March 24th, 2015

Probiotic Supplementation Promotes Weight Loss

ProbioticsSupplements-850x400-850x400Introduction:

Could weight loss be as simple as taking the right probiotic supplement? Based upon a growing body of evidence, the answer is a definite YES!

The term probiotic is used to describe the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the human intestinal tract. The word is derived from Greek and literally means “for life.” Probiotics include not only the freeze-dried bacteria in capsules available at your health food store, but also fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. Many of these foods rich in probiotics are still of great importance to the diets of most of the people in the world.

A possible link to gut flora and obesity was first discovered by comparing intestinal bacteria in obese and lean individuals and there were significant differences. That led to studies in animals that found that switching the bacterial flora from the colons between fat and skinny mice would reverse their condition. In other words, when skinny mice were inoculated with the bacteria flora of the fat mice, they became fat mice themselves and vice versa.

There are now a few human studies showing that probiotic supplementation can promote weight loss including a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Background Data:

The gut bacterial flora is affected by several factors including diet, antibiotic use, other drugs, and various environmental factors. In particular, an altered gut flora (dysbiosis) produced by a diet high in fat or low in fiber has been suggested as one of the causes of the development of obesity and the increased risk of developing insulin resistance. But, the relationship between gut flora and obesity looks like it develops very early in life and that may play a role in setting the stage for a lifelong battle against obesity for many people.

A 2011 study conducted at the Turku University Hospital in Finland provides some additional food for thought. In the study, 159 women were randomized to either Lactobacillus rhamnosus (10 billion colony-forming units) or a placebo for four weeks before expected delivery and six months postpartum. The children were followed over their first ten years. It was found that this short-term probiotic supplementation had a protective effect against excessive weight gain over the first years of life.

As to how does gut bacteria influence weight loss, there are several mechanisms that are now well established. Interestingly, they all impact an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPk for short. The activity of this hormone goes a long way in explaining why some people have no problem maintaining their ideal body weight, while others seemingly fight a major battle to lose weight and keep it off.

Overall, the activity of AMPk plays a major role in determining our body fat composition and especially the amount of visceral “belly” fat that we carry. The most important influencer of AMPk activity ultimately appears to be the sensitivity of the cell to the hormone insulin. Hence, with insulin resistance there is reduced AMPk activity.

Insulin resistance is closely tied to abdominal obesity. As the number and size of fat cells increase, they lead to a reduction in the secretion of compounds that promote insulin action, including a novel protein produced by fat cells known as adiponectin. Making matters even worse is that there is also an increase in the secretion of a substance known as resistin that dampens the effect of insulin.

Adiponectin increases the activation of AMPk, while resistin impairs AMPk activity. So, while adiponectin is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and metabolism, resistin is associated with poor blood sugar control, increased blood lipids, and the development of atherosclerosis. All of these effects are due to the influence these compounds have on AMPk activity. Probiotics appear to help prevent and fight insulin resistance by increasing adiponectin levels and lowering resistin levels which in turn lead to AMPk activation.

New Data:

In a double-blind study conducted in Montreal, Canada, 125 overweight men and women underwent a 12-week weight-loss diet, followed by a 12-week period aimed at maintaining body weight. Throughout the entire study, half the participants took 2 capsules daily providing 3.2 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, while the other half took a placebo.

After the 12-week diet period, the women in the study had an average weight loss of 4.4 kg if they were in the probiotic group and 2.6 kg if in the placebo group. After the 12-week maintenance period, the weight of the women in the placebo group had remained stable but the probiotic group had continued to lose weight, for a total of 5.2 kg per person. So, the math becomes really simple. The women consuming the probiotic supplement lost twice as much weight over the 24-week period of the study. Interestingly, no differences in weight loss were observed among the men in the two groups.

Commentary:

Obviously, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered about probiotics as a weight loss aid. In regards to the study reviewed above, why didn’t the probiotic supplement have any effect in the men? My guess is that it had something to do with the type of bacteria used – L. rhamnosus. There are other species of probiotics in addition to L. rhamnosus that are associated with positive effects on weight loss.

My takeaway message from the above study is that the best weight loss probiotic based upon what we know today would be formula that contains multiple strains. That might increase the likelihood of success. However, it is important to note that just because one strain of bacteria in a given species has a proven action does not mean that another strain will as well, even if they are closely related. Actions and qualities are fundamentally strain specific. So, it just makes sense to take a multiple strain formula at this time. The recommended dosage would be of 10-12 billion CFUs daily.

It is also very important when selecting a probiotic supplement to choose a respected brand. Numerous analyses of commercially available probiotic supplements indicate there is a tremendous range of quality. So, choose wisely.

Reference:

Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19.

Dr. Michael Murray
3/24/15

March 17th, 2015

New Research Shows Special Extract of Ashwaganda Protects Key Area of the Brain

memory

Introduction:

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the most revered plants in Ayurvedic medicine. Because the rejuvenating effects of Ashwagandha parallel those of Panax ginseng, it is frequently referred to as “Indian ginseng.” However, it is not a member of the same botanical family as ginseng.

Like ginseng, recent scientific investigations have shown high quality Ashwaganda extracts to be particularly restorative in dealing with stress and improving brain function and mood. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain Ashwaganda’s benefit on brain function. The consensus is that compounds known withanolides in Ashwaganda improve the overall health of brain cells as well as the communication between brain cells. A new study provides an additional mechanism of action: boosting the levels of a key compound within brain cells that acts to protect the brain against aging and damage.

Background Data:

Ashwagandha extracts standardized for withanolide content have been shown to work with the body’s natural biological systems to help restore balance and normalize function. For example, these extracts have been shown to help to increase the body’s resistance to stress and reduce physiological responses to stress events. Here are just some of the benefits of high quality Ashwagandha exert in promoting and maintaining good health that have been confirmed in clinical trials:

• Helps counteract the negative effects of stress.
• Increases resistance to fatigue.
• Helps promote mental clarity and concentration.
• Improves sleep quality.
• Supports healthy weight management by inhibiting stress responses that can lead to overeating.
• Helps protect against the effects of aging by protecting against free radical damage to cells.

New Data:

A new study published online in the Public Library of Science adds an additional mechanism that further underscores the long term benefits of Ashwaganda use. The study demonstrated that when rats were exposed to reduced oxygen supply to the central area of the brain (the hippocampus) and given withanalide A – a key component of Ashwaganda – their brain cells had higher levels of glutathione than the control group not given the withanalide A.

The significance of this effect is that as people age decreased blood flow to the hippocampus is common. This occurrence leaves the brain more susceptible to damage due to declining levels of glutathione within the brain cells. Glutathione is a key antioxidant protector and anti-aging compound. By raising the glutathione levels in the brain, high quality Ashwaganda extracts concentrated and standardized for withanolides may be able to not only improve brain function including memory, but also protect against degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. This brain protecting effect is consistent with the historical use of Ashwaganda as a daily tonic.

Commentary:

There are now a few high quality Ashwagandha extracts on the market with published clinical support. For example, Sensoril – a multi-patented, standardized extract that has considerable scientific support in the medical literature. Foremost is the clinically proven ability of Sensoril to help against the negative effects of stress and boost brain power. For example, in a double-blind study conducted at the University of Pittsburg, Sensoril at a dosage of 250 mg per day improved the ability to concentrate by 76% and reduced forgetfulness by 57%.

Sensoril has a comprehensive safety profile and is GRAS-affirmed (Generally Regarded as Safe). In human clinical trials, subjects taking the recommended dose of Sensoril (125 to 250 mg once or twice daily) experienced no adverse effects. In fact, clinical research has shown that Sensoril’s effectiveness in improving health continues to increase the longer it is taken. It can be taken as a daily tonic 365 days a year, if so desired.

Reference:

Baitharu I, Jain V, Deep SN, et al. Withanolide A prevents neurodegeneration by modulating hippocampal glutathione biosynthesis during hypoxia. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 13;9(10):e105311.

Dr. Michael Murray
3/17/15

March 10th, 2015

Statins Increase the Risk of Diabetes Even Greater than Expected!

statinsIntroduction:

A new study again highlights the fact that using statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels are not at all risk free. Researchers found that statin use increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 46% in men. These results are a little better than the 72% increase in type 2 diabetes noted in postmenopausal women taking statins. The results from these studies and others call into question the false hope that physicians and consumers place in statin drugs to promote a longer, healthier life.

While statins have been shown to reduce heart attack risk and extend life in patients with confirmed cardiovascular disease such as a history of a heart attack, stroke, or clinical evidence of blockage of the arteries such as angina, about 80% of the prescriptions for statins are written for people with no clinical evidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In many cases, physicians are prescribing statins to people with the only risk factor being high LDL cholesterol levels. Statins have not been shown to increase life expectancy in these patients or in others not suffering from clinical evidence of CVD.

The list of statin drugs include:

  • Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release)
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin)
  • Lescol (fluvastatin)
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Livalo (pitavastatin)
  • Mevacor (lovastatin)
  • Pravachol (pravastatin)
  • Zocor (simvastatin).

The easy conclusion is that the majority of people on statin drugs are achieving no real benefit from them, and may in fact be exposing themselves to considerable harm including the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Background Data:

While drug companies and many doctors state that statins are so safe and effective they should be added to drinking water, the reality is that they are very expensive medicines, provide very limited benefit, and carry with them considerable risks for side effects. In addition to the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some of the side effects noted with statins include the following:

  • Liver problems and decreased liver function.
  • Interference with the manufacture of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a key substance responsible for energy production within the body.
  • Rhabdomyolysis, the breaking down of muscle tissue, which can be fatal.
  • Nerve damage – the chances of nerve damage are 26 times higher in statin users than in the general population.
  • Cognitive (brain-related) impairment, such as memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion, has been seen in some statin users.
  • Possible increased risk of cancer and heart failure with long-term use.
  • Increased muscle damage caused by exercise and reduced exercise capacity.
  • Worsening energy levels and fatigue after exertion in about 20% of cases
  • Increased risk for obesity and insulin resistance.

New Data:

To further explore the risk for type 2 diabetes with statin drug use, researchers investigated the effects of statin treatment on blood glucose control and the risk for type 2 diabetes in 8,749 non-diabetic men age 45 to 73 years in a 6-year follow-up of the population-based Metabolic Syndrome in Men (METSIM) trial, based in Kuopio, Finland.

Results clearly showed that statin use was associated with a 46% increased risk for type 2 diabetes after adjusting for all confounding factors. Patients taking statins also had a 24% decrease in insulin sensitivity and a 12% reduction in insulin secretion compared with those not receiving the drugs.

Commentary:

It is interesting to note that despite the clear risks of taking statins, physicians are largely brainwashed into believing that the benefits outweigh the risks. The data just does not support this line of thinking. Again, while statins do produce some benefits in reducing deaths due to a heart attack in people with a history of a heart attack, stroke, or current signs and symptoms of existing CVD; large studies in people without a history of heart attack or stroke who took statin drugs and lowered their cholesterol have shown they do not live any longer than the people in the placebo group. That is especially true for women. In fact, there is no real solid evidence that statins increase life expectancy even in women with cardiovascular disease.

This recent study is just one more that further strengthens my consistent message on statins. They are NOT addressing the major causes of CVD and may be creating serious health issues of their own.

In order to provide you the best guidelines to reduce your risk for CVD, I am offering a free PFD download on my book, Cholesterol and Heart Health – What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Feel free to forward it to any friend or family member that can benefit from it.

Also, if you know someone taking a statin and you can’t get them to read my book, have them at least watch my recorded webinar, An Honest Appraisal Of Statins And Their Alternatives.

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References:

Mayor S. Statins associated with 46% rise in type 2 diabetes risk, study shows. BMJ. 2015 Mar 5;350:h1222. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h1222.

Dr. Michael Murray
3/10/15