Taurine

Glycation of Sugars

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

One of the most important and under-recognized causes of accelerated aging is a chemical process called “glycation” (also known as “glycosylation”). Best thought of as a reaction between sugar and protein (and sometimes fat). Glycation can be thought of as a type of caramelization, a candy making technique that creates a characteristic confectionary quality that candy cooks have exploited for centuries. During the caramelization process, sugar is heated to high temperatures until it turns brown. And it’s not just candy that caramelizes, or glycates. The same phenomenon occurs when bread is toasted, or onions or potatoes are grilled. French toasted bread, fried onions and French fried potatoes, also are among culinary delights that are carmelized.

Glycation of sugarsIn the body, caramelization/glycation of sugars can occur in conjunction with proteins, and as with caramelization of foods this can manifest itself as browning and subsequent degradation of various structures. Smaller systems are especially likely to be damaged; most especially tiny blood vessels and capillaries. Glycation is a leading cause of blindness and kidney diseases. Both structures are packed with thousands of miles of microscopic circulatory vessels. The net effect of this kind of damage can result in pockets of oxygen deprived, nutritionally starved, and toxin drenched tissue. Not good!

Even worse, there an important relationship between glycation and oxidation, which is thought to play an important part in accelerated aging. As it turns out, glycated proteins can be a source of free radicals that are responsible for the oxidation, which can be thought of as a type of “biological rusting”. In an article published in the journal “Glycobiology”, researchers claimed that glycated proteins produce 50 times more free radicals than non-glycated proteins. According to the article, free radicals amplify the production of inflammatory peptides and the net result is not only rapid aging of organs and tissues, but also many health challenges including diabetes, neuro-degeneration, and kidney failure.

The best way to protect yourself from glycation is to keep your blood sugar concentration as low as possible. There should only be around one (1) teaspoonful of sugar floating around in the blood at any given moment. It’s not uncommon for blood sugar concentration to double after a carbohydrate-laden meal. Reducing your intake of refined carbs (flour, fruit juice, cereals, dessert, etc.) should be a priority, making sure you’re taking in lots of water, especially after drinking a soda pop or indulging a sweet or a starchy bread-filled meal. Supplements can also be beneficial. The B-complex stands out in importance, especially Vitamins B1 and B3. Use a B-100 or something like Youngevity’s Beyond Tangy Tangerine. Vitamin C is important too, 1000mg maybe. Minerals like Magnesium Glycinate, Zinc , Selenium, Chromium, and Vanadium are known to help the body process sugar. Arginine and Taurine are two amino acids that improve sugar metabolism and the B-vitamin-like substance choline can be helpful, too.

*Did you know that the sugar beet and sugar cane are excellent sources of many of the nutrients that the body needs to process carbs?*

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Late last week the FDA approved a new drug to treat Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). The medication, called macitentan (Opsumit, Actelion) is the second drug approved this month to treat the debilitating disease. Earlier, the regulatory body approved a medication called riociguat (Adempas).

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Micrograph showing a plexiform lesion of the lung, as seen in irreversible pulmonary hypertension. Image contributed by Bulent Celasun, MD, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is a condition that affects the blood circulation in the pulmonary system, which is medical term referring to respiratory mechanics and the lungs. Although no one knows exactly how many people have PAH, according to the American Thoracic Society (ATS), it may affect as many as hundreds of thousands of Americans. It can best be thought of as high blood pressure of the lung arteries and can lead to all kinds of unpleasant bodily symptoms including bluish lips, hands or feet, dizziness, fatigue and lethargy, shortness of breath, fainting and swelling in the lower extremities. PAH has no surgical cure, progresses rapidly and is marked by progressive degeneration and breakdown of the blood vessels that travel from the heart to the lungs. In a normal healthy body, blood is carried from the heart, then to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen, which is then in turn delivered back to the heart and then to the rest of the organs and tissues of the body. Under conditions of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension however, pulmonary arterial constriction, i.e. a tightening of the blood vessels in the lungs, restricts flow resulting in a sluggish circulation to the heart as well as a decrease in the amount of blood and oxygen that is ultimately delivered to the rest of the body. In addition, long term hypertension in the pulmonary arteries can lead to vascular changes including thickening of vessel walls, inflammation and the formation of plaques, all of which can further impair circulation and blood flow. Most significantly as the condition progresses, the heart, which is forced to work harder and faster to compensate for the vascular changes, becomes weakened. This can result in heart failure which is the most common cause of death in cases of PAH.

PAH can be associated with various other disease states including connective tissue disease, hypothyroidism, liver disease and heart disease, HIV infection and stimulant drug intake. However the vast majority of cases, according to ATS literature are said to be idiopathic, meaning they are associated with no known cause.

Although there is no medical cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, drug treatments have traditionally focused on vasodilators, which open up the blood vessels. However these kinds of drugs can create potential problems via lowering blood pressure in the rest of the body and ultimately decreasing the flow of blood to the lungs. Although the recently approved drugs, macitentan and riociguat, operate via novel mechanisms they are still vasodilators and can result in the same kind of problems as the more conventional PAH medications.

As with other circulatory health challenges there are many nutritional and dietary strategies that may help improve PAH. According to researchers writing in the European Respiratory Journal in April 2013, there is an increased prevalence of insulin resistance in PAH patients. Thus, restoring insulin sensitivity by reducing the intake of sugars and refined carbs may have a beneficial effect. Additionally there are nutritional supplements that can be used that improve insulin response. Niacin, thiamin, chromium and vanadium can all increase insulin sensitivity. So can the mineral magnesium, which can the potentize effects of insulin, and can provide lung and circulatory benefits. Magnesium has also been used as a medical treatment for PAH in newborns. In a 2004 study of 12 newborn babies with pulmonary hypertension published in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, magnesium was found to be “a safe and effective pulmonary vasodilator”, which is medical talk for “a safe substance for opening up blood vessels in the lungs”.

Finally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, while not specifically associated with treating pulmonary arterial hypertension, there are several nutritional supplements that can be used to improve heart health function in general. These include carnitine (500mg, three times a day), CoQ10 (200-600mg a day), Vitamin E (400 IU a day), potassium (20mg and day) and taurine (1000mg twice a day).

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Most Notorious of Statin Induced Symptoms

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans taking a statin drug you should know that yet another study was released yesterday, this one published online in the venerable Journal of the American Medical Association, implicating  these best-selling  billion-dollar babies  in the development of muscle weakness and pain.

The heart and statins

By Ed Yourdon (Flickr: Jogging couple) via Wikimedia Commons

Apparently, according to the study, which analyzed data gleaned from the health records of San Antonio-based beneficiaries (i.e. victims) of the U.S military health care system, statin drug use is associated with an “increased likelihood of diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions”. In English, that means that if you’re on statins your likely to mess up your muscles.

Now if anyone is surprised by this kind of finding which mimics the results found many other studies and corroborates the information on the drug company own insert that’s included in all statin drug packages, they’re clearly not paying attention to biochemistry, medicinal  mechanisms  or for that matter the news.  Even mainstream media outlets like Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/05/statins-linked-to-muscle-pain-sprains/ and CNN http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/statin-side-effects/MY00205.html  have weighed in on this most notorious of statin induced symptoms.  At this point, a quarter century after their release on an unsuspecting and unfortunately sometimes gullible public, no medical practioner worth his salt can plead ignorance to the muscle pain and weakness that is clearly associated with long-term statin use.

Now when most of us think of muscles we tend to think of biceps, triceps, quadriceps and other body structures connected to the skeleton, i.e. what is generally referred to as the musculoskeletal system.  What is often forgotten however, is the fact that that one of the largest, strongest and certainly the most important muscles in the body is … the heart!

How ironic that a drug that is a supposed to be used to protect against cardiovascular disease boasts as a primary side effect toxicity to the heart, the very organ the poison (medicine) is supposed be treating!  What’s even worse, last month in an article published on the website Medical New Today, researchers from the British Medical Journal reported on evidence that statin use can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  And the most notable system affected by this serious life-threatening disease?  You guessed it, the heart. Again the supposed structure that statin drugs are supposed to be supporting.

Look, it’s not complicated:  the human body cannot function in a healthy fashion unless it can make cholesterol and a lot of it.   This important raw material for hormones and cells is arguably the most critical chemical in the body and the molecule that singularly distinguishes animal life from plant life.  Put another way, cholesterol is the quintessential molecule of animal life. If you mess around with the body’s ability to make this stuff you are playing with fire and the longer you poison cholesterol manufacturing bio-machinery the more likely you are going to be to be dealing with toxicity and side effects.

If you’re concerned about cardiovascular disease or if you’ve had a heart attack and want to prevent another one there are numerous non-toxic, non-pharmaceutical strategies that you can use to keep yourself out of the cardiologist’s office and out from under his knife.  Magnesium Glycinate,   Essential Fatty Acids, Taurine, Arginine and Sulfur (MSM) are just a few gentle, benign and multi-functional nutritional supplements that you can use to keep heart healthy and strong.  And Niacin is a great supplement that can reduce cholesterol production just as effectively as any statin drug without the side effects.   Perhaps the most important cardiovascular health strategy is to stay away from insulin spiking foods.  Excess ingestion bread, pasta cereal, cakes candies fruits and fruit juices and many other mainstays of the Standard American Diet (SAD) are a sure fire way to mess up your heart and circulatory system.  Staying off of these foods is way better heart-healthy strategy than taking a poison anti- cholesterol drug.  You won’t have to worry about side effects and you’ll lose weight too.  You’re likely to lower your blood pressure and increase your longevity to boot. And unlike the deadly drugs dispensed by your doctor you’ll actually drop your risk diabetes.

 

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Top 12 Heart Nutrients Part 1

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Last post we defined some of the common terms associated with heart disease. Now, for some of the important nutrients you can take to protect your heart and avoid the cardiologist’s office or even worse, his knife! And, to keep you off the especially dangerous drugs. Cardiac and circulatory drugs are among the most toxic and deadliest of the entire prescription pharmacopeia. If you’re on medication now, you can ask you can ask (or even better insist!) that your physician wean you off your meds and get you on some non-toxic, good nutrition. And if you’re not on meds, there is nothing like a good diet and supplement strategy to keep you far away from the pharmacy for heart meds or anything else.

Heart Nutrients

By Rahul Sharma (Annayu) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

In no particular order, here’s the first 6:

Vitamin C– this powerful nutrient sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to
cardiovascular health. Animals (except for humans, some other primates and guinea pigs) all make their own Vitamin C and animals (except for humans, some other primates and guinea pigs) don’t get heart attacks!

Magnesium – keeping blood from becoming sticky and blood sugar control are just two of
the mechanisms associated with this under-appreciated and often time deficient
mineral protects the heart. Some scientists believe that the cardiovascular benefits attributed to aspirin should have be credited to the magnesium found in the “Bufferin” that was used in the original studies.

Selenium– Known as the heart mineral, selenium deficiencies are also somewhat common
and numerous studies show that supplementation can deliver many cardiovascular
benefits. It’s especially helpful in protecting the heart form low levels of oxygen and it’s protective against heavy metal poisoning of heart cells. Deficienciesare associated with Keshan Disease, a particular fatal form of cardiomyopathy.

Arginine –protects the cardiovascular health in so many ways, it’s a must-have for anyone concerned about heart disease. Lowers blood cholesterol very effectively, especially in high doses (10 to 15 grams a day), improves coronary , as well as general circulation and lowers high blood pressure. Helps prevent blood clots and helps strengthen heart muscle. Very important for angina suffererers. In Europe and Japan it is injected directly by cardiologists to reopen blocked circulation.

Vitamin K – helps maintain clotting balance, especially when using Vitamin E. Protective against hardening of the arteries and calcium regulation function helps maintain heart rhythm and
contractility. Use with medical guidance when taking blood thinning medication like Plavix or warfarin.

Taurine – Helps lower blood pressure and improves the excretion of excess fluid which
takes pressure off of blood vessels. Strengthens heart muscle and helps maintain calcium balance in heart cells. Critical in maintaining heart muscle
contraction.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition