To Your Health: Medical “Facts” That May Be Proven to Be Myths

To Your Health: Medical “Facts” That May Be Proven to Be Myths

Dr. Alan Safdi, a world-renowned internist and gastroenterologist with encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness and preventative medicine, returns to Telluride Inside… and Out with a series of posts under the banner of “To Your Health.” His blogs will feature the most current information in his field: healthy, wellness and longevity. Dr. Safdi continues this week by looking medical “facts” that may now be myths – or is there more to the story?

Some of that learning will also be showcased in three-day seminars Safdi and his partner, radiologist Dr. William Renner, are offering this winter at The Peaks Resort & Spa in Mountain Village to medical professionals, whose participation qualifies them for at least 16 hours of Category 1 CME or CEU credits. The general public is also welcome.

Subjects under discussion at the Symposiums will answer other questions such as: What are the risks and rewards of supplements, including multivitamins? Should women be getting regular mammograms? What are the alternatives on the horizon for breast cancer screening? These and other important health-related subjects – micro-nutrients, common medical disorders and nutrition – will be addressed, revealing findings, not opinions, from evidence-based medical research.

For further information, email or go to Safdi’s Telluride Longevity Institute website. And please scroll down to find out about Dr. Safdi’s Live Longer Retreat wellness intensives planned for this coming summer.

Aspirin is a miracle drug???

Aspirin was first introduced by the drug and dye firm Bayer in 1899. Aspirin and other NSAIDs do not generally change the course of the disease process in conditions in which they are used for symptomatic relief. Low doses (typically 75 to 81 mg/day) are sufficient to irreversibly acetylate platelets, which helps prevent clots.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, representing 24 and 13 percent of all deaths, respectively. Aspirin produces statistically significant and important reductions in cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality among survivors of a wide range of occlusive CVD events, including subsequent coronary heart disease, especially myocardial infarction, stroke, and CVD death. The problem is that so many people take aspirin thinking it will keep them healthy without a specific indication.

A recent study (REMEMBER: THESE  STUDIES WERE CONDUCTED WITH, FOR THE MOST PART, HEALTHY PEOPLE) is very important and showed all-cause and cancer-related mortality higher with aspirin; so were bleeding events in the people taking aspirin.

Daily aspirin not only failed to help generally healthy older individuals reduce their risk of disability-free survival and cardiovascular disease in the placebo-controlled ASPREE trial, it also appeared to raise overall mortality and particularly death from cancer. I do not believe that aspirin offers meaningful benefits in primary prevention and carries substantial bleeding risksUnless the cardiovascular risk is very high (>20% over ten years), prophylactic aspirin results in more harm than good.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, we are talking about healthy older people and not people we are looking at to prevent another significant event or high-risk individuals. In secondary prevention, the absolute benefits on occlusive (clot) events are far greater than the absolute risks of major bleeding.

All carbs are bad for you?

What you eat matters.

Studies find that older adults tend to consume 40% less dietary fiber, which includes carbs, than is generally recommended. Not getting enough fiber could have negative consequences on things we do not normally think about such as connections to brain health and inflammation in general.

Eating fiber-rich foods— broccoli, nuts, oats, beans, and whole-grain bread—might help delay brain aging by triggering the production of a short-chain fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Dietary fiber is known to reduce the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in large epidemiological studies. Microglia—a major type of immune cell in the brain—tend to become hyperactive and chronically inflamed with age. That inflammation of the microglia is one of the main causes of memory and cognitive decline in old age. Butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced in the colon when bacteria ferments fiber in the gut, can improve memory and reduce inflammation in mice. A high-fiber diet reduced inflammation in the brain’s microglia. Researchers suspect that is achieved by diminishing the production of a pro-inflammatory chemical known as interleukin-1β, which some studies have linked with Alzheimer’s.

The keto or ketogenic diet is the answer for weight loss without potential side effects???

In my opinion a balanced diet based on unprocessed food that is rich in very colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and lots of water seems to be the best recipe for a long, healthier, vibrant life.

The “keto diet” is the latest fad diet popularized by health and fitness magazines and touted on social media. The keto – or ketogenic –  diet is very low in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and very high in fats. The “classic keto” diet consists of only 4% carbs, 6% protein, and as much as 90% fat. By starving the body of carbohydrates (ie, glucose, our typical energy source), the diet forces the body to burn fats as its main fuel. To get to this point, the body must not only use up its glucose, but also deplete its stored glycogen. After a few days of strict dieting, the metabolism switches into a state of ketosis, in which it burns up fats at a high rate. The fats are then converted into fatty acids and ketone bodies, which are used as energy in place of the missing glucose. That is what gives the keto diet its reputation for fat-burning weight loss.

And research does in fact show the ketogenic diet does indeed accelerate weight loss. But the diet is meant to be followed for only a few weeks at a time, not year-round. Whether patients can keep the weight off is another story. One meta-analysis found that people on a ketogenic diet did have long-term weight loss, but it was only about 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs).

So what are the risks? According to two recent studies, athletes and people with type 2 diabetes should probably avoid the keto diet altogether. Also, low-carb consumers like keto fans were 51% more likely to die from coronary heart disease; 50% more likely to die from cerebrovascular disease; and 35% more likely to die of cancer. The associations were strongest among older, non-obese people. (That was found through a large meta-analysis of other prospective studies that summed up almost 450,000 participants who were followed for an average period of 15.6 years.)

In another study, nutritionists at Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, studied the effect of the ketogenic diet on athletes. They found that the diet reduced exercise performance, especially for anaerobic activities. Such a discovery has clear performance implications for athletes, especially those who participate in high-intensity, short-duration activities and sports.

There may also be an increased risk of insulin resistance with this type of diet that may lead to type 2 diabetes. Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, found that mice on a ketogenic diet had decreased glucose tolerance to a greater degree than mice fed a typical Western high-carb, high-fat diet.

A small amount of alcohol is good for all???

A recent study in The Lancet, shows that in 2016, nearly 3 million deaths globally were attributed to alcohol use, including 12% of deaths in males between the ages of 15 and 49. The findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss.

The overall poor health attributable to alcohol for 23 health outcomes, such as communicable and non-communicable diseases and injuries, including are:

Cardiovascular diseases: atrial fibrillation and flutter, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, hypertensive heart disease, ischemic heart disease, and alcoholic cardiomyopathy;
Cancers: breast, colorectal, liver, esophageal, larynx, lip and oral cavity, and nasal;
Other non-communicable diseases: cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol use, diabetes, epilepsy, pancreatitis, and alcohol use disorders;
Communicable diseases: lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis;
Intentional injuries: interpersonal violence and self-harm;
Unintentional injuries: exposure to mechanical forces; poisonings; fire, heat, and hot substances; drowning; and other unintentional injuries; and
Transportation-related injuries.

The myth that one or two drinks a day are good for you is just that—a myth. The Lancet study shatters that notion, however, it did not explore the impacts of extremely low levels of alcohol ingestion.

The lower the salt intake the better???

Sodium, commonly consumed as sodium chloride (table salt), is a major component of our food supply. Based upon data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, estimated average sodium intake in United States adults remains high, approximately 3600 mg/day, and exceeds both the recommended upper limit of 2300 mg/day set by the 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines and the more stringent limit of 1500 mg/day set by the American Heart Association. Average intake is approximately 4200 mg/day in men and approximately 3000 mg/day in women.

A recent study questions those recommendations, but remember we are talking about only one study. New research from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study shows increased risks for stroke or cardiovascular disease (CVD) are seen in communities where mean sodium intake exceeds 5 g per day. It appears that BP and stroke increase with salt intake, but heart attack and mortality do not. Moreover, foods with high potassium, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, were protective, even in those with high salt intake. Do we need to bring sodium consumptions to moderate levels and to relax the old recommendations? One problem with the study is that only about 10 per cent of the population in the global study had both hypertension and high sodium consumption (greater than 6 grams per day).

We should avoid full-fat dairy products???

Whole-fat dairy associated with heart benefit in a recent study and even the saturated fat from it appears acquitted in this observational research.

Consumption of more than two servings of dairy versus no intake each day was linked with a lower risk of death or a major cardiovascular event, including death from cardiovascular causes, non-fatal MI, stroke, and heart failure. Did the dairy have to be low fat? The findings were the same for both whole-fat and low-fat dairy. The study suggests that consumption of dairy products should not be discouraged and perhaps should even be encouraged in low-income and middle-income countries where dairy consumption is low. Could it have been in some of these studies in low income countries that fixing calorie deprivation is the most important factor and not if meat or dairy is consumed? Would these finding be the same if the research were conducted in industrialized countries has yet to be determined. Food for thought!

If you are interested in learning more about how to prevent, as well as treat some diseases in an intensive six-day program please look at the Telluride Longevity Institute Website. (For more on that, see below.)

Working with Dr. Safdi, more:

Dr. Alan Safdi

And back by popular demand, this summer, in partnership with the Peaks’ Spa, Dr. Safdi is once again offering three, week-long wellness intensives titled Live Longer Retreat.

Again, using an evidence-based, scientific approach to health and longevity and featuring an experienced staff of medical professionals, personal trainers, Pilates and yoga instructors, dietitians, and chefs, the focus is on your unique wellness profile. Each Live Longer Retreat is one-of-kind in the U.S. Those intensives, limited to only 10 – 15 participants, will include personal consultations, hiking, spinning, yoga, Pilates, talks and demonstrations related to nutrition, cooking classes, and more.

Go here to read a review of the experience by one very satisfied participant.

Feel free to sign up now to participate in a Live Longer Retreat  – or call 1-877-448-5416 for further information.

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