June 14, 2016

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Speculation on the Causes of Cancer -- and How to Mitigate Them (Pt.5B)


I left off last time saying that we have two big issues to address with regard to hypoxia as a cause or exacerbating factor in cancer: 
  1. What causes tissue to become hypoxic?
  2. Is there a role for hyperbaric oxygen therapy in fighting cancer?

Let’s tackle them in order.

To be honest with you, I still don’t know which comes first: low oxygen, or mitochondrial dysfunction. The fact is, even when there’s plenty of oxygen available, if the mitochondria are malfunctioning, they can’t use it. But what if what’s causing the mitochondria to malfunction is insufficient oxygen? (I told you last time this stuff is complicated!)

It almost doesn’t matter, right? The bottom line is, whether the tissue is hypoxic or not, the mitochondria are not using whatever oxygen might be present. (Well, they’re using some of it. Remember, kids, when it comes to biology and biochemistry, there are very rarely any absolutes, yes or no, on or off. Things aren't binary, but rather, there's a balancing act. Even cancer cells have some mitochondria that are okay; it’s just that the majority of them are messed up.)

I just have a hard time wrapping my head around it all. Think about angiogenesis: the creation of blood vessels specifically so that the cancerous tissue ensures it has a steady supply of fuel and nutrients. But what does blood carry besides fuel and nutrients? OXYGEN. So you would think that angiogenesis would give cancer cells more oxygen, not less. So going one step further, this being the case, it seems like the mitochondrial dysfunction comes first, because theoretically, there should be sufficient oxygen delivery to the cancer cells, what with all those blood vessels they created for their own nefarious purposes. So there is sufficient oxygen (“normoxia”), yet we have hypoxia-inducible factors out the yin-yang upregulating all sorts of nasty pathways and reactions in these cells to keep themselves alive because they think they’re hypoxic. And the reason they think they’re hypoxic is because the mitochondria aren’t using the oxygen. (That’s my logic, anyway. I told you there was going to be a lot of wild speculation here, and so it begins.)

June 1, 2016

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Speculation on the Causes of Cancer -- and How to Mitigate Them (Pt.5A)

Graphic adapted from Seyfried et al., 2015

OH. EM. GEE!!!!!

It’s baaa-aaaaack!

Today is June 1, 2016. Looking back through the blog archives, I saw that the previous post in this series on the metabolic theory of cancer was published on June 1, 2015. Yes, kids, it’s been a year. A full year! An entire year to the day. If you have been waiting and waiting (and waiting!) for me to get back to this and address some key concepts we haven’t gotten to yet, believe me, nobody wanted me to get back to this more than I did. I absolutely did not plan on it taking a year. But alas. Hopefully, in that time, you’ve learned a thing or two about insulin, stubborn fat loss, and the use of ketogenic diets for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions. In fact, I am in the process of adding a new installment to the “ITIS/It’s the Insulin, Stupid” series, but when I saw that I was coming up on the one-year anniversary of neglecting the cancer series, I knew I had to get my rear in gear and just DO IT. I really wanted to do the insulin post first, but considering the date, I thought it would be apropos for me to do this one instead.

Also, just to let you know, since the writing of that last post, I have had the honor of meeting Drs. Seyfried, D’Agostino, and Poff in person. {Squee!!}  I also got to meet Dr. Cunnane, Dr. Newport, Dr. Rho, and Dr. Maffetone. Holy moly…it was a nonstop conference of metabolism rock stars.

I am most definitely going to get to the mamma-jamma, granddaddy of all topics we’ve been waiting for in this cancer series—the ketogenic diet—but please be patient. I’ve very recently had more work stuff come up (in a good way), and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I will write about ketosis. I can’t promise when, exactly, that will happen, but I promise it won’t take a year. (Maybe just a couple weeks, considering I’m already working on it.)  ;-)

If you’re new to my blog and have no idea what’s going on right now, the series I’ve written on the metabolic theory of cancer is a “fan favorite” – at least, among the people who like to geek out on the science with me. The cancer series is representative of when my blog becomes a free course in (very basic) biochemistry and physiology, and is peppered with links and quotes from the scientific literature. If you prefer my rants, shakedowns of food labels, and other casual-type posts, no prob! Whatever floats your boat. But for those of you who need to kill lots of time at your desk job, or who perhaps need help falling asleep, you might want to start way back at the beginning and work your way toward today’s post. (Actually, that’s sarcasm. The truth is, I think this stuff is fascinating, and perhaps some of my best work. I swear, that hexokinase 2 stuff STILL blows my mind.)

Since it has been a year (!!) since the last installment, I’ll make it easy for you and list all the posts in order, from first to most recent: 
  1. Introduction
  2. Cells Behaving Badly
  3. Cellular Energy Generation 1 - Glycolysis
  4. Cellular Energy Generation 2 - Mighty Mitochondria (Krebs Cycle, Electron Transport Chain)
  5. Mitochondrial Dysfunction 1
  6. Mitochondrial Dysfunction 2 - They ARE Broken
  7. Glycolysis Run Amok & Mutant Hexokinase
  8. Aerobic Fermentation (a.k.a. "The Warburg Effect")
  9. Cancer Cells are Sugar Junkies
  10. Mutations vs. Mitochondria
  11. Cancer as a Protective Mechanism
  12. Speculation on the Causes of Cancer (Pt.1)
  13. Video Lesson! (Thomas Seyfried, PhD)
  14. Speculation on the Causes of Cancer -- and How to Mitigate Risk (Pt.2)

Buckle up and hang on tight, everyone. HERE WE GO!

May 25, 2016

"Calories Out" -- A Rant

I don’t like that I post so many rants, but what can I say? The nutrition world gives me lots to rant about. Lots. And if I may say, many of the emails I get from you, my beloved readers, specifically mention how much you enjoy my sass and snark. So, if sass and snark are what ye seek, then sass and snark are what ye shall receive! Especially when it comes to today’s topic.

I’ve written before about the complete and utter crapstorm that is the very concept of “calories.” (That post is from April 2014. I’ve acquired a lot of new readers since then, so if you’ve never read that one, do click on over and give it a whirl. It’s a good one, if I do say so myself.) 

Okay, so, calories.

When it comes to losing weight fat loss, we’ve heard over and over again that it comes down to one thing: calories in, calories out (CICO). (Or is that two things?) Or, rather, it comes down to weight loss reduced adiposity being the result when someone takes in fewer calories than they burn. People are so stubbornly wedded to this idea that “Woo” famously calls them CICOpaths, CICOphants, or CICOtards. (With apologies to the reader who took me to task for my “Don’t Be a Ketard” series title, which has been renamed “Being Fat Adapted Versus ‘In Ketosis.’”)

As you know, I try to be careful about how I phrase things. (Case in point: the crossed out stuff in the preceding paragraph.) Part of this comes from me being an English major and language nerd, and part of it comes from knowing that when we phrase things incorrectly, they may not even be relevant. For example, I try to say “accumulate adipose tissue” more often than I say “gain weight.” Because gaining weight and accumulating adipose are not the same thing. If you gain weight, that might be water, muscle, bone, or, for the truly crunchy/hippie among you, a pounds’ worth of leg and armpit hair. And I try to say lose body fat rather than lose weight, because you can lose water, muscle, bone, etc., and when the vast majority of us talk about “weight loss,” what we really mean—and what we really want—is fat loss.

The reason why I’m such a stickler for saying things a certain way is because saying them more precisely/accurately helps us frame discussions in a certain light. And the reason why I’m explaining to you why I’m such a stickler is because we are going to frame today’s discussion in a certain light. One that I don’t think gets anywhere near enough attention in the nutrition and health world (except from me). As far as I can tell, I am one of the only people writing about this particular thing in this particular way. (If I’m wrong, tell me in the comments and share links to relevant stuff you find.)

What the heck am I talking about? What is the point that’s taking me so much prep work and blathering to get to?

May 23, 2016

Label Madness Monday: Cricket Flour Bars

It’s been a while since we tore apart—figuratively, not literally—a food label. So here goes. A little something light to start your week.

Up today: Exo bars. To be specific, Exo bars that are marketed as protein bars.

Now, I’m not here to bash these things. On the contrary, if you like to keep something semi-wholesome, with ingredients you can understand and pronounce, in your handbag, gym bag, or desk drawer at the office, you could do a whole lot worse than these. However, if what you are actually looking for is protein, then these “protein” bars may not exactly be the way to go. Let’s see why.

May 9, 2016

FREE Alzheimer's Webinar THIS WEEK

Hey Everyone,

As you know, I’ve done some work regarding the role of dietary and lifestyle factors in causing, exacerbating, and most importantly, possibly HELPING Alzheimer’s disease.

For anyone who’s interested not just in Alzheimer’s, but in using real food and sensible lifestyle “stuff” to support brain health and cognitive function in general, I wanted to let you know about a FREE WEBINAR I’m participating in this Thursday, May 12 at 4pm U.S. Eastern time.

And the best part is, it’s LIVE, so you can chime in to ask questions! I don’t promise to have all the answers, but hopefully I’ll have some, hehheh. Click here for the details and to register.

The webinar is being produced by Elisa Haggarty of Culinary Farmacy (is that a great name or what?). Elisa has also put together a stellar program called The Brain Fog Solution. Feel like you're living with cobwebs in your brain? Mind not as sharp as it used to be? Suffer from CRS (Can't Remember Sh*t?) Don’t accept it as “normal.” You’re not “just getting older,” and you don’t have to sit there and take it. (Let alone continue helplessly while it gets worse!) Learn how to nourish your body and brain and stave off the 3pm dash to the vending machine for a sugary pick-me-up. Get to the root causes of your brain fog, mood swings, energy dips, and junk food cravings, and then get rid of them! Click here for details.

To clarify: the webinar is free, but The Brain Fog Solution is a program available for purchase. (Includes recipes, coaching calls, and tons of other good stuff you can find out about by checking it out here.)

As always, you know I am pathologically honest here on the blog, so allow me to disclose that I am an affiliate for The Brain Fog Solution and will receive a small portion of the registration fee should you choose to participate. If you enjoy my writing but have no brain health and cognition issues, and would like to find some other way to support my blogging (which takes many, many hours of time, all completely unpaid), a nice way is to make a direct contribution, via the PayPal links toward the right on my website. Not required at all, but every little bit helps. Thanks!  :-)  (However long you guess it takes me to write one of my long-ish and well-referenced posts, triple it, and you might be in the ballpark, haha! You know what they say: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”) You can also click through to Amazon using my affiliate link, and I'll get a tiny portion of the purchase price of whatever you buy, even if it has nothing to do with food, nutrition, or health. Buy anything after going to Amazon from that link and they'll throw a couple cents my way. Sweet! Also, consider purchasing protein powders, stevia, coconut oil, Quest Bars, DaVinci sugar-free syrups, and other goodies from Netrition via my affiliate link. Netrition has by far the best prices I've found on the vast majority of this stuff anywhere, except that I have not yet explored Thrive Market. (With Netrition, there is no sign-up fee, and no commitment. It's just a company to buy stuff from. I've used them for years and have had nothing but great experiences with them.)

Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.

April 27, 2016

Book Review: Growing Tomorrow

Tl; dr – read, read, read, love, love, love.

Growing Tomorrow is the second book by author and farmer Forrest Pritchard.  As I said in my gushing praise for his first book, the NYT bestseller Gaining Ground, the dude knows how to write. (He also knows a little something about farming. If you live in the DC area, check out Smith Meadows farm in person if you are so inclined, or if Berryville, Virginia is a little far for you to wander out to, you can find them at many markets all over greater DC.)

Growing Tomorrow is part travelogue, part cookbook, and above all, an homage to small, family farms, sustainable and humane production of plant and animal foods, and the people who dedicate their lives to making sure those of us who can’t or won’t farm for ourselves have access to food we trust, raised in ways we value. The book is an account of the author’s visits to eighteen farms across the U.S., to share the stories of how they are growing and raising plants and animals sustainably, humanely, and, believe it or not, profitably. It’s proof that one can make ends meet without cutting corners, exploiting workers, poisoning the land, abusing livestock, or cheating consumers. Working in tandem with mother nature and reliable, regular customers, small farms can do things “the right way” and stay in the black. (Granted, it often takes several years to get there after pants-wetting years spent in the red, but farming is generally not a quarter-by-quarter profit seeking enterprise. If you are unable to take a long—very long—view of things, farming is probably not for you.)       

As the author discussed in an interview he did on the Real World Paleo podcast, one of his goals was to highlight the diversity of today’s American farms and farmers. Forrest visited farms on the west coast, east coast, north, south, and everywhere in between. In 2016, we’re about as far as it gets from the dour couple in the famous painting, American Gothic. From fruit orchards in southern California to an organic grain farm in Iowa, to a sustainable fishery in Massachusetts, there’s no region ignored, and certainly no lack of ethnic diversity, either. The farms featured in Growing Tomorrow show that farming has nothing to do with the color of your skin or the language you grew up speaking, and everything to do with courage, grit, determination, and most importantly, a sense of humor and a pathological love of hard work in difficult conditions.     

From what I know of Forrest, he pours himself into everything he does. Nothing is done halfway and nothing is done without an unwavering dedication to quality and authenticity. Not on his farm, and not in his writing. This was evident to me before I even got to page one of the book. From the dedication alone, I knew this book would deliver:

“To my fellow farmers—people of faith, creativity, and deep good humor. It’s long overdue, but on behalf of our country, thanks for lunch.”

Are you kidding me? I told you he could write!