How Fasting Might Boost Your Brain Power

By | Fasting | No Comments

Odds are you’ve heard about fasting. Defined as “abstinence from eating,” it is something you may have tried now and then. The potential medical benefits have increasingly been substantiated in animal and medical research projects and now extend to boosting brain power.

I have been using a form of periodic fasting called a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) in my clinic with my patients. This diet is the evolution of decades of pioneering work on longevity by Dr. Valter Longo and his team at the University of South California. Dr. Longo is recognized as a leading expert on longevity (if not the expert) and has done great work in describing the basic biochemical pathways by which cells age. Here are some general and some brain specific data on the FMD and why you might be interested in trying it.

The basics of a fasting mimicking diet.

The FMD program was patented by Dr. Longo after years of basic and preliminary research in yeast and animal models. The diet decreases calories to 1,100 on the first day and then to around 800 the next four days for five days overall. The nutrients are key and include plant-based whole foods like nuts, olives, teas, and soup mixes that are 80 percent fat, 10 percent protein, and 10 percent carbohydrate. During the five days of restricted calories, exercise and alcohol are out and coffee is limited to zero or one cup a day. The program is also rich in nuts — so it’s not appropriate for those with a nut allergy — and it also requires eating whole olives so a few more of you are out if you hate olives.

The science behind my success.

What is so special about the FMD? The science. After years of experimenting with FMD in animal models and showing its benefits on metabolism and lifespan, Dr. Longo’s team analyzed the effects in a human clinical trial that was published earlier this year. One hundred healthy subjects participated in this study; half of them followed a Prolon FMD five days a month for three months and the other half ate their usual diet. Profound differences were seen in terms of weight loss, visceral fat loss, drops in blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and markers of inflammation in the FMD group.

Even more profound was a drop in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) — which is a biomarker for cancer growth — and an increase in stem cell production, which is a marker for regeneration of cells. In fact, the Prolon FMD program is marketed by Dr. Longo’s teams at USC as a program that promotes regenerative and rejuvenating changes, which is unique from all other data published for fasting programs. There are even provocative data suggesting that combining this FMD with cancer chemotherapy may lead to improved success and fewer side effects.

FMD and Brain Power

In preliminary studies with FMD, fairly remarkable brain changes were identified on this diet. In mice fed the FMD 4 days in a row twice a month extended longevity, lowered visceral fat, reduced cancer incidence and skin lesions, rejuvenated the immune system, and retarded bone mineral density loss. In old mice, FMD cycles promoted brain growth (hippocampal neurogenesis) which would be a nice thing have happen in humans! Researchers were able to demonstrate improved cognitive performance. Overall, these preliminary data are encouraging the best brains may result from the least calories, at least for 5 days a month.

What I tell my patients about a fasting diet.

I advise my patients that if they want to achieve the published results, they will need to do three cycles chosen at times that they do not have conflicting events like weddings. After three consecutive months I am confident some patients will choose to do the program monthly or every other month for long-term health optimization.

 

8 New Medical Reasons to Never Eat Meat

By | Plant-Based Diet | No Comments

Some people are drawn to the plant-based lifestyle for the impact it makes on protecting the environment and some to avoid harming animals. Most of us hope that we also may derive some health benefits from skipping animal products, even if it is occasionally hard on holidays and travel to find appropriate meals. You are probably aware that plant-based diets have been shown to prevent and reverse heart disease and patients may actually get their insurance plans to pay for education programs teaching these diets.  There are new data that further reinforce the argument that eating only fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes is optimal for your health. Here are 8 new reasons to never eat meat.

  1. Type 2 Diabetes: In a long term study from Finland of over 2,000 men followed over 19 years, replacing even 1% of calories from animal proteins with plant proteins lowered the risk of developing diabetes by 18%.
  2. Liver disease: A growing health concern is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. In an analysis of over 3,000 subjects in the Netherlands, increased dietary proteins from animal sources (meat) were associated with a greater risk (reaching 50% higher) of developing NAFLD.
  3. Asthma: In a study of processed red meat consumption and asthma symptoms, eating cured red meat over 4 times a week increased the odds of having worsened asthma by 76%.
  4. Colon Cancer: The world was caught off guard in October, 2015 when the World Health Organization announced their results of a comprehensive analysis demonstrating that processed red meats like bacon and hot dogs cause colorectal cancer. In a more recent analysis, 400 studies were examined. They found that the risk of colorectal cancer increased by 12% for each 100 gm/day eaten of red and processed meats. Whole grains and vegetables decreased the risk.
  5. Depression: In an analysis of 21 studies examining diet and depression, eating red and processed meats increased the risk of depression by over 25% while fruits and vegetables had the opposite relationship.
  6. Stomach cancer: Researchers combined 42 studies relating diet to stomach cancer and found that higher intake of red meat increased the risk by 70% while processed red meat increased it by 80% over those that shunned meats.
  7. Head and neck cancer: In a study from the Netherlands of over 120,000 subjects followed for over 20 years, consumption of processed red meat was associated with developing cancers of the head and neck. The risk was increased as much as 50% compare to the low or non-meat eaters studied.
  8. Gestational diabetes: Developing diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, can complicate pregnancies and have an impact on the health of the offspring. In a recent analysis, the highest red meat consumption of any kind increased the risk of gestational diabetes by over 2 fold. Once again, processed red meat also increased the risk by about double over low meat eaters.

Avoiding meat is one of the most important health decisions you can make. Whether meat comes from cows raised on grass or corn, whether you know the farmer or not, meat is an inflammatory food that inherently has a chemical structure that drives reactions in the body that promote cancer growth. Unlike the new data that the more servings of fruit and vegetables you eat, the more likely you will avoid chronic diseases and delay death, eating meat has the opposite result, leading to disease and early death.  These 8 new medical observations should keep you on track for a long and healthy life.

6 Ways to Kick Off a Plant-Based Diet

By | Dining, Plant-Based Diet, Uncategorized | No Comments

You’ve decided to avoid animal products and jump into the world of plant-based eating but you’re wondering what your three meals a day and snacks are going to look like. How will you order at restaurants? What do you need to stock up on at home?

I’ve discussed this process with thousands of patients because plant-based diets have been shown to reverse heart artery disease and prevent heart attacks. I routinely use these 6 resources to guide my patients through this transition and I hope it will help you too.

Check out free starter guides.

Here are some organizations with some great free resources to help you get started on a plant-based diet:

  • Kaiser Permanente The largest managed care organization in the USA provides strong medical support for a whole foods plant-based diet, as well as pages of practical tips in their downloadable resource.
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) This organization, led by Dr. Neal Barnard, maintains high standards and does original research. For example, PCRM has found evidence that diabetes mellitus in adults can be treated and reversed with plant-based diets. Their Vegetarian Starter Kit is excellent.
  • People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) This group does great work exposing animal cruelty and their Vegan Starter Kit to eating is an important resource, offering a two-week meal plan, tips to make the transition, and a list of foods to eat.
  • Vegan Outreach This non-profit organization does wonderful work on college campuses reaching almost a million students a year. Their guide to cruelty-free eating is excellent; it features dozens of recipes, plus information about vegan philosophy and nutrition.

Watch Forks Over Knives.

Forks Over Knives I ask all of my patients to watch this documentary with their family. It makes a bigger impact on deciding to eat a healthier diet than any other resource I’ve found. The film’s website has a guide to eating that is another great resource.

Watch What the Health

What the Health is a new documentary that has gone viral and is changing lives for the better. Find a night and sit the family down to watch it together. You may never drink dairy again. 

Learn About Animal Rights

Animals Deserve Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT) This is a website created by animal liberation activist Gary Yourofsky and features his viral speech making the case for a vegan diet. The site has great resources for changing to plant-based nutrition. For some people, considerations of the plight of animals is even a more powerful reason to maintain a plant-based diet than health concerns alone.

Find full nutrition plans.

PCRM offers a 21-day complete vegan program called the Vegan Kickstart. It’s free and includes celebrity tips, meal plans, webcasts, restaurant guides, daily messages, and a community forum. It is run beginning the first of every month, is free, and is even available in several languages. I highly recommend signing up.

PETA offers a complete two-week nutrition plan for free including what to eat, what to make, and where to eat. I have found this to be a helpful resource.

Find Travel Apps to Succeed.
Eating a plant-based diet at home is one matter, eating one on the road another. Familiarize yourself with apps like Happy Cow and you will increase the odds that you will succeed long term.

While diet is a personal matter, increasing scientific evidence drawn from longitudinal studies such as the Adventist Health Study, the EPIC-Oxford Study and other large databases indicate that the lowest rates of chronic diseases occur in people who don’t eat meat, eggs and dairy and instead consume mostly plant-based foods.

The resources above can be of use to anyone hoping to improve health, reverse disease, or manage weight. Eating a plant-based diet reduces damage to the planet and animals while making you healthier.

 

6 Crazy Clues to Suspect Early Heart Disease

By | Heart Health | No Comments

Preventing heart disease in patients is my main goal, but early detection is the next best thing if you cannot totally block its development. Changes in lifestyle and medical therapies can delay or deny the onset of a heart attack and almost 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with lifestyle changes. My patients are surprised to learn that he following list may give clues to underlying silent heart disease years before a heart attack. I know have to add 2 more clues to this important list which you will find at the end.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) could mean clogged arteries

Men have a built-in warning system for silent CHD. When achieving an erection is difficult or impossible, it can be a sign of clogged arteries in the pelvis that presents before a heart attack hits. There are, on average, three to five years between the onset of ED and the finding of CHD, which is plenty of time to detect and to work on preventing heart issues. If you and your partner are worried about sexual performance, look for and treat root causes of diseased arteries before just popping a blue pill.

Baldness could indicate clogged arteries.

In a comprehensive study of almost 37,000 men, severe baldness at the crown of the head strongly predicted the presence of silent CHD at any age. In a separate study of more than 7,000 people (including over 4,000 women), moderate to severe baldness doubled the risk of dying from heart disease in both sexes. 

Gray hair Is a clue to blocked arteries

A new study presented in Europe at EuroPrevent 2017 found that a high amount of gray hair is a risk factor for silent heart atherosclerosis. A total of 545 adult men without known heart disease had a CT angiogram of their heart arteries, a very accurate way to identify silent problems. Having equal amounts of gray and dark hair, or mainly gray and white hair, correlated with finding silent heart blockages. The researches commented that “atherosclerosis and hair graying occur through similar biological pathways”.

A diagonal ear lobe crease might indicate clogged arteries.

One of the stranger markers, a crease in your earlobe (specifically, an angled crease in the ear that runs diagonally from the canal to the lower edge of the earlobe) has been mentioned in medical research reports as a sign of silent CHD for decades. The ear crease may result from poor circulation, including in arteries in the heart. Although some medical professionals have argued that a crease is just a general sign of aging, researchers last year used the most sophisticated CT scan method to measure silent CHD and found that ear crease predicted heart disease even after the authors accounted for other risk factors, such as age and smoking.

Calf pain when you walk might mean clogged arteries.

This is known as claudication (from the Latin for “to limp”). Atherosclerosis can block leg arteries, particularly in smokers, before CHD is diagnosed. This symptom requires an evaluation without delay. Your doctor will examine the pulses in your legs and perform simple measurements of leg blood pressure and blood flow to confirm a diagnosis of poor circulation.

It is critical that heart disease be diagnosed as early as possible because there are many dietary and medical treatments that can help reverse the issue. Some of my patients took these early clues to heart. Anyone with any of the above clues to silent heart issues should know his or her numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose). Asking your doctor for an EKG or a coronary calcium CT imaging is wise, whether you are a woman or man. Changing your lifestyle right away to ban smoking, walking, managing stress, and adding a plant-based diet can reverse problems before they attack your health or life. To borrow from Ben Franklin, an ounce of prevention (plus a bowl of kale) is worth a pound of cure.

5 Health Benefits of Sex

By | Sex | No Comments

Eat your vegetables and fruits, get seven to nine hours of sleep, don’t smoke, walk 30 minutes a day, stand more, stress less, be more mindful. It can be quite an undertaking to arrange and maintain a schedule that promotes health and longevity. And interestingly, the one activity you may not be placing high enough on your “must-do” list is the one that brings you the most pleasure of all: sex.

There’s a wealth of medical data indicating that intercourse and orgasm not only maintain the lineage of our species, but they maintain our health in the years after childbearing. Here are 5 benefits of sex that are science based.

  1. Reduced Heart Attack Risk.  None other than the Harvard Health Letter declared that “Sex is important to health. It revs up metabolism and may boost the immune system. Frequent sexual intercourse is associated with reduced heart attack risk.” But if that is true, why don’t doctors write “more sex” on a prescription pad at preventive care visits?
  2. Longevity. In a research project called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, there was nearly a 50 percent increased risk of developing heart disease in men who had sex once a month or less compared with the group that had two or more weekly sessions, which would translate to about 100 times a year. In another study, over 900 men in Wales were followed for 10 years; the risk of dying was reduced 50 percent in those with high orgasm frequency versus low. If a participant had eight sexual episodes monthly, the death rate was reduced by 36 percent, but the more sex participants had, the more the death rate dropped. This is called a dose-response curve, and very few “more traditional” medical therapies can boast lifesaving numbers like these.
  3. Lower Homocysteine. In a recently published research analysis, frequency of sexual activity corresponded with better cognitive function in older adults. Memory, executive function, and verbal fluency were all better with more frequent sex in males and females. In another study just published, sexual frequency in over 2,000 men and women was inversely correlated to the blood concentration of an amino acid adverse to heart health called homocysteine. The frequency with which the person engaged in sex, the lower and more favorable their homocysteine levels were.
  4. Increase testosterone. Higher testosterone levels are associated with longevity and 0ne theory for males is that testosterone levels increase during intercourse with a partner (not necessarily during masturbation). Unfortunately, less medical data is available on the role of sexual frequency in female health, but there is plenty of reason to believe the advantages are much the same.
  5. Reduced risk of prostate cancer. A study analyzed by Harvard researchers correlated the frequency of ejaculation with prostate health. They discovered that the lowest rates of prostate cancer were found in those who ejaculated often — specifically, more than 21 times a month.

Clearly, one of the best paths to health is to view sex as healthy and a health promoting activity. Schedule it on your calendar along with trips to a farmer’s market and the gym. When Marvin Gaye sang “Sexual Healing” he was right on the mark.