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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
Vitamin K2 - Your Secret Weapon Against COVID
Did you know that Japan got COVID before the US? Did you know that they have had a total of a little over 2,000 deaths, so far? Total. In America, we are having some 2,000 deaths per day. What gives? Yes, the Japanese are very conscious about infecting others and wear masks with great discipline. But that's not all. Their infection rate also tracks a curious habit: their consumption of natto. In Iwate prefecture, the NE part of Japan around the Fukushima power plant there has been very low COVID rates. In fact, the Japanese have noted that fact and there has been natto hoarding in Japan and more sober minds have downplayed the reality of this observation.
Ok, just what it natto? It is a uniquely Japanese food, eaten mostly for breakfast made from fermented soybeans. Its flavor has not caught on elsewhere but natto has a huge amount of Vitamin K2 in it, higher than in any other food source. And the probiotic effect of the bacillus subtilis bacteria and makes the natto has its own very powerful antiviral effect. We naturally get K2 from animals that eat grass. That means the American K2 supply declined dramatically back in the 1950s when American agriculture moved animals off of green pastures onto feedlots. K2 is very, very different from K1. K1 is all about blood clotting. K2 activates two critical proteins: osteocalcin in bone, the protein that binds calcium into bone, and Matrix GLA protein, the protein that binds calcium OUT of arteries. Would it surprise you that you can trace K2 consumption in Japan by rate of bone fracture and longevity overall? Yup, yup.
So, follow this thread. Did you know that folks dying of COVID have very high levels of un-activated Matrix GLA protein in their blood, a deficiency that clears up with K2 administration? And can you follow that the COVID attack on your lungs uses up a lot of K2 trying to keep the cells in your lungs alive, which doesn't work without the K2? This would tie into the observation in Japan that explains part of why the Japanese have dodged the COVID bullet by 99%! I like 99%. Is it proof? Hardly. Observational studies are just that. But is it toxic? Nope. It is just food and happens to be a food that has been inadvertently removed from our natural food supply by our agricultural methods. We should be eating grass raised animals, not corn and bean fed critters. We have a runaway epidemic of osteoporosis and heart disease: the two consequences of low K2. And now we have a runaway epidemic of COVID.
There is something unique about K2 and Vitamin D. They are synergistic. There continues to be confusion in the literature about K1 (all about clotting) and K2, (all about calcium metabolism). They are really not the same. They have dramatically different spheres of biological activity. We just don't have proof by the standards of modern pharmacotherapy. But those standards were designed to test the use of foreign chemicals in the human body. COVID may be an infection that is invading the human species that has been uniquely prepped by modern agriculture to be vulnerable. There is a company called Kappa Bioscience in Norway that is taking the topic head-on and selling K2 and D together. Africa, as a continent, has lots of sunshine (Vitamin D) and much more K2 intake as they eat animals that eat green plants instead of corn and beans. Their rate of COVID has been surprisingly lower. And then there are those darn Japanese with their much, much lower rate, guzzling natto for breakfast every morning. Do we need to do a randomized controlled trial on natto? Well, after you taste it, you will say yes.
www. What will Work for me? I bought some natto and have tasted it. Whew, it's quite an experience. You might not appreciate the flavor until you try it yourself. So I immediately ordered more K2 as a regular supplement. I already take it for my bones and coronary arteries. You should make a point of getting K2 yourself. Order it off the internet. Buy grass raised animal products. Wear a mask and wash your hands. We'll make it, maybe without the natto. I'm eagerly waiting to see the results of a good study.
1. What is K2? Answer: an altered form of K made in animal guts after they eat K1, found in green plants. It is also made by a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis found in wheat straw.
2. What is natto? Answer: the highest food source of K2 made by fermenting soybeans in moist wheat straw. The northern Japanese eat it with enthusiasm. The southern Japanese think the northerners are a bit daft. (1000 times what is in sauer kraut, 100 times most other K2 foods)
3. What does K2 do? Answer: It activates two vital proteins: one, osteocalcin, binds calcium into bone. The other, Matrix GLA protein, binds calcium out of arteries. There must be many other actions in layers beyond current research.
4. What happens when you combine Vitamin D and Vitamin K2? Answer: you get a synergetic effect. Both are enhanced. And you appear to get lower rates of COVID by observational studies.
5. How can we prove it? Answer: Despite the urgency, this is research on the fly but is not proof. Proof really comes down to comparing two randomized groups, over time, doing different behaviors. In nutrition, we do accept large enough population studies as guidelines, but it always remains open for controversy until it is studied prospectively, randomly, and long enough.
Ketone Strategy for COVID
Weren't we proud of ourselves when we learned what mitochondria were! They are the little, tiny powerplants inside each cell that take fat and carbohydrate and churn out the energy molecule called ATP. We have some 200 in every muscle cell but our organs have a couple thousand, and our heart and brain have 5000 each. Mitochondria aren't just the powerhouses of your cell. They are the deciding nexus of when your cell dies. We are so dependent on them that their welfare is key to our survival. They aren't just the nexus of cells living and dying, but also the key to responding to infections and viruses. This ends up being the link between how to extend lifespan.
Fasting, for example, switches your metabolism from running on glucose to running on ketones. And when you do that with monkeys, you can prove they will live 40% longer. What happens when you give the ketone bodies without the calorie restriction? Hmm...same effect. Isn't that nifty? You could posit that the natural, original state of the human cell was running on ketones, not carbs. And indeed, if you look at the healthy metabolism of the great apes, they derive the majority of their calories from a short fatty acid called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). BHB is made by the bacteria in your colon digesting the cell walls of green plants. Prior to humans learning agriculture, the majority of our calories came from uncooked plants or animal. Prior to animal, it was just plants. BHB.
So far so good? The balance of your metabolism is all based on four ratios of energy production: ADP/ATP, NAD+/NADH, NADP+/NADPH, and acetyl-CoA/CoA. This is all about your "redox ratio". When you have a healthy ratio in all four, your cells are responsive, alive, and "quiescent" - ready to go if needed. It is those ratios declining that define "senescence", cells that are not making energy properly, and thereby spewing our oxidizing "reactive oxygen species". We try so hard to take antioxidants to neutralize those little devils. It helps a teeny, tiny, but. But not enough. Declining ratios define aging, and ultimately death.
The essence of COVID's damage is to attack those ratios and hijack the cell's metabolism by injecting new DNA that makes "metabolic detours". COVID is the most aggressive virus know by way of percent of cellular DNA that is hijacked. It's no "simple flu". The PDC complex is the key crossroads of your mitochondria. PDC, pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, is the first step into sending energy into the enzymes that make energy. If you block that complex, you block making energy. The infected person feels awful with extreme fatigue. That's the block COVID makes. The virus is diverting the fuel molecule into a building block to make lipid coat for new virus particles. It's also hiding from immune cells by changing the alarm system: melatonin. The cell starves to death and ruptures, spewing out trillions of spanking new baby viruses. And that's precisely where a ketone ester jumps in and puts the fuel-making system back in process.
The alveolar type-2 cells in your lungs are meant to make protective proteins and the surface liquid that protects the lungs. If they don't have energy, they can't protect your lungs. COVID invades those cells. They are the ones you need to protect. You want them getting back to making ketones themselves, and producing their own melatonin so that the virus can't hide from the immune system. (Yes, you got that: melatonin isn't just your sleep hormone, it's made in every cell as part of an immune response - which you don't make as you age.)
That's enough basic science. Take a deep dive into the references here. But more importantly, learn from the experience of ketone-administering doctors. There are a bunch of us probing the limits of a possibly whole new field of medicine: Ketone Sciences. If I told you there are credible physicians who have virtually neutralized their Parkinson's with ketone esters, infertile women who have become pregnant, COPDer's who have breathed again....and COVID wheezers who have had lung function return in 15 minutes....would you listen? And will the House of Medicine explore how to use food to heal ourselves?
Ketone esters are simple BHB molecules with an ester group attached that makes them ultra-absorbable. They get into you very quickly. Designed for athletes running marathons, they are on the market, over the counter. In marathons, they work better than candy bars. In COVID, they might save your life: keeping your lung cells alive long enough for the frantic race between the virus and your immune system for your immune system to win. Once it's ramped up, you win.
Hence the promise of the vaccine. Getting a vaccine gives your immune system the vital edge. It will already know the "shape" of the enemy - a 5-day head start. That's enough.
www.What will Work for me. I have now seen multiple examples of folks feeling better with ketone esters. You can buy them off Amazon: KE4 is the label you type in. If it costs $ 99 for three little bottles, that's it. Each bottle is two days worth supple so a 3 pack gets you through a week. Or a marathon. I have a couple of packs. I have tested myself with them. Drinking one-third of a bottle raised my ketones by about 1 mmole. If you get COVID, start taking it three times a day: 1/6 of the bottle. See if you don't feel better. If you have Parkinson's, MS....etc etc, try it. See if you feel better. It's just a pure form of food. You do the same thing eating pure spinach - just slower and less dramatically. Repeat. It's not a drug - it's food. Curiously, the right stuff.
1. What are mitochondria? Answer: Your cellular powerplants that make the energy the cell uses.
2. What does COVID do to those mitochondria? Answer: Hijacks them, changing the production of energy into lipid production and hiding from your immune system.
3. What are ketones? Answer: The name we give to short-chain fatty-acids that our cells are used to running on when carbs aren't around. In modern civilization, we have sugar and carbs so widely and abundantly available, we don't switch over to ketone metabolism very often.
4. What do ketones do, given to COVID folks? Answer: rescue their dying cells in the nick of time. You will hear some folks say they feel better and can breathe better within 10 minutes.
5. Do I have to get permission from my doctor to take them? Answer: Do you ask your doctor if it's safe to eat spinach?
Apoptosis: A New Approach to Understanding Congestive Heart Failure
Half of us will die with the condition "congestive heart failure" on our medical record. It may be the cause of death in only 10% or so, but many more have it is a part of the picture. Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America, albeit Alzheimer's is catching up and will likely overtake it soon.
Congestive heart failure is essentially the loss of the ability to pump blood. It used to be thought that the heart cell lasted a lifetime. I was taught once upon a time that the heart actually replaced its muscle cells frequently. We finally have good data that shows that we replace about 1% heart muscle cells in a year at age 25 but only 1/2% per year at age 75. Replacing slows down.
You want to keep replacing those cells. 1% loss per year means you run out at 100. So, what is apoptosis? It is the orderly dismantling of the internal organs of a cell with proper recycling and folding up shop. The organ involved stays functioning and the surrounding cells keep at it. That is opposed to necrosis where a cell just dissolves with complete and dramatic loss or any "organ"-ization. You can only fix that by making scar tissue. The organ involved is damaged. A heart attack causes necrosis. That is a big problem. But what causes congestive heart failure? Too much apoptosis. If you want to take a gander at it, read the Biomed article on apoptosis. It's humdinger of complicated pathways and you will come away with reverence for the complexity of human physiology.
A new approach is needed. Try to wrap your brain around this one. Apoptosis is decided on in the mitochondria of your cell. Heart muscle cells have some 5000 mitochondria each. There is a constant cross-talk between the mitochondria and the nuclear of a cell. A mitochondrion only has 37 distinct genes in it, needed for minute-by-minute regulation. The other thousand or so it needs to duplicate itself come from the nucleus. A healthy cell is called "quiescent" meaning it is alert, awake, and ready to go: just chilling until needed. An unhealthy cell is "senescent" meaning it has become a zombie: unable to properly do its function with mitochondria that start spewing out reactive oxygen species and damaging the cells around it. Its mitochondria are in trouble and on the verge of issuing apoptosis orders.
Here is the emerging understanding of how to reverse that, how to pull back from senescence, how to fix imminent apoptosis, how to nip congestive heart failure in the bud. You need to repair your mitochondria and their conversation with the nucleus of the cell. Three things do that! Exercise: which makes a relative deficit of energy and induces the cell to hunker down, turn on its AMPK pathway and generate stem cells. Fasting: which makes a relative deficit of energy and induces the cell to hunker down, turn on its AMPK pathway and generate stem cells. (Oh, did I repeat myself?). And finally, the proper induction of sensitivity to growth hormone by the proper use of peptides that induce sensitivity to growth hormone.
What does that mean? You can't fight congestive heart failure by targeting the heart. You have to target the cell. Every cell. Your whole body. Every mitochondrion. And a healthy mitochondrion needs its own "exercise". It needs to have its genes activated and its conversation with the nucleus honored. New idea! But it's on the right path.
www.What will Work for me. We are beginning to understand the core cellular causes of cell senescence. It starts with learning the language and terms that define what the problem is. And I love connecting the dots so that I can understand why I have to drag my sorry, lazy butt off the couch and get some exercise. Now, when we go even deeper into the balance of NAD+ to NADH, we will get to real understanding. And David Sinclair's book about Lifespan, and his admonition to be on metformin and NAD+ will suddenly make sense. I took my metformin today.
1. What is apoptosis? Answer: the orderly dismantling of a cell.
2. Is apoptosis a problem? Answer: Well, yes, if it means you have pushed a cell too far and tipped it over the edge, which appears to be at the "heart" of congestive heart failure. You don't want a dismantled cell. You want a working cell.
3. What percent of heart cells are "dismantled" every year at age 75? Answer: 1/2 of one percent. That's new news to me. Each heart muscle cell is precious.
4. What is the secret way to slow that down or fix it? Answer: Exercise, fasting, and growth hormone.
5. And what is at the "heart" of those three? Answer: Maintaining a healthy NAD+/NADH ratio. Which taking NAD+ and metformin helps dramatically.