Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease


Image: Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease

It is often said that presentation is everything when it comes to meals, but there’s an even better reason to fill your plate with colorful foods. The pigment that gives foods like berries their rich red and purple hues also doubles as powerful protection against cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that this pigment, anthocyanin, not only offers antioxidant effects; it also protects people from chronic diseases. Indeed, one of its most impressive feats is lowering the risk of the cardiovascular conditions that take millions of lives each year, such as stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

In a systematic review that involved more than 600,000 participants, British researchers looked at the impact that dietary anthocyanins had on cardiovascular events. They discovered that those who had the greatest dietary anthocyanin intake enjoyed a 9 percent reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease; when it came to death due to heart disease, their risk was 8 percent lower compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of anthocyanin.

The study, which was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, is the strongest argument yet for increasing your fruit intake. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests that people eat a minimum of two servings of fruit per day; just 32 percent of Americans reach that goal.

Choose the right fruits

It’s easy to spot fruits that contain anthocyanins because of their red, purple and blue colors. Some of the best sources include strawberries, blackberries, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and bilberries. They can also be found in red cabbage, eggplant, and purple potatoes. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the fruit’s skins contain the most anthocyanins given their rich color, so make sure you also eat the skin – and be sure to choose organic to avoid pesticide exposure. The review’s authors say that just one to two portions of berries per day are enough to get the anthocyanins you need to protect your heart.

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Anthocyanin’s many benefits

The review is supported by several other studies, including one from 2012 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That study showed a link between a higher intake of anthocyanin and significantly lower systolic blood pressure, arterial pressure, and pulse wave velocity. It also confirmed an earlier study that showed eight weeks of taking blueberry supplements reduced participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 6 and 4 percent respectively.

In addition, anthocyanins can help prevent neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. They accomplish this by improving the communication between nerves and boosting blood flow to the brain. Their antioxidant effect also means they can stop brain damage caused by oxidative stress.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of anthocyanins, consider this: They can fight cancer cells by attacking them and spurring cell death, in addition to activating the enzymes that rid your body of cancer-causing substances.

Studies have also shown that consuming foods rich in anthocyanins can lower your insulin resistance and protect beta cells in the pancreas, which helps normalize blood levels. That means anthocyanin-rich fruits can help inhibit diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the top causes of death in America, affecting 84 million Americans and causing roughly one out of every three deaths. Those are very frightening statistics, so you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consume more anthocyanins and take other steps known to reduce your risk, like exercising and eating as healthier diet overall.

People who drink moderate amounts of coffee each day have a lower risk of death from disease


Image: People who drink moderate amounts of coffee each day have a lower risk of death from disease

Many people drink coffee for an energy boost, but do you know that it can also prolong your life? A study published in the journal Circulation revealed that moderate amounts — or less than five cups — of coffee each day can lower your risk of death from many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and nervous system disorders. It can also lower death risk due to suicide.

The study’s researchers explained this effect could be attributed to coffee’s naturally occurring chemical compounds. These bioactive compounds reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation, which might be responsible for the association between coffee and mortality. (Related: Coffee drinkers have a lower mortality rate and lower risk of various cancers.)

The researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing the coffee consumption every four years of participants from three large studies: 74,890 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; 93,054 women in the Nurses’ Health Study 2; and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They did this by using validated food questionnaires. During the follow-up period of up to 30 years, 19,524 women and 12,432 men died from different causes.

They found that people who often consumed coffee tend to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. To differentiate the effects of coffee from smoking, they carried out their analysis again among non-smokers. Through this, the protective benefits of coffee on deaths became even more apparent.

With these findings, the researchers suggested that regular intake of coffee could be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, pregnant women and children should consider the potential high intake of caffeine from coffee or other drinks.

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Because the study was not designed to show a direct cause and effect relationship between coffee consumption and dying from illness, the researchers noted that the findings should be interpreted with caution. Still, this study contributes to the claim that moderate consumption of coffee offers health benefits.

The many benefits of coffee

Many studies have shown that drinking a cup of coffee provides health benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Coffee helps prevent diabetes: A study conducted by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers showed that drinking coffee helps prevent Type 2 diabetes by increasing levels of the protein sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which regulates hormones that influence the development of Type 2 diabetes. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) also found that increased coffee intake may lower Type 2 diabetes risk.
  • Coffee protects against Parkinson’s disease: Studies have shown that consuming more coffee and caffeine may significantly lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease. It has also been reported that the caffeine content of coffee may help control movement in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Coffee keeps the liver healthy: Coffee has some protective effects on the liver. Studies have shown that regular intake of coffee can protect against liver diseases, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and cirrhosis of the liver, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. Drinking decaffeinated coffee also decreases liver enzyme levels. Research has also shown that coffee may help ward off cancer. A study by Italian researchers revealed that coffee intake cuts the risk of liver cancer by up to 40 percent. Moreover, some of the results indicate that drinking three cups of coffee a day may reduce liver cancer risk by more than 50 percent.
  • Coffee prevents heart disease: A study conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and HSPC researchers showed that moderate coffee intake, or two European cups, each day prevents heart failure. Drinking four European cups a day can lower heart failure risk by 11 percent.

Groundbreaking study reveals that heart disease is an early indicator of vitamin C deficiency


Image: Groundbreaking study reveals that heart disease is an early indicator of vitamin C deficiency

Heart disease is usually linked to issues with cholesterol, but researchers are increasingly finding that vitamin C plays an outsized role in heart health. This antioxidant nutrient, which the body uses to make connective tissue, has already gotten some buzz for its utility in cancer treatment, but its effects on the heart may be even greater.

Researchers at the Dr. Rath Research Institute of California found that a vitamin C deficiency can cause coronary heart disease. In their study, they used transgenic mice that mimic the human metabolism in two key ways: They don’t produce vitamin C internally, and they generate lipoprotein to make up for this. After feeding the mice a diet that was lacking in vitamin C, their bodies acted as expected and created their own lipoprotein to fix the vascular walls. This caused them to develop heart issues and atherosclerosis.

Crucially, they discovered that the degree and level of heart disease the mice developed was directly linked to their vitamin C intake and blood levels. Those mice who had consumed the highest amounts of vitamin C naturally produced the least lipoprotein to repair their arteries, and by extension, had the strongest hearts and fewest atherosclerotic lesions.

Therefore, the researchers believe that proper vitamin C intake could be the secret to preventing heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. That doesn’t mean that cholesterol isn’t important; maintaining healthy HDL and LDL cholesterol levels is still a powerful component of overall health, but it may not play as big of a role as once believed.

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Higher vitamin C intake linked to lower heart disease risk

This is supported by a study that was recently published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. That study looked at 108 men and divided them into three groups according to their intake of vitamin C.

They found that the men in the top tier of vitamin C intake had a 66 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who had the lowest intake. The researchers aren’t sure exactly how vitamin C brings about such significant benefits to heart health. They theorize that it could be related to its ability to prevent and ease the stiffening in artery walls that can block the flow of blood. In fact, they discovered that the vitamin is especially effective at doing this in people who smoke.

Further studies provide additional evidence of vitamin C’s heart benefits. For example, a study carried out by the University of Copenhagen that involved more than 100,000 people found that higher blood concentrations of vitamin C were associated with a lower risk of not only cardiovascular disease but also death. It is important to keep in mind, however, that they saw this benefit in those whose high vitamin C blood levels came from eating lots of vegetables and fruits.

Getting vitamin C from food is preferable

The researchers said that although vitamin C supplements can help raise your levels of this important nutrient, getting it from a healthy diet is far preferable. Doing so will also help you develop a long-term healthy lifestyle, which will bring many other health benefits over time.

With heart disease being the leading cause of death around the world, we are lucky to have such an affordable way to prevent it that has very few side effects. Some of the best food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, acerola cherries, kale, broccoli, kiwis, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. Best of all, eating these foods will not just enhance your heart health; your immunity will also get a nice boost!

Sources for this article include:

NaturalHealth365.com

NaturalNews.com

Tooth Loss in Middle-age Linked to Heart Disease


Losing two or more natural teeth in middle age is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), new research suggests.

“In addition to other established associations between dental health and risk of disease, our findings suggest that middle-aged adults who have lost two or more teeth in recent past could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Lu Qi of Tulane University in New Orleans said in a statement. “That’s regardless of the number of natural teeth a person has as a middle-aged adult, or whether they have traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as poor diet or high blood pressure.”

Dr. Qi presented the study findings March 21 at the 2018 American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions.

“The relation between dental health such as tooth loss and cardiovascular risk remains unclear,” Dr. Qi told Reuters Health by email. “Most previous studies only investigated pre-existing tooth loss; and little is known about whether incident (recent) tooth during middle adulthood is associated with future cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Qi and colleagues investigated associations between tooth loss and subsequent risk of new-onset CHD in women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS). The participants were between 45 and 69 years old at the outset and did not have heart disease. They were asked about the number of natural teeth first in 1986 in the HPFS, and in 1992 in the NHS. On follow-up questionnaires, participants reported whether they had any recent tooth loss.

Among adults with 25 to 32 natural teeth at the beginning of the study, those who lost two or more teeth during follow-up had a 23% increased risk of CHD (95% confidence interval, 1.06 to 1.42), compared with those who didn’t lose any teeth, after adjusting for factors including diet quality, physical activity, body weight, hypertension and other cardiovascular risk factors.

Losing just one tooth during the study period wasn’t associated with a notable increased risk of CHD.

Regardless of the number of natural teeth at start of the study, the risk of CHD increased 16% among those losing two or more teeth during the study period (95% CI, 1.04 to 1.30), compared with those who didn’t lose any teeth.

Adults with fewer than 17 natural teeth (vs. 25 to 32 natural teeth) at the outset were 25% more likely to develop CHD (95% CI, 1.08 to 1.46).

“Peridontitis and gingivitis lead to tooth loss and the loss of a tooth is certainly the end-stage of dental disease,” said Dr. Russell Luepker, an AHA spokesperson who was not involved in the study. The association between periodontal disease and heart disease has been “fairly well studied” and the relationships reported in this study are “modest,” he told Reuters Health by phone.

It’s also important to consider the role of socioeconomic status, he said. “We all get cavities and if you want to save teeth, you want to have good dental insurance and many people don’t. So it’s good to brush your teeth and it’s good to have dental insurance,” Dr. Luepker commented.

Obesity Paradox in Heart Disease Challenged by New Analysis


A new analysis of data of long-term follow-up from 10 population-based cohorts challenges the so-called obesity paradox  — previous counterintuitive findings suggesting that patients with heart disease may live longer if they are overweight or obese.

“Our research differs from previous studies in that we have included a lifespan perspective — we started to follow people before they developed heart disease,” lead author, Sadiya Khan, MD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, told Medscape Medical News.

“We found that obese people live shorter lives, and while overweight people had similar length of life to those of a normal weight, they developed cardiovascular disease earlier than people with normal BMI.”

She explained that previous studies have suggested that obesity may in some way be associated with lower mortality in cardiovascular disease (CVD), known as the obesity paradox. But these studies included patients who already had CVD at the time of the study, and this can introduce many biases, particularly the issue that obese patients may be diagnosed with heart disease earlier and so may appear to live with heart disease for a longer time.

“Our results provide a different context by following people before the onset of cardiovascular disease, which should therefore eliminate this ‘lead time bias’,” Khan said. “We found that obese people develop cardiovascular disease at a younger age and so they have more years with heart disease but in the context of a shorter lifespan.”

The paper was published online in JAMA Cardiology on February 28.

In the paper, the researchers state: “Taking a life course perspective, we observe that the obesity paradox…appears largely to be caused by earlier diagnosis of CVD. Study of inception cohorts of people at the time of cardiovascular diagnosis would not detect this finding, leading to unclear messaging about the true risks of being overweight.”

They say this “false reassurance” is akin to the phenomenon of lead-time bias observed in other situations, such as with cancer screening.

Commenting on the paper for Medscape Medical News, Naveed Satter, MD, professor of cardiovascular and medical sciences at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom, said that the problem with previous studies is that “not all heart disease is equal.”

“You can be a thin smoker or an obese nonsmoker,” Satter said. “There are many different confounders. When you take a population with any chronic condition you see a different picture which may not tell the truth. We also have to consider when the patient developed heart disease. By starting to follow people before they developed heart disease, these researchers have removed one of the biggest confounders.”

Other strengths of these data are a large population, a wide age range, a long follow-up, and robust statistical methods to overcome other confounders, he added. “And when looking at this cleaner picture, we see clearly than lower BMI is better.”

“Better-quality studies such as this, which have longer-term follow-up and do not include people with disease at baseline, tend to find that lowest risks for bad outcomes are in the leaner people,” Satter said. “We are understanding the complexities of these studies better now and there is more evidence that lowest risks for heart disease or death are in normal weight folk, not those who are overweight or obese.”

The study analyzed individual-level data from 190,672 in-person examinations across 10 large prospective cohorts with an aggregate of 3.2 million years of follow-up. All of the participants were free of CVD at baseline and had objectively measured height and weight to assess BMI.

Results showed that compared with individuals with a normal BMI (defined as a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), lifetime risks for incident CVD were higher in people in the overweight (BMI, 25.0 to 29.9) and obese (BMI, 30.0 to 39.9) groups.

Compared with normal weight, overweight middle-aged men had a hazard ratio for incident CVD of 1.21; for overweight women, the hazard ratio was 1.32.

Obese men had a hazard ratio for CVD of 1.67, and the corresponding figure for obese women was 1.85.

The hazard ratios for the morbidly obese (BMI, 40.0) were 3.14 for men and 2.53 for women. All these results were statistically significant.

The researchers found the strongest association between BMI categories and heart failure (HF) compared with other subtypes of CVD, with a fivefold increase in incident HF in middle-aged men with morbid obesity, which they say “has particularly important implications for focusing on weight management strategies for HF prevention.”

In terms of lifespan, normal weight middle-aged men lived 1.9 years longer than obese men and 6 years longer than those who were morbidly obese. Normal-weight men had longevity similar to that of overweight men.

Normal-weight middle-aged women lived 1.4 years longer than overweight women, 3.4 years longer than obese women, and 6 years longer than morbidly obese women.

The researchers point out that “our findings suggest that earlier occurrence of CVD in those with obesity is most strongly associated with a greater proportion of life lived with CVD and shorter overall survival in adults aged 20 to 59 years at baseline.”

However, they note that the association of obesity with mortality may change at older ages, which may explain why some earlier studies in older individuals showed no difference in total life expectancy in older men and women with obesity.

“Our results provide critical perspective on the cardiovascular disease burden associated with overweight, highlight unhealthy years lived with increased cardiovascular morbidity, and challenge the prevalent view that overweight is associated with greater longevity compared with normal BMI,” they conclude.

Google’s new AI algorithm predicts heart disease by looking at your eyes


Experts say it could provide a simpler way to predict cardiovascular risk

The algorithm could allow doctors to predict cardiovascular risk more simply by using scans of the retina.

Scientists from Google and its health-tech subsidiary Verily have discovered a new way to assess a person’s risk of heart disease using machine learning. By analyzing scans of the back of a patient’s eye, the company’s software is able to accurately deduce data, including an individual’s age, blood pressure, and whether or not they smoke. This can then be used to predict their risk of suffering a major cardiac event — such as a heart attack — with roughly the same accuracy as current leading methods.

The algorithm potentially makes it quicker and easier for doctors to analyze a patient’s cardiovascular risk, as it doesn’t require a blood test. But, the method will need to be tested more thoroughly before it can be used in a clinical setting. A paper describing the work was published today in the Nature journal Biomedical Engineering, although the research was also shared before peer review last September.

Luke Oakden-Rayner, a medical researcher at the University of Adelaide who specializes in machine learning analysis, told The Verge that the work was solid, and shows how AI can help improve existing diagnostic tools. “They’re taking data that’s been captured for one clinical reason and getting more out of it than we currently do,” said Oakden-Rayner. “Rather than replacing doctors, it’s trying to extend what we can actually do.”

To train the algorithm, Google and Verily’s scientists used machine learning to analyze a medical dataset of nearly 300,000 patients. This information included eye scans as well as general medical data. As with all deep learning analysis, neural networks were then used to mine this information for patterns, learning to associate telltale signs in the eye scans with the metrics needed to predict cardiovascular risk (e.g., age and blood pressure).

Although the idea of looking at your eyes to judge the health of your heart sounds unusual, it draws from a body of established research. The rear interior wall of the eye (the fundus) is chock-full of blood vessels that reflect the body’s overall health. By studying their appearance with camera and microscope, doctors can infer things like an individual’s blood pressure, age, and whether or not they smoke, which are all important predictors of cardiovascular health.

Two images of the fundus, or interior rear of your eye. The one on the left is a regular image; the on the right shows how Google’s algorithm picks out blood vessels (in green) to predict blood pressure.

When presented with retinal images of two patients, one of whom suffered a cardiovascular event in the following five years, and one of whom did not, Google’s algorithm was able to tell which was which 70 percent of the time. This is only slightly worse than the commonly used SCORE method of predicting cardiovascular risk, which requires a blood test and makes correct predictions in the same test 72 percent of the time.

Alun Hughes, professor of Cardiovascular Physiology and Pharmacology at London’s UCL, said Google’s approach sounded credible because of the “long history of looking at the retina to predict cardiovascular risk.” He added that artificial intelligence had the potential to speed up existing forms of medical analysis, but cautioned that the algorithm would need to be tested further before it could be trusted.

For Google, the work represents more than just a new method of judging cardiovascular risk. It points the way toward a new AI-powered paradigm for scientific discovery. While most medical algorithms are built to replicate existing diagnostic tools (like identifying skin cancer, for example), this algorithm found new ways to analyze existing medical data. With enough data, it’s hoped that artificial intelligence can then create entirely new medical insight without human direction. It’s presumably part of the reason Google has created initiatives like its Project Baseline study, which is collecting exhaustive medical records of 10,000 individuals over the course of four years.

For now, the idea of an AI doctor churning out new diagnoses without human oversight is a distant prospect — most likely decades, rather than years, in the future. But Google’s research suggests the idea isn’t completely far-fetched.

Dancing to the circadian rhythm: NHLBI researcher finds new genes for body’s internal clock


Might lead to better understanding of sleep disorders, heart disease, and more

If you feel energized or tired around the same time each day, or routinely get up early or stay up late—the familiar ‘early riser’ or ‘night owl’ syndrome—you are witnessing, in real time, your circadian rhythm at work. That’s the 24-hour internal body clock which controls your sleep/wake cycle.

Circadian rhythms have long fascinated researchers—decades ago three of them marked a critical milestone when they discovered the molecular components behind that mysterious timing cycle. For this game-changing finding, the trio recently was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Since their discovery researchers have come to know that the circadian clock affects not just sleep, but hormone production, eating habits, body temperature, heart rate, and other biological functions.

Yet, for all these advances, scientists still know relatively little about the clock’s genetic underpinnings. Now a team of NHLBI researchers is working to change that with the discovery of scores of new genes they say have a profound impact on the circadian rhythm. These researchers say these genes could hold the key to a new understanding of a wide range of health conditions, from insomnia to heart disease, and perhaps pave the way for new treatments for them.

Dr. Susan Harbison holding a sleep monitor
NHLBI researcher Dr. Susan Harbison displays a device used to record sleep and activity in fruit flies.

“We all ‘dance’ to the circadian rhythm,” said Susan Harbison, Ph.D., an investigator in the NHLBI’s Laboratory of Systems Genetics, who is among an elite cadre of scientists studying the complex genetics of the biological clock. “Quietly, this clock influences our body and our health in ways that are just now being understood.”For sure, the studies are slowly unfolding. For example, long-term night shift work has been associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. Some studies have shown a link between circadian rhythm changes and cancer.  And a recent study by researchers in France found that heart surgery is safer in the afternoon than in the morning, a phenomenon they attribute to the body’s circadian clock having a better repair mechanism in the afternoon than in the morning.

Now, thanks to Harbison and her research team, new insights into why some people experience longer or shorter periods of wakefulness or sleepiness than others—and what it might mean for a host of health conditions—could be on the horizon.

To explore this line of research more deeply, Harbison is working with a favorite laboratory model of sleep researchers: Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.  While this little fly may seem like an unlikely choice, it turns out to be an appropriate stand-in for humans.

“The clock mechanisms regulating circadian rhythm in humans and fruit flies are remarkably similar,” Harbison said. “They both have biological rhythms of about 24 hours. In fact, the genes involved in mammalian circadian rhythms were first identified in flies.”

Previous studies by other researchers had identified approximately 126 genes for circadian rhythms in fruit flies.  In recent studies using a natural population of flies, Harbison’s group estimates that there are more than 250 new genes associated with the circadian clock, among the largest number identified to date.  Many of the genes appear to be associated with nerve cell development—not surprising, she said, given the wide-ranging impact of circadian rhythms on biological processes.

In addition to finding this treasure trove of clock-related genes, Harbison’s group also found that the circadian patterns among the flies were highly variable, and that some of the genes code for variability in the circadian clock. Some flies had unusually long circadian periods—up to 31 hours—while others had extremely short circadian periods of 15 hours.  In other words: Just like people, there were ‘early risers’ and ‘night owls’ and long sleepers and short sleepers among the fruit flies.

“Before we did our studies, there was little attention paid to the genes responsible for variability in the circadian period,” noted Harbison, who is also looking at environmental factors that might influence these genes, such as drugs like alcohol and caffeine. “We now have new details about this variability, and that opens up a whole new avenue of research in understanding what these genes do and how they influence the circadian clock.”

See description
This graph shows rest and activity patterns for two different fruit flies. The graph on the left shows the rest and activity of a fly with a normal circadian period (about 24 hours). Vertical blue bars show the fly's activity during the day (yellow horizontal bars) and night (black horizontal bars). The graph on the right shows the rest and activity of a fly with an abnormal circadian period (about 31 hours). The abnormal pattern is similar to an individual with a circadian rhythm disorder. Graphic courtesy of Susan Harbison, NHLBI.

Harbison says that for most people, disruptions to the circadian clock have a temporary effect, as occurs with daylight saving time or jet lag from overseas travel, when a person may experience short-term fatigue as they adjust to a time change or new time zone. But for some, disruptions to the clock are associated with chronic health effects, as occurs with night shift workers. Others who suffer from certain circadian rhythm disorders— such as delayed sleep phase disorder—may find it extremely difficult to fall asleep at a desired time.

“The clock architecture is not set in stone and is not a ‘one size fits all’ device,” she noted. “What we’re finding is that the effect of disrupting the circadian clock differs depending on the genetic makeup of the individual. Just as human height and other traits are variable, the same is true of circadian traits among different individuals.”

In the future, Harbison hopes that these newly identified genes might ultimately be linked to specific disease processes in humans. Her findings could lead to the discovery of new biomarkers for diagnosing circadian disorders and lay the groundwork for new treatments for sleep and circadian disorders in humans.

8 Health Conditions That Disproportionately Affect Black Women


And what you can do to prevent some of them
black-women-diseases-health-conditions

Although being black in this world certainly comes with its struggles, I wouldn’t trade that integral part of my identity for anything. Black-girl magic is real. But it’s a sad fact that black women are often plagued with disproportionately high incidences or mortality rates for various health conditions, like heart diseasebreast cancer, and more.

It sounds scary—and it can be—but knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your physical and mental health. Here are eight health conditions black women should be especially aware of, plus how to best prevent them.

1. Heart disease, stroke, and diabetes

These conditions often occur together or exacerbate each other, and they’re striking black women hard.

Around 7.6 percent of black women have heart disease, compared to 5.8 percent of white women and 5.6 percent of Mexican-American women, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2011-2013. In 2016, around 46 of every 100,000 black women died from strokes, while 35 of every 100,000 white women did. And while white women’s diabetes diagnosis rate is 5.4 per 100, that number is 9.9 per 100 for black women, according to CDC data from 1980-2014—almost double.

Infographic of the heart disease/stroke/diabetes racial disparities

A group of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome increases a person’s chance of getting these diseases. These risk factors include having a waist circumference above 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men, high levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood), a low HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar.

Someone must have at least three of these factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, but having even one can signal higher chances of getting heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Those first two are particularly lethal, killing one woman about every 80 seconds.

The black community’s obesity crisis is a symbol of just how at-risk this segment of the population is. “The vast majority of African-American adult women are either overweight or obese,” Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. While 37.6 percent of black men ages 20 or over are obese according to the latest data, that number jumps to 56.9 percent for black women. It stands at 36.2 percent for white women.

Various genetic components are likely at play with metabolic syndrome—for instance, some research points to a gene that might make black people more sensitive to salt, thus influencing blood pressure—but much of this issue is societal.

“It’s the foods we eat—many communities don’t have easy access to healthier options,” Dr. Hutcherson says. A 2013 study in Preventive Medicine found that “poor, predominantly black neighborhoods face…the most limited access to quality food.” Dr. Hutcherson also cites stress and adds that a lack of exercise can be a problem, too, if it’s hard to get access to a gym or the neighborhood isn’t safe.

Lifestyle changes like eating better, exercising, and stopping smoking can prevent 80 percent of heart disease events and stroke and lower people’s chances of developing diabetes, according to the CDC. But clearly, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

2. Breast cancer

Black women have a 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer; for white women the odds are 1 in 8, according to the American Cancer Society. But black women are more likely to die from the disease: White women’s probability of dying from breast cancer is 1 in 37, while black women’s is 1 in 31.

“The reasons why black women are more likely to die [from breast cancer than other groups] are very complex,” Adrienne Phillips, M.D., oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF, citing “an interplay between genetics, biology, and environment.”

Along with BRCA mutations (which may be higher in black women than experts previously thought), black women are more likely to get triple-negative breast cancer—a particularly aggressive form of the disease—than women of other races. Then there are the environmental factors Dr. Phillips mentions, like socioeconomic issues that lead to trouble accessing early diagnosis and treatment.

Much like metabolic syndrome, lowering your risk of getting breast cancer mainly comes down to exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not going overboard on alcohol, and quitting smoking. And even though major organizations haven’t found a notable benefit from breast self-exams, many doctors strongly recommend you check your breasts monthly so you’re aware of any changes.

3. Cervical cancer

Research published in January in the journal Cancer found that not only are black women more likely to die of cervical cancer than women of other races, they’re also 77 percent more likely to die from it than experts previously thought. Prior estimates said 5.7 black women per 100,000 would die of the disease, but this new research puts the number at 10.1 per 100,000.

“Unlike breast cancer, cervical cancer is absolutely preventable in this day and age,” Dr. Phillips says. “In 2017, no woman should be diagnosed with cervical cancer.”

That’s partly because the HPV vaccine is excellent at preventing infection of certain strains of human papillomavirus that can go on to cause cancer. But as of August 2016, only 6 out of 10 girls ages 13 to 17 and 5 of 10 boys in the same age range had started the vaccine series, which doctors recommend getting before age 26 for optimal results. Racial disparities are relevant here—a 2014 report from the CDC showed that around 71 percent of white girls 13 to 17 had completed the three-shot series, compared with about 62 percent of black girls in that age group. (The CDC changed these recommendations in 2016: It now says only two doses are necessary for optimal protection if the patient is between 11 and 12, but three are still ideal if the patient is between 15 and 26.)

Timely Pap smears are also wonderfully effective at preventing full-blown cervical cancer. “A Pap smear will detect preinvasive cervical cancer, but…studies have shown women who are having Pap smears may not get appropriate follow-up,” Dr. Phillips says. “A number of barriers exist for proper follow-up, and African-American women may be more vulnerable.”

Another potential factor, though, may be racial disparities in cervical cancertreatment. A 2014 study published in Plos One found that black women in Maryland were significantly less likely than white women to get surgery for cervical cancer instead of radiation or chemotherapy.

“Equivalent treatments are not being administered to white and black patients with cervical cancer in Maryland,” the study authors concluded. “Differences in care may contribute to racial disparities in outcomes for women with cervical cancer.”

A 2016 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reached a similar conclusion. The study looked at more than 16,000 patients who had received care for advanced cervical cancer, finding that white women received National Cancer Institute guideline–based care 58 percent of the time, black women 53 percent of the time, and Hispanic women 51.5 percent of the time.

4. Fibroids

Black women are three times more likely than women of other races to get uterine fibroids, noncancerous tumors in the walls of the uterus, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Fibroids are largely genetic, and there’s no known way to prevent them.

“Most of the time, women don’t know they have fibroids because they don’t have symptoms,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “But when [the fibroids] start to grow or increase in number, they can cause a large number of problems, from pain to bleeding to miscarriages, to problems with urination and problems with bowel movements.”

When fibroids do make themselves known, the first sign is often heavy bleedingor pelvic pain, Dr. Hutcherson says.

These symptoms can have a lot of other causes, but if you do have fibroids, you and your doctors can work on a treatment plan. To tackle heavy bleeding and pelvic pain, your doctor may recommend hormonal birth control. But doctors can also perform a myomectomy to remove the fibroids or use techniques like uterine artery embolization and radiofrequency ablation to either block the fibroid from getting nutrients or shrink it.

If you’re done having children or are not interested in having them in the first place, as a last resort, doctors can perform a hysterectomy to put a definitive end to fibroids. Since this makes it impossible to get pregnant, it’s an incredibly delicate decision that varies from woman to woman.

5. Premature delivery

Giving birth prematurely, or going into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, can predispose a child to breathing issues, digestive problems, brain bleeding, and long-term developmental delays. It can also lead to death—the earlier a baby is born, the higher this danger becomes.

Unfortunately, black women are particularly susceptible to going into labor too early. According to the CDC, the 2015 preterm birth rate in black women was 13 percent; for white women it was 9 percent.

Infographic of the preterm birth rate racial disparity

“This is multifactorial—it can be affected by obesity, by stress, by diet, by increased vaginal infections, and the decreased access to care in some of our populations,” Dr. Hutcherson says. Women having access to prenatal care is incredibly important for slashing the risk of preterm birth, but when socioeconomics come into the picture, it becomes a complex situation with too few solutions. However, the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is working on a variety of state- and national-level initiatives to reduce preterm birth in all women.

6. Sickle cell disease

This is an umbrella term for a collection of inherited, lifelong blood disorders that around 1 of every 365 black babies is born with, according to the CDC. Sickle cell disease is caused by a sickle hemoglobin, which happens when the structure of a person’s hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to the red blood cells, is abnormal. Instead of being circular, their red blood cells can look like sickles, a C-shaped farming tool, Dr. Phillips explains.

Sickle-shaped red blood cells can get destroyed in the blood stream, so patients may become anemic. These cells can also clog blood vessels, which can lead to infection, chest pain, and even stroke. And if a pregnant woman has sickle cell disease, it increases the probability of miscarriage, premature birth, and having a baby with a low birth weight, according to the March of Dimes.

Black women who are considering children should get screened for sickle cell no matter what, Dr. Phillips says. It’s possible to not have the disease but have the sickle cell trait, meaning you inherited one sickle cell gene and one normal gene from your parents. If your partner also has sickle cell trait, there is a 25 percent chance your child will inherit sickle cell disease. According to a CDC estimate from 2014, 73 out of every 1,000 black newborns was born with sickle cell trait, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white newborns.

With proper care and caution to avoid complications, kids with sickle cell disease can live healthy, happy lives, Phillips says—it’s essential for their parents to get the proper education about how to keep them safe.

7. Sexually transmitted diseases

Here’s a bit of good news: Rates of reported chlamydia cases in black people decreased 11.2 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to the CDC. There was a similar downward trend with gonorrhea, which declined 4 percent in that time frame. But black women still outpace other groups when it comes to new diagnoses of these diseases, along with new diagnoses of syphilis.

This problem also extends to HIV/AIDS. Besides black men, black women comprise a majority of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses per year (although the number is thankfully falling). For example, according to the CDC, in 2015, 4,524 black women were diagnosed with HIV in the United States, while 1,431 white women and 1,131 Hispanic/Latina women received the same diagnosis.

“It’s not like black women are having more sex than anyone else,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “Access to good preventive care is the crux of it—if [women] could see health care providers on a regular basis and be educated about what they should be doing to take care of themselves, we probably wouldn’t have as much of a problem.”

Economic insecurity is also an element—condoms and dental dams cost money, after all—as is a general reticence to discuss safe sex.

“There’s a stigma around talking about sex, so people engage in risky sexual activity without protection,” Dr. Hutcherson says.

8. Mental health issues

In addition to the usual biological culprits that can contribute to mental illnessissues, economic insecurity and racism can negatively impact mental health status in the black community.

Overall, black people are 10 percent more likely to report experiencing serious psychological distress than white people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

“In 2017, we still face a lot of economic insecurity and racism in general. It’s a problem that causes stress and anxiety, which then can lead into depression, and that’s something we never discuss,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “I wish we could make it more acceptable to talk about this and seek care.” Just like in many other cultures, the black community is wrestling with the stigma of seeking help for mental distress. There’s also the reduced access to this kind of counseling in the first place, and the fact that mental health care can be prohibitively expensive. Many counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists don’t take health insurance, which may deter people from getting the help they need. Combined, these factors resulted in 9.4 percent of black adults getting mental health treatment or some form of counseling in 2014 versus 18.8 percent of white people age 18 and older, per the Office of Minority Health.

Black women are especially vulnerable to wrestling with their mental health, consistently reporting higher feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and the sense that everything is an effort than white women do. “Black women are frequently the pillars of our community, taking care of everyone’s health but our own,” Dr. Phillips says. “But it’s very important for women to practice self-care and not forget about themselves when trying to be so strong.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, help is out there. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a comprehensive page about mental health concerns in the black community and a help line that operates Monday through Friday, 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. NAMI also provides a list of 25 different help lines people can turn to when they need support.

STUDY PROVES REFINED SUGAR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR REMARKABLE RATE OF DISEASE


refined sugar
  • Sugar has become a daily habit in the past 100 years, during which rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses have skyrocketed
  • Recent research demonstrates cancer cells use sugar as their primary fuel and are functionally starved when sugar is withheld, upholding previous research by German biochemist, Otto Warburg
  • The metabolic theory of cancer holds sugar damages mitochondrial function and energy production, triggering cell mutations that are then fed by ongoing sugar consumption
  • Your healthiest choice is to avoid or eliminate refined sugar from your diet by eating whole, organic foods, and carefully reading labels of any packaged foods you buy

Refined sugar was not consumed on a daily basis until the past 100 years. Before that, it was a treat afforded only by the very rich as sugar cane was a difficult crop to grow. In the past 100 years, rates of obesityheart diseaseType 2 diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases have skyrocketed.

When sugar and tobacco were introduced by Native Americans to Europeans as they began to settle America, the average life span was relatively short.1 This meant health consequences from sugar and tobacco were easily buried in the myriad of other life challenges the early settlers faced.

As early as the 1920s, research documented the damage sugar does to your body. To this day, tobacco continues to be a leading a cause of premature death.2 Unfortunately, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., that title may well belong to sugar. Yet people who would never consider smoking may have little concern over the amount of sugar and starch eaten each day.

From a nutritional standpoint, your body does not need refined sugar. Although you need glucose, your body manufactures the glucose it needs in your liver through a process called gluconeogenesis. If you never ate another morsel of candy, sugar or starch again, you would live quite comfortably and likely in far better health.

Sugar Feeds the Growth of Cancer Cells

 

Recent research reported in this short news video demonstrates that the amount of sugar you eat each day should be an important consideration in your nutritional plan. In 1926, German biochemist Otto Warburg observed cancer cells fermented glucose to lactic acid, even in the presence of oxygen (known as the Warburg effect), and theorized it might be the fundamental cause of cancer.3 This led to the idea that tumor growth could be disturbed by cutting off the energy supply, namely sugar.

For decades, scientists and researchers dismissed the idea, and the sugar industry backed them up. Warburg received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1931 for his work in cellular respiration and energy production. His life’s mission was to find a cure for cancer, but his findings were largely ignored by the conventional medical community as they were considered simplistic and didn’t fit the genetic model of disease that was widely accepted.

Recent research from Belgium4 shows there is indeed a strong link between glucose overstimulation and mutated proteins often found inside human tumor cells, which make the cells grow faster.5 The study began in 2008, triggered by the researchers’ desire to gain a greater understanding of the Warburg effect.

The rapid breakdown of glucose in tumor cells is not seen in healthy cells, making glucose the primary energy source for cancer. Researcher Johan Thevelein, Ph.D., a molecular biologist from LU Leuven in Belgium, commented on the results of the study in a press release, saying:6

“Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness.

This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences. Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain, which can now be performed with a much more precise and relevant focus.”

Cell Mutation Not Limited to Sugar Consumption

They’re quick to point out that while they believe the presence of added sugar in your diet may increase the aggressive growth of cancer cells, their research does not prove it triggers the original mutation.7 That said, previous research has shown that the genetic mutations found in cancer cells are actually a downstream effect caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, not the original cause, and excessive sugar consumption is one of the things that triggers mitochondrial dysfunction. I’ll discuss this more in a section below.

Granted, there are thousands of manufactured chemicals in your home, car and workplace that may cause or contribute to cell mutations. Air pollutionpersonal care productsplastics and chemical treatments often contain chemicals with carcinogenic properties, and such exposures also play a role.

The mutation of a cell, fed by your daily sugar habit, may grow into cancer. Cell mutation from sugar consumption occurs after mitochondrial damage. However, sugar also provides nutrition to cells mutated by contaminant exposure, and is required for these mutated cells to grow and multiply. As such, your sugar intake becomes an important factor, and one that you have a great deal of control over.

This means that even in the absence of oxygen, tumor cells can extract energy from glucose molecules. Rapid cell division of cancer cells to fuel growth requires the presence of a lot of sugar. Warburg believed a defect in the mitochondria of cancer cells allows the cells to use glycolysis to fuel growth, which suggests cancer is actually a metabolic disease that is affected by your diet.

Research Supports Cancer Is a Metabolic Disease

In the U.S. an estimated 600,000 people will die from cancer this year, costing over $125 billion in health care expenses.9 The World Health Organization finds cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for nearly 8.8 million deaths in 2015.10 Imagine if that many people were dying each year from the flu or polio. This would be headline news each day. Have we become so used to the idea of cancer that 1.6 million new cases every year in the U.S. is old news?

Conventional cancer treatment focuses on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However, many of these treatments have only been successful at lengthening lives by months and not in curing the disease. The basis for these treatments is that cancer is a genetic problem and not one triggered and fed by mitochondrial dysfunction. As a result, the nutritional link is typically overlooked.

The featured study exposes the flaw in using only pharmaceutical, surgical and radiation treatments on tumors and other cancer growths. Warburg postulated that by cutting off the food supply cancer cells rely on for survival, you effectively starve them.

Research has also shown that genetic mutations are not the trigger for cancer growths but rather a downstream effect resulting from defective energy metabolism in cell mitochondria. This defective energy metabolism changes the way your cells function and promotes the growth of cancer cells.

In other words, if your mitochondria remain healthy, your risk of developing cancer is slim. Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., author of “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management and Treatment of Cancer,” has received many awards and honors through his long and illustrious career for the work he’s done expanding knowledge of how metabolism affects cancer.

He is one of the pioneers in the application of nutritional ketosis for cancer. While in nutritional ketosis, your body burns fat for fuel instead of starches and carbohydrates. By eating a healthy high-fat, low-carbohydrate and low- to moderate-protein diet, your body begins to burn fat as its primary fuel. Research from Ohio State University demonstrates athletes who eat a ketogenic diet experience significant improvements in their health and performance.11

Nutritional ketosis is also showing great promise in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease,12 Type 2 diabetes13 and seizures14 that are unresponsive to medications. This recent research from Belgium confirms the work Warburg, Seyfried and others have done, and supports the hypothesis that cancer is a metabolically based disease and not a genetic problem.

Chemotherapy May Not Be the Answer

Traditional administration of chemotherapy may increase your risk of metastasis (the spread of cancer cells through your body) and may trigger additional tumor growth. Chemotherapy is sometimes recommended prior to surgery to help shrink the size of the tumor, increasing the likelihood a woman could have a lumpectomy instead of a full mastectomy.

Recent research reveals that giving chemotherapy prior to breast cancer surgery may promote metastasis of the disease, allowing it to spread to other areas of your body.15 This greatly increases the risk of dying. The study found that mice had twice the amount of cancer cells in their blood and lungs after treatment with chemotherapy. The researchers also found similar results in 20 human patients whose tumor microenvironments became more favorable to metastasis after chemotherapy.

Other studies in men with prostate cancer have demonstrated chemotherapy may cause DNA damage in healthy cells that boosts tumor growth and helps the cancer cells resist treatment.16 Research continues to reveal the effect chemotherapy has on your body and the devastating effect it has on healthy cells. At least as far back as 2004, researchers have known that “chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival.”17

Your Healthiest Choice Is to Avoid Sugar

Sugar is a primary factor driving the development of a number of different health conditions and chronic diseases. Sugar contributes to several of the leading causes of death in the U.S., including:18

Heart disease Hypertension Atherosclerosis Cancer
Stroke Diabetes Chronic liver disease Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease19

While all forms of sugar are harmful when consumed in excess, processed fructose — the most commonly found sugar in processed foods — appears to be the worst. Manufacturers use the addictive property of sugar to drive sales, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) allows them to achieve their goals at a lower price. Although it tastes like sugar, HFCS gives your body a bigger sugar jolt. Dr. Yulia Johnson, family medicine physician with The Iowa Clinic, comments on the use of HFCS:20

“Your body processes high fructose corn syrup differently than it does ordinary sugar. The burden falls on your liver, which is not capable of keeping up with how quickly corn syrup breaks down. As a result, blood sugar spikes quicker. It’s stored as fat, so you can become obese and develop other health problems, such as diabetes, much faster.”

It stands to reason that if you want to live a healthier life and reduce your health care costs and your risk for cancer, you’d be wise to avoid refined sugar as much as possible, if not eliminate it from your diet entirely.

Eating real food (ideally organic), following a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet described in “Fat for Fuel,” and fasting are all things you can do to optimize your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease. For inspiring stories of others who have used a ketogenic diet to stabilize their health, read my article, “Promoting Advances in Managing Cancer as a Metabolic Disease Need Your Support.”

If you do pick up packaged foods, read the labels carefully so you can make an informed decision about the sugar you’re adding to your diet. Sugars may masquerade under several different names on food labels. Some of the more common names are listed below, but there are more than are listed here.

Labels list ingredients in order of the amount in the product. In other words, there is more of the first ingredient than the second, and so forth. When evaluating sugar, remember if it is listed in the fourth, sixth and ninth positions, the combined total may put it in the first or second position.21

Fruit juice concentrate Evaporated cane juice Cane juice crystals Blackstrap molasses
Buttered syrup Fruit juice Honey Carob syrup
Caramel Brown rice syrup Corn syrup solids Florida crystal
Golden syrup Maple syrup Molasses Refiner’s syrup
Sorghum syrup Sucanat Treacle Turbinado
Barley malt Corn syrup Dextrin Dextrose
Diastatic malt Ethyl maltol Glucose Glucose solids
Lactose Malt Syrup Maltose D-ribose
Rice syrup Galactose Maltodextrin Castor

Study Proves Refined Sugar is Responsible for Remarkable Rate of Disease


Refined sugar was not consumed on a daily basis until the past 100 years. Before that, it was a treat afforded only by the very rich as sugar cane was a difficult crop to grow. In the past 100 years, rates of obesityheart diseaseType 2 diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases have skyrocketed.

When sugar and tobacco were introduced by Native Americans to Europeans as they began to settle America, the average life span was relatively short.1 This meant health consequences from sugar and tobacco were easily buried in the myriad of other life challenges the early settlers faced.

As early as the 1920s, research documented the damage sugar does to your body. To this day, tobacco continues to be a leading a cause of premature death.Unfortunately, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., that title may well belong to sugar. Yet people who would never consider smoking may have little concern over the amount of sugar and starch eaten each day.

From a nutritional standpoint, your body does not need refined sugar. Although you need glucose, your body manufactures the glucose it needs in your liver through a process called gluconeogenesis. If you never ate another morsel of candy, sugar or starch again, you would live quite comfortably and likely in far better health.

Sugar Feeds the Growth of Cancer Cells

Recent research demonstrates that the amount of sugar you eat each day should be an important consideration in your nutritional plan.

In 1926, German biochemist Otto Warburg observed cancer cells fermented glucose to lactic acid, even in the presence of oxygen (known as the Warburg effect), and theorized it might be the fundamental cause of cancer.3 This led to the idea that tumor growth could be disturbed by cutting off the energy supply, namely sugar. The rapid breakdown of glucose in tumor cells is not seen in healthy cells, making glucose the primary energy source for cancer.

For decades, scientists and researchers dismissed the idea, and the sugar industry backed them up. Warburg received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1931 for his work in cellular respiration and energy production. His life’s mission was to find a cure for cancer, but his findings were largely ignored by the conventional medical community as they were considered simplistic and didn’t fit the genetic model of disease that was widely accepted.

Recent research from Belgium4 shows there is indeed a strong link between glucose overstimulation and mutated proteins often found inside human tumor cells, which make the cells grow faster.5 The study began in 2008, triggered by the researchers’ desire to gain a greater understanding of the Warburg effect.

Researcher Johan Thevelein, Ph.D., a molecular biologist from LU Leuven in Belgium, commented on the results of the study in a press release, saying:6

“Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness.

“This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences. Our results provide a foundation for future research in this domain, which can now be performed with a much more precise and relevant focus.”

Cell Mutation Not Limited to Sugar Consumption

They’re quick to point out that while they believe the presence of added sugar in your diet may increase the aggressive growth of cancer cells, their research does not prove it triggers the original mutation.7 That said, previous research has shown that the genetic mutations found in cancer cells are actually a downstream effect caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, not the original cause, and excessive sugar consumption is one of the things that triggers mitochondrial dysfunction. I’ll discuss this more in a section below.

Granted, there are thousands of manufactured chemicals in your home, car and workplace that may cause or contribute to cell mutations. Air pollutionpersonal care productsplastics and chemical treatments often contain toxic chemicals with carcinogenic properties, and such exposures also play a role.

The mutation of a cell, fed by your daily sugar habit, may grow into cancer. Cell mutation from sugar consumption occurs after mitochondrial damage. However, sugar also provides nutrition to cells mutated by contaminant exposure, and is required for these mutated cells to grow and multiply. As such, your sugar intake becomes an important factor, and one that you have a great deal of control over.

Normally, energy is drawn from glucose through a process of oxidation that requires the presence of oxygen.8 But, cancer cells use a process of fermentation, even when oxygen is present, to create energy. The process, called glycolysis, extracts less energy during the process, but requires less energy and fewer steps to get energy from glucose.

This means that even in the absence of oxygen, tumor cells can extract energy from glucose molecules. Rapid cell division of cancer cells to fuel growth requires the presence of a lot of sugar. Warburg believed a defect in the mitochondria of cancer cells allows the cells to use glycolysis to fuel growth, which suggests cancer is actually a metabolic disease that is affected by your diet.

Research Supports Cancer Is a Metabolic Disease

In the U.S. an estimated 600,000 people will die from cancer this year, costing over $125 billion in health care expenses.9 The World Health Organization finds cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for nearly 8.8 million deaths in 2015.10 Imagine if that many people were dying each year from the flu or polio. This would be headline news each day. Have we become so used to the idea of cancer that 1.6 million new cases every year in the U.S. is old news?

Conventional cancer treatment focuses on surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However these treatments have low success rates, and have only been successful at lengthening lives by months and not in curing the disease. [Also see: The Truth About Chemotherapy – History, Effects and Natural Alternatives.] The basis for these treatments is that cancer is a genetic problem and not one triggered and fed by mitochondrial dysfunction. As a result, the nutritional link is typically overlooked.

The featured study exposes the flaw in using only pharmaceutical, surgical and radiation treatmentson tumors and other cancer growths. By cutting off the food supply cancer cells rely on for survival, you effectively starve them.

Research has also shown that genetic mutations are not the trigger for cancer growths but rather a downstream effect resulting from defective energy metabolism in cell mitochondria. This defective energy metabolism changes the way your cells function and promotes the growth of cancer cells. In other words, if your mitochondria remain healthy, your risk of developing cancer is slim.

Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., author of “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management and Treatment of Cancer“, has received many awards and honors through his long and illustrious career for the work he’s done expanding knowledge of how metabolism affects cancer. He is also one of the pioneers in the application of nutritional ketosis for cancer.

While in nutritional ketosis, your body burns fat for fuel instead of starches and carbohydrates. By eating a healthy high-fat, low-carbohydrate and low- to moderate-protein diet, your body begins to burn fat as its primary fuel. Research from Ohio State University demonstrates athletes who eat a ketogenic diet experience significant improvements in their health and performance.11

Nutritional ketosis is also showing great promise in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease,12 Type 2 diabetes13 and seizures14 that are unresponsive to medications, while recent research from Belgium4 confirms the work Warburg, Seyfried and others have done, and supports the hypothesis that cancer is a metabolically-based disease and not a genetic problem.

Research: Chemotherapy Triggers Additional Tumor Growth

Traditional administration of chemotherapy may increase your risk of metastasis (the spread of cancer cells through your body) and may trigger additional tumor growth. Chemotherapy is sometimes recommended prior to surgery to help shrink the size of the tumor, increasing the likelihood a woman could have a lumpectomy instead of a full mastectomy.

Recent research reveals that giving chemotherapy prior to breast cancer surgery may promote metastasis of the disease, allowing it to spread to other areas of your body.15 This greatly increases the risk of dying. The study found that mice had twice the amount of cancer cells in their blood and lungs after treatment with chemotherapy. The researchers also found similar results in 20 human patients whose tumor microenvironments became more favorable to metastasis after chemotherapy.

Other studies in men with prostate cancer have demonstrated chemotherapy may cause DNA damage in healthy cells that boosts tumor growth and helps the cancer cells resist treatment.16 Research continues to reveal the effect chemotherapy has on your body and the devastating effect it has on healthy cells. At least as far back as 2004, researchers have known that “chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival.”17

Your Healthiest Choice Is to Avoid Sugar

Sugar is a primary factor driving the development of a number of different health conditions and chronic diseases. Sugar contributes to several of the leading causes of death in the U.S., including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis, and chronic liver disease.18 

While all forms of sugar are harmful when consumed in excess, processed fructose — the most commonly found sugar in processed foods — appears to be the worst. Manufacturers use the addictive property of sugar to drive sales, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) allows them to achieve their goals at a lower price. Although it tastes like sugar, HFCS gives your body a bigger sugar jolt. Dr. Yulia Johnson, family medicine physician with The Iowa Clinic, comments on the use of HFCS:20

“Your body processes high fructose corn syrup differently than it does ordinary sugar. The burden falls on your liver, which is not capable of keeping up with how quickly corn syrup breaks down. As a result, blood sugar spikes quicker. It’s stored as fat, so you can become obese and develop other health problems, such as diabetes, much faster.”

It stands to reason that if you want to live a healthier life and reduce your health care costs and your risk for cancer, you’d be wise to avoid refined sugar as much as possible, if not eliminate it from your diet entirely.

Eating real food (ideally organic), following a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein diet described in my book “Fat For Fuel“, and intermittent fasting, are all things you can do to optimize your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease. For inspiring stories of others who have used a ketogenic diet to stabilize their health, read my article, Promoting Advances in Managing Cancer as a Metabolic Disease Need Your Support.”

If you do pick up packaged foods, read the labels carefully so you can make an informed decision about the sugar you’re adding to your diet. Sugars may masquerade under several different names on food labels. Some of the more common names are listed below, but there are many more sugars than are listed here.

Labels list ingredients in order of the amount in the product. In other words, there is more of the first ingredient than the second, and so forth. When evaluating sugar, remember if it is listed in the fourth, sixth and ninth positions, the combined total may put it in the first or second position.21

Fruit juice concentrate Evaporated cane juice Cane juice crystals Blackstrap molasses Treacle Sucanat
Buttered syrup Fruit juice Honey Carob syrup Maltodextrin Turbinado
Caramel Brown rice syrup Corn syrup solids Florida crystal Corn syrup Barley malt
Golden syrup Maple syrup Molasses Refiner’s syrup Dextrose Dextrin
Diastatic malt Ethyl maltol Glucose Glucose solids Rice syrup Galactose
Lactose Malt Syrup Maltose D-ribose Castor Sorghum syrup

 

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