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Brain Fog

red-bow-on-fingerThere is a relationship between central nervous system missteps and markers of inflammation. Age doesn’t matter; it happens across the board. If the occasional bout of forgetfulness strikes you, you might recoil in fear of early-onset dementia, especially if the “occasions” are too close together. Is there anything you can do about this? Could it be something you ate? Maybe it’s something you didn’t eat.

Inflammation is a protective response to injury or destruction of tissue that tries to rid the body of the detrimental agent. The process elevates blood markers that are useful in predicting the onset of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. One of these markers is called homocysteine, an amino acid made from methionine that degrades arterial architecture.  But what of mental lapses?  “Epidemiological studies show a positive, dose-dependent relationship between mild-to-moderate increases in plasma total homocysteine concentrations (Hcy) and the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as…cognitive impairment…”  (Herrmann.  2011)  Cognitive impairment is not necessarily a sign of impending dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but elevated homocysteine is “…a surrogate marker for B vitamin deficiency (folate, B12, B6) and a neurotoxic agent.”  (Ibid.)

If you can provide details about your forgetfulness, you don’t have dementia. If you can recall what you read yesterday about the local political scene, you don’t have dementia. If you forgot where you put the car keys, join the crowd.  Nonetheless, you could have homocysteine levels that are too high for your own good.  It’s recognized that taking classes, doing word puzzles, playing chess, and generally challenging the mind can preserve memory.  But these activities won’t necessarily influence renegade body chemistry. Though conjectural, it has been suggested that inflammation disrupts the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, the highly selective membrane that protects the brain from pathogens in the blood, as well as regulates which molecules can pass between the blood and the cerebral spinal fluid. Inflammation compromises the function of the membrane, allowing large molecules access to the brain, resulting in neuronal damage.  (Stolp. 2009).

Herrmann and Obeid (2011) admit that the prospect of improving any degree of neurological distortion caused by homocysteine can be realized with B vitamins. Parallel independent investigation revealed that women with cognitive abasement had higher Hcy values than women without such a burden, and that the folate (a B vitamin also called B9) levels of the affected cohort were measurably lower.  (Faux. 2011)

Homocysteine can be changed back to methionine under the right conditions, namely in the presence of a methylation molecule, such as folic acid (called folate in food). Folate insufficiency, or outright inadequacy, can initiate mental lapses that could balloon into more serious conditions if deficit is prolonged. Therapeutically, folic acid is able to reduce Hcy and the occurrence of neural tube defects in neonates. A side benefit was observed to be the prevention of cervical dysplasia and protection against neoplasm formation in ulcerative colitis.  (Kelly.  1998) Geriatric scientists had indicted homocysteine as causative of neurobehavioral anomalies across a wide range of cognitive domains (Jyme. 2005), and later identified vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate (or folic acid) as ameliorative agents.  (Selhub. 2010)

Homocysteine levels do not always increase because of something we did or ate, but because of something we didn’t eat. That would be the foods providing ample supplies of B12, B6, and folic acid.  Certain chronic and contagious diseases that evoke an inflammatory response, even the flu or seasonal allergies, can bring on a foggy mind. Relieving the cause should bring physical relief, and changing the body chemistry should eliminate the fog. All you need is a cue to help you remember that your sunglasses are sitting above your eyebrows.

References

Herrmann W, Obeid R.
Homocysteine: a biomarker in neurodegenerative diseases.
Clin Chem Lab Med. 2011 Mar;49(3):435-41.

Stolp HB, Dziegielewska KM.
Review: Role of developmental inflammation and blood-brain barrier dysfunction in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.
Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2009 Apr;35(2):132-46.

Faux NG, Ellis KA, Porter L, Fowler CJ, Laws SM, Martins RN, Pertile KK, Rembach A, et al
Homocysteine, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid Levels in Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Healthy Elderly: Baseline Characteristics in Subjects of the Australian Imaging Biomarker Lifestyle Study.
J Alzheimers Dis. 2011 Sep 2.

Kelly GS
Folates: supplemental forms and therapeutic applications.
Altern Med Rev. 1998 Jun;3(3):208-20.

Jyme H. Schafer, MD, MPH; Thomas A. Glass, PhD; Karen I. Bolla, PhD; Margaret Mintz, MS; Anne E. Jedlicka, MS; Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS
Homocysteine and Cognitive Function in a Population-based Study of Older Adults
J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53(3):381-388

Selhub J, Troen A, Rosenberg IH.
B vitamins and the aging brain.
Nutr Rev. 2010 Dec;68 Suppl 2:S112-8.

Schulz RJ.
Homocysteine as a biomarker for cognitive dysfunction in the elderly
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2007 Nov;10(6):718-23.

Aron M. Troen, Melissa Shea-Budgell, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Donald E. Smith, Jacob Selhub, and Irwin H. Rosenberg
B-vitamin deficiency causes hyperhomocysteinemia and vascular cognitive impairment in mice
PNAS August 26, 2008 vol. 105 no. 34 12474-12479

Roberts RO, Geda YE, Knopman DS, Boeve BF, Christianson TJ, Pankratz VS, Kullo IJ, Tangalos EG, Ivnik RJ, Petersen RC.
Association of C-reactive protein with mild cognitive impairment.
Alzheimers Dement. 2009 Sep;5(5):398-405.

Mancinella A, Mancinella M, Carpinteri G, Bellomo A, Fossati C, Gianturco V, Iori A, Ettorre E, Troisi G, Marigliano V.
Is there a relationship between high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and dementia?
Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2009;49 Suppl 1:185-94.

Herrmann W
Significance of hyperhomocysteinemia.
Clin Lab. 2006;52(7-8):367-74.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Plastic Bottle Education

bottlesPlastic bottles were uncommon until the late 1940’s. They remained expensive until the invention of high density polyethylene in the 1960’s. Popularity then zoomed among both the manufacturers and consumers because plastics were light in weight and cheaper to make.

The controversy about plastic safety is eternal, not only because of health issues, but also because of environmental concerns. Here’s what we need to know. Note that it’s not a good idea to refill any plastic bottle, especially with chlorine-laden tap water.

recycle-1 PETpolyethylene terephthalate—is really a misnomer because it does not contain polyethylene. It really doesn’t contain phthalates, either. It’s used in soft drink, water, and salad dressing bottles, and in peanut butter, pickle, and jelly jars. Only about 30% of the planet’s PET is used for bottles; most is used to make synthetic fibers. The antimony used as a catalytic agent in PET’s manufacture can leach into the contents if exposed to extremely high heat or to the microwave. Rating: GOOD—not known to leach chemicals suspected of carcinogenesis or hormone disruption.

recycle-2 HDPEhigh density polyethylene—is used in milk, water, and juice bottles, in yogurt and margarine containers, and in grocery and trash bags; occasionally in toiletries and water pipes. Rating: GOOD—not known to leach harmful chemicals into the contents.

recycle-3 PVCpolyvinyl chloride—is found in plastic cling films (from the deli, for example), occasionally in juice bottles, in water and sewer pipes, and if unplasticized, in vinyl siding. Traces of the plasticizers, most often phthalates, leach into the foods. Rating: BAD—plasticizers (phthalates) can disrupt normal hormone function and possibly cause cancer.

recycle-4 LDPElow-density polyethylene—is used to make frozen food bags (the low-density is bendable), squeeze bottles for honey and mustard, cling films, and flexible lids. Rating: O. K.—it doesn’t leach anything, but is difficult to recycle.

recycle-5 PPpolypropylene—may be found in reusable microwave containers, in kitchenware, yogurt and margarine tubs, some ketchup bottles, and Legos. Because it’s resistant to fatigue, it’s used to make hinges on flip-top lids. Rating: O. K.—its manufacture is somewhat hazardous, but it doesn’t leach any cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals.

recycle-6 PSpolystyrene—is commonly found in egg cartons, packing peanuts, disposable cups, plates and trays, and some cutlery. It’s one of the most widely used plastics. Foam insulation is made from PS. Rating: BAD—because it is made from suspected carcinogenic substances and may be neurotoxic, despite its approval for food use. Never put any acidic beverage into a Styrofoam cup. Wine may dissolve it, and fats may absorb it. That means using no cream in coffee.

recycle-7 Other—means polycarbonate, ABS, or BPA, none of which should be used for food contact. It has been used to make baby bottles, water bottles, eating utensils, and linings for metal cans. It may also appear inside juice boxes. It was invented in the 1930’s in the search for synthetic estrogens. It is a hormone disrupter that simulates the physiological activity of estrogen. It will leach into the contents. Rating: BAD—because it also affects neurological function, weight management, infant development and behavior, dopaminergic systems, thyroid hormone receptors, prostate function, and DNA methylation.

That PET has the term terephthalate is misleading. Terephthalate is not the same thing as phthalate. The former comes from terephthalic acid, chemical formula C6H4(COOH)2. The latter comes from phthalic acid, formula C6H4(CO2H)2. The chemical difference is easily seen.

The American Chemistry Council asserts that phthalates are not used to make beverage bottles or any other type of plastic food-contact product. Phthalates, or rather orthophthalates, are used to make PVC flexible, as found in shower curtains and vinyl flooring.
(Enneking, 2006)

A concern about PET is the leaching of antimony, a catalyst in PET manufacture, into the contents of the bottle. Any residue can be removed by washing. Some remains in the material, being released if heated.

References

Andra SS, Makris KC, Shine JP, Lu C.
Co-leaching of brominated compounds and antimony from bottled water.
Environ Int. 2012 Jan;38(1):45-53.

Bach C, Dauchy X, Chagnon MC, Etienne S.
Chemical compounds and toxicological assessments of drinking water stored in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles: A source of controversy reviewed.
Water Res. 2012 Mar 1;46(3):571-83.

David Biello
Plastic (Not) Fantastic: Food Containers Leach a Potentially Harmful Chemical
Is bisphenol A, a major ingredient in many plastics, healthy for children and other living things?

Scientific American; February 19, 2008
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-fantastic-with-bisphenol-a

Eilam-Stock T, Serrano P, Frankfurt M, Luine V.
Bisphenol-A impairs memory and reduces dendritic spine density in adult male rats.
Behav Neurosci. 2011 Oct 17.

Patricia A. Enneking
Phthalates Not in Plastic Food Packaging
Environ Health Perspect. 2006 February; 114(2): A89–A90.

Hansen C, Tsirigotaki A, Bak SA, Pergantis SA, Stürup S, Gammelgaard B, Hansen HR.
Elevated antimony concentrations in commercial juices.
J Environ Monit. 2010 Apr;12(4):822-4.

Kate Kelland
Scientists link plastics chemical to health risks
Exposure to a chemical found in plastic containers is linked to heart disease, scientists said on Wednesday, confirming earlier findings and adding to pressure to ban its use in bottles and food packaging.
(Reuters) – Wed Jan 13, 2010
http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/13/us-heart-chemical-plastics-s-idUSTRE60C0AR20100113

Kolšek K, Mavri J, Sollner Dolenc M.
Reactivity of bisphenol A-3,4-quinone with DNA. A quantum chemical study.
Toxicol In Vitro. 2012 Feb;26(1):102-6. Epub 2011 Nov 20.

SAKAMOTO HIROMI, MATSUZAKA AYAKO, ITO RIMIKO, TOYAMA YUKO
Quantitative Analysis of Styrene Dimer and Trimers Migrated from Disposable Lunch Boxes.
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Schmid P, Kohler M, Meierhofer R, Luzi S, Wegelin M.
Does the reuse of PET bottles during solar water disinfection pose a health risk due to the migration of plasticisers and other chemicals into the water?
Water Res. 2008 Dec;42(20):5054-60.

Shotyk W, Krachler M, Chen B.
Contamination of Canadian and European bottled waters with antimony from PET containers.
J Environ Monit. 2006 Feb;8(2):288-92.

Vasami R
Polyethylene Terephthalate and Endocrine Disruptors.
Environ Health Perspect. 2010; 118:A196-A197.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Methylation And Age: How Old Are You, Really?

innocence-and-experienceHave you noticed that medicine is called a practice? Maybe that’s because everybody isn’t the same. What works for you possibly won’t work for your neighbor, despite that the same doctor prescribes the same medicines for the same reason in the same doses for both of you. The age of individualized medicine is upon us, a time when what goes into your body, whether food or medication or supplement, will be geared toward your individuality. One size will not fit all. This makes sense—finally, as it becomes increasingly evident that our bodies don’t do things at the same rate…like age. Some of us age gracefully; others just get old. Aging can be managed. Getting old can strike out of nowhere, but some scientists think it’s controllable. Attitude matters.

Biologically, our clocks tick at a different rhythm. Once in a while a 70-year-old looks 50; often it’s the reverse. Science has tried to identify markers that quantify the actual rate of aging. First, it looked at telomeres, those aglet-like caps at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with age. (Aglets are the plastic sheaths at the ends of shoelaces that keep them from raveling.)  Telomeres might be part of the picture, but are not the sole influence on aging. DNA methylation is now a target of exploration, where researchers are examining the methylome, the whole set of methylation markers across the genome that almost predictably changes over time. This inquiry is expected to determine a person’s biological age from a single drop of blood. A methylation site gets fuzzier as people age, and the differences between the young and the old become more clearly defined.

Much of what extended life writers and websites would have us believe is bogus. If not backed by hard science, discount most of what you read.  On the other hand, the measurement of human age from recognized molecular profiles has merit, especially in preventing and treating disease and possibly even in the extension of human life. The process of methylation can be inhibited or hastened, depending on what we do and what we swallow.

What is methylation?

Methylation is a biological process in which a methyl group (CH3) is added to one of the amino acids in DNA. The result can suppress harmful activity and help to ensure proper DNA replication by replacing a single hydrogen atom with the whole group. Abnormalities in this process are linked to genetic defects. If it happens to a gene that controls cell division, for example, cell division may be uncontrolled and result in cancer. Methylation is typically brought about by vitamin B12-dependent enzymes, such as methionine synthase, which uses methylcobalamin as a co-factor to turn homocysteine back into methionine and to prevent some forms of anemia. Recently, researchers at the U of CA, San Diego School of Medicine measured more than 485,000 genome-wide markers of methylation in the blood of 656 people, aged from 19 to 101, noting that the process weakens with age, and that different organs within the same body methylate at different rates and efficacies (Hannum, 2012).  The hypomethylation of old age is far separated from the normal methylation of neonates and teenagers. This phenomenon can be seen in a parallel comparison of like sectors of the genome Heyna, 2012). The implications are that lifestyle modifications can prolong the methylation ability of the genome, thus promoting longevity and health.

DNA?

This is the stuff that determines the makeup of all living cells. It consists of two long strands of compounds that are the building blocks of the nucleic acids that eventually control cellular function and heredity. The two strands coil around each other in what is called a double helix, which is a spiral that resembles that of a school notebook. Imagine a pencil inserted into the notebook’s spiral backbone. That pencil represents a material called histone, which forms a spool around which the DNA can wrap itself. It sort of helps to keep the spirals from getting kinked, like what happened to the old slinky you had to throw away. Histones are important because they keep the DNA under control by compacting it. Otherwise, the strand would be about six feet long. It’s tantamount to the modern telephone cords that coil to save space on the floor. Old-fashioned cords were straight, uncoiled wires that always got in the way of whatever you wanted to do. Methylation keeps histones in good shape. It is felt that histones influence the signaling pathways that may extend longevity (Han, 2012). If so, the inference is simple—keep histones well, live longer, or at least live healthier.

How Do I Do This?

The answer is too simple to ignore, but often is. For some obscure reason, humans look for the complicated way of doing things. Diet is an important element of genome methylation; maybe even paramount in the support of the process. Practically nothing is easier to implement, but keep in mind that all food is not created equal. Grass-fed meat, for example, is lower in total fat than grain-fed. A sirloin from a grass-fed steer has about half the fat of a grain-fed steer. It also contains conjugated linoleic acid, an omega-3 fat found in the chloroplasts of grass that may play a role in weight management (Whigham, 2007) and protect against some cancers (Ip, Aug, 1994) (Ip, Mar, 1994). Pastured hens lay eggs with goodly amounts of n-3 fats in contrast to factory-raised. Simply, the vitamin B12 from animal products supplies a methyl molecule.

Eating raw nuts and seeds gets you about 6 grams of protein an ounce, plus the polyunsaturated fats you need to fight inflammation and to prevent cardiovascular issues. Adding green leafy vegetables and legumes supplies additional folate, which is a noteworthy methyl donor. Supplementation with B12 and folinic acid or methyltetrahydrofolate is not out of place, and is a prudent move if one’s diet is less than wholesome. The promise of long-term health, well-being and extended life might be more real than we imagined. And it requires little effort.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.