Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Last Lecture: Was There Anything Else He Could Have Done?

Professor Pausch gives a very inspiring lecture, both in book form and on youtube.  In his lecture he breaks boundary after boundary, achieving the impossible.  Yet when he discusses his illness, he tells people he's had the best expert advice and not to bother him with anything like that.  No offense, but if he'd listened to the best expert advice in almost any area of his life, he wouldn't have done the things he was able to do.

The assumption that because they are experts they've explored every possibility is a myth.  We don't treat pancreatic cancer well in the west.  It's a fact.  Which means that every other possibility has as good or better outcomes.  I'm not saying that Professor Pausch could have been cured (that would take a miracle like the ones documented by the Institute of Noetic Sciences about pancreatic cancer).  But in my brief discussions with pancreatic cancer patients (all of whom still decide to go the conventional, hopeless route) very few are following basic commonsense things like taking huge doses of pancreatic enzymes.  The idea is that a cancerous pancreas needs all the help it can get and that the enzymes both take the load off the pancreas and decrease the speed of cancerous growth.  I got the idea from that bastion of alternative medicine, the Merck Manual.  But although enzyme therapy is recommended by the experts of the experts, it is rarely practiced.

I recognize that this could be taken as a criticism of an amazing man, but it is much more a regret that he is gone. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anti-Oxidant Status: Purity Does Not Equal More.

One of the standard assumptions that I've had about the vegetarian and vegan diets is that they provide significantly more antioxidants than a Standard American Diet.  But we have a study that shows that omnivores (meat eaters) are comparable to vegetarians (eggs and dairy) in terms of anti-oxidant status.  I'd like to see the study repeated with just vegans.

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Aug;61(8):1011-22. Epub 2007 Feb 14.
Influence of habitual diet on antioxidant status: a study in a population of vegetarians and omnivores.
Haldar S, Rowland IR, Barnett YA, Bradbury I, Robson PJ, Powell J, Fletcher J.
Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, County Londonderry, UK. s.haldar@ulster.ac.uk

BACKGROUND: Antioxidant status can be used as a biomarker to assess chronic disease risk and diet can modulate antioxidant defence.
OBJECTIVE: To examine effects of vegetarian diet and variations in the habitual intakes of foods and nutrients on blood antioxidants.
SUBJECTS AND SETTING: Thirty-one vegetarians (including six vegans) and 58 omnivores, non-smokers, in Northern Ireland.
DESIGN: A diet history method was used to assess habitual diet. Antioxidant vitamins, carotenoids, uric acid, zinc- and ferric-reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) were measured in fasting plasma and activities of glutathione peroxidase (GPX), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) and level of reduced glutathione (GSH) were measured in erythrocytes
RESULTS: Vegetarians had approximately 15% higher levels of plasma carotenoids compared with omnivores, including lutein (P< or =0.05), alpha-cryptoxanthin P< or =0.05), lycopene (NS), alpha-carotene (NS) and beta-carotene (NS). The levels/activities of all other antioxidants measured were similar between vegetarians and omnivores. Total intake of fruits, vegetables and fruit juices was positively associated with plasma levels of several carotenoids and vitamin C. Intake of vegetables was positively associated with plasma lutein, alpha-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, whereas intake of fruits was positively associated with plasma beta-cryptoxanthin. Intake of tea and wine was positively associated with FRAP value, whereas intake of herbal tea associated positively with plasma vitamin C. Intakes of meat and fish were positively associated with plasma uric acid and FRAP value.
CONCLUSIONS: The overall antioxidant status was similar between vegetarians and omnivores. Good correlations were found between intakes of carotenoids and their respective status in blood.
PMID: 17299498

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

S.A.D., Covering the Basics

As the winter arrives, many people here in Maine experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) not to be confused with the Standard American Diet (also S.A.D.) although SAD may affect SAD (both ways).  Here's a blog post by another N.D. that covers the basics.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walnuts Don't Make You Gain Weight, and They Ease Stress?

I posted on my weight loss page some time ago a very interesting study that involved walnuts.  Individuals who ate walnuts in addition to their regular diet did not gain the expected amount of weight.

Now we have Andrew Weil weighing in (pun intended) that walnuts also ease stress.  Wonderful!  Nothing on candied walnuts though, so take your walnuts straight. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Penelope Trunk: An Underused Superstar.

I'm one of the few people who can claim to have purchased both Timothy Ferriss' Book and Penelope Trunk's book.  Unfortunately Ms. Trunk's book I purchased at a dollar store.  I did so because I wondered specifically why her book was there and Ferriss' book was a best seller.  Here is someone who did everything right, but still her book is at the dollar store.  So when I came across her delightful discussion of Ferriss, I was really pleased.  Her book is not representative of her writing as a whole.  It is dense, doesn't flow, and makes you feel excluded from the cool people before you even start.  Ferriss' allure is that he claims his book is for everyone, which is complete nonsense (gramma isn't web savvy, and uncle Joe needs his dialysis).  But he also generated an enormous upswell for his book from blogs like Trunk's.

Check out Trunk's blog for really useful tips from someone who looks like they should be the life of the party while hiding in the broom closet. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Probiotic Capsules: A New Pharmacy Section in the Supermarket.

I'm suddenly seeing a great number of probiotic products on the supermarket pharmacy section shelves.  Looking through the claims and labels, these products are overwhelmingly similar to health food store offerings with one exception.  They are not refrigerated. 

Consumer reports did an analysis of probiotics some years back and found that the die off from manufacture date to purchase time was pretty extraordinary.  An equivalent metaphor would be packaged fish.  It might be possible to package fish well enough that they wouldn't start to stink, but that would be a pretty gamey fish by the time you got it. 

For any and all of you considering probiotics, either go to a refrigerated product or use the yogurts in the dairy aisle.  Ounce for ounce probiotic capsules are more concentrated, but we generally eat far more yogurt at a sitting.  So they work out to be equivalent.  Consumer reports found that all yogurt brands continued to have live bacteria. 

If you are determined to buy probiotics, consult someone like me.  I can at least tell you what brands are doing independent testing at the consumer end to make the little guys are still alive. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Value of Real Fats.

We've got a group of NDs who really like good fats and point out that fat doesn't necessarily mean disease or obesity.  It's hard to reconcile this viewpoint with the reality of obesity in our society.  On the other hand, all the low fat foods we've been stuffing ourselves with haven't made us any thinner. 

I'm not a convert to high fat, but I think it's worth thinking about real food vs. processed food. 

Here's the link to the AANP article

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Book I Should Have Written: Prostate Cancer Expose.

I haven't even read this book, but I already love it because of the title alone.  I've added some of my own data on alternative treatments at my website. 

Inositol and Bipolar Disorder: Do Not Supplement On Your Own.

It's rare to see a supplement so directly problematic for a drug, but inositol regulation may be how lithium works in the brain.  As such, patients wanting to supplement with inositol could be inactivating their lithium.  Definitely discuss and monitor with your physician. 

Here's a link to the August 2010 study and here's the abstract below.  Another study looks at the complexities of the interaction (inositol supplementation might even be helpful, but don't chance it.)

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Aug 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Association analysis between polymorphisms in the myo-inositol monophosphatase 2 (IMPA2) gene and bipolar disorder.

Bloch PJ, Weller AE, Doyle GA, Ferraro TN, Berrettini WH, Hodge R, Lohoff FW.

Psychiatric Pharmacogenetics Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Linkage studies in bipolar disorder (BPD) suggest that a susceptibility locus exists on chromosome 18p11. The myo-inositol monophosphatase 2 gene (IMPA2) maps to this genomic region. Myo-inositol monophosphatase dephosphorylates inositol monophosphate, regenerating free inositol. Lithium, a common treatment for BPD, has been shown to inhibit IMPA2 activity and decrease levels of inositol. It is hypothesized that lithium conveys its therapeutic effect for BPD patients partially through inositol regulation. Hence, dysfunction of inositol caused by IMPA2 irregularity may contribute to the pathophysiology of BPD. In this study, we hypothesize that genetic variations in the IMPA2 gene contributes to increased susceptibility to BPD. We tested this hypothesis by genotyping 9 SNPs (rs1787984; rs585247; rs3974759; rs650727; rs589247; rs669838; rs636173; rs3786285; rs613993) in BPD patients (n=556) and controls (n=735). Genotype and allele frequencies were compared between groups using Chi square contingency analysis. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) between markers was calculated and estimated haplotype frequencies were compared between groups. Single marker analysis revealed several associations between IMPA2 variations and BPD, which were subsequently rendered non-significant after correction for multiple testing. Although our study did not show strong support for an association between the tested IMPA2 polymorphisms and susceptibility to BPD, additional larger studies are necessary to comprehensively investigate a role of the IMPA2 gene in the pathophysiology of BPD.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20800640