Monthly Archives: September 2016

Leucine: Muscle Builder Key

Leucine: Muscle Builder Key

Reference: Nutrition Express, Journal of Nutrition, The Body Builder, PLOS1,

Leucine is a branched chain amino acid, one of the essential amino acids your body can’t make and must have for proper health. The branched chain amino acids make up some 10% of most meats, but up to 33% of whey protein. Whole proteins is that they take a while to be digested. The branched chain amino acids are not only critical building blocks for muscle, but they also are the only amino acids that muscle can use for fuel.

But leucine does something else. It turns on muscle synthesis. It has been shown to activate the mTOR pathway (mammalian target of rapamycin) which is the protein synthesis switch. The mTOR switch is the Holy Grail of muscle building. Various studies have show effects of leucine on mTOR. A study from Columbia University showed that leucine supplements added to weight loss by some 25% in obese rats.

What is the ideal amount to help you build muscle? That is the subject of much research and debate. Eating the whole food delivers leucine bound up with other amino acids in a whole protein, which takes hours to break down and import into the blood. The leads to lower levels than eating it as a supplement. Whey is about 10% leucine so a 25 gram whey protein supplement will lead to about 2.5 grams of leucine. That appears to be about the right amount to start protein synthesis. But aging animals may need more. And if you want to do a deep dive, you can get into really arcane physiology and learn all about p70S6K and hVps34 proteins. (Looks to me like a great password for my bank.

So, it’s just this year that much more interest has been spiked in larger doses of leucine. Aging mice can show that they can still build muscle when given 5% of their diet in leucine, and then exercised. They stop losing muscle with age and in fact, build it up. You can too!

WWW.What will work for me. This is fascinating. I have an innovative client who shared with me that he is using 20 grams of leucine a day, higher than the 2.5 grams Volek calls for, and can “feel the muscle building”. He looks great. When I look in the mirror, I think, “Maybe I should try some leucine.” It helps lose weight and it builds muscle. What’s so bad about that.


Pop Quiz

‪1. Leucine is a BCAA. What does that stand for?

One of the three “branched chain” amino acids, but the only one that stimulates mTOR.

‪2. What is mTOR?

The protein switch that turns on muscle building. Stands for the mammalian target of rapamycin.

‪3. Leucine is a major part of whey protein. T or F

Yup. That’s it’s best source.

‪4. I may benefit from doses as high as 20 grams a day as an aging human.

If muscle building and weight loss are on your agenda, this may be a great supplement.

‪5. What’s p70S6K?

One of the other proteins that appears to be stimulated by leucine. It’s not my bank password. But it looks promising as my fat burning password.

Vitamin B12 and the Aging Brain

Vitamin B12 and the Aging Brain

Reference: New York Times Sept 6, Wikipedia, Neurology,  Published Sept 19, 2016

Mary Todd Lincoln was a bit imbalanced. She had terrible tragedies in her life, besides the assassination of her husband. But her behavior was erratic and, in retrospect, is thought to have probably been on account of severe B12 deficiency. She finally died of it. Pernicious anemia is one of the first diseases characterized by “modern medicine” and its final understanding took almost 100 years to elucidate. I think B12 is so important, this is my 3rd or 4th summary of it, each from a slightly different angle. Repetition leads to learning.

Vitamin B12 is a huge vitamin. No animal can make it naturally. We are all dependent on certain bacteria to manufacture it for us. The means by which we absorb it is very complicated. First, we have to have stomach acid to release it from its carrier protein in meat. Then, we make our our protective protein in our stomachs to envelope it and shepherd it to our terminal ileum where it is absorbed. That’s a lot of steps. Complicated processes fail. As a consequence, by age 30 many of us are beginning to have less than ideal and by age 50 a significant portion of adults, probably at least 30% are too low.

Now we have the New York Times writing advice article about taking it to reduce risk of dementia. This comes at a time when there is increasing awareness that we don’t have to be victims of risk for Alzheimer’s. We can avoid it. And B12 is right there in that avoidance process. Hooshmand in the CAIDE Study from Sweden published in Neurology, showed that for every 1 mg increase in homocysteine, your risk for Alzheimer’s goes up 16%.

What is homocysteine? It’s a simple amino acid that acts like a shuttle bus. It takes a methyl group from B12 (or folate) and passes it off to glutathione. Glutathione then works to make various toxins water soluble, and thus able to be excreted. The core function of B12 is to pass off those methyl groups as a way of building or changing molecules. If you don’t have enough B12, you can’t get rid of gunk. You also can’t build proteins, or manage many metabolic processes.

This shouldn’t be hard. Homocysteine is our marker we can use to see if you are getting enough B12. If your homocysteine is anything above 7, you have a 16% increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Simplify it to that formula. And you can’t accomplish homocysteine lowering with just B12. You also need methylated folate in the mix, almost proportionately.

Do you know your B12 blood level? Most health system labs say you should have a level of 212 or higher. The Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) showed less cognitive decline with B12 of 500. And in fact, showed that the supplementation of food with folate without adding B12 leads to imbalance and another source of cognitive decline. I want a level of 500 as my normal.

www.What will work for me. I’ve been startled by how many of my own clients have low B12 and high homocysteine. My homocysteine was high when I first measured. I’m taking a B12 supplement, actually a B Vitamin mix. I suspect we all should. It’s so easy to lower your homocysteine with B vitamins, properly balanced. Now, can we get our health systems to pay for measuring the homocysteine? (Not yet!)


Pop Quiz

‪1. Your B12 blood level declines with aging because our means of absorbing it decline. T or F


‪2. Your body naturally makes B12 in your gut. T or F


‪3. If we are so survive after age 50, one of our markers of good health should be our B12 and homocysteine levels. Give me good targets.

500 and above for B12 and 7 for homocysteine

‪4. Your insurance will pay for you to measure this. T or F

Emphatically false. I’ve done battle with Aurora Health care and they refuse for their own employees to pay for this.

‪5. If you can’t take B12 by mouth, what is the best way to get it?

Under the tongue, or by shots. They should be cheap. I’ll sell them to you for about $ 1 a shot if you buy the bottle.

Black Tea and C-Reactive Protein‬

Black Tea and C-Reactive Protein

Reference: Toxicology, ResearchGate,

I drink black tea. Quite a lot, in fact. I like chai. I’m also on the quest to find how to lower C-reactive protein. When I see research that addresses both topics, I pay attention. This is interesting.

The study design was pretty simple. Three cups of black tea a day, with no additives, for 12 weeks. The control group drank hot water. The groups were large enough to show statistically significant drops in uric acid of 8-9% across the various ranges of uric acid. And better, C-reactive protein, the common pathway for inflammation, fell by 40-50% in folks with levels over 3 mg %. Now, 50% drop is a lot! The goal is to get folks to below 1.0 on their CRP. So a 50% drop from 3 gets you to 1.5. Almost there!

From the same study, published in a different journal, was evidence of what happened to other markers of cardiovascular risk. Again, the same 12 week period with three cups of tea a day. The tea had high levels of gallic acid derivatives (50 ± 0.4 mg/L), flavan-3-ols (42 ± 2 mg/L), flavonols (32 ± 1 mg/L) and theaflavins (90 ± 1 mg/L). (All good things). The metabolic changes were quite striking: a fasting serum glucose decrease of 18.4%; (p<0.001) and triglyceride level decrease of 35.8%; (p<0.01), a significant decrease in LDL/HDL plasma cholesterol ratio (16.6%; p<0.05) and a non significant increase in HDL plasma cholesterol levels 20.3%. For those who have read this column and gotten facile at glucose and its effect on blood lipids, you would understand it all as the same phenomenon.

To recap: a lower blood glucose means less insulin. Less insulin means less instructions to the liver to manufacture triglycerides and LDLs. With fewer LDLs and triglycerides to manufacture and ship out to fat cells, HDLs will rise. The real primary effect is on glucose with all the others following. Small, dense LDLs, stimulated by high glucose levels, drive heart disease, so there you have it. All these risk factors stem from elevated glucose.

Guess where this study came from? Mauritius! Not the common place for research. But they are looking at life style and food. Just what we need.

WWW. What will work for me. I feel too buzzed with coffee and don’t like all the caffeine. Tea is gentler. But I spend all day with my clients trying to find ways to lower CRP. Lots of folks have mildly elevated level. To know that we can drop it 30-40% with 3 cups of tea. In Afghanistan, 3 Cups of Tea means you are a friend. Same effect in America.

Pop Quiz:

‪1. Three cups of tea will lower your CRP by 40-50%? T or F

True. Black tea.

‪2. I can also lower my triglycerides with black tea. T or F


‪3. Uric acid, unfortunately, goes up with black tea. T or F

Gotcha. Read it again. Uric acid goes down. Another good thing

‪4. High blood glucose results in high blood lipids. T or F

Simple as that. True. Glucose is the real story for causing heart disease, not blood fats.

‪5. This research was done in a place that drinks a lot of tea and doesn’t have much pharmaceutical company influence. T or F


Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Heart

Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Heart

Reference: BBC News Sept 2016, Published Sept 5th, 2016

It’s September, the apples are ripe. The farmers’ market is overflowing. We are all in a fall festive mood. The vendor at the farmers’ market hands you some apple cider samples. Delicious. She tells you about making vinegar and how it’s good for your heart and your digestion. Is it?

Well, along comes a new show on BBC in Britain with a whole segment on just that topic. What does Apple Cider Vinegar actually do for you? On the show, “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”, the following experiments were done. First, they recruited healthy volunteers to eat a bagel after an all night fast. Sure enough, their sugar shoots up. The next night, instead of just a bagel, they preceeded it with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, diluted in water. Sure, enough, 36% reduction in blood sugar. The third night, malt vinegar before the bagel. No reduction in blood sugar. Wow, it’s something to do with the apples.

This got them excited. Off they went with a bunch of other tests, notably blood. They increased the group size to 10 in each group and made a placebo group with colored water. They checked for inflammation, weight change and cholesterol. To distill what they found, the apple cider vinegar continued to have a beneficial effect on blood lipids with a dramatic drop in bad cholesterol. But not the malt vinegar.

Now, here’s the catch. Can you, a reader of this column explain to yourself why a high sugar response turns into high cholesterol? This should be simple, but utterly profound and far reaching. Start with the mechanism by which we make blood lipids.

It’s simple. Our blood fats are manufactured in our liver in response to insulin. Apple cider vinegar lowers the blood glucose, that lowers the insulin response to a glucose load. That makes for less push to make blood fats that have to be transported from the liver to the fat cell. That transport happens in the blood. We know now that you elevate blood lipids by eating carbs, not by eating eggs and butter. In fact, the more purified carbs you eat, white wheat flour and sugar being the most egregious, the more small dense LDLs you make.

Imprint that in your brain. Eating free carbs raise your blood sugar, and that in turn raises your small dense, dangerous LDLs. That is what drives heart disease. The ancient Egyptians were eating wheat, and we now know that they too had heart disease. They too had elevated LDLs. If only they had been able to drink apple cider vinegar.

How does apple cider vinegar work compared to malt vinegar that doesn’t?  I hope to live long enough to find out that mystery. Is it the mineral/alkaline effect?  It happens with a bitof wine too. Is that why those Mediterraneans do so well?

WWW.What will work for me. I enjoy finding out old cures for modern maladies, and understanding the mechanisms. The same goes for apple cider vinegar and reflux and heart burn. But that’s for another day. Can I drink apple cider vinegar every day? That’s a stretch. I would rather have my breakfast without the bagel, just the eggs.


Pop Quiz

‪1. Eating a whole wheat bagel will lower my blood sugar more than apple cider vinegar(ACV). T or F

False. Whole wheat flour is still flour and has the precise, exact same glycemic response as white four. A tiny bit of fiber will help your bowels move better but will have no impact on your weight or cholesterol.

‪2. Apple cider vinegar before a glycemic load will lower your blood sugar response to that load. T or F

True. That’s this news.

‪3. It’s smart to plan on eating ACV before all carbs. T or F

Probably smarter to eat less simple carbs and go for more vegetables.

‪4. When I go to a restaurant, I can lower my cholesterol response with some wine also. T or F

Wine appears to also lower glycemic index response.   T   True

‪5. The beneficial effects of ACV may be from the minerals that alkalize your body? T or F

True. Despite being acidic, the actual metabolic effect on your body is slightly alkaline because of the magnesium and potassium in it. They may be the secret sauce.