Category Archives: health

Obesity Epidemic Requires a Paradigm Shift

The obesity epidemic requires a paradigm shift. Several medical myths stand in the way of taking the most effective steps to safely help patients lose weight. The most important myth relates to saturated fat. Saturated fat consumption does not contribute to cardiovascular disease. This must be understood and accepted by the medical community so that sound advice can be given.

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.( Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):497-9. )

In fact, as early as 2004, Mozaffarian et. al. investigated the influence of diet on atherosclerotic progression in postmenopausal women with quantitative angiography and found that:

In multivariate analyses, a higher saturated fat intake was associated with a smaller decline in mean minimal coronary diameter (P = 0.001) and less progression of coronary stenosis (P = 0.002) during follow-up. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1175-84)

In addition, they further found that:

Carbohydrate intake was positively associated with atherosclerotic progression (P = 0.001), particularly when the glycemic index was high.

            Polyunsaturated fat intake was positively associated with progression when replacing other fats (P = 0.04)

These findings should come as no surprise given the basic science of atherosclerosis. Oxidized and glycated LDL stimulate macrophages to become foam cells initiating the creation of plaque. Cellular receptors that allow macrophages to ingest oxidized LDL are specific for oxidized LDL. These receptors do not recognize normal LDL to a significant degree.

Holovet et. al. studied the ability of oxidized LDL versus the Global Risk Factor Assessment Score (GRAS) to detect coronary artery disease. GRAS identified coronary artery disease 49% of the time, while oxidized LDL was correct 82% of the time.

In a large prospective study, Meisinger et al found that plasma oxidized LDL was the strongest predictor of CHD events when compared to conventional lipoprotein risk assessment and other risk factors for CHD.

Polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized, saturated fats are not. It is the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the membrane of LDL particles that become oxidized and then initiate the cascade of inflammatory events leading to atherosclerosis. The major source of these PUFA in the American diet are “vegetable oils” (corn oil, soy oil etc.)  rich in the omega-6 PUFA, linoleic acid.

So why is this important to understand relative to the obesity epidemic? Because the most effective weight loss “diet” is arguably a low carbohydrate/high fat (LCHF) diet. This approach does not require calorie counting. This approach has been demonstrated to spontaneously reduce caloric intake whereas low fat diets require calorie counting and result in persistent hunger.

When compared to low fat calorie restricted diets  the LCHF approach has been equal or superior with respect to weight loss, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure reduction, and lipid profiles whenever these parameters have been measured.

But LCHF has not been embraced by the medical community due to the perceived dangers of saturated fat consumption and a low-fat ideology that lacks legitimate scientific evidence.

Once we dispel the mythology of saturated fat, the safety and efficacy of LCHF will be more readily accepted by physicians, the media and the lay public.

The nutritional villains in our society are highly refined and easily oxidized “vegetable oils” filled with pro-inflammatory omega-6 PUFA (linoleic acid), added sugar (especially HFCS) so prevalent in most processed foods and soft drinks, and the nutrient poor wasted calories of processed flour foods. These three culprits are responsible for our epidemics of obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. These three conspire together to generate fatty liver disease, atherosclerotic plaque, and chronic inflammation.

When a LCHF approach is combined with  eating only fresh whole foods and avoiding added sugar, refined flour, and unhealthy  “vegetable oils”, we have the perfect recipe for our obesity epidemic.

The following references provide examples of studies that have demonstrated the efficacy, safety and  usual superiority of the LCHF  approach to weight loss.

Dig Dis Sci. 2007 Feb;52(2):589-93. Epub 2007 Jan 12. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a pilot study. Tendler D, Lin S, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos J, Sylvestre P, Rockey DC Westman EC.

Weight loss, discussion by Tommy Wood MD, PhD

My friend and colleague, Dr. Tommy Wood, recently posted a terrific discussion on weight loss and the many factors to consider. You can read it here. Should Calorie Counting Be the Main Focus for Somebody Trying to Lose Weight (Body Fat)? | Nourish Balance Thrive

Tommy is the smartest physician I know. He researches a topic extensively and carefully separates bad science from good science.

If Tommy renders an opinion, you can take it to the bank.

Read the NBT post by Tommy at the link above and you will not be disappointed. Then sign up to receive short weekly e-mails with sound advice on health and nutrition.

I have discussed the importance of circadian rhythm, restorative sleep, hormonal effects of food choices, and the effects of stress. Tommy covers all of these and much more with links to scientific papers if you are interested in delving deeply into the issues. But if you just want sound advice on weight loss,  read the post and organize your life around improving your habits as he recommends.

Live clean, eat real food, spend time with friends and family, hug someone every day, engage in meaningful work, get sunshine early in the day, exercise in a green space and live in the moment.

Doctor Bob.

Cartoon humor: A Prescription for Health!

 

prescription-for-exercise-cropped

Hat tip to Tommy Wood MD, PhD for introducing me to this great cartoon.

So what would happen if your doctor prescribed this? Would you be shocked? Would you follow the advice? Sadly few doctors make such recommendations as explicitly as this cartoon and fewer patients follow the advice.

How important are the elements in this advice?

They are essential. We too often focus on dietary concerns at the expense of ignoring other important low hanging fruit. Early morning  outdoor exercise with exposure to natural light in a green space, even on a cloudy or rainy day, is essential for health. Why? There are many reasons. Click the link above to read fitness expert Darryl Edward’s discussion with references. In fact outdoor exercise in a greenspace is more beneficial than the same exercise indoors. The reasons are many, including but not limited to Vitamin D production.

Early daytime exposure to natural outdoor light helps to maintain our Circadian rhythm and align the biologic clock in all of our cells and organs with the central biological Circadian clock in our brain. Most folks do not know that we have a biologic clock deep within our brain and that all the organs and cells of our body also have clocks. They all need to be synchronized with each other and with the sun for optimal health. When they are not synchronized bad things happen. Night shift workers and other folks with disturbed sleep have higher rates of cancer , depressionhypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining our circadian rhythm is vital to achieving adequate high quality restorative sleep. In turn, obtaining adequate restorative sleep contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle risk factors.

Exposure to artificial light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and impairs the onset of sleep.

In medical school I learned that our retina has two cell types, rods and cones. But advances in science have revealed a  third cell type called retinal ganglionic cells. 

These cells are  particularly sensitive to blue light and directly connected to our central biological clock . Exposure to artificial light, especially from TV screens, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices after sunset disrupts our sleep cycle and delays the onset of sleep. That is why wearing blue light filtering glasses in the evening helps many folks to improve their sleep quality and duration.

Sleep deprivation for even one night causes elevation in interleukin 6 levels the following day. Interleukin 6 suppresses immune function and excessive levels cause bone and tissue damage (especially cardiovascular). Sleep deprivation  increases  Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin), decreases prolactin and Growth hormone , and decreases the nightly production of ATP .

Melatonin , often called the sleep hormone, is produced most abundantly during restorative sleep and essential for tissue healing, immune function, cancer prevention, and defense against tissue oxidation. These are just a few of the roles melatonin and sleep cycles play in determining our health..

So exercise outdoors in a green space daily to help synchronize your biologic clock with the sun, dim the lights in the evening and if you must watch TV or work on electronic devices before bed wear Blue Light filter glasses .

Of course eating an abundance of colorful fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and practicing some stress reduction techniques every day are equally important and essential to health and functional status.

Finally, not mentioned in the cartoon above is another healthy lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting (IF). IF will be discussed in the next post.

Until then, sleep well, exercise regularly out doors in a green space environment, eat clean, learn and practice some regular stress reduction techniques and read the next post about IF.

Bob Hansen MD

Functional Medicine: Getting to the Root Causes of Illness, A cure for Alzheimer’s

Today I watched a great TED talk by Dr. Rangan Chaterjee discussing his own journey in the discovery and implementation of a functional medicine approach to caring for his patients. The concept of using basic science and clinical science to diagnose and treat the root causes of illness, rather than treating symptoms, has been around for more than two decades.  This approach has recently started to attract more attention, especially within the community of younger physicians who have become more dissatisfied with the frustrations of traditional allopathic medicine.

Here is the talk. Dr. Chatterjee covers lots of ground in a passionate and informative talk.

Enjoy this talk. If you would like to learn about how a functional medicine approach can CURE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE then watch this video of Dr. Bredesen who gave this lecture at a meeting of the American College of Nutrition.

Doctor Bredesen, an acclaimed neuroscientist, researcher, and more recently a brilliant clinician, has been criticized by the academic research community for implementing a clinical research protocol that addresses more than one variable at a time! Unfortunately, medical science has been handcuffed by the drug-model of clinical research wherein only one variable (drug vs. placebo for example) is studied. But if an illness has many potential contributing root causes, changing only one variable is doomed to failure, as Dr. Bredesen explains in this lecture.

Sleep well, eat clean, get outdoors every morning to help keep your circadian rhythm and biological clock in order.

Bob Hansen MD

Sugar Industry paid Harvard researchers to trash fat and exonerate sugar!

By now most of you have already heard about the study published in JAMA that reveals an unsavory historical scenario wherein the sugar industry  funded an academic review paper that diverted the medical community’s attention from sugar as a vector for disease and erroneously placed it on saturated fat and cholesterol consumption. You can read about it by clicking on the following link.

How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat – The New York Times

Here is a quote from the above cited article in the NY times:

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

Here is the abstract of the article published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research:  A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network

Early warning signals of the coronary heart disease (CHD) risk of sugar (sucrose) emerged in the 1950s. We examined Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements relevant to early debates about the dietary causes of CHD and assembled findings chronologically into a narrative case study. The SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor. The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts. The SRF’s funding and role was not disclosed. Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD. Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry–funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.

This disturbing conspiracy reveals yet another industry sponsored distortion of science which had great impact on the health of our nation. The impact is accelerating today as the epidemics of obesity and diabetes rage out of control. But sugar consumption has not just been tied to obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Sugar added foods and beverages have likely contributed to dementia,  many forms of cancer and other chronic debilitating diseases. Sugar and refined carbohydrates mediate these effects by increasing systemic inflammation and contributing to insulin resistance. Inflammation and insulin resistance are pathways to many disease processes. Metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) is the hallmark combination of multiple abnormalities with insulin resistance as the underlying root cause. Prolonged insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes and contributes to heart attacks, strokes,  cancer and dementia. In fact dementia is often referred to as type 3 diabetes, mediated in large part by insulin resistance in the brain.

Here are links to discussions and videos relevant to these topics.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease Is Easier Than You Think | Psychology Today

How to Diagnose, Prevent and Treat Insulin Resistance [Infographic] – Diagnosis:Diet

Reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines | Sarah Hallberg | TEDxPurdueU – YouTube

I have previously provided links to the YouTube lectures given by the brilliant Dr. Jason Fung, These are worth mentioning again.

The Aetiology of Obesity Part 1 of 6: A New Hope

Insulin Toxicity and How to Cure Type 2 Diabetes

How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally

Nina Teicholz is also worth a watch.

Nina Teicholz: The Big Fat Surprise – (08/07/2014)

And here is an important talk about sugar, refined carbohydrates and cancer.

Plenty to chew on.

We did not evolve to eat lots of sugar! It is dangerous stuff.

Bob Hansen MD

 

 

 

Berries, Dark Chocolate and Fruits-Vegetables improve blood vessels within 8 weeks

A recently published study reveals that within 8 weeks of consuming a combination of 70% dark chocolate (50 grams per day), one serving of berries, and four servings of polyphenol rich  fruits-vegetables per day, measurable improvements occur in the functioning of arteries in humans with high blood pressure. Just eight weeks and improvement was observed.

So what did the researchers do?

First, they took 102 adults with high blood pressure and instructed them to consume no chocolate, no berries and only 2 portions of fruits-vegetables per day for four weeks. After four weeks on a “low polyphenol diet” they measured forearm blood-flow response to two different vasodilators (a vasodilator increases blood flow by relaxing the muscle in the wall of arteries). Blood and urine samples were also taken.

After the four week period on a low polyphenol diet, 51 patients continued on the same diet (control group).  51 subjects had fruits and vegetables of their own choice (from a list rich in polyphenols), one serving of berries/day and 50 grams/day of 70% dark chocolate delivered free of charge to their homes weekly (intervention group).

All participants kept food diaries, answered food questionnaires, had regular consultations with nutritionists.

After 8 weeks, blood and urine testing demonstrated higher levels of polyphenols in the “high-polyphenol” group, as expected.

Most importantly the subjects consuming dark chocolate, berries and more vegetables-fruits on a daily basis demonstrated measurable and significant improvements in “endothelial function” compared to the other group. Endothelial function reveals the ability of arteries to respond to changes in demand for increased blood flow. “Endothelial” refers to the cells that line the walls of arteries, directly in contact with flowing blood.  These cells are endothelial cells.

The maximum forearm blood flow response to the infusion of acetyl-choline (a vasodilator) was the test used to measure endothelial function. The maximum forearm blood flow in the high polyphenol group was TWICE that of the low polyphenol group. This large difference occurred with just eight weeks of a simple dietary intervention.

Before the dietary intervention there was no measurable difference between the two groups of subjects. After the dietary intervention there was a very large and meaningful difference.

Endothelial dysfunction is a major predictor of cardiovascular risk (heart attack and stroke). Endothelial dysfunction is BAD.

You can read about polyphenols here .

Epidemiologic studies demonstrate the health benefits of diets rich in colorful vegetables and fruits. Among the fruits berries appear to have the greatest density of important micro-nutrients on a per calorie basis.

Dark chocolate has a high content of polyphenols and multiple studies suggest significant cardiovascular benefit with just an ounce or two per day. You must be careful though about your source since the dutch method of preparation depletes the polyphenols and some brands have high amounts of cadmium or lead. The richest source of dark chocolate identified by ConsumerLab with the lowest amounts of heavy metal contaminants is 100% (bitter) Bakers Dark Chocolate. Dip it in honey or have it with sweet berries to offset the bitter taste. Avoid in the evenings or late afternoon (the caffeine content can interfere with sleep)

So eat those colorful vegetables, berries and indulge in some dark chocolate.

Here is a suggested list of vegetables, Try to get 8-9 servings per day. I give this recommendation to my patients. I adopted this from the recommendations of Doctor Terry Wahls. (From a Wheelchair to Commuting on a Bicycle: How One Woman Naturally Reversed MS | Terry Wahls MD | Defeating Progressive Multiple Sclerosis without Drugs | MS Recovery | Food As Medicine)

9 SERVINGS  OF NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES PER DAY, 3 SERVINGS FROM EACH OF THREE CATEGORIES.

 

  1. DARK GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES, 3 SERVINGS PER DAY EQUALS 3 CUPS MEASURED COOKED OR 6 CUPS MEASURED RAW
  • Arugula, Beet Greens, Bok Choy, Chard all colors, Chicory, Cilantro
  •  Dandelion Greens, Endive, Escarole, Kale-all kinds, Parsley, Radicchio
  • Radish leaves, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Watercress

 

  1. Colored vegetables, 3 cups daily:
  • GREEN: Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado (FRUIT), Cabbage (red and green) Celery, Cucumber with skin, Okra, Olives, Peppers, Zucchini with skin
  • RED: Beets, red cabbage, red peppers, cooked tomatoes (fruit)
  • YELLOW: Carrots, Pumpkin, Squash-summer and winter, Sweet potato,

 

  1. SULFUR RICH VEGETABLES, 3 CUPS DAILY: Some leafy greens are also sulfur rich so there is overlap in these categories
  • Arugula, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Garlic, Kale, Kholrabi, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions red-yellow-white, Radishes, Scallions, Shallots, Turnip Greens, Watercress.

Eat the rainbow and enjoy good health.

You can read this study on Medscape but you must first establish a user name and password (free and open access)

Beneficial Effect of a Polyphenol-Rich Diet on CVD Risk

Bob Hansen MD.