Last month we highlighted food allergies and how they are driven by the microbiota or microbes in the intestines. “Bacteria in intestinal tract are not regulating allergic immune response as effectively as they did in the past, so children are reacting to more potential allergens.” But, this is just the tip of the iceberg; many studies are rediscovering the incredible role of our gut flora. The journal Scientific American has joined the journal Nature (March 4th 2010) saying that “The bacteria that live quietly in our bodies may have a hand in shaping evolution.”
“The human body harbors at least 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells. Collectively known as the microbiome, this community may play a role in regulating one’s risk of obesity, asthma and allergies. Now some researchers are wondering if the microbiome may have a part in an even more crucial process: mate selection and, ultimately, evolution. These studies are part of a growing consensus among evolutionary biologists that one can no longer separate an organism’s genes from those of its symbiotic bacteria. They are all part of a single ‘hologenome’. Arguably, the microbiota are as important as genes.”
Hugo Rodier, MD
Are you still drinking soda pop?
The study showing that diet soda increases our risk of heart attacks and strokes by 44% was reported by several media outlets last month. In my opinion, it was not carried widely enough. No, not when people continue to drink the stuff “as if they were addicted to it.”
Just like any addiction, we will never overcome its psychological roots on a national or personal scale (see blog.) In my opinion, no national program will help; only taxation, which is the only thing that has been proven to work with other addicting substances such as tobacco. Take a look at the article “A Penny-Per-Ounce Tax On Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Would Cut Health And Cost Burdens Of Diabetes:”
“Sugar-sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the US obesity and diabetes epidemics. Using the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, we examined the potential impact on health and health spending of a nationwide penny-per-ounce excise tax on these beverages. We found that the tax would reduce consumption of these beverages by 15 percent among adults ages 25-64. Over the period 2010-20, the tax was estimated to prevent 2.4 million diabetes person-years, 95,000 coronary heart events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths, while avoiding more than $17 billion in medical costs. In addition to generating approximately $13 billion in annual tax revenue, a modest tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could reduce the adverse health and cost burdens of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.”
Do you need to be taxed to question your soda habit?
Two popular pharmaceutical drugs take a hit
“Purple pill” type of drugs and cholesterol-lowering statins are widely prescribed and advertized. No doubt they are necessary in many cases; but, as documented in this newsletter, they are overused and their side effects often swept under the carpet.
Statin drugs are now shown to increase the risk of diabetes in postmenopausal women by 48%. (Inferring that they may do the same to other populations is not a stretch.) Why would this be the case? Statin drugs have been shown to increase insulin resistance in muscles and in the liver. They also curtail the absorption of the mitochondrial antioxidant CoQ10 (high in spinach and sardines,) which is indispensable to keep cell membranes responsive to insulin. These side effects have been noted before, but now they will be posted on warning labels on the drugs themselves. But, the “walletitis” (inflammation of the wallet) is not likely to get better: statin drugs are 4 times more expensive in the US than in the UK.
Predictably, the statin industry has vilified the study (5) with picky statistical gyrations that could be used with any study, especially those that produce results we don’t like.
Acid blocking pills like Omeprazole, Prilosec, Nexium and Dexilant have been shown to reduce levels of B vitamins and minerals, which is why they have been associated with osteoporosis and even depression. But, sometimes we do need to take them for gastrointestinal problems. Still, assuming that they may help asthmatics is a bit of a stretch. Now we have good evidence that they are not effective in the latter context. An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association refers to the “overreaching” of pharmaceuticals as “therapeutic creep.” (Talk about a double entendre..)
“Therapeutic creep (using Rx from one disease to another w/o proven results) increases the risk of potential adverse effects w/o any added advantage to patients.”
References 7 and 8 go on to say that acid blocking drugs don’t work in asthmatic children or adults and that the reason there is an association between reflux and asthma is unknown. But, if you have been reading this newsletter you know why said association occurs: imbalances of microflora in the gut. You may recall that children taking antibiotics are 2-4 times more likely to develop asthma. (An association has also been shown between Tylenol and asthma.)
We have also learned (7&8) that the use of acid blocking pills increases the incidence of bronchitis, sore throats and colds. Guess what you may get for those conditions..
So, what can you do if you are asthmatic and/or have acidity problems? Change your diet! You may also take probiotics, digestive enzymes, fiber and wash your sinuses with sesame oil. Getting an air filter for the bedroom also helps. Managing stress in healthy ways (meditation, loving relationships, yoga, etc,) is also helpful. Above all, try to avoid pollutants that may exacerbate asthma. It turns out that they also depress your immune system, even to the point of affecting your response to vaccines. More on this below.
Electromagnetism and your health
We are immersed in a sea of wireless communications and have become dependent on all the technologies involved. They have made our lives richer and more productive, but, have we considered the side effects, or the price we pay for these conveniences? Occasionally we may see an article saying that there is no credible evidence that Electro Magnetic Fields, EMF are harmful. This may be true, but, it gives me pause to see that said studies are financed by the industries promoting those technologies. I am not ready to give up my cell phone or wireless internet, yet, but two articles by the National Cancer Institute and the National Academy of Science are worth considering: “Are biochemical reactions affected by weak magnetic fields?
“These studies are conspicuous in that the reported changes are large, the interaction mechanism is physically credible, an explicit reaction scheme is proposed, and the process itself is of considerable biological importance.”
Translation: EMFs may affect practically all reactions in the human body.
On a more esoteric note: there are many studies documenting how we are susceptible to mood changes and even psychiatric disorders depending on the position of the Sun and the Moon:
“Biological, and Physical Cycles, Magnetic Storms and Myocardial Infarctions,”
J. Neuroendocrinology Letters 2000;21:233
“Geophysical Variables and Behavior: solar activity and admissions of psychiatric inpatients,” J. Perceptual and Motor Skills 1992;74:449
“Lunisolar Tidal Waves, Geomagnetic Activity and Epilepsy,” Brazilian J. of Medicine 1996;29:1069
“Homicides and the Lunar cycle: toward a theory of lunar influence on human behavior,” Am J. Psychiatry 1972;129:69
EMFs from our technology are one thing; but, would you contemplate the possibility that Astrology may not be so farfetched? I will not be looking up my horoscope any time soon, but, perhaps we ought to keep an open mind. Yet, not so open that our brains fall out: there are many out there who claim precise knowledge of Astrology, only to take advantage and your money. On the other hand, remember that “The last of the Magicians,” Isaac Newton himself, maintained that Astrology had merit.
“Obesogens:” toxins that make us fat.
The journal of the National Institute of Health put this issue on its cover last month. These toxins may be more damaging at lower, rather than higher doses. They seem to affect the PPAR receptors on our cell membranes, which are associated with metabolic or energy issues:
“Obesity is rising steadily around the world. Convincing evidence suggests that diet and activity are not the only factors at work in this trend-chemical “obesogens” may alter human metabolism and predispose some people to gain weight.There are between fifteen and twenty chemicals that have been shown to cause weight gain, mostly from developmental exposure.”
The obesogen getting the most press is BPA found in plastics, canned goods and dental sealants.
 “Treatment Rather Than Avoidance May Be Within Reach for Children With Food Allergies,” JAMA 2012;307:345
 “Gut Microbes May Drive Evolution,” J. Scientific American, February 23, 2012
 J. General Internal Medicine 1/27/12. Medscape News 2/17/12
 J. Health Affairs, January 2012;31:1199
 “Statin Use and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus in Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative,” J. Arch Intern Med, Jan 2012; doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.625
 J. Pharmacotherapy 2011;31:623
 “Lansoprazole for Poorly Controlled Asthma,” JAMA 2012;307:373
 “Children, Asthma, and PPI: cost and perils of therapeutic creep.” JAMA 2012;307:406
 J. Chest 2007;131:1753
 “The Association of Acetaminophen and Asthma Prevalence and Severity,” J. Pediatrics 2011;128:1181
 “PFC exposure and Vaccine Response,” JAMA 2012;307:391
 J. Natl Cancer Inst 2012;104:125
 “Effects of magnetic interactions on the rate of enzymatic synthesis of ATP in vitro,” J. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2012;109:1357
 “An Environmental Link to Obesity,” J. Environ Health Perspect 2012;120:a62
 “Urinary Bisphenol A (BPA) Concentration Associates with Obesity and Insulin Resistance,”
J. Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism 2012;97: E223