Extra Olive Oil Helps Women with Breast Cancer Lose Weight

Extra Olive Oil Helps Women with Breast Cancer Lose Weight

Breast cancer is the number one cancer in women in America. In other cultures, diets based on olive oil and more plants (Mediterranean Diet) have lower rates of breast cancer. With that in mind, a randomized, controlled diet trial was instigated offering the traditional National Cancer Institute Diet versus a plant-based diet with extra EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)(3 Tablespoons a day). It was small, yes, but it's still useful.  The author's labeled it a "pilot" study. 

Being overweight is also a risk for breast cancer, so weight loss is part of the program to lower overall risk. The goal was to lose 5% of body weight. Forty-four women were enrolled in the program that alternated the NCI lower-fat diet (between 15-30% fat) and the olive oil-enriched diet. Randomized to the diets for eight weeks, the completing women were then offered either for the remaining 6 months of the program. Of the 22 that completed the first segment of the trial, 19 chose the extra EVOO plan. Twelve of the fifteen (80%) women assigned to the olive oil arm lost their 5% body weight goal target versus four of thirteen (31%) (p<0.01) in the NCI diet.

This should be understood widely and followed more carefully. What it is telling is brazenly clear.  Just because it was small doesn't mean it's not true.  The "P value" of 0.01 means less than 1% chance this was from statistical fluke.  We need healthy fats that don't turn on insulin. Insulin is not your blood sugar hormone, it is your storage hormone, designed to be used only in the short period of the year when carbohydrates are in abundance (autumn - harvest). And worse, for cancer, insulin is a potent growth hormone that stimulates cancer growth. Its reduction is a high priority. Weight loss will do that. Yes, weight loss is an important goal for women with breast cancer. It's just the method.

What implications does this have for all of us? Pretty big. You might consider having a nice vial of lemon-flavored olive oil sitting in your pantry to take a snack treat on a daily basis. Can you do that?

You are expertly managing your physiology when you do that. Other ways of getting that olive oil dose: can you buy some tasty olive and just have a daily dose of olives? You are turning off insulin by providing a food that doesn't touch insulin. The second you secrete insulin, your fat cells go into storage mode for 8-16 hours. Animal protein will also stimulate insulin. Saturated animal fat is not a healthy food.

Other healthy fats include sesame oil, macadamia, or avocado but not corn, soy, peanut, or canola. Don't even buy any of the mainstream oils. Just don't.

Now, if you think this study is interesting, and every person who wants to lose weight will, wait till next week and learn out 1 L of olive oil a week that knocks it out of the park. (Little teaser here)

www.What will Work for me. Well, I just but some very tasty olive oil. Fresh, glass container, small bottle so I use it up quickly and burns my throat when I have a spoonful. One big T a day of EVOO as a snack. Sometime during the day.

References: Jr Women's Health,

Pop Quiz

1. Ok, so just a brief synopsis. How much EVOO do I need to take a day to successfully lose weight?        Answer: 3 Tablespoons, along with a plant-based diet.

2. What is the amount of weight I have an 80% chance of losing if I do that?               Answer: 5% of my current weight over 8 weeks.

3. Why do I lose weight when I eat healthy oils?                                 Answer: Your body gets calories it can use without turning on insulin, which locks up your fat cells and turns them into storage mode. Without being in storage mode, your fat cells share calories. That's called losing weight.

4. How can I prove I'm losing weight?                                         Answer: Easy. Buy a ketone meter that measures your blood ketones. Ketones are present ONLY when your fat cells open up due to lack of insulin, and share calories. That's called weight loss.

5. Is there a nuance about what plants I can eat to lose weight?                                     Answer: YES, you can't eat insulin inducing plants and lose weight: potatoes, rice, grains, beans, peas. What works are green leaves, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels,....

Fluoride and Cognitive Decline

Fluoride and Cognitive Decline

It's almost a sacred given that fluoride in public water supplies reduced childhood cavities. The CDC website says it's good for you, calling it one of the 10 greatest health care advances of the 20th century. But hold on a little. Good, rigorous scientific review suggests that the original proponents of fluoridation were a little over-enthusiastic. A 15% reduction might be closer to the truth. Even a Cochrane review suggests the scientific underpinnings of fluoridation are not as rigorous as previously entertained. A little too much enthusiasm on the part of dentists to promote their profession and a touch too much enthusiasm on the part of the fluorine industry to sell their product. Hmmm.

So, what would you say if you saw an article in JAMA Pediatrics that shows for every 1 mg/L increase of fluoride in drinking water during pregnancy results in 4.9 less IQ points in children? Anyone want to sign up to drink that? That study was done in Canada, and published with some caution because of its controversy. The Europeans promptly dismissed it with a study of their own.  But the study stands!


If I came back and said that a carefully controlled study of mice's ability to learn while being given fluoride shows significant deterioration in just 12 weeks upon exposure to the same fluoride level we get in our water, then what would you say? Granted, those mice had some prearranged mutations that made them more vulnerable to cognitive decline but still! "The lower levels of synaptic proteins and enhanced oxidative stress detected in the hippocampus of APP mice were aggravated by fluoride".

This is concerning! If you do a deeper dive into the biomechanics of energy in the brain, and the damage caused by fluorine to mitochondria, you might just come away a bit shaken. It appears there is bench research showing that fluorine causes multiple problems at the molecular level that would give plausibility to the hypothesis that the presence of fluoride exacerbates many of the conditions that lead to cognitive decline.

Face it! Bottom line. It is a potent neurotoxin. We have been cautiously dancing around it for decades, trying to be nice for the dentists, the same crowd that told us that mercury in our mouths was ok. We need to respectfully ask our dental colleagues to prove fluoride to be safe before promoting it any further.

I'm not an "anti-vaxer" and I have always felt the "anti-fluoride" crowd was something cut from the same cloth. But when I read that Bredesen insists that all of his cognitive decline patients avoid fluoride, my feelings tipped. I think it's time to get on that train.

www.What will Work for me. I don't have city water so I'm not in the position to worry about that. I do have grandchildren who live in places where their water is fluoridated. I do have a Keurig for which we buy distilled water. But I just started using fluoride-free toothpaste. And no more painting my mouth with fluoride treatment after cleaning. I'll floss. I'll water-pik. But no fluoride.  I believe the decades it takes to develop cognitive issues hide the danger.  It's too hard to prove.

References: Colgate Network, CDC,  Int Jour Mol Sci, JAMA Pediatrics, Cochrane Reviews, Am Jr Public Health , Archives Toxicology, Alz Res and Ther., Int Jour Molecular Sci, Science Alert,  

Pop Quiz

1. What do we think the "real" dispassionate effect on cavities in children is true with fluoride? Answer: Probably about a 15% reduction.

2. For every 1 mg/L of extra fluoride, what happens to children's IQs? Answer: A 4.9 point decrease.

3. f it has that effect on kids, what about seniors worried about memory? Answer: Same problem - appears to accelerate it.

4. Where is your daily exposure to fluoride? Answer: Your toothpaste, your drinking water, your use of Teflon coated cookware......

5. Is it possible to lower your exposure? Answer: Over 77 cities in America have voted to have fluoride taken out of their water. Were they crazy or are you late to the show? Juneau studied it and found that kids got about 1 cavity a year extra. So, would you rather pay your dentist extra or pay the memory unit for long term memory care? Hmmm. Sophie might have something to say about that.

COVID and Cognitive Decline

COVID-19 and Cognitive Decline

One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is that folks report loss of smell. It is known that the virus invades the brain through smell receptors in the top of the nose which gives it a direct and short pathway straight into the hippocampus. Loss of smell, taste and headaches are all high on the list of COVID-19 symptoms. These are all signs of brain involvement.  What is more disturbing is that functional MRI scanning has shown consistent and disturbing trends with alterations in the volume of multiple brain nuclei. This tracks the disturbing historical precedence following the 1918 Flu epidemic resulting in a tripling of the incidence of Parkinson's in the years following in those who contracted it and survived it. In the same fashion, there is growing awareness that the herpes viruses are more prevalent in Alzheimer's brains, and their suppression with chronic anti-viral therapy results in better outcomes. Bredesen uses anti-virals as part of his Alzheimer's protocol for anyone with chronic cold sores and believes that results in observably better outcomes.

Molecular biology has progressed enough to know that the COVID-19 virus makes a dramatic block of energy production in the mitochondria of afflicted cells, diverting potential energy production into viral coat lipids. Taking Ketone Esters as a therapy for COVID results in many folks who have been bedridden with fatigue and shortness of breath to virtually recover function in miraculously short times. These ketones drop right into the mitochondria past the block the virus imposes. We do know that we Western Diet humans have our brain accommodated to glucose as the dominant source of energy and that our brains are vulnerable to glucose deficit. The addition of a virally imposed block in the mitochondrial energy production makes intuitive sense that folks with vulnerable brains are further injured by COVID.

In that light, 40 medical centers around the world are banding together to study 1000 patients each and follow them prospectively to examine the ongoing effect of COVIDon subsequent cognitive decline. They haven't proved it yet, but there is enough smoke in the air for them to start looking for the fire.  Their expectation is that there will be serious and long-term complications from COVID and that it accelerates Alzheimer's.  Oh, dear. Hope they are wrong. 

What implications does that have for you? We are doing research on the fly in the middle of battle. These aren't ideal conditions for long-term, prospective research. But now is not the time to delay. You do the best you can with the tools you have.

www.What will Work for me. To me, this is another compelling reason to encourage you to get your vaccination. If you are worried about your own cognitive abilities, or aware that you have had some risk for cognitive issues like an affected family member, use this as a reason to get over your reticence. And if you have had COVID and lost your sense of smell, and still haven't got it back, consider getting some sort of treatment for that. Thymosin A may be useful. Ketone esters are worth a trial. To my ears, prolonged loss of smell says you have already developed damage in the gearbox of your brain.

References: Washington Post, eClinicalMed., World Congress, Neurobio of Aging, Frontiers,

Pop Quiz

1. COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus. T or F.                                Answer: Emphatically false. It hitchhikes between people via respiratory droplets but it is a systemic illness that affects virtually every organ system in one person or another.

2. What is one of the most common symptoms that it is affecting your brain?               Answer: Loss of smell or taste. Brain fog and headache come in close thereafter.

3. What other viruses have been proven to be involved in prolonged brain damage after infection. Answer: None, prospectively. That is too high a bar to demand. But associations studies show that the Influenza of 1919 resulted in a huge wave of Parkinson's 50 years later with a tripling of incidence. And HSV6 and 1 both appear to have associations.

4. Is there anything I can do about this?                                                Answer: Yes. You can add this to your risk-benefit calculation going forward and get vaccinated. The vaccines are not whole viruses and can't in any fashion alter or change your DNA, as some misinformation anti-vaxers claim. They are messenger RNA molecules that are end products. Messenger RNA cannot in any fashion reverse manufacture DNA.

5. Can I take other medications to prevent the virus?                                 Answer: yes, there are all sorts of prevention and immune boosting strategies. Start with Vitamin D, 5000 a day. Please, do all of them.....

The Food You Eat May Be Making Your More Anxious

What You Eat May Be Making You More Anxious

It's common knowledge that cutting down on alcohol and caffeine will help anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that lasts at least 12 hours and also disrupts sleep. Its stimulant level revs up your adrenaline system, which reinforces all the emotions that also jive with anxiety. You don't want to make that worse. Alcohol disrupts sleep. With less restorative sleep you have fewer emotional resources to maturely deal with your own anxiety.

But the bigger picture is recognizing how the body works at a very fundamental level. Our brain is intricately connected to our gut and our immune system. Half your brain is made up of neurons (computer chips) and half your brain is made up of immune cells (insulation and shrink wrapping.). The glia have immune markers and signaling proteins on their surface just like other immune white cells. Your gut has billions of neurons in it. The majority of many mood-affecting hormones are made in your gut. That Triad, Brain-Gut-Immune function is tight and useful as it explains how the system works.

Start with the premise that foods based on sugar ramp you up a bit too far and lead to too much anxiety. The alternative to sugar is fat. More accurately, small fatty acids called ketones made in your gut. Where do the majority of those ketones come from? Eating green vegetables, whose cell walls are broken down to beta-hydroxybutyrate, and healthy fats. As a civilized world, we have shifted our diet from predominantly raw plant-based to processed grains that we can store and refined sugars. What used to be 8-12 servings a day of raw vegetables and 45 grams of fiber has become 10 grams of fiber and 13% of our calories from sugar. Can I get ketones every day? Well, yes. Compress your calories into 10 hours and you will have ketones in your blood for about 2-4 hours every day. You may even lose some weight with that.

But there are other fats that are helpful. Omega-three fats are the precursors to anti-inflammatory messengers in your brain. The plasmalogens made with O-3 fats comprise some 70% of your brain synapses. Animals that eat grass or wild-caught have omega-three fats in their meat. Think deer hunting in Wisconsin or wild-caught salmon. But in America, all our animals got shifted off the pasture and green grass onto feedlots with corn and beans. Omega fats disappeared. The omega-three fat content of our brains changed some 20% with a shift to omega-6 inflammation supporting fats. Can you guess which county in the world has the least depression and anxiety? Try. The hint is: the country with the highest omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. Iceland, the country with the highest consumption of wild-caught fish.

You want a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of somewhere around 1:1 to 1:3. In America, we have a 1:20 ratio in suburban homes and 1:50 in urban inner-city homes. Ouch.

Can I summarize? A "Healthy" anti-anxiety diet might look like calories compressed into 10 hours. Exercise to make more ketones. Lose the sugar and the refined bread. Eat many more vegetables and fewer feedlot raised animals. Try to cut out seed-based oils: canola, corn, soy and switch to olive, macadamia, avocado. Cut the alcohol and the sugared drinks of any kind. Get regular sleep. And in a pinch, move to Iceland.

www.What will Work for me. I have spent the last week examining the sources of omega sixes in my diet. I got my plasmalogen analysis report back and in my "perfect", high fiber, low sugar, lots of vegetables diet, I was just horrified to find that my omega-6 family is 8-10 times higher than my omega-3. So, a bit of pantry searching and label reading. Hellman's mayo: ingredient number 1 is soybean oil. Rich source of omega-six. Salad mixes with factory-made salad dressing. Ingredient number 3: canola oil, a rich source of omega 6. Spicy Chili Crisp, my fav for getting my daily chili dose so I live forever: ingredient #1, soybean oil. It goes on. Omega 6s are everywhere. Resolution: I'm going to give it a shot at homemade mayo from pure olive oil. If you have a hint on how to do that well, let me know. And I'm back on two grams a day of fish oil to get the ratio repaired. Recheck in 4 months.

References: Apple News, Sugar Association, Biochemica and Biophy., Global Health Journal, The Atlantic, Molecular Neurobiol.,

Pop Quiz

1. Anxiety-depression is rampant in America. Name a few reasons. Answer: less sleep, less exercise, too much alcohol, too much caffeine, way too much sugar and refined white flour, too many O-6 fats and too few omega-3. Finally, a deprived gut with too little fiber and green vegetables with which to make beta-hydroxybutyrate to calm our amped-up brain.

2. What percentage of the American diet comes from sugar? Answer: 13%

3. Our brains are linked in concert with what two major systems? Answer: Gut and immune systems. Healthy gut = happy brain.

4. And repeat, just what is the beef with omega 6 fatty acids? Answer: They are the building blocks of inflammatory "eicosanoids" of which there are dozens. Our brains in America have switched their net content of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 by some 20%. That's a problem.

5. What family of brain fats use omega-3 fats as building blocks? Answer: Plasmalogens. They are the 40-70% building blocks of the wires and connections (axons and synapses) of your brain.

Better Sleep with More Vitamin D

Vitamin D and Better Sleep with 30,000 IU a Day

30,000 IU a day! Holy Smokes. Sounds like a lot. Well, it is in terms of "units" but not in terms of mg. It's only 0.75 mg, less than the weight of a housefly. And please, Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It is a hormone. It is made by UV light from the sun hitting a cholesterol molecule in your skin and opening up one of the 4 rings in the molecule. To activate it, you have to process it through your liver and kidneys. What you measure in your blood is the reserve form, not what is being activated inside your cells. That's where it acts as a hormone.

Now, in January, and February you reach your physiological low each year because we are in the middle of winter and the angle of the sun is so low in the sky (currently 26 degrees in Milwaukee) that all the UV rays are filtered out by the atmosphere. It's not until the sun reaches about 45 degrees (April 1) that enough UV rays can reach your skin to help you make Vitamin D. A middle European with white skin will make 1,000 IU of D a minute on June 21st when the sun reaches its peak of 70 degrees altitude (in Milwaukee). In Wisconsin, Caucasians will hit a level of 45 ng in summer and slump to 20 in winter. Folks with more skin pigment will be lower than that and my own personal experience is that African descended folks will have D levels of 5-10 in the winter and 25 in the summer.

I have spent the last 15 years telling people to take 5,000 IU of D a day, saying that is the equivalent of 5 minutes of sunshine. That level results in a blood level of about 50 ng in most people. That is well above the low levels we all have and enough above 32, the threshold to make cathelicidin, your natural antibiotic that kills viruses. (Yes, low D results in more influenza!)

Imagine my surprise on finding a book entitled "The Optimal Dose of Vitamin D' by Judson Sommerville that advocates 30,000 IU a day. He was trying to restore his own lousy sleep and read about the need for muscles to be paralyzed to get into deep, Stage IV and REM restorative sleep. That's when your brain gets its best "flush" and cleansing. That is when your muscles become paralyzed, which depends on D. Lots of it. He raised his own dose from 5,000 a day to 10, and slept better. His calcium didn't go up. He took more. His sleep got better. He took more.....and ended up at 30,000 IU a day without changing his calcium levels, or feeling any toxic effects, except for better sleep. That was 10 years ago. He claims that he has close to 3,000+ clients on that dose, and many report much better sleep. He measures calcium and D levels in all his clients regularly and reports no toxicity. Blood levels hover around 130-150. That is his "optimal dose".

There is some literature on sleep disorders and low Vitamin D and a recent meta-analysis of several hundred studies that winnowed down to 7 "high quality" studies pointed to lower Vitamin D and more sleep dysfunction. None used the 30,000 IU dose but most compared over 3,000 IU a day compared to the paltry 600 IU a day the FDA currently recommends.

There are other things that disrupt sleep. Pain keeps you awake. The higher your D level, the lower your pain level. Restless legs. The lower your D level, the more likely your legs are twitching. You won't get into a deep sleep if your muscles can't be paralyzed, and it takes D to do that.

We haven't gotten into weight loss, immune function or any other beneficial effect of D that Dr. Sommerville reports. Maybe next week...

www.What will Work for me. Unconventional ideas usually come from folks willing to break the norm. We only needed 400 IU of D to prevent rickets. A tablespoon of cod liver oil prevented rickets, back in the 1930s. It was found to equal 400 IU of D. And that is the only science behind why we currently recommend 400 IU a day around topics of bone health. When folks are given an extra 200 IU a day, no beneficial effect has been found so much arguing and fighting goes on in the hallowed halls, but widespread acceptance of D dosing above that is not yet commonplace. 5000 sounds like a lot to that crowd. Imagine the conniptions they must have at 30,000. Well, I'm now taking 30,000 myself and intend to measure my own Calcium and D levels for a couple of months here. Stay tuned.

References:Journal of Endocrinology, Nutrients, The Optimal Dose, Neurology, Int Jr Mol Med., Healthline, Nutrition Rev,

Pop Quiz

1. The current level of Vitamin D recommend is what? Answer: Sorry, that is a trick question because there is a recommended dose, 600 IU for adults but not a recommended level. In Functional Medicine, we recommend a level of 50 ng. The Norwegians break the mold and advise 3,000 IU a day.

2. Is there research that shows that higher doses are safe? Well, precious little. [Some reviews](https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-side-effects) show it to be pretty rare. There are case reports of folks taking as much 190,000 iu a day that got toxic at a level of 390+.

3. What effect of D is needed to get deep, restorative sleep? Answer: Muscle paralysis.

4. What happens to your brain if you don't get paralyzed muscles? Answer: you don't get your brain turned off because it notices the twitching. That's why restless leg syndrome leaves folks feeling fatigued.

5. What is the first sign of toxicity of "too much" D? Answer: Elevated blood calcium, nausea, and vomiting. Hence, it makes sense to measure that blood test. Usually not seen until your level is over 150 ng, achieved with doses over 40,000 IU a day.

Should I get there COVID Vaccination

Is the COVID Vaccine Safe for Me?

Should I get the vaccine shot to COVID? Answer: Unequivocal yes. Why?

That's what I've been asked to write about this week so here is the evidence and the summary that I've found. I believe what we are talking about is "risk", "rate" and "side effects". It's all a matter of relative numbers. How much risk do you want to take on? What risk are you willing to live with? Which is riskier, the virus, or the vaccine?

There are many websites you can find that give you Q and A about the risks and benefits of the vaccine. I can't examine all of those and I would advise you to peruse those if you want more details. I'm just covering some cogent answers.

As best I can tell, I've found evidence that the rate of the vaccine's complications is about 0.2% meaning 2 in a thousand vaccinations have an immediate immune reaction. That is usually something in the form of hives and trouble breathing, and almost always in someone who has those symptoms frequently and who carry Epi-pens to deal with that. Their immune systems are already ramped up and they are ready to fire off. That rate is roughly 10 times the rate of influenza vaccination complications. So, the vaccine isn't risk-free, but to date, no one has died from it.

What is the risk of the virus? Oh, my. Far, far worse than most influenza. It is at least 10 times worse in causing death and much, much worse in long term complications. We are finding that roughly 20% of folks have measurable damage to their cardiovascular system 10 months later. Now, we have evidence that damage to the brain sets you up for Alzheimer's and increases your risks for that. In 1918, the influenza that emerged was a new virus and folks that were naive to it succumbed very rapidly. Now, with vaccination of huge numbers of people, we are able to build up libraries of antibodies in the population and when new, virulent strains emerge, enough folks have other influenza antibodies that we don't have enough folks with naive immune systems for the new strain to infect. Influenza has been, by and large, tamed and controlled with vaccination.

We are all naive to COVID-19. There is likely a small overlap with over Carona viruses that likely have some overlap with the "common cold" and folks who have had those colds probably have some immune protection because of that.

How about Guillain-Barre? You are asked about that every time you get a flu shot so it makes you feel fear about it. Did you know that the rate of Guillian Barre is as great with the flu itself as it is with the vaccination? Check out the CDC website data on that. Yes, it is likely you get GB just by being exposed to the virus, whether it be in vaccine form or the flu itself. The difference being is that once you have had the vaccine, you have an immune response to it. But you can also get Guillain-Barre from COVID.


Conclusion: This topic should be closed and shut. It is time to close the risk of our population from COVID. The reason to get the vaccination is to protect you, your loved ones, and your community. It is a numbers game and the data shows simply and clearly that you, your family, and your community all benefit by getting vaccination. We are all at risk, to some degree, until we are all vaccinated. You cannot find good, scientific evidence to support your not being vaccinated. If you could, I would love to hear from you. You cannot point to your not getting vaccinated and you are thereby having no problems as proof. You have just been lucky.

References: Alzheimer's and Dementia, Nature, CDC, MMWR, BMC Medicine, Reuters, CIDRAP,

Pop Quiz

1. Should I get vaccinated? Answer: Yes

2. Is flu worse than COVID? Answer: Once in a great while, yes (Example: 1918) but this has been tamed with vaccination.

3. Am I at risk of having Guillain-Barre from COVID vaccination? Answer: Yes, but much lower risk than death from COVID. Again, the numbers tilt in your favor of being vaccinated.

4. Are there long-term complications from the COVID-19 vaccination? Answer: Not that we have seen and we have no scientific evidence yet to support it. The vaccines were developed in a very rapid fashion so we don't have "long-term" to support. Stay tuned. Again, as things stand, the risk-benefit of death exceeds what we see in long-term complications.

5. But I hate shots. Is it safe for me to be frightened of those? Answer: Ah, that may be what drives your fear, your hope that your risk is small enough that you don't have to have the inconvenience of that little pain.

Too Much Iron Makes You Die Sooner

Higher Iron Makes you Die Sooner

That's it! Iron is a curious compound. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT nutrient for humans to duplicate themselves on planet earth, when you examine humans as hunter-gatherers, having continuous pregnancies in young women, and dying by age 35. Pregnant women have to have a boatload of iron to provide a newborn with sufficient iron. (27 mg a day during pregnancy, 9 a day while breastfeeding). That's a lot.

But the term "antagonistic pleiotropy" comes to mind with iron: what's good for you at one time in life is not so good later. Iron is a very powerful chemical and you pay a high price for having too much. So what happened in the 20th century? We cleaned up our water supplies, reducing iron loss through parasites like pinworm and hookworm. We "fortified" all our grains which meant adding iron to our flour and everything made from flour. And then we stopped having 12 children and decided that dying at age 35 was really unnecessary, and 100 sounded so much better. But fundamentally, the human body is designed to absorb as much iron as it can to support the need for reproduction. That works for young, pregnant women. It doesn't for men, ever. Nor does it work for women over childrearing ages. Year after year, our bodies absorb iron inexorably and our serum ferritin level rises. (That's not just folks with hemochromatosis who are severely affected by too much iron absorption.)

We have covered this before, but iron in your brain contributes to increased beta-amyloid and subsequent Alzheimer's. Ditto for coronary artery disease, cancer, even auto-immune illnesses. Does it surprise you to know that your immune system even tries to withhold iron from invading parasites that use the iron as a reason to invade you and cause harm? And if that doesn't move you,look at this article that shows men's erectile difficulty is strongly associated with iron overload!

So, this study confirms that hunch. Too much iron, and you die sooner. This study was massive, with over 1,000,000 subjects from three huge databases. Association does not prove causation but numbers count and the inability to do randomized, placebo-controlled trials over decades confounds the ability to do RCTs. The association popped out when looking at genes present in the subjects and Lifespan, Healthspan, and Extreme Longevity. Well, that's what you want: a healthspan free of illness that lasts longer. And iron levels didn't help that. This supports other data such as from Sweden showing that folks who donate the most blood, live the longest.

The Harvard Longevity Project first alerted us to the iron problem with the book, The Mind Span Diet by Preston Estep. They looked all around the world for places with optimal health spans and life spans and least cognitive decline. They found that ferritin of 20 (low end of normal) predicted lowest risk. That's it in a nutshell. 

Antagonistic pleiotropy!

www.What will Work for me. Easy. Donate blood. In this pandemic the health care system is desperate for blood. Get your ferritin down to at most 40. And if you are post-menopausal, stop taking iron supplements unless you have a specific, defined reason. All of medicine needs to take a reset on this topic. Stop eating

References: ScienceAlert, Nature Communications, J Med Genetics, ScienceNordic, Current Urol Rep.,

Pop Quiz

1. Why do humans get iron overloaded? Answer: Simple. We are designed to absorb iron avidly from our food so that, for most of human history, our young women could have babies, year after year after year. Worked in that environment.

2. Name 4 issues that changed in the 20th century. Answer: 1: We started living longer. 2. We cleaned up our water supplies so that most of us stopped having iron depleting intestinal parasites. 3. We added iron to our grain products, euphemistically calling that "fortification". 4. Women reduced the number of babies they had.

3. Extra iron makes heart disease better? T or F. Answer: False

4. Men with erectile difficulty should take more iron to make them "stronger". Answer: Go back and read this article again.

5. Explain what "antagonistic pleiotropy" means. Answer: What's good for you in one environment isn't necessary good for you in another: at a young age iron is critical for young women having many babies, at older ages all that iron increases risk for many diseases, all of which show up with aging.

What On Earth is a Peroxisome?

What on Earth is a Peroxisome?

Ever heard of a peroxisome? Me neither. You should know this. They are little, tiny organelles in the cell that can self-replicate themselves but have no DNA. They have to import all the proteins to construct themselves from DNA kept in the nucleus of the cell. They are lined with their own membrane, usually next to the cell membrane. They are tiny. But they can duplicate, when called upon which has led to the hypothesis that, like mitochondria, they evolved from a tiny bacteria that came to live inside the first archaic cell, and was allowed to take up residence because it could do unique useful stuff. A key component of aging is that your peroxisomes get old. So, we need to understand this.

But before our peroxisomes get old, our mitochondria get in trouble. This kicks in our RTG (retrograde) pathway which compensates for mitochondrial dysfunction and works right where rapamycin helps out. It mitochondria get blocked, the peroxisome starts making more small, short-chain fatty acids and Acetyl-Co A to compensate and get energy flowing again. That's helpful. We've been saying "you get old when your mitochondria get old" but this line of physiology suggests that the peroxisomes may be first. We get old when our peroxisomes get old and fall apart. 

But that's only one function. Better known is that peroxisomes are rich sources of enzymes that gobble up Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and protect the whole cell from all sorts of trouble. They can use oxygen direction to make peroxide to assist in scavenging and cleaning up the cell. The enzyme catalase seems to be in the center of this dance and as catalase levels drop, mitochondria droop. Restoring catalase function results in mitochondria recovering. So, once again, maybe it's the dysfunctional peroxisome that comes first, and the mitochondria second?

These little organelles have their fingers in more. They are integral to digesting fats and preparing the chopped up pieces for mitochondria to finish up. They are key to digesting all the branched-chain amino acids too. Finally, they contain two key enzymes for the "pentose phosphate shunt", one of the cellular backup glucose pathways.

But perhaps their most important function is blue-collar manufacturing. Peroxisomes are the site of making specialty lipids that allow our nervous system to develop, most notably plasmalogens. We could not have become complex, integrated neurological systems without the manufacturing of plasmalogens. 

Plasmalogens are made in the peroxisome. And when you realize that they are as much as 70% of the lipids in neuron myelination, plasmalogens are front and center in making a neurological system tick. The miracle of nerves is that they talk to each other through synapses: junctions where little blips of chemical messengers signal to another nerve. That synapse wouldn't work without "cholesterol rafts" and other moieties make one with the unique chemistry of plasmalogens. Isn't that interesting?! This is getting right to the very core of how our cells work.

And last week's column delineated the cutting edge of plasmalogens: they vary in direct correlation with cognitive decline and vice versa. You can replace them with precise biochemistry and you can measure the results.  

www.What will Work for me. Well, this is easy. I'm simply reading everything I can get my hands on. I certainly had never heard of "cholesterol rafts" in the synapse before. I've already ordered 5 more of the plasmalogen testing kits so that I can learn how all this works. I can't wait till this wicked pandemic is over. The measurement of our plasmalogens and their subsequent management will become a foundational step in our annual check-up. That day is coming. I hope to help hasten it.

References: Cell, Traffic, Toxicol App Pharm., Cell Metabolism, Lipids in Health and Disease, Newsinnutrition.com, Wikipedia,

Pop Quiz

1. Just what is a peroxisome?                        Answer: a teeny, tiny little cellular organelle in the cell that appears to be self-replicating.  

2. Which is more important, the peroxisome or the mitochondria?                      Answer: They appear to act as a team. The peroxisome can make ketones to rescue a tired mitochondria when needed.

3. If you have a lot of reactive oxygen being released by damaged mitochondria, what enzyme does the peroxisome manufacture to rescue the cell?                   Answer: Catalase. Saves the whole cell

4. Can you name another critical function of a peroxisome?                         Answer: digesting fats to make short ketone bodies for the mitochondria and branched-chain amino acids, tough little characters to digest. Don't forget the pentose phosphate glucose pathway.

5. What essential fat do peroxisome manufacture that constitute 70% of the insulation of nerves cells and the key feature of synapses?                       Answer: plasmalogens.

Plasmalogens: The Missing Critical Link to Cognitive Decline

Plasmalogens - What Your Brain Needs (And may not have)

Bet you hadn't ever heard about plasmalogens! Well, you will now and need to fully understand. This topic just got moved up to the front of the line. If you want a healthy brain, and want to keep it healthy, you need to understand this important advance in our understanding of Alzheimer's.

What are plasmalogens? Start with Wikipedia. They are a particularly configured fatty acid combination built on the glycerol backbone with a chemically active phosphate group and a PUFA (fish oil) group in the middle. We have known about them since the 1920s but didn't fully appreciate their importance until just the last decade. They make up about 20% of your brain. Let me repeat that. They make up some 20% of your brain, and maybe even more of the fats (70%) that surround your axons, the wires that connect your brain cells to each other. 

They play a huge role in heart disease too. Really. Whole separate topic. Now, you can measure blood plasmalogen levels in populations and you can see them decline with aging. Ok, so we take fish oil, which helps a little because it gives you the building blocks for that middle position.

But something curious happens in Alzheimer's. It's not till we have lost some 70-80% of our frontal executive neurons that we start to get symptomatic from it. We have thought that the accumulation of amyloid and tau tangles are the characteristic pathology of Alzheimer's, but getting those takes a biopsy, something we are cautious to do on one another's brains. Here's where plasmalogens come in. Population studies show that serum plasmalogen levels drop steadily with aging. We are all on track to get cognitive issues, eventually. But individual studies seem to show sudden and dramatic drops in them, and they correlate directly with cognitive issues. And not just minor drops. 75% drops. Why the dramatic drop? Some instigating event, some environmental change: trauma, anesthesia, loss of a nutrient, exposure to pesticides.....all the things that have been shown to be risks for Alzheimer's.

And it gets even more interesting. If you look at folks with APOE4 genes, those with high (one APOE4 gene) and even higher (two APOE4 genes) you find some folks in their 90's with no cognitive issues, and their plasmalogen levels are normal. So, plasmalogen levels trump APOE4.

Do we understand why they are so critical to healthy brains? Well, they aren't just structural components of membranes. They also play a biochemical role in being in situ antioxidants. Their chemical structure makes them uniquely able to soak ok free oxygen radicals before they cause harm. They play a huge role in helping your axons make synapses (connections) to other neurons. Is that it? There must be more. (There is..stay tuned.)

And just why does their level decrease? Well, we know that their manufacturing starts in the peroxisome. Peroxisome! Ever heard of that? Sounds like you have to tune in next week. Our aging tired brains can only learn so much in one week.

But here is the promise. We have the ability to measure your plasmalogen levels with a blood test. And then we now have the ability to give it to you as a supplement and restore your blood levels. And that has been shown to make folks better.

WWW: What will Work for Me? I'm listening to Bredesen's Town Hall meeting with Goodenowe, the superstar Ph.D. whose lab has been furiously spewing out all sorts of plasmalogen research. I'm going to listen twice, maybe three times till I get it right. And I've ordered my plasmalogen test. We should all get one if we have any concerns about how our brains work. This concept pulls many disparate threads together and makes sense. Let's get at it.

References: Lipids in Health and Disease, J Psych Neurosci, Brain Sci, Nature, Fitzgerald, Frontiers Phys., Atherosclerosis, Wikipedia

Pop Quiz

1. What is a plasmalogen? Answer: A fatty acid made from PUFA fatty acids, that are abundant in your brain and your heart.

2. What is the connection of plasmalogens to Alzheimer's? Answer: Folks with cognitive decline have dramatic reductions in their plasmalogens before they get the cognitive decline.

3. How much damage do you have to have to your brain to get symptoms? Answer: Probably on the order of 60-80%

4. Can you replace plasmalogens? Answer: Yes. Now you can.

5. Does that have an impact on cognition? Answer: Yes, in proportion to replacing back to normal levels.

Eating Chilis Reducing All-Cause Mortality 25%

Chili Pepper Consumption Reduces All-Cause Mortality 25%

Want a cheerful story during this bleak COVID pandemic? Tired of bad news? Ok, here is some wonderful news. You can reduce your mortality by eating chilis every day. This is not a joke. This is serious. This effect is basically as powerful as any other intervention we can do in our lives. What's the evidence?

Ok, the first study was from the American NHANES (National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey) cohort from 1988 to 1994 16,179 adults over age 18 in the US were included and then followed for a total of 273,877 person-years, averaging some 18+ years each. There were 4,946 total deaths to review. The mortality in chili consumers was 21.6%. Non-chili eaters had a 33.6% mortality. There you have it. That was the first study that caught my eye. That is an absolute 12% risk reduction or a relative 64% risk reduction, however you slice that "chili".

In response, study number two got more serious. Published in Circulation, this is now a much more prestigious journal and carries more PR value. A meta-analysis is a combination of all relevant research papers that follow statistically valid guidelines. Starting with 4,729 studies, only four met the rigorous standards. They include 570,762 subjects. Big numbers make for better conclusions. Again, the risk reduction was 25% of all-cause mortality.

There are more studies along this line. All show the same effect. Roughly 25%. How many times a week do you have to eat them? One study references four times. But it should be noted that all of these studies are "observational" meaning you are just looking at a population and slicing and dicing their behavior with statistical models. As Mark Twain said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." A randomized, placebo-controlled trial has yet to be done. And never will be any time soon. No money in it. 

The physiology has to be something more fundamental in cell physiology. There are hints in the literature. In 2002 a report in JNCI was titled " ....Capsaicin...makes tumor cells commit suicide". And there is new research going right down to the most fundamental energy dynamics of cells: the NAD+/NADH ratio. Capsaicin rescues and stabilizes that in dying heart cells. Ah, that gets to the "heart" of it. We want you to take NAD+ and metformin to stabilize that ratio as you age and make less NAD. Chili's might do it for you too. Stay tuned! This is interesting stuff.

www.What will Work for me. I'm planning my gift list and finding things I can send in the mail during our COVID isolation. How about some form of Chili? Besides putting chili pepper in stews and curries, I have a collection of hot sauces. I just found something titled Spicy Chili Crisp that is milder and easier to add to all sorts of dishes.

References: Circulation, PLOS One, JACC, Harvard Health, JNCI, Oxid Med Cell Long, Eur Jr Pharm,

Pop Quiz

1.Where does chili pepper come from? Answer: The nightshade foods all came out of the new world with Bolivia and Peru having the most species of native plants. The Portuguese took them around the world. Everyone piled on!

2. Has anyone done any research on the hottest chili and whether they make you live longer? Answer: No. But you can watch the Netflix show "We Are the Champions" episode on Chili Contests in South Carolina and watch chili eating taken to absurdity.

3. How many days a week do you have to eat chilis? Answer: We have observational studies saying 4 days a week. 

4. Is this proof that chilis are a secret key to live longer? Answer: No. Not solid. Observational studies may be flawed in that the "observational" effect may actually be something else yet undetermined that goes with the chili eating. Perhaps it's the exercise you get running around fanning your mouth. Randomized, placebo-controlled trials are difficult to do over decades with millions of people. So, we live with some ambiguity.

5. Is there some identified physiology that would get to the root of why this might work? Answer: Yes, there is now emerging bench research showing the capsaicin fixes the most basic energetics in aging, cancerous, damaged cells: the NAD+/NADH ratio. So, it makes some sense.