One cardiologist’s mission to reduce statin use for cholesterol

(CNN) High cholesterol? Here’s a pill. High blood pressure? Here’s two pills. High blood sugar? Here’s two pills and an injection. This is what many doctors routinely do without ever addressing why the cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar is abnormal in the first place.I used to practice this way until I realized that all I was doing was covering up the downstream effects of poor diet with a bunch of drugs, instead of changing the food.I am a practicing cardiologist. I trained at some of the finest medical institutions in the world, including Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, and have been repeatedly recognized for great patient care. But what I really want to achieve professionally is to put myself out of work.Unfortunately, cardiologists have endless job security. And that’s because we’re treating the wrong thing. My waiting room was full of patients whose numbers I had made perfect but who still looked sick and felt terrible. Some even felt worse with all the drugs I had put them on. No cures, just a neverending revolving door of follow-up visits. This is not why I went to medical school.

Yet no one seemed to be doing anything about this or even acknowledging it. So I became obsessed with finding a better solution and founded a company that formulates foods to help lower cholesterol, backed by pharmaceutical-level science.There may be 30,000 food items in the average grocery store, but none of them has been subjected to any real scientific scrutiny. They bear all sorts of checkmarks and heart symbols, but that tells only part of the story. For example, a cereal might contain fiber — and boldly tout the ability of this nutrient to lower cholesterol — but the fine print reveals that a serving of the cereal also delivers the added sugar equivalent of three cookies. Any positive health effect of the fiber is completely negated. But how is the average consumer supposed to know this? They’re not. They’re just supposed to like the taste and feel good about buying that cereal. My patients may have been trying to “eat better,” but they were getting duped. Two decades ago, the National Institutes of Health cholesterol guidelines mandated that changing diet should be tried for three months as the first step in treating high cholesterol, before putting anyone on drugs. But today, many of my peers expressed skepticism that a food-based solution could work.It took more than 80,000 hours of training for me to become a cardiologist. How much of that time was spent on nutrition? Zero.Treatment guidelines, representing the standard of care, only pay lip service to nutrition. For example, the American Heart Association’s latest cholesterol management guideline is 120 pages long. How much of that is devoted to diet? One paragraph. The guideline mostly instructs providers on which patient to put on which drug and at what dose. Children as young as 10, according to the guidelines, can be started on statin medications such as Lipitor and Crestor.

In addition, physicians know only the prescription model. They are taught that the only truly valid proof of efficacy is a clinical trial and that everything else is conjecture. That’s why pharma rules, even though the literature is full of data about the health benefits of various foods. Food does not have “dosing data.”Did you know that doctors are monitored according to whether they prescribe medications? If I don’t follow the cholesterol guidelines by prescribing statins, insurers will send letters scolding me. If I don’t talk to you about the cholesterol-lowering effects of walnuts and oat bran, nobody cares. Physicians even get paid more when a drug is prescribed. A medical encounter that generates a prescription is considered more complex, which qualifies for higher reimbursement. In contrast, if a physician uses some of the very limited time with patients to talk about antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, they get nothing more.My solution is to give physicians, insurers and especially patients an alternative food-based option for cholesterol lowering that could compete with drugs on every level. These foods taste great and are formulated using only health-promoting ingredients. They are dosed and measured and as easy to prescribe and use as medications. Most important, they yield clinically meaningful cholesterol reductions as confirmed by a clinical trial.Given that 70 million Americans have high cholesterol, I approached big food companies and investors, naively thinking they would love my idea and want to help. They did not. Food manufacturers thought our ingredients (such as real almonds, walnuts, pecans and blueberries) were too expensive. They wanted to replace them with flavorings, artificial sweeteners and “fruit bits.” Investors thought the clinical trial we proposed doing to confirm efficacy was too uncertain. They told us we needed to have patents so we could charge prices like the pharmaceutical companies. No wonder this had never been done before. There was simply not enough profit in it. Patient health, it seems, is not very valuable.

Undeterred, my supporters and I pushed forward and, supported by grant funding, conducted a trial in two countries testing our foods in statin intolerant individuals. These were people who are candidates for statin drugs but either can’t or won’t take the medications due to side effects, such as muscle aches. The only instruction to the study participants was: “Eat these foods twice per day instead of something you’re eating already,” without making any other lifestyle changes. Literally as simple as “take this pill twice per day.”The result was that 20%, 30%, even close to 40% cholesterol reductions were found in many individuals in just 30 days. This data was submitted at an American Heart Association meeting and will be submitted for publication. These medication-level cholesterol responses were obtained with food, without the need for dietary overhauls or exercise routines. They don’t just represent an option for the estimated 20 million Americans who are statin intolerant and have no other solutions but for millions more who need to lower their cholesterol but don’t need stains.

As with medications, not everyone’s cholesterol will respond equally to a food intervention. Some people should be on statins even if their cholesterol is perfect. But given that it takes only a month of dietary change to determine whether you’re a food responder, doesn’t it make sense to give people the chance to at least try a validated food intervention before assigning them to a lifetime of pills? Especially since food doesn’t have any side effects, just side benefits such as lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, weight loss and feeling better.Food is the comprehensive solution to a complex problem. And it just might put me — and pharmaceutical companies — out of business.

Mediterranean Diet

The year has just begun and already the best diet of the year has been named the Mediterranean diet. With health benefits ranging from helping you lose weight to living longerreducing the risk of heart disease, and boosting brain health, it’s no wonder this popular eating plan is getting all the praise.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet of Mediterranean countries and is mostly plant-based with lots of non starchy veggies, fruit, healthy fats (mostly from olives and olive oil), nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Red meat is eaten sparingly, and sugars and refined, starchy foods are generally off limits.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge on this popular eating plan. In fact, one staple of the Mediterranean diet is something that’s not only good for your heart but could also help you wind down and reduce stress: wine. Specifically, red wine.

“Trying to mimic what people drink on the Mediterranean, red wine is a more popular choice,” registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, told POPSUGAR, noting that red wine offers more heart-health benefits thanks to its concentration of the antioxidant resveratrol. She recommends no more than one five-ounce glass of red wine a day for women and two for men, although she said you can drink it every day.

“One component of the Mediterranean diet is that it encourages eating meals with others, and I interpret this as including wine as well,” Lauren said, adding that if you are going to drink on this diet, do so with friends or family, rather than drinking alone.

However, just because you are following the Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you have to imbibe. Too much alcohol is inflammatory and may cause you to gain weight and make less healthy choices. It also depends on your goals, Lauren said; if you are a woman trying to get pregnant, she doesn’t recommend drinking any wine.

Registered dietitian and chef Julie Andrews, MS, agrees. She told POPSUGAR that while many health professionals warn against drinking alcohol since excessive alcohol can have negative health effects, drinking alcohol (especially red wine) in moderation can be beneficial.

“In general, I say if you love wine and have a healthy relationship with drinking alcohol, [as in] no personal or family history [of alcohol abuse], then go for that five ounces a day,” she told POPSUGAR. “It may help support overall health, but it certainly is just a tiny part of a giant overall picture of what a healthy diet looks like. Be sure to consume plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, heart-healthy fats, lean meats, and omega-rich seafood.”Image Source: Getty / Rafa Elias

Common Chemicals in Toiletries May Lead to Early Puberty

Since the early 2000s, researchers have noticed a troubling new trend in female development: Girls are entering puberty — developing breasts, pubic hair and getting their period — at younger ages.

So, what’s driving the trend? Some researchers have long suspected that hormone-manipulating chemicals are the culprit. But these chemicals aren’t necessarily coming from contaminated water or dangerous environments. Instead, they’re found in products we use every day, including shampoo, makeup and nearly every kind of toiletry. [12 Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals & Their Health Effects]

Now, a new study, published Dec. 3 in the journal Human Reproduction,supports the possibility that the chemicals in these personal-care products are advancing the onset of puberty. In the study, public health researchers tracked a group of pregnant women and their children for 13 years, periodically measuring the concentrations of three groups of chemicals in the participants’ urine. Their findings indicate that the odds governing whether a girl enters puberty earlier — which can have both physical and mental health effects — could be shifted even before children are born.

In other words, a pregnant woman’s chemical exposure could play a role.

Indeed, the researchers suspected that chemical exposure in utero could influence the onset of puberty years after the infant’s birth, said study author Kim Harley, a public health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

But because so many women have detectable amounts of these chemicals in their bodies, the question wasn’t whether or not someone was exposed to the chemicals, but rather how much they were exposed to them, Harley told Live Science.

In the study, the researchers looked at three kinds of so-called hormone disruptors — chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormone system. The groups included phthalates, which are found in fragrances; parabens, which are preservatives used in cosmetics; and phenols, which, during the study period, was used in antimicrobial soaps.

The study found that women with higher concentrations of one type of phthalate in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to girls who went on to develop pubic hair earlier than girls born to women with lower concentrations of the chemical in their urine. Similarly, women with high concentrations of phenol in their urine during pregnancy gave birth to girls who went on to begin menstruating sooner. When the researchers looked at the girls on their own, they found that nine-year-olds with higher paraben concentrations in their urine entered all three stages of puberty earlier those with lower concentrations. [7 Ways Pregnant Women Affect Babies]

Generally, the researchers found, the greater the exposure, the earlier the onset of puberty. For example, each doubling in maternal phthalate levelswas associated with the early onset of the growth of pubic hair by about 1.3 months.

This shift may not seem like a big change. But there are multiple hormone-disrupting chemicals acting at once, and “it all adds up,” said Karin Michels, a professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study. Michels has conducted similar research, which also found that these chemicals appear to hasten puberty.

And even a small change in puberty timing can increase the risk of certain cancers, Harley said; earlier periods are a risk factor for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

There’s also the concern that too-young development could be challenging to cope with. “Developing early can put a lot of strain on girls that are physically looking mature but mentally still children — it changes the way they’re treated in society,” Harley said.

Still, Harley said, “We need more research to make sure what we found is real and not chance and holds out in other populations.” For example, a majority of the women and girls in the study lived below the poverty line and the women worked in agriculture, where they could be exposed to a range of other chemicals. Harley said future studies plan to address pesticide exposure, but there isn’t research showing that exposure to agriculture pesticides changes how hormone disruptors behave in the body, and most of the research on how pesticides impact development was done on chemicals that have now been almost completely phased out, such as DDT.

Michels, however, said that, based on her own research, lower-income individuals are generally exposed to more of these hormone-disrupting chemicals than others and are also more likely to be obese — which is known to shift puberty into an earlier start. Harley acknowledged this influence, too: Over half of the pregnant mothers and children in her study were overweight, Harley said, though her group accounted for that in their analysis.

As the research continues, consumers can mostly opt out of using these chemicals, Harley noted. The easiest to avoid is the phenol called triclosan, which now appears in only one brand of toothpaste. Shoppers can also look for products that are advertised as being “paraben-free”, but phthalates will be harder to avoid, since they’re often included in trade-secret scents, and companies don’t always have to disclose phthalates as an ingredient, she said.

There also needs to be a boost in education efforts, Michels said. And not just on these chemicals, but the effects of all chemical exposures as well as the effects of childhood obesity: Mothers try to do their best by their children, Michels said, but sometimes, it’s a matter of having the right information. As she pointed out, “Protecting children, from time of conception or even prior, is very important because they don’t take charge of it themselves.”

Lack of Sleep Hurting Your Business??

There was once a time — when I was younger — when I bragged about how little sleep I needed: “I can go on just three or four hours of sleep,” I remember telling people, thinking that it was a sign of strength. I’ve since learned that not getting enough sleep isn’t a sign of strength — it’s more of a weakness. It hurts our businesses and it could kill us.

Kill us?

Yes, that’s according to professor Matthew Walker, who is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His book, called Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams has just been released. Lack of sleep has been linked to many diseases — from cancer to Alzheimer’s — as well as obesity, diabetes, and poor mental health.

“Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells — the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day — drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?” Walker said in an interview with the Guardian.

It’s a huge problem that affects us personally. And it also affects our businesses.

Not getting enough sleep diminishes our mental abilities. It clouds our decision-making. It makes us irritable. It causes us to do things that we may not have done if we were thinking with a clearer head. As business owners, our employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and their families are relying on us to make the best decisions we can so that our companies can continue not only to survive, but also to grow and provide a livelihood for all.

RELATED: Stressed? Not Sleeping? Here’s What Science Says About Sleep and How Much You Need to Be a Productive Small Business Owner

Purposely not taking care of ourselves is violating the fiduciary responsibility that we all assume when we choose to lead.

Of course, there are many people who suffer from insomnia and this is a condition that is challenging to treat. But there are others, like me, who often choose to stay up later to watch the end of the game or a movie, do more work, have another drink, or read a little more. This just pushes our bodies too far.

Happily, I changed my habits a few years ago:

  • I stopped having that last glass of wine late in the night.
  • I drank that last cup of coffee at lunch, not dinner.
  • I made it a point to get the lights out around 10 p.m.

Sure, sometimes I don’t fall asleep right away. But relaxing and deep breathing in a quiet, darkened room without any stimulants is meditative. I admit that not all nights are the same and sometimes my travel schedule interrupts this routine. But I try to close my eyes and catch some sleep on longer flights or even — and this is true — put my head down for a 30-minute catnap at my desk. I don’t think these practices replace the value of a good night’s rest. But they help. Walker suggests going even further, like alarming oneself 30 minutes before going to bed in order to begin to “wind down.”

Our jobs as business owners require us to be healthy and mentally alert. The smartest business owners I know are balanced. They are not workaholics. They understand the benefits of moderation. They work hard, but then they know when to stop. They play hard, but then they know when to rest. They take care of their bodies and their minds because they know they are not only harming themselves, but potentially the others around them if they don’t.

So listen to me: Go to bed. Trust me, the world will continue to turn and you’ll be more able to deal with tomorrow’s problems after a good eight hours’ rest.

How much sleep do you need each night to run your business successfully the next day?

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

Value Of Exercise & Keeping Your Body In Motion

If you’re sitting down while reading this, stand up. Guidelines released Monday by the federal government show that most Americans are not getting the exercise they need, costing the health care system over $100 billion each year.

The new standards are similar to those released 10 years ago, but the government is scrapping a recommendation that physical activity occur in 10-minute blocks, instead telling Americans to “move more and sit less” whenever possible.
Any amount of exercise has some health benefits, officials say, and some benefits are even immediate, like better quality of sleep or reduced anxiety.
“The new guidelines demonstrate that, based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health just by moving — anytime, anywhere, and by any means that gets you active,” said Dr. Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The guidelines recommend an hour of “moderate-to-vigorous” activity each day for children 6 to 17, along with muscle-strengthening activities two days a week, like climbing on playground equipment or playing basketball. For the first time, the guidelines also recommend that preschool-age children have at least three hours of “active play” each day.
For older children and adults, moderate-to-vigorous activity can include brisk walking, running or “anything that makes the heart beat faster,” and adults should aim for about 2½ hours each week.
But just 26% of men, 19% of women and 20% of adolescents are meeting the standards, officials said, costing the US health care system $117 billion each year and leading to about 10% of premature deaths. The findings were published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“When we move more, we have better cardiovascular health, we are stronger and less susceptible to disease, and we feel better,” Giroir said. “Physical activity can help manage chronic conditions that many Americans already have.”
Based on new evidence, the updated guidelines say exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety, slow the progression of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, and help prevent eight types of cancer in adults.
Exercise can also improve cognition in those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or dementia, the guidelines say, and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These guidelines are fairly clear that there’s strong evidence that physical activity reduces a person’s risk for developing dementia,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.
The group, which was not involved in crafting the guidelines, says that exercise isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, but it notes that physical activity and other lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. “That’s something you can do right now, today,” Fargo said, “People can begin to take their risk for dementia into their own hands.”
The American Heart Association announced Monday that it would adopt the government’s exercise standards.
“We urge other health groups and interested parties across the country to adopt the guidelines and join us in committing to help ensure more people get moving,” said Dr. Ivor Benjamin, the group’s president, adding that exercise can “help people live longer, healthier lives for themselves, their families and their communities.”

What Is Keto Cycling, & Is It Effective?

Chances are at least a few of your friends and family members are on the keto diet or have tried it. If you’re anything like me, the mere thought of bidding adieu to pasta and bread probably sends chills down your spine. But if you’re looking for a balance between getting the benefits of the keto diet without foregoing your carb fix altogether, keto cycling may be right up your alley.

But first things first: What is keto cycling? Although it’s essentially a form of the keto diet, it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention.

“Keto cycling differs from the classical ketogenic diet because it allows more customization,” registered dietitian Robert Santos-Prowse tells SheKnows. “With a strict ketogenic diet, you need to restrict your carbs to minuscule amounts all the time. “With a cyclical approach, you are allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy some carbohydrates on a regular basis but still get the benefits of the ketogenic diet.”

Although doctors and nutritionists don’t have an agreed-upon protocol for keto cycling, Alex Jatzke, lead dietitian at Simplex Health, recommends five to six days of a strict ketogenic diet followed by one or two days of higher carbohydrate intake.

“While the ketogenic diet requires a more long-term low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, keto cycling allows for more flexibility with carbohydrate intake while still resulting in the long-term health benefits of a ketogenic diet,” Jatzke explains.

More: 25 Incredible Keto Recipes Anyone Will Love 

If you’ve tried the keto diet and found it too difficult to maintain (or you have a hunch that it will simply be too restrictive), Jatzke tells SheKnows keto cycling may be beneficial in these situations. Additionally, she notes that “cycling in and out of carb restriction” could be particularly beneficial for balancing hormone levels in women.

“The cyclical ketogenic diet is very effective because of the ketogenic diet itself. The main benefit of a cyclical approach is that it improves the sustainability of the diet,” Santos-Prowse says. Although the keto diet is effective for weight loss, blood glucose control and blood pressure management, it’s incredibly restrictive, he adds.

“You have to restrict your carbohydrate intake to the equivalent of less than one apple a day. That’s hard to stick with long-term,” Santos-Prowse explains. “A cyclical approach allows you to add in a bit more carbs on a regular schedule.”

More: What Is “Keto Flu,” & How Do You Treat It? 

Of course, nutrition still matters on those higher carb days. Jatzke suggests getting your carbs from starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains on those days.

“If you have a tendency towards binging behaviors, keto cycling should be avoided,” she adds — and if you have a history of eating disorders, Jatzke says a strict ketogenic diet is generally not recommended. In fact, she recommends that people with any type of preexisting medical condition consult with their doctors before starting keto cycling or the keto diet.

But not all doctors and nutritionists are on board with the keto diet. “I recommend keto cycling over the keto diet if clients are set on some sort of fad diet,” Sam Olmsted, consultant for All Inclusive Health, tells SheKnows. “However, it’s much more beneficial to simply have a balanced meal. Stick to whole grains, protein and vegetables while avoiding processed foods.”

Here’s How Long It Actually Takes To Heal Inflammation

The topics in this article are discussed with our patients frequently in our office. We are exposed to many environmental toxins on a daily basis which contribute to inflammation. It is possible to reduce damage and heal the body with a few key strategies. It can often be a longer process to fully recover, but smaller improvements can be seen in very little time.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-long-it-takes-to-heal-inflammation

The Nearly Unbelievable Prevalence of Corn: What You Didn’t Realize “It’s In” Will Astound You

Take a drive through one of the still undeveloped regions in the Midwest and you’re sure to see it: acre after acre of corn crops, which around this time are just beginning to sprout.
united states corn production
The United States is the largest corn producer in the world.
It’s a peaceful scene; one that conjures images of lazy summer days and side-of-the-road fruit stands. But all of that corn comes at a price, which we’ll explain later.
First, it helps to get an idea of the magnitude of corn crops in the United States.
This country is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — and corn is the crop leader in the U.S.
Annually, for instance, there were over 78 million acres of corn planted in the United States, for a total production of 10.5 billion bushels (and nearly $34 billion), according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
Just what does one bushel of corn amount to? NCGA explains that one bushel of corn (56 pounds) provides ONE of the following:
  • 31.5 pounds of starch
  • 33 pounds of sweetener
  • 2.8 gallons of ethanol
  • 22.4 pounds of PLA fiber/polymer
The bushel also provides 13.5 pounds of gluten animal feed and 2.6 pounds of gluten meal, along with 1.5 pounds of corn oil.
What is going to become of all that corn on a more specific level might shock you.
Way Beyond Corn on the Cob
Corn is a highly political issue because it is one of the most subsidized crops in the United States. As a result, it’s vastly overproduced and vastly overconsumed in most American diets.
Think about it. Corn is used as feed for cows and chickens, it’s used as a sweetener (high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)), it’s eaten directly (corn chips) and it’s used as an oil. According to this article in The Christian Science Monitor:
Of 10,000 items in a typical grocery store, at least 2,500 use corn in some form during production or processing.
If you’re wondering where corn is hidden in your diet, consider that all of the following foods contain some form of corn, either directly or indirectly:
  • Hamburgers (the cows eat corn)
  • Eggs (the chickens eat corn)
  • Soda and other sweetened drinks (HFCS)
  • Chicken
  • Processed foods (corn oil, corn meal, corn starch, corn gluten, corn flour, etc.)
Corn is also used to manufacture a host of non-food products like paint, paper products, cosmetics, tires, fuel, plastics, textiles, explosives, and wallboard.
corn
The corn sweeteners added to many U.S. food products have been blamed for obesity and other health problems.
Why is All This Corn a Problem?
Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, said it perfectly in an interview in The Christian Science Monitor:
“We’re producing way too much corn. So, we make corn sweeteners. High-fructose corn sweeteners are everywhere. They’ve completely replaced sugar in sodas and soft drinks. They make sweet things cheaper. We also give it to animals.
Corn explains everything about the cattle industry. It explains why we have to give [cattle] antibiotics, because corn doesn’t agree with their digestive system. It explains why we have this E.coli 0157 problem because the corn acidifies their digestive system in such a way that these bacteria can survive.
And we subsidize this overproduction. We structure the subsidies to make corn very, very cheap, which encourages farmers to plant more and more to make the same amount of money. The argument is that it helps us compete internationally.
The great beneficiaries are the processors that are using corn domestically. We’re subsidizing obesity. We’re subsidizing the food-safety problems associated with feedlot beef. It’s an absolutely irrational system. The people who worry about public health don’t have any control over agricultural subsidies.
The USDA is not thinking about public health. The USDA is thinking about getting rid of corn… And, helping [businesses] to be able to make their products more cheaply — whether it’s beef or high-fructose corn syrup. Agribusiness gives an immense amount of funding to Congress.”
It bears repeating that too much corn in your diet, particularly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, has been linked to numerous health problems, including:
  • Obesity
  • Increased levels of triglycerides
  • Accelerated bone loss
  • Insulin resistance
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • High levels of insulin
  • High blood pressure
If you want to reduce the amount of corn in your diet, the first thing to do is to give up all soft drinks and other sweetened beverages. Then start checking labels meticulously. Even products that you wouldn’t think contain corn often do (like grain-fed meats, canned goods and most other processed items). Your best bet is to focus on natural, whole foods like fruits and veggies, grass-fed meats, and whole grains (and if you’re looking for some unique, healthy recipe ideas, be sure to check out Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in 5 Minutes).

Sources

U.S. Lyme Disease Cases on the Rise: How to Avoid This Dangerous Tick-Borne Illness

Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that can cause rash, body aches and even temporary paralysis, has been growing in the United States.
In the most recent year for which data is available, 27,444 cases of Lyme disease were reported compared to under 9,000 in 1993.
tick lyme disease
Most cases of Lyme disease occur in the late spring and summer months, when ticks are most active and people spend the most time outdoors.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried primarily by black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks). If an infected tick bites you (ticks feed on blood and will attach to a host, including mice, cats, dogs or humans), it can transfer the bacteria through your skin and into your bloodstream.
Though anyone can get Lyme disease, you are most at risk if you spend a lot of time in wooded or grassy areas where ticks thrive. In the United States deer ticks in particular are most common in the Northeast and Midwest, along with northwestern states like Oregon and Washington.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
In up to 80 percent of cases, the first sign of Lyme disease is a circular rash that begins at the site of the tick bite (after about three to 30 days). The rash typically widens slowly over the course of several days. Some people also experience:
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
If left untreated, the infection can spread throughout your body causing more severe symptoms that include:
  • Bell’s palsy (the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of your face)
  • Headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis
  • Heart palpitations
  • Joint pain
  • Dizziness
Keep Ticks Away Safely

kids fleas and ticks

Regular tick control products contain a dangerous mix of pesticides and chemicals that can harm your pet, your environment, and your family.
All-Natural products such as those on ingredients labels made from enzyme-based formulas where available are ideal alternatives.
Although these symptoms often resolve without treatment, about 60 percent of people with untreated Lyme disease experience arthritis and severe joint pain and swelling. And in about 5 percent of cases, chronic neurological symptoms may develop, including numbness or tingling in your hands or feet and problems with concentration and short-term memory.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease
If you eliminate the cause then there is no need for a cure, and in the case of Lyme disease the “cause” is a tick bite. So you can drastically reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease by taking the following precautions to avoid exposure to ticks:
  • Avoid tick-infested areas. Many parks and health departments have information about tick infestations.
  • Protect your pets too. AVOID using conventional flea and tick treatments on your pets that contain harmful pesticides or chemicals, such as DEET, pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethroids or permethrin, all of which can be harmful and irritating to your pet, the person applying them and our environment.
  • Keep your yard well maintained, trimmed and mowed. This will help to keep ticks away.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. When hiking or spending any amount of time in nature, you should cover your arms and legs, and tuck your pants into your socks. This will make it much harder for a tick to attach itself to you.
What to do if You’ve Been Bitten by a Tick and Suspect You Have Lyme Disease
Keep in mind that just because you’ve been bitten by a tick it does not mean you’ll get Lyme disease. Only certain types of ticks carry Lyme disease, and of those only a minority carries the bacteria.
You should see your doctor immediately if you’ve been bitten by a tick and experience signs of Lyme disease because it is imperative to begin aggressive treatment in the initial stages. Acute Lyme disease will typically be aggressively treated with antibiotics. Intravenous antibiotic therapy is typically used in acute Lyme disease, especially when it is unresponsive to oral therapy, and in chronic or recurrent cases of Lyme disease. Complementary support with natural supplements may be used with drug therapy to fight effects of both acute and chronic cases of Lyme disease. Supportive supplements for both types of Lyme disease target enhancement of the immune system.
Note that ticks can also transmit other diseases aside from Lyme disease, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, Tularemia and Colorado tick fever, so it is wise to make sure your doctor checks for and rules those out as well.

Sources

Cholesterol: New Benefits for This Old Friend – Yes, Friend

Thankfully, the idea that cholesterol, whether in your food or in your body, is a one-way ticket to disease and death, is starting to die.  The infamous 1984 TIME magazine cover of a frowny face made out of bacon and eggs met its match in 2014, when a doctor said it was okay to eat butter again. (See these iconic images here.)  Indeed, rather than existing solely to “clog your arteries,” cholesterol is increasingly being shown to be protective for various aspects of physical and mental health.

Did you know that your own body makes cholesterol?  That’s right.  Your body synthesizes cholesterol—far more of it than you get from your diet, even if you eat loads of butter and egg yolks.  It’s unlikely your body would produce so much cholesterol if this substance existed only to cause trouble.  To the contrary, it looks more and more like cholesterol has beneficial effects we’re only beginning to uncover.

Here’s the short list of critical things cholesterol does:

  • Essential structural component of the myelin sheath, which insulates and protects neurons and facilitates communication between them
  • Essential structural component for cell membranes
  • Required for synthesis of all steroid hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and more
  • Serves as a raw material for endogenous (internal) production of vitamin D, via the interaction of sunlight with your skin
  • Required for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain
  • Essential component of bile salts, which are required for the digestion of fats and fat-soluble vitamins
  • Repair substance, needed for repair and regeneration of damaged tissue

Let’s take a closer look at the first thing in that list: cholesterol is a building block for myelin, which is essential for healthy nerve cell structure and function.  The neurodegenerative disorder multiple sclerosis (MS) is multifactorial, but one of the main issues is a loss of myelin in neurons in the brain.  This loss of myelin impairs proper neuron function, which results in muscle weakness, lack of coordination, fatigue, and more.

Cholesterol Beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis

A study in the prestigious journal Nature found dietary cholesterol to be highly beneficial in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis.  The authors wrote, “Supplemented cholesterol can directly support myelination by incorporation into myelin membranes.  […]  The current study suggests that cholesterol provides a ‘fast track’ to remyelination and repair.”  In case you’d prefer a basic translation, they’re saying that cholesterol in the diet can facilitate replacement of lost myelin.

The same authors had shown in previous animal models that “cholesterol is rate limiting for CNS myelination.”  When something is “rate-limiting” in terms of human physiology, it means it’s the key factor.  In the case of cholesterol and remyelination, all the other required things can be in place, but if there’s not enough cholesterol, myelination won’t happen, or it won’t happen as quickly and effectively as it should.  As stated earlier, your body produces cholesterol on its own, but in some individuals, internal synthesis may be inadequate to keep up with the body’s demand for it.  For these people, cholesterol might be considered “conditionally essential,” and they might need to get more of it from their diet.  (Not exactly a hardship, considering they can choose from shrimp, cheese, butter, bacon, ribeye steak, eggs, and other cholesterol-rich foods.)

The authors of the study note that patients with MS have disturbed brain lipid metabolism, but that blood cholesterol levels are usually in the normal range.  During active disease and disease progression, however, total cholesterol often rises to the upper limit of the normal range.  It’s not known whether this is a cause or consequence—being that cholesterol is so critical for myelin synthesis, ramping up cholesterol production may be the body’s way of trying to provide more of this essential substance.  For those whose endogenous synthesis is inadequate, increasing dietary cholesterol may be helpful.  Researchers showed that mice fed a diet enriched with extra cholesterol had better remyelination compared to mice not supplemented with high-cholesterol chow.

According to the researchers:

“Dietary cholesterol supplementation supports cholesterol metabolism in the CNS [central nervous system] and has the remarkable potential to ameliorate disease by facilitating several repair mechanisms, leading to improved remyelination and neurological outcome.”

Beyond MS: Cholesterol Helpful for ALS and Mental Health

Multiple sclerosis isn’t the only condition where increased cholesterol could be of benefit.  It’s been observed that higher cholesterol—including LDL—is associated with increased lifespan in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gherig’s disease).  The title of one study says it all: Dyslipidemia is a protective factor in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  (“Dyslipidemia” typically refers to high cholesterol, especially high LDL, and sometimes high triglycerides.)  Perhaps it’s time to stop calling it dyslipidemia, as the “dys” implies something dysregulated, abnormal, or harmful.  In the case of ALS, and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders, elevated cholesterol may be beneficial.

In ALS patients, “an abnormally elevated LDL/HDL ratio significantly increased survival by more than 12 months.”  Maybe it’s not really abnormal, then, but the body actually trying to protect and sustain itself.  It only seems “abnormal” when we operate under the premise that LDL is unquestionably harmful and should always be kept low.

The ultimate cause of death for most patients with ALS is respiratory failure, which progresses slowly over months, as nerve damage impairs communication with the diaphragm.  Some evidence indicates that respiratory impairment is associated with a decrease in cholesterol and a lower LDL/HDL ratio.

Low cholesterol is also associated with violent behavior and substantially increased risk for suicide.  In a cohort of Canadian subjects, individuals with the lowest total cholesterol had more than six times the risk of committing suicide compared to subjects with the highest cholesterol.  By itself, this doesn’t mean that low cholesterol causes people to attempt suicide, but the association between low cholesterol and increased risk for violence and suicide has been found numerous times, and it bears more detailed investigation, especially when you consider that cholesterol is essential for hormone production, cognitive function, healthy moods, and just about anything else you can think of that affects physical and mental health.

It’s long past time to rethink cholesterol.  It may not be desirable to have total cholesterol or LDL through the roof, but increasing evidence suggests low cholesterol may be far more problematic than high cholesterol.

 

Sources

  1. Berghoff SA, Gerndt N, Winchenbach J, et al. Dietary cholesterol promotes repair of demyelinated lesions in the adult brain. Nature Communications. 2017;8:14241.
  2.  Dupuis L, Corcia P, Fergani A et al. Dyslipidemia is a protective factor in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurology. 2008 Mar 25;70(13):1004-9.
  3. Chiò A, Calvo A, Ilardi A et al. Lower serum lipid levels are related to respiratory impairment in patients with ALS.
  4. Golomb BA. Cholesterol and Violence: Is There a Connection?. Ann Intern Med. 1998;128:478–487.
  5. Ellison LF, Morrison HI. Low serum cholesterol concentration and risk of suicide. Epidemiology. 2001 Mar;12(2):168-72.