Cholesterol-lowering drugs may raise diabetes risk

Statins are a class of drugs used to treat elevated LDL cholesterol levels. Recently, researchers carried out a meta-analysis of 13 statin vs. placebo trials. Collectively, these researchers included over 90,000 subjects in their analysis, and came to the conclusion that taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes by 9% over the following four years.1

This is in fact the second meta-analysis performed in the past few months to come to this conclusion – an analysis published in October 2009 determined that statins increased diabetes risk by 13%. 2

Nine percent (or even 13%) may seem like a small risk, but let’s think about how many people take statin drugs. Today, cholesterol-lowering medications are the 2nd most prescribed drug class in the U.S. (behind only pain relievers).3 Between 1988 and 2006 the use of statin drugs in U.S. adults over 45 increased 10-fold.4 

Currently, over 30 million Americans take statin drugs, and this number may increase further. Statins may soon be recommended to older Americans who have normal LDL levels but elevated C-reactive protein.5 

Each one of these millions of people will have a 9% increased risk of diabetes – when they could have used a high nutrient diet to lower their LDL and reduce their cardiovascular risk. A high nutrient diet rich in unrefined plant foods can reduce cholesterol to the same extent as statin drugs.6 Since reducing cholesterol with diet and exercise addresses the cause of the high cholesterol (the typical American diet), there will be no risk involved – in fact, it will also lead to weight loss, which will then reduce diabetes risk.

Statins are not benign substances – they are powerful drugs with side effects that include muscle pain and liver damage. Which would you choose to lower your LDL – statin drugs plus increased diabetes risk and potential liver and muscle damage, or dietary changes that reduce blood pressure, reverse and prevent diabetes and protect against dementia? My view is that drugs also have the psychological effects to inhibit the necessity of lifestyle and dietary changes that are the root cause of almost all our nation’s medical problems. Any way you look at it drugs kill millions of people and drug-centered health care is the problem, not the solution to our heath crisis and tremendous medical suffering.

 

References:

1. Sattar N et al. Statins and risk of incident diabetes: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised statin trials. Lancet. 2010 Feb 16. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Rajpathak SN et al. Statin therapy and risk of developing type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2009 Oct;32(10):1924-9.

3. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/drugs.htm

4. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/10newreleases/hus09.htm

5. Spatz ES et al.  From here to JUPITER: identifying new patients for statin therapy using data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2009 Jan;2(1):41-8. Epub 2009 Jan 13.

6. Jenkins DJ et al. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism. 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids slow cellular aging

DNAIn coronary heart disease (CHD) patients, higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in the blood are associated with survival.1,2 Since patients with higher circulating omega-3s seemed to live longer, scientists wondered whether these patients were actually aging more slowly. 

They were able to indirectly measure rate of aging by measuring the telomere shortening rate in the patients’ white blood cells. Telomeres are regions of DNA at the ends of linear chromosomes – since telomeres are shortened during each cell division as DNA is replicated, telomere shortening is an indicator of aging at the DNA level. Faster telomere shortening means faster aging.

Blood levels of EPA and DHA and white blood cell telomere length were measured in CHD patients at baseline and again after 5 years.  The patients who had the lowest omega-3 levels had the fastest rates of telomere shortening, and those with the highest omega-3 levels had the slowest rates of telomere shortening. 

Omega-3s may in fact slow aging at the DNA level.

Omega-3 fatty acids, have several health benefits , and more benefits continue to be uncovered. In addition to slowing the aging process, in the past year alone the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has been suggested to promote cognitive development, prevent atherosclerotic plaque development, curb inflammation, and protect against cancer. 

Read more about the newly found health benefits of DHA, and why it may be both safer and more environmentally sound to use an algae-based DHA supplement, like my DHA Purity, instead of fish oil. I also still strongly recommend that certain seeds and nuts rich in the omega-3 ALA, such as flax, chia, hemp, or walnuts are important to be included in the diet as well for other documented health benefits. 

 

References:

1. Chattipakorn N et al. Cardiac mortality is associated with low levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the heart of cadavers with a history of coronary heart disease. Nutr Res. 2009 Oct;29(10):696-704.

2. Farzaneh-Far R et al. Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease. JAMA. 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250-7. 

The Truth About Healthcare Reform

 An article by Christina Pirello, an advocate of natural foods nutrition and professor of culinary arts at Drexel University, on Huffington Post states the uncomfortable truth about healthcare reform that the mainstream media consistently fails to report:

“Healthcare reform is irrelevant until Americans improve their lifestyles.”

Money

The fact is, our healthcare costs are out of control because the diet and lifestyle that has become the societal norm in this country causes disease.  As Ms. Pirello mentioned in her article:

“We are willing to tolerate this revolutionized food because it's cheap. But it comes at a high price to our health. We spend less on food today than any other people at any other time in recorded history. And the less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care.”1

 Here are some numbers:

- Overweight and obesity rates are at an all time high – 73% of Americans are either overweight (38.8%) or obese(34.2%).2 In 1980, 15% of adults were obese – over the past 30 years,that number has more than doubled.3

- According to the CDC, U.S. obesity-related health costs totaled $117 billion in 2000, and if current trends continue, that figure is projected to reach $344 billion per year by 2018.3,4

- Coronary heart disease costs are estimated at $177 billion for 2010, costs for stroke at $74 billion, costs for hypertension at $77 billion. 5

- Health insurance premiums have gone up 131% in the last 10 years.6

- Over 50% of insured Americans take prescription drugs for a chronic condition – the majority of these drugs are for blood pressure or cholesterol.7

These costly diseases are caused by poor lifestyle choices, and they are also preventable by positive lifestyle choices.

The problem is not the fact that there are so many uninsured Americans – the problem is that there are so many unhealthy Americans. Do we need a better health care system? Of course. But not as desperately as we need better health. Better health through improved lifestyle choices is also fiscally responsible. Vegetables are cheaper than statin drugs. A gym membership is cheaper than bypass surgery.

Health care costs are the symptom, poor lifestyle choices are the cause. If we want to improve the situation, we need to address the cause. The only way to reduce these costs is to reduce the prevalence of these devastating (but preventable) diseases.

No matter how many confusing messages the American public gets about nutrition, there are some very simple truths. Fruits and vegetables are healthy, processed foods and fast food are not. If you follow a nutritarian diet, it will cost less to keep you healthy. 

Ms. Pirello suggests a healthcare system in which individuals are rewarded for having healthy habits – sounds like a great idea to me. She also mentions Whole Foods Market’s new Health Starts Here program, for which I provide nutritional guidance.

“They are about to implement a program that encourages their employees to get and stay healthy. Beginning with a simple blood test and survey, each employee who chooses to participate will receive a diet plan. Each benchmark they hit (lower cholesterol and blood pressure, healthier BMI, etc., will result in a greater discount on their groceries purchased at Whole Foods Market. Imagine a health care plan that does the same thing.”1

No matter what the outcome of healthcare reform in Washington D.C., if enough of us develop and practice healthy habits, it will be to the benefit of our healthcare system.

 

References:

1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-pirello/healthcare-reform-is-irre_b_440589.html

2. Ogden CL et al. Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007-2008. JAMA. 2010;303(3)

Flegal KM et al. Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008. JAMA. 2010;303(3)

3. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/overweight/overweight_adult.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/AAG/pdf/obesity.pdf

4. http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2009/obesity/ECO.aspx#2018

5. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192667

6. http://money.blogs.time.com/2009/09/30/a-dozen-disturbing-health-care-statistics/

7. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/14/health/main4094632.shtml?source=related_story

Excess iron and copper contribute to chronic disease and aging

Both iron and copper serve vital functions, but as we age excess stores of these metals may build and become toxic. A report from the American Chemical Society1 suggests that iron and copper toxicity are unrecognized but significant threats to public health, in particular for adults over the age of 50.

pennyIron is crucial for oxygen transport and the proper function of several enzymes and proteins. Similarly, copper is also a component of enzymes that catalyze important reactions in several of the body’s cells and tissues. The human body evolved to store excess iron and copper to fuel these vital processes in case of extreme conditions like bleeding or famine, but their accumulation over time may be detrimental because both metals are involved in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

It is now generally accepted that oxidative damage, a byproduct of oxygen-dependent energy production, contributes to chronic diseases and aging.

Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is one of the initial steps of atherosclerotic plaque development. Epidemiological associations between body stores of each of these metals and atherosclerosis have been found, and this is thought to be due to ROS production.2 

Oxidative damage and depletion of the brain’s natural antioxidant defenses are implicated in the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the brain uses more oxygen and produces more energy than any other organ, it is the most vulnerable organ to oxidative damage. The high iron content of the brain, even higher in those with excessive iron stores, makes the brain even more vulnerable to oxidative stress.3

In people at least 65 years of age who consumed diets high in saturated and trans fats, copper intake was associated with accelerated cognitive decline. Copper bound to cholesterol is also commonly found in the β-amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.4

Excess quantities of these metals primarily come from meat, followed by multivitamin/multimineral supplements. Copper in supplements and drinking water is even more toxic than copper derived from food sources.1   

The author of this new report has outlined steps that we can take to limit our exposure to copper and iron, including:

  • Avoiding or minimizing red meat consumption

  • Avoiding drinking water from copper pipes

  • Choosing a multivitamin that does not contain copper and iron. 

Dr. Fuhrman designed his Gentle Care Formula multivitamin/multimineral to be free of potentially toxic ingredients like copper and iron.

 

References:

1. American Chemical Society (2010, January 22). Consumers over age 50 should consider cutting copper and iron intake, report suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/01/100120113553.htm 

Brewer GJ. Risks of Copper and Iron Toxicity during Aging in Humans. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Dec 7. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Brewer GJ. Iron and Copper Toxicity in Diseases of Aging, Particularly Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. Exp Biol Med 232 (2): 323. 2007

3. Kidd PM. Neurodegeneration from Mitochondrial Insufficiency: Nutrients, Stem Cells, Growth Factors, and Prospects for Brain Rebuilding Using Integrative Management. Alternative Medicine Review 2005;10(4):268-293

4. Morris MC et al. Dietary copper and high saturated and trans fat intakes associated with cognitive decline. Arch Neurol. 2006 Aug;63(8):1085-8.