Should I take a Statin?

I had an interesting conversation with a young doctor at a local hospital recently. He was convinced that high cholesterol always indicated higher heart disease risk, despite all the recent research that has failed to support this. I suggested he should do his own research because the message he had received just recently at medical school, was clearly wrong.

If my doctor ever suggested that I should be taking a statin to lower cholesterol, I would need a discussion and probably would refuse. The reasons are many. Here is what I have come to learn about statins and cholesterol.

Statins lower cholesterol, but they have many nasty side effects and a careful analysis of their effectiveness suggests that they are not very effective for the majority of people, particularly older people and women. Statins lower cholesterol by interfering with your body’s cholesterol production process, however other compounds are also made by this process including Co-enzyme Q10 which is very important for heart health. Some people on a statin also take a CoQ10 supplement because of this problem.

Perhaps you don’t need to lower your cholesterol? Apparently the majority of people who are hospitalized by a heart attack have normal or even low cholesterol levels. An analysis of cholesterol levels and all cause mortality in older people, clearly showed that lower cholesterol was linked to a shorter life. Older people who live longer generally have higher cholesterol. If you like to read research reports, see this link: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401/ This is not surprising since cholesterol is an important element of your immune system and is also used in you body to make vitamin D. A too-low level of cholesterol apparently predisposes you to greater deaths from infection and susceptibly to cancers. Cholesterol is critical for your brain and your nervous system, and without it you will die. A Danish study of over 100,000 people over 9 years identified that the optimum level of LDL cholesterol for longest life was 3.6mmol/L (139mg/dL). The current US guidelines are less than 100mg/dL.

Apparently the old message to reduce cholesterol was based on very poor historical research and is now debunked, but many people and organizations’ in the medical profession have not yet transitioned to this understanding, or are “required” to push the lower cholesterol message because of the “standard of care” they operate within. Even if a doctor knows this, they may be reluctant to give more up to date advice because of the fear of censure by the organization for which they work. The largest US study of 140,000 people admitted to hospital with heart attacks in 2009, revealed their average LDL cholesterol level was lower than that of the general population.

Due to the side-effects of statins, many people voluntarily cease taking them. Sometimes after consultation with their doctor, but sometimes without any consultation because they are reluctant to “disagree” with their doctor. A statin survey in USA in 2012 revealed that 62% had stopped taking them primarily due to the side-effects, particularly muscle aches and pains and loss of energy. This level of abandonment could be understated, due to people being reluctant to reveal their decision. One statin advocate has even developed a side-effect calculator that people can use to help establish what, if any, side-effects they will experience.

How is it that a drug like this has such a high level of side-effects? In order to reduce the incidence of reported side-effects, some statin drug trials have a “run-in” period of about 6 weeks at the start of the trial, where anyone who is showing side-effect symptoms, is eliminated. Then the trial starts officially and of-course the result is a much lower incidence of side-effects than would be the case for the general population. This process clearly minimizes the side-effect levels notified to doctors by the drug marketing companies and seems unethical to me.

Many of the potential benefits of medicines are advertised in terms of “relative risk”. If a doctor is not aware of the statistical significance of this, it can seem that a medicine is much more effective than is truly the case. Imagine if you were presented with information suggesting a drug would reduce your risk of a heart attack by over 30%, would this seem compelling. However it may actually only be around 1%. Here is how this works out: Imagine a 5 year drug trial with 100 people as controls and 100 trialing the drug. If 3 people in the control group had a heart attack but only 2 in the trial group, it could be said that 1 person in the trial group was saved from a heart attack, (2 people had heart attacks instead of 3). One view of the statistics would suggest that 1 out of 3 people was saved (33%), this is known as relative risk, whereas in fact only 1 additional person out of 100 was saved, so the actual risk was 1 out of 100 which is 1.0%. This is not so compelling at all. If this drug then also caused unpleasant side effects you may choose not to take it. While this view of the figures is valid statistics, it is horribly misleading and apparently fools many people including doctors. Reducing your risk by 33%, sounds much better than actually reducing your risk by 1.0%. Statins have been advertised this way.

A group of ethical doctors have begun to evaluate drugs in a different way. Their website www.theNNT.com presents the benefits and harms of drugs using a “Number Needed to Treat” formula (NNT). In other words, how many people would need to be treated and for how long, to gain a benefit for 1 person. For example their evaluation for those who took ibuprofen for headache showed:

1 in 14 became headache-associated pain-free at 2 hours, while
1 in 6 reported “very good” or “excellent” scores on a global evaluation scale.
None developed adverse events.

For Statins taken for 5 years

None were helped (life saved),
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke) but
1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

Unfortunately some people have come to believe that taking a statin somehow protects them from heart disease and because of this, they ignore other advice about looking after their health. One cardiologist even suggested giving out statins with fast food to “neutralize” the cardiovascular risk of unhealthy diet choices.

A very significant influence for me is the lack of transparency of the statin drug test data. Much of the statin drug trials data is locked down under non-disclosure agreements and not available for independent medical review. Even the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has requested this data to be released for independent review. I have to wonder what is being protected by this secrecy. Surely a widely used drug should have its trial data made available for full independent evaluation.

When all of this is digested, if you should decide to proceed with a statin, what is the expected increase in your total days of life. It is estimated that average increase in someone’s life from taking a statin regularly is around a whole 4 days!

Maybe you will now understand why I would never take a statin.

George Elder, Author, “Take back your health”. Ebook and paperback on Amazon

www.takebackyrhealth.com

Additional reading:
The Great Cholesterol Con, by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
A Statin Free Life, by Dr. Aseem Malhotra
The Great Cholesterol Lie, by Dr. Dwight Lundell. (this is a free ebook)
The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz
Know Your Fats, by Mary G. Enig, PhD

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Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Picky Eaters

Do you have family members that are very picky eaters? Maybe they claim that they are full after only a few mouthfuls of food, or maybe they are unwilling to try anything new. How annoying is it when they look at a new food option and say they don’t like it, despite never tasting it or even smelling the food.

This is a problem that seems to be getting more common. When my children were small, they ate the same food as their parents. There were no special meals being prepared for dinner. There were some foods they didn’t like, such as mushrooms, but the occurrence of this was quite low. Today it seems more and more parents are preparing fully separate meals for the parents and the children.

The level of sweetness in food is getting higher and higher, with many foods children are willing to eat having added sugar. Syrups, added sugar, sweet cereals, seem to be common. Many families seem to be experiencing this problem of picky eaters only willing to eat sweet food as they offer their children new dietary options.

Unfortunately, some parents believe that their children will naturally seek out healthy or sufficient nutrition, but Kelly Dorfman MS, LND, in her book “Cure your child with food” describes treating hundreds of picky-eating-children with serious nutritional deficiencies, manifesting in growth, health, psychological and behavioral problems that are very serious for their ongoing development.

A possible cause of picky eating could be zinc deficiency. Zinc is critical for taste and when a person’s zinc level is low, food can lose its taste, or even taste bad. Your children may be experiencing tastes that are very different to how the food tastes to you. It could be that masking the taste in sweetness is the only way that the food tastes OK for them.

Kelly Dorfman states that children with a mild zinc deficiency are often picky eaters and with a zinc supplement, the excessive numbers of foods with “off” smells and “yucky” flavors can be reduced to normal levels.

Why does this picky eating problem seem to be getting worse?

A major contributor to this is the very high levels of corn and wheat-based foods in the diet today. Tortilla’s, bread, bagels, cereals, doughnuts all have high levels of phytic acid or Phytates. Phytic acid is a chelation agent that binds to iron and zinc molecules in your food and prevents your body from being able to absorb these. Some of the processes we use to prepare foods can minimize this impact, but unfortunately only soaking and sprouting can reduce phytic acid and this is not often done.

Another contributing factor is the reduced levels of zinc in today’s food compared to historical levels. By 1972, zinc deficiency was reported as the most common plant micronutrient deficiency in the United States and now it is estimated that nearly one-half of the soils in the world are low in available zinc. The consequences include low production of grain and other products if soil is not amended with zinc.

This from Dr. Libby Weaver: A hundred years ago, zinc was abundant in many soils. Nowadays, most soils in the world are zinc deficient, except for soils predominantly from biodynamic farms. This means that, where once fruit and vegetables, and even grain-based foods such as breads and cereals, provided us with a small, steady top-up of zinc, the zinc levels in many of the foods we eat today are inadequate to avoid deficiency.

A move towards a greater level of plant-based diets is also making the zinc deficiency in diet problem worse, because meat, dairy, eggs and seafoods are where a high level of zinc is sourced from in the diet. The highest levels of zinc are in oysters and high levels are found in lean red meat.

The graph above shows the levels of zinc in blood (in plasma) with 3 different meals illustrates the considerable impact on zinc absorption levels from consuming phytic acid containing food in the same meal as the zinc source.

So, what are the problems associated with a low zinc level?

Humans have no ability to store zinc, which means that we must get a steady supply of zinc from the food we eat daily. Low levels of zinc have been associated with:
– stunted growth
– low immunity,
– increased susceptibility to inflammation,
– poor healing,
– Dry skin
– Thin and sparse hair
– Poor condition nails
– Loss of appetite

This from Wikipedia: Cognitive functions, such as learning and hedonic tone, are impaired with zinc deficiency. Moderate and more severe zinc deficiencies are associated with behavioral abnormalities, such as irritability, lethargy, and depression. Low plasma zinc levels have been alleged to be associated with many psychological disorders. Schizophrenia has been linked to decreased brain zinc levels. Evidence suggests that zinc deficiency could play a role in depression.

Zinc can have a very important impact on our ability to deal with viruses in the body such as COVID19. According to nutrition and health expert Mary Ruddick, zinc will attract viruses within your body and transport them out. It could be useful to compare the impact of COVID19 in specific areas with the levels of zinc in local soil and therefore in the food being eaten.

How can you increase your zinc levels?

Including plenty of seafood, red meat, liver, lamb, dairy, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks in your diet is a very simple solution. Although there is zinc on legumes and grains, the addition of phytic acid from the grains and legumes could mean that very little of the included zinc is bioavailable to your body. To preserve the zinc and iron in grains, you could choose meals where these were sprouted or soaked overnight before being included in the meal.

George Elder
Author “Take Back Your Health” Learn how your diet impacts your health, both good and bad, so that you can use food as medicine.

Are Vegetable Oils Killing Us?

It’s a puzzle! Despite extensive research on the dangers of excessive levels of linoleic acid in our diet and the resulting increase in heart disease risk, metabolic disease, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, macular degeneration, joint pain, and skin conditions such as eczema, we still do not have widely publicized advice to carefully control this intake. Linoleic acid is an Omega-6 polyunsaturated oil, sometimes referred to as industrial seed oil, or vegetable oil. Sometimes they are even marketed as “heart-healthy” fats and oils. @*#@*@!


From a chemical perspective, these polyunsaturated fats have molecules with multiple double bonds making them easily broken down and oxidized, creating novel polymers that are hugely unhealthy and a major source of inflammation within your body. The drivers of oxidation (becoming rancid) are higher temperatures, longer time, and light. Conversely saturated fats are very stable and therefore do not readily oxidize to form dangerous chemicals.


Back in the 1950’s through the 1980’s there has been a fear of saturated fat, which has now been shown to be unjustified. However, this fear, which was based on very poor research, encouraged people to move away from healthy animal fats to the “new” industrial seed oils. While this was happening, a very wealthy individual named Phil Sokolof in USA, convinced of health risks associated with fats and particularly coconut oils, created a media campaign to turn people away from this tropical oil towards industrial seed oils instead. A third factor in this diet change was the desire by the USDA (US dept. of agriculture) to support farm incomes during WWII and subsidies were provided for growing wheat and corn, lowering the costs of these ingredients.


Look in the supermarket, at the huge range of Omega-6 industrial seed oils on sale. They are usually labeled as vegetable oils, but you should easily spot the marketing trick. They are not made from vegetables at all. They include soybean oil, cotton seed oil, safflower oil, corn oil (a grain), peanut oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame oil, canola oil, etc. They are often packaged in dark bottles to minimize degradation by light and have added antioxidants to help prevent them going rancid (oxidizing) almost immediately.


The process of extracting them from seeds uses petroleum-based chemicals and high heat which makes it almost impossible for them to remain unoxidized before they reach the supermarket shelf. People buying them often keep them in their pantry for many weeks during which time they gradually become more and more rancid, so that when eaten, you could be putting dangerous compounds directly into your body.
Many highly processed foods contain these polyunsaturated oils because they are a cheap way to add fats to the food. Look in the ingredients list of processed foods for vegetable oil, soy oil, corn oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, etc.


The Sydney Diet Health Study (1966-1973) of 458 men, was an attempt to compare the consumption of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and to measure the impact on cardiovascular risk. The polyunsaturated fat group lowered the cholesterol level nicely, compared to the saturated fat group, but despite the lowered cholesterol, the rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality of the polyunsaturated group significantly exceeded the saturated fat group. Here is their recently stated outcome:


“Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction. However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established. In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid (omega-6 vegetable oils) in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. An updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit. These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega 6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats.”


A number of researchers including Bill Lands, a renowned veteran lipid researcher have focused on the Omega-6 consumption, particularly in USA. It has been known for some time that Omega-6 oils (linoleic acid) have a pro-inflammatory effect in the human body while Omega-3 oils have an anti-inflammatory effect. If these are kept in reasonable 1:1 balance, your natural antioxidant glutathione can mop up the free radicals created by the inflammation from the oxidizing of these oils. However, if these 2 oil groups get seriously out of balance, then the level of inflammation can drive very poor health outcomes. The modern diets of some younger people in USA can have levels of Omega-6 up to 40 x the Omega-3 level. This is a recipe for major health problems in their future.

In the last 145 years the typical dietary consumption of “vegetable” oils in USA, has gone from near zero to 80 grams per day per person. This growth rate closely matches the growth of metabolic syndrome, macular degeneration, and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.


While Omega-6 is an “essential” fat, the essential level required is extremely low at no more than 1% of your calorie intake, while typical western diet levels can now be as high as 6%. A high level of Omega-6, or a high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is a clear indicator that the diet is heavy on seed oils which are already oxidized (rancid) before consumption as a result of the manufacturing process. It is the oxidation that is unhealthy about the seed oil consumption and drives up inflammation.


What does the linoleic acid (Omega-6) do in the body? It displaces the saturated fats that human bodies have used over thousands of years. I read that it can take up to 2 years to get the linoleic acid out of tissues and replace it with the healthier traditional fats. Here are some of the health impacts:

– Excess linoleic acid increases inflammation, which is a key driver for heart attack risk, hypertension, cancer, metabolic syndrome, macular degeneration, and many other health problems.
– Skin cancers are on the rise and the levels of polyunsaturated fat under the skin have been rising at about the same rate as the rise in skin cancers. This does not prove causality but people converting back to higher saturated fat diets frequently comment on the reduction in sun burn and the ability to stay out there longer without any problems. Our ancestors spent countless hours in the sun and survived to proliferate without cancers, despite having no sun creams, and they had very low levels of Omega-6 fats.
– There is strong evidence of a link between migraines and higher linoleic acid consumption.
– The cellular uptake of linoleic acid can result in greater production of substances, such as NHE, implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Cancer, Atherosclerosis and Liver diseases.

Where does this high level of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid come from:

1. Industrial seed oils as mentioned, used at home, or used extensively for frying at restaurants or squirted onto hot plates, pans, and woks which the food is cooked in directly.
2. Packaged ultra-processed foods with vegetable oils, such as sauces, spreads, and creams.
3. Canned food with oils such as soybean oil with canned fish.
4. Shortening and margarines made from vegetable oils.
5. Grain fed animals such as Chicken and Pork. These mono gastric animals take up linoleic acid from the grain they eat, then you eat that meat. In USA, corn fed chicken is particularly high in linoleic acid.
6. Feedlot finished beef, the corn fed to these animals pushes up the linoleic acid in meat and the longer the animal stays in the feedlot, the worse the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
7. Farmed fish are often fed meal, made from grains such as soy and corn, driving up their omega-6 level.


In a report titled “Historical perspectives on the impact of n-3 and n-6 nutrients on health” by Bill Lands, a Standard American Diet was compared with a Mediterranean Diet. Using a USDA derived omega 3:6 balance list of 538 “Key Foods” consumed by Americans during 2007–2008. They identified the top 10 foods with the worst impact in the Omega 3:6 Balance. The simple step of deleting these ten food items with the most negative Scores converted the diet to “almost” the healthy level of a Mediterranean diet.


The removed items in order from worst to best, were:
1. soybean oil,
2. mayonnaise,
3. tub margarine,
4. microwave pop- corn,
5. ‘‘Italian’’ salad dressing,
6. potato chips,
7. stick margarine,
8. vegetable shortening,
9. peanut butter,
10. tortilla chip snacks.


Deleting these foods not traditionally present in Mediterranean meals changed the American ‘‘Key Foods’’ list to one that fits closer to a ‘‘Mediterranean diet’’. Conversely, adding these items to a Mediterranean diet would ‘‘Westernize’’ it in a way that has been happening gradually in Mediterranean regions. Maybe you need to look at how you can avoid these foods.


It is not only humans that become less healthy with excess linoleic acid in the diet. Animal feed researchers learned that when corn oil or soybean oil was used as a butterfat replacer in veal calf rations, the animals generally got sick and died. They eventually recognized the need to include an antioxidant (vitamin E) in veal calf rations containing oils rich in linoleic acid.


I read that manufacturers of these Omega-6 oils are apparently aware of these problems and are quietly trying to breed crops which produce a higher level of oleic acid oils (as found in olive oils) and a lower level of Omega-6 from which to manufacture their seed oils in the future.


What ways can you reduce the high-risk outcomes of consuming high levels of linoleic acid now?
1. Switch from using the above-mentioned seed oils to using olive oils, coconut oil, tallow, lard, avocado oil, butter, or ghee. Any fat that is solid at room temperature is much better.
2. Avoid food in restaurants which is fried as it will almost certainly be fried in vegetable oils.
3. For baking use coconut oil, butter, and Ghee.
4. Take care not to burn oils and fats by keeping temperatures below the smoke point, as this increases the oxidation risk.
5. Dispose if any old polyunsaturated oils as they will be somewhat rancid already.
6. Keep nuts in sealed containers in the refrigerator as they can also contain these oils and will go rancid readily. Buy small quantities so that you do not store them at home for long.
7. If you can, choose to grind nuts at home as once ground, the oxidation process is accelerated.
8. Eat foods with high omega-3 levels such as cold-water fish, like Salmon and Sardines.


In August 2020, the USA college of Cardiologists released a paper in which the following conclusion was stated:

Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, and dark chocolate are Saturated Fat-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of heart disease. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods

A clever move would be to reduce your health risk, by minimizing consumption of Omega-6 seed oils and instead, return to the traditional animal fats that have been the staple dietary fats of our ancestors for thousands of years.

For more information on taking back your health and using food as medicine, look at my blog at: http://www.takebackyrhealth.com, where there is also a link to my book.
Good Health, George Elder

Your Microbiome is You?

Perhaps you are being controlled more than you realize. Ed Yong wrote a fascinating book called “I contain multitudes” in which he highlights the recent research linking your microbiome to many health conditions. Apparently, we are made up of a huge number of organisms that work for us or against us depending on how we treat them. Scientists are focusing heavily on the organisms in your gut (your microbiome), but they are in many other parts of the body as well. I have heard it suggested that your microbiome makes up more than 60% of you.

Mary Ruddick a well-respected nutritionist, says that if you have cravings, this is really the craving of your microbiome that is demanding the type of food it wants. If you have sugar cravings, then your microbiome has a higher level of the bad guys.


Your microbiome is much more important than you may realize. It makes your feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, it makes vitamins, it breaks down food and much of the goodness we get from food is a result of it being consumed first by the bacteria in your microbiome. It produces B vitamins for us and can affect whether some of our genes are activated (expressed) or not. 70% of your nervous system is based in your gut lining.


There is a belief that the microbiome must be diverse to be healthy, however testing of some very healthy traditional native groups has shown that you can have low diversity and still be very healthy. Apparently, it is the quality of bacteria in your microbiome and the integrity of your gut lining that matters, whether it is diverse or not, not so much.


How do you know if your microbiome is healthy or not? One clue is whether you are craving sugars and starches. The bad bacteria in your gut including those that can cause overgrowth, thrive on sugars and starches and they will influence your brain to crave them, to ensure that they get the food they want. Your good bacteria can also eat sugars and starches but prefer fats and protein. This suits your body perfectly because your cells also thrive on fats and protein.


If you need to clean up your microbiome, you can use food to do this by starving out the bad bacteria. So, a diet with no sugars or starches is required. However, these bacteria can live for quite a long time, some for over 3 months. If you starve them out for many weeks, but then have a cheat day before they have died off, you will refresh them and you will have to start the whole process all over again. So that slice of pizza or spoonful of dessert at the girl’s night out might be enough to derail your whole campaign. Only 100% adherence to the program will work. This makes it very hard for people to do. In the GAPS diet book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests that 16 months was the minimum required time for full effective treatment.


How will you know that you have eliminated the bad bacteria? Amongst other benefits, the cravings will be gone, you will wake up refreshed in the morning raring to go and you will feel very calm.


Unfortunately, antibiotics can and usually will damage your microbiome, so if you have taken a dose of these in recent months, you may be having to rebuild your good bacteria as well. Some ways to help with this are:

– Minimize plant foods with oxalate toxins and lectins such as beans and spinach.

– Don’t overdo the fiber and limit grains. Fiber is less important than is commonly believed.

– Eat more animal fats and limit omega-6 seed oils (vegetable oils)

– Get your proteins from a range of animal foods and minimize plant proteins. –

– Remember that vitamins A, E, D and K2 come from animal fats.

– Avoid soy-based food and tofu- Get outside in the mornings to get more vitamin D and to assist with melatonin production.

– Get the sugars and starches out of your diet to stop feeding overgrowth.

– Socialize.


Intermittent fasting with a non-eating window of at least 18 hours can help with microbiome and gut lining repair as it provides an opportunity for your gut to rest and rehabilitate between the sequences of food arriving. It also promotes autophagy where the body can replace proteins, replace damaged cells and run a general maintenance program. An easy way to do this is to finish dinner by about 6pm and then only consume water, coffee, or tea until noon the next day.


For more information about the suggested lifestyle changes and “Taking back your health” with diet as medicine, take a look at my blog page, www.takebackyrhealth.com There you will find a link to my book on Amazon.


Regards George Elder.

How much Protein should I eat?

Photo by Malidate Van on Pexels.com

Research that compares historical dietary protein levels with typical levels today, commonly finds that early hunter gatherer humans ate a lot more protein. Analysis of the ratios of nitrogen and carbon in ancient bones can reveal details of protein sources in their diet.

Early explorers and people studying native diets have documented these higher levels. For example, the Inuit in Northern Canada, lived primarily on seal, caribou and fish accompanied by lots of fat and very little carbohydrate and their protein level was medium to high. The Red Indians on the American plains ate a high protein meat and organ diet from herbivores such as deer and bison, with very little of the animal not used in some way. Early explorers commented on how very fit and healthy these people were. They had none of the metabolic diseases that are common now and apart from a higher infant mortality, their life expectancy was very similar to humans today.

Hunter gatherers typically ate about 30% protein and body builders can sometimes get up to 40% protein but to do this they consume special pea or whey protein powder supplements for muscle building. It takes a strong focus on building up the protein in the diet to do this. Even a steak only contains 16-21% protein, you would need to eat a lot of steak and you would struggle to eat that much. Even a whole egg only contains 6 grams of protein.

There is a known condition that afflicted some early Arctic explorers called “rabbit starvation”, which could occur during periods of poor hunting, when some explorers ate mostly rabbits because they were available. Rabbits have very very little fat, and this lack of fat caused sickness due to excess production of ammonia. The same issue plagued Vilhjalmur Stefansson during the first few weeks of his year-long 1928 demonstration of survival on an all-meat diet, because the initial diet provided by the hospital, failed to include sufficient fat. It seems that there is an upper limit to protein for humans which is around 40% of your calories. Levels above this can overwhelm the liver’s ability to convert nitrogen from protein into urea, causing ammonia levels to increase leading to stress in the body. Vilhjalmur Stefansson is quoted as saying that rabbit starvation in the arctic could kill a person more quickly than eating nothing.

This suggests that about 40% of calories as protein, is a hard upper limit for humans. However, 40% is very difficult to get to because the protein is buried in food with fats, carbohydrates and vitamins, so you get the other stuff as well. Not only that, but your protein thermostat turns off your appetite as your protein consumption rises, making it harder and harder to continue eating.

What about the bottom end of the protein scale? The official recommended daily allowance (RDA) is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, however, I understand this is an absolute minimum. Going below this could mean that many of your body maintenance functions are not happening as they should. Things like cell replacement, muscle repair, bone growth, hair growth, joint repair, etc. If you experience brittle hair and nails or wounds take a long time to repair, then maybe your protein level is too low. Your body has no way to store protein so you need to get it every day, maybe every meal and eating more on one day will not carry forward.

I have seen it suggested that the majority of older people in USA are only getting about 12% of their calories as protein. One of the biggest issues with this is that their body will try to get the protein it needs for maintenance by taking it from other parts of their body such as from their muscles, bones and connecting tissue. The result, a loss of muscle mass and a reduction in strength. Many older people die after struggling to recover after a fall, and falls are much more common when strength declines. Keeping strength and muscle mass up should be a key objective for ageing people.

A very poor diet with consistent low protein can lead to a result where only about 5% protein becomes the normal dietary level. To deal with this the body will reduce critical maintenance and the person becomes a “lightweight” version of what they could be. Small muscles, thin bones, lightweight organs, lower level of immunity etc. Valter Longo, a gerontology researcher experimented on mice and discovered that a reduced calorie diet increased their lifespan. Some people are betting, with their lives on this, seeking a longer lifespan by reducing calories, however, this has never been proven in people and we are much more likely to have serious falls than laboratory mice are. If you chose to reduce calories, make sure that it is not the protein that you reduce.

Without sufficient protein, a person gets weaker and weaker, gradually losing the ability to live fully. They struggle to get into and out of a car. Struggle to climb stairs. If they are driving, they may not be able to brake hard enough in an emergency. They may not be able to get out of a lounge chair without help. They cannot shower themselves without support. They tire quickly doing simple tasks. Eventually their heart loses the ability to keep them alive.

I hear that some women choose to avoid protein in order to ensure that they don’t develop “ugly” muscles. Be reassured that this is impossible from just eating a medium protein level diet as recommended here.

Personally, even at 70, I like to be strong enough to be able to do what is wanted without a struggle. Lifting heavy groceries, hitching the trailer onto the car, climbing stairs, digging the garden, carrying loads when required. A regular resistance exercise regime will help and it can be very satisfying.

Older people also don’t absorb protein efficiently, so if you are a bit older, I suggest you try to keep your protein intake to a minimum of about 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 70 kg man this means 105 grams of protein each day. To do this make sure you are eating plenty of meat, eggs and fish. Beans contain protein, but soy beans, grains including wheat and legumes can contain protease inhibitors and these can prevent the breakdown of dietary proteins into their amino acids, thus preventing you getting access to some of the protein you eat. This means that reducing the level of these in your diet may also help, particularly avoiding refined wheat flour. Are you in danger of overloading your kidneys? Apparently not unless you already have kidney disease, because it is almost impossible to drive protein levels to the very high levels required.

It is interesting to note that one way a farmer can fatten animals is to reduce the protein level in their feed. This causes the animals to eat more in order to satisfy their protein thermostat. Perhaps a higher level in a human diet will make you feel full sooner, reducing the calories you eat regularly.

During pregnancy a woman needs protein with the Mayo Clinic recommending 71 grams per day, although surely this will vary due to different activity levels and different size women. UCSF Health suggests a minimum level of 60 grams per day or 20-25% of your calories from protein. With a baby growing and most of their growth requiring protein, best not to skimp on this.

For a very readable guide to losing weight, diet and maintaining your health, take a look at my book linked to the blog at www.takebackyrhealth.com.
Regards George Elder

Anti-Virus, Anti-COVID

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Hi everyone. I just finished listening to the amazing Mary Ruddick talking about how to protect yourself from the more serious impacts of viruses including COVID19. What an amazing person she is. She is my new health idol and I have now listened, almost spellbound, to about 5 of her videos and podcasts.

So about viruses. I have always wondered why they would kill their host as this seems to limit their options to proliferate. But what if they preferred to remain a mild chronic nuisance to the host, but if the host is not very strong, they end up killing them. A living host would help them survive for a long time and to spread to many people. This model seems to fit past epidemics where many people had limited symptoms, but some small numbers were killed.

With this in mind, maybe the best thing you can do to minimize COVID19 risk, is to make your body as inhospitable to a virus as possible, which will mean it will struggle to survive and your risk is hugely reduced. The most important element seems to be your overall metabolic health.

Those who are less metabolically healthy with underlying diseases such as Type-2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, insulin resistance, etc are an easier target for a virus. This is because these conditions can drive up the whole body inflammation level, which if left untreated can mask the signals telling the immune system that a virus has arrived. This unfortunately gives the virus more time to proliferate within you, before your body begins to fight back and therefore severely weakens your immune system response.

A way to tell if this applies to you is to measure your waist circumference. Then compare it to your height. If your waist measurement is more than 1/2 your height measurement, then there is a high chance you are metabolically unhealthy.

Can you change this? Surprisingly YES you can. A diet that dramatically reduces carbohydrates, and removes sugars and seed oils can begin to improve your metabolic health in as little as three weeks. A Keto or Paleo diet can help with this as can getting enough vitamin D through daily sunshine exposure. I have read of people on supplementary insulin getting off this treatment within days of such a diet change.

You can also help reduce chronic inflammation by reducing your underlying stress level and therefore your level of cortisol. Perhaps the easiest way is to improve your sleep by getting more sleep prior to midnight, and waking, after at least 8 hours, at a set time every day and getting out into the sunshine. Harder in winter of course.

Another thing that may help is to focus on reducing the food that a virus can use to nourish itself. A high level of the amino acid, arginine in your body can stimulate a virus and accelerate its growth. Foods high in arginine generally come from plants and include beans, wheat grains, nuts, peanuts, chocolate, tofu, garlic, peanut butter and ginseng.

Within your body there is an arginine / lysine balance which you can influence by increasing the level of lysine containing foods. Foods high in lysine mostly come from animal sources and can suppress viruses, so include lots of red meat, pork, eggs, chicken, sardines, lamb, brewers yeast, mung bean sprouts and spirulina. Dairy products can be good source of lysine. If you are using lots of nut flours for baking, then maybe you need to eat these items with lots of dairy such as cheese or cream without sugar to keep the lysine balance high.

Mary has suggested that there is some food that will suppress viruses by blocking the ability for a virus to attach to a cell in your body. She suggests that for this you can eat shiitake mushrooms which are relatively low cost and loaded with beta-glucans, very capable of this blocking. Finally make sure you are getting enough zinc in your diet. This can come from oysters, beef, egg yolks, liver, dairy, lamb, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and shiitake mushrooms. Apparently zinc will attract viruses and transport them out of your body.

For more information about my own health journey, plus advice for living Keto, go to www.takebackyrhealth.com, or buy my book which is linked there.

Kind Regards George Elder

I have Type-2 Diabetes, HELP

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You have a problem. Type-2 diabetes is a silent killer and is wreaking havoc on your body. Along the way it will damage your body in ways that are often not reversible and, in the end, will trigger other conditions that could become lethal. What can you do about this?

There are many conditions within your body where a balance is maintained by hormones whose role is to maintain homeostasis (balance). Examples include the arginine / lysine balance, the cortisol / melatonin sleeping hormone balance, the Omega-3 / Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fat balance and your problem is the glucose / insulin balance. In your case the balance has become too heavy on the glucose end and too light on the insulin end. This is usually the result of your pancreas struggling to produce enough insulin to balance the level of dietary glucose arriving into your blood.

You have probably been heading for this failure, for many years as you became gradually more and more insulin resistant and therefor required higher and even higher levels of insulin from your pancreas, to control the incoming glucose. Your HbA1c level will have been rising and your pancreas ramped up its insulin production, but over time it lost the ability to produce the level that was asked of it.
Because your body can only tolerate a maximum of 1 teaspoon of sugar in the blood at any time, whenever you ate confectionary, starches, sweet food or carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes, beer, cola, bagels, oats, and cereals you pushed up the glucose level in your blood. This pushed up insulin even higher to force the storage of glucose into muscles, liver and adipose fat in order to try and bring this blood glucose level down to non-toxic levels.

There are 2 ways to address a balance problem, either you put more weight on the light end or you take some weight off the heavy end. A doctor may chose to try and reduce your weight of glucose by prescribing a drug like Metformin which inhibits your liver from making glucose, or may choose to put more weight on the light end of the balance by prescribing external insulin. Often the doctor will take a path that minimizes changes to your lifestyle. My understanding is that doctors are often concerned that patients will not adhere to lifestyle changes, so a prescription which alters that balance is possibly a simpler and more sure option.

Changes to your insulin / glucose balance are very serious for your body and getting this wrong can have serious consequences for your health. My father had a pancreas failure when I was only 12 which caused him to act very irrationally at times. His last day as a school teacher was the day he took an irrational “turn” and wouldn’t let the children in his class go home, much to the consternation of all the parents. Sadly, he died of complications from this problem some weeks later.

One of the problems with taking external insulin to restore the balance is that it can maintain a continuously high insulin level in your body which is very unhealthy. This approach also fails to improve your metabolic health which ultimately increases your risk of a more serious COVID19 reaction. The high insulin level can damage many of your organs, your eyes, and can ultimately lead to obesity, heart disease, blindness and even to limb amputation. Many people on external insulin gain unwanted weight.

An alternative approach to addressing this balance is a lifestyle change. This requires a high degree of commitment to ensure success, because failure to stick to the guidelines may mean sickness and a return to external insulin. By a lifestyle change, I mean that we regain the needed balance by significantly reducing the incoming dietary glucose level in food, so that a much smaller level of insulin is needed to manage it. In some cases, this will result in a significant reduction in medication, while in other cases there may be sufficient insulin production capability left in the pancreas for you to get off medication completely. In some cases, the reduction in medication can begin within a few days.

Adding more exercise can also assist as it burns up glucose from muscles which is then replaced by pulling glucose from your blood.

Don’t for a minute think that this type of change is a pipe dream. Doctors all over the world who have begun to understand low carb nutrition are achieving this type of change for their patients. Dr. David Unwin in UK is famous for this approach having been awarded 2016 Innovator of the Year by the UK NHS. In New Zealand Dr. Glen Davies of Taupo has now put 100 patients into remission and in the USA, Virta Health (www.virtahealth.com) is treating Type-2 diabetes patients virtually and putting many into remission all over North America.

If a lifestyle change with reduced medication seems right for you, then the first step is to discuss this with your doctor. As indicated previously, this is a serious change and you will need support particularly over the first 2 weeks as the changes to your diet start to impact your hormones. Should you find that your doctor is not willing to support you, then you may seriously want to look for an alternative doctor, because remaining on high levels of insulin has a particularly nasty outcome for many people and your doctor should not be making this type of life choice for you. Some doctors have not kept up to date with the changes in treatment for Type-2 diabetes and you need to be able to evaluate these better treatment options.

If you would like to help your doctor, maybe you could provide them with a copy of this document from low carb USA, https://www.lowcarbusa.org/clinical-guidelines/

For more information about the suggested lifestyle change and “Taking back your health” with diet as medicine, take a look at my blog page, www.takebackyrhealth.com. You will find there a link to my book on Amazon.

Whatever your decision, good luck with the outcome.
Kind Regards George Elder.

What is Metabolic Health?

In these days of COVID-19 we hear that people with poor metabolic health usually suffer a much worse outcome from getting infected with the virus. In 99% of the deaths in Italy from COVID-19, poor metabolic health was identified. Prateek Lohia, MD, MHA, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wayne State University, said. “Patients with metabolic syndrome had a 40% increase in all-cause mortality, 68% increase in the need for critical care services and a 90% increase in the need for mechanical ventilation compared to the patients without metabolic syndrome.”

But what is poor metabolic health?
If we look at crowd photos from the 1950’s and 1960’s, we are fascinated at the number of slim people. It can often be difficult to spot a person in the crowd who looks fat. The people look positively skinny in comparison with crowd photos taken these days. In most cases, that difference is metabolic syndrome, or poor metabolic health.


When a person has metabolic syndrome, a major indicator is excess fat around their middle. They might be called apple shaped, sometimes referred to in males, as having a beer belly. Often the major indication is a belly that hangs over the belt.
The excess fat accumulated around the center of a body is adipose fat, and it packs all around the body’s critical organs such as the heart, pancreas, stomach, liver etc. It can make bending over to tie shoelaces difficult, and can compress the lungs requiring more effort for breathing. To know if this is a concern for you, just take your waist measurement in the morning and compare it with your height. The waist measurement should be less than half your height measurement.
Not all people who have poor metabolic health are apple shaped. Some can be very thin and we refer to these people as TOFI’s. Thin outside, fat inside. They can still have excess adipose fat around their organs impacting their health.


What has happened to these people?
When their body has too much energy usually from eating excess carbohydrates, it could become toxic in the blood, so it has to go somewhere else. Their body converts this energy into a storable form and deposits it in the central area. This can be stored in the liver which can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which over time, expands the liver putting more bulk into the central area and can eventually lead to cirrhosis or permanent scarring damage to the liver. Sometimes this excess energy is converted into Triglycerides (fat) and stored in the central area, increasing adipose fat around the organs, and pushing out the belly.
A major driver for this, is eating food that has too high energy but a low level of nutrients. It is common to think this is a result of a person just over eating, but it often comes from their body reacting to the type of food they are eating and continuing to send “hungry” messages. So, the wrong food can make you feel hungry, even if you have just eaten. For example, many processed foods and sweetened beverages are full of calories, have almost zero protein, but zero nutrition. If these are dominant in your diet, your body will keep you feeling hungry until you have satisfied your protein or nutrition requirements.


What are the health impacts of this condition?
This central adipose fat releases hormones such as leptin, some cytokines and others, to such an extent that it is now considered a major endocrine organ influencing a number of internal processes. These can help drive up obesity which is now known to increase cancer risk. The high glucose levels driving metabolic syndrome also increase insulin levels ultimately creating insulin resistance and this drives a wide range of diseases. Some examples of these diseases are Type 2 diabetes, PCOS, macular degeneration, kidney disease, liver diseases, heart disease, obesity and many other diseases that are only just being recognized as caused by insulin resistance.
Why is a person with metabolic syndrome more susceptible to a poor COVID-19 outcome? It seems that their immune system is compromised, that nutrition levels are lower, that these people have a delayed response by the immune system. Chronic inflammation seems to be a factor, as it is common in obese people. It seems that COVID-19 can create an excessive inflammatory response called a cytokine storm. This can cause severe lung damage and multi organ failure.


Is there anything that can be done?
Yes, there is and you can get results quite quickly. The really good news is that when you focus on this problem, the body seems to reduce the worst adipose fat level first. In just one week with a significantly reduced dietary glucose level, research has found that liver function can recover by as much as 30%. In just three weeks, the adipose tissue can begin to shrink and health markers can begin to improve.
For many people, the route to improved health involves heavily reducing dietary carbohydrates which lowers insulin, reduces sugars in the blood and switches the body to consume stored fat. When this is done, the first fat store that is targeted is the central area adipose fat. Great news.


A paleo diet can help and even a vegan diet may help. Grains, sugar sweetened drinks, HFCS, starchy vegetables and sugar must be eliminated. This means no corn, rice, potatoes, parsnips, almost no fruit and no flour or corn-based products like pasta, cereals, bread, pretzels, cakes buns etc. So very difficult but not impossible for a vegan to still get all their required nutrition.
A keto or low carbohydrate style diet is my easy way to do this because it mostly eliminates any feeling of hunger. Increase the level of meat, eggs, dairy, and eat lots of green vegetables every day. You are replacing most carbohydrates with additional protein, and fat. If the overall calories are kept just a little under daily requirements, then the body will begin to use stored fat to make up the energy shortfall. Intermittent fasting can also help.


Take a look at this report from Dr. Maryanne Demasi for more detailed medical information: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111451
For more information, I invite you to download my e-book.George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Available on Amazonwww.takebackyrhealth.com

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