Yes, You Can Predict the Future

I’m excited to inform you all that I’ve recently formed a relationship with the Cleveland Heart Lab—a branch of the renowned academic hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cleveland Heart Lab specializes in predicting inflammatory issues, diabetes, and other things that can impact the quality of your life. In particular, it offers many different tests that are used across North America, Europe, and Asia in the management and prevention of heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the US. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Economics predicts that Cleveland Heart Lab’s inflammation testing could reduce the average heart attack and stroke rate by 10% over the coming years. That translates to about $187 million dollars saved and thousands of healthier, happier people. 

Cleveland Heart Lab can predict the future of your health by measuring the level of inflammation in your body, an often over-looked indicator of health problems either now or to come. People with higher levels of inflammation are more likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension, amongst other things. 

What sorts of life choices might cause the body to become inflamed? Namely, poor diet. Certain foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, which means that what you choose to eat can have a serious impact on your inflammation responses. Eating sugary, processed foods and trans fat, which tend to be found in fried foods, snack foods, industrial seed oils and baked goods, is one of the best ways to put your body on track to chronic inflammation.

When you eat inflammatory foods like the ones mentioned above, chemicals called “cytokines” are released into the blood and tissues. Cytokines are known to be destructive to our normal cells and, if the inflammation is chronic, they often wear down tissues and lead to further systemic inflammation. The result? Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Even if you manage to evade the worst outcome, studies have shown that inflammation of internal organs also leads to mental and emotional imbalances, digestive disorders, skin problems, and more.

This brings me back to the Cleveland Heart Lab. If you want to know the future of your health as it stands with your current lifestyle, consider getting one of the many tests offered by the Lab. Here is a quick summary of some of the tests available and how they can help you:

  1. C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test: often used in combination with a lipid profile to evaluate an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease. CRP is a protein found in the blood that increases with inflammation. The hs-CRP test is used to detect low but persistent levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, thereby indicating low levels of inflammation that could result in heart disease given enough time. The consensus within the medical community is that this test can be used to target people who have a moderate risk of heart attack over the next ten years. Very high levels of hs-CRP, especially in combination with high levels of LpPLA2 (an enzyme that produces inflammation in the artery walls) can be used to predict an adverse cardiac even within the next one to six months.
  2. TMAO test: another incredibly powerful way of predicting heart attack and stroke risk in individuals who seem otherwise healthy. This test measures the level of trimethylamine-N-oxide in the blood, a compound produced by the liver.
  3. Adiponectin test: targets individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes due to poor life choices. People with low adiponectin levels have a 3X greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 9X increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  4. Fibrinogen test: Fibrinogen is a protein essential for blood clot formation. Low levels of fibrinogen can indicate a bleeding disorder or disseminated intravascular coagulation. 
  5. Vitamin D test: Vitamin D deficiencies are known to lead to a host of health problems including osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and more—even in people who seem perfectly healthy. 
  6. Hemoglobin A1C test: used to monitor the glucose control of diabetics, helping to prevent the health complications that can come from long-term high glucose levels. This test can also be used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes in individuals with or without symptoms.
  7. Homocysteine test: helps target individuals at high risk of myocardial infarction or stroke or individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease. A homocysteine test can also reveal Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies. 

Finding out this information now can help you pursue the most promising and tailored path of preventative care—before it’s too late. Yet, your doctor is likely not going to recommend any of these tests to you. While conventional medicine often focuses on the treatment of present illness, Cleveland Heart Lab saves lives every day by revealing prophecies of ill health before they become a reality. With this information so readily available, patients can make informed decisions about how to ensure disease prevention based on their personal situation and disease risk. The Lab offers many more tests than the ones mentioned here for people at all different places in their health. Chances are there is at least one test that can help illuminate the future wellbeing of you and almost anyone else.

The effects of inflammation on your body may not always be obvious—but that means you have even better reason to seek professional help to predict the future of your health. It is crucial that you monitor low, but persistent levels of inflammation on your body now before the effects start to appear. To find out more about the services offered by Cleveland Heart Lab, please contact Gary Merel at garymerel@annarborholistichealth.com or call 734-222-8210.

The Unbiased Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners continue to be a controversial public health issue, and the research keeps coming. In fact, a new study on artificial sweeteners and weight loss was just published on Monday, and the FDA approved a new artificial sweetener (advantame) last Wednesday.

On one hand, many people are adamantly opposed to the use of artificial sweeteners because of the purported link with increased risk for cancer and other diseases. But on the other hand, artificial sweeteners are becoming increasingly popular as people try to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight.

There’s too much research out there to cover comprehensively in a blog article, but I’ll try to cover the basics: will artificial sweeteners give you cancer or other diseases? Do they actually help with weight loss, or do they hurt? And ultimately, should you be eating them?

Cancer

Artificial sweeteners were first tied to cancer risk in the 1970’s after a study showed that a combination of saccharin and cyclamate (another early artificial sweetener) caused bladder cancer in lab rats. The mechanism behind these effects was later found to be specific to rats and not generalizable to other animals or humans (in these rats, comparable doses of vitamin C can also cause bladder cancer), and further studies demonstrated that neither sweetener is carcinogenic.

However, this study cast a shadow of doubt over artificial sweeteners, and thanks in part to the media’s penchant for blowing things way out of proportion, the reputation of artificial sweeteners has never recovered.

A later study suggested a link between aspartame consumption and brain tumors. The authors based this hypothesis on the fact that both brain cancer and aspartame consumption had increased since 1980 – despite not knowing whether the people getting brain tumors actually consumed artificial sweeteners – and on a rat study where aspartame supplemented diets led to the formation of brain tumors.

This association has been more or less dismissed by the research community because three case-control studies have found no association between brain tumors and aspartame consumption, and subsequent animal studies haven’t been able to replicate the aspartame-induced brain tumors found in the original rat study.

Artificial sweeteners have also been implicated in the development of lymphoma and leukemia, and one observational study found a weak link between artificial sweetener consumption and development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma in men, but not in women. The study authors concluded that due to the inconsistency in their results, there isn’t likely a causal link, although it can’t be ruled out.

Artificial sweeteners have also been tested for associations with other cancers, including breast, pancreatic, stomach, colon, and endometrium, with no correlations found. Based on the evidence, I don’t think artificial sweeteners are a huge risk factor for cancer, although the possibility can’t be ruled out and caution is warranted.

Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Metabolic Syndrome

Artificial sweeteners have also been increasingly tied to increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome and related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Numerous observational studies have attempted to parse out a consistent association with disease risk, but for every study that has linked artificial sweetener consumption with metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or diabetes, there’s another that has found no association.

This inconsistency shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the inherent limitations of observational evidence, but because there’s little to no clinical evidence in humans to test these hypotheses, the effect of artificial sweeteners on risk for these diseases remains inconclusive.

Pre-term Delivery

There has been concern in recent years over a potential link between artificial sweetener consumption and pre-term delivery, prompted by two observational studies published in 2010 and 2012. These studies have significant limitations: the associations are small and not linearly dose-dependent; not all artificially-sweetened beverages were accounted for; and women who consume more artificially sweetened drinks also tend to smoke more, have higher BMI, and lower socioeconomic status. All told, the risk seems small, but I would advise pregnant women to avoid artificial sweeteners just to be on the safe side.

Weight Loss

For most people, the primary motivation for consuming artificial sweeteners is a desire to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight. But do artificial sweeteners actually help achieve that goal? Yet again, the evidence is mixed. Many observational studies have found a positive association between artificial sweetener intake and obesity, but in this situation, reverse-causality is particularly likely.

In other words, while it’s possible that artificial sweeteners contributed to weight gain in these studies, it’s also possible that people who are overweight are more likely to choose diet beverages and other artificially sweetened foods in an effort to lose weight. We also have a decent number of clinical trials testing the weight loss effects of artificial sweeteners in humans, although many are too short-term to have much practical significance.

In one study, overweight subjects were given supplements of either sucrose or artificial sweeteners for 10 weeks. At the end of the trial period, subjects in the artificial sweetener group on average had experienced a reduction in weight, fat mass, and blood pressure, while subjects in the sucrose group gained weight and had increased blood pressure.

A study just published this week on weight loss and artificial sweeteners was surprisingly positive: over a 12-week period, participants who were instructed to drink 24 ounces of artificially sweetened beverages every day actually lost more weight than participants who were instructed to drink 24 ounces of water daily. (It’s worth noting that this study was fully funded by The American Beverage Association.) Other trials have also shown successful calorie reduction and weight loss in participants who consumed artificial sweeteners (usually in the form of beverages).

Based on this evidence, it seems that artificial sweeteners can be helpful for weight loss in some circumstances, at least over the short term. However, due to the limited nature of these studies and the evidence I’ll present next, I hesitate to draw any conclusions.

Do Artificial Sweeteners ‘Confuse’ The Body?

For most of human history, sweeteners were inextricably tied to caloric density. If our sweet taste receptors evolved primarily to help us identify calorie-rich food sources, how will our bodies respond when our taste receptors are consistently bombarded with sweetness, but with no concomitant calorie surge?

Animal models certainly indicate that artificial sweeteners can impair the innate ability to regulate caloric intake. Rats who are fed with artificial sweeteners consistently gain more weight than rats who are fed with glucose or sucrose. Additionally, the rats don’t tend to lose the excess weight, even after their diets are switched back to glucose or sucrose to re-establish the calorie-predictive nature of sweet taste.

Interestingly, rats who were given stevia solutions gained significantly more weight than the glucose-fed rats, and similar amounts of weight to the saccharin-fed rats. Rats fed with artificial sweeteners also develop an impaired ability to respond to sugar-containing foods. In one study, rats who had been fed artificial sweeteners were unable to compensate for the calorie content of a sugar preload by eating less chow afterwards, while rats who had been fed sugar-containing food compensated almost perfectly for the extra calories in the preload by eating less chow.

Rats that have been conditioned with saccharin also display a reduced thermic effect in response to consumption of a caloric sugar-containing meal, as well as higher blood glucose, compared with rats who had been conditioned with glucose. Additionally, saccharin-fed rats secreted less GLP-1 (which is implicated in satiety and glucose homeostasis) when given a sugar-containing test meal.

Unfortunately, although the animal evidence is fairly robust, evidence in humans is limited. However, two interesting studies that used MRI to measure brain responses to sucrose solutions indicate that artificial sweeteners may alter the brain’s response to sweet tastes in humans. In one study, people who regularly consume artificially sweetened drinks had higher reward responses to both saccharin and sucrose compared with people who don’t consume artificial sweeteners.

Additionally, people who don’t consume artificial sweeteners had different brain responses to the saccharin and sucrose, while those who regularly consume artificial sweeteners responded the same to both sweeteners. Another study found that the amygdala’s response to sucrose consumption was inversely related to artificial sweetener use. (The amygdala is part of the brain that is involved with taste-nutrient conditioning.)

Should You Be Eating Artificial Sweeteners?

My conclusion might seem a little anticlimactic after all that information, but the point I’d like to drive home is that artificial sweeteners are extremely new to the human diet, and for modern, industrial foods, the operating principle should always be “guilty until proven innocent.” We’ve conducted what are essentially population-wide experiments with the introduction of other industrial foods (such as high omega-6 vegetable oils) because the initial evidence seemed promising, and we can see how well that worked out.

Despite some successful short-term weight loss studies, I don’t think the potential therapeutic effects of artificial sweeteners have been demonstrated clearly enough thus far to warrant widespread consumption, especially given the conflicting links with disease risk and the questionable influence on appetite regulation and weight control. Ultimately, while artificial sweeteners are perhaps not as scary as some might believe, I don’t recommend including them in your diet.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

http://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners

Does It Matter If A Sweetener Is “Natural”?

The ancestral health community and other heath-conscious bloggers have increasingly embraced natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, and maple syrup as healthier alternatives to refined sugar. But just how much healthier, really, are these natural sweeteners?

In this article, I’ll review the three major “natural” sweeteners typically used by Paleo dieters, and determine whether or not these foods belong in a healthy eating plan.

Find out if “natural” sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup belong in a #Paleo diet.

Honey

As I mentioned in the first article of this series, honey has long been an important food in the human diet. Its fructose to glucose ratio is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, with about 38% fructose and 31% glucose (the rest being primarily water). Honey also contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.

Although honey is “Paleo” even in the strictest sense, it can be easy to think of it as just another source of sugar; better than table sugar, perhaps, but still an indulgence that should be kept to an absolute minimum. Sugar is sugar, right? On the contrary, increasing evidence indicates that honey is a functional food with uniquely beneficial physiological effects.

For example, two human studies found that supplementing with 3-5 tbsp of honey per day (depending on body weight) increases serum antioxidant levels, including vitamin C and glutathione reductase. In another study, the same dose of honey lowered plasma prostaglandin levels by 48-63% after 15 days, signaling a reduction in inflammation.)

In overweight and obese patients, consumption of about 3.5 tbsp honey per day for a month resulted in lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (particularly in people with elevated values), and higher HDL cholesterol. In another study, honey also reduced levels of homocysteine and blood glucose.)

Honey also has antibacterial activity, and can shorten the duration of acute bacterial diarrhea in children. Honey might even be an effective treatment in some cases of h. pylori infection. Other potential benefits of honey include antiviral, antitumor, and antimutagenic effects, and reduction of IBD-associated inflammation, but these have yet to be tested on humans. So it would appear that honey has many benefits that outweigh the potential downsides of consuming a concentrated sweetener. I recommend using raw honey, which will have the most enzymes and nutrients when destructive heat has not been used.

Stevia

Stevia continues to be a contentious topic in the ancestral health world, with some respected bloggers endorsing it heartily and others cautioning against it. Although I’ve seen good points raised by both sides, the majority of the evidence indicates that stevia, used in reasonable quantities, is a harmless (and possibly beneficial) natural sweetener.

Because stevia contains almost no calories, one potential issue with stevia is that the sweet taste without the influx of sugar might confuse our insulin response (I’ll talk about this at length when I cover artificial sweeteners). While this is an understandable concern, stevia has actually been used traditionally as a treatment for diabetics and may actually improve blood sugar control.)

In one study, participants were given a dose of either sucrose or stevia before lunch. Compared with the sucrose preload, the stevia preload resulted in lower blood sugar after the meal and a lower insulin load, even compared with aspartame. Also, even though the stevia provided fewer calories than the sucrose, participants didn’t compensate by consuming more calories at lunch.

Another small study with 16 volunteers found that 5-gram doses of stevia extract every 6 hours for three days improved glucose tolerance. In insulin-resistant and diabetic rats, stevia improved insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and liver and kidney function. Stevia has also been called into question due to its potential negative impact on fertility. Stevia was used traditionally in South America as a contraceptive, although we don’t know how effective it was, and results from animal studies have been mixed.

One study found that doses of stevioside up to 2.5g/kg bodyweight per day didn’t affect the fertility of hamsters, even after three generations. For a human, this would translate to about 0.34g/kg, so a person weighing 70 kg (about 150 lbs) would need to consume almost 24 stevia packets every single day to reach that dose. That’s far more than anyone would reasonably consume, even if they were consciously trying to maximize their stevia intake.

Although two other studies did find that stevia reduced fertility in male and female rats, those conclusions have since been refuted by studies using more reliable methods. Overall, the risk of negatively impacting fertility by consuming moderate amounts of stevia is very slim, but I would still advise people to be wary of stevia if they’re struggling with infertility.

As for other potential benefits of stevia, a 2-year RCT in Chinese adults with mild hypertension found that taking 500mg of stevioside powder 3 times per day significantly reduced blood pressure compared with baseline and placebo, from an average of 150/95 to 140/89. However, smaller doses didn’t provide the same benefit, and there isn’t enough evidence to recommend large doses of stevia as a supplement to lower blood pressure.

Finally, stevia appears to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, but thus far we don’t know whether these properties have practical significance in humans. Ultimately, I think stevia is a good sweetener to use for those who have blood sugar control issues and would prefer to use a non-caloric sweetener.

Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar, and Molasses

Maple syrup, coconut sugar, and molasses are other popular natural sweeteners, but they don’t have the modern research or the traditional background that honey and stevia do. Composition-wise, they’re all relatively similar: they’re mostly sucrose, with some free glucose and fructose. They all contain some minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron, but they’re not going to contribute all that much to your daily mineral needs. (The exception to this might be molasses, which contains 20% of the daily value for potassium, 10% DV for calcium and vitamin B6, 15% DV for iron, and 8% DV for magnesium in just a tablespoon.

All three are lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, which falls at around 65, with the award-winner being coconut sugar at 35. Maple syrup has gotten a little research attention, and preliminary analytical and in vitro studies show that it has antioxidant and anticancer properties, as well as potential for the management of type 2 diabetes. However, this isn’t anywhere near being of clinical significance for humans.

If you’re just looking for an alternative to refined sugar to use occasionally, all of these are fine sweetener choices; they’re natural, minimally processed (depending on the quality you purchase), and still contain the minerals and phytonutrients that occur naturally. They also have favorable fructose:glucose ratios, which can be an important consideration for those with gut issues or fructose intolerance. (This is one reason I don’t recommend agave nectar.)

But if you’re looking for health benefits beyond simply replacing refined sugar with something a little healthier, current research (and tradition) sides with honey and stevia.

by Chris Kresser  

http://chriskresser.com/does-it-matter-if-a-sweetener-is-natural

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.