Header image

People will go to almost any length to get rid of their illnesses.  Last month, a TV news program reported that a financial analyst from New York swallowed 2500 pig whipworm eggs, every two weeks for three months. He was driven to this “solution” because he had been suffering with Crohn’s since being a teenager, had had much of his bowels surgically removed, but still had severe symptoms.  He found that drinking the solution of worm eggs made a major difference in his disease.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease of the digestive system, typically designated as an autoimmune condition.  In such illnesses, the body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys various portions of its own bowels.

Symptoms can develop gradually or come on all at once.  One may experience only mild amounts of inflammation, or the inflammatory response can be severe enough to cause scarring.  Individuals may go long periods without experiencing any discomfort at all.

When the disease is causing problems, the inflammation can result in intestinal pain and ulcers on the surface of the bowel, diarrhea, bloody stools, and involuntary weight loss and reduce appetite.

Dr. Joel Weinstock, of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA is a world authority on inflammatory conditions of the intestine with a clinical specialty in inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease.  He and his colleagues are in the midst of clinical trials to obtain evidence that the ingestion of parasites, such as whipworms will “dampen” inflammatory responses of individuals with Crohn’s.

Exposure to gastrointestinal parasites affects the production of cytokines, immune factors that either trigger, or inhibit, inflammation.  Whipworms can inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines that contribute to Crohn’s symptoms; they support anti-inflammatory responses in some cases..

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and vitamin D3 are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore might help those with Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases. However a recent review of the literature does not support the use of omega-3  to help alleviate symptoms  in Crohn’s patients.

Studies of Vitamin D, a substance that regulates inflammatory and other immune responses, suggest that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood are at less risk of getting Crohn’s disease.

Additionally, hyperimmune egg has been reported to support bowel health, and with many reporting rapid changes in digestive function.

Instead of drinking a concoction of worms, consuming egg protein from specially-selected hens, hyperimmune egg, makes more sense for digestive support than ingesting worms!

Dr. Hellen looks forward to personally answering your questions.  Send a note to DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.  She can also be reached at: 1.302-265.3870 [USA, Eastern Time].

 

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/crohns-disease/DS00104/DSECTION=symptoms
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22239614
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22841731
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2646983/
http://www.google.com/patents/US5772999?printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Healthcare-associated infections (HAI), nosocomial infections, are caused by a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  One bacterium that commonly causes illness is Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile.  Hospitalized children and elderly people are at special risk of acquiring these bacteria, infections that result in severe diarrhea.  Individuals infected with C. difficile are more likely to be admitted to short and long-term care facilities, have longer hospital stays, are more likely to require colon surgery, and are at higher risk of death.

Nosocomial infections are on the increase, probably due to the heightened use of antibiotics used in hospitalized patients.  The antibiotics kill off beneficial bacteria that might offer protection against getting infections such as C. difficile.

Intriguingly, in a recent study, patients admitted to the hospital who were on statins, medications used to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, had a 45% lower risk of getting Clostridium difficile infections compared to individuals that were not on these sorts of medications.

Other studies suggest that statins affect immune responses by down-regulating, inhibiting inflammation.  For example, statins prevent and reverse chronic and relapsing disease in an animal model similar to multiple sclerosis, reduce lung inflammation in animals that exposed to airborne particles, and have been shown to lower the risk of death of individuals suffering from 13 different types of cancers.

In atherosclerosis, primarily caused by an inflammatory response directed against the wall inside blood vessels, statin therapy reduces blood vessel inflammation and significantly reduces markers of inflammation such as hsCRP, high sensitivity C – reactive protein.

Health warnings have been issued by the FDA for statins.  These risks include:  memory loss and confusion, liver damage, heightened diabetes, and for certain statins, muscle weakness.  I am certainly NOT advocating that people use statins to limit inflammation.  Instead, I want the reader to focus on the fact that the effects of statins appear to be due, in the long run, to their ability to modulate acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inflammation.

 As I try to emphasize in all my posts, the key to good health is to achieve immune homeostasis, the appropriate balance of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses

 Immune homeostasis is most easily achieved through a) consistent physical activity, b) controlling fat deposits around the abdominal area, c) increasing consumption of vegetables and fruits, d) moderate exposure to sunlight (or vitamin D3 supplementation when the sun is not sufficient), e) ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids from a fish source, and f) and daily consumption of hyperimmune egg.

Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen at DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info with questions or to consult with her. A message may also be left at: 1.302-265.3870 or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/cdiff/cdiff_infect.html
http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ACG/35590?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyHeadlines&utm_source=
http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/lyme-disease-support-forums/medicine-treatments/1722560-pubmed-report-c-diff-death-from-lyme-disease/limitstart/40
http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1389315
http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/BreastCancer/35856?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyHeadlines&utm_source=WC&xid=NL_DHE_2012-11-10&eun=g409635d0r&userid=409635&email=spider1222%40hotmail.com&mu_id=5510283
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1201735
http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1389317
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20421792
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/16/2041.full
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22910717
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1986656/
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1201735

 

A healthy immune system controls the amount of inflammation the body uses to defend itself from infection and mutating cancer cells, and to help its healing processes. The body has to control the intensity of its inflammatory responses so that it doesn’t attack healthy, “by-stander” cells and tissues.  [When the body attacks its own self, an autoimmune response, conditions such as arthritis, lupus, and diabetes result.]  To control inflammation means that the body has to stay balanced all the time.  When inflammatory responses are balanced the body is in immune/inflammatory homeostasis.

Immune homeostasis, immune balance is what keeps cancer in check.  Too much inflammation may trigger cancer cells to grow and multiply, and they in turn may trigger more inflammation to occur. 

 Cigarette smoke has carcinogens, compounds, that cause genes to mutate, or to switch on and off, phenomena known as epigenic events.  Additionally, exposure to cigarette smoke stimulates the release of inflammatory cytokines, molecular messages produced by immune cells.  When these molecules are released into the body they may cause imbalances in the inflammatory process, and a loss of immune homeostasis, immune balance.

Smoking results in the perfect “cancer storm”, because cigarette smoke not only cause inflammation, but it also contributes to angiogensis, the growth of new blood vessels that tumor cells use to grow and multiply in numbers.

 Normally, there is a balance of growth-stimulating and growth-inhibitory molecules so that blood vessels form only when and where they are needed, for example when blood vessels are damaged. 

However, cancer cells upset signaling and the body starts produces fresh blood vessels. These blood vessels “feed” growing tumors with oxygen and nutrients, allowing the cancer cells to invade nearby tissues and to migrate throughout the body, metastasizing, and forming new colonies of cancer cells.

 A study from the National Cancer Institute published this month, analyzed 1400 different inflammatory and immune genes from lung cancer patients and healthy individuals.  In 44 genes there appeared to be an association between lung cancer and certain genetic differences in the cells.

 The scientists focused their work on an important inflammatory gene and found that individuals with a specific type of gene linked to inflammation had a 21% to 44% lower likelihood of getting lung cancer than those with a different form of the same gene.

 Once again, the key is that the body needs to stay in balance, and if you maintain balance, especially  immune inflammatory homeostasis, your quality of life will be changed forever.

 Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen at DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info with questions or to consult with her.  A message may also be left at: 1.302-265.3870 or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.

 
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/angiogenesis-inhibitors
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21751938
http://www.freep.com/article/20121008/FEATURES08/121008047/Scientists-link-gene-to-lower-risk-of-lung-cancer?odyssey=nav%7Chead
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20121008/NFKB1-gene-variant-may-reduce-risk-of-lung-cancer.aspx

When I ask people for their typical dietary intake, many people “shamefully” tell me that they drink coffee.  It  surprises them when I ask “what is wrong with that”?  Coffee is a healthy addition to one’s diet because it can help the body regulate its  immune inflammatory responses.

Studies have shown that coffee consumption reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, depression,and back and neck pain to mention a few.

 Diabetes
Phytonutrients, plant compounds, other than caffeine, found in coffee, are reported to reduce blood sugar levels, and decrease the way the body stores carbohydrates and fats.  Data from over 450,000 people found that every additional cup per day of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee lowers the risk of diabetes by 5 to 10%.  Heavy consumers of coffee, 12 cups/day, have a 67%  lower risk of getting diabetes.  The effect is not due to the caffeine found in coffee, but to other compounds in coffee.

 Parkinson’s Disease
In Parkinson’s disease, caffeinated coffee may protect nerve cells from destruction, decrease the incidence of Parkinson’s, and the improve mobility of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In the case of Parkinson’s, the caffeine in coffee is the “magic ingredient”, since decaffeinated coffee does not have the same affect.  Women with Parkinson’s Disease, that were on hormonal replacement therapy, showed less benefit from coffee.  

Alzheimer’s and Dementia
As mentioned above, caffeine may help the body protect nerve cells. Consuming caffeinated coffee over a long period appears to decrease the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Heart Disease
In other studies, although coffee may raise blood pressure for a brief time, after two months of daily coffee consumption, blood pressure is reduced. It also lowers the risk of heart disease and reduces stroke incidents.

Cancer
Drinking one cup of coffee a day has been associated with a 42% lower risk of liver cancer.  Women that drank two or more cups of coffee per day had a delayed onset of a hard-to-treat cancer.  Individuals drinking three cups of coffee a day had a 40% lower risk of developing pharyngeal, esophageal, and oral cancers. Men who drank over six cups of caffeinated or non-caffeinated coffee a da,y had an 18% lower risk of prostate cancer, and a 40% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Individuals that were heavy coffee drinkers had a 30% lower risk of colorectal cancer.

 Depression
A study of over 50,000 women, found that 4 cups of coffee daily lowered their risk of depression by 20%.

Coffee and Pain Responses
Subjects who consume coffee while working at the computer, report less pain in their back and necks than those that abstain from drinking coffee

Inflammatory Responses  and Coffee:
Regular coffee consumption affects the production of cytokines, such as IL-1 and IL-10 that regulate immune inflammatory responses. The data suggests that the benefits of coffee consumption are due to the phytonutrients, plant nutrients, and caffeine found in coffee. The adage that “coffee is not good for you”, should be re-examined.

 

Reach out to Dr. Hellen Greenblatt for simple steps to help the body balance inflammatory responses. 


http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/jan2012_Discovering-Coffees-Unique-Health-Benefits_02.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22955949
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1756-0500/5/480/abstract
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21858104
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070680
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21779565
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20839413
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/why-coffee-protects-against-diabetes-190743.aspx
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21030499
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=192731
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22927157
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22149008

 

Gut-associated lymphoid tissues are found in the walls of the intestine and contain billions of immune cells.  The white blood cells control the levels and types of bacteria that naturally populate the intestines.  The bacteria help to digest food that provides energy to the body,  and are part of the immune/bacterial ecosystem of the intestine.

 Interestingly, both immune cells and bacteria, protect the intestines from attack by pathogenic microorganisms, and cancer cells, and help heal the intestines when they are damaged.  Cross talk between the bacteria, and immune cells help the intestines maintain homeostasis, balance.  Each keeps the other in check.

 CELIAC DISEASE
Celiac disease is an intestinal, inflammatory, autoimmune (against oneself) disorder.  Individuals with celiac disease suffer from a wide-range of symptoms including diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, inability to focus, skin and neurological issues, constipation, a feeling of being “bloated”, gas, anemia, headaches, osteoporosis (loss of bone density), and depression. 

 Ingesting grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley, which contain a component of protein called gluten, reportedly stimulate celiac disease.

 The presence of gluten stimulates sensitive immune cells to produce proinflammatory cytokines.  These immune messages drive inflammation, resulting in the destruction of the intestinal wall and symptoms.   Genetic, environmental, dietary, neuroendocrine, and immunological factors all contribute to disease progression.

 Currently, the primary guidance that celiacs get, is to go on a “gluten-free” diet.  Although it may be effective for some people,  such diets are restrictive, expensive, and do not work well for everyone.  In one study, every patient, 100% of those surveyed, in a cohort of 300 individuals, hoped for another option.

 OTHER APPROACHES
I often hear from people with autoimmune challenges such as celiac disease, “it’s genetic”.  Fine, so your genes are partially to blame. Meanwhile, what will you do? Continue to be uncomfortable?  So I ask those with inflammatory issues, why not consider short-term approaches until researchers discover longer-term solutions?  In three words: limit excessive inflammation.

 I like to describe inflammation as a way that the body “burns” out pathogenic microorganisms and cancer cells. The body must produce enough inflammation to protect itself from disease, and help the healing process, but not so much that healthy tissue, for example the intestinal lining, is damaged.

 Nutritional Approaches
Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, from fish oil, inhibit the production of proinflammatory cytokines. (There is however,  evidence that vitamin A increases inflammatory processes.).

 Medical Approaches
Antibodies against specific inflammatory cytokines reduce intestinal injury in celiac disease, and the administration of corticosteroids, along with a gluten-free diet, was reported, in a small clinical trial, to provide benefit to celiac patients.

 Immunological Homeostasis/Balance
Hyperimmune egg, an ingredient that helps the body return to immunological balance, helps to support gastrointestinal health.  Many individuals with digestive issues report daily consumption of hyperimmune egg leads to major differences in their quality of life.

 LIMIT INFLAMMATION FOR BETTER HEALTH
The key to a higher level of quality of life in celiac and other autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions, is to help the body limit its excessive inflammatory responses.  Removing gluten from one’s diet, using vitamin C, omega-3, corticosteroids, and hyperimmune egg, may contribute to helping the body regulate run-away inflammation.

Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen at DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info with questions or to consult with her. A message may also be left at: 1.302-265.3870 or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.


www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/retrieve/pii/S1931312812000662

 www.medscape.com
 www.nature.com/nature/journal/v471/n7337/full/nature09849.html
www.nature.com/nature/journal/v471/n7337/full/nature09849.html
www.nature.com/nature/journal/v474/n7351/full/nature10208.html
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18667914
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22024540
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22606367
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=morningstar%20hyperimmune%20egg
 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081114185942.htm
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426105654.htm

 

Alzheimer’s and IVIG Rx
Last week John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today brought attention to the results of a small study presented at the 2012 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia.  In this study, patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s were given antibody preparations, immunoglobulin preparations, which were obtained by pooling plasma from numerous blood donors.  This sterile, medical product, IVIG, intravenous immunoglobulin, consists mostly of immunoglobulins, antibodies,  and is administered intravenously (IV). 

After receiving IVIG twice a month for three years, patient’s ‘ ability to function or think, their mood, or memory did not worsen over the three years. [Untreated Alzheimer’s disease patients typically show measurable declines in 3 to 6 months.]

The FDA, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has approved the use of IVIG for only six conditions.  However, it has been used “off-label”, to try and treat about 50 other conditions, including infectious diseases, a wide-range of autoimmune conditions, organ transplant and cancer patients, blood, and neurological conditions to mention a few.

When practitioners are asked how s/he thinks IVIG works, the response is typically, except for infectious diseases, “we are not sure”.

 IVIG Contains Immunoglobulins and Smaller Immune Factors
IVIG contains antibodies to organisms such as streptococcus, hepatitis, measles, polio, etc., that can specifically neutralize infectious agents.  Other immunoglobulins may be directed  against specific immunological factors. 

However, viewing reported results in chronically ill populations, I have always been of the opinion that IVIG also contains cytokines, or cytokine-like immune molecules, with potent immune system-modulating properties, which help the body return to immune homeostasis, immune balance. 

 I suggest that the reason that Alzheimer’s patients receiving IVIG saw a stabilization of their symptoms, is that IVIG limited inflammatory responses and thus slowed the progression of disease.

 Alzheimer’s and Inflammatory Cytokine Levels
This supposition is further supported by the fact that animal models suggest that excessive production of inflammatory cytokines, inflammatory messages, are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. These animals have a condition similar to human Alzheimer’s, and also have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines in their blood.  When a drug was administered that inhibited the cytokines, there was less damage to nerve cells and neurological outcomes in the animals improved.  

 The scientists suggest that blocking production of high amounts of inflammatory cytokines may be beneficial for any number of brain conditions, such as “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), motor neurone disease, frontotemporal dementia, and complications from traumatic brain injury.” (1)

 Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance the Key to Health
Thus improvements, or at least delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s, or other brain –associated conditions, may be associated with the body achieving immune homeostasis.  A body in inflammatory balance controls the immune system’s  inappropriate inflammatory responses which otherwise may lead to damage of bystander tissues.

Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen at DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info with questions or to consult with her. A message may also be left at: 1.302-265.3870 or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.

 


www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AAIC/33780
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/210367-overview#aw2aab6b3
www.alz.org/aaic/tues_1030amct_ivig_trial.asp
www.jneurosci.org/content/32/30/10201.abstract?sid=349221d1-e12f-411a-80a6-80285ed5db54
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22806462

A previous posting (1) discussed the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and inflammation. Evidence was presented, that levels and types of inflammatory cytokines, as well as other blood markers, are different for individuals suffering with sleep apnea as compared to controls.

Steven Park,MD, a renowned sleep apnea expert in NYC, has discussed the contribution of inflammation to sleep apnea and vice versa (2).

Arthritis, Sleep Apnea, and Inflammation
Recently Dr. Park discussed a Mayo Clinic study in which 50% of rheumatoid arthritis patients were diagnosed with sleep apnea, compared to 31% of the rest of the population. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of runaway inflammation affecting the joints. (Older individuals are also at greater risk of sleep apnea, and they trend towards higher levels of inflammation.)

Cancer, Sleep Apnea, and Inflammation
Dr. Park has also mentioned a study concluding that sleep issues are associated with a heightened risk of cancer. Moreover, it is known that there is substantial “cross-talk” between cancerous cells and inflammatory immune cells. Cancer patients experiencing high levels of inflammation, have reduced survival rates. Clinicians have suggested that decreasing levels of inflammation in cancer patients may improve their prognoses.

Obesity, Sleep Apnea, Asthma, and Inflammation
As Dr. Park and others have pointed out, there is a strong association between obstructive sleep apnea and obesity. Fat cells, adipocytes, not only serve as fat depots, but also produce cytokines, immune messages, that up regulate or increase, inflammatory responses.

Obesity is also associated with a higher rate and severity of asthma. Overweight individuals with asthma have increased levels of TNF-apha, an “inflammatory” cytokine than healthy controls.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms May be Reduced by Physical Activity
One of the most important steps one can take to lower inflammation, besides controlling weight, and eating a healthy diet, is consistent exercise.

This concept is supported by a recent study from Brazil suggesting that physical exercise affects the cytokine makeup of obstructive sleep apnea patients and may reduce inflammation and symptoms of their disease.

Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance
The key to excellent health, and healthy aging, is to achieve immune homeostasis, immune balance. The immune system needs to produce enough inflammation to meet healing and infectious disease challenges, but it must be a “controlled” burn, so as not to damage innocent, by-stander cells and tissues.

Lifestyle changes are some of the simplest ways to correct immune imbalances and should be considered as part of anyone’s “preventive and treatment” protocol.

www.jrheum.org/content/36/9/1869.short
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22758643
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22377793
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22610391
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21339327
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22720220
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22751736
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22773729
http://drhellengreenblatt.info/2012/02/inflammation-cancer-chemotherapy-and-brain-fog/

The journal of the American Geriatrics Society, just released a study of older women suggesting  that women, and we assume men as well, add years of healthy living by staying active and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

 Women between the ages of 70 to 79 years were followed for a five-year period.  Investigators monitored the amount of physical activity they reported, and their carotenoid blood levels.  [Carotenoids are a class of pigmented, phyto [plant] nutrients found in the yellow, orange, and plants.  Blood levels of carotenoids are associated with the quantity of vegetables and fruits consumed.  The more fruit and veggies consumed, the higher the levels of carotenoids in the bloodstream.]

In the study, women that were most physically active and consumed large amounts of fruits and vegetables, were eight times more likely to be alive after the study’s five years of follow-up, compared to women who were not active, and did not eat many fruits and vegetables.

 Exercise increases survival times

More than half of the 713 participants (53%) did no exercise, 21% were moderately active, and the 26% were very active.  The active women engaged in twice the amount of activity as did women who were not active.  Active woman reported that they walked, or were involved in strength training, bowling, dancing, household, or outdoor chores.  Physical activity resulted in active woman experiencing five-year death rates 71% lower than those of the least active women.

 Fruits and vegetable consumption increases survival times

During the five-year follow-up period, women who consumed the most fruits and vegetables, and had the highest blood levels of carotenoids, were 46 percent less likely to die than woman that ate fewer fruits and vegetables.  Blood carotenoid levels were 12% higher in the women who survived, compared to blood samples taken from women that would die earlier.

 This study supports previous results demonstrating that eating more vegetables and fruits, and consuming moderate amounts of wine products, which also contain phytonutrients,  is linked to people living longer.

 Down-regulation of inflammation:  A probable reason for the reported results.

Most scientists have only vague ideas as to why exercise, and heightened consumption of fruits and vegetables should make a difference in longevity.  However, decades of literature reviews, and successful counseling of individuals in the importance of balancing immune system inflammation, make it evident to me, that exercise and healthy food consumption helps the body limit run-away inflammatory responses, and therefore helps the body balance its natural levels of inflammation.

 Inflammation is the body’s protective response to infection, cancer cell growth, and injury.  However, when inflammatory responses are not controlled, inflammation ends up doing more harm than good, and becomes the origin of most illnesses.

 It has been documented that unhealthy aging is accompanied by excessive inflammation with increases in cytokines that cause inflammation, and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

 But the body expends a great deal of energy to naturally control inflammatory responses, and return to immune homeostasis, immune balance.   So for example, moderate exercise lowers inflammation. 

Every time muscle contraction occurs, potent anti-inflammatory cytokines are released.  Therefore, as the women in this study were physically active, their bodies were naturally reducing the amount of inflammation in their bodies.

 As to the contribution of fruits and vegetables in lowering inflammation, hundreds of studies support the fact that carotenoids affect cytokines, the immune system messengers that modulate inflammation. 

 There are many ways to help the body modulate immune system-generated inflammatory responses, but simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, are two simple steps to consider for a healthier, longer, and more active life.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22587851

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22162208

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120530100512.htm

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090624093353.htm

 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19549997

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22483785

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22473333

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22708923

The retina is the “flat screen” at the back of the eye onto which light is projected when we look at an object.  The center of the retina is called the macula.  When it is damaged, a condition called  macular degeneration, there is a “hole” at the center of one’s vision, making it difficult to recognize faces, read, or drive a car.

 As people grow older, they are at greater risk of getting macular degeneration.    Risk factors for this condition are:  being Caucasian, obese, female, and having a family history of macular degeneration.  High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and eating few fruits and vegetables, also add to one’s risk.

 However, the greatest known risk of damaging the retina comes from smoking tobacco.  Current and former smokers have 6.6 times the chance of developing macular degeneration as compared to those who never smoked. [Unfortunately, if you smoked one or more packs a day, even having quit 15 years previously, still increases the risk that you will have damaged your retina in some way.]

Even after decades of study, we do not understand the underlying mechanisms of macular degeneration. Increasingly however, the literature suggests that inflammation is a major contributor to destruction of the retina.

Immune system inflammation is the body’s first line of defense against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.  Inflammation is also important to control mutating, cancer cells. 

 However, excessive amounts of tissue-damaging inflammation can damage healthy neighboring tissue.  High sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a blood marker associated with inflammation, and an indication that too great an inflammatory response is being generated by the immune system.

  A seven year study of hs-CRP levels of 4900 people was conducted in the Netherlands.  Individuals with high levels of C-reactive protein had a significantly greater risk of acquiring macular degeneration compared to those with “normal” baselines of the inflammatory marker. Additionally, other studies suggest that 75% of patients with macular degeneration have “inflammatory” genes that release pro-inflammatory cytokines that are associated with the condition.

 Some clinicians have recommmended using-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to control macular degeneration, yet contradictory studies suggest that frequent aspirin use leads to macular degeneration. 

 We know that high aspirin consumption leads to excessive bleeding in digestive tracts and the eyes.  Perhaps the association of high aspirin use and macular degeneration is due the bleeding aspect of excessive aspirin consumption.

Inflammation is important for our survival, but it must be the appropriate amount of inflammation; it must be a balanced response of just enough inflammation to defend and heal, but not so much that it damages tissues.

Controlling excessive inflammation, without  the  side-effects of medications such as bleeding,  would likely help limit degeneration of the retina.

 www.blindness.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=56

www.ophsource.org/periodicals/ophtha/article/S0161-6420(00)00580-7/abstract

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21920607

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183941

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17923549

www.csmd.ucsb.edu/news/md_science_article.pdf

As I have shared with readers and audiences over the years, when someone ages poorly, it results from decades of inflammatory imbalances.

Inflammation is necessary for the body to defend itself from pathogens and mutating cells, and for the body to heal itself after trauma or disease.

However, when the immune system produces excessive levels of inflammation, and does not correctly limit the amount of inflammation after its task has been completed, then inflammation becomes associated with unhealthy aging, and chronic disease.

For example, it is apparent that neurological diseases are affected, if not triggered by, inflammatory responses of the immune system.

 Immune cells of the brain and nervous system release inflammatory factors, cytokines and complex mixtures of other small immune molecules.

 These factors result in nervous cell and immune system inflammation and eventually, death of nerve cells.

 Last month, the journal of Immunity and Aging reported the results of genetic and immunological studies of Sicilian centenarians, individuals that are 100 years or older.

The researchers concluded that these individuals, all active and “in relatively good health”, survived longer than their cohorts, because their immune system was at “optimal performance” and that they were able to control inappropriate levels of inflammation.

 More evidence for the contribution of inflammation to aging poorly, for example cognitive abilities, is seen in a seemingly irrelevant study in which the use of fish oils was shown to counteract the negative effects of sugar drinks.

In this study, rats learned how to run a maze.  After their lesions, one group of rats was fed a sugary solution for over 6 weeks. After six months, the rats ran the maze again from memory.

Rats that were on the sugar, could not remember how to run the maze, but those on sugar along with  omega-3 fatty acids, were able to run it. The omega-3 fatty acids counteracted the negative effects of the sugary diet.

We know that high sugar consumption results in increasing size of fat cells, adipose tissue, and that fat cells release inflammatory molecules that are associated with the cardiovascular, joint, and insulin-related issues seen in obese individuals.

In addition, it has been shown that there are compounds in omega-3 fatty acids that counteract inflammatory responses.

Therefore, the results of the maze study may be attributable to the fact that the omega-3 helped down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines, messengers that initiate the inflammatory process.

During the past decades, I have watched the health outcomes of older individuals that have followed a regimen that maintains inflammatory balance.

In their 70s, 80s, and early 90s, they work full days, sometimes in physically-demanding positions, are on little or no medication, and find that they are more active, than individuals 20 years their junior.

Balanced immune inflammation, immune homeostasis, is the key to an active life.

One must generate enough inflammation to defend oneself from infectious disease, and help the body heal, but a healthy person has to be able to limit and control  inflammatory responses at appropriate levels for the tasks at hand.

www.immunityageing.com/content/9/1/8/abstract
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22404117
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16613757
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535513
archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?volume=66&issue=11&page=1263
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22566778

css.php