A recent study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins increase the risk of diabetes within postmenopausal women by 48%.
This new finding adds to a growing body of clinical evidence that statin drugs are fundamentally diabetogenic, which is not surprising considering the National Library of Medicine contains peer-reviewed, published research on over 300 other known adverse effects associated with their use.
The profound irony here is that most of the morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes is due to cardiovascular complications. High blood sugar and its oxidation (glycation) contribute to damage to the blood vessels, particularly the arteries, resulting in endothelial dysfunction and associated neuropathies due to lack of blood flow to the nerves. Statin drugs, which are purported to reduce cardiovascular disease risk through lipid suppression, insofar as they contribute to insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, and full-blown diabetes, are not only diabetogenic but cardiotoxic, as well.
Cardiotoxicity, in fact, is a characteristic property of this chemical class. Because the heart muscle is muscle, and because the most well-known adverse effect of statin drugs is their muscle-damaging (myotoxic) properties, it does not take more than commonsense to deduce that statin drugs are toxic to the heart muscle as well.
Indeed, ever since the Journal of Clinical Cardiology published the results of a 2009 study on statin drug use and heart function, it has become alarmingly clear that they actually weaken the heart muscle:
“CONCLUSION: Statin therapy is associated with decreased myocardial function as evaluated with SI [strain imaging].”
Is it possible, therefore, that statin drugs are inducing an as-of-yet under-appreciated and under-reported epidemic of heart disease and congestive heart failure in the populations using them? What is, after all, the most important nutrient widely recognized to benefit cardiovascular health? Coenzyme Q10 would be the correct answer. And what do statin drugs do but suppress the production (via mevalonate pathway inhibition) of this indispensable factor in mitochondrial ATP production. The heart muscle is so ATP-dependent that each cardiac muscle cell has as many as 200 times higher levels of mitochondria than skeletal muscle cells. It is, after all, the muscle that never stops working.
Statins, therefore, can be considered the most oxymoronic chemical class of its kind: a “heart” drug that by its very nature harms the heart. And coenzyme Q10 deficiency caused by statin drugs is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a wide range of nutritional deficiencies that these drugs induce, including selenium, zinc, and vitamin E deficiency — all of which may profoundly harm cardiovascular function.
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Did you know that most calcium supplements on the market today are basically limestone? Yes, that’s chalk. Conceal it within a capsule, a slickly glazed tablet, or in the form of a silky smooth liquid, and it is magically transformed into a “calcium supplement”: easy to swallow, “good for the bones” and a very profitable commodity for both the dietary supplement and mining industries. After all, a sizable portion of the Earth’s crust is composed of the stuff.
Calcium carbonate comes very cheap. But does it work? A review published in Osteoporosis International Aug. 2008 concluded that calcium monotherapy (without vitamin d) actually increases the rate of fracture in women. If we believe the results of this study, it would appear that calcium alone may do nothing to prevent bone fracture or the loss of bone quality. Were this the end of the story, we might write off the $100 or more we spend on calcium supplements every year as a loss, and start drinking more milk. Not so quick!
In the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, a review tracking 78,000 nurses for 12 years found that the more cow’s milk they consumed, the higher rate of bone fracture they experienced; in the study, the relative risk of hip fracture was 45% higher in those women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day versus those who drank one glass or less. In fact, in countries where both dairy consumption and overall calcium levels in the diet are the lowest, bone fracture rates are also the lowest; conversely, in cultures like the United States where calcium consumption is among the highest in the world, so too are the fracture rates among the highest (see: The China Study).
Osteoporosis, after all, is a complex disease process, involving lack of strenuous exercise, chronic inflammation, multiple mineral and vitamin deficiencies, inadequate production of steroid hormones, dietary incompatibilites and many other known and unknown factors, the least of which is in any probability related to a lack of elemental calcium in the diet. Also, osteoporosis, as defined by X-ray analysis, e.g. Dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans, can only directly measure bone mineral density and not structural integrity/strength, which is the real-world indicator of whether your bone will resist breaking when under the trauma, say, of a serious fall.
If we rule out drug (e.g. steroids, synthroid, acid-blockers) and hyperparathyroidism-induced osteoporosis, arguably the two main contributing factors associated with lower-than-normal bone mineral density are:
1) Dietary Acidosis: caused by the excessive consumption of acid forming foods like starchy grains, dairy (excluding goat’s milk) and meat, all of which result in the leaching of the alkaline mineral stores in our bones. (Additionally, the consumption of highly acidic substances like coffee, alcohol, sugar, over the counter and prescribed drugs, and even the metabolic byproducts of chronic stress can all put the acid/alkaline balance beyond the tipping point). The flip-side is the under-consumption of alkalinizing fruits and vegetables, which disburden the mineral stores within the skeletal system of their sacrificial, acid-neutralizing role.
2) Malabsorption Syndrome: caused in large part by the excessive consumption of wheat, cow’s milk products, soy (non-fermented) and corn.* All four of these foods, in fact, can be used to produce industrial adhesives, e.g .wheat = book binding glue, cow’s milk protein (casein) = Elmer’s glue, soy = plywood glue, corn = cardboard glue, and while not a problem for everyone, for many, their ingestion leads to a disruption of the absorptive capacity of the villi in the intestines by producing a “gluey coating,” contributing to inflammation and atrophy of the villi. Other causes include dysbiosis, an overgrowth of unfriendly and undergrowth of friendly bacteria in the alimentary canal, as well as acute and/or chronic stress which depletes the glutamine without which the intestinal villi die (villi cell turnover occurs within 2 days, indicating even acute bouts of stress of short duration can cause profound damage). You don’t see a lack of calcium or Boniva in this picture, do you?
Fortunately these two factors are completely preventable and treatable through dietary and lifestyle changes. It is increasingly clear that osteoporosis is not caused by a lack of calcium; to the contrary, it appears that excessive calcium intake may actually cause greater bone fracture rates, especially later in life! After all, the traditional Chinese peasant diet, based as it is on eating a calcium-poor, plant-based diet, included approximately 250 mg of food calcium a day – not the 1200 mg (or more!) a day the National Osteoporosis Foundation claims is necessary for women and men over 40 to maintain strong bones.
Paradoxically, not only does the aforementioned hypothetical Chinese peasant have less dense bones than your average Westerner, but s(he) also has incomparably stronger bones. In fact, the Chinese have no traditional word for osteoporosis, and this is at least a 3,000 year old language!
These facts beg for a scientific explanation. A Dutch researcher by the name of Thijs Klompmaker, in his 2000 article Excessive Calcium Causes Osteoporosis, provides a brilliant explanation as to why too much calcium interferes with bone health. According to Klompmaker’s analysis, the consumption of excessive calcium introduced through diary products and mineral supplementation may be making our bones weaker…
Due to the fact that excess calcium can deposit into soft tissues, leading to osteoarthritis, muscle cramping, insomnia, constipation, kidney stones, and increased rates of breast and prostate cancers (note: calcium crystals like hydroxylapatite (bone meal) can be mitogenic, stimulating proliferation of cells), the body prevents “calcium overload” by shunting the extra calcium into the bone, where it is stored until it can be safely excreted. This can be a life-saving mechanisms because excess calcium in the blood can lead to the accumulation and destabilization of plaque in the arteries, can exert a hypertensive effect on the heart muscle, and may even induce cardiac arrest. According to two meta-analyses published in the British Journal of Medicine last year, 500 mg of supplemental elemental calcium a day increases the risk of heart attack by at least 24%!
However, there is a price to be paid for having to continually sequester excess calcium into the bone, which is that it stimulates the accelerated replication of osteoblasts (bone-building cells), and when osteoblasts replicate approximately 60-70% die as they become part of the new bone mineral matrix they lay down. Because there are only a fixed number of progenitor cells, and replication cycles available to each cell lineage, in a given lifetime, the osteoblasts become prematurely senescent and incapable of replicating at a rate rapid enough to keep up with the osteoclasts, which break down bad bone. These osteocasts are still much younger and active than the osteoblasts, which tips the scales in favor of increased bone turnover, resulting in a rapid decline in bone mineral density and bone quality later in life. This explains why Asians eating their traditional calcium-poor diet, for instance, have lower bone mineral density throughout their life, but reach peak bone mass later, showing slower declines than Westerners while experiencing their golden years.
Sadly, conventional medicine pays far too little, if any attention to the link between dietary and tissue acidosis/malabsorption syndrome and osteoporosis in particular, and the obvious causal link between diet and disease processes, in general. Moreover, with its questionable bias towards viewing disease as genetically predetermined and treatable with chemical therapies, the true causes of suffering are rarely perceived, treated and resolved. In fact today a popular first-line treatment for osteoporosis is the use of bisphosphonates, a class of “bone-building” drugs (e.g. Fosomax, Actonel, Boniva, Reclast), which are made from a chemical first employed to soften water in irrigation systems used in orange groves. The same toxic substance once used to prevent corrosion and scaling on industrial equipment is being given to millions of Americans to “treat” their weakening bones.
These chemicals are highly toxic, and are known to poison the group of bone-building cells known as the osteoclasts, which break down weak bone, making room for new, stronger bone that the osteoblasts put in its place. This unnatural intervention causes weak bone to accumulate beneath the new strong bone, resulting in an increase in bone density at the expense of bone quality. Three to five years into taking these drugs, though bone density usually increases, bone fracture rates may increase as well. The side effects of taking these drugs can be life-threatening, e.g. perforation of the intestines, ulceration of the stomach and intestines, liver and kidney damage, atrial fibrillation, spontaneous bone fractures and an irreversible degeneration of the jawbone known as osteonecrosis. (View all 39 adverse effects here). To make matters worse, there is a systematic trend to label over 18 million Americans with a “disease” known as “osteopenia,” when in fact this is not a clinically relevant, evidence-based term at all, based on a completely arbitrary standard that highly favors overdiagnosis and overtreatment….
Osteopenia does not describe a disease state, nor is it an accurate predictor of future bone fracture rates. Technically speaking, “osteopenia” is defined having a T score -1 to -2 standard deviations from an arbitrarily defined norm, which is the approximate age in the human life cycle for peak bone mass: 25 years of age. The Z score, were it to be emphasized, would take into the age of the person being evaluated (along with other variables such as well as sex, ethnicity, etc). The Z-score, because it is age-mediated, takes into account that as one ages the bone naturally becomes less dense. The use of the T-score generates the illusion that older men and women who are experiencing the natural gradual decline in bone density called aging are not going through a normal process but rather a disease process. This is all the more disturbing when we take into account that higher bone density later in life has been correlated with far higher (300% or higher!) rates of malignant breast cancer. (View studies here)
Ultimately the present T-score based bone density scoring system provides justification for prescribing unnecessary and extraordinarily dangerous medications. Bone health has everything to do with things we control, such as our ability to stay active, and what we ingest. Vision and gait disorders, in fact, are at least as important as low bone mineral density in contributing to increased bone fracture rates. We should not allow ourselves to be convinced that swallowing limestone supplements or metabolic poisons will in any way fill the void that a lack of genuine nutrition and exercise left there.
Here are a few tips that should help you go a long way in preventing or reversing bone loss:
1) Eat high-quality protein and vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables! All bone begins as collagen, a substance whose intricate triple helix structure is formed through the Vitamin C driven hydroxlation of the essential amino acids L-lysine and L-proline. Focusing on selecting a diet closer to our hunter and gathered predecessors (not too distant from where we are now, in biological time) appears to be a key factor in preserving both bone density and bone strength. And remember: Vitamin C is not the same thing as ascorbic acid. Szent-Gyorgyi, who received the Nobel Prize for its discovery in 1937, himself concluded that we need a whole food source of this vitamin, e.g. paprika or adrenal extract, and not the synthetic crystals we now carelessly identify with this life-giving food factor in food in order to prevent scurvy.
2) Get sunlight! Vitamin D supplements are to sunlight, what ascorbic acid crystals are to the Vitamin C activity found in whole, raw food. 3) Vitamin K works with vitamin D, preventing hypercalcemia and ectopic calcification, as well as strengthening the bone, without altering bone mineral density. It is is found in wonderfully nutrient-dense foods like kale, and as a by-product of the metabolic activity of friendly bacteria in our gut or in cultured foods.
4) Incorporate bone-building/strengthening substances into your diet. For a list of over 200 carefully reviewed natural substances with value, use the GreenMedInfo.com Osteoporosis resource page.
*While soy protein and flours, consumed excessively, will contribute to intestinal issues, including malabsorption of nutrients, in moderate quantities — and treated as a medicine, not a food — soy has profound therapeutic properties. The byproduct of soy fermentation will generate a phytoestrogen known as genistein, for instance, which is probably one of the most powerful, evidence-based bone-strength and density preserving substances in nature.
Mon, 09 Jan 2012 07:00 CST
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Well the Food and Drug Administration has really made a name for themselves this time. In response to claims by a company named Diamond Foods that walnuts possess health benefits, the FDA sent the company a letter informing them of their wrongdoing. What did Diamond Foods do wrong? According to the FDA, claims made by Diamond Foods that omega-3′s found in walnuts produce health benefits make their walnuts “drugs”. As far as the FDA is concerned, these “drugs” can not be legally marketed in the United States without an approved new drug application.
FDA Actions Portray Government Lunacy at its Best
It seems bureaucratic tyranny is really taking shape in America. Despite 35 peer-reviewed published papers showing that walnuts improve vascular health and promote heart function being held in the US National Library of Medicine database,the FDA refuses to allow Diamond Foods to make such claims. The evidence revolving around the benefits of walnuts evidently must be authorized by the FDA before those benefits can even be marketed. A letter sent to the company from the FDA states:
“We have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease.”
The FDA goes on to say that the products are also “misbranded” because they “are offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use these drugs safely for their intended purposes.”
All the while, the FDA is more than happy to allow marketing of chemical-laden, diabetes-inducing foods such as Apple Jacks or Fruit Loops, often targeted at young children. Not only that, but they would much rather the population ‘treat’ their problems with harmful pharmaceuticals rather than with a healthy diet. The government’s actions against natural solutions are sickening to say the least, and saying that walnuts or pomegranates are drugs is an outright false claim. But why are they even making these crazy statements?
The truth is that the pharmaceutical industry, multi-national corporations, and government officials all have both indiscrete and blatant financial ties. Junk food manufacturers heavily lobby the federal government for favorable treatment in order to vacuum in greater profits. In response to the ingestion of massive amounts of junk foods, your body responds so negatively that various health-complications surface, causing you to search for a solution. It just so happens that the pharmaceutical industry has been pushing ‘solutions’ on you for years through mass advertising, making drug ingestion and medical devices the norm instead of healthy alternatives. As far as the government is concerned, there is absolutely no reason for you to live a healthy lifestyle, since many of the government officials would be losing out on a great sum of money.
The FDA simply does not have your best interest at heart. This kind of action truly reflects government lunacy at its best.
Tue, 03 Jan 2012 15:08 CST
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The FDA is working to limit the amount of salt used and served by restaurants, but not only will that not help us, it might actually do harm.
The government and specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been mulling over legislation that would regulate the amount of salt used and served by restaurants, following a recommendation by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2010. Now, being a physician and being against sodium reduction is like being a member of PETA and entering the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest-and winning. It is generally frowned upon.
In addition to pursuing this regulatory intervention, the government, along with several medical professional societies, recently launched the Million Hearts initiative. This program, paid in part with tax dollars, aims to reduce heart attacks in the U.S. by one million. But the ends do not always justify the means, no matter how noble and good the intentions. A main goal of that program is to reduce sodium consumption by 20 percent.
This mandate might be debatable if the evidence between current amounts of sodium consumption and an increased risk of morbidity and mortality was incontrovertible. It is not. It remains at present inconclusive.
The theory is based on the observation that increased sodium intake is associated with an increase in blood pressure. It is in a modest way. It is widely preached that hypertension is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and stroke. This is true. The assumption is therefore then made that by reducing dietary sodium we will reduce hypertension and thus reduce these untoward effects. This has not been demonstrably or conclusively shown, but it makes for great slogans, off the cuff advice, and lazy recommendations. It also makes for poor publicly mandated policy.
Here is where I can comment — as a working chef — because this proposal is especially grievous when it comes to regulating an art form like restaurant cookery. I am not talking about prepackaged and assembled food-like products. I am talking about chefs creating real food from real ingredients. Let us examine some data:
- Over 70 percent of daily sodium intake comes from processed, pre-packaged, and prepared foods.
- Only about five percent of daily sodium intake comes from salt added to properly season food that is freshly cooked.
- Even if you add salt at the table, this makes up only about six percent of daily intake.
- Another 10 percent (roughly) is inherent in food itself.
- The government’s own recommendations (PDF) note that the hypertensive effect of excess sodium consumption is manifest at levels above six grams per day.
- The previous federally recommended amount of daily sodium consumption was around a teaspoon, about 2.3 grams. The current recommendations are for 1.5 grams daily.
- The average American currently consumes around 3.4 grams of sodium per day.
The governmental recommendations are predicated on the assumption that the “taste for sodium is acquired and can be modified” (PDF). The reason sodium and chloride (the constituents of what we refer to as ‘salt’) are classified as essential minerals is that we require them to live. We are physiologically programmed, like a gazelle on the Serengeti, to seek out and consume salt should we not get a sufficient amount in our diet. It is hardly an acquired taste like caviar or country music.
Additionally, the government asserts that since “consuming less salt or sodium is not harmful, it is understandable why the Federal Government recommends that healthy normal individuals moderate their salt and sodium intake.” The only problem here is that many studies, some acknowledged in the government’s own position paper, have questioned the safety of too much sodium restriction — or even any restriction at all. Several papers published in 2010 and 2011 have continued to raise this question — even as the government forges ahead with publicly mandated policy.
A study published in 2011 by Dr. Jan Staessen followed about 3,700 patients for eight years and divided them into tertiles of low, medium, and high sodium intake. The highest death rate was in the group with the lowest sodium intake; the lowest death rate was in the group with the highest sodium intake. An even larger study was done by Dr. Salim Yusef and his group out of McMaster University in Canada and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011. Over 30,000 people were studied for about four years. They examined low sodium intake (less than 2.3 grams), moderate intake (2.3 to seven grams), and high intake (more than seven grams) and found at the extremely high levels there was an increased risk of cardiovascular events. However, they also found that at the low level of sodium intake there was an increased risk of cardiovascular death and increased risk of hospitalization for heart failure. The low sodium intake group also had a 2.5 percent increase in their cholesterol and a seven percent increase in their triglyceride levels. The moderate sodium intake group (consuming between 2.3 and seven grams of sodium per day — well within the daily consumption of the average American) had the lowest risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
So why the smack on salt? We love a villain. It is easy to campaign if everyone can get behind a common enemy and crusade. But good science is not about crusading with preconceived ideas. It’s about asking why, and seeking the truth, however inconvenient it might be and however tortuous the path to get there. Public health policy needs to be based on firm scientific foundation and clear benefit, not populist propaganda. The government needs to leave the recipes and the cookery to the chefs. And leave the salt on my pommes frites.
Michael S. Fenster is an interventional cardiologist and professional chef. He is currently working on a new television show, Code Delicious, and his book, Eating Well, Living Better, will be published in early 2012. Visit his website.
Wed, 04 Jan 2012 07:01 CST
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Osteoporosis is not caused by a lack of limestone, oyster shell or bone meal. Heart attack, however, may be caused by supplementation with these exact same “elemental” forms of calcium, according to two meta-analyses published last year in the British Medical Journal.
Back in July of 2011, the British Medical Journal published the results of a high-powered meta-analysis which looked at whether or not calcium supplementation had any effect on cardiovascular disease risk. Indeed, this groundbreaking report, which was based on the results of five clinical trials conducted in the US, Britain and New Zealand, involving over 8,000 people, showed that taking elemental calcium supplements of 500 mg or more increased the relative risk of heart attack by 27%.
Though the study made international headlines at the time, critics soon took issue with the fact that it involved calcium supplementation without co-administered vitamin D. However, in April of that same year, another meta-analysis published in the same journal showed that even with co-administered D elemental calcium increased the risk of heart attack by 24%, and in addition, the composite of heart attack and stroke by 15% — in essence, putting those doubts to rest.
The idea that calcium supplementation may be toxic to cardiovascular health is not new, as many in the field of nutrition have long warned against supplementation with elemental calcium; which is to say, calcium from limestone, oyster shell, egg shell and bone meal (hydroxylapatite). Despite the growing popularity of elemental calcium supplementation, largely reinforced by conventional health “experts” and organizations like the National Osteoporosis Foundation (whose corporate sponsors include calcium manufacturers like Oscal, and Citrical), the habit simply does not make sense. After all, have you ever experienced visceral disgust after accidentally consuming eggshell? If you have, you know your body is “hard-wired” to reject low-quality calcium sources (stones and bones as it were), in favor of getting calcium from food.
Inorganic or “elemental” calcium, when not bound to the natural co-factors, e.g. amino acids, lipids and glyconutrients, found in “food” (which is to say other living beings, e.g. plants and animals), no longer has the intelligent delivery system that enables the body to utilize it in a biologically appropriate manner. Lacking this “delivery system,” the calcium may end up going to places we do not want (ectopic calcification), or go to places we do want (e.g. the bones), but excessively, stimulating unnaturally accelerated cell-division (osteoblasts), resulting in higher bone turn over rates later in life (this is explained in the article below). Or, the body attempts to disburden itself of this inappropriate calcium and keeps it cordained off in the bowel (constipation), or pushes it through the kidneys (stones). Worse, high levels of calcium can ensue in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can contribute to destabilizing the atherosclerotic plaque through the formation of a brittle calcium cap on the atheroma, can contribute to thrombosis (clot) formation, hypertension (that’s why we use calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure), and perhaps causing arrhythmias/fibrillation and or heart muscle cramping (a rather common, though rarely recognized cause of ‘heart attack’).
The breasts too are uniquely susceptible to calcification, which is why we use the same x-rays to ascertain bone density that we do to discern pathological microcalcifications in the breast, i.e. x-ray mammography. Due to the fact that the hydroxyapatitate crystals found in malignant breast cancer may act as a cellular ‘signaling molecule’ or mitogen (inducing cell proliferation) it is possible that certain breast calcifications may be a cause, and not just an effect, of the tumorous lesions found there. This may also help to explain why women with the highest bone density (often obtained through massive, lifelong calcium supplementation) have up to 300% higher incidence of malignant breast cancer.
“Brain gravel” is also an increasingly prevalent phenomenon, where autoposied patients have been found to have pebble-size calcium deposits distributed throughout their brains, including the pineal gland (‘the seat of the soul’). The wide range of existing calcium-associateted pathologies, and their increasing prevalence in calcium-fixated cultures, demand further investigation and explanation. Could one aspect be our cultural fixation on mega-dose calcium supplementation?
To learn more, read “How Too Much Calcium & Over-Medication Can Break Your Bones”
Wed, 04 Jan 2012 11:00 CST