Top 10 Health Stories of 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

2009 was a busy year as gene-related exploration tools opened up a treasure trove of new discoveries.  We’ve learned why some of the obvious good health habits, like getting enough sleep and exercise are more important than ever, and we’ve learned new things about health that were barely imagined even a year ago.  Many of the following stories are feature length articles that are sure to broaden your understanding of natural health and as well as illustrating the extreme importance of taking really good care of yourself.

#10 – Sleep Well, Live Longer

Everyone knows that getting enough sleep is vital to good health.  It is also vital to learning.  It is now crystal clear that sleep problems reflect excess inflammation, which in turn reflects increased risk for virtually any disease. 

Excessive Sleepiness Predicts Death
Energy is the backbone of life and a new study makes this perfectly clear. A group of 9294 individuals, age 65 at the start of study, was followed for six years. Those with excessive daytime sleepiness had a 49% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 33% increased risk of dying from any cause.

Sleeping Problems Disturb Cardiovascular Health
Timing is a key principle of health.  Sleeping and waking are timed to the earth’s 24 hour clock, and so is the health of your circulatory system.  New research is discovering that timing rhythms of your body have a powerful influence on the health of the cells that line your circulatory system.

Alcohol May Disturb Your Sleep and Biological Clock
Many people have a drink or two to relax and calm down from the stressors of the day, which even may assist sleep (at least in the short term).  A new study shows that an increased level of alcohol can disrupt your biological clock.  Not only does this induce potential serious sleep problems, it can throw your entire body out of rhythm (including your immune system).

Sleep Problems are a Significant Risk for Type II Diabetes
Three new studies show that a short sleep duration, insomnia, and too much sleep all are reflective of a major problem in blood sugar metabolism that increases the risks for type II diabetes. 

Too Much or Too Little Sleep is Inflammatory
A new sleep study demonstrates that sleeping too long as well as sleeping too little goes along with having too much inflammation.  It is already known that these types of sleep problems are associated with poor health, disease risk, and increased rates of mortality.  This new study links the inflammatory theme as an underlying mechanism affecting all types of sleep duration problems.

Sleep Desire, Caffeine, and Inflammation
New research has proven conclusively that the molecule known as adenosine is in charge of your feeling of sleepiness and is required in adequate amounts in order for you to fall asleep in a natural way. Somewhat paradoxically, adenosine is also an important molecule in energy production.

Quality Sleep is Needed for Memory and Learning
When teachers watch grades plummet they invariably know something stressful is going on in that student’s life.  That is because the inflammation resulting from the problems is disturbing sleep – and a good night’s sleep is now turning out to be the key to memory and learning. 

#9 – Exercise is Corrective, Rejuvenating, and Good for Your Brain

Exercise is not just to maintain a better body weight, it builds and rejuvenates brain cells, helping intelligence at any age.  Research continues to show that exercise reduces the risk for heart disease and improves the health of your liver.

Aerobics Promote a More Youthful Brain
In a small group of men and women ages 60 to 80 it was found that those who did 3 hours of aerobics per week for ten consecutive years had much less abnormal twisting of the blood vessels in their brain, reflecting brain circulation patterns of younger adults.

Aerobic Fitness Makes Teens Smarter
A Swedish study evaluating the fitness and IQ of 1.2 million 18 year olds found that those who had better aerobic fitness between the ages of 15-18 had significantly higher IQ at age 18 – and were more likely to go on to be successful in terms of education and income. The study also evaluated twins and showed that IQ was far more associated with fitness than genes.

Men Need Moderate-to-Heavy Exercise for Stroke Prevention
A new study of 3,298 people showed that men who regularly participated in moderate-to-heavy exercise (jogging, tennis, swimming) had a 63 percent less chance of having a stroke. Lighter exercise such as walking or golfing did not confer such benefits.

Exercise Helps Prevent the Re-Accumulation of Dangerous Fat
Visceral fat is the kind that accumulates in the abdominal region and is associated with highly inflammatory disease-related risk. A new study had individuals exercise 40 minutes twice a week for one year following a period of weight loss. This small amount of exercise completely prevented the re-accumulation of the high disease risk fat. The researchers found that aerobic exercise and resistance training were equally effective for this purpose.

Aerobic Exercise Improves Stiff Arteries and Fatty Liver
Several new studies are showing that aerobic exercise can have a rather profound effect on promoting health. One study showed that in older adults with type II diabetes just three months of aerobics produced noticeable improvement in the elasticity of arteries. Another study showed that one month of aerobic exercise reduced the fatty build up in the liver of overweight individuals.

Why Consistent Exercise Helps Keep the Weight Off
There are numerous studies showing that those who consistently exercise during and following weight loss are much more likely to maintain their new weight. The common reasons most people have to continue exercise is to maintain the better feeling of health and fitness and to burn calories. A new study provides a few new angles that may provide additional motivation. It showed that consistent exercise following weight loss directly reduced the urge to eat more food, specifically enhanced fat burning, and blunted the formation of new fat cells.

#8 – Adiponectin Linked to Multiple Disease Risks

Adiponectin, a hormone like leptin that comes from fat, has already been shown to be the single most important factor causing insulin resistance and type II diabetes.  Now we see that low adiponectin starts heart disease in motion, handicaps immune function, and disturbs the rhythms of healthy metabolism.  The adiponectin story is of immense importance to your health, and far from over.

Low Adiponectin Starts Cardiovascular Disease in Motion
Adiponectin and leptin are the two primary hormones secreted from your stored fat.  In health, they are released in balance.  As body weight rises, then leptin increases and adiponectin decreases.  It has been known for some time that the lowering of adiponectin is the primary cause of insulin resistance in your liver.  This new study shows that low adiponectin is associated with adverse changes in your circulatory system that lead to plaque accumulation and hardening of your arteries. 

Adiponectin Stops Sepsis – Relevance to H1N1 Swine Flu
A new animal study shows that low levels of adiponectin are associated with higher toxicity of sepsis whereas adequate adiponectin prevents sepsis. Adiponectin levels are low in overweight people and being overweight is a risk factor for getting severe H1N1 swine flu. Those with severe H1N1 swine flu have sepsis-like symptoms due to the toxicity and low oxygen condition produced by the infection.

The Blood Sugar Hormone Adiponectin is Linked to Your Circadian Clock
A detailed analysis of biological clocking genes has shown that adiponectin function is in sync with 24-hour patterns. The data also showed that fasting causes the adiponectin-relating timing to fast forward, whereas a high fat diet causes adiponectin-related timing to enter jet lag.

Magnesium Needed for Healthy Adiponectin Levels
A detailed study comparing the metabolism of twins, which analyzed their basic dietary nutrients, found that magnesium intake was the most important dietary variable that determined adiponectin levels.

#7 A Clear Path to Prostate Cancer Prevention

One in six men is needlessly heading for prostate cancer.  This problem is mostly preventable and a new understanding of the androgen receptor points the way to good health – for those men wishing to take the steps it needed to stay out of the obvious risk zone. 

Prostate Cancer & the Androgen Receptor – A Clearer Picture of the Problem
Prostate cancer is the most widely diagnosed cancer in America. Men have a 17% risk for getting the problem during their lifetime. The story of any cancer is essentially survival gone wrong, a problem wherein normal cell function is hijacked and turned to cancer. How this happens varies considerably for any particular type of cancer, although there are a number of common features. Any man not wanting prostate cancer in the first place or who is treating this problem should spend some time understanding at least the basics of the androgen receptor.

Coffee Reduces the Risk for Diabetes and Prostate Cancer
Several new studies support the idea that coffee may be quite good for your health – even in higher amounts. In one study it was shown that those consuming 3-4 cups of coffee per day had a 25% risk reduction for type II diabetes. In another study it was shown that the highest coffee drinkers had a 60% less chance of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Causes Heart Disease and Diabetes
One common treatment for prostate cancer is to use hormone-disrupting drugs to the point of chemical castration (depressing testosterone production to nothing). Another approach is actual castration. According to a new study, either procedure causes significant risk for heart disease, and chemical castration with a GnRH agonist also causes diabetes.

Prostate Cancer and Zinc – Can Zinc Be Overdone?
Many individuals are confused by the meaning of studies that sometimes show a particular nutrient is associated with some form of cancer when in fact they thought that nutrient was supposed to be helpful. A case in point is zinc and prostate cancer, which is the subject of this posting.

Leptin, Obesity, and Prostate Cancer
Duke University researchers have demonstrated that obesity in and of itself is a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer. The study involved 1415 men who had undergone radical prostatectomy as prostate cancer treatment (about 50/50 white and black men). Race was not a factor in who was likely to continue disease progression based on the prostate cancer spreading aggressively, but obesity was.

Another Study Linking Obesity to Aggressive Prostate Cancer
It is really important that this message sink in to the male population. Being overweight when you are older or gaining weight as an adult are clearly linked to risk for developing the most aggressive and deadly form of prostate cancer.

#6 – The Pitfalls of Bioidentical Hormones

The improper use of bioidentical hormones is putting the health of many women at risk and opening the door for unnecessary excessive regulation of the natural health industry.  It does not appear that many natural health practitioners are planning on getting their acts together any time soon – so consumers need to understand the subject much better.

Oprah’s “Crazy Talk” – Bioidentical Hormones – Helpful or Harmful? (Part 1)
Newsweek recently indulged in tabloid journalism, featuring Oprah on the cover with the headline: CRAZY TALK, Oprah, Wacky Cures, & You. The specific emphasis of the article was an attack on Suzanne Somers, Oprah, and bioidentical hormones. The Genie is out of the hormone bottle, consumers are confused, the medical profession is in its typical funk, and somewhere out there is the health-improving truth.

Oprah’s “Crazy” Talk – Bioidentical Hormones – Helpful or Harmful? (Part 2)
Hormones decline with age. The simplistic idea of replacing something that is apparently missing makes sense to many people, especially when a lab test can show that the hormone levels are lower than a younger person’s or when taking the hormone suppresses a symptom. And that is where the simplicity ends – and the risks begin to elevate.

#5 – The Unnecessary Epidemic of Type II Diabetes

How a subject like Western medicine gains a monopoly on treating an epidemic of type II diabetes is hard to understand when it is painfully obvious that their treatments fail to produce positive results.  Solutions for consumers are now available – once again rooted in a much better understanding of natural health.

Insulin, Leptin, and Blood Sugar – Why Diabetic Medication Fails
Type II diabetes is a difficult metabolic problem.  It is a national embarrassment that so many of our young people are becoming type II diabetic.  It is a national disgrace that millions of type II diabetic patients are being injured with commonly used diabetic medications that are known to make their metabolic situation worse. 

Laughable Type II Diabetes Research Shines Light on Medical Ineptitude
The ability of Western medicine to treat an epidemic of type II diabetes in America shows the gross incompetence of their collective profession. Granted, type II diabetes is a tough problem because it means the natural regulatory systems of the distribution and use of calories is broken. However, if doctors can’t help solve tough problems then what good are they?

#4 – Mind Rejuvenation

Nerve health is now much better understood.  Boosting your brain’s plasticity and flexibility are the keys to your mental health and mental abilities.  Bad habits, poor mood, and even depression now need to be viewed in a different light with a far different set of solutions than have been employed by many over the past few decades. 

New Insights on Addiction, Mood, Memory, and Cognitive Ability
An array of new science is painting not only a clear picture of addiction but of how the same brain issues relate to poor memory, poor mood, and poor cognitive function.  While we can think of addiction in terms of a clinical problem like drug or alcohol abuse, the same issues are involved with eating and other behavior patterns that are either a waste of your time (like too much web

BDNF at the Crossroads of Brain Function & Metabolism
Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is vital to the growth of new nerve cells, the plasticity of brain connections that are vital to brain health, and plays an important role in learning and memory.  New research is now showing that it is a vital metabolic compound, lacking in individuals who are overweight and especially in those with type II diabetes.

Synaptic Plasticity – The Key to Your Brain’s Future
How does your brain bounce back from intense stress?  When is your subconscious brain going to start believing you should actually be that weight you desire?  Any why is it you just can’t seem to break that bad habit?  The answer may lie in how flexible or “plastic” your brain structures are.

Helping Glial Cells will Revolutionize Prevention & Treatment of Alzheimer’s
In the face of a baby boomer population certain to have an epidemic of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s there is very good news on the cutting edge of science for those interested in being proactive on the topic.  The rapid developments in our understanding of neurobiology are causing scientists to refocus their efforts on the healthy function of glial cells in order to maintain and restore cognitive health.

#3 The Immune System Regulation of Metabolism

This major discovery has gone virtually unnoticed – though it has immediate practical application value to those interested in restoring and maintaining their own health. 

Immunometabolism: The New Frontier
Every now and then rather jaw-dropping research is published, as is the case this week as the journal Nature Medicine published three groundbreaking articles linking the function of immune cells to obesity and diabetes – data which opens the door to solving all kinds of health problems including the obesity issue itself, inefficient immune response to the flu in overweight individuals, as well as obesity-related autoimmune problems.

#2 How Bone Health is Related to Metabolic Health

Precise mechanisms linking thyroid, leptin, and bone health have now been documented.  This information represents a fundamental shift in how health problems are caused and how they can be corrected.  A case in point is the strength of your bones. 

The New World of Bones – Thyroid, Leptin, Blood Sugar, and Bone Strength
In 1994, with the discovery of leptin, the view of white adipose tissue was transformed from a warehouse whose primary role was the storage of extra calories into one of the most important endocrine organs in the human body. The explosion in leptin-related research, now involving over 16,000 studies, is a testament to the emerging reality that leptin regulates (as a top-level manager) almost everything in your body. In the past few years the leptin science has transformed our understanding of bone health and bone function.

Leptin, Thyroid, and Weight Loss
It is very common that individuals who are overweight have a majority of the symptoms associated with a hypothyroid-like condition. This is especially true for those who have a history of yo-yo dieting or have difficulty losing weight by cutting back on calories and trying to exercise more.

Oprah’s Thyroid Problem Explained
Oprah is creating a lot of buzz after gaining forty pounds and simultaneously claiming she solved her thyroid problem. Her statements sent internet bloggers into a frenzy. How did she get off her thyroid medication? Did she really solve her thyroid problem? Isn’t this just a temporary break from a sinister and permanent thyroid illness? If her thyroid is in such great shape why did she pile on forty pounds?

#1 The Swine Flu Hoopla

No story dominated the health headlines this year as did the potential Swine Flu pandemic that never happened – at least yet.  As such, it was a teachable moment.  Those interested in natural health were able to overcome the potential fear of the Swine Flu by learning how nutrition can dramatically improve the immune response to a flu that has not been seen before, as well as by understanding the shortcomings of the protection offered by vaccines.  Armed with knowledge and effective steps that can be taken, there is little to be worried about.

Using Nutrition to Help Perceive and Combat Swine Flu
There is valid concern that the H1N1 swine flu will readily infect Americans this flu season, resulting in high numbers of swine flu cases around the country. Already the CDC is reporting significant swine flu symptoms and swine flu cases in all states. This is because this new version of the flu hasn’t been around any time recently, meaning that our immune systems don’t have a memory of it and prior training in dealing with it. This does not automatically mean this is a major problem. Your immune system is perfectly capable of mounting a highly effective response against any never-before-seen virus. This article explains how your immune system does this, what nutrients can help, what forms of stress handicap this functionality, and how to help prevent the cytokine storm that would be associated with a severe swine flu episode.

The Narrow Scope of Flu Vaccine Usefulness
Let’s assume for the moment that a textbook H1N1 swine flu vaccine is actually produced. Let’s put aside our concerns about its potential toxicity, adverse side effects, or the difficulty in getting a vaccine that actually looks like the current flu problem. And let’s focus on a more fundamental question: Would such a vaccine work for you?

 

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