More Sleep for Higher Testosterone

We saw in our last article that testosterone is very important for men’s health, and that for optimal health, abnormally low T levels ought to be corrected either through lifestyle changes – diet, exercise, sleep – or through supplementation. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of more sleep for higher testosterone.

Less sleep associated with lower testosterone

In older men, age 64 to 74, testosterone levels were highly correlated to the amount of sleep they got on the previous night. The correlation coefficient, r=0.842, which is high. See chart below.

The difference in T levels among the men was large, ranging over several hundred ng/dL, so this is not a small effect by any means.

The question is, how much of this correlation is due to ill health and/or aging? Older people notably sleep less, and other health problems can both make that worse and also decrease testosterone. So what we want to know is whether sleep directly affects testosterone levels.

Sleep restriction decreases testosterone

The answer is, yes, sleep directly affects testosterone.

In young healthy men, decreasing the amount of sleep from 8 to 5 hours a night, for 8 nights, decreased testosterone from 10 to 15%.

Symptoms and signs of androgen deficiency include low energy, reduced libido, poor concentration, and increased sleepiness, all of which may be produced by sleep deprivation in healthy individuals. 

Sleep restriction also increases insulin resistance, and since as we saw in the previous article that insulin resistance and testosterone levels are intertwined, that makes sense.

Shift work is associated with ill health

Shift work, which is working hours other than during the daytime, such as swing shift (3:00 PM to 11:00 PM), or night (graveyard) shift (11:00 PM to 7:00 AM) is associated with ill health, including heart disease and cancer.

Given the above correlations between sleep and testosterone, we could also expect to find that shift work would decrease testosterone. Shift work is associated with elevated cortisol levels and higher BMI, and that would likely mean a decrease in testosterone.

Get some sleep

If you have low testosterone, one of the first things you should examine is whether you get enough sleep, and that applies to both young and older men.

If you do shift work, consider changing to another job, or at least another shift.

PS: For other ways to increase testosterone, see my new book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Testosterone Improves Men’s Health

Testosterone, the hormone that gives men their male characteristics, is associated with better health, less cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and possibly even less cancer, including prostate cancer. This association might only be a marker for good health in general, since a man in good health could be expected to have a normal testosterone (T) level. But the evidence is convincing that it’s more than an association and that testosterone protects men’s health.

Low testosterone is associated with a higher death rate

A study of male veterans found that low testosterone, defined as a value of less than 250 ng/dL (current normal range is 264-916), was associated with nearly double the death rate compared to men with normal testosterone. Even when men who died in the first year after measurement were excluded, in order to avoid reverse causation (i.e. that ill health causes low testosterone), the relation remained.

In a geriatric rehabilitation center, low testosterone was associated with an increased risk of dying within 6 months, even when other health factors were considered.

These are not the only studies to have found this relationship. For example, in a group of several hundred men, testosterone in the lowest quartile (fourth) was associated with a 40% increased risk of death over the following 20 years. Low testosterone predicted increased risk of death from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, “independent of multiple risk factors and several preexisting health conditions”, but was not significantly related to cancer.

Low testosterone is risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Testosterone is essential for normal blood vessel function and is protective against atherosclerosis.

What might explain this association?

Testosterone and insulin resistance

One good candidate is insulin resistance. The metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by insulin resistance, obesity, high triglycerides, increased fasting blood sugar, and high blood pressure, is associated with low testosterone. It seems possible that whatever factors are causing the metabolic syndrome may cause low testosterone; or causation may go from low T to metabolic syndrome; or the causation could run in both directions in a positive feedback loop. (In my opinion, the last option is correct.)

In frank diabetes, low T “precedes elevated fasting insulin, glucose, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1C) values and may even predict the onset of diabetes”.

Treatment of insulin resistance increases testosterone. In a group of middle-aged, overweight, and insulin resistant men, but who had normal testosterone levels, treatment of insulin resistance with an anti-diabetic drug increased testosterone.

Testosterone supplementation improves health

If low testosterone truly causes disease, then increasing T ought to improve health. And this in fact is what we see.

First of all, news reports in the past couple of years have sounded alarms that testosterone supplementation (testosterone replacement therapy, TRT) may increase the risk of heart attacks. This view appears to be unfounded.

The largest meta-analysis (analysis of other studies) that’s been undertaken on testosterone supplementation said this:

The present systematic review and meta-analysis does not support a causal role between TS and adverse CV events. Our results are in agreement with a large body of literature from the last 20 years supporting TS of hypogonadal men as a valuable strategy in improving a patient’s metabolic profile, reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass, which would ultimately reduce the risk of heart disease.

Note the phrase, “reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass, which would ultimately reduce the risk of heart disease.” This is important and likely gets to the heart of why testosterone supplementation improves health, which we’ll discuss below.

Testosterone replacement therapy improves insulin resistance in diabetic men.

Testosterone replacement therapy reduces insulin resistance and improves glycaemic control in hypogonadal men with type 2 diabetes. Improvements in glycaemic control, insulin resistance, cholesterol and visceral adiposity together represent an overall reduction in cardiovascular risk.

Also in men with diabetes, low testosterone was associated with double the death rate, while testosterone therapy improved survival.

In men with low testosterone, men who had ever used any form of supplemental testosterone for however long, had about a 30% decreased risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

Here’s a mind blower: Normalization of Testosterone Levels After Testosterone Replacement Therapy Is Associated With Decreased Incidence of Atrial Fibrillation. “These novel results suggest that normalization of TT levels after TRT is associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of AF.” The risk of atrial fibrillation after testosterone therapy was reduced by 20%.

Testosterone may even be protective against high-grade prostate cancer.

There are many, many more studies like this, but what we’ve cited so far shows clearly that low testosterone is a risk factor for chronic disease, and that testosterone supplementation has a favorable effect on cardiovascular risk, as well as improved survival.

Why testosterone improves health

If you read many of these studies, you see that even among the experts – the endocrinologists, urologists, and cardiologists – there’s no clear agreement as to why low testosterone worsens health and testosterone supplementation improves it. Nevertheless, there are some clear hints.

One is the connection to insulin resistance noted above.

Insulin resistance is connected to obesity, a poor diet loaded with refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils, low muscle mass, and lack of exercise, not to mention aging. All of these factors are also connected to low T.

By improving T, either through supplementation or by dealing with these other factors such as obesity, etc., then health is improved.

One of the most important factors in good health is body composition, that is, the relative proportions of body fat and lean (muscle) mass. A relatively high fat mass and low muscle mass predisposes to all of the diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as I documented in my book, Muscle Up.

Testosterone increases muscle and decreases fat

Testosterone boosts muscle mass and decreases fat mass, both in older men, and in younger men.

Since greater muscle mass and less fat mass is associated with good health in so many ways, testosterone’s effects in this area is likely highly related to its other health benefits. Boost muscle and decrease fat in an overweight type 2 diabetic, for example, and his or her insulin resistance improves.

Are testosterone’s health benefits linear, that is, does more testosterone always mean better health, up to a limit anyway? Or is there merely a threshold, such that only clinically low testosterone harms your health?

Put it another way: in any one individual, you for instance, does boosting a normal testosterone, let’s say from 500 to 700, improve your health?

That’s a difficult question to answer, but some evidence says that it does. For example, testosterone’s effects on muscle growth and fat loss are dose-dependent.

The important lesson

What all of this means is that men should ensure that their testosterone levels are at least within the normal range.

If they are not, you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary health risk.

And if they are not, you should do what’s necessary in the way of lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, and sleep, to bring your T into the normal range. If you can’t bring them to normal through lifestyle factors, consider testosterone supplementation, or testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

In my next article, I’ll discuss how to optimize your testosterone through lifestyle.

PS: In my most recent book, Best Supplements for Men, I discuss supplements that can increase testosterone.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




A Discussion on Iron and Health with Leo Zacharski, M.D.

Leo Zacharski, M.D., is a hematologist, oncologist, and professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and is arguably the world’s leading expert on the relation between iron and disease. He’s done pathbreaking studies, including clinical trials, on the effects of iron in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Not least among his accomplishments, he wrote the preface to my book, Dumping Iron. Dr Zacharski sat down with me to discuss both the basics on iron and health and the most recent developments, many of which he has a hand in discovering.

 

 

Admittedly, this video ran into overtime. So, in case you want some highlights, here are a few:

Beginning: I ask Dr. Zacharski about recent developments in iron, and he gives an excellent summary of the evidence for iron in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

10:30 – I ask what are the most important determinants of excess ferritin, whether metabolic dysregulation, alcohol, iron fortification, etc. Dr. Zacharski mentions that Quebec Metal Powders, now known as Rio Tinto Metal Powders, is the major source of food iron fortification in the U.S.

30:00 How much of the worse health from excess iron is driven by very high ferritin levels, e.g. over 600.

36:30 I interrupt to give my little spiel on the relation of evolution to iron to aging.

43:00 How Dr. Zacharski and colleagues figured out the true normal range of ferritin. (Discussed also in this article.)

Some of Dr. Zacharski’s publications that we discussed in this video:

Association of age, sex, and race with body iron stores in adults: Analysis of NHANES III data

Decreased Cancer Risk After Iron Reduction in Patients With Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results From a Randomized Trial

Effect of controlled reduction of body iron stores on clinical outcomes in peripheral arterial disease

Potential Role of Iron in a Mediterranean-style Diet

Ferrotoxic Disease: The Next Great Public Health Challenge

Ferritin and Percent Transferrin Saturation Levels Predict Type 2 Diabetes Risk and Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes

We didn’t get a chance to discuss this one, but this is a great paper by Dr. Zacharski on iron, hypercoagulation, and cancer:

Hypercoagulability preceding cancer

 

A big thanks to Dr. Zacharski for taking the time to talk with me.

PS: You can read more on this topic in my book, Dumping Iron.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Do Vegetable Oils Raise Heart Disease Risk?

In several recent articles, we’ve see that vegetable oils, better known as industrial seed oils, are implicated in a number of diseases, including heart disease. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the relation between vegetable oils and heart disease.

Association between seed oil consumption and heart disease

The levels of omega-3 fatty acids, the kind most abundant in fish and fish oil, strongly and negatively correlate to heart disease rates, both on a population basis, and in individuals.

Since omega-6 fatty acids, in which seed oils are abundant, and omega-3 fatty acids compete for absorption into body tissues, it follows that a higher level of omega-6 in tissues correlates to higher heart disease rates, and indeed they do. See chart below. (Source.)

There’s a strong, straight-line relation between tissue levels of omega-6 fatty acids and death from coronary heart disease.

Clinical trials

Associations are one thing, but can’t show causation. Maybe the association between omega-6 fats in the body and coronary heart disease is just a coincidence. To show causation, you need stronger evidence.

The American Heart Association wants us to consume more vegetable oils in place of saturated fat to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Surely they have some evidence.

A recent meta-analysis of trials that involved greater consumption of seed oils found that in those trials that also managed to raise tissue omega-3 levels, there was benefit, but in trials that raised omega-6 levels, there was no benefit, but a greater risk of death from heart disease.

A reanalysis of the Sydney Diet Heart Study found an increased death rate in the intervention group, who

received instructions to increase their PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acid] intake to about 15% of food energy, and to reduce their intake of SFA [saturated fatty acid] and dietary cholesterol to less than 10% of food energy and 300 mg per day, respectively. To achieve these targets, intervention participants were provided with liquid safflower oil and safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine (“Miracle” brand, Marrickville Margarine). Liquid safflower oil was substituted for animal fats, common margarines and shortenings in cooking oils, salad dressings, baked goods, and other products, and was also taken as a supplement. Safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine was used in place of butter and common margarines. Safflower oil is a concentrated source of n-6 LA (table 1) and contains no other reported PUFAs. Therefore, the intervention oil selectively increased n-6 LA without a concurrent increase in n-3 PUFAs; this LA selective PUFA intervention will be referred to as the LA intervention.

Hard to imagine such a high intake of an unnatural food for humans as safflower oil at 15% of calories could help things, and it didn’t.

 

The intervention group had higher death rates from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and coronary heart disease. All-cause death risk was 1.62 times higher in the polyunsaturated group compared to controls, and results were similar for CVD and CHD. The charts below, from the article, show cumulative death rates in the intervention group that consumed more safflower oil, versus the control group that didn’t.

 

Similar results were found in a reanalysis of the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, which used corn oil, and in which the intervention group  had “a 22% higher risk of death for each 30 mg/dL (0.78 mmol/L) reduction in serum cholesterol.”

Omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils could increase heart disease risk by a number of mechanisms: increasing platelet aggregation (and thus increasing blood clotting tendency), increasing oxidation of LDL, and increasing the generation of inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins.

How to decrease consumption of omega-6 fats

Given all of the above, it would be prudent to avoid the consumption of excess omega-6 fatty acids. The most obvious way is to avoid the consumption of seed (vegetable) oils.

However, lots of foods are either made with seed oils or are naturally high in omega-6 fats.

In a study of different foods and the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fats, the ten food items with the most negative Omega 3-6 score were:

  • soybean oil,-50;
  • mayonnaise, -46;
  • tub margarine, -39;
  • microwave popcorn,-37;
  • “Italian” salad dressing, -35;
  • potato chips, -29;
  • stick margarine, -28;
  • vegetable shortening, -28;
  • peanut butter, -24;
  • tortilla chip snacks, -24.

That’s basically a list of common junk food items. If you do nothing else but avoid those, you’d be avoiding huge sources of excess omega-6 fats.

Eat whole, unprocessed food – but you knew that already.

PS: My most recent book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Interview with Shawn Baker, M.D.

I interviewed Shawn Baker, M.D., a surgeon, athlete, and advocate of zero-carb eating. He was a power lifter, played rugby, and competed in the Highland Games earlier in life, and now at the age of 50, he holds world records in indoor rowing. Lately he’s become known for advocating an all-meat (zero-carb) diet. We discuss how he trains, the use of steroids in athletics, and why he gravitated to a zero-carb diet, among other things. I appreciate Dr. Baker taking the time to talk with me.

(P.S. Please excuse the echo on my side of the interview. Dr. Baker’s side is fine though.)

Here’s the interview in podcast form. Download.




How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Health

Omega-3 fatty acids, types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are most abundant in fish and fish oil, have long been associated with lower risk and/or mortality from heart disease. Meta-analyses of supplementation trials have, however, been equivocal as to their benefit. In this article we’ll see whether it can be ascertained whether they have benefit or not, and whether and how omega-3 fatty acids improve health.

Epidemiological evidence

The modern theory that fish consumption, along with its abundant provision of omega-3 fatty acids, prevents heart disease comes from studies of Greenland Eskimos, who have a very low rate of heart disease and a very high consumption of fish and other marine animals. Below is a chart that shows tissue content of omega-3 and its relation with cardiovascular (CVD) mortality – coronary heart disease and stroke mainly. (Chart source.) The tissue compositions were calculated, not directly measured.

It can be seen that the relation between omega-3 tissue levels and cardiovascular mortality holds across many countries as well as within countries. Even in Japan, a country with generally high fish intake and low heart disease risk, increasing consumption of fish and omega-3 was associated with substantially reduced risk of heart disease, mainly non-fatal.

One wonders, however, what other factors could be at play. In Greenland, for example, at least at the time studied, one would expect that the inhabitants had a low intake of processed foods that contained sugar, refined flour, and vegetable (seed) oils.

Trials of fish oil supplementation

Since these results were found, many trials have been done in which subjects were supplemented with fish oil and followed for heart disease and other clinical endpoints. Results have been mixed.

The GISSI-Prevenzione trial, carried out in Italy, gave one gram of omega-3 daily to people who had suffered a recent heart attack, and found an up to 20% decreased risk of death in those who took it, compared to no supplementation.

The Lyon Diet Heart Study used a “Mediterranean diet” as the intervention, part of which included the use of a margarine enriched in alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. The subjects had also suffered a heart attack before placed on the intervention.  Subjects in that trial had a 50 to 70% lower risk of recurrent heart disease.

Meta-analyses have been mixed, however.

One meta-analysis found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids “reduces overall mortality, mortality due to myocardial infarction, and sudden death in patients with coronary heart disease”, with decreases of from 20 to 30%.

Another, more recent meta-analysis found no effect. Another found no effect in secondary prevention of heart disease.

What could be going on to give such mixed results?

One possibility is that supplementation doesn’t increase the omega-3 index equally in all patients or all trials, due to issues of bioavailability and trial design. Since tissue composition of omega-3 is thought to be behind a decrease in CVD, just giving it to someone doesn’t guarantee a rise in the omega-3 index, which is a measure of omega-3 in red blood cells.

When actual blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are measured in male physicians, large reductions in cardiac sudden death were found, as much as 90% reduction, even adjusted for confounding factors..

Another possibility, related to the first, is a high background intake of omega-6 fatty acids, which are abundant in seed oils, and which are consumed massively in most of the developed world. Far greater intake of omega-3 is necessary in someone with a high intake of omega-6 to raise tissue levels to one that reduces risk. It’s estimated that in the U.S., a “healthy dietary allowance” of DHA and EPA, the two main omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, could be reduced ten-fold if omega-6 consumption were greatly reduced also. The reason is that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete with each other for incorporation into body tissues, so the less there is of one, the less is needed of the other.

In all large interventional trials, no consideration was given to baseline omega-3 fatty acid levels. (See here.) In those with high initial levels, little to no effect of supplementation would be seen. Most were told to take capsules at breakfast, which for many is a low-fat meal, hindering absorption. This is similar to some studies on iron depletion, where initial and final ferritin levels are important, not the mere fact of phlebotomy. In omega-3 trials, the initial and final tissue levels are important, not the mere fact of supplementation. The intervention must actually do what it is designed to do.

In drug trials, only the intervention group gets the drug, but in trials of omega-3, both groups have a certain level of them in their tissues. Participants are recruited without considering baseline omega-3, and therefore there will be a substantial overlap in omega-3 tissue levels between the intervention and the control groups. In this way, randomized controlled trials are flawed when used in nutrition.

Check out the following chart. (Source.) It shows that post-intervention, after the intervention group got fish oil and the control group did not, there’s a huge overlap in red blood cell omega-3 fatty acids between the two groups. In fact, the upper half of the control group and the lower half of the intervention group could practically be interchanged. An observation group excluded from the trial because they either ate fish regularly or already took fish oil had nearly identical levels of erythrocyte omega-3 as the intervention group.

This paper also points out that by the year 2000, the fish oil genie was out of the bottle, as reports were appearing in the mainstream press about the benefits of fish oil, and many people started taking it. As it happens, trials conducted in the 1980s and 1990s had much better results than trials conducted after 2000, likely because the earlier trials were able to create a large difference in tissue omega-3 concentrations between intervention and control groups. After 2000, many more people ate fish or took fish oil, and differences between intervention and control groups may have been far less.

Composite end points in the trials may be another factor. For example, if the main effect of omega-3 is to lower the risk of sudden cardiac death, but the trial uses a composite end point of sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction, and stroke, the difference between intervention and control groups decreases.

Statin use may be another confounding factor. A recent study found that statin use may mitigate the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Since so many patients at risk for CVD take statins now, that could account for differing results in trials, depending on how many people in the trial were taking them, and how much statin use varied between intervention and control groups.

Yet another possibility is that the associations between fish consumption and less heart disease are real, but that something else in the fish wholly or partially causes less heart disease. Maybe protein, for example, or the particular amino acid composition of fish protein, or that fish displaces food that causes heart disease.

Making sense of it all

As we’ve seen, epidemiological evidence strongly supports both fish consumption and levels of tissue omega-3 as preventative of cardiovascular disease, but randomized trials have been equivocal.

In my view, the fact that tissue levels of omega-3 strongly support the preventative effect, then omega-3 fatty acids do indeed prevent CVD, possibly even in spectacular fashion.

But, a high background intake of omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils can negate the benefits of omega-3 consumption. If someone consumed a lot of processed food that was high in seed oils, or consumed them in some other fashion, they may get zero benefit from omega-3 supplementation.

With a low background level of omega-6 consumption, safe levels of omega-3 can be attained with only a tenth the amount of omega-3 as compared to with a relatively high background of omega-6.

Therefore, the best policy, as I’ve noted before, would appear to be to lower vegetable (seed) oil consumption as much as possible. That’s possibly even more important that supplementing with fish oil.  The key is to bring them into balance. If you consumed no added sources of omega-6, then consuming fish a couple of times a week may be enough.

I do take fish oil, but not daily, a teaspoon of cod liver oil a couple to three times a week. Each teaspoon provides about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids. I also strive to consume zero vegetable oils; I also minimize consumption of high omega-6 nuts, and chicken, which contains a relatively high amount.

PS: I discuss omega-3 fatty acids in my new book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




The Importance of Exercise Intensity

Exercise is a uniquely beneficial health practice, one that improves health, decreases mortality, and that just generally improves overall quality of life. Anyone who exercises regularly knows the feeling of well-being that exercise causes, both during it and afterwards. But there are obviously both different kinds of exercise, and different levels of intensity. To improve physical fitness, the goal of exercise, one must pay attention to the importance of exercise intensity.

What exercise does

The effects of exercise are many. Exercise

  • improves insulin sensitivity
  • increases cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max)
  • increases strength of bones and muscle
  • decreases risk of cardiovascular disease
  • decreases cancer risk
  • improves mental health
  • prevents frailty and decline in aging
  • helps weight control.

All of these effects are intertwined and can’t be readily separated.

The effects of exercise can be viewed according to the FITT principle: frequency, intensity, time (duration), and type.

For frequency, intensity, and duration, in general, the more the better, but it’s possible to overdo it. Why is that? Because exercise means the placing of stress on the body with the aim of improving health, and is therefore a form of hormesis, in which a low dose of a stressor or toxin results in better health and stress resistance. As such, exercise is characterized by the J-curve typical of hormesis; see chart below. (Source.)

Image result for exercise j-curve

 

A low to moderate amount of exercise improves health compared to being sedentary, while a very high amount (such as hard daily training at elite level athletics, or ultramarathon running, for example) can lead to overtraining and worse health. In this article, we’ll be concerned with how much exercise is necessary rather than with excessive exercise and overtraining.

Since exercise is by definition a stress, any physical activity that does not place a stress on the body doesn’t improve fitness. While any physical activity itself can improve health and is far better than being sedentary, aerobic (cardiorespiratory) fitness is a much stronger determinant of health. See chart below – aerobic capacity is twice as strong a reducer of cardiovascular risk as is physical activity.

 

 

Therefore, to lower your health risks, just moving around isn’t enough. The activity you do must be intense enough, or long enough, or frequent enough, or some combination of these, to increase fitness. Type of exercise is also important, since some forms of exercise are inherently more demanding than others. Boxing, for example, places a greater demand on the body than zumba.

Levels of exercise

Intensity of exercise appears partially to override the factors of frequency and duration. For example, higher intensity exercise improves aerobic fitness more than lower intensity, even when duration is adjusted so the the same number of calories are burned.

High-intensity interval training improves cardiorespiratory fitness as much or more than traditional steady-state aerobic exercise, in far less time.

In bodybuilding, other things equal, intensity trumps volume and frequency.

Low intensity exercise improves fitness only in people with a low level of fitness.  This is an important point.

Walking, for example, improves insulin sensitivity in obese, type 2 diabetics. These people have a low fitness level and high insulin resistance, and walking therefore represents enough of a stress on their bodies to improve their health.

Now, suppose you’re a regular reader of this site, you lift weights and/or do other forms of high-intensity training, you are of normal weight and have good insulin sensitivity. Will walking improve your health further?

Not likely. You need either more frequent exercise of the same intensity you’re already doing, a longer duration of it, or an even higher intensity.

Fitness level determines whether an exercise improves it

If you have low aerobic fitness, almost any exercise will help. Someone who’s been ill and in bed for a long time will improve just by getting out of bed. Likewise, walking can improve the fitness of someone who’s overweight and sedentary.

But how can we determine whether a given bout of exercise improves our fitness or not? In other words, how can we put this matter on a more scientific basis?

Exercise physiologists have done this, and have determined that exercise intensities below 45% of VO2 reserve in subjects with high fitness do not increase fitness, while for those with low fitness, at least 30% of VO2 reserve is necessary.

So, what’s VO2 reserve? It’s the difference between resting oxygen consumption (VO2) and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max). VO2 reserve differs greatly between fit and less fit individuals.

In the real world, without the assistance of an exercise physiologist, probably the best way to look at exercise intensity is through metabolic equivalents, or METs.

One MET is the amount of energy expended at rest. Different types and intensities of exercise can be expressed in multiples of METs.

 

Image result for mets exercise chart

The above chart shows some sample exercises in terms of METs. A more comprehensive list can be found here.

High-intensity vs steady-state exercise

Steady-state exercise (“aerobics” or “cardio”) has long been prescribed as the exercise that uniquely increases cardiorespiratory fitness, but we now know that high-intensity exercise does that as well, and in less time.

One problem with steady-state exercise, such as jogging or treadmill running, is that the only way to increase the exercise stress is by increasing the duration of exercise. You see this method of training in distance runners, for example, who end up running for hours daily to increase the amount of training they do.

In contrast, using high-intensity training, you are always working out at the edge of your physiological capabilities.

So, with high-intensity training, there’s never a question whether you’re exercising intensely enough to increase your fitness, because you are always doing so.

Conclusion

Low-intensity exercise improves fitness only for those who are not fit. As you move up the fitness ladder, exercise needs to become more intense to improve fitness.

PS: My most recent book is Best Supplements for Men.

For a more comprehensive discussion of exercise intensity, as well as practical ways to incorporate intensity into your exercise program, see my book Muscle Up.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Vegetable Oils Promote Aging

Wrapping up a series of articles on how industrial seed oils, aka vegetable oils, endanger health and promote male infertility, this article will show how vegetable oils promote aging.

Mitochondria and aging

Mitochondria are small intracellular organelles that generate energy, and for that reason are often termed the powerhouses of the cell.

In my book, Stop the Clock, I noted the three main physiological correlates of aging, which are:

  • decreased autophagy
  • increased oxidative stress
  • increased inflammation.

All of these are related to poor mitochondrial function. If the mitochondria don’t work well to generate power for cellular systems, nothing else works well either. If we could solve the problem of poor quality mitochondria, that could solve many of the problems of aging.

Mitochondria have membranes enriched in fatty acids, and these are critical in energy production. Age-associated changes in mitochondrial membranes include an increase in membrane rigidity, which is accompanied by increased omega-6 fatty acids, and decreased omega-3 fatty acids and cardiolipin, the latter an important membrane component. 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), a toxic byproduct of lipid peroxidation that is known to be involved in damage to sperm cells, also increases.

Omega-6 from vegetable oils accelerate mitochondrial aging

Aging itself appears to change the composition of mitochondrial lipids to a greater ratio of omega-6 lipids to omega-3 than is seen in youth.

But dietary factors also impact mitochondrial lipids and thus can accelerate or retard aging, depending on what those dietary factors are. Diets enriched in omega-3 fats, the kind found abundantly in fish oil, reduce mitochondrial aging and return them to a more youthful state, with greater efficiency in energy generation and lower production of free radicals that cause damage.

Diet rich in omega-3 PUFA reverses the age-associated membrane omega-3:omega-6 PUFA imbalance, and dysfunctional Ca2+metabolism, facilitating increased efficiency of mitochondrial energy production and improved tolerance of ischemia and reperfusion.

Diets enriched in omega-6 fats, of the type found in vegetable oils, accelerate this process.

Chronic consumption of omega-6 fats cause mitochondrial damage and cardiac dysfunction, in rats, with as little as 4 weeks of increased consumption. This leads directly to malfunctioning organs, including the heart.

Decreasing the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats results in a reduction of atherosclerotic plaques in mice. The reduced ratio lowers inflammation leading to less atherosclerosis.

Omega-6, aspirin, and heart disease

Aspirin prevents the aggregation of platelets and therefore inhibits clot formation. For this reason, it’s both used to prevent heart attacks, and can cause bleeding. It also decreases the risk of cancer.

Looking at the mechanism of action of aspirin yields insights into the causes of heart disease and cancer, and this is related to omega-6 fatty acids in body tissue.

Aspirin’s anti-platelet action comes from its ability to inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase in platelets. Cyclooxygenase catalyzes the first step in the production of thromboxane, which promotes platelet aggregation, increased blood pressure, and vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels).

The first step in the production of thromboxane uses arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that in turn is made from linoleic acid, the main omega-6 fatty acid from vegetable oils. Ingestion of large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils increases the amount of these molecules in the membranes of platelets (and other cells and tissues).

Due to the increased amounts of omega-6 fatty acids in the Western diet, the eicosanoid metabolic products from AA, specifically prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, hydroxy fatty acids, and lipoxins, are formed in larger quantities than those formed from omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA. The eicosanoids from AA are biologically active in very small quantities and, if they are formed in large amounts, they contribute to the formation of thrombus and atheromas, to allergic and inflammatory disorders, particularly in susceptible people, and to proliferation of cells. Thus, a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids shifts the physiological state to one that is prothrombotic and proaggregatory, with increases in blood viscosity, vasospasm, and vasocontriction and decreases in bleeding time. Bleeding time is decreased in groups of patients with hypercholesterolemia, hyperlipoproteinemia, myocardial infarction, other forms of atherosclerotic disease, and diabetes (obesity and hypertriglyceridemia). Bleeding time is longer in women than in men and longer in young than in old people. There are ethnic differences in bleeding time that appear to be related to diet. Table 9 shows that the higher the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids in platelet phospholipids, the higher the death rate from cardiovascular disease. 

It seems that in a very real sense, the protective effect of aspirin is related to protecting against the deleterious effects of omega-6 fatty acids.

Further evidence that aspirin protects against excess omega-6 is that in patients with back and neck pain who took 1200 mg a day of fish oil, 60% of them quit taking their NSAID pain meds, including aspirin. Since increased omega-3 displaces some of the omega-6 in tissues, then the reason for the decrease in pain in many of these patients could be due to less omega-6 fatty acids in their tissues. Simple displacement of omega-6 fatty acids could partly explain the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fats in fish oil.

Aspirin’s cancer prevention effect may also be related to its inhibition of cyclooxygenase and subsequent production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Women with a low ratio of omega-6 to -3 fatty acids in breast tissue had a much lower risk of breast cancer, as much as 70% lower, when comparing lowest to highest tertile.

The risk/benefit profile of aspirin might be skewed greatly depending on the population that used it. If someone chronically ingested a low ratio of omega-6 to -3 fatty acids, aspirin might not have as much of a protective effect, although it would increase risk.

This reasoning also reinforces studies showing that vegetable oil causes cancer.

Aspirin also extends lifespan in mice, and the scientists who found this result speculate that inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis may be involved. The food fed to the mice in the aspirin experiment contains soybean oil, so maybe the aspirin partially mitigated that.

Conclusion

  • The omega-6 fatty acids in vegetable oil alter mitochondrial membranes and decrease their function, accelerating aging.
  • They also increase inflammation.
  • Aspirin works in part by inhibiting production of molecules made from omega-6 based constituents.

At this point, after three article on vegetable oils, I probably don’t need to say more than “don’t touch the stuff”.

Avoiding it is easier said than done. I manage to avoid them for the most part because my lifestyle is set up in a way that I can do that. Most of my meals are eaten at home, and they consist of whole, not processed foods. When I eat out, I normally don’t eat anything that contains vegetable oils in any quantity; foods that do contain large amounts of them include baked goods and pastries, fried foods, dressings like mayonnaise.

Don’t give food that contains vegetable oils to your pets either. This cat food, for instance, contains soybean oil that looks like it might provide as much as 8% of calories as omega-6 fats.

Health authorities have been promoting vegetable oils for several decades now in a futile attempt to decrease heart disease. They don’t.

Vegetable oils are also made by the tanker-load and are cheap food additives, so they’re widely used.

The promotion of vegetable oil consumption and the massive increase in their use may prove to be a worse mistake even than the promotion of high-carbohydrate diets, in my view.

PS: My most recent book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Vegetable Oils Promote Male Infertility

We recently discussed how industrial seed oils, better known as vegetable oils, are dangerous to health and should as much as possible be eliminated from the diet of anyone who wants to stay healthy. For men, another danger of vegetable oils is that they promote low sperm counts and infertility.

Sperm counts are declining

It was recently reported that, in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, sperm counts have declined nearly 60% in about the last 40 years, between 1973 and 2011.

In contrast, no decline in sperm counts was seen in South America, Asia, and Africa, although far fewer studies have been performed in these regions.

The decline in sperm counts parallels the secular decline in testosterone.

To say that a 60% decline in sperm counts in the Western world is alarming is an understatement. Most European men may already be subfertile. Unless something is done about it, we could see a number of scenarios, such as (in the extreme case) extinction of Western peoples, or perhaps a return to a highly polygamous society in which fertile men take many wives and the infertile men get none, which in turn leads to a civilizational downgrade or perhaps revolution.

Why are sperm counts declining? There could be a number of reasons.

Obesity might be one reason, although scientists who have studied the secular decline in testosterone believe that obesity can’t account for (all of) it.

Estrogens in the water supply might be another: since the advent of the birth control pill, water has become full of estrogens due to their excretion from women taking them.

Another reason might be diet, which has changed greatly in the Western world over the past several decades.

One of the foodstuffs whose ingestion has massively increased is vegetable oil.

How vegetable oil impacts male fertility

Vegetable oil contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, and their use in processed food means that people who eat it, as well as those who use vegetable oils for cooking at home, ingest large amounts of it. While small amounts of omega-6 fats are required for health, the amount ingested in the Western world may be 15 to 50 times higher than needed, leading to a very unbalanced omega-6/3 ratio.

To understand why ingestion of large amounts of omega-6 fats is so unhealthy, we need to understand the phenomenon of competition among fatty acids.

Proteins, which make up much of the body’s structure, are made using a fixed, invariant ratio and sequence of amino acids. While it’s possible to get inadequate dietary protein, it isn’t possible to alter the structure of the body’s own proteins.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids, most prominently the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, are also structural, and form important components of cell membranes (phospholipids), as well as cell signaling molecules such as prostaglandins and thromboxanes.

In contrast to proteins, the dietary mix (ratio) of fatty acids determines the kind of fatty acids that are incorporated into cell membranes and cell signaling molecules. Therefore a higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids results in a higher concentration of them in cells.

So, in the past several decades, omega-6 fatty acids became incorporated into the cells of Western men (and women) to a much greater extent than before.

Men who were infertile due to a low sperm count had more than double the omega-6/3 ratio in blood and in spermatozoa as men who were fertile and normal.

Infertile men also had lower absolute levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

There was a strong negative correlation between omega-6/3 ratios in individual men and sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.

Other studies have found similar results.

Of course, correlation isn’t causation. But in rats, an increasing ratio of dietary omega-6/3 fatty acids leads to lower sperm counts, density, motility, and higher deformity.

A toxic byproduct of omega-6 fatty acids, 4-hydroxynonenal, increases reactive oxygen species and damages human spermatozoa. The authors of this study suggest, ” If such spermatozoa successfully fertilize the egg, then this may explain the rise in lymphoma and leukemia in children of smoking fathers.”

Infertile men were given omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil, at ~2 grams omega-3 daily, or a placebo. Sperm count and density significantly and substantially (about 50%) increased in the omega-3 group.

The omega-6/3 ratio “is of utmost importance in male in maintaining normal sperm integrity and function.”  Many studies bear this out.

Is the decline in sperm counts in the West due to increased vegetable oil consumption?

Vegetable oil intake has increased massively

Check out the following chart, which shows the availability of added dietary fat in the U.S.

availability added fats What happens when you take public health advice to heart?

Vegetable oil consumption has increased massively. Soybean oil alone supplies 20% of calories to the median U.S. diet. That means about 9% of calories are pure omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid).

Vegetable oil consumption parallels the decline in sperm counts.

Why has consumption increased so much? Mainly, because they told us to use it.

Who’s they? Our “health” authorities, including in the medical and scientific establishments and the U.S. government.

They told us to use a wholly unnatural, highly processed oil instead of mother nature’s butter and olive oil. Health establishment fail.

What men can do to maintain high fertility

Vegetable oils, aka industrial seed oils, are used in processed, fast, and junk food of all kinds. If you eat at a fast food joint, your fries are cooked in them. At a Mexican joint, your tortilla chips. At a fancy restaurant (or at home), your salad is doused with them.

Virtually any kind of processed or packaged food you get at a supermarket contains vegetable oil.

The first step in maintaining high fertility is to avoid vegetable oils as much as possible. If added fat is desired, use butter, lard, coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil.

We’ve seen above that omega-3 supplementation can improve fertility, and it does this by decreasing the omega-6/3 ratio. Therefore, decreasing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids alone may be enough to maintain and/or improve fertility. That being said, a decent fish oil supplement can be of value in male fertility.

Conclusion

As with so many other areas in health, the mainstream health advice with regard to the type of fats everyone should eat have turned out to be disastrous for male fertility.

The advice emanating from the medical and scientific establishment and the government has helped to bring on the obesity and diabetes epidemics as well. They want virtually everyone on statins, which lower testosterone.

They used to laugh about “precious bodily fluids”, but the phrase turned out to be eerily prescient.

Don’t trust anything they say.

PS: I have a lot more to say about omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in my latest book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Carbohydrates, Not Saturated Fat, Are Correlated with Cardiovascular Disease

We’ve been told for many decades now to avoid saturated fat to lessen our risk of heart and other cardiovascular disease. But as with so many other pieces of mainstream health wisdom, the doctors and scientists got that one wrong, not that there was such great evidence to begin with. Instead, their recommended macronutrient, carbohydrates, not saturated fat, are correlated with cardiovascular disease. It’s time to end the lies.

What the Health

You may have heard of the new documentary film “What the Health”, which blames meat for the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and advocates veganism for health.

I can’t review this movie because I saw only some of it. I had to leave the room after watching some of it because I couldn’t stand the incredible mendacity on display in both the interviewees’ answers and the tone of the film. In any case, seeing some of it and realizing how popular it’s become prompted this article. Most people, not knowing any better, take that stuff at face value because of doctors in the film and because it confirms their biases about meat. (Nina Teicholz wrote a solid takedown of the film’s lack of a base in actual science.)

Saturated fat does not cause heart disease

In a recent article, we saw that red meat, contrary to what you’ve heard for years, is a health food.

The main component of meat that’s been thought to be involved in cardiovascular disease is saturated fat.

Yet, a recent meta-analysis (an analysis of other studies) found, “Saturated fats are not associated with all cause mortality, CVD, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes…”

The study did find an association of a particular type of fat with all-cause mortality as well as coronary heart disease, and that was trans fat, the type found in hydrogenated vegetable oils used in processed foods.

Another study from a few years ago, one of whose authors was Ronald Krauss, a very big name in this field, concluded, “… there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”

The doctors in “What the Health” must be aware of these studies; if so, they’re being willfully misleading, and if not, are willfully ignorant.

It beggars the imagination that a food that humans have eaten for millions of years, sometimes to the exclusion of anything else, suddenly causes heart disease and obesity. The consumption of red meat has actually declined since before the obesity epidemic (although poultry consumption has increased), and the consumption of grains has increased. See the following chart (source).

 

 

Carbohydrate consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease

If saturated fat isn’t linked to the incidence of cardiovascular disease, the biggest killer in the developed world, what is?

Carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates from grains.

A study that was published last year, Food consumption and the actual statistics of cardiovascular diseases: an epidemiological comparison of 42 European countries, found that “The most significant dietary correlate of low CVD risk was high total fat and animal protein consumption.”

Yes, you read that right. The more fat and the more animal protein people ate, on a population basis, the less cardiovascular disease they had.

The study also found that “The major correlate of high CVD risk was the proportion of energy from carbohydrates and alcohol, or from potato and cereal carbohydrates.” [My emphasis.]

The following chart illustrates the correlation between the amount of carbohydrates (and alcohol) in the diet, by country, and the total CVD mortality in women.

 

The study found that animal fat did indeed raise cholesterol levels, but that “the relationship between raised cholesterol and CVD indicators in the present study is always negative.” The higher the cholesterol, the lower the CVD rates.

The major correlates of high CVD risk were:

  • carbohydrates, especially refined, high-glycemic carbohydrates (potatoes, cereal grains, sugar)
  • distilled liquor
  • sunflower oil

The major correlates of low CVD risk were:

  • fat and protein intake
  • fruits and wine
  • vegetables

As always, correlation does not equal causation. Other important factors relating to CVD deaths that this study found were smoking, BMI, and level of healthcare expenditure.

But these associations appear to exonerate saturated fat from animal sources, such as meat and dairy, from causing heart disease and stroke. And they imply that carbohydrates are a problem.

Conclusion

The above-cited study states, “The obvious fallacy of the ‘saturated fat hypothesis’ can be demonstrated by the example of France – a country with the highest intake of animal fat in the world and the second lowest CVD mortality (after Japan).”

Ergo, saturated fat does not cause cardiovascular disease, despite what the makers of “What the Health” would have you believe. The film is just more lies from the mainstream.

The authors also state,

Our results do not support the association between CVDs and saturated fat, which is still contained in official dietary guidelines. Instead, they agree with data accumulated from recent studies that link CVD risk with the high glycaemic index/load of carbohydrate-based diets. In the absence of any scientific evidence connecting saturated fat with CVDs, these findings show that current dietary recommendations regarding CVDs should be seriously reconsidered.

Why would carbohydrate consumption be associated with CVD? Likely because they can lead to insulin resistance, which is probably the true cause of heart disease, as well as a major risk factor for cancer.

So eat meat in the knowledge that can improve your health, not decrease it, and cut back on the consumption of refined carbohydrates.

Added 7/24/17: There’s another ongoing study, results apparently not published yet, the PURE study, led by Salim Yusuf, M.D., a prominent cardiologist. The PURE study is also epidemiological like the above cited study, and exonerates saturated fat and points toward carbohydrates as increasing the risk of CVD. Dr. Michael Eades discusses it here.

PS: For more on how to live a longer life through, among other things, fewer refined carbohydrates, see my book, Stop the Clock.

My most recent book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




How to Increase Insulin Sensitivity, and Why

Insulin sensitivity means how sensitive the cells of the body are to the effects of insulin, the hormone that promotes the uptake of nutrients, especially glucose, into cells. Good insulin sensitivity is crucial for good health as well as healthy aging. Here we’ll discuss how to increase insulin sensitivity, and why.

Why should you increase insulin sensitivity?

Let’s start with the “why” first, since learning why insulin sensitivity is important will motivate you to get and maintain it.

When you eat any kind of food (other than pure fat), the beta cells of the pancreas secrete insulin so that nutrients enter cells to be used for energy, growth, and repair.

If your body requires only a minimal amount of insulin to do this job, you are highly insulin sensitive.

Image result for pancreas insulin

The opposite of insulin sensitivity is insulin resistance, which is any condition in which the body requires more than the minimum for nutrients to enter cells. Insulin resistance is strongly associated with obesity, although many normal weight people are also insulin resistant. To compensate for insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more insulin, leading to hyperinsulinemia.

You should care about insulin sensitivity because it is associated with many diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease and cancer.

When insulin resistance gets very high, and the body can no longer produce enough insulin to compensate, blood glucose rises and type 2 diabetes exists.

Insulin resistance, not cholesterol, is one of the main causes of heart disease. High blood insulin, or hyperinsulinemia, very likely plays a major role in the development of cancer.

In lab animals, even small (~25%) decreases in circulating insulin levels result in a substantial increase in lifespan.

Why does insulin sensitivity decrease?

When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down to glucose for use as fuel.

If you ingest more carbohydrates than can be readily burned, the resulting glucose is made into glycogen, the storage form of glucose, and stored in the liver and skeletal muscles. The glycogen in the liver is used to maintain a constant supply of blood glucose, and muscles keep glycogen on tap for use at high intensities of exertion.

If you don’t regularly use up your stored glycogen, and/or you ingest too much high-carbohydrate food, the liver and muscles become essentially saturated with glycogen, and the cells with glucose.

Insulin resistance results. Insulin resistance is the cells’ way of saying “No more glucose, please.”

In insulin resistance, insulin levels in the blood rise to compensate for decreased efficiency. Ultimately, diabetes can result.

How to increase insulin sensitivity

There are two main ways to increase insulin sensitivity:

  1. diet
  2. exercise.

Diet: In the case of diet, the answer to increased insulin sensitivity is simple: cut the carbohydrates.

A low-carbohydrate diet, at 21 grams a day (which is very low and induces ketosis), and not restricted in calories, caused a 75% increase in insulin sensitivity in only 14 days in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. It also resulted in 1.65 kg (3.6 pounds) of weight loss in the same time period. Note that calorie intake spontaneously decreased by over 1000 calories a day, so the improved insulin sensitivity may be due to either lower carbohydrate itself, or improved satiety through less carbohydrate and more fat and protein causing lower calorie intake. Either way, it works.

A so-called low carbohydrate diet consisting of 35% of calories as carbohydrate failed to improve insulin sensitivity. That’s not really a low-carbohydrate diet, so no wonder they didn’t get good results.

The reason for low-carbohydrate diets increasing insulin sensitivity is simple: you quit flooding your system with glucose. Eventually, the glycogen tank declines, and insulin sensitivity increases. You’re no longer trying to stuff glucose into an overfilled tank.

To increase insulin sensitivity through your diet, eat little or no refined carbohydrates (basically anything made with flour such as bread and pasta), no sugar, and no vegetable oils. Omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils initiate or aggravate insulin resistance, while omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil prevent insulin resistance.

Fasting and/or a very low calorie (crash) diet may not only increase insulin sensitivity but cure diabetes.

Exercise: Exercise, both aerobic exercise and resistance training (weightlifting) increase insulin sensitivity.

In exercise, the body burns both fat and carbohydrate (glycogen). At low intensity, say walking, fat-burning predominates. At high intensity, the body uses a higher proportion of glycogen.

Therefore, high-intensity exercise ought to burn more glycogen and improve insulin sensitivity the best. Does it?

Indeed, a mere two weeks of high-intensity interval training (stationary cycling), for a total of 6 sessions, increased insulin sensitivity by 35%. GLUT4 receptors, which take up glucose into muscles, increased in number comparably to high volume endurance training.

Another study showed that only two weeks of high-intensity interval training, for a grand total of 15 minutes of exercise over the two weeks (sic), improved insulin sensitivity. The subjects were young, healthy men, not diabetics.

Increasing your insulin sensitivity through exercise is a matter of both intensity, and volume. If you exercise at lower intensity, you need more volume, since you won’t be burning as much glycogen. At high intensity, much less volume is required to increase insulin sensitivity.

The same applies to lifting weights: insulin sensitivity improves more when you lift at high intensity.

Conclusion

Good insulin sensitivity is critical for health, arguably one of the most critical factors for staying healthy.

Insulin sensitivity is mainly a result of lifestyle factors, notably a diet low in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and industrial seed oils, as well as exercise. High-intensity exercise is particularly good for increasing insulin sensitivity, since it helps burn glycogen and deplete glycogen storage.

PS: My new book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Protein Supplementation Increases Muscle Mass

People who train for strength and/or muscle growth by lifting weights have long supplemented with protein in order to get the biggest gains possible from their exercise. Whey protein has been studied extensively for this purpose, with varying results. A new meta-analysis (a review of studies) has concluded that it indeed works and that protein supplementation increases muscle mass when combined with resistance training (weightlifting and similar exercise).

The analysis

The new meta-analysis is called A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults, and among the authors are some very well-known names in this area.

The authors state their reasons for conducting the study:

Despite a large volume of work in this area, narrative reviews and even meta-analyses yield conflicting results as to the actual effectiveness of protein supplementation to enhance RET [resistance exercise training]-mediated gains in muscle mass and strength. This lack of agreement on the efficacy of protein supplementation is likely due to the use of divergent study inclusion criteria and inclusion of subjects with differing: ages, training statuses, total protein intakes, protein sources and protein doses. Thus, an evidence-based answer to the main question of the efficacy of protein supplementation, while previously reported, now appears to be controversial.

Without going into the details of how they conducted their study, they conclude that

Dietary protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged RET in healthy adults. Increasing age reduces and training experience increases the efficacy of protein supplementation during RET. With protein supplementation, protein intakes at amounts greater than ~1.6 g/kg/day do not further contribute RET-induced gains in FFM.

In other words, adding protein in the form of whey, casein or other proteins causes a greater gain in muscle mass and strength than without protein supplements.

The average gain using extra protein over all of the studies looked at was 27% greater than without protein. That’s substantial.

The protein most often studied in relation to muscle gains is whey, although others such as casein and even plant protein concentrates have been studied.

An important caveat to the analysis is that beyond a total protein intake of about 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, protein supplementation does not result in further gains.

So, at least in part, protein supplementation works by increasing total protein intake.

Also in part, protein supplements work when to increase muscle mass when taken immediately before or after a workout, within an approximately 1-hour time window.

Protein requirements

Previous studies on protein requirements for muscle growth have found an upper limit of approximately 1.8 g/kg, beyond which further protein does not increase growth of muscle. The current study confirms this general limit at 1.6 g/kg.

The important lesson here for anyone using resistance training to increase muscle is that if you get less than 1.6 g/kg of protein daily, you are not optimizing your muscle growth.

Without sufficient protein, some of your weight training essentially is wasted, dissipated and not used for muscle growth for lack of sufficient protein. In effect, you’re leaving money on the table.

Whey protein

Whey protein is the best post-workout protein supplement for maximizing muscle growth. A whey drink of 20 to 30 grams of protein immediately before or after a workout can go a long way toward maximizing muscle gains.

The whey proteins that I’ve used and recommend are NutraBio and Bulk Supplements.

PS: I discuss protein supplementation and other ways to get better muscle gains in my new book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Vegetable Oils Are Dangerous to Health

For many decades, health authorities have extolled the alleged virtues of vegetable oils, at the same time that they’ve been denigrating meat. Vegetable oils, they tell us, are full of “healthy” polyunsaturated fat, unlike meat, full of allegedly artery-clogging saturated fat. In reality, vegetable oils are dangerous to health, and furthermore, they’re not even really vegetable oils, but industrial seed oils.

What are vegetable oils?

To understand why vegetable oils are dangerous to health, we need to understand what they are. The term “vegetable” is a misnomer in this case and implies a degree of health and safety that they simply don’t have. How could something made of “vegetables” be unhealthy?

Common vegetable oils include the following:

  • corn
  • soybean
  • canola
  • sunflower
  • peanut
  • cottonseed
  • safflower

These oils have a few things in common. One is that they have only been in use for a short while in terms of human history, since the technology to extract these oils didn’t exist until the 19th century. Two, they come from sources that are intrinsically low in oil (except for peanut oil), which explains why they were not used, or even for the most part why they didn’t even exist, until recently.

Vegetable oils are better called industrial seed oils, since they’re made from seeds, not vegetables, and require an industrial process to make them in any volume. Oils that people have commonly used for a long time, such as olive oil, are not industrial seed oils and come from, in the case of olive oil, a fruit with a high fat content the oils of which are relatively easily extracted.

The manufacturing process for vegetable oils involves pressing at high pressure, and extracting more oil using solvents such as hexane, a volatile hydrocarbon similar to gasoline. The oils are then refined by heating to a high temperature and adding sodium hydroxide (lye), and finally, degummed, bleached, and deodorized.

Without knowing anything else about it, I already know that I don’t want this industrial substance in my body, much less in the massive quantities most people consume.

Chemically, vegetable oils are characterized by a high amount of polyunsaturated fats; for example, corn oil contains about

  •  saturated fat, 13%
  • monounsaturated fat, 28%
  • polyunsaturated fat, 55%
  • trans fats, 0.3%

In this case, the polyunsaturated fats and trans fats are the most health-damaging, because they are almost entirely composed of omega-6 fatty acids.

While omega-6 fatty acids are not intrinsically dangerous, the dose makes the poison, and virtually everyone in the Western world consumes far too much of these. An unbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids contributes to a multitude of the diseases of civilization, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. While people living in a more natural state and eating whole, unprocessed foods may ingest a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats of 2:1 or even 1:1, ratios in the modern world are typically over 15:1 and even up to 50:1.

Industrial seed oils are behind much of our modern epidemic of the diseases of civilization.

Vegetable oils may cause heart disease and raise death rates

The lipid hypothesis of heart disease, sometimes called the diet-heart hypothesis, holds that dietary saturated fat and high blood cholesterol cause coronary heart disease. Since the beginnings of that idea, mainstream health authorities have urged people to use vegetable oils in order to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, in the hope that this would reduce the incidence of heart disease. How has that worked out?

A recently published re-analysis of data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment found that polyunsaturated fats did indeed lower serum cholesterol. Problem is, each 30 mg/dL reduction in cholesterol was associated with a 22% increased risk of death.

The same group re-analyzed the data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and found that the intervention group that had replaced saturated fat with vegetable oils had a death rate from all causes that was 62% higher than the control group, and 70% higher for cardiovascular disease.

These were randomized controlled studies, which can show causation, as opposed to epidemiological studies, which cannot, and only show association. In epidemiological studies that show an association between intake of polyunsaturated fats and less heart disease, that association could very well be due to the healthy user effect.

Knowing this, deliberately consuming more polyunsaturated fats in the form of industrial seed oils seems positively dangerous to health.

Vegetable oils cause cancer

In animal experiments it’s long been known that corn oil reliably increases cancer rates. For example, mice that were fed a diet high in corn oil had double the incidence of cancer.

Dietary corn oil promotes tumors in rats by impeding apoptosis, or programmed cell suicide, in cancer cells.

In humans, we have the Israeli paradox.

Diet and disease–the Israeli paradox: possible dangers of a high omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid diet

Israel has one of the highest dietary polyunsaturated/saturated fat ratios in the world; the consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) is about 8% higher than in the USA, and 10-12% higher than in most European countries. In fact, Israeli Jews may be regarded as a population-based dietary experiment of the effect of a high omega-6 PUFA diet, a diet that until recently was widely recommended. Despite such national habits, there is paradoxically a high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and obesity-all diseases that are associated with hyperinsulinemia (HI) and insulin resistance (IR), and grouped together as the insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X. There is also an increased cancer incidence and mortality rate, especially in women, compared with western countries. Studies suggest that high omega-6 linoleic acid consumption might aggravate HI and IR, in addition to being a substrate for lipid peroxidation and free radical formation. Thus, rather than being beneficial, high omega-6 PUFA diets may have some long-term side effects, within the cluster of hyperinsulinemia, atherosclerosis and tumorigenesis.

For health authorities, a paradox is a situation in which their cherished beliefs are contradicted by data. In this case, the “paradox” is easily resolved: vegetable oils can kill you.

Vegetable oils cause liver damage

Excessive alcohol intake is well known to cause liver damage and cirrhosis. What’s less known is that, in experimental animals, alcohol alone won’t cause liver damage. Something else is required, and one of those things is linoleic acid, the main polyunsaturated fatty acid found in vegetable oils. Dietary linoleic acid is required for development of experimentally induced alcoholic liver injury. Animals that were fed tallow and given high amounts of alcohol showed no liver damage. Beef fat prevents alcoholic liver disease in rats.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is strongly associated with obesity and insulin resistance, and has been increasing by leaps and bounds. Humans with NAFLD have a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in their livers, which is the result of high consumption of omega-6 fats and low consumption of omega-3 fats.

Coinciding with the increased consumption of vegetable oils over the past few decades, not only has there been an increase in NAFLD, but other inflammatory conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

How do industrial seed oils manage to cause all these diseases? To my mind, one of the most important factors may be that they rapidly induce damage to mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. They also increase the release of inflammatory cytokines.

Processed foods are loaded with industrial seed oils

Image result for salad dressing ingredient label

Here’s the ingredient label from a bottle (plastic of course) of salad dressing. The most abundant ingredient is vegetable oil, and you don’t even know whether it’s soybean or canola oil, not that it makes a lot of difference. Also note high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and various chemical ingredients. Now, go ahead and pour this concoction on your healthy salad, as millions do, and you’ve just made it unhealthy.

Image result for corn chips ingredients label

 

Corn chips: second ingredient is vegetable oil.

Fast food is cooked in vegetable oils. In general, almost any can or bag of processed food you look at lists vegetable oil as an ingredient.

Conclusion / Solution

As we’ve seen above, vegetable oils, aka industrial seed oils, can cause heart disease, cancer, and a host of other maladies.

And, in general, food companies have contaminated a whole host of foods with the stuff. What’s the answer? How can we avoid this garbage “food”?

Eat whole, unprocessed food. That means meat, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, nuts. Don’t eat anything that comes in a manufactured bag or box, or anything that has been through an industrial process.

If you need oil for salads or other foods, use olive oil, a healthy fat that has been used for thousands of years.

However, for cooking at higher heat, use lard, tallow, butter, ghee, or coconut oil. Make sure these are pure and not hydrogenated.

PS: I discuss the importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in my new book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Red Meat Is Health Food

Many health authorities denigrate meat, especially red meat, saying that it will clog arteries, cause cancer, and ruin the planet. In reality, red meat is health food, both for what it contains and what it does not contain, for what it does to the body and for what it doesn’t.

Humans have been eating meat for millions of years, from the time in fact before they were really human. The notion that this ancient and preferred food of humans now causes heart disease, diabetes and cancer, doesn’t pass the smell test.

Does red meat cause disease?

You have to have been living in a cave for the past several decades not to have heard that red meat is bad for health. What’s the reality?

A recent meta-analysis (study of studies) looked at 20 different studies on the relation between red meat and coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The review concluded that red meat consumption was not associated with any of these diseases.

Another recent study, EPIC, looked at almost 500,000 people and found no relation between red meat consumption and all-cause mortality.

What about cancer? A recent analysis found that the “available epidemiologic data are not sufficient to support an independent and unequivocal positive association between red meat intake and CRC [colorectal cancer, the cancer most often claimed to be meat-caused].”

If red meat doesn’t cause disease, where does the idea that it’s deadly come from?

Some of these studies have found that processed meat is associated with increased health risks, so that’s part of the answer. Even if true (which I doubt), that does not mean that red meat such as steaks or hamburgers causes disease.

In any case, who’s been eating lots of meat over the past several decades in the face of advice to cut back? That’s right, people who ignore all health advice. They’re more likely to smoke, be obese, and to consume soda pop and French fries with their meat. These associations were wrongly blamed on meat consumption.

Americans used to eat far more meat than now, but heart disease was all but non-existent. There was also no obesity or diabetes epidemic.

Saturated fat

Red meat contains saturated fat, which is the main reason health authorities want us to limit our consumption of it. The reality is that saturated fat is not only safe, it’s healthy.

Saturated fats are not associated with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes, based on a meta-analysis.

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. That analysis included nearly 350,000 participants.

Red meat is nutritious

Red meat is a nutritional powerhouse and contains virtually all the nutrients we need, and in the right proportions. Check out the following chart, comparing the nutritional content of beef with spinach, borrowed from Michael Joseph.

Red meat is also loaded with protein and healthy fats,  which you can’t get from any fruit or vegetable.

Red meat will keep you strong, muscular, and lean, much more than any vegetarian fare could. This is especially important in aging, when muscle loss and obesity become more prevalent and lead to disability and dependence. It’s a shame that older people are told not to eat so much meat. Lack of meat in your diet can and probably will lead to illness, both physical and mental.

In older adults, meeting or exceeding the RDA for dietary protein is associated with better lean body mass (i.e. muscle), meaning that people who eat enough protein are more likely to thrive and are less likely to become frail.

Red meat doesn’t spike glucose or insulin

Red meat also shines for what it does not do.

Red meat doesn’t spike up levels of glucose and insulin like carbohydrates and sugar do, and therefore is much less likely to cause weight gain.

An increased amount of dietary protein improves blood glucose control by up to 40% in type 2 diabetics.

We saw above that saturated fat has been cleared of charges that it increases heart disease or death rates.

If saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease, what does? Carbohydrates may be the answer.

In a recent study done in Malaysia, carbohydrates, but not fat, were associated with heart disease risk. And type 2 diabetes and heart disease are linked to carbohydrates, but not fat.

Red meat contains, for all intents and purposes, zero carbohydrate.

Can man live on meat alone?

pra2921348696584211.jpg 1,440×1,092 pixels

Humans have hunted animals and eaten meat for literally millions of years. It doesn’t make much sense that the food that enabled people to survive, thrive, and reproduce also causes disease.

In fact, many people live on a diet of meat only, and have found that it’s improved their health.

The Arctic explorer Vilhalmjur Stefansson, and another man, volunteered to eat an all-meat diet for a year under medical supervision. The doctors’ report stated,  “In these trained subjects, the clinical observations and laboratory studies gave no evidence that any ill effects had occurred from the prolonged use of the exclusive meat diet.”

Hormones and antibiotics

One concern many people have about eating red meat is possible contamination by hormones and antibiotics, which are used in modern meat production.

But the levels of hormones and antibiotics in red meat are nil, even with conventionally produced meat. Foods like soy contain orders of magnitude more hormones than red meat.

Conclusion

The animus against red meat pervades mainstream health advice.

The best thing to do is ignore it, and look at the real causes of modern illness and obesity: sugar, refined carbohydrates, and vegetable oils, all of which processed food contains in abundance.

Red meat forms an important part of a diet based on real, whole foods, not processed junk. Red meat is not merely innocent of the charges against it, but is crucial for health, strength, and vitality.

PS: My latest book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Why Ray Kurzweil’s Supplement Stack Is the Wrong Approach to Anti-Aging

Ray Kurzweil (b. 1948), is a noted computer scientist, futurist, and author of a number of books, most notably The Singularity Is Near, in which he states his case for a scenario of the future so technologically advanced that it’s literally beyond imagination. In part, according to him, the singularity will result in humans living longer than ever, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years; in order to reach that point in which technology allows such extended human lifespans, we must practice anti-aging regimens now. And Kurzweil does this. He allegedly takes as many as 77 different supplements for anti-aging and health purposes. Here’s why Ray Kurzweil’s supplement stack is the wrong approach to anti-aging. [i]

Here’s a partial list of the supplements he takes:

  • Comprehensive multi-vitamin, coenzyme Q10, grapeseed extract, resveratrol, bilberry extract, lycopene, silymarine, linoleic acid, lecithin, n-acetylcysteine, garlic, l-carnitine, pyrodoxal-5-phosphate [a form of vitamin B6], echinacea, B12 shots.
  • Chromium, metformin, Gymnema sylvestra.
  • Policosanol, gugulipid, plant sterols, niacin, oat bran, grapefruit powder, psyllium, lecithin, Lipitor [a statin].
  • Arginine, TMG, choline.
  • Aspirin, lumbrokinase.
  • EPA/DHA, curcumin.
  • Folic acid, B6.
  • EDTA, DMPS.
  • Intravenous glutathione
  • Intravenous phosphatidylcholine
  • PtC, DHEA, Testosterone, l-3-C, chrysin, nettle, ginger.
  • Saw palmetto complex
  • L-theanine, beta-sitosterol, Phosphatidylserine, Green tea extract.
  • GABA, melatonin, glycerylphosphatidylcholine, nextrutine, quercertin.
  • Lutein, bilberry extract.
  • Antioxidant skin creams.
  • Betaine HCL, pepsin, gentian root, peppermint, Acidophilus bifodobacter, fructooligosaccharides [prebiotics], fish proteins, l-glutamine, n-acetyl-d-glucosamine.
  • N-acetyl-carnitine, carnosine, quercertin, alpha lipoic acid

 

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil

 

While Kurzweil’s supplement regimen allegedly costs thousands of dollars a day, he can probably afford it. The real questions that arise are:

  • Do you need to take so many supplements for optimal anti-aging?
  • Could Kurzweil be overdoing it, and instead of counteracting aging, be promoting it?

To answer these questions, we need to know what they do.

On the list, several are polyphenols, and as we saw in the section on too many polyphenols, it’s possible he could be taking too much and/or the supplements overlap in mechanisms and they’re not all necessary. Doses are not listed in the sources I’ve seen, but in that group, grape seed extract, resveratrol, curcumin, green tea extract, and quercetin are all polyphenols and have many overlapping effects.

Furthermore, Kurzweil eats a high-polyphenol diet, reportedly including raspberries, blackberries, dark chocolate, and green tea. If that’s typical for his food, Kurzweil may have a polyphenol intake, including supplements, of many thousands of milligrams daily. There’s a tremendous lack of knowledge whether that amount of polyphenols is either necessary for health, or even harmful to health. Kurzweil wants to live longer to take advantage of future anti-aging medicine and technology, which implies that he wants either a guarantee or a reasonable shot that his regimen will work. But there could be a good chance that his regimen is harmful, tipping on to the far side of the hormetic J-curve into toxicity.

Kurzweil also takes a statin drug, Lipitor, which probably does more harm than good. His cholesterol is reportedly around 100 mg/dl, a value so low that it endangers his health. Higher cholesterol is associated with longer life.[ii] Low cholesterol, below 160 mg/dl, is associated with violence, suicide, and cancer.[iii] Besides lower cholesterol, statins have all kinds of nasty side effects, such as muscle pain and memory loss, which isn’t surprising, since cholesterol is a necessary and vital component of cell membranes. Statins aren’t even very effective at preventing heart attacks. In this matter, Kurzweil adheres to some very old-style thinking on the cause of cardiovascular disease; insulin resistance likely plays a huge role, and lowering cholesterol does little if anything.

Kurzweil doesn’t appear to take magnesium or zinc. Both are powerfully involved in anti-aging and are arguably much more important than many of the other supplements he takes.

You have to get your theories of aging right in order to effectively fight aging. Science has found a number of good theories and measures as to what promotes aging or counteracts it; calorie restriction stands, for now, as the archetype of an anti-aging intervention. Fewer calories, or substances that mimic the physiological processes that occur with fewer calories, offer the best shot at counteracting aging. Given our relative paucity of knowledge on the realities of preventing or reversing aging, however, it doesn’t make much sense to use a shotgun approach like Kurzweil has, in my estimation. As we’ve noted, some of these may be counterproductive or harmful. Just as in medicine, the first objective in fighting aging should be to do no harm.

We could mention a few more items on Kurzweil’s list that might do harm. A multivitamin may contain iron, copper, and calcium, which are on my list of supplements not to take. He does take aspirin, in his case likely a good thing, but I won’t bore the reader by going through the entire list. Many of them strike me as ineffective at best.

The Pareto principle states that 20% of inputs cause 80% of outputs. Using this principle, it stands that each additional supplement does not add equally to the desired outcome, which is anti-aging and long life. So, even if you think Kurzweil’s approach is the way to go, if you found the top dozen or so supplements, you’d be effectively duplicating the longevity effect, even if that involves quite a bit of guesswork. Here are what I believe to be the most effective supplements on the list:

  • Grape seed extract
  • Resveratrol
  • Metformin (a prescription drug)
  • Aspirin
  • Curcumin
  • Melatonin
  • Green tea (though I’d just drink it, not take the extract)
  • EPA/DHA (omega-3 fatty acids)

I have difficulty getting too excited about anything else on the list. Hopefully, Kurzweil also practices intermittent fasting and strength training, key interventions which I discussed in my book Stop the Clock: The Optimal Anti-Aging Strategy. Those interventions could make much more of a difference than at least half the supplements he takes, in my estimation.

Some supplements truly fight aging, but figuring out which ones they are from a long list isn’t always easy. Most – maybe all – of the supplements on Kurzweil’s list are backed by science, but have only a few animal experiments to their credit. Not all of them by any means have been shown to prolong lifespan in experimental animals. Besides, just because a supplement affects a certain physiological parameter doesn’t mean that it works via a unique biochemical mechanism. Many of the supplements on his list likely do the same things, so many of the supplements are superfluous. They either chelate iron, deactivate mTOR, increase insulin sensitivity, or all of these at once.

One of the keys to living a long life is to maintain insulin sensitivity, as the famous experiments of Cynthia Kenyon have shown. While supplements like metformin or curcumin can help maintain insulin sensitivity, the most effective tools for that are exercise, especially strength training, and avoidance of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and industrial seed oils.

Becoming or remaining lean and muscular potently prevents insulin resistance, so that’s a requirement for long life.

Other interventions include keeping iron levels in the low normal range, intermittent fasting for maintaining autophagy at youthful levels, along with other key lifestyle factors like a good social life with lots of friends, a decent marriage, staying active, even going to church. Supplements can be important, and I wouldn’t have written an entire book about them if they weren’t, but don’t count on them alone to prolong your life. Neglect of the other factors would likely negate any advantage you get from them.

PS: This article is an excerpt from my latest book, Best Supplements for Men. If you liked this article, there’s more like it in the book.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/ray-kurzweils-immortality-diet-2015-4

https://www.quora.com/Which-150-supplements-does-Ray-Kurzweil-take-daily

[ii] Ravnskov, Uffe, et al. “Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review.” BMJ open 6.6 (2016): e010401.

[iii] Engelberg, Hyman. “Low serum cholesterol and suicide.” The Lancet 339.8795 (1992): 727-729.

 

 

 




Anti-Aging Technology Hype and Reality

Many newly formed companies and ventures are in a race to find and develop anti-aging technologies, for whoever figures out how to substantially extend human lifespan can make a fortune. But it appears that most of them are chasing dreams, when solid anti-aging interventions are already here, and they’re cheap. The fact that making money is a leading motivator has blinded them to what’s here now. Perhaps they’re hoping that the rest of us won’t take notice and give them our cash. Here’s the anti-aging technology hype and reality.

Anti-aging companies and technologies

Investors and scientists have formed a number of companies with the aim of developing anti-aging interventions. Among them are:

CalicoGoogle formed this company “whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan.” Among its scientists is Cynthia Kenyon, one of the most noted scientists in the field of aging; she’s responsible for the discovery that insulin signaling controls lifespan.

Mount Tam Biotechnologies: This company is located on the campus of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and develops drugs, notably rapalogs, which are drugs that are similar to rapamycin. Note the nexus here between scientific research and making money.

Elysium Health: This company has developed a supplement that contains nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene, which retails for $50 for one month’s supply. Noted scientist in aging Leonard Guarente is “Chief Scientist”.

Ambrosia: This company has jumped on the “young blood” phenomenon and is currently offering transfusions of plasma taken from young people, reportedly at a cost of $8,000 for a course.

Alkahest: Similar to Ambrosia, founded by noted scientist Tony Wyss-Coray.

The products and services that these companies offer range from unproven to possibly workable, and from relatively cheap to very expensive. The striking thing (to me) is the rush for riches by top scientists, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I’ll just note that many or most of their discoveries were made using public grant money.

It’s already known, for example, that old blood transfused into younger animals causes more harm than young blood transfused into old animals causes benefit.

So far, other than rapamycin, none of these interventions have been shown to extend the lives of lab animals, much less humans.

Cheap anti-aging methods are already here

Metformin is the most-prescribed anti-diabetes drug, and is currently the subject of a clinical trial with the aim of fighting aging. Nir Barzilai, a prominent Israeli scientist in this field, takes metformin and is behind the push to test metformin clinically and to get it to be taken seriously as an anti-aging drug.

Metformin has been shown to extend the lives of lab animals, and in humans, diabetics who take metformin appear to have longer lifespans than non-diabetics who don’t. (I’ve previously detailed some of my objections to anti-aging studies, but let’s set that aside for now.)

Metformin’s proven life-extension effects stand in contrast to the unproven interventions of the new high-tech startups.

Perhaps most notably in the context of high-tech companies searching for a cure for aging, metformin costs as little as 5 cents a pill, and thus a typical daily course runs about 10 cents.

Barzilai started taking metformin when he was diagnosed with prediabetes; however, nothing in the linked article states whether he’s cut back on carbohydrates and sugar, and he appears a bit on the pudgy side. Nothing is stated about whether he exercises.

Rapamycin, angiotensin blockers, aspirin, PDE5 inhibitors (Viagra and similar): all are available now, and all are inexpensive. The most expensive, rapamycin, can be had with a prescription from Canadian pharmacies for a few dollars a pill, and taken once weekly would cost perhaps $50 a month.

You can even put together your own cheap anti-aging supplements.

How to practice life extension now

In sum, there’s no need to wait for these high-tech companies to develop expensive and unproven life-extension technologies.

The biggest obstacle that I see in using these already available drugs is getting a doctor to prescribe them. But there’s at least one in the country willing to prescribe the lot, so you could always go see him, and he charges only $350 for an initial consultation.

Some of the substances don’t require prescriptions, notably aspirin and berberine (the latter acts similarly to metformin).

There are also things you can do on your own. Besides the drugs mentioned above, the following are what I’d be looking at to slow aging:

While the high-tech anti-aging companies may well make some breakthroughs, for now, much of it is pie in the sky, and of course relentlessly hyped because of the money angle. But anyone with the drive to do so doesn’t have to wait to practice anti-aging and life extension.

PS: Supplements that fight aging are discussed in my new book, Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.