Saturday, 30 September 2017

How a High Fat Diet Can Lead to Alzheimer’s

Though the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease has yet to be found, there is increasing concern about the role of metals in the development of the disease. “Iron and copper,” for example, “are strongly concentrated within the neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that represent the hallmarks of the [Alzheimer’s] brain.”
Alzheimer’s disease victims have higher levels of copper in their blood and in the fluid that surrounds their brain, as well as inside their brain. Researchers found that in a slice of Alzheimer’s-diseased brain tissue, the amyloid plaques correspond to copper hotspots. Copper may then make these amyloid plaques more toxic, “leading to increased oxidative stress.” “Free Cu [copper] is extremely efficient in the generation of free radicals,” and when copper is removed with a chelating (metal-binding) drug, the free radical oxidation drops.
Unfortunately, when researchers gave that drug to nine Alzheimer’s patients in a pilot study, it did not seem to have any effect on slowing the clinical progression of the disease. Perhaps we need to prevent the copper buildup in the first place?
“Organ meats and shellfish are the richest food sources of copper,” but should we also consider cutting down on plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains? Copper intake only seems to be a problem when consumed with saturated fat or trans fat. 
In the Chicago Health and Aging Project, thousands of elderly Chicagoans were followed for six years. Those who were getting the highest copper doses, largely from multivitamin supplements, combined with a diet high in saturated fats, lost cognition as if they had aged 19 years in a period of 6 years, tripling their rate of cognitive decline. However, copper intake “was not associated with cognitive change when the diet was not high in saturated fats.”
Diet-induced high cholesterol “has been shown to increase the formation and progression of [amyloid] plaques in the brain.” As well, “dietary copper may interfere with clearance of [amyloid] from the brain and may further promote [the plaque] accumulation that results from elevated cholesterol levels.” Copper has been shown to interact badly with amyloid, causing its clumping and the production of hydrogen peroxide, a potent pro-oxidant neurotoxin.
This may explain why the higher the levels of copper, the quicker Alzheimer’s disease may progress, particularly among people with high cholesterol levels.
What do we think may be happening? As cholesterol and copper levels rise, cholesterol is incorporated into the nerve cell membrane, causing it to stiffen. The amyloid protein in the membrane detaches to form plaques, at which point iron and copper generate neurotoxic free radicals. Inside the cell, similar havoc is created. Finally, cholesterol-enriched diets can lead to nerve cell death, DNA damage, and blood-brain barrier disruption.
“In conclusion, the present systematic review suggests that a diet rich in [copper and iron] might aggravate the detrimental effects of a high intake of cholesterol and [saturated fat] on the risk of developing [Alzheimer’s disease].” So, diets rich in saturated fat and deficient in antioxidants appear to promote the onset of the disease, while more plant-based diets would likely suppress its onset. There are compounds in plant foods that not only scavenge free radicals and prevent oxidative damage, but are also known to chelate, or bind up, metals, potentially making them additionally protective against the onset of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, the practical implications could be to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid copper-containing supplements, and avoid high intakes of saturated fat and excessive iron intake.

5 Unexpected Ways the Fall Weather Benefits Your Health

In many people’s minds, fall doesn’t exactly strike them as being one of the “healthiest” seasons.
Once the shorter days and cooler weather are in full swing, all those fun summer activities tend to get replaced with work, school and lots of TV shows premiering for the new season. Likewise, our healthy balanced diets start getting invaded by candy, mashed potatoes and cookies thanks to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the start of the Christmas season—not to mention the pumpkin lattes, pumpkin Oreos and pumpkin-everything-else.
Diet and exercise sure can be difficult to control in the fall, but there are lots of other ways you can actually take advantage of the fall season to improve your health. In fact, you may be reaping some of the benefits already without even knowing it!
Here are just five unexpected health benefits the fall season has to offer. 

1. Cracking a window open to let the cool air in at night can help supercharge your sleep.

It sure can be miserable to try getting to sleep in a hot and humid room without any A/C during the summer, so the colder weather is often welcomed by many who lose sleep over it. And it just so turns out that when it comes to getting adequate sleep, your brain loves colder temperatures.
According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, healthy men who slept in a room set at a temperature of 66 degrees ended up increasing their stores of “brown fat”—a metabolically active type of good fat that helps the body get rid of excess blood sugar and burn calories. But if 66 proves to be a little chilly for your liking, you can try adjusting your thermostat down just a little so you’re more comfortable. Even small adjustments to a cooler temperature can provide benefits while you sleep.

2. Simply looking at the changing colors of the fall leaves may improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed.

Fall is perhaps the best season to get out in a park or wooded area just to simply enjoy the scenery. Regina Zopf, MD suggests that when you experience beauty—like the changing fall colors, for example—the medial orbitofrontal cortex part of your brain is activated, which is the same area that contains your strongest thinking functions and your relaxation response center. 

3. Catching the scent of certain fall foods and spices can benefit your brain.

While you may need to be mindful of how many calories you end up consuming during the fall, you at least have a good excuse to enjoy the aromas of some of the ingredients you plan to use for cooking and baking. The scent of cinnamon, for instance, has been shown to sharpen people’s minds. And peppermint, while perhaps more appropriate to use as the holidays draw nearer, is another powerful scent that may help boost energy and help you concentrate.
And according to a study conducted with a group of male participants, the scent of pumpkin may stimulate arousal—at least for men.

4. Your hormonal responses to the change of season may lead to an enhanced sex life.

Speaking of aphrodisiacs, there’s some evidence that when fall arrives, the brain responds in a way that ramps up feelings for love and intimacy. In a study that tracked the testosterone levels year-round in both men and women, fall ended up being the season when this sex hormone was at its highest (peaking in October and November).
While testosterone is generally more associated with men’s libidos, the hormone certainly plays somewhat of a role in women’s libidos as well. Men also tend to find women more attractive starting in the fall and peaking in the winter according to some research, possibly due to the mix of higher testosterone levels.
Couple these hormonal effects with warm blankets, hot beverages, and maybe a movie on a cold night, and you’ve got yourself the perfect situation for some romance!

5. Cold and cloudy weather clears your mind and boosts your memory.

The brisk, fresh air doesn’t just feel good on your skin and in your lungs — the benefits extend right to your mental state too.
In a way, the gloomy fall weather actually wakes your mind up. A study involving two groups of shoppers who were exposed to a combination of 10 impulse buyer items on different days was conducted to see if the weather would make a difference in their ability to remember the items later on. The group that was tested on a sunny, pleasant day was less able to recall what the 10 items were compared to the group that was tested on a cloudy and rainy day, which showed better memorization results.

Unbalanced immune system leads to asthma, eczema, and allergies. How to balance it fast

Understanding your own immune system is very important. When we have certain health conditions and especially an autoimmune disease, we should realize that we don’t have a properly functioning immune system.
Autoimmune disease is a sign that the immune system is already dysfunctional. People with autoimmune diseases have a very weak immune system that is succeptible to infection, colds and flus.
So, it’s important to do as much as you can to help your immune system work as best as it can. Healthy immunity is dependent upon balance between its own super regulatory systems and optimal coordination between the trillions of important compounds.
What does the immune system really do? 
The immune system’s primary function is to protect our bodies from anything that can cause them harm.
Your immune system has an amazing ability to distinguish between your body’s own cells and foreign cells . The self is anything that is naturally in the body, while non-self is a particle or cell that is not naturally present in the body. A properly functioning immune system doesn’t attack other parts of the body.If the immune system malfunctions and mistakes self for nonself, it may attack the body’s own tissues, causing an autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto thyroiditis, or lupus. It’s been found that the immune system determines when the body is in danger, for instance when there are cancerous cells or a viral infection.

How to balance your immune system fast

There are a number of ways you can balance your immune system, and help return it to proper functioning.
“Probiotics” refers to beneficial bacteria that normally reside in healthy human intestines. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.  
Fish oil.
A lack of omega-3 leads to the body having too much omega-6, which has been linked to various other conditions. These include asthma, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and many more problems.
Fish oil blocks inflammatory cytokines by irreversibly binding to immune system enzymes.
For fish oil it is absolutely essential that you buy a high quality product – they are frequently contaminated with mercury (since some types of fish are high in mercury). 
Vitamin A and vitamin D.
Vitamin A, in combination with appropriate amounts of vitamin D, seem to be able to turn off inflammatory immune responses. The combination of these two nutrients can take immature T-helper cells and switch them to an anti-inflammatory version called T-regulatory (T-reg) cells.
Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha supports the body’s stress response, increases antioxidant levels, boosts the immune system and supports hormonal balance. It  supports the body’s stress response, increases antioxidant levels, boosts the immune system and supports hormonal balance.

The Dangers of ‘Home Remedies’ for Serious Illnesses

In a world where you can fix almost anything with a do-it-yourself video on YouTube, you might think curing your own illness would be a piece of cake.
It might be if it weren’t for a couple of (not so small) sticking points.
One, the home remedy recommended by your friend — or one of the many websites promoting “natural therapies” — might not work.
And two, it could make you sicker or even kill you.
That’s exactly what happened to an Australian man who developed cyanide poisoning after taking high doses of apricot kernel extract, hoping to prevent his prostate cancer from returning.
This “superfood” is touted as having anticancer properties. It’s a claim that has no reliable scientific evidence to back it up.
Apricot kernel extract isn’t alone in peddling hope alongside an increased risk of harming your health.
People use home remedies for a variety of reasons — fighting cancer, losing weight, increasing sex drive, or reducing symptoms of illnesses that have few medical treatments available.
Most home remedies or natural therapies, though, haven’t been put through the same rigorous clinical testing you expect from pharmaceutical medications.
So, does that mean you should ignore them completely?
Not necessarily. It’s more a matter of approaching them with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician, former Air Force flight surgeon, and author of the SkepDoccolumn in Skeptic magazine, is one of those leading the charge against medical “treatments” not supported by science.
Like others in the medical and scientific community, Hall is bothered that many questionable home remedies that might once have been called quackery, folk medicine, or fringe medicine now take shelter under the “alternative medicine” umbrella.
“There is no such thing as ‘alternative medicine.’ There is only medicine that has been tested and proven to work, and medicine that hasn’t,” Hall told Healthline. “Alternative medicine is a marketing term, not a scientific one.”

Natural isn’t always healthy

It’s common for people to think that “natural” means healthy.
But many natural things can kill you — asbestos, ionizing radiation from radon, poison hemlock, and deadly nightshade, just to name a few.
As surprising as it may seem, some herbal supplements sold in reputable natural food stores or pharmacies can also harm you, even at doses recommended on the package.
Supplements may be toxic all by themselves, contaminated with another compound that is toxic, or interact with prescription medications.
Despite the risk of dangerous interactions between supplements and medications, only about one-third of people tell their doctor about the supplements they’re taking, according to one study.
Children are especially at risk of poisoning from herbal or dietary supplements.
A study published this summer found that calls made to poison control centers across the country about herbal and dietary supplements increased almost 50 percent between 2005 and 2012.
Dietary supplements were the top reason for the calls, followed by herbal, hormonal, and other products.
Serious medical problems occurred in about 4 percent of these calls. Ninety-five percent of the serious cases were in children under 6 years old. The majority of these poisonings were unintentional.
One reason for the popularity of herbal supplements is that they’re easy to buy — no visit to the doctor or prescription needed. They’re the ultimate health DIY.
There’s also little government regulation of these products. If companies don’t make claims that their product can treat or cure a health condition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won’t bother with them.
Until there’s a problem.
Last year, the FDA issued a warning that homeopathic baby teething tablets and gels may pose a risk to infants and children.
Homeopathic remedies are based on the idea that “like cures like.” Small amounts of substances — sometimes toxic — are used to cure symptoms that those substances would cause at higher doses.
The teething tablets contained the poisonous plant belladonna, except in higher amounts than listed on the label.
The FDA investigation turned up more than 400 reports of bad reactions to these products over the past six years. Reactions included tremor, fever, and shortness of breath.
In 10 cases, children died.
On top of the dangers of some homeopathic remedies, there’s little evidence that they’re effective treatments for any condition.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service recently decided to stop using government funds to pay for homeopathic treatments.
The debate over homeopathy, though, isn’t just about a lack of clinical trials.
One guiding principal of homeopathy is that the more you dilute the active ingredient in water or alcohol, the greater the therapeutic benefit.
Critics say that for this to work, we’d have to radically change what we know about biology, physics, and chemistry.
“Homeopathy not only doesn’t work, but couldn’t possibly work,” said Hall.

Home remedies for cancer

Cancer has long been targeted by people promoting natural therapies.
One study estimates that use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by cancer patients in 18 countries rose from 25 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent after 2000. Use of these products was highest in the United States.
Another study found that herbal supplements were the most commonly used home remedy for cancer, followed by homeopathy, vitamin and mineral supplements, medicinal teas, spiritual therapies, and relaxation techniques.
One of the most popular therapies is Essiac tea, which has been promoted as a cancer treatment since the 1920s. This herbal blend contains burdock root, sheep sorrel herb, slippery elm bark, Turkish rhubarb root, and sometimes other ingredients.
Despite its long reputation as an anticancer remedy, no clinical trials of Essiac have been completed and published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Unlike apricot kernel extract, the side effects of Essiac are less severe, but they do include nausea, vomiting, increased bowel movements, and slight headaches.
Another home remedy for cancer is the Gerson method. It involves following a strict diet, drinking lots of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, taking dietary supplements, and giving yourself coffee enemas.
Although some studies on the Gerson method have been published, none were the rigorous randomized clinical trials that are needed to determine if this home remedy actually helps.
Three people have also died as a result of giving themselves coffee enemas. They can throw off your normal blood chemistry if you do them too often.
There are many more home remedies for treating cancer, with side effects ranging from minor to severe.
But even natural therapies for cancer that don’t kill you directly can still kill you.
In a study published earlier this year, Yale researchers looked at the survival rates of 840 patients with breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer.
People who chose to use only alternative medicine treatments had a higher risk of dying compared to those who used conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, or hormone therapy.
There’s also the fact that people spend a lot of money on unproven treatments.
According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 83 million adults spent almost $34 billion out-of-pocket on CAM therapies that year. This accounts for 1.5 percent of the total healthcare spending in the United States.

Why people turn to home remedies

One study found that people are more likely to use herbal supplements if they’re uninsured, use more prescription and over-the-counter medications, or have certain health conditions.
Other research has found higher herbal supplement use among women and people with a higher education.
Some of the most common conditions that people try to treat with herbs include colds, stomach or intestinal illnesses, and problems like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. These are all conditions that have few effective medical treatments available.
A person’s culture may also influence their use of CAM therapies. For example, botanical medicine is important to many indigenous cultures in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Chinese herbal medicine has been for centuries by Chinese people and Chinese-Americans.
These studies try to explain why people turn to home remedies in the first place.
But a bigger question is why people use home remedies that don’t have any scientific evidence showing that they’re effective.
The Australian man who developed cyanide poisoning from taking apricot kernel extract — a mix of a supplement he purchased and a brew he made at home — apparently had a “scientific background,” according to an anesthetist at the hospital where he was treated.
His doctors also warned the man about the risks of the extract, saying the cyanide was blocking the cells in his body from getting the oxygen they needed to survive.
He still refused to give up his daily ritual.

Our Paleo brains drive us

In a post on Skeptic, Hall suggests that human evolution has made it easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that an herb might cure our cancer, that burning a candle in our ear could improve our overall health, or that a homeopathic remedy diluted almost to nothingness might help us have better sex.
First, our brains are designed to look for patterns, even if they’re wrong.
In our distant past, we reacted quickly if we saw a shadow that looked like a lion in the bushes. It’s better to see a pattern that isn’t there than to miss seeing a real lion.
We also tend to listen to what others tell us. If your friend says there are lions on the other side of the hill, often you’ll listen rather than do your own research.
Our emotions — especially fear — can also motivate us to act, such as running away as fast as we can from a lion.
While these traits helped us survive in a world without technology, they can get us into trouble today.
If a friend has a cold, takes an herbal supplement, and gets better, we might think the pill cured her. But the cold could’ve just as likely gone away on its own. Without clinical studies, we’re just guessing.
Or if you have a headache and your friend says, “I put three drops of lemon oil on my wrists and my headache went away,” you might give it a try. What the heck, right?
Or if you have cancer and you’re afraid of dying, you might try anything to get better — even if it’s never been shown to be effective in a clinical trial, doesn’t make any sense how it might work in the first place, or you have to shell out thousands of dollars at a clinic in another country for treatment.
Choosing treatments for your illness is complicated by research that suggests many published studies — yes, scientific studies — are wrong.
Science isn’t infallible. But it is methodical and self-correcting. Over time, new studies either confirm past results or weed out the mistakes.
Not everyone has a strong background in science or clinical trials, so how are we supposed to decide which treatments work?
Hall offers what she calls her SkepDoc’s Rule.
“Before you accept any claim, try to find out who disagrees with it and why. That can be very illuminating,” she said.
Also, you can always ask your doctor for advice. But even with that, Hall suggests some level of skepticism.

People should “ask their doctor to provide evidence to support his or her recommendations,” said Hall, “and then they should check to see what others have said about that evidence.”

6 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet

What are probiotic foods?
Probiotic foods contain living bacteria. These bacteria are like the bacteria that exist in your body. They’re able to survive the trip through your digestive tract. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that may provide health benefits.

Your digestive tract contains many different types of bacteria. Research suggests that you will have fewer health problems if you have a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your digestive tract.

Fermentation introduces probiotics into food. Fermentation uses microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast to break down food into a simpler substance. Probiotics in food have to survive the acidic environment of the digestive tract in order to have any benefit.

Many foods and supplements tout the presence of probiotics. Comparing brands of supplements and foods can offer information about their relative effectiveness. The higher the number of microorganisms they contain, the more benefit they offer to your body.

Six probiotic foods
If your doctor has recommended probiotics, the food at the top of the list likely is yogurt. Yogurt contains good bacteria. However, it is just one of numerous foods that can supply probiotics. There are several other options:


1. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented drink like yogurt. It has a concentration of probiotics that is higher than yogurt. It is made with fermented animal milk and kefir grain.

2. Sauerkraut and kimchi

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Kimchi is also made with fermented vegetables, but there are many different recipes. Kimchi can be made with mustard leaf, broccoli, and olives.

3. Soy

Soy fermented with Lactobacillus is used widely to create many different foods that are popular in Asian cultures.

Just a few examples of fermented soy include:

soy sauce
Researchers are investigating whether the probiotic properties of soy can reduce the incidence of breast cancer and other diseases.

4. Kombucha

Kombucha is green or black tea that is fermented with sugar and yeast. The fermentation creates solids that inspire some to call it “mushroom tea.” But the drink has no mushroom extracts at all.

The healing effects of kombucha are widely advertised and promoted. There is no consensus on whether kombucha provides any particular probiotic health benefits, though some brands do advertise the probiotic content.

5. Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread is made by fermenting flour and water, and then adding it to dough. The fermentation process makes it easier to digest than other types of bread. Research has shown that sourdough bread may provide health benefits to people with type 2 diabetes and other conditions.

6. Pickles

Commercially produced pickles get their flavor from vinegar. But cucumbers (and other vegetables) fermented in brine without vinegar can get their kick — and probiotic boost — from the cultures present. Some brands make pickles without vinegar, including Real Pickles and The Brinery. But there are many different recipes that can show you how to make your own probiotic pickles.

10 Things You Should Do Now to Ensure Better Health in 10 Years

We all want to live a better life and be as healthy, strong, and happy as possible. Still, many of us make health choices today that could have devastating consequences in the long run.
The choices you make today will have an effect on how healthy you are tomorrow. So if you want to be at your healthiest 10 years from now, here’s where you should start:

1. Quit smoking

We all know smoking is bad for our health, but plenty of people still light up. Quitting today could mean great things for your long-term health, though. In five years, your risk of a subarachnoid hemorrhage decreases by 59 percent. And in 10 years for men and five years for women, your risk of developing diabetes is reduced to that of a nonsmoker. Smokers have been found to be 2.2 times more likely to die from lung cancer than quitters.

2. Watch your BMI

Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) can lower your risk for certain diseases. The World Health organization says, “As BMI increases, so does the risk for some diseases. Some common conditions related to overweight and obesity include: premature death, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, some cancers, and diabetes.” Eating healthfully and exercising can help regulate your BMI.

3. Make love

Mounting evidence points to all kinds of benefits to keeping your sex life regular — everything from easing depression to relieving pain to fighting off prostate cancer. Oh, and people who have sex one to two times a week also appear to have an immune response that is 30 percent higher than those who don’t have any sex at all.

4. Moderate your alcohol 

Believe it or not, alcohol can have some benefits, including a reduction in cardiovascular disease. But these benefits apply only if it’s consumed in moderation. Heavy drinking can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, damage to the heart muscle, and an increased risk of several cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women, and no more than two per day for men.

5. Turn off the television

A 2015 study found a correlation between increased time watching television and a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and suicide. This doesn’t mean you need to throw your television out, but it does mean you should probably be monitoring the number of hours you spend sedentary in front of the TV. Try swapping some of those hours out for something active instead.

6. Get to bed

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Routinely failing to get that amount could lead to long-term health consequences, including increased obesity and high blood pressure and decreased well-being.

7. Exercise

According to the CDC, “getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity” can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. A physically active lifestyle also lowers your risk for colon and breast cancer. 

8. Reach a healthy weight

The World Health Organization reports that being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and several cancers. Losing weight obviously isn’t a simple task, and many struggle to reach a healthy weight. Talking to your doctor about options and committing to a healthy diet and exercise plan can be beneficial first steps.

9. Visit your doctor

The CDC reports that: “The right preventive care at every stage of life helps all Americans stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, keep diseases they already have from becoming worse or debilitating, [and] lead productive lives.” An annual checkup is beneficial for everyone, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces says women especially should make biennial mammograms a priority after age 50, as well as Pap smears every 3 years after the age of 21 (unless your doctor recommends getting these screenings more frequently).

10. Avoid too much sun   

We all benefit from vitamin D, but failing to take sun precautions (an SPF of 30 or higher) can increase your risk of skin cancer. It can also cause sun damage to your skin that will make you appear older than you would like in 10 years.
When we’re young and healthy, it’s easy to assume we are invincible and make careless or detrimental health choices as a result. But taking care of yourself today is the number one thing you can do to ensure you are living a healthier life 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
We’re all getting older, so why not make the choices now that will improve your life in the future?