Tuesday, January 31, 2012

EverythingHealth Anniversary

Thank you to loyal blog follower, KM, for this cute pic.
EverythingHealth is now getting over 4,000 page views a day from all
over the globe. That is just amazing to me and I have met so many
wonderful bloggers over the past 5 years. I am fascinated by the power
of the internet and how readily information can be found. My goal of
providing credible, up to date information without commercial

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paleo Diet Article in Sound Consumer

I recently wrote an article for my local natural foods grocery store, PCC, about the "Paleolithic" diet.  You can read it online here.  I explain the basic rationale for Paleo diets, some of the scientific support behind it, and how it can be helpful for people with certain health problems.  I focused in particular on the research of Dr. Staffan Lindeberg at the University of Lund, who has studied non-industrial populations using modern medical techniques and also conducted clinical diet trials using the Paleo diet.
Read more »

The New Health Law Needs to Be Repealed, Expanded, and Replaced—So Long As It Doesn’t Have a Mandate

Last week’s State of the Union speech was notable because the President hardly mentioned the new health care reform law.Avoiding what is supposed to be the centerpiece domestic accomplishment of President Obama’s first term stuck out like a sore thumb.He said almost nothing because the Obama team simply doesn’t know what to say.The fact is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is generally unpopular, and

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Romney Should be Proud of Massachusetts Health Care

I don't understand why Mitt Romney is running away from the
Massachusetts health reform that was enacted in 2006 under his reign as
Governor. They are in their 6th year and by any standards it can be
considered a success. The plan included Medicaid expansion, subsidized
private health insurance, a health insurance exchange, insurance market
reforms and requirements for individuals and

Friday, January 27, 2012

Insulin and Obesity: Another Nail in the Coffin

There are several versions of the insulin hypothesis of obesity, but the versions that are most visible to the public generally state that elevated circulating insulin (whether acute or chronic) increases body fatness.  Some versions invoke insulin's effects on fat tissue, others its effects in the brain.  This idea has been used to explain why low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic-index diets can lead to weight loss (although frankly, glycemic index per se doesn't seem to have much if any impact on body weight in controlled trials). 

I have explained in various posts why this idea does not appear to be correct (1, 2, 3), and why, after extensive research, the insulin hypothesis of obesity lost steam by the late 1980s.  However, I recently came across two experiments that tested the hypothesis as directly as it can be tested-- by chronically increasing circulating insulin in animals and measuring food intake and body weight and/or body fatness.  If the hypothesis is correct, these animals should gain fat, and perhaps eat more as well. 

Read more »

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

Heavy menstrual bleeding is common and 10% of all women experience it
in their reproductive years. Women who are NOT in menopause and who
have heavy bleeding that occurs during their regular cycle usually have
a benign reason for the bleeding. Fibroids and endometrial polyps are
common causes of heavy bleeding periods. Menorrhagia is the medical
term for abnormally heavy periods. This

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Migraine Headaches and Oral Contraceptives

Women who are taking oral contraceptives (Birth Control Pill) and
develop new migraine headaches or increased severity of headaches after
starting the Pill should be told to discontinue the Pill. Women with
migraine who use oral contraceptives are at a 2-4 fold increased risk
of ischemic stroke compared to women who have migraines and are not on
the pill. The risk of a young woman having a

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Novel Approach: Ask the Primary Care Doctor

The government, academics and policywonks are always in the process
of "redesigning" health care. Patients with increased health care needs
are considered "complex" and these patients consume the major health
resources (translate: "money"). In fact 65% of total health care
expenditures are directed toward the 25% of patients with multiple
chronic conditions. Eighty percent of Medicare

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VII

In previous posts, I outlined the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance.  In this post, first I'll list the factors, then I'll provide my opinion of effective strategies for preventing and potentially reversing insulin resistance.

The factors

These are the factors I'm aware of that can contribute to insulin resistance, listed in approximate order of importance.  I could be quite wrong about the order-- this is just my best guess. Many of these factors are intertwined with one another. 
Read more »

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Announcements

Chris Highcock of the blog Conditioning Research just published a book called Hillfit, which is a conditioning book targeted at hikers/backpackers.  He uses his knowledge and experience in hiking and conditioning to argue that strength training is an important part of conditioning for hiking.  I'm also a hiker/backpacker myself here in the rugged and beautiful Pacific Northwest, and I also find that strength training helps with climbing big hills, and walking farther and more easily with a lower risk of injury.

Richard Nikoley of the blog Free the Animal has also published a book called Free the Animal: Beyond the Blog, where he shares his strategies for losing fat and improving health and fitness.  I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but Richard has a reasonable perspective on diet/health and a sharp wit. 

Also, my friend Pedro Bastos has asked me to announce a one-day seminar at the University of Lisbon (Portugal) by Dr. Frits Muskiet titled "Vitamins and Minerals: A Scientific, Modern, Evolutionary and Global View".  It will be on Sunday, Feb 5-- you can find more details about the seminar here.  Dr. Muskiet is a researcher at the Groningen University Medical Center in the Netherlands.  He studies the impact of nutrients, particularly fatty acids, on health, from an evolutionary perspective.  Wish I could attend. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Many Faces of Psoriasis

This 26 year old female noticed that her nails had been changing over a
6 month period. Note the small pits and separation of the nail plate
from the nail bed. This lifting is called onycholysis. There is only
one disease where both of these findings are seen together and that is
psoriasis. Most people think of psoriasis as a skin disorder with
patchy silvery plaques that form on the

Bone Mineral Density Tests

The recommendations for when and how often women should be tested for
osteoporosis with bone density testing (DXA Scan) has been vague. Many
women are tested in their early 50s when they go through menopause with
follow up tests as frequently as every year. Others break a hip without
ever being tested. A new study published in The New England Journal of
Medicine states that bone loss

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Important Research From Medicare Demonstration Projects: Almost Nothing Works

I will suggest that most of us believe the way to control health care costs, and at the same time maintain or improve quality, is to both use the managed care tools we have developed over the years, and perhaps more importantly, change the payment incentives so that both cost control and quality are upper most in the minds of providers and payers.The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part VI

In this post, I'll explore a few miscellaneous factors that can contribute to insulin resistance: smoking, glucocorticoids/stress, cooking temperature, age, genetics and low birth weight.

Smoking

Smoking tobacco acutely and chronically reduces insulin sensitivity (1, 2, 3), possibly via:
  1. Increased inflammation
  2. Increased circulating free fatty acids (4)
Paradoxically, since smoking also protects against fat gain, in the very long term it may not produce as much insulin resistance as one would otherwise expect.  Diabetes risk is greatly elevated in the three years following smoking cessation (5), and this is likely due to the fat gain that occurs.  This is not a good excuse to keep smoking, because smoking tobacco is one of the most unhealthy things you can possibly do.  But it is a good reason to tighten up your diet and lifestyle after quitting.

Read more »

Will the Feds Be Ready With the Fallback Insurance Exchanges by October 2013?

Insurance exchanges have to be up and running in all of the states by October 2013 in order to be able to cover people by January 1, 2014.If the states don't do it, the feds have to be ready with a fallback exchange. States have to tell HHS if they intend to be ready by January 1, 2013.The White House just released a report saying that good progress is being made in 28 states. That begs the

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part V

Previously in this series, we've discussed the role of cellular energy excess, inflammation, brain insulin resistance, and micronutrient status in insulin resistance.  In this post, I'll explore the role of macronutrients and sugar in insulin sensitivity.

Carbohydrate and Fat

There are a number of studies on the effect of carbohydrate:fat ratios on insulin sensitivity, but many of them are confounded by fat loss (e.g., low-carbohydrate and low-fat weight loss studies), which almost invariably improves insulin sensitivity.  What interests me the most is to understand what effect different carbohydrate:fat ratios have on insulin sensitivity in healthy, weight stable people.  This will get at what causes insulin resistance in someone who does not already have it.

Read more »

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Skin Conditions With Aging

Patients often have growths or skin changes that they wonder about.
After examining them, in many cases I say "happy birthday"...it's a
manifestation of getting older. Aging leads to a number of skin and
hair changes and when you add the effects of sun, smoking and the
environment, the changes can be profound. Over time the epidermis thins
and by age 60 the dermis is 20% thinner than before.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haiti Remembered

This is the 2nd anniversary of the terrible Haiti Earthquake that
measured 7.0 on the scale. The disaster killed 316,000 people and
displaced 1.5 million more. Even now more than 500,000 people are still
in makeshift shelters and only half of the aid pledged for
reconstruction has been spent. My organization sent medical teams and
supplies to the disaster zone and our doctors and nurses

New Obesity Review Paper by Yours Truly

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism just published a clinical review paper written by myself and my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz, titled "Regulation of Food Intake, Energy Balance, and Body Fat Mass: Implications for the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Obesity" (1).  JCEM is one of the most cited peer-reviewed journals in the fields of endocrinology, obesity and diabetes, and I'm very pleased that it spans the gap between scientists and physicians.  Our paper takes a fresh and up-to-date look at the mechanisms by which food intake and body fat mass are regulated by the body, and how these mechanisms are altered in obesity.  We explain the obesity epidemic in terms of the mismatch between our genes and our current environment, a theme that is frequently invoked in ancestral health circles.

Read more »

I Hope Trustmark Tells HHS to Go Pound Sand

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that, "Trustmark Life Insurance Company has proposed unreasonable health insurance premium increases in five states—Alabama, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. The excessive rate hikes would affect nearly 10,000 residents across these five states."The HHS statement continued, "In these five states, Trustmark has raised

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012: A Year of Huge Uncertainty in Health Care Policy

2013 may be the most significant year in health care policy ever.But we have to get through 2012 first.Once the 2012 election results are in there will be the very real opportunity to address a long list of health care issues.If Republicans win, the top of the list will include “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act. If Obama is reelected, but Republicans capture both houses of

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part IV

So far, we've explored three interlinked causes of insulin resistance: cellular energy excess, inflammation, and insulin resistance in the brain.  In this post, I'll explore the effects on micronutrient status on insulin sensitivity.

Micronutrient Status

There is a large body of literature on the effects of nutrient intake/status on insulin action, and it's not my field, so I don't intend this to be a comprehensive post.  My intention is simply to demonstrate that it's important, and highlight a few major factors I'm aware of.

Read more »

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part III

As discussed in previous posts, cellular energy excess and inflammation are two important and interlinked causes of insulin resistance.  Continuing our exploration of insulin resistance, let's turn our attention to the brain.

The brain influences every tissue in the body, in many instances managing tissue processes to react to changing environmental or internal conditions.  It is intimately involved in insulin signaling in various tissues, for example by:
  • regulating insulin secretion by the pancreas (1)
  • regulating glucose absorption by tissues in response to insulin (2)
  • regulating the suppression of glucose production by the liver in response to insulin (3)
  • regulating the trafficking of fatty acids in and out of fat cells in response to insulin (4, 5)
Because of its important role in insulin signaling, the brain is a candidate mechanism of insulin resistance.

Read more »

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part II

In the last post, I described how cellular energy excess causes insulin resistance, and how this is triggered by whole-body energy imbalance.  In this post, I'll describe another major cause of insulin resistance: inflammation. 

Inflammation

In 1876, a German physician named W Ebstein reported that high doses of sodium salicylate could totally eliminate the signs and symptoms of diabetes in certain patients (Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift. 13:337. 1876). Following up on this work in 1901, the British physician RT Williamson reported that treating diabetic patients with sodium salicylate caused a striking decrease in the amount of glucose contained in the patients' urine, also indicating an apparent improvement in diabetes (2).  This effect was essentially forgotten until 1957, when it was rediscovered.

Read more »

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Causes Insulin Resistance? Part I

Insulin is an ancient hormone that influences many processes in the body.  Its main role is to manage circulating concentrations of nutrients (principally glucose and fatty acids, the body's two main fuels), keeping them within a fairly narrow range*.  It does this by encouraging the transport of nutrients into cells from the circulation, and discouraging the export of nutrients out of storage sites, in response to an increase in circulating nutrients (glucose or fatty acids). It therefore operates a negative feedback loop that constrains circulating nutrient concentrations.  It also has many other functions that are tissue-specific.

Insulin resistance is a state in which cells lose sensitivity to the effects of insulin, eventually leading to a diminished ability to control circulating nutrients (glucose and fatty acids).  It is a major contributor to diabetes risk, and probably a contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and a number of other disorders. 

Why is it important to manage the concentration of circulating nutrients to keep them within a narrow range?  The answer to that question is the crux of this post. 

Read more »

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New York Times Magazine Article on Obesity

For those of you who haven't seen it, Tara Parker-Pope write a nice article on obesity in the latest issue of NY Times Magazine (1).  She discusses  research showing  that the body "resists" fat loss attempts, making it difficult to lose fat and maintain fat loss once obesity is established.
Read more »

Monday, January 2, 2012

High-Fat Diets, Obesity and Brain Damage

Many of you have probably heard the news this week:

High-fat diet may damage the brain
Eating a high-fat diet may rapidly injure brain cells
High fat diet injures the brain
Brain injury from high-fat foods

Your brain cells are exploding with every bite of butter!  Just kidding.  The study in question is titled "Obesity is Associated with Hypothalamic Injury in Rodents and Humans", by Dr. Josh Thaler and colleagues, with my mentor Dr. Mike Schwartz as senior author (1).  We collaborated with the labs of Drs. Tamas Horvath and Matthias Tschop.  I'm fourth author on the paper, so let me explain what we found and why it's important.  

The Questions

Among the many questions that interest obesity researchers, two stand out:
  1. What causes obesity?
  2. Once obesity is established, why is it so difficult to treat?
Our study expands on the efforts of many other labs to answer the first question, and takes a stab at the second one as well.  Dr. Licio Velloso and collaborators were the first to show in 2005 that inflammation in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus contributes to the development of obesity in rodents (2), and this has been independently confirmed several times since then.  The hypothalamus is an important brain region for the regulation of body fatness, and inflammation keeps it from doing its job correctly.

The Findings

Read more »

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Junk Free January

Last year, Matt Lentzner organized a project called Gluten Free January, in which 546 people from around the world gave up gluten for one month.  The results were striking: a surprisingly large proportion of participants lost weight, experienced improved energy, better digestion and other benefits (1, 2).  This January, Lentzner organized a similar project called Junk Free January.  Participants can choose between four different diet styles:
  1. Gluten free
  2. Seed oil free (soybean, sunflower, corn oil, etc.)
  3. Sugar free
  4. Gluten, seed oil and sugar free
Wheat, seed oils and added sugar are three factors that, in my opinion, are probably linked to the modern "diseases of affluence" such as obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.  This is particularly true if the wheat is eaten in the form of white flour products, and the seed oils are industrially refined and used in high-heat cooking applications.

If you've been waiting for an excuse to improve your diet, why not join Junk Free January?