Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine ● Longevity Nutrition

inflammation

 

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To review, inflammation is not the underlying root of any disease. It is a side effect of a deeper cause. In the previous article I outlined the four core causes of inflammation and discussed some potential problems and benefits of boosting the immune system by stimulating inflammation. Continuing with TNFα as an example, let’s look at the potential problems of taking anti-aging substances to reduce inflammation.

TNFα is an inflammation weapon produced by certain immune cells to protect us from viruses and cancer.

What happens when you take substances that reduce TNFα activty? Several strong pharmaceutical drugs like Humira® and Enbrel® were developed specifically for the purpose of suppressing excess activity of TNFα and relieving the inflammation of many autoimmune diseases. The immune-suppressing side effects of these strong drugs offer glimpse of what happens to the body when TNFα levels are too low. As we would expect, many of side effects revolve around the microbial kingdom gaining the upper hand. These include acute infections of the nose, throat or sinus, cellulitis, fungal infections, reactivated tuberculosis, shingles and bacterial sepsis.   For those suffering from autoimmune disorders, this is a calculated risk. By shutting down inflammation, these drugs disarm the immune system so it can no longer effectively fight invaders.

Several herbs and supplements also suppress TNFα. Touted as “anti-inflammatory” or “anti-aging” these include curcumin[i], black cumin seed[ii], Boswellia[iii] and Cat’s Claw[iv]. While nowhere as strong as some of the pharmaceuticals, what happens to the body’s immune defenses when TNFα is artificially lowered? Some pathogens suppress TNFα as a way manipulate and elude the immune system[v]. Over time can moderate suppression of TNFα compromise the body’s natural defenses against overgrowth of pathogens? Since we are turning off the chemicals that cause the symptoms, how would we even know? Our current medical technology has very limited tools for detecting the presence of an invading pathogen. Most of our tools look to the immune system to provide clues about invaders. A simple urinalysis or blood test cannot detect specific pathogens. Instead it looks for high levels of immune cells like neutrophils or lymphocytes to help the physician determine what is causing the infection. By the time these immune cells show up in lab work, there has already been a significant breach of the immune system.

We know that lectins, proteins found in beans and lentils, will raise levels of TNFα. This is not because these foods have mysterious powers. It’s because the immune system mistakes them for an invader and launches an attack against them. Lectins are not inherently dangerous. However, the immune response that they elicit could certainly influence the rate of aging of any tissues participating in the reaction. Perhaps this is why the Indian diet evolved to include so many herbs that suppress this type of inflammation from immune activity. But where is the line? If there are signs of inflammation, how do we know if it is coming from a legitimate invader or if it’s an artifact of our evolution? If someone is experiencing inflammatory symptoms, shouldn’t we identify what is triggering the immune system to act before we suppress it?

 

An Anti-Aging Regimen Gone Awry

I felt compelled to write this after seeing an extremely healthy patient with recurrent thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth). It was fairly mild but was enough for his doctor to perform an HIV test. It was negative. This gentleman was obsessed with life extension and he was seemingly doing everything right. He was doing intermittent fasting, interval exercise, alkaline water, Paleo Diet, lots of veggies, adequate protein, low sugar and carbs, blackout curtains at night. His labs showed everything as perfect. Even his neutrophils (the immune cells that fight yeast) were on target. As part of his life extension regimen, he was paying a small fortune every month for herbs and supplements. Of interest, these included curcumin, Pterostilbene, green tea extract, fish oil, Boswellia and, when it was still available, Anatobloc®. Unless he took antifungals all the time, the thrush would come back. For awhile, I thought it was microbiome issue. A microbial stool analysis showed only mild yeast overgrowth. This was notable but not remarkable because I see these mild levels in at least 70% of the patients tested. We tried various live-shipped probiotics and fermented foods with no improvement.   After a couple of months it finally occurred to me that he may have been going to far with suppressing inflammation. After some negotiating, he finally agreed to stop the Anatobloc, curcumin and Boswellia for a few weeks. Sure enough, within a week, no more thrush!

Perhaps one day we will have amazing assays to instantly identify any immune trigger that is causing inflammation. Until then how do we find that sweet spot where we suppress inflammation while still helping our immune system do what it already knows how to do?

 

[i] Cho, J., Lee, K., & Kim, C. (2007). Curcumin attenuates the expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α as well as cyclin E in TNF-α-treated HaCaT cells; NF-κB and MAPKs as potential upstream targets. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 19, 469-474. http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.19.3.469

[ii] Aftab Ahmad, Asif Husain, Mohd Mujeeb, Shah Alam Khan, Abul Kalam Najmi, Nasir Ali Siddique, Zoheir A. Damanhouri, and Firoz Anwar A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013 May; 3(5): 337–352. doi:  10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60075-1 PMCID: PMC3642442

[iii] B. Gayathria, N. Manjulaa, K.S. Vinaykumara, B.S. Lakshmia, , , A. Balakrishnanb Pure compound from Boswellia serrata extract exhibits anti-inflammatory property in human PBMCs and mouse macrophages through inhibition of TNFα, IL-1β, NO and MAP kinases. International Immunopharmacology Volume 7, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 473–482

[iv] Sandoval M1, Charbonnet RM, Okuhama NN, Roberts J, Krenova Z, Trentacosti AM, Miller MJ Cat’s claw inhibits TNFalpha production and scavenges free radicals: role in cytoprotection.

Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Jul 1;29(1):71-8.

[v] Bosio CM. The Subversion of the Immune System by Francisella Tularensis. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2011;2:9. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2011.00009.

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Inflammation is not the underlying root of any disease. It is a side effect of a deeper cause. Tinkering with inflammation is tinkering with the immune system. Buzzwords like “anti-cancer”, “anti-viral”, “anti-inflammation” and “immune-boosting” are misleading and offer no information about how various herbs, supplements and pharmaceuticals actually work. Desperate for relief, ill consumers are constantly duped by the supplement industry as they seek easy answers for complex diseases. When the mechanism of a supplement doesn’t match the underlying cause of the immune imbalance, short-term side effects commonly occur. An understanding the mechanisms of aging offers us a glimpse of the potential short-term and long-term side effects that can result from tinkering with the immune system.

When I began studying functional medicine 18 years ago, I was awakened to the then controversial hypothesis that inflammation was the primary driver of many of the diseases of aging. There were hundreds of studies demonstrating the correlation between inflammation and conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and even aging. As I developed my practice, it was like having magical powers believing that the cause of heart disease was not cholesterol but, in fact, inflammation. Armed with supplements like fish oil, curcumin and boswellia, I felt like Wonder Woman, striking down interleukin 6, NF-kappa B, TNFα and other inflammatory signals that could lead to disease. It wasn’t until I began treating autoimmune and skin disorders that I came to realize that inflammation is not the underlying root of any of these diseases. It’s a side effect of a deeper cause. In fact, suppressing inflammation without understanding its cause is as insane as turning off the fire alarm and going back to bed while the house fills with smoke.

There are four core mechanisms that drive inflammation.  This article will explore the most common; when the immune system recognizes something as an invader and launches an attack using inflammatory chemicals as weapons. In science we call this immune system activation by antigen recognition.

The other three (listed below) will be discussed in future posts.

  • Over activation of NFKappaB through dietary signaling. Activity of NFKappa B is highly influenced by the presence or absence of insulin[1]. In general, diet doesn’t cause inflammation; it simply acts like a volume control.  It isn’t until grossly pathological changes develop through excessive insulin signaling and ROS production that we begin to see the out-of-control inflammation associated with diseases like obesity and diabetes.
  • Deranged methylation and acetylation of DNA[2],[3]. Basically methyl groups (from SAMe) and acetyl groups are stuck to DNA to turn it on and off.
  • The healing response – the redness, pain and swelling that results from an injury is ultimately an immune response that drives healing. However, repeated injuries, like when high blood pressure repeatedly damages the arteries, will lead to thickening and scarring.

Much of inflammation is nothing more than a side effect of immune activity. A fundamental flaw in our current medical approach to inflammation is the false belief that the immune system is creating inflammation for no reason.   As a result, we have an entire industry of herbs, supplements and pharmaceuticals built upon the idea that suppressing inflammation is somehow healing the body. All this despite several large studies demonstrating that conditions associated with inflammation like heart disease[4], diabetes[5] and cancer[6] are mostly driven by external factors. To be clear, unless a true[7] autoimmune condition has developed, the immune system will not act unless there is something triggering it to act. Sometimes we don’t like the results. However, this ancient system that protects us from cancer and invaders is highly intelligent and tightly regulated. The immune system will launch an attack against any critters or substance that it identifies as an invader. These include bacteria, viruses, air pollutants, some metals, environmental contaminants and oxidized LDL cholesterol[8]. It will also attack undigested food proteins like gluten from wheat and lectins from beans. Food sensitivity tests like the ALCAT and Mediator Release Test (MRT) regularly reveal that the immune system will attack virtually any intact food protein or microbe that escapes past the protective gut mucosa (gut lining).

As one example in an ocean of inflammatory immune signals, look at what happens if we tinker with TNFα.

T= “tumor” like cancer

N=“necrosis” like death

Fα=“factor alpha” as a signal category

TNFα is an inflammation weapon produced by certain immune cells to protect us from viruses and cancer. It helps transmit signals from outside a cell to inside a cell’s nucleus where more signals tell the cell to kill itself. In science we call this apoptosis. It is helpful for ensuring that cells that have become cancerous do not survive to divide and grow into a tumor. TNFα also “serve[s] as a first-line defense against influenza virus[9]” and has “strong antiviral activity against many viruses including avian flu and swine flu2”. Upon first glance, it sounds like anything that will increase activity of TNFα can keep you from getting cancer and viruses. Woohoo! In fact, several medicinal mushrooms are promoted as having these anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. Cordyceps[10],[11], Maitake[12], Coriolus[13] and Ganoderma[14], all contain chemicals that increase activity of TNFα*. While this approach can be transformative for someone with a weak immune response, what effects does artificially increasing TNFα have in a healthy person?   We know that in high amounts, TNFα causes considerable collateral damage to tissues. It is one of the main participants in diseases like psoriasis[15], ulcerative colitis[16] and rheumatoid arthritis[17]. Moderately high levels are associated with Alzheimer’s disease[18] and even cancer10.

*I suspect that these mushrooms cause an increase in TNFα, not because they have magical properties, but because the immune system sees them as invaders and launches an attack.

Over the long term, does artificially raising TNFα activity accelerate the same degenerative problems that we see with any chronic inflammation? Wouldn’t mildly elevated levels still increase cell turnover, damage tissues, accelerate shortening of telomeres, speed aging and ultimately lead to early senescence*?

(*Senescence is a term used in aging research to describe the end stage of the aging process of a cell, tissue or system. When a cell reaches senescence it can no longer function properly or divide to form new cells. As more cells reach senescence in a given tissue, the more that tissue shrinks and becomes dysfunctional.)

Unless there is a specific reason to artificially stimulate TNF-alpha, it is important to weigh the potential effects of taking any herbs or mushrooms that raise it. Other herbs that stimulate inflammation by raising TNFα include Cistanches, Dipsacus, Echinacea and Psoralea. I have personally seen several patients whose autoimmune conditions were severely exacerbated from taking medicinal mushrooms. They were duped by claims and promises that somehow their condition was a result of a “weak” immune system and that these mushrooms were their salvation. On the other hand, with proper diagnosis, these types of mushrooms can be used as an effective tool when the immune response is too weak. Poor wound healing and recurrent viral infections (like shingles and Epstein Barr) are often caused by a weak immune response. Another scenario where these mushrooms may have benefit is with cancer. I have worked with scores of patients who were doing well months after their doctor prescribed Maitake-D as part of a larger protocol to help the immune system kill cancer cells. (Notice I said “part of a protocol”).

In the ocean of herbs and supplements that are supposed to help us live longer and healthier, how do we know which ones are actually helping? With illness, when the mechanism of a supplement doesn’t match the underlying cause of an immune imbalance short-term side effects commonly occur. What are the less detectable the long-term consequences? Is it possible to accelerate the aging process by inappropriately stimulating the immune system?

 

[1] Kurtak, K. Dietary and Nutritional Manipulation of the Nuclear Transcription Factors, PPAR’s and SREBP’s,as a Tool for Reversing the Primary Diseases of Premature Death and Aging. Rejuvenation Research 17-2. April 2014. P 140-44.

[2] D. Bayarsaihan Epigenetic Mechanisms in Inflammation J Dent Res. 2011 Jan; 90(1): 9–17. doi:  10.1177/0022034510378683 PMCID: PMC3144097

[3] Stephen B Baylin DNA methylation and gene silencing in cancer. Nature Clinical Practice Oncology (2005) 2, S4-S11 doi:10.1038/ncponc0354. Received 16 August 2005 | Accepted 30 August 2005

[4] Prof Salim Yusuf DPhil,Steven Hawken MSc,Stephanie Ôunpuu PhD,Tony Dans MD,Alvaro Avezum MD,Fernando Lanas MD,Matthew McQueen FRCP,Andrzej Budaj MD,Prem Pais MD,John Varigos BSc,Liu Lisheng MD,on behalf of the INTERHEART Study Investigators Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study

The Lancet – 11 September 2004 ( Vol. 364, Issue 9438, Pages 937-952 )

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17018-9

[5] Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH; Aruna Kamineni, MPH; Mercedes Carnethon, PhD; Luc Djoussé, MD, ScD; Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD; David Siscovick, MD, MPH. Lifestyle Risk Factors and new Onset Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(8):798-807. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.21.

[6] Song Wu, Scott Powers, Wei Zhu & Yusuf A. Hannun. Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development. Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature16166

Received 15 April 2015 Accepted 23 October 2015 Published online 16 December 2015

[7] From experience I have no doubt that many conditions that are diagnosed as “autoimmune” are nothing more than an appropriate immune reaction to an unidentified trigger that has grown out of control.   This is commonly seen with leaky gut syndrome, SIBO and dental infections.

[8] Although there are hundreds of studies showing that oxidized LDL elicits inflammation from macrophages, it has never been shown whether this is an immune reaction or a healing response.

[9] Seo SH, Webster RG. Tumor necrosis factor alpha exerts powerful anti-influenza virus effects in lung epithelial cells. J Virol. 2002 Feb;76(3):1071-6.

[10] Test on mononuclear cells Lymphoproliferative, inhibited NK cell activity, phytohemagglutinin response raises IL2, raises TNF-alpha, IL-2   Kuo YC1, Tsai WJ, Shiao MS, Chen CF, Lin CY. Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent. Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):111-25.

[11] Jong Seok Lee, Eock Kee Hong. Immunostimulating Activity of the Polysaccharides Isonated from Cordyceps militaris. International Immunopharmacology. Vol 11, Isue 9, September 2011 Pp 1226-1233 doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2011.04.001

[12] Matsui K1, Kodama N, Nanba H. Effects of maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the carcinoma angiogenesis. Cancer Lett. 2001 Oct 30;172(2):193-8.

[13] Cheuk-Lun Lee, Xiaotong Yang, Jennifer Man-Fan Wan. The culture duration affects the immunomodulatory and anticancer effect of polysaccharopeptide derived from Coriolus versicolor. Enzyme and Microbial Technology. Volume 38, Issues 1–2, 3 January 2006, Pages 14–21

[14] Hung-Sen Chena, Yow-Fu Tsaia, Steven Lina, Chia-Ching Lina, Kay-Hooi Khoo, Chun-Hung Lin , , Chi-Huey Won. “Studies on the immuno-modulating and anti-tumor activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) polysaccharides”. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Volume 12, Issue 21, 1 November 2004, Pages 5595–5601

[15] Victor FC, Gottlieb AB (2002). “TNF-alpha and apoptosis: implications for the pathogenesis and treatment of psoriasis”. J Drugs Dermatol 1 (3): 264–75. PMID 12851985.

[16] Sands BE1, Kaplan GG The role of in ulcerative colitis.. J Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;47(8):930-41. Epub 2007 Jun 13.

[17] VASANTHI, P., NALINI, G. and RAJASEKHAR, G. (2007), Role of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in rheumatoid arthritis: a review. APLAR Journal of Rheumatology, 10: 270–274. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8077.2007.00305.x

[18] Swardfager W, Lanctôt K, Rothenburg L, Wong A, Cappell J, Herrmann N (2010). “A meta-analysis of cytokines in Alzheimer’s disease”. Biol Psychiatry 68 (10): 930–941. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.06.012. PMID 20692646.

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Chokecherries

In the temperate zones of the Earth, late summer into autumn has been a time of celebration in many cultures. This is the time when all creatures breathe a sigh of relief as the hard work of growth slows. The cooler air transforms summer’s searing rays of sunshine into loving, golden warmth. Pregnant with sugar, fruits of flowering plants hang heavy from the branches and dapple the landscape in a mosaic of reds, blues and purples from anthocyanins and carotenoids. On the ground, combinations of lutein and zeaxanthin color the winter squashes of the Cucurbita family with the same oranges and yellows that are revealed as chlorophyll relinquishes its dominion over the foliage.

Colorful pigments that once acted as a beacon for pollinators in an array of colors and hormones[1] assume a new form that will serve as this year’s bridge of survival for numerous species of birds and mammals, including humans.

Over these precious few weeks, concentrated glucose and fructose flow in like the ocean tide. With them, the stomach’s master hormones of appetite flip flop. Ghrelin’s waxing and leptin’s waning[2] impose an ever-rising voracity of appetite that has driven successful survival of species over hundreds of millions of years. Inside the sweet goodness lurks even more treasures. Fresh omega-six oils from seeds and grains give a fresh boost to dwindling eicosanoids that are crucial for cell-to-cell communication. Vitamin E, selenium[3], vitamin C and phytonutrients stand like a levy to ensure the rising tide of inflammation doesn’t breach its banks.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory, this time of year was considered the fifth season associated with the Earth element.  Warmth, sunshine, water and Earth have been magically transformed by a billion tiny seeds into a form that passes life’s nourishment unto us.   In the Jewish tradition, this season beckons the new year known as Rosh Hashanah.

“Blessed are you, sovereign of the Universe who brings forth bread to the Earth…who has kept us in life, has sustained us and brought us to this season.” Torah

Lurking deep within the cell, all the way down to the nuclear membrane, a sugar-laden surge of insulin nudges a sleeping Goddess from her torpor. 2.1 billion years ago[4],[5] some of the earliest fungi birthed this goddess and time kindly bequeathed her unto humans. In science she is known as SREBP or sterol regulatory elemental binding proteins. She is the one who, as if by magic, signals that transformation of sugar into a form that can be stored for later use as triglycerides[6] and fat[7].  Without her, most animals in the temperate and arctic zones are unlikely to survive even one winter.

Because of SREBP’s, every cell can make its own LDL cholesterol for membrane repair and vitamin D synthesis. However, without a way to supply basic antioxidants to the cell, LDL quickly oxidizes. This transformation from Dr. Jeckel to Mr. Hyde damages everything it touches[8] and is considered to be one of the driving forces of atherosclerosis7. In order to protect her inner world and ensure a constant supply of antioxidants, SREBP must ask for a little help from one of her cousins in the liver, SREBP-1. While most of the cells of the body settle for glucose as an energy source, the liver engages in a more refined taste for fructose. In fact, liver cells are the only ones that can use fructose and its effects are incendiary. Fructose drives rapid production of LDL cholesterol, fats and inflammation in the liver[9],[10]. This preference for fructose acts as a supply chain for the trillions of cells’ insatiable need for antioxidants during times like these. But without SREBP, these antioxidants are useless. She alone is the key master who permits passage of these antioxidants across the cell membrane. Under the dominion of SREBP, the LDL cholesterol receptor rises to the surface of the cell like a fish rising to feed. If it is lucky, LDL cholesterol will land in its mouth. Along for the ride, precious antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E are granted access to the cell’s inner world[11].

As this season wanes, berries hang dried and scant on the branches. Insulin recedes as the sugar festival comes to a close. The Earth cools. SREBP breathes a deep sigh as her hard work comes to an end. As she falls into her winter nap, she brings many of the creatures of the Earth with her. Only one creature has successfully escaped the dominion of this goddess. Humans innovated to store carbohydrates externally. This consistent supply of sugar drives insulin to ensure that SREBP never sleeps. Her unrelenting state of slavery drives disorders like obesity[12],[13], fatty liver[14], insulin resistance[15] and atherosclerosis[16], [17]. Perhaps this goddess would argue that these are not diseases at all but are phenotypes brought on by depriving her of a proper rest.

[1] Cutler A.J., Krochko J.E. Formation and breakdown of ABA. Trends Plant. Sci. 1999;4:472–478. doi: 10.1016/S1360-1385(99)01497-1

[2] Teff KL, Elliott, SS, Tschop M, Kieffer TJ, Rader D., Heiman M., Townsend RR., Keim NL, D’Alesso D, Havel Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women. PJ J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun;89(6):2963-72

[3] Giacomo dugo, Lara La Pera, Donatella Pollicino, marello Saitta. Determination of Selenium Content in Different Types of Seed Oils by Cathodic Stripping Potentiometry (CSP) J. Agric. Food Chem., 2003, 51 (19), pp 5598–5601

[4] Timothy F. Osborne, Peter J. Espenshade Evolutionary Conservation and Adaptation in the Mechanism that Regulates SREBP Action: What a Long Strange tRIP It’s Been. Genes & Dev. 2009. 23: 2578-2591, doi:10.1101/gad.1854309

[5] V Laudet Evolution of the Nuclear Receptor Superfamily: Early Diversification from an Ancestral Orphan Receptor. Journal of Molecular Endocrinology Dec. 1, 1997. 19 2-7-226

[6] Colleen K. Nye  Glyceroneogenesis Is the Dominant Pathway for Triglyceride Glycerol Synthesis in Vivo in the Rat The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 283, 27565-27574.  October 10, 2008

[7] Hitoshi Shimano, SREBPs: physiology and pathophysiology of the SREBP family. The FEBS Journal 2009 276:3 616-621

[8] Low Density Lipoprotein Can Cause Death of Islet β-Cells by Its Cellular Uptake and Oxidative Modification Miriam Cnop, Jean Claude Hannaert, Annick Y. Grupping, and Daniel G. Pipeleers Endocrinology 2002 143:9 , 3449-3453 http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/en.2002-220273

 

[9] Zhang C, Chen X, Zhu RM, Zhang Y, Tu T, Wang H., Zhao H, Zhao M, Ji YL, Chen YH, Meng XH, Wei W, Xu DX. “Endoplasmic reticulum stress is involved in hepatic SREBP-1c activation and lipid accumulation in fructose-fed mice.” 2012 Aug 3;212(3):229-40. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jun 12.

“ER stress contributes, at least in part, to hepatic SREBP-1c activation and lipid accumulation in fructose-evoked NAFLD.”

[10] Koo HY, Miyashita M, Cho BH, Nakamura MT. Replacing dietary glucose with fructose increases ChREBP activity and SREBP-1 protein in rat liver nucleus. 2009 Dec 11;390(2):285-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.09.109. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

“Nuclear SREBP-1 was 2.2 times higher in fructose-fed rats than glucose-fed rats.”

[11] Maret G Traber, Herbert J Kayden “Vitamin E is Delivered to Cells via the High Affinity Receptor for Low-Density Lipoprotein” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 40: October 1984, pp 747-51.

[12] Hitoshi Shimano, SREBPs: physiology and pathophysiology of the SREBP family. The FEBS Journal 2009 276:3 616-621

 

[13] Hitoshi Shimano, SREBPs: physiology and pathophysiology of the SREBP family. The FEBS Journal 2009 276:3 616-621

[14] Moon YA, Liang G, Xie X, Frank-Kamenetsky M, Fitzgerald K, Koteliansky V, Brown MS, Goldstein JL, Horton JD. The Scap/SREBP pathway is essential for developing diabetic fatty liver and carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia in animals. Cell Metab. 2012 Feb 8;15(2):240-6

[15] Iichiro Shimomura, Robert E. Hammer, James A. Richardson, Shinji Ikemoto, Yuriy Bashmakov, Joseph L. Goldstein,Michael S. Brown

Insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus in transgenic mice expressing nuclear SREBP-1c in adipose tissue: model for congenital generalized lipodystrophy. Genes Dev. 1998 October 15; 12(20): 3182–3194.

[16] Karasawa T, Takahashi A, Saito R, Sekiya M, Igarashi M, Iwasaki H, Miyahara S, Koyasu S, Nakagawa Y, Ishii K, Matsuzaka T, Kobayashi K, Yahagi N, Takekoshi K, Sone H, Yatoh S, Suzuki H, Yamada N, Shimano H. Sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1 determines plasma remnant lipoproteins and accelerates atherosclerosis in low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011 Aug;31(8):1788-95.

[17] Kurtak, K. Dietary and Nutritional Manipulation of the Nuclear Transcription Factors, PPAR’s and SREBP’s, as a Tool for Reversing the Primary Diseases of Premature Death and Aging. Rejuvenation Research 17-2. April 2014. P 140-44.

 

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A new study on the “bad luck” of cancer is a wonderful contribution to science but is being severely misinterpreted by both science writers and the media.

This study[1] is the first of its kind to accurately quantify the probability of the development of a cancer cell in any given tissue over a lifetime. It supports other hypotheses[2] stating that increased frequency of cell division, which is also a hallmark of cellular aging, leads to increased risk of cancer. However, it is not representative of a cancer cell’s ultimate destiny. New cancer cells form in our bodies everyday and our immune system destroys them. We’ve known for 20+ years that tissues that are prone to faster cell division and turnover, like colon and skin, have a higher probability of developing cancer cells. This is why inflammation is strongly associated with the development of cancer. Inflammation from immune activity causes rapid damage and therefore places a high demand on the affected tissue for renewal by cell division. Thus, a higher frequency cell division results in a higher statistical probability that mutations will occur, cancer cells will develop and one of them might escape under the immune system’s radar. An example; we know that cigarette smoking leads to a much higher risk of developing lung cancer. There are two parts to this. One is the simple carcinogenicity of some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke. However, a much larger role is played by the fact that the body responds to cigarette smoke by launching an immune response that leads to increased inflammation, increased cellular replacement, impaired cellular death and diminished tissue cleanup[3],[4].

Most importantly, the cancer risk study excludes any statistics on breast and prostate cancers. Perhaps these were intentionally excluded from the study as edge cases since their occurrence in the general population is 300% higher than any of the cancers included in the study. Because these tissues are hormone-sensitive, they are highly susceptible to influence by external factors. Hundreds of studies have established their extreme vulnerability to chemicals that mimic estrogen and stimulate rapid growth and cell division. This parallels the theme of this recent study suggesting that faster cell division leads to a high probability of mutations and cancer cell development. Including these two types of cancer in the study’s statistics could increase their external influence factor by as much as 20%.

Although there are some correlations it is important to note that the probabilities in the study do not evenly parallel rates of cancer incidence in the US.  For example the study shows, stem cell divisions in colorectal cells as being significantly higher but than in lung but cancer statistics show that the incidence of these cancers is flip flopped.

 

CDC Cancer Rates

 

 

 

 

 

While this information is invaluable for quantifying cancer cell development, it is missing significant aspects of our basis of cancer knowledge and statistics and by no means establishes final numbers or parameters for cancer risk or its influence by external factors.

 

[1] Cristian Tomasetti, Bert Vogelstein. Variation in Cancer Risk Among Tissues can be Exlapined by the Number of Stem Cell Divisions. Science 2 January 2015 Vol. 347 no. 6217 pp. 78-81. DOI: 10.1126/science.1260825

[2] Steve Horvath. DNA Methylation Age of Human Tissue and Cell Types. Genome Biology 2013 12:R115 doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-10-r115

[3] Naotaka Noda, Koichiro Matsumoto, Soturu Fukuyama, Yukari Asia, Hiroko Kitajima, Nanae Seki, Yuko Matsunaga, Keiko Kan-o, Atsushi Moriwaki, Konosuke Morimoto, Hiromasa Inoue and Yoichi Nakanishi. Cigarette Smoke Impairs Phagocytosis of Apoptotic Neutrophils by Alveolar Macrophages Via Inhibition of Histone Deacetylase/Rac/CD9 Pathways. Int. Immunol. (2013) 25 (11) 643-650. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxt033

[4] Susan JM Hoonhorst, Wim Timens, Leo Koenderman, Adele T Lo Tam Loi, Jan-Willem J Lammers, H Marike Boezen, Antoon JM van Ossterhout, Dirkje S Postma, Nick HT ten Hacken. Increaded Activation of Blook Neutrophils After Cigarette Smoking in Young Individuals Susceptible to COPD. Respiratory Research 2014 15:121 doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0121-2

 

 

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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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