Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine ● Longevity Nutrition

What Matters

photoIn November of 2013 there was a media feeding frenzy when a large study demonstrated that people who ate even small amounts of nuts had an overall “7% reduced risk of dying from any cause during the 30 year study.”(Health Day from Medline © 2013).  It also revealed that the more nuts people ate the more they reduced their risk of dying peaking at a 20% reduction for the highest consumers.   Previous studies have demonstrated that eating nuts reduces incidence and risk for diabetes, heart disease, memory loss and obesity.  (I”m not referencing these because there are too many to sift through).

There are several possible explanations for this but only time will tell.  Here are a couple.  First, fats, unlike protein and carbohydrates, have a unique ability to signal fullness.  Fats do this through a chemical called leptin.  It’s possible that simply eating nuts helps to reduce overconsumption of other foods.  Second, omega-9 fats, which are predominant in nuts, send signals that talk directly to your DNA to reduce inflammation and cholesterol production, and increase the effectiveness of insulin.  As I discuss in my article in Rejuvenation Research Journal, this works through a switch on the cell’s nucleus called PPAR which we know is activated by omega-9 oils.  doi:10.1089/rej.2013.1485

In conclusion, eat at least a handful of nuts per day.  Not seeds, nuts. Olive oil also contains the same beneficial oils.  Try eating nuts before dinner.  Since the fats help to signal fullness, it may help to reduce overeating.  Later, I will discuss the nuances of deriving maximum benefit from nuts.

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Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’s sprouts, cabbage, bok choy and kale all contain chemicals called indoles. Scores of studies over the past 20 years have shown that indoles help to prevent the development and spread of estrogen-sensitive cancer cells in prostate and breast tissue.  Recent research showed that breast tissue ages faster than any other tissue in the body.  It is hypothesized that this happens because the hormone, estrogen, causes breast tissue cells to reproduce more rapidly than most other tissues in the body.  As a result, these cells lose their telomeres faster and eventually can no longer divide. Indoles help to weaken the growth-stimulating effects of estrogen.  In dietary therapy, these vegetables are prescribed in amounts from 1/2 cup up to 3 cups per day.

If you don’t know how to cook, a simple way to prepare these vegetables is to just steam them for a few minutes.  Quite delicious with a little butter, sea salt and a spritz of lemon juice.

A quick note;  Ladies, if you are trying to become pregnant, the estrogen-lowering effects of these vegetables may lower your fertility.  Gentleman, for you this improves fertility and helps to prevent testosterone from being converted into estrogen.

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Hello to all of you wonderful people who have taken time out this precious life to read my blog. I had to check out for a while due to some personal tragedy. As some ancient cultures say ” I have been waiting for my soul to catch up with the rest of me” and I am FINALLY starting to write again. Upcoming subjects include:
-Evolution Dictates a Contrarian Approach to the Emergence and Spread of Human Pathogens
-Misinterpretation of Methylation. Why Folic Acid Doesn’t Cause Cancer
-A Conventional Interpretation of the Four Levels of Disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine
-A Conventional Interpretation of Digestion in Traditional Chinese Medicine
-Why We Need to Introduce a New School of Research if Science it Going to Successfully Evolve

I look forward to more great discussions and comments.

Sincere thanks to each of you!
Karen

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Before I begin this first section of my series on sugar, I would like to note that I usually provide references for everything I write.  The information below is based on my daytime profession and years of assembling research.  It would take me too long to find all the references.  However, most of the facts on physiology can be obtained from any basic cell biology book. There are also several books available that are well-researched with solid references.  Here are a couple:  Transcend by Terry Grossman M.D. and Ray Kurzweil and The Zone by Barry Sears.

In our medical office where I’ve practiced longevity nutrition for over ten years, the term “The White Satan” (conceived by Terry Grossman, M.D.) is used synonymously with sugar.  Efforts to educate our “ever-expanding” population about the powerfully, deleterious health effects of sugar consumption have been like turning the Titanic.  The information has been clear and out there for at least 12-15 years but the emergence of sugar-induced obesity and its accompanying diseases; diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, heart disease etc. has continued to increase in numbers.  The average age of people affected by these diseases has been falling steadily and it is no longer uncommon for teenagers to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Several factors have contributed to this trend.

  • Sugar’s highly addictive nature
  • The emergence of an entire monoculture-based industry providing the public with cheap, foods and  sweetened drinks packed full of high-fructose corn syrup
  • The false belief that fruit and fruit juice is healthy
  • Emphasis on starches and fruit on the Food Pyramid
  • The non-evidence-based, low-fat revolution which led people to believe that anything that didn’t contain fat, especially saturated fat, was good for them
  • Slow, weak and uninformed efforts to educate the public

Any time the level of sugar in the blood surpasses what the cells are capable of managing several problems occur. 

  • Inflammation – the hormone insulin is released by the pancreas into the blood to enable our cells to turn sugar into energy.  We obviously need insulin to survive.  However, excessive levels tend to magnify any inflammatory responses that are happening in the body.  In addition, sugar itself, especially fructose, causes direct inflammation in the liver.  Simply eliminating sugar from one’s diet will almost always result in improvement of inflammatory conditions like asthma, acne, and even back pain.
  • Elevated triglycerides – Insulin signals the liver converts excess sugar floating around in the blood into triglycerides.  Unless you possess a rare, genetic disorder, elevated blood sugar is the ONLY physiologic mechanism for producing triglycerides.
  • “Feeding” of fat cells – Triglycerides floating around in the blood are the direct contributor to “feeding” fat cells.  The higher the blood sugar goes, the higher the triglycerides and the faster weight gain occurs.
  • Immune system dysfunction – As pointed out in Transcend, excess sugar interferes with the ability of white blood cells to utilize vitamin C to carry out a proper immune response
  • Intestinal Dysbiosis – Excess sugar changes the body’s terrain, feeding and promoting overgrowth of yeast along with unbeneficial and some pathogenic bacteria.  The inflammatory response that results from the immune system fighting these critters has an effect on the entire body.  It can manifest as various diseases as the inflammatory chemicals make their way through the lymphatic system. 
  • Advanced Glycated Endproducts (AGE’s) -Glycation is a caramelizing, chemical reaction that occurs when sugars come into contact with proteins.  This reaction can be demonstrated easily in a Petri dish or seen when we bake a chicken and the skin becomes brown and crispy.  The same thing happens to our tissues upon exposure to sugar.  Glycation causes gumming up of enzymes and tissues which render them functionless. 

**Good story:  When I was in college, a gross human anatomy class was lucky enough to have an elderly lady as their study subject.  One of the first things the professor pointed out was the amount of glycation in her tissues.  If you sliced through a piece of her lung or liver, it was never difficult to find these areas of brown, crispy, glycated tissue.  Many age spots are the result of glycation.

It is important to know that these “excess” levels of sugar occur when a healthy human consumes more than 5-7 grams of sugar within a given meal.  Diabetics can tolerate 0-5 grams depending on the severity of their insulin resistance.   The glycemic index  is a useful gauge of how quickly a food raises blood glucose levels.  For example a medium, white potato releases glucose into the bloodstream very quickly and is the equivalent of eating 26 grams of sugar.  The glycemic load  is a measurement of the net glucose-release into the system.  For example, if you eat just a bite or two of that high-glycemic potato, the blood glucose goes up just a little.  I’ve noted that most of my readers are incredibly sophisticated in the thinking and I’m sure most have known about the glycemic index and glycemic load for more than a decade.  However, if you somehow missed out, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with it and take it seriously. One teaspoon of sugar is approximately 5 grams. One teaspoon of honey is 6.5 grams of sugar.  A banana contains 28 grams of sugar. 

Here is a link to the most dangerous foods in America http://www.rense.com/general91/20_Worst_Drinks_in_America_2010.pdf

A severe misconception that has resulted from the spotlight shining on the glycemic index is that fruit and fruit sugar is healthy and safe because it has a low glycemic index.  Fruit contains a completely different sugar, fructose, which cannot be measured with a glucose meter.   A study appeared way back in 1988 in the Journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice that showed fructose has a reaction constant 7.5 times higher than glucose as well as a much higher calculated biohazard rating.  Since then, there is a 1000 fold increase in the research that confirms these findings about the dangers of fructose. This information is just reaching the fringes of the mainstream now.  How sad.  In the next post, we will explore this further and then go on to discuss how the emergence of fructose in the Western diet has led to a rapid devolution.  Later I will present a hypothesis that fructose availability was a primary contributing factor to lifespan and longevity throughout the evolution of humans.

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Greetings and gratitude to all my supporters and followers,

I have a series of posts coming up, especially for all of you, on the seemingly contradictory dilemma of the adverse health consequences of sugar and that fact that humans likely evolved eating significant amounts of fruit sugar. I will clarify the facts about the direct health consequences that fruit sugar has on the individual. This part will have very useful information for anyone who is trying to slow the aging process, prevent the onset of diseases like heart disease and diabetes, lose weight or heal certain health issues. Then I will move on to the topic of post-modern humans and the devolution that has occurred with the rise in consumption of fructose. Finally, I will discuss evidence and possible mechanisms, such as climate cooling and reduced availability of fruit, which may have led to necessary adaptations and changes to the reproductive strategies of humans which may have ultimately led to our increasing longevity.

On July 25th, I will be falling into technology-absence abyss and will be offline for three weeks as I travel across Mongolia on horseback. I will be with a small group of Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners from the World Healing Exchange Program and Acupuncturists Without Borders. We will be visiting several nomadic tribes and learning about their traditional medicine. I will be eager to share when I return. We will also exchange knowledge of our medicine and of course help them in any way we can. The best part…I get to wake up on my birthday to complete silence under the Mongolian sky.

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One of my readers questioned my recipe from “If Popeye Was a Real Man He Would Have Eaten Kale” and asked what I thought about the research linking longevity and methionine restriction. Eggs are a significant source of methionine and so perhaps could lead to faster aging.  In order to answer this question, it’s important to consider the mechanisms involved and the evolutionary advantages.   This question enters one of the world’s biggest rabbit holes and is too much for one posting so watch for posts related to methionine restriction and longevity in the future. 

To review, several research studies have shown that dietary restriction of the essential amino acid, methionine, results in 42-44% increase in average life span of rats, mice and fruit flies.  There are two major mechanisms that have been identified that contribute to this.  One is lowered production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS).  These are basically free radicals produced in the mitochondria where our cells make energy or ATP.   mROS speed up degeneration of mitochondrial DNA, ultimately leading to faster cell turnover and aging.  Glutathione (GSH), is one of the most powerful reducers of mROS.  GSH is made from methionine.  However, restricting methionine intake results in elevated levels of GSH in all tissues except for the kidneys.  How is it that restricting methionine, the one essential amino acid that is a precursor to glutathione, results in higher levels of glutathione? It’s going to be very interesting when researchers figure out the answer to the dichotomy. 

With regards to longevity, I think methionine restriction has two contributing factors.  I’ll discuss one of them here and leave the second for another time.  Here is the first: 

Since methionine is an essential amino acid and is present in all naturally-occurring protein sources, it likely acts as a signal for protein abundance or scarcity.  Cellular signaling mechanisms are too involved for this discussion.  To simplify I’ll just say signaling may directly due to the presence or absence of methionine or may be through a secondary metabolite like homocysteine.  If its presence signals abundance, then the body would increase metabolism as it goes into an anabolic state preparing for reproduction.  An increase in metabolism will always result in an elevation of all ROS in cells.  This, by default, speeds cell turnover and aging.  On the other hand, if protein intake, and thus methionine, is scarce then the body likely creates different signals that reduce metabolism.  Reduced metabolism reduces turnover and aging of cells.  This is the same mechanism through which caloric restriction is theorized to promote longevity. 

With methionine, this control mechanism would incur an ultimate evolutionary survival advantage.  We know that methionine restriction reduces fecundity (reproductive ability).  During times of protein scarcity reduced metabolism via this signaling mechanism would minimize ongoing damage to mitochondrial and cellular DNA.   This would help to preserve the potential for successful reproduction (passing on of genes) and to prolong existence in anticipation for a more abundant and auspicious time.  As mentioned, in times of protein abundance, methionine would signal anabolism and preparation for reproduction.   If an individual is past reproductive age, metabolism will still increase.  In a community setting the increased vitality of older individuals would allow them to contribute more in the short term.  In this situation, survival advantage would be incurred throught The Grandmother Hypothesis .  It would also speed its ultimate demise, freeing up resources for the younger individuals who can still reproduce.

Since we, in the first world, live in a state of perpetual abundance we have time to figure out how we can live longer.  Restricting dietary methionine may likely contribute to this.  It seems logical that you would simply restrict foods that contain high amounts of methionine.  However, it isn’t that straight forward.  Next time I will discuss the glutathione dichotomy and methionine’s role in the alternation between Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification, the intricacies of dietary amino acid absorption, and research that contradicts the hypothesis that a vegan diet reduces methionine intake.  Yes, the egg question will finally be answered.

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Bugs…Don’t Kill ‘Em, Eat Em!

“If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”  Jonas Salk

In the previous posting I discussed protein requirements for present-day humans and questioned the inefficiency of the ecological model with respect to evolution. 

A couple of years ago, while pondering a failing in my second attempt at a biodynamic garden, I was looking at an infestation of insect eggs on my collard greens.  Reflecting back on an involuntary, three-day survival situation I also pondered that, by day three, those insect eggs would have looked pretty appetizing.   Sitting there, I realized that before the advent of modern farming, the plants we ate and water we drank would have been full of the products of all life stages of insects.  This is a well of protein and other essential nutrients that we have now virtually eliminated from our food supply. 

The general consensus is that, despite the ability to hunt, hunter-gatherer societies still obtained 80% of their food calories from gathering.  To help incur the survival advantage, all species in the food web (other than present-day humans) have retained the universal law of the conservation of energy.  However, the transfer of energy in the form of calories is quite inefficient.  As we move up each trophic level in the food chain only about 10% of the energy is transferred.  

For a species to skip a trophic level is an incredibly inefficient utilization of resources and is an idiosyncrasy in the natural laws.  Like lions attacking an elephant (which is rare), a species has to be under an incredible amount of stress and scarcity to expend the energy to harvest higher in the food web.  Nonetheless, due to communication, cooperation, the ability to make tools, and the ability to be omnivores, this idiosyncrasy allowed humans to expand beyond their niche and take over the Earth.  Coyotes (also omnivores) are one of the few other creatures that have managed similar success.  The difference between coyotes and humans is that coyotes remained part of the ecological web whereas humans moved beyond it.

Because insects are a much more abundant and energy-efficient protein source, they likely acted as an evolutionary bridge for humans.  Insects would have provided the all the essential amino acids as well as the essential nutrients choline and omega-3 fatty acids.  Access to these nutrients would have enabled humans to move away from coastal food dependency and more inland.  It’s possible that this protein source was more passively obtained through the consumption of plants which, as I already mentioned, would have contained insect eggs and larvae.

Insects also provide various chemicals that help to treat and prevent disease.  For example, their exoskeleton provides chitin, a key source of glucosamine which is now taken as a dietary supplement to help prevent joint tissue degeneration. Perhaps if we still ate insects we wouldn’t need to take their exoskeletons in pill form.  Several “bugs” are used medicinally in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  For example earthworms, which contain the enzyme lumbrokinase, are used to treat blood clots and congestion of tissues when there is lots of inflammation and phlegm present.  I can speak from experience that asthma patients respond profoundly better when earthworm is included in a formula.  Other medicinal insects that actually work when used appropriately include cicada skin for dry, itchy skin, and mantis egg case for urinary leakage and incontinence. 

It’s time that we move from viewing insects as pests to viewing them as a resource.  We evolved eating them.  Efforts to transcend the stigma of eating insect products in our society offer an array of benefits.  Reduction of consumption of fossil fuels to produce protein, reduction of need for pesticides in some crops, recovery of species numbers which depend on various insects as a primary food source in areas like the country’s mid-section where pesticide use results in incidental insect elimination.  In an effort to work with the natural laws I say the “Don’t kill ‘em, eat ‘em!” policy should be implemented immediately.

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A brilliant entrepreneur/ body builder came to our clinic from South Carolina for a longevity evaluation. A walking oxymoron, this man was truly an outlier in both mind and body. He was not only a genius, but perhaps the only human to have literally been banned from Gold’s Gym for pushing their equipment beyond its capabilities. Continue reading

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Have a philosophical discussion with any good atheist or God-fearing man and he will present many arguments for why there is or is not life after death.  No one can definitively answer this question.  Perhaps this is because we are not asking ourselves the right question.  There are endless examples of daily universal events that demonstrate that there cannot be life without death.  Let’s look at the elements that make life possible.

In the previous post I discussed the (what I am proclaiming) universal law of Yin and Yang.  Everything in the Universe moves between the states of expansion and contraction.  As stars evolve they contract. They become progressively denser, smaller and hotter. As the spin and contraction of the star accelerate, it creates (becomes) a sequential cascade of elements each one more short-lived than its predecessor.  Hydrogen begets helium.  Helium begets carbon and oxygen…sodium, neon, magnesium…and so on.  Finally, for a brief moment before the star’s death, silicon becomes iron.  The star moves from contraction to expansion in a spectacular explosion forming a supernova and giving birth to the elements that make up our existence.  Supernovae are the key source of oxygen and the progressively heavier elements.  Is it any coincidence that the lightest key element that comes from a star’s death forms is oxygen?  It’s the essence of water and the essence of life on Earth.  Is it any coincidence that the final step in the death of a star creates iron, the very substance that enables us, and all the other animals, to hold life-giving oxygen in our blood?  

We are not a beginning nor are we an endpoint. These are concepts necessitated by the illusion of time existing in mass.  We are simply part of an ongoing process of expansion and contraction.

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