Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Walking v diabetes+.

Dr Terry Dwyer and colleagues have found that walking cuts the risk of diabetes in a study of 600 adults in Tasmania. While the team focussed on diabetes, the results suggest a protective effect against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

Roughly 600 adults aged around 50 in 2000 were tracked for 5 years.  At the start, most were overweight or obese and as a whole, the group gained weight over the period.

The volunteers were fitted with pedometers for 2 days in 2000. One finding was that those with higher daily step counts at this start time ended with a better body mass index (BMI), better waist to hip ratio and better insulin sensitivity, compared to those less active.

After 5 years, the group wore pedometers for another 2 days. As a whole, the group gained weight and became less active.  However, one third stayed active or increased their steps in the period, and again these were the ones with better measures on BMI, waist-hip ratio and insulin sensitivity.

The following figures are for those walking 10,000 steps, which is about 5 miles or 8km.

For a person of average height, weight dropped was just under 3kg, or about 6lbs. This corresponds to a BMI reduction of 0.83kg/metre squared. Insulin sensitivity increased by about 12%, with men doing slightly better than women.

These results are all ‘dose-dependent’. In other words, walking less still resulted in some improvements.

When the researchers factored in BMI, the differences between those active and those not disappeared, so the team attributed the improvement to a cut in body fat.

The researchers were looking at diabetes, and the improvement in insulin sensitivity would result in a considerably reduced risk of the disease.

The figures also strongly suggest there would be an improvement in other diseases linked to BMI and larger waists, including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and more.

The impact on the waist is interesting, since fat stored around the waist is linked to adiposopathy (sick fat), and this study suggests that walking is a way to burn ‘sick’ fat preferentially to ‘healthy’ fat, reducing the waist to hip ratio.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Accelerometer, Activity, Adiposopathy - sick fat, Aging, BMI - body mass index, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Exercise, High blood pressure, Metabolic syndrome, Success, Waist circumference, Walking, Weight management | Leave a comment

Coffee v diabetes.

Previously, studies have shown that consumption of coffee cuts the risk of developing diabetes. Dr Simin Liu and team published why this happens in the current issue of the journal Diabetes.

About 360 post-menopausal women who developed diabetes over a 10 year time period were carefully matched with the same number who did not, and then checks were conducted on a number of possible causes.

Those drinking 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were found to have cut the risk of developing diabetes by just over 50%, compared to non-drinkers. This simply confirmed the already known fact that coffee consumption helps to prevent diabetes. Further, there was no cut in risk for those drinking decaf, or for those drinking tea, so the active agent appears to be caffeine.

Dr Liu was able to tie the benefit to levels of a protein called SHGB in the blood, with higher SHGB tied to lower risk of diabetes.

SHGB is sex hormone-binding globulin. It helps to regulate the actions of the hormones estrogen and testosterone. When the team adjusted to take SHGB out, there was little impact left of coffee on diabetes, showing that the main mechanism is SHGB.

SHGB blood level was linked to coffee consumtion, but not to decaf or tea, showing these don’t affect SHGB levels.

Also, there is an SHGB gene, and Dr Liu showed this split the women into responders and non-responders. Women with certain variants of the SHGB gene got the protection at lower levels of coffee consumption.

From a couple of decent sources, here is the approximate amount of caffeine in common drinks, per ounce.

Caffeinated coffee – 10 to 35.

Tea – 5 to 20.

Coca-Cola – 4.  Remember that soft drink portion sizes tend to be larger than tea or coffee.

The explanation for the range in coffee is that instant coffee tends to be lower in caffeine while fresh brew is higher.

From this, it looks like the best approach is fresh-brew caffeinated coffee!

January 15, 2011 Posted by | Coffee, Diabetes, Diet, Success, Tea | Leave a comment

Udiet: the battlefield.

2010 was stuffed with debate over the reasons why people in developed countries are getting heavier.

 The most simplistic explanations focussed on overeating, or inactivity, or both. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) also came in for a beating. The problem with this is that Europe imports very little HFCS, but countries in Europe are reporting more and more problems associated with obesity.

 www.obesitymyths.com comes up with a much larger range of interesting possibilities. But in 2005, the New York Times linked this site to sponsorship from fast food producers such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, in this article.

Two reputable groups of scientists published work where they found that the mantra of ‘eat less and exercise more’ doesn’t cover all of the potential reasons.

 A government group in the UK called Foresight was asked to predict what will happen there over time, based on best evidence, and building in realistic assumptions. In order to do so, they had to scour published research to identify the drivers of obesity and build a very detailed model of which drivers are most important. Written in simple English, this is probably the best explanation there is of the obesity epidemic.

The full report is available as a free PDF download here. However, at over 160 pages, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The second group of scientists published a summary of obesity drivers in November 2009. Again, this is available free using this link.

Their findings outline the battlefield for the Udiet.

1. Overeating, particularly re heavily marketed energy dense foods.

2. Underactivity, again with an organisation driver behind it.

3. Infection caused by bacteria and viruses.

4. Epigenetics, whereby prenatal and early postnatal exposure to the environment alters how genes are expressed without changing the genes. For example, babies born very underweight at birth who are incubated and fed rich diets to catch up weight have a higher risk of obesity and associated issues later in life.

5. Increasing maternal age. Animal studies have shown that babies born to older mothers are fatter than those born to younger mothers.

6. BMI breeding effect. Studies have found that those with a body mass index somewhat above average are producing slightly more children, on average, than the rest of the population, causing the population BMI to increase over time.

7. Assortitative mating is taking place. This hypothesis is that those with higher BMI prefer partners of similar kind, and due to the genetic effect, this leads to even heavier children. A wide range of population studies support this idea.

8. Sleep debt is happening, and leads to increased eating, increased fat deposition and lowered activity. Research shows metabolic changes occur to support this, and also leads to higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. For example, one study shows that getting one and a half hours less sleep than ideal over a two week period results in a diabetic-like profile for glucose and insulin.

9. Endocrine disruptors interfere with estrogen and androgen signalling, and have been building up in the human environment for some time.  These have been found to be involved in obesity in animals and in humans.

10. Commonly used medicines are known to contribute to weight gain. These include medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure, steroids, contraceptives, and anti-histamines.

11. Artificial ambient temperature. The hotter your environment, the less energy you burn keeping warm. The UK home went from 13 centigrade in 1970 to 18 centigrade by 2000. US homes went from 18 centigrade in 1923 to nearly 25 centigrade in 1986.

12. Mothers input. The state of the mother’s glucose and insulin handling systems directly affect the number of fat cells and the fat cell content of the baby.

13. Reduction in smoking rate. The scientists considered this so well documented they excluded it from their list.

14. Altered US demographics. A 2006 article along the same lines had found that alterations in the US population were increasing the races which tend toward higher BMI, therefore  increasing the average BMI of the nation.

The aim of the scientists’ report was not to remove the first two reasons from focus, but to show that the battlefield is considerably more complex than simply food and exercise.

These 14 points are not comprehensive. For example, other researchers have found that altering the circadian rhythm, by staying up late in artificial light and not synchronising your body clock to early morning light, is also a risk factor for weight gain. Also, breastfeeding v formula milk wasn’t mentioned, although formula milk is associated with higher risk of obesity.

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Activity, BMI - body mass index, Breastfeeding, Child Health, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Environment, Epigenetics, Exercise, HFCS - high-fructose corn syrup, High blood pressure, Obesity, Pregnancy, Pregnancy, Success, Thermogenesis, UK, United States, Weight management | Leave a comment

Best infant formula milk?

Babies fed on formula milk made from cows’ milk show more rapid weight gain in their first year than those who are breast fed. The excess weight gain in this period is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other diseases later in life.

Researchers from Philadelphia wanted to know if all types of formula milk suffered from this problem, so set up a test between a cows’ milk based formula (Enfamil), and a protein hydrolysate formula (Nutramigen). Protein hydrolysate formula is typically used for babies who are allergic to cows’ milk.

The babies’ weight and height started off the same when they were randomly allocated to milk type when just 2 weeks old.

By two and a half months, babies on cows’ milk were noticeably heavier, but not taller. At seven and a half months, when the study ended, those in the cows’ milk group averaged two pounds more than those in the protein hydrolysate group. Again this was excess weight gain rather than extra height. The protein hydrolysate group was only a little heavier than breast fed babies.

The researchers speculated that the protein hydrolysate breaks down into amino acids with a similar profile to human milk and that leads to baby feeling fuller faster. Videotapes of feeding showed the protein hydrolysate stopped feeding after fewer calories.

The study appears in the January issue of Pediatrics.

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Diabetes, Health, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Pregnancy, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment

What did grandad eat?

First, there was genetics, which was going to tell us the whole story simply by sequencing our genes. However, when our genes got sequenced, the picture only got a little clearer.

Then there was epigenetics (epi means above, so epigenetics is above genetics). With epigenetics, your gene sequence does not change, but genes can be switch on or off (pretty much like lightbulbs) by events that happen. Things are getting more complex if you have to account for both the genes and the environment, and the picture is harder to read.

Now comes inherited epigenetics. This means information about the parents’ environment that is passed to offspring, even if the parent never sees the offspring alive (which cuts out passing this by the more simple route of learning). The genes aren’t altered in the child, but expression (whether on or off) is controlled by the environment of the child’s parent.

Various conditions in the mother’s environment appear to get passed on epigenetically, but in this type of study it is hard to rule out mechanisms such as shared environment while in the womb.

So scientists trying to unravel this puzzle are looking at situations where the parent involved is the father, and does nothing more than supply the sperm (with no other influence in the life of the mother or child).

Dr Oliver J Rando and team have been trying to make headway in this using mice. The father was fed a low-protein high-sugar diet, allowed to mate with a female on a standard diet, but with no other contact. Compared to controls (father on standard diet, mother on standard diet) it was found that the offspring had 1600 genes which expressed differently and 500 where the difference was major. This affected blood fat profiles and cholesterol production.

The team couldn’t say whether it was low protein that was important, or high sugar, or some other factor such as low micro-nutrients. And they couldn’t work out how, precisely, this information was passed on, since they couldn’t find a difference in the sperm of the mice.

Unless you are a scientist this is barely interesting. However, the authors point out that two studies have shown inherited epigenetics in the paternal line at work in humans – but it skips a generation.

To at least a certain extent, you are what your grandfather ate.

In 2002, a research team published “Cardiovascular and diabetes mortality determined by nutrition during parents’ and grandparents’ slow growth period”.

In 2006, another team published “Sex-specific male line transgenerational responses in humans”.

These show that a severely restricted diet at key points in your grandfather’s time increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular death, as you are pre-programmed by granddad’s famine-like environment.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Cholesterol, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Diet, Epigenetics, Genetics, Health, Obesity, Success | Leave a comment

Eat yourself healthy.

First published in January 2010, here’s a list of food that not only tastes great, but also improves your health profile.

Almonds. Research just published in Dec 2010 show that these improve insulin resistance in those beginning to develop diabetes.

Apples (unpeeled) for quercetin. Located just under the skin of an apple, quercetin has been found to kill viruses directly. It also increases the level of sirtuin 1. Sirtuin 1 helps in the repair of damaged DNA, and is linked to improvements in type 2 diabetes, aging, and Alzheimer’s. It also appears to increase exercise capacity.

Baked beans for soluble fibre. This helps lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Research published in Jan 2010 found that higher blood sugar levels (irrespective of body mass index) are linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Chillies. Linked to an increase in calories burned as you break down food, lasting up to 2 hours after you eat them. Easy weight control!

Dark chocolate (or cocoa). Various studies published in 2010 found that eating just a couple of cubes of dark chocolate a day, or a cocoa at night, was linked to lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

Frozen peas for vitamins B and C. The B vitamins help the nervous system, the vitamin C helps cut the length of colds.

Green tea. Too many benefits to list! Research published in Jan 2010 found it cut the risk of lung cancer, in both smokers and non-smokers.

Oily fish for omega-3. Another one with too many benefits to list. In an area of the US known as the ‘stroke belt and buckle’, which has much higher rates of stroke than normal, Dec 2010 research linked this to low consumption of oily fish, and with high consumption of fried non-oily fish, which greatly increases uptake of omega-6, to the detriment of omega-3.

Grapefruit. Research in 2005 showed that eating fresh grapefruit before meal led to weight loss. Research published in 2010 tied this down to the active ingredient naringen. Check out all medications before using grapefruit because this potent chemical interferes with quite a wide range.

New potatoes. When new, these have a better glycemic profile, breaking down more slowly and providing a long acting, less peaked energy response than baked potatoes. And in December the head of the US potato marketing board finished a month of eating absolutely nothing but potatoes, to show that they get more criticism than they deserve.

Oats for beta glucan. This soluble fibre lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Olives for monounsatured fat and phenolics. The list of research in 2010 on the benefits of olive oli on the cardivascular system goes on and on.

Parsley for chlorophyl. A good source of antioxidants, but chewing a little parsley after a meal mops up any unpleasant odours.

Poached or boiled eggs, but not fried, for lecithin. Research shows two eggs for breakfast will cut 400 calories from your overall intake during the day. If you are not interested in the weight loss angle, the lecithin gets converted into a neurotransmitter involved in good memory.

Pomegranate juice. A very small glass per day has been found to reverse artery damage caused by cholesterol.

Prunes for ferulic acid, which helps to keep your bowels regular.

Tomatoes. Another in the ‘too many benefits to list category’. As an example, eating tomato products is linked with a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Wholewheat pasta. Another one that gives a long lasting energy source without pushing blood sugar levels through a dangerous peak. It has to be wholewheat!

Turmeric spice for curcumin. The active ingredient, curcumin, turned up ever so frequently in 2010, Protective against too many cancer types to list. Appears to protect the brain against the effects of stroke. Looks to have a neuro=protective effect in brain degeneration diseases, including MS, Alzheimer’s and more. Plus, it makes your rice look really nice!

December 25, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Alzheimer's, Cancer, Capsaicin - chillis, Chocolate, Cholesterol, Curcumin - turmeric, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Diet, Fibre, Fish, Fish oil, Glycemic index, Grapefruit, Green Tea, Health, Multiple sclerosis, Obesity, Olive oil, Omega-3, Omega-6, Parkinson's, Pomegranate, Stroke, Success, Vitamin C - ascorbic acid, Weight management, Whole grain | Leave a comment

Vitamin B1 v heart attacks.

A particular form of vitamin B1 called benfotiamine has been found to protect against heart attacks and aid recovery from heart attacks.

Vitamin B1 is also called thiamine and thiamin. It is water soluble. Benfotiamine is an analog of B1 (has the same action) but it is fat-soluble.

A team reported a study of heart attacks in mice with and without diabetes, in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology. The aim was to find out whether a supplement of benfotiamine improved the chances of surviving a heart attack in diabetic mice. It turned out that the supplement improved the chance of survival of both diabetic and non-diabetic mice.

The mice study was backed up by a lab dish study of human heart cells. This showed that benfotiamine cut the risk of cell death when the cells were starved of oxygen, as happens in a heart attack.

There were other benefits, such as reduced diastolic blood pressure in diabetics before a heart attack, reduced blood pressure in both groups after a heart attack and growth of new blood vessels in the damaged area of the heart.

The levels at which the mice were supplemented, 70mg/kilo, is far in excess of the human bodies normal storage capacity for water soluble B1 – about 30mg – which may be why the researchers chose the fat-soluble version.

Benfotiamine is available as a supplement for humans, while good sources of vitamin B1 are Quorn (30mg/100g), pork, milk, cheese, eggs, peas, beans, fish, wholegrain pasta and wholegrain bread.

Deficiency is rare in the developed world – it leads to beriberi – but studies have found that benfotiamine helps prevent other complications of diabetes.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Fish, Health, High blood pressure, Success, Vitamin B1 - thiamine, Whole grain | Leave a comment

Diabetes and alcohol.

A study has found that even moderate consumption of alcohol by diabetics is linked to an increased risk of deteriorating eyesight, even when diabetic retinopathy does not occur.

Dr Joline WJ Beulens looked at 1,200 diabetics and compared their alcohol consumption to how their eyesight progressed over a five year period.

Diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which the retina deteriorates accompanied by worsening vision, was not linked to alcohol consumption. Those drinking had the same risk of developing it as those abstaining, and in those with the condition, progression was no better or worse for drinkers or non-drinkers.

However, the risk of losing 2 lines from an eye-chart was 80% higher in those drinking moderately (1 to 14 drinks per week) compared to non-drinkers. Every additional drink per week added a 2% increase to this risk.

The researchers did not have a definitive explanation for this loss of eyesight. However, it was found that those drinking wine had less risk than those drinking beer or spirits. This led the team to suggest that the eyesight loss might be oxidative damage, with wine cutting some of the impact due to its anti-oxidant compounds.

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Alcohol, Diabetes, Sight, Success | Leave a comment

Vitamin D v metabolic syndrome.

Researchers from the University of California Davis Medical Center found that patients with metabolic syndrome (but otherwise healthy) were much more likely to have insufficient vitamin D in their blood than controls without metabolic syndrome.  The patients came from around Sacramento, a part of northern California with plenty of sun, making the results more surprising.

Dr Ishwarlal Jialal and team compared 44 patients who had metabolic syndrome, but without diabetes or cardiovascular disease (CVD), against 37 healthy controls matched for age and gender.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has very recently published recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D, and based on best evidence, worked on a level of 20ng/ml of vitamin D in the blood as sufficient.

Dr Jialal found that 8% of controls had insufficient vitamin D at the IOM level, but in the metabolic syndrome group it was 30%.

The average value of vitamin D in blood in the metabolic syndrome group was found to be 23.1ng/ml, which suggests the IOM recommended level of 20 ng/ml may be too low. In the control group, it averaged 27.8ng/ml.

Dr Jialal also found there was no difference in levels in winter and summer, which reinforces the finding that in northern California, normal activity in sunlight is not enough to generate adequate vitamin D levels. This contrasts with southern California, where research has shown there in no difference in vitamin D between those with and without metabolic syndrome, while in Florida (even farther south) diabetics do not tend to have low vitamin D.

Sacramento is about 39 degrees north. As most of Europe is at or north of this, it would put most Europeans at risk, unless they are out in the sun more than this US sample, or getting it from food sources.

Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for diabetes, CVD and stroke.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Activity, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Health, IOM - Institute of Medcine, Metabolic syndrome, Stroke, Success, United States, Vitamin D | Leave a comment

Calcium and vitamin D by IOM.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was asked by US and Canadian health authorities to conduct an independent, evidence based review of the dietary requirements for calcium and vitamin D.

Overall, the committee concludes that the majority of Americans and Canadians are receiving adequate amounts of both calcium and vitamin D. Further, there is emerging evidence that too much of these nutrients may be harmful.”

Prof A Catherine Ross chaired the committee conducting this update, the first since 1997. The team reviewed over 1,000 studies on vitamin D and calcium and took further evidence from experts.

The review covered all health outcomes,  including cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, falls, immune response, neuropsychological functioning, physical performance, preeclampsia, and reproductive outcomes. It found that only in relation to bone health are the results unequivocal, and based its recommendations on this.

The committee noted that studies appearing in the media re population levels of deficiency are using arbitrary levels that have not been established by a central authority, and so have little validity.

Based on available data, the committee found almost all individuals get sufficient vitamin D when their blood levels are at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter as it is measured in the US, or 50 nanomoles per liter as measured in Canada.

Also, the committee considered that few people are getting their vitamin D from sunlight, and based their recommendations on this.

A full breakdown of the recommendations by age range and gender is at the IOM short report on calcium and vitamin D. Please note a number of special situations are omitted from this but are covered by the full 678 page report, so check with your physician.

Some subgroups—particularly those who are older and living in institutions or who have dark skin pigmentation—may be at increased risk for getting too little vitamin D.

National surveys in both the United States and Canada indicate that most people receive enough calcium, with the exception of girls ages 9-18, who often do not take in enough calcium. In contrast, postmenopausal women taking supplements may be getting too much calcium.

Too much calcium is linked with kidney stones, while too much vitamin D is linked to kidney and other tissue damage. The short report therefore gives 3 values for each group – the estimated average amount (enough for the average person), the recommended dietary allowance (the level at which nearly everyone gets enough) and the upper level intake (the level at which more will cause harm rather than good).

In conclusion, “the committee emphasizes that, with a few exceptions, all North Americans are receiving enough calcium and vitamin D. Higher levels have not been shown to confer greater benefits, and in fact, they have been linked to other health problems, challenging the concept that “more is better.””

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Calcium, Canada, Cancer, Child Health, Cognitive decline, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Gender, High blood pressure, IOM - Institute of Medcine, Metabolic syndrome, Success, United States, Vitamin D | Leave a comment