The Blue Zones?

In 2000, Micheal Poulain and Giovanni Mario Pes documented a group of locations around the world where there was an abundance of people who lived to be over 100 years old.  These areas were called “The Blue Zones” and included:

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  • Ikaria, Greece; (sometimes spelt Icaria)
  • Okinawa, Japan;
  • Ogliastra Region, Sardinia;
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
  • Loma Linda, California, USA

It was suggested that a number of factors led to the longer life of people who lived there, including regular exercise, having social circles that reinforced healthy behaviors,  taking time to de-stress, being very family orientated and part of a community.  There was also a dietary element where it was believed that their approach to diet had a very significant impact on their longevity.

Some groups interested in diet have seem similarities between their dietary beliefs and the documented diet of blue zone inhabitants, often using this information to support their ideas and to promote their diet as healthier.  Despite these areas being very geographically and separate from each other and eating quite different diets, these dietary ideas have become blue zone folklore?

Here are some suggested ideas from a recent book titled “The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

Some of this advice seems very sensible but we must be very careful when trying to apply what seems to work in one place and time to something happening in another place or time.  For example:

  • Many people living in Northern Europe drink a lot of cows milk and have done so for generations, however most Asians can not tolerate cows milk well due to a lactose intolerance which can make them sick when they consume it.
  • Europeans traveling into malaria infested areas of the World must take special precautions against getting bitten by the anopheles mosquito as they can suffer hugely and die from this disease if caught, while some locals appear to be almost immune from this.
  • Over the years diets change and the diet that sustained a centenarian in the growing and middle age years may be very different from what we see today, which could confound research.  In my own case my family ate lots of delicious meat stews, and porridge as I grew up but we very seldom eat these today.  We also had very limited fruit varieties and fast food was non-existent. 

Another aspect of the blue zones which has been questioned is the validity of the research done.  Mary Ruddick, a renowned nutritionist is married to a Greek and has lived on the island of Ikaria.  She was puzzled by the lack of recognition of the amount of goat meat eaten by the islanders and the suggestion that potatoes was a mainstay of their diet.  In her view the islanders eat goat meat almost daily and potatoes are not a local crop due to the poor soils.  They were introduced some years ago as part of the adoption of more western ways of eating and were never part of traditional diets.  Her suggestion about why goat meat is not recognized is that the questionnaires asked about “red” meat consumption and this to an Ikaria inhabitant translates to beef, which is rarely eaten.  Mary shares her view on this here:

Another blue zone diet claim is that a mainstay of the Okinawa diet is sweet potatoes.  During World War II these people were forced to kill and eat most of the pigs on their islands and as a result made a switch to much more reliance on sweet potatoes.  The diet which centenarians ate over the years was once heavily pork based and this has changed significantly over time.  Okinawa’s people are no longer in the top group.  For more information about this diet confusion, take a look at the post by Angela Stanton in the link below

Another approach in dietary / longevity research is to blame genetics for some of the health problems of today. Any review of non-communicable diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes, Obesity, Macular Degeneration, Kidney Disease, Asthma, Depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Heart disease or Cancer reveals skyrocketing levels which have risen dramatically since the 1900’s when most of these were rare. Is it possible that some individuals have obesity genes which are turned on or turned off by the poor western diet of high sugar, refined grains and seed oils.

Genetics clearly has an impact in setting different levels of susceptibility to diseases in individuals. For a great example of how genes work, take a look at the honey bee. The queen bee and the worker bee have identical genes, but the Queen is isolated and fed royal jelly with the result being development of the only fertile female egg laying machine in the hive. Genes can clearly be turned off and turned on by external factors such as different foods.

Different population groups around the world, have responded to the western diet in different ways. Some groups have a much less healthy response to the the impact of the western diet than others. For example, the Pima Indians in Arizona are the most obese group in USA and African Americans are more susceptible to Type-2 Diabetes than people of Caucasian origin. These differences may be due to natural selection that has occurred from the impact of different major impacts on the ancestors of the group. Dr. Andrew Jenkinson in his fascinating book “Why We Eat (To Much), covers this in some detail. For example, he suggests that the susceptibility of Pacific Islanders to obesity may come from their past long sea migrations where only those who had the ability to survive these journeys with little or no food, survived to become their ancestors.

As always, for more diet and health information, take a look at my book

“Take Back Your Health”, by George Elder,  available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon.

Book Link: https://amzn.to/3uiehfv

Blog link,  www.takebackyrhealth.com

Learning can be slow in Medicine

In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis , a young doctor working in Austria noticed that more young women were dying after childbirth in the hospital division where autopsies were also also performed, compared with the division where only midwives assisted birthing. This was before people understood about microbes and hand-washing was not common practice.

After a close friends death from a scalpel wound, Semmelweis discovered that diseases were being transmitted on doctors hands, from the autopsies, to the young birthing mothers. Hand washing was implemented and the death rate plummeted. However the obstetrics head doctor refused to accept the practice and Semmelweis contract was not extended. He was persecuted and eventually died in an asylum.

This is an appalling but true story, the details of which have been used as a basis for the fictional book “Unclean Hands” by Andrew Schafer. A true book about this, Titled “The Doctors’ Plague” has been written by Sherwin B. Nuland. It took at least 10 years after this for hand-washing became an accepted practice in medicine.

Would you be astonished to discover that this horrifying situation has not improved much. Let’s take a look at how our treatment for Type-2 Diabetes reveals this continuing problem.

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease which many doctors have come to believe is progressive and unable to be reversed. I understand this is what is taught at medical school.

The reality is that the most common cause of this disease is a normal reaction of the human body to continuous excess levels of sugar/glucose in the blood which is usually caused by too much sugar and starches (carbohydrates) in the diet over many years.

Does a days eating often look like this?
Breakfast: – cereals, bread, bagels, toast, fruit juice.
Snack: – cookie, bagel, muffin, fruit, soda, pastry, corn chips.
Lunch: – sandwich, bread, pasta, rolls, fruit, cakes.
Dinner: – pizza, potatoes, fries, pasta, rice, bread, sweet deserts, beer, burgers.
Supper: – muffin, cookie, sweet biscuit, chocolate.

Every single item in the above diet is producing sugar/glucose in the body. Is every celebration accompanied by copious quantities of sugar based treats? Are rewards and treats usually sugar based?
Some people don’t realize that carbohydrates, except fiber, convert to sugar immediately you eat them.

The safe non-toxic level of sugar/glucose in your blood is only about 1 teaspoon. After you have used some for energy, if the level is still higher than 1 teaspoon, the body has to reduce it urgently by releasing insulin which signals to muscles and the liver to manage the glucose out of the blood to get this toxic sugar level back down. To do this your body either converts the glucose to glycogen for storage in muscles or into fat for storage in the liver or in fat cells.

If your sugar and therefore your insulin is continuously elevated, then over time, your body becomes resistant to this and as a result the level of insulin required to manage the glucose down becomes higher and higher. Eventually it becomes so high that your body can not make sufficient and you are classified as a Type-2 diabetic.

Some say that Type-2 Diabetes is not a disease at all. It is the result of your body’s normal reaction to continuous high levels of blood glucose. Many doctors, instead of working with the patient to get their glucose levels down, prescribe medications including artificial insulin to push the insulin even higher to signal the liver and muscles to pull out that glucose.

Unfortunately high insulin levels are also very toxic and “insulin resistance” is now recognized as a cause of many diseases, including promoting obesity, PCOS, kidney disease, fatty liver, blindness heart disease, and nerve damage which can often resulting in limb amputation.

Research over many years has shown that this disease can often be reversed by reducing the level of carbohydrates in your diet. The process takes time and needs to be managed carefully in the first few weeks in order to manage sugar levels in the blood, as your body becomes adapted to the changes. The changes can be so immediate that sometimes injected insulin levels must be reduced within hours.

Some doctors are now treating their Type-2 Diabetes and pre-diabetes patients with low carb diets and having amazing success reversing this “disease”. In USA, Virta Health ( https://www.virtahealth.com) is treating hundreds of patients remotely using low carb diet approaches. In UK, Dr David Unwin and in New Zealand Dr. Glenn Davies are having success with the same approach. Dr Bhakti Paul MD in NC USA has a great interview on YouTube (https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw) describing how she treats her Type-2 diabetic patients this way.

Other doctors, researchers and nutritionists have been persecuted for advising patients of these low carbohydrate dietary approaches. Dr. Gary Fettke, an Australia Orthopedic Surgeon was censured and barred from delivering nutrition guidance to patients after he objected to the high carbohydrate meals being given to his patients in hospital. This restriction has now been lifted. Dr. Tim Noakes in South Africa, had to fight a court battle for over 3 years for retention of his license to practice medicine, because of complaints about his low carb nutrition advice to patients. Maryanne Demasi a medical reporter and investigative journalist was persecuted for a report on Low Carb diets on the ABC in Australia.

I have come to understand that many everyday doctors or GP’s working in clinics are unable to put patients on low carb diets because this is not supported by the “standard of care” they are required to operate within. Unfortunately this can mean that their Type-2 diabetic patients may not be getting the best care possible and are forced to accept supplementary insulin in order to manage their diabetes. Suicide is extremely high amongst doctors and this type of problem may be exacerbating their stress. Those doctors and nutritionists trying to implement new practices are often unreasonably restrained by tradition.

The modern management of diabetes reversal is initially very critical and some doctors are now finding that fitting CGM’s (Continuous Glucose Monitors) to their patients with a real time link between the patient and the doctor is allowing for very precise management of this critical period of recovery and the beginning of remission.

Dr. Bhakti Paul In conjunction with the website DietDoctor.com have produced a very good overview for doctors about her successful approach to reversing diabetes using this approach. Take a look here on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/3suCjlPfkgw

As always, for health advice and comment check out my blog or find links to my book at: www.takebackyrhealth.com

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.