is used to make barium nice and easy to swallow for GI studies.   Hmmm. Problem?

Have studies been done in humans? Well yes, but very few and not in the whole human, just in human cells in lab petri dishes. With GI cells growing in a lab, you can prove the up-regulation of inflammatory markers. Another study in human colon cells showed cell cycle arrest.   That does suggest that the animal studies might be on to something, and we aren’t so different.

What’s a person to do? It looks to me like carrageenan isn’t the demon some web sites have claimed it to be, as it doesn’t cause cancer directly. However, it fits the bill perfectly for one of those food ingredients that tip the scales towards inflammation, which is the root cause of all of our long latency diseases.   Cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease are all based on low grade, long standing inflammation.   If that is the case, it just makes sense to avoid it.

WWW. What will work for me. This is as simple as just knowing about it and having it rise to the threshold of understanding. Read the label. Choose something else. I’m not letting carrageenan into my diet.   You shouldn’t either. If you are starving on a desert island, oh well. Go ahead and have the candy bar. Otherwise, there are other choices.


Pop Quiz

    1. Carrageenan comes from natural food sources, which makes it safe. T or F

    True but not true. Just because it comes from red seaweed and is a natural plant source doesn’t make it safe.

    1. The real danger is probably the degraded form of carrageenan called, poligeenan.   T or F

    True, in short term but both may be problematic is we have a long enough time horizon.

    1. I can find carrageenan in many milk products to make them thicker and creamier, like Half and Half or Coconut milk. T or F


    1. Carrageenan has become the standard for inducing lab inflammation. T or F


    1. Humans are still being exposed to poligeenan when we have barium studies. T or F


    1. There may be no smoking gun for absolute toxicity, but considering that all our modern “long latency illnesses” are caused by inflammation, and carrageenen turns on inflammation. T or F

    That’s it in a nutshell, so avoid it.