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A Closer Look At What Really Is A Disheartening Pattern…Medicine Itself….as revealed by a recent LA Times article… (part 2)
It is important to know what mother nature wants. Otherwise, she can get downright ornery. Nature does not necessarily want you to live a long and healthy life, but instead wants you to perpetuate the instructions, the genes that teach the progeny how to perpetuate life. Even so-called “paleolithic” diets, though undoubtedly far better than what is generally eaten today, were not necessarily designed by nature to help us live a long and healthy life but, at best, to maximize reproduction. Nature appears to not care much about what happens to us after we have had a sufficient chance to make babies and get them on their feet. That is why we die. But it is vital to nature that we do stay healthy long enough to make babies to perpetuate the instructions of life, and therein lies the rub. Nature gives us clues about how to stay alive and healthy. And that brings us once again to fat– and leptin.
Energy was, and always will be, a coveted commodity. Nature, and evolution hates wasting it. It makes no sense to try and make babies when it appears that there’s not enough energy available to successfully accomplish that goal. Instead, it seems that virtually all living forms can “switch gears” and direct energy away from cell division and reproduction and towards mechanisms that will allow a life to “hunker down” for the long haul and thus be able to reproduce at a future more nutritionally opportune time. In other words, nature will then let you live longer to accomplish its primary directive of reproduction. It does this by up regulating maintenance and repair genes that increase production from within the cells, of antioxidant systems, heat shock proteins (that help maintain protein shape), DNA repair enzymes, and garbage collection (called autophagy). This is what happens when you restrict calories (without starvation) in animals, that has been shown convincingly for 70 years to greatly extend the life and health span of many dozens of species.
Thus, there is a powerful link between cellular reproduction, energy stores, and longevity. Genetic studies in simple organisms have shown that that link is at least partially mediated by insulin (which in simple organisms also functions as growth hormone), and that when insulin signals are kept low, indicating scarce glucose availability, maximal lifespan can be extended– a lot; several hundred percent in worms and flies, and even doubling the lifespan in some mammals. Glucose is an ancient fuel used even before there was oxygen in the atmosphere, for life can burn glucose without oxygen; it is an anaerobic fuel, kept around today for just that purpose; fight or flight emergencies. The use of fat as fuel came later, after life in the form of plants soaked the earth in oxygen, for you cannot burn fat without oxygen. The primary source of energy stores in people is fat by far, as many unfortunately are all too aware of. The primary signal that indicates how much fat is stored is leptin, and it is also leptin that allows for reproduction, or not. It has long been known that women with very little body fat, such as marathon runners, stop ovulating. There is not enough leptin being produced to permit it. Paradoxically, one of the first pharmaceutical uses of leptin was approved to give to skinny women to allow them to ovulate and get pregnant.
To summarize thus far; both insulin and leptin work together to control the quality of one’s metabolism and, to a significant extent, the rate of metabolism.
Metabolism can roughly be defined as the chemistry that turns food into life, and therefore insulin and leptin are critical to health and disease. The purpose of insulin goes way beyond the control of blood sugar. It works mostly at the individual cell level, telling the vast majority of cells whether to burn or store fat or sugar and whether to utilize that energy for cellular division/reproduction (that, when too loud, can lead to cancer) or for maintenance and repair (youth and longevity). In this way it actually helps to control the rate of aging, and therefore the chronic diseases of aging such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is so critical to life that is found in virtually all animal life, and has apparently been evolutionarily conserved all the way back to worms and beyond.
Leptin, on the other hand, controls energy storage and utilization by the entire republic of our 15 or so trillion cells allowing the body to communicate with the brain about how much energy (fat) the republic has stored, and whether it needs more, or should burn some off, and whether it is an advantageous time nutritionally-speaking for the republic to make new baby republics.
But for leptin to properly regulate these all-important mechanisms critical to life and health, leptin has to be heard, and if the brain and body cannot properly hear what it is trying to say, people become so-called “leptin resistant”…and sick; obese, diabetic, heart diseased, osteoporotic…not happy campers.
Each and every one of us is a combination of lives within lives. Therefore, life, and health, depends on a network of communication that allows those 15 trillion separate living cells (and perhaps 90 trillion bacteria in your gut and elsewhere) to act harmoniously as one for the common good. It is communication such as what you are doing right now (and by attending UPW), that will hopefully make you wiser and healthier. That network of communication is via chemical signals led by hormones. The neurotransmitters in the brain that allow you to read this are a type of hormone. So is estrogen, testosterone thyroid, insulin and leptin.
Communication depends partly on what is said, but more importantly on what is heard. This is important. The effect of all communication will be secondary to what is heard, or not heard. Likewise, it is not the level of a hormone that matters. It is how well that hormone is communicating. For instance, it is now known that a high fasting insulin represents insulin resistance that leads to diabetes. In other words even though the insulin may be high that usually would drive down blood glucose, the cells aren’t listening to it, so the cells behave as if insulin is too low, raising blood sugar and causing diabetes. I believe that this not only happens with insulin but happens with many hormones, in particular leptin, and in fact can happen with any sort of communication, and it generally happens when a message is being screamed too loud, too often, and for too long. For instance if a person has to sit in a meeting next to someone with strong perfume (or no deodorant) it will be noticed quite significantly at first. However sit there for a while and the sense of smell becomes dulled and the odor is much less noticeable.
The same happens with insulin…and leptin. Spikes in blood glucose from eating foods that digest into sugars such as rice, potatoes, cereals, most breads and pasta, cause repeated surges in insulin and leptin. Your 15 trillion cells that makes you up, your republic of cells, will at first be able to listen to them; you stay thin and relatively healthy when young, but over weeks, months, years, or decades, they lose their ability to ‘smell’ these critical hormones necessary to control the storage and use of energy, metabolism, and life itself. They will then smell a week signal rather than the true loud signal that has been given, and the brain and body will respond accordingly… and improperly. One gets insulin and leptin resistant, unhealthy, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer, and life becomes unhappy and short.
To restore that sense of smell lost in the meeting, one must reduce the odor, not increase it. Go to lunch and come back and once again you can smell the perfume, and in the case of hormones this is very much for the better. In other words to restore and maintain the ability for your body and brain to properly ‘smell’ the life giving messages from leptin, as much as possible stop eating sugar, and this means starches, for when they are digested they are rapidly turned to sugar. Whether that sugar originated from rice, potatoes, whole-wheat toast, twinkles, glucose syrup, or agave, your cells are oblivious.
In the case of the participants of the study cited in this LA Times article, and indeed in the case of anyone desiring to lose extra fat, the “set point” for fat storage, somewhat like a thermostat (though in this case a “fat stat”) needs to be reset to a lower level, and the fat stat is determined mostly by leptin, and even more by the ability of critical areas of the brain to understand what it is trying to say; in other words leptin sensitivity. Nature knows that the only way to lose weight (and really what this should refer to is fat weight, not any weight) is to not be hungry and instead “eat” extra belly fat…and to do this you must be able to hear what leptin is trying to say.
The continued hunger in the study mentioned at the beginning was coming from the maintenance of a restricted, though high carbohydrate, dietary program after the initial weight loss. This would continue to cause blood leptin to repeatedly spike, in turn causing continued leptin resistance. Though their belly’s leptin would be screaming to their brain that it is getting too fat, their brain would only be hearing a whisper, and think that they are too skinny to survive a famine. It will make them hungry, make them eat, make them store even more fat, and prevent them from burning what they have. In the words of ‘Cool Hand Luke’ played by Paul Newman in the movie of the same name to the prison warden after having escaped from a southern prison and just before capture, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. This doesn’t end too well for Cool Hand Luke, or his brain, either; he is immediately shot in the head.
If you can’t burn fat (or ketones from fat), you will have to burn the only other fuel your cells can burn; sugar (glucose), and since you only store a small amount that your body wants to save for fight and flight (anaerobic) emergencies, you will be made to crave carbohydrates and sugar; you will be made to be constantly hungry. This is not surprising as it has been shown for the last 50 years that trying to reduce calories on a high carbohydrate diet results in hunger, eating more, and weight gain. This is what the LA Times article has once again illustrated; that the diet that has been recommended by the medical profession for over half a century has forced us to burn glucose as our primary fuel rather than fat and therefore has forced us to crave it… and keep craving it even after dieting such that we once again become more insulin and leptin resistant and regain the fat that we so diligently might have lost.
If I had to summarize everything known about nutrition, health and aging, it would be this; your health and lifespan will be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar you burn over a lifetime. The more sugar you are forced to burn, the more diseased you will become. The more fat you burn, the healthier, younger, and longer your life will likely be. And whether you burn sugar or fat will be mostly determined by those critical metabolic hormones insulin and leptin, and they in turn will be determined by what you eat. Therefore every meal must be considered a most important hormone.
Those meals need to prevent leptin from spiking thereby maintaining low leptin (and insulin) levels, such that your cells, you, can continue to ‘hear’ and ‘smell’ the critical messages that those hormones are giving you, messages that tell you how to maintain health and life.
The only known way to do that is via a dietary plan such as mine, perhaps augmented with synergistic supplements. As such, these can have a more profound effect on your health than any other known modality of medical treatment.
What causes insulin and leptin to soar, to constantly yell at your cells so that ultimately they will lose their hearing for these life-saving messages? Sugars, sugar forming starches and excessive protein. What doesn’t cause leptin or insulin to spike, that keeps them low so that their critical messages continue to be heard? Fat. That’s right. Fat. The best diet to preserve health, youth, and longevity is virtually opposite to what we’ve been brainwashed to believe is good ever since we’ve been in our mothers womb. It isn’t fat that makes us fat; it is the inability to burn fat that makes us fat, and this is caused by the inability to properly listen to leptin. That in turn is caused by eating a high carbohydrate low-fat diet that has been recommended by doctors and nutritionists our entire lifetime, and that has resulted in a worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes such that human average lifespan is likely to be reduced for the first time in the history of mankind, as being predicted by many experts. That high carbohydrate, fat demonizing recommendation has likely lead to more illness and death than the combined sum of all past worldwide epidemics.
Eat fat…good fats, as long as sugars, and sugar forming foods such as rice, potatoes, cereals, most breads and pasta, are avoided that would otherwise raise insulin and leptin and prevent the burning of that fat. What are good fats? Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine, and macadamia nuts; all good, preferably raw or dried with low heat. Peanuts are not nuts (they are legumes, beans) and they therefore have a different (high omega 6) and unhealthy fat content. Olives and olive oil, avocados and guacamole, coconut oil, ghee; all great.
Eat these along with non sugary vegetables and a moderate, not high, amount of protein, and leptin’s messages will remain clear; live long and prosper. My guess is that Mr. Spock was on my diet.
When leptin signaling is restored, your brain can finally hear the message that perhaps should have been delivered decades ago; high leptin levels can now scream to your brain that you have too much stored fat and that if you don’t want to eat it, a lion might. Your brain will finally allow you access into your belly’s pantry of fat. Your cells will be fed that food and they will be satisfied. They will be receiving energy that they need and will not have to ask for more. You will not be hungry. This also makes counting calories irrelevant, for the calories that you put into your mouth are not necessarily what your cells will be eating; that will be determined primarily by leptin.
Whether or not you put food into your mouth, your cells will be eating, and if they cannot eat fat they must eat sugar. Since little sugar is stored, that sugar will be had by making you crave it, or by turning the protein in your muscle and bone into sugar. This contributes in a major way to weakness and osteoporosis. Whether or not this lean tissue wasting happens is determined by your capacity, or incapacity, to burn fat, and that is determined by leptin.
Back to the LA Times study… The researchers in this study, as is virtually universal, assume that high hormone levels translate to stronger signaling, such that higher leptin would cause greater reduction in hunger, and that lower leptin causes increased hunger. However, one of the most important concepts in health, and indeed life itself, is not being recognized or understood. We must make this clear to doctors, researchers, medicine in general and the public alike; just yelling louder (giving more insulin, giving more drugs) will not increase the ability of our cells, ourselves, to hear, and in fact will cause our cells to go deaf. It is not the quantity of information that determines health, but the quality of information. What must occur is eating a diet that reduces leptin spikes and maintains a lower leptin, so that the hearing by the brain and body to leptin’s messages can be restored. The messages to maintain and restore health are there in nearly all of us; we just need to be able to hear them.
We should not, must not, if at all possible, be treating symptoms. This ignores the deeper meanings. We must instead attempt to seek out the common roots of so-called “diseases”. When we do, we find that so-called diseases such as obesity, type 2 (insulin resistant) diabetes, heart and vascular disease, osteoporosis, even age related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s — virtually all of the chronic diseases of aging — have common roots, and it is those roots we must treat. Otherwise, we are likely to not just ignore, but worsen the true underlying disease…as in virtually all (non emergency and critical care) standard medical practice, that lives off of treating symptoms rather than diseases. See the ACCORD study mentioned below and so many others. Where does one find the roots of all the major chronic diseases of aging? In communication. All disease is a disease of communication, particularly of insulin and leptin.
Diabetes is not a disease of blood sugar but a disease of telling sugar what to do. Osteoporosis is not a disease of calcium. People with osteoporosis have lots of calcium in their arteries. It is a disease in telling calcium where to go. Heart disease is not a disease of cholesterol. Every living cell membrane requires cholesterol. You can’t be a man or woman without cholesterol since all the steroid hormones are derived from it, including testosterone and estrogens. Coronary heart disease is an inflammation that requires the knowledge by our bodies of where, when, and how to use cholesterol to heal and make new cells.
So while emergency and critical care medicine is often miraculous, the rest of medicine that deals with chronic care, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc., by not understanding the root cause of disease, frequently (usually?) causes much more harm than good. Let me give just a few of many examples…
Diabetic drugs; any and all of them ever created and used, (with the lone exception of maybe metformin)
Sulfonylureas like gliburide, the mainstay of diabetes treatment for nearly half a century, work by raising insulin to lower blood sugar…but high insulin is what usually causes insulin resistance that is the root cause of 95% of diabetics. These drugs just trade one evil (blood sugar) for an even worse evil, high insulin. Insulin and leptin blood levels are rarely ever checked though they are relatively easy to measure now by any large laboratory. The ostrich of medicine just keeps its head in the sand. (See the transcript of a now well known talk given in 1999, widely distributed on the Internet, “Insulin and its Metabolic Effects.”)
PPARg stimulitors i.e. Avandia and Actos.. These work by creating more fat cells to put sugar. It lowers sugar by making you fatter… not ideal for a diabetic… So much so that Avandia was found to greatly increase heart disease and has been pulled from the market of most countries.
The latest diabetic drugs are DPP4 inhibitors such as Januvia…they inhibit an enzyme, DPP4 that helps to manufacture sugar, but that same enzyme is used for over 60 other functions, most of which help inhibit cancer…
This is all not just theoretical. The ACCORD study was a major study several years ago that pharmaceutical companies were so sure would show benefits of drug therapy by lowering blood glucose, that the study was highly publicized prior to the results. However what it started showing was quite the opposite, so the study had to be abruptly halted midstream; a far greater percent of patients died even though their sugars were better controlled. The story broke in the New York Times and then carried worldwide. Doctors, especially those specializing in diabetes, are still scratching their heads and trying to explain away the results. I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times that, to my surprise, they published; “The increased mortality seen in the diabetics in this study is not from lowering the sugar, but from the treatment that neglects and often worsens the underlying cause of insulin resistance. Until medical ‘science’ begins to recognize the difference between symptoms and disease we will continue to see results such as this and the recent Vytorin (Enhance) cholesterol-lowering study, where the treatment itself becomes the disease.”
The most common drugs; Statin cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor, also restrict the production of CoQ10 necessary for all forms of life, including humans, to turn food into usable energy, that the heart greatly needs. So you die sooner, though with lower cholesterol. See “Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease.”
Antibiotics mess up beneficial intestinal bacterial flora, sometimes permanently unless corrected, increasing inflammation of the colon, impairing the immune system, and increasing risk of colitis and cancer.
…and I could go on and on with the drug treatment of most any disease… Why? Why do so many drugs, in fact most drugs, cause more harm than good?
The tens of thousands of chemical functions that occur in every cell must be orchestrated for that cell to remain alive, and the function of trillions of cells must then be orchestrated for you to remain as one, alive and healthy. When that orchestration is ignored, life is harmed.
The orchestration of a cell is mediated through what’s called genetic expression. This is where certain genes are turned on and “read” so that they are allowed to give messages, and other genes are turned off. Though ones genes might be fixed, genetic expression is always changing. This is why, though we share over 99% of the genes of a chimpanzee, we are quite different. It is like the keys of a piano. The same keys can play a virtually infinite variety of music. The same genes can play the music of diabetes, or of heart disease, or of health and longevity. As in an orchestra, just telling the trombone players to play louder (drugs) is not likely to lead to better music. The only way to enhance the music, health, happiness and longevity, is to allow the cells to play the proper music, and even more importantly, to allow the republic of cells to hear it…and who are the main conductors of this living orchestra? Metabolic hormones, namely insulin and leptin, and they are in turn conducted by what you eat.
Drugs do not orchestrate. They treat symptoms, and when one treats symptoms, not only is the real culprit, the underlying disease, ignored, it generally gets worse. Most of the time symptoms are the way nature deals with a problem, and getting rid of this symptom uncovers and worsens the underlying disease. We don’t get a runny nose to make you miserable. It’s natures way of trying to wash out the infection. Taking a decongestant undoes billions of years of evolutionary knowledge.. it’s hard, generally impossible, to outthink nature. But that is what medicine thinks it can do.
A disease is rarely a disease of the individual part. It bears repeating; diabetes is not a disease of blood sugar, osteoporosis is not a disease of calcium and heart disease is not a disease of cholesterol. A disease is rarely caused by a breakdown of the parts themselves, but corruption in the instructions to those parts, a disruption in the unity of the whole.
Though occasionally requiring a little bit of tweaking, the instructions to be healthy are inside each and every one of us. We just have to enhance our ability to hear them by what we eat…so that we, our republic of cells, can communicate harmoniously as one. For more in-depth knowledge, see my PowerPoint presentation presented earlier this year at the American Academy of Antiaging Medicine, entitled Life, Death, Food, and the Disease of Aging, or my website.