Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Why you should avoid (vitamin D) supplements

Here's why:-
  • Under-appreciation of the fact that vitamin D is a hormone with diverse and dose-dependent systemic effects, still not fully understood
  • Misleading  claims that vitamin D supplementation is “equivalent”  to vitamin D from sun exposure. While the two forms are chemically identical, levels of vitamin D3 synthesized from sun exposure are self-limiting due to feedback regulation.  What happens when we chronically exceed natural limits?
  • Inadequate attention to the possible effects of chronic vitamin D supplementation on homeostatic down-regulation of the VDR receptor. See this discussion bv Dr. David Agus of USC medical school.
  • Inadequate study of the possible long term adverse effects of chronic vitamin D supplementation. Few studies look beyond 4 years. Hormone replacement therapy was in favor for 50 years before the risks came to light . Things don’t necessarily look any more promising when synthetic hormones are replaced bioidentical hormones.

Todd states there are several ways you can naturally activate autophagy in your body.  It turns out that all of them involve one form of hormesis or another:-
  • Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting.  In my post on Calorie restriction and hormesis,  I summarized some of the research on calorie restriction in humans, primates and other animals. including the role played by autophagy and other mechanisms.  This is also described in my talk onIntermittent Fasting for Health and Longevity.
  • Brief, strenuous exercise.  A 2012 paper in Nature by Levine et al. in mice found that “Exercise is even faster than starvation” at inducing autophagy… “If you just exercise the mice for 30 minutes on a treadmill, autophagosomes start to form. Thirty minutes of running induces autophagy 40 to 50 percent.”
  • Hormetic stress in general.   A wide range of short term, intense but sublethal stressors have been shown to activate autophagy via a common pathway.  Criollo et al.  showed that multiple stressors, including nutrient starvation and numerous chemicals, trigger the activation of the IKK (IκB kinase) complex, inducing the classical autophagy pathway involving p53 depletion, mTOR inhibition, AMPK and JNK1 activation, and release of the pro-autophagic protein Beclin-1.  How many of the other hormetic stressors we’ve discussed in this blog– such as cold showers–might effectively activate autophagy?

Friday, 26 December 2014

Caloric Restriction, Hormesis, and what they teach us about Evolution by Josh Mitteldorf

If aging is driven by damage, then damage must accelerate aging. If hormesis induces damage and slows down aging, then aging is not driven by damage. So a straightforward explanation is that aging is not caused by accumulation of molecular damage.” –Mikhail Blagosklonny

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Post on Hormesis - useful summary of the key issues by Josh Mittledorf
"Maybe the fact that overeating is bad for our longevity is so familiar to you that you no longer think it’s strange.  But believe me, it’s strange.  It’s strange that the harder you work your body the longer it lasts."
Particularly why science community ignores it still:-

  • Association with the problematic science of homeopathy.  In the early 20th Century, people who promoted homeopathic medicine were prominent supporters of the concepts of hormesis.
  • Polluters and chemical manufacturers seized on the idea to argue, opportunistically, that pollution is actually a boon to public health!  In fact, owners of nuclear power plants argue that leakage of radiation is not a problem as long as it is below a threshold dose*.
  • The true strangeness emphasized above.  Hormesis implies that the body is unable to be fully healthy if it has all the food it needs, and is deprived of poisons and stressors.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Antifragile - by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Excellent review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb' Antifragile at Getting Stronger

Key points, from a hormesis perspective - quoted from Getting Stronger :-

The Barbell Strategy.  One of the hallmarks of fragility is that the downside is much worse than the upside. Taleb realized this as an options trader and developed a bimodal investment strategy, using the image of a barbell as a metaphor for pursuing the extremes instead of the average.  Rather than “diversify” into areas of average risk, he advises putting the majority of assets into ultra-safe investments like cash, and a small amount–say 10%–into some investments that are riskier but have a disproportionately huge upside.  This is an “asymmetric” or lopsided strategy which protects on the downside and has the possibility of great gain on the upside.

How does the barbell strategy apply to health?  A great example is combining occasional, high intensity weight lifting or interval training, alternating with long stretches of rest, recovery and  ”doing nothing”.

Asymmetric Optionality.   Accepting the idea that we should use the majority of our assets to protect solidly against the downside, how do we decide to invest our money, time, or energies to maximize the upside?  Taleb’s answer is to create asymmetric options.  An option is not just any “investment” — it is something you can chose to act on, but have no obligation to act upon.  Taleb’s idea is to seek out or create options that have a strong upside, but very low cost or downside. He cites the example of the Greek philosopher Thales, who bought the rights to use idle olive oil presses for a very low fee.  When an unusually good olive harvest came, he reaped a fortune by renting out the oil presses to growers who had to come to him.  Look for asymmetric options in areas besides just investing.  For example, if you can secure a rent-controlled apartment, you are protected against rent increases, but if rental rates go down elsewhere, you are free to move.  In your contracts, insist on the option to cancel at will without cost. (Don’t sign up for long term phone contracts!).

See Getting Stronger

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Stoicism for Modern Stresses: 5 Lessons from Cato

1) Master the power of gestures.
We talk about our times as the age of information overload, but public figures in all ages have had to compete to be heard. Ancient Rome was saturated with political talk: popular lawyers like Cicero consistently drew huge crowds, and the Roman people could regularly hear all-day parades of political speeches in the Forum. How could someone break through all that noise?
Cato understood that actions are far easier to “hear” than words. So he perfected a style of politics-by-gesture. He went barefoot. He wore his toga commando (then, as now, not the fashionable thing to do). He walked alone without the usual entourage of aides. He slept in the trenches with his troops rather than relax in a tent; he marched alongside them rather than ride a horse. He surrounded himself with philosophers, not political advisors. Just a second’s glance at him told an onlooker everything he needed to know about Cato. Those gestures, more than any vote cast or speech given, made his reputation.
[TIM: Not unlike Gandhi's 1930 Salt March.]
Even his death at the end of Rome’s civil war was a statement against his enemies. One night, he retired to his room after dinner, and loudly called for a book—Plato’s dialogue Phaedo—and his sword. The Phaedo tells the story of the death of Socrates, a philosopher too principled to live, forced to drink poison by the political authorities. Cato wanted everyone to see the parallels. Then he gritted his teeth and disemboweled himself.
To this day, his gesture against tyranny speaks as loud as any book or speech on the subject.
2) Don’t compromise—ever.
The Stoics taught Cato that there were no shades of gray. There was no more-or-less good, no more-or-less bad. Whether you were a foot underwater or a fathom, you were still drowning. All virtues were one and the same virtue, all vices the same vice.
It is the kind of austere scheme that seems unreasonable to live by and almost entirely impossible for the flux of war and politics. But Cato made it work. He refused political compromise in every form, to the point that bribe-takers turned his name into an aphorism: “What do you expect of us? We can’t all be Catos.”
He demanded the same of his friends, his family, and his soldiers. He was infuriating to his enemies, and he could seem crazy to his allies. And yes, sometimes he took his adherence to principle down absurd, blind alleys. But he also built an impossible, almost inhuman standard that brought him unshakable authority. By default, he became Rome’s arbiter of right and wrong. When Cato spoke, people sat up straighter. When he was carted off to jail by Julius Caesar, the entire Senate joined him in sympathy, forcing Caesar to let Cato go.
Many in Cato’s day spent their fortunes and slaughtered armies in pursuit of that kind of authority. But it can’t be bought or fought for—it’s the charisma of character. His countrymen couldn’t all be Catos, but they could join whichever uncompromising side of the argument Cato was on.
3) Fear nothing.
On election day during a consequential race, Cato and his brother-in-law rose before dawn and set off for the polls. Both were on the record against the front-runners, men bearing grudges (and armies) against Cato.
They were ambushed. The torchbearer at the head of Cato’s party collapsed with a groan—stabbed to death. The light clattered to the pavement, and they were surrounded by shadows swinging swords. The assailants wounded each member of the party until all had fled but Cato and his brother-in-law. They held their ground, Cato gripping a wound that poured blood from his arm.
Their attackers were under orders to maim and frighten them, not to kill. The message sent, they fled through the streets. Cato and his brother-in-law were alone in the dark.
For Cato, the ambush was a reminder that if the front-runners were willing to perpetrate such crimes on the way to power, then one could only imagine what they would do once they arrived. It was all the more important that he stand in front of the Roman people, show off his wounds, and announce that he would stand for liberty as long as he had life in him. But his brother-in-law didn’t have the stomach for it. He apologized, left, and barricaded himself inside his home.
Cato, meanwhile, walked unguarded and alone to the polls.
Fear can only enter the mind with our consent, Cato had been taught. Choose not to be afraid, and fear simply vanishes. To the untrained observer, Cato’s physical courage was reckless. But in fact, it was among the most practiced aspects of Cato’s self-presentation. And it was this long meditation on the absurdity of fear—on its near-total insignificance but for our own belief in it—that enabled him to press forward where others gave in.
4) Use pain as a teacher.
Cato’s early Stoic training was as hard and uncompromising as he hoped to become. He walked around Rome in unusual clothing with the goal of getting people to laugh at him. He learned to subsist on a poor man’s rations. He went barefoot and bareheaded in heat and rain. He learned how to endure sickness in perfect silence.
What was the point? Pain and difficulty could build endurance and self-control. Cato was drilling himself to become indifferent to all things outside the magic circle of the conscience. He could be ridiculed, starving, poor, cold, hot, sick—and none of it would matter. As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus taught: “Where is the good? In the will. Where is the evil? In the will.”
All of Cato’s practice paid off. Seneca, the great imperial Stoic, relates a telling story. Visiting the public baths one day, Cato was shoved and struck. Once the fight was broken up, he simply refused to accept an apology from the offender: “I don’t even remember being hit.”
5) Don’t expect to control your legacy.
No one in Rome was more skilled at building a public image than Cato. And yet, for all of his best efforts, at the moment he died he became the property of other people. Cato spent two decades as a politician. He has spent two millennia as a political object.
Would Cato have approved of being publicly humiliated by Caesar after his death, paraded through Rome’s forum on a billboard depicting his grisly suicide? Would Cato have approved of being cast as the star of an Italian opera, complete with a romantic subplot? Would Cato have approved of being turned by the Founding Fathers into a symbol of American democracy?
Who knows? Our guess is that Cato, irascible as he was, wouldn’t have liked any of it—because, at each step, Cato has been made to serve values and cultures almost totally alien to him, ones he never could have imagined. But that’s what you get when you’re dead—if you’re lucky. That’s what all of this vaunted “immortal fame” looks like.
Cato’s Stoicism told him that everything we value—our wealth, our health, our success, our reputations, essentially everything not between our two ears—is ultimately beyond our control. Even if you live such an exemplary life that people are writing books about you 2,000 years after you’re in the ground, you probably wouldn’t be happy about it, and in any case, you’d still be dead. Which proves better than anything what the Stoics taught: the only reward for virtue is virtue.

What causes allergies and autoimmune disease?

Another excellent post at http://gettingstronger.org
In summary*:-
We should be sure to include ample amounts of prebiotic fiber in our diet

Fiber is required by the microbes we co-evolved with and rely upon intensely for our health.  The most important type of fiber is soluble fiber, particularly fructooligosaccharides and other non-starch polysaccharides that we can’t digest without the aid of bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and other beneficial bacteria.  To ensure a robust colonization of our gut by these microbes, we don’t need to “eat” them as probiotics and yogurts or transplant them through the rear end.  The most natural way to colonize your gut is to feed them by eating a high fiber diet, and to minimize the sugars that lead to intestinal “blooms” of deleterious bacteria like E. coli and C. difficult — which you might think of as “intestinal weeds”
images-4So: increase the volume of green, leafy cruciferous vegetables — such as kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts;  colored and bitter fruiting bodies like red and green peppers, herbs and spices like curcumin. Of course, fiber can be introduced from a great variety of vegetable sources beyond the cruciferous ones.  Avocados, artichokes strawberries, mushrooms, sweet potatoes…the list goes on.

*See http://gettingstronger.org/2013/03/what-causes-allergies-and-autoimmune-disease/#more-4190

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Feeling Hungry May Protect the Brain Against Alzheimer's Disease

The feeling of hunger itself may protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to study published today in the journal PLOS ONE. Interestingly, the results of this study in mice suggest that mild hunger pangs, and related hormonal pathways, may be as important to the much-discussed value of "caloric restriction" as actually eating less.

Note: One of the first scientifically rigorous demonstrations of the benefits of hormesis was a 1934 study of calorie restriction (often abbreviated “CR”) in laboratory rats, conducted by Mary Crowell and Clive McCay at Cornell. (See 'Getting Stronger')