Zombie Cells and How They Impact Your Health

Zombie cells and how they affect your health

Imagine for a moment that zombie cells are trying to
take over the world. In fact, you don’t need to imagine much because senescent
cells, which are also referred to as zombie cells or aging cells, are already
striving to take over your world—your personal health and how to make your life
less than ideal.

Zombie cells are so called because like the
fictionalized “dead men walking,” they function at some level but are overall
too dead or damaged to perform their normal tasks. Therefore, they become a
hindrance: they stop the production of new cells and transform healthy ones
into zombie cells.

The result of all of this activity is tissue damage and inflammation associated with aging, dementia, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and other health challenges.

That’s where the growing field of senolytics comes into the picture. This concept involves the possibility of using drugs to zoom in on senescent cells to slow down the aging process and better manage a host of serious health conditions.

Managing
zombie cells: studies

If you want to reduce your risk of these
life-altering conditions, then it appears it’s necessary to modify the genetics
of senescent cells. In a 2018 study
published in Nature Medicine,
increasing the number of senescent cells in mice resulted in premature aging.
However, when the authors gave a senolytic drug (consisting of dasatinib, a chemotherapy
drug used to treat leukemia; and quercetin, a flavonoid found in various plants;
DQ) to mice, post-treatment survival increased by 36 percent. At the same time,
the risk of dying improved by 65 percent.

In the first ever clinical trial of a senolytic drug
in humans, researchers administered dasatinib plus quercetin to 14 individuals
with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive, fatal, senescence-related
disease. The drug combination was given 1,250 mg daily, three days a week over
three weeks.

Overall, the patients experienced a significant
improvement in physical functions (walking, gait speed, chair stands), while
pulmonary function, chemistries, and health were unchanged. According to Dr.
James Kirkland, senior study author and professor of physiology and medicine at
the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, “This is a glimmer that the drug might
actually work,” and noted that “all 14 people got better in their functional
ability.”

Use of DQ began to clear out the zombie cells within
one half hour of administration, and within 24 hours, all of the senescent
cells had disappeared, according to the authors. Thus the researchers concluded
that the pilot study showed feasibility and some evidence that senolytics may
improve physical dysfunction in individuals with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
However, further investigation is warranted for this and other
senescence-related conditions.

Bottom
line

The development of senolytic drugs is in its
infancy. For now, it seems the combination of dasatinib and quercetin is an
effective approach to alleviating age-related disorders and zombie cell
challenges. Hopefully other options will be discovered that can help us put an
end to the rise of zombie cells and the many associated health conditions.

Sources

Business
Telegraph
. Anti-ageing breakthrough: scientists
beat zombie cells in bid to eradicate Alzheimer’s. 2019 Jan 9

Justice
JN et al. Senolytics in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: results from a
first-in-human, open-label, pilot study.
EBioMedicine
2019 Feb 1; 40: P554-63

Romero T. Reducing “zombie” cells may slow the aging
process. Philly
Voice
2019 Sep 25

Xu M et al. Senolytics improve physical function and
increase lifespan in old age. Nature Medicine
2018; 24:1246-56

Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 Fatty Acids, What’s the Story?

omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9

Whenever you hear the words “fatty acids,” more than
likely you think of omega-3 and omega-6, while omega-9 is often forgotten or
not even brought to mind. Yet it’s important to understand these three fatty
acids and the impact they can have on your health, especially since many people
do not get the recommended amount of these nutrients.

Omega-3
fatty acids

Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is considered an essential fatty acid. This means your body cannot manufacture it and so foods and supplements are your only sources. While omega-3s are typically associated with oily fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, and mackerel, it also can be found in nuts and some plants including flaxseed, green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, and canola and walnut oils.

The main types of omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both of these can be synthesized
from another omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but because the conversion
efficiency is very low, it’s typically recommended to get your omega-3s from
EPA and DHA.

Numerous studies have demonstrated health benefits
related to intake of omega-3s, including:

  • Reducing symptoms of depression
  • Decreasing amount of liver fat
  • Fighting inflammation, which is
    associated with many chronic diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease,
    inflammatory bowel disease, and more
  • Preventing dementia and may improve
    memory in older adults
  • Promoting bone health
  • Reducing symptoms of asthma

Omega-6
fatty acids

Omega-6 is also a polyunsaturated fat and an
essential fatty acid. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which is
converted into other omega-6 fats, such as arachidonic acid (ARA). Other
important omega-6 fatty acids include gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and conjugated
linoleic acid (CLA).

Similar to EPA, ARA is used to make eicosanoids,
although those produced by ARA are more likely to cause inflammation. When too
many are produced, they can increase inflammation throughout the body. This is
why omega-6 fatty acids are often associated with inflammation and why a
healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is important for overall health (see
below).

Food sources of omega-6 fatty acids include meat,
eggs, poultry, nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils such as corn, soy, safflower,
and canola, among others. These fatty acids play an important role in energy
production, hair and skin growth, bone health, metabolism, and brain function.
Omega-6 also has been shown to help regulate blood sugar.

In particular, GLA is found in certain oils, such as
borage oil and evening primrose oil. At least one study reported that a high
dose of GLA significantly reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. CLA has
been shown to help reduce body fat mass, which can help with weight loss.

Omega-9
fatty acids

Unlike the omega-3s and omega-6s, omega-9 fatty
acids are a type of monounsaturated fat and they are made by the body. However,
you can still benefit by getting them from food, including vegetable and animal
fats. Consumption of omega-9s may help protect against heart disease and
control blood sugar levels.

Omega-6
and omega-3 ratio

Overall, the Western diet is too high in omega-6
fatty acids, mainly because the diet is high in vegetable and seed oils.
Research indicates that Westerners have increased the amount of omega-6 stored
in their body fat by more than 136 percent over the past half century. The
result is a greater risk and prevalence of inflammatory conditions, including
cardiovascular disease.

The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty
acids is 4:1 or less. Some experts advocate for a 1:1 ratio. However, the ratio
among Westerners is typically between 10:1 and 50:1. When the ratio is
lower—that is, when you consume less omega-6s combined with higher amounts of
omega-3s, the risks associated with a higher ratio are suppressed.

To help work toward a healthier ratio, you can
reduce your use of linoleic acid, an omega-6 found in soybean oil, corn oil,
cottonseed, many processed foods, and poultry. In fact, it’s been shown that
soybean oil makes up 20 percent of the calories the average American consumes
daily. Modifying your diet can put you on a healthier track.

Bottom
line

All three of the omega fatty acids mentioned play an
important role in your health. Evaluate your intake of omega-3 and omega-6
fatty acids and then make dietary adjustments. That may include selecting oily
fish (or taking fish oil or krill oil supplements) two to three times a week
and reducing your use of processed foods and vegetable oils. Extra virgin olive
oil is suggested instead of these other oils.

References

Calder PC. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids,
inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2006 Jun; 83(6 Suppl): 1505S-19S

Cederholm T et al. Fish consumption and omega-3
fatty acid supplementation for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline,
dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in older adults—any news? Current
Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
2017 Mar;
20(2): 104-9

Gunnars K. How to optimize your omega-6 to omega-3
ratio. Healthline
2018 Jun 11

Guyenet
SJ, Carlson SE. Increase in adipose tissue linoleic acid of US adults in the
last half century. Advances in
Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.).

2015 Nov 13; 6(6): 660-64

Mangano KM et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and
their relation with bone and muscle health in adults. Current
Osteoporosis Reports
2013; 11(3): 203-12

Mickleborough TD et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and
airway hyperresponsiveness in asthma. Journal
of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
2004 Dec; 10(6):
1067-75

Parker HM et al. Omega-3 supplementation and
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal
of Hepatology
2012 Apr; 56(4): 944-51

Sanchez-Villegas A et al. Seafood consumption,
omega-3 fatty acids intake, and life-time prevalence of depression in the
PREDIMED-Plus Trial. Nutrients
2018 Dec 18; 10(12)

WebMD. Omega-3
fish oil supplements for heart disease
.

Whigham LD et al. Efficacy of conjugated linoleic
acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2007 May; 85(5): 1203-11

Zurier RB et al. Gamma-linolenic acid treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis
and Rheumatism
1996 Nov; 39(11): 1808-17

When You Should Include Probiotics in Your Lifestyle

When You Should Include Probiotics In Your Lifestyle

You have probably seen or read about the reported
health benefits or beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics. It seems like everyone
is telling you to include probiotics in your diet. But when should you consume
them? Which health conditions are more likely to respond to the introduction of
beneficial bacteria?  

These are important questions. If you want to reap
the optimal benefit from any probiotics, you should know the answers to these
questions.

A
few words about probiotics

The vast majority of probiotics belong to two categories: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Those in the former category are usually found in yogurt, natural sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. This is the most common genus of probiotic, and the numerous species available are usually suggested to help with diarrhea, lung infections, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginal infections, and ulcerative colitis.

The other common genus is found in some dairy
products. Research indicates that Bifidobacterium may help with ulcerative colitis,
lung infections, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.

When
should you take probiotics?

Probiotics, aka good bacteria (although some probiotics are yeasts) can replenish the helpful microorganisms that reside in your gut and enhance your immune system. It’s recommended that you take probiotic supplements (and/or foods rich in probiotics) if you are participating in or experiencing any of the following health issues:

Use
of antibiotics
. When you take a course of antibiotics,
the drugs are killing both bad and good bacteria in your gut. Therefore, once
you finish a course of antibiotics, take a probiotic with multiple species to
help reintroduce healthy bacteria into your body.

Food
poisoning
. If you eat or drink something contaminated with
bad bacteria, which can happen at home or when traveling abroad, taking
probiotics can help destroy the bad guys. In fact, if you are planning to
travel to a foreign country, you should take probiotics before and during your
trip.

Skin
problems
. If you are experiencing a rash, hives, psoriasis,
acne, or eczema and dietary changes haven’t provide any relief, consider adding
probiotics to your treatment approach. Digestive enzymes may also be a welcome
addition.

Digestion
issues
. Gastrointestinal conditions such as gas, diarrhea,
Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and constipation may be alleviated
by taking probiotics. At the same time, however, you should evaluate your diet
and make changes that may be contributing to your complaints, such as
eliminating processed foods, dairy, gluten, soy, and/or fried foods.

Anxiety/depression/mood
issues
. The brain and gut are connected, and both are
homes for neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that are involved with mood.
Therefore an imbalance in your gut bacterial environment can have an impact on mood
swings, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress.

Need
to boost your immune system
. Even if you strive to follow a
healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep, the stresses of
life and the vast array of immune system invaders that surround us, such as
cold and flu viruses, can take a toll on your immune system integrity. Use of
probiotics can help boost the immune system and guard you against illness.
Following a regimen of probiotics use around cold and flu season is suggested
for you and your family.

Allergies
and asthma
. Some research has indicated that taking probiotics
can reduce symptom severity of asthma, and also use of medication for this
respiratory condition. If you have food allergies, probiotics may be helpful as
well, since many food allergy cases are associated with leaky gut.

Presence
of yeast infections
. Candida and other yeast infections can
affect both men and women. These infections are a sign of an overgrowth of
harmful bacteria in the body. Taking probiotics can help chase away the bad
bacteria and relieve you of symptoms associated with the overgrowth. It’s also
helpful to significantly reduce or eliminate white sugar and other sugary foods
from your diet, because bad bacteria feed on sugars.

Bottom
line

A healthy balance of bacteria is essential in your gut for overall health. Therefore, you should consider taking probiotics for a wide variety of reasons. Look for high-quality probiotic supplements that provide a variety of genera and species for optimal gut, colon, and immune system health.

Exercise Needs Change As We Age

Exercise needs change as we age

Let’s face it: lots of things change as we get older, and our exercise needs are one of them. The physical activities you engaged in during your adolescence and early 20s are likely quite different than those you participate in during later decades. Unless you are someone who religiously maintained an exercise regimen over several decades, your physical abilities and needs have changed. Therefore it’s a good idea to acknowledge and recognize those changes so you can incorporate the most appropriate physical activities into your life for optimal health and safety.

Exercise
needs change: 20s to 40s

In your 20s, you’re at your physical peak, logging in your
best reactions times and use of oxygen. These are the years to build lean
muscle mass and bone density, which you should then work to retain in later
years.

In your 30s, you likely are concentrating on your career and
building a family, and exercise may begin to slip. That’s when it’s important
to maintain your cardiovascular fitness and strength, especially if you are
working at a sedentary job. High-intensity interval training is a good choice
because it maximizes your time and results.

Then come the 40s, when many men begin to put on extra
weight. That’s when the focus should be on burning more calories to help avoid
an accumulation of detrimental abdominal fat as well as prevent the loss of
muscle mass that typically occurs at a rate of about 3 to 8 percent per decade.

The recommended way to accomplish these goals is to engage
in resistance exercise, such as weight training or use of kettlebells. You may
also want to adopt a running program, if approved by your doctor. To help
strengthen your core and protect against back pain, Pilates can be beneficial.

Exercise
needs change: 50s and beyond

Did you wake up one day around 50 and discover more aches and pains? The fifth decade is often when chronic health issues can begin to creep into your life and the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, can become prevalent.

To maintain waning muscle mass, it’s important to do
strength training twice a week. Intersperse with weight-bearing exercise, such
as walking, jumping rope, jogging, or dancing. It’s also time to pay attention
to balance issues, and tai chi and yoga can be helpful for this concern. 

As the 60s roll around, it’s common for individuals to have
more chronic conditions and a higher risk for cancer. There is also a tendency
to slack off on exercise. Don’t! It’s essential to maintain a regular physical
activity routine that incorporates some weight training, cardiovascular
fitness, and balance to help ward off serious health conditions.

Now can be the time to introduce water aerobics or swimming,
which can be easier on your joints. Water activities are also great ways to
develop strength. Dancing is also recommended for balance, cardio, and as a
social activity.

Too many people tend to become sedentary in their 70s and
beyond, yet this is a critical time for engaging in activities that help
prevent falls, improve balance, and support cognitive function. Find new ways
to stay physically active: walk with friends, join a fitness club for older
adults, take dance lessons, and get advice from a physical therapist if you
have a chronic health issue that limits your ability to stay active.

Exercise
needs change and so do nutritional needs

To stay physically active, you also need to address your nutritional needs, which also change as you age. These changes vary from person to person, but generally people in their 60s and beyond have less stomach acid (which affects nutrient absorption) and a greater need for some nutrients. Therefore, if these issues are not addressed, maintaining a healthy activity level may not be possible.

For example, changes associated with aging can make people
likely to be deficient in vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12, magnesium, iron, and
other nutrients. A physician can check nutrients levels and then deficiencies
can be addressed by boosting dietary intakes and/or use of supplements. Failing
to do so will be detrimental for overall health on several levels.

Bottom
line

Regardless of your age, it’s essential to stay physically
active. In addition to following an exercise regimen that includes strength
training, cardiovascular work, flexibility, and balance, you should incorporate
more movement into your daily life. Take the stairs more often, get together with
friends or coworkers and walk, join a hiking club or bowling team, or do
volunteer work that involves physical activity. Keep moving throughout your
life, regardless of your age!

Your Diet and Insulin Resistance, The Choice is Yours

Your diet and insulin resistance

Your dietary choices impact your health and well-being in
countless ways, and one of them involves the microbes residing in your gut. As
our knowledge of the critical importance of this microbial environment grows,
one area researchers are currently exploring is the link between diet and
insulin resistance.

Perhaps the most pressing reason we need to better
understand this relationship is that insulin resistance can lead to type 2
diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of
diabetes among people older than 18 years increased from 4.7 percent in 1980 to
8.5 percent in 2014.

This percentage does not include the many millions of people
with prediabetes, a large percentage of whom will go on to develop type 2
diabetes within a few years. It also does not highlight the serious,
life-altering complications
associated with diabetes
.

Diet
and insulin resistance: a new study

At the University of Toronto in Canada, a group of
researchers set out to learn about the impact of diet—specifically a high-fat
diet—on insulin resistance and the microbial environment in the gut. The study
involved both mouse models and analysis of fecal samples from humans.

The researchers pointed out that a link between the
microbial environment in the gut and the intestinal immune system is
immunoglobulin A (IgA). This immune-derived molecule is an antibody made by
immune cells called B cells.

Therefore, in the first arm of their study of diet and insulin resistance, the scientists explored the idea that IgA may be the missing link that explains how an inadequate diet can result in insulin resistance by changing the gut environment and immunity. To do so, they used obese mouse models, some of whom had no IgA. When the IgA-deficient mice consumed a high-fat diet, insulin resistance got worse.

The researchers took it one step further and collected
bacteria from the guts of the IgA-deficient mice and transplanted them into
mice who didn’t have bacteria in their gut. This second group of mice also
developed insulin resistance.

This finding suggests that normal IgA levels are helpful in
keeping gut bacteria levels up and thus help prevent insulin resistance. The
researchers also found that mice without IgA had higher leakage of harmful
bacteria from the gut into the rest of the body, or higher gut permeability.

In the second arm of the study, the researchers analyzed
fecal samples for IgA content from individuals both before and after they
underwent bariatric surgery. They discovered that IgA levels were higher after
surgery, indicating that the antibody was impacted by diet and linked to
metabolic function.

According to Helen Luck, the study’s lead author, obesity is
associated with lower levels of a B cell in the gut that produces IgA, an
antibody that is “crucial to regulating the bacteria that live in our gut.” The
researchers’ findings suggest there’s a direct relationship between consuming a
high-fat diet and obesity, and having lower levels of IgA in the gut and the
development of insulin resistance.

Given these findings, future studies will likely explore how
to enhance levels of B cells that produce IgA, as this intervention may protect
against insulin resistance and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes. Co-author Dr.
Daniel Winer pointed out that “Going forward, this work could form the basis
for new gut immune biomarkers or therapies for obesity and its complications,
like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.” Other complications of obesity
include heart disease, fatty liver disease, certain cancers (e.g., breast,
colon, endometrial), stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, and arthritis,
among others.

Bottom
line

The findings of this study suggest that a high-fat diet and
obesity are linked to insulin resistance and the integrity of the gut
environment. Since diet is a personal choice, everyone has the ability to help
prevent insulin resistance and maintain a healthy bacterial balance in their
gut by making conscious food choices involving whole foods and healthy fats
while also maintaining a healthy weight.

References

Luck H et al. Gut-associated IgA+ immune cells regulate
obesity-related insulin resistance. Nature Communications
2019 Aug; 10(3650)

World
Health Organization. Diabetes.
2018 Oct 30

7 Ways to Increase Testosterone Naturally

You may
be familiar with all of the radio, television, and online ads asking men about
their waning testosterone levels. Have low T? Feeling the effects of low
testosterone? Has your libido dropped out of sight? These and other questions
have become common place, and often they are followed by a recommendation to
take testosterone replacement therapy. But did you know you can increase your
testosterone naturally?

Testosterone
replacement therapy is for a limited number of situations, yet it is often
hawked and prescribed indiscriminately. Fortunately, men can safely and easily
boost their testosterone by incorporating some lifestyle modifications.

Face the sun

How much
exposure to sunshine did you get today? This week? Most people are low or
deficient in vitamin D, and for men, that may translate into low testosterone.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in production of this hormone. Fortunately,
there are several ways to boost the levels of this important vitamin, including
exposing your non-sunscreen-treated skin to about 20 minutes of sunlight daily
for three to four days a week.

Can’t
crawl out from under your rock for that long? Then be sure to make some vitamin
D-rich foods a part of your diet. That means fatty fish such as mackerel,
salmon, and tuna. 

Zero in on zinc

This mineral is known for its impact on testosterone levels as well as its ability to enhance them. In a study appearing in Nutrition, investigators showed that young men who were put on a zinc-restrictive diet had a significant drop in zinc levels after 20 weeks. At the same time, a group of elderly men with a marginal zinc deficiency were given zinc supplementation for six months. They showed a significant increase in zinc levels by the end of the study.

If you
want to chow down on the king of zinc, then oysters should be on your menu.
Other foods rich in zinc include chickpeas, lentils, hemp seeds, pine nuts,
cashews, quinoa, eggs, and dark chocolate.

Enough Zzzzzzs can increase testosterone naturally

If you
are consistently skimping on your sleep, then you can expect your testosterone
and other hormones to take a hit. A study from the University of Chicago
Medical Center noted that young men who got less than five hours of sleep for
just one week experienced a significant decline in their testosterone levels. In
fact, their daytime testosterone levels dropped by up to 15 percent.

Researchers
also have seen a relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and low testosterone
levels. Therefore, if your testosterone levels are dragging and you are
experiencing any type of sleep disturbances or sleep apnea, it’s time to talk
to your healthcare provider about taking steps to improve your sleep and, as a
result, your T levels. Your target: at least 7 to 8 hours every night.

Have sex

This suggestion
is an example of the “use it or lose it” philosophy. Research shows that
engaging in sexual activity can raise your T levels. Yes, that also means
masturbation. Yet the research reveals findings that suggest a balance of
activity is in order.

For
example, the authors of a 2013 study
in China evaluated men who abstained from ejaculation for a week. Although the
men’s testosterone levels did not change much during the first two to five
days, the hormone levels rose nearly 150 percent on the seventh day of
abstinence.

In a
study appearing in the Archives
of Sexual Behavior
, researchers evaluated testosterone levels in
men who went to a US sex club. The authors found that 72 percent of men who
participated in sexual activity showed an increase in testosterone compared
with only 11 percent who just watched.

Keep moving

Don’t sit on the couch; move it! Men who engage in regular physical activity are more likely to have higher levels of testosterone. In a study conducted in Spain, for example, the authors noted higher testosterone levels among physically active men compared with sedentary ones. It’s not necessary for you to kill it; moderate exercise four times a week, mixing it up with aerobic and resistance, is sufficient.

In fact, going at it too hard may actually cause your testosterone levels to decline. Several studies have noted that long-distance runners and endurance athletes experience a drop in testosterone.  

Manage your stress levels

Moderate, managed stress is healthy, but full-blown, chronic craziness is not. Long-term stress shoots your cortisol (stress hormone) levels up while sending your testosterone down the toilet. It also has a negative impact on heart health, digestion, pain, headaches, depression, regularity—you get the picture.

If you
want to send those T levels back up, take time to destress every day. Choose
activities that you enjoy, because you certainly don’t want your stress
reduction methods to increase your tension. Try meditation, tai chi,
progressive relaxation, sauna, massage, visualization, journaling—it’s up to
you!

Limit your alcohol

An occasional beer, glass of wine, or cocktail won’t send your testosterone levels plunging. In fact, a small amount of alcohol may actually boost levels a bit. Moderate alcohol consumption for men is considered to be two drinks daily.

Overdoing
it, however, is a different story. Five drinks within a two-hour period, for
example, whether it’s only occasionally or chronically, can lower testosterone
in men and also have a negative impact on fertility.  

References

Escasa MJ t al. Salivary testosterone levels in men at a US sex club. Archives of Sexual Behavior 2010 Dec 17; 40:921-26

Jiang M et al. A research on the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men. Biomedicine 2003 Mar 1

Prasad AS et al. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 1996 May; 12(5): 344-48

Vaamonde
D et al. Physically active men show better semen parameters and hormone values
than sedentary men. European
Journal of Applied Physiology
2012 Sep; 112(9): 3267-73

Men Still Don’t Understand What the Prostate Does

Do you know the main function of your prostate gland? When this question was posed to more than 3,000 men, the results were surprising. Why? Because it appears that the majority of men still don’t understand what the prostate does. 

The prostate: what can go wrong

Perhaps a better question would have been, what happens when something goes wrong with the prostate, since the majority of men will experience a problem with their prostate at some point during their lifetime.

For example, when it comes to developing an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH), it affects:

  • 8 percent of men aged 31 to 40
  • 50 percent of men aged 51 to 60
  • More than 80 percent of men aged more than 80

When it comes to prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), it affects young and middle-aged men most often. Unlike BPH, however, prostatitis is an issue for only up to about 10 percent of men during their lifetime. 

About 16 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. The more encouraging news is that it is typically a slowly progressing condition and only about 3 percent of men with prostate cancer will die of the disease.

What the prostate does

The main function of the prostate gland is to produce prostatic fluid, which transports sperm. In the survey, which was conducted in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany and included 3,010 men older than 50, only 26 percent of men were able to correctly identify what the prostate does. 

The authors also discovered that more than 60 percent of men were not aware of what an enlarged prostate (BPH) is, even though this condition affects half of all men 51 to 60. Only 17 percent of the respondents were able to recognize that the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate are not a “normal” sign of getting older.

Nearly half of men aged 50 to 60 don’t recognize the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which often include urinary frequency, urinary urgency, dribbling, straining or painful urination, and getting up several times a night to urinate. Although these symptoms may be mild, they can impair quality of life. Among men whose symptoms are more severe, there may be an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. 

Why this study matters

Although the survey was limited to men in three countries only, “the results are worrying,” according to urologist Professor Hein Van Poppel, Adjunct Secretary General of the European Association of Urology, “especially as the survey targeted men in the age group that are most likely to suffer from prostate-related conditions.” 

Given the aging of our population, it’s important that men become more aware of prostate conditions, the tell-tale symptoms, and screening options so they will seek guidance from their healthcare providers and treatment if necessary. 

The survey also revealed that most (61%) of the men said they would seek information from their doctor if they experienced problems with urination. Only one quarter (24%) of the men said they would search online for information, and 13 percent reported they would talk about their symptoms with their partner or family to get more information. 

According to Professor Van Poppel, research indicates that “women actually know more about men’s health issues than men do.” Therefore, it may be a good idea for men to discuss their symptoms with their partners or families along with making an appointment with a urologist or other specialized healthcare provider.

Bottom line

Men need to be more aware of the function of their prostate and the conditions that can affect it. Professor Van Poppel noted that even though every man’s prostate health situation is different, “with a specialized urologist, they should be able to make an informed decision on what their optimal treatment is.” 

References

Survey reveals low levels of awareness in men about prostate health and function. European Association of Urology 2019 Sep 25 

WebMD. Prostate problems

Supplements for Lowering Cholesterol

supplements to lower cholesterol

How high is your cholesterol? Since you’re reading this
article, chances are you’re looking for ways to bring your numbers down. You’ve
probably heard that exercise and eating certain healthy foods can help, but did
you know there are supplements for lowering cholesterol naturally?

The trouble is, not all of the supplements on the market that make this claim truly work. In fact, some supplements may work for certain individuals but not for others. This could be because of a placebo effect, genetics, or lifestyle or dietary changes that may have more impact on some people than on others.

Supplements
for lowering cholesterol

Here are a few of the supplements for lowering cholesterol
that have varying amounts of scientific evidence behind them. Basically it’s a
matter of “buyer beware” when using these products.  

Artichoke
leaf extract
. Dried artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus) has been studied on a
limited basis for its ability to lower cholesterol. Among the most recent
efforts was in 2018: a meta-analysis of 9 trials that involved 702
participants. The reviewers found a significant reduction in both total and LDL
cholesterol and in triglycerides among those taking artichoke leaf extract.

Fenugreek.
This herb has been used since ancient times for culinary as well as medicinal
purposes. Studies of its impact on cholesterol, which is believed to be
associated with its high fiber content, have largely focused on animals.

In a meta-analysis that included 12 studies, the authors
found that fenugreek significantly decreased levels of total cholesterol.
However, the results were not significant for LDL or HDL (high-density
lipoprotein) cholesterol.

Fiber
supplements
. Of the two types of fiber—soluble and
insoluble—it is the former that can help lower cholesterol levels. However,
research indicates that your soluble fiber intake needs to be considerable to
make a difference.

For example, a Harvard Medical School meta-analysis of
nearly 70 clinical trials found that for each gram of soluble fiber people
ingested in their diet, LDL levels declined by about 2 points. Even if you
consume the 25 to 30 grams daily of fiber recommended for adults, it may not be
enough to adequately lower cholesterol.

That’s when a soluble fiber supplement may be helpful,
although you need to be careful about consuming too much fiber, which can cause
gas, bloating, and constipation. It is best to first determine how much fiber
you are getting from your diet and then start with a low amount of fiber
supplement to see how you respond.

Glucomannan.
Konjac glucomannan is a type of soluble fiber that is derived from the elephant
yam. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol better than other fibers. In a
meta-analysis of 12 randomly controlled trials, the authors reported that
intake of about 3 grams of the fiber supplement lowered LDL cholesterol and
non-HDL cholesterol by 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Fish
oil
.
Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) have been credited with many health benefits,
and lowering cholesterol is one of them. Studies suggest that while fish oil
supplements can be helpful in lowering total and LDL cholesterol, eating oily
fish yields better results.

However, for those who don’t want to eat fish, the
supplements can be beneficial. In one study that compared fish oil and soybean
oil supplements over 12 weeks, both oils improved total cholesterol, LDL
cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol concentrations, although those in the fish oil
group experienced better improvements in blood pressure.

Niacin.
Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, niacin is found naturally in many
animal foods as well as in supplement form. The ability of niacin to lower LDL
cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol has been known for decades. However, it
needs to be taken at relatively high doses (2 to 3 grams daily) to be
effective, and it can cause flushing as well as liver damage. Therefore, no one
should take niacin supplements without first consulting their healthcare
provider.

Red
yeast rice
. This substance is both a type of fermented rice that is
eaten throughout Indonesia and a supplement. Studies about its effectiveness
have yielded mixed results.

In one small study involved 25 participants, 600 mg of red
yeast rice twice a day resulted in significant declines in “bad” low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (21%) and total cholesterol (15%) over two months
when compared with controls. In another report that involved 13 studies and
1,246 participants plus two meta-analyses involving 7,467 subjects, the
reviewers noted significant decline sin LDL and total cholesterol in all of the
trials.

Despite these findings, the authors pointed out “there is
insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of RYR [red yeast rice] supplementation to patients.” They urged long-term studies involving
individuals with comorbidities and more variability of dosing and formulations
of the supplement.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued
warnings to consumers in 2007 and 2013 regarding the lack of assurance about
the safety, efficacy, and standardized preparation methods associated with red
yeast rice supplements.

Bottom
line

Although the evidence for effective natural supplements for lowering cholesterol is not strong, it may be worth trying one or more of these options if you are battling high cholesterol. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new nutritional regimen.

References

Brown L et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary
fiber: a meta-analysis. The
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
1999 Jan; 69(1): 30-42

Dujovne CA. Red yeast rice preparations: are they suitable
substitutions for statins? American Journal
of Medicine
2017 Oct; 130(10): 1148-50

Gong J et al. Effect of fenugreek on hypeglycaemia and
hyperlipidemia in diabetes and prediabetes: a meta-analysis. Journal
of Ethnopharmacology
2016 Dec 24; 194:260-68

Ho HVT et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of
randomized controlled trials of the effect of konjac glucomannan, a viscous
soluble fiber, on LDL cholesterol and the new lipid targets non-HDL cholesterol
and apolipoprotein B. American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2017 May; 105(5): 1239-47

Peng D et al. Original research: the effects of red yeast
rice supplementation on cholesterol levels in adults. American Journal of Nursing
2017 Aug; 117(8): 46-54

Sahebkar A et al. Lipid-lowering activity of artichoke
extracts: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Critical
Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
2018; 58(15): 2549-56

Shen
T et al. Effects of 12-week supplementation of marine omega-3 PUFA-based
formulation omega3Q10 in older adults with prehypertension and/or elevated blood
cholesterol. Lipids
in Health and Disease
2017 Dec 27; 16(1): 253

Venero CV et al. Lipid-lowering efficacy of red yeast rice
in a population intolerant to statins. American Journal of
Cardiology
2010 Mar 1; 105(5): 664-66

Fast Food Affects Testosterone Levels

Fast Food Affects Testosterone Levels

We’re all familiar with the health and nutritional downfalls of fast food, and they are considerable. However, according to new research from Flinders University and the University of South Africa, fast food affects testosterone and fertility in some men as well.

Fast
food and your health

Although succumbing to fast food on rare occasions probably
won’t cause irreparable health damage, more routine intake could. Why? Generally,
fast food is associated with excess calories, fat, carbs, sodium, and/or sugar
and is lacking in sufficient fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other important
nutrients. This imbalance can contribute to a variety of health issues:

  • Depression: processed foods can
    contribute to depression
  • Headache: foods high in sodium can be
    associated with headache
  • Cardiovascular health: too much salt,
    fat, and cholesterol are associated with heart disease, stroke, and other
    cardiovascular issues
  • High blood pressure: high sodium can
    cause blood pressure to stay elevated
  • Diabetes: lots of carbs can send insulin
    levels soaring, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • Overweight/obesity: fast food tends to
    be high in calories, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain

Fast
food affects testosterone

In this new study, the researchers found that men who had a high intake of fat from fast food meals experienced a 25 percent decline in serum testosterone levels within 60 minutes of eating the meal. Those levels remained low for four hours.

According to the researchers, this effect may occur because the passage of fat through the intestines indirectly triggers a decline in testosterone after eating. The drop in the hormone level is “likely to be clinically significant for the obese or older man with low baseline levels of testosterone,” noted Flinders University’s Professor Kelton Tremellen.

This study was conducted among overweight and obese men only, so for now it is not known whether this affect is the same for lean men.

Tremellen also pointed out that these men are likely to always have low testosterone during their waking hours if they commonly eat fast food and other meals high in fat. The result, he said is “an adverse impact on both their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Bottom
line

The authors recommended that overweight and obese men “should minimize their fat intake and avoid inter-meal snacking in order to optimize testicular function.” As a general suggestion for all men interested in maintaining a healthy testosterone level:

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid or limit alcohol consumption
  • Do not smoke
  • Lose excess body fat
  • If you eat animal products, choose organic and avoid conventionally produced foods, as they often contain pesticides, antibiotics, and steroids

Reference

Tremellen K et al. Mechanistic insights into the aetiology
of post-prandial decline in testosterone in reproductive-aged men. Andrologia
2019 Sep 2

Can You Name Non-Fish Omega-3 Foods?

Can You Name Non-Fish Omega-3 Foods?

When we talk about foods that are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, the first ones that typically come to mind are fish; more specifically, cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. But there are numerous non-fish omega-3 foods that can help you fulfill your need for the healthy fats found in these and other fish.

What
are omega-3s and why should I care?

What’s so special about omega-3s? The human body can make
most other fats, but that’s not true for omega-3s. This means you must get
these healthy fats from food.

Before we talk about how special omega-3s are, let’s name
the players: EPA, DHA, and ALA.

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and
    docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are present in cold water fatty fish
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in
    plant foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and flaxseed.

Omega-3s are special because they are a major part of
structure of cell membranes. These fats have an impact on cell receptors in the
cell membranes and also have an effect on genetic function. This suggests
omega-3s are intimately involved in activities such as producing hormones as
well as helping to prevent heart disease or control eczema, lupus, and
rheumatoid arthritis.

One issue with non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids is
that conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is very limited. Both EPA and DHA have
been associated with an ability to reduce inflammation, support brain health
and development, ease depressive symptoms, and prevent chronic diseases such as
arthritis and heart disease.

However, the ability of ALA to do the same is not as
established. If we assume ALA has these qualities, we then must face the fact
that only about 1 percent of ALA is transformed to physiologically effective
levels of DHA and EPA. Yes, these are challenges for those who want to get
their omega-3s from non-fish sources. But there are options.

Non-fish omega-3 foods

The best non-fish food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are listed here. Keep in mind that the recommended adequate intakes of ALA is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men, according to the National Institutes of Health.

  • Algal (algae) oil is extracted from
    algae and contains significant amounts of both EPA and DHA. Therefore, for
    those who want to avoid any animal-based sources of these two important
    omega-3s, algal oil could be your answer. An advantage of algal oil vs fish oil
    is sustainability, since no fish are killed to secure algal oil. Depending on
    the supplement, you can get between 400 and 500 mg EPA and DHA.
  • Brussel sprouts, when cooked, provide
    about 135 mg of omega-3s in each half cup.
  • Canola and soy oils offer a range of
    levels of omega-3, about 900 to 1,000 mg per tablespoon
  • Chia seeds provide 4,915 mg omega-3s in
    just one ounce
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are a good
    match. One ounce of seeds contains 6,388 mg of ALA
  • Hemp seeds are a terrific source,
    coming in at about 6,000 mg per ounce of seeds
  • Perilla seed oil is popular in Korean
    cuisine. One tablespoon contains nearly 9,000 mg of ALA. It is also available
    as a supplement in capsule form.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a bit low on the
    chart, only 50 mg of omega-3s, but they are great to add to a nut and seed mix
  • Walnuts and walnut oil can be a good choice.
    A one-ounce serving of walnuts provides 2,542 mg of omega-3s while the oil
    provides 1,404 mg

Beware of claims that some chicken and eggs contains
significant amounts of omega-3s because the birds have been fed high amounts of
flaxseed. One example is a brand of omega-3 enriched chicken claiming to
contain about 1,200 mg of omega-3s per serving. However, research indicates you
get that amount of the healthy fats only if you eat the thighs with skin, not
any other part of the chicken.

Bottom
line

If eating cold water fatty fish twice a week isn’t on your to-do list and fish oil supplements aren’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to get healthy omega-3s in your diet. The options provided here also can complement any other intake of omega-3s you choose, including supplements.

References

Link R. 7 plant sources of omega-3s. Healthline2017 Jul 17

National Institutes of Health. Omega-3
fatty acids
.

Penn State Hershey. Alpha-linolenic
acid
.

Plowe K. 5 omega-3 packed recipes that aren’t fish. Livestrong
2019 Aug 16

Turner H. Comparing algae-based DHA+EPA supplements. Today’s
Dietician

Wicks L. What is omega-3 chicken—and should I be eating it? Cooking
Light
2018 Nov 9