Taurine, and the Longevity of the Japanese
If I told you that I can explain the major reason some folks didn't get strokes or heart attacks, you would push me away and challenge me. No way! I get asked that question all the time. Why do women live longer? Why are the Japanese so resilient? Taurine is at least one of the answers. We should know about taurine.
It is an amino acid. Simple. But we don't use it to make proteins. Instead, it appears to be a crucial signal modulation chemical. It does contain sulfur atoms and carries a negative charge. That gives it some unique functions. Deficiency in taurine leads to cardiomyopathy in many animals, and likely in humans. Supplementation of it appears to naturally help resolve atrial fibrillation. It plays a role in modulating osmolality, the concentration of serum. It has anti-oxidant functions. It plays a huge role, and some argue primary, in bile acid excretion, thereby reducing serum cholesterol. And last, but probably not least, it modulates the balance and role of plasmalogen lipids. And that may be the key!
Seaweed has been shown to have >600 mg per 100 grams of taurine. Compare that to oysters (396 mg), fish (130 mg), beef (43.1 mg), chicken (17.8 mg), pork (61.2 mg), and lamb (43.8 mg), and virtually zero from most vegetables. Some seeds and nutshave levels below 10 mg per 100 grams. If you then examine the societies that eat lots of seaweed and seafood (Japan and Korea) and heard that the Japanese average seafood consumption in Japan is up to 580 g/week compared to the Western world (USA: as low as 63 g/week) you start to understand a critical nutrient difference between the two that might have a salutary effect. When examining the epidemiological effect of taurine, some 61% of the beneficial variation from stroke or heart attach can be explained by the "taurine, salt, BMI, cholesterol" variables, with taurine being the uniquely Japanese issue. It should be noted that the Mediterranean diet is also a high taurine diet, perhaps explaining their cardiac benefit as well.
Where do you want to get your taurine from? Well, you can get lots of it in all sorts of energy drinks. But at the end of the day, the best sources are seafood, with shellfish being the champions. If you are a vegan, taurine deficiency is a real issue. Nuts and seeds have tiny levels, and some beans carry a little tiny bit.
And can we really ascribe just what taurine does that makes those plucky Japanese hang around so long? No, we can't just yet. It I were to guess, I would posit the beneficial effect on plasmalogens. What else?
The effect on heart attach and stroke is not insignificant. This is roughly 10-100 times the beneficial effect of statins. The Japanese are living some 5-10 years longer than their western counterparts. If taurine is 60% of that, you have a 4-6 year benefit. Statins will add 1 week to your life, if you haven't had a heart attack.
www.What will Work for me. I love scallops and pick them any time I have a choice. Looks like I can now explain why seafood is so good for us. I'm affronted by the energy drink industry with their taurine manipulation. But maybe I should just get over it. And buy some taurine. If I were to choose, I would get the magnesium taurate and get my magnesium along with the taurine.
1. What is taurine? Answer: It is an amino acid not used in making proteins. It has many other uses in our metabolism yet to be fully understood.
2. What uses? Answer: Helps excrete bile acids. Helps hearts have normal rhythms. Antioxidant. Balances plasmalogens.......
3. Where do we get it from in our diet? Answer: Seafood. Scallops, clams, oysters, fish. And seaweed The level is regular meats is about 10% of seafood. Vegetables and fruits have none. Seeds and nuts, tiny amounts.
4. What percent of the longevity of the Japanese can be explained by their intake of taurine (this is some 10 fold what Westerners eat)? Answer: About 60% when combined with cholesterol, BMI, salt and magnesium intake.
5. And what is the plasmalogen connection? Answer: Well, we don't really know except that there appears to be a positive correlation with more taurine intake and membrane phospholipid levels (that include plasmalogens.). That raises the tantalizing spector that you can raise your plasmalogens by taking more taurine. (Complete conjecture supported only by other conjectures, so far. )
Brain Volume and Cognitive Decline
It's a cardinal feature of Alzheimer's. A shrunken brain. In fact, we have known since Rosser's Study in Neurology that the volume of the brain correlates directly with the level of cognitive function, and the rate of decline of volume is directly matched to the rate of brain shrinkage. Ok, so you want a nice, big brain. Seems obvious.
Well, it is. But we have had it backward on its etiology. We have looked at amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles as the problem. They are the two pathological features you see on autopsy of Alzheimer's. They must be the cause and addressing their accumulation should be how we approach repairing or preventing Alzheimer's. Right? Actually, dead wrong. All backward.
It is impaired cognition that is toxic to the brain. First and foremost, impaired cognition comes first. Yes, I said that. It's the impaired brain function that causes everything else. When you understand this, you will then understand how to keep your brain healthy. It's actually much simpler than you think. (Little pun there).
Here is the nugget. The act of thinking, the process of activating a synapse in your brain, is absolutely defined by the secretion of acetylcholine. Period. The ability to process and make acetylcholine is the whole story. And here is the driving force: the ability to secrete choline is determined by the adequacy of plasmalogens in your synaptic membrane. That's it. You must have sufficient plasmalogens. They are the sole membrane lipids that can shapeshift, and thereby merge the neurotransmitter-containing vesicle with the synaptic membrane. It's that core function, merging with the membrane, that allows our brains to function rapidly. That function depends on plasmalogens. Adequate plasmalogens. In fact, multicellular life with neurological systems depends on those key features that plasmalogens alone have: they can shapeshift, they are the most liquid of membrane lipids, and they protect the nerve cell from oxidation with their vinyl-ether bond.
Inadequate plasmalogens set in motion a deadly and inevitable cascade. Without sufficient plasmalogens, you get insufficient secretion of acetylcholine. The nerve must function. Its only survival strategy to create acetylcholine when plasmalogen levels are inadequate is to cannibalize the synaptic membrane of choline plasmalogens. Less plasmalogen in your synaptic membranes, less fluidity, less secretion. Your plasmalogens are made with choline as an integral component. And if you don't have enough acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter, you can snitch a plasmalogen molecule from your membrane and make another acetylcholine from it. But that destroys that one plasmalogen molecule. Round and round it goes. And as that process continues to happen, the synapse collapses, shrivels up, and disappears. Each neuron has some 4,000 synapses, so you can lose one or two, but not four thousand. Lose 4000 and you have lost the neuron. Lose neurons and you have lost brain volume.
That's what comes first. The brain shrinks from the inside out, It is that simple. Without sufficient plasmalogens, you can't make sufficient acetylcholine, and your nerves can't fire. Now, what happens next? The details are then what you would expect. With the loss of a synapse, you don't need the cables of intracellular transport. Those "wires" or cables aren't needed. They pile up. We call them neurofibrillatory tangles. They didn't cause the problem, they are a marker of the problem.
And if you were paying attention, you would have intuited the means to subvert that whole deadly spiral. You need to maintain your plasmalogens. You need to maintain your choline supply in your diet. You need to maintain your neurotransmitter distribution system which is based on methylation. And you need to keep your peroxisomes healthy. That's it. Healthy plasmalogen levels can completely circumvent dementia, even the APOE4 gene. We can measure your plasmalogens and we can replace them.
Your brain has amazing resiliency and redundancy. You have many pathways to remember every word, every emotion, every map, every regret you ever had. The "Nun's Study" from Elm Grove, Wisconsin has demonstrated for us that the writing style of women, 60 years before the diagnosis of dementia, could be identified as "at risk". Losing synapses and memory isn't a 6-month affair, it is a lifetime affair. Losing a synapse here and there all adds up. Your brain always wants to rebuild resiliency and redundancy, if it has the tools. That is in your hands.
www.What will Work for me. I've measured mine, knowing my mother died of Alzheimer's. I was sort of average, maybe a tiny bit below. My risk of cognitive decline would come out to 20% or so if I did nothing. If I raise my plasmalogens up to 1 SD above the mean, I'm at 7% risk. If I raise my level to 2 SD above the mean, I'm down to 2% risk. And I've done the math. At $ 2,000 a year to replace plasmalogens, I'll spend $ 40,000 over 20 years. At age 90, I will still have a working brain and be recognizing my family. My mother, at age 90, didn't. It cost her $ 10,000 a month (in today's dollars). It's cheap to fix, compared to that.
1. When I forget a word or overlook an errand, what might be going on? Answer: in the aggregate, the loss of some prior neuronal connection.
2. The diagnosis of Alzheimer's means what? Answer: Not covered above but likely the recognition of severe damage and impairment. On the order of 70% of synapses being lost. It's the end stage of at least a 25-year process.
3. The driving force of Alzheimer's is what? Answer: Loss of cognitive function.
4. What does that entail? Answer: Insufficient acetylcholine, driven by insufficient choline.
5. If your neuron doesn't have enough choline to make acetylcholine, what does it do? Answer: scavenges choline from plasmalogen molecules, leading to the eventual collapse of that synapse or neuron.
Triglycerides and Longevity
Yup! Your triglycerides tell a lot about you. In fact, they might be the most important part of your cholesterol profile. Here is the physiology, and the implications it has. Note, cholesterol isn't the main story.
First of all, we now recognize that high triglycerides come about because of peroxisome dysfunction. We see high triglycerides most commonly in diabetes and worry endlessly about how to lower it with statins (they don't work). Essentially, what is happening in diabetes is the flooding of your mitochondria with too many calories in the form of carbs and fats. In a desperate attempt to keep up, your peroxisome, which is meant to be feeding chopped-up fat into the mitochondria, stresses out and can't chop up fat at all. Your triglycerides go up. Your peroxisome is all jammed up and flooded, just like your gasoline-car engine.
The question arises, what is the best way to modulate those triglycerides? Ah! Easy, peasy. Cut the calories. Clean up the logjam of calories. Intermittent fasting will do it. In a lovely study from Pakistan during Ramadan, 40 volunteers with high triglycerides agreed to not eat for 12 hours every day (That's easy: that's what Ramadan does for Muslims every year). Guess what happens to the flow of calories into the peroxisome! It drops to "tolerable levels". The peroxisome can start chopping up fat, like it's meant to. Guess what happens to the triglycerides? They get chopped up. Their level drops like a rock. (You can prove this for yourself: try intermittent fasting and measure your own.)
That's what intense exercise does too! It uses up the stored carbs and forces you to start burning fats. That wakes up the peroxisome to solicit more proteins so that it can provide you with the calories you need (in this case from burning fat instead of glucose). A mitochondrion has 29 genes of its own to manufacture new, essential proteins, on a minute-by-minute basis. It can burn glucose or fat, depending on what is presented to it on a minute-by-minute basis, but will go for glucose first until it is used up. The peroxisome, right next to the mitochondria, is the entity that is tasked with chopping up those triglyceride fats to feed into the mitochondria, can't respond so quickly. It takes a couple of days to ramp up. It too has to call for the nucleus to manufacture new proteins, but it has no DNA of its own, and it takes a little longer to ramp up. If you go on a very stringent fast right away without inducing the peroxisomal "biogenesis", you will become hypoglycemic and feel awful. You stopped eating carbs and run out in just 12 hours, and you can't make fat. You feel like you are going to die. Your diet will fail.
You have to wake up those nascent genes in your cell nucleus and export some mRNA out to the ribosomes to make new peroxisomes. And you do that best by little stages. Each day, nudge your metabolism for an extra hour of fasting. Do it overnight. Don't eat for 12 hours (depleting your glycogen to zero and beginning to burn a teeny bit of fat). Then, stretch it to 13 hours....14....15. Skip breakfast and go for 18 hours. Your triglycerides will disappear. You don't have to call me, you can measure them yourself. It takes some 4-5 days to get them properly turned on. If you have extreme discipline and put up with the "keto-flu", you can muscle your way through it. Or, you can gradually accommodate to it by stretching out your intermittent fasting to longer time periods.
But that's not the meat of this week's email. You live longer? Why? Ah...healthy peroxisomes also make more plasmalogens. Higher plasmalogens are then associated with larger brain size. Larger brain size correlates with larger muscle mass and longevity.
That is the key. Low triglycerides and high plasmalogens even trump APOe status. APOe4 becomes a problem only if you are insufficient plasmalogens. Peroxisomes also need the right building blocks to make plasmalogens, like choline and ethanolamine, DHA, and B12/B6/folate. Just look at the figures in Goodenowe's study. Healthy plasmalogens result in longer life. Period. And you can't have healthy plasmalogens in your brain when you have high triglycerides in your blood.
www.What will Work for me. Triglycerides are a quick and dirty peek at peroxisome function. It's easy to measure. Sure enough, the folks with healthy, low triglycerides will tell you they eat very little sugar, white flour, and tons of vegetables. And very likely exercise. We now know that some 60-70% of the calories from green vegetables arrive in the form of Beta-hydroxybutyrate after the gut bacteria break the plant cell wall down. Peroxisomes LOVE beta-hydroxybutyrate. When you eat a salad with olive oil dressing, you are getting a perfect peroxisome soothing diet. I've stopped looking at total cholesterol. In fact, the data now has convinced me that the healthiest cholesterol is 210-250, not less than 200. But it's the triglycerides that matter for good health.
1. What is going on with triglycerides? What is really happening down in the gearbox of your cell? Answer: High triglycerides suggest your peroxisome is all backed up, in conjunction with the mitochondria from getting too many calories all at once. Fast food, highly processed, floods your peroxisomes. Sugar is the worst.
2. How can you modulate that? Answer: Change the way you deliver calories to your cells. Cut the sugar, cut the processed foods. Add more vegetables.
3. What's the key strategy you can start, even today? Answer: Go 12 hours every day without eating anything. So start with no late evening snack. Then, stretch out breakfast and make it a little later. Gradually extend that time all the way out to lunch. "Compact your calories" or "Intermittent fasting".
4. What else do peroxisomes do besides chop up fat (thus lowering triglycerides)? Answer: They make plasmalogens for your nervous system.
5. What predicts long life with plasmalogens? Answer: The more of them, the better. An average person who is two standard deviations below normal, compared to two standard deviations above, drops dementia risk by some 90% in improves longevity by some 15 years.
Increase dopamine, take a cold shower
Anxiety and depression are just about the most common maladies of our modern era. Lack of motivation, low productivity, low mood, and restless malaise make for a miserable life. Low dopamine could be part of this formula, and its repair could be central to leading a happier life. How can we fix it?
A few facts about dopamine. It's only made in a few parts of your brain: your hippocampus (memory), the amygdala (pleasure and addiction), and the substantial nigra (Parkinson's). And the GUT! Yes, the gut. A healthy gut makes some 50% of our dopamine and the gut, brain, immune axis is a key component of a healthy life. Lots of fermented foods help and curcumin, yes turmeric, can be as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression. Dopamine is only a few percent of all our neurotransmitters, but it might just be what makes us human, being that our levels are much higher than other animals.
But can we raise it in a simpler fashion? How about a cold shower? Yes, a cold shower that lasts just 15 seconds. Does that really work? If you know that you could raise your blood level of dopamine some 250% with a cold bath, would that change your mind?
There is growing evidence that something very interesting happens with cold immersion. Now, we aren't talking freezing cold water like Wim Hof (the ICEMan). Even Wim Hof doesn't suggest you run out in the snow right off the bat. Just 15 seconds of cooler temperature at the end of your warm shower for the first week. Do it 5 times. Feel really proud that you accomplished that goal and review how much better you felt that week. Then, increase it to 30 seconds. Can you stretch to 45? 60 seconds?. Get a mantra going in your head, "I'm raising my dopamine 250% and increasing my metabolism 530%". Now, those numbers apply to someone immersed in a full cold bath of 17 degrees C (62 Fahrenheit) for an hour in a research lab. Can you feel the burn? How is your mood and motivation doing? A little more get up and go?
But they could apply to you. The benefits of increased mood, weight loss, and higher motivation are all yours for the taking. And you feel them right away. So the key is to do it in a fashion that makes it rewarding and sustainable. Remember, just 15 seconds while you psych yourself out by doing your mantra of positive motivation. Try phrases like, "I do the hard things first", or "Yeah, dopamine?" A little bit of reward on day 1 will keep you going.
www.What will Work for me. It works. I tried it. I didn't jump in the snow but I turned the dial on the shower way down. 15, 14, 13, 12, 11........didn't seem that long. And I'm feeling irrepressibly cheerful. And I take curcumin every day from Prodrome because it has the bis-demethoxycurcumin at 50% making it 20-30 times more potent than the regular turmeric.
1. What is dopamine? Answer: a potent neurotransmitter central to mood.
2. Where is most of it made? Answer: In your gut by bacteria stimulated with fermented foods and suppressed by sugar. But also in your amygdala and hippocampus.
3. What will one hour of 62-degree water do for my dopamine level? Answer: 250% increase.
4. What happens with 15 seconds? Answer: You will feel a boost in your mood, so you can feel it for yourself.
5. What else can you do to help your dopamine? Answer: Good exercise, good sleep, less sugar, more curcumin, more fermented foods.
Phthalates kill an extra 100,000 Americans a Year
That's quite a headline! Want to know more? What are they? What do they do that kills so many of us? How can I alter them? Is this real?
This is what skilled epidemiologists do. They use the predictive power of statistics against large population studies to data-mine for meaningful variations. Some 5303 adults, 20 and older provided urine samples for measurement of phthalates in our NAHNES (National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey). This was then linked to mortality data from the same study. Phthalate metabolites in urine indicate exposure via oral, topical, inhalational means, but they are all excreted in urine. Large molecular-weight phthalates break down to di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), and that is easily measured. You may not have heard about DEHP, but the CDC sure has and has been worried about if for years. This is the first population evaluation of DEHP against mortality, and it is alarming, particularly in relation to cardiac mortality in folks in their 50s and 60s. Those are peak earning years when death results in severe economic problems for families and spouses.
So, just what are phthalates and where do they come from. Soft plastics. Food wrap. Plastics that are stretchy and flexible, useful for stretching out and wrapping. Those are the highest likely source of DHEP. You get them every day in your meats you buy in the grocery store, the take-out packages of food you get at the deli, the container for take-home food from the restaurant. But you also get them in many beauty products that you put on your skin, or in your toothpaste.
And just what do they do? They are classic endocrine disruptors. The epidemiology shows that they are dramatically associated with lower testosterone in men. But women are not immune and they also showed increased cardiac mortality. The endocrine disruption affects both genders. And the inflammation they cause to your arteries affects both genders.
The good news is that they are not "forever" chemicals like DDT. They wash out pretty quickly. In two days you have reduced their presence by some 90 %, if you have the metabolism to do so. You can look on the bottom of the container and if it says "3", that's what we are talking about. If it says "6", that's styrene, a known carcinogen and "7" is for bisphenol, a separate problem. You can make sure you use glass or steel or porcelain containers at home. You can make sure you never, ever put the plastic in the microwave or dishwasher. The high heat of those two places just leaches out the phthalates like crazy. Wash your plastics by hand. And did you really need that hairspray?
www.What will Work for me. Wow, this is a heavy load. All the carryout we get in the pandemic is all plastic based. This lends more credence to the movement to rid ourselves of single-use plastics. The issue is more complex too. There are many of us who don't have the ability to excrete DHEP because of altered genes. In functional medicine, I've been measuring people's environmental toxins, including my own and have found a surprising number of folks with high DHEP. That adds a layer of complexity too. What I have learned is that IV glutathione and oral NAC helps rid DHEP from high levels to lower levels. Now, I've been so carefully getting distilled water from the grocery store, in plastic bottles. Should I be making my own distilled water at home, in stainless steel and glass? (Yup!)
1. What are phthalates? Answer: Plastic softeners that have been around since the 1920s that are used in just about every food wrap, many cosmetics(nail polish, hair spray), many soft children's toys.
2. What does this study show us about phthalate risks? Answer: An increase of around 100,000 deaths in the USA annually, mostly from cardiac disease in the 50s and 60s.
3. How long do phthalates last in the human body? Answer: With a half life of some 12 hours, they are considered gone in 5 half-lives. That's 2-3 days.
4. What's the simplest thing I can do to reduce my exposure? Answer: Don't heat your plastic covered food in the microwave. Put it on a ceramic plate or bowl.
5. Can I rid myself of excess phthalates easily? Answer: you can likely hasten their excretion by taking NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) as a supplement or IV glutathione. Or you can also stop exposure by exploring which personal care productsyou use have them in them.
Boron - Curious Cancer Killer
You've heard of borax for your laundry, but did you really know anything about boron? How about "spallation", the way boron is made? Yup, spallation. It's cosmic rays at the speed of light hitting a nitrogen-14 molecule and in an instant of nuclear physics wizardry, knocking off some protons to make Berylium, that decays to boron. Boron, element 5 in the periodic table, is lighter than carbon, element 6 in the table. Being made high in the atmosphere accounts for why it floats down to earth and settles on plants.
Animals that eat plants that grow outside get plenty of boron. Humans that eat animals that eat plants (hunter-gatherers and herders) get 6-10 mg a day of boron and have less than 10% osteoarthritis. Of course, they do because boron keeps drifting down out of the atmosphere and settling on plants. In America today, many of us get less than 1 mg of boron a day. We eat animals raised on corn and beans, not green grass. We have 70% osteoarthritis. So, there is evidence that boron plays a pretty big role in bone health. (Just Google boron and osteoarthritis and you will come away taking 3 mg a day for the rest of your life.)
But it's cancer we are interested in. A study using NHANES data (our national nutritional study) was our first hint. It looked at 95 prostate cancer patients compared to 8700 controls and examined their boron intake. Those in the highest quartile of boron had a 46 % reduction in risk. That seemed impressive. Then it was challenged with another report using the NHANES data saying it wasn't true.
Now, a study from Turkey is our key takeaway for today. Turkey, by chance, has the highest deposits of boron in the world, and large parts of Turkey have quite high levels in their local water. Researchers in Turkey decided to compare rates of cervical cancer in areas with high boron (8.4 mg, 472 women) versus low boron (1.4 mg, 587 women). Their average age was 41. They were all relatively less affluent. What they found was quite surprising. There were 15 cases of cellular changes consistent with early cervical cancer (Positive Pap Smear) in the low boron area. There were zero among the high boron women. Zero. Let me repeat that. Zero. P-value , 0.05. Not a huge study but zero is impressive. Now, boron is known to interfere with the duplication of papillomavirus, the virus that activates vertical cancer.
Let's add lung cancer to the cancer list. In a study of women who got lung cancer (763 women) versus 838 controls, the researchers found that the women who were in the highest quartile of boron had 49 percent less lung cancer. Wow! And the effect was most pronounced if they were on hormone replacement therapy. Better yet!
Now, these studies done in America are all looking at boron intakes of 1-2 mg a day, as we are very low in America. We are just scratching at the bottom end compared to Turkish women. The WHO says 1-13 mg a day is enough. There is data suggesting that <0.3 mg a day results in slower brain function.
www.What will Work for me. This strikes me as one of those understudied, misunderstood, supercheap trace minerals that we are underserved with. The research on it is far from solid. But bone health is pretty solid. And there is no such thing as healthy bones that doesn't include healthy other parts of you. If I had lung or prostate cancer, I would be on 8 mg a day of boron in a heartbeat. What I do know for certain is that our current health care system will never, ever study boron. There is no money it in and our health system is a profit-driven, disease treatment system. I'm sure there is "too much" too. What that is? I'm taking 3 mg a day. My hands have very minimally swollen joints. I like that.
References: Oncology Reports, Cancer Causes Control, Clinical Education, Environmental Toxicology, Integrative Medicine, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, Wikipedia, NIH, Critical Rev Food Sci Nutr.
1, How is boron made? Answer: Spallation - cosmic rays knocking nitrogen around and whacking out a couple of protons, high up in the stratosphere.
2. How does that affect me? Answer: Boron is always drifting down from above and settling on plants, working its way into our food chain. The more plants we eat, and the more animals raised on plants, the more boron we get.
3. What was the boron effect in Turkey on cervical cancer? Answer: The women drinking 8 mg a day of boron in their water had zero cases of positive pap smears, versus the control group that had 15.
4. Is that a credible study? Answer: Like all research, it calls for a larger study. But the statistical analysis says it is valid and meaningful. Worthy of taking seriously.
5. What other organ has good evidence for boron related help? Answer: Bones. If you want strong bones, add boron. (Prunes have a lot. Eat prunes)
Alzheimer's Disease, Homocysteine, and the Methylation Pump
All of us are on the path to cognitive decline. No kidding. All of us. It's just whether you want your turn to show up at age 73 or at age 297. We are all on that path. It's a path that is becoming better understood, which means we may be able to lower the slope, the rate at which it is occurring if we understand its driving cause. Let me give it a try.
Your neurons in your brain have a few problems. They are each attached to some 4,000 other neurons by long, fragile axons. That gives us some 4 quadrillion links (synapses) between axons (that's quadrillion, with a Q). We are diagnosed with cognitive decline when we have lost some 75% of those links, because our brain has amazing redundancy and hence resilience. Each axon can lose a certain number of synapses and still survive, but there is a threshold beyond which it can no longer make it. The problem with 4000 synapses is that they all have to be energized, supplied with fuel, and they tend to have that need a long way away from the core cell, the nucleus wherein resides the instructions manual and manufacturing facilities. Think about it. The neuron has so ship mitochondria to make energy, and many neurotransmitters, proteins, and such all the way down those axons. That is no small distance. In your brain, from one side to another it's some 5-6 inches. But your spinal cord to your feet is.....3-4 feet. A little bitty neuron has to ship enough neurotransmitters 3-4 feet!
There is a second problem. Your brain has to have neurotransmitters to function. Some 70% of your neurotransmitter need is acetyl-choline, made from choline. What happens if you don't have enough choline? Well, your neurons have to have it. No questions asked. They must have it, or you are dead. So, they take it. They borrow from Peter to pay Paul. They steal choline from their own membranes, wherein reside plasmalogens, made from ethanolamine or choline, both of which can be robbed to make acetyl-choline. The axon is made from some 70% plasmalogens, so you have a big reservoir, but not an endless one. And plasmalogens think they can fill several shoes. They are the only lipids that can shapeshift in your body, allowing them to merge membranes and secrete neurotransmitters. And they are the only lipids that have a precious "vinyl-ether" bond, a bond that can neutralize peroxide, the universal oxidant. We live in an oxidizing world that also acts to deplete plasmalogens. Big problem.
The third problem is getting new plasmalogens, new neurotransmitters, new mitochondria out to the tippy tip, tip of the neuron. We now know that that is another unique "engine" in the cell. Like in mitochondria, where we know that the final step in making ATP is a spinning protein that acts like a miniature engine, you have a second rotary engine in the neuron that pumps fluids down the neurofibrils of your brain. Much like the Mazda rotary engine of yore, your brain's neurons pump organelles like mitochondria and packets of neurotransmitters down the conveyor belts (microtubules) of your neurons. To properly do that, they need methylation of proteins to activate the turning proteins.
And that's the rub. What happens if you have your methylation system all mucked up because you are using too much of it to make creatine for your muscles? Or you don't have enough methyl groups because you haven't taken enough B12 or folate? Your neuronal rotary engine can't pump. You accumulate broken tubules in your brain, and we call those neurofibrillatory tangles. (Classic for Alzheimer's). What’s step #1? Probably the loss of plasmalogens.
Did you get all that? It sounds complex and the question arises as to which is the most important. But they are all part of the same ecosystem. We can measure your "methylation demand" by measuring homocysteine. A low enough homocysteine level is an indicator that you have enough methylation to make your "pump" in the neuron work. A sufficient plasmalogen level means you have enough choline for your neurons to shape-shift, to protect themselves from peroxide, to keep your membranes fluid and rapidly functioning. A sufficient choline supply means you have reserve. No one is the most important, they all interact and work in concert.
And we can now measure and fix all of those deficits. It just takes measuring and identifying the deficits and replacing them before you have used up all your redundancy. Replacing isn't some arcane, toxic drug that is foreign to your biology. It is just the right foods and micronutrients.
www.What will Work for me. I'm totally fascinated by the fact that our bodies run on teeny, tiny, little mechanical engines. The first one, ATP synthase, we found was in the mitochondria where we attach a phosphate to ADP to make ATP. The protein that comprises that tiny engine actually mechanically turns as the proton crosses the membrane of your inner mitochondria. Now we have a second engine that pumps the transport system in our brain. The tau protein in our neurons actually spin and push organelles down the axon. And all of that is tied up with methylation signaling. Hence homocysteine, the universal marker of sufficient methylation capacity measures the ability of that engine to pump. I now believe that we can all adjust and modify the rate at which we decline. The tantalizing vision is that we can actually halt and reverse some of that decline if we catch it in time. Your brain always wants to rebuild redundancy. If only it is provided with the tools to do so. And that's why I am supplementing all of them for myself. It's worth it.
1. Each neuron in our central nervous system is attached to its neighbor next to it by wires. T or F. Answer: Arrgh. False. It sends wires out to some 4000 distant other neurons, thousands of cells distant. In fact, several feet distant in some cases.
2. Those connections are filled with what? Answer: A transport system built on microtubules that carry mitochondria to make energy and other organelles to function properly.
3. How does that transport system work? Answer: So glad you asked! It's an amazing little circular engine that pumps fluid out the axon, carrying mitochondria and etc.
4. What is the key to make the pump work? Answer: sufficient methylation capacity, indicated in your blood by a low enough homocysteine.
5. What is the connection of all this to plasmalogens? Answer: they are all integrated into the same system. You need the plasmalogens to make your neurons protected from oxidation, to shapeshift and excrete neurotransmitters, and to allow that to happen rapidly. You make plasmalogens from choline, that need 4 methyl groups to be made, driving methylation demand. That competes with making sufficient neurotransmitters.
COVID Inhibited by Nattokinase
Someone has to explain just why the prefecture of Fukushima (north of Tokyo, and the center of Japan's natto consumption) only has 47 cases of COVID per 100,000 whereas Tokyo is over 230 per 100,000). There may be a clue in recent research done at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology on the traditional Japanese food, natto, and viruses in petri dishes. Please note that this research was in a lab petri dish, and not in humans but it might just give us a clue.
Thestudy had three parts. In the first part, the researchers took an extract of natto and applied it to the COVID-19 virus and to cow herpes virus in cell cultures. The viruses were unable to infect the cells. In the second part, they exposed the natto extract to "protease inhibitors" and that restored the infectivity of the viruses. This suggests that a type of enzyme called a protease must be involved. As a general rule, proteases digest proteins at various sites as a way of activating them or deactivating them. Finally, they heated the natto extract (which would unfold and inactivate the enzyme) and the viral infectivity returned.
When the researchers looked at the viruses after being exposed to the natto, they found the spike protein missing or severely degraded. There is something called the RBD (receptor binding domain) that is a segment of the spike protein that has the ability to hook onto your cells and then inject themselves into the cell.
This has been taken pretty seriously in Japan. Natto consumption has dramatically increased to the point of a 15% increased import of soybeans to Japan. Unfortunately, natto is a bit of an eccentric taste and not everyone really likes it. In Japan, it is typically eaten as a breakfast food. It is the highest food source of Vitamin K2, which may be why its consumption has been recently associated in a BMJ study with an overall 10% reduction in mortality. In fact, natto consumption just a few times a week has been shown to have measurable improvements in carboxylated osteocalcin (healthy bones). But the star of the show is likely nattokinase, an enzyme found in natto and known to play a beneficial role in preventing blood clots on airplane flights.
www.What will Work for me. I've been trying to get to like natto. I've made my own batches of it by purchasing natto starter off the net, and soybeans. It's not too difficult for a "home fermenter" to do. I believe the K2 is spectacularly good for me. And the nattokinase, ditto. But the taste...... I got my COVID shot to prevent COVID. Eating natto might slow it down, but is likely not sufficient for this virus. I believe the Japanese thought it was a valid tool and were caught with a low vaccination rate for which they are now paying a terrible price.
1. What is natto? Answer: fermented Japanese soybean dish, unique to northern Japan around Fukushima.
2. Eating natto might lower your risk of COVID-19? T or F. Answer: True. Not enough to take to the bank but Fukushima prefecture has about 1/6th the infection rate of Tokyo right now.
3. Japan has paid attention to this effect of natto with what measurable result? Answer: 15% increased soybean imports. Pay attention to the commodity tables!
4. Did natto protect Japan from COVID? Answer: Not enough to prevent the current terrible spike they are having right now, much like our current spike.
5. Could something come of this research? Answer: Yes. This is how research works. You observe a biological process and then try to make a simpler method to do the same thing. Might there be a similar effect that can block that spike protein.....? Stay tuned. Get your vaccination while waiting.
Ever Heard of an Exercise SNACK?
You hate to exercise. It's hard to be committed. You can't get the time to do it. Ok, so you need some sort of strategy to get yourself the benefits of exercise. Consider an "exercise snack." Dr Gibala, from McMaster University in Canada, did just that. He got 27 young men (average age 27 +/- 8 year) and had them do three little bursts of biking exercise interspersed with more casual biking using minimal energy. Total time: 10 minutes. He then compared that to 50 minutes of traditional, good hard training. Twelve weeks of each and presto: no difference in the two groups. Both got better and have markedly improved insulin scores, glucose sensitive, etc. That was nifty.
He liked that idea so much, he tried it out with even a shorter time frame of exercise. He recruited inactive young adults to do 20-second bike "sprint snacks" in which they pedaled as fast as they could. Repeat three times a day. Just 20 seconds. After six weeks, their cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 9, about the same as the 13% increase the control group got by doing the same sprints for 10-minute cycling sessions. That was just published last week in the European Jr of Applies Physiology.. The exercise snack was born
This builds on another study Gabala published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that sedentary and untrained but otherwise healthy women improved their fitness by doing just 20 seconds of vigorous stair climbing three times a day for three weeks. Triglycerides, insulin sensitivity all got better. He's been on this streak for a while.
That's three studies that all show the same thing. Tiny bits of exercise improve your fitness. We are just asking for 20 seconds. Three times a day. Stairs will do. What's happening? In the first twenty seconds, you don't even breath harder and you are actually running on lactate from burning local glucose. Your breathing is still just starting to increase. You make a teeny, tiny amount of acid making lactate around your muscleswith that 20 second burst. And that makes your muscles grow bigger, your ability to keep sugar lower gets better, your lipids look better, your insulin level gets lower because you become more insulin sensitive. All good.
www.What will Work for me. I have a wooden cube in my office to test fitness. It's a high step to do. But there it is. I tried it for 20 seconds right after seeing this research. I like it. Felt good. Didn't get sweaty. I'm going to do more. Want a cube for yourself? Made of nice hard butcher block. I have a carpenter if you call the office. Custom made. Exercise snack, almost comparable to sweat. Now, with the pandemic, I've been biking a lot. I don't go very hard or very fast. Good joggers occasionally over-take us. But most of our routes have little hills that take 20-30 seconds to overcome. Biking three times a week and three little hills, no wonder I feel in better shape.
1. To get the benefits of exercise, you have to go at least 20 minutes and get your heart rate up....yes or no? Answer: No, go back and read the above articles. You get about 70 % of the same effect with tiny little bursts of peak exercise.
2. Can you name a simple equivalent that women can easily do? Answer: Sure, just two flights of stairs. Or get a block of wood or a step and do some stair stepping.
3. How many times a day do I need to do this? Answer: Come on, if you didn't get that, go back and read. 3
4. What might this be kicking off that induces the beneficial effect. Answer: you run off lactate in the first 30 seconds of exercise. That lowers your muscle pH and kicks off a tiny bit of stress.
5. For the 5 million years we were hunter-gatherers, what might this be the equivalent of? Answer: Scamper up a tree to escape the hyena, dodge the lion, capture the springbok, get out of the rain.....we are suited to put out little bursts of energy to get something we really want. That does not include a race to the fridge.
Bicarb and Ketone Esters Help You Run Marathons
Or any rigorous sports activity. Do you want to get sweaty and get the full strength out of your muscles? Going for a 25-mile bike ride? Swimming a mile? Suiting up to play high-level tennis? Football? Any sport! Take some ketones and some bicarb! Alka-Seltzer Gold will do it. A couple of potassium citrate capsules will do it too! Bicarb? Why? This is totally cool and explains some very interesting observations.
It all starts with ketone esters being used in sports. Ketones, the breakdown products of fats, and what you naturally make when you access your fat stores, are actually more energy-dense than carbs. And they get into you about 10% faster. That makes the use of ketones explosively popular in high-energy sports....(chess, maybe not so much) after Cox and his group showed, in 2016, that ketone esters burn energy more efficiently and conserve glucose in muscle.
Hence, if you want to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, you better be using ketone esters. And then there is the contrary evidence with studies suggesting that ketone supplementation may not be all that it's hyped up to be. So, the use of ketone esters isn't completely resolved but has opened a fascinating door to how your energy systems work. (Nice review by Harvey).
This has appeared to be a paradox because it has been thought that you only access ketones when you have exhausted your glycogen stores. And you don't bounce back and forth easily between "carb mode" and "ketone mode". With insulin around you are automatically in carb mode and your fat cells won't let you have any fat to break down into ketones. How does this "bio-hack" work? What is the clever metabolic trick that's going on? Not every exercise physiologist thinks ketones are what they are cracked up to be....despite the Tour de France.
So, accept that pure ketones aren't by themselves a great help in intense exercise. Why? Probably because they are slightly acidic and cause subtle shifts in cellular potassium, glucose transport, blood pH, etc resulting in no net gain. But, add a touch of bicarb, enough to raise your pH that 0.2 range that the ketones lower, and voila, 5% better exercise performance. Five percent doesn't sound like much, but at high-level sports decided by 0.01 seconds, it's everything.
It makes sense. We evolved eating a primarily alkaline diet, based mostly on vegetables and plants though certainly happy to get animal when we could. As we have become wealthier, we have chosen more acid-producing animal-based foods. Our core metabolism and excretion mechanisms are preferentially based on an alkaline basis. We can repair the loss of muscle mass in elderly by encouraging more vegetables and fruits (that is code for more alkaline foods).
www.What will Work for me. I keep trying to move my calorie choices to whole plants. Sugar and white flour are substantial adversaries, as just about everything in our society provides processed, grain-based products. Stick with it. I can take potassium citrate for my bones. Perhaps it's for my muscles too. And then when I do a bike ride, I'm getting 5% better performance. Woo hoo.
1. What are the fuels we use for exercise? Answer: (Not fair, you didn't cover this). In the first 30 seconds when we are escaping from a lion, we burn lactate. In longer exercise, as our breathing and oxygen catch up with our exercise, we switch to carbs. But we only have 1500 calories of glycogen in us and a marathon burns some 2500 plus calories. That has to switch to fat-burning, hence ketones.
2. What is a ketone? Answer: It is a four-carbon fatty acid made in your liver as it chops up fat.
3. What is a ketone ester? Answer: It is the combination of two ketone molecules bound together in a unique oxygen connection called an "ester" bond. (Curiously, it gets into your blood and mitochondria much faster.)
4. What's another way to get ketones? Answer: Easy. Don't eat for 12 hours. The switch happens automatically, but slowly. By 16 hours, there they are. You can measure them yourself by buying a ketone meter. You will be at 0.4 in 16 hours. If you stick with that and do a fast-mimicking diet for 5 days, you will be above 3.0. If you do a 10-day water fast, you will be at 7.0
5. What else is bicarb good for? Answer: There is abundant evidence that being a little akaline will repair your bones. You can research this yourself by searching the net for potassium citrate and osteoporosis. Bones, muscles, exercise.....our bodies like that.