Tag Archives: cancer

Telomere length and the cancer-atherosclerosis trade-off 

Telomeres are a hot research area now. If you can keep your telomeres long, you may live longer. But that may be an oversimplification. Click the link below for details. A teaser:

“Telomeres are caps of tandem repeats of DNA that protect the ends of all chromosomes. They are implicated in ageing because, with successive bouts of cell division, they are gradually whittled away to expose chromosomes to damage and, eventually, an inability to replicate any further. Sarah Tishkoff, together with co-authors Rivka Stone and Abraham Aviv, from the New Jersey Med School, and several others, have been taking a hard look at the evolution of telomere length across species and human groups and argue that there is a direct relationship between telomere length and susceptibility to cancer and atherosclerosis (and other diseases of ageing). Specifically, they describe evidence for an evolutionary trade-off whereby shorter telomeres in some human groups protect against cancer but expose individuals to a greater risk of other diseases in later life.”

Source: Telomere length and the cancer – atherosclerosis trade-off – The Evolution and Medicine Review

R.I.P.: A Horse Named Steve; and a Neurosurgeon Confronts His Own Death

The New York Times online has the story:

As soon as the CT scan was done, I began reviewing the images. The diagnosis was immediate: Masses matting the lungs and deforming the spine. Cancer. In my neurosurgical training, I had reviewed hundreds of scans for fellow doctors to see if surgery offered any hope. I’d scribble in the chart “Widely metastatic disease — no role for surgery,” and move on. But this scan was different: It was my own.

Well worth your time to read unless you’re in denial of death.

h/t Yoni Freedhoff.

*  *  *

A pall hangs over the Parker Compound since one of our horses died of colic yesterday. Certainly not the same as a human death, but still….  

My wife and daughter rescued Steve from appalling conditions  eight or nine years ago when he was about seven years old. They named him after me for some reason—his original name was Wyatt. Sunny paid $200 (USD) for Steve, which is one cheap horse. Many horses are like boats and airplanes in that they may not cost all the much initially—it’s the maintenance and repairs that get you.

The seller in Apache Junction, Arizona, had him in a large pen with 20 or 30 other horses. At feeding time, the owner threw a few flakes of hay into the pen and then it was “survival of the fittest” time. Horses are not by nature sharing creatures. Steve was not high up on the pecking order. If she hadn’t bought him, he may well have ended up in a meat market.

Steve was originally my daughter’s first horse, not mine. For reasons forgotten, we got her another horse, Buckwheat. Steve was to be my wife’s horse then. Soon enough Sunny broke her leg and was out of commission for months. Horses, like people, need exercise. The most fun way to exercise them is to ride them. That’s when I first started riding Steve, to give him exercise. My daughter and a cowgirl named Angel Antan were my instructors.

I had an odd experience with him one time when my daughter and I were on a trail ride to the Verde River from our home in Rio Verde. If you don’t know how to ride, note that a horse isn’t supposed to move or stop unless the rider gives the signal. You can’t let the horse be in charge. We were in a dry wash when Steve suddenly stopped and started sniffing the ground. I had no idea what was up and thought I’d just sit there waiting to see what would happen. Soon and without warning, Steve knelt down on his front legs, then his back ones, and was on his belly, starting to roll over! I jumped off and pulled him up by the reins before he did the deed. You do NOT want a horse rolling over on you, or your saddle for that matter. He never did that again, nor have I heard of that happening to others.

One of the cool things about our trail rides is that you can get close to coyotes. When you’re on horseback, the coyotes don’t perceive you as much of a threat.

Steve always liked men more than women. It was only in the last few months that my wife and he became quite fond of each other.

My wife gave him a great home. He was a good horse who taught me how to ride. I always felt safe when I was around him and on him, regardless of the near roll-over.

He “colicked” every year for the last five years. I’d like to think that Steve’s in horse heaven with his buddy Buckwheat, running over grassy  hills and wading through clear streams. RIP, Steve. No more pain, ever. 

Steve is the palomino on the right

Steve is the palomino on the right

Why Are Nuts So Prominent in My Diet Plans?

Nuts with more omega-3 fatty acids (compared to omega-6) may be the healthiest

Nuts with the lowest omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratios may be the healthiest. In other words, increase your omega-3s and decrease omega-6s.

Conner Middelmann-Whitney explains in her recent post at Psychology Today. In a nutshell, they are linked to longer life and better health. For example:

In the largest study of its kind, Harvard scientists found that people who ate a handful of nuts every day were 20% less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts. The study also found that regular nut-eaters were leaner than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should calm any fears that eating nuts will make you gain weight.

The report also looked at the protective effect on specific causes of death. “The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease—the major killer of people in America,” according to Charles S. Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber, the senior author of the report and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “But we also saw a significant reduction—11% —in the risk of dying from cancer,” added Fuchs.

Read the whole enchilada.

Nuts are integral to my Advanced Mediterranean Diet, Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, Paleobetic Diet, and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

Walnuts seem to have the lowest omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio of all the common nuts. That may make them the healthiest nut. The jury is still out. Paleo dieters focus on cutting out omega-6s and increasing omega-3s. Julianne Taylor has a great post on how to do that with a variety of foods, not just nuts.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Is mTORC1 Modulation the Key To Diseases of Civilization?

Was Hippocrates the dude that said something about “make food your medicine”?

Bodo Melnik has an article in DermatoEndocrinology regarding the dietary causes of acne.  He also comments on the role of Western foods in obesity, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and neurodegenerative disorders.  These are our old friends, the “diseases of civilization.”  Melnik mentions the Paleolithic diet favorably.

Melnik says it’s all tied in with mTORC1: mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1.

A snippet:

These new insights into Western diet-mediated mTORC1-hyperactivity provide a rational basis for dietary intervention in acne by attenuating mTORC1 signaling by reducing (1) total energy intake, (2) hyperglycemic carbohydrates, (3) insulinotropic dairy proteins and (4) leucine-rich meat and dairy proteins. The necessary dietary changes are opposed to the evolution of industrialized food and fast food distribution of Westernized countries. An attenuation of mTORC1 signaling is only possible by increasing the consumption of vegetables and fruit, the major components of vegan or Paleolithic diets. The dermatologist bears a tremendous responsibility for his young acne patients who should be advised to modify their dietary habits in order to reduce activating stimuli of mTORC1, not only to improve acne but to prevent the harmful and expensive march to other mTORC1-related chronic diseases later in life.

You sciencey types can read the rest.  Our new friend mTOR also seems to be involved with growth of muscle induced by resistance exercise.

h/t Mangan

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Also Cuts Cancer Risk By Half

…according to a report in MedPageToday.

I'm still not convinced that severe sodium restriction is necessary or even possible for most people

I’m still not convinced that severe sodium restriction is necessary or even possible for most people

The American Heart Association has published guidelines aiming to reduce premature death and illness caused by cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.

The guidelines focus on seven factors critical to cardiovascular health:

  • smoking
  • blood sugar
  • blood pressure
  • physical activity
  • total cholesterol
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • ideal diet

Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities study (almost two decades’ follow-up), researchers found that those who maintained goals for six or seven of the American Heart Association critical factors had a 51% lower risk of cancer compared with those meeting no goals.

For detailed information about the specific goals, click here.

As you might expect, I was curious about what the American Heart Association considered a heart-healthy diet.  I quote the AHA summary:

The recommendation for the definition of the dietary goals and metric, therefore, is as follows: “In the context of a diet that is appropriate in energy balance, pursuing an overall dietary pattern that is consistent with a DASH [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension]-type eating plan, including but not limited to:

  • Fruits and vegetables: ≥ 4.5 cups per day
  • Fish: ≥ two 3.5-oz servings per week (preferably oily fish)
  • Fiber-rich whole grains (≥ 1.1 g of fiber per 10 g of carbohydrate): ≥ three 1-oz-equivalent servings per day
  • Sodium: < 1500 mg per day
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: ≤ 450 kcal (36 oz) per week

Intake goals are expressed for a 2000-kcal diet and should be scaled accordingly for other levels of caloric intake. For example, ≤ 450 calories per week represents only up to one quarter of discretionary calories (as recommended) coming from any types of sugar intake for a 2000-kcal diet.

Diet recommendations are more complicated than that; read the full report for details.  Only 5% of study participants ate the “ideal diet.”  The Mediterranean diet easily meets four out of five of those diet goals; you’d have to be extremely careful to reach the sodium goal on most any diet.

Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are among the top causes of death in Western societies.  Adhering to the guidelines above may kill two birds with one stone.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Which Cancers Are Linked to Obesity?

American Institute for Cancer Research has the list along with a helpful article.  You’d think that a person moving from obese down to overweight or normal weight would reduce future cancer risk, but I’m not sure that’s ever been proven.  We’ve learned in the last decade that obese and overweight patients with heart disease seem to live longer if they stay overweight – an example of the obesity paradox.

Huge U.S. Study Confirms Health and Longevity Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

This is a reprint of the very first blog post I ever did, from December 24, 2007, at my old Advanced Mediterranean Diet Blog.  

We now have results of the first U.S. study on mortality and the Mediterranean dietary pattern.  380,000 people, aged 50-71, were surveyed on their dietary habits and scored on their conformity to the Mediterranean diet.  They were visited again 10 years later.  As you would expect, some of them died.  12,105 to be exact: 5985 from cancer, 3451 from cardiovascular disease, 2669 from other causes.  However, the people with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had better survival overall, and specifically better odds of avoiding death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Compared to the people with low conformity to the Mediterranean diet, the high conformers were 15-20% less likely to die over the 10 years of the study.  The study authors, funded by the National Institutes of Health, noted eight similar studies in Europe and one in Australia with similar results.

Nothing to do with this post…I just like this picture

Once again, my promotion of the Mediterranean diet is vindicated by the scientific literature.  I’m not aware of any other diet that can prove anywhere near this degree of health benefit.  If you are, please share

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Mitrou, Panagiota N., et al.  Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Prediction of All-Cause Mortality in a US Population,  Archives of Internal Medicine, 167 (2007): 2461-2468.