Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Food Matters

In the 15 years that I have supported doctors in their use of clinical nutrition, I have always tried to take a balanced perspective and emphasize the fact that even the most sophisticated supplements should not be expected to take the place of a healthy diet. Diet lays the foundation for health and vitality, and supplements are just that – they supplement the diet.

But therein lies a big problem.

Here in the Midwest the concept of what eating healthier looks like is almost amusing. A lot of people seem to think that as long as their Wendy’s hamburger has some iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato they are eating healthy. But the problem doesn’t seem to be isolated to the Midwest. Current statistics from the NHANES study show that two thirds of the U.S. population are overweight, with a third of those classified as obese. Likewise, a Surgeon General report indicates that 7 out of 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. are preventable and diet-related.

In caring for the chronic health concerns of patients, it is imperative, of course, to coach them on their diet and why the diet is so important. One of the concepts to attempt to get across to patients is the fact that each bite of food carries a message to the cells of the body. What message is being communicated depends on what kind of food is being ingested.

Think of it this way: If your automobile requires diesel fuel, but you put in regular unleaded, it won’t take very long at all for the automobile to respond negatively. While our bodies are far more sophisticated and intricate than an automobile, the same concept still applies nevertheless. The human body was not designed to function on chemical concoctions like bologna and chips and Velveeta cheese and Lucky Charms and the endless assortment of man-made food stuffs. While the human body has the innate ability to make adjustments and function somewhat normally on junk food diets for long stretches of time in some cases, eventually system failures begin to occur.

When system failure does occur, instead of changing the fuel that caused the breakdown in the first place, what most Americans tend to do is put duct tape on the engine light, so to speak, by suppressing symptoms with one or more drugs.

We absolutely must begin to help people understand that heart disease, for example, is not a result of statin drug insufficiencies. Depression is not a Prozac deficiency. Arthritis is not due to not having enough COX-2 inhibiting drugs. These drugs have their place and benefit when used appropriately, but they do not lead to better health.

A Diagram of a Protein Kinase
Achieving better health is contingent upon changing the messages to the cells. Recall that our biochemistry is a complex system of signals involving kinases, hormones, and a delicate balance of other intracellular messengers. These signals can become altered due to the kind of messages being sent from the food we eat. Bad food equals bad messages resulting in poor function. Good food equals good messages resulting in improved and optimal function. It’s as simple as that. The human body in spite of its Divine design cannot function optimally for very long when the signals are destructive, and this is a concept most Americans have yet to understand and that most doctors have yet to communicate effectively to their patients.

In the Christian circles in which I grew up and am still a part it was and is popular to refer to the human body as a temple, a Biblical reference. The concept being communicated is that we need to respect our bodies and not abuse them with drugs and alcohol and cigarettes. I couldn’t agree more. However, it is not uncommon even in Christian circles in America to avoid these vices yet still over-indulge on a daily basis with every nutrient-deficient, chemical and sugar-laden junk food under the Milky Way. And somehow many people remain blind to this double-standard.

Since I’m picking on my church-going brethren a little, allow me to use an historical and Biblical reference to illustrate my point.

In the book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verses 1 through 3, it says:

“When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is set before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.”

This passage was written approximately 4,000 years ago in the Middle East. In that time and place, it was only the rulers and dignitaries – the wealthy of the culture – that ate calorie-rich, nutrient deficient foods. Refined foods, animal fat, and copious amounts of alcohol were daily indulgences. However, the commoners subsisted on wild game and fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains that they farmed themselves. As a result, the “diseases of kings and queens,” as they became known, were common among the elite of the culture, but very uncommon among the working class. What were the diseases of kings and queens? Heart disease, obesity, arthritis, and other degenerative maladies were the afflictions of the rich of that time. And today America is an entire nation of people who know such endless abundance that the entire population is suffering from the diseases of kings and queens. That’s why the writer of Proverbs warns against excessive food indulgences and encourages self control.

By the way, I think the last phrase of Proverbs 23:3 is interesting. It says that that food can be deceptive. What is “deceptive” food? I believe the message is clear. It’s food that looks good and tastes good and thus promises pleasure, but in the end it robs one of life and vitality. It deceives those who excessively indulge in it.

Inspiring Behavior Modification in Patients
Inspiring behavior modification in patients remains problematic for many practitioners because of time constraints in the ability to offer patient education. There are some fantastic resources, however, to aid in this endeavor.

First, there is a new movie due out anytime called, Food Matters. Click here to view the trailer. This will be an eye-opening and educational movie that can inspire your patients toward change.
Likewise, the movie, Super-Size Me, a documentary about a man who ate nothing but fast food for 30 days and almost didn’t live to tell about it, sheds some sickening light upon the fast food industry and what kind of health consequences it is having on America.

Lastly, there is a certification course called, First Line Therapy, which is a three and a half day training on Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) that can aid practitioners in helping patients to undergo the necessary changes to transform their health. The patient education tools and program guides that this program offers make it easy to inspire and guide patients in taking control of their own health.

Not to minimize the importance of supplements, it is true that supplements can often bring about dramatic improvement without lifestyle changes. But I believe the most profound health benefits will be realized when diet and physical activity form the foundation and supplements are used to support these efforts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Truth about Sucralose (Splenda)

Sucralose is the new rave in artificial sweeteners. Many believe it to be a healthy alternative to proven neurotoxic substances like aspartame. But not so fast. One cannot base one's opinion on the healthfulness of an artificial sweetener (or anything else, for that matter) based upon the marketing hype of the manufacturer.

I'm offering today's post with the help of my friend, Dr. Ed Zimmer, who wrote an excellent detailed article on this some time ago. What you see here are excerpts from Dr. Zimmer's article.

From the article:
I have read the FDA’s multi-page final ruling for the approval for Splenda® (sucralose) and am deeply disturbed. There is an old saying: “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Splenda® is a great example of how this statement could not be further from the truth. So, I am going to give you facts about Splenda® and the man-made chemical, sucralose, and allow you to come to your own conclusion as to whether you think it is a good idea to allow yourself, your children, or anyone you care about to be dosed with this chemical on a regular basis.

Understanding The Chemistry
The first thing that you need to know is that sucralose is not a natural molecule. All you need to do is to take a look at the chemical name for sucralose to understand that it is not natural (see diagram). It is a man-made chemical that falls into the class of chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Other chemicals that fall into this same category include many dangerous pesticides like dioxin and DDT. The chlorinated monosaccharide, 6chloro-6-deoxy-D-glucose is a known neurotoxin. Thus, sucralose falls into a category of molecules that should immediately raise serious questions about potentially deadly health concerns.

To be fair, however, you need to know that not all chlorinated molecules are toxic to humans. We cannot, in good faith, immediately make the connection that sucralose is a toxin just because it is a chlorinated hydrocarbon.

Not So Splendid...
To be a little more specific about how sucralose is made, man has taken a natural sugar molecule and forced three chlorine groups to be unnaturally added. The addition of these three chlorine groups causes the body to not recognize the molecule as sugar any longer. The benefit of this for the marketplace is that it creates a molecule about 600 times sweeter than sugar that is not used by the body to make energy. Thus, it has no calories.

The logical question to ask next is how the addition of these three chlorine groups affects the natural sugar molecule. The only way to assess what this new, unnatural molecule will do to humans is to perform studies. This is where the scary part begins.

You would assume that in order to gain FDA approval there would have to be numerous independent studies done to prove the safety of this chemical. You would also assume that if the studies performed raised any questions about potential health concerns that the FDA would err on the side of safety and would not approve a questionable chemical as being safe for consumption.

You assume too much!

As you read about the following information, remember that McNeil is extremely proud of the studies they have done on sucralose.

The Testing of Splenda®
As is common with the FDA approval process, the only testing and studies supplied for consideration were done by the very same company that had financial interests in the product. The truth is that if their study results were negative in nature they would stand to lose billions of dollars. This is quite a motivation to design studies in a way that would decrease the chances of negative results. And, as you will soon see, any negative results were vigorously defended and explanations were quickly formulated.

The studies supplied to the FDA by McNeil (the maker of Splenda®) addressed a number of concerns including but not limited to:

• Fetal Toxicity • Reprodcutive Toxicity • Cancer Causing Potential • Immune System Toxicity • Brain Toxicity • Kidney Toxicity • Diabetic Effects • Environmental Effects
As I stated earlier, you would expect that the results from these studies would have shown no real concerns, as the FDA did approve sucralose for human consumption. This, unfortunately, was not the case and the FDA went out of its way to defend the negative study results instead of erring on the side of safety for consumers.

What The Studies Revealed...
All of the studies submitted to the FDA for approval were animal studies. So, we really do not know what sucralose does to humans from these studies. The studies submitted by McNeil revealed some very disturbing findings. I will use direct quotes from the FDA Final Report so that you can see exactly what the results were. The partial list of negative findings follows.

The testing for gene toxicity (cancer potential) revealed:

“...sucralose and its hydrolysis products showed weakly genotoxic responses in some of the genotoxicity tests.”

“Tests for clastogenic (capable of causing breaks in chromosomes) activity of sucralose in a mouse micronucleus test and a chromosomal abberration test in cultured human lymphocytes were inconclusive. Sucralose was weakly mutagenic in a mouse lymphoma mutation assay.”

“Results of three other genotoxic tests were inconclusive: The chromosomal abberration assay in cultured human lymphocytes, the sex-linked recessive lethal assay in Drosophila melangaster, and the covalent DNA binding potential study in rates. 1-6DCF (a by-product of sucralose) was weakly mutagenic in the Ames Test and the L5178Y TK+/- assay.”

So, sucralose and its by-products did show some toxicity to genes. This is not a good thing as it could potentially lead to the development of cancer. The FDA simply dismissed these finding stating that the 2 year cancer studies done in rats were negative and thus, the findings of gene toxicity were insignificant. This was quite a leap of faith taken by the FDA. In other words, The FDA suggested that since limited tests done in rats did not show any increased cancer rates, the actual finding of gene toxicity should be completely dismissed. And, they were.

I ask you to think about how cancer develops in people who are exposed to cancer-causing toxins. Take asbestos exposure for example. When did people exposed to this toxin develop cancer? Did it take months, a couple of years, or many years? The answer is many years. Most people did not develop cancer for over a decade.

So, how can the FDA simply dismiss findings of gene toxicity through a two-year rat study and conclude that sucralose will not cause cancer in the long-term?

The testing for immune toxicity revealed that sucralose caused damage to the immune system:
“...when rats were fed sucralose in a 4 to 8 week range finding study the following effects were noted: Decreased thymus and spleen weights (immune tissues) , lymphocytopenia (reduced white blood cells), and cortical hypoplacia of the spleen and thymus.”

In an effort to reduce the negative impact of these findings, McNeil then followed this up with a study that only lasted 28 days. This new study again showed disruptions in immune functions at higher dose sucralose fed rats, but not in lower dose groups. The FDA found this 28 day study to be sufficient in defining the safety of sucralose for dosing in humans to not cause immune function disruptions. The bottom line is that the studies conclusively showed that sucralose could have a negative effect on the immune system.

One of the more disturbing findings revealed through the FDA Final Report concerned the testing to determine the neurotoxicity (brain toxicity) of sucralose. Remember that sucralose is of the same family of chlorinated hydrocarbons as are many dangerous pesticides. The question of neurotoxicity is a big one.

McNeil conducted two neurotoxicity studies, one in mice and one in monkeys. The tests were performed for only 21 and 28 days, respectively. How in the world would a 28 day study give the FDA enough comfort to make their conclusion that sucralose is not neurotoxic for long-term use by humans?

Interestingly enough, a 2006 peer-reviewed study in the journal of Headache presented a case study where sucralose was a trigger for migraine headaches (Headache. 2006 Sep,46(8): 1303-4.)
But wait, the FDA stated that sucralose was not neurotoxic. Testing for brain toxicity was done in monkeys for only 28 days! Could they have been wrong?

Are you comfortable with the conclusion that sucralose has no neurotoxicity? Instead of rushing to approve this chemical, why didn’t the FDA call for longer term human trials? Again, is the FDA looking out for you, or for the company?

Because of space restraints, I will summarize the other negative findings from this FDA report. The FDA dismissed all of these findings as not having been substantive.

• Enlarged liver and kidneys • Reduced growth rates • Decreased red blood cell count • Extension of pregnancy periods • Decreased fetal body weights • Subcutaneous Fetal edema (swelling of the fetus) • Increase in HbA1C (Hemaglobin A1C a marker for bad sugar control)

The bottom line is that the limited amount of studies performed on sucralose have raised serious questions about this chemical’s negative effects on immune system function, brain function, fetal toxicity, and the increased risk for cancer. These are not conspiracy theories. These facts are found in the FDA’s own report. The FDA simply doesn’t think these facts are important.

McNeil, for obvious reasons, wants you to believe that their product is safe. I am frightened by what I have learned and am far from convinced.

As you sort through the data I have provided for you in this article I would like you to consider a number of important questions.

Is sucralose natural in any way? My answer: No, it is a man-made chemical in the same class as many pesticides.

Is Splenda® (sucralose) good for you in any way? My answer: No. Your body can’t even use it to make energy.

Have there been legitimate questions raised regarding the safety of Splenda® for human consumption? My answer: You bet there have!

When those questions are raised, do you feel that the FDA errs on the side of safety for consumers? My answer: Not by a long-shot! Why not call for additional INDEPENDENT long-term studies to completely answer the legitimate questions that have been raised?

Have there been any human studies completed with Splenda® to address these major concerns?
My answer: None after 8 years!

Knowing about the potential negative effects on the immune system and the nervous system would you give this chemical to your children or to the child growing in your womb? My answer: No way!

Final Thoughts
Most of us have an inherent trust that our health care system, as a whole, is looking out for our best interests. In general, I have to say that I do not necessarily disagree with this statement. However, you should not be blinded by the fact that many aspects of our health care delivery system regard profit over your well-being. In my opinion, the FDA too many times is one of those organizations.

I am dismayed by how many of my patients and my close friends dismiss any negative information about a product if it has been approved by the almighty FDA. I urge you as a consumer of health care to guard against falling into a false sense of security simply because something has FDA approval. There are hundreds of drugs that have been approved by the FDA only to have been removed from the market many years and many deaths later. (This concludes Dr. Zimmer's article.)

My Concluding Remarks

Some alternative natural sweeteners to consider are Stevia and Xylitol, fructose and honey. But steer clear of anything that was made in a laboratory and that is a chemical. I would encourage you to check the labels of your chewing gums, commercial teas and colas, and anything packaged, because nearly all commercial products that don't contain sugar contain at least one chemical sweetening agent.

Again, I would like to thank Dr. Zimmer for thoroughly researching this issue.

Dr. Zimmer received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. His Masters work in Nutrition was completed at Bridgeport University in Connecticut. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the National College of Chiropractic and was voted outstanding graduate by the faculty. He and his wife, Sherri, have five children.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Natural Modulation of Detoxification Pathways

Recall from my last post that the liver has two major pathways – Phase 1 and Phase 2 -- that are involved in transforming toxins into water soluble substances for excretion. These pathways are dependant upon specific micronutrients for their function, and certain natural compounds can positively affect their efficiency.

Green tea catechins, for example, have been shown to stimulate the detoxification systems through selective induction of both Phase 1 and Phase 2 metabolic enzymes. Likewise, watercress, artichoke, milk thistle, and the ellagic acid found in pomegranate have all been shown to provide modulation of the Phase 1 pathways and support for Phase 2 conjugation activity.

Certain micronutrients, too, play a vital role. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) promotes detoxification by acting directly on reactive oxygen radicals. NAC is currently the “gold standard” for management of acetaminophen poisoning.

The methyl donors, choline, methionine, and folate play an important role in balanced detoxification by providing cofactors for Phase 2 conjugation reactions.

These pathways are also dependant upon sufficient macronutrients for their function. Adequate protein, quality carbohydrates and fats, and fiber are important in supporting these pathways and maintaining healthy metabolism during a detoxification program.

To that end, the two formulas in particular that provide the foundation for nutrient-tailored detoxification are the liver supporting nutriceutical and the detoxification medical food.

The medical food provides a broad-spectrum blend of both micro and macro nutrients for support of the detoxification pathways. The first product of its kind, this formula is the only such nutritional product that meets the FDA’s criteria for “medical foods,” and enjoys more than 20 years of research. In study after study, the medical food shows dramatic improvement – more than 200% in most cases -- in Phase 1 enzyme activity, as well as the Phase 2 pathways glucaronidation, sulfation, and glycine conjugation. All these pathways are absolutely necessary in the liver’s ability to clear toxins. (see graphs below)

Phase 1 Caffeine Clearance
221% Improvement in Phase 2 Conjugation 200% Improvement in Glucaronidation
283% Improvement in Phase 2 Sulfation
In other clinical trials evaluating the medical food's effect on symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivities, allergies, and migraines, the use of the medical food along with a modified elimination diet brought dramatic relief within two weeks and almost complete eradication of symptoms after only six weeks.

As a complement to the medical food, the encapsulated formula provides several compounds listed above that could not be included in a medical food because of the taste factor. Ellagic acid, watercress, silymarin, and artichoke are compounds that provide powerful bifunctional modulation of the liver pathways.

Used together, these formulas provide complete therapeutic nutrition for the elimination of synthetic chemicals.

As a stand-alone regime, the medical food would need to be used at no less than 2 scoops 3 times per day along with the modified elimination diet provided in the accompanying detoxification patient guide. One could modify the dose by adding 4-6 capsules per day of of the encapsulated formula.

For even more complete and aggressive support, one could consider the use of the nutriceutical for the kidneys. Featuring even higher levels of NAC along with cordyceps and Chinese Salvia root, this formula supports kidney function, provides great antioxidant protection, and promotes the final stage of toxin elimination, which is through the kidneys.

This three-tiered program is what I used to treat my toxicity sickness that I talked about in my last post, with unforgettable results.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nutrient-Tailored Detoxification: Battling the Toxins that Make us Sick

It was the first week of December and I was overdue in putting the finishing touches on the painting I had begun months before. In a swell of motivation, I decided to get all the work done in one weekend, taking down all the doors in the house and transporting them to my garage. Since it was December it was cold outside, and being the manly man that I am (smirk) I didn’t give any thought to the possible damage that breathing the noxious fumes of oil-based paint might cause. I feverishly painted and sanded and painted some more for two straight days, proud of all that I had accomplished when the doors were re-hung.

At first I felt fine, but in a few days I began having severe flu symptoms. Because of the delayed reaction, I did not attribute my sickness to the paint, but thought I had simply come down with a winter flu. I pounded my stash of immune-support herbs and vitamins that usually work so wonderfully, but this time nothing happened. A week went by and I was no better, and curiously there was no fever and no swollen glands. But I had the same aches, pains, and fatigue that are usually associated with influenza.

Six weeks went by and my symptoms persisted. I sought advice from several practitioners but nothing was helping until a doctor friend of mine examined me and suggested that I was toxic. I knew how I ate and took care of myself, so his suggested surprised me….until I remembered my weekend of painting with no ventilation. Dumb!

My friend suggested a four-product detoxification program for me that almost immediately began to affect my symptoms. The first day I was slightly better. By the fourth day I was feeling significantly better, and by the eighth day I was symptom free. While I didn’t enjoy my sickness, it was great to personally experience the power of the same nutrient-tailored detoxification regime that I had been detailing my clients on for so many years.

A Brief Biochemistry Lesson…Just to Refresh Your Memory
One of the body’s primary methods of getting rid of toxins is through a conversion process in the liver. This is how it works:

Upon exposure the Phase 1 liver pathway, known as the Cytochrome P-450, goes to work to convert the fat-soluble toxin into an intermediate metabolite. I’ll spare you the specific chemical reactions, but substances that are fat soluble cannot be eliminated in that form. The liver’s job is to convert them into molecules that can be excreted. After the first step is complete, the phase 2 enzyme pathways kick in to further convert the newly-created intermediate into a water soluble substance. This process is known as biotransformation.

Overload Leads to Imbalanced Pathway Activity
In order for biotransformation to work properly, the two pathways have to work in concert. The primary reason is that the intermediate metabolites created by the Cytochrome P-450 pathways are actually MORE toxic than the original substance. So the Phase 2 pathways must be able to keep up so that these noxious chemicals can be readily excreted.

Therein lies the rub.

Because of massive amounts of toxic insults that people living in industrialized nations absorb, the system of biotransformation cannot keep up. The Phase 1 pathways stay locked in overdrive transforming all the toxins into intermediates, but the Phase 2 pathways bog down attempting to make the necessary conversions for excretion. And because of the log jam of intermediate metabolites that ensues, a huge amount of oxidative stress sets in because of the toxic nature of these metabolites that are not getting excreted. The toxins, however, have to go somewhere, so the body tries to hide them away in the fat cells in an attempt to protect the vital tissues and organs. In doing so, the neurological system is often affected because of the large amount of fatty tissue in the brain and nerves.

It has been proven that there is often a link between toxic exposures and neurological impairments. Just as compelling, though, are the studies proving that if caught in time, neurological impairment is reversible with nutrient-tailored detoxification therapy.

In the next post I'll go into more detail about specific condition applications, protocols, etc. So stay tuned.