Bariatric Surgery May Reverse the Effects of Aging

 Aging  Comments Off on Bariatric Surgery May Reverse the Effects of Aging
Nov 152013
 

Recently studies show that bariatric surgery eliminates signs of type 2 diabetes for 30% of patients. Now a new study by Stanford University researches suggests that this surgery may also reverse the effects of aging.

The primary reason for bariatric surgery is to help obese people lose weight. It achieves this goal by using several methods to restrict food intake, and decrease absorption of food in the patient’s stomach and intestines. After 12 months of surgery, patients typically lose 71% of their excess weight, see a reduction in body wide inflammation by 60% and see a four-fold decline in their fasting insulin.

But now, researches are reporting that this surgery also promotes positive changes in a biomarker associated with aging. What they’re seeing is an increase in telomere length.

Telomeres are repetitive DNA at the end of chromosomes to protect the chromosome from deterioration. As we age, the lengths of telomeres become shorter as cells divide to replace older cells in our body. Eventually, these telomeres become too short or disappear completely preventing our cells from duplicating themselves properly or not replicating themselves at all. This is the normal path to aging.

Finding something that may increase the length of our telomeres is like finding a sign pointing to the location of the legendary “Fountain of Youth.” We won’t live forever, but slowing or reversing telomere degradation is an important step in living longer and healthier.

According to Dr. John M. Morton, “Obesity has an adverse effect on health, causes premature aging and reduces life expectancy. This is the first study to show that surgical weight loss may be able to reverse the effects.” In addition to reversing the effects of aging, preventing telomere degradation has reduces your risks of developing type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers.

I believe more research is needed to determine if weight loss, some aspect of bariatric surgery or a combination of the two is directly responsible for the positive changes in the effects of aging.

How an Intestinal Bacteria Prevents Obesity

 Diet, Gut Flora, Obesity  Comments Off on How an Intestinal Bacteria Prevents Obesity
May 142013
 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the type of bacteria we have in our gut plays an important role in determining if we are healthy or not. Maintain a healthy gut flora, and you may live a long and healthy life. But if you develop an unhealthy composition of gut bacteria, you may become prey to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

And how do we maintain a healthy gut flora? With a healthy diet, of course.

A recently published study titled “Cross-Talk Between Akkermansia muciniphila and Intestinal Epithelium Controls Diet-Induced Obesity” concludes that a complex interaction between the  bacteria A. muciniphila and our intestines plays an important role in obesity and type 2 diabetes. And diet plays a large role in determining if we have a healthy amount of A. muciniphila in our intestines.

In genetically and diet-induced obese mice, the levels of A. muciniphila decreased dramatically, according to the researchers.  But why is this important to our health?

A. muciniphila resides in a mucus layer that covers our intestinal wall. This study shows that this bacteria plays an important role in maintaining that mucus layer and controlling inflammation. The mucus layer where this bacteria lives is part of our intestinal barrier. The intestinal barrier is our first line of defense against unwanted intruders trying to invade our bodies. It provides nutrition to healthy bacteria, and has high concentrations of the antibody IgA. In obese mice, not only is the population of A. muciniphila low, but the thickness of the mucus layer where it resides is thinner than normal.

It is still unclear how a healthy population of A. muciniphila and a normal intestinal barrier thickness affects obesity and diabetes, but the correlation is strong. Obese mice have lower than normal numbers of A. muciniphila and a thin mucus layer, while non-obese mice have normal numbers of the bacteria and normal mucus thickness.

So how do we maintain a healthy population of A. muciniphila which in turn gives us a healthy and functional intestinal barrier?

The researchers found that a prebiotic called oligofructose restores the population of A. muciniphila, and improves the function of the intestinal barrier.

But what is oligofructose?

Oligofructose is a synonym for fructo-oligosacchariede or FOS. FOS is part of a dietary fiber complex with inulin. Both have been shown to increase levels of healthy gut bacteria. Even though FOS can be taken as a supplement, the best way to get FOS and inulin is with a healthy diet. High concentrations of inulin and FOS are found in chicory and Jerusalem artichokes. But more common food sources are asparagus, leeks, onions, bananas and garlic.

Once again, science is showing us that to maintain our health, we need a healthy composition of bacteria in our gut. Not only can gut flora determine if we have a high risk of heart disease or cancer, but the composition of gut bacteria can also affect our weight and our risk of developing diabetes. This recent study concludes that the bacteria A. muciniphila plays a vital role in maintaining a functional intestinal barrier. A complex interaction between this bacteria, the protective mucus layer and our intestinal wall determines our risk for obesity and diabetes.

And the best way to grow and maintain a healthy colony of A. muciniphila is to eat a healthy diet low in unhealthy fats, and high in chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions, bananas and garlic.

Eat healthy, live long and prosper.

Sources:

Function of the Intestinal Barrier
Inulin and Oligofructose Are Part of the Dietary Fiber Complex
Prebiotic Canada – Inulin

The “Obesity Paradox” Reexamined

 Obesity  Comments Off on The “Obesity Paradox” Reexamined
Jan 022013
 

The obesity paradox is a problematic statistically indication that slightly overweight people tend to live longer than people who weigh less than they do. This is a conclusion by a study published in the recent issue of JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association – January 2,2013).

This study compared people with various BMI’s or Body Mass Indexes. The study compared overweight BMI (25 to 30), grade 1 obesity BMI (30 to 35) and grades 2 and 3 obesity BMI (greater than 35) relative to the lower BMI level of 18.5 to 25.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), BMI is “a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat.”

However, two problems with associating your BMI with health is that BMI

  • Doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle mass
  • And BMI doesn’t take into account where the fat tissue is located in your body.

For example, if you have more healthy muscle mass than normal, you can have a BMI that indicates being overweight. However, you can be healthier than the average population of people who weight less than you do. Or, if most of your fat tissue is located just below your skin in your thigh and butt areas, you can be healthier than lighter people who have mostly abdominal or belly fat, also called visceral fat.

Visceral or belly fat is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various cancers. Visceral fat tends to accumulate deep in your abdominal cavity and surrounds your vital organs. On the other hand, fat located just below your skin in other areas of your body has no association with developing life threatening diseases.

In addition to not knowing what type of fat that you have and where it is located, some people with healthy BMI’s may be thin due to a chronic and life threatening illness.

The specific conclusions of this new study show statistically that grades 2 and 3 obesity, which have BMI’s greater than 35, were associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality. In other words, people with BMI’s greater than 35 have a significantly higher chance of dying prematurely than those with BMI’s between 18.5 and 25.

The problem with the Obesity Paradox is that overweight people with BMI’s between 25 and 30 have a significantly lower mortality rate than those with the presumably healthier BMI’s between 18.5 and 25. But as mentioned earlier, you have to take into account how much muscle mass you have relative to fat tissue, where the fat tissue is located and what type of fat tissue you have, and why you may have a lower BMI.

People with a lot of muscle mass and very little visceral fat will tend to be healthier than someone who weighs less but has more visceral fat relative to their muscle mass. And some people who weigh less may be suffering from a severe and life threatening illness.

That is why people must be careful with the conclusions of this study. The authors stress that their conclusions do not mean that we should gain more weight. We should have the proper diet and exercise program that allows us to develop more muscle mass and burns away visceral or belly fat.

In conclusion, BMI is an inexpensive way to determine your general state of health. However, it needs to be used in conjunction with other factors, such as how much muscle mass do you have relative to fat tissue, and how much visceral fat that you have relative to other types of fat.

References:

JAMA: Association of All-Cause Mortality With Overweight and Obesity Using Standard Body Mass Index Categories

CDC: About BMI For Adults