ResearchCategory Archives

Hormones and Fat

It has long been taught in health orthodoxy that a low-fat diet was ideal for preventing disease; but more and more, this idea is being called into question.  As more and more new research comes in, the orthodox medical establishment has had to grudgingly admit that perhaps their theories have been wrong all along.  On the weight maintenance side of things, we have been taught that higher intake of dietary fat makes us gain body fat, but research is now showing that the opposite may be the case.

One must keep in mind that fat is a basic building block of the body.  For instance, the membranes of every cell in the body are overwhelmingly composed of fat molecules.  Optimal health of the cells requires adequate intake of fats for the production and maintenance of the cell membranes.  Furthermore, those fat molecules must be of the correct type to create cell membranes of greatest health.  Eating artificially altered fats such as hydrogenated oils will impact the quality of cell membranes as unnatural molecules become incorporated into the structure of cell membranes.  Dietary fat is not just fuel!

fats-hormone-production-role_aFat and cholesterol are also essential building blocks of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.  A diet too low in fat could well result in levels of hormones too low for health.  How handy it is that those who have followed the medical industry’s guideline of a low fat diet now find themselves dealing with deranged hormone levels.  Now the pharmaceutical industry can sell them hormone patches to bring those hormone levels back up.  They must be seeing dollar signs!  Wouldn’t it be better, though, to correct the problem at its source?  That would be done by correcting the dietary imbalance that created the problem in the first place.  Disease is the result of either insufficient nutrition and/or exposure to toxins.  When the environment of the cells is corrected, health returns.  The correction required to improve levels of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen is the inclusion in the diet of more fat including saturated fat.  Testosterone and other steroidal hormones are actually derived from cholesterol, and so cholesterol must be present for the creation of these hormones.  If the level of these hormones in your body is too low, then perhaps it is because you are doing too good of a job of “controlling” your lipids and cholesterol.  Good sources of dietary fat include the following:

  • Olives and Olive oil
  • Coconuts and coconut oil
  • Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
  • Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans
  • Organic pastured egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Palm oil
  • Unheated organic nut oils

Current high rates of vitamin D deficiency in the United States may also be due to the low-fat diet orthodoxy.  Vitamin D is made from cholesterol and resembles a steroidal hormone.

Too much sugar intake can also reduce testosterone levels.  Carbonated beverages have become the greatest contributor to sugar intake.  If one needs to break the habit of drinking sugary beverages, I suggest making diet sodas with carbonated water and natural alternative sweeteners such as stevia.  Liquid stevia extract is available already flavored.  Plain liquid stevia can also be used with separate flavors or lemon juice.  Suppliers of natural flavor products can be found online.  Xylitol is also a good choice since it helps control harmful microbes in the body that can result from eating a diet too high in carbohydrates.  Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda) should be strictly avoided due to their high toxicity.

What all of this comes down to is that a low-carb high-fat Atkins-like diet may be useful in correcting hormone derangement.  This diet reduces carbs and raises fat while keeping protein levels steady.  When protein levels are kept steady, stress on the kidneys is prevented, thus eliminating the primary medical concern about low-carb diets.  Carbohydrates in such a diet should come from vegetables.

Further reading:
9 Body Hacks to Naturally Increase Testosterone
Low Testosterone and Heart Disease Linked—But What’s Really Causing Them?
Testosterone Decline: How to Address This Challenge to ‘Manhood’
Rising Role Of Fat Reveals Importance In Strength And Performance!
Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men.
Low-Fat Diet and Avoidance of Vitamin D – Two Health Recommendations You’re Best Off Rejecting
The link between vitamin D deficiency & low-fat diets
The Potential Dangers of Sucralose (Splenda)
Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today
What is a high-fat diet
The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable

The Coming Paradigm of Pursuing Biological Balance

I am currently reading An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases by Moises Velasquez-Manoff.  In a nutshell, it is about how the decreasing biodiversity of our environment is creating more disease.  It is about how our agricultural methods, sanitation methods, and compulsive cleaning have in very short order eliminated many of the microorganisms and parasites that we evolved to deal with.  We for the most part no longer live with farm animals.  We seldom come in contact with excrement where in our not so distant past, it was all around us.  Our agricultural growing and distribution methods result in near-sterile produce.  Now that our immune systems have little to contend with, they turn on ourselves.  We are seeing increasing asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases with each new generation living in an environment devoid of the organisms our immune systems are familiar with.

The book begins in a bizarre way.  The author is seeking to infect himself with hookworms in a desperate hope to improve allergy and autoimmune conditions.  The very idea of it is so counter to the paradigm of eradication that we have been living in for the past century or two.  We think we are doing a good thing when we eliminate parasites; and yet when one practitioner dewormed pregnant women, she discovered that their offspring suffered from allergies at a greatly increased rate.  In contrast, some who have purposefully infected themselves with worms have seen reductions in allergic and autoimmune symptoms.  Lest anyone think to do the same, it must be remembered that the science of balancing one’s internal biology is still in its infancy.  We are a long way off from having dependable protocols for balancing the immune system in our modern world.

This book points to a new health specialty coming maybe ten or twenty years in our future, I would guess.  Practitioners of this specialty will use genetic testing, culture testing, and multigenerational environmental history to develop custom protocols for balancing internal biology and preventing allergies and autoimmune diseases.  The genetics of our immune systems are highly complex.  They were shaped over time by the prevailing biological environment in any given locale.  Since there is vast variation in environments, there is likewise vast variation in the immune strategies developed in our genetics.  What will stimulate one individual toward health could cause in another an immune system meltdown.  For this reason, protocols will ideally be custom-made for each patient.

So what does all of this have to do with diet?  Early attempts at achieving biological balance have included probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and cultured vegetables, as promoted in The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity by Donna Gates and Linda Schatz.  This may not be entirely without risk.  For instance, Moises Velasquez-Manoff says in his book that overabundance of even a generally friendly organism such as Lactobacillus acidophilus in the small intestine can cause problems for some, resulting in a condition called Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO.  Chris Kresser addressed this topic with Steve Wright in a recent interview.  In this interview, Chris Kresser mentions that he has found the use of soil-based organisms to be helpful in the treatment of SIBO.  Indeed, my understanding of what I have read of the topic so far would indicate that a diversity of organisms is needed for best results.  I look forward to the day when the science of balancing internal biology reaches its maturity.

Nutrition in the Loetschental Valley

I am currently reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price.  Dr. Price was concerned about the degeneration of dental health that he was seeing in his practice.  He decided to go out and find populations where dental health was still good.  He traveled the world looking for people still eating traditional diets.  This book was first published in 1939, but it would be very difficult to write such a book today because virtually all populations now include modern foods in their diet.  What Dr. Price found was that those still eating their traditional diets did indeed have healthier teeth and facial bone structure.  He did explore to some extent other health issues, but these were not his primary interest or expertise.  It is unfortunate that researchers from other medical specialties did not likewise engage in similar studies.

So far, I have read through the chapter in which Dr. Price describes the differences he found in the traditional Swiss and their modern counterparts.  When Dr. Price inquired as to where he could find populations in Switzerland still eating a traditional diet, he was directed in Switzerland to the Loetschental Valley that had only just recently been reached by rail service.  They were still producing all of their own food and clothing in the valley.  This population had very few caries (decayed teeth)—only 2.3 out of every 100 teeth.  That’s less than one per mouth.  Meanwhile, severely rotten teeth were common in the modern population.  The traditional population had wide dental arches with no crowding.  Their facial bones were well-formed.  The teeth of the modern population were crowded, and there were some deformities of other facial structures causing some to be mouth breathers.  Also, tuberculosis was a major health problem in Switzerland, and yet not one case had been recorded in the Loetschental Valley.  These traditional people were very healthy.

The daily diet in the Loetschental Valley included 100% whole grain rye bread and large slices of cheese.  They ate meat once a week and would use the scraps to make soups the rest of the week.  I assume this means they were eating bone broth, but this was not specifically mentioned in the book.  They ate some vegetables in the summer when they could grow them.  There were no fruits in the diet.  There was no sugar and no white flour.  Their dairy and meat was pasture raised and highly nutritious.

The modern population ate less dairy.  Much of the milk they produced went into the production of chocolate.  They were eating white bread with jams and jellies.  Their cattle were kept in barns.  The quality of the nutrition in the dairy and meat suffered for it.

The traditional diet in the Loetschental Valley was distinctly not Paleo since it was mainly grain and dairy, and yet they enjoyed superb health.  The secret to their health appears to be in the superior quality of the foods they did eat.  They were eating pasture raised animal products and freshly ground whole grains.  Those modern-day populations who have gone Paleo in their eating may be enjoying improved health because they are eating whole fresh foods more like these traditional peoples.  The secret may not necessarily be in the elimination of dairy or grains.  If doing so helps them, it may be because the quality of modern dairy or grains is inferior and in some way deleterious.  Dr. Price recommended in the introduction that all bread should be made from freshly ground whole grain flour.  The fats in flour that has been stored for any length of time tend to go rancid, possibly contributing to ill health.  And, of course, white flour has had most of its nutrition removed to the extent that the law requires that it be enriched with vitamins to prevent malnutrition in the populations eating it.

“My Aspartame Experiment” by Victoria Inness-Brown

Female Aspartame-Fed Rats with Tumors

Examples of tumors that developed in female rats fed aspartame

There’s a rather interesting study of aspartame done by amateur scientist, Victoria Inness-Brown. In a 2½ year multigenerational study of rats, a whopping 67% of the female rats developed tumors the size of golf balls or larger! That’s huge on a rat. Necropsies done by a county veterinarian on several of those animals revealed that these tumors were cancerous. Birth defects were seen in subsequent generations. The rats on aspartame also developed miscellaneous health issues, such as paralysis and other apparent neurological problems, eye problems and skin disorders, thinning and yellowing fur, and obesity. All rats in the control group were free of visible symptoms or neurological problems. This may not have been the best controlled experiment out there, but the results are too significant to ignore.

Formal experiments conducted by Morando Soffritti at The Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation revealed similar results. His studies also found high rates of lymphomas and leukemias.

This is Part 1 of 5.

Victoria Inness-Brown, M.A. My Aspartame Experiment. This site shows photos of the effects of the aspartame on the rats.
Victoria Inness-Brown with Dr. Joseph Mercola.  Victoria Inness-Brown’s Aspartame Experiment: Interview.
Victoria Inness-Brown M.A. My Aspartame Experiment: Report from a Private Citizen.
Victoria Inness-Brown M.A. Are Your Diet Sodas Killing You? Results from My Aspartame Experiment. (This is an abridged version of My Aspartame Experiment.)
Morando Soffritti et. al. First Experimental Demonstration of the Multipotential Carcinogenic Effects of Aspartame Administered in the Feed to Sprague-Dawley Rats. Environmental Health Perspectives, 3 October 2005.
Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Tibaldi E, Esposti DD, Lauriola M. Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1293-7.

A new reason to exercise

I’m continuing to read Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan MD. I’ve got a new reason to exercise while losing weight. Exercise is important because it generates signals to transdifferentiate your fat. This encourages fat cells to redifferentiate into other cells such as muscle cells. Recent studies suggest that the cells of our body are capable of changing purpose as needed. So if the body decides that fat cells are no longer needed but muscle cells are, for instance, it can send signals to the fat cells to relocate and convert themselves into muscle cells. Without exercise, the fat cells simply shrink and wait for the opportunity to suck up calories and grow again.

From the book:

How Fat Cells Change

Nearly every step of the fat cell self-improvement program has been replicated in the lab. Though no one knows exactly how it functions in the body, it might go something like this: First, an individual fat cell loses much, or all, of its lipid stores. Then the shriveled fat cell gets a signal to dedifferentiate into a more mobile cell type, one that is chemically indistinguishable from a stem cell. The cell exits the fat tissue by way of the bloodstream and, once in circulation, is directed to go wherever growth is occurring—a muscle, say. Upon arrival, the cell attaches to the wall of a tiny blood vessel and waits for the stimulus to migrate into the muscle tissue itself. Once it gets the right signal, it moves inside the matrix of the new tissue and redifferentiates to match the other cell types in its new location. Whatever the exact sequence of cell reassignment, the abilities of the magical morphing cell suggest that our body is composed not of cellular specialists, but of generalists, ready to be retrained and reassigned at a moment’s notice. And that’s encouraging news because it tells us that, if we know what we’re doing, our best health may still be ahead of us.

Shanahan MD, Catherine (2011-04-22). Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food (p. 287). Big Box Books.
Transdifferentiation potential of human mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow. Song L. FASEB Vol 18, June 2004, 980-2.

How atherosclerosis develops

I continue to read Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan MD. According to Dr. Shanahan, the most dangerous foods are vegetable oils, sugars, and foods that convert to sugar during digestion. She gave an interesting description of how the two combine to create coronary artery disease. I’ve never seen it laid out quite the same before. It’s a very compelling description of the process if it’s true. It actually explains how the epithelial lining of the arteries becomes injured in the first place, which is something other explanations fail to do.

To sum it up, sugar in the bloodstream damages lipoproteins (HDL, LDL, VLDL). The lipoproteins, in turn, spill their loads into the bloodstream where it should not be. If that load contains mega-trans-fats from damaged vegetable oils (which happens when heat is applied, either during production or cooking), those fats cause oxidative damage to the fats in the membranes of the cells of the epithelial lining of the arteries, resulting in a literal burning of the cells. Gruesome! The body then attempts to repair that damage by sending cholesterol and white blood cells to the injured site. These repairs become the arterial plaques of atherosclerosis.

Salt restriction linked to higher heart death rates

Dr. Mercola sent out a link this morning to an article praising salt. There was a meta-analysis study done, and salt restriction was linked to higher heart death rates. Imagine that. Those with the highest intake of salt had the lowest heart death rate, and significantly so. Dr. Mercola does say that salt restriction can help some people with high blood pressure, but apparently it’s a limited subset. There’s a list of other problems that can occur with salt restriction as well. The article includes stats and study links.

Dr. Eades on lard

Who would think that we’d actually see a medical doctor post an entry on his blog called “Add lard to your larder”? Dr. Michael Eades, the author of Protein Power, did just that. Among interesting points that he made, he said that the Mediterraneans are actually eating lard more than olive oil. The olive oil they produce in the region is for export. That certainly changes the face of what many believe is one of the healthiest diets!

In another of his posts about “The best low-carb book in print,” he quotes study summaries from the book. One study was particularly interesting. They looked at an ADA low-fat/high-carb diet against a low-carb/high-fat diet. I like studies like this because it pits one intervention diet against another, thus eliminating the conscientiousness factor when comparing the diets. Even though the high-fat dieters were eating considerably more saturated fat, the blood levels of saturated fat decreased from their pre-diet numbers, both in terms of percentage of fat in the blood and in terms of the absolute serum content. By the latter measure, saturated fat in the blood dropped 30% in the high-fat group, even though they were eating more saturated fat. Triglycerides fell by 51% in this group. The latter figure did not surprise me much because I already knew that triglycerides increase with carb intake. It would have been nice to know how they did weight-wise, but Dr. Eades did not quote those results. I guess I’ll have to get the book to find out.

Low-carbohydrate diets for cancer

I have been looking into research on low-carbohydrate diets and cancer. They are just beginning to do studies for the purpose of looking into this issue. I suspect that this is because it has been so literally politically incorrect to look at low-carb diets that it just wasn’t done for a long time. After all, the government and other major medical agencies have been promoting low-fat/high-carb diets for some time now, and these are what have been tested most. Anyway, test tube and animal studies of low-carb diets are showing good results. A few human studies are underway, but they are only allowed to enroll cancer patients who have exhausted other options.

Compliance is a big problem with low-carb diets. People love their carbs. They’re so addictive. One cancer study looking at low-carb diets is having problems with that issue. Participants just don’t want to give up cakes, cookies, chocolate, soda, or whatever. And these are people who have had PET scans to determine that their tumors are consuming glucose preferentially. You’d think they’d be motivated.

Diet and Cancer: Ongoing Research. Nutrition and Metabolism Society.
Low Carb, High Protein Diet May Help Fight Cancer By David Liu, Ph.D. and editing by Elizabeth Hutchinson.
Carbohydrate restriction in patients with advanced cancer: a protocol to assess safety and feasibility with an accompanying hypothesis. Eugene J. Fine, MD, MS, C. J. Segal-Isaacson, EdD, Richard Feinman, PhD, Joseph Sparano, MD. COMMUNITY ONCOLOGY. January 2008.
Carbohydrate restriction may slow prostate tumor growth. Health News Track, 2009.
A Holistic Approach to Cancer. Weston Price Foundation.

Dietary fats and atherosclerosis

The following is a review of the study, Dietary fats, carbohydrate, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It’s one of those studies that can make your blood boil because it would indicate that we’ve been given some really bad information over the years about what to eat to prevent heart disease.  This summary of it got me interested in checking out the details:

“A 2004 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health showed that in postmenopausal women, the more PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids such as from vegetable oil] they ate, and to a much lesser extent the more carbohydrate they ate, the worse their atherosclerosis became over time. The more saturated fat they ate, the less their atherosclerosis progressed; in the highest intake of saturated fat, the atherosclerosis reversed over time.”

They chose for their study postmenopausal women who’d already had a heart attack and who had measurable atherosclerosis in their arteries. This study is important because it shows that the advice we have been given by the USDA and major medical organizations for preventing cardiovascular disease is the opposite of what actually works. The fact that some of these women were able to reverse the progression of their atherosclerosis is significant as well. We don’t often hear of that happening. The participants eating the most saturated fat were also eating more total fat. In general, the ones eating the most saturated fat had the best lipid profiles. Those eating the most saturated fat were eating more protein and less carbohydrate than other groups. Those eating the most carbohydrate had the greatest decline in coronary artery size. To a lesser extent, those eating the least total fat had the greater decline in coronary artery size. Among types of fat, polyunsaturated fat was associated with the greater progression of atherosclerosis. Particularly noteworthy were actual improvements seen when monounsaturated fat displaced saturated fat and when protein displaced polyunsaturated fat. Stearic acid, most often found in animal fats, was associated with lesser progression (better outcome) than other saturated fats. Oddly, smoking was inversely associated with progression of atherosclerosis. I would say that the summary I read the other day held up under closer review.

This was an observational study. There were no interventions done. In the discussion section of the study, they presented a chart of intervention studies. Many of them studied an intervention to increase the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat. Most of these showed improved outcomes for the intervention group. I have to wonder, though, if intervention groups were eating better in other ways as well. Perhaps they were eating less processed foods, too, which could have a tremendous impact on the results of the study. After all, in this study that I just read, carbohydrate intake was highly correlated to progression of atherosclerosis. Considering that grain desserts and pizza are the largest identified sources of saturated fat in the American diet according to the USDA, this could well be the case. Intervention studies in the chart where they increased consumption of certain whole foods generally showed a strong trend in improved outcomes. Only an examination of the other individual studies could determine if change in consumption of processed foods was properly accounted for and analyzed for confounding. Did these studies have only two groups, a single intervention group and a control group? It would be more interesting to see a single study with multiple intervention types and compare those outcomes since an intervention group is more likely to be conscientious, and conscientiousness is likely a confounding factor when comparisons are made to controls. An observational study such as the one I just read would be less impacted by conscientiousness. As for a multiple intervention study, I wonder if scientists would be brave enough to create an intervention group where saturated fats from grain desserts and pizza were replaced by higher quality sources of saturated fat that did not come with a boatload of refined carbohydrates, thus retaining the level of consumption of saturated fat but eliminating the junk. Comparing that intervention group to an intervention group increasing the ratio of polyunsaturated fat might yield different results entirely. It remains to be seen. Interestingly, studies where the ratio of monounsaturated fats was increased were not listed. Have they not been done?