High HDL Is Not Always A Good Thing

Recall that high HDL is right now considered a good thing. Harvard says:

HDL is considered good because it takes the bad LDL out of your blood and keeps it from building up in the arteries. The standard recommendation has been to keep HDL levels high and LDL low.

But this new study is drawing that into question:

Here are current recommendations. Note that while LDL should be kept below 100, an HDL of 60 or above is still considered “heart protective.” That may change.

A Better Way To Estimate Body Fat Instead Of BMI

BMI (Body Mass Index) is not a very good way to estimate body fat. It doesn’t account for bone mass or muscle mass. For example, a muscle-bound body may have a high BMI owing to the weight of the muscle, indicating obesity, even if body fat is low.

Enter the RFM (Relative Fat Mass). And all you need is a tape measure:

Cedars-Sinai Investigators Develop More Accurate Measure Of Body Fat

Relative Fat Mass (RFM) As A New Estimator Of Whole-Body Fat Percentage ─ A Cross-Sectional Study In American Adult Individuals

The formulas:

Men: 64 – (20 x (height/waist)) = RFM
Women: 76 – (20 x (height/waist)) = RFM
Height and waist measurements are in meters.

“An RFM ≥33.9 for women and ≥22.8 for men showed a high sensitivity to identify individuals with obesity.”

Remember to always calculate what’s inside the parentheses first. Then, from my engineering days: MDAS (multiply, divide, add, subtract) <– in that order.

A person who is 5’4″ and has a 28″ waist has an RFM of 30.3. (You can convert inches to meters easily on Google.)
76 – (20 x (1.6256/0.7112) = 30.3
Since 30.3 is less than 33.9, it does not indicate obesity.

WikiHow has a good how-to for measuring your waist.

Use your fingers to find the top of your hips and the base of your rib cage. Your waist is the soft, fleshy section between these two bony parts. It will also be the narrowest part of your torso and it is often located at or above your belly button. Exhale and then check the measurement on the tape.

This Recent Study Is Not Good News For Manufacturers (And Consumers) Of Probiotics

In a published study of 30 patients, the 22 who reported problems like confusion and difficulty concentrating, in addition to their gas and bloating, were all taking probiotics, some several varieties.

When investigators looked further, they found large colonies of bacteria breeding in the patients’ small intestines, and high levels of D-lactic acid being produced by the bacteria lactobacillus’ fermentation of sugars in their food.

D-lactic acid is known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells, interfering with cognition, thinking and sense of time. They found some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood.

“Probiotics should be treated as a drug, not as a food supplement,” Rao says, noting that many individuals self-prescribe the live bacteria.

When brain-foggy patients stopped taking probiotics and took a course of antibiotics, their brain fogginess resolved

Most of our intestinal bacteria is in the colon, the large intestine, not the small intestine:

Normally there is not much D-lactic acid made in the small intestines, but probiotic use appears to change that. SIBO [small intestinal bacterial overgrowth], which was present in most with brain fogginess, can cause bacteria to go into a feeding frenzy that ferments sugars resulting in production of uncomfortable things like hydrogen gas and methane that explain the bloating.

It’s not that the bacteria in the pills are themselves harmful; it’s that they’re ending up in a place they shouldn’t, the small intestine. That’s especially true for people who have slow motility. What can cause slow movement in the bowels? Lack of The Three Fs: fluid, fitness, and fiber. Drugs will also slow motility: pain killers, especially opioids, antidepressants, and simple things like iron or calcium supplements. Having diabetes slows motility. And proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec reduce stomach acid which would normally destroy excess bacteria.

Monsanto’s Weedkiller Roundup Found In A Variety Of Foods, Including Organic

If we concentrate efforts on promoting a parallel system of agriculture, organic, then activism is taken away from fixing the 99% of agriculture that most people depend upon. Eventually, chemicals used on the 99% of crops will migrate to organic crops (to which these articles attest), let alone being found at unsafe levels in conventional crops, and the foods made from them:

Weedkiller Found In Granola And Crackers, Internal FDA Emails Show, The Guardian, 30 April 2018
The FDA has been testing food samples for traces of glyphosate for two years, but the agency has not yet released any official results

US government scientists have detected a weedkiller linked to cancer in an array of commonly consumed foods, emails obtained through a freedom of information request show.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been testing food samples for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in hundreds of widely used herbicide products, for two years, but has not yet released any official results.

But the internal documents obtained by the Guardian show the FDA has had trouble finding any food that does not carry traces of the pesticide.

“I have brought wheat crackers, granola cereal and corn meal from home and there’s a fair amount in all of them,” FDA chemist Richard Thompson wrote to colleagues in an email last year regarding glyphosate.

The weedkiller is sprayed directly over some crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. Many farmers also use it on fields before the growing season, including spinach growers and almond producers.

FDA chemist Narong Chamkasem found “over-the-tolerance” levels of glyphosate in corn, detected at 6.5 parts per million, an FDA email states. The legal limit is 5.0 ppm. An illegal level would normally be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but an FDA supervisor wrote to an EPA official that the corn was not considered an “official sample”. … In 2016 Chamkasem found glyphosate in numerous samples of honey. Chamkasem also found glyphosate in oatmeal products. The FDA temporarily suspended testing after those findings, and Chamkasem’s lab was “reassigned to other programs”, the FDA documents show.

The US Department of Agriculture was to start its own testing of foods for glyphosate residues in 2017 but dropped the plan.

Weedkiller Found In Wide Range Of Breakfast Foods Aimed At Children, The Guardian, 16 August 2018
Cancer-linked herbicide, sold as Roundup by Monsanto, present in 45 products including granola, snack bars and Cheerios

Tests revealed glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller brand Roundup, present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products.

Nearly three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. Products with some of the highest levels of glyphosate include granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

This is on the heels of a windfall loss by Monsanto in court last week:

The findings follow a landmark decision in a San Francisco court last week to order that Monsanto pay $289m in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper. A jury deemed that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused Johnson’s cancer and that it had failed to warn him about the health risks of exposure.


In the tests, glyphosate was also found at detectable concentrations in five of 16 organic oat food samples.

Yesterday, Senater Schumer told the FDA to publish their report. “Get going,” he said:

Schumer calls on FDA to publish its report on weed-killing chemical found in breakfast foods, New York Daily News, 19 August 2018

My prediction? The report will show glyphosate in a lot of foods. But before the report is released, the EPA will update their safety levels so the FDA will be able to say, “not a problem.”

But there are problems:

1. Glyphosate alone is not as harmful (yet still “probably carcinogenic to humans“) as the whole Roundup formulation which adds ingredients to allow glyphosate to more easily enter cells. But most tests are being done on the single ingredient, glyphosate.

2. Roundup is an endocrine disruptor at levels below that thought to cause cancer:
Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Are Toxic And Endocrine Disruptors In Human Cell Lines, Toxicology, 2009

3. Researchers are looking at individual exposures. We need to look at multiple exposures because we don’t just eat one granola bar with glyphosate, we eat wheat, soy, corn, oats, spinach, almonds, honey, and other tainted foods all day long. They also need to look at chronic, low-level exposures. We’re eating this stuff all day, every day. (Endocrine disruptors are linked to obesity and diabetes.)

Study: Seafood Consumption Linked To Cognitive Decline

What is the dirtiest food you can eat? I say this once a week. It’s seafood!*

Now, go to Google and type in “brain food.” What food occupies a prominent position in those images? Seafood! Here’s an example:

Salmon or other seafood is not brain food.

How can one of the dirtiest foods you can eat be one of the best foods for your brain? Because it isn’t…

Cognitive Performance In Older Adults Is Inversely Associated With Fish Consumption But Not Erythrocyte Membrane N-3 Fatty Acids, The Journal of Nutrition, March 2014

“Inversely” means that as one variable goes up, the other goes down. In this case, as fish consumption went up, cognitive performance went down. It says it right there in the title. It says it throughout the article too.

Higher current fish consumption predicted worse performance on several cognitive speed constructs.

Greater fish consumption in childhood predicted slower perceptual speed and simple/choice reaction time.

We found no evidence to support the hypothesis that higher proportions of long-chain n–3 fatty acids or fish intake benefits cognitive performance in normal older adults.

These were healthy people eating seafood only about twice a week:

The mean frequency of fish consumption in the group we studied was twice per week. … Our sample consisted of predominantly Caucasian, relatively high-functioning, community-dwelling older adults.

Imagine if they were not healthy or if they ate seafood more often?

* Fish are contaminated with mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, fire retardants, prescription drugs, and other chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. Our Paleolithic ancestors ate fish that did not contain these contaminants which is why it’s pretty near impossible to eat a Paleolithic diet today.

But what about omega-3 fatty acids in fish? EPA and DHA? Fish oil! Isn’t that good for the brain? Note that the study above found no benefit from consuming “higher proportions of long-chain n–3 fatty acids.”

Nor does this one:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Risk Of Cognitive Impairment And Dementia, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, October 2003

In the prospective analysis, a higher eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA, and omega-3 fatty acid] concentration was found in cognitively impaired cases compared to controls while higher docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, and omega-3 fatty acid], omega-3 and total polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations were found in dementia cases.

These findings do not support the hypothesis that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a protective role in cognitive function and dementia.

Nor does this one:

Omega 3 Fatty Acid For The Prevention Of Cognitive Decline And Dementia, Cochrane Library, June 2012

The available trials showed no benefit of omega‐3 PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in cognitively healthy older people.

Nor does this one:

Intakes Of (N-3) Fatty Acids And Fatty Fish Are Not Associated With Cognitive Performance And 6-year Cognitive Change In Men Participating In The Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, The Journal of Nutrition, December 2009

Our findings in this sample of aging men do not support the hypothesis that higher fish/(n-3) PUFA intake is associated with better cognitive function or with less cognitive decline on any of the cognitive tests.

This isn’t to say that omega-3s aren’t necessary nutrients or that seafood isn’t a good source for them. It’s that we’ve polluted seafood so much that the harm from contaminants outweighs the benefit from their omega-3s.

The Inuit who consume seafood from some of the most pristine waters surrounding the Arctic:

Inuit natives, whose diets consist largely of fish, have been found with PCB levels of 15.7 ppm in their fat, far higher concentrations than the maximum amount considered to be safe in fish by the EPA (.094 ppm). Nearly all Inuit have PCB levels far above guideline levels that health officials consider safe, and some Inuit have ingested so much contamination from fish that their breast milk and body tissues would be classified as hazardous waste.

I shall end where I started. Seafood is some of the dirtiest food you can eat.

More On Pumpkin Seeds And The Prostate

Here’s more from Dr. Duke’s entry on enlarged prostate from his book The Green Pharmacy:

Pumpkin seeds can contain as much as 8 milligrams of zinc per half-cup serving. … Zinc has been shown to reduce the size of the prostate, presumably by inhibiting the conversion process mentioned earlier. [He’s referring to the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone which stimulates prostate cell proliferation. Pharmaceutical drugs also inhibit this conversion.]

According to NutritionData, 1 ounce (a little less than 1/4 cup) of pumpkin seeds contains about 2 mg zinc, which is pretty good since the RDA for zinc is 8-11 mg.

If you’re thinking of just taking a zinc supplement…

Pumpkin seeds are also high in certain amino acids – alanine, glycine, and glutamic acid. … In a study of 45 men who were given supplements of these amino acids (200 milligrams each) every day, the regimen significantly relieved BPH [benign prostatic hypertrophy] symptoms.

A half-cup serving of pumpkin seeds can have 1,150 to 1,245 milligrams of alanine, 1,800 to 1,930 milligrams of glycine and 4,315 to 4,635 milligrams of glutamic acid. That’s anywhere from 5 to 20 times the doctor’s daily recommendation.

A handful of pumpkin seeds a day? Men in other countries do it:

Pumpkin seeds were the traditional treatment for BPH in Bulgaria, Turkey and the Ukraine. The recommendation was a handful of seeds a day throughout adulthood.

Herbs For Enlarged Prostate, From Dr. Duke
Dr. James A. Duke’s, The Green Pharmacy (With An Example Of Herbs For Asthma)

Herbs For Enlarged Prostate, From Dr. Duke

Here’s another excerpt from Dr. Duke’s, The Green Pharmacy:

I publicly bet my prostate gland that my mixture of saw palmetto, licorice and pumpkin seeds, which I blend into something called Prosnut Butter* would do the same thing that Proscar (finasteride) does. I also declared that it was cheaper and probably safer.

He did this “at a conference in front of dozens of officials from the FDA and the National Institutes of health (NIH)” in the early 1990s shortly after FDA approved Proscar. He was trying to get the FDA to make pharmaceutical companies test their drugs against herbal remedies, instead of placebos. Good luck with that.

Twenty years after Duke published this book, research is still finding that pumpkin seeds and saw palmetto are effective for enlarged prostate, e.g. Study: Pumpkin Seed Oil Relieves Symptoms Of BPH (Enlarged Prostate):

Men who took either pumpkin seed oil or saw palmetto oil had improvements in urination. The size of their prostate declined over time (improving urination even more) and they had better PSA scores. The combination of pumpkin seed and saw palmetto was better than either of them individually because they have separate mechanisms of action.

* Prosnut Butter:

To make the spread, place a half-cup or so of fresh pumpkin seeds in a blender or food processor. Open one saw palmetto capsule and pour in the contents then add a few drops of licorice extract and blend until smooth.

I have tasted saw palmetto. It’s bitter! I think I’d take the saw palmetto pill separately to get it down, then just eat a few tablespoons of pumpkins seeds a day.

Here’s a recipe for making pumpkin seed butter from Nikki at Eating Vibrantly.

Dr. James A. Duke’s, The Green Pharmacy (With An Example Of Herbs For Asthma)

Dr. James A. Duke’s, The Green Pharmacy (With An Example Of Herbs For Asthma)

I’m flipping through an old copy of Dr. Duke’s, The Green Pharmacy.

Who is Dr. Duke? From Wikipedia:

James A. Duke (4 April 1929 – 10 December 2017) was an American botanist. He was the author of numerous publications on botanical medicine, including the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. He was well known for his 1997 bestseller, The Green Pharmacy. … During the late 1970s he was chief of the Plant Taxonomy Laboratory, Plant Genetics and Germplasm Institute of the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The sound of his writing reminds me of Dr. Weil’s writing … certain, crisp, and instructive. I like it. The book is 20 years old, but over the years I’ve seen research that continues to support his claims.

The book is structured as an encyclopedia of conditions. It’s easy to flip through and find a topic you’re interested in.

Here’s asthma:

By the way, throughout his discussion of the topic, he says things like:

I’d like to make myself crystal clear. If I were plagued by life-threatening asthma, I’d listen to my physician and take pharmaceuticals, and I’d use natural approaches only as supplemental treatments.

He’s careful. I don’t consider his advice out in left field.

Back to asthma. He says, for example, that coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate all contain chemicals that act as potent bronchodilators:

Actually, coffee, tea, caffeinated cola drinks, cocoa and chocolate have more than caffeine. All reportedly contain two other major natural anti-asthmatic compounds, theobromine and theophylline, which, along with caffeine, belong to a family of chemicals called xanthines. These chemicals help stop bronchospasms and open constricted bronchial passages.

As a counter reference, this is what MedlinePlus says about theophylline:

Theophylline is used to prevent and treat wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. It relaxes and opens air passages in the lungs, making it easier to breathe.

Duke goes on to discuss other herbs for asthma, including stinging nettle, fennel, and licorice.

Dr. Duke was an authority on medicinal herbs. I’m sorry to see that he passed away just a few months ago.

Coming up … Dr. Duke’s entry for enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)…