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Written by Brenton Wight, LeanMachine – Health Researcher, updated 3rd July 2020
The latest results from the EWG (Envirinmental Working Group) are now published as the Clean Fifteen Foods, and the Dirty Dozen that we should buy only as Organic:
Dirty Dozen List – always buy as Organic
The Clean Fifteen foods have the lowest levels of pesticides, even when conventionally grown.
If organic foods are unavailable, select foods from this list to reduce harmful chemical exposure.
Clean Fifteen List – safer foods less likely to be toxic
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
The EWG uses lab reports and studies that measure pesticides and other chemicals excreted from the urine of people eating particular foods.
Higher intake of organic foods has been shown to improve fertility, birth outcomes, and reduce risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and obesity.
The only way to prevent contaminating food crops is to not buy those products unless they are organic.
A few years ago, organic foods were very expensive, but these days, as the demand increases, organic foods are much more affordable, and will be cheaper again as conventional growers go broke when no one buys their products, and the additional volume of organic foods brings the price down yet again.
Copyright © 1999-2020 BJ Wight and LeanMachine abn 55293601285
© 19th June 2020 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter
Reproduced from original article:
Posted on: Friday, June 19th 2020 at 2:15 pm
Written By: GreenMedInfo Research Group
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2020
Is anxiety affecting your life negatively? Don’t fret — you can soothe your spirit and hunger with these five anxiety-relieving foods that are good for your body and your mood
According to the American Psychiatric Association, nearly two-thirds of U.S. residents surveyed in 2017 were “extremely or somewhat anxious” about the health and safety of themselves and their families, with more than a third feeling “more anxious overall” than they did in 2016.[i] With more recent data indicating that feelings of anxiety are on the rise,[ii] and have since skyrocketed due to COVID-19 and related shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, it’s important to know what to do to keep your central nervous system calm and supported during times of increased stress.
While allopathic doctors generally advocate pills to treat anxiety, there is mounting evidence showing that these medications can have many negative side effects including addiction, depression, suicide, seizures, sexual dysfunction, headaches and more.[iii]
Practitioners of natural health know that food is the best medicine, and some foods are better than others when it comes to soothing body and mind. Here are five of the top foods to eat to stimulate feelings of calm and well-being from the inside-out.
Cold-water fishes like salmon, cod, mackerel and sardines are under-consumed in the U.S., which culturally favors protein from sources like beef and chicken. This is a dietary misstep if you want to quell anxious energy. Rich in the essential amino acids L-lysine and L-arginine as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids, increasing your intake of clean fish may help relieve anxiety by promoting a healthy brain and enhanced mood.
Studies have shown that individuals with L-lysine deficiency are at higher risk of anxiety,[iv] while L-lysine supplementation lowers anxiety and reduces the impact of stress.[v] In clinical trials, supplementation with L-arginine reduced synthesis of cortisol, a major stress hormone, in healthy human subjects.[vi]
Consumption of adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to enhance mood[vii] and reduce the risk of anxiety.[viii] Supplementation for a period of three months with a high-quality source of omega-3s has even been shown to support withdrawal-related anxiety in a trial with substance abuse patients.[ix] Just a few servings per week of healthy fish may be sufficient to receive these benefits.
Widespread pollution of our oceans as well as the environmental impacts of overfishing have made some people wary of eating fish. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced a useful guide to choosing the most nutritious and clean fish from sustainable sources, including a calculator to help you customize portion sizes for optimal nutrition while minimizing negative impact on the planet.[x]
Vitamin D has been studied for its positive effects on mood, possibly due to its action as a steroid hormone with many important functions in the brain. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to multiple behavioral disorders, including anxiety and depression in patients with fibromyalgia.[xi] A study on mice showed that specimens with fewer vitamin D receptors in the brain demonstrated increased anxiety-like behaviors, suggesting that adequate vitamin D intake can be an important factor for healthy emotional behavior.[xii]
Almonds are a potent source of vitamin E, a powerful scavenger of damaging free radicals, which is linked to a healthy brain response to fearful conditions. Vitamin E supplementation was found in one animal study to improve fear response in rats that were exposed to healthy vitamin E levels in utero, versus impaired fear response and increased anxiety in rats whose mothers were deprived of this essential nutrient during pregnancy.[xiii] One cup of ground almonds (a great addition to many recipes) provides 125% of an adult’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E.[xiv]
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, an essential trace mineral that is critical for optimal health. A clinical trial of adults who were supplemented with 100 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per day reported less anxiety than the placebo group. According to the report, the lower the level of selenium in the diet, the higher the levels of anxiety, depression and tiredness among patients, all of which decreased following five weeks of selenium therapy. [xv]
Adults over 14 years of age are recommended to intake 55 mcg of selenium each day.[xvi] A small handful of Brazil nuts (six to eight nuts) delivers a whopping 544 mcg, more than enough to take the edge off your mood.[xvii]
All of these nuts provide essential amino acids and fatty acids that produce the mood-regulating hormones serotonin and dopamine, adding to their potential for helping to regulate mood and improve overall mental health.[xviii]
Fermented foods like yogurt have long been acknowledged as beneficial for gut health due to the presence of friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which help protect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract against harmful pathogens and potentially dangerous microbes. As the understanding of the gut-brain connection develops, science is further acknowledging the benefits of fermented foods on brain health and even mood regulation.
A 2014 study on the effects of daily intake of yogurt enriched with probiotics by adults with high-trait anxiety disorder found that individuals who consumed enriched yogurt had healthier stress responses than those who consumed non-enriched yogurt, suggesting that eating probiotic-enriched yogurt aids in coping with chronic stress.[xix]
This beneficial activity may be due to probiotics’ neuroprotective effect on the brain. A study on healthy women with no gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms showed that ingesting a fermented milk product with probiotic for four weeks led to “robust alteration” within specific brain regions that control processing of emotion and sensation, leading researchers to assert that consuming such probiotic-rich foods may work to prevent anxious feelings from developing.[xx]
It should be noted that there are plenty of alternatives to cow’s milk-based yogurt products today, such as coconut-, almond, and goat’s milk, all of which can help to prevent bovine casein-associated adverse health effects which we have documented in detail on our cow’s milk database here.
4. Green Tea for Theanine
Having a daily tea ritual is a great way to weave a moment of calm into your days. Besides the benefits of taking a break from daily concerns to boil water, select a cup and let it steep, drinking tea is a great way to boost your brain’s ability to ward off stress. There are more than 400 reasons to drink green tea, and for most adults today, feeling less stressed is at the top of the list.
A Singapore study on 60 healthy seniors showed that those with a regular tea habit had brain scans showing improved brain organization brought about by tea’s ability to prevent disruption of interregional connections. In other words, the different brain regions had more and healthier interconnections; they were more organized with better hemispheric symmetry.[xxiii]
Green tea’s magical properties are attributed primarily to L-theanine, an active polyphenol in green tea that may be at the heart of its ability to calm nerves and fortify the brain. An amino acid, theanine produces a soothing effect by stimulating production of GABA and dopamine, neurotransmitters known to play a role in anxiety[xxiv] and pleasurable sensations.
Green tea contains another potent phytochemical called EGCG, short for epigallocatechin-gallate, another polyphenol in green tea that has gained a lot of attention as a potential therapeutic agent for preventing neurodegenerative inflammatory diseases.[xxv] And if you need any more reasons to start a green tea habit, regular tea drinking may bolster the immune system to prevent influenza infection.
If you’re wondering how much is too much, the answer is it’s very hard to overdo green tea consumption. A 2009 study conducted in Japan, one of the largest consumer countries of green tea, found that those who consumed more than 5 cups per day had significantly less stress than those who drank less than 1 cup per day.[xxvi] In other words, the more you drink, the better you feel. So, put on the kettle and start feeling better.
5. Dark Chocolate
While you engage in afternoon tea, why not break off a square (or two) of fine dark chocolate? Don’t worry about the jitters one might associate with chocolate; dark chocolate is clinically shown to improve anxiety and deliver a potent feel-good boost of serotonin.[xxvii]
Cocoa contains more active phenolic antioxidants than most foods, a factor that can benefit brain function.[xxviii] One could argue that dark chocolate tastes better than most foods too, a factor that has been clinically shown to impart a soothing effect to individuals who are prone to mood disorders.[xxix]
Dark chocolate isn’t just about taste; it’s got minerals like magnesium that are important for brain health and mood. A large square of dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cacao provides around 36 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, nearly 10% of the U.S. RDA for adults.[xxx]
Magnesium is considered an essential supplement for psychiatric patients due to the role it plays in calming the nervous system.[xxxi] A 2011 study of highly stressed individuals showed that eating 40 grams of dark chocolate every day for two weeks led to participants reporting significantly lower stress levels than participants eating milk or white chocolates.[xxxii]
Eating dark chocolate has been shown to boost the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can lead to fewer and milder feelings of anxiety due to an enhanced ability to manage stress.[xxxiii] By adding a serving of dark chocolate to your day, you can impart a wide array of self-care benefits to both enhance your mood and increase your resilience to life’s daily stressors. There is no reason not to indulge.
For additional information on anxiety-reducing foods and herbs, visit our database dedicated to the topic here. To learn more about the ways nutrition can support a sane, healthy lifestyle, consult GreenMedInfo.com’s repository of articles as the world’s most widely referenced, evidence-based natural medical resource.
[i] American Psychiatric Association, Newsroom, APA Public Opinion Poll – Annual Meeting 2017, https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/apa-public-opinion-poll-annual-meeting-2017 [Accessed April 10, 2020]
[ii] American Psychiatric Association, Newsroom, APA Public Opinion Poll – Annual Meeting 2018, https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/apa-public-opinion-poll-annual-meeting-2018 [Accessed April 10, 2020]
[iii] Alramadhan E, Hanna MS, Hanna MS, Goldstein TA, Avila SM, Weeks BS. Dietary and botanical anxiolytics. Med Sci Monit. 2012;18(4):RA40-RA48. doi:10.12659/msm.882608, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560823/
[iv] Ghosh S, Smriga M, Vuvor F, et al. Effect of lysine supplementation on health and morbidity in subjects belonging to poor peri-urban households in Accra, Ghana. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(4):928-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20720257
[v] Smriga M, Ghosh S, Mouneimne Y, et al. Lysine fortification reduces anxiety and lessens stress in family members in economically weak communities in Northwest Syria. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101(22):8285-88. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159538
[vi] Smriga M, Ando T, Akutsu M, et al. Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans. Biomed Res. 2007;28(2):85-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17510493
[viii] Appleton KM, Rogers PJ, Ness AR. Is there a role for n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the regulation of mood and behaviour? A review of the evidence to date from epidemiological studies, clinical studies and intervention trials. Nutr Res Rev. 2008;21(1):13-41. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19079852
[ix] Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M, Hibbeln JR. Associations between increases in plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids following supplementation and decreases in anger and anxiety in substance abusers. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008;32(2):568-75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18060675
[x] Environmental Working Group Consumer Guide to Seafood https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-Mr0BRDyARIsAKEFbecYJ5AL5Fy3CUMbQFWGkP6I9Zlwruvv6AgBPMcDOHfXkwR8eCUGKagaAhoUEALw_wcB
[xi] Armstrong DJ1, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia. Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Apr;26(4):551-4. Epub 2006 Jul 19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16850115
[xiii] Ambrogini P, Ciuffoli S, Lattanzi D, et al. Maternal dietary loads of α-tocopherol differentially influence fear conditioning and spatial learning in adult offspring. Physiol Behav. 2011;104(5):809-15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21839761
[xiv] Self Nutrition Data, Facts, Nuts and Seeds, Almonds, https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2
[xvi] National Institutes of Health, Fact Sheets, Selenium, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
[xvii] National Institutes of Health, Fact Sheets, Selenium, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
[xviii] Murphy M, Mercer JG. Diet-regulated anxiety. Int J Endocrinol. 2013;2013:701967. doi:10.1155/2013/701967. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762204/
[xix] Jaatinen N1, Korpela R, Poussa T, Turpeinen A, Mustonen S, Merilahti J, Peuhkuri K. Effects of daily intake of yoghurt enriched with bioactive components on chronic stress responses: a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Jun;65(4):507-14. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2014.880669. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24490888
[xx] Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(7):1394-1401.e14014. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/
[xxi] Hilimire MR, DeVylder JE, Forestell CA. Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model. Psychiatry Res. 2015 Aug 15;228(2):203-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25998000
[xxii] Selhub EM, Logan AC, Bested AC. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. J Physiol Anthropol. 2014;33(1):2. Published 2014 Jan 15. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-33-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904694/
[xxiii] Junhua Li, Rafael Romero-Garcia, John Suckling, Lei Feng. Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation. Aging, 2019; 11 (11): 3876 DOI: 10.18632/aging.102023
[xxv] Singh NA, Mandal AK, Khan ZA. Potential neuroprotective properties of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Nutr J. 2016;15(1):60. Published 2016 Jun 7. doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0179-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4897892/#CR5
[xxvi] Hozawa A, Kuriyama S, Nakaya N, Ohmori-Matsuda K, Kakizaki M, Sone T, Nagai M, Sugawara Y, Nitta A, Tomata Y, Niu K, Tsuji I.
Green tea consumption is associated with lower psychological distress in a general population: the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1390-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28214. Epub 2009 Sep 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793850
[xxvii] Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):716-727. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575938/
[xxviii] Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811. doi:10.1089/ars.2010.3697. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/
[xxix] Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811. doi:10.1089/ars.2010.3697. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/
[xxx] Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011;15(10):2779-2811. doi:10.1089/ars.2010.3697. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/
[xxxi] Ruppersberg J et al. The mechanism of magnesium block of NMDA receptors. Seminars in Neuroscience. 1994;6(2): 87-96. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1044576584710128
[xxxii] Al Sunni A, Latif R. Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2014;8(4):393-401. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350893/
[xxxiii] Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):716-727. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575938/
Reproduced from original article:
- For a limited time only, PBS is streaming a free documentary on America’s diabetes epidemic
- More than 114 million American adults have diabetes or prediabetes and the economic ramifications of this condition are enormous. The U.S. spent $350 billion treating diabetes in 2019 alone
- One of the best strategies to beat COVID-19 is to get any underlying chronic conditions under control; Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can often be reversed via healthy diet and lifestyle
- Type 2 diabetes is a diet-derived condition. It’s rooted in insulin resistance and faulty leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels. As such, it can be effectively treated and reversed through dietary and other lifestyle means
- Research has shown fasting and a cyclical ketogenic diet can improve insulin sensitivity and reverse diabetes. Staying physically active is also important, as excessive sitting blocks a number of insulin-mediated systems, including muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar
For a limited time only, PBS is streaming a free documentary on America’s diabetes epidemic (it may not be available in all areas; check your local PBS to see if it’s in your area). Coincidentally, diabetes is a comorbidity that can increase your chances of contracting and even dying from COVID-19,1 making this documentary particularly timely.
One of the best strategies to beat COVID-19 is to get any underlying chronic conditions under control. Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which have been implicated as underlying factors causing serious COVID-19 disease — can often be reversed via healthy diet and lifestyle.
According to a January 2019 update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 122 million American adults have diabetes or prediabetes,2 and the economic ramifications of this condition are enormous. The U.S. spent $350 billion treating diabetes in 2019 alone, according to the film.
Also according to the film, projections predict half the American population will be prediabetic or diabetic by 2025. Such predictions reflect poor research because if you use insulin resistance as your definition, 80% of the country is diabetic or prediabetic already.3,4
Glucose Metabolism Influences Cytokine Storms
An April 15, 2020, article5 in The Scientist reviews evidence6,7 that helps explain why obesity and diabetes are such potent risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection.
In a nutshell, higher blood glucose levels appear to play a significant role in viral replication and the development of cytokine storms. While the research in question looked at influenza A-induced cytokine storms, these findings may well be applicable in COVID-19 as well.
Cytokines are signaling molecules that are released by your immune system in response to foreign invaders. They, in turn, act as messengers that instruct other immune cells to fight the pathogen. In some cases, this immune response goes into overdrive, resulting in what’s known as a “cytokine storm” that can cause severe tissue damage and lead to death.
A cytokine storm response is typically the primary reason why people die from infections, be it the seasonal flu, Ebola, urinary tract infection or COVID-19. A critical player in cytokine production is the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5). In mice, genetically eliminating IRF5 protects them from influenza-induced cytokine storms.8
Interestingly, “the inflammatory response to influenza infections is also known to drive up glucose metabolism,” The Scientist reports,9 “in part so that immune cells have the necessary energy to mount a strong response, and also because the virus needs the sugar to replicate.”
According to researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Virology at Wuhan University, the hexosamine biosynthesis pathway — a glucose metabolism pathway — is responsible for activating IRF5-induced cytokine production in cells and mice. The same pathway is also responsible for viral replication, they say.10,11,12 As reported by The Scientist:13
“Hexosamine biosynthesis starts with glucose and results in an end product called uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) … Liu’s team now shows that O-GlcNAcylation of IRF5 is necessary for the transcription factor’s cytokine-producing activity …
The team also showed that patients infected with influenza have higher blood glucose levels and more O-GlcNacylation of IRF5 than healthy controls. Furthermore, blood glucose levels correlated tightly with levels of inflammatory cytokines.
The results show that ‘there is a connection [between] influenza virus infection, enhanced glucose metabolism and cytokine storm, all linked through O-GlcNAcylation of IFR-5,’ Mengji Lu, a virologist at the University Hospital Essen and a coauthor of the study, writes in an email to The Scientist …”
In a Science Advances press release, co-author Shi Liu states:14
“We believe that glucose metabolism contributes to various COVID-19 outcomes since both influenza and COVID-19 can induce a cytokine storm, and since COVID-19 patients with diabetes have shown higher mortality.”
Insulin Resistance Is the Real Pandemic
So, the real pandemic here appears to be dysregulated glucose metabolism; in other words, insulin resistance, which is exceedingly prevalent in the U.S.15,16 Insulin resistance, in turn, is a diet-induced condition. Unless addressed, insulin resistance eventually develops into full-blown Type 2 diabetes. As mentioned earlier, if you use sensitive measure for insulin resistance, approximately 80% of the population has this metabolic dysfunction.17,18
Processed foods — which are loaded with added sugars, processed grains and industrially processed omega-6 vegetable oils — are the primary culprits causing insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and obesity and, according to FoodNavigator.com,19 doctors are finally starting to talk about the food industry’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic:
“A cardiologist has blamed the food industry for ‘normalizing’ ultra-processed junk food as more evidence emerges suggesting poor diet is the root cause behind increased mortality from COVID-19,” FoodNavigator states, adding:20
“In light of the mounting evidence that obesity and poor diet increases the risk of a severe response to COVID-19 infection, medical professionals now want the public health message urgently updated. And this, they warn, means the food industry bracing itself for regulation, such as bans on advertising and taxes …
Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a London-based cardiologist, told the BBC that a Government and Public Health England failure to tell the public to change its diet would represent an act of ‘negligence and ignorance’ … For him, the pandemic highlighted that it was in the interest of everybody, including those in the food industry, to make sure the population was as healthy as possible.”
Diabetes Is Reversible
As noted by PBS, Type 2 diabetes can be very difficult to control when relying on drugs alone and not doing anything about the underlying lifestyle factors actually causing the problem. While not addressed in the film, the use of insulin in Type 2 diabetes is particularly problematic. If the underlying lifestyle factors are properly addressed, Type 2 diabetes is entirely reversible in most people, and rather easily so.
The reason for this is because Type 2 diabetes is a diet-derived condition. It’s rooted in insulin resistance and faulty leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels. As such, it can be effectively treated and reversed through dietary and other lifestyle means.
For example, as detailed in my 2019 article “Fasting Prevents and Halts Diabetes,” research has shown fasting can improve insulin sensitivity,21 reverse diabetes22 and support your weight management efforts when combined with exercise.23 While “Blood Sugar Rising” discusses the foundational role of diet in this disease, it does not touch on fasting at all.
This is unfortunate, considering how effective it can be. In a case series paper24,25 published in BMJ Case Reports, Dr. Jason Fung and associates details how fasting can actually be used as a therapeutic alternative for Type 2 diabetes. As noted by the authors, their paper:
“… demonstrates the effectiveness of therapeutic fasting to reverse insulin resistance, resulting in cessation of insulin therapy while maintaining control of blood sugars. In addition, these patients were able to lose significant amounts of body weight, reduce their waist circumference and also reduce their glycated hemoglobin levels.”
Now, a case series paper is not a controlled study; rather, it simply presents the case history of one or more patients and may propose a hypothesis for why a treatment did or did not work. In this case, three diabetic patients between the ages of 40 and 67 participated in a supervised fasting regimen to evaluate the effects on their insulin requirements.
The patients had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for 10, 20 and 25 years respectively, and were taking insulin daily. Of the three patients, two did alternating-day, 24-hour fasts, while one fasted for 24 hours three times a week over a period of several months. The complete manual of the fasting regimen used is described in Fung’s book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting.”26
Two of the patients were able to discontinue all of their diabetes medications while the third was able to discontinue three of his four drugs. All three also lost between 10% and 18% of their body weight.
With another similar trial, The Guardian reported on,27 Type 2 diabetics were placed on a severely restricted calorie diet where they ate just 600 calories a day for eight weeks. By the end of their fast, all were disease-free, and three months later, having returned to their regular diet, seven of the 11 participants remained free of diabetes.
There’s Hope Even for Severe Diabetes
Several studies have even found that repeated episodes of fasting can induce cell growth of pancreatic beta cells in mice.28 The growth is associated with an increased expression of Ngn3,29 a protein involved in converting DNA into RNA critical for endocrine cells in the pancreatic islets of langerhans, the cells responsible for producing insulin.
The increase in islet beta cells induced through intermittent fasting was accompanied by a marked improvement in blood sugar control in the animals. While individuals suffering from Type 1 diabetes often experience near complete inflammatory destruction of the islet beta cells, the same occurs in the later stages of severe Type 2 diabetes as well.
In a BMJ editorial,30 research scientist James DiNicolantonio, PharmD.,31 discusses these results, noting the findings may open the path to reversing Type 2 diabetes in those with “enough discipline and commitment to adopt a lifestyle that would have prevented diabetes in the first place.”32
As a first step, he recommends you first practice a diabetes preventive lifestyle — eating a diet primarily of whole foods, complemented with regular exercise. This will help improve your insulin sensitivity and may prove sufficient for those with a recent diagnosis of diabetes to reverse their condition over time.
In those who fail to respond, he recommends a time-restricted eating protocol, which provides many of the same benefits as longer fasting while being much easier to comply with. Supplemental measures may also be implemented to shield the beta cells from toxicity so they retain functional capacity. For example, reducing islet oxidative stress may be accomplished using spirulina, NAC and/or berberine.33
Ultimately, the goal is to achieve normal blood sugar control without drugs and maintain compliance with a diabetic preventive diet and lifestyle. This also includes physical activity.
Chronic inactivity such as extended sitting is one of the primary risk factors for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. The reason for this is because sitting shuts down or blocks a number of insulin-mediated systems, including muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol. Standing up activates all of these systems at the molecular level. Dr. James Levine detailed the science of this in our 2014 interview.
Diabetes Takes a Heavy Toll on Health
As detailed in the film, chronically high blood sugar from poor nutrition and lack of exercise can trigger long-term damage to your body and make you more prone to other chronic health problems and diseases, including but not limited to:34,35,36
|Neuropathy (nerve damage) and amputation||Glaucoma, cataracts and blindness|
|Infections||Kidney disease and kidney failure|
|High blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke||Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease|
Sugar-Rich Diets Are a Primary Culprit
While PBS largely focuses on the conventional treatment of diabetes, which typically involves insulin and other drugs, it thankfully highlights the fact that sugar- and carb-rich diets are a primary driver.37 Research38 shows that once you reach 18% of your daily calories from sugar, there’s a twofold increase in metabolic harm that promote prediabetes and diabetes.
As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your total sugar consumption below 25 grams per day, which is about 6 teaspoons. If you have signs of insulin resistance such as hypertension, obesity or heart disease, you’d be wise to limit sugar to 15 grams or less until your weight and other health conditions have normalized.
Sadly, as noted by PBS, “the game is rigged.” Food products are allowed to state “sugar free” on the package, even though they’re loaded with carbohydrates and sugar alternatives. As noted in the film, it’s not just sugar itself that must be avoided, but anything that turns into sugar in your body as well, most notably grains.
In short, a high-grain, low-fat diet is a perfect prescription for diabetes, yet these kinds of foods are allowed to make a number of health claims. This kind of misleading labeling is causing many to think they’re making wise food choices when in fact they’re not.
It would help to remember that just about all processed foods are best avoided. Rather than trying to decipher labels, ditch the processed foods and fast food restaurants and cook from scratch using whole, unprocessed foods. This is by far the easiest and most effective way to improve your diet.
Soybean Oil Promotes Diabetes
One dietary factor not directly addressed in the film is processed vegetable oils. These may actually be worse than fructose in terms of the metabolic harm they cause.39 Soybean oil in particular has a questionable safety profile, and processed foods are positively loaded with it.
Whether partially hydrogenated, organic or genetically modified to be low in linoleic acid, soybean oil can cause dysfunction at a cellular level. Unfortunately, many health authorities have insisted omega-6-rich vegetable oils like soybean oil are healthier than saturated animal fats such as butter, lard and coconut oil, and this myth has been a tough one to dismantle, despite the evidence against it.
Most recently, research40,41,42 published in the January 2020 issue of Endocrinology found soybean oil — the most widely consumed cooking oil in America — can cause metabolic changes associated with:
|Type 2 diabetes||Fatty liver disease|
According to the authors, both conventional and genetically engineered soybean oil caused dysfunction in about 100 different genes in the hypothalamus, including genes associated with “inflammation, neuroendocrine, neurochemical and insulin signaling.”
Similar results were reported in a 2015 study,43 in which soybean oil was found to increase weight gain, body fat, diabetes, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Here too, soybean oil diets upregulated genes involved in diabetes, obesity, inflammation, mitochondrial function and cancer.
Ketogenic Diet Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Aside from fasting or time-restricted eating, a cyclical ketogenic diet is an effective way to improve your insulin sensitivity and reverse diabetes. A cyclical ketogenic diet — as detailed in my book “KetoFast” — shifts your body’s metabolic engine from burning carbohydrates to burning fats.
Your cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose for fuel to using ketone bodies, which come from the breakdown of fats, hence, the name “ketogenic.” Another term for this is nutritional ketosis. One of the fastest ways to prevent nutritional ketosis is by consuming sugar or refined carbohydrates.
A ketogenic diet calls for 50% to 70% of your daily calories to come from beneficial fats such as coconut oil, grass-pastured butter, organic pastured eggs, avocado or ketone producing fats like MCT oils, particularly C-8, while restricting your carbohydrates to 30 or 40 grams per day. Along with an appropriate amount of protein, this is typically enough to get you into ketosis.
Watch ‘Blood Sugar Rising’
“Blood Sugar Rising” provides an eye-opening glimpse into the very real struggles of Type 2 diabetics, as well as the around-the-clock challenges faced by those with Type 1 diabetes — a genetic condition in which your body produces no insulin at all — and groundbreaking inventions such as a bionic pancreas that automatically delivers the appropriate insulin dose as needed.
The film also reviews the real-world ramifications of skyrocketing insulin prices. The two types of diabetes differ in terms of their origin, and while insulin is typically ill advised for Type 2 diabetics,44 Type 1 diabetics die without it.
It also highlights the role of food as a cultural component, and how food-centered cultures can be guided to make healthier choices. For example, saying you have to abstain from rice, pasta or potatoes can be nearly impossible in certain families and cultures. Instead, you may need to approach it in terms of better and worse ways of preparing these foods, and restricting the amounts.
Diabetes, or more accurately insulin resistance with metabolic inflexibility, is a health accident waiting to happen, but it’s important to realize that you have control and can do something about it. In virtually all cases, it will require making more or less drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle, but the payoff goes beyond preventing diabetes. Concomitant with that, you’re also protecting your vision and lowering your risk of most of the chronic diseases that lead to an early grave.
- 1 Touch Endocrinology Covid-19 Infection in People With Diabetes
- 2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 14, 2019
- 3, 15, 17 The Fat Emperor May 10, 2015
- 4, 16, 18 IDM Program, Kraft Patterns
- 5, 8, 9, 12, 13 The Scientist April 15, 2020
- 6, 10 Science Advances April 15, 2020; 6(16):eaaz7086
- 7, 11, 14 Eurekalert April 15, 2020
- 19, 20 Foodnavigator.com April 22, 2020
- 21 Science Daily, May 21, 2019
- 22, 30, 32, 33 Open Heart, 2019; 6: e001028
- 23 The Journal of Nutrition, 2019;doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz018
- 24 BMJ Case Reports 2018; doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-221854
- 25 Health Day October 10, 2018
- 26 Medium.com, Fasting Book Review: The Complete Guide to Fasting, Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore, January 20, 2017
- 27 The Guardian April 2, 2017
- 28, 31 Research Gate, Dr. James DiNicolantonio
- 29 Developmental Dynamics, 2008;237(11):3270
- 34 NY State Department of Health, Diabetes Basics, What Complications are Caused by Diabetes?
- 35 Diabetes.org, Complications
- 36 Mayo Clinic, Diabetes Complications
- 37, 38 Mayo Clinic Proceedings, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.12.019
- 39, 43 PLOS One July 22, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132672
- 40 Endocrinology January 8, 2020 DOI: 10.1210/endocr/bqz044
- 41 UC Riverside News January 17, 2020
- 42 Neuroscience News January 17, 2020
- 44 JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; 174(8):1227
Reproduced from original article:
- Spending time in the woods, called forest bathing, may boost your ability to fight viruses and infections
- Data revealed the same effects are not experienced by being outdoors in an urban environment; diffusing cypress stem oil indoors produced similar but weaker results
- Spending time in green spaces has additional benefits, including blood pressure reduction, cortisol secretion and lowering the incidence of diabetes
- Other healthy habits that support your immune health include taking care of your gut microbiome, exercising, getting quality sleep and maintaining adequate vitamin D levels
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many are asking how they can strengthen their immune system to reduce the potential of getting sick, and how they can support their body if they have a viral infection. As Dr. Roger Seheult explains in this video, natural killer cells are part of your immune response.
While there is no known drug or medication that kills a virus, there are nutraceuticals that have an effect on them. Some of the nutraceuticals support your immune system, while others have the ability to reduce your viral load, as discussed by Mark McCarty and James DiNicolantonio.1
Solar ultraviolet-B radiation2 and supplemental vitamin D3 have also been shown to reduce pandemic fatality rates; this makes sense considering how important vitamin D is for controlling infections and lowering your risk for influenza and the common cold.
How Your Body Uses Natural Killer Cells
Natural killer cells are part of a larger group of cells called lymphocytes. These play a key role in your immune response and defense against viral infections. Inside the cytoplasm of natural killer cells are lytic granules,4 such as granulysin, perforin and granusyme A and B.5
Natural killer cells work by recognizing stressed cells and then using cytotoxic abilities to kill the abnormal cell.6 Once recognized, natural killer cells secrete the granules into a synapse delivering the granules to a target cell. These then trigger apoptosis in the infected cell.
Defects in this system are related to fatal diseases,7 such as Griscelli syndrome type 2.8 This rare, inherited condition affects the immune system, leaving individuals prone to recurrent infections.
Natural killer cells control infection by limiting tissue damage and spread and they help control tumor growth by limiting the spread of abnormal cells.9 They also regulate cells engaged with macrophages, T cells and endothelial cells. Additionally, they can mediate the immune response.
As Seheult explains in the video, natural killer cells are part of the innate immune system, which is the first line of defense against pathogens.10 The next step is adaptive immunity, also called acquired immunity. This response is specific to the pathogen that enters your body. When you build up an immunity to a pathogen, it is the function of your adaptive immune response.
A Forest Walk May Boost Your Body’s Ability to Fight Viruses
Scientific evidence shows that walking in a forest, also called forest bathing, can help enhance your natural killer cell activity, including the number of cells and the length of activity. Research has been done in men and women involving field trips to the forest. In this first study,11 researchers engaged 12 healthy men who normally worked at large companies in Tokyo.
The participants were taken on a three-day, two-night trip to three different forests. On the first day, they walked for two hours; on the second day they walked for two hours both in the morning and afternoon; and on the third day they left for home. Blood was drawn in the morning before any intervention and after the first and second days of walking.
The study team analyzed natural killer cell activity and the proportion of lytic granules and natural killer cells. On the last day, 11 out of 12 of the subjects had 50% higher activity compared to their levels before entering the forest. The researchers believed:12
“Taken together, these findings indicate that a forest bathing trip can increase NK activity, and that this effect at least partially mediated by increasing the number of NK cells and by the induction of intracellular anti-cancer proteins.”
Later, the same team performed the same intervention on 13 healthy women.13 Blood and urine samples were also collected seven days and 30 days after the trip was completed. The team also measured concentrations of phytoncides in the forest, which are airborne chemicals emitted by the plants.
The results of this study showed natural killer cell activity remained raised for more than seven days, as did the number of natural killer cells and the “levels of intracellular anticancer proteins.”
The team questioned whether the effects on the natural killer cells was representative of being outdoors, due to exercise or related to the trees. They designed and executed another study14 with two groups of men who visited two different forests or a city for three days and two nights.
The intervention was the same with blood drawn and urine samples collected before the study began, each day and on Days 7 and 30 after the intervention was complete. During this study they also measured the phytoncides in the forest and the city. As you might expect, measurements in the forest were high, but in the city, most levels were so low they couldn’t be measured. The researchers concluded:15
“The present study confirmed that a forest bathing trip enhances the immune response as measured by human NK activity and the numbers of NK cells, as reported previously. In contrast, a trip to places without forests (city tourist visit) had no effect on NK activity or the numbers of NK cells, indicating that forest bathing does indeed enhance human NK activity.
Moreover, we also found that the increased NK activity and numbers of NK cells induced by a forest bathing trip lasted more than 7 days, even 30 days, after the trip. This suggests that if people visit a forest once a month, they may be able to maintain increased NK activity. This may be important in health promotion and preventive medicine.”
Can You Repeat These Results at Home?
Once the researchers had identified phytoncides as the probable reason individuals were experiencing a higher measure of natural killer cell activity, they designed a follow-up study.16 In this they attempted to recreate the boost in natural killer cells using essential oils from trees.
They engaged 12 healthy men who stayed in a city hotel for three nights between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. In the morning they returned to work in the city. During the night, researchers ran a humidifier with stem oil from the hinoki cypress tree. “Blood samples were taken on the last day and urine samples were analyzed every day during the stay,” they reported.
Phytoncide measurements in the room were also taken. The study team found there was a statistically significant jump in natural killer cell activity after sleeping in the hotel room, despite the fact they returned to work in the city each day. Urine was analyzed for adrenaline and noradrenaline, since the presence of adrenaline reduces the number of natural killer cells.
Although there was a statistically significant difference in the measurement of adrenaline in the urine of those who stayed in the forest,17 the same difference did not occur in all who stayed in a hotel with stem oil diffused in the room.18
When the data were analyzed together, there wasn’t a statistically significant drop in the excretion of adrenaline in the urine. However, when the researchers separated the samples into those where the adrenaline increased and those where it decreased, there was a statistically significant difference in the reduction of adrenaline in the urine.
They concluded that, while there was beneficial activity to short-term exposure, prospective studies in people exposed to phytoncides long-term would be needed to confirm the effect.
You Also Benefit From Green Spaces
If you don’t have a local forest, you can still benefit from exposure to green spaces. In one meta-analysis of 143 studies,19 scientists noted statistically significant reductions in blood pressure, heart rates and levels of cortisol secretion measured in saliva. They also identified decreased incidences of diabetes and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
The researchers from the University of East Anglia20 analyzed studies looking at postoperative recovery time. In all, there were 290 million participants across all 143 studies from 20 different countries.
When they correlated the amount of time individuals had spent in green areas with 100 health measurements, they also found that women who were pregnant had a reduced risk for preterm birth and a lower risk of delivering a baby who was small for gestational age.
The relationship may be related to a higher level of physical activity that often comes in green spaces. It could also have something to do with social interaction or greater exposure to sunlight. The researchers concluded:21
“Green prescriptions involving greenspace use may have substantial benefits. Our findings should encourage practitioners and policymakers to give due regard to how they can create, maintain, and improve existing accessible greenspaces in deprived areas.”
Develop Habits to Support Your Immune System
Developing healthy habits is important to support your immune system, reduce the potential for viral infections and lower your risk of chronic disease. While there are multiple choices you make each day, the following factors are foundational to creating a strong health plan.
•Gut microbiome — Your gut microbiota is key to your immune system and digestive health. Fermented food and fiber are vital to repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria and providing the necessary nutrients for them to thrive.
•Exercise — Research evidence underscores the benefits of exercise to your immune health. Seek to raise your heart and breathing rate for 30 minutes each day in addition to moving out of your chair frequently. Your body requires both exercise and movement to stay healthy.
•Sleep — The quality and quantity of your sleep has a regulatory effect on your immune system.22 Developing good sleep habits requires just a little effort. If you struggle with getting to sleep or staying asleep, consider the tips I share in “Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine.”
•Vitamin D — This is another powerful component to supporting your immune system and the prevention and treatment of viral infections, including COVID-19. To read more about maintaining appropriate levels and how it may help reduce your risk of COVID-19, see “Vitamins C and D Finally Adopted as Coronavirus Treatment.”
- 1 Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, 2020; doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2020.02.007
- 2 DermatoEndocrinology, 2009;1(4):215
- 3 Nutrients, 2020;12(4):E988
- 4, 6, 7 Frontiers in Immunology, 2012;3:334
- 5 MedCram video, April 15
- 8 National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
- 9 Natural Immunology, 2008;9(5):503
- 10 Helio
- 11, 12 International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2007;20(2):3
- 13 Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, 2008;22(1):45
- 14, 15, 17 International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2008;21(1)
- 16, 18 International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2009;22(4)
- 19, 21 Environmental Research 2018;166:628
- 20 Forbes, June 10, 2018
- 22 Pflugers Archiv, 2012;463(1)
Reproduced from original article:
- A diet of ultraprocessed food makes people more susceptible to COVID-19 by causing metabolic dysfunction and harm to the immune system
- Ultraprocessed food increases the risk of obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and gallstones and compromises the gut microbiome
- Ultraprocessed food increases how fast people eat and delays how full they feel
- Food giants have targeted those with low incomes with aggressive marketing of ultraprocessed food, causing disproportionate health problems in some communities
- Ultraprocessed food relies on environmentally destructive monocrop farming, concentrated animal feeding operations, fertilizers and pesticides
As the world deals with the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific articles have zeroed in on who is most vulnerable to the virus. It appears those who are elderly, overweight and suffer from an underlying health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure are most at risk. But the consumption of ultraprocessed food is increasingly seen as a risk factor for contracting COVID-19, too.
Ultraprocessed foods increase the risk of conditions like obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and gallstones, which make you more vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. In fact, eating over four servings of ultraprocessed foods daily increased the risk of premature death by 62% in a 2019 study.1
When it comes to fighting off COVID-19, ultraprocessed foods pose another health danger: They compromise the gut microbiome, which has a crucial role in your body’s immune response to infection and in maintaining overall health. Even before the virus that causes COVID-19 surfaced, ultraprocessed foods were a bad idea but during the current pandemic they are especially dangerous.
Beware of Ultraprocessed Foods
What are ultraprocessed foods, sometimes referred to as UPFs? According to the NOVA Food Classification system, designed by the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, they are:2
“[I]ndustrial formulations made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods (oils, fats, sugar, starch, and proteins), derived from food constituents (hydrogenated fats and modified starch), or synthesized in laboratories from food substrates or other organic sources (flavor enhancers, colors, and several food additives used to make the product hyper-palatable).
Manufacturing techniques include extrusion, moulding, and preprocessing by means of frying. Beverages may be ultra-processed.”
Ultraprocessed foods, aggressively marketed by giant food producers for their profitable potential, constitute around 25% to 60% of daily energy intake in many countries, according to Science Daily. They include:3
“… packaged baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, ready meals containing food additives, dehydrated vegetable soups, and reconstituted meat and fish products — often containing high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt, but lacking in vitamins and fiber.”
While it is tempting to dismiss the dangers of UPFs by saying that all foods, to some extent, are “processed,” food writer Bee Wilson says that is not the case:4
“UPFs are different. They are processed in ways that go far beyond cooking or fermentation, and they may also come plastered with health claims. Bettina Elias Siegel the author of Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World … ‘there’s a huge difference between a cooked carrot and a bag of industrially produced, carrot-flavoured veggie puffs’ …”
Moreover, cautions Wilson, food giants deliberately mislead consumers. When fat was misleadingly considered the cause of obesity, she says, the food industry rolled out low-fat products. When sugar became the culprit, food giants manipulatively marketed artificially sweetened drinks.5
UPF manufacturers have also launched successful campaigns to convince the public that obesity is not caused by their products, but by lack of exercise. Coca-Cola is among them, and, toward that end, has provided funding to universities and a wide spectrum of medical groups including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American College of Cardiology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.6
You can’t help but wonder if that is why Harvard Medical School/Partners in Health, a recipient of Coca-Cola funding, writes this about obesity:7
“Obesity results from energy imbalance: too many calories in, too few calories burned. A number of factors influence how many calories (or how much ‘energy’) people burn each day, among them, age, body size, and genes. But the most variable factor — and the most easily modified — is the amount of activity people get each day.”
Obesity is increasingly linked to serious cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization, even among young people, according to The New York Times.8 The reasons are not entirely clear, but abdominal obesity can cause compression of the lungs and diaphragm, which impairs breathing ability.
Other factors that could explain the link between obesity and serious cases of COVID-19 could include pre-existing respiratory conditions, a greater amount of circulating, pro-inflammatory cytokines and low-grade inflammation, which are all correlated with obesity. Almost 80 million Americans — 42 percent of the population — are obese.9
A report released by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre on 196 patients critically ill with COVID-19 found 56 patients had a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, which is classified as overweight.10 Fifty-eight had a BMI of 30 to 40, which indicates obesity, and 13 had a BMI of 40 or higher, which is severely obese. In the study, 71.7% of the critical patients were overweight, obese or severely obese.11
Ultraprocessed Food Impairs the Microbiome
Two studies published by The BMJ in 2019 cast ultraprocessed food as a threat to global public health. In a linked editorial, Australian researchers add that the negative effects of UPFs on the gut microbiome must be explored.12
Science has increasingly revealed the huge effect of diet on the human microbiome and its ability to ward off disease. The more diverse with healthy microorganisms a microbiome is, the better it supports the immune system, according to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College in London — especially as COVID-19 has spread all over the world. Writing in The Conversation, Spector says:13
“As well as mounting a response to infectious pathogens like coronavirus, a healthy gut microbiome also helps to prevent potentially dangerous immune over-reactions that damage the lungs and other vital organs. These excessive immune responses can cause respiratory failure and death …
The fine details of the interactions between the gut microbiome and the immune system are not fully understood. But there seems to be a link between the makeup of the microbiome and inflammation — one of the hallmarks of the immune response. Gut bacteria produce many beneficial chemicals.”
Fermented foods and probiotics are the best route to optimal microbiome health, if they are traditionally made and unpasteurized. Healthy fermented choices include lassi (an Indian yogurt drink), fermented, grass fed organic milk (kefir), fermented soy or natto and different types of pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots.
Unless antibiotics are absolutely necessary, they should be avoided and, if avoidance is not possible, counteracted with fermented food and probiotics. Be aware that conventionally-raised meats are also a source of antibiotics because animals are routinely fed the medications. Genetically engineered grains and chlorinated and/or fluoridated water can also destroy gut flora.
UPFs Have Put Millions at Risk for COVID-19
Ultraprocessed food is designed to be sensually appealing, hyperpalatable and habit-forming, thanks to additives, crafty packaging and marketing and “convenience.” Yet UPFs fill you up without the vitamins, minerals, live enzymes, micronutrients, healthy fats and high-quality protein your body needs. UPFs increase how fast people eat and delay how “full” they feel, causing obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
Dr. Aseem Malhotra is an honorary consultant cardiologist at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, England.14 According to an article he wrote in European Scientist, UPFs cause:15
“… chronic metabolic disease which can affect many of ‘normal’ weight. Furthermore, sarcopenic obesity may misclassify many elderly patients to having a normal BMI on hospital admission with COVID-19 … There’s no such thing as a healthy weight, only a healthy person.
A recent commentary In Nature states that ‘patients with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome might have to up 10 times greater risk of death when they contract COVID-19’ and has called for mandatory glucose and metabolic control of type 2 diabetes patients to improve outcomes.”
Kristin Lawless, author of the book, “Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System Is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture,” also sees correlations between metabolic dysfunction and succumbing to COVID-19:16
“These underlying conditions correlate with increased morbidity and mortality for those who contract the virus. Preliminary findings show that metabolic dysfunction is causing devastating complications from COVID-19 and, shockingly, only 12 percent of the entire U.S. adult population is considered metabolically healthy.
Metabolic dysfunction has one primary source: our highly processed, sugar- laden, nutrient-poor food supply.”
While the millions who suffer from metabolic syndrome from UPFs are not seen as urgent like COVID-19 is, the problems are one and the same, according to Malhotra. Governments, in addition to telling people to stay home to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, should address diet, he asserts. He writes:17
“[A]n equally strong if not more significant population health message should now be to ‘eat real food, protect the NHS and save lives.’
Such implementation backed by policy changes may not just save hundreds and potentially thousands of lives around the world in the coming months but given the high likelihood of another international viral pandemic in the next decade a healthier population … will be much better equipped to handle what would then be a smaller mortality peak on the next occasion.”
UPFs Are Especially Harmful to Poor Communities
People living in poverty, whether in developing or advanced countries, are especially vulnerable to health problems from ultraprocessed foods and COVID-19. According to Malhotra:18
“[T]he disproportionate numbers of those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds succumbing to the virus may in part be explained by a significantly increased risk of chronic metabolic disease in these groups.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, food giants have targeted those with low incomes with aggressive marketing of UPFs. Following initiatives by Brazil to fight the trend, Ecuador, Uruguay and Peru have urged citizens to avoid UPFs in favor of natural foods.19 Food deserts further the dietary exploitation of the poor, according to Lawless:20
“New data show that Black people are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than other groups. Certainly lack of health care and poor quality of care shape outcomes, and it is well documented that poverty rates among people of color are significantly higher than in white populations.
Perhaps less obvious is the influence of Big Food’s targeted advertising to people of color in neighborhoods with little access to fresh, whole foods. This means many people of color often rely on fast-food and cheap packaged foods for meals that provide more caloric bang for the buck.
Nationwide, Black people have much higher rates of diet-related diseases — Black adults are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than white adults.”
The USDA defines a food desert as a low-income tract where many residents do not have easy access to a supermarket or large grocery store.21 In addition to a lack of food outlets offering healthy food, residents’ lack of transportation to get to stores is a big factor. Residents who have to walk with their groceries or take the bus can carry fewer groceries, and transporting perishable items is especially difficult.
According to the USDA, many types of organizations like businesses, local governments and nonprofits are eligible for assistance to address the problems created by food deserts.22 However, like discouraging the consumption of UPFs, such changes take time and certainly will not occur during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other Environmental Causes of COVID-19
A diet of UPFs puts people at risk for COVID-19 because of the metabolic, immune system and microbiome degradation it causes. But the coronavirus pandemic also has environmental causes and repercussions, says Lawless:23
“All over the world, industrial agriculture has pushed small-scale farmers deeper into forests where these types of pathogens exist. The decimation of forests has also sent those who bring wild animals into city markets deeper into remote forest areas, resulting in human exposure to novel pathogens.
What’s more, animals confined in factory farms are perfect incubators when these pathogens spill over — unsanitary, cramped conditions among animals with near-identical genetics means that viruses spread rapidly and often become more virulent.”
Whether people whose vulnerability to disease has been increased by Big Agriculture or viruses spread from its excesses, most experts agree we need a radical overhaul of the entire food production and distribution system. According to Lawless:24
“First, our industrial food system is decimating our environment. Second, our nutrient-depleted, and chemically saturated processed food supply is changing our bodies from the inside out …
Large-scale mono-crop farms, concentrated animal feeding operations, fertilizers, pesticides, gas-powered machinery, storage facilities, manufacturing plants, and shipping methods are all dependent on and made possible by fossil fuels … A new Harvard analysis shows that exposure to fine particulate matter correlates with COVID-19 deaths.25
Fuel combustion results in dangerous fine particulate matter, which kills 7 million people prematurely each year worldwide.”
If ever there were a time to consider our eating habits and the domination of harmful agricultural systems it is during this coronavirus pandemic.
- 1 BMJ 2019;365:l1949
- 2 NOVA 2018
- 3, 12 Science Daily May 29, 2019
- 4, 5, 19 Guardian February 2, 2020
- 6 The BMJ February 28, 2018
- 7 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 2019
- 8, 9 New York Times April 16, 2020
- 10 The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre COVID-19 Report
- 11 The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre COVID-19 Report page four
- 13 The Conversation March 19, 2020
- 14 King’s Fund 2020
- 15, 17, 18 European Scientist April 16, 2020
- 16, 20, 23, 24 Heated Medium April 13, 2020
- 21, 22 USDA 2017
- 25 Harvard University April 5, 2020
Reproduced from original article:
Posted by Jonathan Landsman on 5th March 2020
Let’s start with the basics: Walnuts are a nut with a long list of health benefits only found in this particular tree nut. In fact, according to a recent study, even for heavy smokers, walnuts, and other tree nuts, have proven to cut the risk of small cell lung cancer in half.
But walnuts have a long list of fascinating benefits. Let’s take a closer look at why you should be eating more of this food.
Walnuts help to reduce the threat of chronic inflammation
Imagine you were bitten by a snake – say, on on your ankle – your leg would swell up – not just from the snake bite but from your body’s attempts to neutralize the toxic venom circulating throughout the body. Now, you might be wondering, “what does this have to do with eating walnuts and (chronic) inflammation?”
Well, today, we’re exposed to environmental toxins that make it seem like we’re being exposed to a “snake bite” – every minute of every day. This constant exposure to toxins is a perfect atmosphere to develop chronic inflammation. And, as you know, chronic inflammation lies at the heart of so many 21st-century diseases, from cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune disorders, diabetes and cancer.
But by eating just a handful of walnuts – several times per week – we can help fight off this toxin-based inflammation. In fact, Dr. Vincent M. Pedre, a Board-Certified Internist says, “the primary polyphenol in walnuts is pedunculagin, an ellagitannin. Ellagitannins provide well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that can protect against cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.”
And, on top of its anti-inflammatory effects, most people would be quite surprised at the added benefits of eating walnuts. Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic.
Walnuts have a strong prebiotic potential to improve gut health
In a recent study, researchers discovered that eating walnuts – 43 grams a day (about one half of a cup), helped participants to consume less food daily, both carbohydrate and fat-rich foods. Not only this, but consuming walnuts helped to is positively affect the gut microbiome, increasing both the quality and quantity of good bacteria.
Why is this important? I’m glad you asked. 🙂
Certain people (depending on their eating history – over generations) digest some foods better than others. For example, Asians tend to derive great health benefits from eating seaweed like, wakame and nori. Scandinavians tend to absorb more nutrients from their locally-sourced dairy products. Of course, another healthy reality of most “traditional (locally grown) foods” is the lower presence of toxins compared to more commercially-produced varieties of the same food.
Weight loss and weight gain are also tied to our genetic tendencies, daily food habits and the diversity of intestinal bacteria in our gut. In fact, as Dr. Trushna Bhatt notes:
Our likelihood of weight loss or gain is also linked to our intestinal bacteria. In some people, bacteria extract more calories from the same food and the hormones that make us feel full are linked to the activity of the microbiome. It’s too early to blame these tiny creatures for our weight gain, but we are on the path to understanding that our body’s relationship with food is not as simple as we thought.
Certain nationalities utilize food as energy better than others, meaning they run on fat or sugar more easily than others. Again, it just makes sense that our eating habits – as well as the quality of our food choices, have a profound effect on our overall health.
Simply put, walnuts can positively impact our gut bacteria and improve the way we absorb nutrients from the foods we eat.
Why walnuts offer anticancer benefits
Did you know that walnuts are rich in peduncuoagin? The body uses this phytonutrient to create a compound called urolithins – which binds to estrogen – that can cause estrogen-based cancers and helps to flush them out of the body.
Breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer are often caused by estrogen-dominance – a condition caused by too many toxins, emotional issues and nutritional deficiencies. All of which are pro-inflammatory.
Bottom line, living a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle – including the addition of eating walnuts, as part of a healthy (organic) diet will greatly reduce your risk of unwanted exposure to disease-causing chemicals.
Sources for this article include:
© 4th April 2020 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter
Reproduced from original article:
Posted on: Saturday, April 4th 2020 at 2:00 pm
Written By: GreenMedInfo Research Group
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2020
If you care about aging gracefully, you will want to learn how to protect your telomeres. Like the plastic tip on the ends of your shoelaces, telomeres keep DNA strands from unravelling — and eating walnuts is a great way to keep telomeres laced up tight
Science has established that diet plays a role in the length and integrity of telomeres,[i] the small protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that serve to protect the vital DNA information inside the nucleus of a cell.[ii]
In December 2018, a cross-functional team of researchers from Spain and California deepened this body of knowledge by publishing their research into the effects of eating walnuts on leukocyte telomere length, or LTL.[iii]
This opportunistic sub-study was conducted within a larger study called “Walnuts and Healthy Aging,” a parallel trial conducted between Barcelona, Spain and Loma Linda University in California.[iv] The study’s primary aim was to explore whether inclusion of walnuts in the diet for two years would maintain LTL in cognitively healthy elders as compared to a control group that abstained from walnuts.
Walnuts and Telomeres: Partners in Healthy Aging
In this trial, walnuts comprised 15% of total caloric intake, equating 30 to 60 grams per day, based on the energy requirements of individuals in the experimental group.
The final participant pool was comprised of 169 cognitively healthy men and women between 63 and 79 years who were living independently and had met eligibility requirements after a clinical visit, physical examination and other exclusionary criteria were applied.
The final 169 subjects were randomized to the two diet groups and 162 completed the trial. There were two dropouts due to severe indigestion attributed to walnuts, while six participants had milder indigestion that was alleviated by reducing the walnut doses.
By the end of the trial, complete data on LTL, dietary anthropometrics and fatty acids were available for 149 participants: 80 in the experimental group consuming walnuts and 69 in the control or abstaining group.
Researchers assessed LTL at baseline and after two years on the experimental dietary protocols via blood samples drawn after an overnight fast. Serum lipid and glucose concentrations were determined by standard enzymatic methods in the hospital clinical laboratory. Telomere length quantification was carried out using high-throughput quantitative fluorescence microscopy.
After assessing the cumulative data, researchers concluded that there was a trend indicating that walnut consumption did preserve leukocyte telomere length in test subjects.[v] Researchers called for further study involving larger test groups and longer time periods, noting that positive dietary impact on health is cumulative over time.
Telomeres: The Forward Edge of Anti-Aging Science
With nearly 72 million Baby Boomers worldwide,[vi] the needs of the geriatric population are at the forefront of modern health care. The standard approach in anti-aging medicine is to replace diminishing hormones with synthetic or “bioidentical” versions.
Natural health devotees look to a nutrient-dense diet and supplementation to stimulate rapid cell turnover. Scientists on the fringes are developing even more controversial therapies involving genetic manipulation of DNA to try and stop the biological clock.[vii] With so much investment into the science of staying young, the discovery of telomeres may be the most valuable finding to date in the race to slow down the way your body ages.
Telomeres get shortened each time a cell replicates, eventually becoming too short to function properly, which correlates with declining health experienced as aging. Telomeres can also become damaged by poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.[viii]
Walnuts Protect and Preserve Telomere Length
DNA information essentially writes the code for health or disease into every cell of your body, making the length and integrity of telomeres vital to healthy cell replication. Leukocytes are white blood cells that are found throughout your body and are a major part of your immune system response.[ix]
In humans, leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is positively correlated with lifespan, while shorter LTL is associated with an increased risk of age-related disease.[x] Telomere length, or LTL, is therefore considered a reliable biomarker of aging.
Walnuts are an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), a type of essential fatty acid that is known to have beneficial effects on the heart.[xi] Prior studies have been conducted on the effects of PUFA consumption on telomere length, however the fatty acids were derived from fish oils, a source that is less sustainable than tree nuts.[xii]
Walnuts are a vegan source of PUFA containing the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid[xiii] and a rich matrix of antioxidants, namely polyphenols and vitamin E, which have also been related to maintained leukocyte telomere length when included in the diet.[xiv]
There are dozens of reasons to eat more walnuts. They benefit the heart, brain, bones and more, and have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Walnuts can even help improve the way you respond to stress. To learn more about the health-boosting power of this beneficial tree nut, and to explore further ways you can protect your telomeres, explore the thousands of scientific articles and natural health abstracts on GreenMedInfo.com.
[ii] TA Sciences, What is a telomere? https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere.html
[iii] Freitas-Simoes TM, et al. Walnut Consumption for Two Years and Leukocyte Telomere Attrition in Mediterranean Elders: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 4;10(12). pii: E1907. doi: 10.3390/nu10121907. PMID: 30518050
[v] Freitas-Simoes TM, et al. Walnut Consumption for Two Years and Leukocyte Telomere Attrition in Mediterranean Elders: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 4;10(12). pii: E1907. doi: 10.3390/nu10121907. PMID: 30518050
[vi] Pew Research Center, Fact Tank, Millennials projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/
[viii] TA Sciences, What is a telomere? https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere.html
[xi] Ander, B. P., Dupasquier, C. M., Prociuk, M. A., & Pierce, G. N. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their effects on cardiovascular disease. Experimental and clinical cardiology, 8(4), 164-172. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719153/
[xii] Freitas-Simoes TM, et al. Walnut Consumption for Two Years and Leukocyte Telomere Attrition in Mediterranean Elders: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 4;10(12). pii: E1907. doi: 10.3390/nu10121907. PMID: 30518050
[xiv] Freitas-Simoes TM, Ros E, Sala-Vila A. Nutrients, foods, dietary patterns and telomere length: Update of epidemiological studies and randomized trials. Metabolism 2016, 65, 406-415. PMID: 26975532
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by: March 21, 2020
(NaturalHealth365) As COVID-19 continues its march across the globe – and officials warn of a “tsunami” of newly-diagnosed cases and continuing fatalities in the U.S. – a team of Canadian researchers is basing their hopes on quercetin, a flavonoid from plants.
At the center of this flurry of optimism is research helmed by Dr. Michael Chrétien, a renowned scientist at the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal. Along with his co-researcher, Congolese scientist Majambu Mbikay, Dr. Chrétien is currently awaiting approval to send the drug (derived from plants) to China for clinical trials that will test it against the novel coronavirus.
While this would be the first clinical study to test quercetin against COVID-19, natural health experts have long credited this natural plant pigment with the ability to deal with a variety of viruses. In fact, Dr. Chrétien describes quercetin as a “broad spectrum antiviral” that has been shown in studies to be effective against such formidable diseases as SARS, the Ebola virus, and the Zika virus.
Incoming data from quercetin trial will be monitored minute-by-minute from Montreal
In a series of interviews and articles, Dr. Chrétien has released details of the imminent study. Once the team is granted approval to send the quercetin to China, samples will be delivered to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan.
Canadian and Chinese scientists will then collaborate on the trials, which will involve about 1,000 test patients. Drs. Chretien and Mbikay will join colleagues from the non-profit International Consortium of Antivirals (which Chrétien helped to found in 2004 as a response to the SARS epidemic) in maintaining a round-the-clock communications center.
From there, they will be able monitor patients’ progress in Wuhan, including viewing patients’ charts and X-rays. According to Dr. Chrétien, it may be possible to have results on quercetin’s ability to treat COVID within 60 days of the beginning of the trial.
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“Bingo! It works!” Groundbreaking researcher’s earlier studies on SARS and Ebola laid the groundwork for current COVID research
Since the 2003 SARS outbreak – which infected over 8,000 patients in 26 countries – Dr. Chrétien has been studying potential treatments (including quercetin) for the virus, in the event that it resurfaces. And, while clinical trials haven’t yet been performed, quercetin has shown great promise in combating SARS (severe acute respiratory distress) in animal models.
This is very significant, because COVID-19 is structurally similar to SARS. In fact, the new coronavirus is also known as SARS-CoV-2. And, earlier research has given cause for hope.
In a 2014 study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Drs. Chrétien and Mbikay concluded that a glucosylated form of quercetin (Quercetin 3-B-O-D glucoside) targeted various steps of viral entry and protected mice against the Ebola virus.
The team also learned that pre-treatment with quercetin, rather than post-treatment, offered the best protection. In a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network, Dr. Chrétien offered a more informal reaction to the Ebola study’s encouraging results.
“Bingo! It worked!” he recalled.
Dr. Chrétien, who is generally recognized as one of the most renowned scientists and medical researchers in the world, has a strong emotional and professional connection with China.
He received training under noted Chinese researcher Dr. C.H. Li, and served as an honorary professor at both the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College.
This therapy is non-toxic, safe and pre-approved for use by humans
The good news: the FDA has already approved quercetin as safe for human consumption – meaning that no animal testing is necessary. This also means that if the treatment works, it should be available quickly.
The quercetin will be in the form of easily-administered oral supplements. And, Dr. Chrétien asserts that quercetin is so safe that even the high doses used in the study will not cause side effects.
Co-researcher Dr. Mbikay notes that quercetin would cost a mere $2 a day – a negligible amount that stands in stark contrast to the $1,000-per- injection cost of existing COVID-19 treatments. “It (quercetin) doesn’t even compare in price,” Dr. Mbikay pointed out.
He added that he is particularly hopeful that quercetin could eventually be used to ease outbreaks in African countries – which he says lack the infrastructure for treating COVID-19.
A natural way to inhibit viral replication and defeat influenza
Quercetin, a plant pigment found in fruits and vegetables, is currently used to treat inflammatory diseases, reduce allergy symptoms and lower cholesterol.
But what is particularly relevant – especially now – is quercetin’s ability to boost the immune system and interfere with viral replication. In a review published in Viruses, the authors concluded that quercetin inhibited viral infections in the early stages – particularly during viral attachment and viral-cell fusion.
Quercetin has already shown the ability to inhibit both the A and B types of influenza, along with the H1N1 and the H3N2 viruses. Some forward-thinking physicians in the US already credit quercetin with being both safer and more effective than Tamiflu, the “gold standard” of medical therapies for influenza.
And, researchers are reporting that viruses seem to be incapable of developing immunity to quercetin – another huge plus.
To boost your own intake of dietary quercetin, opt for healthy amounts of organic unpeeled apples, dark cherries, cocoa, dark leafy greens, green tea and onions.
Quercetin is also available as a supplement, with natural healers advising typical dosages of 500 mg twice a day. As always, consult your own integrative healthcare provider before adding quercetin to your immune-boosting routine.
Discover a safe way to improve quercetin bioavailability and “supercharge” its therapeutic potential
It’s simple: be sure to consume vitamin C! Natural health experts already know that vitamin C has antioxidant, immune system-boosting and antiviral effects.
As reported previously in NaturalHealth365, high-dose IV vitamin C is already being used throughout China to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak – with three different new studies winning approval. On March 3, the government of Shanghai, China, announced its official recommendation that COVID-19 should be treated with high amounts of IV vitamin C.
Chinese scientists and physicians are reporting that high-dose vitamin C is achieving “good results in clinical applications.” They credit the nutrient with improving endothelial function and treating acute lung injury and respiratory distress.
In addition, vitamin C helps to regenerate quercetin and maintain its antioxidant properties – leading researchers to believe that combining the two could pack a double virus-fighting punch. And preliminary research seems to back this up!
In a study published in Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, researchers found that a combination of 500 mg of quercetin and 250 mg of vitamin C lessened cell damage and caused a marker of inflammation to decrease by 62 percent.
Natural health experts are currently recommending dosages of 3,000 to 6,000 mg of vitamin C a day to fight viral infection. However, consult your own integrative doctor before supplementing, because you may need much more – depending on the intensity of your infection.
Naturally, a strong immune system is of premier importance – especially in times such as these. Staying well hydrated, getting good quality sleep, keeping physically active, and eating organic fresh food can pay off in terms of maintaining a strong immune system.
No doubt, the question of whether quercetin is effective against COVID-19 remains to be seen in clinical studies. Dr. Chrétien, himself, is careful to warn against “false hope.” But, given the encouraging results of earlier studies, the hopes for quercetin may, indeed, be based in reality.
Sources for this article include:
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- Time-restricted eating is a powerful approach that facilitates weight loss and helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases
- Among the many benefits of time-restricted eating is the upregulation of autophagy and mitophagy — natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function
- Research strongly suggests caloric restriction and time-restricted eating help combat Alzheimer’s through these autophagy pathways
- The pathology hallmarks of Alzheimer’s include amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles. Other pathological events frequently seen in Alzheimer’s patients include synaptic deficits, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and neuroinflammation
- Many of these are the result of insufficient autophagy, and one of the simplest ways to upregulate autophagy is by implementing time-restricted eating
Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that ditching the “three square meals a day” approach in favor of time-restricted eating (also referred to as intermittent fasting) can do wonders for your health, as your body simply cannot function optimally when there’s a continuous supply of calories coming in.
The cycling of feasting (feeding) and famine (fasting) mimics the eating habits of our ancestors and restores your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur.
It’s a powerful approach that not only facilitates weight loss, but also helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
While there are many variations, time-restricted eating typically involves not eating for at least 14 consecutive hours a day. However, not eating for 16 to 20 hours is likely closer to a metabolic ideal. This means you eat all of your meals for the day within a four- to eight-hour window.
Among the many benefits of time-restricted eating is the upregulation of autophagy and mitophagy — natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function. In a January 2020 review paper,1 researchers explain how caloric restriction helps combat Alzheimer’s specifically, through these autophagy pathways.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Time-Restricted Eating
As explained in “The Effects of Caloric Restriction and Its Mimetics in Alzheimer’s Disease Through Autophagy Pathways,”2 two of the pathology hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles formed by aggregates of tau protein.
“The aberrant accumulation of these misfolded and aggregated proteins results in neurotoxicity, and AD is therefore recognized as a proteinopathy,” the paper states. Other pathological events frequently seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients include:3
- Synaptic deficits and axonal degeneration
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Abnormal metal homeostasis
- Oxidative stress
Many of these occur as a result of “insufficient elimination of neurotoxic proteins or damaged intracellular organelles,” the paper notes. In other words, they occur when there’s insufficient autophagy occurring in your body. The good news is you can upregulate autophagy, and one of the simplest ways is by implementing time-restricted eating. As explained in this review:4
“Autophagy is a catabolic mechanism that ensures the removal of misfolded or aggregated proteins and maintains the turnover of cytoplasmic components.
Under conditions of starvation or energy deficiency, phagophores are synthesized de novo in the cytoplasm from newly synthesized lipids or from intracellular organelles with membrane structures, such as the endoplasmic reticulum.
Phagophores elongate and curve to form double-membrane autophagosomes, which then encapsulate cytosolic materials, misfolded proteins, or long-lived proteins.
After fusion with lysosomes, any cargo is degraded by lysosomal enzymes. The autophagic process provides a strategy for clearing misfolded or aggregated proteins in proteinopathic disorders. Failure of autophagy leads to the accumulation of aggregates, which results in neurotoxicity and disease progression.”
Autophagy Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative Disorders
Autophagy dysfunction has been identified in several neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders and diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s disease, ischemic stroke, schizophrenia and even drug addiction.5
Hence, it is believed that autophagy activation has an important role to play in the prevention and treatment of these conditions. Importantly though, using autophagy stimulators such as drugs, gene therapy or supplements can have undesirable side effects in some people, and may not be ideal.
Time-restricted eating, or calorie restriction, the authors note, is a safer and likely more effective strategy for most. So, just how does calorie restriction or intermittent fasting induce autophagy?
There are several mechanisms at play, but two important ones are activation of monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway.6
Calorie restriction also helps ameliorate Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions by lowering inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function and oxidative stress.
The Benefits of AMPK Activation
AMPK is an enzyme essential for maintaining energy balance. It consists of three proteins (called sub-units) that together create a functional enzyme. AMPK is expressed in various tissues, including the brain, liver, skeletal muscle and fat cells, and is essential for activating autophagy.
It’s sometimes referred to as a “metabolic master switch” because it plays an important role in regulating metabolism.7 It shifts energy toward cellular repair and maintenance, thus helping your body return to homeostasis (balance).
Low AMPK has been linked to insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction, obesity, neurodegeneration and chronic inflammation. Activating AMPK produces many of the same benefits as exercise, dieting and weight loss,8 all of which are known to benefit a range of chronic diseases and ill health.
AMPK is also an important neuroprotector,9 thus making it particularly relevant in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. In addition, AMPK stimulates cellular and mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) and mitochondrial biogenesis, as well as five other critically important pathways:
- Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)
- Proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1-alpha (PGC-1α)
Benefits of mTOR Inhibition
MTOR is also an important pathway responsible for controlling autophagy. When you inhibit mTOR — which you can do through time-restricted eating — you activate autophagy. MTOR is basically a nutrient sensor. While insulin primarily senses your intake of carbohydrates, mTOR primarily senses protein.
That said, other nutrients can also activate or inhibit mTOR. Nutrients that activate mTOR include branched-chain amino acids, glutamine, methyl folate and vitamin B12.
Nutrients that inhibit mTOR include polyphenols like curcumin, fisetin, quercetin, resveratrol (found in wine) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG, found in green tea). Organic coffee and dark chocolate also contain high amounts of mTOR inhibiting polyphenols.
Why Cycling in and Out of Autophagy Is so Important
One of the reasons time-restricted eating works so well is because you’re cycling through autophagy on a daily basis (opposed to only occasionally, were you to do longer fasts once a month or quarterly, for example).
This cycling is really crucial. You don’t want to inhibit mTOR and activate autophagy all the time. There needs to be a balance between breaking down and building back up.
When you eat, your insulin goes up, mTOR is activated and autophagy is inhibited, thus allowing for cellular rebuilding and growth. Then, when you fast, insulin goes down, mTOR is inhibited and autophagy activated, thus allowing for the breakdown and elimination of dysfunctional cellular components. The next time you eat, the cycle of rebuilding begins anew, and so on.
When you’re continuously eating, autophagy will be severely inhibited. As a result, damage continues to build up as damaged cells cannot be efficiently eliminated and regenerated. Many hormonal shifts also occur during fasting, including growth hormone.
Opinions about how long one should fast each day varies. As a general rule, the recommended range is between 12 and 18 hours of fasting each day. I’m of the opinion that 16 to 18 hours of fasting might be the sweet spot, as this allows your body to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver more and suppress mTOR and activate autophagy better.
Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Brain Function
As noted in “The Effects of Caloric Restriction and Its Mimetics in Alzheimer’s Disease Through Autophagy Pathways,” a number of animal studies have demonstrated that time-restricted eating helps prevent memory loss and improve cognition. The authors state, in part:10
“[Intermittent fasting] has been reported to optimize brain function and increase neuronal resistance to injury and disease … Behavioral improvements in AD mice that undergo IF might occur because of the effects of IF on balancing hippocampal excitability.
In addition, IF prevents memory loss in ovariectomized rats infused with amyloid beta in hippocampal regions … short-term fasting (24 or 48 hours) was capable of enhancing neuronal autophagy in 5xFAD mice, which is a severe AD model …”
The Case for Eating Less, Period
Both animal and human studies also suggest people with a low calorie intake overall have a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s compared to those eating a high-calorie diet.11
In one animal study, animals whose diet was 30% lower in calories than normal restored memory performance after 10 months. High-calorie diets were also shown to result in autophagic failure in the hippocampus.12
Animal studies have further demonstrated that low-calorie diets reduce the amount of amyloid beta and tau in the brain, while high-calorie diets increase them.13
The beautiful characteristic of time-restricted eating is that it appears to replicate most of the metabolic benefits of calorie restriction without actually restricting calories. Additionally, because it is such a restricted eating window and a person’s appetite is reduced, they typically wind up eating fewer calories anyway without any feeling of deprivation.
Siim Land does a great job on expanding on the differences between these two as they relate to longevity in the video at the top of the article. Even though the comparison is to longevity, the same pathways are also active in Alzheimer’s, such as sirtuins, AMPK and NAD+.
Calorie Restriction Mimetics
“The Effects of Caloric Restriction and Its Mimetics in Alzheimer’s Disease Through Autophagy Pathways” also addresses the use of calorie restriction mimetics, compounds that mimic the effects of calorie restriction. The most thoroughly studied and well-recognized mimetic is resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grape skins and certain berries, including blueberries and cranberries. According to the authors:14
“Several studies have revealed the potential efficacy of resveratrol supplementation for the prevention and treatment of AD. For example, treatment with resveratrol prevents neurotoxicity in cultured cells exposed to amyloid beta.
In addition, in a rodent model of AD, resveratrol alleviated memory deficits, maintained the integrity of the blood-brain-barrier, ameliorated the plaque burden, in habited tau pathology, and suppressed microglial activation …
The anti-amyloidogenic and neuroprotective effects of resveratrol in AD appear to be strongly associated with enhanced autophagic activity. Resveratrol activates SIRT1-dependent autophagy, which contributes to an attenuation of the neurotoxicity caused by amyloid beta. Moreover, resveratrol represses mTOR signaling and induces autophagy by activating the AMPK signaling pathway.”
Other Alzheimer’s Prevention Guidelines
Aside from time-restricted eating, there are many other strategies that will help prevent (and in some cases, treat) Alzheimer’s. Here’s a rundown of what I believe are some of the most important:
|Avoid trans fat and industrially processed vegetable oils — While diets high in healthy fats and antioxidants can go a long way toward warding off dementia, diets high in trans fats and processed omega-6 oils will promote it.
Research15 published in the October 2019 issue of Neurology found a strong link between trans fat consumption and incidence of dementia and its various subtypes, including Alzheimer’s. The worst dietary culprits were pastries, margarine, candy, caramels, croissants, nondairy creamers, ice cream and rice crackers.16 Similarly, the oxidized omega-6 fat found in processed vegetable oils can cause significant harm to your brain when consumed in excess.
|Avoid sugar and refined fructose — Ideally, you’ll want to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders.|
|Increase consumption of healthy fats, including marine-based omega-3 — Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include coconut oil, organic butter from raw milk, ghee, grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon and avocado.
Also make sure you’re getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats from small fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines, or take a phospholipid-based supplement such as krill oil. High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help prevent cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
|Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter) — Research shows your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten.17 Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don’t belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.|
|Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high potency and high quality probiotic supplement.|
|Improve your magnesium level — Magnesium threonate appears promising for supporting cognition and may be superior to other forms. To learn more, see “Cognitive Benefits of Magnesium L-Threonate.”|
|Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure — Researchers believe optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer’s. For more information, see “Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Dementia Confirmed.”
|Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body — Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50% mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy before having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
Also avoid flu vaccinations as most contain mercury, aka thimerosal, a well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agent.
|Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body — Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, nonstick cookware and vaccine adjuvants. For detox guidance, see “The Three Pillars of Heavy Metal Detoxification.”|
|Exercise regularly — It’s been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,18 thus slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less PGC-1alpha in their brains and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s.|
|Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs — As detailed in “Common OTC Drugs Can Cause Dementia,” drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.|
|Statin drugs are also problematic as they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.|
- 1, 5, 6 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h
- 2, 3, 4 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h, Introduction
- 7 Am J Physiol. 1999 Jul;277(1 Pt 1):E1-10
- 8 Natural Medicine Journal December 2012; 4(12)
- 9 Journal of Neurochemistry 2009 May; 109(Suppl 1): 17–23
- 10 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h, 3. Diet control improves cognitive function in laboratory animals
- 11, 12 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h, 3.2. Caloric restriction in AD mice
- 13 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h, 4.1. Amyloid burden, and 4.2. Tau pathology
- 14 Food and Function, January 2020, doi:10.1039/c9fo02611h, 5.1. Resveratrol
- 15 Neurology October 23, 2019, DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000008464
- 16 CNN October 24, 2019
- 17 Nutrients 2015 Jul; 7(7): 5532–5539
- 18 Journal of Neuroscience, April 27, 2005: 25(17); 4217-4221