Month: August 2016

The Many Health Benefits of MCT Oil


By Dr. Mercola

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have become increasingly popular as people are learning more about the health benefits of nutritional ketosis, which is achieved by replacing net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) with high amounts of healthy fats and moderate amounts of high quality protein.

Some of the health benefits of coconut oil relate to the MCTs in the oil. But  MCT oil is a more concentrated source, so it tends to be more appropriate for clinical uses, which include:1

  • Appetite reduction and weight loss2,3
  • Improved cognitive and neurological function with possible implications in neurodegerative diseases
  • Increased energy levels and improved athletic performance
  • Improved mitochondrial function and subsequent reduced risk for diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and epilepsy4
  • As part of a specialized dietary therapy for the treatment of epilepsy
  • Prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)5

Short-, Medium- and Long-Chain Triglycerides

The disastrous “low-fat diet” dogma of the last half century has led to a devastating drop in most people’s intake of healthy saturated fats, including MCTs, as most people have bought into the erroneous assumption that saturated fats are unhealthy and will raise their risk of heart disease.

Besides coconuts, coconut oil and palm kernel oil, small amounts of MCT can be found in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.

Be sure not to confuse the extremely unhealthy industrial versions of coconut and palm oils (which are historically used as hydrogenated oils in industrial baked goods) with organic, virgin and unrefined oils available as “health foods.”

MCTs get their name from their chemical structure. Fats consist of chains of carbon molecules connected to hydrogen atoms. Short-chain fats have six carbons or less.

Medium-chain fats contain between six and 12 carbons, while long-chained fats, such as the omega-3 fats docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have 13 to 21 carbons.

Four Types of MCTs

MCTs can be divided into four groups based on their carbon length:6

  • 6 carbons (C6), caproic acid
  • 8 carbons (C8), caprylic acid
  • 10 carbons (C10), capric acid
  • 12 carbons (C12), lauric acid

As a general rule, the shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones, which are an excellent source of energy for your body — far preferable to glucose, as ketones produce far less reactive oxygen species (ROS) when they are metabolized to produce ATP.

I recently wrote about how a novel ketone ester drink may help boost performance in professional athletes, but while ketone supplements are still in development, your best bet at the moment is to use MCTs found in foods and supplements, which your body will then convert to ketones.

Most commercial brands of MCT oil contain close to a 50/50 combination of C8 and C10 fats. My personal preference, even though it is more expensive, is straight C8 (caprylic acid), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than do C10 fats, and may be easier on your digestion.

Coconut oil provides a mix of all the medium-chain fats, including C6, C8, C10 and C12 fats, the latter of which (lauric acid) makes up over 40 percent of the fat in coconut oil. (The exception is FRACTIONATED coconut oil, which contains primarily C8 and C10.7)

There are benefits to all of these fatty acids. However, caprylic and capric fatty acids increase ketone levels far more efficiently.

Also, while lauric acid is technically an MCT, its longer carbon chain means it does not always have the same biological activity as the shorter chained ones. In fact, C12 can behave more like long-chain fatty acids (LCTs), which are less efficiently broken down into ketones.

As a result, C12 is less potent when it comes to curbing hunger and promoting brain health. For these benefits, you want C8 and C10. Lauric acid is most well-known for its antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

The shorter-chained MCTs, on the other hand, are more readily converted into ketones, which are an excellent mitochondrial fuel. Ketones also help suppress ghrelin (a.k.a. the hunger hormone) and enhance another hormone that signals your brain when you’re full.

Why Take MCT Oil?

Your body processes MCTs differently from the long-chain fats in your diet. Normally, a fat taken into your body must be mixed with bile released from your gallbladder and acted on by pancreatic enzymes to break it down in your digestive system.

MCTs don’t need bile or pancreatic enzymes. Once they reach your intestine, they diffuse through your intestinal membrane into your bloodstream and are transported directly to your liver, which naturally converts the oil into ketones.

Your liver then releases the ketones back into your bloodstream, where they are transported throughout your body. They can even pass the blood-brain barrier to supply your brain with energy. MCTs also have a thermogenic effect, which has a positive effect on your metabolism.8

For these reasons, MCTs are readily used by your body for energy rather than being stored as fat. MCTs are also helpful for ridding your gut of harmful microorganisms like pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Like coconut oil, MCTs also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

MCT oil (either straight MCT or coconut oil) may be consumed every day. One of the challenges with MCT oils is that if you consume high amounts initially before you develop tolerance to them, they can cause loose stools and gastrointestinal (GI) side effects.

I recommend taking no more than 1 teaspoon of MCT oil to start. Have it at the same time as another fat, for example, with a handful of nuts, with ghee in your coffee or as one of the oils in your salad dressing. Once your tolerance increases, you can slowly increase that amount to 4 tablespoons of MCT oil per day.

If you stop taking MCT oil for a while and then restart, begin with a small amount again to allow your digestive system to readjust.

That said, MCT oil is often more easily digested by those struggling to digest other types of fat, such as those with malabsorption, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease or gallbladder impairment (such as an infection or if you had your gallbladder removed).

One of the ways you can improve your tolerance is by using the powdered form in shakes or home baked keto muffins or breads.

How MCT Oil May Aid Weight Loss

Animal and human studies have demonstrated that MCTs enhance thermogenesis and fat oxidation, thereby suppressing the deposition and accumulation of body fat.9In other words, they have a heating effect, and your body can readily use ketones as fuel for energy in lieu of carbs.

By helping your body burn fat and produce more ketones, MCTs provide you with effects that are very similar to those you would reap from a ketogenic diet, but without having to reduce your net carbs to as drastically low levels as you would on a ketogenic diet. Here’s a small sampling of studies looking at MCTs’ impact on weight:

One three-month-long, double-blind and controlled study10 found that long-term consumption of MCTs helped otherwise healthy adults lose significantly more subcutaneous body fat than those who took LCTs. All subjects consumed 60 grams of total fat per day.

The difference was the type of fat (MCT versus LCT). The energy, protein and carbohydrate levels were otherwise similar. According to the authors, “These results suggest that the MCT diet may reduce body weight and fat in individuals (BMI > or = 23 kg/m(2) more than the LCT diet.”

A 2015 meta-analysis11 of 13 randomized controlled trials found that, compared to LCTs, MCTs more effectively decreased body weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, total body fat, total subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. There was no difference in blood lipid levels between the two fats.

According to the authors: “Replacement of LCTs with MCTs in the diet could potentially induce modest reductions in body weight and composition without adversely affecting lipid profiles.”

Other research suggests MCTs help with weight loss by reducing your appetite. As reported by Mental Health Daily:12 “Some scientists speculate that MCT acts on various hormones such as: cholecystokinin, gastric inhibitory peptide, pancreatic polypeptide, peptide YY and neurotensin. The precise mechanism of action of MCTs remains unknown, but it is known to induce satiety and reduced appetite compared to [LCTs].”

MCTs Are Part of a Healthy Diet — They’re Not a Miracle Cure

That said, in most studies the effect on weight loss has been small — perhaps too small to make a significant impact on its own. As noted by Paleo Leap:13

“The authors … use kilojoules to measure energy instead of calories, but when you convert the units, you’ll see that few of the studies showed a benefit relevant to the real world. For example, one study found that 5 grams of MCT oil did indeed raise the metabolic rate of healthy men … by 11 calories a day … [Y]ou could burn more calories than that by walking for [five] minutes, or jumping rope slowly for [two] minutes.”

It’s important to realize that MCT oil will not produce weight loss miracles all on its own. However, it is an excellent addition to an otherwise healthy diet. Moreover, many consider MCTs “the ultimate ketogenic fat,” as it allows you to eat slightly more net carbs while still staying in nutritional ketosis. Without MCTs, you’d have to cut carbs more drastically in order to maintain ketosis.

If you’re serious about losing weight, review and implement the recommendations in my updated Nutrition Plan. It will guide you step-by-step. MCT oil is a healthy fat that I recommend using in addition to other healthy fats, which include:

Olives and olive oil (make sure it’s third party-certified, as 80 percent of olive oils are adulterated with vegetable oils. Also avoid cooking with olive oil. Use it cold.) Coconuts and coconut oil (excellent for cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures without oxidizing) Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
Raw nuts, such as macadamia andpecans Seeds like black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds Avocados
Grass-fed meats Lard and tallow (excellent for cooking) Ghee (clarified butter)
Raw cacao butter Organic-pastured egg yolks Animal-based omega-3 fat such as krill oil and small fatty fish like sardines and anchovies

MCTs Promote Brain and Heart Health

MCTs are a superior brain fuel, converting to ketones within minutes of ingestion. Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 20 grams per day. This is the amount indicated for protection against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.14 As noted by Mental Health Daily:15

“In small scale human trials,16 MCT supplementation boosted cognition in individuals with cognitive impairment and mild forms of Alzheimer’s disease after just a single dose. While not everyone improved from the MCT treatment, those with certain genetics experienced notable improvement.”

Ketones appear to be the preferred source of energy for the brain in people affected by diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and maybe even ALS, because in these diseases, certain neurons have become insulin resistant or have lost the ability to efficiently utilize glucose. As a result, neurons slowly die off.

The introduction of ketones may rescue these neurons and they may still be able to survive and thrive. In multiple studies, ketones have been shown to be both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective. They also appear to lower markers of systemic inflammation, such as IL-6 and others.

Your heart health can also derive great benefit from MCTs. Human studies have shown MCTs help lower total lipid levels and improve cardiovascular health. For example, people who regularly consume coconut oil have a lower incidence of heart attack compared to those who do not consume coconut oil — an effect attributed to the MCT in the coconut.

A 1991 study17 found that palm kernel oil was even more effective for lowering serum cholesterol than coconut oil, dairy and animal fats. Palm kernel oil also helped raise beneficial HDL cholesterol.

In 2010, researchers published findings showing MCTs help lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome,18 which includes a cluster of symptoms such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Unlike carbohydrates, ketones don’t stimulate a surge in insulin. Another benefit is that they don’t need insulin to help them cross cell membranes, including neuronal membranes. Instead, they use protein transporters, which allow them to enter cells that have become insulin resistant.

How Much MCT Do You Need?

While optimal dosing will vary from person to person, depending on your health status, energy needs and what your GI tract can tolerate, here are some general guidelines to consider:

  • Start with 1 teaspoon and work your way up, adding 1 teaspoon at a time over the course of a few weeks. If you experience GI distress or diarrhea, cut back. While it’s not harmful to overdose on MCT, your body will rid itself of the excess by causing diarrhea, so don’t overdo it.
  • Studies suggest an ideal ketone concentration for maximum hunger suppression and fat burning is 0.48 millimole per liter (mmol/L).19 Ketone measurements can be done through urine, breath or blood testing. Blood testing is the most expensive but also the most accurate and easy to test with home meters and strips. Measure your ketones about one hour after taking your MCT oil, and slowly build up your dose until you reach 0.48 mmol/L.
  • Alternatively, simply raise the dose (slowly) until you notice you’re no longer as hungry as you used to be.
  • For supplementation in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies have found beneficial effects using a daily dose of 20 grams (about 4 teaspoons) of MCT oil.

As for the type of MCT oil to take, I prefer the more expensive C8 (caprylic acid) oil over those containing both C8 and C10. Avoid cheaper versions containing C6. Even a 1 to 2 percent concentration of C6 can contribute to GI distress. If you want C12 (lauric acid) for its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activity, add coconut oil to your diet, which is less expensive and more versatile than MCT oil.

Remember, coconut oil is predominantly lauric acid, which has many benefits, including antimicrobial. However, it does not convert as efficiently into ketones and therefore does not contribute much of an energy boost. Nor does it suppress hunger or help feed your brain the way C8 and C10 do. MCT oil is typically tasteless and odorless, so it can easily be added to a wide variety of dishes and beverages, from salad dressing to smoothies and vegetable juices.

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How Microbes Moved From Villain to Hero

 

August 22, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Microbes live inside all of us. The idea of a “microscopic menagerie” teeming and thriving in your cells, your intestines and your brain might make you a little uncomfortable, but this is good news, according to the latest science.

U.K.-based science writer Ed Yong’s new book, “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life,” says microbiomes — the fungi, bacteria, viruses and other minuscule critters — are necessary “partners” for the betterment of our immune systems.

Your microbiomes change constantly, and what you eat makes a big difference in the kind of microbes your body contains. When people begin improving their diets, the number and integrity of their microbes improve. In fact, through your diet, you can, to a degree, switch them out, Yong asserted:

“It seems that dietary fiber is a really important driver of microbial diversity in our bodies. Fiber consists of large numbers of different carbohydrates — many we can’t digest, but our bacteria in our guts can. If we eat low-fiber diets, we narrow the range of our microbial partners.

Simple measures like probiotics — adding a few strains of microbes in the hope that they will take hold and remedy health problems — have been largely unsuccessful. It will take more

… If we want to add microbes to our bodies, we’ll need to think about whether we need to eat certain foods to nourish the microbes we’re taking.”1

Human gut bacteria may have existed for millions of years, maybe before the evolution of people.

A recent study asserts that three types of gut bacteria affected intestinal development, fought off germs and may have influenced mood and behavior and were reportedly present in African great apes that lived more than 10 million years ago.

Scientists believe the bacteria “evolved into distinct strains as humans and great apes went their separate evolutionary ways.” Study authors hope similar gut microbes can be eventually traced past amphibians and even vertebrates.2

How Science Approaches ‘Fixing’ Broken Microbiome Function

While microbiome science is still in the early stages, scientists have explored why certain foods are good for us and others aren’t. The connection between food, microbes and health are all inextricably intertwined, and unraveling the mysteries may shed light on how they affect our metabolism.

Fiber, for instance, is good for many of our gut bacteria, so eating more veggies certainly won’t hurt. Microbiome researcher Jeff Leach told NPR3 that too little might starve the good bacteria, and “when we starve our bacteria they eat us. They eat the mucus lining — the mucin in our large intestine.”

Fiber feeds your bacteria and gives off nourishing nutrients for your gut lining. Veggies are high-fiber foods, so eating a variety and as much of the whole thing as possible is recommended.

Garlic and onions also have antimicrobial properties; garlic impairs some of the undesirable bacteria but leaves the good ones. As Leach explained:

“Those vegetables contain high levels of a type of fiber called inulin, which feeds actinobacteria in our guts. In fact, inulin is considered a probiotic, since it feeds the good bacteria, or probiotics, that live inside us.”

He added that slight or short-term diet tweaks may not make much of a difference in gut health, but moving from ingesting 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day to more like 40 or 50, “you may see some changes.”

The Gut-Brain Axis: How Your Brain Influences Hunger

Scientists at Rockefeller University used magnetic stimulation in the ventromedial hypothalamus part of the brains of genetically engineered mice to “switch on” neurons to see how the brain might influence appetite. According to Scientific American, they found that the procedure:

“Increased the rodents’ blood sugar levels and decreased levels of the hormone insulin. Turning on the neurons also caused the mice to eat more than their control counterparts …

They inhibited these neurons and saw the opposite effects: it drove blood sugar down, elevated insulin levels and suppressed the animals’ urge to consume their chow.4

Scientists have been aware for over a century that the brain “talks to the mind” through nerve connections, as well as biochemical signals such as hormones, to affect metabolism in a connection called the “gut-brain axis.”

Studies have concentrated on the communication pathways between the nervous and digestive systems to treat metabolic disorders, especially since obesity and metabolic disease is increasing steadily worldwide.

Four in 10 women in the U.S. are considered obese5 and diabetes prevalence has almost quadrupled since 1980, so scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working on the gut-brain link with increased urgency to devise drugs, surgery, devices and probiotic approaches.

In 2011, Dr. Serguei Fetissov from Rouen University in France started his company TargEDys to develop treatment programs for metabolic disorders and conducted mice studies using Escherichia coli (E. coli) intestinal bacteria to reduce their appetite. Scientific American reported:

“Fetissov is trying to replicate these effects in the rodents by using a probiotic to hasten the proliferation of E. coli and boost production of appetite-reducing proteins, rather than by administering injections of the bacterial protein products.”6

Early in 2016, TargEDys announced plans for clinical trials using freeze-dried probiotic bacteria in capsule form to use on humans and hoping to replicate the appetite-suppressing effects seen in the mice trials. Similarly, a potential therapy for anorexia patients or elderly involves bacteria to stimulate hunger.

The More (Good) Fat a Pregnant Mom Eats, the Better Her Baby’s Gut Health

Unborn babies have microbes, too, and scientists believe the mother’s fat intake may affect how healthy the mix of those microbes is, another study revealed.

More than 150 women participated, recording what they ate during their pregnancy. Researchers said their diets contained an average of 33 percent fat, which they considered good since the optimal amount is 20 percent to 35 percent.

However, the levels ranged between 14 percent and 55 percent, so some were inordinately low and others, high by conventional standards. Emerging evidence actually suggests your dietshould be at least half healthy fat and possibly as high as 70 percent.

Gut microbiomes of the babies born to moms who ate a higher-fat diet had fewer Bacteroide microbes at birth and weeks afterward, positively affecting immune system development and energy extraction from food.

Finding the link between fewer Bacteroides and the moms’ high-fat diet during pregnancy was a surprise to the researchers, including Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, senior study author and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. According to Medicine Net:

“Diet is very amenable to change, and women are highly motivated to make healthy changes during pregnancy. Traditionally, dietary interventions during pregnancy have focused on micronutrients, such as iron and folic acid.

We speculate that there may be a sound argument to also discuss and estimate fat intake.”7

Getting the Right Microbes Early May Ward Off Certain Diseases

The make-up of babies’ digestive tract microbes might have something to do with whether or not they develop asthma later in life, scientists reported.

In fact, their study on 319 babies revealed that low levels of four specific bacteria — Rothia, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Faecalibacterium — indicated a higher risk of the breathing disorder by age 3.8 Conversely, when the babies’ intestines revealed higher levels of the microbes, their chances of asthma were much greater.

Brett Finlay, Ph.D., a University of British Columbia microbiologist, said asthma, which is becoming increasingly common, is really an immune allergic-type reaction in the lungs. Several factors raise or lower the risk, Finlay told NPR:

“There’s all these smoking guns like, for example, if you breast-feed versus bottle feed you have less asthma. If you’re born by C-section instead of vaginal birth you have a 20 percent higher rate of asthma. If you get antibiotics in the first year of life you have more asthma.”9

Further: “The microbiomes of kids who aren’t breast-fed and are born by cesarean section may miss out on getting helpful bugs. Antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria that seem important for the development of healthy immune systems.”

Mice studies indicated that those microbes influence how peoples’ immune systems develop later in life. Although the researchers aren’t sure how, a possible link might be the fact that babies with low levels of the four microbes were also low in acetate, which may be tied to immune system regulation. Though it is likely years away, confirming their supposition may lead to the next step in scientists’ studies: Seeing if the missing microbes might be replenished. In the meantime, NPR reported:

“More breast feeding, fewer C-sections and more careful use of antibiotics could go a long way toward nurturing the microbes babies need to avoid asthma and other diseases.”10

Review: ‘Bacteroides: the Good, the Bad, and the Nitty-Gritty’

A Clinical Microbiology review titled “Bacteroides: the Good, the Bad, and the Nitty-Gritty,”11 noted that Bacteroides contain “the most antibiotic resistance mechanisms and the highest resistance rates of all anaerobic pathogens.” They have a symbiotic relationship with the host unless they escape to other areas of the body, causing harm.

“By a variety of measures, the species Homo sapiens is more microbial than human. Microorganisms comprise only a small, albeit significant, percentage of the body weight (between 2 and 5 pounds of live bacteria). However, in terms of cell numbers, we are about 10 [percent] human and 90 [percent] bacterial!

Consequently, bacteria play a major role in bodily functions, including immunity, digestion and protection against disease. Colonization of the human body by microorganisms occurs at the very beginning of human life, and many of these organisms become truly indigenous to the host.”

A subspecies of bacteria called B. infantis feeds on sugars in breast milk, known as human milk oligosaccharides. Because babies can’t digest the sugars, they’re food for the microbes rather than the babies. According to Yong:

“These sugars are sort of a way of setting up a baby’s first microbiome, ensuring that the right species set up shop rather than those that are likely to cause disease. And it’s fascinating to me to think of this very common act, breastfeeding, through this new microbial lens.”12

Incidentally, more than one scientist has lamented the fact that the microbiomes humans have maintained in their systems for millennia are declining due in part to germ phobia in Western society, such as the prevalence of antibiotics and hand sanitizers.

Fighting Poop With Poop, or The Great Poop Exchange

Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. diff., is a “hardy bacterium” that instigates stubborn, recurring diarrhea. It may seem contradictory to treat such a condition with a microbe transplant — aka fecal transplant — but it’s a treatment that’s becoming more common. According to Yong:

“Fecal transplants have been used to treat this condition many times over in many countries. It’s been tested in randomized controlled studies, which is the gold standard. The first trial had to be stopped early because [the transplants were so successful that] it seemed unethical to not put all of the patients on this treatment.”13

C. diff is an invasive microbe, unlike irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel disease, because as it’s zapped by a plethora of antibiotics, necessary microbes “collapse,” opening the door, so to speak, for the microbes in a donor stool to invade. Yong told NPR:

“It might just be that C. diff. was the low hanging fruit. That said, fecal transplants are arguably our most successful microbiome-based therapy. They show some important principles that we might like to take heed of like the fact that [the treatment] is a community-based approach.”14

At Brown University, where another program focuses on digestive system microbes such as bacteria, fungi and viruses (human microbiomes), scientists say problems with C. diff. started when antibiotics prescribed for another condition altogether disturbed what, again, may have been perfectly functioning, benign gut organisms. Colleen Kelly, a doctor in the program, said microbe transplants are being tested for other conditions as well, including Crohn’s disease, colitis and diabetes — even obesity.

“We’re at a really interesting point in medicine where we’ve come to appreciate the microbiome and that [these organisms] have really integral roles in … energy metabolism, and immune function, and all of these other things.”15

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is said to have “big concerns” over microbiome transplants, comparing them to snake oil. As such, the FDA restricts doctors’ use of the procedure for anything other than C. diff. unless they get FDA approval.

Can a Supplement Help Prevent Kidney Stones?

 August 22.2016

By Dr. Mercola

Anyone who’s ever experienced the pain (and sometimes agony) of a kidney stonemay have thought afterward, “Wouldn’t it be great if they came up with something that could prevent that?”

As is so often the case in science, such visualizations are the same as those of researchers. In this instance, a dietary supplement with the power to dissolve the little troublemakers before they wreak havoc in your system may be the solution.

Researchers at the University of Houston (UH) are calling it a possible “prevention tool.” You may be thinking that if it could actually do that, it might be more like a wonder drug.

Calcium oxylate crystals, which make up the bulk of these minute-but-mighty troublemakers, are essentially hard mineral deposits that form in the kidneys.

The problem starts when they become lodged in your urinary tract and won’t budge. One or more may restrict the flow of urine, causing another level of discomfort. According to MedicineNet.com:

“The calcium oxalate crystals that are the most common component of kidney stones, [are the] mineral deposits that form inside the kidneys. They may get stuck in the urinary tract, blocking urination and causing great pain.”1

If the stone happens to be small, it may pass through your urinary tract unnoticed. But if it’s a large one, it’s not pleasant. Daily Mail reported that in Hungary, the largest kidney stone ever recorded weighed nearly 2.5 pounds.2 Needless to say, larger stones require surgical removal.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

The technical location for kidney stones is the tube that connects your kidney and bladder, called the ureter. When they develop, the previously referenced symptoms3can include:

A persistent urge to urinate Fever and chills (indicating infection) Bloody and/or cloudy urine Pain when urinating
Episodes of pain lasting 20 minutes to an hour Nausea and/or vomiting Pain radiating down your side and back to your groin and lower abdomen

Hydroxycitrate From the Garcinia Cambogia: Possible Kidney Stone Prevention

The study, published in Nature4 in mid-2016, described the development of the kidney stone supplement, an extract of a compound called hydroxycitrate from the Asian garcinia cambogia fruit, also known as Malabar tamarind.

Hydroxycitrate is capable, under certain conditions, of not only dissolving the crystals but also inhibiting their growth. If all goes as they hope, hydroxycitrate would be the most dramatic advance in treating kidney stones in three decades.

Scientists expect the supplement will be a viable alternative to potassium citrate (such as the brand Urocit-K5) which, while it’s effective in relieving kidney stone-passing pain, often includes side effects that rival the misery of what they they’re designed to remedy:

  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cardiac arrest

However, rigorous trials in humans have not yet begun. It’s actually just a concept, so far, but one that makes sense. Jeffrey Rimer, lead study author and associate professor of chemical engineering at UH, said he and his colleagues conducted a combination of studies, some experimental.

Studies Involving Hydroxycitrate

According to Science Daily,6 in studies pitting citrate (CA) against hydroxycitrate (HCA), both inhibited calcium oxalate crystal growth, but the latter was “more potent and displayed unique qualities that are advantageous for the development of new therapies.”

“The team of researchers then used atomic force microscopy, or AFM, to study interactions between the crystals, CA and HCA under realistic growth conditions … the technique allowed them to record crystal growth in real time with near-molecular resolution.

[Jihae] Chung [a UH graduate student who worked on the study] noted that the AFM images recorded the crystal actually shrinking when exposed to specific concentrations of HCA.

 Rimer suspected the initial finding was an abnormality, as it is rare to see a crystal actually dissolve in highly supersaturated growth solutions. The most effective inhibitors reported in the literature simply stop the crystal from growing.”

What Chung saw turned out to be accurate, precipitating the next step: determining how and why the crystals shrank. Two other study authors applied density functional theory (DFT):

” … [A] highly accurate computational method used to study the structure and properties of materials … to address how HCA and CA bind to calcium and to calcium oxalate crystals.

They discovered HCA formed a stronger bond with crystal surfaces, inducing a strain that is seemingly relieved by the release of calcium and oxalate, leading to crystal dissolution.” 7

The next step required that humans be included in the testing, so seven participants took hydroxycitrate for three days, which was long enough for researchers to establish that it was expelled through their urine, one of the requirements for using the supplement as a treatment.

While long-term safety needs to be established, as do dosages and more trials on humans, Rimer believes the initial findings are promising:

“If it works in vivo, similar to our trials in the laboratory, HCA has the potential to reduce the incidence rate of people with chronic kidney stone disease.”8

Giannis Mpourmpakis, Ph.D., another study author and assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pittsburgh University’s Swanson School of Engineering, said:

“We were very excited to identify a molecular-level mechanism under which calcium oxalate grows and degrades in its natural environment. Eventually, this will help us control the crystal’s life cycle.”9

Stats on Kidney Stones

The healthiest kidneys function in a number of ways for optimum health. Most importantly, they filter all the blood in your body every half hour, removing waste and excess fluid, according to the National Kidney Foundation.10 They also:

Regulate your fluid levels Activate vitamin D for strong bones Release the hormone for red blood cell production
Keep blood minerals in balance Release a blood-regulating hormone

More than half a million people in the U.S. hit the emergency room for relief from what is often termed excruciating pain from kidney stones. Unfortunately, the condition is becoming more and more prevalent. To date, they affect what’s estimated to be 12 percent of men and 7 percent of women. Harvard Health reports:

“For many, kidney stones aren’t a one-time thing: In about half of people who have had one, another appears within seven years without preventive measures. Most stones occur when calcium combines with one of two substances: oxalate or phosphorous. Stones can also form from uric acid, which forms as the body metabolizes protein.”11

Kidney stones also increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Sobering statistics include:

High blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of kidney disease12 Around 26 million American adults have kidney disease and don’t know it One in 3 American adults are currently at risk13
Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. Every year, kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancers Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S.
African Americans are 3.5 times more likely to have kidney failure14 Once kidneys fail, either dialysis or a kidney transplant is required In 2013, more than 47,000 Americans died from kidney disease15
Every day, 13 people die waiting for a kidney16

Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

Most doctors know that one of the most prevalent causes of kidney stones (aka nephrolithiasis) is dehydration, so drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways to prevent their development. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity increase the risk.

Another recommendation is to limit your protein intake to one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams daily (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 ounces). If you’re prone to kidney stones, excess amounts of red meat can be especially problematic because it decreases the levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps keep kidney stones from forming in the first place.

Most Americans consume far more protein than they need, which can exacerbate problems with kidney stones. When you consume more protein than your body needs, your body must remove more nitrogen waste products from your blood, which stresses your kidneys.17 Chronic dehydration can result. Doctors also encourage people at risk for kidney stones to pass up foods containing high amounts of oxalate,18 including:

Swiss chard Beets Tea
Sweet potatoes Rhubarb Chocolate
Okra Almonds Spinach

However, these foods contain high amounts of magnesium, which helps prevent calcium from blending with oxalate, the most common kidney stone type. Magnesium is a mineral that has the capacity to prevent kidney stones — if you get enough.

Magnesium deficiency is estimated to affect as much as 80 percent of the American population. It’s been associated with kidney stone development because it plays a part in the way your body handles calcium. Too much calcium can become toxic, so there needs to be a balance.

The Clinical Use of Nutritional Ketosis

 

August 14, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

Eating a high-quality, high-fat diet may be one of the most useful interventions for many chronic diseases. Dr. Jeanne Drisko, who heads up the University of Kansas Integrative Medical Center, has used this nutritional protocol in a clinical setting for many years now.

Drisko is also the chairman and medical director for the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), a grassroots organization that helps educate consumers and patients about natural health strategies and important political issues that affect your access to alternative medicine.

“As many of us in integrative medicine, I started out very conventionally,” Drisko says. “But with a personal health crisis, you suddenly learn there’s not a lot in conventional medicine that works. I turned to integrative medicine and got much better …

I ended up doing a fellowship with Hugh Riordan in Wichita, Kansas, who was one of the pioneers in intravenous vitamin C and a number of other integrative therapies. That was really what launched me into integrative medicine.”

In 1998, the dean of the University of Kansas asked her to launch the KU Medicine Center,1 which now teaches students in integrative medicine.

The fellowship, which is one additional year after completion of a residency program, is even eligible for the board certification through the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

Clinical Use of Nutritional Ketosis

Part of Drisko’s focus has been on the clinical use of nutritional ketosis, which is what I recommend for nearly everyone to improve their health. This all began when, at the prompting of the clinic’s naturopath, they began investigating how shifts in the diet could improve outcomes in cancer patients treated with intravenous (IV) vitamin C.

“[T]he naturopath kept saying, ‘We need to get them off the sugar. We need to get their diets improved.’

We worked together and found the responses with IV vitamin C were improved with more good fat, the essential fatty acid, medium-chain fat diet; the low sugar; and some good-quality protein,” Drisko says.

“I never really put a name to it until Thomas Seyfried’s book [“Cancer as a Metabolic Disease“] came out. That book was seminal for me. I was fortunate to be able to sit down with Tom, to have dinner with him, and to have been in communication with him since that book came out.”

Seyfried and I will both be speaking at the Conquering Cancer Conference in Orlando, September 22 through 24. The event is sponsored by the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM).

Drisko will also participate in the brainstorming group at the ACIM Conquering Cancer Conference on September 25. You and/or your physician are invited to attend the general conference, which precedes this event. It should be one of the best cancer conferences of the year.

Cancer is not the only disease the KU Medical Center treats with a ketogenic diet. When asked what type of illness this intervention can benefit, she replies:

“Chronic illness generally … We see a lot of young people that are very toxic and they have a lot of endocrine disruption, chronic illness and autoimmune disorders … The ketogenic approach has been really helpful in getting them back [to] health with detoxification.”

Assessment and Evaluation

Patients initially receive a personalized integrative health assessment, which includes a comprehensive digestive stool analysis and a genetic panel. The latter allows you to evaluate the function of the detoxification, methylation and sulfation pathways.

They also receive an individualized nutrient evaluation and essays to determine mitochondrial function.

“We really like to look at the urinary organic acids. We look at lactate, pyruvate, and the urinary organic acids to see how the mitochondria are functioning,”Drisko explains.

“We also like to look at some of the medium chain fat levels and then try and figure out if they’re spilling some of these important fats in the urine or if they’re burning them in the mitochondria [for] energy, and if they need cofactors like carnitine or some of the B vitamins …

We use conventional labs or the Genova panel for the cardio-metabolic profile. It’s an ION panel, but it adds some of the cardiac factors; lipid. That way, we can really assess some of the biochemical cofactors. I also like US Bio Tek … [a] urinary metabolic panel. I get a lot of information from that.”

Determining Mitochondrial Function

If your mitochondria are functioning well, they will efficiently metabolize fat. If they don’t, it suggests you’re primarily burning carbohydrates as a primary fuel. Elevated lactate is typically found in people whose mitochondria are working at max capacity. However, there’s a continuum.

In a chronically ill patient, particularly if the individual is toxic, the lactate will be high while some of the mitochondrial cofactors in the Krebs cycle will be either elevated or too low, indicating that the mitochondria are not working properly.

Poorly functioning mitochondria will also cause butyrates and certain fats to be eliminated via urine rather than being burned as fuel in the mitochondria. In cancer patients, this pattern of poor mitochondrial function becomes clearly evident.

“We’ve even done some metabolic cart testing in these patients, and at rest, they’re burning glucose and their glycogen stores if they’re really metabolically impaired,” Drisko says.

Seyfried’s book, which catalyzed Drisko’s interest in this field, is a great resource. On the downside, it’s expensive and best suited for health professionals.

An easier read is Travis Christofferson’s book, “Tripping Over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer,” which provides a great overview of how mitochondrial metabolic dysfunction contributes to cancer, and may in fact be the primary cause.

Sample Success Story

One sample success story from Drisko’s clinical experience involves a young man who had been at an outdoor concert, spending the entire day in 98 F heat. Prior to that day, he’d been healthy, but after that, he became chronically ill.

“He had thyroid dysfunction … He had a drop in his testosterone levels. He had the onset of irritable bowel. He was a mess,” Drisko says. “He went from doctor to doctor to doctor, as you can imagine. They finally told him he was just depressed and gave him antidepressants.

Someone referred him to our clinic. It turned out it was like sitting in a sauna all day for that young man, which released all these toxins that had built up … He had lived near a farming community and been exposed to a lot of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.

Those are stored in your tissues. In sitting in that heat, it was like sitting in the sauna and releasing it. He didn’t have the mechanism to clean it up and get it out of him. It was a toxic hit. When he came to me, we put him on appropriate doses of testosterone, got his thyroid in range, and just made him generally feel a little bit better. We cleaned up his gut and changed his diet.”

After doing a genetics panel and urinary metabolic profile to assess the functionality of his detoxification pathways, they found his mitochondria were hardly working at all.

By removing sugars and processed carbohydrates and adding in healthy fats, including medium-chain triglycerides and higher-quality protein, he was able to turn his health around. He also received IV vitamin C and IV glutathione to aid with the detox process. “In time, he was pretty much back to baseline; off testosterone, no more irritable bowel, and on small dose of thyroid medication,” Drisko says.

Healthy Versus Dangerous Fats

When we’re talking about implementing a high-fat diet, it’s extremely important to identify which fats we’re referring to, and how much.

As a general rule, you’ll want at least 50 to 75 percent of your total calories (some may benefit from as much as 85 percent) from healthy fats, which include: olives, avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, organic pastured butter, cacao butter, raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans, seeds such as black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds, organic pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, lard and tallow.

If you’re using the fats found in the typical American diet, you’re undoubtedly going to get worse, not better. This is actually one of the reasons why the low-fat diet is in fact beneficial for some; because it lowers their intake of harmful polyunsaturated (PUFA) refined vegetable oils, primarily omega-6.

Making matters worse, 85 to 90 percent of those oils are from corn and soy, most of which are genetically engineered (GE), which means they’re more heavily contaminated with glyphosate residues from Roundup. I suspect glyphosate may be an important contributor to mitochondrial dysfunction.

While typically never measured, Drisko has a new integrative medicine fellow who will be doing a research project to actually measure glyphosate residues in patients. I look forward to seeing the results of that research. In short, the key to success on a high-fat diet is to eat high-quality healthy fats. MCT oil is particularly beneficial, but need to be implemented with some care.

“I think a person, a physician or a health food coach really needs to be well versed in the use of these fats, because they can be difficult for patients to take. I have one patient that comes to mind that have a lot of GI distress from the use of these fats. We’re always looking for a different way to administer these important medium-chain triglycerides (MCT),” Drisko says.

MCT Versus Coconut Oil

One of the challenges with MCT oils is that if you consume high amounts, they can cause loose stools and gastrointestinal side effects. I’ve experienced that myself, even though I thought I was tolerant to it from eating high amounts of fat already and previously using 5 to 6 tablespoons of MCT. The problem was I’d stopped taking the MCT oil for awhile, and when you stop and restart it takes a while for your GI system to readjust.

Once your tolerance increases, you can have 5 to 6 tablespoons of MCT oil per day. But you wouldn’t want to start with more than a teaspoon of MCT oil. Interestingly, Drisko notes that chronically ill people actually tend to have an increased tolerance to MCT, whereas healthy people have a lower tolerance. One of the ways you can improve your tolerance is by taking the powdered form.

Most of the commercial brands have eight-carbon (C8) and 10-carbon (C10) fats. They usually contain a 50/50 combination of both. I prefer taking C8 alone (caprylic acid), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than the C10 fats.

Using coconut oil will provide a mixture of C6, C8, C10 and C12 fats, the latter of which is lauric acid. There are benefits to all of them. However, MCT oil is very refined, making it more appropriate for clinical use. When MCT oils are therapeutically used to fuel the mitochondria, they can be very effective.

“With cancer care, combining all of these approaches into a package: the ketogenic diet, the intravenous vitamin C, lifestyle changes … we have seen some really life-threatening cancer cases become a chronic illness, such as ovarian cancer … We have a handful of [ovarian cancer patients] that are 10 years out from their diagnosis of Stage 4.

It can work. It does not always work, but I think we’re fine-tuning our approach such that I think we’re going to find more and more benefit as we progress,” Drisko says.

Compliance Is Everything

It goes without saying that treating your illness with nutrition and lifestyle changes requires you to change and stick with it. It’s not easy. However, the more severely ill a person is, the more apt they are to make drastic changes in order to save their life. Although, sometimes not even the prospect of death can sufficiently inspire a person to do everything that is necessary.

“We have pretty compliant patients by the time they end up here,” Drisko says. “It is a cash-paid clinic. It’s outside of the university insurance system. Very motivated patients come here, which is what we want. We have so many patients; we don’t have time for people that aren’t interested.

The best way to make the system work is to have integrative dietitians as part of the team. I lay everything out, do all the testing, and then I hand them over to the dietitian … They’re the coach of that patient. They don’t just see them one time. They’re on a regular schedule. They’re coming back. They’re having phone conferences. It’s a real aggressive time commitment for that patient, but it really keeps them on the straight and narrow…

[P]atients are actually asking the oncologists if they can come over here or they’re telling them they are going to come over here. Then they get proper nutritional advice. But if they are in an oncology clinic, they are going to get the pink M&Ms for the breast cancer. They’re going to get the donuts on the cart. I think conventionally, there still isn’t a lot of understanding of how important basic diet is in cancer care.”

One tool that will radically improve your ability to understand what you’re eating and follow a ketogenic diet is a nutrient tracker. There are a number of them available, but the most accurate one is Cronometer.com/Mercola. That’s our revision of the basic tracker, and it’s already set up for nutritional ketosis.

More Information

You can find more information about the KU Medicine Center on www.kumc.edu, including contact information should you want to make an appointment.

Also, if you have an interest in or passion for learning more about cancer, be sure to attend the ACIM Conquering Cancer Conference in Orlando, September 22 through 24. I will be there along with a long list of other excellent speakers. There, you’ll learn more about how to implement a ketogenic diet and so much more.

You may also attend the Conference for Intravenous Vitamin C hosted by KU Integrative Medicine September 30 through October 1, 2016.

Flossing May Not Be as Important as We’ve Been Told

By: Jordyn Cormier

No need to feel so guilty the next time your dentist sneers, “someone hasn’t been flossing,” as he or she whips out the Floss of Truth and wedges it deep into your gums. Yes, the dentist always knows when you’re lying about your flossing routine. It’s a gift. But it turns out that daily flossing may not be so important after all. On the latest American Dietary Guidelines, there is actually no mention of flossing. Careless oversight? Not so.

It seems that there is no scientific evidence to prove the benefits of religious flossing. That’s right, your entire dental life has been a ruse! A recent review of 12 trials instigated by the Associated Press found “very unreliable” evidence that flossing reduces the development of plaque after three months. Actually, there is little proof that flossing offersany benefits in plaque reduction or oral disease reduction. Additionally, most of the trials and studies supporting flossing were conducted by highly biased floss manufacturers. While many dentists will still recommend regular flossing as a part of your dental care routine, daily flossing may not be as big of a deal as we thought.

Be aware, flossing may still reduce gingivitis, so it may not be wise to abandon flossing altogether until more research is conducted. Flossing once in a while doesn’t do any real harm after all. But do we need to obsess over flossing every single day? As long as you give your teeth a deep, solid floss semi-regularly, it seems that you can still reap the benefits of flossing without the guilt of missing a night or two.

Resveratrol’s Link to Slowing Alzheimer’s

August 08, 2016

By Dr. Mercola

What do pomegranates, grape skin and raw cacao have in common? If your first thought was that they’re all plant-based foods, you’d be right, but if you also knew they all contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, you’d get a gold star!

Resveratrol is a polyphenol released by plants to help them resist damage from things like bacteria, excess ultraviolet light or injury, say, by aphids or other microorganisms.

The amazing thing is when you eat foods containing this compound, you, too, may experience similar benefits.

Resveratrol has been the object of scrutiny by scientists all over the world in relation to its effect on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently hits someone in the U.S. every 66 seconds and affects 5 million Americans annually.1

Alzheimer’s Disease Is on the Rise in the US

Most people know Alzheimer’s as a disease that causes memory loss. In its earliest stages, it manifests itself in small ways, such as forgetting important dates or where things are; later, checkbook balancing becomes an increasingly frustrating challenge.

More progressed Alzheimer’s patients confuse what day it is and where they are, and find words and distances difficult to discern. Following a conversation may become difficult for them. Progressively, their moods and personalities change. An Alzheimer’s Association report reveals:

“The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing — and growing fast … Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).” 2

How and why it happens has been hypothesized about for years, but medicine has only been able to treat the systems rather than nailing down the root cause.

One of the downsides in humans, too, was that when it’s taken in, resveratrol quickly metabolizes and is eliminated, which prevents your body from gaining much benefit.3The Alzheimer’s Association website also states:

“Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.”

But in recent scientific findings, high doses of resveratrol given to individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s appeared to either slow the symptoms or stop them completely.

The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto in July 2016, providing a “bigger picture” of how resveratrol might work.

Initial Study: High-Dose Resveratrol May Hold Promise for Alzheimer’s Patients

In 2015, the journal Neurology published a year-long study4 — the largest clinical trial in the U.S. on high-dosage resveratrol — on 119 subjects with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Principal investigator Dr. R. Scott Turner said one of the objectives was to see if high doses of resveratrol might be safe in the long term.

Half of the study subjects were given a placebo; the other, resveratrol, starting with 500 milligrams (mg) per day and ending with two doses of 1,000 mg per day.

Scientists already knew that age-related diseases in animals could be decreased by caloric restriction and that resveratrol could imitate caloric restriction by means of releasing the same sirtuin proteins thought to play a role in the regulation of skeletal muscle mitochondrial function.

Restricting caloric intake is known to alter genes related to longevity by slowing the aging process in worms, rats and fish, but there’s evidence it has the same effect on humans. As reported by Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), where the research took place:

“The researchers studied resveratrol because it activates proteins called sirtuins, the same proteins activated by caloric restriction.

The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s is aging, and studies with animals found that most age-related diseases — including Alzheimer’s — can be prevented or delayed by long-term caloric restriction (consuming two-thirds the normal caloric intake).”5

As dementia increases, a protein known as amyloid-beta40 (Abeta40) weakens. Researchers found the resveratrol group showed higher levels of amyloid-beta proteins in their spinal fluid, and their brain volume loss was increased by resveratrol treatment compared to placebo.6 According to a CNN report:

“Although accumulation of amyloid-beta in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, patients actually have lower levels of this protein outside of the brain. The study finding suggests that resveratrol could help change the balance from amyloid-beta buildup in the brain to circulating protein in the body.”7

So when the scientists examined brain MRIs on the patients both before and after the study, they discovered that those in the resveratrol group lost more brain volume than those in the placebo group. Their supposition was that the treatments reduced the brain swelling common with Alzheimer’s sufferers.8

Those findings were called “paradoxical” and “puzzling,” providing a segway for a follow-up study.

New Findings: Inflammation Versus Resveratrol

Turner was lead investigator in the second trial on resveratrol, working with Dr. Charbel Moussa, scientific and clinical research director at GUMC. In the new clinical trial, 19 subjects received high doses of resveratrol, equal to 1,000 bottles of red wine, and another 19 received a placebo.

One of the scientists’ main goals was to investigate levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) molecules in Alzheimer’s patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Sure enough, tests showed the number decreased by 50 percent in comparison with the placebo group. Medical News Today noted:

“This is significant because MMP-9 is reduced when sirtuin1 (one of the proteins linked to caloric restriction) is activated. Higher levels of MMP-9 are known to cause a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier — a blockade that normally prevents proteins and other molecules from entering the brain.

Additionally, the team found that resveratrol increased levels of compounds linked to a long-term ‘adaptive’ immune response; this suggests an involvement of inflammatory cells that are resident in the brain. This type of reaction degrades and removes neurotoxic proteins.”9

Besides brain inflammation, Alzheimer’s patients are often further compromised by nervous tissue inflammation, linked to degraded neurons and subsequent cognitive decline, caused by the MMP-9 molecules. However, resveratrol seems to act as a sort of gatekeeper, keeping the harmful immune molecules from entering your brain.

Scientists said similar decreased brain inflammation has been noted by scientists in drugs used for patients with multiple sclerosis, another brain disease characterized by too much inflammation.

While the high resveratrol doses caused some of the study participants to experience nausea, diarrhea and either slight weight gain or weight loss, researchers said the supplements caused no other side effects.

Besides finding a more significant role that inflammation may play in causing Alzheimer’s, scientists expressed excitement about resveratrol’s measurable anti-inflammatory effects and plan further investigation.

Resveratrol Mitochondrial Benefits

A number of reviews have described other health benefits from resveratrol. The journal Nature said resveratrol improves the health and survival rate of mice on a high-calorie diet, possibly revealing a treatment option for obesity-related disorders and diseases of aging.10

Another showed resveratrol improved mitrochondria, the tiny, vital engines in nearly all your cells producing more than 90 percent of the energy currents in your body, and protected against metabolic disease, diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance.11 Mitochondrial protection via resveratrol was discussed in another study, which noted:

“Age-specific mortality rates from heart disease, stroke, complications of diabetes, Alzheimer disease and cancer increase exponentially with age …

The evidence (supports) the hypothesis that mitochondrial protective effects of resveratrol underlie its anti-aging action that can prevent/delay the development of age-related diseases in the cardiovascular system and other organs.”12

Resveratrol has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and protect against metabolic disease by its ability to activate SIRT1 and PGC-1alpha, the primary driver for mitochondrial biogenesis. Science Direct13 noted resveratrol’s potential anti-aging and anti-diabetic properties via Sirt1, essentially recharging your mitochondria. According to a review of pre-clinical studies for human cancer prevention:

“Resveratrol is known to have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects and to inhibit platelet aggregation and the growth of a variety of cancer cells.

Its potential chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activities have been demonstrated in all three stages of carcinogenesis (initiation, promotion and progression), in both chemically and UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice, as well as in various murine models of human cancers.

Evidence from numerous in vitro and in vivo studies has confirmed its ability to modulate various targets and signaling pathways.”14 Still another study used mice to show that PGC-1α prevents the formation and accumulation of lactate in the muscles.15

Caveats in Regard to Obtaining Resveratrol From Your Diet

One little known but powerful source of resveratrol is itadori tea,16 a traditional herbal remedy used in Japan and China for heart disease and stroke. Both itadori tea and red wine contain high concentrations of resveratrol. But while you may be thinking of upping your red wine intake to glean the resveratrol benefits, keep in mind that alcohol can damage your brain and other organs, so it’s counterintuitive to drink it in order to help your brain.

Because resveratrol is most concentrated in the skin of grapes, and muscadine grapes are thick-skinned, this would be a better source. However, grapes are high in sugar (fructose) and should only be eaten in moderation, making it difficult to obtain therapeutic quantities of resveratrol.

Excess fructose consumption has been linked to metabolic syndrome, adverse endocrine effects, kidney damage and pancreatic cancer, to name a few problems.

My recommendation for fructose consumption is an average of around 25 grams per day, including from whole fruits. However, if you have a problem with insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or cancer, your fructose intake should be cut down to 15 grams.

Understand, too, that the long arm of Monsanto has reached even into grapes used to make organic wine. Studies also show thatwine may contain high levels of arsenic and carcinogens. Even without those factors, it stresses your liver and increases your insulin levels, which altogether can lead to a wide array of health problems and serious illness.

Even Turner, who helped author the study, conceded that one glass of red wine a day could help with mild Alzheimer’s, but he cautioned: “No more than that.”17

[+] Sources and References

Light Therapy for Depression: Does it Really Work?

light therapy for depressionThere are a variety of treatments used for depression.  Popular talk therapies include cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and a variety of short-term, solution-focused therapies.

There is considerable data available supporting all of these psychosocial treatments.  And, then there are medications.  There are around a dozen antidepressants that are commonly used for depression.  The most popular among clinicians and patients are those that increase the level of serotonin, a neurochemical hypothesized to be deficient in depression, in the brain.

However, for many, counseling and drugs just do not do the trick.  Some only have a partial response to either one whereas others see no benefit.  And then there are myriad side effects that come with medications.  Many patients cannot tolerate the stomach upset, sexual dysfunction or insomnia associated with their use and stop taking the medication. And in turn, the depression comes roaring back.

Recognizing the limitations of standard depression treatments, researchers have focused their efforts on less “mainstream” approaches.  They are not considered part of mainstream treatments because of their lack of efficacy, but more as a result of them not being studied as much, and as a consequence, not adopted by the “average” clinician or professional organizations.

This caveat is an important one.  There are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of non-clinical interventions that can provide relief from a variety of psychological ailments.  We just do not know.  A few examples of these non-mainstream treatments that do have growing research support include meditation, yoga and equine therapy.  Another is light therapy.

Non-Mainstream Treatments

Light therapy is exposure to a fluorescent light for a designated amount of time.  The manufactured light mimics actual natural outdoor light.  It is usually done 30 minutes after awakening, but some people use it throughout the day while at work or home in shorter intervals.

The exact mechanism by which light therapy seems to work is not known.  However, it is believed that light influences brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which in turn, improves mood.

Light therapy does not have to be prescribed by a health care professional.  Anyone can buy a light therapy device, often referred to as a light box, for between $50 and $200 on Amazon.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Light therapy is not a panacea for all psychiatric disorders.  Its use has been fairly narrow.  It has been used most notably for years with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is  a type of depression that is caused by changes in the seasons.  It usually begins and ends around the same time every year, which is usually the fall.  Symptoms of SAD include low energy, sadness and mood swings that continue throughout the winter months. Things generally get better in the spring or early summer.

It was once believed that SAD was purely a psychological condition and that for some reason people attributed low mood to the winter.  Most experts now agree that there is a biological component to the illness.

The impact of light on other types of depression is less known…until now.  A recent study published in the main psychiatry journal of the American Medical Association reveals that light therapy is helpful in treating Major Depressive Disorder, one of the most common and severe forms of depression.

Researchers compared fluorescent light therapy to antidepressant medication by itself, the combination of light therapy and antidepressant medication and placebo.  Results were both promising and surprising.

Both light therapy and the combination of light therapy and medication were more effective than placebo.  This result basically means that more people got better from using lights and lights and meds together compared to no treatment.

Surprisingly, medication was not more effective than placebo.  This finding is concerning considering antidepressant medications are widely used in people who suffer from depression and can cause a number of troubling side effects.

As researchers continue to explore alternative treatments for depression, the use of light therapy should be front and center of their efforts.  The data are accumulating for its effectiveness.  Unfortunately, since light therapy is basically a self-administered treatment it may not see support from pharmaceutical  companies or organizations that exist to promote its professional who received compensation for administering somatic and psychological therapies.

Regardless of professional politics financial turf concerns, up until now little was known about the benefits of using lights to treat non-seasonal depression. Fortunately,  this thorough and well-done research study sheds light on this important topic.

*This article is adapted from Dr. Moore’s column “Kevlar for the Mind” published in Military Times.