Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: What I Learned Last Year

This year followers of this blog checked in more than 100,000 times to read my 150 articles on diet, inflammation and disease.  I learned a lot and I hope that my readers gained some insights into anti-inflammatory food choices that are helpful in pursuing enhanced health.  Here is a status report.

What We Eat Contributes More to Disease Risk than Genetics

I started this blog to try to understand how food, exercise, sun exposure, etc., contribute to health and disease, because I was shocked that recent, comprehensive studies demonstrated that genetic defects were only minor contributors.  I am trained as a molecular biologist and I search for explanations of disease in terms of the interactions of the proteins coded by the genes in our cells.  History of defective genes that code for defective proteins in sickle-cell anemia, Huntington’s disease or ALS, suggested that personal genetic defects might explain personal diseases.  Fortunately, it appears that in most cases genetic defects only matter when our actions produce chronic inflammation.  What we eat is far more important than our genetics in determining if we are going to suffer from allergies, autoimmune diseases, degenerative diseases, various forms of mental illness or cancer.  If we eat to avoid inflammation, in most cases it doesn’t matter how genetically defective we are.

Diet-Based Inflammation Is the Major Risk

Modern diets rich in starch/sugar/fructose and polyunsaturated fats (omega-6 oils), and deficient in saturated fats and omega-3 oils produce the chronic inflammation that forms the foundation of most diseases.  Vegetable oils, such as corn, soy or safflower oils are inflammatory and should be eliminated from our kitchens.  We should only use olive oil, butter or lard.  Saturated fats from meat, dairy and eggs are healthier than polyunsaturated vegetable oils.  There was never adequate scientific data to justify the shift from saturated fats to polyunsaturated vegetable oils.  That was a tragic, unscientific medical error that contributed significantly to deteriorating health in the developed/developing world.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle Is the Cure

It came as a surprise to me that simply eliminating inflammatory foods could prevent most diseases.  After diseases have developed, it is harder to reverse the process and return to health, but even in that case, diet is of paramount importance.

Back to Basics of a Healthy Diet (the Food Pyramid Is Wrong)

  •   Starch/sugar/fructose are inflammatory.  Low carbohydrate is the healthiest diet.
  •   Grains, even whole grains, and especially cereal are a big part of the problem and should be avoided.
  •   Fat and not carbohydrates, should be the major source of dietary calories/energy.
  •   Saturated fats are healthier than vegetable oils -- use olive oil and butter.
  •   Meats/fish (not fed on grains) are healthy.  A healthy vegetarian diet is difficult.
  •   Leafy vegetables are a good source of healthful antioxidants.
  •   Fruits and fructose are inflammatory and should be eaten sparingly.
  •   Healthy gut bacteria are important.  Eat fermented foods with live bacteria, e.g. yogurt.

Living with Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can lead to many problems that diet and supplements can help to remedy.  For example, vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in America, because chronic dietary inflammation appears to compromise the ability to make vitamin D in the skin with sunlight.  Most individuals eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fats, starch and high fructose corn syrup, are deficient in vitamin D and would benefit from a vitamin D3 supplement of at least 2,000 IU per day.  Vitamin D deficiency also contributes to inflammation.  Fish oil supplements can also help to reduce dietary inflammation and should always be taken with at least equal amounts of saturated fats in the same meal.

Resolve to Eat Your Way to Health

It is easy to avoid most diseases by avoiding dietary inflammation.  Since chronic dietary inflammation produces depression, lethargy, obesity and a lack of energy, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet will also lead to weight loss, increased energy and reduced symptoms of aging.  Most symptoms of aging and disease are actually poorly managed inflammation that exposes genetic defects.  Most people increase in inflammation with age, but proper diet can avoid this risk to health and prolong youthful activity.    The healthiest resolution for the new year is to stop eating blatantly inflammatory foods (starch and vegetable oils) and start eating more spicy meats, fish and leafy vegetables.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Humans vs. Naked Mole Rats

Blood Sugar, Insulin, Superoxide, Couch Potatoes

(Thanks to my loyal readers for the inspiration for this article.)
There is a lot to be learned by sticking one's head in the sand.  Mole rats of East African deserts are just as naked as humans, but beyond the lack of hair and complex social structures, we are as different as night and day.  These differences explain some of our unusual physiological characteristics.  Maybe our health problems are linked to our sweaty skin, predatory nature and our need to run, just as the naked mole rats (NMRs) are adapted to their dark, high carb, climate-controlled burrows.

Mole Rats:
  • low metabolic rate controlled by eating
  • live in low oxygen burrows
  • poor temperature regulation
  • live in the tubers that they eat -- sweet potatoes with legs
  • no insulin or superoxide dismutase
  • vitamin C and D production (in darkness)?
  • no pain sensors in skin, no stress, no sweat
  • mostly vegetarian, starch

  • high metabolic rate controlled by physical activity
  • live in high oxygen
  • temperature regulation by sweating
  • hunters, runners, farmers
  • no vitamin C production, vitamin D via sunlight
  • insulin used to regulate blood sugar, insulin resistance by superoxide
  • oxidative stress leads to inflammation and disease
  • carnivores, fat

Naked Mole Rats Are as Unique as Humans

Naked mole rats and humans are odd compared to most mammals.  Those oddities may explain a lot about modern human diseases.  The biggest difference between humans and NMRs is the control of blood glucose.  It seems that NMRs control their metabolism by their eating.  In times of starvation, the NMRs eat less and their metabolic rate lowers.  At the cellular level, this must mean that fat stores are converted to blood glucose to modestly regulate blood sugar as it drops, but the lack of insulin does not permit control of high blood sugar.  Thus, a rise in blood sugar must lead to cessation of eating.  This would make sense, because NMRs husband their resources -- they typically encounter few, very large, starchy, underground tubers/roots, eat into them and continue to live off of them for their lifetimes.  They are underground farmers.  They do not wolf down their slow moving prey and hunt for more.

NMRs Know When to Stop

Individual cells of NMRs regulate their metabolism without apparent recourse to adjusting their surface glucose transporters, since their blood glucose levels are constant or unmanipulateably low.  There is no mechanism for blocking influx of glucose by insulin stimulation when intracellular glucose is too high.  It would be expected that intravenous injection of excess glucose could kill NMRs by producing excess intracellular glucose spilling excess high energy electrons of the electron transport chain into superoxide damage.  Of course low tissue oxygen levels would provide protection, since the rate of superoxide formation is proportional to oxygen concentration at the mitochondrial surface.

Humans Are Runners

Humans are adapted to running down prey during the heat of the day, which means that they produce high metabolic rates, high demands for cooling, high tissue oxygen levels and high glucose/fat utilization.  In a lengthy chase, glycogen is rapidly depleted and fat metabolism ensues.  Human brains are adapted for access to lots of oxygen and nutrients.  Human tissues are adapted to low serum glucose and high levels of oxygen.  Moderate levels of serum glucose lead to increased cellular metabolism via insulin production and increased glucose transport into cells.  Low serum glucose leads to lipid mobilization and liver gluconeogenesis.

Humans Kill for Fat

Physical activity regulates human cellular activity.  Depletion of celllular ATP leads to an increase in cell surface glucose transporters.  Inadequate serum glucose, low intracellular glucose (phosphates) and low ATP lead to lipid utilization.  Lipids are all metabolized in mitochondria and require oxygen as the last, low energy electron acceptor in the electron transport chain.  Brain evolution in humans was adapted to high metabolism and intelligence is associated with intense brain vascularization, oxygen supply and lipid utilization.  It could be argued that glycogen storage is a way for humans to handle excess blood sugar during sleep inactivity, since humans are adapted for handling fats and tolerating carbohydrates.

Sweet Tooth Is Deciduous

Why do humans have a sweet tooth?  A group of early humanoids stumbling onto a cache of cookies made by elves, would quickly eat themselves into a stupor as their blood was diverted from brain to belly, their blood sugar rocketed, insulin surged, glucose gushed into cells, cellular metabolism peaked, cellular ATP pegged over, and superoxide spilled high energy electrons out of the saturated mitochondrial ETC.  Cookies would be killers for humans, if superoxide production didn’t block insulin-based transport of glucose into most cells and channel the high blood glucose into fat deposition. 

Marauding Naked Mole Rats

Cookie-fed humans become fat, lethargic and start to look like potatoes with legs, i.e. NMRs.  Unfortunately, unlike NMRs, humans don’t have off switches for carb glutting.  Humans evolved to run on fats, and can exploit occasional carb caches, because of an adaptive sweet tooth, but lack of evolutionary experience with gigantic carb caches, e.g. agriculture and supermarket cereal aisles, left humans maladapted for high carb diets.  We can’t pull out the HFCS intravenous line and instead become couch potatoes waiting as potential victims for giant marauding NMRs (the healthcare industry).  Fortunately, NMRs can keep the potatoes fat and feed on them indefinitely.

Monday, December 7, 2009

BPA in Thermal Printer Ink

Bisphenol A Free Bottles, BPA-Free Pacifiers, BPA-Free Receipts

I previously poo-pooed the threat of the estrogen mimetic bisphenol A (BPA) from polycarbonate bottles, cans and pacifiers, because my quick calculations indicated that there was just too little BPA and too many other natural sources of estrogens that haven’t been problems.  But it’s not the water that’s the problem, it’s the other plastic, your credit card.

Some Receipts Are Covered with BPA

In a recent article on the use of BPA for thermal printing it was claimed that some receipts have as much as 100 milligrams of BPA.  I simply didn’t believe this, because 100mg is 0.1 gram, which is what I approximate as the weight of a cash register receipt.  So, I emailed the investigator and he clarified.  He encountered some coupons that were printed on 100 sqare inches of thermal printer paper.  That is one whopping receipt, but even at that size, the coating with BPA was impressive and scary.

Thermal Printing Heats BPA with Second Reagent to Make Pigments

Thermal printing ink, e.g. BPA plus an acid-sensitive dye, smeared over the whole surface of the special thermal paper.  Heating the paper in the printer head causes the BPA, which is a weak acid, to release its protons and react with the dye to produce a colored pigment.  In order to make the printing visible, a lot of initially colorless ink has to be coated on the paper.  That means that perhaps 5% of the weight of the thermal printer paper is BPA and that BPA is all on the surface and able to rub off onto your hands!

Don’t Touch the Receipts

A recent study of BPA exposure during gestation and subsequent stereotypical sex-specific behavior showed that women with higher BPA in their urine during their first trimester of pregnancy gave birth to babies that developed with less than their expected sex-specific behaviors.  In other words, higher BPA in utero meant that boys behaved more like girls and vice versa.  Most of the women tested had about 1 ppm BPA contaminating their urine.  Some had a thousand fold more.  Even if they ate polycarbonate bottles, they could not have had more than 1,000 ppm (1 ppm = one part per million = 1 microgram per gram = 1 milligram per liter, so 1,000 ppm = 1 gram per liter).  This suggests that the women with funny, really average kids, were getting their BPA from some other source than bottles and cans contaminated with BPA.

Wash Your Hands or Wear Gloves When Shopping

I think that the culprit is the cashier.  Why are some of these people so cheerful when they have to deal with so many louts in line?  Maybe it is the BPA soaking into their finger tips from the BPA-soaked receipts that they are handing to you.  You may have wondered why some people become fanatical about coupons.  Maybe they are also taking in too much BPA.  What about the kids playing with credit card receipts?  BPA has been linked with precocious sexual development.  Maybe it would be safer to let the kids play with cigarette butts.

Not All Receipts Have BPA

I have asked a few cashiers if their receipts are printed on thermal paper laced with BPA, but most don’t know or care.  Many receipts are printed with ink, so they aren’t a problem.  Either way, the cashier should know to avoid self-contamination or risks to customers.  May you should ask the next time you hand over the plastic.